I’m supposed to be working on final projects, papers, and presentations for the spring semester, and we all know that this means I’m up at 4am on a Sunday writing a blog instead. I realized that I’d listened to SO many audiobooks and not even told you guys about them. Prepare yourselves. Also, potential spoilers ahead…
One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis
I bought this one after I read The Girl on the Train and The Good Girl. Audible was like, “Oh, you like light semi-drama and pseudo-mystery?” and recommended it to me. It was better written than The Good Girl, for sure. The story was pretty interesting as we follow the main character, Emily, who seems perfectly happy and fine–but still chooses to up and leave her seemingly perfect marriage, family, and house. I liked the narrator and what seemed to me to be real life reactions to being thrown COMPLETELY 180*. Can you imagine leaving your life behind one day and trying to start anew–new name, new place, new everything? The writing was so relatable, that I was a little disappointed by the very forced twist at the end. When you get to a well-written twist in a book, you should feel like, “Oh, man! How did I not see that coming? All the clues were there!” But in this one, you get to the twist and think, “Could she just not figure out a way to weave this throughout the book? Did the author just decide last minute that this is how it would end?” I am notorious for being picky about endings, but for how much I invested myself in this narrative, the ending was a little bit of a womp womp.
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Does this really need a review? I’m sad to admit that while I’ve read The Hobbit and seen all the LoTR movies, I’ve never actually read the LoTR books. Whoops. So when I saw all 3 on sale on Audible as a package, I bought them all on impulse, of course. The narrator for this version is actually really great. He does all the voices and sings the song-parts. I’m not going to lie, his Samwise Gamgee sounds almost like Sean Astin. I know this version prob came first, and Astin just modeled his voice after the audiobook. Or maybe neither knew about the other, I don’t know. I still stand by my conviction that Samwise Gamgee is the best friend anyone could ever ask for. Anyway, if you’re like me and haven’t read it yet but want to listen to it while you sit in interminable traffic, I recommend the version narrated by Rob Inglis. It’s unabridged too! Huzzah!
Rating: This is a classic. Just read it.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
This was another Audible recommendation. I guess it was supposed to be “mystery lite.” But it’s more focused on dysfunctional family dynamics and how we don’t really even know the people we think we know best. And why? Because they try to be who we think they are, or because they want to make us happy. It also focuses on how a single event or a seemingly tiny occurrence can change the course of people’s lives. Here’s the Amazon summary:
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.
You can see where it FEELS like it’s going to be mysterious, but it’s more about the mystery of family relationships. I might have liked it more if I had different expectations to begin with.
Lock In by John Scalzi
A decade and a half in the future, a strange virus sweeps the world that essentially “locks” people in their bodies. They still have full brain function, but their bodies are pretty much in comas. Fortunately, technology has advanced so much that these people can still participate in society through android bodies called “Threeps” (after C-3PO) that connect to their brains through a neural network. People who got the virus but didn’t experience “lock in” can also connect to the neural network, and give the locked people the chance to do things with a real body (like eat a cheeseburger or go skydiving). These people are called “integrators.” This is totally cool, and all. Until someone messes it all up by hacking the system and killing people. What?!
There’s a whole police unit dedicated to people who are locked in using threeps or integrators, and this novel follows 2 officers from that unit–one who used to be an integrator and one who is locked in and using a threep–as they try to solve a murder mystery that’s even bigger than they or anyone imagined it could be.
This wasn’t serious literature, but once I got a few chapters in, I really started to like it. It was a good mindless read, and the “mystery” part was a lot more interesting than some of the previous books I read.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Has anyone heard of that fungus that takes over ant brains, making them do what it wants? It changes the ant’s behavior, eventually making it climb to the top of trees and help the fungus reproduce. It makes them “zombie ants.” Well, in the dystopian future, this fungus has evolved to take over humans (see also: The Last of Us)! The book is an exciting ride, and the ending is one that IS satisfactory. One that all signs point to, but it doesn’t seem contrived like One Step Too Far. I don’t want to give TOO much away, but that’s part of the fun of the book. So, here’s a review of it, and I recommend you read it/listen to it too. The narration by Finty Williams is also pretty good.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My boss recommended this book a few months back, and I finally took the plunge and downloaded it. Why did I wait so long? This is another “dystopian” future, where the real world sucks so much that everyone lives on the internet. The virtual utopia is called the OASIS, which consists of thousands of online-worlds. James Halliday, who created the OASIS, left an Easter egg somewhere in the tons of virtual worlds. When he passed away, he “stipulated in his will that the person who discovers the egg will inherit his entire estate, including management and control of the OASIS itself” (source). This means EVERYONE is searching for it, including the mega-conglomorate Innovative Online Industries or IOI–a multinational corporation bent on taking control of the OASIS so they can control and monetize it.
So the story follows Wade O. Watts (WoW), and his friends as they attempt to be the first to find the egg. This will entertain anyone who enjoys video games, 80s trivia, arcade games, 80s movie, etc. It ends how you think it will (though I wish Cline would have just written a few more paragraphs, as I felt it ended before what SHOULD have been the real conclusion). But it’s still worth the ride. Also, they’re making a movie out of it, so you need to read this before it comes out.
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