It’s that time of year again! Here we’ve compiled our list of the ten best books we’ve read in 2018, and their consequent reviews, in no particular order. Enjoy!
I wish to discuss the age old question… are you a fan of Star Trek or Star Wars?
If you follow this blog, you may have noticed that I love both. I have written many a post about both franchises. But I am in the minority that I like both- many people are either firmly in one camp or the other. So, let’s discuss the similarities and differences of both these space westerns, and I hope you will share why you like one vs the other.
Star Trek started on television in 1966. It’s supposed five year mission lasted only three. An animated series followed in 1973 and the first movie with the original crew debuted in 1977. It presented an idealistic and Utopian future, with Earth moving past it’s racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. The tagline was “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”. The franchise was reinvigorated with the new television series The Next Generation, which was then followed by Deep Space 9 (DS9), Voyager, Enterprise and most recently Discovery. The movie series was rebooted in 2009 with new actors portraying TOS crew, but on a different timeline to avoid canon issues.
Star Wars was an immediate hit in 1977 when it debuted on the big screen. Set in the past, this more swashbuckling series also had a strong spiritual component and was a straight up adventure. Two more hit movies came out in 1980 & 1983, making stars of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. But that seemed to be that until the series was given a new prequel trilogy starting in 1999 which established how Darth Vader came to be. Again a pause, but starting in 2015 Disney continued the journey of the original three stars with a new trilogy plus stand alone movies set in the Star Wars universe. With the Disney machine behind this franchise, it is set for years to come.
Here are but a few of the differences between the two series:
Science vs Drama
Future vs Past
TV series vs Movies
Logic vs Spiritualism
Gene Rodenberry vs George Lucas
JJ Abrams vs JJ Abrams
( Ha!- He has directed movies from both franchises!)
Paramount vs Disney
Now I shall reveal my favorite of the two…Star Trek! While I might have grown up on Star Wars, it was discovering Star Trek: TNG that established my nerd cred. Star Wars was cool to like then, and still is today. For me to admit that I adored Star Trek took some spunk. My sorority sisters in college were kind of shocked that I liked it so much but they loved me so they put up with my “eccentricities”. I could talk about the various series for hours and eventually wore down my boyfriend (now my husband) into watching the episodes with me. The Star Trek fandom might have less numbers but they make up for it in kindness, as the Star Wars fandom can be toxic at times.
So…are you a Live Long & Prosper fan or a May The Force Be With You? Tell me why!
I walked into Solo unsure of how I would feel about it, considering my recent Star Wars movie experience was excruciating. I was frankly quite devastated at how the preceding The Last Jedi played out, especially in regards to Luke Skywalker’s portrayal. But I never felt the emotional tie to Han Solo, as he was known for his scoundrel swagger, and I’ve never been a fan of the bad boy trope. So I went into Solo with no expectations- I didn’t really care if his character was crucified. The movie proved to be solid. Not great…not bad…just good.
Rather than going into a full review of the movie, which you can find on dozens of other sites, I will address a few issues and then move into nine character studies.
*An issue going into any prequel is that you know the main characters survive in a future timeline. As such when Han, Chewie and Lando were in dangerous situations, I knew it was the new secondary characters that would bite the dust. To throw in a Star Trek joke- you knew who the redshirts were.
*I saw this movie with my husband and daughter, and afterwards we all agreed that the movie felt like a run of the mill sci-fi action movie, with a few Star Wars references thrown in. The movie showcased some new planets and none of them had the Star Wars vibe. I spotted a few Stormtroopers in the beginning plus there were a few ships such as TIE fighters that were iconic, but these new worlds just didn’t feel like what we have seen in the other movies.
Alden did a fair job of creating a young Han Solo. He had the unenviable job of following in Harrison Ford’s footsteps, but he tried to capture Han’s charm, without being a caricature of the original. I had hoped for more background to his past and there was a brief mention of his father, but no explanation as to how to came to be alone. I liked the explanation of his last name when he was applying to get off planet but then there was a big time jump and we didn’t see him get kicked out of pilot school. At times he came off as cocky vs suave, but as he is a younger man here, the suaveness will come in time.
Joonas Suotamo played Chewbacca- why is his name not on this poster like all the other actor and actresses names are? Is this yet another example of Chewie being treated more as a pet than a humanoid alien? While I appreciated the origin story of how he and Han met, it still didn’t go far enough in explaining why Chewie has given Han such intense loyalty. Now that Star Wars Holiday Special is canon (Disney put one of the characters from the special into the official book From A Certain Point Of View) we know he has a family back on his home planet. Why would he leave them for Han Solo? Loved what he did when he saw other Wookies on one of the missions!
