A Short History of the Girl Next Door – Review

“I am completely in love with my best friend from childhood, she has absolutely no idea, and now she’s interested in older, more popular guys. This sounds like a bad movie already.”

A Short History of the Girl Next Door starts with Matt Wainwright catching us up on his lifelong friendship with Tabby, the girl next door, and how he went from being her best friend to being in love with her.

The first half of the book is very funny. This is very typical come of age YA, told from the perspective of a teenage boy. The internal observations and dialogue veer from quite insightful to highly inappropriate. To me, this made Matt feel like a very real adolescent boy.

Instead of being in friends with the beautiful popular girl while he himself is an awkward geek, Matt instead is just a normal freshman jock. He plays basketball, and while he is awkward and strange, Reck writes him in that normal freshman awkwardness that most of us probably remember feeling and being. Which I really liked. Because this isn’t a typical unrequited love story. It is something far better.

We meet his younger brother Murray, an adorable four year old that you can’t help but smile at in nearly every scene. His grandparents and his parents. There is nothing dysfunctional or odd, other than normal quirky human personalities. And Tabby. Who is as much a part of this family as anyone.

It is the second half of this novel that we get hit in the gut with tragedy. An accident shifts everything for Matt, and his story changes into one of grief. How powerful and overwhelming it can be. How it shifts your perspective on everything in life. And how it can be so deep, that it changes who you are.

This isn’t a normal come of age tale. This isn’t a story about a boy loving a girl. This really is a novel about the power of family and love. About how growing up can mean facing some of the hardest things, about how out of control life can be, and what we can do in the face of helplessness.

The thing I like about this novel is that while the point of the plot is grief, Reck doesn’t take the easy road. He doesn’t hold back in how he portrays Matt. Matt makes some really strange decisions. And behaves from the moment of the accident rather badly most of the time. As a mother, and someone far outside of adolescence, seeing these decisions is even a bit more heartbreaking, because you can see what’s happening and understand it. But it is an unflinching dive into those emotions that is so stunning. There is no right way to grieve, and there is no easy answer. These are important lessons and Reck writes them so vividly, it’s impossible not to be moved.

Outside of the grief, there are some fantastic lessons about life written in these pages. One observation that struck me was about locker room talk. We see it, and hear it. We get to read Matt’s reaction to it, how he wishes he reacted, how he actually did react. But, Reck takes us even further and discusses the implications of that talk.

“They’re automatically going to see Tabby differently. Even if it’s just a dumb joke. Every time one of them sees her, that though is going to pop into his head. And he’s going to wonder. I’m doing it right now, and I hate myself for it. Meanwhile, the flawless perception of Branson goes unchanged.”

I mean, can we all just take a moment and stop to really examine the profound truth of that excerpt. And not just the truth behind it, but the fact that it’s in a YA novel, from a teenage male perspective? This is such a phenomenal message.

There is more in these pages. Observations on friendship, family, love, growth, competition and forgiveness. This is a book that should be introduced to teenagers and talked about with them. It isn’t a book of cliche moments and happy endings. Rather it is an honest look at what life can hand us at any given moment. It is about how we recover from the bad decisions we make. How we ask for forgiveness when we hurt the people we love, and how we forgive ourselves.

The Short History of a Girl Next Door is a powerful book. It is one worth taking the journey into, especially if you know or are an adolescent facing grief in any capacity. It is a book that can help you grow and can help you learn. Highly, highly recommend it. Just make sure you have a box if tissues nearby.

Thank you Blogging for Books and Knopf books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Ready Player One – Review

“Going outside is highly overrated.”

Virtual Reality has been the stuff of science fiction for a long time. Simulated worlds, offering everything that real life simply can’t. And as a society that is closer to achieving the immersion into these worlds than ever before, I think the idea of exploring these virtual worlds is more important than ever.

 

Not only do I find the idea behind virtual reality so fascinating, but honestly, I am slightly in love with anything that is fully dystopian ready. And virtual reality screams dystopia. An entire system that appears on the surface to be utopia, exploited or manipulated by one or the many to be turned into a nightmare. I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is why there isn’t MORE virtual reality dystopias in the world!

