Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Vol. 1: Commencement (CBR10 #21)

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Vol. 1: Commencement (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, #1)

This book is another Read Harder Challenge twofer. I don’t read a lot of comics; it’s a style of book that isn’t as natural for me as it so obviously is for others. While I was reading through this year’s tasks I saw there were two that related to comics and I knew that I would have to step out of my comfort zone (which is the entire point) to get them done.

But… it was much easier than anticipated. Either my tastes are broader than I give myself credit for or my sleuthing skills have improved over the years. I’m leaning towards the second of those. Task 18 was to read a book published by a house other than Marvel, DC, or Image. I used to listen to Thought Bubble, I know about Dark Horse, AND that they publish Star Wars books. One problem solved. Next, Task 8 was all about diversity (because really and truly #weneeddiversebooks) I needed to find a book written or illustrated by a person of color. A quick skim of the Star Wars offerings from Dark Horse Comics and a cross check of my library’s holdings, and voila I was off on my first visit to the Old Republic .

Here’s the thing I learned about myself and my Star Wars fandom while reading this: I really and truly do love the world of Star Wars, not just the characters of the original trilogy. Could this book have been improved by adding a Wookie? Of course, Chewbacca is the literal best (but he wasn’t alive yet). What I got here though, was a story of a padawan (or apprentice as his favorite antagonizer is so fond of misremembering) who was betrayed by people who were trying to take too much control of what the visions of the future might have shown them, and he must run to save his life, or perhaps stay and fight for what is right. I am always on the lookout for those who stay and fight for what is right.

The art was a bit dark for me, but it reminded me in all the best ways of the animation on Star Wars Rebels. I wish I had more substantive thoughts on this book, but perhaps the highest praise I can give it is that I am thinking about putting the next book in the series onto my stupid long to read list even though my library doesn’t have it in its holdings. Pretty high praise from me, if we’re being honest.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

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Kindred (CBR10 #20)

Kindred

I’ve finally made my way to reviewing the #CannonBookClub selection, Kindred.  I was ecstatic that this was the one we chose. Not that I wouldn’t have happily read any of our options for this first of two anniversary reads, but Kindred has been lurking on my to read list a long time and it fulfills two of this year’s Read Harder Challenge tasks (read a genre fiction classic, read a sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author).

My review is probably going to be a bit disjointed, as I wander through my thoughts and our book club discussion questions.  As I mention above, the fact that this book is categorized as science fiction works in my favor, but it never *felt* like science fiction to me. Sometimes I wonder if I have a firm grasp on the definition of the genre itself, or if Octavia Butler’s very obvious care at historical accuracy kept the science fiction of it all out of my main view. But I do know that I am not alone, Kindred gets name dropped in a Tor.com article from last year discussing whether or not time travel stories are science fiction or fantasy.

I was won over by this novel almost immediately. Dana had such a unique voice, that even before the time travelling really got underway I was invested in her. Butler also does great things with emotions in the book. Dana and Rufus’s connection, Kevin being trapped in the past without Dana created dread that pushed my reading along. I read the book in two sittings. But perhaps the most important emotional cores of the book is Alice and Dana’s tumultuous, intertwined relationship but the simplicity and clarity of the understanding that Carrie brought to her world and her relationships pulled at me the most. Carrie’s appraisal of those around her, and her ability to communicate it (especially with Nigel) brought the later chapters of the novel home for me in a way I don’t know that I can describe. So much is happening so quickly, Alice is suffering so greatly, and Carrie has become in her own way the center of the storm.

But if Carrie is the calm center, then Alice is the raging storm front. I always took it on face value that because Dana’s time travel was sparked by grave danger (her own or Rufus’s) that she was being yanked through time to maintain a timeline, as she saw it to make sure her ancestor was born. What we witness is the destruction of one soul, in order to birth another, to preserve a third. Every single choice, experience, and sacrifice carries the weight of each of them. It is heady, and causes the reader to have to side with what we know will be the destruction of Alice at Rufus’s hands. We know, implicitly, that there is no happy ending for her, but we don’t necessarily know just what her end will be, or for that matter, Rufus’s own. Butler asks her reader to consider: was it worth it? Was their suffering worth Dana’s life? Or is it simply what was?

I still don’t know, 10 days after our book club, the answers to my own queries about Octavia Butler’s work. But I do know that it’s the sign of a five star book for me when I am continuing to chew on the book days and weeks later.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

The Lawrence Brown Affair (CBR10 #19)

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The Lawrence Browne Affair is the second in a series by Cat Sebastian. Like The Soldier’s Scoundrel, it is a historical m/m romance set in Regency England. This time around we’re following Georgie Turner, brother of Jack from The Soldier’s Scoundrel, as he is on the run from his underworld boss after having double crossed him. Jack sets him up with a job in the country as the titular Lawrence Browne’s secretary.