Donald Glover WAS Lando! He ably portrayed this charming gambler with plenty of charisma. Seemingly only out for himself, he showed enough compassion for viewers to know that he will be able to make the leap from selfish to selfless in future movies. His banter with Alden was authentic and he wore his capes with aplomb!
I was happy to see Star Wars include a woman of color in a main role! With natural hair! She was tough as nails, but had the classic heart of gold. Can’t say too much more about her with out spoilers, but I wish her role had been larger.
Gotta have a spunky droid, and L3-37 does not disappoint! Voiced by a woman, this robot was a social justice warrior (especially for droid rights) who implied she had a crush on Lando. My question is: why does an unseen actress get billing on a poster when Chewbacca’s does not? L3-37 is very woke and should fight for his name inclusion as one of her many causes!
I’ve been a big fan of Woody Harrelson for years, but I had a hard time seeing past the actor for this role. He has played grizzled world weary characters in too many roles, and Beckett was cut from the same cloth. All the double and triple crosses in the end reinforced my feeling that it wasn’t a Star Wars film but an action heist movie.
Qi’Ra was Han’s love interest, so right away we knew things would not go well for her. Her fate at the end wasn’t exactly what I expected, and leaves open a possibility of another prequel movie to explain what happens to her and a certain other memorable Star Wars character. She played her femme-fatale role well, and you almost forget that her appealing character would soon enough be cast aside for Princess Leia.
Ugh- a a wise cracking four armed monkey pilot. Enough said.
Paul Bettany did a good job playing slimy villain Dryden. I was able to forget he recently played the superhero The Vision in the Avengers movies. His cultured voice belayed the fact that he was a crime lord that would betray you as soon as you turned your back.
Will I be back if they put out another Han Solo prequel? As of now- I wouldn’t spend the money to see it in the theatre but might once out in DVD. Solo was fine- so in essence I am damning this movie with faint praise. It is Star Wars: Episode IX that I will save my passion for and how they handle the plot lines going forward.
For several years in a row, I have brought Free Comic Book Day to my library. I pick up a good selection of titles from my favorite comic book store, Graham Crackers, and offer them to the library patrons when they come in. I also had some Star Wars and superhero crafts available for kids to do as well. I know, I know…I’m pretty awesome to offer such epicness to my library community. As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I went a bit crazy and picked six. But…none of them wowed me, as I think last year’s selection was better.
Now I know comics can’t always follow whats going on in the movies, but having two Avengers stories that don’t correlate with what many of us saw on the big screen is confusing. In the first story, Black Panther and Odin, Thor’s father, talk of a threat that has been hidden for a million years. We get flashbacks to six God’s from the past that must be ancestors to modern day superheros. It’s hopelessly muddled and doesn’t make sense at all. The second story about Captain America is penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and picks up where last year Hydra’s story ended. This second story has some possibilities.
A lighthearted romp with Han and Chewie getting into a scrape and then out of it. Typical Han Solo antics but the character is drawn with a face that looks more like actor Alden Ehrenreich than Harrison Ford. A nice tie with the upcoming Solo movie, but it didn’t advance his story line at all.
This version of Bond isn’t drawn to resemble any of the past cinematic Bonds, and that’s just as well, as not to muddle our perceptions of him. 007 is being sent out on a mission, and due to some new regulations will not have his gun on him while he travels. This issue is a prequel to a future story, and humanizes James as he prepares to leave on this new job. The story and the clean art seem promising.
I picked up this title thinking the cover looked pretty cool, before I realized it was a Captain Canuck story. I almost put it back down after that realization, but then I would have missed the awesomeness of Canadian Trudeau, American Trump and Russian Putin facing off against one another at a United Nations General Assembly. Trudeau is portrayed as the voice of reason (true in real life) while Trump especially gets a comical (also true to form) depiction. Go Captain Canuck- save our world from alien invasion!
I am not a fan of steam punk at all, but I picked the title up as I needed some female representation in my selections. This issue has two stories set three years apart, and is filled with the tired tropes of Mechanika having to find her origins, but as soon as she finds a clue, something prevents her from following it. This bionic female is sexualized with completely ridiculous outfits. Although the artwork is absolutely beautiful, I could not get past her comical vest that pushed out her breasts. Come on now.
