Monthly Archives: May 2015

Way Back Wednesday: Vendetta by Peter David

waybackwednesday

Time again for Way Back Wednesday hosted by A Well Read Woman.  Each week this meme looks back at those books that we read that were memorable or made an impact on us.

vendettaThis week, I thought I’d go with another media tie-in novel — Star Trek: The Next Generation: Vendetta by Peter David.

I didn’t know who Peter David was before I picked up his first Next Generation novel, Strike Zone many years ago.  I didn’t know of his long, definitive run on the Hulk comic books nor of his work on various Trek tie-in comics.  But with two books, David quickly became one of my favorite writers for Trek tie-in fiction.

David has this way of finding the absurdities and pointing them out with humor.  One memorable passage in Strike Zone has Picard and Riker in the turbolift in the early stages of season two.  Riker has just grown his beard and he wonders if Picard isn’t jealous that Riker has more hair on his chin than Picard does on his head.

I’ll admit it — it still amuses me to this day.

But if his first two Next Generation books were appetizers, then Vendetta was the main course.

With Vendetta, David began his trend of big novels in the Star Trek universe that tied together threads from both (we only had two at the time!) series.  In this case, David brought back the Borg and tied in continuity from the original series “The Doomsday Machine” to it.   For a fan who loved all three Borg installments of TNG and “The Doomsday Machine” this was exactly up my alley.  Basically, the Doomsday Machine was built to defeat the Borg.

And this one is set after the events of “Best of Both Worlds” and before Trek had to start “defanging” the Borg.

As a Trek fan, this absolutely pushed all the right buttons with me.  This novel was one of the Giant Novels published in the Trek canon and it lived up to it.  (The Giant Novels later became the hardcover releases when they realized they could get even more money out of us).   Epic battles, continuity galore and the trademark David humor.  This novel had just about everything and I have fond memories of reading it far too quickly because I was loving every minute of it.

Is this a book that is going to show up on a list of great literature of the 20th Century that should be studies and read by future generations?   No, not really.

But did it entertain me no end and was it utterly memorable?   Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

If you love TNG and TOS, do yourself a favor and read this one. Trust me.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Reading Material

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Time again for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

As we head into the summer season, this week’s subject asks which books we’ll have in our beach bag this summer.  I probably won’t make it to the beach this summer but I will be headed out to pool (hopefully).   These are the books I hope to read this summer.

1.  Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee — I’ve got it on reserve at the library and I’m hoping I’ll get to read it this summer!   I am not sure exactly where I am on the waiting list.

2.  Finders Keepers by Stephen King

prayerforowen3.  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

4.  A House Divided by Robert Whitlow

5.  Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertallli

6.  Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned by Peter David

7. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

8.  The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

9.  Hero of the Ages by Brandon Sanderson

10. Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

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Musing Mondays: Vacation Reading

musingmondays51

Starting the week off with Musing Mondays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

This week’s random question makes me think about summer reading: Where is the strangest place you’ve ever read a book? OR… Where is the strangest place you’ve ever found a crazy-good book, unexpectedly?

It’s time for summer reading!   For me, this usually means enjoying a book with a bottle of cool water after I’ve finished swimming laps.   I also will admit I’m strangely fascinated by the summer reading lists for various school systems that are usually available at my local library.  I’m always curious to see what books are still on the list from when I was in school and what books have been added to the list that I may want to try.

As for unusual places to read or find a read, I will have to say that I once found a great book at a paperback swap library at the beach.  I was staying out on the beach with my family for a few days and found the shelf there.  I traded out one paperback I’d finished for another novel.

Of course, part of it could be that I got to enjoy both books sitting in a chair on the sandy beach, enjoying the warm winter days in Hawaii as opposed to being back in the continental United States where it was significantly cooler.

And if we count audio books as reading, I suppose you could say that I read a lot of books while running, bicycling and swimming (at least until my waterproof iPods battery life crashed out!)

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Kushiel’s Dart Read-Along Week Three: Chapters 19 – 26

phedre_no_delaunay_by_sharimoon-d6mry7uMoving into the third week of the Kushiel’s Dart read-along and things are starting to get very interesting for Phedre and company.

This week’s questions comes to us courtesy of Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow.

