Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: Stars Above

Stars Above Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been taking looks at various printings, etc. of the stories in this collection for a while - like, in paperback releases of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, as well as on Marissa Meyer's Wattpad page. However, to finally get these stories and more in print, all together...well, it's about time!

Most of these stories are some very useful looks into the lives of characters who aren't our four heroines, or Levana. Others flesh out further details about the heroines' pasts, especially Cinder's. I especially liked the very first story in the collection, where we get to see Michelle Benoit through the ages. And finally, the long-awaited wedding story rounds this book out and serves as a very lovely epilogue to the series.

Now, at last, I officially bid The Lunar Chronicles a nice ave atque vale.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: Blood and Water

Blood and Water Blood and Water by Briana Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Post-apocalypse + disgusting disease + trust NO ONE + all the feels = this book.

Seriously. Thank God this book was available on Wattpad, but the real question is, why isn't it on sale in major bookstores everywhere? I know this book is bound to kill everyone who reads it. Like this:



And then, we're left all like this:



There needs to be a sequel, too. But I'm not sure if I can handle it...

Oh, and one more thing. The main character's name being Jay Harris reminds me of two characters (named, by coincidence, Jay and Harris) in one of my own stories - characters who are practically brothers in all but blood. So it was a little hard for me to read this book and not picture one or both of my characters in place of this Jay. Which only made things worse for me as a reader and feeler of feels...

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Review: Malus Domestica

Malus Domestica Malus Domestica by S.A. Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Easily comparable to the work of Stephen King, this sizable chunk of urban-fantasy goodness boasts some downright horrifying literary set pieces. However, the best by far comes in the prologue. I remember once hearing on the radio about a little thing Netflix did to calculate how long it takes to get hooked on most shows (like, two episodes for Breaking Bad, three for The 100, that sort of thing.) With this book, if it were to be made into a TV series, it would probably be one just for the prologue alone.

I hope that whenever the second book comes along, it's also made available on Wattpad, because I'd love to continue these creepy paranormal tales.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: Stormdancer

Stormdancer Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like Amie Kaufman's These Broken Stars, this book from one of the co-authors of Illuminae doesn't quite live up to that lofty standard for me, but this book has no problem delivering a most unique adventure. I don't think I've seen Japanese culture and steampunk dystopian blended quite so smoothly, except maybe in Howl's Moving Castle, which, while murder on the feels at times, is a walk in the park compared to the high stakes and action Kristoff offers up here. It's just too bad that it's so relatively short, because it makes it only too easy to tear through this book in less than a day.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspired by the awesomeness that was Illuminae, and also by the glowing recommendation from Brett Michael Orr, I decided to get my hands on this other book of Amie Kaufman's the first chance I got. While These Broken Stars doesn't quite hold a candle to Illuminae, it's still a pretty damn good read.

The premise starts out as basically Titanic in space, with an old-fashioned, class-distinction-laden atmosphere on the starship Icarus. Then, after the crash-landing on a strange planet, our heroes, Tarver and Lilac, wind up experiencing what's better described as Lost in space. No, not Lost in Space, but the old TV series Lost - in space. Gotta make that distinction.

It's one of those books that depends heavily on character development. This means that, at first, I found Lilac to be pretty annoying because of how woefully unsuited for survival she was. But then, as her and Tarver's long ordeal wears on, they grow closer to each other despite themselves, opening up about their pasts and such...and generating some genuine feels along the way.

Luckily, I already have Book 2 in my to-read pile.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: Front Lines

Front Lines Front Lines by Michael Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been waiting for this new Michael Grant series for a good long time - maybe since the Gone series ended, it feels like. Now that this hybrid of Agent Carter and Pearl Harbor is here, and I've read it, I can safely say that Grant's very much still got it.

For some reason, Goodreads seems to think this book is sci-fi, when it's not - because alternate history doesn't equal sci-fi, let's face it. And what an alternate history this is, where women are allowed to join the army as far back as WWII. It's unique, and uniquely interesting, and there is so much material here to fill over 500 pages.

On the one hand, the book's length, as well as its slow-moving (and that's mostly for its focus on character development and basic training) first half, made me wonder a few times, how is this going to be a series? But the ending does make it pretty clear that there will be more of these soldier girls and their harrowing war stories. The notes at the end of the book call to mind the conversation in The Winter Soldier where Nick Fury points out to Captain America that the so-called Greatest Generation did some terrible things while at war. Call me dark, call me cynical, call me Genre Savvy. But I have the nasty feeling, knowing Grant's gift for psychologically scarring his characters (and, by extension, his readers), that the sequels to Front Lines will dig deeper into that aspect of the war.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: Morning Star

Morning Star Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bloodydamn goryhell.

