Ready Player Two, A Rant

This was not a blog post that I was expecting to be writing! Ready Player Two was one of my most anticipated 2020 releases and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it… which I thought was going to be awhile since I wasn’t willing to pay $15 for the Kindle edition. After the book was released, it received less than stellar reviews from Bloggers, BookTubers and Reviewers. I was baffled by this backlash but the negativity didn’t impact my desire to read this book! Fast-forward to December. A couple of friends got me a copy of Ready Player Two for Christmas (as part of an AMAZING “retro” themed gift that perfectly aligned with the novel’s Pop Culture laden plot). I couldn’t wait to get started and decided it was going to be one of the first books I read in January! Now that the background has been established, let the rant begin…

I want to start off by saying: Get the F**K OFF ERNEST CLINE’S BACK. For the love of God. For probably a solid month I saw all these tweets, blog posts and BookTube videos that were completely TRASHING this book. I didn’t fully watch most of these for fear of spoilers, since I hadn’t read the book. The biggest complaints were about how “Wade changed and was no longer recognizable.” Ummmm, hello. Repeat after me, “That’s what happens when people suddenly come into an ass load of money.” This scenario is shown time and time again. People win a lot of money and become jerks. They fall out with their friends, they end up fighting with their families and they use their money as a crutch. Wade’s behavior early on in this book doesn’t surprise me the least! Mild spoilers: He does redeem himself.

The other feedback I’ve seen is how “unnecessary” (imagine me saying that in my most pretentious, condescending voice possible) this book is. Was this book necessary? Nope. Was it an insanely fun, pop-culture roller coaster that was completely entertaining? You bet your ass it was! I am an avid videogamer, so obviously I really connected with Ready Player One. Ready Player Two was chock full of pop culture references that were also enjoyable in a different way. The premise of this book revolved around collecting seven shard of the Siern’s Soul. I can already hear the naysayers… “But Mr Geekkkkkkk…. The FIRST book had a quest.” WELL NEWS FLASH – so can this one, it did and I loved it!

Now, don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t perfect. The early chapters definitely dragged a bit to really establish the story while also giving the read a refresher on Ready Player One (which I appreciated, since I didn’t re-read it prior). Once the quest begins, things really start to flow. Overall, I was satisfied with the ending but it did have a quirky wrap up.

I feel so much better getting all of these feelings out. So. My advice to you, my dear reader, is that if you were / are interested in reading Ready Player Two, read Ready Player Two. To hell with what everyone else thinks. Give it a go, see what you think and judge the book for yourself. I’d also like to thank Mollie and Christi for gifting me a copy of Ready Player Two as part of an amazing Retro Christmas gift!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Top 5 Favorite Books of 2020

Earlier this week, I talked about my Top 5 Biggest Book Disappointments of 2020. I specifically decided to call out BOOK disappointments, because otherwise the entire year would’ve been featured on that list!

Just me trying to make it through 2020 in one piece…

I really shouldn’t complain. While this was a total dumpster fire of a year, I did get a chance to read a ton of great books! When the pandemic first began, I really struggled to settle into a new routine and adjust to this “new normal.” My reading definitely took a nose-dive because I just couldn’t focus on my books with everything happening in the world. Thankfully, by the Summer months I got myself back on track! Deciding which books to feature here really was a challenge! I’m going to keep the summaries short but I’ve included a blurb about what my this book so great (in my opinion). After that long intro, it’s time to talk great books!! (My list will be in my reading chronological order through the year, starting January to December).

Kicking off this list is Oona Out Of Order by Margarita Montimore! What an absolute joy and refreshing deviation from my standard genres! This was a story about a woman who, starting on her 19th birthday, begins living her life out of order. Each birthday she time hops to a different age, 19 – 54 – 37 – 78. What really made this a memorable reading experience were the life lessons and fantastic quotes sprinkled throughout this novel. Each year Oona lives teaches her something which I found to be interesting and applicable to my life. Montimore also had some truly noteworthy quotes, my favorite being: All good things end, always. The trick is to enjoy them while they last. As I look into 2021, this is something that’s going to stick with me. Savor these enjoyable moments because you never know how long that are going to last.

Next up we have House In The Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune. A good friend of mine recommended this book to me and I am so glad she did! Cerulean Sea is the story of a social work name Linus, who handles orphanages for “special children.” One day Linus gets a high-priority assignment and is asked to travel to a very… unique… orphanage. There he meets an eclectic group of people that turn his entire life upside down. Each of the children has a very distinct personality that adds so much charm and dimension to the story. To put it simply, this book is perfection. While this was a work of fiction, Klune does an incredible job weaving in relevant parallels to what’s happening in today’s world (like prejudice and discrimination). If you’re looking for a feel-good story, look no further than The House In The Cerulean Sea!

