Armada by Ernest Cline

armada

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.

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.

Armada by Ernest Cline
Published July 14, 2015 by Crown Publishing
Format: Audiobook narrated by Will Wheaton; 11 hr. 49 min.
Science Fiction/Young Adult
Also By This Author: Ready Player One
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts

I love when I find books for my husband to read and he ends up enjoying them as much or even a little bit more than I do. We’ve been waiting for what has felt like months for Ready Player One to become available at the library, but I saw that Armada wasn’t checked out so I grabbed it and both my husband and I had a hard time putting it down.

If you aren’t familiar with Ernest Cline, let me preface this review by saying his books read like the ultimate geeky daydream. Zach’s adventure is Tron meets Ender’s Game meets Star Wars. If you’re a fan of any of those classic sci-fi stories, you are bound to love Armada. In fact, Armada is what I wish Ender’s Game had been (there were parts of Ender’s Game that I loved, and other parts that I equally despised, so the book as a whole was only “meh” for me).

But the most enjoyable part of Armada, to me, wasn’t the endless amounts of geeky pop-culture references that audiobook narrator Will Wheaton did such as good job at imitating. Instead, I found myself getting choked up at the deep familial relationships that honestly took me by surprise. Ernest Cline didn’t hesitate to include beautiful themes of reconciliation and reunion in between his allusions to Captain Pickard and Luke Skywalker.

There are some unpredictable twists and turns, and an ending that will leave you hanging on until the very last page. I’m all the more excited to read Ready Player One now that I’ve read Ernest Cline’s sophomore novel.

“If there was a bright center to the universe, I was on the planet it was farthest from. Please pass the blue milk, Aunt Beru.”

Read This Book If…

…you’re a geek. If you aren’t, you will not get most of the references or allusions and will therefore most likely not enjoy Armada very much.
…you’re an adult who enjoys Young Adult books.
…you’re not tired of dystopian, Armageddon doomsday (with aliens) settings.
…you want a book that will make you laugh and then unexpectedly tear up in the same paragraph.

Final Musings

This book has solidified my fairly recent love and appreciation for audiobooks. Will Wheaton does a phenomenal performance that will really make you feel like you’re watching a movie or, more appropriately, playing an immersive video game. I’d recommend checking out the audiobook from your library instead of reading Armada the old-fashioned way :)

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #4.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 2, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardcover; 369 pages
Science-Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult Romance
Also By This Author: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Heartless
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

Stars Above was the book I really wanted to read last year but was unfortunately unable to do so; therefore, it was my first priority in 2017! I think it ended up being a great way to start off the year, and sci-fi/fantasy novels always seem to me to be appropriate winter reading. I enjoyed reading all of the short stories, but here are the four that made the biggest impression on me:

The Queen’s Army was probably my favorite short story in the book. It was definitely the creepiest, because it showed graphic insight into Wolf’s transformation and training to become one of Levana’s biologically altered soldiers. Wolf is one of the most mysterious and interesting characters in the Lunar Chronicles series, so I really enjoyed reading his “origin story” and understanding more about where he came from.

Continuing the same themes of creepy yet intriguing, Winter’s prequel story, The Princess and the Guard also helped me respect and appreciate Winter more than I already had. This short story is similar to Queen Levana’s prequel, Fairest, only The Princess and the Guard was much more enjoyable to me than Fairest was. It was easier to sympathize with Winter and I really enjoyed learning more about her friendship with Jacin.

Something Old, Something New was a really fun story, and technically it’s the epilogue of the entire series. All of the other stories take place before the start of Cinder, but Something Old, Something New is set a year after the end of Winter. It’s a warm and light-hearted story and the best part is that we get to see all eight of our characters together to celebrate a wedding (whose wedding? You’ll have to read it and see–no spoilers here!). I loved the way it ends the series on a heartfelt note.

My other favorite story in this book was The Little Android, which is only slightly connected to the rest of the series in the fact that it takes place in The Lunar Chronicles universe and we get a glimpse of one of the characters from the main books. Other than that it is a completely new retelling of the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, and it’s my favorite type of story: tragic and bittersweet! (Yes, I’m a masochist).

