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The World of Pondside

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With help from Pondside Manor’s quirky, twentysomething kitchen worker Foster Kresowik, wheelchair-bound resident Robert Kallman creates The World of Pondside, a video game that delights the nursing home’s residents by allowing them to virtually relive blissful moments from days long past—or even create new ones. One-legged Duane Lotspeich is overjoyed when he can dance the With help from Pondside Manor’s quirky, twentysomething kitchen worker Foster Kresowik, wheelchair-bound resident Robert Kallman creates The World of Pondside, a video game that delights the nursing home’s residents by allowing them to virtually relive blissful moments from days long past—or even create new ones. One-legged Duane Lotspeich is overjoyed when he can dance the tango again. Octogenarian Laverne Slatchek cheers on her favorite baseball team from the stands at Candlestick Park with her beloved husband—who died years ago. Even the overwhelmed Pondside administrator escapes her job by logging into a much more luxurious virtual world. Robert’s game enlivens the halls of Pondside Manor, but chaos ensues when he is found dead, submerged in the pond, still strapped into his wheelchair. If any resident witnessed his death, they’re not telling—either covering up or, quite possibly, forgetting. And it’s far from clear to anyone—including the police—if the death of this brilliant man, who suffered from ALS, was suicide or murder. When Robert’s video game goes dark, its players grow desperate. The task of getting it back online falls to young Foster, who enlists help from a raucous group of residents and staff. Their pursuit—virtual and real—has unintended consequences, uncovering both criminal activities and the dying wishes of Foster’s friend Robert. From Pondside Manor, this unlikely bunch of gamers embarks upon an astonishing journey—blissful, treacherous, and unforgettable. Packed with sharp wit and compassion, Mary Helen Stefaniak has written a rousing, perceptive, and utterly original novel.


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With help from Pondside Manor’s quirky, twentysomething kitchen worker Foster Kresowik, wheelchair-bound resident Robert Kallman creates The World of Pondside, a video game that delights the nursing home’s residents by allowing them to virtually relive blissful moments from days long past—or even create new ones. One-legged Duane Lotspeich is overjoyed when he can dance the With help from Pondside Manor’s quirky, twentysomething kitchen worker Foster Kresowik, wheelchair-bound resident Robert Kallman creates The World of Pondside, a video game that delights the nursing home’s residents by allowing them to virtually relive blissful moments from days long past—or even create new ones. One-legged Duane Lotspeich is overjoyed when he can dance the tango again. Octogenarian Laverne Slatchek cheers on her favorite baseball team from the stands at Candlestick Park with her beloved husband—who died years ago. Even the overwhelmed Pondside administrator escapes her job by logging into a much more luxurious virtual world. Robert’s game enlivens the halls of Pondside Manor, but chaos ensues when he is found dead, submerged in the pond, still strapped into his wheelchair. If any resident witnessed his death, they’re not telling—either covering up or, quite possibly, forgetting. And it’s far from clear to anyone—including the police—if the death of this brilliant man, who suffered from ALS, was suicide or murder. When Robert’s video game goes dark, its players grow desperate. The task of getting it back online falls to young Foster, who enlists help from a raucous group of residents and staff. Their pursuit—virtual and real—has unintended consequences, uncovering both criminal activities and the dying wishes of Foster’s friend Robert. From Pondside Manor, this unlikely bunch of gamers embarks upon an astonishing journey—blissful, treacherous, and unforgettable. Packed with sharp wit and compassion, Mary Helen Stefaniak has written a rousing, perceptive, and utterly original novel.