Georgie however finds himself a little over his head. He’s planning to hide out for a while, take something of value from the Earl, and be on his way. What he discovers is that the Earl isn’t as mad as he might appear on first glance, the neighborhood is full of eccentric characters, and a truly fascinating scientific endeavor underway. Georgie can’t help but accurately play the role of secretary, organizing the Earl’s correspondence and getting ever more involved in the research. Georgie is also ever more interested in the Earl himself.  Lawrence is, for his part, highly interested in Georgie – but also convinced that it is just one more symptom of his oncoming madness.

Things get complicated as life shows up (including Lawrence’s son – like I said: complicated), and a deep connection is built and nurtured between Lawrence and Georgie. I continue to really like how Cat Sebastian builds her stories: they are steamy, upbeat historical romances where the worlds of each character are brought to light and the characters help heal or fill in the weaknesses in their partners.

Things get much more dramatic before a final resolution, but as a return to reading after a slump this book was perfect. I laughed, I cried, I was entertained. What more can we ask for from a trip to Romancelandia?

 

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

No Matter the Wreckage (CBR10 #18)

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I struggle with poetry. Reading it never has the same effect as listening to it, even when I read it aloud to myself. But, since April is National Poetry Month I thought I’d give it another shot. In an example of past me having current me’s back, one of the books I picked out for last year’s Read Harder challenge that I never got to was No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay and it is a book of poems. I don’t know how I either a) hadn’t noticed or b) forgot that it was, because I was downright surprised when I was going through my shelves prepping April’s reading list to discover that I could knock off two birds with one slim volume.

The other bit of good fortune? I was already familiar with Sarah Kay’s work and didn’t know. I had seen her spoken word performances over the years and loved them. Spoken word is really much more my speed, so reading a collection based out of that practice made these poems so much more accessible to me, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. There’s something to the freeform nature of her work, of the way in which it is subject driven, a lot like Neruda’s Odes to Opposites, which helped my brain hold on.

Not that every poem in the collection is a knockout for me. I did dog ear (it’s my copy I purchased from an independent publisher, I can do what I want!) a few poems to come back to because they hit me in my feels. I don’t know that I’m doing a great job of selling you on this book, but in his pre-Hamilton days Lin-Manuel Miranda gave her a pull quote for the back cover (!) which reads in part “In this collection she will give you moments so intimate and beautifully rendered you will come to know them as your own.”

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Not bad at all for a fellow I.B. kid.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Missoula (CBR10 #17)

Rape culture is real.

But that doesn’t make me want to face it any more than I already have to in my life. I have had this book on my to read list since it was published in 2015.However I didn’t read it then, instead I picked up Into Thin Air to get a taste of Krakauer’s style before jumping into the deep end so to speak.  I have comments across many Cannonball Read reviews of this book saying that I’m going to tackle it in the coming months, and each time I found an excuse to put if off a few more months, until three years elapsed and I could no longer justify to myself not picking up Missoula.

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Research shows that the vast majority of rapes will be committed by someone who is known to the victim, and likely someone they trust. On top of that, the person will be trusted because there is no single, reliable way to identify a rapist until they have committed an act of sexual violence. Rapists generally have no sense that their actions do in fact qualify them as a rapist and imagine some other, larger, scarier boogeyman – some “other”- as the true danger without realizing that the behavior they accept as “normal” based on our culture is in fact, not. Our society raises sexually aggressive men and shrouds them in the cover of “boys will be boys”.

In Missoula, Jon Krakauer follows several rape victims and recounts their stories from rape to prosecution in order to illustrate how our justice and educational systems are broken, and how it is affecting rape victims, their families, and ultimately, perpetuating a culture that shelters the rapists, who statistically will almost all go on to assault again. It is upsetting*, rage-inducing stuff. It is also important reading.

*I do not suggest this book for someone who has experienced sexual trauma or is suffering from PTSD. I do suggest it for absolutely everyone else.

Krakauer is an astounding writer; he brings a non-biased accounting that leaves no doubt as to the severe, life-altering consequences for the victims as they pursue their quests for justice. Meticulous research serves as the backbone of this book and Krakauer’s forthright style is the perfect fit for examining the testimony and transcripts that make up the evidence in the highlighted cases. Krakauer does very little editorializing, because the documents speak for themselves. Importantly he chose Missoula because there was a paper trail he could base the book on and held himself to a three person corroboration threshold for including things in the book. There is so much more that didn’t make the book because he didn’t have the third person, and didn’t feel comfortable reporting without it.

