The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson

Source: Goodreads


Accepting the position of smalltown Latin teacher was a no-brainer for Beatrice Nash. Finally on her own, she can’t wait to make her own money and get out from under her stifling family’s thumb and her father’s shadow. But war is looming. A great, big, world war, the likes of which have never been seen. With men signing up left and right, it’s only a matter of time before Beatrice’s students and colleagues start to head for the continent, closely followed by the new officers comprised mostly of the lesser gentry. A young surgeon and a poet, a Romani and a scholar, the war keeps its distance from no one. And so beings the summer before the war.


Helen Simonson does it again. The author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – one of my favorite reads of 2017 – is back with another well-developed look at England’s less viewed history, and hits her mark. The characters are well developed and engaging, as well as incredibly refreshing. A book about an Edwardian surgeon! The first women authors! Single women living alone and working a respectable job! POETS. and so, so many underlying narratives about race and sexuality. Absolutely wonderful. 10/10 would read again.

I would like a prequel about Beatrice’s life with her father and then with her Aunt. Also, a novel purely about Aunt Agatha and her husband who works for the foreign office and who I am sure does spy things. I think they’re all just so interesting!

The book itself starts out relatively lighthearted, following the main premise of Beatrice settling into the town and her interactions with the townsfolk. About 3/4 of the way through, the war is finally upon us, with dire consequences for many. Simonson wraps everything up neatly, but not before she rips our hearts out and forces us to acknowledge that not everyone can live happily ever after.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars


Other reviews for works by this author:
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) – Mary Balogh


Source: Goodreads


Anna Snow has grown up in an orphanage in Bath, where she now teaches, supported by a mysterious benefactor for as long as she stays. A letter summoning her to London is not only surprising, for she knows no one outside of Bath, but life-shattering when the identity of her benefactor is revealed.

Avery Archer, the Duke of Netherby, is only Harry Westcott’s guardian because the boy’s father died a year too early. Avery wouldn’t even have taken charge of his nearly grown step-cousin, except that his own father promised to look after Harry in the event of the Earl of Riverdale’s death. With the Earl’s death fresh on everyone’s mind, it strikes Avery as odd that the late Earl’s wife is sending their solicitor on a fool’s errand to find Riverdale’s bastard daughter and tell her that her allowance will be cut off now that her father has died. He likes the plan even less when the solicitor instead drags the girl to London and announces that she is the sole heir to the Earl of Riverdale’s fortune and that Harry and his sisters are the real bastard children.



The premise for this series is just amazing. The role reversal is definitely unique and interesting to dive into. However, the execution could use some work. I dearly love many of Balogh’s books, but not only does the Westcott series start off with one too many side plots, but the characters all fall kind of flat. I’m hoping this is a single-book-problem like we had with Ben and Samantha in The Escape. Sometimes there’s just too much plot going on for proper character development. Granted, Balogh is just churning out new books in this series, but I would much prefer that the characters were more developed than to have a new book every six months.


I loved Anna, I loved Camille, I loved Elizabeth, and I loved Alexander. Avery I had trouble with because of his strange history and the side plot which goes with it that just didn’t work with the rest of the story. His public self and his private self just don’t mesh well together, and it made it impossible for me to really understand him and therefore support the main relationship. Overall, I felt the book put more character development into Camille and Elizabeth than anyone else. I have the second book from the library, so I will let you know if the characters get any better.


HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars


Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Someone to Hold
Book #3 – Someone to Wed
Book #4 – Someone to Care
Book #5 – Someone to Trust
Book #6 – TBA
Book #7 – TBA
Book #8 – TBA

Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”




Star Trek - S1E4 S1E5 - _The Naked Time_ and _The Enemy Within_
Original Image via Wiki Media Commons


Welcome the third installment of my Star Trek watch through! You can find other posts in this series linked at the bottom, and the original post – including my watch order – here. I’m still not obsessed, but the show is going pretty well so far. I’m getting to know the characters very slowly, but it’s been interesting to see who will become more prominent as the series goes on.


Episode #4 – “The Naked Time”

This episode starts with space suits involving some mix of chicken wire and bubble wrap. So that’s cool. Then we get a strange bio-weapon that at first looks like blood and quickly has all the crew members acting like Lady Macbeth, and losing all of their inhibitions. This episode was full of opportunities for great acting, and everyone did wonderfully. I especially enjoyed O’Reilly’s singing and Irish pride. “You know what his mistake was, sir? Not being born an Irishman.” is just a great line.