30 review for The World of Pondside

  1. 5 out of 5

    Calyssa

    The World of Pondside is a book about a computer VR game and the nursing home patients that use it, as well as a mystery as to the fate of the owner and creator of the game. I really loved the setting and concept. The game was fascinating to read about, but I found myself questioning how realistic and addictive a game like that could be in computer generated settings. It was never quite clear how the dialogue between characters in the game worked, nor how much was possible and what wasn't within The World of Pondside is a book about a computer VR game and the nursing home patients that use it, as well as a mystery as to the fate of the owner and creator of the game. I really loved the setting and concept. The game was fascinating to read about, but I found myself questioning how realistic and addictive a game like that could be in computer generated settings. It was never quite clear how the dialogue between characters in the game worked, nor how much was possible and what wasn't within the game. The game as it was described was underwhelming and confusing to me and I grew to strongly dislike the scenes set in the game. Robert, Laverne, Duane, and Foster are the most developed characters and their lives are inherently interesting and they are multifaceted. But the rest of the characters mostly fell flat and I couldn't tell them apart, especially the staff at Pondside. Erika, Amelia, and Toni all felt the same to me. The CNAs and nurses all blended together and seemed too goody-goody to be realistic. I know CNAs that work at a nursing home, and they wouldn't willingly work overtime without remaining clocked in and they wouldn't let a random coworker drive off with their car and essentially "kidnap" an elderly woman using their car. Unless forms are signed by multiple people, a resident of a nursing home can't just leave and be unaccounted for without serious legal consequences as well as staff getting fired for it, regardless how understaffed Pondside is. The last few reveals and plot twists were lackluster and expected, from the dead guy that mysteriously was alive again to the lies back and forth between multiple antagonists to manipulate Foster into the preferred outcome, to the convoluted illicit Chinese drug plot. And worst of all, the ending was anticlimatic and underwhelming. It didn't serve up any satisfying answers or leave a satisfying mystery behind. The ending got tied together in a way that makes me feel like even the author and the editor were over it and wanted the job done. The redeeming qualities of the book were Robert, Laverne, and Foster. And to a lesser extent, Duane. They made reading Pondside worth it and brought up my total evaluation. Thanks to Blackstone Publishing and Netgalley for this ARC in exhange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rellim

    This is one of those books that’s difficult to describe, because it’s complex: delightful, thought provoking, mysterious, sad, hilarious, relatable, sympathetic, and memorable. At nearly 13 hours it’s a long listen, but there are so many characters and Stefaniak does such a thorough yet compelling job of weaving them all together that it didn’t feel like a burden. Each of these characters was so well constructed and realistic that it was impossible not to see someone I know in each of them. I bec This is one of those books that’s difficult to describe, because it’s complex: delightful, thought provoking, mysterious, sad, hilarious, relatable, sympathetic, and memorable. At nearly 13 hours it’s a long listen, but there are so many characters and Stefaniak does such a thorough yet compelling job of weaving them all together that it didn’t feel like a burden. Each of these characters was so well constructed and realistic that it was impossible not to see someone I know in each of them. I became an NPC in the Pondside Assisted Living community. Robert found a way to create a fantasy world via the alternate universe that was the game, The World of Pondside. When Robert dies of suspect cause, the residents and employees become embroiled in a variety of real world and virtual escapades. The mystery resolution felt a bit anti-climactic, but to me that wasn’t the central theme of the book as much as an adventure for the characters and listener. (The Cake is a Lie!) Overall an enjoyable listen. Narration: George Newbern was excellent. There was a HUGE cast of characters of a variety of ages, personalities, and emotional events. He did a great job helping to differentiate them all. I loved his performance.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    Weird and quite wonderful. This is one of the oddest books I've read in a while, in a good way. This was an audiobook from Netgalley and I chose it because I was in need of quirk. Quirk is definitely what I got. Set in a nursing home, with all the different kinds of residents you get in one of those establishments. Perfectly competent older people, younger people who have physical challenges which mean they can't manage at home and need nursing care, the many and varied staff and management, and Weird and quite wonderful. This is one of the oddest books I've read in a while, in a good way. This was an audiobook from Netgalley and I chose it because I was in need of quirk. Quirk is definitely what I got. Set in a nursing home, with all the different kinds of residents you get in one of those establishments. Perfectly competent older people, younger people who have physical challenges which mean they can't manage at home and need nursing care, the many and varied staff and management, and those who are suffering dementia and all manner of other ailments. These people are hooked on a video game which takes them back to the days when they were fit and living fulsome lives. They relive old memories, go to favourite restaurants and re-meet their dearly departed. All virtually. But then the games creator and mastermind is found dead in the facility pond. Did he commit suicide, had life with his ALS become too much to bear, or was there something more sinister at play? It is up to a huge team of people to figure out what happened. Everyone from the guy who works in the kitchen, an elderly lady with heaps of vigour, shady characters and mysterious people. This is extremely convoluted and there are a many paths travelled and situations to resolve. Many. I occasionally got a little bit lost. I didn't mind, I trusted that it would all become clear and it did. If you are keen for quirk, want something unlike anything else, then this is the book for you. I listened to the audio version while I was in isolation and it was jolly good company. Thanks so much to NegGalley and the publisher for giving me access to this gem.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heather Adores Books