Here is the new thing I learned, the thing I did not properly understand and that leaves me infuriated (not that most of the information in this book didn’t leave me infuriated and necessitate that I take a step away from the book every so often) is that across this country prosecutors are declining to prosecute cases referred to them by police departments in staggering numbers. In Missoula during the window in which they were being investigated by the Department of Justice, January 2008 to April 2012, 114 reports of sexual assault of adult women were referred by the Missoula Police Department to the Missoula County Attorney’s office. Of those only 14 were filed by the County Attorney for prosecution. FOURTEEN. The police found probable cause to pursue a case following an investigation for 114 cases and the County Attorney’s office agreed approximately 12% of the time. Twelve percent. The DOJ found 350 reported sexual assaults from January 2008 to May 2012, and the 236 were not referred not because they were found to be false or specious, but rather the vast, vast majority were not pursued because there was too little evidence for the police to determine probable cause. Taken at that level only 4% of all sexual assaults even made it to court.

The story of Missoula is in many ways the story of the average American city, its stats line up with the national average, and all of that should upset us greatly. I don’t know exactly how to end this review, as I am well and truly in my emotions about this book. Perhaps that is the best response I can give it at this time.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

A Week to be Wicked (CBR10 #16)

Another week, another Tessa Dare book review.

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As I mentioned last review of The Duchess Deal, I love Tessa Dare books so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that I went ahead and picked up where I left off with A Week to be Wicked once I retrieved it. My quick review of this one is another five star Dare outing, these two back to back really highlight the parts of Dare’s craft that make these the fun, enjoyable, and downright witty reads I’ve come to hope for from her.

To me, Dare’s writing breaks down into a pretty clear set of standards:

  1. Independent lady making her way in the world
  2. More often than not a Marriage of Convenience plot
  3. Smolder and steamy sexy times
  4. Sincere emotion on display
  5. Wounded Hero, either physically or emotionally, who is smitten with the heroine.
  6. Interesting, but not overtaking, side characters
  7. Comedy/quirkiness/whimsy in some regard. Dare is not afraid of humor.

And with all of that we have a sincerely winning combination of components.

In this, the second book in the Spindle Cove series, Dare gives us one of my favorite of her leading ladies, Minerva Highwood. Minerva is the intelligent catch as an early geologist who is determined to make it to a Geological Symposium in Edinburgh to present her findings. Colin is the middling good at everything one, and obviously not as intelligent as Minerva (and the best part is that he knows it, and relishes in her brilliant mind). It’s energizing to read a romance where the man is not some infallible savior come into rescue the heroine- Colin gives it his best, but as he brings up time and again his best intentions go to hell and he doesn’t always manage to do what he says he will. As the reader, we watch a relationship grow, not just a physical attraction (not that it is lacking) and it feels much more realistic and emotionally satisfying than other romances often are.

I’m all about Tessa Dare lately, and for good reason. One word of caution though, Dare writes what I lovingly refer to as Historical Fantasy Romance. There is *some* historically accurate threads that Dare uses to weave her tapestry, but they are very thin and often bent to suit her wants.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

The Duchess Deal (CBR10 #15)

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I did some traveling over the Easter holiday weekend and left the Tessa Dare book I was reading the week before at Ale’s house post snow storm. Not a problem – I have a nook full of other books in need of reading so I went ahead and pulled up another Dare, The Duchess Deal.

I had this one lined up and ready to go for two reasons: 1. I really love Tessa Dare books, and 2. this was nearly universally claimed as one of the few highlights of the 2017 publishing year for Romance by our Cannonball Romance Readers. So of course I purchased it immediately. The only drawback? I have a few months to wait until the next in the series, this terrible waiting is why I normally don’t start a series until later in the publishing order.

So what makes this one so good? Dare’s cleverness in wordplay and character development without some of her worst over the top tropes (no strange pets, just a regular old cat named Britches), a truly sardonic wit, and a bit of poking at modern social commentary right down to the use of the “she was warned…” speech which has inspired so many of us to adopt “nevertheless, she persisted” as our own battle cry.

The elevator pitch of this book is right in line with classic Dare: a disfigured Duke (literally half of his body covered in terrible scars from an explosion) needs an heir so he proposes marriage to the first convenient woman to meet his requirements (which are quite low), and the seamstress who was to have sewn his former fiancé’s wedding gown and is demanding payment marches in and takes his money but refuses his proposal. We are off to the races for a marriage of convenience plot (with ridiculous rules!) with a truly forbidding hero and plucky heroine.

I know I haven’t said much, but if Dare has ever done it for you, this book will probably hit all the right notes for you. Only four more months until the next one is published…

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.