Book Love: Annihilation

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I’ve previously stated, I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator. Annihilation is short, vague, and contradictory, yet captivating. With less than 200 pages, it feels more like a prologue than a prequel.

Annihilation takes an intricate look into reality and our perceptions of the realities we choose to live in. Told from an unnamed female protagonist’s perspective who is a biologist on expedition, we are able to view a mind clouded in uncertainties. This limited range of view is vital to the telling of the story, and although I knew I couldn’t trust this woman entirely, I wanted to all the same. She gave a perfectly vague account of an unpopulated area shrouded in mystery, and I found myself wanting to travel there to witness it firsthand, even if I might not come back from it.

Area X is beyond civilization’s border, and the only people allowed to cross the mysterious boundary into its wilderness have been specially chosen purely for research purposes. The people venturing into this unknown wasteland are well-trained in their skill sets and are used as variables to explore the constant that is the “uncharted” territory. Accompanying our biologist there is also a linguist, psychologist, surveyor, and an anthropologist. All women; all serving a distinct purpose on their mission. Each of these women have done away with their birth names before setting out, thus attempting to rid themselves of their identities before meeting their awaited fate in Area X.

The biologist, as she had been trained to, observed her surroundings, looking for trends and trusting her senses to tell her the truth about this area that no one seems to ever really come back from. The biologist recently lost her husband to a previous expedition in Area X, lacks emotions. Even when talking about her lost husband, she doesn’t seem all that sad. This lack of character development is honestly my only issue with the first part of this trilogy. The main character was not relatable, and anytime this happens, it’s a problem. Despite that, I enjoyed reading Annihilation.

I will definitely read the Southern Reach Trilogy, however, I am in no hurry. Because of the writing style, it was not a fast read or easy read. I think to enjoy this one you really have to be in the right mood, and it caught me at just the right time.

4.5 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.62
Recommended for: Unreliable Narrator Lovers, Explorers, Reality Escapers
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Book Review: Armada

Armada Armada by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cline puts his imagination to the test again in his second novel, creating another character obsessed with video games and 80s culture in a modern world, except this time there are aliens!

A brief disclosure before you begin reading this review: I did not like Armada, and I am going to be honest throughout. Please don’t assume I’m being mean for the sake of being mean, but I haven’t been this disappointed since I didn’t receive my letter from Hogwarts (14 years ago).

The excitement level I had for this book was through the roof. Ready Player One is my favorite book and the one I recommend to everyone who enjoys science fiction, video games, or is a reluctant reader. I loved Ernest Cline’s writing style in RPO, and I expected nothing but the best from him in his second novel. After hearing about the content of Armada and seeing the cover art, I was intrigued, although, I felt a sense of déjà vu after reading the synopsis. I thought the cover was clean and modern, and I couldn’t wait to add it to my shelves. If you were to ask anyone who knows me, they would tell you I had been waiting all year for July to come around so I could finally read Ernie’s next book. I had it pre-ordered and waited in heavy anticipation for what I was sure to be my next favorite. A friend of mine who also loved Ready Player One read the ARC a month before its release and came to me with disappointing news. He had decided to not even finish the book, which struck me as strange. “Really, is this your only trick?” he questioned Ernie. After several of my friends completed it and gave it poor reviews, I stayed hopeful, trusting Ernie would not let me down. Then, I read it for myself, and I was let down.

I knew going into Armada it had much lower ratings than RPO. I didn’t let it get to me, though, and I tried to ignore the warning signs and enjoy it without being influenced by my friends’ negative reviews about it. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t begin to like it. That sense of déjà vu was for good reason; I felt like I was reading a more descriptive version of Ender’s Game, only it was much worse and felt rushed. The bridge between Armada and Ender’s Game is a solid one. Zack resembles Ender Wiggin, who also can’t contain his rage against his bullies. They’ve both been prepped their entire lives to destroy aliens and hired by our very own U.S. Government to save the world. Defeating aliens is not a new concept in video games, movies, or books, but some plots have already been done and don’t need to be done again.