    This one has an interesting and original premise. Robert creates a virtual reality game for the assisted living residents of Pondside Manor. Now they're able to do things they never thought they'd be able to do again. The core group ~ Robert, Foster, Laverne and Duane were all likable and well written characters. When Robert ends up in the pond, still sitting in his wheelchair, we're off to uncover the mystery of who pushed him in, or if it was suicide. I liked the secrets about China being uncov This one has an interesting and original premise. Robert creates a virtual reality game for the assisted living residents of Pondside Manor. Now they're able to do things they never thought they'd be able to do again. The core group ~ Robert, Foster, Laverne and Duane were all likable and well written characters. When Robert ends up in the pond, still sitting in his wheelchair, we're off to uncover the mystery of who pushed him in, or if it was suicide. I liked the secrets about China being uncovered. This was a pretty long one coming in at 12 hours 43 minutes and 4 seconds. I've listened to quite a few books narrated by George Newbern and he did a pretty good job ~ maybe he could work on his female voice a smidgen. Overall, this was just okay for me. At times I wasn't sure if they were in the now or in the game. It would probably be easier to follow along with that if I had read it and not listened. *Thanks to Netgalley, Blackstone Publishing - Audiobooks and the author for the advance audiobook. I am voluntarily leaving my honest review*

  5. 4 out of 5

    KarenK2

    I received this from Netgalley.com. Set in a nursing home, the residents play a computer VR game which is built around their lives in their little world of Pondside. An okay read, but the characters blended together and felt more unreal than the characters in the VR game. 2.75☆

  6. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Kehm

    If you're looking for a grisly murder mystery with lots of gore, "The World of Pondside" is not for you. But if you enjoy terrific characters, a surprising plot, and a writer with a sense of humor, you will love this book. Pondside is a nursing home as lively and outrageous as a college dorm. The story opens with my favorite character, Foster the kitchen boy, a lovable kid with the empathy and compassion of Atticus Finch, who would probably describe himself as a loser. When he finds his best fri If you're looking for a grisly murder mystery with lots of gore, "The World of Pondside" is not for you. But if you enjoy terrific characters, a surprising plot, and a writer with a sense of humor, you will love this book. Pondside is a nursing home as lively and outrageous as a college dorm. The story opens with my favorite character, Foster the kitchen boy, a lovable kid with the empathy and compassion of Atticus Finch, who would probably describe himself as a loser. When he finds his best friend in the pond, it's all he can do to evade the police and suspicious co-workers while trying to find a way to revive a computer game that's kept Pondside on its toes ever since he and his friend invented it. Foster's just one of a parade of characters who give us tender, relatable insights into the challenges of living and working with the sick and aging people. They remind us that places like Pondside are very much like our own homes and neighborhoods, and the people who live and work there are very much like ourselves. As in all great fiction, Pondside left me with unanswered questions about guilt, innocence, suffering, honor and responsibility--imponderables worth carrying around.

  7. 4 out of 5

    M. A. Blanchard

    The World of Pondside, much to its credit, isn't very much like any other book I've encountered this year (or any year, really; I don't think there are very many other techno-thrillers set in nursing homes). Its balance of tense action and touching character relationships, balanced with a healthy dose of quirkiness and whimsy, builds up a world both entertaining and engrossing. One thing I particularly like about this novel is the complexity with which it portrays both the lives of nursing home The World of Pondside, much to its credit, isn't very much like any other book I've encountered this year (or any year, really; I don't think there are very many other techno-thrillers set in nursing homes). Its balance of tense action and touching character relationships, balanced with a healthy dose of quirkiness and whimsy, builds up a world both entertaining and engrossing. One thing I particularly like about this novel is the complexity with which it portrays both the lives of nursing home residents and the lives of the people whose work is to care for the residents. No character is written to be either heroic or villainous, either purely nice or completely nasty; the messy, complicated reality of being human is always on display in their stories. As every character is written to have more than a few facets, all those angles make for truly captivating storytelling. While I felt the ending was a little bit rushed, the buildup was so intricate and interesting that ultimately I found the book immensely enjoyable. I'd recommend this one to any reader looking for something a little different, particularly if they like their funny stories tempered with poignancy and their sad stories leavened with humour. I received a free e-ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Van Huett

