Review: Zer0es

Image result for zeroes by chuck wendig

Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

 

Image result for 3.5 stars

Zer0es, by Chuck Wendig, is a redemption tale for five hackers. Black hat hackers blackmailed into turning good come together to help the government – or so they thought. Soon they find themselves in a life or death situation to stop the computer program Typhon from infiltrating all aspects of modern civilization and essentially taking over the world. Zer0es is a fast-paced thrill ride that will leave you questioning whether our growing dependence on AI is truly worth the risk. 


 

Zer0es is the first Chuck Wendig book I’ve read (besides books on writing), and I am surprised I have not read more by him. I enjoyed this book, but I especially enjoyed the beginning – which focused more on the actual hacking – as opposed to the end. The second half of the book turned into an odd terminator-like action novel with the hacking details a thing of the past. The beginning of the novel gave me nightmares more so than any horror book ever could. The ease at which it seemed these people could hack into someone’s account or steal their identity or ruin their life seemed extremely realistic and, admittedly, I went and changed some of my passwords.

Books are made by their characters, and each character depicted in this novel had their own interesting background and separate hacking story. This made the novel very enjoyable as the characters spent more and more time with each other, letting their personalities out. Most of the characters continued to grow on me as I learned more about them (Alina (sp), for one, is a badass), except Reagan, who I found to just be annoying and found myself wanting to fast forward any time she would speak. I listened to this book on Audible and the narration was phenomenal. NAME’s narration added a fun element to the story that enhanced the listening experience. I would definitely recommend listening to this one.

The sequel, Invasive, was released in 2016, and I am adding it to my to-be read list for future reading. Zer0es foreshadowed some of the action that is to come, and I am excited to see what happens.

Currently Reading: Thunderhead  by Neal Shusterman

 

 

 

 

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2019 Audiobook Challenge

2019 Audiobook Challenge

I have seen this challenge going around and checked out Caffeinated Reviewer for the details. I always listen to an audiobook before bed, on the way to work, on walks etc., so this 2019 challenge seems right up my alley! Plus, with the discovery of the 1.5x reading rate option on Audible, I plan to put down some books this year.

Here are the details:

Challenge Details

  • Runs January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019. You can join at any time.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2019 than you did in 2018.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.
  • Updates plus a giveaway will be posted twice during the year. The first update will be June 30, 2019, and the last update will take place on December 15, 2019.

Achievement Levels

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multitasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+

Setting a goal for at least somewhere between Socially Awkward and Binge Listener. You can sign-up for the challenge by clicking here. I’d love to hear some other people’s goals and have a little competition. Competition always helps to drive me.

Happy Listening!

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Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Image result for 2.5 stars

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green tells the story of April May after she makes an incredible discovery and turns into a celebrity overnight. Late in the evening one night, April comes across a strange robot statue-like thing in the middle of New York City. Eliciting the help of her friend Andy, April films herself with the statue (which she has named Carl), and they upload the video to YouTube. Quickly, April reaches new levels of fame as she discovers more and more about the strange Carls which turn out to be not of this Earth. The story follows April as she copes with the ups and downs of celebrity, social media, and relationships all while trying to discover the meaning behind the Carls. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a New York Times Bestseller written by Hank Green, the brother of John Green. Green has a long history of YouTube success, and An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is his debut novel. A follow up novel is believed to be planned, but there is not a lot of information out publicly yet.


My first book of 2019 turned out to be a dud. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing has received a lot of praise since its release on September 25th of last year, but I found the book to be somewhat boring. It might have been because the name Carl for the randomly appearing space robots was somewhat off-putting, and I’m not sure why everyone would refer to invading alien robots by that name, including the president of the United States, or it may have been the fact that I did not find April May all that interesting. I am not in the habit of detailing every single thing I did not like about a book. Many people enjoyed this book, but it was not for me. I am a big science fiction fan, but the sci-fi was often subtle and backgrounded for a large portion of the book. There is nothing wrong with that, the main theme seemed to focus on April and her friends coping with her ever growing celebrity and the challenges fame brings, but that is not as interesting to me. A sequel is planned as the ending left on a giant cliffhanger, and there are a lot of questions left to be answered. The end of the book did not feel satisfying to me even despite the purposeful nature of ending on a cliffhanger. I guess in the end I did not really understand the purpose of the novel, the Carls, or the dream. I may have missed it, and will have to do a reread before the next one comes out as I am sure much of that will be answered in the coming book.

