Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson.

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. 13 hours 21 minutes.

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader ally against a threat to the Empire in this new novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown…and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance—neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged—by a test of their allegiance to the Empire…and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

 

My wish came true! I had mentioned in my review of the prequel that I wanted the story of when Thrawn met Anakin Skywalker and would he figure out that he became Darth Vader?

I don’t think one has to read Thrawn before reading this sequel, but it sure would help to know his background. That said I was reading some reviews on Goodreads and some people mentioned that they missed Eli Vanto. I honestly did not. Though knowing the outcome of Thrawn: Alliances I wouldn’t mind seeing what he is up to with the Chiss Ascendancy.

I listened to this story on audible and once again Marc Thompson is a fantastic narrator. I did laugh at his voice for Padmé, but what can you do? He’s not Natalie Portman, or Catherine Taber.

I also bought the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition, only because I wanted the poster of Padmé. (Side rant: why must they put that ugly sticker on the cover? It’s hiding Vader’s buttons. And it is already printed inside that it’s a B&N exclusive. I pealed it off but there will always be a sticky residue.)

Ok, so back to the review.

I like that we have a time frame. The past is set after Ahsoka has already left the Jedi Order. The present is set after the Battle of Atollon on Star Wars: Rebels. So between seasons 3 and 4.

I’ll start with some critiques and then end on the positive. This is going to get spoiler-y.

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Top Ten Tuesday – July 17: Favorite Novellas/Short Stories

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

July 17: Favorite Novellas/Short Stories

 

1) Zombies Vs. Unicorns, Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

My favorite short stories in this collection are:

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The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

A charming, practical, and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that make up a long life.

In Sweden there is a kind of decluttering called döstädning, dö meaning “death” and städning meaning “cleaning.” This surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner than later, before others have to do it for you. In The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, artist Margareta Magnusson, with Scandinavian humor and wisdom, instructs readers to embrace minimalism. Her radical and joyous method for putting things in order helps families broach sensitive conversations, and makes the process uplifting rather than overwhelming.

Margareta suggests which possessions you can easily get rid of (unworn clothes, unwanted presents, more plates than you’d ever use) and which you might want to keep (photographs, love letters, a few of your children’s art projects). Digging into her late husband’s tool shed, and her own secret drawer of vices, Margareta introduces an element of fun to a potentially daunting task. Along the way readers get a glimpse into her life in Sweden, and also become more comfortable with the idea of letting go.

 

I was in Barnes & Noble last week and just browsing the tables when this immediately caught my eye. It’s morbid yet I also know it’s inevitable so I often think about the junk I’ll have to go through after my parents pass on.

I also think about what will happen to my stuff (mainly books and artwork) when I go, especially if I don’t have children. Even when someone who never had children passes on, someone has to clean their mess. And so Margareta Magnusson states to be thoughtful of those people who you leave behind, whoever they are.

I have often thought about leaving a set of instructions detailing what can be done with certain items and who gets what.

I just never knew that there was an actual Swedish term for it. So when this book caught my eye I had to get it. I read the whole thing the moment I got home.

I found it useful and smart. Magnusson gives some helpful pieces of advice of where to start decluttering and how to maintain a home without clutter. She also provides short, to the point, sentimental stories from her own life that was well balanced with the topic of the book.

I placed some bookmarks in my copy so that when I get started on döstädning I can quickly refresh my memory. (The older you get the hard it is to go through it all!)

The book is to the point and she doesn’t claim to have the knowledge of how to handle the psychological issues when trying to help a loved one who’s a hoarder. I will have to read another book for that.

4 out of 5 Organized homes.

Bonus!  Here is a  video of Margareta talking about döstädning.

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy 2) by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Finally got to read my ARC from NYCC 2017!!

At a Deleted Scenes panel I went to where Arden was one of the speakers she said that she ended up rewriting The Girl In the Tower twice! The version of The Bear and the Nightingale that was published was only half of her original story, but when she went back to the second half it just wasn’t working anymore. So she scrapped the whole thing and started over for the sequel.

I am still curious what the first draft was like.

I was a bit of a mess when reading this sequel. I started it, got nearly half way through when life got in the way and I was too exhausted to read. Then I went away on a vacation and I never read on a vacation because I am too busy touring. Then I picked up where I left off after I got settled into my regular routine. So I feel a bit disjointed as I try to write this review.