    I really enjoyed this book! It takes place mainly in a nursing home, which is a setting ripe for caricatures, but the author paints very real characters. The angry young man who works in the kitchen, the potentially dangerous dementia patient, the overworked nurses, the incompetent boss, the residents who are heartbroken to be left at a nursing home and the adult children who left them there—Stefaniak sympathizes with every single one of her characters, and I did, too. She does a great job with I really enjoyed this book! It takes place mainly in a nursing home, which is a setting ripe for caricatures, but the author paints very real characters. The angry young man who works in the kitchen, the potentially dangerous dementia patient, the overworked nurses, the incompetent boss, the residents who are heartbroken to be left at a nursing home and the adult children who left them there—Stefaniak sympathizes with every single one of her characters, and I did, too. She does a great job with the very distinct voices of her point-of-view characters. It was fun to see the unlikely group that came together to figure out how to get back into their escape-from-reality video game after the resident who created it for them is found dead. (They’re also hoping to find out how he ended up in the pond.) The book reveals a wide range of sorrow, joy, rage, love, and humor that people might not expect to find among the residents and staff of a nursing home. I recommend it for readers who enjoy intricate plot surprises, well-drawn characters, and real-life humor in their heartbreak.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    The World of Pondside took me by surprise. The premise is interesting and unusual, and the author hooked me right away with the death in the first scenes of the book. Was it murder or suicide? That is what the police and the folks at Pondside would like to know. The World of Pondside is a virtual reality game created by one of the residents at the Pondside Care Facility. Interestingly, the author gives readers glimpses into not only several of the residents and employees at Pondside, but also of The World of Pondside took me by surprise. The premise is interesting and unusual, and the author hooked me right away with the death in the first scenes of the book. Was it murder or suicide? That is what the police and the folks at Pondside would like to know. The World of Pondside is a virtual reality game created by one of the residents at the Pondside Care Facility. Interestingly, the author gives readers glimpses into not only several of the residents and employees at Pondside, but also of their personalized virtual reality. People find welcome release in The World of Pondside game as it allows them to feel as if they are in a time and place where they felt their best or most loved, etc. The author’s characterizations are compassionate and her depictions of overworked nurses and staff seemed very realistic. Beyond the realistic range of emotions, the author embedded just the right amount of humor to take the edge off some of the tension. As the story unfolds, readers not only learn of the Pondside residents, we get a very twisty, multifaceted tale. All those unexpected twists were fun, but I most loved the tender, thoughtful depiction of the nursing home residents. The World of Pondside is a lovely character driven story with a bit of mystery sprinkled on top. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. For more reading recommendations, visit Book Junkie Reviews at www.abookjunkiereviews.wordpress.com

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book was published on April 19th, 2022. Writing: 3/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 3.5/5 A rather bizarre story about an “old geezers” home, an online game designed to allow players to experience things their (old geezer) bodies no longer allow, and Robert (the game’s designer) — a (youngish) man near the end of his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). While initially appear Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book was published on April 19th, 2022. Writing: 3/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 3.5/5 A rather bizarre story about an “old geezers” home, an online game designed to allow players to experience things their (old geezer) bodies no longer allow, and Robert (the game’s designer) — a (youngish) man near the end of his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). While initially appearing as a murder mystery (Robert’s body — in wheelchair — is discovered in the pond at the very beginning), it’s really more of a novel following the lives of a set of pretty interesting characters ranging from the “kitchen boy” to the facility’s frustrated director, the nurses and CNAs, and of course, the many inhabitants — all in different states of physical or mental decline. I listened to this on audio — the reader was very good. It was a little bit slow with more filler than I like, although once I realized it wasn’t actually a murder mystery, the filler magically turned into character development and I was happier. Quite a bit of the story revolved around the “kitchen boy” — who had helped Robert implement the game. A high school dropout who was a bit of a loner, I found him likable but kind of slow for my taste. Still, he did develop nicely giving a kind of hopeful view about those who don’t have an easy time making their way in our society. Overall an interesting listen (I would probably have preferred to read as I could have made my way through it much faster, and it wouldn’t have felt so slow paced).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elyssa

    An odd little book with a great premise. It was filled with quirky characters, but fell short for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    CB_Read

