Posted in Sci-Fi Friday, Star Wars

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor

This story takes place soon after Return of the Jedi but prior to Han and Leia getting married. The death of the Emperor and Darth Vader has only served to fracture the the Empire. There are splinters that still need to be stamped out by the New Republic. The most dangerous of the factions is lead by Lord Shadowspawn who appears to have been on of the Emperor’s lieutenants. He and his shadowtroopers operate out of Mindor, a planet. Shadowspawn has made this particular planetary system hazardous by laying gravity mines as well as gravity interdictors. What this means is that any New Republic ships can only get so close before they are pulled out of hypespace.

Skywalker plus a good sized portion of the New Republic fleet go to Mindor. These shadow pirates overwhelm them. In fact Luke is forced to crash land his capital ship on the planet. It appears that Lord Shadowspawn’s design is to have Luke be crowned the new emperor. So he manipulates Luke into his lair. But of course, LUke doesn’t want to be the new emperor. So Luke and Shadowspawn fight. Luke senses that Shadowspawn’s intent is that Luke kill so of course Luke doesn’t oblige. He defeats the man and discovers through the Force that the man under the Shadowspawn headdress isn’t realy Shadowspawn- just a puppet being controlled by someone else. Of course the real brains of this operation incapacitates Luke. The real Shadowspawn had been in the Outerrim. It turns out that he belonged to some sort of philosophical group that believes that the Force is Dark. Since all things die, the end goal is destruction of everything. Shadowspawn believes that the reason the Emperor failed because he stopped destroying and tried ruling. Lord Shadowspawn has also mastered many Sith alchemy techiques. Strangely enough though, he does not seem to have force abilities like telekenisis.

Anyway, Leia, who is in the middle of negotiations, senses that Luke is in trouble, so Han and Chewie rush to his aid. Leia leaves the negotiations to Lando to help. When Lando finds out, he quickly settles the negotiations and joins the group as well. Anyway, Shadowspawn realizes after Luke escapes that he didn’t plan very well. But not to worry, he discovers that Luke has a twin who is on the planet so he goes after Leia. But he isn’t able to control her either. It seems Shadowspawn created this lattice that binds itself to a person’s nervous system. He intended to transfer his consciousness to Luke and then Leia and take over the galaxy himself. Luke is able to defeat Shadowspawn once and for all, the planet implodes, and all the good guys get away.

This story is different from the rest in the series. It read like a drama. In the beginning of the story Luke asks an investigator to gather evidence against him. See in all the destruction over 50,000 died. Luke feels responsible. In addition, everyone and their moms is cashing in on Luke and Han’s fame by making movies and adventure stories about them. Some details went awry- like the fact that Darth Vader killed the Emperor because he was jealous that Luke was going to take his spot; and that Luke killed Vader in revenge. The man who investigates Luke, instead of coming back with a serious report writes the novel Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. So it’s a story within a story. How does this fit into the Star Wars universe? I don’t know. Maybe some of that Sith alchemy will make its way into the galaxy and cause more problem. All of the Star Wars tales are related, so this one will be too. This story was just ok for me. It was light and breezy, and it partially quenched my Star Wars thirst till Star Wars Coruscant Nights III Pattern of Force came out on January 27, 2009.

Posted in Non-fiction, Research Aid

The Lexicon

At long last this book is available for purchase. I can tell this book was the subject of a lawsuit. (This is no criticism of the authors and contributors to this book. I know this was beyond their control). I agree with the reporter that said the title of the book sounded like a law book or something of that nature. Yeah, the “Related Materials” was definitely in the title of several of my law school books. The disclaimer on the bottom… Well, with the exception of myself and a handful of others, attorneys have never been known for writing anything worth reading. I could have come up with some more creative yet useful title and disclaimers. But I suppose O’Melveney Meyers has to pay all those big salaries, right! Oh that was mean. Strangely enough, I don’t feel repentant. On to the review.

As this book is reference guide, my plan was to re-read the Sorcerer’s Stone and look up any terms that I found- in short the Janet Sorensen approach. That didn’t work too well. I did something, I hadn’t done since I was 8 years old- I sat down and flat out read the first “chapter.” (Just in case you were wondering, when I was 8, I read a child’s dictionary from cover to cover. I recall being bored; my sister assures me that I was being a dork.) I digress. Once I got to B and C, I started jumping to the cross-references mentioned in the entries. I got lost in the reference rabbit trails for a couple of hours.

As I read it, I was amazed at the detail that went into the book. These four people categorized everything. I couldn’t believe the amount of little details I’d forgotten, i.e. the fact that one of the Gryffindor passwords was “banana fritters” or that Adalbert Waffling wrote Magical Theory. (Yes, Heinrich that was for you.) As well read as I am, I learned a few things that caused me to pause for consideration. For example the entry on the Centaur Bane contained some interesting tidbits on Centaurs in Greek mythology. They weren’t all like Chiron. Apparently they were more similar to satyrs (especially towards women) than I had realized. Vander Ark raises an interesting question as to what transpired after Umbridge was carried off in the Order of the Phoenix. When I originally read that part of the book, I agreed with the assessment given by the kids- she was just sulking. I assumed the worse that could have happened was that she was tied up and threatened. Don’t get me wrong, that is traumatizing. But Vander Ark’s additional commentary gives a more ominous undertone to Umbridge’s symptoms.

I think this is an invaluable book for anyone reading the Harry Potter series. But I think it is a “must have” for children reading this series. Many of the things in the book, adults will understand just by virtue of the fact that we’ve lived longer and have presumably read many of the classical and classic texts upon with J.K.Rowling relies. ( I say presumably because within the last few months, I met someone who never read anything by Charles Dickins in high school or college.) Children and teens on the other hand may miss out on the underlying themes and meaning. I really wish that more books I read when I was younger had a “lexicon” to go with them.

I’m looking forward to re-reading the series with this ready reference guide at hand.

So for those of you who bought it, what did you think?

Oh and for those of you ignoramuses who are thinking of writing a nasty comment like those found on the Barnes & Noble website for this book- I strongly advise you to THINK OTHERWISE. I do not suffer fools- period. You have been warned.

Posted in Liked It, Sci-Fi Friday, Star Trek

Star Trek TNG: A Time to Die

This is the book that follows A Time to Be Born.

Wesley decides to take a more active position in clearing Picard’s name. He uses his ability as a Traveller to take Commodore Korgan, a Medusan, and Counsellor Cabot to the Rashanar sector to see that this area needs to be examined more closely. Both meet with Admiral Nechayev and tell her that they want to help prove Picard’s innocence. Meanwhile, Admiral Nakamura removes Data’s emotion chip and wants to replace it with some sort of device. Wesley intervenes and disposes of the chip in the Rashanar region.

The Enterprise under Riker returns to the region with both Picard and Cabot along for the ride. (Covertly of course.) It appears not a moment too soon because negotiations with the Ontailians are going south fast.

When they reach Rashanar the usual fun begins- hijacked shuttles, kidnapped crew members… But we finally discover what the Ontailians are hiding. The “gravity sink” at the center of Rashanar is actually a vortex to another universe made of anti-matter. The vortex is an intelligence. The shapeshifting ship gathers and returns the anti-matter that has escaped. Colleen Cabot destroys the vortex with a photon torpedo. But then Cabot ends up being killed by some Orion pilots. (Oh I might have forgot to mention that she and Wesley had a thing for each other.) Then the Ontailians hijack the Enterprise intending to sacrifice it to the shapeshifting ship. The ship arrives and knocks out Enterprise’s power. But the crew have a nasty little surprise awaiting it. Wesley has them set the auto-destruct sequence and then all hands abandon ship. The shapeshifting shipe mimics everything about the Enterprise even down to the small detail that the ship is counting down to its own destruction. Wesley uses his diminishing ability as a Traveller to steer the false Enterprise away from the real ship. He succeeds in moving away, but the last trace of his Traveller abilities abandons him. He ends up having to use the transporter to go to the real Enterprise just in time to see the other ship blow up. He realizes that this was the vision he had in fact seen.