Another mirror image I noticed was the similarities between Xavier Lightman and Halliday from RPO. Now, trust me, I tried not to compare RPO and Armada, but the lack of differences was overwhelming. Halliday is almost a father figure for Wade, who has no father. Wade invests all of his time into learning about the 80s culture in order to win the contest, and similarly, Zack immerses himself into his father’s left behind 80s era possessions in order to get to know him. Both obsessions make sense, but in RPO it is done so much better. Cline rifles through 80s terminology as if he’s a dictionary, referencing hundreds of titles in RPO. For every three or four references, I’d only heard of one. After reading each chapter I felt more educated on the decade I’d just missed. In Armada there are fewer references, and the titles mentioned are much more catered to the mass media. I don’t need to hear 20 Star Wars references or quotes from Yoda. I’ve seen those enough times, thank you. With these types of references, I just assumed Cline didn’t want to put in the effort to go there for the die hard 80s kids. Again, disappointing in that regard.

One major complaint, although not the biggest, was the timing. The book was evenly paced, but I had trouble suspending my disbelief for the amount of time it took everyone to travel. If it took 40 minutes to get to the moon, the travelers would be liquid. I don’t believe we will ever have the technology to create anti-inertia shuttles for this speed. Yes, I know sci-fi has been going into warp and light speed for a long time, but Armada wants me to believe we have this technology available now, and I just can’t do it. The entire book takes place within 24 hours, too.

The biggest complaint I have is what pushed me over the edge and made the book completely unenjoyable. It’s a cheesefest.


I can only handle so many cliches, Ernie. Not everyone in every book you write should be obsessed with the 80s. Zack Lightman’s obsession I can understand, but all of the Moon Base Alpha’s soldiers as well as Lex Larkin being obsessed, please. “It’s time to save the world.” Really? It’s save-the-world-o’clock? This line should not be in your book. Also, this is an action book. Romance is a part of life, but the chances of four or five couples falling for one another at first sight is incredulous.

I know my review is harsh, and negativity like this is unlike me, but I know Ernie can do better than this. I would not hesitate to pre-order his next book, and Ready Player One remains to be my favorite book of all time. I have lost some respect for Cline because of the carelessness put into Armada, but I won’t let that stop me from being a fan. In fact, the Tome Raiders are getting ready to meet him at a book signing this Thursday. As for his latest, I would not recommend it for the lactose intolerant due to the extreme cheese factor.

Goodreads Rating: 3.61
Recommended for: Aspiring Astronauts, Gamers, Cheese Lovers, Fans of Ready Player One, Fans of Ender’s Game
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Chelsea’s To Be Read Pile

It just keeps growing! I’ve been able to knock out so many titles this summer, but  I add them more quickly than I can chip them away. For us teachers, school is only weeks away, and time is ticking. I always manage to read during the school year but never as much as I’d like to.

Currently I’m digging into Armada. Next on my list is Mosquitoland followed by Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I’ll probably throw those Ms. Marvel volumes in as well. The rest is to be determined at a later date.

Any thoughts or recommendations on books to add to my list are greatly appreciated. Also, add me on Goodreads!

Book Review: Sand

Sand Omnibus (Sand, #1-5)Sand by Hugh Howey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to bury this book in a dune somewhere because it’s just not worth the coin. I thought I would enjoy this like I did Wool, but it was about as easy to read as it is to run a mile on the beach. It was slow going, and I felt little motivation to complete it.

Sand is about family, justifying the things we do for our families to earn a living and also to keep ourselves afloat in the midst of all life blows our way. It’s about how we cope after an unexpected loss and always hoping there’s something better out there for us.

Out of all the problematic worlds I’ve read about, Hugh Howey has managed to create the one I would most likely not be able to tolerate. I might survive the world of Sand, but my sanity would not. Sand isn’t horrible because of a ferocious government, corrupted societal laws, or a declining ecosystem, though. I could not live in this world because of all the freaking sand everywhere. Always in my mouth, in my shoes, in my house, and forever sweeping and shoveling just for the wind to inevitably bring it back to me. No thanks.

Howey let loose in Sand with a mass of explicit vocabulary and not much, but just enough graphic imagery of bodies horrifically mangled, leaving plenty of unwanted images in my mind. I don’t mind a little language here and there or things of graphic nature when I’m anticipating it, but the way it leaped of the pages so unexpectedly left me in a state of shock.