Red Rising mashed up all the games: Ender's Game, The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones.

Golden Son went for more all-out Thrones.

And finally, the trilogy reaches its conclusion in Morning Star, best described as the unholy and freakishly, outrageously awesome love child of Star Wars and Thor. No, seriously. The Roman inspiration for the first two books takes a backseat throughout much of this one to make room for some seriously gnarly futuristic Norse mythology. Blood and guts and metal fly thick throughout the pages of this book, all 500-plus pages.

In a year when Fury Road is up for Best Picture (which it HAS to win, because it's far and away the best of all the Oscar nominees this year), this book is a sign that the high-action revival isn't just limited to film.

I'm so glad to hear that Pierce Brown isn't done with this universe yet - he's already announced a new sequel trilogy. However, as for Darrow's story, we're finally full circle with it, and thus I can bow to Brown's awesomeness as I wish this series ave atque vale, and...

Per aspera ad astra.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Review: The Absolution

The Absolution The Absolution by Jonathan Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And so endeth the Carnivia Trilogy...but you know what?



Seriously, how can we be done with this Gothic hacker's world already? And after such a stylish and high-intensity thriller too. While not as harrowing as its predecessor, it deals with the threat of a terrorist attack in Venice, with a combination of hacking and bombing being planned as part of a greater anti-American campaign. And as for the ultimate reveal of the plot - it's not only very cleverly foreshadowed early on in this book, but it's so very much out of Clive Cussler's playbook that you have to gape in shock at the audacity of this book's terrorists.

I don't think this should be the end of the series. I still think there's much to learn about Daniele Barbo in particular, although the urgent and extensive repairs being done to his manor serve as a great metaphor for him having to step back from his life and maybe just....move on.

That being said, though...ave atque vale, Carnivia.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why I Write: Freedom Of Love

"We know that we're young
And no shit, we're confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?"
-Arcade Fire, "We Exist"

"What's your problem with religion?"
..."It's not religion itself, it's what people use it for - against other people."
-J.L. Pawley, Generation Icarus: First Flight

When piecing together the histories and personalities of my Red Rain characters Alex and Gabe, it's pretty much an open secret that they're other, better versions of me - and especially other, better versions of Teen Me. Sure, I can look back on some moments of my teenage years fondly, but looking back on myself as a person, perhaps not. I still have trouble looking on myself in a positive light in the present day, and I'd like to think the major reason is this: 

I don't feel free to love.

Why, you might ask? Well, let's get personal here (about myself, I mean.)

Flash back a couple of years to early 2014, when I took my first creative writing class and began finally, in earnest, writing my first complete story, the very earliest drafts of Red Rain. When I thought up Alex and Gabe, almost right from the get-go I knew these twins would be opposites in a lot of key ways. For example, Alex would be dark-haired (and, in more recent drafts not yet available for public consumption, dark-skinned to better reflect his and Gabe's part-Mediterranean blood), and Gabe would be blond. Alex would be introspective and moody, while Gabe would be funny and extroverted. And, perhaps most importantly of all (because I've built so much of the story around it that to change it, as I'm sure my parents would insist I do if they were to become beta readers of mine, would require massive overhauls that I just can't take on), Alex is straight and Gabe is gay.

These, everyone who's read Red Rain knows. Now I'll tell you some of the secret history behind these particular characterization decisions.

Alex and Gabe's opposite orientations were born out of more than just me wanting to emulate the examples of Cassandra Clare, Rick Riordan, Zac Brewer, Andrew Smith, and Michael Grant (and, more recently, Adam Silvera), among others, by including quality LGBTQ representation in my writing. Another, more personal reason was my own adolescent confusion about my sexuality. For about four or five years, starting around...junior year of high school, I think? I was the Q in LGBTQ. For a wide variety of reasons, I was constantly questioning my sexuality. I'd like to think I have a better idea of where I am on the spectrum by now, but back then, I angsted way too much about it. The culmination of said angst came, incidentally, while I was still writing the first draft of Red Rain. In an attempt to finally settle the issue once and for all, I tried coming out as bi, because that was where I saw myself at the time. My parents, of course, were having none of that, not only because of their being Catholic, but also because, in their reasoning, how could I possibly be so sure of such a thing when I'd had zero romantic and/or sexual experience?

