Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Warcross (Warcross, #1)

Warcross was a highly anticipated read for me, with it's near- future setting and virtual reality vibe. I'm also a newcomer to Marie Lu's work so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. This one definitely lived up to the hype. YA science fiction can be hit or miss for me but I'm happy to report that this one turned out great. And I'm ready to read on- I wasn't sure initially if this was a standalone or the beginning of a series, but judging from the ending I think we're going to see more. I sure hope so. 

Emika Chen is a hacker and bounty hunter. She plays a game called Warcross, which is a state of the art virtual reality game that has taken the world by storm, but she not only plays the game, she has hacked it as well. She's broke and is about to lose her apartment when she hacks into the game during the championship opening ceremonies, and by doing so comes to the attention of Hideo Tanaka, the creator of the game. Fearing that she'll be arrested or sued, she's surprised when he offers her a job and flies her to Tokyo.  

There's a reason he wants her services though, and as events play out she realizes there may be more at stake than simply a game. Emika ends up playing in the championships, alongside elite players, and even as she explores the dark undercurrent of virtual reality she also engages in thrilling, high- stakes games in some awesome virtual reality worlds. It's a heady mix of real world and fantasy, with just a smidgen of romance thrown in. The romance itself might have been unnecessary, but it does add a little zing to the proceedings. 

This was fun. I was a little underwhelmed at first as I didn't really buy a teenage hacker/ bounty hunter actually hauling in criminals, as well as navigating the Warcross version of the dark web, but other than that I liked everything here. Emika worked for me other than the initial skepticism, and Hideo mostly worked too as her patron and perhaps more? Emika found him cold and aloof at times, until they got to know each other, but I actually didn't see that. The other thing I really liked was the supporting characters- there are a fair amount of them introduced once Emika gets to Tokyo, but I never felt overwhelmed or like I couldn't keep the people straight. 

Standouts for me were Hammie, the team thief (every player has a role) and Kenn, a confidante of Hideo's, and there are even a few surprises towards the end. I love the idea of enemies coming together to face a common threat, and we get some of that here as well. All in all I think the team dynamics and the actual matches- set in alternate worlds- were some of my favorite parts of this one. Add to that a compelling question about technology and the effects it has on our freedoms, and you have a story that gets better and better as it goes. I had a great time with this, and other than a few reminders that the protagonist is young for what she gets into, I would wholeheartedly recommend this for anyone interested. 

12 Monkeys S3 Episodes 4-6

Image result for 12 monkeys season 3 syfy

Cole is doubting the mission and suspecting a trap. He and Ramse have been sent back to 2007 to kill the Witness- the information provided by Olivia says that is the best time- but we know that Ramse (and Olivia) are not telling Cole everything. And sure enough it doesn't take Ramse long to ditch Cole and proceed on his own little mission- to kill Cassie. He's not after the Witness- he's after the woman who will give birth to the Witness. The woman Cole just happens to be in love with.  

Oh, and there will be some spoilers in this post. 

So Ramse is out of control. Still broken up over the death of his son, and determined to kill the Wtiness, he's pretty ruthless here- even killing a woman in cold blood when he thinks she's Cassie. But he's kind of an idiot- just because she has similar hair to Cassie (and frankly I didn't think it looked like her) he shoots her from behind and then is mortified when he realizes he got the wrong person. Ramse has always been problematic for me but that pretty much cuts it. He's clearly lost it and I was actually happy later in the show when Cole puts him down.

Meanwhile Jennifer is on to Olivia and confronts her in her cell- these two playing off each other was fabulous. Olivia scares the crap out of Jennifer (and she scares me too) but Jen lays down the law. She knows the truth is just out of her reach- she's having visions and can almost see the big picture, but not quite. Then it hits her. Olivia had a map- a time map I guess you'd call it, a detailed schematic of the different timelines and pivotal events. It's largely how the 12 Monkeys have stayed ahead of Cole at every turn.

