Bone Music – Review

“They didn’t plan to kill my mother.”

Charlotte Rowe has never led a normal life. Her mother killed in a tragic twist of fate by two serial killers. Taken by the killers and raised as their own until the FBI finally caught up to them. Reunited with a father who was far more interested in profiting off of her than raising her, or healing her. Every time she gets her feet under her, fate seems determined to rip them from beneath her.

Right when it seems she’s actually gotten her life back, she finds herself in the midst of a new nightmare. Tricked into taking a new experimental drugs, she finds herself with surprising new powers. Unsure of what to do or where to go, Charlotte decides she needs to take control of the situation before a ruthless corporation takes control of her. And what better way to regain control, than by exerting a little revenge?

“All she feels is the bone music and the sense that she has become not darkness but a great fire, bringing a sudden, blazing end to it.”

Bone Music is part thriller, part science fiction, and is 100% an exhilarating ride. From the very beginning, where we hear Charlie talking about what it was like being raised by two serial killers, we know that this book is going to go down some very dark roads.

There is a ton of subtle psychology written into Charlie, and throughout the entire book. This shouldn’t be a surprise, any book based on serial killers tends to include some psychological elements. But Rice goes beyond standard or superficial observations and dives into the complexity of the human psyche. There is some deep conversation on PTSD, the nature of violence, the effects of abuse, and addiction to name a few that stood out to me.

Charlie has been through a lot. As a result, she is incredibly complex. Rice doesn’t make her feel superficial, or cliche at any point throughout the book. She is traumatized and struggling to sort through her tapestry of emotions. But she isn’t fragile. And I really liked that about her. She is also not convinced that her time with killers didn’t change her in fundamental ways. She wants to be a better person, but deep down is afraid that she isn’t.

“When we hurt people just to punish them, Luane used to say, we create a darkness that will live on long after our reasons for giving birth to it have faded.”

She hangs on to her grandmothers words, using them as a guiding force. Rather than having Charlie veer too much into the realm of good, Rice makes sure to show that she is conflicted at the core of her being. She relishes the power she is given at times, and is seduced by her ability to punish those who deserve it. What makes her so interesting is that it is because of her early years, and her fear that she would have gone to a much darker path had the FBI not intervened, that keeps the desire for revenge from taking over.

Rather than giving us definitive good versus evil, we get evil versus lesser evil most of the time. Bone Music sits firmly in the realm of moral gray. Even though we can agree serial killers are bad, it’s less clear what to make of Charlie and the forces surrounding her. She wants to be good, that much is clear. However, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. And that theme is very much woven into this plot.

I also really enjoyed the strength Charlie shows in even who she chooses as her allies. While Luke is obviously a love interest, Charlie doesn’t swoon, or even rely on him to help. She wants his help, but doesn’t need it. She wants to let her defensives down, but she isn’t willing to pander to him, or defer to him. She has a plan, is confident in what needs to happen and isn’t afraid to go it alone. This portrayal of strength in a female protagonist made me very happy!

“I want your help. But I don’t want your agenda. And I want you to listen to what I’m thinking and not tell me what I’m thinking.”

Not to mention how accurately Rice captures the infuriating notion of ‘mansplaining’. I loved reading Luke realize what he was doing and how it was coming across to Charlie. And then actually acknowledge it and work on not doing it! While I want to fist pump in honor of girl power everywhere, the fact is Rice writes characters that are believable because of these types of interactions.

What I loved is that the self aware characters are closer to the side of good than evil, even if their behavior is firmly in the gray. And the characters closer to the side of evil tend towards a blindness of the self, to the point of delusional. It’s a subtle and compelling look at human nature and psychology.

“It’s the truth, as much as she’s capable of telling the truth about the possibility that no longer exists, an opportunity that was stolen from her by a man who’s only just now realizing that his belief in whats best for others can bring him close to committing the kind of violent acts that destroyed his life.”

Rice fully captures the tragedy and trauma that would be present given the circumstances these characters go through. He isn’t afraid to get dark, and he doesn’t back away from difficult themes. The plot is intense, and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. I loved the science fiction twists. They give this thriller added dimensions that keep it original and unpredictable all the way to the end. I highly recommend this book and cannot wait until the next in the series comes out!

Huge thank you to Little Bird Publicity, Thomas & Mercer, and Amazon Publishing for sending me an early copy to read and review!

Artemis – Review

“It’s hard to run with a hundred kilograms of gear on — even in lunar gravity. But you’d be amazed how fast you can hustle when your life is on the line.”

Andy Weir is back with his unique and addicting blend of factual science fiction and smart ass humor. This time we’re not fighting for out life on Mars, but living in a city built on the Moon. Welcome to Artemis.

Meet Jasmine Bashara. Porter, smuggler, dreamer. All Jazz wants is to afford a living environment larger than her current coffin with a private bathroom. That isn’t asking too much is it?

When one of her ridiculously wealthy clients proposes a job full of insane risk, Jazz knows she should say no. But who says no to the chance of a lifetime? The chance to pay off crippling debt and start a new life? Probably the same people who came up with the saying: careful what you wish for.

This particular job will demand that Jazz use all her technical skills and intellect in order to pull it off. That much she can handle. Finding herself in the middle of a power play for absolute control of Artemis was a little more than she bargained for. Jazz has to use every single trick she can think of to stay alive and figure out a way to save not just herself, but the entire lunar city.