Although the crew discovers the truth, Picard isn’t really cleared. Oh the Admiralty know the truth, but if they re-opened the case, they would have to find that the Ontailians had some culpability in the destruction of the Juno. Due to the recently ended war, the Federation cannot afford to lose any of its members.

At the end of the book, Wesley’s mentor returns for him. It turns out that Wesley has passed his final test to become a Traveller.

I liked this book. It was different from other Star Trek books in that it dealt a lot with Wesley’s character. As you should know, Wesley left the Enterprise several years before this story to become a Traveller. His experiences during this time was an untold tale. This book explored what it meant for him to give up his humanity. Travellers were only to observe; they were never to interfere. So the ending suggests that we might hear more from Wesley in the future. I think the title refers to the destruction of the shapeshifting ship. The ship was semi-intelligent. When the vortex was destroyed, the ship lost its purpose. Right before in mimicked Enterprise, Wesley had a moment of empathy with this ship. At that point, Wesley too felt that he had lost his purpose.

So the next book is A Time to Sow. The Enterprise is sent on a science mission to chart an area of space which was home to a long ago destroyed planet.

Posted in Liked It

De Marco Empire

This is the first living English author that I’ve had request a review. This book arrived literally the day after Christams. I think it is so funny that had there been mail on Christmas Day, this would have been one of my presents because I didn’t receive a single book.
This story starts in the present then goes to the past so the reader understands how we got there. The story opens with Katie DeMarco going to trial for the murder of her husband Antonio on their wedding night. She is represented by her one-time boyfriend Matt Carmichael who vows not only to keep her safe but get her off.
In the next chapter, we jump several years into the past. Katie Saunders and Lucy Carmichael are getting ready for a night out on the town to celebrate Lucy’s 20th birthday. The girls are each others foils. Katie is tall, skinny, dark and a bit naive. Lucy is short, buxom, blonde and more on the shrewd side. Katie and Michael are dating. The girls head to Club La Pregheira the new ritzy nightclub that’s opening that night. Oh course the girls don’t really have a way to get into this exclusive club, so they tell the bouncer that they are their for the croupier job. Luck favors them that night. The manager Veronica does hire them as waitresses because they look more presentable than the women she had been getting. That first night, they eat on the house for free. While they are there Antonio DeMarco comes in with his current girlfriend Sasha (who is not a nice woman). Antonio notices Katie right away. The next day they start their job.
Well things get started with a bang because DeMarco comes to the restaurant again with Sasha. Their usual waitress is out so Katie is assigned to their table because she is more demure than Lucy who would probably tell Sasha off in an instant. Things don’t go so smoothly because Katie snaps and insults Sasha. Rather than be offended and fire Katie, Antonio laughs and sees to it that Katie keeps her job. Thus the romance begins.
The reader is swiftly introduced to all the people of this type of world. There is Antonio’s brother Giani and his fiancee Felicia. There is Stevo, Tania, etc. It seems that everyone except for Katie and Lucy has a past. Anyway, once Gianni realizes how his brother feels about this girl, he threatens Matt to stay away from Katie lest his sister come to harm.
Katie and Antonio have a tortured romance. Sasha does not like being dumped so she attacks Katie. Then of course, Antonio behaves in quite a macho fashion and does not want Katie to work. Behind all this romance is a darker side. There seems to be a family war going on. The DeMarcos seem to have ousted the Calvi family from La Preghira in Umbria Italy. It would appear that the locals supported this decision. The Calvi brothers had Antonio’s mother, father, and sister killed in a car accident. Then the brothers went underground. Now bad things are starting to happen. It seems the Calvi brother are after the DeMarcos. Not only have the DeMarco brothers made enemies in Italy, it appears they have angered some Irish mobs.
Katie and Lucy end up in a lot of danger. Sad thing is neither of them realize it. When Lucy realizes it, she ends up paying the ultimate price for it. Lucy’s death sends Katie reeling. It is 5 years before she marries Antonio. She decides to make herself a business women independent of her fiancee. On their wedding night, Katie finds Antonio dead. The real question is: “Who doesn’t want Antonio dead?” The long and short of it is that everyone in this story has a motive for killing Antonio. I won’t tell you who it is.
I liked this story. Now there was strong language, but this a mafia style story so it is to be expected. It was rather interesting reading a mafia story with a British accent though. I’m used to The Last Don or The Godfather. It was different to see British slang.
I liked Lucy as a character. I liked that she had gumption. I really didn’t like Katie (that’s not to discredit the writer. I think Katie was well-written and probably typical). I understand glitz and glamour. But I don’t get Katie’s attraction for Antonio. First off he was a bit chauvanistic. Then he spies on her and is very secretive. Katie was warned by other people who knew Antonio better. And she soft balled her questions, and gave in when she didn’t get a direct answer. Now granted I may be a little harsh. For me interrogation is as natural as breathing as I am a lawyer. I don’t give up easily. I’m sure she suspected that some of his activities were on the illegal side but… Honey there aren’t enough roses in the world. I’d rather marry a boring chemist and be truly happy then marry some rich, hot guy like Antonio and have to deal with a high body count. The amount of people dying around me would have freaked me out beyond belief! Oh but at the end of the story, Katie finds out that she is pregnant. One of the Calvi brothers is still alive so I smell a sequel.
So what about you reader? Do you like Godfather type stories? What do you think of women who fall for the bad boys like this? Oh this book is not available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble or Borders. You can order it on Amazon (note the link) or Target.com.

