Little Hungry Pizzas: A Review of Ready Player One

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I found myself staring at the words INSERT COIN. I clicked the button. I was playing Google’s Pac Man doodle, and as the game started, I maneuvered the little pizza around hesitantly. I lost. I played again. I lost. I played again. Seized by a mad determination to win the game, I played for over half an hour until I won. What if the world was like a video game? I wondered, grimacing as the words GAME OVER appeared again on the screen. What if the world was a video game?

Continue reading “Little Hungry Pizzas: A Review of Ready Player One

Just Wear Sunglasses: A Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

One day, while mailing a postcard at a post office, I found a card that said, “Dear Optimists, if you look too much on the bright side, you’ll go blind. The Pessimists.” I think that card is outrageously funny. And yet, in some way, it is true: there must be a balance between optimism and pessimism. After reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I perceived this need for balance a little more—thanks to two extremely different but equally annoying robots.

Continue reading “Just Wear Sunglasses: A Review of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Wonders of a Book: A Review of Speaker for the Dead

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I stared at the words. My face crinkled, my eyes squinted—I started to cry. My whole soul seemed to cry out: “It’s not your fault! I’m so sorry!” I recovered soon enough, but I fixed the page number in my mind: 216. When I have gone back to that page and read the excerpt, the same thing always happens.

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card, continues the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. Ender is now a Speaker for the Dead. Speakers tell the true story of deceased individuals, revealing what the siblings and friends of the dead one did not ever realize. When Ender gets a call from a colony called Lusitania, he travels there for other reasons than to Speak. Lusitania is home to the pequeninos, Little Ones, a species of ramen (any species able to talk and live in harmony with humans.) When a murder is committed by the pequeninos’ hands, Ender finds himself digging up the truth.

This novel was very powerful because of its portrayal of reality. When Ender spoke of the death of Marcão, I could see the astonished faces of the auditors: Quim’s outraged composure, the Bishop’s half-disgusted grimace. I felt like I could even feel the thoughts running through their heads! It was astonishing.

Speaker for the Dead was able to create not just sympathy but also compassion. At Marcão’s Speaking, I felt increasing compassion for the beast of a man. But some pages afterwards, I would’ve given anything to tell Ender it wasn’t his fault that he unwittingly used the Molecular Disruption Device on the hive queen’s colony. I wanted him to be happy and free. Although neither Ender nor Marcão are real people, I felt their stories deeply because of the compassion weaved into this book.

Speaker for the Dead is proof that Orson Scott Card is a master of emotions as well as a master of science fiction. Even more amazing to me is the fact that Ender Wiggin has the body of a thirty-six-year old when he is really 3,000 years old. But I shouldn’t be surprised: if one page of Orson Scott Card’s writing can make me cry, what wonders can a whole book do?

Age: 13+

You can buy this book here.

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Lost While Found: A Review of Ender’s Game

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Countless times I have paced in front of my bookshelf looking for a new book to read. Often I grab a book and run away with it. Sometimes, however, I search fruitlessly for what seems like hours. On one of those miserable days, a certain name caught my eye: Orson Scott Card. Although I was denied the permission to read his books, I have waited (im)patiently for a year and a half. And not in vain: the first book I have read by Card has thrust me into a bewildering but fantastic new world.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, tells the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. Ender is an exceptional boy, bred for warfare and for his extreme intelligence. When an International Fleet officer knocks on his door, Ender finds himself whisked away to Battle School, the infamous school where students learn how to fight “buggers” (aliens). Ender is soon tricked into an unjust position.

It’s a fact, I don’t like the idea of aliens. Stupid, evil, crazy—they’re a silly fantasy to me. Worst of all, they kill people for no apparent reason. If aliens exist and have the intelligence to kill, they probably have a reason to. However, the aliens in Ender’s Game do have a reason. Like The Land of Stories (by Chris Colfer), the “bad guys” always have a reason behind their actions. This made Ender’s Game more realistic and easier to relate to, because after all, the world isn’t black and white.

Ender Wiggin is a complex character. When he is sent to Battle School, he meets anger, pain, sadness, and loneliness, which make him more of an adult at the age of ten than many other adults in his life. Ender is in a constant battle against the more brutal part of himself. This creates an interesting character: he becomes a killer with no will to kill. When Ender’s more brutal side takes over, such as in a fight with the school bully Stilson, Ender often ends up repelled by himself. This internal battle is why we can understand, sympathize with, and cry for Ender, because we all have a small internal battle inside ourselves.

Ender’s Game was a wonderful book. Because of its realistic, relatable characters, it is spellbinding and intense. Most importantly, Ender’s Game is a world in which you can get lost while still knowing exactly where you stand.

Ages: 12+

You can buy this book here.

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A Fight to Put It Down: A Review of The Alliance

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Is it possible to have paradise on Earth, a place where there is no anger, war, or pain? Your immediate reply will probably be “no,” and I’m pretty sure you’re right. However, if you were a citizen of Shalev, you might think otherwise. What is Shalev? Only a fictional city, built after a world that was almost completely destroyed in a nuclear war, a city thought to be a paradise by its citizens. But is that really what it is?

In The Alliance by Gerald N. Lund, a young man named Eric Lloyd is transported against his will to the city of Shalev, one of four cities of the Alliance that is ruled by the Major. At first Shalev seems wonderful, but soon Eric discovers the real purpose for the irremovable watches fixed on everyone’s wrists and the silicon chips that the Major implanted in everyone’s brains. Eric and a group of rebels must fight for their freedom, but the Alliance is powerful. How will Eric succeed?