Yeah, I know, that's a very stupid thing to say. After all, nobody asks straight people if they've slept with someone of the opposite sex to confirm their sexuality, right? But, unbelievably, it had an actual impact on me, prompting me to do a little soul-searching over the next little while and eventually figuring that any same-sex attraction I had was little more than curiosity, and not the desire to form a committed relationship. I could truly only see myself getting together long-term with a woman. So, as far as the question of what my sexuality is, I consider myself straight, though not exclusively so. That did not, however, stop my experiences from informing a few future story details which I later wrote into Blue Monday, most notably Kyle's explanation of what it was like to come out as bi to his parents:


"Funny thing is, they were like, if I were completely not into girls, they wouldn't like it, but they'd accept it anyway 'cause I was their son and all. But they couldn't wrap their minds around the idea of me going both ways...Hell, I think they were scared of the idea. To think their own son could freely decide which gender he'd sleep with."


Sometimes, parents just don't understand. And what my own parents don't understand is that we humans really need to have the chance to figure out their love lives for themselves, especially when we're teenagers and (like me) young adults.

This is something I've struggled with for a long time - how to get into a loving relationship while retaining parental approval. For the most part, however, I have the feeling this is going to be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible. And this is where religion plays a major role - because while my parents still take their religion pretty seriously (not as much as most, thank God), I no longer do. At this point, I don't go to church willingly anymore - my parents, literally, force me to come with them, even when I've told them countless times that I don't belong there anymore. I go through the motions, and my heart isn't in it anymore. I don't feel that I'm a good Catholic - maybe I never really was. And the main reason why I don't count myself as a religious person anymore is because I've come to associate religion with repression, and especially sexual repression - not only for the LGBTQ community, but for humanity in general. I'm no atheist, however. I still believe in God. But I don't believe that some of the rules people insist on following in His name are really what He intended for our species. Waiting till marriage? I don't think that should be a requirement to get into Heaven. But my parents believe differently, and would probably think so much less of me if I were to take any future relationship of mine sexual. (Never mind that my dad's long since given me "The Talk," I still believe he would judge me just as much as my mom would.) Though it's far from the only factor in my lack of any committed relationships to date, it's one of the most prominent ones. I just don't want to get together with a woman who seems so right for me, only for my neurotic Catholic guilt to rear its ugly head and prevent us from getting intimate if that's the course nature feels is the best one to take.

What this all boils down to is that the gay rights movement focuses on the right to love whomever you love. This, I believe, is a fundamental right for all human beings. This is why I not only write LGBTQ characters, but also write characters who don't feel pressure from their peers and/or their families to not explore their sexuality. This is the wish-fulfillment aspect of my writing (well, that and the fact that everyone in my writing speaks fluent pop-culture references.)

Please, don't take this blog post as a condemnation of all religion. For many of my fellow humans, it's such an essential part of their lives. But it's just not for me. My parents are convinced that it's just a phase because I'm young, and that I might find myself seeking God again when I'm older. But me? I think I've already found God through my writing, and He's not exactly the same one in which I was brought up to believe. He's just...better. More accepting. And perhaps, as God Mode Castiel says on Supernatural...

One little scene, so much impact.

Till next time, Pinecones...

#FeedTheRightWolf
Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: See How They Run

See How They Run See How They Run by Ally Carter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Welcome back to Malta...sorry, Adria, where mysteries lurk behind every corner, royal history imbues every nook and cranny, and the old Iranian embassy still serves as a perfect hiding place for diplomats' teenage offspring. Along the way, our friend Grace gets herself involved in an all-female secret society of what basically amounts to Adrian Eastern Star, travels through an ancient pyramid like she's Indiana Jones or something, and of course becomes embroiled in another unexpected murder mystery.

As with its predecessor, all this leads up to a shocking, and do I mean SHOCKING, cliffhanger ending. Sure, it's a trope that some might think crops up annoyingly often in YA, but I'm reasonably sure this particular brand of revelation hasn't appeared in a book of this genre, nor has it waited till the end of Book 2 to make itself known.