Currently Reading: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Next up for me Fire & Blood by George RR Martin. I cannot wait to get back to Westeros and learn a little more about the Targaryens.

 

 

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The Best Books I read in 2018

I set a goal to read 40 books over the course of 2018. I made it to 39 and was halfway through number 40 when the New Year came around, so I think that is a pretty solid year of reading. I’ve sifted through and pondered each story I read and picked 5 (with a couple of honorable mentions) that I really enjoyed. Without further ado, my favorite books that I read in 2018:

Honorable Mention:
Neverwhere (1996) by Neil Gaiman

Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) by Jesmyn Ward

5. Old Man’s War (2005) by John Scalzi

Old Man's War by [Scalzi, John]

I am a huge science fiction fan, but for some reason I had not read much Scalzi before this (last?) year. I took care of that by reading nine Scalzi novels this year. The Old Man’s War series was probably my favorite (I read 4 of the 6 full length novels so far), but I really enjoyed Lock In and Head On, as well as The Collapsing Empire books. Ironically, my least favorite was probably Redshirts which won the Hugo award in 2013. Old Man’s War follows John Perry who, like many 75 year olds, joins the army, known as the Colonial Defense Force. He is sent into space, given a new and enhanced body, and sent off to kill aliens. This story opens up a world of planets, species, and adventures that are fun, creative, and interesting. Scalzi creates a brand new and complex universe that feels plausible, and that is one of my favorite aspects of science fiction. You want to know more about the characters, especially the aliens, and that keeps you reading.

4. The Wise Man’s Fear (2011) by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 2) by [Rothfuss, Patrick]

Ok, admittedly, one of the reasons this isn’t higher on my list is that I was angry when I finished it, because I know the third book wasn’t out yet and I want to get back to this world ASAP. The flashback nature and foreshadowing of Kvothe’s story is what intrigues me the most. He is a worn down, lowly innkeeper as he tells his story, but his story is a build up of his greatness. At some point everything will have to come crashing down, and I’m intrigued to see how it will happen. Rothfuss has also stated that the three books in the story are more like a prequel, so it will be exciting to see how the third book transitions into the current time period where Kvothe is telling the story and struggling.

3. Children of Blood and Bone (2018) by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha Book 1) by [Adeyemi, Tomi]

One of my goals in 2018 was to read more books by diverse authors. I didn’t feel like I accomplished this as well as I could have, but I am adding it to my reading goals for 2019. Children of Blood and Bone was an extremely fun story. A story based in African mythology, I loved Adeyemi’s world that she built. The next book in the series Children of Virtue and Vengeance is due out in March, and it will be exciting to see how the story continues. The dynamic between the main character Zélie and the prince chasing her, Inan, was extremely compelling. Zélie, similarly to other characters in the books I enjoyed this year, is another strong yet flawed protagonist. For many of these characters, they put themselves in perilous situations due to their flaws, but they grow and change and become the person they are destined to be. This book had one of my favorite covers of the year as well.

2. Scythe (2016) by Neal Shusterman

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe Book 1) by [Shusterman, Neal]

A young adult novel centered around the legal murder of people. How’s that for an intro? In Neal Shusterman’s future world, humans have conquered death. It is Giver-esque in the way that people don’t feel pain, no one is starving, or thirsty. But that’s because Scythe’s are there to help curb the population. Scythe follows the story of Rowan and Citra, who are chosen to be apprentices to a Scythe. They must learn the art of killing, yet master the why of it as well. Scythe is an emotional rollercoaster that has you questioning right and wrong, fair and unfair, as well as whether we even should try, as a society, to become masters of death. Shusterman leaves you wanting more, and Thunderhead was released in 2018 as the follow up to Scythe. Another on my to-be read list for 2019. Scythe was the first Shusterman novel I had read, and it made me want to check out some of his other works. I read Dry, written with his son Jarrod, but I did not enjoy that nearly as much as Scythe, and I don’t recommend it.