There’s a lot of intrigue to get to this week, so let’s start the conversation.

1) We get a lot of political intrigue to wade through this week, plus a couple of pretty big dramatic revelations, not least of which was the twist of fate for Prince Baudoin and his mother. What did you make of the trial, and what became of these two?

Prince Baudoin’s entire family comes out on the short end of the stick in the trial, don’t they? Two of the family members are exiled and told if they come back they will be killed. And then there’s the prince and his mother who are found guilty and by unanimous vote put to death.

I found it interesting that each of them got to choose how they would die. Their execution can be public or private and I only assume there are a variety of ways for them to go to their end. The mother picks a quick acting poison that puts her to sleep and she never wakes up while the Prince falls on his sword — literally. Reading this section, I couldn’t help but think a bit about George R.R. Martin and his propensity to kill off any character at any time. And while we haven’t yet had a death that is quite as shocking as Ned Stark from Game of Thrones, I find myself wondering if Jacqueline Carey might not be put laying the foundation for a shocking death to come later in the book.

2) On a rather different, much more personal note for the House of Delaunay was the drama that unfolded surrounding Alcuin (poor Guy!). What do you think might become of Alcuin now that he appears to be out of the game?

A couple of weeks ago, one of our discussion topics was about whether or not Phedre and Alcuin were able to fully know the implications of what swearing their lives in service meant.  This section would seem to indicate that while Phedre has taken to this life like a duck to water, Alcuin wasn’t really prepared mentally, physically or emotionally for the implications of the life he chose.  And so he tries to find a way out of it — with dire consequences for everyone involved.

I also think that while Phedre has taken to playing the game of politics, Alcuin never quite got the rules of the game or how to play it.  Phedre gets to experience a bit of that here by knowing what Alcuin is trying to do but not telling him.  I almost got the feeling she was saving this knowledge for some point in the future when it might be useful to her to use it.

3) As we’d suspected last week, Phedre’s refusal to use her signale gets her into some trouble with d’Essoms – but it also gets her the result that Anafiel had hoped for… Do you think she’ll be more careful from here or will this only make that addictive slope more slippery for her?

Phedre’s on a dangerous path and building quite a reputation.  Somehow I think that not only is she becoming addicted to the sexual side of things but she’s also becoming addicted to the political game she’s playing.  It almost seems like she’s playing chicken with herself to see how far she can go to get the information she wants or needs to take back and continue her role in the game.  I can’t help but wonder if the impact of what happened to Alcuin will play out and cause her to take a step back or if she’ll further embrace the political and sexual game she’s playing.  I also wonder if her being the only source of information now for Delaunay might make her more willing to take a risk or two for him because she wants to keep him in the game.

4) Speaking of Phedre and trouble, what do you make of the ‘relationship’ building between her and Melisande?

I see terrible things on the horizon for Phedre when it comes to Melisande.   We see how Melisande is willing to use anyone to get what she wants and then toss them aside.   And I wonder if Phedre might not become a pawn in the game that Melisande is playing that can be sacrificed when her usefulness has come to an end.

I also wonder if Melisande sees a reflection of her younger self in Phedre and that may be part of what the attraction is.   I think that Phedre is drawn to power and it could be interesting to see if and how she gets burned by Melisande.  Or maybe she will find a way to turn the tables on Melisande.

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Big Finish Review: Mistfall

Doctor Who: Mistfall

One of the things that keeps me from embracing the Big Finish range more than I do is that it seems too determined to maintain the sensibility of the classic Doctor Who serials from which it springs. No where is that more evident than in Andrew Smith’s latest offering to the range, Mistfall.

A sequel to Smith’s own Full Circle, the story finds the fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough heading back to Alzarius, just in time for Mistfall to happen again. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, mind you, except that Alzarius is in a separate universe and the story spends a good bit of the first episode negotiating the TARDIS and our heroes back into e-space. Once we get there, we head to Alazarius where the Marshmen are rising from the swamps and people are trapped on the planet. There’s also a nefarious agenda involving the Marshmen thrown in for good measure.

