Lost Stars by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

I’ve read the majority of the new books and graphic novels promoted as “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and this one is, by far, my favorite.

Lost Stars accomplished something that doesn’t happen very often – I could not wait to read it.  I looked forward to getting in bed at the end of the day and diving into this one.  I love to read, don’t misunderstand, but I do so more out of habit than a daily burning passion.  Believe me, I felt authentic excitement for Lost Stars.

The story follows a man named Thane Kyrell and a woman called Ciena Ree.  Though from very different cultures upon the same planet, they befriend one another as children due to their shared passion for star ships.  In fact, after the Empire annexes their world, they cannot wait to join the Imperial Academy in order to navigate the stars.  They both believe in the law and order the Empire provides to the galaxy and want to be a part of the greatness.

Once old enough, they attend and graduate from the Imperial Academy.  Both are standouts and on the fast track to success within the Imperial Fleet.  Before long, they begin to realize their friendship may not be as simple as they thought, and each also realizes their impression of the Empire may have been incorrect.

What happens, though, when one of them decides to leave and the other wants to enact change from within?  What happens when one is a traitor and the other is an Imperial Officer?  What happens when these bitter enemies want nothing more than to save each other’s life, even when it puts them at odds with their respective affiliations?

I loved this book first and foremost because the pacing is masterful.  It starts off a little slow as we get to know the characters as youngsters, but as they age, their situations become far more complex, and by the end of the book I couldn’t read fast enough as their story reached a crescendo.  The various levels of conflict between Thane and Ciena is absolutely riveting.

Furthermore, it proved unique because it provided a previously unrealized perspective in that we see the destruction of the Death Star, the battle at Hoth, and even the conflict of Endor primarily from the Empire’s point of view.  Before this book, it never dawned on me that Luke Skywalker killed thousands of people on the Death Star when he blew it up.  I never even considered the loss of Imperial life.  Our two characters make us care about those loss upon the space station, those who they considered friends.  They make me think of the average Imperial as a person rather than a faceless, evil monster.

And that’s really the magic of Lost Stars.  It made me think about familiar things in a new light.  It made me consider duty versus loyalty.  It forced me to reflect upon the murky middle ground between good and evil.

At 551 pages, this is not a short read, but it pulls you in so fast and so deep that you won’t even mind the length.  In fact, if you’re like me, you won’t want it to end.  Thane and Ciana are now two of my favorite Star Wars characters forevermore.

… I’ll say it: I hope they adapt this book to film.  I’ll be the first in line.

Star Wars: Shattered Empire by Rucka – A Book Review

This graphic novel collection is better than you’ve heard.  The cover is very misleading – the book actually features Shara Bey, a rebel pilot present at the destruction of the second Death Star.  She and her husband, Kes Dameron, serve in separate divisions, rarely getting to spend any time together.  Yes, these are the parents of Poe Dameron, the spunky pilot from The Force Awakens.

The book picks up during the celebration on Endor, but Shara soon finds herself completing missions with Han Solo, Leia Organa, and even Luke Skywalker.  The aftermath of the Skywalker mission proves particularly interesting and I have to wonder if its ending will play a significant role in the current movies.

So, to be clear, Shara is the star of this series, but don’t let that keep you from giving it a shot.  She’s a very likable character and you still get lots of time with your old favorites.  Greg Rucka is a very good writer – you can trust him to execute his craft well.

I also found the art dynamic and detailed as it progressed the fast pace of the plot.

I had no issues with this collection and enjoyed it very much.  Do be aware, however, that it includes the first issue of Princess Leia, as well as the very first issue of Star Wars from 1977.

Star Wars: Moving Target by Castellucci and Fry – A Book Review

Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Moving Target is a Princess Leia adventure showcasing her bravery, intelligence, and selflessness.

Han Solo has been frozen in carbonite, and though Leia yearns to rescue him, her loyalty to the Alliance must come first.  She volunteers to act as a decoy in order to distract the Empire as the rebels need time to plan their next move.

Unfortunately, her ruse may cost uninformed rebels their lives, and that’s something she just can’t live with.

Though this fast-paced book is aimed at a younger audience, I very much enjoyed it because it delivers  fresh aspect of Leia.  This Leia is not a damsel in distress nor regulated to a mere love interest.  This Leia is a politician, a strategist, a leader, and a warrior.  This Leia very much made me believe she could be the face of a rebellion and inspire thousands to join the fight.

