Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ready Player One

In 2044, the real world is pretty awful. Poverty, hunger, and unemployment are even bigger issues than they are today. The only shining, wonderful part of life is called OASIS, a free virtual reality massive multiplayer online game that replaces many aspects of real life: shopping, games, vacations, communication, leisure time, and even school. One of the creators of this innovative technology  died a few years ago and willed his entire enormous fortune to the person that can find three keys and the hidden easter egg in the vast OASIS. After five years, no on has found anything until Wade Watts find the copper key. Wade, in real life and in the game, is poor and looked down upon. In real life, he lives in one of the treacherous towers of mobile homes with his abusive aunt and whatever boyfriend she has at the time. In game, he doesn't have enough credits to travel and he's stuck with a few low level items and the default avatar skin. Suddenly, the whole world is looking at him, including the  IOI cooperation bent on finding the easter egg to make the OASIS cost money and saturate it with ads, effectively destroying it for much of the population. Can Wade find the easter egg before IOI? How far is IOI willing to go to get it?

I read Ready Player One because a few people recommended it to me and they had a cool booth at San Diego Comic Con. I expected a cool, nerdy story that I would enjoy, but it went above and beyond my expectations. I read it in only a couple of days and I felt glued to the book, needing to know what would happen next. The first thing that really impressed me was the OASIS and its huge impact on the world. The possibilities are infinite in that world. You can be whoever you want to be ad experience it as if it were real life. Even in school, no one will ever really know who you really are unless you let them know. All of that life is experienced through screen names and avatars. There are thousands of planets that depict anything from schools to worlds from sci-fi films to night clubs. To the people of the time, it's better than reality and a way to escape. The huge differences between the virtual and real world were interesting to witness. In the OASIS, there are infinite possibilities and hope. In the real world, one can be enslaved in never ending indentured servitude for unpaid credit cards or live in a precarious tower of mobile homes.

The characters were all dynamic and develop throughout the novel. Wade is the quintessential underdog on a quest that is seen time and time again in science fiction and fantasy stories. He used the OASIS for school and to escape his horrible life full of abuse, pov I, and I'm sure many people, related to him because of his outsider status and nerdiness. His knowledge about James Halliday and his various obsessions was vast. The narrative was peppered with references from science fiction and the 80's in any media imaginable. Although I didn't get every single one, they gave the story an added depth. Wade used his obsession with everything related to Halliday and his intelligence to get through not only the obstacles in the game, but the ones in real life as well. His circle of friends were also endearing. All of his friends only knew him online, but he developed real, lasting relationships. It was interesting to see who they were in real life, behind their avatar facades.

I absolutely loved Ready Player One. I didn't want to put it down and I always went right back to reading the first opportunity I could. If you like science fiction, the 80's, and fun adventure stories, this book is definitely for you.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Many sites including Craigslist and Wikipedia are blacked out today in protest of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)/PIPA (Protect IP Act): pieces of legislation set to stop internet piracy, but would actually simply end up censoring the internet instead. Corporate enforcers of the bill could take down any site they viewed as taking away from their profits without any sort of judgment system or due process. So Facebook or Wikipedia could arbitrarily be taken down with no explanation or reason. I would like to live in a society that values art and the freedom we have on the internet.

Google has censored their logo that links to information about the bill and ways individuals can make their opinions heard.

Artists don't support SOPA. Neil Gaiman posted an open letter to Washington signed by himself and a variety of other artists. DeviantArt also opened a forum for artists to discuss the bills and the opinion is overwhelmingly negative. Deviants on the site also create art as protest against it such as these:

Stop SOPA Bill by =sakimichan

Ponies Against SOPA by *Otterlore

This TED talk explaining why SOPA wouldn't work is awesome if you want to learn more about it.

If you live in the US and like having freedom on the internet, please contact your congressman and let your voice be heard.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Internet Awesomeness

More awesome internet videos!

1) Fan made Evelyn Evelyn video

I love the song Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn and this video makes me love it even more. It's unique, creative, and simply awesome.

2) GLaDOS writes to Princess Celestia

My boyfriend is a brony and he got me into watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It's actually a very good show with detailed, realistic characters. If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. Just ignore all of your preconceptions about it first. Anways, GLaDOS from the Portal games writes to Princess Celestia in this video with hilarious results.

3) Ukulele Anthem by Amanda Palmer

I heard this song at Amanda Palmer's last concert in LA around Halloween and I absolutely loved it. The point of it is that ukuleles are super cheap and easy to play, so go out and make art in your own way! I have been playing the uke for a little over a year and it's really fun to play cover songs with my friends.

4) Dirty Signs with Kristin

Kristin's videos are hilarious because she teaches how to say dirty things in sign language. The one I've chosen isn't particularly dirty, but I like it anyway. It shows how to say "You make baby Jesus cry." If you're interested, there are lots of other phrases in the sidebar on youtube and each and every one is funny, yet informative.

