Nine Princes in Amber (Amber Chronicles, #1) – Roger Zelazny

Source: Goodreads

A man wakes up in a hospital, sure he is in danger, but unsure of just about anything else. After escaping, he makes his way to the one place where he might find some answers, and ends up unraveling his past – which is decades longer than he imagined – and starts a daring adventure that could lead him to some interesting discoveries about his future.

After more than a year of insisting I was about to start this 10-book arc, I’ve finally finished the first one! My mother read these books growing up and has always raved about them, but it’s actually quite hard to discuss them without any spoilers! The books themselves are short – 100-200 pages – but rich is description and plot, and fascinating in concept. Oberon, the former lord of Amber, the one true city, has disappeared, and his many children are at odds about who should take the throne. Corwin, one of 15 sons of Amber, has been missing for almost a millennium, but even memory loss and near-death experiences cannot prevent him from going after what he believes should be his.

I loved where this story went, and seems to be going, and the character development is absolutely stunning and yet subtle: I felt that I knew them and then realized we as readers had been fed breadcrumbs along the way to make it that way. This was in large part due to Corwin acting in certain ways and then making discoveries about himself and his personality and actions previously. It’s a rather novel way of writing, and I can’t wait to jump into the next book and see what awaits our main character. I’m not even sure if he is a hero or is destined to be the villain. Only time can tell.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars


Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 2 – The Guns of Avalon (Review Available June 25th)
Book 3 – Sign of the Unicorn (Review Available July 16th)
Book 4 – The Hand of Oberon (Review Available August 6th)
Book 5 – The Courts of Chaos (Review Available August 27th)
Book 6 – Trumps of Doom (Review Available September 17th)
Book 7 – Blood of Amber (Review Available October 8th)
Book 8 – Sign of Chaos (Review Available October 29th)
Book 9 – Knight of Shadows (Review Available November 19th)
Book 10 – Prince of Chaos (Review Available December 10th)

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 – P. Djèlí Clark

Source: Goodreads

In Cairo, 1912, Agent Hamed and his new partner Agent Onsi, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, have a case on their hands. The Superintendent of Tram Safety and Maintenance at the largest hub in the city – Ramses station – insists that one of his tram cars is haunted. Ever since the space between the human world and the spirit world of the Djinn was perforated, The Ministry has been in charge of dealing with any uncanny police matters, which also, occasionally, includes hauntings. But Tram Car 015 is no normal haunting, and it will take all of the agents’ faculties to find a way to exorcise this spirit.

The steampunk-like setting for this story is beautifully imagined, and the suffragist movement created added depth to the world and its characters that I didn’t know I needed, but which absolutely made the story what it is. Deeply engrossing and mysterious, I was sorry it ended so quickly, but was 100% satisfied with the story. I think I just really want this to be a series? and maybe eventually a television series? Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but this story seems like it would adapt well to the screen and be just as captivating so long as Clark were at the helm. Personally, I can’t wait to go out and read more of Clark’s stuff, like The Black God’s Drums because this was just so, so good.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Star Trek Watch Through Part 5: The Original Series – “Miri” and “Dagger of the Mind”


Original image via Wiki Media Commons

Welcome to part five of my Star Trek watch through! I had some downtime over the holidays and was able to get back on track with my watching habits. This post will cover The Original Series, Episodes #8 and #9, “Miri” and “Dagger of the Mind.” Other posts in this series can be found linked at the bottom, and the watch order can be found on the first post, here.

Episode #8 – “Miri”

Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Spock, and Yeoman Rand beam down to a new Earth in what seems to be an exact replica of our solar system after they receive a distress signal. The planet seems to be halted sometime in the 1960s, and the crew only finds children alive. One of the older children, a girl named Miri, explains that the ‘grups’ (grown-ups) all contracted a disease, went crazy, and died. The crew of The Enterprise soon discover that the ‘disease’ was a failed attempt at immortality, and that it slows aging to a rate of 1 month of aging to every 100 years in children, but rapidly sends adults into a frenzy that ends in death. The children are the only survivors, and they will contract the ‘disease’ when they hit puberty. Before they are able to make this discovery, the oldest boy alive and defacto leader of the children, who call themselves ‘onlys’, leads a team to steal the crew’s communicators, so they have no contact with the ship or its computers to use in finding a cure. The crew begins contracting the disease after making contact with the children.

