October Reviews

 

I resolved in 2015 to write and post at least a short review of everything I read throughout the year, and I’m still determined to do it. So here are some reviews on the things I read when the leaves were still on the trees.

 

20829029The Martian by Andy Weir

I really highly enjoyed this one. For me, it was one of those all engrossing books that kept me up into the wee hours, perfectly balancing pacing and science-based exposition. I have always had an interest in space and space travel (and biology) and so the science-y bits made it all that much better for me.

Even with its small changes to the end; I loved the movie too. No matter the media, there’s something very real and very beautiful about the way humanity is portrayed in this story. We see resilience and bravery overcoming fear and exactly how much can be accomplished both by an individual working alone with limited resources and by a cooperative global community. Definitely recommend this one.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy22543699

I had this resolution to read the Man Booker shortlist before the end of the year, and it turned out that this (the shortest!) was the only one I completed in that timeframe, but I own a few more that I’m sure I’ll get to sometime in the new year, but I digress.

Satin Island is experimental. A nearly plot-less series of snippets in the life of U, a social anthropologist trying to summarize the whole of society in one “Great Report”. There are some passages in this that I really thought about and found profound, but I mostly felt lost. I think it’s definitely the type of book that isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if you’re interested in putting in the time and effort to think through and make all the connections you can find, I think you might like it. At the time I read it, I just was in too much of a hurry to really want to do that,  but I’d like to pick it up again sometime.

16278318Armada by Ernest Cline (Full Review)

I did a full review on this, so I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here, but I thought this was a fun Sci-Fi tale of video games and alien invasion. Ernest Cline is an excellent comedian and the audiobook is pitch-perfect as well, with Wil Wheaton voicing it. I found the plot to be a bit predictable, and secondary characters in particular lacking in development, but I highly enjoyed listening to it.

23164983Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) by Ranson Riggs

It had been two and half years since I read Miss Peregrine’s when I finally picked this up during the Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon and several months since I read the graphic novel adaptation, so it took me a bit to get into this, but I did quite like it in the end, though I feel a bit of a post-hype letdown about it. I found that the old photographs interspersed throughout the story didn’t really add anything to the experience. They usually just clunk up the plot with some side episode that was written purely around one of them,  and they literally interrupt the story with a full page spread of photographs.

But I do really like the way the story is going overall. This was a pretty solid second installment, with good pacing and development. I particularly liked seeing the peculiar kids navigate the wider world and how their extraordinary talents separate and even put them in danger of society at large and how that brings them closer together within their own group.

I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t read this series who wants to, but if you’re interested, definitely go for it. Ransom Riggs is a talented author and I’m happy he’s enjoying some success for it. I’ll be finishing the series at some point, though I haven’t yet.

16065004Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson

It’s pretty clear to everyone at this point how much I enjoy all of Brandon Sanderson’s work. His Stormlight Archive books are still my top favorite, but what he’s doing with Scadrial–the setting for his Mistborn series of series is really fascinating. The Mistborn trilogy is a more traditional medieval (though urban) sort of fantasy setting. In this series, we pick up in the same place centuries later and technology has advanced accordingly. Politics are different, the characters are new, but we get to see the world grow and change along with the new cast and that is so interesting.

Shadows of Self is our second foray into the wild west/industrial revolution era series following Wax, a nobleman more interested in fighting crime than politicking as the remaining member of his wealthy house, and Wayne, Wax’s best friend, a rough around the edges master of disguise. As always, Sanderson weaves a plot that is delightfully unpredictable and entertaining, and I loved the subtle ways he developed his characters–particularly more secondary characters like Wax’s betrothed, Steris–as well as the Cosmere universe, in which most of his work takes place.

25233432Avatar: The Last Airbender-Smoke and Shadow Part One by Gene Luen
Yang

This is the fourth series in the post-Avatar, pre-Korra comic book series and I continue to enjoy the additional complexity and adventure it brings to an old favorite of mine.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell

I was so skeptical of this full-length tour of the Harry Potter knock-off Rainbow Rowell created in Fangirl but I wound up absolutely loving it. It plays with the fantasy concept of the chosen one in a way I found incredibly gratifying. And Rowell remains one of–if not my top–favorite romance writer. This love story was hinted at rather subltley early on and then had the kind of scenes I’ve come to expect from Rowell–relatively tame and quiet in their actual physicality but really heavy with emotion. Definitely recommend this one.