This book was gripping. I stayed up until eleven p.m. reading it! Gerald N. Lund measured out the right amounts of adventure and tension, making an irresistible mix that kept you turning the pages steadily. I can just picture him saying, “Hmm, let’s add a tablespoon of action there (a bear fight) . . . that chapter needs a half teaspoon of tension . . . let’s make the Major turn off the sirens . . . there . . .” The ideal concoction for a gripping book!

The characters in The Alliance had a certain depth to them. They experienced fear, doubt, joy, and many other emotions with an astonishing vividness, such as when Eric’s mother watched while her daughter was implanted. The characters had a certain humanness to them. Eric wasn’t a superhero, gentle with anyone who wasn’t “the bad guy.” Nicole, a Guardian in the Alliance, wasn’t totally sure that the Alliance was perfect. If Eric were a superhero, and Nicole were totally sure that the Alliance was perfect in every way, they would have seemed fake, and the story would have lost much of its meaning.

The Alliance is an absolute must-read. It is a remarkable story with a remarkable message: people must choose to be good. They cannot be forced to behave. But beware! It can be a real fight (almost as bad as Eric’s fight with a bear!) to put this book down.

Age: 12+

You can buy the book here.

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An Adventure Founded on Pie: A Review of Pi in the Sky

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Do you like pie? I do. Would you like to deliver pies? If you ask me, even though you probably never will, I’d say no. Too tempting. I’d eat them faster than anyone on earth… except that this story doesn’t take place on earth! Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass, is a story about a boy named Joss. He lives in The Realms, a cleverly hidden place that controls the universe. When the earth mysteriously disappears, Annika, a girl from earth who somehow survived, and Joss, a special pie deliverer, are tasked with the job of bringing back the earth. This story mixes science, absurdness, and adventure into a delightful book. On the level-of-reading scale, I’d say this is the perfectly balanced medium. I’ll convince you to read this in no time… hopefully. This is such a great book!

Oh, please don’t run away screaming when I say “science”. This isn’t a textbook, ok? As I had said before, the boy Joss lives in The Realms. The Realms are hidden by a substance called “dark matter”, which is invisible because it neither absorbs, reflects, or gives off light (why they would call it dark matter? Beats me). It might seem a little complicated, but the concept is pretty simple. If you read the “What You Need To Know” page in the book you’ll understand even more.

This story is a bit absurd—the kind of absurd that makes you say, “This is so weird! Who had this brilliant idea?” For example, what kind of author would invent someone who plays the drums so badly it makes you want to scream? Only a great writer—with crazy ideas. Somehow, Wendy Mass puts all these pieces together into a perfect concoction: a book called Pie in the Sky. Sometimes bizarre ideas can seem kind of funny…

The adventure in this book is something I had never read before: kind of like a treasure hunt. This kind of adventure makes you want to jump out of your seat, yet at the same time say, “Ahh…I think I’ll watch the sun set.” It’s a strange feeling, but altogether pleasant. This book is not the super action-y kind but it is exciting nevertheless. There is a little bit of tension, because Joss mustn’t be stopped by the PTB (the “powers that be”, kind of like the Government and the FBI mixed together). Trying to bring back the earth is difficult to do without being seen…especially when you’re encouraged by the ugly “Gluck the Yuck”. This book is great for people who aren’t the super-action-book kind, though even if you are, you’ll still love this pie—sorry, this story.

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+ (If you’re 8 and you’re fine with the ‘dark matter’ stuff, you can read this book.)

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Turn Into a Fortune Teller!: A Review of When the Tripods Came

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SEQUEL ALERT! This is the fourth of four books.

Free Earth.

After three books about the Earth being captive to the Masters, you open this book and the Earth is free. You don’t groan in dismay, you don’t rejoice, but you go on. Which is a good idea, considering this book is nothing like the disappointment of The Pool of Fire.

When the Tripods Came, by John Christopher (yes, I had a feeling that you would remind me that his real name is Samuel Youd), tells of what happened when the Tripods came (I know, pretty obvious). Laurie was on a camping trip with his friend when he witnessed one of the first Tripods on the Earth. After being (somewhat easily) destroyed, a new show called the “Trippy show” appears on TV. It seems to ridicule the Tripods. However, strange things start happening. Mobs of hypnotized people called the “Trippies” start handing out things called “Caps” (if you’ve read the first three books you’ll know what they are) and worshipping the Tripods. The masters have gotten their grip on the Earth.

The book When the Tripods Came invoked a cold feeling of horror inside me. How could a silly TV program invoke madness? Surely we are in control of our TV shows! But in the Tripod world, we seem to have lost control. Thousands are horribly hypnotized by their creation. Even the most trusted are mesmerized. A policeman, the science teacher, a radio announcer–all are shouting “Hail the Tripod!” in a way that chills you to the bones, even if it is only a book.

You might be frowning skeptically and thinking, “Wow, this Sophia kid is really sensitive. A book ‘chills’ her to the bone? Sheesh, man.” However, I will protest: books rarely affect me strongly. And this one was a shock. The cold dread that filled me made a deep impression in my mind, convincing me that I should write a fairly positive review about this book. See?

OK, this book didn’t continue Will Parker’s adventures. But this book was satisfying. It explains what happens in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling like you knew everything in the book, but leaves you with the feeling of a sneaky fortune teller. You know the Masters are doing this-and-this-and-this (I’m not actually telling you because you’ll be angry at me for spoiling the story), but you don’t know every detail of what’s going on. In short, you get an anticipating, fortune-teller-transforming, satisfying book.

Have you understood what the message in this review is? It should be a little obvious, but if you haven’t understood anyhow, that’s fine with me, ’cause I’m going to tell it to you right now in really poor English: ladies and dudes, this book is awesome, so you should read it right now. Also, it’ll make you feel like a fortune teller. Goodbye!

You can buy the book here.

Ages: 10+

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