Posted in Fantasy

Inkheart

by Cornelia Funke

On a dark stormy night, Meggie Folchart’s life takes quite an unexpected turn. A stranger by the name Dustfinger shows up on this night and warns her father Mo that a certain someone (Capricorn) is looking for him. Mo packs he and his daughter and they leave heading towards Italy. Mo decides to visit Elinor who is Meggie’s mother’s aunt. Mo is a bookbinder by trade and been requested by Elinor to repair some older books she had. By the way, all three are bibliophiles. Oddly enough Mo will not read out loud.

While they are at Elinor’s, Capricorn sends men to capture Mo who is also known as Silvertongue. It seems that Dustfinger betrayed Mo to save his own skin. Elinor, Meggie, and Dustfinger (who is overwhelmed by guilt) go to save Mo. It turns out that Mo has quite a magical gift. He possesses the ability to read things in and out of books. One night he was reading the book Inkheart to her mother Theresa, he read four characters out of the book: Capricorn, Basta, Dustfinger, and Gwin (who is a marten which is a small animal). But he also ended up reading his wife into the novel. For years, he tried to read Theresa out but was unsuccessful. Capricorn wants his ability. He has a reader named Darius; however Darius is unable to read people out of stories without disfiguring them. Elinor, Meggie, and Dustfinger are captured.

At first Capricorn wants Mo to read to him out of treasure books so he can amass gold. While reading 1,001 Arabian nights Mo accidentally reads out a boy named Farid. But Capricorn’s sinister plan is too bring the Shadow (the ultimate evil from Inkheeart) into our world. Dustfinger does help Mo, Elinor, Meggie, and Farid escape. Mo believes that the only way to avert danger is to find a copy of the book. To do that, they track down the author Fenoglio. Anyway, Meggie, Fenoglia, and Mo are recaptured. During this time Meggie discovers she has the gift as well. Unfortunately, Capricorn becomes aware of this. So he decides to have Meggie read out the Shadow. Meanwhile, Dustfinger works on a rescue attempt with the aid of Resa a mute whom Darius read out of Inkheart. Resa is short for Theresa, Meggie’s mother.

The day before Meggie has to read out the Shadow, Fenoglio writes a different ending to the story that destroys Capricorn but has a happy ending. Meggie brings the Shadow out of the book but ends up sending Fenglio into it. The Shadow and Capricorn are destroyed. Mo, Resa, Darius, and Meggie go to live with Elinor. Dustfinger and Farid steal the last copy of Inkheart and are determined to find a way to return Dustfingr to the story.