Starting last year, I decided I wanted to read all of the Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. I started off strong, reading The Mortal Instruments trilogy (Part 1, Books 1 – 3), The Infernal Devices trilogy and started The Mortal Instruments Part 2 (Book #4, City of Fallen Angels). This year, I finished off the last 2 books in part 2 of The Mortal Instruments, the supplemental short story bind ups and moved onto The Dark Artifices. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare was my favorite entry in this world to date. The writing was engaging and the plot centered around a mystery. It was a wild ride from the first page to the very last! What really cemented this book’s spot on my Top 5 list was the fact that it was nearly 700 and it didn’t feel nearly that long. The story was meaningful and there wasn’t fluff or filler. I’m currently reading Lord of Shadows and I’m anxious to see where the story goes from here!

My next book, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, was a bit of a toss up. I was conflicted including this because it has already received SO much praise this year already. If you haven’t heard of this book (first of all, where have you been?), it’s the story of Adeline LaRue who makes a deal with a Dark God to change her fate and have the life she always dreamed of. The catch? As soon as Addie leaves your vision, you forget her… until she finally meets someone who remembers. Similar to Oona Out Of Order, Addie LaRue is not my typical genre of book but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was an epic story, that needed to be told, and Schwab crafted it would masterful precision. I was nervous about how this was all going to wrap up but the ending was utter perfection. It was a great culmination to a fantastic tale

Finally, rounding out this list is, Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman. This was one of the last books I read this year and I ENJOYED IT. I’ve read several of Bachman’s other works (A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry). Both of these novels were wonderful and definitely tugged a bit at the heartstrings. I went into Anxious People expecting a lighthearted and funny story about a bank robbery gone wrong. This wasn’t quite what I got. The novel had a much more serious and somber tone since suicide plays a large role in the plot. There was a large cast of characters but Bachman did a great job giving each one a distinct voice so you never mixed them up. While suicide is at the center of the book, the story manages to be uplifting and center on healing. Give this one a whirl if you need a little optimism in your life.

I would like to cheat and add one final “Honorable Mention” which is Atomic Habits by Jame Clear. It’s really hard to put this book up against some of the incredible fiction I’ve previously mentioned but I had to still mention this book. I absolutely loved it and thought the advice was so applicable. Clear does a great job making the advice relatable and useful (as opposed to most of the other self-help / development books I’ve read). He’s easy to connect to and doesn’t come across as condescending. A MUST read if you’re looking to build new, or break existing, habits!

And there you have it! My Top 5 Favorite Books of 2020. While this year wasn’t quite exactly what I was hoping it would be, I learned a little and ended up reading a lot. I’m hopeful that 2021 will be the year we’ve all earned and deserve!

Have you read any of my favorites? What did you think? Any recommendations on “Must Read” books for 2021? Leave your favorites in the comments – let’s face it, my TBR is never going to shrink!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Tome Topple: Round 13 / November Recap

As I said in a previous tweet, October was FAST and November turned out to be even FASTER! How is that even possible!? I had an… interesting reading month filled with amazing books and very mediocre books. In total, I read 7 books this month and I’m still on track to hit my goal of 52 for the year! Not only did I get a lot of reading in, I also had the pleasure of co-hosting one of my favorite read-a-thons, Tome Topple (more on that later)!

As I previous mentioned, I read The Witches by Roald Dahl and The List by JA Konrath. Neither of these books were that amazing. The Witches was a rather morbid story but The List was quirky and entertaining. I really enjoy Konrath’s unique writing style. The plots are always inventive and I can’t help by get sucked into his stories!

After The List, I moved onto the masterpiece that is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab. This book was FANTASTIC and it was just what the doctor ordered! While this wasn’t my typical read, I relished in the world and story that Schwab created. The premise was awesome – to escape her destiny, Addie makes a deal with a “Dark God” to free herself. This deal comes at a cost, no one can remember Addie after they’ve left her presence. Addie lives for over 300 years, roaming the earth, stealing what she needs until one day she meets Henry… and Henry can remember her. For me personally, this book really took shape about halfway through when Addie meets Henry and the “adventure” really begins. The story flowed in such an amazing and poetic way. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, move it to the top of your TBR ASAP.