Deacon gets Cassie out of Titan in the meanwhile, after waiting for his opportunity to press Mallick. Why is Mallick helping? But it's a year later when they get out (and 2 years for the facility). When they get back to the facility they find it destroyed! But...Cassie discovers a cache of time serum hidden away by Cole, and she knows Cole left it by the butterfly symbol he left behind. So they make it back, and it's a fist- pumping moment when Cassie comes in on the time machine.

"I'm home."

Episode 5 - Causality 

Welcome to the 80's! Cole and Cassie are back together but they decide, over Cassie's initial objection, not to tell Jones that the Witness is their son. And Cole is conflicted, blaming himself for the Witness turning out the way he did- Cassie wants to save him, but Cole feels like he has to kill him.  And now that Jernnifer has gleaned that the map exists, they have to find it- so they can take the initiative. Where is the best place to get the map? Why, the 80's of course. Because of course. The map is hidden in a painting smuggled out of Germany after the war, and they know that Olivia finally gets it at an auction in 1989.

This show is such a mindfuck- when they arrive at the auction house they discover that the painting never went up for auction- Olivia bought it behind the scenes. But by expressing interest in it, Jennifer inadvertently causes it to go to auction. Did they just change time? And when Olivia in '89 is notified that the picture is now going up for auction, the Olivia of 2046 suddenly gets a nosebleed, and it almost looks like there is some connection between these two versions of herself. Is she somehow communicating through the decades?

The usual hijinks ensue (like any good drama, if anything can go wrong, it will) and this one really goes off the rails when Jennifer impersonates her rich mother and later encounters her four year old self at the auction. And when Olivia shows up at the auction it really gets crazy. Jennifer manages to make a copy of the map but in doing so sees that Cole and Cassie are the parents of the Witness. Later when they report to Jones she keeps their secret, to their immense relief. 

Episode 6 - Nature

This episode feels like we're really gearing up for the endgame now. They have a lead, thanks to the map- 1953 is when it appears the 12 Monkeys begin recruiting their forces. So the group goes there and guess who shows up? Agent Gale! Nice to see him back. Christopher Lloyd also appears as The Missionary, a man who recruits from the ranks of the grieving- people who are looking for something that the 12 Monkeys can give them. He is also apparently the father of the Pallid Man. Cole and Cassie manage to infiltrate the gathering, and come face to face with the Witness. And they see firsthand just how twisted the 12 Monkeys are- once they have selected a Chosen One for their ranks, they gas the remaining attendants and Cole and Cassie escape just barely.

During an extended sequence when Cassie is impersonating a grieving widow and trying to convince the Missionary, she goes on about how she was happiest in that short period of time when her and her husband were together. It's clear she's talking about Cole, and as he is listening you can see how it affected him. A powerful moment. And how ironic that the Missionary is talking to the mother of The Witness, and has no clue!

Cassie is also feeling guilty because Gale is helping them, and she wants to tell him when he dies- in 1961.  Things get a little spooky when the Witness is saying things that Jennifer can hear in the future-

607, return to Titan, serpent eating its tail, break the cycle, ring the bell

What does it all mean? This is 12 Monkeys- who knows? But we do learn that the Witness and Jennifer are both Primary. 

Random Thoughts

Episode 4 had me a little frustrated- after all we've seen this before, where Cole and Ramse go on a mission together but Ramse is keeping things back. This time is hopefully the last time- and sure enough Cole has no choice but to shoot Ramse to stop him. At this point I hope Ramse is gone as I feel like he's told his story? But I'm not holding my breath.  

One of the best moments was when Cole and Ramse are raiding a drugrunning operation being run out of a bakery, and they're exchanging bakery- related jokes during the firefight. "Well that plan's gone a-rye" quips Ramse at one point. 

What is Project Charon? Deacon comes upon Jones and Dr. Adler doing something- Jones calls it "insurance"- and since it's a need to know project, Deacon doesn't need to know. I'm sure this is going to come up again. 