I liked this book. It was a very interesting concept. There have been times I would have loved to have lived in one of the books I read. Especially some of the fantasy books. I mean dragons, unicorns, Floo powder all sounds a bit exciting. But I guess it is a little different reading about something that is happening as opposed to experiencing it. After seeing what these characters went through, I think I’d much prefer being a spectator! This is the first book in this series. I believe this will be in the theaters soon.

So how many of you have read this book? Did you like it? What did you think of the length of the novel? I have to confess that this was a long and dense knowledge for children. I can understand by J. Scott Savage said in his interview that he didn’t want his first book to be too long because it might turn kids off. This book was over 550 pages long.

Posted in Guest Post

My first foray into quilting

by Marie Bostwick

My first foray into quilting occurred more than twenty years ago. At the time, I was living in Texas, a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers, desperately in need of an activity that allowed me interaction with adults and conversations that didn’t involve the words “poo-poo”, “boo-boo”, or “no-no.”

When I saw that the local fabric shop was offering a beginner’s hand quilting class, I called a girlfriend, negotiated a babysitting swap, and enrolled. With infinite patience, the instructor taught me and the other novice quilters the basics of fabric selection, cutting, stitching, appliqué, and hand quilting. My first quilted table runner, with its wobbly seams and big, uneven stitches, wasn’t anything to write home about but I enjoyed making it and was proud of my accomplishment.

Even so, I made few quilts over the next few years. I liked quilting, but I hadn’t caught the quilting “bug”. Not yet. My real passion for the craft began about a decade later.

I was living as an expatriate in Mexico City. My family and I lived in an apartment building where (lucky me) I met two wonderful women, Cindy and Pat. They lived in the apartments above and below me, respectively – I was the creamy filling to their Oreo cookies. We quickly became fast friends, leaving the service doors to our apartments unlocked so we could easily run up or down the back stairs to talk, borrow things, and generally enjoy each other’s company. In many ways, it felt like living in great big girl’s dormitory.

Even though Pat and Cindy had never quilted, when I suggested we make a block-of-the-month quilt together, they were all for it. The pattern we picked was offered in three different colors and each of us, without consulting the others on our choices, selected a different color option – mine vibrant jewel tones, Pat’s an autumn palette, and Cindy’s a delicate pastel.

As the months passed and we stitched our quilts – talking, laughing, sharing, and developing an even deeper bond of friendship – I was fascinated to see that, though we were making the exact same pattern, each of our quilts turned out differently. And not just because of the colors. Some of us took a relaxed approach to cutting and placement, others insisted that every little leaf in every single patch must face the same direction and sit just so. Some made the pattern exactly according to the instructions while others came up with their own shortcuts and adaptations. Some decided to add on fancy borders, others preferred to simply bind it and let it be. By the end of the project, we’d each created a very special quilt that reflected our unique personalities. I found this surprising, but really I shouldn’t have. It’s a very common story among quilters.

One of my readers, Peggy Szaz, is a military wife and professional quilter – and quite a remarkable one! She creates incredible landscape quilts that could, and frequently do, hang in museums and galleries. During the years she and her family were posted in various oversees bases, she taught quilting to a truly international audience. As Peggy told me in a recent note, “My Italian ladies were the best. They would show up for class decked out in silks and lots of diamonds. Their quilts were not always the best. My German and Swiss ladies made the most precise quilts. Everything had to be perfect. My Portuguese ladies were good quilters and they wanted utility quilts for their children. I really did learn a lot from all the ladies. My students used the same patterns and all the quilts were totally different. And that is what makes quilting so special.”

How true.

My most recent novel, A SINGLE THREAD, takes place in a small, New England village. The main character, Evelyn Dixon, is a long-time quilter but it isn’t until her husband of thirty years leaves her that she reclaims her long dormant dream of opening her own quilt shop. Evelyn’s road is a rocky one but fortunately, she finds companions for the journey – Abigail Burgess, the wealthiest woman in town, Abigail’s troubled niece, Liza, and Margot Matthews, a recently downsized marketing manager.

When Abigail, Margot, and Liza, wander into Evelyn’s Cobbled Court Quilt shop, they have no way of anticipating the adventures and challenges that await them. But as the story progresses their lives will be stitched together as tightly as the quilts they create, as they are bound with the single thread of friendship that will reveal the singular beauty of their personalities and the strength of their characters.

