Book Review: The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore

“That’s another reason why I like it out there: things were left to nature to figure it out, and nature tends to be smarter than people.”


The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Chapter 3)

There’s something about strolling the stacks at the library and finding a book by an author you haven’t read, and then discovering that book is a complete gem. That’s what happened to me the other day when I found The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore. The book is middle grade fiction set in the near-ish future where the community of Old Harmonie is a type of utopia. However, things are never quite as they seem.

Mori’s grandmother was a scientist and founder of Old Harmonie. Because of her vision and others like her, Mori and her friends enjoy a peaceful and safe life on Firefly Lane. When new girl Ilana joins their group, things begin to change. She’s just a little too perfect and Mori wonders if Ilana is a natural or designed.

Parents in Old Harmonie can dampen and enhance their children’s genetic traits. When the kids turn 13, they also get their “latency” which is an awakening or “turning on” of a trait that will help serve them as they grow into adults. For some it may be more physical, a type of athleticism, while for others it’s something more cerebral like puzzle-solving. Mori’s not sure what her latency will be, but she knows she loves the outdoors and plants. It turns out Ilana shares those interests as well, but the new girl acts strangely at times and that worries Mori and the others. 

The Firefly Code explores the growth of friendship, as well as the coming-of-age in a society where it’s increasingly difficult to determine what’s real. Is the world outside Old Harmonie actually dangerous? What really happened to Mori the one and only time she was sick? Who is Ilana and why did she come to Firefly Lane? When her secret finally is revealed, the Firefly 5 has to decide what defines true friendship and humanity.

I enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it to middle grade and teen readers as well as adults. The characters are likable as well as easy to relate to, and the primary themes will speak to any reader.

The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore is a Bank Street Books Best Book of the Year (2017 Edition). Its sequel is The Daybreak Code. You can find more about the author and her books at her website: meganfrazer.com

Book Review: The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty

“Outside, the world was full of assassins, bitter politics, and the threat of war, but her, in this one place, for one night, everything was perfect.”

Chapter 65, page 310 of The Traitor’s Kingdom

The Traitor’s Kingdom by Erin Beaty is the final book in The Traitor’s trilogy that begins with The Traitor’s Kiss and The Traitor’s Ruin. You can read my review of The Traitor’s Ruin here.

As trilogies go, this one kept me interested and I anxiously awaited the final book. The Traitor’s Kingdom didn’t disappoint—it’s exciting, well-written, and offers a more-than-satisfying conclusion to the story of Sage Fowler.

From author Erin Beaty’s website:

A new queen under threat. 

An ambassador with a desperate scheme. 

Two kingdoms with everything to lose.

Sage Fowler has evolved from matchmaker’s assistant to ambassador representing Demora. She’s traveled far from home, fallen in love, and sacrificed much for her kingdom. Book three opens with Sage working on her duties as an ambassador, keeping up with combat training, and pining for her beloved, Major Alex Quinn.

Author Beaty quickly launches the reader into the political intrigue that readers will be familiar with from the first two books in this trilogy. The one thing that The Traitor’s trilogy doesn’t lack is intrigue, double-crosses, and action. Sage has grown up in this final book, but she’s still just as gutsy and stubborn. I like her in the role of ambassador and wish the book would have had more Sage. I sometimes found the segments featuring the soldiers to be less interesting and I was anxious to get back to whatever Sage was doing.

I liked the introduction of the new queen and her storyline. It was also interesting to watch Clare develop even further and how she deals with her sister. Overall, I thought The Traitor’s Kingdom was a good conclusion to the trilogy. It had enough twists to keep me guessing, but nothing that made me raise an eyebrow because it was too “convenient”. Erin Beaty tells a compelling story and her main characters are definitely likable even when they’re doing things that make me yell at the pages.

The final wrap-up I found to be very satisfying. I really like the endings for Sage and Alex as well as the others. The Traitor’s trilogy is one I’m glad I own, because I definitely will reread it again.

Don’t miss the first two books in Erin Beaty’s The Traitor’s trilogy.


Book Review: With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

“Helen wondered how many couples had walked this very aisle today, this week, this month. Were they all insane to be marrying with a war going on, knowing they’d be starting their lives together, apart?”

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall, pg. 158
Photo by Barb Hopkins 2019

Readers who enjoy historical fiction mixed with romance won’t be disappointed when they pick up With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall.

