Tag Archives: Space Opera

Review: “Babylon’s Ashes” and “I’m Just A Person” + Summer Reading Update

That’s right, two reviews and an update; I’m jamming all my info into one post because I’m too busy-lazy, or buzy (PRONOUNCED: boo-zee – adj: the state of having so many things to do that elective pastimes fall by the wayside).

The other reason I’m jamming these two reviews together is because I don’t actually have a ton (good or bad) to say about either. The first book was on my summer reading list (I’ll have more to say about that later), so one down, and the other totally counts towards my goal of 10, so two down.

Babylon’s Ashes – James S. A. Corey

Anyone who has spent some time reading this blog (first of all, thank you! Also, wow I have a lot of asides going on in parentheses today!) will know that I’m a big fan of what some call the “space opera.” The hubs and I both got (deeper) into Scifi lit after reading The Martian years ago and that led to a rabbit hole of books about space travel, exploration, colonization, political strife, and so on and so forth. So anyway, I found the Expanse series back in 2015, started it, introduced Hubs to them, and we’ve never looked back. Book 6 of that series, Babylon’s Ashes, was the most recently published and I finally broke down and bought the hard copy [which messes up my series of paperbacks aesthetic (other volume reviews here)]. This one took me almost a month to read for two reasons: 1) it is 600 pages and 2) I’m buzy.

 

Now, concerning the book. As previously implied, I’m obsessed with this series. In fact, I just sent the first and second volumes off with friends this week in the hope of recruiting more geeks. So why, then, did I only give it 3 stars on Goodreads? Generally speaking, it was satisfying and it gave me some time *cough*a month*cough* with characters I consider to be old friends. However, also generally speaking, it felt like this volume was a filler. Have you ever read a volume in a series that felt as thought it was just there to connect the books before and after it? That was this book for me. A lot happened in this volume, don’t get me wrong, but nothing of the caliber of the other volumes. Giving a synopsis would either be a spoiler for those who will read the series or would be pointless for those who will not, so I won’t. The good news, though, is that this volume insinuated that big things are coming in future books (of which there will be 3, I think), so that pleases me. It was meatier than it needed to be, but it was fun to get lost in space again.

I’m Just A Person – Tig Notaro

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned on here that I love the podcast Professor Blastoff. It’s hosted by Tig Notaro, Kyle Dunnigan, and David Huntsburger, all successful comedians who have a direct line to my funny bone. In the midst of hosting that podcast, Tig had an earth-shatteringly, record-breakingly bad year, in which (no spoilers, don’t worry) she found out that she had pneumonia, which led to C-Diff, then she endured a breakup, then her mother died unexpectedly, then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of this she related – with great poise and often even humor – on the podcast. She did a stand-up show in which she told the crowd about her cancer but still managed to be funny, and she was later nominated for a Grammy for the recording of that show. She had an HBO special and an Amazon Original show, she’s been on all the late night shows, and she wrote a book.

 

As I wrote in my brief Goodreads review (gosh, I’m just a living plug for Goodreads today), I’d be curious to know for whom this memoir was written. For PB fans like myself, or just general Tig fans, none of what was in this book was news. I not only knew about her many trials and tribs of 2012, but I had already heard podcast episodes in which she related the news to her fans, still finding ways to weave in jokes about how her boobs must’ve gotten tired of her making fun of how small they were for the past 40 years, so they’re rebelling from the inside. I much prefer the podcast format, since it was raw and real; nothing had been thought out over years or filtered by 5 editors before reaching me, someone who cares about her. This memoir was more formatted as her ruminations on her childhood, her relationship with her family, especially her mother, her emotions, her “impostor-syndrome” at being called brave, and so on. I think it is meant to be more personal, in that we get to the root of her thoughts and feelings. Going back to my original question about audience, oddly enough, I think this book is perfect for anyone who is a casual fan, or even a complete stranger to Tig. Anyone dealing with death, tragedy, illness, or just plain old growing up will find value in this memoir. Tig manages to find humor in strife, and I think more people would do well to emulate that. However, being a big Tig fan, I found this book to be a watered-down version of the podcast. I knew it all already and, whereas the book makes you feel like an audience-member to her one-man-show, the podcast makes you feel like a friend in a room with a friend who is dealing with something really big. I prefer the latter. Somehow, this became a plug for Professor Blastoff.

