Book Review: Star Trek

by Alan Dean Foster

The novelization of the new Star Trek movie was very well done. Considering how excellent the movie was, I wasn't surprised to hear the book sold out. It closely followed the events in the movie, with some added scenes and explanations of things that occurred but were not shown in the movie (for instance, apparently Jim Kirk had an older brother, who was the boy seen walking along the dirt road in Iowa during the Corvette scene).

I found it interesting that the book opens with Spock's birth, indicating that he's the hero of the story rather than Captain Kirk. The movie version did make me think Spock played more of a central role and was more pivotal to the plot, but despite the fact that Spock opens the book, Kirk was the undisputed hero, appearing in more scenes, his actions and the consequences of his decisions central to the plot. Though I can't decide which version I like better in their treatment of the two characters, I enjoyed both.

I also loved the space-speak, all the language about weaponry and starships. The author was pretty good at making everything sound believable, and bringing us into that world.

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale

Author: Diane Setterfield

Well, wow. You know those books where, after you finish it, you close the back cover, flip it over, and stare into space for a minute or two, trying to absorb what you've just experienced, trying to let it all percolate in your head? Letting the lyrical cadences of the wonderful writing echo back through your mind? This book was just like that. It was also an honest-to-goodness, can't-put-down story.

The Thirteenth Tale, a perfectly delicious gothic mystery, had shades of Wuthering Heights (a strange, sordid family, the Yorkshire moors; as well, the character of Isabelle Angelfield reminded me strongly of Cathy Linton); The Turning of the Screw (a governess caring for two strange children, ghosts), Rebecca, The Secret Garden (again, the wild Yorkshire moors and the theme of gardens for hurting and/or healing), and last but not least, Jane Eyre (madwoman, attic, fire). In fact Bronte's Jane Eyre was such a central theme to the story that it was almost another character, a device used to give the reader clues to the mystery.

It was also fascinating trying to figure out the modern equivalent of the various psychological disorders exhibited by the central characters - the Angelfield family - and how they were dealt with. Equally compelling were the consequences and havoc those disorders wrought.

This was also a book about book lovers, and books. You can hardly go wrong with such a story. And that was exactly what it was - a wonderful, mysterious, dark, eerie, compelling story, written as if you were in the same room as the narrator. Listening to her as she recounted the mysterious occurrences through flashback.

This book had such rich atmosphere, such compelling characters that came alive in the pages, a great plot, and best, a drawn-out mystery that left you hungering to find out exactly what happened.

This one gets an A+.

If you haven't guessed....I like vampire books

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Every vampire book I have read has been targeted towards teens (or tweens). So I am very used to the sort of romance that one expects in a YA book. Sighing, long stares, a sweet kiss, a take-your-breath-away makeout. This romance also typically includes love at first sight, without any explanation, and a love so intense that each would die without the other. But without any explanation. They would just die.

But I'm fine with that kind of romance and plot, because it's crack and easy to read. That being said, it was finally time for me to dive into a vampire romance meant for adults. I had originally tried to read this book a couple of months ago, but found it difficult to get into. I tried again while on vacation, with much more success.

Our heroine of sorts, Sookie Stackhouse, is a telepathic bar waitress in good ol' Louisiana. She's your regular hottie, but who doesn't know or act like a hottie, because everyone thinks she's a freak due to her "disability." She's got a manwhore brother, a sweet little grandmother, some waitress friends, and a boss who has the hots for her. Oh, and Bill Compton, the vampire that's just returned to the town he used to live in during the Civil War. Cause vampires are "out" and sort of socially accepted.

Obviously, our heroine falls for the vampire. Her first reason? She can't hear his thoughts. So ensues their love story, as she saves him and he falls for her. The only problem with this happy love story is that someone is going around killing bar waitresses who have sex with vampires. Hmm...I think there's someone like that in this story...crap...who was that....oh yeah, Sookie. So the romance storyline weaves into the murder mystery storyline, as someone clearly wants Sookie dead.

Overall, the book was your general brain candy, but a little better than the YA brain candy because these lovebirds actually have sex. And there's none of that fade-to-black junk (*cough* Stephenie Meyer *cough*). My only complaint was some of the jumping around from the narrator's POV. Sometimes it felt like Sookie would be in one place with one thought doing one thing and then the next paragraph without any smooth transition it would be her somewhere else, thinking and doing something else.

I'm planning on reading the next one (like I said, crack) and renting the first season of True Blood (which is based off of the book).

Review of "The Vampire Diaries"

Alissa lent me The Vampire Diaries series by LJ Smith, of which I finished book 1, The Awakening. There were so, so many similarities to Twilight that I started getting suspicious. And because Diaries was published in 1991, way before the Twilight books were, all I can say is at some point either before or after writing Twilight, Stephenie Meyer must have read Diaries. Maybe that dream she had of the meadow scene between Edward and Bella that she claims started it all was a direct result of reading Diaries right before she went to bed. Because seriously? Suspiciously similar.