I never felt tied to the characters, and I had trouble easing into the flow of this whole world. On a more positive note, there were a few good things I noted:
1. It was not predictable. No shocking endings or anything crazy, but there was not much of a basis to predict anything from. This could have been from the lack of foundation we had, though.
2. I’ve never read anything like it. The first section of the omnibus seemed like it was going to be just like Wool, too, which would have upset me. His world was not based off of any dystopian formula I’ve seen before, so we can commend him for that.
3. His ideas were clever. And honestly, they weren’t poorly constructed. Scuba diving through sand as one would through water made sense. I thought having the characters scavenge beneath their town for buried cities was probably the coolest thing about this book.
4. There are nuggets of universal wisdom scattered everywhere. “Witnessing the aftermath of the destruction made the danger…real. Fear required precedents.” I love being able to dismantle a quote from the text and be able to apply it to life in general.

I can’t say I haven’t learned anything from reading Sand, but my time spent reading it could have easily been better spent. I did not enjoy it, and for that I had to give it a 3/5. One thing I hope all who have read it or decide not to read it based on this review take away is we are all just grains of sand, helpless to where the wind takes us, drifting from one dune to the next. We are spit out, shaken from boots, and brushed off from shoulders, but we are the foundation of society.

Goodreads Rating: 3.96
Recommended for: Dystopian Lovers, Scuba Divers, Beach-Goers
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Book Review: Armada

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is Ernest Cline a “Ready Player One-trick-pony”, or has he found the perfect formula to appeal to science fiction lovers?

To say the Tome Raiders were excited for Armada, Ernest Cline’s latest romp in the world of campy 80s science fiction, would be an egregious understatement.

We were so excited for Armada
We were so excited for Armada
Whenever we’re asked for book recommendations the suggestion is almost always Ready Player One. It hit all of the notes of a thrilling adventure novel while sprinkling in the nostalgia-inducing movies, music, and mechs we’ve come to expect from Ernest Cline. However, the question looming on everyone’s’ lips was this: Could he do it again? I went in to this read with as realistic expectations as possible and put forth my best effort to produce an objective review regardless of the subject matter at hand or how I felt about the author’s previous work. With that being said, here is my DISCLAIMER: I love Ender’s Game, Firefly, and Cowboy Bebop. I’ve been an avid gamer my entire life and have played Magic: The Gathering, Starcraft, and Destiny for uncomfortably lengthy periods of my existence. I’m listening to Freddie Mercury belt out his sveltey signature lines as I write this review. I was clearly the target demographic of this novel. With that being said…

Armada was not a terrifically hard read, and the writing style and structure is very reminiscent of Ready Player One, as is the pacing of the story. The only times I had to stop reading were to Google a reference I might not have been familiar with or to visibly rest my face on the palm of my hand because of whatever I had just read (more on this later). The plot is basic wish fulfillment, as even the protagonist Zack Lightman points out several times throughout the story. Zack is an 18-year-old gamer in his senior year of high school on plain ‘ole boring earth. He lives with his widowed mother and is trying to survive the last few weeks of school til graduation so he can work full time at his current job where he sells used video game merchandise. Nothing too ground breaking thus far, just a relatable “blank canvas” guy (maybe TOO relatable for some) the readers can imprint themselves upon. Zack longs for adventure and intrigue to pull him from his unexceptional life, when one day he looks out of his classroom window and sees flying over nearby fields and forests a UFO that eerily resembles the alien starfighters he combats every day in his favorite video game, Armada. Zack is then recruited to the Earth Defense Alliance, along with all of the world’s top gamers. It is here that they discover the world’s two most popular video games, Armada and Terra Firma, were actually combat simulators preparing Earth’s citizens to defend their planet from an incoming alien invasion.

When I first read the synopsis for Armada months ago my stomach sank as I thought to myself, “This sounds like a rehash of countless already existing sci-fi classics…” though I immediately sprung back because I knew that Cline would have his own clever twist on the story. “Surely he’s using these stories as inspiration; it won’t be the exact same thing,” I rationalized. Well.. let me just put it like this: having the protagonist say, “Everything that is happening to me feels just like it came right out of my science fiction stories!” in a painfully self-aware fashion in order to rattle off the titles of some fan-favorite books and movies is not an excuse for an original plot or creative writing. Reading Armada can be likened to reading Ender’s Game, but in the first 20 pages Ender watches a copy of The Last Starfighter before going to Battle School. The experience is still a good ride, but every key plot point is excruciatingly telegraphed in the opening pages of the book. Not a single event caught me unaware or truly rewarded me as the reader. Now, I understand that Ernest Cline has the right to craft the book he wants to and he owes me nothing, but I would be very hard pressed to recommend this piece of fiction as opposed to any of its many predecessors.

