Friday, April 01, 2016

Star Trek / Green Lantern: The Spectrum War

Star Trek / Green Lantern: The Spectrum War is a graphic novel which is exactly what the title says, an improbable crossover between the rebooted Star Trek and the Green Lantern universe.  Go ahead and snicker.  It was fun.

In a future/alternate GL timeline, Nekron, the creator of the Black Rings, somehow manages to kill most of the members of the various Lanterns Corps.  Ganthet pulls off a trick to use his death's energy to send the various rings into another universe, specifically the one populated by our rebooted Enterprise crew.  The Enterprise crew find his body about the same time Hal Jordan finds them (the green ring was curiously missing from Ganthet's collection).  The rings get activated and three Enterprise crew members get chosen while the yellow, red, and orange rings fly off to find appropriate Star Trek universe counterparts.

The yellow ring chooses one of my favorite Klingons, General Chang, who is sadly underused in this book.  The red and orange rings choose some random characters they created for this book.  Don't bother getting invested in them.  Grumpy McCoy gets indigo (I love his reaction to  the ring picking him.), while Uhura becomes a Star Sapphire, of course.  *sigh*  My favorite choice is Chekhov.  He gets chosen by the blue ring.  "I can do zat!"  He does embody hope.

Anyway, Nekron pops up again and the new Lanterns have to join up with the old Lanterns that actually managed to survive and get pulled from their universe to ours.  Yes, I consider Trek to be my universe.  I can hope, can't I?  Each of the Corps has at least one that survived.  They each find their counterparts and things go from there.  Oh, did I mention that Nekron has found the perfect place to rouse an army?  It's the asteroid cluster formerly known as Vulcan.

This was only a six part series, so it wasn't really long or in depth.  It was fun, though.  Kirk and Jordan are too much alike to actually get along well at first, but when faced with impending doom our heroes manage to rub along well enough.  Kirk figures out the way to beat Nekron, in an interesting twist.  Don't take this book seriously.  It's fluff and wish fulfillment, just like the Star Trek / Doctor Who crossover.

Different Seasons by Stephen King

This is really just a review of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.  I put Stephen King on my list of authors to read for my 2016 challenge, but knew I'd have to read a non-horror story.  Sorry, but King does his job too well and what he doesn't, my over-active imagination happily fills in for him when I'm trying to go to bed.  Not happening.  Since The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies, I figured I'd pick that one up.  Of course it had to be in an anthology.

Anyway, to those who don't know (living under a rock, are we?) the basic premise of the novella and movie is that an innocent man, Andy Dufresne, is sent to prison for murdering his wife.  The novella encompasses his entire term in prison as observed by a fellow inmate named Red.  Andy is a smart man, he was a banker on the outside, who uses his brains to make a bad situation just a little bit more tolerable.  And he has a plan.

I really liked it.  King didn't flinch from the awful stuff that happens in prisons, but he didn't overuse it either.  For a short read, you got invested in both Andy and Red and couldn't help but hope for both of them.

As for the three other stories in the book, I started reading An Apt Pupil after I finished Shawshank but had to stop.  The characters made me feel dirty from the get-go, which is apparently King's intention for them.  Hehehe.  I did get far enough in to get the reference to Andy Dufresne and had a bit of a chuckle at it, but I just couldn't read further.

The Body is the story Stand By Me, another old favorite movie, is based upon.  I started it, but haven't finished it.  I probably will before I give the book away, but it's not a priority.

The last story is The Breathing Method, which is tagged as a horror on the dust jacket, so I may not read that one.

Meg Brown: The Short Man by Joshua Cejka

The Short Man (Meg Brown Mysteries #1), by Joshua Cejka, was a quick read, as it's a short story.  It was fun,  Meg is of the uber-observant school of detectives and is sent with her partner to solve the mystery of a murdered parking enforcement officer.  There was a good amount of humor packed into this little gem as well as enough back story filtered in to make us interested in the character.  I'll be picking up the others in this series.

Alpha Bear by Bianca d'Arc

I'm really liking this series.  In Alpha Bear d'Arc is introducing what sounds like a really cool Big Bad, while still making the immediate Baddie dangerous locally.  This time, John, the Alpha of the community of Grizzly Cove, is up for the mating chopping block.  Of course, the job of the author is to throw obstacles at this and decides to pair him up with a strega, or hereditary witch of Italian origin, Ursula.  Apparently shifters and witches don't tend to make the best of couples.

