The Grey King (The Dark is Rising, #4) – Susan Cooper

The-Dark-Is-Rising-The-Grey-King-Susan-Cooper
Source: My Photos! Also, find the book on Goodreads

Struck down by an unknown illness, Old One Will Stanton is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle in Wales to recover. In his unhealthy state, Will is not aware of much that has been going on besides the weather, and indeed it is not until he meets a boy named Bran that his memories of being an Old One return to him. Bran has been visited by Merriman, and together he and Will begin the search for the harp with which to wake the sleepers.

 

What made this story especially interesting were the additions of Bran and his dog, Caval, as companions for Will instead of Merriman. In fact, Merriman hardly made an appearance. The secondary characters really carried this story, with Will just tumbling along headfirst into danger among them because he can’t understand Welsh. This small fact truly holds the entirety of the plot together, as Will knowing Welsh would uncomplicate his journey significantly.

The start of this book was rough and sharp. We are never given any description or name for the illness which Will had, just that it clouded his mind and weakened his body, making him forget all about the Old Ones for a time. It is never even expressly stated where he caught the sickness or if it was caused by the Dark. It’s as if Will woke up one day from a bad dream, realized he had been asleep for a few months, and just kind of had to guess what to do next to help the Light. The majority of the plot surrounds Bran and Caval anyway, and I felt as if Will was simply an avenue for explaining their presence. Overall, the story was good, but it felt disconnected from the previous three.

 

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Over Sea, Under Stone
Book #2 – The Dark is Rising
Book #3 – Greenwitch
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Coming Soon!)

The Bear and The Nightingale (Winternight, #1) – Katherine Arden

Winternight-The-Bear-And-The-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden
Photo: Goodreads

As if you all didn’t already know of my love for fairytale retellings based on my reaction to Uprooted last year, let this be a testament. In this version of the classic Russian tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, Katherine Arden reimagines Vasya as the youngest child of a wealthy trader and his late wife, who herself was the daughter of the late ruler.

Vasya is indeed beautiful, but with a wild streak. As her elder sister begins preparing to marry, Vasya’s father Pyotr realizes that there will be no women to run Vasya’s life and makes the decision to remarry himself. At his brother-in-law’s insistence, he marries a woman whose faith dictates her life, and who is nearly as young as his sons.

About this time a young priest is rising to prominence in Moscow, threatening the power of the grand duke and the tentative peace across Russia. The grand duke decrees that the priest will travel with Pyotr when he returns to the north and to serve as the regional priest.

Vasya’s new stepmother and the new priest begin implementing Christian values in place of the old traditions, threatening the ancient spirits that protect Vasya’s homeland. As the townsfolks’ faith in the old ways waivers so do the life forces of their protectors. Vasya can see and communicate with the mysterious creatures, and soon finds herself the protector of the protectors. But a greater evil lurks in the forest, and it is only a matter of time – as the old ones weaken – until it wakes and comes for it’s due.

 

Much like Uprooted did last year, The Bear and the Nightingale transported me to another realm,  another time. The twists and turns! The intricacy of the plot! The landscape itself was so beautifully depicted that it took my breath away. Arden has succeeded in creating a future classic with a permanent place on my shelf. And it’s a series! The second book, The Girl in the Tower, was released last year and the final book in the trilogy has been announced for release sometime early next year. I cannot wait to dive back into Vasya’s world: magical, dangerous, and filled with religion and court intrigue.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

 

Other books in this series:
Book #2 – The Girl in the Tower
Book #3 – The Winter of the Witch

 

 

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,

Amanda

 

 

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

Cecelia-and-Kate-Sorcery-and-Cecelia-or-The-Enchanted-Chocolate-Pot-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

 

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,

Amanda

 

 

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)

Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Cage” and “The Man Trap”

 

Star Trek - P1 S1E1 - _The Cage_ and _The Man Trap_
Original Image via Wiki Media Commons

 

 

Recently I read a book called Geekerella by Ashley Poston. It reminded me just out of the loop I am when it comes to science fiction, and how horrible of a way that would be to go out. So, I’ve decided to change that.  To start with, I’m going to watch all of Star Trek. All. Of. It.

