Video Book Review: Star Wars – The Thrawn Trilogy

Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Fourth be with you!  I may be a Trekkie, but I enjoy a good Star Wars book too, and today I’m offering a video review of what I think are the best: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn.  Celebrate Star Wars Day by watching my review below!


Visit My Bookshelves: Star Trek Edition

I recently gave a tour of my L. M. Montgomery collection, and today I thought I’d invite you to visit another shelf.  I don’t discuss Star Trek as often, but I do have almost as many books!  Check out the video below for some comments on my favorites.  For my Trek fan readers, I’d love to hear about your favorite books too!

TV Review: Star Trek Discovery – Season One

I am very late to this game–a full year, in fact–but I finally watched Star Trek: Discovery.  Lack of access and doubtful reports kept me from exploring the newest installment of the Star Trek franchise for a long time.  I finally realized the library had it on DVD, which seemed like the perfect level of investment.  Watching it was, frankly, a bit rocky…but I’m ultimately glad I did.

As the series opens, it’s frankly hard to tell (or feel) that we’re in the Star Trek franchise.  I use the word “franchise” deliberately, because the universe is discernible, but the things that make Star Trek what it is seemed notably lacking.  We’re following the story of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Starfleet officer who is involved in the start of a war with the Klingon empire.  She blames herself for the war; I frankly never figured out how it was her fault.  Discovery, the ship, doesn’t show up until Episode Three, where we meet her captain, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and engineer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp).  Stamets is the inventor of a new propulsion system that runs on mushrooms.  Sort of.  It may be the key to winning the war with the Klingons.

I’m just going to be upfront here and say that I struggled with a LOT of things in this show.  Most of it was resolved or at least moved past by the end of the season but…yeah, if this didn’t have Star Trek as part of its title, I probably wouldn’t have watched past the third episode (which I still think was the low point).  In the interest of giving a full picture…I’m going to go ahead and include spoilers.  You have been warned!

Continue reading “TV Review: Star Trek Discovery – Season One”

Mini-Monday: Thor: Ragnarok

I may have confessed this before but, at the risk of harming my geek cred, I’m not much into Marvel.  I watched the first movie of several of their franchises, and didn’t feel inclined to continue.  Although I make exceptions for Dr. Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy.  And now, as it turns out, Thor: Ragnarok.

I came late to this one, but I finally watched Ragnarok last month.  From the trailer and the reports of people I knew who watched it, this seemed to be a funnier Marvel one than most–and it was!  Which is a bit odd considering the titular event is the end of the world…  In brief, the goddess Hela is released on Asgard, the Norse gods’ home realm, and Thor and Loki have to work together to top her–but wind up exiled to a kind of cosmic junk heap in the process.  Where, oddly enough, they bump into the Incredible Hulk.  As one does.

I knew this was going to be a better movie as soon as it started demonstrating a willingness to poke fun at itself.  Early on Thor confronts a giant flame demon whose name I can’t remember, and tries to carry on a conversation while rotating around hanging from a chain.  Weird, I know.  But it’s really funny as flame demon tries to rant about his fiery vengeance and Thor keeps asking him to pause because he’s rotated around out of sight.  The movie kept up a similar kind of tongue-in-cheek humor, and Thor himself was a lot funnier than I remembered from previous encounters.

It also helped that we had a fairly small cast, with the action centering around Thor, Loki and the Hulk, with Hela (an unrecognizable Cate Blanchett!)  It gave a decent amount of time to showcase each character, their arc and their relationships with each other.  Much better than ensemble casts of a dozen where barely any character gets seen.

So, from a non-Marvel fan, Thor: Ragnarok gets my approval as a funny, entertaining superhero flick!

Book Review: Jane Unlimited

I don’t often pick books up at random anymore, but I chanced to see an interesting title at the library the other day.  It turned out to be an excellent find: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore.

