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: The Queen and the Cure by Amy Harmon

The Queen and the Cure
Series: The Bird and the Sword Chronicles, #2
Author: Amy Harmon
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Amy Harmon
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

“There will be a battle, and you will need to protect your heart.”

Kjell of Jeru had always known who he was. He’d never envied his brother or wanted to be king. He was the bastard son of the late King Zoltev and a servant girl, and the ignominy of his birth had never bothered him.

But there is more to a man than his parentage. More to a man than his blade, his size, or his skills, and all that Kjell once knew has shifted and changed. He is no longer simply Kjell of Jeru, a warrior defending the crown. Now he is a healer, one of the Gifted, and a man completely at odds with his power.

Called upon to rid the country of the last vestiges of the Volgar, Kjell stumbles upon a woman who has troubling glimpses of the future and no memory of the past. Armed with his unwanted gift and haunted by regret, Kjell becomes a reluctant savior, beset by old enemies and new expectations. With the woman by his side, Kjell embarks upon a journey where the greatest test may be finding the man she believes him to be.


Bravo, Amy Harmon! The Queen and the Cure was a masterpiece. It was an epic, romantic adventure that even someone who does not normally gravitate toward fantasy, like myself, could fall in love with. It was filled with evil villains, internal and external conflicts, magic, and a legendary romance.

The writing and imagery in The Queen and the Cure were just as beautiful as they were in The Bird and the SwordI was immediately pulled back into the world of Jeru and its surrounding kingdoms. It was fun to be back in this world with all its amazing characters and settings. Plus, I was super excited to learn Kjell’s story! His character had so much potential in the first book.

Kjell was just as brutish as I expected him to be. He had the strength and presence his position required. He was also humble and had a sweetness he tried to keep hidden. It was easy for him to do that until he met Sasha. I loved Sasha. She had a quiet strength about her. Sasha created an inner turmoil in Kjell that was fascinating.

Everything about Kjell and Sasha’s story was magical and special. I won’t tell you more about it because there are so many great things to discover for yourself in this book. There are so many surprises and twists in store for the reader! I honestly couldn’t get enough of it, and highly recommend it. The Queen and the Cure was even better than The Bird and the Sword. That’s saying a lot because I absolutely loved that book.

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: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

22299763-1Crooked Kingdom
Series: Six of Crows, #2
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Orien Children’s Books
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.


I’m not really sure how to review Crooked Kingdom without giving away too much of the story, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief.

  1. All of my favorite Six of Crows characters were back. I loved getting to know them better. All of the relationships really blossomed.
  2. The twists and turns in this story were just as phenomenal as the first book.
  3. It took me “forever” to read Crooked Kingdom because the middle of the story lagged a little bit for me. (Forever was about 5 days.) I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I don’t read fantasy novels often and get a little bogged down by the fictional worlds? I was enthralled by both the beginning and the ending, though.
  4. I didn’t get every outcome I wanted, but I was completely satisfied with the ending. It was amazing!

Overall, Crooked Kingdom was a terrific conclusion to an epic duology. Fans of the series are sure to love it. I did.

Review: L.I.A. by R.S. Reed

L.I.A.
Author: 
R.S. Reed
Publication Date: March 24, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Sometimes your journey in life isn’t up to you…

Katie Lauren would rather do just about anything than be shuffled off to boarding school for her eleventh grade year, but that’s exactly where she finds herself. It’s her worst nightmare come true.

Softening the crushing blow of leaving her hometown behind to attend Dunn’s Preparatory Academy in Tennessee, is the fact that Katie’s best friend, Nikki, will be going too. When they discover the most gorgeous boy to ever step foot in their town, John, will be attending the remote boarding school as well, junior year is looking up.

Katie’s world is turned upside down when a simple plane ride to her new school turns out to be not so simple. Uncovering deeply guarded secrets that her family didn’t want her to know, and being out on her own for the first time, leaves Katie wondering, when your whole world changes, who will be there to hold you up?

Her friendship with John is becoming complicated, and her relationship with Nikki is changing. Soon, events in her unfamiliar life lead Katie to believe that they are all in some real danger, and she may be the only one who can stop it. Now that fate has intervened, will love be the only thing to save her?

Katie’s never thought of herself as fearless. Just a normal girl, from a normal town. Life has other plans though, and now that she has someone, and something, worth fighting for, she’ll need to be braver than she ever knew she could be.


