March Reviews

I'm a few days behind at life right now, but for good reason. We spent the last three nights in Yosemite, but now we're back. Laundry is in the wash, the munchkin is taking a late nap, and I'm completely unpacked, so I figured this would be a good time to get in a few words about last month's reading. 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
374 pages
Set in the near future, Wade is trying, along with thousands of others, to solve a complex set of puzzles set in the all-encompassing video game world Oasis. The winner will inherit the late-creator's fortune, something Wade desperately need. He is on the cusp of graduating high school and is parentless, homeless, and poor. Times are tough, to say the least. He does have friends he has met through the game and together they form a relationships that surpass the VR world they are set in. 

Verdict: I am not the target demographic for this book- I am not a gamer, I am not a huge fan of '80s pop culture, and I have semi-sworn off dystopian literature until a democrat is in office. I have been looking for sci-fi books to recommend to my students, though, so I bit the bullet and finally read it. All in all? I thought it was endearing, humorous, and interesting. Sure, some of the technical jargon and the epic boss fight bored me a tad, but the rest of the book made up for it. I am actually excited about next year's movie!

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
305 pages
This collection of mostly previously published essays discusses many topics near and dear to Patchett. Some are about her childhood, a few about marriage, and many about her work. She talks about her struggle to become a writer and the challenges she faces while carrying out her passions. 

Verdict: I absolutely, positively loved this book and it was all I could do to not order every book of hers that I don't own yet. I am holding myself to a more in-depth review of this one while I am off this week, so more on this later.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
231 pages
Somewhere unnamed, but heavily alluded to, in the Middle East, Nadia and Saeed meet in a class and feel a strong connection to each other. While their relationship develops the world around them falls apart, civil war threatening their lives every second of every day. Eventually they learn of magic doors that lead out of the country, which they can gain passage to for a fee. They escape and find themselves on an island in Greece, which they then are able to leave. This process repeats a few times, and we see their lives change and the toll the process has on their new partnership. Political, social, and magical, this book provides a strong commentary on the global refugee crisis. 

Verdict: I finished this book a few weeks ago and am still thinking about it. I am a sucker for magical realism, which this book provides a great sort of modern rendition of (so many great MR books are a set in more of the past). This is the second book of Hamid's I have read, and I love his simple, yet complex and subtly humorous style. This book is important. Read it.

After the Parade by Lori Ostlund 
337 pages
This novel starts off as middle-aged Aaron decides to leave his partner of twenty years in the middle of the night. Aaron heads to San Francisco to teach English to adults and must simultaneously come to terms with the end of his relationship with the man who provided pretty much everything for him, since he was a young adult, and his past. His father had died suddenly when he was five, and his mother abandoned him later after many years of emotional detachment. Aaron has a lot to deal with and realizes that in order to move forward he must reconcile his past.

Verdict: There are so many great things about this book and so many less-than-stellar things. I appreciated the teaching/learning themes that ran throughout, as well as some of the more minor characters. The strangeness of the book as a whole was also endearing at times, but at the same time some of these elements seemed pointless. I thought the pacing was a bit choppy, some of the characters flat, and that there was way too much context provided, as well. This is Ostlund's first book, so it will be interesting to see what she does next time. 

1,247 pages

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