So, the plot was unoriginal from beginning to end, but I sure did have a good time reading it. This is where I really fell into Cline’s wish-fulfilling trap. The pacing of the story flows very well and action pieces are told in a fluid and satisfying manner. There are a few romantic developments throughout the story, but unfortunately they all felt extremely forced. As much as the R2-D2 flask-wielding punk rocker Lex Larkin seems like my dream girl, I’m not falling for it, Cline. Putting a clone of every gamer nerds’ secret crush in the book doesn’t make her a good character. She’s so caricaturized and undeveloped that it feels cartoonish. Every character feels this way. They all seem to just fit into different facets of tropes on sci-fi characters. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I scoffed at lines such as, “We can play some pretty decent Van Halen covers […] Maybe we’ll jam for you guys later?” from one of the highest ranking military officers in the Earth Defense Alliance in the face of an impending alien invasion only hours away. You mean to tell me that someone SPRAY PAINTED, “The cake is a lie,” on the walls of a highly militarized secret base on the moon, and I’m not even supposed to bat an eye? Here’s why I think this sort of thing worked in Ready Player One, and not Armada:

Ready Player One was about the characters’ actual lives being turned into a video game. Armada is about the characters’ video games being turned into their actual lives.

Science fiction and fiction in general hinges on suspension of disbelief. The reader has to be able to compartmentalize their own knowledge and understanding and put it aside in order to take on the perspective that the author gives them. In Ready Player One it’s okay when someone references Star Wars or hops inside of a Gundam because they are gamers who are fighting to save their video game world. The stakes aren’t so high I can’t forgive the campy references. However, when the script is flipped and the aliens are coming to destroy everything that we know and love, I find it pretty unacceptable to have a high ranking military officer in charge of the Earth’s last defense getting blazed on some scientifically engineered VIDEO GAME WEED before boning one of the Earth’s best Interceptor fighter pilots named “Kushmaster5000” (I wish I was making all of this up, I really do.) There are many scenes like this in Armada, and I find them terribly distracting and derivative of the already uninspired plot. Though there are equally as many placed references that truly brought me joy and I found myself smiling at, they don’t carry near as much weight as the ones that “ruined the moment”.

Ultimately, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that Ernest Cline would take his gift for storytelling and his vast knowledge of this shared nerd culture we all have and produce the story that is Armada. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I was spurned. When I have the desire to revisit an exciting nostalgia thrill ride, I will be reaching for Ready Player One long before I will Armada. With that being said, I love what you do Ernest Cline, and I eagerly await your next work.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Recommended for: Ender Wiggins, Star Citizens, Ramona Flowers

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Book Review: Legend

15753977Legend by Marie Lu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Legend attempts to shed light on what would happen if we had socialized medicine, relied on family history or test scores to determine our future (ha!), and did not put a cap on how many terms an elected official could serve as leader of our nation. In Legend, America is divided in two ways: Colonies vs. Republic and rich vs. poor.

Legend is told from two different perspectives, which seems to be happening more often in literature. June and Day come from two different parts of the same world and are featured with similar intelligence and skills. I favored June’s actions over Day’s, however, both characters were annoying and the plot was abrupt. The text would be flowing smoothly for awhile, useful imagery scattered here and there…and then Day would say something to provoke an eye roll from me. If it hadn’t been such a fast-paced read, I would have put it down. I want to like Day, and I appreciate what he stands for. Although he’s revolutionary, which is what the world in Legend needs, I only like him when his mouth his shut. His overconfidence in his abilities and in his looks are his hubris, and overconfidence is not something I find attractive in a character.