From the minute I started reading the Prologue of L.I.A., I knew I was in for an adventure. It was a really unique and well written story. I was surprised by the mysterious plot. L.I.A. combined so many different elements. There was friendship drama, romance, and magic.

The characters were your typical teenagers, and yet they weren’t. Katie was struggling with so many real feelings as she left for boarding school. She was worried about leaving home and trying not to be attracted to guy her best friend liked. But, before long, she would find those were the least of her worries.

The only issue I had with L.I.A. was the amount of descriptions in it. They did an amazing job of painting a picture of Katie’s life and everything around her, but they bogged down the story at times. There were just so many of them. I would have liked more dialog between the characters, especially in the beginning of the story.

I’m surprised this is R.S. Reed’s début novel. The writing was polished and creative. She built a mysterious and magical world in L.I.A. that readers are sure to enjoy.

Review: In Dreams by J. Sterling

In Dreams
Series:
The Dream, #1
Author: J. Sterling
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

When Katherine Johns starts dreaming about a boy she doesn’t know, her college roommate Taylor is determined to find him. Convinced he must exist, Taylor is relentless… until she finds out exactly WHO the mysterious stranger really is.

The realization rocks the girls to their core and sends them down a path of unimaginable heartbreak as they learn to navigate their new reality.

Follow Katherine & Taylor’s journey through love, friendship and tragedy in this emotionally captivating debut novel by J. Sterling.


A couple of weeks ago, I read Dear Heart, I Hate You. In it I got a peek of Katherine and Cooper’s relationship. There was a little mystery behind it and I had to know more, so I decided to read their story.

In Dreams really surprised me. First, the writing wasn’t as sharp as it was in Dear Heart, I Hate You. I realize now that was because In Dreams was J. Sterling’s début novel. Her writing was good, but it’s definitely become amazing over the years.

Second, it wasn’t based in reality, but fantasy. While some aspects of that fantasy were cool (fortune-teller), I would have rather it had been based in reality. The fantasy parts left me frustrated. I couldn’t understand why Kat was so wrapped up in her dreams. They were just dreams — no matter how they made her feel. It’s not like she could live life forever in her dreams. I hated the choices she was making because of them and the love triangle they created. I only liked that Kat that was grounded in reality with Cooper.

Cooper was just as awesome as I expected him to be. He was the most sought after hockey player and guy on campus, but he was so down to earth. He didn’t deserve what Kat put him through. I was surprised he took it so well and didn’t think she was crazy.

As for the other characters in the book, Taylor and Danny were a lot of fun. I loved the friendship foursome they created with Cooper and Kat. Kylie I could have done completely without. The only thing I liked was when she took charge of Cooper and Kat’s messed up situation.

So, would I recommend this book. Yeah, probably. It was a really good début novel. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had either read it prior to reading Dear Heart, I Hate You or realized it was going to be based in fantasy rather than reality prior to reading it.

 

 

Review: The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

The Bird and the Sword
Author:
Amy Harmon
Publication Date: May 11, 2016
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Synopsis:

Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Beautiful.

That’s the word the comes to mind whenever I read an Amy Harmon novel. It doesn’t matter what genre it is or what the story is about, the writing is always flawlessly beautiful. The words she weaves bring emotions to life in a way that’s hard to describe.

If you know me or my blog you’re probably tired of hearing me say this, but I am not a Fantasy reader. I have a harder time getting into and staying interested in them. That was not the case with The Bird and the Sword. I was immediately pulled into the story by the words and the imagery they created. I was fascinated with the characters and found myself not wanting to put the book down.

I loved Lark. She may have seemed timid and weak, but there was way more to her than meets the eye. Her inability to speak played such a special role in the story. I enjoyed seeing her character grow and change throughout the book.

Tiras surprised me in several different ways. I didn’t expect to love his character as much as I did. Or maybe I just expected it to take longer to fall for him. His relationship with Lark was complex and multifaceted. They need each other in so many different ways. I loved how their relationship drove the story.

The world Amy Harmon created was filled with all sorts of amazing characters. I could easily imagine a sequel or spin-off to this story revolving around any one of them. I would especially love to read about Kjell. There was so much potential in his character!

If you’re curious about this book, a Fantasy lover or just someone who enjoy brilliant writing, I would highly suggest The Bird and the Sword. I was truly fascinated by the story and the characters.