“I will accept any amount of monsters my mind wants to give me, but I will not become a monster myself.”

Read This Book If…

…you love The Lunar Chronicles series.
…you enjoy short stories.
…you’re a fan of prequels and epilogues.
…you have a hard time letting go of your favorite characters.

“Politeness, it turned out, was almost as effective when you wanted someone to do something for you. And kindness went further toward lasting admiration than any amount of mind control.”

Final Musings

If you’ve already read all or part of The Lunar Chronicles series, Stars Above is a great book to add to your list, as well. You can even read the individual stories in between Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. Here’s the breakdown of where all the novels take place on The Lunar Chronicles timeline:

Cinder (#1)
Glitches (#0.5)
The Little Android (#0.6)
The Mechanic (#0.7)
Scarlet (#2)
The Queen’s Army (#2.5)
The Keeper (#2.6)
Cress (#3)
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky (#3.1)
After Sunshine Passes By (#3.2)
Fairest (#3.5)
Winter (#4)
The Princess and The Guard (#4.1)
Something Old, Something New (#4.5)

Just make sure you save Something Old, Something New for last!

Time’s Divide (The Chronos Files #3) by Rysa Walker

times-divide

The Cyrists are swiftly moving into position to begin the Culling, and Kate’s options are dwindling. With each jump to the past or the future, Kate may trigger a new timeline shift. Worse, the loyalties of those around her—including the allegiances of Kiernan and the Fifth Column, the shadowy group working with Kate—are increasingly unclear.

Kate will risk everything, including her life, to prevent the future her grandfather and the Cyrists have planned. But, when time runs out, it may take an even bigger sacrifice to protect the people she loves.

Time’s Divide (The Chronos Files #3) by Rysa Walker
Published October 20, 2015 by Skyscape
Format: Kindle e-book; 543 pages
Young Adult/Science Fiction/Historical Fiction
Also By This Author: TimeboundTime’s DivideThe Delphi Effect
Goodreads | AmazonAuthor’s Website

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

I’m a little upset with myself for not getting this review posted earlier, BUT can I just say that I finished Time’s Divide weeks ago and I’m still on a tiny bit of a book hangover from it? That’s how phenomenal this series was to me. I even finished this last book while I was at work (it was a slow day so I’m not that much of a slacker) and it took most of my self-control to hold back the tears that wanted to burst out of me.

I had guessed (or nearly guessed) halfway through the book how some of the major plot points were going to play out. Some of my suspicions were based on mild spoilers and others stemmed from some of the fears I had about how the story was going to end, and although I wished some thing had happened differently, I think Rysa Walker crafted a beautifully bittersweet ending and I am satisfied with how Kate’s journey played out.

I don’t know why this series seems to be so underrated. My local library doesn’t have any copies of the books and I couldn’t find physical copies in major bookstores (I haven’t checked local and used bookshops, yet). I wish more readers knew about the Timebound books because I truly think it’s the type of series that can draw anyone in. I got my husband hooked on the series and he even finished the last book before I did (maybe by a couple of hours, but still). And yes, he loves science fiction and time travel, but he’s also a 33 year old man reading a book from the point of view of a 17 year old high school girl. I guess that just shows how well-researched and creatively written Rysa Walker’s series is.

I don’t want to say too much and give away any unintentional spoilers, but I do want to say that seeing little glimpses of history and a possible dystopian future was really interesting. I’ve repeated it multiple times, but I love the idea of time traveling and being able to witness history first hand. At the end of Timebound, Time’s Edge, and Time’s Divide, Rysa Walker shares how factual the historical fiction parts of her books actually are. Kate and Kiernan visit so many different eras in history, and they encounter fictionalized versions of real people, such as Harry Houdini, and I was surprised to find that Walker didn’t really bend history too much; she basically just added her characters into the mix.

(I’m changing my typical “Read This Book if…” section to make it more holiday themed!)

“But there’s plenty of truth in fiction.”

Put This Series On Your Wish List if…

…you appreciate well-researched novels (especially historical fiction).
…you’re a fan of sci-fi and light fantasy, or you’re open to exploring a new genre!
…you prefer reading plot-driven stories with easily likable characters.