June I am much more on board with. With her upbringing and family status, she was born to be a government agent, but according to the government she works for, she asks too many questions. She causes too much trouble. This is why we, the readers, love her, though. June’s character saves the book for me. Although she was born into the Republic and expected for it to be perfect, she gets a shock early into the book that causes her to refocus. Maybe her perfect, cozy world is not as it seems. As June learns about the destructive power the Republic holds, her perspective helps the reader to understand Lu’s simple dystopian society a little more.

One major problem I had with this series is we’re thrust directly into the action of the novel without much knowledge of the world in which the plot takes place. We know it’s divided and is completely unfair, but that’s about it. Lu does not construct enough of her world before the action ensues, and for this and for her annoying characters, I had to give it a 3/5. There were too many rough patches for me to issue a higher rating, but about halfway through, where most books tend to fall apart, Legend picked up and came together some. Had this not happened, I was more than prepared to give it a 2/5.

From a kid’s perspective, I can see this book holding a higher weight, but for me, it does not live up to the hype. Most likely, I will still complete the series despite the lack of joy this book gave me. It was entertaining enough, and I am anxious to see how Lu’s world crumbles in Prodigy. I also tend to favor the middle book in any series, so I’m hoping for more from book two.

Goodreads Rating: 4.19
Recommended for: Dystopian Lovers, The Politically Minded, Action Packers
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Book Love: All the Light We Cannot See

18143977All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doerr writes an imaginatively constructed historical story in the most creative and captivating way possible. I didn’t even know writing could be so good. Imagine the most beautiful painting you’ve ever seen, whatever painting style you like, but colorful, full of intentional, demanding brushstrokes speaking volumes about its content. There are full figured three-dimensional characters so intricately designed they must have been real. His use of imagery is the best I’ve seen without a doubt. His typewriter must actually be a paintbrush. He somehow manages to squeeze more figurative language onto one page than most writers can do in an entire chapter. And it works. It flows, it sings of what I suppose World War II really looked like. He writes of imagery with intensity, and one of his main characters is BLIND! He writes for his reader.

Simply put, it’s a book about war. I thought I might get tired of reading about war since I just finished The Book Thief and Slaughterhouse-Five, but Doerr’s take on the subject of war was unique and thoughtful. The first 20 pages caught me off-guard because it was so much more sophisticated than what I’ve been reading recently, but I did end up falling in love with it pretty early in (probably around page 50).

I remember thinking, “He really gets it.” He understands how dividing war is, how dehumanizing World War II was. He doesn’t force casualties down our throats; he allows us to see beautiful minds and intellect, gorgeous cities, exciting technological advances, and then the nature of the beast that is so perfectly destructive in such a personal way.

I was immeasurably happy with every one of Doerr’s choices until I got close to the end. I didn’t expect to feel 100% joy from the book (it is a war story after all), but I did experience a large heaping of sadness at a few points that made me angry. This anger wasn’t directed toward Doerr; it just had to do with how much I loved the people he had created…how alive his characters were to me.

His brilliant references to what exactly light is struck me deep.

Perfection. 5/5 stars.

“The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

Goodreads Rating: 4.28
Recommended for: Light Chasers, History Buffs, Lovers of Figurative Language
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Book Love: Uglies

Uglies (Uglies, #1)Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Uglies is a noteworthy novel set in future America, and it is targeted at young readers, specifically teenage girls. Understanding this, I changed my original 3 star rating to 4/5 stars. Its target is for people who are the characters’ ages, but it has been a satisfying read regardless of its lack of sophisticated writing and vocabulary. It was a little too cut and dry for me, and for some reason Westerfield felt the need to spell all of his character’s consequences out in black white, giving the reader no time to think about them or make their own analysis of what was going on. This may prove to be frustrating for more advanced readers, but I think most young people have something to gain from reading this. In the early chapters there is a little humor, but as the book goes on we encounter some romance, too. With beauty as the topic, romance was something I was expecting, so it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does.

At the ripe age of 15, Tally Youngblood’s world is simple. You are ugly until you become pretty. Scott Westerfield’s dystopian society values beauty above everything else. Everyone is taught at a young age to understand the way biology works and what our human species has found most attractive throughout our lives on this earth. It is a normality to put one’s self and others down with verbal abuse based on looks, and modifying one’s face and body through facial recognition software is no trickier than searching Google. The young uglies (12-16 year-olds) live together apart from their parents until they are old enough to receive the operation, keeping them away from all that teen angst and a lot of important familial emotions.