The way that the simple and time-honored craft of quilting draws out the uniqueness of every quilter surprises the women of A SINGLE THREAD. But perhaps it shouldn’t. As Evelyn says, “No matter how untutored or timid she may be, when it comes to quilting, everyone is an artist. Expertly, or innocently, or inadvertently, the quilter cannot help but reveal something true.”

As we begin a new and challenging year, my wish is that you might find something true within yourself as well as the inspiration, determination, and courage to reveal it.

Posted in Inspirational

A Single Thread

Evelyn Dixon drove from Texas to New Bern, Connecticut. Her marriage was over after 20 years. She had been traded in for a newer model. So she decided to go to New England to see the fall colors. That turned out to be a momentous decision. After seeing a quaint abandoned building, Evelyn decides to try to make good on her dream to open a quilt shop. The realtor was skeptical, but Evelyn wanted to make the go.

Meanwhile in New Bern, we are introduced to Abigail Burgess Wynne. Abigail is the life of every party, especially since she is liberal with her money. But not surprisingly, she has no friends. But her perfect world is about to be turned upside down when she is saddled with the responsibility of her niece Liza who has been arrested for shoplifting.

These two women end up on a collision course when Liza insists Abigail accompany her to a quilting class commemorating breast cancer. The class takes on special significance for Evelyn when she finds out that she has breast cancer the day of the class. At the end of the session, Evelyn breaks down while teaching Abigail, Liza, and Margot (a woman recently laid off). Suddenly these four strangers find themselves throwing in their lots together. All of the women grow and change for the better.

Although the story is about the four women, it is told primarily from the point of view of Evelyn and Abigail. Both women, in my opinion, undergo the more profound changes during the novel. Evelyn discovers who her real friends are, and surprisingly it’s not the people that she has known the longest. She has to learn to accept help from strangers especially when it gets to the point that she is unable to take care of herself.

Abigail has to confront the reasons for which she transacts all personal relationships at arm length. She has to learn to overcome the resentment she has for her sister (who was strong enough to make the decision that she could not) so that she can love the niece who is the last living member of her family.

In the end, Evelyn learns to love again, and Abigail learns to selflessly give of herself to others. And the quilt shop- well it keeps growing, and more women join-each having a story of their own.

This was a wonderful story. The characters were very real, and very vulnerable. I particularly liked Charlie. I could tell he was a big softy despite his gruffness. I could not believe it took Evelyn so long to figure out that Charlie was mad about her. I mean the man cooked gourmet meals for her. I kept shaking my book saying, “marry this man.” Anyway, this story made me seriously consider taking up quilting. I learned cross-stitching when I was younger, but I didn’t have the patience for it. Piano and cooking were more up my alley. My mom didn’t insist that I learn to sew once she saw I had an affinity for food. Speaking of food, as I am writing this, my mom tried to make gingerbread from some batter I had in the fridge. A number of smoke detectors went off while I was showering. I have suspended her gingerbread license.

Many of you have already read Marie’s bio. So I’ll tell you how I met her. I receive email alerts from Barnes & Noble telling me whenever there is an author signing. For whatever reason most of the author signings are either men selling books commemorating some sports team or self-help gurus. In short, books you couldn’t pay me to buy. But back in November, I received an alert that Marie would be reading from her new book A Single Thread. I thought it was going to be chick-lit, but I read the synopsis anyway. I really liked what I read so I visited her website and emailed her. I got an “away” message. So I planned to go to the signing, introduce myself, and ask for an interview. Little did I realize that Marie had checked her email prior to the signing. So when I asked her about a book blog tour she said, “Are you Brooke?” Ok, I got a kick out of the expressions on people’s face when I was recognized. The rest is history.

Anyway, this is the first book in this series. The second book is coming out in May. There will be more details on the podcast, which should be up tomorrow. Best of all Marie will be writing a guest post tomorrow as well.

She will be visiting the blog so leave questions if you have any. Also to win the signed copy of the book leave a comment on either this post, Marie’s post, or the podcast. See you tomorrow!