I wonder, is Book 3 going to be the end of the series? Either way, I'll still be waiting for it pretty eagerly. :)

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Review: Blur

Blur Blur by Steven James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently learned that Steven James has gone and dipped his toe into the pool of YA fiction, so naturally, I had to check out Blur. I'm happy to report that he does this age group justice as he crafts another high-suspense mystery thriller, this time with a slight paranormal twist. I say "slight" only because it's very easy to forget that the book is paranormal to begin with. Usually, that's not a good thing (I say this as a hopeful future-bestselling writer of a Mundane Fantastic YA mystery that makes no effort to hide its paranormal side), but here, I think it is, because it just makes the book feel more grounded and real - not that it wasn't any of those things already. I'd say it compares pretty well to Andrew Klavan's Homelanders series or Mike Mullin's Ashfall in this respect, not so much in terms of genre, but more because of James' use of a protagonist with an excellent balance of intelligence and athleticism.

It's a shame that, like with so many of James' books, I wound up having to special-order this one from San Jose. The suburban library where I live needs to pick up more of his books ASAP.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Review: The Six

The Six The Six by Mark Alpert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recommended quite nicely by the likes of R.L. Stine and Michael Grant, this here book is a cool look into AI and robotics and the sort of thing that, whenever it appears in the movies, tends to get crapped on (think Transcendence or Chappie). Our titular Six may have damaged human bodies, but as robots, they can be something more...and something more is exactly what we might need when an AI inevitably goes rogue and starts doing the whole "Skynet just became self-aware" thing.

Sure, there's a lot of stuff we've seen before, but also a lot of stuff we haven't. And, even better, it's an all-ages kind of adventure - a little like the recent Goosebumps movie, or Guillermo Del Toro's collaboration with Daniel Kraus on Trollhunters, but sci-fi as opposed to horror. YA-age protagonists in a book that could also be easily marketed as MG. That sort of thing. It works just as well here too, especially for anyone who is now, or has ever been, a geek. Just the thought of Adam using Darth Vader-shaped speakers to blast Kanye West at maximum volume (and on the subject of Kanye, I'm now pretty mad because his "Ultralight Beam" is almost identical in name to an "ultralight bomb" featured in my own writing, which means I'll likely have to change the name to avoid copyright infringement or something. Or else I'll just make a joke out of it - like, "Yeah, we named it before Kanye's song came along, I swear." So that part, based on timing alone, made me laugh a little more than it should have.)

I have the sneaking suspicion that there'll be a sequel to this book, and if so, I'll be eagerly awaiting it for a while.

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Review: The Abduction

The Abduction The Abduction by Jonathan Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At this point, I think it's safe to say that the supernatural side of the Gothic, which I hoped this series would explore, is being left by the wayside. However, what this series lacks in the typical genre trappings, it makes up for with its intense psychological scares as it challenges the "official" US definitions of terror, and with a guinea pig who's perfect for this experiment in the eyes of those who have devised it. It doesn't help, of course, that the whole thing is being broadcast live over the most popular Dark Web site on Earth - Carnivia. You'd think that Daniele Barbo would immediately put a stop to this, especially given his own dark history. But notwithstanding the fact that there might be no story if Daniele were to intervene, he's such an odd duck when it comes to working the authorities anyway. Can you say, "complicated?"

I just wish Holt could have done more with the Vatican conspiracy in this book. It felt like it didn't even belong in this story at all, and I actually found myself forgetting all about it most of the time. And besides, I thought the first book was all about the whole Vatican thing anyway.

All in all, though, a good middle part to the Carnivia Trilogy.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Deadpool: Rebel, Romantic, Rule-Breaker

***WARNING: NSFW LANGUAGE, BUT THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. IT'S DEADPOOL, AFTER ALL.***

Wait...why am I looking so sad? Dammit, Ricky, find a happier GIF!

Oh, sorry, DP. I'm just trying to color-code our lines and use Google Images here. You know, most of these GIFs aren't even real GIFs? They don't even move, for Pete's sake!

WHAAAT?

Oh. I see what you mean. GODDAMMIT INTERNET!

Okay. Let's try to get to business here...

WHEEEEEEE!!!!

Um. Dude. What?

Fuck yeah, finally! An actual GIF, of a line I didn't even get to say in the movie!

Shit, language!

I could do this all fucking day.
And I think I will!

Really now?

So juvenile.

Lemme ask you something, Ricks - why Loki? I thought you hated his guts!

Only when Sierra Daniels isn't writing him. And since when does anyone call me-

Besides, you're not as adorable as Hiddleston. You're Garfield-level adorable. Still respectable, but not a perfect ten, more like an eight-point-five. Isn't that why he's all over all your online profiles? Hashtag #ManCrush, and it's not even Monday!

Dude, I'm trying to review your movie here, so-

Oh look at me, Ricky, I'm dancing with your idol!