Ready Player One shows us a grim future. A world where resources have dwindled, forcing people to build gigantic towers of haphazard homes near cities for the hope of power, food and water. It’s a dismal world, where reality is unpleasant. The only thing most people look forward to, the only thing that makes life bearable, is the alternate world of the OASIS.

“For me, growing up as a human being on the plant Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.”

The OASIS is an entire virtual world, or worlds, where people work, go to school, vacation, and live their best lives. People don’t choose to spend time in reality. They choose to spend their time in the OASIS.

“You don’t live in the real world, Z. From what you’ve told me, I don’t think you ever have. You’re like me. You live inside this illusion.”

The world building alone in this virtual reality system is something I easily could have spent hours reading about. The level of detail and imagination that went into the systems, and these worlds was incredible. This is an example of writing that could have become bogged down with too much information, but Cline was smart in how he wove in the details of the world to be relevant to the plot. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by details, I was instead transported into a lush landscape that is mind-boggling in scope but sharp in focus.

Wade, our protagonist, is just trying to graduate his virtual high school and find his way in a world where jobs are scarce. His only plan is to find Halliday’s Easter egg, a hidden prize embedded deep within the OASIS world, coded by Halliday himself, and found only by solving a series of clues and puzzles. The person who finds this egg wins the entire fortune of Halliday, which means billions of dollars.

Here’s where the fun of this book begins. Rather than take us through a meandering bombardment of virtual worlds, Cline instead focuses the hunt in a specific way.

“The Hunt, as the contest came to be known, quickly wove its way into global culture. Like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike.”

The creator, Jim Halliday, grew up in the 80’s. A time when he met his best friend and co-creator, Ogden Morrow, and they started a little company that grew into one of the largest corporations in the world. When Halliday died, an email with a video and a link to his website were sent to every player in OASIS. The only clue was an obscure riddle and a link to an Almanac. The Almanac itself was over a thousand pages long and went into Halliday’s thoughts on movies, music, video games and all things pop culture 80’s.

Suddenly, a decade once looked down on for it’s decadence and abundance, one that would have been forgotten, is thrust into back into relevance and popularity. Personally, I thought this twist was pure genius.

The 80’s was not the end all be all for science fiction, or video games, or even technology. So I get why some people may not see the connection between the future we are reading about and that particular decade. But, the 80’s was known for its greed, for its excess. To show it as an obsession in a time that knows only poverty and thin resources was subtle but brilliant.

Beyond that, the main competitor and threat to Wade after he stumbles on the answer to the first clue isn’t other gunters, the name he and fellow egg hunters are known as, but IOI, a giant corporation willing to throw any and all resources at finding the egg and owning OASIS. They want to take something that is very inexpensive and available to the masses, and turn it into a money making machine where only the privileged few can really thrive. Which fits in with 80’s greed. We may see that behavior in corporations now, but that mentality was born in the 80’s.

The writing is full of wonderful dry sarcasm, and there’s a subtle mocking tone to the absurdity of living life in a virtual world woven throughout the plot.

“It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit or armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game.”

It also carries a really good analysis of what technology can do to a civilization. Or rather, the possibility of what can happen. The entire plot is carried primarily within a virtual world, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see the wasteland the unvirtual one has become.

“It had become a self-imposed prison for humanity,” he wrote. “A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.”

I find that good dystopian shows us both the good and the bad of the world it presents. It may carry a message, or even a warning, but the information is merely presented for us to digest and interpret. We are given characters to embody the arguments and it is then up to us to form our opinions. Ready Player One does this spectacularly.

Ready Player One is fun science fiction. It takes us into a future that on the surface seems to be going backwards, but has the technology to move it forward. While it will appeal to video gamers by its sheer plot subject alone, I think even non-gamers will delight in falling into the virtual world Cline has created. I also cannot wait to see what magic Spielberg gives us on the big screen.