Well, Ursula and her sister have been hiding their magic so they don't get bounced out of the nearly-all shifter community.  The sister outs them by accident and things start moving pretty quickly after that.  It is a quick read and has some fun bits.  I really hope Ursula's grandmother makes a visit to Grizzly Cove at some point.  She sounds like a real trip.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts

I definitely like this series.  I read the second, Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon, by Richard Roberts, right after I posted the review for the first.  I stayed up pretty late reading it, so I shouldn't have woken up as early as I did.

This book finds Penny and her friends, The Inscrutable Machine (an awesome name for a villain team) end up going to Jupiter and its moons to figure out the source of a signal picked up by one of the villains they meet in the first book.  There they meet an interesting cast of characters.  Somehow, a group of humans ended up being brought out to colonize some of the moons of Jupiter.  The new humans in the story are joined by a group of Automoton, who control the humans' lives, and also by a species of alien that takes over the humans by infecting them like parasites.  Penny still wants to become a hero, rather than a villain, but it seems everything she does works in such a way that she still appears to be a villain.

As I said, I really am getting a kick out of this series.  The main character the friends interact with in this book is a nicely flawed, fellow mad scientist.  Remmy has two brothers with differing ideas of how to save the other Jovian colonists from the robots and the parasites.  They're both older brothers who think of Remmy as a pesky younger sibling.  Remmy has a story arc I hope Roberts revisits in later books.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain by Richard Roberts

I ended up reading Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts because I got the third one in the series as a free read for review from Netgalley and the third refers to enough things that happen in this one and the second that I want to read them first.  I really liked it.  I'm going to be buying this series in paper.

Penny is the daughter of two superheroes.  She has always hoped she'll get her own powers.  Well, she does.  Slight hiccup being that her powers seem to lend themselves better to being a supervillain than a hero.  This first book finds her and her two best friends sort of falling into the villain thing by accident.  Basically, one of her friends loses his temper and pulls a "Hulk-Smash" which is actually a trap by a superhero's sidekick.  To get him out of trouble, she has to fight the sidekick and gets branded a villain.  Things go south from there.

The characters are nicely fleshed out, including the parents, amazingly enough.  Most parents in YA novels are there for decoration and the occasional grounding.  Penny truly loves her parents and doesn't pull the "oh woe is me, my parents don't understand me" bullshit.  It's nice seeing a YA family that actually has that love all around.

The descriptions of the inventions she makes and the world she lives in are a lot of fun.  There are enough superhero tropes being used well and in a fresh manner and enough to remind you that these are, indeed, kids learning how to run in an adult world that it makes the book very interesting.  For example, when meeting the strongest supervillain alive, even if he's retired, Claire wants his autograph.  This is a world that celebrates the superhero genre and enjoys its place in it.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Genealogy Fun and Frustration

I've been doing a lot of genealogy research recently.  I signed up for Ancestry again after finally getting a computer that can actually handle research again.  I've been rebuilding the trees I had.  Unfortunately, the gedcoms didn't survive the virus that hit the last computer and I guess the back-ups I did must have saved the corrupted files.

Amazingly, I've found the birthplace in England of the ancestress who came here only a year after she was born.  We knew she had been born in England, but I wasn't expecting to find her maternal grandparents in the same place.  Even better, her grandfather was listed in the 1851 census as a blind pauper.  I wonder how they survived?  Did my ancestress' father have to support five people; his wife and daughter, plus his wife's elderly parents, for they were in their 60s when the census was taken?  Is that why he packed up and left England?  He and the others had already left Ireland, presumably to find work.  What happened to his in-laws?  Did they come with their daughter, her husband, and granddaughter?  I haven't found any of their ship records yet.  Wading through all the common Irish names is a pure pain in the ass.  But I refuse to give up.  I will find those stubborn Irish yet.

I found a page that people have listed their genealogy frustrations.  It's fun to read.

Return of the Grr by Alannah Blacke

This was a shape-shifter romance anthology by Alannah Blacke.  Four stories pleased me.  The others ran the gamut from meh to ugh.