22296542Addicted to You Series books 1-2 (Addicted to You, Richochet, Addicted for Now) by Krista and Becca Ritchie

I was pretty skeptical about Addicted to You–the little bit of New Adult Romance I’ve tried I didn’t love, but this was free for Kindle (still is!) and highly recommended in a video by GingerReadsLainey, a booktuber who reads enough of the genre to seem to know what she’s talking about and I am so glad I decided to actually pick it up instead of letting it languish with the rest of my unread Kindle books.

It does require a bit of suspension of disbelief–the characters are unbelievably wealthy, the men unbelievably attractive, but overall the characterization is really excellent. Lily and Lo are majorly screwed up and pretty unrelateable on a surface level, but their insecurity and their undeniable love for each other make them believable, likable even.

20658510Kiss the Sky (Calloway Sisters #1) by Krista and Becca Ritchie

The Calloway Sisters series is a spinoff of the Addicted books, each book told from the point of view of one of two of Lily’s sisters and their corresponding romantic interest. This one follows Lily’s genius older sister Rose and her equally genius boyfriend Connor as Rose capitalizes on the recent media attention brought on their family by convincing all three sisters to star in a reality TV series.

The premise sounds ridiculous, I know, but since I’m writing this after completing the entire series, I can actually say that it’s my favorite of all the books. Rose is smart, focused, driven and confident in just about everything in her life and the microscope of the reality show combined with her realizations and development in her relationship with Connor really throw her off on all fronts.

7937843Room by Emma Donoghue

A moving read with a fascinating choice of narrator. Jack’s view of the world is so heartbreakingly narrow, yet the wonder he has for things and the willingness he has to experience things makes this story more uplifting than it first seems.

img_20151031_140429.jpgBookstagramming is a new favorite pasttime of mine (Instagram: @thestarlightshelves)

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaAfter highly enjoying Wil Wheaton’s audio recording of Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One (One of my Top Ten I read in 2014) I knew I had to go for the format again with Cline’s Armada, which, like it’s predecessor, is laced with biting dark humor and loaded with geek-culture references. This one pays homage to space and alien invasion sci-fi, leaning hard on tropes and plotlines found in classic works like Stark Trek and Ender’s Game, but the humor and pacing kept me highly entertained. 4/5 stars.

Synopsis

When Zack Lightman sees a spaceship straight out of his favorite video game, Armada, fly over his high school, he thinks he’s finally lost it.  But it turns out the invasion is happening and the game he’s mastered was simply training for the fight to save Earth.

Review

While I have a few negative things to say about it after analyzing it a bit, taken as a whole, I found this novel to be undeniably fun. I listened to the audiobook in one day while cleaning the house, and anything that makes me laugh out loud while scrubbing my kitchen sink is definitely funny. The seriousness of the alien invasion and battles that follow is addressed as well, in ways both funny and heartfelt as characters face life or death situations with humor and then make and deal with sacrifices and the consequences of global war. It’s not the biggest part of the whole story, but it’s definitely there and it keeps this story from being completely off the wall ridiculous, as I think it could have been otherwise.

Somehow I managed to stay engrossed in this, even though I did find the plot twists to be rather predictable. There’s some early foreshadowing that is definitely laid on a bit too think, but overall, I liked watching Zack navigate everything. The world was built well, I thought he was a character likable enough to root for and his reactions to big and little situations were very entertaining. However, I do think that there were some missed opportunities in the relationships and character building. What we got was all great, but there was one situation in particular where I felt a conflict was glossed over for the sake of moving the plot forward at a climactic moment. I can understand the necessity of keeping the pace up, but the omission took away from the reality of the situation and flattened out a character who showed early signs of being quite interesting.

Although it’s not the most thought-provoking, it’s definitely smart and fun without being too lighthearted, given the seriousness of the situation. I continue to be a fan of Ernest Cline’s and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.