The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book coverThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is V.E. Schwab’s latest novel. I dare say it may well be her masterpiece, though of course I hope, as I do for all artists, that the best is still to come. Perhaps this will be only one of her masterpieces. It is beautifully written and intriguing through the final page.

Addie LaRue makes a deal with a god. The result is that she will seemingly live forever. The cost being that no one remembers her, while she remembers everything. They don’t simply forget her as time goes by, they forget her shortly after she is out of sight. Thus her journey, the parts we get to see, spans over 300 years. We get a plethora of events through parallel stories. One semi-recent, the other spanning Addie’s three centuries to bring her to the end of this story.

One of the aspects that drew me to this book was that of time. I love stories that manipulate time or change it in some way. This one doesn’t manipulate time, but it does amazing things with it. We see Addie’s tragedies and triumphs as she defiantly refuses to give in to her twisted consequence of her deal. No one may remember her, but she lives and explores and watches the years go by reveling in what tomorrow may bring. She has an unending fascination that repels the evils of the world.

Another aspect I found incredible was how time is used to examine the way we build relationships. Also, how memories fade or change, or simply disappear. How memory can impact our relationships with our friends, family, and loved ones. Living forever may mean losing everyone you know eventually, but living forever without being able to build any real relationships is something else entirely. Another reason her ability to enjoy every moment is admirable. We see Addie’s life and wonder what will happen within the confines of her curse, and we see the many relationships and encounters only she can remember.

I love stories that stay with you, and I believe this one does. The conceptual circumstances of Addie alone were compelling for me and I’m sure they will fascinate many. Though the story may mean something different for each reader. We bring our own histories with us when we read a story. We view the pages through a lens unique to only us. But I dare to call this story timeless (pun intended). There is a foundation within it where anyone can find ground to bring parts of their own lives along. To build alongside and weave throughout the pages. When there is room for growth or reflection within characters such as Addie, it is nearly impossible to forget her.

Happy Reading.

Ready Player Two

Ready Player Two Book COver

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how there could be a sequel to Ready Player One, but Ernest Cline wrote one and I read it. Ready Player Two was released a few months ago and the story picks up the week or so after the ending of the first book. I went into this book with little expectations because unfortunately I saw several comments stating this sequel wasn’t too great, but of course I wanted to form my own opinion, which I am posting here (spoiler free). I have mixed feelings about this story but I did enjoy it and I read it quickly.

First, the beginning was a bit slow. Starting with what I consider two prologues explaining a little of the aftermath of book one and then going into the setup for what becomes the main storyline of this book, I felt it took a while for the action to get going. I also felt like this longer setup really altered one of the main characters and made them less likeable, or perhaps made me re-evaluate this character because I don’t remember them acting or being this way in the first book. I may need to revisit the first book to see if this is the case, which may alter my enjoyment of the first novel which I really thought was great (hence my uncertainty about a sequel).

Once the story gets going though, it reads like the first book with exciting events happening at a quick pace. This book is, not surprisingly, chock full of more 1980s pop culture references. I admit there were a few areas where my interest in the particular pop culture wasn’t too high and it made the events of those scenes less enjoyable, but it was still engaging and I’m sure those who are fans would get a kick out of it just like I enjoyed other scenes encased in pop-culture worlds inside the OASIS I would love to visit. The downside of these references is the blatant absence of any pop culture outside of the 1980s. I understand the main creators of the OASIS were obsessed with their own era, but this book is supposed to take place in the 2050s or 2060s. There are a few references to more modern pop culture in this book which may be why the lack of any other non-1980 references is so apparent. Also, the few, modern pop culture references are kind of jabs at a specific storyline that basically is the plot structure of this very book, which is either ironic or slightly disappointing.

A few characters that are introduced kind of become sideline characters when I was hoping they would become more prominent, but this story centers around those of the previous book. Again, the overall story I enjoyed and I liked a few places Cline went with the story because they were unexpected and daring considering the content and the modern times we live in, but some of the topics he chose to focus on are the reason I have mixed feelings.

One reason I am recommending the book despite the mixed feelings is that the story keeps you interested and wanting to know what happens next. There is very little I would call predictable and there are a few things I could discuss in more detail but would bring in a few spoiler-related content, so I will refrain and have these conversations individually. After seeing the less-exciting comments about the book, I was afraid that this sequel was riding on the success of the first book and movie of that book. I am happy to say that it does stand on its own. I understand why some fans would not like this sequel though I think many will like it. There are merits for all arguments for both sides. It is impossible to please everyone.

I think if you liked Ready Player One, then you are probably going to read Ready Player Two regardless of what I or anyone else says, which is a great thing in itself and I encourage that. Perhaps you are reading this recommendation after having read this book to avoid potential spoilers much like I refrained from reading any reviews for the same reason. I hope you enjoy or enjoyed the book, or at least felt like you got something out of it that you weren’t expecting.

Happy Reading.

The Best of Gene Wolfe

The Best of Gene Wolfe Book CoverI began The Best of Gene Wolfe a few months ago thinking a book of short stories was the perfect way to keep reading habits while attending a graduate program. I enjoy short story collections and it was a great way to fit in some reading between coursework. This was also a great way to experience more of Wolfe’s work.

I first read Gene Wolfe at the beginning of the year when I read his series The Book of the New Sun, which may be his best known work. His writing is oddly compelling and you get the sense of an entire universe just beyond the words on the page. His writing is unique though I have compared it to writers such as Philip K Dick insofar as his stories leave you with things to think about. His writing, though science/speculative fiction, is incomparable from any I have read (unless I discover a new author whose work can be considered near Wolfe’s).