I think Cpt. Kirk is supposed to be attempting to manipulate Miri in order to get answers about the children, the planet, and the disease, but in all honesty, he just creepily hits on her for the entire episode, while also flirting with Yeoman Rand, which nearly turns Miri and the children against him. There wasn’t much, if any, plot movement in this episode aside from the actual search for a cure.

Episode #9 – “Dagger of the Mind”

The USS Enterprise is delivering supplies to the Tentalus Penal Colony when a Dr. Simon VanGelder, sneaks aboard and asks for asylum. Dr. McCoy asks Captain Kirk to perform a full investigation and Kirk beams down to the penal colony along with Dr. Helen Noelle, to act as his medical eyes and ears. Once on Tantalus, Cpt. Kirk and Dr. Noelle follow the lead penal doctor, Dr. Adams, through a full inspection of the facilities, including a Neural Neutralizer that Dr. Adams explains doesn’t work all that well, but none-the-less was the cause of Dr. VanGelder’s brain injuries.

Back on the ship, Dr. McCoy and Spock try to get some answers out of Dr. VanGelder, who seems to be in immense pain any time he tries to recall something of note. Spock attempts Vulcan Mind Reading on a human for the first time, whereupon they discover that Dr. Adams has been wiping peoples’ memories and filling them with his own ideas. After a struggle with Dr. Adams, Kirk is freed when Dr. Noelle electrocutes a guy and short circuits the security barrier, allowing Spock to beam down to the penal colony with a rescue team.


The two most notable things about this episode are, firstly, the past between Cpt. Kirk and Dr. Noelle, who apparently hit it off at a Christmas party. Kirk seems uncomfortable beaming down to the colony with her and tells Spock to pass a message to Dr. McCoy, that Dr. Noelle had better be the best damn assistant he’s ever had. I assume the feeling here was supposed to be that McCoy let Noelle go with Kirk because she liked him, but it came across as either she was way more interested in him than he was in her and couldn’t let it go, or that he has trouble keeping his hands off of her. Either way, it was icky. Made more so by Dr. Noelle attempting to ascertain if Kirk has feelings for her and Cpt. Kirk falling prey to mind control and then sexually assaulting Dr. Noelle. The over-sexualization of Dr. Noelle’s garb and that single loose lock of hair were all ridiculously over the top as well. That chunk of hair would get annoying fast. No woman would walk about without spare bobby pins in her pocket (do their uniforms have pockets?). And also if you’re a medic, why bother curly your hair like that all the time when a ponytail works so much better.

Secondly, the Neural Neutralizer, which is clearly a basic prototype from which we get the Neuralizers found in the Men In Black films. Flash someone and fill in the blank for their memory. Genius! Put it in all the things!

Overall, not a terrible episode, just the glaring sexualizations that really irked me. I don’t think I will ever get used to it.

Other Posts in This Series:
Star Trek – The Original Series: Season #1
Part 1: “The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
Part 2: “Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Part 3: “The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”
Part 4: “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls Are Made Of”
Part 6: “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “The Menagerie, Part 1” (Coming Soon)

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Source: Goodreads

Slaughterhouse-Five is a lively, if strange, jaunt across time through Billy Pilgrim’s life. In the middle of World War II, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. Although the rest of the world experiences Billy’s life linearly, Billy himself – his soul, if you will – hops around his own timeline. Sometimes he is in the forests of Germany, sometimes he is at his daughter’s wedding, sometimes he is on the alien planet of Tralfamador, and sometimes he is in his bunk inside Slaughterhouse Five just before the bombing of Dresden.


The overarching theme of this book seems to be the question of whether Billy is actually unstuck in time like he seems, or if he is suffering severe PTSD from the bombing of Dresden that makes him feel that way. The reader is never given an explicit answer. Whatever the actual reason for Billy’s obsession with the Tralfamadorians, there is no denying that this book is written in a confusing way. Billy even has a run-in with the author which just lends to the meta-filled non-plot.

I’ve been hearing about this book in school and in the book world for years, but I didn’t pick it up until a friend of a roommate recommended it based on what he saw on my shelves. I think I had a look of consternation on my face the entire time I was reading it, and ultimately I think I got exactly nothing out of it except for the fact that I can now say I’ve read it. If unreliable narrators are your jam than you might like it, but I can’t steer you in any particular direction regarding it.


HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

Star Trek Watch Through Part 4: The Original Series – “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls are Made of”

Original image via Wiki Media Commons

Welcome to part four of my Star Trek watch through! It’s been quite a while since I posted one of these, but I found myself with some down time over the holidays and was able to get back to watching it. This post will cover The Original Series, Episodes #6 and #7, “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls are Made of.” Other posts in this series can be found linked at the bottom, and the watch order can be found on the first post, here.