Summer Reading Update:

So, I went to do some pre-planning yesterday with my 9th grade team and we realized we hadn’t read several of the works that were often taught at this school in 9th grade. Thus, my summer reading list has morphed slightly. I warned you all that this might happen. I must say that I’m far from excited about most of the texts, which I’m letting be a gauge for how the students will be even less excited. Off to a bad start.

I’ll show the texts below, in case someone has happy, blessed things to say about any of them, but before I do that, I’ll say that we want to tie in all the works to the theme or topic of “growing up.” We’ll definitely be reading To Kill A Mockingbird (YAY!!) and Romeo and Juliet (ugh, teen “love”), but we also need to tie in some non-fiction, short stories, articles, diversity, juvenile justice, etc. If anyone has any suggestions, they will be most welcome and appreciated! 

 

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Lindsay

L: Review of James S. A. Corey’s “Cibola Burn” & Toon Teaser

Reviewing the fourth book in a series is difficult. Although the events that take place in James S. A. Corey’s Cibola Burn, book 4 in the Expanse series, are remarkably different from what happened in Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate, summarizing how they differ from one another to someone who hasn’t read the series is hard to do without revealing spoilers. It involves dancing around details in book one that hugely shaped book two; things that are major spoilers for book one (identifying the villain, character deaths or changes, evolving relationships) are yesterday’s news in book two, so discussing books two and up without spoiling book one becomes more and more difficult. That’s why I didn’t even bother reviewing Abaddon’s Gate; the review was going to be the same “it’s about space; also, I loved it” as the reviews for the previous two volumes. To me, each book is remarkable, unique, familiar, and original, but to others I can see that the reviews start to look like reruns of the same ol’, same ol’.

I just finished book four in the Expanse series, and I am still as in love as always. I also just found out that the sixth book will be released this summer and there are expected to be up to nine volumes in the series! PRAISE IT! I adore these characters. They are my family. Anyway, I’ll let Goodreads do the boring work of the synopsis, and then we’ll get to the good stuff:

Click here for Goodreads

Click here for Goodreads

The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.

But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

Okay, since I had such a fun time creating the Toon Teasers for the Stiefvater novels and since the reception of them was so kind, I decided to do a Toon Teaser for Cibola Burn, in lieu of another, similar review. Behold:

cibola burn toon

Let me tell you what you’re seeing here. 1. The inhabitants of Earth, Mars, the Belt, and the other colonies in the galaxy are facing the potential of inhabiting hitherto unexplored planets and solar systems, and the race to colonize mineral-rich planets has begun. 2. Tensions rise when the rights to lay claim to one new planet, Ilus or New Terra, is questioned, and James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are assigned as impartial mediators until a decision about ownership is reached. 3. However, the unfamiliar flora and fauna prove hostile, an unidentifiable disease renders everyone vulnerable, and a massive storm threatens to wipe out all of New Terra’s inhabitants, regardless of which side they support. Can they set aside their differences long enough to survive? Read it and see.

Now, the other good news is that Sci-Fi has a new show based on the books! It’s called, what else, “The Expanse” and the Sci-Fi channel website has the first 4 episodes available, so you should check it out if you’re interested in the books. I WILL SAY, however, that Brice and I are both just as surprised by watching the show as you will be, because it is taking a lot of artistic license and some details vary widely. That’s fine by me, but if you want the full story, the books contain so much more than the show ever could, so read the books, friends! Here is the trailer for the show. SO GOOD!