My review of Geekerella will be posted on Tuesday, and then you can find it here.

 

Star Trek had its beginning in the 1960s, when my parents were infants. This never stopped my mother from becoming a fan. With the return of science fiction worlds like Star Trek, Star Wars, Blade Runner, and so many others to both the big and small screens, it’s about time that I took the dive into this particular brave, new world.

I’ve decided to start at the beginning, since that is the most logical place to begin. I’m following the watch order that can be found here on digg, and also reproduced for you below:

  • Star Trek: The Original Series
  • The Animated Series
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • The Next Generation Seasons 1-7
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • Deep Space Nine Seasons 1-5
  • Voyager Seasons 1-2
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Deep Space Nine Seasons 6-7
  • Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Voyager Seasons 3-7
  • Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Enterprise
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness
  • Star Trek: Beyond
  • Star Trek: Discovery

I’m going to watch somewhere between 1-3 episodes at a time and then let you know what I think of them. Let us see how long this project takes me. I’m also watching the show via Netflix, so that could have some impact on which episodes are aired when.

Now, I should warn you that I’m not a complete newbie when it comes to Star Trek, but growing up I was too busy reading fairytales to watch more than a few bits of whichever episode was on television, and I’m guessing I don’t get bonus points for understanding references on The Big Bang Theory or for watching the 2009 reboot film and Into Darkness when they came out.

Going into this, I was already aware that there were two pilots, and that the show was ushered into existence by Lucille Ball and her studio, Desilu Productions. (don’t be surprised. I read and I know things.) But what I didn’t know and wasn’t actually prepared for was the sheer amount of differences between the two showings, including an almost complete 180 of the cast.

 

Pilot #1 – “The Cage”

Christopher Pike is fantastic. I really enjoyed Jeffrey Hunter’s acting (he’s also not hard on the eyes). Is it just me, or was Spock mildly human in this episode? He actually seemed worried that Pike had been captured. The whole Adam and Eve shtick was probably a lot less overused in the 60’s, but it still played nicely here. I quite enjoyed the large-brained aliens – maybe they are the precursor to the large-headed green ‘Martians’ we so frequently see today in science fiction? Wonderful use of special effects. I even loved the obviously homemade communicators.

My favorite part of the entire episode was Number One. I know Majel Barrett got the worst of the critics for her performance, but I’m convinced that’s only because she was so ahead of her time. Sure, she ‘tried to fit in with the boys’ by not screaming at Pike that she’s a woman just like Yeoman Colt and instead holds her tongue, but she has a quiet authority that Pike trusts and the crew obeys without question when Pike is taken out of commission and the ship falls under her command. I appreciated how she calmly handled things, and how quickly she came to the correct conclusion about Vina’s origin significantly before Pike did (because she did research). I would have loved to see how the gender-war played out in that cast and in that time period. It very well could have revolutionized the feminist movement, and we might have been where we are now with feminism nearly 50 years earlier. But that’s a much longer discussion. Basically what I’m saying is that in Number One’s quiet yet absolute authority I see traces of the women I look up to today, not the least of them being Wonder Woman.

 

You could say that I really liked this episode. 😉

 

Episode #1 – “The Man Trap”

Compared to “The Cage”, this episode was underwhelming. The effects were still good, the communicators looked more like little flip-phones than homemade junk, and the extended look at the ship was interesting. Unfortunately, the cast felt indifferent. Sure, you have your Captain Kirk (William Shatner), and Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Sulu (George Takei), and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and, of course, Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Those characters I know from the reboots. I was slightly surprised by how easily they killed off cast – four crew members are killed by the ‘salt vampire’ before it is destroyed.

The scenes between Spock and Uhura show potential, though I was surprised by how openly Uhura flirted with Spock. I guess I just didn’t expect that in the first episode?

Overall it was a decent start, and I look forward to watching more episodes.

 

Until next time,

Amanda

 

 

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