1. The Red Rising Trilogy (2014) by Pierce Brown

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There are two more books in this series after the conclusion of the original trilogy, but Morningstar (Book 3) closes out the first arc in Darrow’s story. Book 4, Iron Gold, is on my to-be read list for 2019, but it continues the story some ten years after the conclusion of book 3. One of the most frequently asked questions about reading and writing is what makes a good story? Plot is important of course, but the true draw of a great story is character. If a character is boring, then it doesn’t matter how good the plot is, the story just won’t be interesting. Darrow is one of my favorite characters. Some criticism I’ve read regarding Darrow is that he is too perfect, or he is too good at everything, he’s a wunderkind and that’s boring. But that’s not how I see Darrow. He is extremely flawed, and that is what makes him so compelling. I want to avoid any spoilers or details about the book, because if you like science fiction, I highly recommend reading it, but Darrow’s rises and falls (there are many throughout the book) is what drew me in. He is intelligent, inspirational, and driven. But that’s also his flaw. He is dependent on his friends and allies throughout all three novels, and that idea is central to the very nature of the story. I found myself feeling emotionally invested in Darrow’s fight, and an emotional connection to a story and a character is what makes reading so incredible. I never wanted to leave Darrow’s world and always wanted more. In short: Read this book.

Last year was my best year of reading. I’m looking to top it in 2019 by reading 52 books. Any recommendations of good books is much appreciated! I finished my first book of the year yesterday so off to a good start. Some of the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2019 include:

Iron Gold and Dark Age by Pierce Brown, How Long ’til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin, Fire & Blood by George RR Martin, Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz, Art Matters by Neil Gaiman, Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, The Hate U Give and On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, Year One by Nora Roberts, Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

 

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2018 Pre-Season Predictions Recap

AL EAST

Prediction: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays

Actual: Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles

Reaction: Well, I got the two playoff teams from the division right, but this order was terrible. The Rays were impressive, and the Orioles were also impressive but for not very good reasons. (Chris Davis was paid around 21 million dollars this year and put up one of the worst seasons of all time.)

AL CENTRAL

Prediction: Indians, Twins, Royals, Tigers, White Sox

Actual: Indians, Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Royals

Reaction: Not bad. The Indians were the easy favorite. Those final three teams could have ended in any order. They were all terrible, combining for over 300 losses.

AL WEST

Prediction: Astros, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, Athletics

Actual: Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Angels, Rangers

Reaction: I was really disappointed in the Angels this season. They did finish just below .500, but were not very competitive all year. They continue to waste the best player in baseball. No words for what the Athletics did. Extremely impressive.

NL EAST

Prediction: Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins

Actual: Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Marlins

Reaction: I got the Marlins right! I thought the Braves needed one more year. That was incorrect. That is a scary team for a long, long time. The Nationals were a shocker. I still don’t know how they did not make the playoffs with that team. The Mets on the other hand was my bold prediction to get to the playoffs, but they are the Mets… injuries are just killer to that team. Maybe next year??

NL CENTRAL

Prediction: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Pirates

Actual: Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds

I still don’t want to talk about it. And remember when the Cardinals added Paul Goldschimdt this offseason?? Cubs please do something cough *Harper* cough.

NL WEST

Prediction: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies

Actual: Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres

Reaction: The Rockies were my bold prediction to regress and I was way off (early prediction for 2019 – Rockies will have massive regression). Their pitching held up surprisingly well. Marquez looks like a beast, the metrics are interesting on Freeland, but they definitely proved me wrong. The Giants were the huge disappointment here.

POSTSEASON

Prediction: NLDS – Dodgers over Mets; Cubs over Nationals ALDS – Astros over Red Sox; Yankees over Indians NLCS – Cubs over Dodgers ALCS – Yankees over Astros

World Series – Yankees over Cubs in 7

Actual: NLDS – Dodgers over Braves; Brewers over Rockies ALDS – Astros over Indians; Red Sox over Yankees; NLCS – Dodgers over Brewers ALCS – Red Sox over Astros World Series – Red Sox over Dodgers

Reaction: It is hard to predict how a season is going to go before it even starts. Injuries, trades, call-ups, regression, break outs, and more are always unpredictable. Ten teams make the playoffs each year including both wild cards. Of the ten teams who made the playoffs, I was right about six of them. Considering none of my choices were surprises, that was not a great percentage. I let a little Cubs bias leak in as well (although I truly believed they were the best team in the NL to start the year last year), and one of my goals this year is to be more objective in my analysis (or at least try to be!)

