Warcross

Warcross by Marie Lu is a futuristic–but not too futuristic–young adult novel for all the gamers–and non-gamers–out there. <<how’d you like that description ūüôā

Millions of people across the globe log into their Warcross accounts every day. Warcross isn’t just a video game, it’s virtual/augmented reality that is literally hooked up to almost all aspects of life. People make a living off Warcross–playing the game, selling items and in the case of teenage Emika Chen, as a bounty hunter.

Emika¬†works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But bounty hunting isn’t easy and desperate and in need of some quick cash, Emika risks hacking into the opening ceremony of the¬†international Warcross Championships and after accidentally glitching herself into the game, becomes an overnight sensation.

Thinking she is going to be arrested, Emika is shocked to be offered a job by the Warcross creator, Hideo Tanaka. Now Emika is working undercover as a player in the Warcross Championships, searching for a dangerous hacker known only as: Zero.

Can Emika catch Zero without being caught herself? And what will she do when Emika learns that this final bounty comes with real life risks and complications that she wasn’t prepared for?

I really liked this one. Talk about taking virtual reality to the next level. Warcross takes place in a world where virtual reality has basically taken over everything. The world looks normal without your Warcross glasses but with them on, everything is augmented–signs are animated, you can get data about buildings and people, you just get more. I pretty much compare it to living life without glasses and then one day putting them on to find out that that green blob was actually a tree.

Warcross is techie without being intimidating and could easily be read by both digital natives and digital immigrants. There was just this perfect balance between the gamer/hacker side of things and the characters themselves. And even though our main character is female, I think this is a book boys and girls would enjoy equally.

There’s a little something for everyone in this book. A bit of romance, fighting and action sequences, suspense, puzzles, assassination attempts and at one point there is even an explosion. There is also so much to build upon, what with the Warcross underground and the conflict introduced at the end. Also, Emika is just a cool character.

This was just a unique and really entertaining read. I give this one a very high 4.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Origin

Origin by Dan Brown is the latest in the Robert Langdon series. It’s been quite a while since we’ve gotten a new one of these and honestly, I felt like this one came out of the woodwork–I had no idea it was coming until a few months out.

Robert Langdon is back and this time he is running around the¬†Guggenheim Bilbao and the rest of Spain. When Robert is invited to an event at the Guggenheim for a presentation that will “change the world,” he can’t pass it up.¬†Edmond Kirsch, a futurist, billionaire and one of Robert’s first students claims to know the answer to two of mankind’s greats questions: where do we come from and where are we going?

The night begins with a bang and suddenly is halted when Kirsch is attacked. Now it is up to Langdon and¬†Ambra Vidal, the museum curator, to find out what Kirsch’s discovery was and reveal it to the world. But helping Kirsch will place them in terrible danger.

Can Langdon and Vidal uncover Kirsch’s password, release his revelation and stay alive when religious fanatics, police and the public are after them?

You can’t deny that Dan Brown as a way of combining history and fiction that is intriguing. You really do get a glimpse into history, architecture and more that you might not have otherwise seen. In this sense, all of his books are great. But for me, the story here, was a bit lackluster and not at all up to the suspense and thrill of his first two books.

I found the story quite slow actually. If you think about it, not much actually happens. The novel is book-ended by two¬†giant chunks of text where the characters are basically stationary and nothing happens. I actually felt like I was being talked at quite a bit and it just felt like some of the prose when on and on. Don’t get me wrong, some of the theory was interesting, but it could have been condensed and still achieved the same goals.

I also hate to say it but the book was predictable. Believe it or not, but I called the ending and almost all of the character reveals after about two hours of listening to the audiobook. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t quite get into the story but there wasn’t as much wow, mystery as I expect with Dan Brown’s books.

This wasn’t a bad read but not one I would read again. Although, I will see the movie if it comes out–I love me some Tom Hanks! I hate to do it but this one only gets 2 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Clockwork Dynasty

The Clockwork Dynasty¬†by Daniel H. Wilson would probably be considered science fiction or steampunk fiction. Told from two perspectives, past and present, this book tells the story of a hidden race of automate–human-like machines that live in secret among humans.

In the present, June Stefanov is a well known anthropologist specializing in historic machinery and artifacts. She is curious and this curiosity becomes dangerous when she uncovers an ancient mechanical doll with a secret. Now June is pulled into a secret world of machinery and mayhem and her only ally is a strange man who is anything but a man at all. Together they must uncover the past to save the future.