I’ll admit, this is not the usual type of book I pick up (and you totally can tell that if you follow my book reviews or have scrolled through the pages on my site.) However, I’m so glad my neighbor recommended it and I listened to her and read it.

With Love, Wherever You Are is a book of fiction based on two real people: Helen Eberhart Daley and Frank Daley, M.D. Not only did Helen and Frank really exist, they are author’s, Dandi Daley Mackall’s, parents. Mackall has woven a beautiful, at times heart-wrenching, narrative that tells the fictionalized story of an army nurse and an army doctor who meet during World War II. It’s a tale of a whirlwind romance and wedding, followed by separation due to war and duty.

I read this book over the course of two days because I became so enthralled with Helen’s and Frank’s story. From their first meeting to the final days of the war, their story kept me turning pages. Without spoilers I will tell you that the place they met definitely was not a place where a young woman and man would normally meet in 1944. Author Dandi Daley Mackall takes readers on a journey, that is at its heart a love story set amid the horrors of the Second World War.

While Helen and Frank meet before D-Day, they don’t have much time to get married before they’re both sent overseas. They write many letters to each other throughout their deployment, more than 600 total according to the author notes, often writing two or three times a day. Before they are shipped out, the crafty couple devises a system, a code of sorts so they can tell each other where they are stationed. This had to be done because if they just wrote that out in a letter, the Army censors would have blackened those words out. Many of these letters are included throughout the book so you have a real sense of their emotions, personalities, and how the war affected these newlyweds.

When you pick up a copy of With Love, Wherever You Are be sure to read the author’s notes at the back, it’s a treasure trove and so much fun after spending 460 pages with Helen and Frank. She does tell the reader which characters were added for fiction, and other notes. I enjoyed that section as much as the story itself.

Please stop by Dandi Daley Mackall’s website and check out With Love, Wherever You Are and her other books.

Book Review: The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez

“The truth was so much more X-Files than Lucy could have imagined.” (pg. 177)

Readers looking for a young adult, sci-fi thriller with mystery and even a bit of romance can find it all and more in The Tesla Legacy by K. K. Pérez. The story follows Lucy Phelps, an intelligent 18 year old in the last few weeks of her senior year of high school and the “shocking” information she uncovers about herself, her family, and the legendary Nikola Tesla.

Lucy has epilepsy, or so she’s been told her entire life. Because of that, she’s been sheltered by her parents shunned other kids, especially when she was younger. A budding and brilliant scientist, Lucy just wants to venture out on her own terms and that means getting away to college. She does have the love and support of her best friend Claudia, but things are a bit rocky with her boyfriend Cole. When Lucy accidentally discovers a hidden message in a photograph of her younger self, it leads her into New York City and an experience that will change her life.

After discovering the hidden Tesla room in New York, Lucy has her hands full. She’s promised Claudia she’d help with the lighting design for prom, there’s issues with her boyfriend, she needs to keep working on her science experiment, and there’s also this little (not!) issue of her newfound abilities that involve her ability to manipulate and control electricity. And let’s not forget the handsome new teaching assistant that’s taken an interest in her as well as the two rival, ancient, alchemical societies that each want Lucy for their own agendas.

I enjoyed The Tesla Legacy immensely. It kept me entertained and engaged, even during its science-y moments. For me, there was a nice balance between sci-fi and action as well as between the sci-fi and romantic elements. Lucy is a likable character and I found myself cheering her on as she takes a stand.

Author K. K. Pérez provides enough twists to keep a reader guessing, but not too many where it becomes tedious. I do like that we’re set up for a sequel and when it’s released, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Please go check out the other books by K. K. Pérez at her website and grab a copy of The Tesla Legacy today.

It’s National Library Week!

National Library Week is NOW! April 7 – 13, 2019.

How are you celebrating? It’s really easy.

  • Go to your local library & see all the amazing resources
  • Don’t have a library card, get one
  • Check out books
  • Read books there, it’s a great place to relax
  • Ask a librarian a question—seriously, they’re more personal than Google
  • Use one of the library’s services: internet, copying, free classes

What is National Library Week?

From the American Library Association (ALA):

“National Library Week is an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities.”

2019 theme:

Libraries = Strong Communities

The ALA has a great list for 19 Ways To Celebrate National Library Week.  http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/19-ways-celebrate-national-library-week

I Love a Good Hashtag! It’s #MuseMondays

Keep an eye out here and on my Instagram & Twitter accounts for weekly additions to #MuseMondays. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite books, authors, music, movies, and more. Inspirations for both my writing and what I grab to read when I want to escape from the daily mundane.

Today, it’s Josephine Angelini’s “Starcrossed”, a young adult trilogy that I’ve read and re-read multiple times. Add it to your TBR list today; it’s a fun twist on traditional Greek mythology.

The “Starcrossed” trilogy by Josephine Angelini

Weekend Reads: March 2

Reading on the weekend is more than just a way to relax, it’s an essential part of my existence. While some people may look forward to heading out to the movie theater on a Friday or Saturday, I begin anticipating and planning my weekend reading around Tuesday morning (usually after a particularly long session completing a freelance project.)

This weekend I’m getting a late start. Freelance commitments, family life, and writing new words in my own WIP, pushed back my weekend reads until now. In addition, I wavered on which book to begin. I seriously was leaning towards rereading Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed trilogy. It’s one of my favorite YA trilogies and if you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it. You can check out my review of the first book here. Angelini’s trilogy focuses on Greek mythology and that seems to be what I’m in the mood for. However, I really wanted to read something that is new to me.

Bingo! Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series!

My son left the first three books of the series with me several months ago and they’ve sat there in my TBR pile since. I’m excited to begin reading this series, which means this post will not be much longer. The series begins with The Lost Hero, so keep an eye out here for my review of this first book. I’ve got high hopes for it and am ready to dive in.

What are you reading this weekend? Share the titles and/or links in the comments. I’m always looking to add to my TBR list.

Happy reading!

Coming Soon

LIES & MAGIC, the first book in my YA duology is complete while book two, ROGUES & ALLIES approaches the finish line. The LIES & MAGIC duology is a contemporary light fantasy with elements of magic, twisted family dynamics, and a bit of romance. Look for both books to be available in 2020.

Other YA projects are in the works as well, including a stand-alone YA mystery set at a summer arts camp and another stand-alone with a mythological focus.

Currently, I’m tapping away at my keyboard writing my first middle-grade novel and I’m incredibly excited about this project. My 12-year old MC is smart, feisty, and has a great sense of humor. I can’t wait for you to meet her.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“It was the dawn of new era, one where most of the human race now spent all of their free time inside a videogame.”

(Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Chapter 0005, page 60)

Fun and entertaining—Ready Player One by Ernest Cline delivers more than just a nostalgic look at the games and pop culture from my childhood. The story is as immersive as the fictional OASIS, a mix of dystopia and sci-fi with plenty of action and references to satisfy my inner geek.

RPO

I did not read the book before I saw the movie and I’m glad I saw the movie first. Full disclosure, I really enjoyed the Ready Player One movie directed by Steven Spielberg and I’ve watched it multiple times. It’s the movie that prompted me to check out the book and want to read it; and I’m really glad I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

My advice: Don’t go into reading the book expecting to find the movie jammed between the pages. While they share the same title, characters, and overall theme, the Ready Player One book and movie really are two separate entities, both with their own merits.

Now, if you read the book first, I can see why maybe you didn’t care for the movie. Or maybe you did. Whatever. It’s my review and I liked them both, but have no issue keeping them as two different stories.

Let’s get back to the book. I liked it and plan to re-read it because there’s a lot to take in. It’s very detailed (okay, at times rambling) but I enjoyed the references and it didn’t take long for me to become invested in the journey of Wade Watts.

Wade Owen Watts (yes, his initials are W.O.W. and how fun is that when they’re entered into the high scorers screen of an old-school video game) spends his free time in the OASIS: the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. It’s 2044 and the world is a mess due to many factors including the Global Energy Crisis. The OASIS is a virtual utopia where humans can escape their depressing reality. Its creator has died but left behind a challenge; a game for gamers. If they can find the Easter egg Halliday hid in the OASIS, they inherit his vast fortune.

Halliday left three keys that had to be found followed by challenges to be won/solved before moving to the next key. Wade is on the hunt, one of the “gunters” going for egg, and his OASIS avatar is known as Parzival or “Z”.

Along with his best friend Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”) and other gunters known as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito, they vie to reach each key and claim the ultimate prize. Throw in the corporate baddies and their leader Sorrento and the race is on.

The book is told in first person from Wade/Parzival’s perspective. It’s extremely detailed, almost too much at times, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the overall story and rooting for Wade to get to that egg and not let Sorrento win.

Do I recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline? Yes, I do for fans of light sci-fi that’s filled (brimming!) with 80s pop culture and gamer references.