The Princess Diarist

26025989The Princess Diarist

Carrie Fisher

Goodreads

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

Review:

This is not a story about the making of Star Wars, not really. While Carrie does of course speak at length on the effect of the series on her life and the immediate aftermath of the popularity of the first movie, there’s no behind the scenes content. Except when it comes to her relationship with Harrison Ford, playfully referred to as Carrison.

There’s a lot of that.

But hearing the story, I can’t really blame her for her focus. The impetus for this book was apparently the rediscovery of several journals that Fisher had kept through the making of the first Star Wars movie. And, being nineteen and having an affair with Harrison Ford of all people, her writings naturally revolve around their relationship, as well as her own insecurities and a few telling touches with her disease. This is a memoir of Carrison, without any scandalous, sexy bits involved. That, and a reflection on the meaning of Leia in Carrie’s life.

I have never read any other of Fisher’s writings, so I can’t compare what’s written here with what’s written there. I can say that from what was read of her journals directly (by her daughter Billie Lourd) that even without an editor she makes an excellent writer and clever poet. I can also say that, as I listened to the audiobook, hearing it all spoken in Fisher’s voice makes all the difference. Her inflections are perfect and hammer home how ridiculous she now takes her younger self, as we all view our younger selves.

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Thunderhead by Neil Shusterman

33555224 Thunderhead

Neil Shusterman

Goodreads

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

Review (minimal spoilers):

The summary does not even begin to scratch the surface of all the things going on in this book. From what (I felt) was a fairly straightforward (but immensely enjoyable) plot in Scythe expanded into multiple overlapping storylines as well as new characters.

At a certain point in roughly the middle of the book I thought to myself, “Is this too much?” And then I decided that I didn’t care because the ride was too enjoyable. I was rewarded in the end by having all the storylines neatly wrap up and then abruptly be cut off by an amazing cliffhanger that has me desperate to see what comes next.

The main star of the show in this novel is Citra, or Scythe Anastasia. Her growth from novice overachiever in the first book to political savvy junior scythe in this adventure is seamless and wonderful to read. Rowan, I feel, takes a bit of a back seat. Or perhaps I was so thirsty for more of Rowan’s story after Scythe that nothing would satisfy me. The secondary star for me was definitely Greyson Tolliver whose storyline had me as interested as any of the main characters. While in the previous book, each chapter had some quotation from a scythe’s journal — notably Scythe Curie — in this novel we have insights from the Thunderhead itself which I feel adds so much to the worldbuilding of this novel and bookends all the chapters with just enough commentary to make you understand how the world and the Thunderhead thinks (which often syncs up with what you’re thinking).

And oh the worldbuilding. So much was added and shaped and honed. So much that I didn’t understand or was annoyed by now makes sense. The Tonists! The Tonists!

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

28421168Renegades
Marissa Meyer
Goodreads

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Review:

With an intriguing summary and the promise of superheroes and villains, I couldn’t resist picking this book up and giving it a read.  And, overall, I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s hard to really mess up a book about good versus evil and it’s even harder when the author doesn’t show a bias to side of good or the side of evil so the reader can make the choice on who and what they agree with.

The book is, however, a little long in spots.  I think a good fifty to a hundred pages could have been cut off to make it flow a little better but that’s a minor quibble.  The book does have a large cast of secondary characters and the author seems to try and provide some backstory to them even if it’s very brief.  I will admit to not retaining the real names and superhero names of some of the characters because they were glossed over and nothing made them jump out and be memorable.

Adrian and Nova, the two main characters are two sides of a different coin.  One is the son of two of the greatest superheroes in existence and the other is the niece of one of the greatest villains ever.  Nova is full of anger and resentment towards the superheroes and she’s hellbent on bringing them down.  So, she goes undercover, joins the Renegades and in doing so gets closer to Adrian.  There is, of course, the prototypical beginnings of a love story between the two leads and while I could take it or leave it, it was pretty cute and adorable.

As I mentioned earlier, I liked the attention paid to the philosophical part of a world run by superheroes.  How regular people would become lax and lazy and would not help themselves, always relying on someone else to be there.  How they became complacent and unwilling to even try to better themselves.  The villains in the story are still villains but they’re given a good, proper motivation for what they do and what they’re working towards.

My favorite character in the story is the character of Max, the ten year old superhero with a power that’s more dangerous and deadly than anything anyone else has known.  I’m hoping he gets to be a little more of a factor in the next book because of his ties to the main villain and how he helped bring him down.

Overall, not a bad book.  Slow in parts, a little predictable, but enjoyable.  I’ll be reading the follow up.

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

27426044Nyxia
Scott Reintgen
Goodreads

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Review:

This is the Hunger Games in space if the Hunger Games didn’t have an annoying protagonist (sorry, Katniss).  The first in a trilogy, this book focuses on ten teenagers picked to be shot into space to compete in a wargames type training regime in order to prepare them to go down to Eden, an alien planet inhabited by beings called the Adamites.

Ten are recruited.  Only eight will go.

This is a fast paced, high octane kinda book.  It gets going quick and then never really lets up which I loved.  It doesn’t slog itself down in technical descriptions or philosophical debates.  That might come once the setting moves to the planet but this book should just be action and adventure with a little bit of backstory to make us care about the characters.