“Always keep your bargains. He worked within the law and I didn’t, but the principle was the same. People will trust a reliable criminal more readily than a shady businessman.”

I loved Jazz. Loved her! She is smart and feisty, but is also incredibly suspicious of everyone around her. I thought Weir did an excellent job peeling back the layers to her distrust through her emails with life long pen-pal Kelvin. We get to see a different side than the one she shows the world. And as someone who is generally distrustful of the world around me, I related to her quite a bit.

As we unfold the mystery that is Jazz, we get to know the characters in her life. I really liked each of them, and found them all believable. But out of all of them, Martin Svoboda was probably my favorite.

“By the end of it I had a plan. And like all good plans, it required a crazy Ukranian guy.”

That crazy Ukranian is a delight to read! I loved every scene he was in. His nerdy exuberance and utter loyalty to Jazz constantly made me smile.

“Tell them about the plan!” Svoboda said. “I have all the visual aids ready!”

What’s not to love about a friend who not just supports your illegal and potentially immoral hijinks without question, but then prepares visual aids when it really matters?! He’s just so adorable.

Given how much science is actually in this book, I am impressed with how much went into the characters and world building. It’s very well balanced, and I never felt like the science went over my head or took away from the scene playing out on the page. That isn’t to say I could pass a science exam after reading it, but the level of detail is enough to make the entire thing feel real. And that’s something I really enjoy in my science fiction.

Weir has a way of injecting humor into all of his scenes, including the intense ones. This gives his books a distinct feel. Fun but interesting. It helps that he includes fun facts, a little addition that makes me laugh. Probably because I am very fond of fun facts.

“Fun fact: Oxidizing requires oxygen. Flint and steel won’t work in vacuum. All right. No need to panic.”

In all, I adored this book. Jazz felt like someone I would know and be friends with. She isn’t a girly girl. In fact, isn’t even overly feminine, which, as a woman who isn’t overly feminine, I appreciated. And no, I don’t think that’s because she was written by a man either. I found her to be exactly like many of my female friends and relished reading a female character that didn’t make me roll my eyes. Svoboda as the goofy sidekick made it even better. This pairing definitely melted my feminist heart.

I’ve officially decided that space capers full of sarcastic geniuses is the best thing ever. I need more of this exact combo! I was a fan of The Martian, and Artemis is exactly what I hoped it would be. Ever more the fan, I look forward to anything and everything Andy Weir wants to write!

Otherworld – Review

“A future in which there’s only one all-powerful Company doesn’t seem totally preposterous anymore.”

Otherworld is the reboot of a virtual reality game that people swore was like heaven, it was so perfect. What we actually get in this book is Otherworld 2.0, the revamped version brought back from the virtual dead by a young billionaire.

Initially the headsets are limited, and Simon manages to get a set for him and his not girlfriend, Kat. Apparently this is the only way he can see her, and he goes to some pretty extreme lengths to do it. Obviously things fall apart fairly quickly, and both headsets end up getting destroyed.

But when Kat ends up in an accident, Simon is convinced it wasn’t an accident after all, and that Otherworld holds the answers he’s looking for. Stumbling into a top secret test program that eliminates the need for a headset at all, Simon begins to see the plans the Corporation actually has for Otherworld. Suddenly, he’s not just playing a game, but the game of his life. Literally.

“This is true virtual reality — not just sight, sound and touch. Tap into the brain and you can engage all five senses.”

It’s been a few weeks since I finished Otherworld, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s still a solid three star read for me. I don’t know if I read it too soon after Ready Player One, which just blew the virtual reality parts of this book to bits, or if I just wasn’t that impressed. It was a fun read, and I enjoyed reading it, don’t get me wrong. But, if you’re looking for smart science fiction, this isn’t it.

Otherworld is definitely a YA book. It is written for a Young Adult audience, and while it has some humorous parts that adults and more mature readers will like, it’s still firmly in the mid-teen YA spectrum.

Simon is an interesting character. He is a weird mix of likable asshole. I had an easier time visualizing him when I pictured Jason Segel’s humor, but if you aren’t familiar with his previous movies and shows, I’m not sure it comes across on it’s own merit. He is a bit spoiled, very privileged, and while his loyalty to Kat is impressive, he just didn’t find his way into my heart. That said, I didn’t hate him either. I think he could have been a bit better developed.

We end up with a story within a story, or rather two different plots taking place. One inside Otherworld and one in the real world. Simon has to straddle both, and figure out how the two are related to each other.

“It’s not virtual if it changes who you are.”

Otherworld does bring up important conversations about technology. When does virtual reality just become reality. At what point can that technology take over our every day lives? Can it influence and change the way we behave as a society? I think presenting these questions to a generation that will have to explore these questions in more detail is smart. I wish it presented more for them to analyze, but to raise the questions is a valid start.

The plot inside Otherworld is also fairly interesting, and I wish it was a lot more developed, or that they continue to develop it in future books. The idea that somehow a virtual world could “create” it’s own new characters and rules. Sort of an advanced AI or sorts, limited to existing in just this world.

This war between the original components and The Children was an fascinating discussion into implications of technology and what happens when we humans begin developing things that we really have no control over, or really understanding of. I think that this would have been an endlessly fascinating thread to really examine. But, in the scope of that younger YA audience, the world building in that regard was minimal. Again, I hope they dive down this rabbit hole in the future.

