Photo National Harbor skyline at night, featuring the lights of the ferris wheel reflecting on the water.

Adventures in National Harbor and Washington, D.C.

Last week, I had the the pleasure of attending WordCamp US, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Photo of Gaylord National Convention Center sign with red flowers in front.

WordCamp US was held at the Gaylord National Convention Center.

This was an enormous venue, and I found myself disoriented quite a few times. However, there was plenty of space and lots of offerings like coffee shops and cocktail bars.

Since I’ll be writing up my experience at WordCamp for work, I won’t be repeating that here.

Around National Harbor

I didn’t spend much too much time exploring National Harbor, mostly walking to and from the convention center to my hotel, which was at the other end of the harbor. I did enjoy my meals at Rosa Mexicano, Bombay Street Food, and some passed appetizers at Succotash.

The WordCamp Social (aka After Party) was at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was pretty cool to have the whole place to ourselves!

Photo of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History featuring a globe.

On my last day, I had several hours of free time before my flight home, so I used this time to a take a walking tour around Washington, D.C.

I started my adventure at the Art Museum of the Americas.

I sat and stared at the red painting on the right for quite some time. It was captivating.

My next stop was a tour around the National Mall and some of the monuments.

I decided to head towards the National Gallery of Art, stopping at interesting places on the way.

The next stop was the National Museum of Asian Art, which I really enjoyed.

These are all from an exhibit on Ay-o’s art, called “happy rainbow hell”.

These are part of the Buddhism Meditation Room.

I got a little lost in the National Museum of Asian Art. I ended up on a subfloor that didn’t have any exhibits, and seems to exist to connect various museums. It seems I could have popped over to the National Museum of African Art if I had turned the other way.

Photo of the Smithsonian Castle

Alas, I came out near the Smithsonian Castle, which is temporarily closed.

From here, I made my way to the International Spy Museum.

Photo of the exterior of the International Spy Museum.

This was the only place that wasn’t free. And unfortunately, I didn’t have time to really experience the whole thing, as I only had a hour before I needed to get on my way to the hotel and then to the airport.

This place has a high production value, and reminds me of a well done escape room or even a theme park ride. There’s even an optional a spy mission that you can do as you progress through the museum. It’s worth the price if you’re interested in spy stuff and you have at least 2 hours.

In the end, I ran out of time before making it to the National Gallery of Art. I guess this means I’ll have to go back?

All in all, I had a lovely time in National Harbor and Washington, D.C.

West Heart Kill Book Cover

West Heart Kill

I love me a good mystery novel. West Heart Kill, my friends, is not that.

West Heart Kill is set at a hunting lodge in the 70s. The bodies start piling up, and our ace detective, Adam, just happens to be there for the holiday celebrations.

I knew from the first few pages that I did not like the writing style of this book. I thought it might grow on me, or prove interesting in other ways. Perhaps there would be some decent characters, or an interesting plot twist. Well, turns out the joke’s on me, the writing style is the plot twist.

The novel is written, in part, in the second person, 4th wall breaking, POV, that on certain TV shows, I love. For a mystery novel, not so much. This alternates with some bits written in the third person following our detective Adam. And then, interspersed within all this, are some reflections on the history and tropes of mystery novels.

The character list is lengthy, and even with a list of who’s who, it’s hard to keep them straight. The novel is too set on its inventive writing style to devote much time to character depth, or arc. The writing style detracts from the overall story. Which may or may not be a good thing, given that the story isn’t very interesting, the characters are all pretty ugly and unlikeable, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter who killed who, I was just glad it was over.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.

Starter Villain book cover featuring a photorealistic image of a cat in a suit and tie.

Starter Villain

I’m a huge fan of John Scalzi. I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read. Lately, it seems like I alternate between reading a new release of his with something older (that I haven’t read before).

Most recently, this was The Android’s Dream, followed by Starter Villain which is not even a new release, but pre-release! I feel so special to read this before everyone else, and I do not mean that sarcastically or facetiously. My only regret is that Starter Villain will soon be an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, and there is no better combo than Scalzi + Wheaton.

This book is fun, witty, and down-right LOL funny at points. Starter Villain definitely lands in the quirky category for me. Those of you that prefer your science fiction to be super super serious might not enjoy this one as much as I did! I mean , c’mon, there’s cat in a business suit on the cover!

The downside? Starter Villain is apparently a stand-alone novel, so we won’t be getting more stories about Charlie. Perhaps the cats (or the dolphins?) could get a spin-off? I really enjoyed the world building here and I was disappointed to have it end. This one is a bit on the shorter side, and pacing wise, I felt the very beginning dragged a bit and the end was rushed.

If you like sci-fi, Scalzi, or just want to read something really unique and entertaining, I highly recommend picking up Starter Villain when it comes out later this year.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Publishing Group for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.

Book cover for Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands is the second book in the Emily Wilde series by Heather Fawcett. Emily is a professor and dryadologist, and these books follow her on adventures.

If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I’d suggest starting there. If you have read it and enjoyed it, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.

This time, Emily and her handsome, scholarly companion, Wendell Bambleby are on the run. They are being chased by nefarious faeries and other Folk. Why? Because Wendell is an exiled Faerie king, and his treacherous stepmother has finally decided to kill him.

Emily is learning from her mistakes, and there’s a lot of character development and growth for both her and Wendell. These books also tend to be more serious, and are more about the characters and their adventures than the romance. Although, of course there is a romantic relationship. Sort of, maybe?

I found this to be a fun, quick read. Emily is a quirky protagonist, who doesn’t always get it right. This is refreshing, and yet it bothers me that we seem to have either gorgeous women who can do no wrong, or they are like Emily and described as disheveled, slovenly, hunched over books incessantly, and often unfeeling or insensitive to others.. Isn’t there something in the middle? Can’t we have a woman who’s not perfect but also not the worst?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Del Rey for an advance copy in exchange for sharing my opinions. All opinions in this review are my own.