Gift This Series to…

…a friend who would enjoy YA if it contained some heavy and serious situations.
…someone who likes fast-paced, high-risk adventure stories.
…anyone who enjoys watching sci-fi/fantasy/drama shows like Timeless and 11.22.63 and movies like X-Men: Days of Future Past.

“And one day, if I see your smile on her face, maybe that’ll keep me from feeling I’ve left a piece of my heart behind.”

Final Musings

These songs were playing in my mind quite frequently while I was reading the series. The John Newman song felt like a perfect end-credits song if Timebound is ever turned into a movie (it would be a fantastic movie).

  • Love Me Again by John Newman (Kate and Trent)
  • Silhouettes by Of Monsters and Men (Kiernan and Other-Kate)
  • Love Like This by Kodaline (Kiernan and Kate)

Time’s Edge (The Chronos Files #2) by Rysa Walker

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To stop her sadistic grandfather, Saul, and his band of time travelers from rewriting history, Kate must race to retrieve the CHRONOS keys before they fall into the Cyrists’ hands. If she jumps back in time and pulls the wrong key–one that might tip off the Cyrists to her strategy–her whole plan could come crashing down, jeopardizing the future of millions of innocent people. Kate’s only ally is Kiernan, who also carries the time-traveling gene. But their growing bond threatens everything Kate is trying to rebuild with Trey, her boyfriend who can’t remember the relationship she can’t forget.

As evidence of Saul’s twisted mind builds, Kate’s missions become more complex, blurring the line between good and evil. Which of the people Saul plans to sacrifice in the past can she and Kiernan save without risking their ultimate goal–or their own lives?

Time’s Edge (The Chronos Files #2) by Rysa Walker
Published October 21, 2014 by Skyscape
Format: Kindle e-book; 452 pages
Young Adult/Science Fiction/Historical Fiction
Also By This Author: TimeboundTime’s DivideThe Delphi Effect
Goodreads | AmazonAuthor’s Website

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Lately my husband and I have been obsessing over NBC’s new show, Timeless. The premise is very exciting: a time machine has been stolen by a ruthless murderer who is hell bent on changing monumental events in America’s history (so far we’ve seen the Hindenburg disaster, Lincoln’s Assassination, atomic bomb testings in 1960s Las Vegas, and Nazi Germany). The only ones who can stop him are a historian, an apparent mercenary with a mysterious past, and a black pilot who seems to be working as a double agent (the fact that he’s black is especially important as he himself points out: there is no time period in America’s history that would treat him well). Timeless has the potential to become a favorite show of mine, which isn’t necessarily hard to do since I almost always enjoy a time travel story, but one reason I hope this show gets picked up for a second season is because it reminds me of a book series I recently discovered and fell in love with: The Chronos Files series by Rysa Walker.

Last month I posted my review for Timebound, a book I had bought a couple of years ago and for some stupid reason hesitated in actually reading. I devoured the sequel, Time’s Edge, right away but I’ve been holding off on reviewing it and continuing on to the third and final book because I wanted the story to actually sink in.

But I’m here now to tell you that I enjoyed Time’s Edge even more than Timebound. It’s very rare that that happens (I can only think of a couple other examples: Catching Fire over The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows over the first six HP novels), but the reason is usually due to some heavier stakes for the main characters. In Catching Fire Katniss is trying to save the lives of her friend Peeta and their Capitol-despising allies, as well as protecting her family back in District 12. In Deathly Hallows…well, I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the entire series yet, but I can say Harry faces some much darker choices and many people die fighting Voldemort and the Death Eaters. I’m not saying that these sequels are better than the original novels, but I did enjoy reading them more.

In Timebound, Kate learns about her time traveling abilities and is almost immediately thrown into an alternate universe where she was never born. Her grandmother, a time traveling historian from the late 2200s, was killed by Kate’s grandfather, Saul, who is trying to rewrite history. Kate, along with the help of her new boyfriend, Trent, and her grandmother, Katherine, tries to put her universe back in order by traveling to the past and thwarting Saul’s murder plot against Katherine.

Time’s Edge goes a little deeper. Kate, trying to reconcile three different realities, has to travel to Georgia in the 1930s (with her alternate reality boyfriend Kiernan) to rescue an unsuspecting group of her grandmother’s former coworkers (also time traveling historians). The get swept up in trying to stop a lynching, which is absolutely terrifying. Much darker than the serial killer chase in Timebound.

Time’s Edge ends on a big cliffhanger, and I had to exercise every bit of my self-control in order to hold off on reading the final book. There are two novellas that take place before Time’s Divide, and I’d like to read them first. But I’m still hesitating on reading the last book because I really don’t want the series to be over! I’ve fallen in love with the characters and the accurate historical depictions. At least I have Timeless to look forward to (confession: I sometimes imagine Kate and Kiernan popping into episodes of Timeless). But now I need to hurry up and start reading Time’s Divide because I got my husband hooked on the series and he just started the last book today!

Read This Book If:

…you’re a history buff.
…you get easily swept away in time travel stories.
…you enjoy love triangles or tragic romances/unrequited love stories.
…you’re intrigued by alternate realities or seeing characters reconciling different timelines.

“It’s a hard lesson in life, but you have to accept that some things are out of your hands. Otherwise, you’ll never know a single minute of peace. You mend what you can, and you let the rest go. You just let it go.”

Final Musings

Here’s a trailer for the pilot of NBC’s Timeless:

Timebound (The Chronos Files #1) by Rysa Walker

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When Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandmother gives her a strange blue medallion and speaks of time travel, sixteen-year-old Kate assumes the old woman is delusional. But it all becomes horrifyingly real when a murder in the past destroys the foundation of Kate’s present-day life. Suddenly, that medallion is the only thing protecting Kate from blinking out of existence.

Kate learns that the 1893 killing is part of something much more sinister, and Kate’s genetic ability to time-travel makes her the only one who can stop him. Risking everything, she travels to the Chicago World’s Fair to try to prevent the killing and the chain of events that follows.

Changing the timeline comes with a personal cost, however—if Kate succeeds, the boy she loves will have no memory of her existence. And regardless of her motives, does she have the right to manipulate the fate of the entire world?

Timebound (The Chronos Files #1) by Rysa Walker
Published January 1, 2014 by Skyscrape
Format: Kindle e-book; 366 pages

Young Adult/Science Fiction/Historical Fiction
Also By This Author: Time’s EdgeTime’s DivideThe Delphi Effect
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Thoughts

You know when you buy a book because you have to have it but then for some insane reason you don’t read it right away? And then months or years later you finally pick it up and proceed to slap yourself because the book is everything you could want in a book and more?? This is basically what happened with me and Timebound.

Timebound is part 1 in The Chronos Files by Rysa Walker. It’s about Kate Pierce-Keller discovering she has the ability to time travel and the subsequent journey she takes to stop her sadistic grandfather from rewriting history and committing a mass genocide. There’s also a heart wrenching love triangle, conflicting alternate realities, the pain of your best friend never knowing she knew you, and well-researched and intriguing glimpses into the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I adore stories about time travel. There’s something captivating and heartbreaking about traveling through space and time that mesmerizes me. I remember watching The Time Machine when I was younger and being equally intrigued and devastated by the idea of being unable to return to your own time. I also have vivid memories of seeing The Time Traveler’s Wife in theaters with a bunch of my friends and then crying for at least 30 minutes afterwards because the ending was so beautifully heartbreaking.

Timebound made me feel the same curiosity and heartache that I love about time travel stories. Rysa Walker has created a wonderful world where science fiction and historical fiction blend seamlessly, and her characters deal with experiences and emotions that both young adults and older adults can relate to. I’ve already read the second book, Time’s Edge, so I can say that her writing gets even more intriguing and surprising as the story continues. I’ve been holding off on reading the final book and the related novellas just so I can get my reviews posted on the first two Chronos Files books because I really think this is a series more readers need to know about!

“Having your existence completely erased has to qualify as a life-changing event, by anyone’s definition.”

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy sci-fi, especially if it’s light on the technical jargon.
…you love suspenseful, captivating novels and don’t mind occasionally having your stomach in knots while reading a book.
…you’re a masochist like me who can’t help but pine after heartbreaking romances and relationships.
…you appreciate well-researched historical fiction novels.