AWARD RACES

Prediction – NL MVP – Harper AL MVP – Correa NL Cy Young – Syndergaard AL Cy Young – Chris Sale NL RoY – Acuña AL Roy – Ohtani

Actual – NL MVP – Yelich AL MVP – Betts NL Cy Young – DeGrom AL Cy Young – Snell NL RoY – Acuña AL RoY – Ohtani

Reaction: WOOO! I finally nailed a prediction. Ohtani and Acuña were well deserving award winners for Rookies of the Year, but Juan Soto made that a close one until the end. As for MVPs, Correa had a disappointing campaign due to injury, but what Betts, Trout, and Ramirez did this year was incredible. Harper had a solid year, but not the kind of year I was expecting from him, and, again, I don’t want to talk about the Brewers and Yelich.

Finally, as for the Cy Young, Syndergaard had trouble staying healthy but a Met did win it so that’s kind of close…Sale was hands down the best pitcher in the American League. It was the best year of his career. He had injury issues and only threw 158 innings, yet he was second in the AL in WAR, led the AL in K/9, and had a great walk rate. Snell had a fantastic year, but even with the injury issues I thought Sale deserved it. He was the best pitcher in baseball. That should equal Cy Young.

 

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2018 Bold Predictions Recap

  1. Brewers will miss the playoffs and it won’t be close.

I do NOT want to talk about it.

  1. The Yankees have 4 guys who hit 35 homers and Greg Bird leads them all

Ok, this prediction did not come true. Bird was a lost cause this year. But the Yankees did set the single season home run record, so let’s call it a wash? They had 5 guys hit 25 or more homers and Gleyber Torres hit 24 in just 123 games. And somehow Luke Voit hit 14 in just 39 games. That is some insane home run production.

  1. Billy Hamilton finally gets 60 steals

He finished with 34 steals. Considering he hit .236 with a .299 OBP that’s very impressive. Also, it is not even close to 60.

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes it to the big leagues this year and helps push the Blue Jays into the playoffs

Although the Blue Jays had some injury woes and weren’t ever really in contention, Guerrero mashed in the minors and should have been called up. He will be called up next year (delayed because of stupid service time issues), and he will absolutely mash. Not so bold prediction: Guerrero wins the Rookie of the Year; Much more bold prediction: Guerrero finishes top 10 in MVP voting (maybe even top 5). 

  1. The Mets make the playoffs and Noah Syndergaard wins the Cy Young

It would be great if Thor could stay healthy. He finished 13-4 with a 3.03 ERA in just 25 starts. With what DeGrom did all year and what Wheeler did at the end of the year, a healthy Thor and a healthy Cespedes could spell trouble for the NL East next year (big question marks). Especially with the addition of Cano at second and Diaz at the backend of the pen. I might have been a year early with the Mets prediction, but I think they will be at the least contenders next year. (Do I dare predict it…Mets win the East next year?? I can’t bring myself to say it…yet.)

  1. ASTROS WILL WIN 110 GAMES BUT WON’T REPEAT AS WORLD CHAMPIONS

This was probably my best prediction of the lot. They ended up with 103 wins and losing in the ALCS to the Red Sox. But for a while they were well on their way to 110 wins. But it is a long season, and injuries were tough on them as well. Especially to my AL MVP pick, Carlos Correa. In my analysis of the team preseason, I predicted a big year from the rotation and the pen. Well the Astros finished with the best team ERA in baseball at 3.11 and led the entire league in strikeouts as well. They had 10 more quality starts then the second best team in baseball, and their bullpen finished the year with a league leading 3.03 bullpen ERA. The gap in bullpen ERA between the Astros and the second place Cubs was larger than the gap between the Cubs and the 7th best bullpen ERA of the Diamondbacks. AKA the bullpen was dominant.