Rounding out the month, I read a couple self-help books. The Person You Mean To Be By Dolly Chugh and Atomic Habits by James Clear. Dolly Chugh was a featured speaker at a recent work event. I was able to hear her talk and was blown away by how personable and relatable she is. I decided to pick up her book, The Person You Mean To Be, on audiobook because she narrated it. I don’t want to “review” this book because the subject matter isn’t meant to be entertaining – it’s meant to be informative and challenge / stretch your views. Did I agree with all of the ideas presented in this book? Absolutely not. Did these views challenge my to think in different ways and looks at certain topics from a different angle? You bet. This is one of the only books on GoodReads I didn’t give a star rating to because I’d encourage everyone to pick this up and give it a try. After I finished Dolly’s book I moved onto Atomic Habits. Atomic Habits was HANDS DOWN one of the best self-help / development books I have ever read. Clear gives you real, actionable advices for helping you to start new habits or break bad ones. I think what I appreciated the most about his take on habits was very rarely did he make the book about him (i.e. I did this or I struggled to do this) and instead talked to principles and actuality. He was also extremely easy to relate to! I found myself taking notes on ways to implement these strategies in my everyday life (and New Year Resolutions are coming)! If you’re looking for ways to build better habits, give this book a try. I can confidently say you’ll find it extremely useful!

The last couple books I read this month were Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and The Toll by Neal Schusterman. Clap When You Land was an interesting book and, again, not something that I typically pick up. The story is about two sisters, who don’t know they are sisters, until their father dies in a tragic plane crash. The story is told from each of the girls’ perspectives. Acevedo did an incredible job giving each of these characters a unique voice. There was small nuances and cultural influences that really shown through into each of the characters. My last book I finished was The Toll and that was ONE HECK OF A FINALE. I started the Arc of a Scythe trilogy on New Year’s Day of and made my way through all 3 books over the course of the year. Scythe and Thunderhead (books 1 and 2, respectively) were absolutely incredible. I heard iffy things about The Toll, so I subliminally pushed it off. While it was a little on the long side (there was definitely some fluff that couldn’t been cut out) I found the story to be interesting and engaging. There were some interesting twists sprinkled throughout and I found the ending to be pretty spot on. It wasn’t too perfect or cookie cutter and had just enough grit and uniqueness!

Tome Topple Wrap Up

I was incredibly lucky to help co-host Tome Topple Round 13. I had a blast leading reading sprints and talking books with all of the other readers participating in the read-a-thon. I have to hand it to Sam (from @ThoughtsOnTomes) and the rest of the co-hosts, they do an incredible job running things. I’ve participated in this read-a-thon several times before and never realized how much work goes into creating it! I work in eCommerce for a retailer, so the week of Thanksgiving was a little crazy for me. I ended up finishing my only tome (The Toll) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Another round is scheduled for February-ish, so I am hoping to topple a few books during that round since life should be a lot calmer then!

We’re well into December, so I’ll be posting a TBR soon and then my year in review wrap up! Hope everyone is staying safe and I’ll back with another post this week!

Until we meet again,
Mr Geek

September ’20 Wrap Up

The last thing I remember is writing my September 20′ TBR post, I blinked and now the month is over! Generally speaking, September was extremely enjoyable. My pumpkin addiction is off to a strong start, I spent most of my time reading with a Starbucks’ Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew in one hand and a book in the other (not a sponsored post, but… Hey Starbucks, if you’re looking for a book influencer partnership, hit me up). The temperate has dropped these last couple of weeks and for the first time in ages, we’re having some Fall temperatures in Pittsburgh. As my golf season began to wind down, my reading season ramped up. I read a lot of great books this month and stuck, mostly, to the TBR I set for myself! Let’s jump into my reads!

I kicked off the month with my ARC of Wendy Walker’s new book, DON’T LOOK FOR ME. This was a fantastic thriller that I absolutely tore through. The premise was very interesting and engaging. As I started to get closer and closer to the end, I had to know what was going to happen (and ended up reading 200+ pages on a Sunday afternoon so I could finish it). Take a look at my full review here. While I was reading DON’T LOOK FOR ME, I also was listening to the audiobook of Bossypants by Tina Fey. I am a HUGE Tina Fey fan but was quite disappointed in her book when I first read it nearly a decade ago (it hurts saying that). A friend from work recently recommended the audiobook so I thought I’d give it another go and I’m really glad that I did! Fey narrated the audiobook and it really added to the overall story. Her tales felt more personal and it was so much easier to connect with her.

After that first set of books, I moved onto The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson. I read Truly Devious last year and thought it was an ok book. My biggest gripe was that it felt like a really, really long book that was broken into 3 parts. By the end of book 1, I had more questions than answers and felt extremely satisfied. I really enjoyed The Vanishing Stair much more than Truly Devious. The plot felt like it started to come together better and I started seeing the end in sight. I’m planning on picking up The Hand On The Wall sometime soon so I can polish off this series by the end of the year. After The Vanishing Stair, I detoured from my TBR to read The Girl Who Drank The Moon. Regan, from PeruseProject on YouTube, read this book earlier in the year and completely raved about it. I was able to get this book for a steal on Amazon and decided to pick it up and read it immediately (very unlike me). This was a middle grade book but I thought the story was well done and very engaging. The characters were likable and I was a little surprised by the twist towards the end!