I think pieces of Otherworld are unique and fun, but really, it’s fairly standard video game “levels” presented within a virtual world. It raises important questions but doesn’t really explore them in any meaningful way, at least not yet. But it is a fun read, and goes by fast.

The Philosopher’s Flight – Review

“It’s never mattered that I can’t do it. What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.”

The Philosopher’s Flight is an interesting mix of historical science fantasy, where in our past, we discover the use of empirical philosophy, the merging of magic and science. This particular branch of study is female dominated, and so we get an interesting exploration of gender.

Robert Weekes wants to study empirical philosophy. His mother is a famous war veteran and county practitioner, so he has been an avid student his entire life. In fact, he can actually fly, a feat not many men can achieve. But in this female dominated science, he has little hope of actually being able to achieve his dreams.

But a twist of fate lands him at a scholarship at Radcliffe College. One of four men allowed to study at the school, and he realizes how difficult achieving a station in the legendary Rescue & Evacuation Service will be. Through hard work, the support of his roommate Unger, and a bit of luck, Robert earns the respect of his female peers and professors.

“That must be what made you so brave — a lot of women beating courage into you.”

I finished this book a few days ago and am still working through how I felt about it. I wanted to like it. Hell, I wanted to love it. But I find myself feeling rather indifferent about it.

The idea behind the story is incredibly creative. The smoke carving, the idea of writing sigils to communicate and fly, among other feats is a fun concept. Rewriting history and using real events to examine how these changes would impact the turn of events is also a  fun idea and interesting exploration.

I liked the idea that women were the ones who were the experienced practitioners of this practice. Yet even with this power, or maybe because of it, they are a focus of vile hate and the target of political enemies. The level of hate and prejudice raised against them because of this ability seemed to highlight the struggles women actually went through in those time periods. How different would history be if women had a power men didn’t really have, and were afraid of? How similar?

“The causes were bound together from the first days: civil rights, women’s rights, and philosophical rights.”

However, it was hard for me to really relate or identify with the characters themselves. Unger felt the most well developed to me and he is only a side character. Some of the reactions and dialogue felt very satirical to me. Their reactions varied wildly and didn’t feel real. Like when Robert discovers he’s been miswriting an important sigil his entire life, his response didn’t come across as dramatic as I think it was supposed to.

Rachel is another example of a character that just felt very two dimensional to me. She was his biggest threat and his main opponent really, outside of the Trenchers. But she felt very childish and wooden. She felt more like an idea of a bully and blowhard rather than a real threat to Robert. I just didn’t really feel an emotional connection to any of them. Except Unger. He was the only one who showed heart and genuine depth.

All of that would have been fine, but the way the book started compared to how it ended was a problem of pacing for me. We begin with Robert looking back on his life, so we know this is a memoir of sorts. But the entire duration of the book is him at school. One year. I understand we are being set up for a series, but it felt like maybe this could have been introduced better at the onset. Getting 400 pages of school was a bit tedious in parts, and I found myself bored. I was expecting a more complete story, not the focus of a single year.

I also hated the ending. It was so abstractly abrupt I thought I was missing pages in the book. Especially with how detailed we got in the school portion, it felt like the author just needed to end and picked a chapter to stop writing. It didn’t feel planned. It didn’t feel, other than the hint at the beginning that there was a bigger story, that there would even be more to the story. There is nothing that really makes me close the pages and say, wow, what next. It was a bit frustrating, because when you tell me you’re an exile in Mexico, I really want to know what happened. Not a 400 page memoir of one year.

Overall the book was creative enough that I liked it. And while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either. I think for someone who enjoys historical fantasy, this is creative and fun book. I was left with questions of what happened when it ended, but no desire for the next book, if that makes sense. It just didn’t hit all the marks with me, and I don’t think I would rush to read the next one. Especially if they are going to be as slow paced as this one was.

Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for approving a copy to read and review!

Iron Gold – Review

** There will be spoilers for the Red Rising series in this review, but none for Iron Gold **

“Men call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy.”

Iron Gold is the behemoth of a book Red Rising fanatics have been waiting all these long months for. It is epic in scope, yet precise in execution. Ending at 596 pages, we get a brilliant introduction to life after the rebellion and all the messiness that comes with forming a new government while still waging war.

When I went to Howler Fest to launch this release, Brown said writing Iron Gold was like coming home. And you feel that in his words. There is a familiar feeling of catching up with old friends while reading, and yet it also launches us into new terrain with three new POV characters.

This feeling of coming home combined with the new characters gives us something quite unique. And this new novel is exactly why I will forever be obsessed with Pierce Brown’s writing. He gives us what we need, but rarely what we want and never quite what we expect. This leads to reading that leaves you breathless and on the edge of your seat, because you can never be sure what twist awaits you on the next page. The only certainty is that there will be uncertainty.

“Our familiar friend, dread, creeps onto the balcony with us, because deep inside, in the shadowy chasms of ourselves, we know Lorn was right. For those who dine with war and empire, the bill always comes at the end.”

The addition of the new characters, especially as new points of view, adds a richness to Iron Gold that is necessary and couldn’t have been achieved as elegantly by simply showing us the perspective of Darrow. Darrow was the driving force in Red Rising, but his choices, and the choices of those that followed him have consequences that reach far beyond what they could have imagined. In this way we the reader, along with the heroes of Red Rising, see how disastrous good intentions can end up being.