    A tender and deeply realized novel. It took a while for me to warm up to the book, but I loved its focus: the lives of nursing-home patients and their caregivers, coupled with the possibilities brought on by computers and virtual reality. The author creates a memorable and enduring cast of characters, each with their own quiet tragedy. But this novel gives them all a chance to speak, and we as readers give them attention. I also loved the conceit that the elderly and the young CNAs at Pondside b A tender and deeply realized novel. It took a while for me to warm up to the book, but I loved its focus: the lives of nursing-home patients and their caregivers, coupled with the possibilities brought on by computers and virtual reality. The author creates a memorable and enduring cast of characters, each with their own quiet tragedy. But this novel gives them all a chance to speak, and we as readers give them attention. I also loved the conceit that the elderly and the young CNAs at Pondside bond over learning about computers -- that was a really interesting move that made me stop and think. This novel was touching, not just because of its content, but because of its genuine portrayal of nursing home patients' lives, the history of how they ended up at Pondside, and how they spend their final days.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eule Luftschloss

    dnf at page 140 trigger warning (view spoiler)[ grief, memory loss, trauma, mention of bullying (hide spoiler)] Two people died in a nursery home. What makes them different from their contemporaries is that they drowned under suspicious circumstances - normally, they would have needed help to navigate their wheelchairs down to the pond, and it looks like one tried to save the other and then drowned himself. One of those deaths impacts the whole nursery home, because Robert was the sole developer o dnf at page 140 trigger warning (view spoiler)[ grief, memory loss, trauma, mention of bullying (hide spoiler)] Two people died in a nursery home. What makes them different from their contemporaries is that they drowned under suspicious circumstances - normally, they would have needed help to navigate their wheelchairs down to the pond, and it looks like one tried to save the other and then drowned himself. One of those deaths impacts the whole nursery home, because Robert was the sole developer of a kind of second life video game, tailored towards the gamer with all their memories and personal preferences. And on the day he dies, the laptop the server is on goes missing. Main character is a dietary aide, meaning he helps in the kitchen and feeds residents who don't have the necessary control over their limbs anymore, which is how he befriended Robert, who in turn lost his mobility to ALS. Nobody really knows anything, neither the police nor the nursery home staff nor the people living there, and the latter two are far too busy for a proper investigation. The nursery home is badly understaffed, which is the only reason nobody gets fired even when safety protocols get ignored on a weekend. The prose is very near to stream of consciousness, which made it hard for me to stay on topic because it makes my mind float, and I really wish these things were mentioned in the blurp to make literature more accessible. I found the book to be either very boring or very depressing, which is probably an accurate depiction of life in a nursery home, but nothing I can stomach right now. I did not get the feeling the author is a gamer themselves and the details about the game felt either wrong or so vague that you can't really comment on them. Another thing I had problems with was that the characters basically all felt the same and it was not easy to keep track of who is who. So despite me dnf-ing it, I think it's a personal thing - mostly. If you still think you might like it, I urge you to read other reviews. The arc was provided by the publisher.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ps

    This was a character driven novel. At the heart of it is a mystery and also the video game, The World of Pondside. The game was not only enjoyed by residents and staff alike, they were also the characters in the game. Mary Helen Stefaniak has done a wonderful job detailing the story of the staff, the residents and of life in general of Pondside Manor. Pondside Manor is a nursing home. Everyone's ailments, idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses, warts and all, were convincingly told. Some resid This was a character driven novel. At the heart of it is a mystery and also the video game, The World of Pondside. The game was not only enjoyed by residents and staff alike, they were also the characters in the game. Mary Helen Stefaniak has done a wonderful job detailing the story of the staff, the residents and of life in general of Pondside Manor. Pondside Manor is a nursing home. Everyone's ailments, idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses, warts and all, were convincingly told. Some residents were self-sufficient (as much as they could be in the circumstance) and some required different levels of care. These differences were not glossed over, but rather, they were explained so that a novice could understand what they were. Their variances, however, were set aside in the creation of their characters in the game. It was obvious to me that Ms. Stefaniak did her research. I never knew how much I did not know about ALS. The struggle is real and was heartbreaking to read about. I don't claim to know anything about the coding world vis a vis video games. My son assured me that what was written about coding these games was accurate. I also don't claim to know anything about life in a nursing facility, but her descriptions and my having seen patients in these facilities were spot on. Particularly memorable to me was an interaction between a resident, Edith Cole, and one of the daughters of Mary McIntyre, another resident. Edith, who never spoke to anyone, explained to the daughter the down side of living in a facility such as Pondside Manor. It was poignantly written and brought me to tears. There were many fun and bright spots in this novel, especially with my favorite character Foster Kresowik. If a movie were ever to be made, I would be very disappointed if Foster were not played by Eric Andre.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wisegirl Wiser