Smith incorporates some aspects from his novelization of Full Circle here, but I just couldn’t quite get past the feeling that we’d been here before that pervades the first two installments. Things pick up a bit in the third part when the story begins to go in different directions, leading to a hurried fourth installment that tries to wrap up things a bit too quickly and neatly for my liking. The pacing for this one is entirely off and the story as a whole suffers for it.

And, of course, this being the current state of the main range for Big Finish, this one has to be the start of a trilogy of stories. Again, we’ve had a trilogy of stories in e-space and they were fairly successful the first time around. I can’t help but get the feeling of “here we go again” from the inevitable cliffanger to end the story, but dammit, if they don’t make it just intriguing enough that I want to come back and see how it all unfolds.

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Comic Book Friday: Superman/Wonder Woman: Power Couple

Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Power Couple (Superman / Wonder Woman, #1)

After being disappointed by the first collection of the New 52 Justice League, I didn’t have high expectations for the first set of stories surrounding the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. So, I was pleasantly surprised at not only how well this collection of six issues worked but how much I ended up enjoying what was unfolding on these pages.

With two of the DC Universe’s iconic characters dating, Superman/Wonder Woman seeks to give us some insight into what a relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman would be like. It shows the connections these two have as well as the differences they have — one of the biggest early stumbling blocks for the two is if and when they should publicly acknowledge their relationship. Superman wants to keep things on the down low for now while Wonder Woman says that they should acknowledge their relationship. The decision is quickly taken out of their hands by a tabloid blog run by Cat Grant (who is in this venture with Clark Kent, ironically enough). The news and its impact on the characters and their world is nicely done.

The story ties their romantic relationship in with their battles with certain villains. In this case, it’s Zod who is freed from the Phantom Zone and comes to threaten our heroes and the world at large. As threats go, this works well and what is presented on these pages easily beats what we saw in Man of Steel. I’ll admit the battles with various villains worked far better than what we got in the first Justice League collection, where it seemed liked the heroes were given mindless and faceless bugs to pound on, all while destroying several cities.

How long these two remain together remains to be seen. But I’ll give DC and the creative team props for bringing them together in an interesting, believable and readable collection.

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Review: Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire

Taming the Beast

In many ways Emily Maguire’s Taming the Beast feels like a companion novel to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. But instead of getting inside the head of a charming liar like Humbert, Maguire examines how an illicit romance between a teacher and student can impact the lives of just about every one involved.

At the age of fourteen, Sarah Chalke is seduced by her English teacher. At first it’s their love of words and literature that brings them together, but one afternoon things become heated and the two begin an illicit (and illegal) romance, including lots of after school encounters. Sarah keeps the affair a secret from everyone but her best friend, Jaime, who is secretly in love with Sarah. Things end with Mr. Carr’s takes a new job at a different school and decides to try and work things out with his wife, who has become aware of the affair.

The emotional and psychological impact of the affair follows Sarah for her entire life, influencing every relationship and decision she has after that. Despite having an interest and drive to further her education, Sarah is estranged from her conservative family and forced to make it on her own in the world, taking on a string of short-term lovers, none of whom satisfy her needs in quite the same way Mr. Carr did. Sarah even strings Jaime along over the years, including during Jaime’s engagement, marriage and becoming a father. In many ways, Jaime sees himself as the only thing keeping Sarah from going off the deep end and maybe he can save her if he simply loves her enough.

Then one day, Mr. Carr wanders back into Sarah’s life and things go from bad to worse. Controlling and manipulative, Carr wants to dictate to Sarah all aspects of her life.

Taming the Beast is a book full of fascinating characters, none of them extremely likable. Each character is blinded by self-destructive tendencies and an ability to justify their behavior to themselves as “doing the right thing.” In many ways, this is a novel about addictions and self-delusion. It makes for a fascinating read for the first half of the book, but once Mr. Carr shows back up things take a left turn and the novel never quite recovers. It makes a bunch of likably unlikable characters completely unlikeable and I found myself becoming frustrated with the bad choices everyone was making. Maybe that’s what Maguire is going for in the novel. I’m not one who feels that every book should have a “happy ending.” But it still feels like this one just misses the mark when it comes to sticking the landing.

And yet, I can’t help but want to pick up another novel by Maguire to see what she’s going to do next.   I’m not sure what exactly this says about his book or me.

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