 

Rise of The Dawnstar – SNEAK PEAK

I am so excited to be able to share with you an excerpt from the second book in this series! THIS IS A SEQUEL, so this excerpt might contain spoilers!!!!! Be sure to check out the rest of this tour, by clicking the links below! AND THERE’S A GIVEAWAY!!!

Dawnstar

The Rise of the Dawnstar 

by Farah Oomerbhoy
(The Avalonia Chronicles #2)

Publication date: April 24th 2017

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Aurora Firedrake returns in the spellbinding sequel to The Last of the Firedrakes.

The seven kingdoms of Avalonia are crumbling and evil is spreading across the land like a plague. Queen Morgana is close to finding a way to open The Book of Abraxas and it’s only a matter of time until she uses the power trapped inside its pages to enslave the entire world.

With Avalonia growing more dangerous by the day, Aurora must travel through war-torn lands and deep into the heart of the fae kingdom of Elfi. Her goal is to find a legendary weapon infused with the last of the realm’s ancient magic—the only weapon in the world powerful enough to stop the queen.

Aurora might have survived her first battle against Morgana, but the true fight to save her kingdom and restore her throne has only just begun…

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Prologue

“Why is the girl still alive, Lucian?” said a woman’s voice from a shadowy corner.

“I’m working on it, my queen.” The Archmage of Avalonia swept into the darkened room, his black mage robes, bordered with gold, billowing around him as he walked. Broad-shouldered and regal in his bearing, he raised his right hand and the damp fireplace flared to life, warming the cold stone floor.

Morgana sat in a red velvet chair, staring into the flames that suddenly appeared before her, illuminating her heart-shaped face. The windows were shut against the cold wind that had started blowing down from the north and a dark mist swirled outside as the wind howled, racing through the kingdoms of Avalonia, heralding the coming of winter.

“Then why does she still live, Lucian?” Morgana snarled, rising slowly from her high-backed chair and turning to face the Archmage. Her obsidian hair was loose and tangled and her emerald eyes were bloodshot red.

“We have no idea where she is.” Lucian bowed before the queen of Illiador. His eyes narrowed as he addressed Morgana. “It is proving impossible to find her with magic. As long as she wears the Amulet of Auraken, I cannot determine her whereabouts.”

“Yes, I know that.” Morgana waved her hand, dismissing the thought. “But surely there are other ways to find her?”

“Not with magic.”

“Then find her without magic,” Morgana hissed.

“I have spies everywhere, looking for the princess,” said the Archmage, his jaw tightening. “The last we heard, she left the Summer Palace in the dark of night. That was days ago – by now she could be anywhere in the seven kingdoms.”

Morgana clasped her hands together and started pacing in front of the fireplace. “She won’t get far on a normal horse; at least she doesn’t have the added advantage of a pegasus anymore.”

Lucian coughed and looked down.

Morgana’s eyes widened and her eyebrows rose. “What are you not telling me, Lucian?”

“There was an incident in the ruins, after you, um, left. My sources say that the princess healed the pegasus.”

“How is that possible? The pegasus was dead, I saw it with my own eyes.” Morgana paused as she assessed the Archmage. “Is her healing power so great?”

“I believe it is. She has the blood of the immortal fae running through her veins. You know how powerful their healers are, and she is stronger still. My sources say that the healing she performed on that day was something no one has ever seen before.”

“The Shadow Guard were supposed to kill the pegasus and the princess, but they failed.” Morgana looked utterly unimpressed.

Lucian looked down.

“Why did they fail, Lucian?” Morgana’s green eyes narrowed. “I thought you had trained them all personally? How can a little chit of a girl defeat the deadliest warriors of Illiador?”

“She is too strong,” the Archmage said, his face almost feral at the thought of the girl who had evaded them for over fifteen years. “The more she uses her magic, the more her power grows. There is no mage who can stand in her way now.”

“Rubbish!” The flames in the fireplace leapt and danced as Morgana’s anger flared. “There is always a way.”

Lucian bowed his head, not so much as blinking an eye. “Whatever you say, my queen.”

Morgana flashed him a glare. “And what news is there from Eldoren? Are you sure your sister and her husband know what they’re doing?”