    The delightfully flawed characters in Mary Helen Stefaniak's story will charm you from the beginning. As the pages turn you will realize the video game in The World of Pondside is just a front created by Robert, a brilliant ALS patient who lives in house, The purpose of the game is to do far more than just entertain his housemates. Now he is dead, and solving the mystery of how that happened is just the beginning of the thrills. The game has gone dark, Robert's military buddy everyone thought wa The delightfully flawed characters in Mary Helen Stefaniak's story will charm you from the beginning. As the pages turn you will realize the video game in The World of Pondside is just a front created by Robert, a brilliant ALS patient who lives in house, The purpose of the game is to do far more than just entertain his housemates. Now he is dead, and solving the mystery of how that happened is just the beginning of the thrills. The game has gone dark, Robert's military buddy everyone thought was dead has showed up, and a lot of patients in the US disenfranchised from the drugs they hope will save them have lost their hero. Does anyone know how to solve the secrets of the game? And, who will negotiate the secret trip to China now that Robert's elderly mother is in the hospital? Much is at stake, and it is all on the shoulders of this unlikely group of hacker-sleuth international spies fighting dementia and/or self-dought to the end. I will admit I had to reread and rethink a few layers of this mystery before I could settle my thoughts about the characters' fates - and that is exactly what made this a mystery unlike any other I had read - and I loved it! Narrated by George Newbern with just the right voice to make this quirky and humorous tale come alive. Thank you Net galley and Blackstone Publishing Audio books for providing this ARC in exchange for a fair review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    Full of unexpected twists and unreliable narrators, what seemingly begins as a mystery becomes a complicated morass of confused purposes. The set up: at a nursing facility, computer scientist Robert, dying of ALS, creates an online game that replicates--to tiny detail--places and memories of the other patients, allowing them to spend time with late spouses, far away children, and in places cemented in their memories. But when Robert dies, his friend Foster, a facility employee, is supposed to re Full of unexpected twists and unreliable narrators, what seemingly begins as a mystery becomes a complicated morass of confused purposes. The set up: at a nursing facility, computer scientist Robert, dying of ALS, creates an online game that replicates--to tiny detail--places and memories of the other patients, allowing them to spend time with late spouses, far away children, and in places cemented in their memories. But when Robert dies, his friend Foster, a facility employee, is supposed to recover Robert's laptop and give it to Robert's mother. But the laptop is missing, and thus begins a wild goose chase for it, various passwords, secret levels of the game, and more. What has the game really been about? Smuggling drugs in from China, where Robert has a connection to a lab making experimental medicines for ALS. There are layers upon layers here, dreams that seem real and memories that are subject to dementia, making for an ultimately less than satisfying conclusion, albeit a noble effort to clean up what had become a big mess in the middle.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stacy40pages

    The World of Pondside by Mary Helen Stefaniak. Thanks to @blackstonepublishing for the gifted Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When wheelchair bound resident, Robert Kallman creates a video game the residents of Pondside love it. They may be elderly, but the game allows them to virtually live their younger years and enjoy their days. When Robert is found dead, they aren’t able to get into the game and become desperate. If “video game” in the synopsis puts you off, don’t worry, that’s only a portion of the story. The The World of Pondside by Mary Helen Stefaniak. Thanks to @blackstonepublishing for the gifted Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ When wheelchair bound resident, Robert Kallman creates a video game the residents of Pondside love it. They may be elderly, but the game allows them to virtually live their younger years and enjoy their days. When Robert is found dead, they aren’t able to get into the game and become desperate. If “video game” in the synopsis puts you off, don’t worry, that’s only a portion of the story. The story takes place in real life; in a nursing home. I never thought a nursing home would be a good setting for a story, but I loved it! The residents were hilarious at times, especially when grumpy. I enjoyed the mystery and found it really unique. I did start to drift in the end when the plot went into the game, but I still enjoyed the book! “Who needs an alternate reality more desperately than people in a nursing home? All the real world has to offer is a life sentence of institutional meals and fluorescent lighting.” The World of Pondside comes out 4/19.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ari Smith

    I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The World of Pondside is almost like a nursing home version of Ready Player One. In World of Pondside, nursing home worker Foster is racing against the clock to get World of Pondside functional after the game go down. My biggest take away from the World of Pondside is that we do want we can for the people that we love. Foster loved Robert and enjoyed working with and learning from him. When Roberts greatest work was I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The World of Pondside is almost like a nursing home version of Ready Player One. In World of Pondside, nursing home worker Foster is racing against the clock to get World of Pondside functional after the game go down. My biggest take away from the World of Pondside is that we do want we can for the people that we love. Foster loved Robert and enjoyed working with and learning from him. When Roberts greatest work was at risk of being lost, Foster takes risks he never considered before in his life. And, sometimes, that's what we do for the people we love. The question I ask myself is, would I read this book again. The answer is maybe. This book was less about the in-game experience and more about the characters lives outside of the game. The nursing home situation was interesting, but at times it took a long time to learn about each character.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Terrie Case