Episode #6 – “Mudd’s Women”

This episode was a strange one. It starts with The Enterprise in pursuit of an unidentified Class-J Cargo vessel… Which turns out to be carrying just three women and a man named Mudd. The Enterprise blows most of its circuits chasing Mudd’s ship and must head to Rigel 12, a nearby lithium crystal mining planet before its life support systems fail. The longer the women are aboard the ship, the more strangely the male crewmembers act. Spock, obviously, is not affected. McCoy makes a comment that one of the women made his medical equipment beep as she walked past it, saying that any alien who could make itself so beautiful would be smart enough not to have that effect on the equipment. He wonders aloud to Kirk if they are actually just acting beautiful and if that is what makes them beautiful. Near the arrival at Rigel 12, Mudd is shown tearing apart his quarters to locate a drug for the women, and after giving it to them, using a stolen communicator to contact Rigel 12 and beg for them to negotiate his release in exchange for the women.

Once on Rigel 12, the miners want nothing to do with Kirk or the USS Enterprise and instead focus on the women. Running low on power, Kirk reluctantly agrees to give the women to the miners. One of the would-be-brides, Evie, runs off into a sandstorm and by the time the miner rescues her the drugs that Mudd gave her have worn off. Kirk and Mudd arrive to retrieve the power supply crystals and Evie looks as though she has aged 10 years. She claims that the so-called Venus drugs are what have been making her beautiful, and takes some when Mudd offers them to her. Kirk points out that it wasn’t the drugs which made her beautiful. She insists that they are, but Mudd admits that she just ate colored jello, not the Venus drug. Evie decides to stay with the miner and Kirk and Mudd return to The Enterprise.

I think it worth noting that only two women aside from Mudd’s three women appear in this episode. One unidentified crew member and Uhura, who is notably wearing the yellow uniform of a commanding officer rather than the red of a communications, engineering, or security officer.

Was the point of this episode that women are only beautiful when they believe they are? I expected them to out Evie as an alien who can change her appearance at will. The concept that her appearance could change (from no-makeup to makeup much less) by just deciding she wanted to be beautiful is a little silly. In real life, confidence does play a part in beauty, but not anywhere close to that drastic of one.

Episode #7 – “What Little Girls are Made of”

Finally, the return of Majel Barrett! I loved her as Number One in the original pilot, “The Cage”, that was scrapped. She returns in this episode as Nurse Christine Chapel, who signed up to work on the USS Enterprise in order to find her fiance, Dr. Roger Korby.

The crew of the Enterprise arrives at Exo-III, where Dr. Korby was last stationed, and Captain Kirk and Nurse Chapel beam down to the cave he has supposedly been living in, where they spend hours wandering the abandoned tunnels before locating Korby and meeting a few of his friends – Dr. Brown, whom Nurse Chapel is acquainted with, and Ruk and Andrea. When Chapel questions the fact that Dr. Korby and Andrea seem close, and that Dr. Brown does not remember her, Dr. Korby reveals that Dr. Brown is also an android, created by transferring Dr. Brown’s personality to the robotic body just before the doctor died. Ruk and Andrea are also androids.

Dr. Korby shows Kirk and Chapel how an ancient machine left behind by a race known as “the old ones” makes androids, using Kirk as an example. While Korby shows Chapel around his home, Kirk returns to the Enterprise to check in. During her discussion with her fiance, Nurse Chapel finds out that he, too, is an android, built by the actual Dr. Korby as he was freezing to death. Korby-droid, who has up until now insisted that the androids cannot feel emotions such as love or anger, proclaims his love for Chapel is everlasting, and that he is exactly who he has always been, just immortal. Chapel spurns his advances as Captain Kirk arrives, revealing that the Kirk aboard the Enterprise was actually the android version of him. Kirk-droid has been killed and so has the male android, Ruk. Dr. Korby is forced to confront his fears when Andrea, the female android, proclaims her love for him and kisses him. Dr. Korby cannot stand his own creation and fires her phaser, destroying them both.

With all of the androids destroyed and no one left on the planet, the crew returns to the ship, where Nurse Chapel decides to stay on for the remainder of the mission now that she has no ties elsewhere.

Both of these episodes put women in competition with one another and in a spotlight where they could only interact with other characters romantically. In that way, they were both mildly disturbing. I enjoyed Majel Barrett’s return, as I enjoy her acting and can’t wait to see where she goes from here, but overall I was underwhelmed by both of these episodes.