Lucian nodded. “The Blackwaters will take over the throne of Eldoren as you have commanded. The plans are already set in motion.”

“That is not enough,” Morgana snapped. “I want Prince Rafael dead as well. The Ravenswood dynasty supports Aurora, none must be allowed to survive. We will strip her of all her allies and all her friends; she will have no one to turn to, no one to help her. Without proper guidance the girl is likely to destroy herself. Then we will strike when she is at her weakest.”

“What about Izadora? The fae queen will never bow to your rule, and you know that.”

Morgana’s eyes narrowed. “Izadora will have no choice, once I am done with her,” she gave Lucian a pointed look. “My plans concerning Elfi are already underway. You just make sure that Aurora never reaches her grandmother’s kingdom.”

Lucian shook his head. “Forget her, Morgana.” He came closer and put his hand on her shoulder. “She is weak and foolish. She doesn’t have it in her to be queen. Like you said, she will eventually destroy herself. Concentrate on taking over the other kingdoms first. Once you are crowned High Queen of Avalonia, Aurora Firedrake will become just a memory.”

“I want her dead, Lucian.” Morgana moved away from him, and turned to face the flames. “I should have called for the Drakkar assassins much earlier,” she said quietly, dismissing the Archmage with a wave of her hand. “They will find her and they will destroy her, even if you can’t.”

“But, Your Majesty.” The Archmage’s spine stiffened. “The Drakkar are not to be trusted. They will extract a high price for this – remember what happened after you hired them to kill Azaren.” He paused and took a step closer, lowering the tone of his voice. “Morgana, let me find the girl. I will not fail, just give me more time.”

“There is no more time,” snarled Morgana, turning back around to face him. “The people have already heard that she is alive. You told me yourself that rebel factions have sprung up all over Illiador and they are searching for her too. We have to find her before those troublemakers who call themselves the Silver Swords do. They are the last remnants of Azaren’s supporters, and I want them gone as well. Burn the forests where they take cover, and scorch the villages and towns that conceal them. If anyone is found supporting Aurora, they must be made examples of. My niece must have no place to go, nowhere to hide, then we will strike and make her wish that she had never been born a Firedrake.”

The Archmage bowed, his eyes like shards of cold steel. “It will be done, my queen.”

“See that it is.” Morgana turned to gaze into the dancing fire. “If I want to become High Queen over all the seven kingdoms, Aurora Firedrake must die.”

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 Sound good?!? Click the links below for reviews and to buy your copy!

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AUTHOR BIO:
Farah Oomerbhoy is the international bestselling author of The Avalonia Chronicles. Her first book, The Last of the Firedrakes, was originally published on Wattpad where it gained nearly two million reads and a Watty Award. Since publication, her debut has gone on to win a silver medal in IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Awards and the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, along with winning a finalist placement in the USA Best Book Awards. Farah loves the fantastical and magical and often dreams of living in Narnia, Neverland, or the Enchanted Forest. With a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Mumbai, Farah spends her creative time crafting magical worlds for young adults. She lives with her family in Mumbai, India.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

WANT A CHANCE TO WIN?!?!? Click the Giveaway picture below!!! Prize pack includes print copies of book 1 & 2 PLUS swag!!! (US/Can Only)

 

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Be sure to check out the amazing blogs featuring this book on this tour!

October 16th
The Pursuit Of Bookiness
The Book Junkie Reads . . .
Splashes Into Books
Dani Reviews Things

October 17th
Unrated Bookshelf
My Lovely Secret
Mommy makes Time
Happymomblogger
Casia’s Corner
anie’s blog: diary of a wannabe writer

October 18th
J.L. Hendricks Blog
Mythical Books
Don’t Judge, Read
Birdie Bookworm

October 19th
TJGreen – Reading Room
Teatime and Books
Laura’s Interests
6 Feet Under Books

October 20th
Hauntedbybooks13
Rockin’ Book Reviews
Meet Your New Favorite Book
Jrsbookreviews
BrizzleLass Books

October 21st
Lori’s Little House of Reviews
The Book Drealms
Love Books Group Blog
Jena Brown Writes
Bibliofagista

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