Book Review: Armada

Title: Armada

Author: Ernest Cline

Series: none

Edition: Trade Paperback

Blurb: Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books and video games he’s spent his life consuming – and too often he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering even could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure.

So when he sees the flying saucer, he’s sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over to psychosis.

Especially because the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of his favorite video game, a flight simulator called Armada – in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from aliens invaders.

As impossible as it seems, what Zach’s seeing is all too real. And it’s just the first in a blur of revelations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth;s history, it’s future, even his own life – and to play the hero for real, with humanity’s fate in the balance.

Review: First and foremost, I want to say that I love Ernest Cline. I read Ready Player One back in 2012 and absolutely loved it. I read that book  really fast, not quite in one sitting, but it was very, very hard to put it down. I still pull it out and just turn to a random page if I want to read something fun and exciting. So you can imagine, I really wanted this book to be great. I wanted to love it as much as Ready Player One

And I didn’t.

Ugh, I hate saying that. I really do. I can’t imagine how hard it was to try and follow up such a successful debut. And this was a good book, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t have that same spark, that same feeling of wonder. I did enjoy the story and the characters. Zack was a good protagonist with a lot of issues and a lot to learn. I really liked the alien world and technology – it was really interesting and fun.  Who wouldn’t want to find out that their favorite video game was real and you could play it in real time in real life? This would be a dream come true for a ton of people, so it was cool to see how that would play out. It wasn’t as easy as it seemed.

There were also several good plot twists, some a bit predictable, some that caught me completely by surprise. Of course, no details there so I don’t spoil anyone.

There were elements of other stories that I enjoyed. Definite hints of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. You could also tell that the story was heavily influenced by Contact by Carl Sagan. And lots of other pop culture sci-if staples: Star Wars, The Last Starfighter. Cline loves infusing his stories with all these elements that he enjoys, and the excitement he has for them really comes through on the page.

So while it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One in my opinion, Armada is still a very good book. I recommend it for any sci-if fan who has ever dreamed of getting to be part of the story.

GoodReads Rating: 3 Stars

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YALLFest 2017!

Whoohoo!! YALLFest!! It was so good to be back!!

For anyone who doesn’t know or hasn’t gone, YALLFest is a young adult book festival that takes place in November in Charleston, SC. Dozens of authors come and do book signings and panels about writing. It is quite simply the best. I had missed it last year, so I was extra excited to be back there again.

I also got to hang out with my good friend Jess (who some of you may remember from my Bibliophiles Anonymous days) and her cousin Tabi. They are both awesome people and a lot of fun. It was also nice to be able to bring my daughter, who is now 13 years old if you can believe it.

This year was cool because it was the first year that Cassandra Clare was an attendee! I have loved her since The Mortal Instruments and it was really awesome to get to meet her and get her latest book signed.

My favorite part of YALLFest is the panels. I love hearing authors talk about their craft and see how even though they are successful and have tons of fans, they still struggle to write and get the right words on the page. Makes me feel like I might actually be able to do it one day. Maybe. Hopefully.

Hands down, Margaret Stohl and Leigh Bardugo are my favorites to try and catch at a panel. They are both hilarious and just so much fun.

Charleston was cold and windy, but we had a blast. Can’t wait to go back next year. The best thing about it was that it inspired me to try and get back into writing again. It’s a little late to jump into NaNoWriMo this year, but I do have two manuscripts that I should work on, one of which is a completed first draft. The other was my NaNoWriMo project from several years ago that I actually won NaNo, made it to my 50,000 words, and haven’t looked at it since. So lots of material to play with. I’ll let you guys know how it goes, if I can get motivated again now that I’m home.

If you ever get a chance, do check out YALLFest. Almost everything at the festival is free – the panels, the signings. A handful of events are ticketed, but the tickets are relatively cheap, especially given what you get out of it. Anyone who loves books would have a blast.

 

WWW Wednesday – November 15, 2017

WWW Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Sam at “Taking On a World of Words.” Three questions, three answers. Go!

What did you recently finish reading?

According to GoodReads (and yes, I had to look it up), the last book that I finished was Armada by Ernest Cline. I haven’t finished a book since late September. Man, that’s sad. This was a decent read. I will try to get a review up this week.

What are you currently reading?

I have a few things that I’m working on at the moment. One current read is Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, which you probably saw from my teaser yesterday. I am also reading A Clash of Kings, the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I had been wanting to re-read this series, so they have become my read-before-bed books. Also, according to GoodReads, I am currently reading Marionette by Anya Allyn, the third book in her Dollhouse series. It has been a while since I’ve read it, so I might need to start over.

What do you think you’ll read next?

That’s a good question. I got a couple new books at YALLFest, and I also still have a bunch of other books, both physical and ebook copies, that I haven’t read yet. Plus, going to YALLFest always makes me want to look up the authors there and read all their stuff. Plus, I still want to try and finish some series that I started way back when for my yearly challenge. So really, it could be anything at this point. Who knows.

That’s it for this week! Leave your WWW in comments!

Teasers and Top Tens – November 14, 2017

Teaser-Tuesdays-Purple

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by “The Purple Booker.” Here are the rules if you want to play along:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The words used to describe it – despair, fear, anxiety, obsession – do so little to communicate it. Maybe we invented metaphor as a response to pain. Maybe we needed to give shape to the opaque, deep-down pain that evades both sense and senses.

~ Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

It has taken me a while to get into this book, not because it isn’t good, but because of the reading slump I’ve been in for the past several months. Getting over that now, because this book is pretty remarkable.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by “The Broke and the Bookish,” which still remains one of my favorite blog titles. Each week, a new topic is introduced and bloggers add their top ten lists accordingly. This week’s topic:

 Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read

Well, I already have children, so this will be both hypothetical and true to life. And if my kids have already outgrown these books, which they probably already have in some cases, then I will foist them on my grandkids, if I ever have any. Most of these books are special to me because they helped shape my own childhood. The rest are just awesome.

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I mean, come on. Every human should read those books, even if just to be aware of their cultural impact. Both of my kids have read these, so I feel like I’m doing good parenting-wise, at least in that respect.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and was probably part of what made me such a big fantasy/sci-if fan as an adult. It’s a perfect blend of the two and draws you in. The whole series is great, but there’s something about that first one that is special.

3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White -When I was a kid, this book was my jam! I think it was one of the first books I owned that I needed multiple copies because they kept falling apart because I read it so much.

4. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – Giving E.B. White all the love on this post. I can’t help it – he was a big part of my childhood. While most people have at least heard of Charlotte’s Web, I don’t know if this one gets as much attention. it should. It’s a beautiful book.

5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – The first book that made me cry. This is another beautiful story, full of discoveries, bravery and the resilience of the human spirit. So good!

6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – I know that I should have all of the Narnia books on this list, but I have special feelings for this one. My 3rd grade teacher read it out loud to our class, a chapter a day, and we were completely enthralled. Best part of our day. And if it leads kids to read the other books, that’s just icing on the cake.

7. The Fear Street series by R.L. Stein – I loved these books as a kid. Definitely for an older audience than the Goosebumps books are (and I never got into those), Fear Street was my introduction to spooky, scary stories that loved to play with your mind. So much fun!

8. The Whitney Cousins series by Jean Thesman – This series is about three cousins and how their lives intersect. The characters are fun, but they also deal with some heavy issues, which I think I important for kids to read.

9.  Any book by John Green – Moving on to the teenage years. I absolutely adore John Green and feel like his books would have really impacted me if I had read them as a teen instead of as an adult. His characters are engaging and complex and he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.

10. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Another book for a teen audience, this book is amazing. It both inspired me and completely destroyed me. In a good way, of course.

There is my Top Ten list for this week! Please share your list in comments so I can check it out!

Clearing the cobwebs . . .

“Hello? Anyone here?”

Man, this blog is awfully dusty. I’ve been gone far too long.

Hey everybody! After several months worth of theater shows, work craziness, and just general life, I am finally getting back around to blogging again! I’ve missed it, let me tell you. It will probably take me a while to get back in the swing of things, so please be patient. On top of being busy, I’ve had major reading and writing slumps – not the best thing to happen to a book blogger. Luckily, I just got back from this year’s YALLFest, and there’s nothing better to get you back into the wonderful world of books. I’ll do a more comprehensive post on that later. For right now, I’m just here to say hello, and that  I am hopefully back. 

Does my life have a plot yet? Not really. Will it ever? Probably not. That’s not my style. I’m more a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” kind of girl. So far it hasn’t failed me yet. I’m still going. 

Book Review: The Circle

the circleTitle: The Circle

Author: David Eggers

Series: none

Edition: library e-book

Blurb: When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Review: Funny, lately I’ve been getting my reading inspiration from other forms of media. First, it was The Handmaid’s Tale because of the new series on Hulu. This time, it was The Circle, after seeing the trailer for the movie coming up with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.

It’s interesting though, reading these two books back to back. They both show a potential future, but the outcomes of these two futures are very different. Instead of The Handmaid’s Tale‘s religious oppression, The Circle has a very 1984 feel to it, except that instead of Big Brother watching, everyone is watching. The idea is that all information is available. There is no privacy. Every thing is available to be watched by anyone, anywhere. Anyone who is trying to hide something is suspicious – if they are hiding it, it must be something shameful or something illegal. The Circle is what a company like Google would be on steroids, and also if it was run by devious people. Or at least ambiguous people. It’s really hard to tell if the leaders of the Circle are actually evil or just really, really misguided. Actually, I think at least one is evil. But I could be wrong. As I said, it’s really hard to tell.

And that’s what makes this a really good book. Nothing is simple. The Circle starts out as an Internet company that looks to do good, making things easier for people online. Identify theft is pretty much ended because of their work and millions of lives are made simpler. Mae is a really good character, who at the start of the book only wants to get out of her dead end job. She’s so happy when she gets her opportunity at the Circle, which does seem like a utopia. I spent a good deal of the time wishing I could work there. It was really easy for her to get more and more pulled into their influence, until they control nearly every aspect of not just her life, but her mind as well. It’s a really interesting character study.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I originally checked out the e-book from the library, but just bought a physical copy today. This is one I will want to re-read again. GoodReads rating: 5 stars

WWW Wednesday – March 8, 2017

WWW New

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words. Three questions, three answers. Go!

What are you currently reading?

So many things at the moment! Still working through The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien – this is my bedtime book. Also started Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo, which I am very much enjoying. Some terrific world building in those books! I’m reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke for the Seasonal Reading Challenge book for Spring. This is a re-read for me and I love this book – it’s a modern book that reads like something from the 1800s.

What have you recently finished?

I finished RoseBlood by A.G. Howard, and boy do I have some opinions! A review will be coming soon.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Definitely Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, the last of the Grisha trilogy. I really want to see how this pans out. After that, I would probably look to work on finishing another series, maybe the Blackcoat Rebellion trilogy by Aimee Carter?

There are my answers for the week! Please leave yours in comments!