I liked it, though not as much as The Bear and the Nightingale. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I reread it. When the third book comes out I’ll listen to the first two on Audible. I already have TBatN in my library.

I really liked the early scenes with Vasya and Morozko I liked their dynamic and I was happy that my questions from the first book about Morozko and the necklace were answered.

I liked Vasya’s rebellion against a patriarchal society and her fight for freedom in medieval Russia. Though sometimes I shook my head at her when she was risking her disguise with silly wagers and races. Girl, you are playing with fire! Figuratively and literally!

Speaking of medieval Russia, Arden really makes the setting feel just right for this fairy tale. I don’t know much about historical accuracy, though she did as much research as she could for a “poorly documented era” (her words). It just really felt like you were there. I also enjoyed the political games and deceptions being played. That added a frustratingly suspenseful dynamic.

One downside of the story is that I did predict who the ghost really was, though I didn’t guess the twist. It does make me want a prequel novel though because what a tragic love story that is!

There isn’t much of a cliffhanger since the villain was disposed of but I do like Vasya’s niece and I want to see where her magic takes her. I also still just really like the way the relationships are written, especially between Vasya and  Sasha, and Vasya and her horse. And of course we can’t see the last of Morozko.

3.5 out of 5 Chyerti

Some of my favorite poetic quotes: I know they say to check the finished work but I am too lazy and I like the way it was written in the ARC:

Page 67: “The more one knows, the sooner one grows old.”
Page 87: “I carve things of wood because things made by effort are more real than things made by wishing.”
Page 189″ The first stars had kindled in a sky gone royally violet, and the moon heaved a faint silver curve over the ragged line of palaces.”
Page 235: “Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory the other: of a life left unchosen.”

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Revenge at all cost!

A young sailor returns home from a dangerous voyage. His father and his sweetheart are waiting for him. But an act of jealous treachery changes his life forever!

An unexpected meeting changes everything and the man who was once an unknown sailor emerges as The Count of Monte Cristo, mysterious, rich, and powerful enough to take the ultimate revenge against his enemies.

I love, love, love this classic novel. Definitely one of my all time favorites. The complexity of it is just brilliant. It’s not just a revenge story (though the revenge is juicy and deserved!) but also a story of hope and forgiveness.

I began listening in the fall of 2017, but I didn’t like the narrator’s voice and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Then I found B.J. Harrison. He narrates a few of Poe’s short stories I love and his voice work is amazing. When I saw he narrated TCoMC I started listening to his rendition.

For two days in December I listened to 14 chapters. Then I took a break to do a re-listen of the Red Rising books before Iron Goldcame out. Fast forward to mid-February I went back to TCoMC and spent the next couple of months only listening to it. The audiobook is 52 hours long (117 chapters). To clear things up in the beginning (February- March) I wasn’t listening everyday. I was doing like only 5 hours a week. The past few weeks of April I have been listening 1.5 – 2 hours daily.

The length of the novel can be intimidating but it is so engaging, and the prose is so poetic. I book marked a lot of sections. I’ll have to share a few of my favorite quotes.

There are so many details between the events and the characters’ connections. There is just so much planning involved that
A) I would have loved to see the outlines that Dumas made and B) I don’t know how anyone can read an abridged version. So many little details from early in the story come back later. You may think something is insignificant, but it’s not. Every subplot has a purpose.

I kept a list of the characters nearby and would refer to it in the beginning to keep them straight, but as time went on I didn’t need it.

I love the evolution of Edmund’s character from innocent and naive to worldly, educated and cunning. I don’t know how Edmund juggled all those identities and stories. (My friend who listened to it right before I did called Edmund the first Batman. I’ll say! She also listens all day long and finished in about a week or so. Damn!)

I loved the way Harrison changed his voice for Edmund. When he was young and naive it was a bit higher and faster. When he became the Count it was deeper and more articulate.

Harrison is a wonderful narrator. His pacing is just right and he does a great range of voices so you know which character is speaking. I love the way he pronounced the name Mercédès. Actually, if it weren’t for the audiobook and hearing all these French names and words pronounced correctly I would be saying them in my head the incorrect American way.

I also loved the way Harrison said “Yes” for Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort (he is paralysed and only able to communicate with his eyes, but retains his mental faculties). His “Yes” is very long and deep.