One of the first new characters we meet is Lyria, a young Red girl, liberated from the mines where she finds herself living in a refugee camp on Mars. This POV was one of my favorites, only because this is the most direct results of the war the Sons of Ares and Darrow embarked down. Darrow wanted to free his people, and he did. But, is freedom worth the price they paid, and that some continue to pay? Lyria gives us this path to explore and digest.

We also meet Ephraim, a Grey, an ex-soldier and ex Son of Ares. He is now a thief, drawn into the dark underworld that has taken a larger grip of the world, now that Octavia’s grip vanished with her death. I love this story as well, because it shows a different side to a new Society. The side where crime and criminals can form, taking advantage of cracks in the new system not yet filled.

Finally, we get Lysander, the young Gold torn from his life and thrown into exile. Lysander is by far the most interesting of the threads simply because of who he is. Former heir to the throne, now living with Cassius, who is still trying to find redemption and forgiveness for all his actions leading up to Octavia’s death. Cassius needs him to be the man he never was, but can you ever really learn the lessons of someone else’s life?

These new threads open us up to the world in a way we’ve never seen before. The point of the rebellion was to free the LowColors, but is freedom ever that simple? Can choices made with the best of intentions be removed from dark or disastrous consequences? The questions posed in Iron Gold on the nature of humanity and power are complex. We don’t get an idealized society, but instead but a messier reality. And that’s what makes it so fantastic!

“He’s too starry-eyed to see there’s a vast gulf that separates his idea of the Republic and the corrupt reality of what it’s become.”

And of course, this saga wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t get the perspective of Darrow. Now a man, he sees that what he wanted for society isn’t as easily achieved as he believed when he was young. Dreams rarely are. He finds that old sins continue to haunt him in ways he never dreamed, and finds that he needs to make decisions that take him further away from his own ideals and beliefs. Or perhaps they show him who we was the entire time.

Darrow has always been an interesting character. Making choices and doing things that he feels are right, but end up bearing unexpected consequences, at best, and horrific ones, at worst. By showing how these choices and the subsequent consequences impact the very people he wanted to help, Iron Gold doesn’t allow us to disregard the unpleasant nature of a society in turmoil. Or to relish in the happier, easier pieces of society. We have to see the results. Feel them. Submerse ourselves in the dark underbelly of them. It makes for a richly complex tapestry that forces the reader to truly examine murky grey areas that reality frequently resides in.

“After seeing the fall of one empire, I know enough to see the cracks in the foundation of this one.”

That murky area in between good and evil is what I love most about the Red Rising series, and what I find completely delicious about Iron Gold. The heroes aren’t always good, nor do they always do good things, or the right things. Are they justified? Perhaps, in the right light. But that’s the reality of life. The villain is always the hero to their own story, after all, and Brown knows this truth. He weaves it into nearly every character and story line, which forces the reader to truly examine a character and decide who they are at their core.

We are not all good, nor are we all bad. We don’t exist in a vacuum and Brown doesn’t allow his characters to do that either. We can see why a villain has gone down the path they have, or why a hero could be someone else’s villain. Iron Gold takes those undertones from Red Rising and highlights them with these new characters. Brilliantly, Brown also uses the characters we know and love to showcase these ideas as well.

In all, Iron Gold takes us home. It takes us back to catch up with Darrow and Mustang, Sevro and Victra. We see how the children of the rebellion are growing to be the leaders of a new Society. We see how they’ve changed, or perhaps how they’ve stayed the same. And these characters allow us to see the new characters in a different light. They all work together to show a Society struggling.

“A new wound can take a body. Opening an old one can claim a soul.”

Iron Gold shows us the cracks. We see the fragility of building a Society based on freedom and equality. How an empire can be both good and evil at the same time. It is an interesting examination of contradictions, a delicious study of power. It is still violent and shocking, but everything in this book reads as a set up to a much larger plan. At the end of the book we see a thousand paths laid out before us. A thousand directions our characters can go.

If there’s one thing I can be sure of, it is that Brown won’t take the easy road. The name alone, Dark Age, hints at more tragedy than triumph, at least in the short term. We will not get the path free of pain, but we will get the more satisfying one. The one we need rather than the one we want. But please, Pierce, I beg you: Please don’t kill Sevro!

Amazing thank you to Del Rey, Penguin Random House and The8app for sending me a copy to read, review and promote!

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow – Review

“How quickly humans could turn on each other when fed suspicion. Like smoke tossed out as solid evidence, whispered into the frightened ears of those needing someone to blame in order to feel safe again.”

Sofi Snow is a gamer. Working as part of a team of gamers to help her Corporation fight for blood and glory in the FanFight Games, a sport combining virtual gaming with real life. In a world where the corporations took over in the place of governments world wide, playing in these games means a chance at freedom. A chance at life.

“The Fantasy Fighting Games had been the result of Earth’s unquenchable thirst for virtual fun, violent sports, and citizen-elected superstars.”

When a bomb explodes, killing her brother Shilo and nearly her entire gaming team, Sofi wakes up to a world she doesn’t recognize. A world where corporate espionage and power plays are working at things she doesn’t understand. But her life is at risk, and although all evidence shows her brother is dead, Sofi knows he’s alive.