The author succeeded in all of those things, in my opinion.

The cast is large but I really grew to care about many of them despite some characters getting more attention than others.  I cried when one character died and I held my breath as rivalries became more and more dangerous.  I was rooting for Emmett, our main character, to win and win and win and to do whatever it took to make that happen.  He’s very, very sympathetic, something that can be hard to do when it comes to books like these (again, sorry Katniss).

More than anything, the book’s made me want more.  This is going to be a trilogy and I’m so, so eager to see where it comes.  The book moves itself and its character down to Eden for the second in the series and I’m so stoked to see what might happen as these characters who were haphazardly thrown together are now tasked to live on an alien planet and work together.

This is a great, popcorn-y read.  It’s not going to make you strain your brain but it is going to let you have some fun.

Extracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee

33985428Extracurricular Activities
Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads

When Shuos Jedao walked into his temporary quarters on Station Muru 5 and spotted the box, he assumed someone was attempting to assassinate him. It had happened before. Considering his first career, there was even a certain justice to it.

Review:

This is a cute interlude giving the reader a little bit of a glimpse into Shuos Jedao’s background before he became the murderer and madman he was supposedly transformed into after Hellspin Fortress.

The story is humorous and lighthearted, focusing on Jedao going undercover to try and rescue a fellow Shuos and their crew who’d been attacked in Gwa Reality space.  Seeing Jedao going undercover and being a bit out of his league was enjoyable considering how amazingly skilled and talented he is made to be in the first two books of the Machineries of Empire trilogy.  He spends his time offending the natives of the Gwa Reality by wearing women’s clothes, using the wrong words in their language, and taking revered hairpins out of the high priest’s hair.

There’s nothing really deep here but it’s still a nice little look at Jedao’s life before everything went to such shit.  I’m glad he and Teshet got a little bit of pleasure at the end of the short story.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

30691976Raven Stratagem
Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads

War. Heresy. Madness. 

Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies and resurrected by the hexarchate to put down a heretical insurrection, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.

Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh incursion by the enemy Hafn, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, appears able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.

The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev – or Brezan – trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?

Yoon Ha Lee’s critically acclaimed Machineries of Empire trilogy continues with Raven Stratagem, coming from Solaris Summer 2017.

Review:

The second book in the Machineries of Empire trilogy, Raven Stratagem is another complex, dense, space opera from Yoon Ha Lee.  It’s written with the same ‘throw you right into things’ style as the first book but it does open up a little, allowing you background into characters that were mysteries in the first book and expanding the amazingly inventive universe by giving you insight into what made it this way.

The book scores because it gives you the story through the eyes of many secondary characters, something that’s risky but works.  The book is centered on the resurrection of Shuos Jedao but we do not get any sort of point of view chapters from him.  We see his actions, his motivations, and his interactions through the eyes of his general, his subordinates, his soldiers and his bosses.  This means we’re left, right alongside so many characters, trying to guess what Jedao’s up to just as they are.  It’s fun and has proven to me that I am not very good at guessing what’s going to happen.

The book is also surprisingly refreshing when it comes to things like sexuality, gender, and love.  There is one character who could be considered non binary and is address with the they/them pronoun throughout and almost all characters are written as bisexual though the word isn’t used.  It’s just known.  Men sleep with men and women sleep with women.  Due to the technology in the world, characters are able to change gender at will and no one bats an eye.  No one has to have a romantic partner and it’s not seen as a weakness if you don’t.  It’s the norm in the world and quite fascinating to read.

Seeing as this is the second book, it had to be filled with twists and turns and there were several that made my eyes widen and made me whisper ‘oh fuck.’  Most of the twists I didn’t see coming, which is a testament to how completely insane this book can be considered when it comes to its story.  But, I love it.  I love this book and this series.

As with the last book, be forewarned that it can be a difficult read but if you get into it, it’s very rewarding.

 

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

26118426Ninefox Gambit
Yoon Ha Lee
Goodreads

The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

Review:

I’m going to say right off that this book will not be for everyone.  It was incredibly hard to get into at first because the author throws you right into the action, the world and the story without giving you any background on the conflict and backstory on the characters.  Those do come but they come out throughout the plot and it’s bits and pieces, little bits of the past that the reader learns painstakingly slowly.  It can be off putting and confusing but I’d heard good, good things about the book and the series that I stuck with it.

This quote from Strange Horizons is the best way to describe this book and what it made me feel:

‘“You know what’s going on, right?” Ninefox Gambit asks. Often, you have to say, “Uh, yeah, of course,” when the real answer is “I have no idea, but I really, really care.” And then you keep reading.’

That was me.  There were many spots that confused me and that I had to re-read but I just kept on reading.  I kept on going and going and got more and more into the story and all of its complexities.  I got into the messy characters and fell in love with both Cheris, the Kel who wants nothing else but to please her people and Jedao, the Shuos madman who is centuries old and a dangerous weapon.

This book is heavy military science fiction and not everyone’s going to like it but I encourage people to keep reading past the first several chapters before making that judgment.  Give the world time to open up and give the characters time to get under your skin.

But, if you miss space operas on television and want some good science fiction?  Give it a go.