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Lindsay

L: Review of Kaufman & Kristoff’s “Illuminae”

Click here for Goodreads

Click here for Goodreads

This book started as “not bad” and quickly morphed into “pretty good” followed by “actually quite good,” “really good,” and then became the kind of book that made me glad of stop lights because I could sneak in another page. I am utterly surprised by how much I loved reading this book and I feel that warm, internal happiness that comes from knowing that a book you love is the first in a series. C’mon reader friends; tell me you know that feeling! If you’re the people I know you are, consider Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s new novel, Illuminae, to be your next soul-warming conquest.

I’ll let Goodreads give you the synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

You know me, tell me the book is riddled with relationshippy nonsense and I’m giving that book a hard pass, but luckily for me, Kaufman & Kristoff gifted their readers with a strong, independent, quick witted protagonist in Kady. There was still relationshippy nonsense, but in this case there was some sense in the nonsense. It wasn’t overkill, it propelled the story forward, and it gave some sort of reunification objective. I really didn’t mind it and I think that those who love reading about relationships will be overjoyed with these characters and their relationship journey.

Now, let’s talk about YA appeal. Not even by the most exaggerated standards (what was it? 15-24??) am I considered a Young Adult, and this book was tremendous fun for me, but I kept thinking, “Oh gosh, teens would love this.” It has amazingly appealing characters, it happens in space, it generates immediate interest (what with the invasion, explosions, car chase, dead people, etc.), it not only maintains that interest but builds upon it with each page, and can we talk about the format of this book??? It is not written as a standard narrative; the closest it gets to narrative is with journal entries, which only make an appearance about five times. The remainder of the book is formatted as a classified document telling the story of the planetary invasion through recovered emails, IM conversations, surveillance transcripts, ship-wide memos, maps, interviews, etc. Yes, the book is just over 600 pages but no way, now how did it take me as long to read it as a usual narrative novel. Not only was the abnormal format fascinating, but it also meant that most pages contained styling and images that made the format change evident, IMG_20151031_135651625and thus the room for text varied. Also, some pages were simply pictures, or one word (for emphasis), or scrolling/styled text (that conveyed meaning through the text and the image it created).

Seriously, the page count means nothing. This novel is even more fascinating than it is quick and you’ll be so glad you picked it up. Also, most of the curse words are censored, which makes it teen-friendly. There are a few exceptions, but 3 curse words over 600 pages isn’t bad. I will absolutely have this in my classroom library one day. And then I will ring the bells and celebrate when the next volume is released.

Also, Happy Halloween, reader friends!

3 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Lindsay

Love This? Try This! – “Expanse” Series & Review of “Caliban’s War”

If/Then

Pics from amazon.com

My desire to find my next serious Series obsession continually leads me down a long, hard road with about a 90% failure rating. Most premier volumes I consume with desperate positivity that “THIS series is about to rock my world” and by the end of the book I’m convinced I’ll never feel joy again. Every series is held against the impossibly high standards set by The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Harry Potter books. I need to scratch that itch again; I desperately need more books that will fill me with the joy, suspense, anticipation, and “can’t stop, won’t stop” reading obsession that I get when reading the Godfathers of series work.

If you read my review of Andy Wier’s The Martian, you’ll remember that it brought home the bacon in terms of scratching the “must read good book” itch, but it was just one book. Boom, done. I read it and now it’s over, which is a huge shame because I found out that I may or may not totally dig the space theme! Then, one fine day, I saw the latest release in the Expanse Series alongside The Martian in a list of comparatively kickass novels and signed myself right up, and thank god I did. The series is apparently considered to be a “space opera,” which I hear means battles, drama, and political intrigue that take place in space. Just like in The Martian, we’re propelled into the future and are introduced to advanced technology, very appealing and relatable characters, and life-threatening crises that can only be solved by intelligent, resourceful people. The Expanse books contain less science and math than The Martian and more characters, locations, technology, relationships (romantic and non), and threats to the human species. Oh, and volumes! There are five so far and reportedly the SyFy channel is basing a TV series on the novels.