    I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Although the characters were not distinguishable from one another and ran together. The premise was good and there were humorous parts throughout. However, about two thirds of the way in, I became confused. Sometimes it was difficult to tell current time from previous time or when a character was real or in the game, especially since the characters in the game became real, too. The ending was disappointing. Everyone just goes off into the sunset. The I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Although the characters were not distinguishable from one another and ran together. The premise was good and there were humorous parts throughout. However, about two thirds of the way in, I became confused. Sometimes it was difficult to tell current time from previous time or when a character was real or in the game, especially since the characters in the game became real, too. The ending was disappointing. Everyone just goes off into the sunset. There was no satisfying wrap up to the story. I was disappointed. I was excited to have the opportunity to read this book and so wanted to like it. I had to push myself to finish it. It made me sad because the author has so much potential. I received an ARC of this book from Blackstone Publishing through NetGalley. This in no way affects my opinion or rating of this book. I am voluntarily submitting this review and am under no obligation to do so.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Stanek

    The World of Pondside refers to an interactive game that a brilliant man suffering from ALS created in order for his fellow residents at a nursing home to be able to engage in their dream worlds. For one of the staff, that was being a fashion mogul in her own studio, for an elderly widow that was spending time with her deceased husband, for another being an esteemed dancer. And then the creator is found dead in the pond outside. Drowned. Sadly, this was another book for me that started out with p The World of Pondside refers to an interactive game that a brilliant man suffering from ALS created in order for his fellow residents at a nursing home to be able to engage in their dream worlds. For one of the staff, that was being a fashion mogul in her own studio, for an elderly widow that was spending time with her deceased husband, for another being an esteemed dancer. And then the creator is found dead in the pond outside. Drowned. Sadly, this was another book for me that started out with promise and then just veered off the road later on. This murder mystery mixed with charming elderly patients (and some zany ones!) was really engaging for awhile, I loved learning about each person's firmer life and their World of Pondside worlds. Then suddenly a full second storyline emerged (which links to the plot at hand but came out of left field) introducing characters and stories that I'm somewhat perplexed as to......why they're there. Overall, 3-stars for the engaging first half!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Munoz

    This was quite a change from my usual reading fare, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! The general concept reminded me a little of Sword Art Online, with elderly residents of a nursing home reliving the highlights of their lives through an interactive computer game. However, there's a lot more to the situation than meets the eye. My favorite part of this book was the characters for sure, especially Foster. He was so clueless and down-to-earth and relatable. I loved the wide cast of characters and how This was quite a change from my usual reading fare, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! The general concept reminded me a little of Sword Art Online, with elderly residents of a nursing home reliving the highlights of their lives through an interactive computer game. However, there's a lot more to the situation than meets the eye. My favorite part of this book was the characters for sure, especially Foster. He was so clueless and down-to-earth and relatable. I loved the wide cast of characters and how they all interacted. They each had a distinctive personality without descending into stereotypes. The way the game was presented was very interesting and different. The story in its entirety was different and original. I was given a free copy of this ebook by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    In this novel the reader enters both the physical and online world of Pondside via a nursing home and a video game of the similar name and setting. The plot centers on the death of a resident, Robert, who created the game while an employee, Foster, of the nursing home attempts to get the game back online and unpack the mystery of Robert’s death. The label of thriller didn’t resonate with me – this was not suspenseful or thrilling – more of a slow build puzzle. The writing style was a long and win In this novel the reader enters both the physical and online world of Pondside via a nursing home and a video game of the similar name and setting. The plot centers on the death of a resident, Robert, who created the game while an employee, Foster, of the nursing home attempts to get the game back online and unpack the mystery of Robert’s death. The label of thriller didn’t resonate with me – this was not suspenseful or thrilling – more of a slow build puzzle. The writing style was a long and winding path to the answers and there were several times where I considered putting the book down. The audience for this type of novel exists and may not be pulled in by the thriller label – perhaps a simple re-categorization would be useful. Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to listen to this book!