Though appropriate for a young readers, I think Star Wars fans of any age will find this book riveting.  It also serves as a nice bridge between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi while offering a glimpse at the Leia of The Force Awakens.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley – A Book Review

If you come looking for seconds on Scott Pilgrim, you won’t find them.  With that being said, though, Seconds is anything but disappointing.

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new graphic novel features Katie, a woman nearing thirty years of age who leaves her partnership at a restaurant called “Seconds” in order to open a new one.  However, this new restaurant needs a lot of remodeling before it can open, and Katie constantly second-guesses her decision.  Furthermore, her ex-boyfriend shows up at Seconds and she begins to question her decision to leave him as well.  Why is Katie still haunting her old restaurant, you ask?  She lives above it in a little apartment, so she thinks nothing of loitering about the business, chatting up customers, and telling the new chef how to do his job.

Katie begins to see a girl that doesn’t belong around the restaurant and hanging out atop an old dresser in her apartment.  When she checks out the dresser, she finds a batch of mushrooms far back in one of the drawers.  These mushrooms come with a set of instructions that, if followed correctly, will allow the one who ingested them a second chance at just about anything.

Consequently, during her new restaurant’s renovation, the workers find an old pot behind a wall.  Katie brings it home. This pot serves as a catalyst to a supernatural upheaval, one that grows worse with each “do-over” Katie strives to achieve.

While O’Malley’s art is the same, and while some of the jokes are purposefully familiar, this book is completely different than Scott Pilgrim in that Katie’s story is grounded in realty with heavy swatches of the supernatural.  Yet, as dark as it can be, Seconds still retains a hopeful tone, even as Katie suffers through angst and indecision.

O’Malley has captured well that sense of “what-if?” we all dwell upon in our twenties when we know every decision we make will impact the rest of our lives.  In the end, O’Malley, through Katie, provides astute insight in regards to those kinds of thoughts, and while we philosophically can appreciate his message, poor Katie actually has to learn it the hard way.

Seconds is funny, thoughtful, dark, and yet irrefutably optimistic.   O’Malley has created a well-constructed tale that is clearly the result of careful plotting.  It is similar enough to Scott Pilgrim to entertain that character’s fans, yet original enough to delight solely due to its own merits.

 

In the Shadows by White and Di Bartolo – A Book Review

Believe it or not, I saw In the Shadows in a Scholastic book order and thought that it both looked and sounded very cool.  Several of my high school students did, too.  A few ordered it and I got a copy for my classroom, and we’re all very pleased with the read!

In the Shadows is unique in that it alternates between a prose chapter and then a wordless sequential art chapter.  Though the alternating story lines are clearly interconnected, it isn’t until the end of the book that the reader realizes exactly how so.

I’m a fairly well-read individual, and I must admit that the ending actually surprised me.  I wasn’t totally clear on the chronological ordering of the alternating chapters, but by the end of the book it all made sense.

Kiersten White handled the prose, which is about two brothers, one of whom is dying, that come to a little Maine town to get away from the city life.  Little do they know their father has actually set them up for sacrifice while there to a demonic cult.  At their boarding house, the daughters of the owner befriends the brothers, and they have their own history with a local witch.  The daughters have a guardian, Arthur, who may be their brother, perhaps a cousin, or maybe he isn’t related to them at all.  He watches over them, though, and when the brothers and sisters get themselves into trouble, Arthur must decide how far he’s willing to go to protect them.

The sequential art chapters are handled by Jim Di Bartolo, and they feature a young man with a scar under his eye both chasing and being hunted by what we presume is the same demonic cult.  We learn he is not just any man, though, as he displays characteristics resembling the very villains he pursues.  The art is edgy, dynamic, and does an excellent job clearly progressing the story.  And while it’s not immediately evident how it connects to the Maine story, it becomes more and more obvious the deeper you get into the book.

Though a fast read, In the Shadows is incredibly satisfying.  Furthermore, I wouldn’t say it presents a story that is entirely fresh, but even so, it struck me as both unique and imaginative – thanks in large part to the wordless sequential art.

Aimed at young adults, I think book lovers of any age would find In the Shadows an interesting read, especially if interested in horror, graphic novels, or the supernatural.

Black Science: How To Fall Forever by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera – A Book Review

I saw this book earned a little buzz so I thought I’d check it out.  The premise is Grant McKay and his team have broken through the barrier between infinite dimensions.  The machine making this capable, The Pillar, got damaged though, so they only have a little time before they jump to another world, and if they want to make the jump, they better be near The Pillar or they will be left behind.  McKay’s two children were sucked along for the ride, as were two corporate representatives who don’t get along with McKay at all.  McKay is your narrator.  He is anti-authoritarian, smug, arrogant, cheats on his wife, and is not all that likable.

This first volume begins with McKay trying to escape some aliens and race back to The Pillar before the next jump.  Over the course of the volume, you discover why his kids are with him, why his wife is not, why the team seems so ill prepared, the identity of his mistress, and why the two corporate representatives accompany them.

The artwork is quite stunning.  Scalera creates some impressive aliens and exquisite settings.  His panels keep the story moving along wonderfully, and he delivers some dynamic, fast-paced action.  My only complaint is that because McKay’s crew wear the same uniforms, they tend to look quite a bit alike.  I appreciate the realism, because they likely would wear the same suits, but at times it’s hard to tell who is who.

Dean White does the painted art, and let me tell you, his colors alone make this book worth the price.  I have zero talent at colors, so I’ve learned to appreciate that which I cannot do.  White is a master.  Gorgeous colors.

In the end, though, while the book is very good, I can’t say I’m hooked.  I bought the first volume because I was sure I’d love it, but I didn’t.  I’ll probably check out the second volume when it comes to a local library.  I simply never connected to the characters.  McKay is an anti-hero, and that isn’t a bad thing, but I never really cared about him.  I never found any common ground.  I never necessarily rooted for him.  I can’t really say I have to know where his story goes next.

Of course, this is just my opinion.  I loved most of the art, the story proved interesting, the colors were beautiful, so there is a good chance you may very well adore it.  If the premise captured your interest, I encourage you to see for yourself.

Fables: Cubs In Toyland (Vol. 18) by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham – A Book Review

Perhaps the most satisfying Fables volume I’ve read in some time, Cubs In Toyland is also the most emotionally potent.

In this edition, Bigby and Snow White’s child, Therese, travels to Toyland in search of adventure after she missed being named the North Wind. When first she arrives, the toys treat her as royalty, and she revels in it. However, the rude, insufferable child soon learns that Toyland is not all that it seems, and that the toys there are the cast-offs, unwanted, perpetrators of horrendous deeds. Therese is foretold to be their savior, but it soon becomes evident that she has no hope of survival in this land and no way to return.

One of her numerous siblings, Dare, takes it upon himself to find and rescue Therese because he’s always considered himself the leader of the pack. He does indeed find her, but Cubs in Toyland ends in a heartbreaking, unexpected tragedy.

I am a loyal Fables reader, and though the series has lost some steam in my opinion, Cubs in Toyland hearkens back to everything that first won me over.

 

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Souls Triumphant Sample Chapters and Free Study Guide

Did you know you can read sample chapters of Souls Triumphant?  I also offer a free study guide for any book clubs or classes that decide to make it a focus of study.  Just click the links below and enjoy! 

Click HERE to buy using PAYPAL
Sample Chapters
Study Guide

Free Bookmarks!

Hi Fellow Book Lovers,

Click on the PDF document to get five free bookmarks!  Be sure to use a color printer and heavy cardstock so they can take the wear and tear of all the reading you do!

The Works of Scott William Foley Bookmarks

Enjoy, and feel free to leave a few around your local libraries:)

~Scott

Life of Pi by Yann Martel – A Book Review

It’s very hard for me to admit this, but I couldn’t finish this novel.  This is a rare thing for me as a lover of literature and as a writer of fiction.  I always try to learn as much from other authors as I possibly can.  My apologies, Mr. Martel, I’m sure this was a wonderful book for someone interested in its premise, but I was not one of those people.

The book began rather captivating enough.  In fact, I was quite delighted with it and thought I had discovered a gem.  The contemplations upon differing religions and zoos invigorated my thoughts.  However, the book quickly took a turn for the mundane and stayed uneventful for a long number of chapters.  I would have loved to find out the ending of the story, but I can only read about the daily struggles of a boy trapped on a lifeboat for so long.  Keep in mind this is coming from someone who takes pride in sticking novels out to the very end, no matter what.

All in all, if you liked the film Cast Away, you’d probably enjoy this novel.  However, if you found yourself tapping your foot through said film, I’d pass on Life of Pi.