Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I just finished reading a mediocre novel set in the American Old West. It seemed to me that the setting was more of a cartoony idea Old West than anything researched for any length of time. I made the comment in my Amazon review that the novel was as much Historical Fiction as the TV show Xena: Warrior Princess was. Oh sure it was set in the past, and there were historical events and people that showed up, but does that really make it Historical Fiction? So I thought I would toss this question out to the universe: are there criteria a respectable author must meet to classify a book as Historical Fiction?

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Xena: Warrior Princess

Reading Star Wars novels has long been a guilty pleasure of mine; they are fun, and they feed the Geek. And Lost Stars was delicious!  Sure it’s marketed as a YA novel, but there is a lot of great Star Wars goodness throughout.

For fans that know Episodes 4, 5 and 6 well, you will enjoy the weaving this story does between established events in the movies. The characters are placed in pivotal roles on the Death Star, Hoth, and Darth Vader’s lead Star Destroyer, the Executor.

Two young folks, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, from an Outer Rim world meet Moff Tarkin when he visits their planet. Coming from different social classes, their friendship is frowned upon. As the years pass, their bond deepens and they develop a mutual love of flying. Knowing nothing but loyalty to the Empire they both strive to enter the Imperial Academy, and are accepted.

Over the years, Thane and Ciena realize the Empire had become twisted and corrupt. Where Thane expresses his willingness to leave the Empire, Ciena holds tightly to her oath.

“…this isn’t about whether we’ve kept faith with the Empire. It’s about whether the Empire has kept faith with us.” – Thane to Ciena

After witnessing the destruction of an entire planet from an open hanger bay on the Death Star, and the enslavement of entire species, Thane’s disillusionment with the Empire evolves into disdain. Some may call it the Force, others pure chance, but Thane and Captain Wedge Antilles cross paths. And just like that Thane finds himself flying for the Rebellion.

Even on opposing sides, Thane and Ciena can’t seem to sever their bond. What will happen when they find themselves in direct combat?

A great read for a Star Wars fan!

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The Batman Arkham Knight book by Marv Wolfman is the novelization of the video game which released in June of this year. I’m not sure which is more geeky, playing video games or reading books about them. Either way, I accept my status in the geekdom. So anyway, Marv wrote this book capturing all of the gameplay in novel format, and much more. You get inside Batman’s head in a way that you can’t experience playing a video game, you feel the depth of his fears and desperation to save lives. This is not your parents’ Batman story, people are dying in Gothem City and Batman is losing control.

The Joker is dead, but his legacy continues; he has infected Batman with his blood which is changing Batman and driving him mad. Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow, has developed a fear-inducing toxin that he plans to spread across the city. Those infected are terrified beyond all reason, and will do anything to escape the terrors they see…including tearing each other apart. Lives are being lost in vicious attacks. And then there is the Arkham Knight, working with the Scarecrow but with a vow to be the one to kill Batman; this mysterious figure knows everything about Batman, from his identity and history to the way he fights and all his weaknesses.

Just another day for Batman. But it’s not just another day. It is the worst day of his life.

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This Batman story is exciting and tragic. A must read for any Batman fanatic.

A new challenge for the year has been met: A book set in the future. Ender’s Game was first released as a short story the year I was born, 1977. Author Orson Scott Card then reworked the story into a novel which was published in 1985, winning both the Nebula Award and Hugo Award for best novel. In 2013 it was adapted to the silver screen.

Set in Earth’s future, after a second thwarted invasion by an insectoid species called “buggers”, humanity is desperate to find the next military hero to lead the fleet against the possibility of a third invasion. The Battle School has been established to train children in the art of war, with the belief that children can learn and adapt faster, and have a greater capacity for innovative thought. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is one of these cadets. At the young age of 6 Ender quickly rises to the top of his class; Colonel Hyrum Graff pushing him harder than any other cadet, isolating him.

At the age of 10, Ender graduates from Battle School to Command School. He learns when to be ruthless and hard, and when to be lenient and to listen – he becomes a good commander, the best commander humanity has ever seen.