  1. BYRON BUXTON FINISHES IN THE TOP 5 IN MVP VOTING

LOL. This was a lost year for Buxton who had injury and contact issues all year and played more games in the minors than the majors.

  1. DANNY SALAZAR WILL FINISH IN THE TOP 10 IN CY YOUNG VOTING

Wow, really nailed it with these underdog award contenders. Salazar threw a total of ZERO innings this year. So I guess that answers that. Potential bounce back candidate next year if healthy, or he could be a filthy bullpen arm.

  1.  SHOHEI OHTANI WILL GIVE UP ON HITTING THIS YEAR

Well, how did this one play out? Ohtani will only be hitting next year, so not great Bob! I said that Ohtani would give up on hitting because his pitching was just too good to take time away from to focus on hitting, not because he could not hit in the pros. He struggled in the spring hitting but right toward the end of Spring Training, he got rid of his high leg kick and everything changed. Ohtani is an absolute beast, one who (along with his teammate Trout) should be all over the news all of the time to help promote the game. He won the Rookie of the Year, but what he did last year, and how good he truly was, is still going under appreciated. I cannot wait for him to get healthy, and I am excited to watch him get 500 plate appearances next year to see what he can do.

  1. THE ROCKIES WILL FINISH LAST IN THE NL WEST

Finish last, make the playoffs, same thing, right? (Wow, these predictions were terrible.) My overall analysis when I made this prediction was not too far off. Jon Gray was awful for them, Ryan McMahon as well. The bullpen was good. Carlos Gonzalez wasn’t great and continues to be unusable against lefties. LeMahieu was pedestrian at the plate, and Ian Desmond was even worse. So what on Earth happened? Arenado was amazing as usual, but so was Trevor Story. Story jumped from a strikeout king and liability at the plate to an MVP candidate. But that is not enough to get them into the playoffs. Blackmon was solid, and Dahl was as well, when healthy. But it was the pitching that was the big surprise, as well as a surprisingly weak division after the Dodgers, who also underachieved some in the regular season. German Marquez looks like an absolute ace. He had 230 strikeouts in 196 innings as a 23 year old last year, and he was absolutely filthy in the second half. Kyle Freeland went from a nobody to a guy with a sub 3 ERA. Pitching half the time at Coors that’s insane. Is it sustainable? We’ll see next year. But he has an extremely deceptive delivery and was death on lefties last year. It was a really surprising year for the Rockies, but I will say, if they don’t add to their offense (I don’t think a 33 year old Daniel Murphy is enough), they might find some regression next year. It helps the Diamondbacks and Giants seem to be blowing it up, but the Padres are trying to get back into it with trade talks for JT Realmuto and Corey Kluber. It will be interesting in the West next year. (And of course I’ve been wrong before!)

Final score: 1/10 – Yes, I’m giving myself credit for the Astros. It was close enough!

Final Reflection: Maybe not so bold next year.

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2018 MLB Season Predictions

Opening day is finally here! Here is how I see this season shaking out:

AL East

Yankees

Red Sox (WC 1)

Blue Jays

Orioles

Rays

AL Central

Indians

Twins

Royals

Tigers

White Sox

AL West

Astros

Angels (WC 2)

Mariners

Rangers

Athletics

NL East

Nationals

Mets (WC 2)

Phillies

Braves

Marlins

NL Central

Cubs

Cardinals (WC 1)

Brewers

Reds

Pirates
NL West

Dodgers

Giants

Diamondbacks

Padres

Rockies

AL Cy Young –  Chris Sale

AL MVP – Carlos Correa

AL RoY – Shohei Ohtani

NL Cy Young – Noah Syndergaard

NL MVP – Bryce Harper

NL RoY – Ronald Acuna

NL Wild Card Game – Mets over Cardinals

AL Wild Card Game – Red Sox over Angels

NLDS – Dodgers over Mets; Cubs over Nationals

ALDS – Astros over Red Sox; Yankees over Indians

NLCS – Cubs over Dodgers

ALCS – Yankees over Astros

World Series – Yankees over Cubs in 7

 

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