Westerfield’s world parallels the joy of turning 16 amd attaining the freedom to drive with the accomplishment of having an operation to become perfectly pretty and without physical flaws. His world is high-tech, complete with hoverboards, hovering buildings, and interface rings, which allows voice command to be directed to the technology surrounding his characters (similar to Siri). When we meet Tally, she is an impressionable young trickster a few months away from her surgery. She has been brainwashed by her city and education system, never thinking anything her world hasn’t wanted her to think and anticipating her upcoming operation more than anything else before. She resembles most 16-year-olds in that she is passive to society’s influence on her. She is not stupid, however, she is not a freethinking person either. Until Shay comes along.

Shay’s radical ideas are what invokes her flight from Uglyville into the Smoke, a place outside the city where most people would never dream of venturing. Her leaving causes the local authorities to question Tally about Shay’s disappearance. Tally tries to protect Shay’s choices like she promised, but the authorities threaten her with her long awaited operation. Tally thought she was playing it safe by not following Shay into the Smoke, but Shay’s plans to run away have made more of an impact on Tally’s life than she ever expected. Now Tally is faced with a life-changing decision: break her promise to Shay and become a new pretty or remain an ugly for life.

This may seem like a simple decision to some, but within these choices lie heavy consequences. There are secrets to be revealed, real people living their lives happily in the Smoke, and important themes about beauty within the pages of Uglies. Insecurities about one’s looks and changing body plague the thoughts of teens and young adults alike, making this an indispensable novel in the YA genre. Although major facial reconstruction is not something most people pursue today, we are accustomed to fitting our young children with braces, pinning back ears, and teaching girls how to reach a higher standard of beauty with makeup. True, these modifications aren’t nearly as life-altering as turning into a pretty, but they show our society isn’t immune to the anxiety that comes with how the world sees us.

Tally’s high-tech world presents an unrealistic standard of mass-produced beauty that’s hard to match with real natural beauty’s inconsistencies, and as the story opens up, Westerfield’s community in the Smoke proves to be worthy competition. He shows her what natural maturity looks like and forces her to take the world more seriously. The Smoke isn’t the extreme opposite of Uglyville, but it does provide her with a sense of what real problems look like and the rewards hard work and sincere relationships can bring. Going into the wild, Tally was more than ready to reveal the Smoke’s location so she could have her operation, but where she was looking to become pretty and party it up in New Pretty Town, she begins to appreciate the hard work and beauty of nature. Making a decision about whether to become pretty or not becomes harder as the book goes on, and up until the last page, I was still unsure of what Tally’s fate would be.

Goodreads Rating: 3.87
Recommended for: Young Adult Readers, Girls, Dystopian Lovers
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Reading Recs for 2014-2015 School Year: 3rd 9 Weeks

I’m finally onto the 3rd and probably my favorite segment of what I read this past year. My 3rd 9 weeks’ reading list began during Christmas Break, which allowed me to squeeze an extra two weeks of reading onto my reading log. I read some of my favorite books during this 11 weeks, and it’s also when this blog was spoken into existence. I believe during this time I became more intentional about what I was reading, giving my literary life purpose and spontaneity at the same time. From January to March I read more pages, began seriously reading comics, read a couple classics, and read what is now my all-time favorite book, which I will post about at the end of this list of recommendations. Take notes and enjoy!

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)  The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)  The Death Cure (Maze Runner, #3)

The Maze Runner series is one that gained publicity this year by earning its own movie. The cover art for the series was appealing to a young audience, and the plot was intriguing to students who desired adventure with a little mystery attached. This series was so popular in my classroom I couldn’t get my hands on it long enough to see what I thought about it. No one checked it out for Christmas break, so it made its way to the top of my list. It was a quick and enjoyable read despite some of my issues with Dashner’s writing style. It was fast-paced, which is great for young readers, but the plot’s intensity and shocking events are what drove the novel. The writing is slightly jarring, and at times it’s way too obvious it was written with kids in mind, which makes it hard for older readers to enjoy it, too. The first book was the best in the series, although I haven’t read The Kill Order yet. The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure seemed to both lag at times with frustrating plot twists and character choices. Regardless of the problems I had with the series, it was a fun read, and I found I was unable to put it down once I’d started.