Until next time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pink Smog

Louise is an unhappy thirteen year old girl that really would like to be called Weetzie. Her parents constantly fight and their unhappiness finally resulted in her father, the person who means the world to her, leaving for good. Her mother drowns her sorrows in booze, leaving Weetzie to fend for herself. Not only is she bullied at school by the popular crowd, but the teachers also routinely humiliate and mock her. Her life is in shambles and she tries to pick up the pieces, starting out with following fairy tale clues from a mysterious benefactor, befriending a couple of fellow outcasts at her school, and saving an angelic boy from his voodoo doll torturing sister. Will Weetzie's difficult life break her or will she rise above it all and take control of her life?

I absolutely loved the Weetzie Bat books when I was a kid. Her stories really inspired me and helped me through some difficult times. I was so excited to hear that Francesca Lia Block would be revisiting and expanding upon the series. In Pink Smog, Weetzie is more vulnerable and much less sure of herself in comparison to her later teen and early adult self. She flounders as her life suddenly falls apart and his forced to grow up because of her father's abandonment and her mother's drinking. Instead of being taken care of as she should, both of her parents abandon her and she takes care of her mother as best she can as someone who can't fully take care of herself. I really felt for her and hurt with her as her support system crumbled. I also celebrated with her when she found people she could confide in and believed in herself more. Weetzie got me to connect with my pre-teen self where everything is felt much more intensely and where I felt less sure about who I was.

As with many of Block's other novels, Pink Smog is at its heart a loving portrayal of LA and its unique effect on people. The title itself describes the beautiful pink sunset seen in LA because of the disgusting smog in the air. This encompasses what I love about the city: the beauty and wonder is very close to the grime and less savory aspects. This great center of culture that is famous for celebrities and the privileged is also home to homeless people, strip clubs, and the dregs of society. I've never seen another place like it and it holds a special place in my heart. Block doesn't glamorize it and shows it how it is.

Pink Smog is a formidable prequel to Weetzie Bat and I enjoyed reading this blast from the past. As always, Francesca Lia Block's beautiful prose brings the novel to life. I would recommend this to anyone, whether they have read any of the series or not.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

** Pink Smog will be released 1/24. Check it out here. **

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pledge

The Queen rules over Ludania with an iron fist, forcing its inhabitants to make a pledge to protect her over all others. This entails turning in anyone speaking against the Queen or contributing in any way to the Resistance. She has also implemented a unique way to separate the classes and ensure that upward mobility is impossible: limit each class by the languages they are allowed to speak. Charlie is a Vendor class girl who has always had the ability to understand all the languages and knows the importance of hiding it. If anyone ever found out and turned her in, she would swiftly be put to death, as is the punishment for any infraction no matter how small. When a mysterious boy takes interest in her after he notices her strange ability, she is drawn into a political struggle between the aging Queen looking for an heir and the young revolutionaries fighting for equality. What is Charlie's place in all this? Can she make a difference in this power struggle?

I picked this up on a whim and I was surprised how good it was. I was expecting a mediocre dystopia because many of the ones I've read lately have been lackluster and disappointing. The Pledge does a lot of things I haven't really read before and compares to adult dystopian novels as well. The big totalitarian government in this case is run by a woman, which isn't typical. It's usually a Hitler-esque dictator or Big Brother, but rarely a tyrannical, manipulative queen. Her male heirs are viewed as essentially useless because the magic, the power, and the respect of the other countries are dependent on a female heir. This is the opposite of how we historically viewed the genders in power and as heirs, and it's even a perspective not seen in science fiction very often. The Queen is seriously creepy and will do anything to ensure her own safety and the prolonging of her reign, including torture and executions. Her ingenuous solution to any kind of revolution is segregating her subjects by the language they speak. The lowest classes only speak one language and each class above that speaks their own language and all of those underneath them. There is literally no way for anyone to move up in this caste system and they don't enjoy any real freedoms. The Pledge of the title is particularly chilling because the inhabitants are forced to put their monarch above anything in their lives. They are expected to turn in dissenters or troublemakers or run the risk of being executed themselves. I was impressed with the world building and how sociopathic the Queen was.

The ensemble cast is interesting and kept my interest. My favorites are Charlie, her little sister Angelina, and the evil Queen. Charlie puts her family before herself and doesn't whine about how sucky her life is. Unlike many YA book heroines, she prefers her working class home and life to anything else, even when circumstances allow her to choose to change her lot in life. I wanted to give her little sister the biggest hug because she was so sweet. Angelina doesn't speak and has the amazing ability to heal. Without saying anything, she can convey everything she is thinking and feeling and she has a wonderful relationship with her sister. Max, the main love interest, was just ok for me. He wasn't annoying or abusive, but was a little bossy and didn't have much of a personality. The romance was really secondary to the dystopia and didn't overpower it.