This final story was a last minute grab for me, once I saw that it is an 80’s coming of age crime story, as I’m a sucker for that era! The opening story line appealed to me, as Diego works at a mob owned business, and (true story) I’m almost positive I worked at a clothing store that was a front for the mob when I was in high school. The plot then veers into cheesy 80’s movie territory with the story of a nerdy boy who wins over a hot girl. It was cute, but I don’t know where the continuing story will go. Also, the stylized cover doesn’t adequately represent the art inside, it’s completely different. I don’t like bait and switch.
So, I really question if I will continue with any of these stories. While I didn’t hate them, none grabbed my attention enough to make me rush out for future issues. Time will tell.
Today’s theme: favorite teachers and mentors! As a bonus challenge, the moderators told us not to pick any HP characters… but that was no problem for me =P
5 . Brom – Eragon
Brom was a mentor to Eragon even before he became a Dragon Rider. He would tell Eragon stories as he was growing up. After Eragon finds Saphira and sets out to avenge his uncle’s death, Brom joins him without a second thought. Brom teaches Eragon survival skills, the history of the Dragon Riders, and more. In many ways, Brom serves as Eragon’s compass and helped shape him into the man he would become.
4. Qui Gon Jinn – Star Wars
I have kind of a soft spot for Qui Gon, partly because he’s played by Liam Neeson and partly because we got so little screen time with him. Qui Gon is perceptive and calm in the face of danger. He believed so much in the prophecy that Anakin was the chosen one that he was wililng to break the rules and take on a second apprentice. When objections were made by the Jedi Council, he did not hesitate to point out that Obi Wan was ready for his trials to become a Master Jedi. He had great faith in Obi Wan as his student – that’s awesome!
3. Mikhail – Jill Kismet series
Mikhail is Jill’s teacher. He died soon before the series began. It’s interesting to me to begin a series after the teacher is already dead – most of the time, they’re killed off sometime after the series has begun! It’s evident that Jill is still in mourning. Mikhail saved her from a violent life before she became a Hunter, and taught her not to fear the darkness. Jill remembers lessons he taught her throughout the series, making it seem as if he’s still teaching her from beyond the grave.
2. Ted Grant (Wildcat) – Arrow
After Sara died, Laurel was filled with a rage she couldn’t control or get rid of. While working a case for the Arrow, she came across Ted Grant’s boxing gym. He offered her lessons to give her an outlet, which she initially refused, but came back and took him up on it. Ted was a lot more willing than Oliver to train Laurel, to teach her to use her anger as an outlet for doing good instead of continuing to let it chew her up from the inside (as Oliver would have done). Without Ted, there wouldn’t have been the Black Canary. Wildcat is a mentor to Canary in the comics, and it was great to see their relationship brought to the screen.
1. Gandalf – Lord of the Rings
Come on… who doesn’t love this wizard? Gandalf is by turns fiercely protective and intensely compassionate. He is, of course, very wise. He sees things that most people overlook – Saruman ridiculed Gandalf for hanging out with hobbits all the time, but as it turned out, there were some very important hobbits to hang out with! Gandalf saw their inner worth and helped Bilbo and Frodo see it for themselves. That’s what a mentor should do above all!
Any of my favorite mentors make your list, too?
I love Star Wars! I love short stories! Together this anthology was a win-win for me.
Forty authors celebrated forty years of Star Wars by contributing a story of a minor or supporting character from the ending of Rogue One to the finale of A New Hope. I listened to these stories on audio, but also had a copy of the book to refer to when I wanted to double check a detail or if I didn’t like the way a story was voiced. There are a few spoilers, but I did my best not to give it all away! 😉
Raymus by Gary Witta 4/5
Captain Raymus Antilles holds onto hope to the very end that his ship carrying Princess Leia away from the Battle of Scarif will escape from the Imperial Fleet.
The Bucket by Chrsitie Golden 4/5
Stormtrooper TK-4601 begins to have feelings of dissent with the Empire after he meets Leia. Not an immediate deserter, but the seeds are sown…
The Sith of Datawork by Ken Liu 5/5
A fun tongue-in cheek story that will be appreciated by the many of us who feel that paperwork is endless at their jobs and in their homes. Arvira, Imperial Logistic Datawork Officer, knows her forms and helps Bolvan, the gunnery captain who let a certain escape pod go unchecked to Tatooine, cover up his mistake with layers of reports.
Stories in the Sand by Griffin McElroy 4/5
Am amusing tale of little Jot, a Jawa who doesn’t erase R2-D2’s memory like he typically does with other droids for resale. By watching other droid’s chips he sees there is more to the universe than the gritty Sandcrawler he works on.
Reirin by Sabaa Tahir 3/5
We meet Reirin, a female Tusken Raider, who is willing to leave the safety of her clan for the mysterious charms of a green crystal she finds.