Other Posts in This Series:
Star Trek – The Original Series: Season #1
“The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
“Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
“The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”
“Miri” and “Dagger of the Mind” (COMING SOON)

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) – Libba Bray

Diviners-The-Diviners-Libba-Bray

Source: Goodreads

 

Evangeline O’Neill has special powers. She can see important moments in a person’s life just by holding something that belongs to them. This talent, of course, is not accepted in Zenith, Ohio. After a particularly bad evening of illegal drinking, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle, William Fitzgerald, who runs The Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and his mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie reunites with her childhood friend and the daughter of revolutionists, Mabel, as well as some new friends including Theta, a showgirl, and her brother Henry, a piano player, a thief named Sam, and a numbers runner named Memphis who might just be magical himself. Life can’t be the berries forever though, and before long Evie is called upon to use her powers to help stop a murderer before he raises the antichrist and wipes out all of man kind. Just another summer in 1920s New York, right?

 

I’ve heard about this book on and off since it came out in 2012, and I finally picked it up from the library in August of 2017. Definitely not disappointing! While the writing is easy to follow (except for the 20s slang, which I had to look up) and the chapters are short, the gruesomeness and maturity of the plot and characters’ thoughts definitely put this book squarely in the Young Adult category. If the reading level were a little higher I might even put it in adult, even though over half of the characters are ages 17-19.

If you can’t stand gore in your books, don’t read this. About half of the murders are detailed, and all of the bodies are described once they are discovered. If I was close to stopping my reading more the night and I knew a murder chapter was imminent, I would stop before it so I didn’t have it running around my brain all night long. Not that it really helped, because I still knew it was coming, so my brain usually decided to try and guess how it would go down *facepalm*. In that regard, I’m glad I’ve finished the book. At the same time, I’m sad to let the world go for a while until I get the next book. Bray’s version of 1920s New York City positively shines. I found myself wishing I could visit for the weekend (sans murders) to visit the theatres and clubs she describes in such vibrant detail. The buildings and the city are just as much characters as the human (and not so human) population.

If I were a cry-in-the-corner type of person, my horror-hating-soul would be doing that, because I don’t like being terrified of what’s coming, but I’m a bloody Gryffindor, and we don’t show fear, so I just marched on and kept reading. Overall, I think the horror aspects were very well balanced with the daily life in the 1920s and the mystery parts, which made me quite enjoy myself despite the demons lurking in the shadows.

Definitely pick this up if you have any interest in America’s supernatural history (I’m personally hoping one of the books in this quartet focuses on the witch trials), or if you adore 1920s period fiction, or if you liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because this book is pos-i-tute-ly for you. Also, this cover is magic. I love it.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Lair of Dreams
Book #3 – Before The Devil Breaks You
Book #4 – Untitled – TBD

Supergirl: Being Super (Supergirl: Being Super #1 – 4) – Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Joëlle Jones

Supergirl-Being-Super-Mariko-Tamaki-ILL-Joelle-Jones2
Source: Goodreads

I love Supergirl’s story. It can be told in so many different ways. Kal-El’s elder cousin, stuck in a time warp for half a lifetime, finally arrived. Sometimes Kara and Clark don’t know each other at all, and sometimes she’s been sent to protect him. Kara is warm, loving, curious, and strong as hell.

This version is Kara at her most human. Trying to be herself without exposing her differences. The story hits all the right notes, and the artwork is magnificent (some might even say out of this world, but they are significantly better at wordplay than I). Aside from the obvious, I’d like to take a moment to truly appreciate the diversity in the town of Midvale. Sure, Kara still looks like the quintessential American Cheerleader, but her friends and colleagues have varying appearances. From body type to skin tone to family background, the inhabitants of Midvale flourish, and color the landscape with their personalities and hobbies.

 

I have always enjoyed Supergirl and even attempted to keep up with her story arc when DC launched The New 52 while I was working on my undergraduate degree, despite not being an active graphic novel/comic book consumer. I hadn’t intended to pick up another comic book any time soon, but then I came across this bind-up of four (I honestly can’t even remember where) and suddenly I owned it. I started it and couldn’t put it down. Kara felt real, alive, and ready to make a difference in her world. I sincerely hope Tamaki and Jones continue their collaboration and bring us more stories of Krypton’s last survivor.

 

HHC Rating:  5 Stars.

 

More Books Like This:
Lois Lane – Fallout