Book Review: Stupid Perfect World by Scott Westerfeld

If you have read my review of Imposters, you know that Scott Westerfeld is my absolute favorite author, and as such, I’ve read more of his works than any other author.  A friend asked me if I’d read everything he has written and the honest answer is no – not yet.  So, in finding myself in a pinch to pick out another book to read, I searched the library for books by Scott that I haven’t gotten to and that was how I stumbled upon the novella Stupid Perfect World. The premise seemed interesting, and I am glad I picked it up.

The premise of Stupid Perfect World is a time where most of life’s problems are eliminated, no disease, instantaneous travel, no need for sleep.  In short, the world had reached a state of ‘perfect’ save for Scarcity class where students learn what it was like before things became perfected.  As part of their final project, the students have to spend two weeks living with one condition that plagued the people of the past.  The story focuses on two main characters Kieran and Maria.  Kieran chose to have to sleep for two weeks while Maria decided to go without her hormone balancers for two weeks.  Their individual projects end up crossing over with one another in unexpected ways for the characters but maybe not so unexpected ways for the reader.

Admittedly the story was a little predictable, but that didn’t make the read any less enjoyable.  While the time of raging teen hormones is behind me, I found the experiences of Maria to be the most amusing most of all how she found the desire to pour out thoughts and poetry on to pieces of paper.

Overall, the story is a pretty quick and simple read that I enjoyed experiencing.  It wouldn’t be the story I’d recommend if someone were looking to read Scott Westerfeld’s books, but as a fan, I’m pleased.

Have you ever read or watched something just because you are a fan of the actor, writer, producer, director, character, what have you?  Were you please or left disappointed?

Highlight Reel or Real Life?

Last week I talked about effort and how that impacts our results.  We can’t have success with minimum effort.  We have to be Big in to get big out because if we put little in, we get little out.  In that post, I mentioned how we cannot have our sole focus on that big win.  If all we think about is the major contract or book deal, we are missing out.

While I talked about putting in an effort to get those goals which are not wrong they can’t be the only thing that makes us happy.  If your focus is on the idea of ‘when I land the big deal, I’ll be happy’ you’ve got it wrong.  That’s what my pastor calls the highlight reel.  If we only focus on getting that of looking good, we miss out on real life.  I find this applies to writing.

If all I ever focused on was being a best seller and making the achievement and didn’t enjoy the process, I would be massively missing out.  So if you have a big goal of some sort of success don’t get so hung up on making the highlight real that you fail to enjoy real life.  You have to enjoy the journey if you don’t enjoy the trip the process isn’t worth it.  You don’t want to get caught up on end results and never enjoy life as you live it working toward that goal.

If you enjoy the journey living real life the highlight reel will be all the more precious and worthwhile.  So what is your major goal?  What do you enjoy most about your journey toward your goal?  For me and my writing, I enjoy interacting with people about the process, and I love the act of writing and creating that is worth it to me that if I never get that big highlight reel, I’m still happy.

Book Review: Copycat by Hanna Jayne

Mystery books are my jam, particularly murder mysteries.  I know this may be something of a surprise for me to say this considering my book reviews for the past nine months have contained no mysteries to speak of, but there are a few reasons.  From what I have seen there are not an incredibly large number of YA mysteries which makes reading YA mysteries difficult to attain.  I also find that a lot of mystery novels are far too predictable.  Many times I feel like I can spy the red-herrings and the guilty party from a mile off.  I am particularly not fond of when I realize who is responsible well before the character does.  It makes the story dull as the question is asked how can this seemingly intelligent character not see what I do?  It’s so dead obvious! Thus I pass many times on mystery books because I can call things from a mile off (literally the blurb alone sometimes gets heavy handed on the guilty party or red herring).

When I found Copycat, the blurb didn’t turn me off, and I found myself pulled in though I was skeptical.  However, in the first chapter, I was delighted with some light references to my favorite detective of all time Sherlock Holmes as the heroine has locker 221.  (I can’t believe this to be a coincidence!)  Then there was a just a page later a play on a quote from the murder mystery show Castle (I did not watch for the mystery – many were predictable) about how two people think about death and murder, serial killers and mystery writes – it’s the latter that pays better.  These two nods had me grinning from ear to ear and continuing to turn pages as the characters jumped off the pages with snappy and witty dialogue that made me smile just before we found the mystery to be afoot.  (Another word used in the book that I promise you was a nod to the master detective!)

It wasn’t until about halfway that I was able to figure out one of the perpetrators.  It wasn’t too painfully obvious, and while I saw it there were no dead giveaways to the truth and the character was so worked up at the time the small detail was easy to miss and then dismiss.  It was a very nicely played reveal on Hannah Jayne’s part.  Not only did the story create a lot of good questions it brought with it a lot of suspense and uncertainty.  When I had to stop reading due to real life my brain was reeling, anxious to find out what would happen next.

While I had accurately pegged the perpetrator in the book Hannah Jayne cooked up a surprise in the mystery that I had not suspected.  The murder did not work alone.  I had a feeling they didn’t but the second guilty party surprised me and was pleasantly unexpected.  It made for an excellent story and a satisfying conclusion, and this is a murder mystery that I would recommend to others to read.

As an added note I read the acknowledgment at the end, and it amused me to no end that the author had a friend help her choreograph a particular scene to make sure it was written accurately.  I love this, and it made me smile that I’m not the only one who will occasionally physically act out a scene to make sure it plays.

Do you know of any good YA murder mysteries?  I would love to read more as that is a genre I like to write in.

It Takes Effort

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How many would be honest and admit that they take exit one but expect the results of exit 2?  I know I have.  I have many times.  I put in some effort and plan to get some significant returns when that isn’t how the world works.  If you want significant results, you are going to have to put in a decent amount of work.  As my church pastor likes to say “Big in, big out. Little in, little out.”  If you want results for your work and you want something big you have to put in the equal amount of effort.

So many times in our life we see someone who was a massive success someone who seemed to achieve great things overnight.  Truth is, 99% of the time these people didn’t just happen upon their success.  These people put in the effort and work something the world and media doesn’t focus on.  To be an Olympic Athlete, you have to put in work lots of long hard hours training doing the sport, training the body with exercises and eating right.  This is years of hard work that most people don’t notice or see.  The same is true of being a YouTube star or a Best Selling Novelist.  You have to work hard and put in a lot of effort.   Without that work, without that effort, you aren’t going to make it.

If you feel like I am stepping on toes, please know it is not yours I’m stepping on but my own.  I want to be a success in my writing, and I put in some effort but probably not as much as is needed to be the type of success I want to be.  It is all a matter of how much I put into it and lately it hasn’t been a lot.  If you are in the same boat as me with your goals, please know that there is some hope.  You can start making changes now.  You don’t have to lament what was lost and what was done before, just focus on the future and achieving your goals. Of course, if you are wanting to reach that level of success for the sake of success, you may want to reconsider things, for reasons I’ll probably talk about next week.  Till then I’ll be trying to focus on putting more effort into my writing as that is something I’m passionate about – it doesn’t go anywhere without me actually putting an effort in.

What is something you want to achieve but haven’t been putting the effort you feel you need to put in on it?  Do you have a success story where people see you as something of an overnight success, but the truth is you put in a lot of hard work?


Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Considering I mentioned Ready Player One in my review of Warcross and Wildcard, I figured it was worthwhile to put a review for it up as well.  I read this book about three years ago when one of my colleagues discovered I was a geek.  I placed his copy of the book on his desk declaring that I must read it.  (He also knew that I liked to read as well.)  This co-worker introduced me to a lot of different things, and he loved nothing more than to share Ready Player One with as many people as he could.

Upon my first reading of the book, I was enamored.  I fell in love with the story.  The gamer and geeky references were out of this world, and then everything was wrapped and tied up in a lovely 1980’s package.  Anyone who has lived through at least a fraction of the decade will recognize and love a lot of things found there.  Honestly, the references are glorious and will make nearly any geeky/gamer/nostalgic at heart giddy with joy. Additionally, the story is not too shabby and is honestly pretty good.  I love the concept of escaping to virtual reality and would be all over something like it just maybe not to the extent that the world loses itself in the VR of Ready Player One.

Overall, the story focuses on the main character of Wade Watts.  He lives in a future where life and society are falling apart.  The world has gathered close around major metropolitan cities with the outskirts comprising of trailer parks that are built up instead of out – the area is known as the stacks.  Wade lives with his aunt in a double wide that houses three families.  Everyone in the world attempts to escape from the horrors of the world by logging into the virtual reality known as the OASIS.

In this future of 2045, there are a group of people who are searching for an Easter Egg embedded into the OASIS by the creator.  The winner who finds this egg will win the creator’s inheritance which is in the multi-billion dollar range.  In addition to the exorbitant sum of money, the winner also gains full power and control of the OASIS.  While there are people who are on this hunt, there is also a corporation seeking the same egg.  The corporation would fully monetize the OASIS which is a free system people can log into and is a way of life for most of the world.

As the story progresses, a moral presents itself.  The moral that real life is where we need to be rather than always living a fake life in virtual reality.  It is not overly strong, but it weaves into the story and rings very true by the end of the book.  It’s a predictable moral but the adventure and journey found within the pages of the book are well worth the read, and it is a book I would recommend to any geek/gamer/1980’s nostalgic.

Do you have a book that you almost always recommend?  Is that book also your favorite book or is there a difference between the two?  Let me know in the comments below.

Book vs Movie: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Having watched the movie before reading the book, there was no question that I was going to have to feature To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before here.  As I admitted in my review of the first book, I committed a cardinal sin for book readers.  While Howls Moving Castle was an honest mistake this was not.  I admittedly choose to watch the film first as the plot of the book was not in my typical wheelhouse for reading pleasure but a quick movie that was raved about on Twitter when it came out to Netflix I could get behind.  It is because of the film that I decided to pick up the book.

In most book to movie adaptations, you lose a lot in translation; however, as this book was adapted by Netflix rather than Hollywood, I feel like everything was treated well.  Honestly, the treatment To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is so impeccable, I think this is the most faithful adaptation I have ever seen or experienced.  The movie held to 90% of the keynotes and strokes of the book.

There were two significant changes in the two mediums one of those changes being actually quite good and not failing the book at all.  The good change comes from the movie, not ending where the first book does.  The film travels into some of the story that is told in PS I Still Love You, which I mention in my review there as well.  I think, in doing this, the movie gives a more satisfying conclusion to story that the book leaves as a bit of a cliff hanger.   The other major change is with the character Kitty, Laura Jean’s little sister.  (If you wish not to be spoiled for the book or movie but want to read my concluding thoughts, please skip to the second to last paragraph.) In the book, Kitty sends out Laura Jean’s letters as a way of getting revenge for almost revealing her crush while in the movie Kitty mails the letters as an act of altruism because Laura Jean seems lonely.  While the spirit of Kitty still shines in the film the mark was missed slightly here as Kitty is a character who rarely if ever does something for someone unless she gets something out of it.  For purists, this change may drive you up the wall but it honestly doesn’t break the story, and much of Kitty’s personality still shines through.

Any other change made between the book and the movie I feel is minor such as the setting for a few conversations.  Such as Margo finding out that Laura Jean has/had feelings for Josh and where Peter gets his second letter from Laura Jean.  However, these settings are not of significant impact to the story, and the conversations had between the characters.  Another change that was of note to me is the contract.  In the book, Peter suggests the idea of a hand in pocket while in the movie Laura Jean does this. Additionally, in the novel, Peter and Larua Jean write that they will not make the other watch movies they don’t want to see such as no Rom-Coms for Peter while in the film they contractually agree to see a few specific movies.  Again these changes don’t impact the experience or the overall story.

Honestly, I think both the books and the movie are worth the experience.  If you were to only pick one to experience out of all of it though I think I might choose the film over the book simply due to time and how accurate the movie is.  You honestly don’t miss too much between the two.  This is not to say the books aren’t excellent reads.  Also, I am excited for the fact that Netflix is planning to release a second film which I am sure will be faithful as well, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the movie compared to the book.  With that said, the superiority to the books is you can read now what happens while you have to wait for the upcoming installment to see what is next for Laura Jean and Peter. Did I mention there is a possible new love interest in the next book/film?

For those who have seen the movie and read the book, which do you prefer?  Are you excited for the next film?  For those who haven’t seen or read, do you have an adaptation to recommend that you feel was pretty accurate?

Book Review: Wildcard by Marie Lu

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After enjoying Warcross so much there was no question that I was going to pick up the sequel and review it as well.  (If you missed my review of the first book, you can find it here).  Wildcard picks up right where Warcross left of and honestly is a lot more fast-paced than the first book.  The story takes place in the span of just a few days.  As a writer, I can only imagine the nightmare the timeline was to map out, so everything made sense.

I loved the mystery and uncertainty found in the book by the main character Emika Chen who is dealing the betrayal of Hideo and how she is trying to find her way between two opposing forces which almost seem to want the same thing and yet don’t.  The stakes are higher in this story as it’s not just a beloved virtual reality that is at stake, there are actual lives on the line.  This book is also darker than the first focusing more on the stakes and less on the virtual world and exploring the dark past of the character Zero who was introduced as the antagonist in the first book.  Who the antagonist in this book is a little more difficult to discern and there are also real consequences to everything.  While things end rather satisfactorily it is not the perfect happy ending.  Things are messy, and that is a beautiful bit about life.

I also loved how the book gave us a non-epilogue type of epilogue.  Both Warcross and Wildcard utilize at the start of the books a small magazine or news excerpt to set the story up.  In the end, Marie Lu uses one to tell where the characters are after the main story was finished.  It was succinct and did not disappoint as I find many epilogues to do.  Just as I would recommend the first book, I would also advise you to pick up the conclusion as the overall story was quite satisfying.

Admittedly, I am not going into a lot of detail about this book as I firmly believe in not spoiling the read for another.  Just know that this book creates a vivid story that is well worth the read.  I know I zipped right through this book with very graphic images in my mind. This is a book set that I would love to see made into a movie.

Have you ever read a book and start seeing the story unfold like a movie in your head and how a lot of the story would play out on the big screen?  What books has this happened to you on?  Did they ever become a real film or are they still residing in the theater of the mind?