Risking everything, she turns to a man she should hate to take her to the alien planet hovering just beyond our moon. Even though these aliens saved the planet, giving humanity life saving technology and working to establish diplomatic peace, Sofi can’t ignore feeling that her brother has been taken to their planet. Following her gut, she convinces Miguel help her get to the planet’s secretive surface.

“Miguel snorted and continued to study their faces as he sketched. A habit developed years ago by way of analyzing them. “You study them,” his father once told him, “if you want to work with them.”

Miguel enjoys high levels of freedom and privilege as an Ambassador to the Delonese. It isn’t just his reputation that he risks in helping Sofi. He’s also being blackmailed to help the ensure blame for the bombing lands on a certain Corporation.

Both Miguel and Sofi will need to decide who to trust and whether they can trust each other, regardless of their history together. The consequences of their decisions could be much higher than either of them realized.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow is YA intended for the teenage reader. While adults can read, enjoy and appreciate the story, I found that this is a book written for her target audience. So while it was a fun read, and went by really fast, it was difficult for me to get lost in.

I also did not know going in that this is published under the umbrella of Christian fiction. While I didn’t find any religious undertones, I did notice that things like swearing was weird. Instead of making up swearing like many futuristic dystopians tend to do, or eliminate it all together, Weber chose to use words like gad, dangit, and heck. This felt like another example of aiming towards a very young teenage audience, but it pulled me out of the story. It felt unnecessary, and the sentences they were used in could have easily been rewritten to not allude to swearing at all, and been stronger for it.

In contrast, characters would use dialogue like ‘WTF’ and talk about how promiscuous Sofi is, which felt odd to me as well. If we can’t even say damn, why are we talking about her sleeping around? It made the non-swearing feel disingenuous, and again, in my opinion, the story would have been better had it been left out entirely. I also didn’t really understand why the promiscuity was raised at all since it didn’t fit with Sofi’s character or seem to serve a plot purpose.

All that said, I do think that this would be a fantastic book if you have teenagers at home. There are a lot of great topics to discuss wrapped in the plot like global warming, the role of corporations in our government, the use of power both in corporations and government, the advancement of technology, the potential of virtual reality, privacy, and even being able to use the idea of aliens to bring up feeling left out, different, or how to view people/cultures who are different from us. This book brings up a lot of those topics and could be used as a fantastic launching point for future discussions.

Overall, this book is a fun idea, and has enough mystery written into the plot to keep me going. I do need to find out what the deal with these aliens is. But, I do wish I had known it was intended for a younger audience, I could have adjusted my reading expectations accordingly.

Ready Player One – Review

“Going outside is highly overrated.”

Virtual Reality has been the stuff of science fiction for a long time. Simulated worlds, offering everything that real life simply can’t. And as a society that is closer to achieving the immersion into these worlds than ever before, I think the idea of exploring these virtual worlds is more important than ever.


Not only do I find the idea behind virtual reality so fascinating, but honestly, I am slightly in love with anything that is fully dystopian ready. And virtual reality screams dystopia. An entire system that appears on the surface to be utopia, exploited or manipulated by one or the many to be turned into a nightmare. I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is why there isn’t MORE virtual reality dystopias in the world!

Ready Player One shows us a grim future. A world where resources have dwindled, forcing people to build gigantic towers of haphazard homes near cities for the hope of power, food and water. It’s a dismal world, where reality is unpleasant. The only thing most people look forward to, the only thing that makes life bearable, is the alternate world of the OASIS.

“For me, growing up as a human being on the plant Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.”

The OASIS is an entire virtual world, or worlds, where people work, go to school, vacation, and live their best lives. People don’t choose to spend time in reality. They choose to spend their time in the OASIS.

“You don’t live in the real world, Z. From what you’ve told me, I don’t think you ever have. You’re like me. You live inside this illusion.”

The world building alone in this virtual reality system is something I easily could have spent hours reading about. The level of detail and imagination that went into the systems, and these worlds was incredible. This is an example of writing that could have become bogged down with too much information, but Cline was smart in how he wove in the details of the world to be relevant to the plot. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by details, I was instead transported into a lush landscape that is mind-boggling in scope but sharp in focus.

Wade, our protagonist, is just trying to graduate his virtual high school and find his way in a world where jobs are scarce. His only plan is to find Halliday’s Easter egg, a hidden prize embedded deep within the OASIS world, coded by Halliday himself, and found only by solving a series of clues and puzzles. The person who finds this egg wins the entire fortune of Halliday, which means billions of dollars.

Here’s where the fun of this book begins. Rather than take us through a meandering bombardment of virtual worlds, Cline instead focuses the hunt in a specific way.

“The Hunt, as the contest came to be known, quickly wove its way into global culture. Like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike.”

The creator, Jim Halliday, grew up in the 80’s. A time when he met his best friend and co-creator, Ogden Morrow, and they started a little company that grew into one of the largest corporations in the world. When Halliday died, an email with a video and a link to his website were sent to every player in OASIS. The only clue was an obscure riddle and a link to an Almanac. The Almanac itself was over a thousand pages long and went into Halliday’s thoughts on movies, music, video games and all things pop culture 80’s.

Suddenly, a decade once looked down on for it’s decadence and abundance, one that would have been forgotten, is thrust into back into relevance and popularity. Personally, I thought this twist was pure genius.