Deacon isn't anywhere on the map- is he a wild card? 

Jennifer goes back to get the young version of her tortoise- so now she has two versions. 

Jennifer has a vision again and this time, among other things, she sees a body in some kind of tank. We've seen this kind of thing before- what are the 12 Monkeys doing there? Are they growing people somehow? 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR


 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new Top Ten list will be posted. Everyone is welcome to join. Link back to The Broke and the Bookish so everyone can check out other bloggers' lists. It's a fun way to get to know fellow bloggers.

This week is Top Ten Books On Our Fall TBR. This prompt came at a good time as I'm sorta disorganized on what I'm reading in the last part of the year, so this gave me a chance to sort of take stock.   

Ringer (Replica, #2)

I liked Replica a lot.  

Barbary Station (Shieldrunner Pirates, #1)

I have hopes for this. 

Warcross (Warcross, #1)

Probably already read this by now.

There's Someone Inside Your House

Yes please.

Everything But The Truth

What are they doing in the boat?

Into the Drowning Deep

Speaking of boats... don't fall out! Killer mermaids!

Anything You Do Say

This isn't due til 2018, so I'm cheating. 


More cheat. 

One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning

I'll try it.

Fragments of the Lost

Megan Miranda seems to publish a lot of books. Like the sound of this. 

Tuesday Tagline #57

Dark Matter

Are you happy in your life?   

Monday, September 18, 2017

On The Run XII

Recap: Eric and Anna are part of a team charged with surveying and evaluating the world gates that are scattered throughout known space. However, not everyone agrees with their mission, and after a disastrous encounter on Tantalus IV, the two find themselves on the run. After being separated for a time, they are now back together- but have just been captured by a strike team sent to take them down. Unfortunately the strike team has had some rather bad luck- something is picking them off, one by one- and Eric and Andreas have called a truce. For now. 

You can find the previous installment here. And all the previous chapters can be found here

Fear coursed through Anna as she watched Eric stumble. He knew something was happening too, she could tell by the way he looked at her sharply and shook his head when she started to say something. Things were on a knife's edge and they couldn't afford to show weakness- Andreas still had one more person than they did. And she was pretty sure Eric's struggles wouldn't long escape Gillian's notice, who was bringing up the rear behind them. But Gillian also had the knock-out juice, and she would rather use it than have to kill Eric. If it came to that. She risked a glance back but Gillian was watching behind them as they advanced, so maybe she hadn't noticed yet.

They came to a halt as Andreas held up a fist. Riggs was on point so he kept his eyes on the way forward as Andreas turned back to Eric.
"What's wrong with him?" he demanded in a whisper as Eric leaned against the wall.
"Nothing, he's..."
"I'm fine. Seriously. All this has taken a toll, haven't slept in..."
"Bullshit," Andreas cut in. "Come here." He took Eric's face in his hands and looked him over closely. "Are you sure you're not going zombie on me?"
Eric sighed. "As sure as I can be. There is something though. I don't know what it is- like a brain flutter almost, don't know how else to describe it. It's not vertigo, but... kind of?" He shook his head. "I don't know."
Anna bit her lip. He was describing the same thing she'd been feeling.
"Same here," she said. Dammit. Andreas looked at her sharply, then looked back down the corridor. She could see him running through his options in his mind. He turned back.
"Should we abort? I can't have my team going freak out in the middle of action."
"No," Eric said quickly. "If this is part of it, we have to know. Let's hurry."
"We don't even know what we're after," Anna muttered, but she agreed. They had to know. Then Gillian was putting something into her hand. A syringe. She also passed one to Eric.
"If it goes bad, shoot this," she said.
He nodded, pocketed it. She could see he wasn't doing well, was getting more concerned by the minute. Andreas leaned in to her as they resumed.
"If you see him going bad, jab him, alright? I'd rather have him out of it than have to shoot him."
She nodded, then asked "What about me?"
"Oh you I'll just shoot," he replied.