He's not enjoying it too much at the end, is he?

Well, the classic Deadpool charm is a little too much to handle for first-timers. Especially when said first-timer's a virgin. I promise, I'll be gentle with him. And you can have him too, after I'm done checking out that-

*sticks fingers in ears* LalalalalalalalaIdon'twannaknow!

I haven't even said the best part yet - we were dancing to some of the finest Canadian music ever made: "Roll The Bones!"

Surprised it wasn't "We Exist."

That's good too, but Garfy only needed to do that once and then never again. It was in his contract.

You realize this isn't really you, right? And that other guy isn't really Spider-Man, nor is he Andrew Garfield?

A guy can dream, can't he?

I'm gonna review this movie now, so I'll have to pull out my secret weapon-

*rubs hands together* Ooh, getting dirty, are we? Just so we're clear, Ricky - my safe word is "pork and beans."

I'm not gonna Tyrell your Baratheon, if that's what you're implying.

Thanks for not invoking Fifty Shades there, buddy. What a piece of shit - Vanessa and I saw it once, then burned the DVD. Literally. And it wasn't even ours to burn either - it was a fucking library copy. You want libraries to stay open, right? Well, not if they keep stockpiling trash like that-

That's it. Secret. Weapon. Now.

Nice to meet you, Wade.

:O
WHAT IN THE ASS? Origins: Wolverine footage? WHY THE FUCK DID YOU GO THERE?
*stalks off into corner and crosses his arms, looking pissed beyond pissed*

Peace?

Hmph. I told you, you're not that adorable. Stop Hiddleston-ing. Your cheekbones and jawline aren't defined enough.

A fact of which I'm painfully aware, thank you very much.

There. Now...peace.

*sigh*
If I just say your movie was an absolutely amazing A+, will you please stop hijacking my blog post?

You really mean it?

Duh. With all the Vanessa/Wade (Wadessa?) sweetness, and all the big bada-boom action-

Oh fuck yes. Between this and the Maze Runner movies, Fox sure knows how to make stunning blockbuster visuals on mid-eight-digit budgets, amirite or amirite?

-and the-

BT-dubs, I think "Vade" makes a better ship name. Just F-why-I.

-and the laughs. Oh dear God, the laughs. I shall spoil NONE of them.

That's a good boy. A+? Oh my God, really? You're not just throwing that around lightly?

I can barely throw anything around, lightly or otherwise.

Good point. *fist-pumps* Oh my God, I could kiss you right now!

Oh really?

*lifts mask* Bring it on, turkey lips.

*shrugs* Fine. But not on my lips, mmmkay? I'm still waiting to have my first, and-

Oh, I get it. You want it to be special and all that. *fake-coughs* Virgin! *normal voice* But 'cause it's Hearts Day-

You mean Singles Appreciation Day?

Jesus, you really are some kind of special snowflake millennial, aren't you?

Just give me that kiss already. You're so clearly itching to.

What makes you say that?

My point exactly. Okay, let's get this over with.

Gladly, my good sir.

Hee hee. I know you're not really wearing the costume,
but you're wearing Pete's civilian threads as we speak, so...

And here I thought there would never be Spideypool in my search history.

There's a first time for everything. *hums "Smooth Operator" as it plays on Ricky's iPod*

Okay, Pinecones, if you're of age (and I'll define that as 16 or more, 17 if you're especially immature and your parents held you back all your life), then WTF are you waiting for? Watch Deadpool already, and prepare for amazeballsness in every frame.

Till next time...

#FeedTheRightWolf
Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

Is he gone? Okay, good. I just wanted to leave my own signature. No, no, don't start running for your mommies and daddies, it's totally NOT NSFW. I promise.

Like Ricky, this kid's really goin' places.

Review: The Tournament

The Tournament The Tournament by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matthew Reilly does Something Completely Different in this book - it's lighter on his signature full-tilt high-octane action, and heavier on historical drama. It's also heavier on court intrigues in 16th-century Europe, particularly in its lush Constantinople setting. And, most unusually of all, it's heavier on sex. In fact, Reilly puts a disclaimer at the start of the book, warning that the book contains mature content - all of which is either viewed through the eyes of a teenage Elizabeth I as the narrator (for some reason, I pictured Maisie Williams in her role the whole time) or through the accounts of her friend Elsie, who doesn't speak in dialogue so much as she speaks in erotic prose.