The 80’s was not the end all be all for science fiction, or video games, or even technology. So I get why some people may not see the connection between the future we are reading about and that particular decade. But, the 80’s was known for its greed, for its excess. To show it as an obsession in a time that knows only poverty and thin resources was subtle but brilliant.

Beyond that, the main competitor and threat to Wade after he stumbles on the answer to the first clue isn’t other gunters, the name he and fellow egg hunters are known as, but IOI, a giant corporation willing to throw any and all resources at finding the egg and owning OASIS. They want to take something that is very inexpensive and available to the masses, and turn it into a money making machine where only the privileged few can really thrive. Which fits in with 80’s greed. We may see that behavior in corporations now, but that mentality was born in the 80’s.

The writing is full of wonderful dry sarcasm, and there’s a subtle mocking tone to the absurdity of living life in a virtual world woven throughout the plot.

“It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit or armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game.”

It also carries a really good analysis of what technology can do to a civilization. Or rather, the possibility of what can happen. The entire plot is carried primarily within a virtual world, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see the wasteland the unvirtual one has become.

“It had become a self-imposed prison for humanity,” he wrote. “A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.”

I find that good dystopian shows us both the good and the bad of the world it presents. It may carry a message, or even a warning, but the information is merely presented for us to digest and interpret. We are given characters to embody the arguments and it is then up to us to form our opinions. Ready Player One does this spectacularly.

Ready Player One is fun science fiction. It takes us into a future that on the surface seems to be going backwards, but has the technology to move it forward. While it will appeal to video gamers by its sheer plot subject alone, I think even non-gamers will delight in falling into the virtual world Cline has created. I also cannot wait to see what magic Spielberg gives us on the big screen.


Morning Star – Review

Here’s the deal Howlers! This is the third book in a trilogy, so this review will contain spoilers from the first two books. It can’t be helped so stop whining, you gorydamn Pixies. To be perfectly honest darling, if you haven’t read this series by now, you are never going to earn your scar at this rate!

“I rise into darkness, away from the garden they watered with the blood of my friends.”

In case anyone could forget the traumatizing cliffhanger that Golden Son left us with, Pierce Brown stabs us right in the gut with his opening sentence. Again. This guy loves making his readers cry. Repeatedly.

But it is such a sweet agony!

The opening of Morning Star tests our limitations for hopelessness. In fact, this book, out of the three tests the reader the most.

“I feel like a prisoner who has spent his whole life digging through the wall, only to break through and find he’s dug into another cell.”

This is the first book where Darrow cannot hold onto his own chains of secrecy. He has to learn to trust, really trust, in his friends. In the way he asked for before but never gave in return. This trust is difficult for him, but opens the door for some beautiful relationships to begin to develop with Darrow.

The beauty in this book is the emphasis on trust. Darrow isn’t a chosen one. Yes, he’s a symbol, but the fate of mankind is not fated on his shoulders. Even the rebellion isn’t fully dependent on him, though obviously, he plays a key role. I feel like this book really refocuses the whole point of what the Son of Ares stands for. Building a better Society for everyone, not the few.

While the previous two books can feel very cold and cruel, Morning Star is a book full of warmth. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of brutality, violence and cruelty written in the pages. This society didn’t undergo a complete change of heart overnight, after all. But, in contrast, you see the possibility of the rebellion solidify into the full potential of Eo’s dream.

“I always told Victra to let people in. I could never take my own advice because I knew one day I’d have to betray them, that the foundation of our friendship was a lie.”

But potential doesn’t always mean victory.

Darrow learns rather quickly that war is messy, and difficult to control. They have unleashed the tide of the lowColors into open rebellion, but they may not all share the vision of a peaceful society like he does. Many want to see Golds punished. But this isn’t the way to bridge society into a better tomorrow. This discord once again provides a tone of reality to this series that I really enjoy. It also ensures that nothing with Darrow, nor his plans, will ever go easily.

“Victories are less romantic when you’re cleaning your friends off the floor.”

Beyond the rebellion and the battle over the future of Society, this book is about relationships. We see them develop in such an intimate way. Not just with Darrow, but between everyone that is choosing the side he and the Son of Ares represents. It’s a fascinating conversation over fighting for an ideal versus fighting for what’s right. Do you watch horror and atrocity and wrap yourself in your ideals to excuse the violence? Or do you see beyond it to something more?

We also get to see the dynamics and power structures of other Colors beyond the Gold and Red. Finally we see how fully the Golds of Society have stayed in power. The full scope and horror of their manipulation is jaw-dropping. And also the sheer arrogance they have shrouded themselves in.

“And man was never meant to tame fire. That’s the beauty of it,” he says challengingly. “This moon is a hateful little horror. But through ingenuity, through will we made it ours.”

Everything in this book is played with higher stakes. This is an all out battle over a Society to remain the same, or one that will be forever changed. Adding the element of the deeper relationships, along with showing characters dealing with the trauma not just of war, but of torture and loss, adds to this escalation experience.

Every single battle is more intense, whether the scale is one to one in the snow of the Poles, or facing an enormous Armada in the depth of space. And, again, the intensity ratchets up even more because war is never clean. War is never easy. And people on both sides die. Brown isn’t afraid to show us the horror of loss, the reality that war isn’t selective and that death comes to us all.

“War is not monstrous for making corpses of men so much as it is for making machines of them. And woe to those who have no use in war except to feed the machines.”

And the ending. Oh, goryhell, talk about a writer ripping your heart out and holding it while it bleeds on the floor. I am rarely shocked at a book. And I rarely am so upset that I am tempted to close the book, slag that, throw the book and never look back. You think you’re ready for heartbreak. But you have no idea. And while I won’t ruin the reading for anyone, just keep reading. Remember, I said this book will test you.

While any death is difficult, rarely is it careless in this series. Heartbreak is sometimes inevitable. Brown never relents in doing what is true for the story, true to his characters, even if it means doing the hard thing.

“Everything is cracked, everything is stained except the fragile moments that hang crystalline in time and make life worth living.”

Pierce Brown gets the tragedy of what it means to be human. We are a fickle species. Capable of achieving the heights of greatness or falling to the depths of depravity. He shows us this spectrum without flinching, or romanticizing it. This series will take you down through how truly awful we can be, but will also show you how simultaneously wonderful we also are.

Yes, these books are about war. And societal strife. They are full of violence and cruelty and brutality. But they are also about friendships. Love. What it means to live for more. To live for others. It is a book on the grand spectacle of humanity. And one very much worth reading.


Today, my goodmen, today was GLORIOUS!!!!! In full nerd fashion, I embarked on a journey. A journey many months in the making, and surprisingly, not entirely about the event itself.



Let me back up. Of course, the event was the entire gorydamn point. I’ve been waiting for Iron Gold for what feels like an eternity. And honestly, I probably would have simply waited for the release like any other Introvert book nerd and watched all this amazingness from afar. Except, a good friend called me, and said, “Come with me?”


And I said YES!

So, a journey was planned. It involved matching shirts. I dyed my hair. I tried to get her to agree to matching tattoos. Spoiler: she said NO! However, she did agree to temporary tattoos as a compromise.


But let’s get to the juicy gossip.

The event was amazing. I know that adjective gets thrown around a lot. By me. But, it was. When you walked in, they had large prints of all the fan art from around the world, and in our packet was a voting ticket.

Here’s a few for your perusal……

Once you voted, you entered the theater itself.

We also received a packet at the door, with the voting ticket and shirt ticket (if you ordered ahead of time). Our badges were Color coded and assigned us to our Color. I got Obsidian. Apparently even in this fandom, the Fandom Gods want to make me the trained killer. Weird. At least I’m not the bloodydamn villain again.


Next to the shirt display, they had a small bookshop set up with BookSoup, featuring books Pierce himself loves. Of course I bought one or two, but you’ll have to go watch my Instagram stories in the next few days to see those goodies!

There was a bar, serving PitVipers for those daring Helldivers, and Haemanthus (mocktail) for the dreamers of the group.

Finally, there was an airbrush artist there to make sure we all had the appropriate sigils for our Color.


And then the real fun began! Pierce came on stage, accompanied by his close friend and actor, Eric Christian Olsen. The interview was incredible to listen to on SO MANY LEVELS!

As a fan, it is always so fun to listen to an author talk about the world from their perspective. Who they see themselves in, who they had fun writing, who they hate. It’s fascinating to hear them describe the world that you, as a reader, are so immersed in. To hear the creator of that world dive into some of the rationale behind characters, plot twists, and world building is always good nerd fun!

Beyond the discussion of the world, Pierce himself is so kind and generous with his fans. He made sure to really reflect on his answers, and took his time thinking them through. His answers to questions ranged from funny, to snarky, or vague to very detailed, depending on the question. You can tell he enjoys interacting with his fans as much as we enjoy intreating with him. So much so, that he is involved in the Facebook group, Hic Sunt Leones: A Red Rising Fan Group, knows who the admins of the group are, and called up the MOST AMAZING COSPLAY EVER!!!!!



As a writer, I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THIS! Not just the cosplay, although, talk about #writergoals! When he talked about his life as a writer, I was so grateful I went to this event. To hear that an author you look up to, for his incredible writing style and fantastic plotting, doesn’t outline, or take notes. That he also can face writer envy of writers he considers the greats. That he can be a harsh critic of himself or his writing.

I need to remember that novels don’t happen in a moment, they happen in a series of moments. They take time, and then they take a team of people to make them the wonderful pieces of magic we lose ourselves in. I simply have to be as true to myself and to my story as I can be. I tend to forget that.

He also talked about telling his editor that Golden Son had a moderately happy ending and getting a literal WTF text when he faced the horror of the ending that traumatized us all. Or how he had the most fun writing the Jackal, and holds an appreciation for villains. I am a big believer that villains could use a little more love!

If you doubt the sincerity of his appreciation of his fans and readers, just look at that dedication! FOR THE HOWLERS!!!!


Of course, the afternoon ended when we got called up (by Color) to take a photo with him. Again, he asked everyone’s name, shook their hand or hugged them, and truly made each person feel seen and heard. That is an incredible skill.


The part of the journey that wasn’t the event, was simply going. Meeting Trissina in person after talking for nearly a year was awesome, but also daunting! Hi, my name is Jena, and I’m an Internet Introvert. And, there’s something intimidating about meeting someone you’ve tried to aspire your own writing to. Not that I was worried about how he would be, more, it’s just scary to open myself up for judgement. I never said introverting logic made much sense.

Anyway, driving to LA and being away from all my puppies and my books was hard. Oh, and my husband, I miss him too. Meeting new people in an intense environment is also daunting for me. But, I am so glad I did it!

The journey is about meeting authors and listening to them talk. Taking in their advice, knowing that even the greats have bad first drafts, and realizing that the glory is in the attempt. Nothing is made from nothing, but something can be made from something.

Meeting Internet friends in real life is the business! It’s fantastic that there is an entire community of book people in this virtual world. But, to take those friendships and conversations and hug them, and talk to them? Words just don’t quite capture how incredible that feels.

In all, I’m glad that I didn’t have to go to Mordor or face the Eye of Sauron. Perhaps my journey wasn’t quite as epic as Frodo’s. But it was mine, and I feel like I’ve grown for it.

The book comes out in three days, January 16, but we got the book 3 days early for attending! Was it worth it? You’re gorydamn right it was, my goodmen!


Good night Howlers! Per Aspera Ad Astra!!!

Golden Son – Review

First, my goodmen, let me begin by saying: if you haven’t read Red Rising, please stop and go read the bloodydamn book! There will be spoilers for Red Rising in this review. It can’t be helped. Don’t be a Pixie and cry about it. Just read the gory book.

“Once upon a time, a man came from the sky and killed my wife.”

If you thought perhaps Pierce Brown was going to ease up on his writing in the second book, you must not have been paying attention. The first sentence packs the first punch that continues relentlessly throughout the entire novel. To read Golden Son is to enter into the chaos of war.

In Red Rising we learn through the Institute, who the Golds truly are, and why they rule. In Golden Son, Darrow must not simply know the lessons, he must execute them. He can no longer play at being a Gold, instead he must become one. Except that is a tough thing to do. How can he become the very thing he means to destroy?

The political intrigue and depiction of sociology in this society deepens in Golden Son. In the Institute, we were children with them. We understood the make up of society and the burden of ruling mostly through theory, through observation, through history. Slowly, those views were dismantled as tests were presented and overcome to highlight how heavy this burden truly is.

But, the weight of war, the weight of rule, the weight of controlling an entire society cannot be felt in practice. They cannot be held in theory. And even though the lessons were cold, and cruel, and often deadly, you cannot know war until you are in it. You cannot feel the weight of loss, of sacrifice, of the greater good, until you watch your friends die, and watch cities crumble.

“Sevro cannot watch. I go stand beside him. “I was wrong about war,” he says.”

The larger examination of war and power are both present and viciously strong in Golden Son. But what I find particularly interesting in this book, is the inner struggle of Darrow. I really like Darrow as a character because he is so fascinating. He isn’t a hero, not really. He had to be pushed, rather forcefully, into action, and even then, he struggles with how he can proceed. Beyond that though, I really like how he often falls for his facade. At times he falls in love with the idea of glory and grandeur. He has to remind himself who he truly is.

“I hate how my body shivers at the idea of glory. There’s something deep in man that hungers for this. But I think it weakness, not strength, to abandon decency for that strange darker spirit.”

He is aware of how alluring the trap is. He fights it, and it grounds him. I like that complexity. Often we get the trope of the chosen one, or the main character as the single driver of the rebellion or change. And while Darrow is in some ways the chosen one and the driver of change, he also isn’t. He is a tool in that change, and relies on others. And I really like that added dimension to him. You don’t necessarily root for him as you do his side.

Beyond the struggle Darrow faces within the man he wants to be versus the man he is, the dialogue of friendship, love and trust are woven into every page. Darrow holds himself back, a piece of himself from every relationship he has. He doesn’t have a choice. Or he believes he doesn’t. And it is this distance that sows seeds of mistrust all around him. I find it interesting that everyone around him picks up on this secret to some degree, and it holds him back from being the man and leader he wants to be. It erodes the trust and friendships and open the door for betrayal.

“Friendships take minutes to make, moments to break, years to repair.”

Once again, it is these side characters that make this story deeper and richer in its telling. Each new character introduced offers another look at Darrow and who he is. Who he chooses to let in, and who he holds at arms length. Their choices also reflect not just the Society that created and raised them, but at how they view themselves in both the eye of that Society and in Darrow as their friend and leader.

While betrayal and treachery run rampant, I find it interesting that these things occur because of Darrow himself. His secrets, his inability to face the man he is, Color aside, raise some instinct in those around him. He feels like a failure when faced with these betrayals, but doesn’t understand that it isn’t in his failure as a leader, but as a friend. He asks people to fight for a greater good, for a noble cause, but isn’t noble himself in that sense. And in the end, this single flaw may be his undoing.

“I would have died for you a thousand times more, because you were my friend.”

Every page in this book is filled with intensity. The pace the book is written matches the turmoil Darrow must feel. He is at war within himself and is sowing the seeds of war all around him. Life and death weigh heavily on his mind daily. For to fail isn’t just shame. It will be his death, and maybe the death of those around him.

Brown raised the stakes in Darrow’s world and continues to expose us to the cold, brutal terror of this world. We see just how far Golds are willing to hold onto power. How much power means to them. We see the struggle of rebellion and the perils of leadership.

If Red Rising was intense, expect to be left broken by the end of Golden Son. It is a book that leaves you bruised and bloody, with a cliffhanger that will make you cry in agony. Luckily, the last book in the trilogy is out, so go, my goodmen, go and finish this exquisite bloodydamn series!