There are 31 stories in this collection taking up roughly 480 pages. A few run longer at around 40 pages, but most are about 10-15 pages. I enjoyed most of these stories. Some I absolutely loved while others I found a bit underwhelming. My favorite by far is “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” which was reminiscent of the New Sun series.

Each story contains an afterword, just a paragraph, where Gene discusses the story you just read and something about it like how he came up with the idea or how the story influenced his career. One I remember was simply him discussing a view alongside a road and that was one of the main prompts for the story. These afterwords are fun because they are little commentaries by the author that often add a little bit to the story itself even if it ends up being unrelated to the subject matter.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection and I actually read through it a little quicker than I typically do for short story collections of this length. Since this gave me more insight into Wolfe’s work, I feel I can say with more certainty that I am a fan and will continue to read more. If you have yet to discover Wolfe, this may be a great way to determine if you like his style.

Happy Reading.

Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook book coverI finally got around to reading The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I had seen the movie a long time ago when it first came out in 2012 and put the book on my TBR. Now, roughly eight years later, I have gotten around to reading it. The book is a quick read at 289 well-spaced pages, and I read it over the span of a few days while fitting in homework, family holidays, and video game time.

All of these may make me sound like I am in high school or college, but I am well beyond those years (except the homework is for another degree so technically I am in college again I guess). I kind of wish I had read this book in high school because it probably would have helped me since I dealt with major mental health issues back then, primarily depression. This book came out in 2008 when I would have been a junior in high school. I really wish I read it when it came out, but you can’t change the past.

Perhaps I am drawn to this story because of my past, or because this book, like all good books, has a human element that captures you when you are reading it. The story is about a man in his early to mid-thirties who is recently taken out of, not technically released, from a mental health facility. His only goal is to get back together with his wife, and we as readers go along for his journey through therapy, family struggles, Eagles football, and his new friendship with a woman who is also struggling with her own mental issues after the death of her husband. I promise the story is not all down in the dumps. It is rather upbeat and hopeful despite all the conflict, mental and otherwise. It is called the “silver linings” playbook after all.

I first saw the movie and I have to say that I think I like the movie a little better than the book. Blasphemy, you say, but hear me out. The book is still good which is why I am recommending it. I like the movie because it does have a stellar cast with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert de Niro. The movie adaptation did change a few things from the book but I think they were good changes that made the story stronger, but I also think they were changes needed for the different medium. The book is told in first person so we see everything through Pat’s eyes, the main character. We get to read his thoughts and how he sees everything and why he reacts the way he does. You don’t get thoughts in movies very well even with voice overs. There is also a lot more family dynamic in the book, which I appreciated because it really expounded on Pat’s issues and showed how many “normal” people also have issues related to mental health even if they aren’t diagnosed or treated. The different perspective caused by the medium of film made some of the changes necessary though they kept the overall story the same, but I liked the changes.

I am recommending this book for a few reasons. It is a good story. It is a great look into mental illness and how it impacts peoples lives. It is a bit inspiring because Pat is always looking for his silver lining through the all the turmoil and he is really working on himself, and I think we all need to take time to work on ourselves sometimes. I hate to say many people probably don’t know how to work on themselves, which is another reason I liked the book. It gives a perspective on how to do so.

I am very glad I finally got around to reading this one. As I tell my wife, I am going to read all of my books eventually, it is just going to take time (while I accumulate even more books (sorry dear, I love you)).

If you have ever struggled with mental issues, or knows someone who has, or are interested in the subject, or simply want to give this book a shot because it is a good book, or liked the movie and are interested in the book, then I encourage you to read it.

Happy Reading.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Always Look on the Bright Side of LifeAlways Look On The Bright Side Of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle was an interesting insight for me since I grew up on the tail end of Monty Python’s popularity. This isn’t a Monty Python book, but it is an autobiography of Eric Idle, who was a key member and creator of Monty Python so of course it is a subject covered throughout a majority of the chapters. I knew very little about Eric Idle prior to listening to this book (as read by Eric Idle himself which makes it all the better), and I am glad that I am now a little more (or less) cultured.

Eric Idle had a seemingly fantastic life with many ups and downs and screw-ups and successes, but overall I think he would agree that he has had a great life overall. One of the most surprising bits I learned from this book was Eric’s friendship with George Harrison of The Beatles. I never knew that the movie Life of Brian was financed entirely by George because he wanted to see the movie and no one was willing to produce the movie made.

This book was released in 2018 and covers many events of the past several years up to its release. Eric knew so many people in Hollywood who have unfortunately passed away recently including Robin Williams and Carrie Fisher who were two icons I dearly admired. He seemed to know everybody, and everybody knew him.

I think the Python I knew most about prior to this book was John Cleese and that was only because I had seen him in many movies and shows and knew more about his career than the other Pythons. I like John and Eric’s portrayal of him made me like him all the more. Of course, I like Eric all the more as well.

I’m glad I read this book. It has been so long since I have seen a Monty Python movie that I don’t remember much at all about them, and I have never seen their show. I intend to mend these lapses, though I have reservations about how well they will stand the test of time. I’m sure some if not many will, but we will see.

Should the shows and movies not quite tickle my fancy, I at least enjoyed this book which provides a great insight into the group that influenced much of the world. More specifically, it is a look inside the life of the man who made most of it possible.

Happy Reading.