  1. High school setting, with protagonist Elena also 17 years old
  2. Extremely hot (vampire) boy who drives expensive car
  3. Love at first sight
  4. Stefan, the vampire protagonist, tries very hard to drink only animal blood
  5. Stefan holds Elena at arms' length because he doesn't want to be tempted to drink her blood and thus put her in danger
  6. Love triangle (granted, this one is between two vampires and not a vampire and a werewolf, but still...)
  7. A scene where Stefan runs around showing Elena how fast and powerful he is, and another scene where Stefan's brother Damon runs around demonstrating to Stefan how fast and powerful he is. Sound familiar?
  8. Stefan, like Edward, has a certain amount of self-loathing about being a vampire because he doesn't want to be a monster
  9. Special vampire powers, like mind-reading
  10. Stefan is from Italy...which made me wonder at the coincidence of Meyer picking Italy as the Volturi home
  11. At least two, if not more, instances of the word "twilight" used in Diaires. Did Meyer get the idea to name her book from this? Because the title "Twilight" has really nothing to do with the story in Twilight, and Edward's explanation that twilight is the safest time for them has never made sense to me. Wouldn't midnight be the safest time for them? Or any point in the day that's full-on darkness?

There were differences between the books, mainly that Stefan is close to 600 years old and not 90 like Edward was. And sunlight actually kills these vampires, instead of merely making them all sparkly. Unlike Bella who was an outcast, Elena is an alpha girl and the Queen Bee of the school. But unlike Twilight, I hated the characters in Diaries. Stefan was devoid of all personality and was a total and complete wimp at the end of the book. He didn't hold a candle to the Edward that Meyer created. But I reserve all my hate towards Elena, who was an amazingly heinous character. She was vain, arrogant, incredibly self-absorbed, manipulative, and so, so full of herself. Urgh.

They are shooting the TV pilot right now in Vancouver for CW (the coincidences are just remarkable, as New Moon is filming there right now as well), but I'm torn on whether I'll watch it or not. I do want to make a point that my Twilight love remains firmly unshaken, but I am wondering...

REVIEW: The Silent Man by Alex Berenson

So the love affair continues between me and Alex Berenson. No, not THAT kind of love affair. The I-continue-to-love-his-books kind. See, I was recently burned by an author who I long ago fanned, and the feeling of betrayal was as acute as if she was a longtime friend in real life and she told me she'd become besties with the girl who bullied me in high school.

Anyway, back to Senor Berenson: His most recent book, The Silent Man, came out early this month. A short plot synopsis thusly:

We continue where we left off (this is book 3, I forgot to mention) in the life of CIA spy John Wells who is now trying to live a domestic life with his domestic partner. Of course Mr. Wells finds all this domestication intolerable, but he gamely attempts to chug along despite some lingering PTSD and a sense that he still has some contributions to make in the fight against al Qaeda.

Naturally the bad guys couldn't leave well enough alone. In this world of pseudo-domesticated bliss, they ambush Mr. & Ms. Wells' convoy to work and nearly kill our intrepid hero's significant other. Of course that just won't do. Despite warnings of dire consequences, Wells tries to get revenge. He fails, but it turns out his attempt and subsequent failure make the real bad guys scared shitless enough that they offer him a carrot. And thus the plot to stop a nuclear bomb from detonating in D.C. ensues.

Good shit all around.

And now, for the review:


  1. Roland. I like it when my hero gets to act out his inner bad guy. I can just picture Wells in this persona -- all black Armani and dark sunglasses and sexy as hell. And don't forget about that accent.

  2. The humor. Best parts of the book all involved something funny -- Ellis rescuing Wells at the airport after the revenge trip, Ellis giving Wells shit for not buying Jen a ring, Ellis Googling the Penn State women's soccer team in the middle of a tense chase scene. Actually, come to think of it, one of the best things about this book is...

  3. Ellis. Love this guy. Does he deliberately spill ketchup on his suits? Is that absentminded persona real or fake? Things that make you go hmmmmm...

  4. The bad guys. Great backstories, believable motivations.

  5. The freaking plot. My gawd, this book scared the living shit out of me because everything sounded real. It's like Two Bad Guy manuals in one: "How to Steal Two Nuclear Bombs From a Top Secret Russian Weapons Depot," and "How to Make a Nuclear Bomb 101." The best part about all this technospeak is that it was so clear and compelling and believable it didn't make me want to skim over, unlike Clancy.