Not a lot happens until the very end, when Scotty discovers that O’Reilly has turned the engines off completely and they must attempt starting the engines at full throttle from scratch, which has only ever been done in theory. The resulting implosion, rather than pushing them away from the dying planet they’ve been orbiting, sends them into a time warp. Which basically means they’re moving so fast that time actually runs backward, and when they come out of the time warp, they are three days earlier in time. It was only a moment of time travel, but Spock and Kirk agree that they might want to test that in the future.

The crew wiping their hands on their clothes and basically reenacting the “Out Damn Spot” scene from Macbeth was pretty entertaining, as was an uninhibited Spock, crying over his shame at having feelings. Great acting all-around made up for the lack of forward-moving story in this one.

The only downside to this episode is that the title makes no sense. No one is naked. Only Sulu takes his shirt off. I’m just confused.



Episode #5 – “The Enemy Within”

The crew of The Enterprise is visiting a planet where the temperature hits -120 (Fahrenheit?) at night, and contains strange magnetic yellow dust. Their inspection of the planet is going well, and they’ve found an animal (read: A puppy in a monster suit) they want to test further, when one of the crew injures themselves in a rockslide and must be sent back to the ship. Upon arrival, the transportation beam nearly burns out, but Scotty fixes it. Captain Kirk beams up soon after and doesn’t look so hot himself. It is only later when they beam up the ‘dog’ that they realize the transporter is malfunctioning and creating duplicates of everything that gets beamed up or down.

After a horrible moment in the life of Yeoman Janice Rand, we find out that Kirk was also duplicated. The rest of the episode is spent trying to catch the duplicate, and once it is determined that they’re not duplicates but halves, figuring out how to put them back together and prevent more people from getting split before the crew remaining on the planet freezes to death.

This episode is basically a montage of William Shatner, with Yeoman Rand, Spock, Scotty, and McCoy thrown in for variety. I can’t say that I loved it, but it was an interesting scenario at least. The previous episode allowed for much more breadth of acting. To be completely honest, this felt like Shatner wanted an episode where his character has a mixed up personality because everyone else got to do it in the previous episode and he felt left out. When in reality all he did to differentiate was to make Kirk-1 really boring and forgetful and Kirk-2 really mean and creepy. Kirk-2 has a terrifying gleam in his eyes that there is only one word for: rapey. And guess what almost happens to Yeoman Rand?

Kirk-2’s need for power and control is completely psychopathic, and while they tried to write off Kirk-1’s lack of decision-making skills on his lack of an evil side, I think it was more along the lines of confirming that Kirk is probably a creep deep down, and only through rigorous practice manages to keep the creep-vibes from showing while he is piloting the ship. As we saw in the previous episode, he wanted to take Yeoman Rand for a walk on the beach and go on a date, etc… but felt tied to the ship like he was married to it and not allowed to look at other women.

So far, the only consistent thing I’m disliking… is Shatner. And I feel kind of bad about that, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of him, so I’m not really all that surprised either.


Until next time,




Other posts in this watch through:
Star Trek: The Original Series
“The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
“Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
“Mudd’s Women” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (COMING SOON)

Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate, #1) – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Source: Goodreads


Magic is in the air in Regency England. Cousins Kate and Cece find themselves separated for the London season, with Kate off to London and Cecelia stuck in the country. Known to their family as troublemakers, it is no surprise that the distance between them can’t prevent these two from getting into a scrape of epic proportions. And it all starts when a witch attempts to poison Kate at the Royal Society of Wizards induction ceremony.


I picked up the Kate and Cecelia series in middle school because Patricia C. Wrede was one of the co-authors and I had just finished and adored The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Little did I know that this series would blow me away as well! Wrede and Stevermer write back and forth in letter form in character. This was quite confusing at first, but once I got into the swing of things I forgot that it was presented in letters and simply became wrapped up in this world where magic exists alongside my favorite time period. The letter format eliminated the need for chapters, and also placed the reader in a forever-cliff-hanger so that I found myself reading quite past my bedtime because I needed to know what was going to happen next.

Kate and Cece are strong and independent female lead characters – MY FAVORITE – and the men whose problems they become entangled in are delightfully equal parts pride and chivalry.

