Armada by Ernest Cline

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My husband finally got around to reading Ready Player One, just in time for the movie, and he wanted to check out another book by Cline, so we both started reading (and listening) at the same time. I LOVED Ready Player One so even though I’m not huge of scifi I figured I’d like this one too.

And…I mostly enjoyed it. I love Cline’s writing, it’s so witty, and coupled with Will Wheaton’s narration it becomes just a fun ride. I could listen to him read it all day. The thing about the story is that for the first half it was so silly I kept wishing the main character would just wake up and realize it was all a dream or something. But then when it was explained and I was like ok, that actually makes sense, I really like this! it went on to follow the exact same tropes of every story like this. I even made a bet with my husband about all the things that would definitely happen and sadly I won every one of them. I didn’t want to. I wished he would subvert the tropes somehow, but no, it all laid out exactly like I thought it would.

I know a lot of people are complaining he ripped off Ender’s Game and some others, but I don’t mind the similarities. Re-tellings are my favorite genre! I don’t need a new idea, just great execution and some twists to shake it up. This had two of the three, and I’m glad I read it, especially as a gamer.

The only thing that bothered me though, is when the World of Warcraft playing mom said ‘Late for a video game’ with practically an eyeroll. Umm no. Anyone who plays WoW competitively knows that you don’t make 20+ other people wait on you because ‘it’s just a video game’. Everyone’s time matters. People make sure their work schedules and family time doesn’t fall on raid nights to be able to play, and when you can’t start a raid because someone’s not there you’re wasting that time. In my guild, that costs you your raid spot.

Anyway, a pretty good read, but it’s no Ready Player One (aaaaah I can’t wait for the movie!!!).

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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I’m terrible at ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ because I wasn’t going to read this book for that reason. The cover looks like it was drawn in colored pencils at a high school art class. Maybe I’m biased because I come from a family of artists, but come on, my friend’s octopus tattoo looks better. Still, when I got an email about a new mermaid book from NetGalley, I couldn’t help checking it out.

And OH. MY. GOD.

When you’re reading a book and you yell out ‘holy shit!’ you know it’s a good book. It’s the kind of book where you don’t see things coming and when they come you think God, how did I not see that coming? I should have seen it coming! Aaaaahhhhh!!!!

Anyway, I loved it. The writing is descriptive in all the right ways and the dialogue brought a smile to my face every time. I loved how it was a twist on The Little Mermaid, and I just can’t get over how great the ending was.

So I guess the moral of the story is, don’t judge a book by its cover. This one is worth the look.

Thanks NetGalley for giving me this ARC! I wouldn’t have read it otherwise.

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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I’ve been looking forward to this book from the moment I saw it on my Netgalley email, and though sadly the publisher didn’t approve my request for an ARC (making me wait MONTHS until it came out) I finally got the chance to read it.

First of all, and I know I’m a broken record when it comes to reviews for this book, but the cover is amazing. Seriously, this is a book that deserves a forward-facing spot on the shelf.

Now for the story. I came into this book expecting death magic, dealing with addiction, and f/f romance. I got all three, in that order, 1/3 of the book each. I can’t ask for anything more. Expectations: fulfilled.

As someone who’s written a zombie book, I understand the logistics behind what it means to die and come back a monster. This book was definitely an interesting and unique take on the genre, seamlessly blending fantasy into it, and while it wasn’t how I would have done it (I’m a ‘better safe than sorry’ kind of person over this world’s ‘trust everyone to keep each other safe’ mindset) I do see how it could work.

I also loved the Deadlands, it reminded me of Los Lagos from Labyrinth Lost, and I hope we get to see more of it in the future. The twists of this book were pretty predictable, but I think the next one won’t be since we don’t have a bunch of imminent events from the description looming over our heads anymore.

I thought the addiction storyline was done amazing. I truly felt for Odessa, and it was the part of the book I thought was the best. I really liked Valoria, and for the longest time I thought that they’d get together. I liked Evander, but I didn’t understand why he went through the trouble of becoming a necromancer and have his mother hate him for doing it when he really wanted to be an explorer. And with Meredy, I couldn’t help seeing Merida from Brave,  because she looked like her, acted like her (with the archery), and had a bear. I think Jax was my favorite character. I’d love a book just about him.

Overall, I’m glad to have read it and I hope publishers pick up more books like this (*cough cough hint hint*). We need more queer fantasy out there! Oh, and look at this amazing gift I got from Sarah for pre-ordering!

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

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I have…a lot of feelings about this book. I finished it yesterday and I still can’t figure out how to put it all into words.

Ok, I’ll try.

First of, the writing is WOW (I know, I’m a true wordsmith). This is the kind of lyrical, gorgeous prose that transports you into its world and characters. It reminded me a lot of Sara J. Maas’s ACOTAR, except with music instead of painting, and it was magical and beautiful and passionate. I loved absorbing every word of this book, wishing that I could write like that (while knowing that even 10,000 hours or 1,000,000 words of practice wouldn’t be enough). And the German feel of this book was so perfect, I couldn’t get enough of it. And the music – oh the music. I could relate so much to how music affects your soul. I sang opera as a child, shown off in Russian theaters and exhibitions, and music was my life for a long time. This brought back so many memories, and I loved it.

That brings us to the fact that it’s…pretty much ACOTAR (which I liked), but it ends before the grand finale. I’ve never seen Labyrinth, the movie the book is based on, but to me it screamed of Little Red Riding Hood (which I’m sure was intended). Here we get an incredible beginning, and haunting and heartbreaking follow up, and then it kind of just ends. Not even on a cliffhanger. I know there’s a book 2 that’s supposed to be the sequel, and I get where it’s going, but I really wanted there to be something to get me excited for book 2, and the ending of book 1 wasn’t it. However, the book 2 preview? Got me hooked like a fish on a reel.

Now there was one thing that bothered me: the word plain used to describe the MC’s looks. And it was used over, and over, and over. WTF is that even supposed to mean? No one is ‘just plain’. You know what’s plain? A white wall. You know what’s not plain? Literally any person ever. Go to Google images and search ‘plain girl’ and you’ll get what I mean. This is how I began picturing Liesl because I kept getting a word that made no sense to describe her:

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Plain -could- mean a lot of things. Plain could mean not wearing makeup or adornments, sure. Plain could be ordinary, sure. But here, plain was something only Liesl had. Something she thought made her worthless. Apparently, every other girl in her village was something else, while she was plain. Any teenage girl reading this book could think it’s her, and this is the worst kind of image to portray (especially since NOT every girl is a music savant). I get that the message is ‘beauty is on the inside’ but it didn’t have to be so critical of anyone who is not absolutely gorgeous. Ok, rant done.

Overall, I did enjoy this story and I LOVED the prose. I’ll be picking up book 2 eventually, mostly to see what happens to Liesl’s brother. He was the best character in the book and I can’t wait to find out what happened with him. I would recommend it to readers who love the edgy upper-YA fairy tales like ACOTAR with a slight twist.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me a chance to read and review this book.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

When it comes to books about how to write, the most recommended book I’ve seen has been Stephen King’s On Writing.

I was not going to read this book.

The main reasons for completely disregarding it were (1) I’m not a fan of King’s work (nothing against him or his writing, it’s just not for me) and (2) I didn’t think a book about writing would actually hold any information I don’t already know or can’t readily google.

I was half-right about that second one.

What I didn’t realize, whenever those recommendations popped up, was that this was a memoir, a book not about how to write, but about how he grew as a writer. Sure, he gives some advice too (nothing you can’t find if you google the topic) but the book wasn’t about writing, it was about becoming a writer.

I am so glad I read it because I really appreciated seeing and feeling the struggles he went through, the struggles most writers are still going through to get published. I related to so much of it.

So I guess I’ll be joining the masses that say every writer should read this book, whether for motivation or commiseration, but I’ll be sure to say why. It’s not a writing textbook, but a story of how one person overcame so much to become one of the most famous authors of all time.

Now, the Elements of Style, that’s a textbook.

I picked it up because King recommended it several times throughout his book as a great starting out guide on the biggest mistakes new writers make in their work. From comma usage, to wrong word meanings, it’s a pretty good guide. I’ve found that some minor things in it were outdated (like the use of they for singular non-gender specific nouns) but overall, it was a comprehensive what-not-to-do list from which I took a few notes to keep in my writing toolbox for future reference. Sure, I could (and have) google it all too, but for how short the book was, I didn’t mind.

Overall, these two were a good way to start off my year of being an agented author, and hopefully a professional one. If I thought waiting on agent responses was hard, being on sub with editors is 100 times worse! Here’s to fingers crossed!

Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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The amount of research that must have gone into this book is insane. If I thought researching 18th century Austria was a chore, the reclusive Isle of Man, with its own language, dialect, traditions, and every day life seems impossible.

The story itself was a haunting fairy-tale style book. I loved that the characters acted their age and had parents to keep them that way. Most YA books forgo the parents (of which I’m guilty as a YA author as well) to give their characters more freedom, but this book broke that trope and did it very well.

The book kept the tension really high throughout the whole thing. Yes, there’s insta-love and a love triangle and deus ex machina, but the story flowed so well it wasn’t dominated by it. You never know who is safe.

This author’s way of bringing me into another world seriously shocked me. I can’t wait to read her next book, Reign of the Fallen, that comes out in a few weeks (can we say pre-ordered?). It has an f/f romance as well, so YES PLEASE. The world needs more f/f YA fantasy!

Overall, I enjoyed reading it and was lost in how real the world was, even with its monsters and eerie happenings. I do think it was aimed at the younger YA audience, but it did a perfect job at portraying a dark fairy tale.

Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

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I really enjoyed the Glittering Court, and I thought the idea of a parallel story that takes place at the same time but with a different girl (especially Mira!) sounded really interesting.

I was not disappointed.

While it flew through everything prior to their arrival in Aldoria, once she was there I loved how her character developed. I loved the moral dilemmas and the pirates and the spying. Honestly, I loved it all!

And what a beautiful cover! WAY better than book one, where the girl looks really creepy. I can’t wait for book 3! Tamsin’s story is now even more fascinating. The release can’t come soon enough.