  1. I read a review of TSM where the author said that Berenson said the story this time around is about revenge. I said, "Uh oh." A lot of revenge stories are also lone wolf stories. You know, the kind where the hero, against all sane advice, goes after the killer/perp, endangering not just himself but also the mission and those around him. Yes, Wells did go off on a revenge trip, but he failed (good thing). AND, best of all, his bosses end up sanctioning his mission and gets the power and support of the CIA without dangling by his lonesome.

  2. The ending. I know Berenson is setting me up for a 4th book, but man! The mission is successful, but the man is broken. John better get some lovin soon. And I don't even mind that it might be from Ms. Universe.

  3. The doctor's death. Poor guy. I thought this character's purpose all along was to be the bridge between the bad guys and the good. That he'll see the error of his ways (which did happen) and he'd be at least partially successful in reaching out to the kaffirs. That his character represented the enlightened, redeemed fundamentalist. But no. He dies after realization but before redemption. When I got to the part of his death, I thought, "what a waste of a good character. He could have been so much more compelling.


  • "You really don't know anything about women, do you?"
  • -- Ellis to Wells after Wells tells him Jen doesn't want a diamond engagement ring.

  • "In the desperate weeks to come, [Kowalski] would ask himself more than once whether he would have made a different decision if he hadn't been so damned hungry.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5 out of 5. Loved this book. Fantastic read, pulse-pounding action, great characterization, exciting and believable end-of-world scenario. I highly recommend. But only after you read books 1 (A Faithful Spy) and 2 (The Ghost War).

Way to Pull a George Lucas, Mr. Card

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

You know how franchises sometimes make another movie or a spin-off of something just because the original is wildly popular and want to keep the gravy train rolling? And the newly created entertainment is just a shadow of the original and you wish it wasn't created in the first place? If you're not quite certain what I'm talking about just refer to Episodes I, II, and III of Star Wars and the joke that was the fourth Indiana Jones movie. Or read Ender in Exile.

Now, I am a huge fan of Ender's Game. Seriously, I read that book at least once a year, and right now am rereading the Ender's Shadow series. And so when Ender in Exile came out, of course I had to get it. And while it was nice to extend my time with Ender, and getting to see him grow a little older (sort of), there were numerous issues with book that led me to not enjoying it as much as I hoped:

1. Valentine (Ender's sister) has become exceptionally whiny and overbearing.
2. Part of what made Ender so wonderful was his ability to love and understand before ultimately destroying something. In Exile, his characterization is a shell of that. It's fairly one dimensional.
3. The climax of the story is completely abrupt and random.
4. Exile is supposed to directly follow Ender's Game, in fact, there's even some overlap. However, if you hadn't read the Ender's Shadow series (I have) or the Speaker for the Dead series (I haven't, but plan to), which are both divergent continuations of Ender's Game, you will get massively confused. Kind of like reading that sentence. Card assumes his readers have detailed knowledge of those two series and refers to events that occur in them constantly. But his reference to the events are not clear and would be impossible to follow if his readers actually read Exile right after Game, without reading the original follow-up series.
5. Too much talk, very little action. I've become very aware of this trap since Twilight, and Card fell into it. And the brief moment of action, the climax, was so jarring from the rest of the novel because there had been no set up for that flow.

So do yourself a favor, don't watch Episodes I, II, and III of Star Wars, the fourth installment of Indiana Jones, and don't read Ender in Exile. Stick with the originals.

Review of "With the MD...At the Altar?"

Title: With The M.D...At The Altar? (Curse of Raven's Cliff)
Author: Jessica Andersen

This is the first book in the series called Curse of Raven's Cliff, and I must say, "With the MD...At the Altar?" has got to the the stupidest title ever. Looking at the title and the cover gives you the impression of a hokey category romance where the girl is obviously putting out so she can snag herself a rich doctor husband. Nothing can be further from the real story. This book is actually a medical crime mystery set in a gothic seaside town complete with mysterious lighthouses, haunted monasteries, and curses.

The heroine is the town doctor trying to battle an outbreak among the townspeople, some of whom turn very violent and murderous. Enter the hero, also a doctor, but who works for the CDC. He has arrived to help the heroine figure out what's causing the epidemic and find a cure. He and the heroine also have a history - they used to be an item when they worked together in rescue medicine in various developing countries in the past.

The mystery was interesting, the writing was solid, but the characters were so bland that if you notice, I don't even remember their names and have to refer to them as "hero" and "heroine" for this review. The hero is supposed to be this hotshot hot stuff, but he had no personality whatsoever. I also found both the hero and heroine's motivations to be contrived and forced, and when I finally found out what the reasons were that had kept them apart all these years, I was like, "so what? That's been the problem this whole time? Eh." Also, when they finally got together for teh secks, I was was so bored that I actually skipped ahead. No chemistry to speak of between these two.

And, because this is part of a series, the mystery wasn't resolved, which pissed me off. Hello, who was the killer?! I devote time to read through this book and get no payoff? Blah!

Grade: B-