As the end of the month was approaching, I decided to dive into the audiobook of Camino Winds by John Grisham and the eBook of The Last Flight by Julie Clark. Last year, I read Camino Island. It was my first Grisham novel and it was… fine. I wasn’t overly impressed. The story was interesting and kept me engaged but the end definitely had my scratching my head saying “That’s it?!” Going into Camino Winds, I expected to a get a little resolution that I was lacking from Camino Island. I was extremely disappointed. This book revisits some of the characters from the previous entry but overall it was its own story. It really could be considered a stand alone novel. There was hardly any overlap in story and the few nods to book 1 weren’t critical information. It was an entertaining and engaging read but overall, I wasn’t really impressed. I’m not quite finished with The Last Flight at the time of writing this post (~60% done) but I am thoroughly enjoying it! I was itching for an addictive thriller and this is definitely hitting the spot. This book is also told using dual timelines, which I LOVE. The perspective shifts each chapter between present day and roughly 6 months ago. I’m hoping to finish this up by Friday so I can dive into my “Spooky” TBR over the weekend.

What did you read in September? Anything good? Anything terrible? Sound off in the comments with TBR recommendations or books I should steer clear of! As always, be sure to follow me on Twitter and add me on GoodReads (@ItsMrGeekToYou on both sites)!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Book Review: Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker

I have always been a fan of the thriller / suspense genre. I love starting a new mystery novel and immediately becoming immersed in the plot! Last year, while browsing around Amazon, I came across a recently released book (The Night Before) by an author I had never heard of (Wendy Walker). As soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to add it to my TBR! Here’s my quick take for those who haven’t read or heard of this book: Lauren Lochner has never had much success in the romance department. After her latest failed relationship, she decides to give up her Wall Street job, and New York City lifestyle, to move in with her sister, Rosie, back in Connecticut where they grew up. Lauren struggles to find her new normal and decides to give dating another try. This seems like the perfect reset for Lauren…. until she doesn’t return home from her date the next morning. As panic begins to build, and Rosie desperately tries to locate her sister, she realizes she’s not worried that something happen to Lauren, but what Lauren might have done to her date. This book was fantastic, inventive and I could not put it down! If you’re interested in picking up a copy or learning more, view The Night Before on Amazon.

Shortly after I read The Night Before, St Martin’s Press reached out to me offering an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Walker’s newest book, Don’t Look For Me. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew this book would be right up my alley and jumped on the offer! Don’t Look For Me was a brilliant, nerve-wracking, thrill-ride from the first page to the last.

Here’s my quick, spoiler-free summary: Have you ever wanted to just pick-up, leave your life behind and start over somewhere new? Well that’s exactly what Molly Clarke wanted. After the death of one of her children, Molly’s life is shattered and her family is broken. She’s desperate to disappear and never be found, it’s the only way she can deal with her grief and hopefully help her family heal. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when Molly goes missing one night during a terrible storm. Days later a note is found at a local casino, along with some of her clothing, saying that she is moving over and “don’t look for me.” Is this Molly’s chance to start over or is there more to this story than meets the eye?

Review: I freaking loved this book. To start, I love when a book is written with multiple POVs or alternating timelines. “Don’t Look For Me” alternates between present day and the night Molly disappears. Walker did such a great job here. Each timeline was interesting, compelling and I was never bored with the story. I looked forward to each “switch” because I knew I was getting more details to help my unravel what happened the night Molly went missing. I found the characters to be fascinating and I liked the subtle theme of redemption that was threaded throughout the novel. The further you get into this book, the deeper and more intriguing the mystery becomes. As I hit the last ~100 pages, I felt like I was on a runaway train and sat glued to the couch until I read the final page. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable and well-written thriller. If you haven’t read a Wendy Walker book, do yourself a favor and pick up either: The Night Before or Don’t Look For Me (Release Date: September 15, 2020). If you do purchase a copy, please consider using the affiliate links in this blog post – I’ll receive a small commission and there’s no charge to you!

A HUGE thank you to St Martin’s Press for providing this advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

Are you a fan of thrillers? What are some of your favorites? Have you also read one of Wendy’s books? What did you think? Leave me a comment or tweet me (@ItsMrGeekToYou)!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

PS – Are we friends on GoodReads? Add me: ItsMrGeekToYou