Goodreads.com

Click here to see on Goodreads.com

So, if you’re interested, see my review of Leviathan Wakes to get a general idea of the first volume. As for Caliban’s War, the second volume, I’m still addicted. James Holden and his crew are tasked with inspecting Ganymede, which has suffered an attack by a seemingly advanced version of the protomolecule discovered in the first book. They team up with a Martian Marine and a representative of Earth’s United Nations to help a Ganymede scientist search the solar system for his daughter, lost during the attack. Her abduction becomes more evidently linked to the protomolecule with each clue and, eventually, the possible end of the human race.

Overall, the pace doesn’t slow down. The first book prepared me for the outer space political turmoil and potential bio-hazardous threat, but this volume was jam packed with surprises and moments that made it necessary to remind myself, “It’s just a book. These are not real people/situations.” I applaud Corey for not losing any momentum, which is easy to do with a Vol. 2, but instead packing more punches and bringing a pre-established story into a new light. I love it. I’m obsessed and, if the others continue to thrill me, it’ll be promoted to sit alongside the series gods.

I’d love to know if anyone else has read this series or what other series has rocked your world! Do you like “space opera”? What are some of your favorite examples?

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Lindsay, Love This? Try This!, Wednesdays with Lind-say!

L: Review of James S. A. Corey’s “Leviathan Wakes”

​I finished this novel last weekend and I cannot stop thinking about it. Since then, I got a new book and found it to be unsatisfying, generally and, more importantly, comparatively. It wasn’t bringing any excitement, adventure, intrigue, or general writing quality to the table, and I had just finished James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in the “Expanse Series,” which was jam-packed with all of these traits. So, what did I do? I quit wasting my short life on a crappy book and went out in a serious deluge in order to purchase the next volume. Duh.

Leviathan Wakes

Click here for Goodreads

The story takes place during the distant future when all planets and other habitable spaces within the Milky Way have been colonized. Perspective ping-pongs between the two main characters, Holden and Miller. Holden works on a freighter ship that transports ice from the rings of Saturn to colonies that do not have their own water source, a.k.a, everyone but Earth. Miller is a detective on Ceres, one of many stations throughout the asteroid belt, or “The Belt.” The lives of Holden and his crew are immeasurably changed when answering a distress signal from an unidentified ship proves to have been a deadly mistake, and Miller is assigned to a missing person case that slowly but surely links him to Holden. As their missions intertwine, they must both fight to prevent interplanetary war and an altogether unfamiliar but potentially catastrophic threat to human life.

So, even though I just kept that paragraph spoiler-free, it contains about 50% more info than the blurb on the book jacket, so I went into this with very low expectations. I had never read a “space opera” so I figured there’s no time like the present. Considering my unpreparedness, every moment of this novel was a huge surprise and that made each twist so much more fun! No spoilers, obviously, so I can only give a general awesomeness review, but every detail was just amazing. The characters were flawed, relatable, compelling, and would totally be my friends if they were real. The pace was consistent but gripping, so that I blazed right through a 500+ page novel and desperately didn’t want it to end. All of the space stuff was new, exciting, and imaginative, but clearly well-researched and thoughtful. My only complaint would be that I think I, as the reader, was given a bit too much credit for how familiar I would already be with all things spacy. Maps weren’t included, so I was relying on my basic understanding of the galaxy and its components, as well as the jargon and details of life in space. Again, I was a beginner to the space opera genre (aside from reading The Martian and watching the original Star Trek series), so my knowledge level was Beginner, at best. Yes, that’s my problem for not paying attention in science class, so I’d like to retract my complaint. It was perfect. Go read it.

Understandably, I’m reading the second volume, Caliban’s War now. I’ll venture away from this genre just as soon as I’ve had enough, thank you.

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Lindsay