Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a roller-coaster ride of a book! Before I start gushing on how much I enjoyed it, let me make this clear: if you’re not into computers or you don’t like ’em all that very much, well, keep away from this book. On the other hand, if you’re a video game junkie, this might very well become your Bible.

Goodreads tells me this is Ernest Cline’s first book. It definitely didn’t feel that way when I was reading it! The narrative is engaging and fast-paced (though at times the author seems to get carried away with all 1980s movie/video games/music trivia – I overlooked it!) and I could hardly wait to finish the book. Dammit, I had dreams about OASIS – that’s how engrossed I became, and I’m not even into video games. The max I’ve ‘played’ is Mario and Minesweeper (I probably ended up with the lowest scores in both). In spite of that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

One part of me is hoping the author doesn’t make this a series and ruin it – except the Harry Potter books, I’m yet to come across a series that kept the reader interested till the very last book. But the other part of me hasn’t had enough of Parzival, Art3mis and Aech!! Yeah, they are 3 friends and yeah, that obviously reminds one of THE 3 friends from the you-know-what books 🙂 but hey, so what! There’s enough place for all of us to co-exist! 😛

The narrative is from the PoV of Parzival and for some reason, I felt I would’ve liked it better if he had been a ‘she’ instead of a ‘he’ – something about girl geeks is just so inspiring and fun! (Also, girl power rocks – I’ve had enough of boy heroes, thank you very much). Even then, no harm done. Art3mis kinda makes up for it 🙂

Amazing things apart, there were some minor disappointments towards the end. It got a wee bit like the climax of the movie ‘Independence Day’ – you know, with the rabble rousing speeches and everyone pitching in.. ok ok, more story! I guess it’s because the racy start pushed my expectations up and well, I might have expected a different approach to the actual ending. But that’s just me!

All in all, a very different kind of book compared to the ones I’ve read so far. And I’m really glad I took Mith’s recco and gave this a shot!

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Review: Mystic River

Mystic River
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a very bad streak of books that I hated (5, at last count, with a rating of 2 or lower), I finally seem to have broken the jinx with Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. Typical of a whodunit crime novel, the narrative is gripping and suspenseful not to mention the roller coaster of emotions it evokes from the reader. In that aspect, it goes beyond what I expected from the book based on the its blurb.

This is my first Lehane book, if I don’t include the movie version of Shutter Island (which, by the way, is a must-watch – apart from the story itself, Leonardo DiCaprio totally aced it!). I loved the author’s style where he doesn’t just take us through the story in a typical detectives-busting-a-crime mode, but has given more intimacy to the whole thing by giving the story in the perspective of the various characters themselves. All the characters are built up so beautifully that by the time I finished the book, it felt as if I had been living IN the story all this while! Let me tell you, not many books do that to me.

I don’t want to reveal any part of the story because I’m worried they’ll end up as unintended spoilers! So go read. You won’t regret knowing these characters, their pasts and their present.

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Review: The Oak Leaves

The Oak Leaves
The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The story is about a mother’s discovery and eventual acceptance of the fact that her toddler son may be suffering from some extent of mental retardation due to a genetic disorder passed down to him by her. The Author’s note tell me it’s partly her story of her own son who’s afflicted. Poignant, yes. But somehow it’s all completely lost in this extremely amateurish attempt at putting it down in words.

The book was long by around half it’s current length! I mean, there’s only so much repetition a reader can take! The already wafer thin story is stretched out, like some chewed up chewing gum that gets stuck on your shoe and refuses to come away no matter how much you pull. Yeah, disgusting analogy, I know, but you get my drift. I skipped entire pages of one character trying to ‘convince’ the next of something or the other. And, oh, I’ve heard sermons that are less preachy than this book. Excuse me if I’m just another non-saint human being who, once in a while, does get mad at God for throwing all these curve-balls my way.

Insipid story, forgettable characters and boring narrative aside, some of the ideas/principles mentioned in the book are ones I’m strongly against. But I doubt if that biased me against the book, given how all that was discussed in the last 2-3 chapters of the book. I was already bored by then and just wanted to get through so I can close it and start my next.

Give it a miss. Unless you like the subject so much that you don’t mind reading a below par account of it.

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Review: Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a big fan of Anthony Bourdain. I never quite enjoyed his show ‘No Reservations’ on TLC – it was way too snobbish and gross and completely off-putting what with this constant potshots on the Food Network chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray (who I think are pretty darn ok in their own way for n00bs like me) for the most part. But that’s just me – I don’t eat red meat (least of all, not the uncooked ‘exotic’ versions of it) which Bourdain seems to live off!

I picked up this book expecting a story of his culinary adventures. What I got was a little bit of the culinary part and loads of the other behind-the-scenes looks of what happens in a restaurant kitchen. Well, I’m not the right audience for it, that much I know now. So I’m still not very sure about the 2 star rating, mind you – I think my expectations from the book were wrong and the book, per se, is a good one still.

The book chronicles Bourdain’s rise from nothing to the celeb chef he is today – from his pot-head days working as a dishwasher to becoming a line cook and then a chef. And it gives a no holds barred story of the ‘culinary underbelly’ like the title rightly suggests. The high-pressure kitchens during rush hours, the demands of being a chef (any chef, not just a celeb one), the various parties that keep a kitchen running – they’re all here. If you ever want to start your own restaurant and be a chef, this book might be a good start.

But for a foodie like me, who’s only interested in how to make good food for me and my family – well, the only interesting bits were around the 25% mark where he talks about the essentials of good cooking – what basic knives you need to possess, what are your must-have spices and sauces, etc. This part I thoroughly enjoyed (even made some notes!)

All in all, a good book if your interests are in the way a restaurant kitchen works rather than your own personal one in your home. And of course, if you’re a Bourdain fan-boy. Which I’m definitely not.

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