The best part of the book, however, is the way Bessie and her teacher, Roger Ascham, get caught up in a string of increasingly bizarre, and often downright disturbing, murders, to the point where the titular tournament actually ends up becoming an afterthought from time to time. They use what can only be described as vintage forensic techniques to investigate - and, naturally, they get accused of sorcery at one point.

This was a nice little diversion from Reilly's usual fare, but all the same, I'm still dying for another Shane Schofield or Jack West Jr. book.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: Passenger

Passenger Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe because I read this one right on the heels of finishing the wild and crazy Illuminae, I found this book really slow and plodding in comparison. Makes sense, given that this book is lighter on the action, not only compared to Illuminae but also to Bracken's previous Darkest Minds dystopian trilogy. This one's more about creating complicated sci-fi rules and building a nice little romance - which is Bracken's best yet, that's for sure. Unfortunately, along the way, she ends up stuck in most of the same pitfalls that The Darkest Minds and Never Fade suffered from - primarily, issues with pacing. Even taking into account the decreased action, this book gets really slow and, dare I say, dead from time to time.

However, the wartime settings of most of the first half of the book - the American Revolution, and London during the Blitz - help make up for the slow pacing. The best part of the book, however, is its final 150 pages or so, set in 16th-century Damascus. This is where the story really picks up steam, and captures a bit of the intensity and urgency we know Bracken's capable of delivering. Naturally, there's a nasty little ending, but the story isn't over just yet. (No spoilers on the nature of the cliffhanger, though.)

So, while this might not be my favorite 2016 book, it's still good enough to warrant the long, hard slog through the staticky dead air spots that plague its first three-fifths or so. And hopefully next year, Bracken will deliver an improved sequel.

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One Year Of Blogging, Etc.

Hard to believe it's been a whole year since I started my blog. You might remember that day better, though, because of the news that started it all - the news that motivated me to become a blogger. I'm talking, of course, of the announcement that Spider-Man was joining the MCU without Andrew Garfield. I hoped to get a trend going, hoped to spread the hashtag #Garfield4Spidey to support the un-cancellation of The Amazing Spider-Man 3. I failed, but I still keep that hashtag on pretty much all my profiles because as much as I've come to eagerly await Tom Holland's performance as Spidey, all my Pinecones know Garfield is still my favorite.

Try and resist that face. Go on. I dare you.

In the year I've been blogging, I've continued writing my ongoing series of Spider-Man fanfics, and attracted a number of readers who, like me, share this belief and happily have gone along with the ongoing spiraling plot threads of the Deadpool Syndrome trilogy, in particular, which deal with our heroes' new goal of preventing the recasting of Peter Parker and all his friends and enemies. Wattpad user Sierra Daniels (@yourmybeautifulsoul) is just such an example.

And there are others whom I've connected with online who believe in the power of Andrew Garfield. One such example - More Happy Than Not writer Adam Silvera, one of many authors I've discovered in the past year whom I would love to see, one day, write short but sweet words of praise to appear on the back cover of a hardcover printing of Red Rain. Also on that list are tons upon tons of other writers, some of whom I've also had the chance to interact with on a semi-regular basis on Twitter. I'm looking at you, Zac Brewer and Taran Matharu and Zoraida Córdova!

I probably wouldn't have joined Twitter, however, without the delightfully pernicious influence of the amazing people at Wattpad's Corner Booth. I distinctly remember them talking about the importance of social media one day, and next thing I knew, I was signing myself up for a Twitter account @WriterRickyPine. This, of course, is just one of many effects of their amazing videos. For a taste of what they're like for the uninitiated, I have here in my hand their very first video, all 59 minutes of it:




And after joining Twitter, I found myself taking part in all sorts of writerly activities that I hadn't been able to find on Wattpad. Like, for instance, #1LineWed, and #PitMad and #WhyIWriteYA. And, from there, I was able to connect with more writers than ever. Not only the aforementioned published authors and the best Wattpad has to offer, but other indie writers and/or writers seeking representation like me. (On another note, I still have yet to get an agent, but I've sent a few more queries lately, so...fingers crossed.) In this category, we have the likes of Brett Michael Orr, whose Bureau of Time is the very first e-book I checked out at the library, and very much deserves that honor. Through Brett, I also found some more cool bloggers, among them Brianna da Silva, with whom Brett and I recently had a nice long chat about the Red Queen series and how to improve it. I also have a great friend in @SpeedyElite, who one day will share shelf space with me - and wouldn't it be something if we could sign books together? :D Let's not forget Briana Mae Morgan, a Wattpadder and published writer whose Blood and Water, I'm currently reading, slowly but surely. Speaking of cool Wattpadders, might I mention @SkiesAfterRain and her amazing sense of comedy and tragedy both? And then we have @YaezaTheCasualReader, also on Wattpad, and also on his Daily Life of a Teenage Aspie blog, which needs more viewers like most humans need water. (Seriously, if you are now or have ever been a teenager, pay his blog a visit.) Last but not least, Dakoda Bigelow. His book Lykaon isn't officially published in the real world, but my characters know and love his work already.

