Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publication Date: June 14, 2015
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

A cinematic, inventive, heartwarming, and completely nerdtastic adventure from the best-selling author of Ready Player One.

Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull math class when the high-tech dropship lands in his school’s courtyard-and when the men in the dark suits and sunglasses leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he’s sure he’s still dreaming. But the dream is all too real; the people of earth need him. As Zack soon discovers, the video game he’s been playing obsessively for years isn’t just a game; it’s part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they’ll need to defend earth from a possible alien invasion. And now…that invasion is coming.

Soon Zack and a handful of top gamers find themselves in a bunker beneath the Pentagon, hearing about our planet’s vast secret history over the last forty years-ever since a NASA probe first discovered evidence of intelligent life in our solar system, hidden beneath the ice of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

As he and his companions prepare to enter their ships and do battle, Zack learns that the father he thought was dead is actually a key player in this secret war. And together with his father, he’ll uncover the truth about the alien Europans, race to prevent a genocide, and discover a mysterious third player in the interplanetary chess game he’s been thrown into.


I’ll be the first to admit I am not a science fiction fan. A couple of months ago, I listened to the audio book of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. I loved that book, but I had no idea he had written another novel. It wasn’t until I saw another blogger saying she was going to read it that Armada was on my radar. I immediately looked it up, and when I saw Wil Wheaton was once again narrating, I requested the audio book from the library.

When I first started listening to Armada, I was hit with familiarity. Armada was reminiscent of Ready Player One from the beginning. Wil Wheaton’s narration sounded similar, and sometimes I had to remind myself that this was a new character and story. His voice was once again perfect for the genre, though. I couldn’t imagine anyone else narrating. I think he should continue to do all of Ernest Cline’s audio books.

Another thing that felt familiar was the writing. Ernest Cline once again centered the story around video games and a young adult male character. I liked Zack. Like Ready Player One‘s Wade Watts, Zack was a high school senior on the verge of graduating. He was just as obsessed with video games as Wade was. The difference between the their stories was their missions. Instead of fighting for a fortune, Zack was fighting to save the universe.

Here’s where I have to admit that I wasn’t into Armada‘s deadly alien invasion story line as much I was into Wade Watt’s quest in Ready Player One. This has nothing to do with it being good or bad. It has everything to do with me not being into aliens. I didn’t really care about Zack’s plight to save Earth and humanity. What I did love, though, were the relationships in this story.

There were so many amazing relationships going on in this book. First, there was Zack and his mom. I loved the easy relationship they had. Then, there was Zack and his schoolmates, friends and fellow alien fighters. The moments Zack spent with them lead to some really great revelations. But the relationship I liked the most was the one Zack had with his dead father and his dead father’s things. That probably sounds weird, but so much of this story was wrapped up in Zack’s dead father’s past and suspicious journal entries. I learned a lot about Zack in those moments, and he did, too.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to Ernest Cline’s Armada. It was well written, well narrated and addicting to listen to. It wasn’t quite as good as Ready Player One, but I could appreciate it for what it was. Anyone who enjoys video games, aliens and references to old alien movies is bound to love it.

Review: Iluminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae
Series: The Illuminae Files _01
Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


Umm….My mind is pretty much blown from reading this book. Excuse me as I try to make any sense in this review. It’s probably going to be one big ramble!

Illuminae was pure genius. Everything about it was amazing. I loved the way the story was presented. The format was so very smart. It made the story fast-paced and easy to become engaged in. I credit the format for making me, a non science fiction fan, a lover of this book. Well, the format and the characters.

I absolutely loved Kady and Ethan. I was amazed at how well I got to know them and how well developed their characters were despite Illuminae not being told directly from their point of views. Their communications were probably my favorite in the entire book. I couldn’t help root for them. I also loved every supporting character I got a glimpse of throughout this tale.

Honestly, I have no clue what else to say. Illuminae had been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for over a year. I’m pretty mad that I let it sit all this time. It is totally worth any and all hype it’s received. Don’t be like me and wait any longer to read this book. Push it up to the top of your TBR list now.

Now, excuse me while I go purchase Gemina.

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publication Date: August 16, 2011
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?


I know what you’re thinking. Deanna read a YA science fiction novel??? Yes, yes I did. Well, actually I listened to it, but same difference. And I had so much fun doing it, too. I know, I’m just as shocked as you are.

One of the problems I have reading science fiction is that I’m just not interested in the topics many of them contain. I’m not into stories about science or the future of technology. I’m definitely not into aliens, zombies, or any of the other things that cross between fantasy, horror and science fiction. I don’t like reading about the world ending. So, why would I want to read Ready Player One? First, I saw the cover and was drawn to it. Second, I read a lot of great reviews. Third, I heard about the multitude of 1980’s references. Fourth, Will Wheaton narrates the audio version. It was pretty much the 80’s and Will Wheaton thing that made me give it a try.

Ready Player One was a fantastic book. I was obsessed with the story from the minute I began listening to it in my car. I would find myself sitting in my drive way long after I had returned home. I’m very happy I chose the audio version of Ready Player One. By listening to it I wasn’t overwhelmed by the amount of information I was being given. There was so much to take in, and I think I would have been easily overwhelmed by everything if I was reading it. All the information would have slowed down the pace of the story, but it didn’t in this format. Plus, Will Wheaton did an amazing job narrating. I actually pictured a younger version of him as Wade while listening.

As for the story, it’s really something you need to experience for yourself. It’s wrapped around a future video game called the OASIS and Wade’s quest to win its creator’s fortune. I loved how the story progressed and how action packed it was. The amazing number of references to classic video games and 80’s pop culture were really cool. I wasn’t a teenager like Halliday was in the 1980’s, but I was alive, and I absolutely loved every reference to the decade I got.