Pride is a story about a lion shifter who goes to Africa to get away from his stresses for a while, finding love while he does.

Alpha Black is about a bear shifter called upon to protect a non-shifter from an old girlfriend of his.

Mine to Bear is another bear shifter story.  This one features a character from an earlier story falling in love with a woman who had been kidnapped and held as a sex slave by a den of werewolves.

The last story I liked was a leopard shifter story contained in the three stories: Look Before You Leopard, Better Late Than Leopard, and A Leopard is Forever.

Honestly, I really didn't like the others that much.  Actually, I really disliked the MMCs in Bear In Mind and Bear Down.  They were quite despicable.  Maybe if the stories had been longer, they could have been redeemable.  As it was, there wasn't enough story for the character development needed for them to become lovable characters.

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso by Kali Nicole Gross

This was an interesting book by Kali Nicole Gross, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.  It seemed like it would be a juicy, gory depiction of a gruesome murder, but it really ended up being a dissection of race and politics at the turn of the century in Philadelphia.  The author brings up interesting points about our assumptions of black womanhood and how those assumptions have been shaped by slavery, and Emancipation.  Those attitudes still remain if you really think about it.  That's not to say the author touched on this, instead, her focus was on Tabbs and her ability to manipulate the system and society she found herself in.

The only thing I didn't like was that the book wasn't able to follow Tabbs and Wilson further in their lives, both before and after the trial, but that is due to the limitations of the historical records available.  That limitation actually seems to prove the author's thesis, that Tabbs' place in history rests in her interactions with the white press and legal authorities, not her own agency.  We are also so used to the paper trails and random information that we leave behind in our daily lives that it seems almost impossible that we wouldn't know more about someone accused of murders nowadays.  In a way this makes the book even more intriguing for that fact that there are so many unknowns remaining.  We are, frankly, spoiled when it comes to biographies and histories in that the subjects tend to be those with a wealth of information and resources behind them.  I'm glad there are authors who try to find obscure history topics and breathe new life into them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Runaway Vampire by Lynsay Sands

Yay!  She's back on track.  The last Argeneau book was a disappointment, but this one, Runaway Vampire, I liked.  She really focused on the heroine in this story.  Dante didn't get as much to work with, but at least the fmc, Mary, felt real.  She's a 62 year old widow faced with a hunk who she runs over with her RV.  Said hunk is being chased by kidnappers and needs her help getting away.

As I said, Dante doesn't really get fleshed out, but Mary does and I like the fact that she has a history and has a healthy attitude toward relationships and that they aren't all hearts and flowers.  The exposition to explain the Immortals to the newbie doesn't feel forced.  The ending leads into what should be Tomasso's book but it wraps up Mary and Dante's story nicely.  The book is also filled with Sands' trademark humor.  Just wait until you get to the condom scene.

I was quite disappointed in what happens to Mary between pages 338 and 341, but I guess it was necessary.  Not telling what it is.  All in all, a very good outing in the series.

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe

Traces of History by Patrick Wolfe tackles racism and colonialism by comparing Jews, Native Americans, Indigenous Australians, and the descendants of African slaves.  This book is pretty darned amazing and engaging.  Wolfe posits that the experiences of the two indigenous groups were quite a bit different from the experiences of the Jews and Blacks, even if they all experienced discrimination and racism.  He makes his case well.  He even brings up the differing experiences of the two major areas in the Americas that Blacks have faced incredible discrimination: the United States, and Brazil.  Again, my highest praise for a history book, I'll be looking further into this.

I had read of some of the history he went into about the Australian Aboriginal struggles, and knew a lot of them mirrored things the Native Americans experienced, such as the kids being taken from their families so they could have the Native taught out of them.  It boggles the mind that this was still happening up until the 1960s, though. 

One thing he mentions in a footnote has my inner genealogist going "Hmm".  On page 115 he states that there were only 400,000 Africans brought to the United States, but by 1860 there were over 4,000,000 slaves.  Even with enforced breeding by slave owners, not every one could have given birth or sired children, so I have to wonder how closely related the Black population is to each other.  How many distant cousins are out there that don't even know it?  Obviously, that wasn't the point of the book.