The Pledge is a fast paced dystopia that featured some unique concepts and some surprises along the way. I'm not sure if this is the first in the series, but it works very well as a stand alone novel. I would recommend this to fans of the Hunger Games and Delirium.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Friday, January 6, 2012


Nikki Beckett reappears in her hometown mysteriously. Her friends and family have't seen or heard from her in six months and they have no idea where she went or what she did during that time, although popular opinion includes drug use. They probably wouldn't believe her even if she told them. Nikki acted as a Forfeit to feed an Everliving named Cole with her energy for a hundred years (which is sixth months in our world) in the Everneath. Everlivings have to constantly feed people's energy to stave off death and no Forfeit has ever returned remembering their lives and appearing so young. She returned for her family and her boyfriend, Jack. She wants to say goodbye properly before she is forced to go to the Tunnels to fuel the Everneath until she eases to be. Cole wants to ensnare her and make her become an Everliving and be with him for all eternity. Can Nikki find a way to stay on Earth and fix the fractured relationships she left behind or will she succumb to Cole and become an Everliving?

Everneath is an imaginative retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth mixed with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I love reading all different types of mythologies and this aspect really enhanced the novel for me. The Everlivings themselves have appeared throughout history in myths, but misinterpreted by humanity who translate them into gods or monsters. They reminded me of better, more competent villains from the Negaverse (or Dark Kingdom) in Sailor Moon. These beings are properly evil, constantly and unapologetically feeding on young people and sending them back to Earth aged and without memories. Their society in the Everneath is also interesting and its details unfold throughout the novel. I also really liked the form of the novel. It's told from Nikki's point of view, starting from the moment she returns to Earth after being a forfeit and going forward in time. Interspersed within that timeline are flashbacks of the events leading up to her leaving. I liked how as the novel progressed, the emotions and motivations behind Nikki's actions became clearer and clearer.

There were a few things about the novel that annoyed me. I'm not really sure why almost every paranormal romance has some sort of love triangle, but it was totally unnecessary in this instance. I'm getting increasingly tired with each one that I read and I hope a new trend or more unique stories start being written. It was painfully obvious who Nikki was going to choose, so it didn't add anything at all to the story. Also, because of Nikki's angst and her unnecessary inner turmoil over who to choose, the plot dragged a lot in the middle. Much of those angsty parts could have been edited out while keeping the plot and overall story intact.

Everneath is a quick read that grabbed my attention. I know it's going to be a series, but I think it would also work perfectly as a stand alone novel. I would recommend it to fans of mythology and paranormal romance.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

** Everneath will be released 1/24. Check it out here.**

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Wendy Everly has never felt as if she fit in anywhere. When she was six, her own mother tried to murder her in a fit of delusion, convinced that she replaced her mother's real child. People seem to dislike her upon meeting without knowing anything about her and she just seems to stumble into trouble without meaning to. At seventeen, she's living with her brother and her aunt, trying to be good, do well in school, and stay out of trouble for their sake. Then a boy at her school named Finn starts to kind of stalk her, making Wendy suspicious but interested. He reveals that she is a changeling and she must return to her true family or be kidnapped by an opposing faction. Is this the place she belongs or will she be just as alien as she is in the human world?

Switched is a typical teen fantasy book that is supposedly about trolls (AKA trylles). This aspect isn't necessary at all and seems like an easy way to market it as something unique, when it's actually just a typical fairy story. There are some things I liked about the book, such as the trylle society and the dynamic of her blood family as opposed to her human family. The society has a rigid caste system that doesn't allow for upward mobility. The regular, peasant trylle don't have any special abilities, so they work in order to contribute. Those in the aristocracy have magical abilities of some sort, but they don't know how to defend themselves. Trackers only have abilities that go with their trade and are considered very low on the totem pole, but humans hold the lowest position. The blatant hatred of humans and behavior of the people in different levels of the caste system really intrigued me. The different family dynamics are also interesting. The family that has taken care of her for all of her life is the most important to Wendy. Her family by blood is cold and distant with only duty binding them together. The vastly different family units highlight that love, not blood, makes a true family.

The rest of the story is fairly typical for a teen fantasy read. Of course there is a hot guy named Finn that makes Wendy act completely senseless and melodramatic. This is the most annoying aspect because I really like her except when she acts like she's going to die without Finn, as so many heroines do these days. It's also creepy that she finds it sexy to be stalked and annoyed instead of meeting and getting to know each other like real people. The love at first sight trope is getting a little tired for me. The plot is a little uneven with pacing and doesn't really pick up until she arrives in the trylle world.

Overall, Switched was enjoyable, but not a spectacular read. The writing was all right and the story kept my interest, but I don't have a burning need to read the next book in the series.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolution and Stuff

Well, it's a new year! Supposedly the last, but I won't be holding my breath for a zombie apocalypse. Anyway, I wanted to share my New Year's resolution with you guys. I want to read more books, post more reviews, and keep up with my blog more. It's one of the first things to be ignored when I get busy with school and I want to do better this semester.

So right now, I am basking in laziness and reading like a fiend, trying to savor my free time while I still have it. My 26th birthday passed and I got to spend it with my wonderful boyfriend. So keep an eye out here for more reviews in the coming weeks. In February, I will be celebrating Women in Horror month with film and book reviews.

Anything you guys would like to share? resolutions? life happenings? I would love to hear from you!