  23. 5 out of 5

    janne Boswell

    The World of Pondside was an intriguing madcap, read. I enjoyed the premise, a video game that allows residents the opportunity to relive the best moments of their lives. The video game, creator, Robert is found dead. The mystery draws all the residents in, to determine, how he ended up strapped in his wheelchair, left to die in a pond. The video game world ends with his demise. Robert's friend Foster is up for the challenge to determine the fate of his friend. The residents all embark on a Sherlo The World of Pondside was an intriguing madcap, read. I enjoyed the premise, a video game that allows residents the opportunity to relive the best moments of their lives. The video game, creator, Robert is found dead. The mystery draws all the residents in, to determine, how he ended up strapped in his wheelchair, left to die in a pond. The video game world ends with his demise. Robert's friend Foster is up for the challenge to determine the fate of his friend. The residents all embark on a Sherlock Holmes journey to solve the mystery, I enjoyed the characters, the storyline and the mystery that unravels, involving the interplay of the virtual and the 'real' world. Thank you NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna Dundas

    powered through this book whenever I had a moment to spare. Part crime novel, part critique of assisted living homes, and part homage to life simulation video games - a place to escape to when real life becomes unbearable - this book has wonderful characters that will steal your heart and give you hope. Getting old is not for the weak; nor is trying to figure out what you want to do with your life when you’re in your early twenties. The World of Pondside examines these two extremes, and the bond powered through this book whenever I had a moment to spare. Part crime novel, part critique of assisted living homes, and part homage to life simulation video games - a place to escape to when real life becomes unbearable - this book has wonderful characters that will steal your heart and give you hope. Getting old is not for the weak; nor is trying to figure out what you want to do with your life when you’re in your early twenties. The World of Pondside examines these two extremes, and the bonds that can form between the people living these lives. While there were times when I had trouble keeping track of which character was which, eventually the major characters took on more solid personalities. Thanks to Blackstone Publishing for the ARC in return for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Ms. Stefaniak delivers a highly entertaining and cleverly satirical look at modern reality. I love hese types of stories because they provide humor and entertainment; I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Her realistic characters and storyline quickly engage and hold the reader. Her portrayal of the absurdity of modern life makes for worthy contemplation while provoking analysis and increased empathy, hopefully. I loved this story, had trouble leaving the book, and obviously recommend it to all readers Ms. Stefaniak delivers a highly entertaining and cleverly satirical look at modern reality. I love hese types of stories because they provide humor and entertainment; I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Her realistic characters and storyline quickly engage and hold the reader. Her portrayal of the absurdity of modern life makes for worthy contemplation while provoking analysis and increased empathy, hopefully. I loved this story, had trouble leaving the book, and obviously recommend it to all readers.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brandi

    [2 Stars] In theory this should have been great, but in execution it was subpar (which seems to be the mantra of my 2022 reading at this point) I really just needed more worldbuilding. The mechanisms and power of this VR game never felt completely realized to me, nor did the characters or the plot. The representation of ALS was nice to see, however, the way that it drove the final climax of the plot was a tad ridiculous. I think the 'murder mystery'/thriller concept was half-baked at best. And all [2 Stars] In theory this should have been great, but in execution it was subpar (which seems to be the mantra of my 2022 reading at this point) I really just needed more worldbuilding. The mechanisms and power of this VR game never felt completely realized to me, nor did the characters or the plot. The representation of ALS was nice to see, however, the way that it drove the final climax of the plot was a tad ridiculous. I think the 'murder mystery'/thriller concept was half-baked at best. And all in all, the book itself just got a tad boring. Not one I'd recommend.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    My feelings about this ebbed and flowed as I listened to this one. This certainly felt like a change of pace for me - medical thriller set in an assited living facility? A VR game holding secrets? I genuinely feel like this is going to live in my brain for quite some time, even if the pacing felt off every now and then. Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katherina Martin

    This book is about a murder in a retirement home, a virtual reality game created by a resident of the retirement home and a host of interesting characters. Sit back and enjoy a read unlike any you have read before. Thank you to Blackstone Publishing andNetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Romanos

    This one had an interesting premise not wholly original but I am a fan of VR games in novels. The execution was just mediocre. None of the twists were surprising and the finale was not that exciting. Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing me an audiobook arc of this title.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    I really, really liked this book it was so different as a mystery, and a thriller. As many reviewers have pointed out, the characters are the highlight of the book, and they are treated with compassion and humor. I listened to the book in audio, and may read it in paperback to get the nuances I know I missed!

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