In the past, we land in Russia, 1725 where two mechanical beings, Peter and Elena, awaken to serve the Tsar. With no memory of their past lives and no knowledge of their creation, Peter and Elena struggle to blend in. When the pair accidentally runs into another of their own in a dangerous encounter, the two must flee into hiding.

Enter a world where secrets are hidden, even from their bearers and the world we know it’s exactly what it seems.

The Clockwork Dynasty¬†was such an interesting read. The world building was really well done and quite unique. I really did love this world of ancient machinery and automation. The world of the automate is full of secrets and intrigue and yet there is still this element of mystery–even the automate don’t know who first created them, except to call them the first men. Normally, a loose end like this would really bother me but in this story it surprisingly didn’t.

One of the man problems/gripes, call it what you will, I had with this book was that the first half of more felt like a long beginning. Although, there was a lot of action, I didn’t really feel like we got into the narrative and where it was going until more than 150-200 pages in. It felt like I was reading one giant introduction and that I was waiting for the plot to thicken.

I also both liked and didn’t like this relationship between Peter and June. In one sense it was refreshing to read a book where there was literally no romantic entanglements and on the other, I would have liked them to show more of a bond, even if it was platonic.

Overall, I did like this book a lot. It didn’t wow me but it was unique and something I haven’t read before. I give this one a high 3.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is a realistic fiction novel about a¬†curmudgeonly old man who is given a second chance at life. Ove is your typical surly old man–he believes rules are rules and right is right. Ove follows strict routines, has strong principles and is known for having a bit of a temper.

Ove’s structured life is turned on it’s head when a family of four moves in next door and constantly interferes with his plans to join his wife. Dented mailboxes, pregnant busybodies, broken windows, stray cats and more slowly thaw this grieving widowers hard heart.

A Man Called Ove is an entertaining tale of neighborly love and moving on.

This is a book someone from my book club recommended to me and one I’ve heard about a lot working in the library. When recommended, all they told me was that this is a book about an old man who is constantly getting interrupted while trying to kill himself. And that’s actually a pretty apt description. Ove is ready to join his dead wife but wants to do it right, he isn’t desperate to kill himself and is constantly saying something along the lines of “can’t a man die in peace,” when he gets interrupted.

Ove is your typical grouchy old man, if to the extreme. Everyone knows that one old guy who is stuck in his ways and wants you to “keep off his lawn!” This story has¬†archetypal characters and relatable themes. Although, I will admit that it took me forever to realize the story took place in Switzerland–the constant referral to “kroner” didn’t do it for me.

I’ll admit, I am an old soul but probably a bit young to fully appreciate this one. An older audience probably sees some of themselves or their parents in Ove. I didn’t know my Mom’s parents and my Dad’s mother passed away when I was young. So I don’t have much to compare Ove to and yet he was still this typical grumpy old man that I could see roaming the neighborhood and enforcing the “rules.”

This was a light read that will be comforting in its familiarity to many readers. This one gets four stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller is the first book in a new young adult fantasy series.¬†Sallot Leon is a thief, a street fighter and thirsty for revenge. Sal wants nothing more than to escape and become something… more. When Sal robs a rich, noble woman and learns about a contest to become part of the Left Hand–a group of four prestigious assassins in service to the Queen–Sal know’s that this is a chance for a new life and potentially revenge.

So begins the audition. The auditioners are all given masks and numbers and one goal… to kill the competition. Amidst this game of poison, lies and bloodshed the participants must hone their skills and develop new ones that will serve them in court. But the game soon becomes even more lethal than anyone could have imagined. Rumors fly and Sal must decide if becoming Opal is worth putting aside revenge.

Does Sal have the skills to win this game? And could lies lurking in the shadows change the face of the game forever?

I really wanted to like this one. There is something about a series starting off in a game, a contest, a trial that really intrigues me. Unfortunately,¬†Mask of Shadows did not deliver for me. The contest itself was fine, but I couldn’t get into the rest of the story; the background, history and developing plot that is supposed to propel the series onward… I don’t know didn’t make sense or just didn’t interest me much. It almost felt like the author wanted to incorporate more but was hesitant to do so.

I am also not totally convinced that Miller succeeded in what she wanted to do with our main character Sal. Sal is supposed to be this gender fluid character–in a dress she is a “her,” in pants he should be referred to as “he” and all other times as they or their. We are told this¬†several times. A success in that you don’t actually know what gender Sal is biologically but the character did feel more feminine to me… that could be because I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was female. I also don’t really feel like this should be labeled a LGBT book because gender is not meant to play any role in Sal’s life; we are meant to look at Sal as a person not as feminine or masculine. Anyway, obviously my thoughts are conflicted here as I keep rambling on.

I guess my biggest problem with this book is that it didn’t wow me. It was one I could take or leave. The ending didn’t feel totally believable and my feelings toward it are mostly¬†blas√©. This one gets 2 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Cafe by the Sea

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan is an adult fictional novel about a woman who finds herself by going home. Flora McKenzie fled to London from her small Scottish home on the Island of Mure. In London, Flora can escape the past that haunts her and escape into the anonymity of the city.

When her job takes her back to Mure, Flora must face all she left behind. The failing farm, with it’s memories of her mother, her messy father and three older brothers. The small town faces with their long memories of how Flora left and why. And on top of all that she’s travelling with her boss, who is kind of an ass and whom she is utterly in love with.

Can Flora find her way home again? Restore her communities faith in her? And find happiness in the life she chooses?

The Cafe by the Sea combines all the best of Colgan–food, family, beautiful scenery and a story line that is fairly light and fluffy, with a little love thrown in. Colgan is one of those authors you read when you need a palette cleanser from your usual genre and are just looking for a light read. And in this Colgan delivers.

When I first started this one, I sort of groaned because the narration really bugged me, especially in audio. It starts off with almost as if we are looking down on Flora and can see straight into her mind. An omniscient narrator but not quite a third person one. I was worried the whole story would tell me what the characters were feeling rather than show me, but two chapters in the narration changes.

As in most of Colgan’s novels there is a mini love triangle. Flora, her unrequited love, Joel and the hometown local, Charlie. Without giving anything away, I thought we were pulled between these two men but then, poof, one of them gets solved without much fuss. Seemed a little like a cop out to me. I understand wanting to keep the story light but the way the attraction tied up so neatly didn’t seem super realistic to me.

Other than the two points I mentioned, this was a good read. It sucked me in, kept me entertained and was just a light read that makes you feel good. Colgan always makes me want to travel to the places her books are set. This one gets 3 stars from me. A good read but compared to some of her other books, not my favorite.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Secondborn

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol is the first book in a a new adult dystopian series where your birth order determines your lot in life.

In the Fates of the Republic, firstborns are the ruling class, the elite–they make the rules and benefit from them. Secondborns are owned by the government and are responsible for all of the labor intensive jobs. And thirdborns… die.

On Transition Day, all secondborns are taken to begin their servitude to the republic, where they will remain until they die or are called up to take the place of a deceased firstborn. This story begins with Roselle St. Sismode‚Äôs eighteenth birthday and her transition to the Fate of Swords, a militaristic branch of the Fates. But Roselle’s transition is no ordinary thing; she was born to an elite family, a family of high power and she has been in the public’s eye since her birth. This puts her at a disadvantage and she it hated in the eyes of many of her secondborn brethren.

Can Roselle find an ally in secondborn Hawthorne Trugrave? Will she buckle under the pressure? Can she conform to rules that break her own moral code? And what will she do when her fate leads down traitorous paths?

I should kick this off by saying that I’ve never read any of Bartol’s books before and this one wasn’t really on my radar when I picked it up. I needed a new audiobook quick and Audible recommended this one so I thought I’d give it a go. I tend to enjoy books that I might not have otherwise when they are in audio format vs. print and I think that is the case with this one. The story itself kept me entertained while I drove but I found a lot lacking with it.

First and foremost, the insta-love. Roselle and Hawthorne meet and two sentences in they are talking about sex. He’s loved her since she was ten watching her on tv but he loves her more now that he knows her… and this was only a few days after they met. Hawthorne literally comes to Roselle’s rescue again and again. Yea, the banter is cute and I kind of like Hawthorne but it was just too fast, especially in a society where secondborns are only allowed to have relations through “date-night” and relationships are forbidden on pains of death. There were just too many cringe moments for me and frankly it became a little unbelievable.

I also felt that there were some lost opportunities with some of the side characters. Roselle has these intense conversations and interactions with some of the supporting characters and then they are never seen or heard from again. This is a series, so I am sure they will pop up but there were instances where they really should have at least been mentioned again.

There were some really great moments in the book, I will give it that, but the world-building wasn’t fully developed, there was no consistency with the flow/pace of the story and I guess the story just didn’t really do it for me. But it is a series and since I read the first, I will continue on for now.¬†This one gets two stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-