I could go more into all the characters and their fates but that would turn into a whole essay. (So maybe another post someday.) I’m really glad that I persisted because now I am proud to say I read The Count of Monte Cristo.

5 out of 5 Millions in Diamonds.

FAVOTRIE quotes:

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Star Wars – From a Certain Point of View by 40 various authors

In celebration of Star Wars’ 40th anniversary, Del Rey is going to shine the spotlight on those unsung weirdos, heroes, and villains with a unique, new anthology. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, coming October 2017, will bring together more than 40 authors for 40 stories. Each will be told from the perspective of background characters of A New Hope — from X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star to the stormtroopers who never quite could find the droids they were looking for.

This was a New York Comic Con 2017 special edition cover

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Experience Star Wars: A New Hope from a whole new point of view.

On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the 40th anniversary, more than 40 contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the 40 short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by best-selling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars:

Gary Whitta bridges the gap from Rogue One to A New Hope through the eyes of Captain Antilles.
Aunt Beru finds her voice in an intimate character study by Meg Cabot.
Nnedi Okorofor brings dignity and depth to a most unlikely character: the monster in the trash compactor.
Pablo Hidalgo provides a chilling glimpse inside the mind of Grand Moff Tarkin.
Pierce Brown chronicles Biggs Darklighter’s final flight during the Rebellion’s harrowing attack on the Death Star.
Wil Wheaton spins a poignant tale of the rebels left behind on Yavin.
Plus 34 more hilarious, heartbreaking, and astonishing tales from Ben Acker, Renée Ahdieh, Tom Angleberger, Ben Blacker, Jeffrey Brown, Rae Carson, Adam Christopher, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Paul Dini, Ian Doescher, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Fraction, Alexander Freed, Jason Fry, Kieron Gillen, Christie Golden, Claudia Gray, E. K. Johnston, Paul S. Kemp, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller, Daniel José Older, Mallory Ortberg, Beth Revis, Madeleine Roux, Greg Rucka, Gary D. Schmidt, Cavan Scott, Charles Soule, Sabaa Tahir, Elizabeth Wein, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig

Narrated by a full cast, including:

Jonathan Davis
Ashley Eckstein
Janina Gavankar
Jon Hamm
Neil Patrick Harris
January LaVoy
Saskia Maarleveld
Carol Monda
Daniel José Older
Marc Thompson
All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book – a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need. To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies’ longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children’s books – valued at $1 million – to support First Book and their mission of providing equal access to quality education. Over the past 16 years, Disney and Penguin Random House combined have donated more than 88 million books to First Book.

I bought the NYCC edition and read most of it, but mostly I listened to the audiobook. Sometimes I followed along as I listened.

I’m trying to decide how to write up this review. I loved the stories, so this is not a negative review. It’s just I feel like I have to talk about all 40 stories.

Overall, I enjoyed every one of the stories. Mostly the stories are told in chronological order of the movie, though some jump back and forth to set up a character or setting. You can feel the authors’ different personalities and styles. You can also tell the authors didn’t communicate because events in the stories of the same setting (e.g. the Cantina) contradict one another. However, this is just for fun. A chance to see A New Hope from other characters’ eyes and it’s a beautiful way for fans to relive that feeling of experiencing ANH for the very first time again.

5 out of 5 Galaxies.

Now for my thoughts for each story. All 40 of them.

“A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away.”

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The Freemason’s Daughter by Shelley Sackier

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The Outlander series for the YA audience—a debut, full of romance and intrigue, set in early eighteenth-century Scotland.

Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do—until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England.

Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke—nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex.

Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for?

In Shelley Sackier’s lush, vivid historical debut, someone will pay a deadly price no matter which choice Jenna makes.

Picked up an ARC from NYCC 2016.

This story is being advertised as “The Outlander series for the YA audience” and I don’t agree. I never read Outlander, or seen the show, but from what I have heard The Freemason’s Daughter doesn’t have enough romance to earn that comparison. I am not saying I expect sex scenes in a YA novel, but there wasn’t enough heat between Jenna and Alex. Or Jenna and Daniel.

There also was not enough action, conflict, or suspense. Not much happens in the book until the last few chapters, which were rushed and then it ends abruptly. There were some points when I thought it would finally become exciting,

Spoilers!

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