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)  The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)

The 5th Wave took me all of 24 hours to read and left me of the edge on my seat all the while. I was entranced by its cover art and more and more curious about what the 5th wave actually was the more I read it. The series opens up with Cassie Walker alone in her tent clutching her gun, thinking about her little brother, who she willingly sent away with Them. Earth has been invaded by Them, who sent several different waves down in rapid succession to take over the planet. The first three waves were easy to understand, but these last few waves have left the remaining human inhabitants alone, able to trust no one. Cassie is haunted by the lives she’s been forced to take and the knowledge her brother’s rescue may be impossible. She finds herself injured and in the care of Evan Walker, and although she can no longer be trusting of anyone, she finds she must trust him to survive. The series is told from many perspectives, giving the story a wholeness and a certain omniscience about it that is encapsulating. Both Cassie and the reader discover what the 5th wave is together, forcing them to survive through the shock and continue on Yancey’s thoughtfully designed journey. The first book has been my favorite so far because of the perspective we get to experience, but both have earned a deserved 4 stars or higher on Goodreads and in my gradebook. The third book is set to come out May 2016, and I will be preordering it. I’ve recommended this book to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi read, and although it a Young Adult book, it is targeted for a more mature audience (early 20s).

Batgirl #35

Batgirl, like many other DC heroes, got herself a fun and modern reboot last year. I have loved reading Barbara Gordon’s story so far and will likely keep up with it for a long time. Her outfit, lifestyle, and the technological aspect of Batgirl’s crime fighting is relatable to my generation, and the first volume of the new Batgirl of Burnside has a despicable villain that came as a shock to me and many other readers. If you haven’t kept up with Batgirl until issue 35, no worries. Cameron Stewart has completely remade Barbara. She has flaws, personality, and flair, and I can’t wait to read more of her this year.

Winger (Winger, #1)

Ryan Dean’s life at private school is for mature readers only. Because he is two years younger than his fellow classmates, he is picked on and envied by others for his intelligence and constantly being placed in the friend zone by his best friend, Annie. As a junior in a private school for rich kids, Ryan Dean finds himself in trouble most of the time, and although he/s often extremely witty despite his unfortunate situations, the novel ends on an unexpectedly sad note. Andrew Smith has written many other wonderful books, and Winger’s sequel will soon be published. It’s titled Stand-off and is expected to be available this September. Despite its size, it’s a fast read, and you will find yourself in tears from laughing and from its shocking conclusion.

The Martian

Soon after it became a bestseller, Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, got itself a movie contract with leading man Matt Damon playing our protagonist Mark Watney. This book is one we’ve already written a full review for earlier on Tome Raiders, but I feel the need to promote it again for good measure. Yes, it has a ton of technical jargon, but it is easy to overlook, and I know this novel will transfer well to the big screen. It’s easily one of my favorite book covers of all time, and the trailer for the movie looks A+. If you’d like to watch the trailer first, here it is for your viewing pleasure: The Martian Movie Trailer

Ready Player One

We’ve finally reached the end of the 3rd 9 weeks’ reading list, and I can’t think of a better way to finish this post than with my favorite, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This is another one we’ve already reviewed here on Tome Raiders. A movie directed by Spielberg is already in the works, and I can promise you you will not be disappointed in this one. It’s futuristic and modern all at once, it has a striking cast of characters, and it explores themes that face the youth of today. Can we be the same people we are online and in real life? Does technology provide us with better opportunities or are we losing ourselves to it? Can the power of goodness and friendship overcome the power of money and corporation? I’ve been tempted to reread this since putting it down, and I am looking forward to Cline’s next novel, Armada, which I think was written with a hint of Ender’s Game in mind. I can’t say enough good things about RPO or Ernest Cline, and my review barely does the book justice. Cline has come up with a piece of perfection that I feel obligated to pass on to everyone I know.

Please let me know which of these reviews you found helpful and what you’d like to see more of on the blog. If you have a recommendation for us here at Tome Raiders, we’d love to hear it. We’re constantly look for new books to read and review.

Readers of the Lost Ark