Just Another Southern Town by Joan Quigley

I've read about the sit-ins and boycotts of the civil rights movement, but never heard about the case or the person at the heart of this book, Just Another Southern Town.  Mary Church Terrell was a woman born the same year of the Emancipation Proclamation and lived long enough to help make civil rights history when she was 90 years old. 

The book talks about her and the others, including the Supreme Court justices who made that history in a way that brings them to life in the story leading up to the Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co. Inc.  None of them are perfect and Ms. Quigley doesn't present them as saints or sinners.  The book tells the history of the Thompson case in an engaging manner that throws a lot of facts at you, but in such a way that it doesn't overwhelm or bore.  

As I said, I had never heard of the case before and had assumed that desegregation of lunch counters was pretty much an all or nothing thing that had begun with Greensboro in 1960.  I love finding out that I was wrong.  My highest recommendation for any history book if that it has me more interested in a topic I didn't realize I need to know more about and want to investigate more.  This book certainly has done that.

Stars In Your Eyes by Lynn Kurland

Stars In Your Eyes is the newest Lynn Kurland time-travel romance.  These are an automatic buy for me.  This one didn't change my mind but, for some reason, it wasn't quite as satisfying as some of the others.  Not sure why.  Actually, I think I do know why.  Even with all of the odd goings-on around Artane that Phillip as been studiously ignoring, he adjusted too quickly to his very brief period in modern times.  I like when the hero does things like pull his sword on the microwave and such.  Phillip just adjusted without any real culture shock.

Basically, it was good until they came back to the modern times.  Phillip adjusting quickly and one other thing kind of threw it off the rails.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the book, but it just didn't please me as much as some of the others.

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne

Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne is an interesting book.  The writing style took a bit to get used to.  It is definitely written with kids in mind.  The author uses a lot of onomatopoeia to help flesh out the world.  It's written from the perspective of a nine year old girl, after all.  The world itself is appropriately named Candi-land.  As I read the book I kept imagining the whole thing as a game of Candyland gone amuck.

The book is an adventure set upon by a group of nine year old girls through multiple countries to retrieve special ingredients for a magic potion to overthrow a despotic ruler poised to take over all of their lands.  Each girl has a special ability they can access through eating a special candy.  Lydia is the one we enter the book through so she is the best fleshed out of the girls.  Each of the others does get fleshed out more as the story progresses, though.

The action is just scary enough and life-threatening enough that it will thrill younger readers.  I got worried a few times myself.  All in all, it was a pretty good book that left me with a definite hankering for sweets after I finished it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Crochet Stories: Grimms' Fairy Tales and The Nutcracker

Dover is putting out a series of amigurumi pattern books that are absolutely adorable.  I've been able to review Grimms' Fairy Tales and The Nutcracker thanks to NetGalley.  I honestly can't decide which is my favorite of the two.  I'll be quite happy to make dolls from both.

The Grimm book by Vanessa Putt includes presents each story before giving a couple of patterns for your amusement.  The designer of the Grimm book favors a chain method of starting amis and describes how to do it, but if you're like me, you can just omit the chain and start with a magic ring on the first round.  I really need to make the hedgehogs, and the witch from Hansel and Gretel.  She also gives designs for Jack's beanstalk, and Rapuzel's tower.  I thought those were pretty cool.  They can be used for an infinite number of stories by kids (and adult kids), especially since she gives a basic doll pattern that you can modify as you need.

The Nutcracker book by Lindsay Smith also presents the story as it goes and then gives you the characters.  This designer starts with a magic ring, but if you're a fan of the chain start, you can always replace it with that.  This book has a couple of pages at the end that discuss special techniques and she uses more elaborate hairstyles than the Grimm book.  She walks you through each of them.  If I had to pick a favorite ami it would be between Godpapa Drosselmeier and the Mouse King.  There are also a couple of smaller patterns that can be used as tree ornaments if you so desire.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Boston Tea Party Debate

Oh, my history geek flag is definitely flying today.  I'm watching a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party debate that was taped by CSPAN3 on the anniversary of the Tea Party.  This is just friggin' awesome.  They wrote down bits for the audience to recite in the debate.  Listening to the kids speaking the parts of adult weavers and such is just great.  This is just the kind of thing to get people interested in history.  I really wish interactive history would be the norm rather than the exception.