She didn't know how long it was before they found the room. Andreas and Eric had conferred in heated whispers as they came to this or that junction. The place was a maze, and Anna wasn't sure she could find her way out, but she knew Andreas was tracking their progress on his datapad. Eric seemed to know what he was looking for, but he was clearly getting worse, and the group was on edge. When they entered the room the first thing they noticed was the body. The room was roughly octagonal, with those weird arched entryways the Precursors favored, and there were two columns of plinths with colored glass running the length of the chamber.

As they approached the body Riggs and Gillian kept an eye on the multiple exits, while Andreas flipped the body over with his boot. He was clearly dead, and even though the light in here was weird they could see his eyes. They were black. Andreas swore and stepped away, looking around, and Eric sighed and leaned against the wall. "That's how Russell's eyes were," Andreas told him tightly. Eric just nodded. Anna could feel the fluttering again, stronger this time. She was about to say something when they noticed for the first time that the glass enclosure atop the plinth was shattered, there were pieces of glass all over. The technician had cuts on his face and hands.

"Look around. Stay frosty," Andreas commanded and his troopers spread out. She took a closer look at some of the enclosures and could see that each one contained... something. Some were humanoid forms, some were indescribable- masses of tissue?- and one even looked like it contained a brain, floating in greenish fluid. She shuddered and remembered what Eric had said about the Precursors "collecting" things. How long had these things been here? And like everything else these tanks seemed to still be running. There was a soft hum and the light in here was greenish and purple, rather than the usual blue.

It hit her so fast she cried out. The fluttering was gone, replaced by something else. It was almost like someone had shoved her down, but it was in her mind. Her head hurt, and it felt like she was being violated somehow. There was something in her mind with her, something that didn't belong, and it nauseated her. And she realized, with a moment of horror, that it had been there for a while. It was no longer hiding.

Through tears of pain she could see Andreas next to Eric, shouting something, and Riggs was at the entrance, waving frantically at them. Why can't I hear? Everything was woozy and she felt hands on her, pulling her along, but in her mind she was somewhere else, looking down on events. It felt surreal, like she was out of herself, and then she felt a sharp prick in her arm and something warm spread through her. Was she bleeding? There was another woman next to her, pulling her, and she felt like she should know her name, but maybe it would come to her later.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sunday Post #212

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer    
Well the reading slump seems to have subsided- I'm back in the swing of things. It's about time too- I went through a week or so where I hardly read. Maybe the release of Warcross loosened the logjam, since I wanted to read it so much. It's starting to feel more like fall around here, with cooler temps at night. I've been opening the windows and letting the night sounds in, the cats seem to be enjoying it. 

On the Run continues, this week will be Part XII.  

For those of you saying ewww to the Dany & Jon love scene on Game of Thrones- I found this fun article about the first time (possible) incest appeared in fandom. Well maybe not first, but remember Luke and Leia? There were some kisses and shipping going on before it was revealed (gasp) that they were siblings! And since I'm shameless I'm going to point out that I did a post on this a while back. 

Last week I reviewed One Dark Throne (this story is getting good) and I jumped into Warcross as soon as I finished The Breakdown. My review of Warcross should be up soon.   

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns, #2)Warcross (Warcross, #1)

Song of the week


Robert Maguire


Wild Bird


A little fire dancing!  

Game of Thrones music

This is an awesome cosplay from Supanova, the Australian convention. I like how supportive she is of the teens and others just getting into their cosplay. 


Untitled by Javmango

Into the forest - you have to see the large version to fully appreciate this one. It puts me in mind of those pulp SF adventures where there's a world of trees and entire cities can be found in the branches...

design demo

Here's a quick animated version inspired by the pic above. Like the waterfall. 

Mountain Peak 

china xianxia

Ao zeya style architectural design