Bottom line - this last orbit around the sun has changed my life. Because I've got a healthy streak of paranoia, I take steps to keep my online presence hidden from my parents (which is why I use an alias on the interwebs), so I'm sure they'll be plenty surprised when I finally get published and they learn that I've been slowly but surely spreading word about Red Rain and other projects born in my brain across social media. I'm sure, like Jay's mom in the latest chapter of The Normals, they'll want me to talk them through the process of building their own Twitters just so they can follow me and keep a creepy-ass electronic eye on me (and probably be all weirded out by my uncontrollable fanboying as I relentlessly live-tweet my viewings of The Flash, Supergirl, Teen Wolf, iZombie, etc.)

But until that day comes, I'll keep on building my Pinecone Army, one new online friend at a time. Maybe in another year I'll still be seeking an agent, or maybe decide to go into self-publishing like some of my fellow writers (B.R. Myers and Jess Pawley come to mind.) Or, God willing, I'll finally have an agent, and my dreams of seeing Red Rain on store shelves and with a film adaptation being made in Hollywood (or Vancouver, the landscape of which is, I think, a closer match to Coldfire Creek) will be that much closer to coming true.

And as I stay up till midnight so I can put up this link-heavy post (please do follow the links, they lead to cool places!) on the actual day of my "blogoversary" (sorry-not-sorry, but I had to use that term, don't shoot me!), I just have a couple more things to say, Pinecones.

#FeedTheRightWolf
Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: Illuminae

Illuminae Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MY OFFICIAL ILLUMINAE PLAYLIST:

"No chance for fate, it's unnatural selection
I want the truth!"
-Muse

"Here we go, vertigo
Video vertigo, test for echo
Touch and go, in slow mo
Video vertigo, test for echo..."
-Rush

"Higher, don't let 'em know we're coming
Higher, tiptoe higher..."
-Imagine Dragons

"I don't wanna feel sorry for you
You don't have to make believe it's you..."
-The Cars, "You're All I've Got Tonight"

"Falling down can feel strange
No one remembers your name
You're losing the game
That's the thing about trust..."
-Neon Trees

"Last night, I had a dream about you
In this dream, I'm dancing right beside you..."
-Daft Punk, Digital Love

"How could something so fair be so cruel
When this black sun revolved around you..."
-Death Cab For Cutie

"Shake it like a ladder to the sun
Makes me feel like a madman on the run
Find me never, never far gone
So get your leather, leather, leather on..."
-Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Zero"

"The world is spinning fast tonight
You can hurt yourself trying to hold on..."
-U2, "Volcano"

"One of these days
Letters are gonna fall from the sky
Telling us all to go free
But until that day I'll find a way
To let everybody know
That you're coming back
You're coming back for me..."
-Civil Twilight, "Letters From The Sky"

"And I still love the way you hurt me
It's irresistible..."
-Fall Out Boy

"Zooropa, better by design
Zooropa, fly the friendly skies
Through appliance of science
We've got that ring of confidence..."
-U2

"We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone..."
-The Who, "Won't Get Fooled Again"

"Hello, how are you?
It's so typical of me to talk about myself
I'm sorry..."
-Adele

"How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl
Year after year..."
-Pink Floyd

"Who knows how long I've been awake now?
The shadows on my wall don't sleep
They keep calling me
Beckoning, beckoning..."
-Imagine Dragons, "Nothing Left To Say"

"So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters..."
-Metallica

"Well, the lampshade's on fire when the lights go out
This is what I really call a party now
Well, fear makes us really, really run around
This one's done so where to now?"
-Modest Mouse

"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
This ain't no fooling around
This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB
I ain't got time for that now..."
-Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"

"I was caught in the crossfire of a silent scream
Where one man's nightmare is another man's dream
Pull the covers up high and pray for the morning light
Cause you're living alone in the heat of the night..."
-Bryan Adams

Bonus Track: Daft Punk, "Contact"

REVIEW:

Well, that was a long, long playlist, but this is a long, long book, and it deserves an awesomely eclectic kick-ass soundtrack to match.

