Audiobook Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

After re-reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, I decided to check out his most recent publication Armada and found the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, at my public library and borrowed it.

Armada by Ernest Cline

Review via GoodReads:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

This was an interesting story where a fantasy becomes reality, with a side of conspiracy theory. I did like a few of the characters, they were interesting, and I really like Zack’s mom. As a protagonist, however, Zack did not catch my interest in the same manner that Wade Watts from Ready Player One did. Plus, I’m not a big gamer so that part was only so-so for me. I have no fantasy of my little Mountain Goat Mountain game coming to life in a way that I can save the world, not even a little bit. So maybe some of my disinterest in this story is my disinterest in shoot-em-up games in general.

I did enjoy Ready Player One and Cline is a good writer, I just think some of the over arching story line of Armada was rather predictable . I guessed every single plot twist when the character was introduced, so it was more about seeing if I was right than it was about expectations that a completely new revelation would happen. It’s an interesting sci-fi story, for gamers probably way more interesting, and a decent read over all, it just wasn’t for me in particular.

Wil Wheaton does a good job voice acting, and he is excited by the genre he so that gives his voice excitement and probably one of the reasons I stuck with the book. However, he does not do voices as well as some other voice over actors that I listen to, so there were a few characters I had a little trouble keeping straight, but he does a good job overall.

If you haven’t read Ready Player One, you should it is amazing, definitely read it before reading this book to get a better idea of Cline’s storytelling abilities. You can read my review here.

Armada, is  worth checking out from your library if you want a fun summer sci-fi read based on the gaming community.

Audiobook Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

I borrowed the audiobook of The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher from the local library. It is read by.

The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

Summary from GoodReads:

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

This book made it onto my Top Five Books I Enjoyed that were Outside My Comfort Zone in 2015 post because  I generally do not enjoy high fantasy but I ended up really engaging in this story. Maybe part of this was that it was an audiobook and I did not have to keep names straight because the narrator had excellent character voices and I followed along so much easier.

Ok, so the reason I really liked this story was that there are people who can speak Cat. No joke. It is amazing because Butcher has cat psychology and physiology down pat and brings this real world knowledge to the story, giving it ground in reality even though people are living in the clouds (literally) and talking to cats! Bridget Tagwynn is one of those people and she is such an interesting character. Of a lower status than those around her, but with training in how to be a strong human being, and an understanding of how people interact and react she is just a great shining example of a strong female character that isn’t hateful or bitter. All the characters are interesting, have depth, have things I liked about them and had things I rolled my eyes about, because they are human and have a reason for being part of the story.

I’ll dare say I enjoyed this cast of characters to a greater extent than the cast of the Dresden Files. Not because I now dislike Dresden, but because this series has a wider cast of strong main characters instead of just the select few in the Dresden series. From Gwendolyn Lancaster who is a little too enthusiastic and know-how when she first arrives for training at the Academy to her cousin Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster who seems a steady sort of person, but manages to have depth as well, to Rowl, a cat, who manages to be helpful and unhelpful all of the time. A really interesting play of people and story line, masterfully told.

But I attribute my ability to read this high fantasy story with greater ease to the voice actor Euan Morton. He did an amazing array of voices and I easily followed a wide cast of characters trotting across and unfamiliar landscape. His Rowl voice is literally stuck in my head, it is that good. I really recommend this audiobook, he is a wonderful voice over actor.

There is a lot to this story that I can’t even fully get into with a review, but I would suggest it for anyone who enjoys strong characters, both male and female. and for people who enjoy adventure romps that have depth. Don’t be put off by the high fantasy, steam punk aspects, or talking cats, this story is more than the fun  setting it is about the very real and interesting characters that make up a group people who are trying to accomplish something together.

Audio Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I borrowed The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman from my local library. This audio book was performed by a full cast which I always love so much!

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Summary from GoodReads:

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

I’m biased when it comes to Gaiman, I usually find his way of writing stories and viewing life so interesting. This story definitely has it’s twists and turns and didn’t exactly go where I thought it might. At the same time the story feels familiar because it is based on fairy tales we all know and love. I do like retellings and I love a good mash-up so those aspects of the story kept me listening, plus it is a short story so it was over really before I knew it. But that was also part of the problem, there wasn’t as much development of character that I normally expect from Gaiman and the twists were OK, but not of the deep and dark and unexpected caliber that I have come to expect from the author.

Listening to a full cast is always fun, it makes telling the different characters apart easier and I enjoy hearing several people chime in on a story. No one stood out as particularly brilliant or horrible, just good voice actors giving life to  a story. (As I read the audio version of the book, I cannot comment on the supposed amazing pictures of the hardcover, but I hear it was brilliantly done.)

I enjoyed this retelling from Gaiman, but it is not my favorite of his stories. Some of the story line was predictable and it was so on the go adventuresque (that’s a word, I think?) that I didn’t get the same sense of development of character as I have from his other books. The ending was different than I expected, but not so much so I was blown away by it. While a fun fairy tale retelling/mash-up story to listen to, I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

AudioBook Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

So…. just realized I have not posted a book review this entire year. What? Some of that is because a lot of the new series or new books I was trying out at the beginning of the year did not make me excited enough about the story line to write a review. Some of it is because this year has seen a lot of changes and my reading time has diminished so I’m not reading as many books. I’m going to attempt to get caught up. (Where’s my laughing/crying emoticon when I need it?)

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill Read by Cynthia Holloway

I borrowed Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill as an audio book from my local library, it is read by Cynthia Holloway.

Summary from Goodreads:

They killed me. They healed me. They changed me. Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago’s vampires announced their existence to the world—and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker…and this one decided that the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead. Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I’ve traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude—and servitude. Right. But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I’m surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan’s attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone’s still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches? My initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

OK, I’ll admit I picked this one because it was about vampires in Chicago. I mean what is not to love about that premise? It’s the reason I picked up Jim Butcher’s books, and I loooove those. I was also excited because this is currently a 12 book series with the 13th book to publish this year. I love finding new series and being able to binge read them. But I just couldn’t get into this book.

While there were some intriguing family dynamics that added some interest to the over all plot of girl gets made into a vampire and is trained by a really old, but extremely hot, vampire who expects submission, but Merit is a modern woman who refuses to submit, it wasn’t enough to make the series stick out from the rest of the genre. I really wish there had been a little more about the transition from being an academic whose life revolves around an all consuming thesis to becoming a vampire who has to give up that life long dream. Perhaps that is developed later in the series as sometimes it does take an author a good three books to really develop a character.

Cynthia Holloway was a decent narrator. She has a low and interesting voice. I generally do not have difficulty with narrators, I like listening to audio books and respect the hell out of voice actors. I took a class on it in Chicago and it is hard work! I do recommend listening to a sample reading before downloading and audio book if you find that some narrators turn you off the story. I do this if I’m going to buy the audio book and not just borrow it from the library.

Chloe Neill is a good writer and so this was not a bad book to read, I did enjoy parts of it, I was just wary of how much time I should continue to give the series as there were some “this has been done” parts as well. Obviously the series is popular or there wouldn’t be so many books in the series, and there are some reviews on Goodreads that suggest as a series it is quite good, so maybe I should borrow the other books in the series to see if I find the series to be more interesting than the first book.

But can we have some urban fantasy covers where the female characters are in actual fighting gear? Or even fighting? Midriffs and belly rings are hella sexy, I agree, but not exactly fighting gear. Just saying.

Waiting on Wednesday: Anxiously Desirous of Reading Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases book lovers and bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Waiting on Wednesday

Currently I’m re-reading The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, via audiobook, in great anticipation of the release of Stiletto in June of this year. The Rook was one of my favorite reads in 2012 and I’ve waited a long time to be able to read the continuing story of Myfanwy Thomas, super administrator extraordinaire who is part of a secret government organization of the bizarre and wonderful. You can read my full review of The Rook here.

Stiletto is the sequel and I can’t wait to discover what secret treasures it holds, what questions it ponders, and what revelations will make me think deep dark thoughts. If you haven’t started on this series, grab The Rook from your closest library, or download it on Audible, either way you will discover a wonderful and intricate world of the supernatural and be able to catch up in time to read the next book in the series.

**Slight spoilers for the first book in Stiletto’s description below.**

Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2)

Summary from Good Reads:

In this spirited sequel, The Rook returns to clinch an alliance between deadly rivals and avert epic—and slimy—supernatural war.

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural
threats, and…
The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

Top Ten Tuesday: Outside My Comfort Zone

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme by The Broke and the Bookish where fellow book bloggers, and anyone who wants, can contribute to a themed top ten list.  Today’s list is supposed to include: Ten Books I Enjoyed Recently (2015) That Were Outside my Comfort Zone.

Top Ten Tuesday

 My Favorite Genre: Urban Fantasy

I’ll admit that I still pretty much stick to one genre, urban fantasy, but occasionally I do find things because I’m browsing through GoodReads or the library catalog that are surprisingly good reads even though they are  outside my comfort zone. Not surprisingly, I don’t have ten books I’ve read outside my comfort zone. I have a limited amount of time I can devote to reading, and so I tend to go for what I know I will find enjoyable rather than branching out.

Top Five Books I Enjoyed that were Outside My Comfort Zone in 2015

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1) by Jim Butcher

The Aeronauts Windlass by Jim Butcher

While I have devoured Butcher’s Dresden Files series over the years, I was not able to get into his Codex Alera novels, I generally do not enjoy high fantasy and hard to pronounce (i.e. read and keep them straight) names. But, I decided to give Aeronaut’s Windlass a try, and I ended up really engaging in the story. It is about a world above the clouds where wood is scarce and some lucky people can understand the language of Cats. Espionage, intrigue, and fighting among the different Spires adds excitement to an interesting setting.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please is outside my comfort zone because I generally do not read non-fiction. However, I do try to read one memoir/non-fiction book a year and chose Yes Please for 2015. I was expecting great things, because I just adore Amy Poehler and I was not disappointed, she wrote a great book. I love her honesty and vulnerability, she is amazing and human and I want to go to there and meet her some day. You can read my full review here.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

As, I mentioned above, I am not usually a fan of high fantasy. I could not finish a very famous book series that is now a very famous television series because it was just too high fantasy. I find that a lot of characters in high fantasy are not easy for me to relate to and I have a hard time enjoying a story for the sake of the story, I need to me able to emotionally connect and feel safe in that connection. That rarely happens in high fantasy, usually the life of the main character is in such danger, that I cannot connect and therefore end up hating the character and the story. However, I really connected to Kvothe. This might be partly because as he is telling his life story I know he makes it out, at least alive if not unharmed. I felt safe emotionally connecting to him, though I despised his choice in women. He may be unpredictable and a hothead, but he had a good heart and he watched out for his friends. You can read my full review here.

Floors by Patrick Carman

Floors by Patrick Carman

Floors is a middle grade children’s book, and very much outside my comfort zone. I tried a few young young adult books last year and this was my favorite. Leo, the main character, is growing up and learning more and more about the Whippet Hotel where he lives, plus he has a mystery  to solve. What’s not to like?! It was a fun read, that was well written, had a couple of too goofy moments to be real, but enough real life that I connected to the story even though I am far beyond middle grade years. You can read my full review here.

Unnatural Acts (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, #2) by Kevin J. Anderson

Unnatural Acts (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, #2) by Kevin J. Anderson

I like urban fantasy, which I would say this falls under, but it is a very specific subset, the zombie genre, and that I do not read a lot of. I have tried a few and they are OK, but I really like the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series. I’m not always a fan of the details about zombie bodily upkeep, ’cause I find that icky, but Dan Shamble, his lawyer work partner, and ghostly girlfriend are great characters. Each book has a unique story line while also exploring the reason Dan was killed and became a zombie. It’s a zombie mystery sub-sub genre and I really enjoy reading these books. Plus, the lawyer in this book is a smart woman, who does good, and is a refreshing change of pace in how authors like to write about lawyers. So, I like that part of it too.

Nodds & Nends: Barbie’s New Bodies, Favorite Food, and Vaginal Fantasy

Mattel has finally gotten the hint that people are looking for a new kind of model image for their children. With toys like the Tree Change Dolls spreading across social media like fire, Barbie is finally following in their footsteps and diversifying her body type.  Is it weird I want to go out and buy that curvy Barbie like yesterday?!  [via The Mary Sue]

[brief pic description]

I thought this picture below, which showed up on my FB timeline, was freakin hilarious. Mostly because I can see myself doing this. Chris and I don’t really argue all that much, we have plenty  of adult discussions, because we are adulting, but when we do argue it’s usually over who took the last of the favorite cookies and why wasn’t at least a bite offered to the other person. [via Purple Clover]

 

I’ve been doing a lot of data entry recently, which I really don’t mind. It’s good to clean up software systems and it’s definitely a project that will benefit me in the long run, but it can get mind numbing after a bit. So I’ve been listening to Vaginal Fantasy and catching up on past episodes and the time has flown. I just love the interactions between Felicia Day, Bonnie Burton, Veronica Belmont, and Kiala Kazebee.

Most of the books I have not read, I’ve gotten a few recommendations that are on my GoodReads want to read list, and I don’t mind spoilers, so I’ve giggled away the time and finished my project to boot! I will warn you that some of the recommended videos that pop up on the side on YouTube (because it is called Vaginal Fantasy) will make you want to hide your computer screen. You have been warned.