Nineteen-year-old Jane is an orphan who recently lost her beloved Aunt Magnolia, who raised her.  Jane is unmoored and drifting when she bumps into Kiran, an old acquaintance, who on a whim invites Jane to come to Tu Reviens.  This is Kiran’s family estate, a mansion on a private island.  Jane doesn’t want to go, but her Aunt Magnolia made her promise to accept an invitation to Tu Reviens if it ever came.  It proves to be a mansion full of mysteries, and every person there has secrets.  Jane soon finds herself at a crossroads, a seemingly insignificant moment when she can choose which mystery to pursue.  Jane only can see one choice–at a time–but the reader gets to see what happens as each choice takes her down a completely different path, dividing the bulk of the book into five sections, each exploring a different direction.

This is a masterfully created book, and as a writer I am genuinely in awe at how Cashore pulled this off.  Each section of the book follows its own story, but it’s clear that all the elements from each section are happening in all of them–Jane just has different information, or sees different pieces.  Later sections still have references relevant to earlier ones, and early ones have clues that aren’t explained until later ones.  It’s incredible.

Equally as fun, I realized as I went through the book that each section is a different genre: mystery, spy thriller, horror, science fiction, and fantasy.  Each one is beautifully done, both for its genre and as part of a larger, cohesive whole.  The horror section was suitably horrifying, and the sci fi story added a little bit of meta explanation for the book’s structure–sort of. Continue reading “Book Review: Jane Unlimited”

Book Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

A good friend recently gave me a book for Christmas–always a chancy endeavor, as it can be hard to find just the right one.  She hit the mark beautifully though, as I loved The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.

The story begins as Mary Jekyll buries her mother.  Clearing up her mother’s affairs, Mary finds a regular payment being made for the care and keeping of “Hyde.”  Baffled by this apparent connection to her deceased father’s hideous, long-missing assistant, she follows the clues.  She finds Diana Hyde, and in the process winds up assisting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they investigate the Whitehall Murders.  Tracing clues to a secret alchemists’ society, Mary and Diana find Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau and Justine Frankenstein, all a different shade of monster.

This is one of those books that has such a wonderful premise it’s hard to dare hope it will live up to it–but it does!  This is a wonderful exploration into the world of Gothic, Victorian literature, but turned sideways and much more feminist.  Each woman (including Mary, though we don’t have full answers about her yet) has been shaped by her alchemist father (or creator), but this is very much the women’s story.  Each one is a fully-formed individual with agency, and the story is about them, not their fathers.

In some ways this reminds me of Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series, drawing greatly from classics of literature, while putting an entirely new angle on them–with an active, realistic heroine (or five). Continue reading “Book Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter”

Book Review: Protector of the Refugee Planet seems to run in my family, with a few different storytelling (or writing) relatives.  And today I’m very happy to review Protector of the Refugee Planet by Dennis Mahoney.  It’s a little hard to claim this is an unbiased review, since that’s my dad! 🙂

Protector is a sci fi adventure set in the fairly distant future, centering around Steven, a member of the Order of Protectors.  After breaking up a drug ring goes bad and Steven accidentally kills the drug lord, he begins having hallucinations (or visions?) of the Order’s founder, D. F. Nathaniel, who is not at all pleased that Steven broke the Order’s strict rule against taking a life.  It doesn’t make things easier when Steven develops a crush on his assigned psychiatrist, Sheera, someone he is absolutely forbidden to date.  Both problems pursue him to Pitcairn, an edge of the civilized galaxy world where Steven is sent to stop a harpy-like alien who’s been on a rampage–but he has to do it without killing him.  Or breaking the code against romancing Sheera.

This is a fun sci fi romp in an old style–think Heinlein at his more innocent.  The protagonists are young/new adults, and this would be a good one for young adult readers too.  Even killing a drug lord doesn’t get too violent, and there’s only a slight amount of romance. Continue reading “Book Review: Protector of the Refugee Planet”