This is one of those series that I just want everyone to read because it’s so innovative and unique. I can’t wait to dive into the second book, The Grand Tour.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars


Other reviews in this series:
Book 2 – The Grand Tour
Book 3 – The Mislaid Magician
Book 4 – Magic Below Stairs

Reviews for other works by these authors:
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
Book 1 – Dealing with Dragons
Book 2 – Searching for Dragons
Book 3 – Calling on Dragons
Book 4 – Talking to Dragons

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline


Source: Goodreads


It is 2044 and the world is dying. Rather than confront the global issues at their doorstep, humanity has retreated into the virtual reality universe known as The Oasis. Wade Watts lives in a tower of mobile homes somewhere in Ohio, his only refuge the virtual high school he attends in The Oasis. The sudden death of Oasis creator James Halliday forever alters the lives of Oasis users when it is announced that Halliday has hidden the key to his massive inheritance – and the ownership rights to The Oasis – inside his own game as an easter egg. Now with Halliday’s biggest rivals like IOI closing in, it is up to a few good egg hunters – known as gunters – to reach Halliday’s egg first and keep The Oasis free and accessible to all.


I had heard about this book in passing numerous times, and it always popped up on my radar, but I ignored it. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to read about video games. Maybe I thought I would miss too many of the 80s references, and the book wouldn’t make sense as a result of this inherent failing on my part. Maybe a lot of things.

It surfaced on my radar again three years ago when my sister’s university had to read it as part of their one-book-one-campus initiative. She loved it, but I was in the middle of rereading Harry Potter. It’s been high on my list since then, and I finally picked it up from the library last month.


This book is awesome. The 80s references are great, and since I was blessed with a mother who loves science fiction and fantasy, I understood at least eighty-five percent of the references and jokes.

Wade and his cohorts develope well as characters, and IOI makes for an intimidating enemy. The Oasis itself steals the spotlight. Its MMORPG (Massively-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Game) meets space opera structure is as beautiful and thoughtfully created as the book’s plot.

This journey through games, film, and music from one of the most iconic (in my opinion, at least) eras of history is not to be missed. And with a film version of the book hitting theatres next month, there’s no time like the present to pick up a copy. **Just a friendly heads-up that this book does contain some not-safe-for-child-consumption bits, so maybe save this one for the 15+ crowd. I’m assuming they’ll just pull these bits from the film script to get a PG13 for violence rating instead of pushing the edge of R for a pointless m*****b****n scene.**


HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Star Trek: The Original Series – “Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

Star Trek - S1E2 P2S1E3 - _Charlie X_ and _Where No Man Has Gone Before_
Original Image via Wiki Media Commons


Welcome the second installment of my Star Trek watch through! You can find other posts in this series linked at the bottom, and the original post – including my watch order – here. Without further ado, let’s jump into the episodes.



Episode #2 – “Charlie X”

The episode starts out with Charlie Evans, a seventeen-year-old from a planet called Thasus, where he was orphaned when the ship he was on crashed. He has strange powers – the transmutation of objects and people – and causes a lot of trouble for the crew of the enterprise as he fumbles his way through his first human interactions since the age of three. He supposedly taught himself to speak by talking to his old ship’s onboard computer, and he becomes irrationally angry whenever anyone doesn’t like him. After making a crew member disappear into thin air in front of Captain Kirk, Charlie and the Captain begin to butt heads, and Charlie attempts to take control of the ship when Kirk tries to derail their course away from Alpha V, where Charlie’s closest relatives live. The natives of the planet Thasus, the Thasians, arrive in very cool glowy green ships to retrieve Charlie, who ran away without their knowledge. In order for the boy to survive on their planet, they had to grant him his powers, but they cannot be taken away, and his having them makes him too dangerous to live amongst humans. Charlie immediately begins pleading with the crew of the Enterprise to let him stay, despite the fact that he’s been trying to murder them for the past few days.

I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, as it felt very true to traditional science fiction. The taking of one element and exploiting it, whether by making it cease to exist or making it the sole reason for something – in this case whether or not people liked Charlie – to me is the essence of science fiction writing. Charlie had all of this power, but none of the wisdom to use it safely. Watching his blunders and antics reminded me of the many children’s books involving the dangers of untrained magic. Training without power may seem silly, but power without training typically means certain death no matter what your age is. The fact that we had this boy at the height of puberty with a ton of power and no training in human interaction lent an idea for a very interesting storyline. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve had nightmares involving people with powers like these, but that’s probably a story for another day.