I'll definitely have to check out the solo efforts Kaufman and Kristoff have put out in the past, just based on this book. But I'm sure they'll be nothing like what I've just finished reading, because this book is without a doubt the most unconventional and unique I've ever read and enjoyed this much. It's wild, and every bit as high-octane as the dust-jacket blurb suggests (for once it doesn't lie!)

And as for our main characters...I love Kady and Ezra so much. They're both so dangerous, and so human. Sure, they seem like a bit of a cliché sometimes - especially in terms of size and appearance, because she's a petite waif with pink hair (can you say, Manic Pixie Dream Girl?) and he's tall and studly and athletic - but personality-wise? They're beyond adorable. Kady's got some serious hacking skills and is quite the survivor. And Ezra is complicated in a very good way. For Kady, he's a hopeless romantic, sending her such sweet ASCII artwork. And with people like McNulty...well, some of those exchanges ("sweet...sweet...lurrrrrve," for instance, and "a pair of slightly sweatysomethings tickling your prettyboy chin") had me ROFLing like there was no tomorrow. Of course, there has to be some level of tragedy to balance out the comedy, and this book delivers on that front too in remarkable - and remarkably bloody - fashion, especially ramping up to an ending that would be the envy of old Ridley Scott (I know I can't be the only one who was reminded of the original Alien.)

And as for the story...like I said, it feels a tad bit clichéd at times, except for when it's not. And there are some seriously, seriously original plot threads to go around. At first, you think, "oh yeah, the AI's evil, he's gonna kill everyone." Or, "Wait, where else did they invent a weaponized fear virus?" (Although I have to admit, the nature of the Phobos virus, I did not see it coming.) And then when those plot threads are put into action, and things start going against the tropes...



If you haven't yet read Illuminae, please, stop doing yourself such a disservice. Read it, and join me as we fans eagerly await next fall's sequel, Gemina - because we need to continue following Kady and Ezra's story ASAP.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: The Scions of Shannara

The Scions of Shannara The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just based on the original trilogy, plus this book, it feels like it just wouldn't be a Shannara book if Allanon and an Ohmsford or two weren't majorly involved in the action. This long-distant start to a new series is no exception.

On the one hand, it's a little more-of-the-same with the hunt for the artifact that started it all, the Sword of Shannara, all over again. But like The Force Awakens, this is a situation of everything being the same, except not. Sure, there's monsters and action and adventure, but the stakes are pretty different. This time, the threat to the world isn't so much from demonic miscreations, but from the ruling Federation. All of this leads up to the most devastating Shannara ending since Elfstones, and that's saying something.

Next up, I'll be detouring back to before the beginning, with First King of Shannara.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: UnBound

UnBound UnBound by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And I thought this little Dystology was over and done with - but nope. Shusterman's got a few more surprises in store for us as he (and a team of co-writers) explore, in greater detail, the horrors of the Unwind world. In addition to showing some downright nasty stuff involving the deadly Burmese Dah Zey parts pirates, we also learn some of the backstories of characters like Risa (whose unwind order, we discover, was not an accident), and Roland (now we know the secret origins of his signature shark tattoo.)

It's a nice little supplement to the Unwind world in this book, and if you haven't picked it up, you should. (Although, given that I stumbled on it by accident, I'm thinking either I'm missing the advertising, or there just isn't enough of it.)

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: The Pharaoh's Secret

The Pharaoh's Secret The Pharaoh's Secret by Clive Cussler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of Cussler's best books in quite a long time, for many reasons. Chief among them, for me at least, is the inclusion of Malta as a primary setting for what might be the first time ever in a Cussler book. And then there's the downright nasty threat from a freaky, freaky ancient Egyptian weapon that's designed to put its victims into seemingly incurable comas...don't ask. Those ancient Egyptians meddled in things that really ought not to be meddled in.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: Every Crooked Path

Every Crooked Path Every Crooked Path by Steven James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The original Bowers Files series may have ended with Checkmate, but now, Mr. James is giving us a new series of prequels set between Opening Moves and The Pawn. And what a way to start this promised "new chapter" - with SVU-level suspense and disturbing storytelling. It's supposed to be in the past, and yet much of the technology involved appears to still be in use today, giving this new Bowers book an oddly timeless feel. And on a lighter note, it's really nice to see Bowers start bonding with Tessa and her mom.

I know there'll be more in this new prequel series just from that stinger of an ending, though. Bring it on.

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