Final Musings

“You cannot hide from your heart, Kate. It always finds you. And, sadly, I cannot hide from mine.”

I could honestly keep gushing about Timebound for hours, but instead I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book :)

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

“It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”

The Martian by Andy Weir
Published February 11, 2014 by Crown
Science Fiction/Comedy
Format: paperback; 369 pages
Also By This Author: The Egg
Goodreads | Amazon

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Thoughts:

I have been reading some really good science fiction lately! This was probably the most technical sci-fi novel I’ve read, and while it did take me weeks to finish it because of how in depth the science goes, there’s one huge reason why I was never once bored: this book is hilarious.

I know; a funny survival novel? I haven’t read many of those. But I can honestly say that I laughed out loud more while reading this book than I have while reading any other book. Sometimes I had to put the book down to take a laughing break. Mark Watney, our seemingly doomed astronaut who has been unknowingly abandoned on Mars, is such an enjoyable and entertaining narrator. If he wasn’t, there’s no way I’d have been able to get through nearly two years’ worth of journal entries.

The Martian is a bit of a thriller. I’d characterize Mark Watney as the MacGyver of NASA  who is stuck in a perpetual lesson of Murphy’s Law; if something can go wrong while being stranded on Mars, it will, and more than once, too. Besides being an astronaut, he’s also a mechanical engineer and a botanist, which are probably the two skills that I’d like to have if I was stranded anywhere remote. He’s clever, resourceful, and is never difficult to root for.

Mars as a setting was very fascinating. Andy Weir writes an impressively accurate depiction of space travel and planetary exploration. He even created his own computer software to help calculate planetary orbits and space ship trajectories. With the recent New Horizons discoveries and talks of manned missions to Mars in the future, anyone who loves geeking out about space will definitely enjoy The Martian.

Read This Book If:

…you love hilarious narrators (you WILL laugh).
…you’re intrigued by technical science fiction.
…you’re a NASA/space exploration nerd.
…you like reading stories that are told through a journal format (75% of this novel is log entries).

“As with most of life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.”

Final Musings:

If I haven’t stressed this enough, The Martian is a phenomenal novel. I don’t think I’ve laughed more while reading a book, so if the science fiction aspect feels daunting to you, don’t worry: you will still enjoy this hilarious tale about man vs. nature. ALSO, The Martian is being made into a film starring Matt Damon (who, in my opinion, will portray the perfect Mark Watney), Jessica Chastain, and Jeff Daniels, among many others.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker's Guide

“Don’t Panic.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Published October 12, 1979 by Pan Books
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comedy
Format: audio book; 5 hours 51 minutes (224 pages)
Also By This Author: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Thoughts:

I listened to an audiobook version of this beloved novel back in May when I took a road trip to Florida, and it definitely helped to pass the time! The version I listened to was narrated by Douglas Adams himself, which was quite a treat. Although I had never read this book before, I had seen the movie version starring Martin Freeman, but to be honest, I forgot most of what happens after the Earth is destroyed!

I haven’t read very many comedies, or science fiction novels for that matter, but I did enjoy the humor in this one. The tone took a little time to get used to, and some of the characters and situations were hard to keep my interest at times (although, to be fair, that could also have been because I was listening instead of reading for myself), but overall this novel was definitely enjoyable and very funny.

My favorite part of the story was probably the whole idea that there were multiple alien civilizations existing in the galaxy that Planet Earth was oblivious to. And the “legendary planet” Magrathea was pretty neat, too (you’ll have to read the book to find out why it’s so awesome).

Read This Book If:

…you like to laugh out loud.
…you have a vast imagination.
…you’re into science fiction.
…you get witty, sarcastic British humor.

Final Musings:

If you need a short book to entertain you, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is sure to do the trick. Just make sure you pay attention or you’ll end up seriously lost (I had to rewind the audiobook a couple of times while I was driving to figure out what was going on). And if you’re into comparing book-to-film adaptations, you can always treat yourself to this gem afterwards:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Marvin the robot: “Oh God I’m so depressed.”