I’m not sure what else to say about this marvelous book other than I think you should listen to it, too. Rumor has it a Ready Player One movie is coming, and I’m excited to see what they do with it.

Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, GLBT, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.


Before I start this review, I must thank Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings for sharing her ARC of We Are the Ants with me. If she hadn’t passed this book onto me, I might not have read it and that would have been a travesty.

When I began reading We Are the Ants, I was immediately confused and unsure if this book was going to be for me. Science fiction isn’t normally my preferred reading genre, and there were some pretty big science fiction-y things happening right away. Normally, that probably would have bored me, but it didn’t. We Are the Ants enthralled me the entire time I was reading it. The author’s writing and storytelling were brilliant. I read it in one evening. That’s how good this book was. A non-science fiction reader couldn’t put it down.

I absolutely loved the cast of characters. Henry was a boy on the brink of manhood. Life was tough for him to begin with and being abducted by aliens didn’t help. The added pressure of trying to decide whether to save the world or not compounded his already stressful existence.

Henry’s relationship with his family a big part of this story. His family wasn’t as easy to love as Henry was, but the more I got to know them the more they grew on me. It took me a long time to understand their motivations and opinions. Their lack of support for Henry at times frustrated me, especially his mother. I wanted to give her a good shake a couple of times.

The other characters that had a large part in this story were Henry’s classmates. I had a love-hate relationship with them. I loved what they brought to the story, but I hated pretty much all of them. They were a true representation of what kids can be like when presented with someone who doesn’t fit the mold.

We Are the Ants was a beautiful and thought-provoking coming of age novel. It touched on so many issues that will resonate with today’s youth and adults alike. If you haven’t already read it, I would highly recommend doing so.

Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Spontaneous
Author:
Aaron Starmer
Publication Date: August 31, 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

“Katelyn Ogden was a lot of things, but she wasn’t particularly explosive, in any sense of the word.”

Mara Carlyle’s senior year at Covington High in suburban New Jersey is going on as normally as could be expected, until the day—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to spontaneously combust without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason—Terrorism! Drugs! Homosexuality! Government conspiracy!—while the seniors continue to pop like balloons.

Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it with tell-it-like-it-is insight as she tries to make it to graduation in one piece through an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard the President of the United States use over Skype.


Spontaneous was a weird book. The concept behind it, high school seniors spontaneously combusting, was disturbing yet surprisingly entertaining. I loved the way the story was set up with each chapter unveiling a little more. The writing was amazing and the entire book was so creative!

I loved Mara’s rambling point of view in Spontaneous. It was blunt and refreshing. Mara was a little witty and a lot snarky. Her flippant attitude was perfect for a teenage character. I enjoyed reading her thoughts and feelings throughout the entire book. The supporting characters were fun, too. I loved learning bits and pieces about them through Mara.

Spontaneous delivered an incredibly entertaining reading experience, but it was a little frustrating.The spontaneous combustion plot and the revelations that went a long with it were confusing at times. So much random information was given and then never really explained or dealt with. I was only partially happy with the ending because I still feel like I need certain answers.

Still, I did really enjoy the book. I would definitely recommend it to YA Contemporary readers who enjoy a strange story filled with cool characters and great writing.

 

 

Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

23174274Title: Glass Sword

Series: Red Queen, #2

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Publication Date: February 9, 2016

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Goodreads Synopsis:

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.


3 / 5 Stars


A while back I answered a book tag question that asked whether I thought books were character or plot driven. I answered character driven because, for me, the main character is one of the pieces of the puzzle that either makes or breaks a book. If I’m reading something through a character’s eyes who is boring or annoying, it can ruin or make a book less satisfying for me. That’s kind of what happened with Glass Sword.

Mare Barrow was so annoying in Glass Sword that at times I wanted to put the book down. Her self-centered outlook and trust issues drove me crazy. There’s only so many times you can read “Anyone can betray anyone.” and not want to hurl the book against the wall. Even the author must have felt this because it was pointed out to Mare more than once during the story.

As for the storyline, at times it was amazing and action packed. Other times, it was slow going and boring. It couldn’t seem to find a happy medium. The new characters were exciting and added a lot of interesting things to the story. The old characters continued to entertain me and keep Mare on her feet.

In my opinion, what made Glass Sword worth reading was the ending. I didn’t see it coming at all. Victoria Aveyard gets an A++ in cliffhangers because, after struggling through most of Glass Sword, I still desperately want to read the next book.

 

Review: Six of Crows

23437156Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: September 29, 2015

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.


My rating: 5 / 5 Stars


Six of Crows in one word: EPIC.

I read somewhere that Six of Crows is Oceans 11 meets A Game of Thrones. I couldn’t agree more. The plot was amazing. It had a criminal mission like Oceans 11 and a cool world and multiple view points like A Game of Thrones. There were also so many surprises I didn’t see coming. And I love being surprised!

What really made this book outstanding, though; was its characters. They were all so different and interesting. I loved reading their backstories. I couldn’t help but fall in love with them. It didn’t matter that they were criminals. I wanted them to succeed and find the happiness they were all searching for.

Six of Crows is surrounded by a lot of hype. In my opinion, it’s worthy of said hype. I more than loved this book. I don’t have the words to even describe how I felt about it. I’m going to be telling everyone (inlcuding you!) to READ.THIS.BOOK.

Side note: I borrowed an electronic copy of Six of Crows from my local library. I really wish I would have borrowed a physical copy for two reasons:

1) I would have liked to have been able to flip back to the maps at the front of the book while reading the story.

2) I didn’t realize the story was going to end at 85% completion. There are acknowledgements and a sneak peak of Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy at the end. I thought I had more story but got a cliffhanger instead!