While the main players of this novel are children, it is far from a YA story. Ender’s Game is straight up classic military science fiction, and it is enthralling. I didn’t do this novel justice with this brief synapses,  but I didn’t want to give too much of the story away.

If you love strategy games, you will enjoy this read.

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The Megaladon, the prehistoric ancestor of today’s great white sharks, has been long considered extinct, until a group of marine scientists begin studying the depths of the Mariana Trench. For thousands of years these enormous creatures have been trapped 7 miles below the ocean surface in the warm depths of the trench – heated by geothermal ducts – unable to pass through the frigid temperatures above. Finally, because of a mistake by the oceanographers, the monster is released.

What’s better to read at the beach than a book about a 60-foot, giant shark? I sit hear listening to the sounds of children laughing and dogs barking, the rolling of the waves and the the calls of the seagulls and I have to wonder … what if?

I picked this book expecting a cheesy book version of shark movies produced by The Asylum – which I love. But it was actually an unexpectedly well written thriller. According to Wikipedia, Alten has been shopping the story around production studios. I would so watch this movie!

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Released in late April, Paul S Kemp’s Lords of the Sith is one of the newest installments in the Star Wars canon. Find it hard to keep track of what is now canon? I do too, but I have found this Star Wars wiki to be a great resource. This novel takes place about 5 years after Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side.

Emperor Palpatine, the secret Sith Lord, and his apprentice, Darth Vader, are heading to Ryloth, the Twi’lek homeworld, where a group of freedom fighters has become more than a pesky annoyance to the Empire. When Cham, the Twi’lek leader of the dissidents, learns of their imminent arrival, he formulates a plan that would cripple the oppressive Empire. Meanwhile, the emperor senses the impending confrontation as a disturbance in the Force and uses it to test his apprentice’s abilities, and his loyalties.

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A female Twi'lek

Kemp has truly captured the inner struggles that Darth Vader is going through; his memories of childhood and of Padmé trouble him. We are given our first look into the tension that grows between Master and Apprentice. And we see how truly terrifying and powerful these Sith Lords are to the galaxy. As readers, we have born witness to their strengths through the movies, but now we see how word will begin to spread of Darth Vader, and how far the Emperor will go to keep his power a secret.

Pain fed his hate, and hate fed his strength. Once, as a Jedi, he had meditated to find peace. Now he meditated to sharpen the edges of his anger.

Plus there’s lots of great Force fighting!

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Well I have a fun story about my latest read: Kate Mulgrew’s Memoir Born With Teeth.

A few weeks ago I was walking through a book store and noticed a flyer for an upcoming event, and I stopped in my tracks: Kate Mulgrew was coming here to Seattle on her book tour!! Insert total geek-squeel moment. I was going to this event. Luckily the tickets were readily available.

The event was last week, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Kate came out and talked about her ties to Seattle; she had lived here with her then-husband, Robert Egan, and graced the stage of the Seattle Repertory Theatre through one pregnancy, and most of another. But most touching of all was her story of her daughter. Early in her career Kate became pregnant, and upon receiving advice from her mother — that she could not have both a successful acting career and be a mother — she placed the baby girl up for adoption. For 20 years she tried to locate her daughter. Then one day while on the set of Star Trek: Voyager she received the call she only dreamed she might get, her daughter had been located and would be calling her. At this point in the evening she did a reading from her book reflecting this exciting and terrifying moment in her life.

To the delight of the audience, Kate then brought her daughter, who now lives in the Seattle area, onto the stage with her for a Q&A session. The questions were a mixture of thought provoking and embarrassing.  But what was revealed through the hour of questions was that Kate is amazingly gracious to all her fans.

And then I got my book signed!!

The book? Kate bares her soul in this memoir: the good, the bad, and the ugly. As memoirs go, it was enlightening and tragic all at one. Kate Mulgrew has a strength and determination to succeed in this life that I can’t help but admire.  She shares the stories of her triumphs and mistakes with a light of truth that must have left her raw and vulnerable throughout the writing process.

And as a bonus, I can check off another item on my 2015 reading challenge: a memoir.

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