Overall it was very well done. The fact that Yeoman Janice, Captain Kirk, and Doctor McCoy all attempted to explain puberty, men/women, and general human interaction to someone without saying any of the words they actually needed to use because those words weren’t allowed on cable in the 60s was cracking me up, but it was also a very good lesson in story writing.


Pilot #2 / Episode #3 – “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

This episode was originally produced as a second pilot for the series and actually takes place at an earlier stardate than the first two aired episodes, despite this episode being aired third. As I just looked up, the stardates, while allowing the creators to build a rough timeline, were just an arbitrary mix of numbers that weren’t meant to correspond to a specific year so that viewers couldn’t make snide comments about whether things would exist the way they do on the show at that future date.

The first few things I noticed were Leonard Nimoy’s crazy eyebrows and the simplified detailing on the sleeves of the command shirts. It was much fancier in episode #2. Also, this was Scotty’s first official appearance! Although I’m not all convinced that was James Doohan. After that, the biggest things were the lack of Uhura’s presence and the general treatment of women, which really stuck out when Yeoman Smith clutched Gary Mitchell’s arm as the ship flew through a strange forcefield. Honestly, if you’re part of a space crew whose mission is to explore uncharted areas, why would you be so easily scared of a space-storm/forcefield? Dr. Dehner wasn’t scared at all, but then again nothing scares her throughout the episode, so maybe she’s just made of sterner stuff. Plenty of characters made cameos in the episode, including Sulu, but just about everyone felt flat. Kirk was overemotional in part to compensate for Spock’s decided lack of emotion – which is a huge point of contention in this episode – and it made him come off as whiny. The episode ends with Spock admitting that he was sad about Mitchell’s fate, and Kirk responding that there is hope for him yet.


Unlike “Charlie X”, which I enjoyed specifically for the storyline, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” felt like a string of ideas strung together. Like “The Cage”, every action had multiple meanings, and you could see and feel what was contrived for the show itself and what allowances were made for the studio in order to get the show green-lit. It is strange to me that two episodes of the same show could read so differently to me, but there you have it.

I’m really enjoying the special effects! The way they make things disappear and reappear is pretty awesome. Both of these episodes had actors and lighting doing strange things with the characters’ eyes, and entire walls and people disappeared! Having a background in production, I am especially curious as to how they are doing the disappearances specifically. I don’t think it’s green screening, but I also don’t think it’s two pieces of film being merged together somehow. I’ll try to get to the bottom of it for my next post.

I’m still enjoying the series. Every episode feels like it’s own universe, and while I’m only a few episodes in, the cast already feels diverse to me. I can only imagine what people thought of it in the 60s!

Until next time,




Other posts in this watch through:
Star Trek: The Original Series
“The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
“The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”
“Mudd’s Women” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (COMING SOON)

Geekerella – Ashley Poston


Source: Goodreads



Danielle Wittimer and her parents had a special bond – their undying love for the too-soon gone TV show Starfield. Now that they’re gone, the show and the convention her father started in honor of it are the only things Elle has left of them. They keep her going while her stepmother and twin stepsisters make her life a living hell.

Darien Freeman grew up torn between worlds. Discovering Starfield and Excelsicon in middle school literally saved his life. Now, the chance to play the lead role of Prince Carmindor in the new film adaption of the cult TV show is more than he can pass up, but will the fans accept a new Carmindor?

Terrified to meet his new fans and foes, Darien reaches out to the Excelsicon founders to try to pull out of his meet-and-greet, only to find a friend instead. As Elle and Darien get to know each other through texts, they begin to understand just how not alone they really are. Will it be enough to save Carmindor and the reboot from disaster? Will it be enough to rescue Elle from her own personal hell?



I heard about this book last year just before it came out, and I had the chance to hear Ashley Poston speak about it at the Boston Teen Author Festival in September. Geekerella‘s charm comes from its roots in the Cinderella fairytale, tied up in its infusion of sci-fi culture – Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and so many more. The melding together of fairytale and space opera with verge-of-adulthood problems and responsibilities makes for a totally new story that will enchant readers for years to come.

Poston’s love for everything space shines through in her writing and in her speech. Her next space-opera-meets-fairytale will hit shelves in the next year or two, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on it.


HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars