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Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cover of Armada by Ernest Cline
3 Stars

Zack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Armada. He's always been afraid this would happen. Zack's father, Xavier, died in a work accident when Zack was an infant, leaving behind some journals that outline a vast government conspiracy to train civilians as soldiers for an upcoming struggle against extraterrestrials. Crazy, right? Zack was afraid he would lose his mind too. And now it appears that he has. Except that the next morning a futuristic ship lands on his school lawn and the men in black step out, calling his name and recruiting him for the battle to save the earth....

I didn't even realize Ernest Cline had published a new book until I saw Sheila over at Book Journey mention it. I knew I had to get my hands on the audio. I loved Cline's first book, Ready Player One, but didn't realize that Wil Wheaton narrated the audio version until after I'd read it in print. I wasn't going to miss out this time.

Wheaton's narration was everything I hoped it would be.

The book.... Well, my hopes were high. Cline knocked it out of the park with his debut novel. Armada was good but not great.

The world building just took way too long for me. I tuned out for long chunks of time during descriptions of the video game and the back story and past missions and unbeatable alien technology. That's not my thing.

Which leads into my other problem. I'm not a modern gamer. I'll at least mostly understand references to video games from the 80s and early 90s, and there's a decent chance that I've played them or at least watched my cousins or sister play them. I'm lost with today's games. I have no desire to join a vast online community of people talking smack to each other and playing war games. Totally not my thing. And I think that's the group this book is primarily going to appeal to.

I did like Zack and the other characters a lot. I was rooting for them all the way. I enjoyed their interactions with each other and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt real. Once I got through all the lead-up to the real story, I was hooked and I finished this audio book in record time.

I'm pretty happy with the resolution. There's definitely room for a sequel and, like Zack, I still have unanswered questions. Armada stands just fine on its own though.

Don't expect a repeat of the Ready Player One experience, but I still recommend it. As I said, I do think gamers will enjoy it more than the rest of us, but it's definitely a good book, especially in audio.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Check out my review of Ready Player One, Ernest Cline's first novel.

Find author Ernest Cline on his website, his blog, and Facebook.

Buy Armada at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Storybook Love: Fables Volume 3 by Bill Willingham

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cover of Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
4 Stars

The story of the Fable refugees continues, this time with a focus on the many forms of storybook love.

I was much happier with this volume than with the previous one. I'm on firmer footing with love stories, however fractured they may be, than with a retelling of Animal Farm.

There's not really a big plot arc here--it's more like a collection of short stories than a novel, but I enjoyed them. I particularly liked the charming tale of the marooned Lilliputian army as well as Snow White and Bigby's continuing...denials. I'm from the Southern Appalachians, a region well-known for our "Jack Tales," so seeing one of those represented here was also a bonus. There was also a death I found to be shocking. I'd assumed this person would be around for a long time!

I still enjoy the quality of the artwork and appreciate the scope. From a typical, happily-ever-after quest tale to a gory blood bath, it's all represented well here.

I don't have much else to write except that I'll be picking the next one up sooner rather than later. If, like me, you were a little turned off by Volume 2, don't hesitate to pick up Volume 3. You'll be back in fairy tale territory.

See my reviews for Fables: Legends in Exile and Fables: Animal Farm.

Buy Storybook Love at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

It was another fairly uneventful week here. I had a girls' day out with some friends yesterday for an upcoming birthday. I drove halfway to meet them and they drove the other half, but I essentially traveled two hours for cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Yes, I do think it's that good. :-) It was nice to spend time with them, laughing 'til we cried, and having time to really catch up on everything. My husband and I started actively planning for our upcoming trip to the coast of Maine. We think we've got the first half nailed down, but we've got some major sticker shock from the cost of hotels in Portland!

Posted:
Review: Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca by Alan Parks--2.5 Stars

Review: Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham--3 Stars

Read:
Cover of Armada by Ernest Cline
Armada by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton


Cover of Moon: Coastal Maine by Hilary Nangle
Moon: Coastal Maine by Hilary Nangle--I won't post a formal review of this one, but I'm not very happy with it as a guide book. I don't know if there are better travel guides for this part of the world, but I've definitely used books with better formats and information for other vacations.

Currently Reading:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Rome, 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss

Up Next:
Maybe I'll finally make some headway on Shantaram this week. I've split my lunch breaks between my travel planning and my novel for a while now. I also need to download an audio book. As luck would have it, I had to pause Summer Knight when it was my turn for Armada and now I'm something like number six in line to get started on Summer Knight again.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cover of Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham
3 Stars

Eh. Three years have gone by since I read this and I just got around to reading Volume 3. I remember that I do like this world and concept a lot, and I enjoy the artwork, but I did not like this retelling of Animal Farm. I somehow missed the classic novel in school and that's an oversight I've never felt the slightest need to correct. I've picked up enough about it over the years to have a good idea what happens and it's not my cup of tea. The same goes for this graphic novel. In retrospect, I am glad that I continued with the series, and I do feel like you should read this volume before reading the others, but this was a very weak entry for me. As others have told me, it does get better.

See my review of Fables: Legends in Exile.

Buy Fables: Animal Farm at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca? by Alan Parks

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cover of Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca? by Alan Parks


When I have daydreams about packing up and moving to a new country, Spain is always the one that comes to mind. We visited in 2010 and just loved it. We felt welcome everywhere we went, the people seemed happy, and it just fit. Plus, my husband's bilingual. At least one of us could speak the language.

When I saw this as a free nook book, I had to download it. Here is a couple who did exactly what I would never be brave enough to do. And they aren't just moving to the city, which would probably be easier, but they're completely changing gears and buying a farm to breed alpacas. I'm not clear what the author's career was in England, but his wife was a dance teacher. Kudos to them!

I enjoyed the book well enough--it was cute--but I just felt that it needed to be edited a bit more. It is presented as a finished book, but it felt like pages from a journal. It was a bit disjointed with the flow being more along the lines of, "We did this, then we did that, then we did this other thing," with very little transition or filler.

And they have the worst luck with the alpacas! He kept saying that alpacas are supposed to be easy but I have to say, my grandparents and now my uncles have a small family farm with a few head of cattle. They have never had any kind of trouble like what I read about in here! I felt terrible for Alan and Lorna and the alpacas. They just had terrible luck.

Being so isolated out in the country, there's not a whole lot of commentary about how different things are. Well, there is, I just wanted more. Alan and Lorna are pretty self-sufficient with their farm and their animals, so it's not like they're making daily trips to the market or getting completely submersed in the culture. At least that's not what I took away from the book.

If you're looking for a cute enough read about some really cute animals and their brave owners, do go ahead and give this one a try. I personally just wanted a bit more depth and polish to the story.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Alan Parks on his website, Twitter, and Facebook.

2015 European Reading Challenge
Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius
Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net















I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I haven't gotten too much reading done this week, but we are busy enjoying the summer weather. I have a bit of trivia for my Walking Dead friends: Norman Reedus was in the area today. At least one of my Facebook friends was lucky enough to have her picture taken with him. How cool is that?

Yesterday my dad and I went to a "Beginner Outdoor Photography" class. I found a wildlife education center that's sponsored by the state and provides different classes like this for free. I signed us up for this class as part of his Father's Day present. We learned a lot and had a good time doing it! My husband and I disagree about which of these is my best shot from the class. What do you think?


Posted:
Review: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose--3 Stars

Review: The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore, read by Adenrele Ojo and Pamela D'Pella--4.5 Stars

Read:
Cover of Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca by Alan Parks

Cover of Locke & Key: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Locke & Key: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Currently Reading:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Armada by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher, read by James Marsters--On hold for now. It was my turn to download Armada through the library and there are already something like 25 people behind me. I had to jump on it.

Up Next:
Rome, 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss just came in to the library for me as well. I'll be stopping by to pick it up tomorrow.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose

Thursday, August 13, 2015

3 Stars

So, we all learned something about the Lewis & Clark expedition in school, right? They were the first official group to travel all the way to the Pacific coast and back, with brave Sacagawea leading the way, papoose strapped to her back. That's honestly pretty much all I knew. But there's got to be so much more to it than that. I wanted to know the real story so I grabbed this at the library.

Eh. I did learn a lot but this book is primarily a biography of Meriwether Lewis. I'm not clear how you separate Lewis from Clark when their names are so inextricably intertwined, but there you go. I was disappointed by that. I'm not being fair to the book--the subtitle does clearly state its about Captain Lewis--but I wanted more.

It read like hero worship. The author has retraced some of the routes the group followed many times, has obviously read a lot about Lewis and the rest of the Corps of Discovery and knows his stuff. But there were frequently statements that amounted to (NOT a direct quote; I've returned my copy to library already), "Can you imagine? He's practically an uneducated heathen but he discovered three new species on this day, eleven on this day, and stayed up late to take celestial observations that provided the most accurate maps known up to that time! And then wrote 2000 words about it! Holy smokes!" Am I exaggerating? Yes. But that's how it felt. Also, by focusing on Lewis so exclusively (again, that was the point of the book), it started to read like the rest of the men were just along for the ride. Lewis could have done it all by himself. I still couldn't name very many of the other men. Legendary Sacagawea is barely mentioned. Even when the Captain made some questionable decisions (granted, this did seem to be pretty rare), the author managed to explain them away with some sort of rationale. "Well, if he hadn't chased down those young Blackfeet, they might have run away and brought the rest of the tribe down on the group, and they all might have died!" Maybe, maybe not. But I wanted the facts, not the what ifs.

This book contained quite a bit of speculation for something that's nonfiction. I just wanted the facts in a readable format. Just in case the story of 30 or so men trekking across 7000 miles of uncharted wilderness wasn't dramatic enough, there would suddenly be something along the lines of (again, I'm paraphrasing), "It all worked out this time, but what if it hadn't? What if the trouble-making Sioux had decided to attack and kill the whole group? The expansion of the American West would have been delayed by years and years because Jefferson wouldn't have had time to mount another expedition and his successor thought the whole purchase was folly anyway." And then there was Lewis's moodiness. Maybe this is an accepted theory among historians but it bothered me to read (paraphrasing), "Perhaps Lewis was bipolar. His father suffered from terrible mood swings and Lewis did too. We'll never know. But if he was, the success of the expedition is an even bigger accomplishment!" That just bothered me. I think it was what I perceived as the lack of evidence to back such a claim up. He functioned admirably for a couple of years during this expedition. He got moody. Anyone living in such tight quarters with 30 other men would do the same. He either didn't keep journals for large chunks of time or they're lost to history. That doesn't add up to a bipolar diagnosis to me, but I can't claim to know very much about it. Had I known how Lewis died before reading this (I didn't), I might have bought it, but by the time I found out, it was too late and I was irritated.

I've dwelt too long on what I didn't like. Meriwether Lewis was truly an amazing man; a tireless, curious explorer; and a gifted leader. I did learn a lot about him and even the whole expedition. I just wanted so much more than what I found in these pages. If you're looking for a Lewis biography, by all means, grab this. If you want to know more about the Corps of Discovery in general, I'd recommend that you look elsewhere.

Read an excerpt.

Buy Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West at

Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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