The Red One by Rae Carson 4/5
A surprisingly poignant story about R5-D4, the red droid that Uncle Own picked first from the Jawas. His malfunction was truly a sacrifice made for the Rebellion. It was fun to start getting outsider’s views of Luke as we first meet him in A New Hope.
Rites by John Jackson Miller 3.5/5
Three young Tuskens want to make names for themselves in their warrior society. They meet Obi-Wan, whom they consider a wizard, and Luke whom they call Sandy Hair.
Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey 5/5
Obi-Wan receives a visitor and because of their conversation realizes he needs “to think of death as only the beginning of wisdom”. While I was surprised at this entry, as he formally was not part of A New Hope, the visitor’s wisdom would have always remained with Ben.
Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot 5/5
LOVED this story! Author Meg Cabot gave Aunt Beru a beautiful backstory and a voice in how she loved raising Luke. I was tearing up as I listened to this story, for Beru was more than an aunt, she was a MOTHER to him and should have been recognized more for being the loving woman who shaped Luke into the man he became.
The Luckless Rodian by Renee Ahdieh 4/5
Greedo…and his last hours before his fateful encounter with Han Solo.
Not for Nothing by Mur Lafferty 4/5
A supposed excerpt from one of the Bith band member’s memoirs about why they were playing at the cantina, after a forced extended stay at Jabba the Hutt’s “palace” . The music must go on…
We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here by Chuck Wendig 3.5/5
A character study of Wuher, one of the bartenders at the cantina. My biggest take-away from this story is learning that Ackmena, the barmaid from the Star Wars Holiday Special, is now canon!
The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction 1/5
When are we going to leave Tatooine??!! Why was the worst story also the longest story? I did not care one whit about the crime planned to take place at Chalmun’s Cantina.
Added Muscle by Paul Dini 5/5
Luckily the next story balances the previous story by being short and fresh. We learn Boba Fett’s recollections of what happened between Han and Jabba in Docking Bay 94.
You Owe Me a Ride by Zoraida Cordova 4/5
Twins Brea and Senni Tonnika live on the edge of society, unwillingly trapped at Jabba’s palace. The sisters begin to scheme how they can leave the sandy planet forever.
The Secrets of Long Snoot by Delilah S. Dawson 2/5
Are we STILL stuck on Tatooine??!! Not every bounty hunter is successful and suave, and Long Snoot skulks along the fringes hoping to pick up easy information he can then pass along to the Imperial Troopers hoping for enough credits to reunite with his family.
Born in the Storm by Daniel Jose Older 4.5/5
Stormtrooper TD-7556 relates his recent mission on Tatooine in an incident report form. Turns out he was one of the soldiers who sent Obi Wan, Luke and the droids on their way- “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”. This stormtrooper is no mindless drone, he is funny and sarcastic and the story was a fun read.
Laina by Wil Wheaton 5/5
OMG the feels! A widowed Rebel soldier wishes to send his beloved daughter Laina to safety and makes a video for the toddler. He recounts to her information about her mother and the reason why he is fighting against the Empire. Already a poignant tale of a family being separated, it takes an even more heartrending turn at the end. ( I have re-imaged the last bit in my mind to make a happier ending)
Fully Operational by Beth Revis 3.5/5
General Tagge uncomfortably witnesses Lord Vader’s reaction and choke hold of Admiral Motti. Previously believing the Empire’s greatest weapon was the Death Star, he now realizes it is Vader himself.
An Incident Report by Mallory Ortberg 3.5/5
Admiral Motti gets his rebuttal and blusters about his importance to cover up his shame of being humiliated in front of other staff. He refuses to see Vader’s power and relies entirely on the Death Star’s technology.
Change of Heart by Elizabeth Wein 3.5/5
The indomitable Leia unknowingly influences another Imperial soldier to rethink his alliance after he witnesses her strength when Alderaan is destroyed. Having two stories like this was over kill. I have huge Leia love, but to have two soldiers completely change their ways just by observing her was too much.
Eclipse by Madeleine Roux 4.5/5
A heartbreaking look at the last hours of Breha and Bail Organa. Despite them realizing their planet’s impending doom, they cling together in love and with hope in their hearts that their daughter is safe. On a side note- I had a hard time imagining Leia growing up there. Things at the palace were so ornate and orchestrated, instead I thought of Padme.
Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo 4/5
Evil Empire leaders are taught not to trust anyone else and to only look out for themselves- but if Tarkin and Krennic had been able to work effectively as a team, perhaps then they could have been more powerful than Vader. I appreciated the shoutout to Galen and Jyn Erso at the end.
Far Too Remote by Jeffrey Brown 4/5
Surprising and funny one panel cartoon from the author/artist who writes children’s books Vader’s Little Princess and Vader and Son. See book for dialogue! 😉
The Trigger by Kieron Gillen 3/5
Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels. .
Of MSE-6 and Men by Glen Weldon 1/5
Why again are the worst stories the longest stories? Told from the perspective of a mouse droid found on the Death Star.
Bump by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker 3/5
One of the stormtroopers from the Tatooine unit that let the droids by, due to Obi Wan’s mind tricks, is called up to report once that data has been reviewed. He knows he’s in for it, but remains true to the Empire until the end.
End of Watch by Adam Christopher 4/5
Commander Pamel Poul is at the end of her shift on the Death Star and just wants to be off duty. But there seems to be a small problem in one of the detention blocks, and an odd message from an alleged soldier there doesn’t seem to follow protocol…
The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor 5/5
When a creature is taken from their home planet and taken to the Death Star, I wondered where in the world the story was going. Then I realized it was the garbage disposal monster and I was intrigued. I found this story strangely appealing!
Time of Death by Cavan Scott 3/5
This story had me torn. While in one way I liked having more time with Obi Wan, his after life is a delicate subject matter to tackle. There was one little remembrance that I enjoyed- a missing piece of his lost years at Tatooine when he interacts with a young Luke and his Uncle Owen.
There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt 3.5/5
This pushed canon a bit too far. While I have always wondered why Leia never trained to use the Force, this story has a certain green somebody quite opposed to training Luke, claiming that Leia would be more suitable. Maybe so, to a degree (see picture below), but he missed Palpatine being a Sith Lord, so maybe just maybe he could be wrong about Luke. (And he was.)
Palpatine by Ian Doescher 4.5/5
An interesting soliloquy from Palpatine’s perspective that I first listened to and then read to get the full power of his thoughts as it was written in poem form.
Sparks by Paul S. Kemp 4.5/5
Told from the perspective of Dex, a Rebel fighter pilot, during the battle of Yavin 4. This was an action packed story that had an expected sad ending for Gold Two.
Duty Roster by Jason Fry 4/5
Not every Rebel pilot gets to fly when there are not enough ships and Col, aka Fake Wedge (to his chagrin), is not chosen. He is furious at not being picked when newbie Luke Skywalker is selected, but as most of the pilots die, he survives for future missions.
Desert Son by Pierce Brown 4/5
Oh, Biggs Darklighter, we barely knew you…and you seemed so appealing! If only you and Luke had been able to reunite but your heroics helped ensure Luke’s victory.
Grounded by Greg Rucka 4.5/5
Chief Nera Kase, an integral part of the Rebels for her mechanical knowledge, watches as the pilots and ships she cares for head into battle. Not every body can be the flashy hero, but her behind the scenes work is an heroic as any pilot or leader’s contribution. I always root for the solid characters, who often don’t get their due because they are quiet and unassuming.
Contingency Plan by Alexander Freed 4/5
All good leaders should have contingency plans, for even the best laid plans can go sideways in a moment. Mon Mothma is no exception, and the Rebel victory gives her renewed vigor for the cause.
The Angle by Charles Soule 4.5/5
With the new Solo movie coming out, I couldn’t help but think of our favorite caped scoundrel as being a mix of Donald Glover and Billie Dee Williams. The audio version had this guy voiced perfectly, as he wonders why in the world his fellow rogue Han would risk his life.
By Whatever Sun by E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein 3.5/5
Captain Miara Larte and her crew witnesses the medal ceremony for Luke, Han and Chewbacca. While perhaps it can be argued it was a premature celebration, she feels that the joyful occasion is needed in a time of sorrow. This character was another one I was unfamiliar with, as she is from the Ahsoka book that I have not read yet.
Whills by Tom Angleberger 5/5
Awesome ending! I adored the two Whills scholars debating how to chronicle the Star Wars saga. They debate both where to start the story (Episode IV!) and the wording that we have grown to love.
This book is a must read for all Star Wars fans! It strengthened and filled in gaps in the narrative and this new canon was a treat from beginning to end.
After watching The Last Jedi I had feelings. So many feelings!
After conversations with Jeff at The Imperial Talker about my disappointment with Luke Skywalker’s arc, he asked if I’d be willing to share my thoughts in a guest post. As Jeff is a consummate Star Wars fan and writes deeply thought out posts about the Star Wars universe, I was flattered he asked. In addition, he has a monthly haiku series on different Star Wars topics that is not to be missed!
Please head on over to his site and read my post An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga!