I managed 8 books in June, which is quite a lot for me. Granted, some of them are short stories, or novellas, but at least I’m reading. One of these is a collection of short stories, otherwise there would have been a lot more read this month.
Armada – Ernest Cline
We get it, Ernest Cline. You’re nostalgic for the 80s.
That was the primary thought going through my head as I listened to Armada. This book is chock full of 80s references, much like Ready Player One. Unlike Ready Player One, all of these were annoying.
Set 20 minutes into the Future (in 2018), Zack Lightman is ranked #6 in the world for the game Armada, an online flying game. He finds out that the game has been training him, and everyone else who plays, to pilot drones so they can fend off an alien invasion. In the space of about 12 hours, he goes from high school nobody to saving the human race.
The book is full of 80s references, and they get old. Like, Zack’s father had a tape called “Raid The Arcade” which Zack likes to listen to. He references it no less than 427 times. I didn’t count, but you get the idea. That’s not the only reference, but it’s one of the more grating.
The plot didn’t make any sense. They recruit all these people in about 12 hours, and send them all over to secret bases where they will end up piloting flying drones and mechs to try and stave off a huge alien attack. They don’t sleep between getting recruited, and when they fight, so how many errors are they going to make? Also, why weren’t these folks recruited a few days before, so there was more time to settle them in and get them ready to go? Why must there be a half assed romantic subplot?
I wanted to like this, but it was mediocre at best. It’s a tighter novel than Ready Player One (which really needed stronger editing), but it’s not very good.
Afterworlds – Scott Westerfeld
I read this one for a Swap Bot swap, where a friend picked the book, and I read it. I didn’t finish it in time to do a full write up. I did eventually finish it, but it’s pretty boring.
The book is two books in one: Darcy’s story, and Lizzie’s. Darcy wrote 2000 words a day during November, and finished a book. She mailed it to an agent, who loved it, and sold a 2 book deal for $300,000. Her story is of her moving to New York, and then all that comes after. Lizzie’s story is Darcy’s book. Lizzie was in an airport when a terrorist attack went down, and she wills herself into the afterlife while playing dead. While there, she meets Yamaraj, a young man who can also travel in the Afterworld, but is still living.
Both books are boring, although Lizzie’s book is marginally more interesting. Neither main character seems to have much in the way of emotion. Darcy seems numbed to all her good luck, and Lizzie acts like everything is fine after nearly dying in a terrorist attack. Both characters fall in love quickly, without knowing anything about the person they fall in love with. It’s just… boring.
Maybe I’m getting too old for YA.
Joe Ledger: Special Ops – Jonathan Maberry
I missed Joe after Kill Switch, so I got this collection of short stories. I had thought about getting the ebook, but I had a few long days at work, so audiobook it was. Ray Porter does an excellent job narrating this series, and I think he’s the only reason I have stuck with them.
Anyway, collection of shorts. Some were great, some weren’t. It’s difficult to talk too much about them without spoilers for all the books, but I’ll try.
My favorite one was probably Material Witness, which is apparently a crossover with Maberry’s Pine Deep trilogy. Pine Deep is a suitably creepy town, and the twist involving the short is pretty good. Also, Joe, Top, and Bunny manage to essentially take out almost 30 guys and demolish a house, so that’s always fun.
I did notice some errors in the book though, which took away some of the fun. There were 3 of them, but 6 pairs of hands went into the SUV to get guns. Top goes to the garage, only a few sentences later he’s upstairs. Minor things, but stuff you notice when you’re listening.
Zero Tolerance was also a good one. It’s set after Patient Zero, and involves a character from Patient Zero. In later books it’s mentioned what happened to this character, but the short covers it in more detail.
Borrowed Power is the last, and also one I really liked. We get a slice of what Mr. Church was like when he was young, and then tie it into Joe and Violin. It’s after Assassin’s Code, where they deal with creatures not unlike vampires. I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially the way Joe and violin deal with the problem. For a change, smarts win out over the firefight.
Dog Days – Jonathan Maberry
This one is audiobook only, and I’d been meaning to listen to it for a while. It tells the story of Joe getting Ghost, his giant white shepherd, and their first mission together.
I liked that it’s not a full novel, but rather a novella that brings two things together: Joe getting Ghost, and Joe getting revenge on the man who killed a very important person in The Dragon Factory. It handled both well, without the need for extra scenes or padding.
Scandalous – R G Alexander
I’d read Curious by R G Alexander back in December (it was a freebie from Bookbub). At the time I didn’t continue the series because I couldn’t afford it, but since I’ve been back to work, I have a budget for ebooks again. So I worked my way through the rest of the books in the Finn Factor series.
This one picks up where Curious left off, but with a different couple: Tasha and Stephen. Tasha’s a family friend and Stephen is the brother of Owen from the first book. They’ve been seeing each other in secret for years, but Tasha assumes it’s not an actual relationship. Stephen asks her help in taking down a man who blackmails prominent political figures, and they pose as Senator and mistress.
This is my least favorite of the 5 Finn Factor books, and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a complicated book, introducing additional characters like Stephen’s cousin Brady and genius hacker/ropemaster Ken, but the plot itself is kind of dull. Also, Tasha and Stephen lose their rational minds for one moment of passion, and the result is a serious cliché. Seriously, I was ready to pitch the book across the room, but I didn’t want to hurt my tablet.
Dangerous – R G Alexander
Dangerous picks up after Tasha and Stephen’s book with the previously introduced characters of Brady, a Finn cousin, and Ken, a tech geek and ropemaster. Brady’s a former Marine who has a lot of nightmares related to his time in the military, and Ken’s never has much in the way of family, so they’re each messed up in their own way.
Brady teams up with Ken to find Ken’s foster brother and stays at Ken’s place while they work. Both men are openly gay, and attracted to each other, which results in a lot of tension, and eventually a lot of sex. In between those bits, they try to get Brady into position with Stephen’s former aide, so he can get taken to the private club where Ken’s foster brother is being held.
I enjoyed the relationship between Brady and Ken, and Brady’s coming to terms with his own problems. The plot involving the foster brother and the powerful men in a private club was a little murky. It was dropped often enough to make way for the relationship, so it felt kind of clunky.
Ravenous – R G Alexander
This was probably my favorite of the Finn factor books I read this month. I think it had the most plot development for the characters, but also for the family as a whole, which I’ve come to really like.
Jennifer Finn is not only the only girl in the family, but she’s also the baby. In previous books she dumped her shitbag fiance, got involved in a kink club, was arrested for assault, and so in this book, she’s trying to get her life together, and be the nice girl her family wants her to be. So, she is back in college, finishing her master’s degree in social work, when she meets a hot professor, who also happens to be an ex lover of the guy who’s been her bodyguard while she’s been at school.
Thankfully, the politics and intrigue of the previous books don’t really encroach on this book, and it’s about relationships, and not just Jennifer, the bodyguard, and the professor. That’s what I liked about this one the best: the relationships and their past problems and mistakes are addressed. You find out why there’s a rift between Jennifer’s parents, and her uncle Solomon, and it’s a doozy. I enjoyed reading all of it.
Finn Again – R G Alexander
This seems to be the last book currently out, and while it’s a Christmas story, it’s kind of cute. Jeremy and Owen from the first book are getting married, and the entire family is involved.
Even though it was cute, it was my second least favorite of the series. I don’t care for Christmas stories, and I don’t care about weddings. Hell, it planned my wedding in a month, so I don’t get the whole groomzilla attitude Owen had over the wedding. I will admit, their version of a wedding cake was great though.