Ylesia – Walter Jon Williams

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Author: Walter Jon Williams
Series: Star Wars: The New Jedi Order #14.5
Pages: 121

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RIPE FOR THE PLUCKING

That’s Jedi Knight Kyp Durron’s opinion about the planet Ylesia, home base of the so-called Peace Brigade, a group of traitors dedicated to hindering the war efforts of the New Republic and hastening the ultimate victory of the merciless Yuuzhan Vong. Kyp’s plan calls for a lightning-fast strike, backed with overwhelming force, to destroy the Brigade’s offensive capabilities and teach prospective traitors that betrayal carries a heavy price. But young Jacen Solo, still bearing the scars of his imprisonment by the Yuuzhan Vong, has a better idea: a daring raid into the heart of Ylesia’s capital, with the objective of capturing the Brigade’s top leaders—including the newly sworn-in President, Thrackan Sal-Solo, cousin to Jacen and his twin, Jaina.

But unknown to the Jedi and the New Republic forces, Supreme Overlord Shimrra of the Yuuzhan Vong has dispatched reinforcements to the Ylesia system. Instead of a swift surgical strike, Jaina, Jacen, Kyp, and their comrades are about to find themselves locked in a desperate battle for survival, with the odds stacked against them and time running out…

There is not much to tell about this book. It’s a short story that takes place in the middle of the previous book, so the reader has to adapt their internal timetable to not get lost with this tale.

The book narrates the battle of Ylesia. The Yuuzhan Von obliterated the hutts living there and now the planet is controlled by the Peace Brigade (a.k.a. Vong Puppets). The new leader of that Brigade is not other than Thrackan Sal-Solo, cousin of Jacen and Jaina Solo. They are not friendly with each other… The New Republic has a plan to capture the Brigades’s leaders and make their trials public to rise the moral among the loyal followers of the New Republic. Obviously, nothing is simple when there are Vongs involved…

It’s an easy and well-paced read. Nothing remarkable, but a nice peek to that huge Universe that is Star Wars. Thankfully, the author doesn’t waste time trying to sell the plan to the readers with lots of political and military meetings (as in other books of this saga) and gets his hands dirty pretty fast. Not boring at all, but far from memorable. I guess I will remember that I have read this because it will forever saved on my Goodreads list…

In this okayish book there is a bright light that I have really enjoyed. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of romance books, so the nods to Jaina’s relationship with Jagged Fel has made me smile from ear to ear. Han’s and Leia’s daughter is one of my favourite Star Wars characters. I was so pissed after the last book due to what Luke told her… I’m glad she is getting a bit of happines from the Imperial pilot. Let’s hope it last!! Romance and Star Wars are not usually best friends…

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2018 – Book Gallery

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World – Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

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Authors: Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
Series: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl novels #1

Pages: 324

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WHO RUNS THE WORLD? SQUIRRELS!

Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moved from sunny California to the suburbs of New Jersey. She must start at a new school, make new friends, and continue to hide her tail. Yep, Doreen has the powers of . . . a squirrel!

After failing at several attempts to find her new BFF, Doreen feels lonely and trapped, liked a caged animal. Then one day Doreen uses her extraordinary powers to stop a group of troublemakers from causing mischief in the neighborhood, and her whole life changes. Everyone at school is talking about it! Doreen contemplates becoming a full-fledged Super Hero. And thus, Squirrel Girl is born!

She saves cats from trees, keeps the sidewalks clean, and dissuades vandalism. All is well until a real-life Super Villain steps out of the shadows and declares Squirrel Girl his archenemy. Can Doreen balance being a teenager and a Super Hero? Or will she go . . . NUTS?

It’s no secret that The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is one of my favourite current comics. There are not enough adjectives to express how awesome it is!! When I was told Marvel was going to publish a comic featuring Doreen Green I laugh thinking it was very absurd. Nothing against the character, but she was almost a nobody. Many comics later, I wish I could punch my past self!!! Ryan North has elevated the character to such a high level that I’m already dreading the fall… Fingers crossed that that will happen in a really far future. Due to my love for Squirrel Girl, I couldn’t miss the chance of reading this book.

The story doesn’t take place in the current Marvel timeline (which is cramped enough). Instead, we get to know a little bit more about Doreen before becoming a superhero. She has just moved to New Jersey with her parents and is already in a mission: making friends. It’s way harder than you could think if you take into account Doreen’s way of facing life. Her unrelenting optimism can esily overwhelm people that are not used to it. Thanks to her perseverance, she gets two new friends: her classmate Anna Sofía and a squirrel named Tippy-Toe (yes, that Tippy-Toe).

But not eveything is a walk through the park (literally). There is a new supervillain in town that wants to make a name for himself: Micro-Manager. Obviously, he wants to defeat Squirrel Girl to make all the big baddies offer him a job. He doesn’t have any kind of special power, but he doesn’t need any. His knowledge about robotics and computers is more than enough to be a tough contender. If you are a comic reader, you may know that Doreen is also very proficient in those fields. Well, not in this book. Actually, she is lacking in all the academic smarts. Maybe too much. I found hard to believe that the Squirrel Girl from this book becomes the Squirrel Girl of the comics in such a short time.

The book is mainly written in third person, but there are several chapters from Tippy-Toe’s point of view. I have to say it: those chapters are pure genius. I didn’t know that squirrels could have such a huge personality. Tippy has made me smile the whole book with her antics.

I know I shouldn’t do it, but I can’t help comparing the book with the comics. The author tries too hard to mimic Ryan North’s style, which is a daunting task. At first, it didn’t work. It didn’t feel natural. But later on the book, I think Shannon is more relaxed with her story and her style starts working. By that I mean her sense of humor starts being funny by its own, instead of being funny just because it’s similar to the one in the comics. Am I making any sense?

Another thing that separates both formats is the audience targeted. The comics can be very enjoyable for any reader no matter their age. But this book is clearly more focused on the younger spectrum of that audience. If you are an adult who doesn’t like reading books for kids, it doesn’t matter if you love the comics, I don’t think you will enjoy the book.

There is a second book that I will read sooner or later. Getting to know how Doreen became Squirrel Girl has been very enoyable, so I don’t want to miss the next step in her path to become one of the best superheroes there is!!

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2018 – Book Gallery

Destiny’s Way – Walter Jon Williams

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Author: Walter Jon Williams
Series: Star Wars: The New Jedi Order #14
Pages: 480

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In the war against the ruthless Yuuzhan Vong, the fall of Coruscant leaves the New Republic divided by internal strife and on their verge of bowing to conquest. But those who refuse to surrender – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo and their children and comrades-in-arms are determined to seize victory against overwhelming odds.

Can I rant for a little while? Being this my blog, I guess I don’t need permission, so… rant it is!! My love for Star Wars started a long time ago in a very close place: the cinema next to my home. About 15 years ago, I started reading books and comics of this huge Universe. I didn’t know a word in English back then, so I had to wait for the Spanish translation. Even though I learned English (I get by at least), I kept buying Star Wars books in Spanish to support the awesome publisher called Alberto Santos. They made a great effort to bring us many Star Wars books in the best quality possible. For reasons unknown, they lost the rights to publish those books. Planeta DeAgostini (a huge publisher) got them and started publishing them thorugh their Timun Mas editorial. The nightmare began.

Albert Santos only could publish four or five books of The New Jedi Order saga before losing the rights. Planeta DeAgostini, instead of releasing the rest in bookshops, thought it would be “funnier” to publish the rest as a weekly kiosk collection… I got a few, but I missed most of them. The service to get back issues was crap :(. I cried a little bit. I love The New Jedi Order books so much!! I wanted them in Spanish so my brother could read them, too. I felt backstabbed, but I put my faith on the new releases by Timun Mas. BIIIIIIG mistake!! The quality of the books was shameful. Horrible translations. Grammatical mistakes in every single page. I even have a book where, during a whole chapter, Padme is treated as a man and Palpatine as a woman… They killed this collector of Star Wars books in Spanish. That moment is when I decided to read them in English and ignore Timun Mas’ shenanigans.

Buuut Disney bought Star Wars and took the decision to put the whole Expanded Universe in a Legacy box and make it non-official. I know I shouldn’t, but I felt cheated. It’s a pretty clever move to give them some freedom and the books are still there, but I felt I was loving a Star Wars of a parallel universe and my interest for the Star Wars books (old and new) decreased to almost nothing. I need to get my mojo back, and what better than the New Jedi Order to achieve that? I have yet several books to read to know how they defeat the Yuuzhan Vong (if they defeat them!!).

This books tells the next step of the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. Jacen and Vergere have escaped, Jaina is leaving behind her dark moments and the New Republic is about to build a new government in Mon Calamari. In that planet, the former Admiral Ackbar comes with a plan to defeat the Yuuzhan Vong once and for all. Or at least to put a big dent in their military resources. That plan need a bait: Jaina. She doesn’t know that part of the plan, by the way. Everything is being kept very secret.

I won’t spoil the end of the battle, but I must say this is maybe the happiest book so far. There are not big deaths that make you cry for days as in previous books. The list of casualties is so long… I can barely keep track of all the awesome characters that have met they end during this conflict.

This book has a bit of everything. The worst are all the space battles before the big one. All those fights against the Yuuzhan Vong feel the same. The New Republic doesn’t have many tactics to avoid the dovin basals of the enemy, so the description of them is rather repetitive. That’s not the fault of the writer. It has been like that for several books already. I enjoyed the most the political part, even though our beloved heroes have some behaviours that make me a bit angry. The blackmail to influence the election results… That is going to come back viciously!!

I have to confess that I kind of hate Luke in this book. The way he moves his former students as if they were mere chess pieces… Man, that’s cold. Jaina and Jacen are family!!! And the words he says to Jaina during the Jedi graduation… I was speechless. I wanted to punch him so hard!!! He has to be extra-nice in the next books if he wants my forgiveness!!

I’m also a bit scared with myself. I didn’t dislike the Alpha Red solution and I know I should. The Yuuzhan have brought so much pain to the galaxy that my empathy for them is non-existent.

I’ll keep reading this saga, because I need to know how they defeat the Yuuzhan Vong. I don’t know if I will read more books of the Legacy box after the New Jedi Order. It will all depend  on the reanimation of my inner Star Wars fanboy.

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2018 – Book Gallery

Runaways: An Original Novel – Christopher Golden

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Author: Christopher Golden
Pages: 352

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Turns out murderous Super Villains don’t make for good parents. The Runaways had no choice. They had to kill them. Well, more or less. Now Nico, Karolina, Gert, Chase, and Molly are on the run again, hiding out and trying to regain a sense of normalcy. But kids with super powers don’t get to be normal.

The city is overrun with criminals, each faction bent on murdering them for one reason or another. It’s only when the Runaways uncover the truth behind their parents’ past that they realize the evil isn’t just in L.A.

It’s everywhere.

When I first heard about this book I thought it was based directly on the TV show, which would be a bummer. Don’t get me wrong, I like the TV show, but it’s not as epic as the first volume of Runaways published by Marvel Comics. But this book takes place in the same universe as the comics!! More precisely, the action is set between the first and the second volume. So, Alex is dead and they haven’t met Victor or Xavin yet. Once I learned about that, I jumped to get the book.

After defeating the Gibborim, the Runaways have found a nice place to live and they are not in any kind of danger. But that doesn’t last long. Their base of operations is attacked by Sunstroke. That obscure villain of the Marvel Universe is a member of the Masters of Evil when Crimson Cowl was the leader. They are taken by surprise, but the Runaways managed to escape and called the police. Even though they had to abandon their new home, Chase promised them he had a back-up plan. That the rest should have a fun night out while he and Molly went to a mission.

The “fun” night out ended up rescuing a poor girl called Allis who was going to be sacrificed by Pride followers. The same followers that in that moment were being attacked by the Nightwatch. Nope, not that Nightwatch. It’s not the good Kevin Trench. This Nightwatch is like Pride but for San Francisco. It seems there are more Elder Gods than just de Gibborim. In San Francisco, the Kurdogrim are the ones to watch. So, they rescued the girl and a boy that tells them he is the son of one of the Nightwatch.

Feeling that both of them are kin souls, the Runaways welcome Zeke and Allis to their new home. And here is when the main issue with the book begins. I mean, can any loyal comic reader tell me who is Allis or Zeke in the Runaways history? If there is something you can tell about that group is that they are usually fiercely loyal to their friends. During the story of the book, we read how Allis get closer and closer to Karolina or how Zeke charms Gert and Nico. We are sold that they became friends pretty quickly and soon I realized there was something fishy going on. I know Zeke and Allis are not in the comics and Christopher Golden knows it, too. So, it was pretty obvious that that friendship had to be a lie.

The author tries to hide the real role of Zeke and Allis in the story, but that is an impossible task if you know The Runaways. So, the end of the book is not shocking at all. It didn’t punch the reader with something unexpected. It was what it had to be. Otherwise, there would have been some contradictions with the comics that many readers would have disliked.

Even though the development of the book doesn’t surprise me, I must admit that is a very enjoyable reading. There is one fight after another, with lots of different powers at play. So getting bored is out of the question. I also liked quite a bit how the author has enhanced the Elder Gods mythology, which has been barely explored in the comics. And the Masters of Evil cameos have been a lot of fun!!

I’m satisfied. Much better than I was expecting.

Lord of Souls – Greg Keyes

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Author: Greg Keyes
Series: The Elder Scrolls #2
Pages: 316

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Forty years after the Oblivion crisis, the empire of Tamriel is threatened by a mysterious floating city, Umbriel, whose shadow spawns a terrifying undead army.

Reeling from a devastating discovery, Prince Attrebus continues on his seemingly doomed quest to obtain a magic sword that holds the key to destroying the deadly invaders. Meanwhile, in the Imperial City, the spy Colin finds evidence of betrayal at the heart of the empire—if his own heart doesn’t betray him first. And Annaïg, trapped in Umbriel itself, has become a slave to its dark lord and his insatiable hunger for souls.

How can these three unlikely heroes save Tamriel when they cannot even save themselves?

I could almost make a copy & paste of my previous review of The Infernal City, but that wouldn’t be fair. This second book is slighty better. Even though it lacks the same things as the first part; I was prepared for it, so the disappointment has been cut down.

It is supposed to continue the story from when we left it in the Infernal City, but it’s obvious there has been some development between the two of them that is not told by the author. It also presents a new plot line starred by Imperial soldiers facing Umbriel and Colin gets much more pages than in the first book. Sadly, Attrebus’ and Sul’s part is reduced… which hasn’t made me happy at all. The prince is still the most interesting character of the books.

The action gets better, but not much. The description of those parts is lazy and lacking interest everywhere. In this genre, if the action is bad, it’s very hard to engage the reader. The plot with the Imperial soldiers is supposed to be the one with more action, due to the army of zombies that they are facing. But still… It’s barely there… It ends as soon as it starts. I would remove those characters from the book. I could barely stand to read their chapters.

Annaïg and her cooking lessons is the other part that is overused. One more chapter about the daily menu and I would have thrown the book through the window… It’s a bit too much. The first time it was kind of cool to read about Umbriel’s high cuisine, but after that… I couldn’t stop screaming: Get to the good part!! In my humble opinion, the good part starts in the second part of the book, when Annaïg’s plan really begins.

What about the end? I must say the end is balanced with the rest of this saga: lazy and lacking feelings. There are some deaths that should bring tears to your eyes; but being honest, to feel those deaths you have to make a connection with the characters and it’s very unlikely that you could form one with the ones that Greg has created.

I know this sound like a very negative review, but the book is not boring at all. It’s just that the author has been unable to capture the richness of Tamriel. Too bad these are the only novels based on that Universe. I would love to keep reading books about the Elder Scrolls, but it looks like that bridge has been burnt.

I guess I’ll never know if Treb and Annaïg were happy after this. If you ask me, the Prince deserves waaaaaaay better. That breton lady is pretty scary…

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Next: You’ve Got Fail by Celia Aaron

The Infernal City – Greg Keyes

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Author: Greg Keyes
Series: The Elder Scrolls #1
Pages: 304

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Four decades after the Oblivion Crisis, Tamriel is threatened anew by an ancient and all-consuming evil. It is Umbriel, a floating city that casts a terrifying shadow–for wherever it falls, people die and rise again.

And it is in Umbriel’s shadow that a great adventure begins, and a group of unlikely heroes meet. A legendary prince with a secret. A spy on the trail of a vast conspiracy. A mage obsessed with his desire for revenge. And Annaig, a young girl in whose hands the fate of Tamriel may rest…

First of all, although I enjoy a lot the Elder Scrolls Saga I’m not a huge fan and my knowledge about that world is fairly limited. Most of it comes from my many hours of playing the Elder Scrolls Online, whose plot happens way before this book. That said, I may have gotten some fact wrongly about that universe, so forgive me.

The action of this book takes us four decades after the Oblivion videogame, one I have not played… so I had no idea about the political situation of Tamriel around those events. But I was hoping for the author to help the reader catch up, which sadly doesn’t happen. Anyway…. The book tells us the story of Umbriel, a floating city from Oblivion that has suddenly appeared over Black Marsh and it’s killing everything in its path. A breton woman and her argonian friend (Annaïg and Mere-Glim) go there to investigate, but entering the city is far easier than leaving it. At the same time, we follow Attrebus Mede, son of the Emperor; who is contacted by Annaïg asking for help. The Prince gathers his men to travel to Umbriel to defeat the city. Ha accepted the quest!! (I had to say it, sorry)

Anyone who has ever palyed an Elder Scroll videogame must know that its mythology is very rich. The games are full of lore everywhere. So I must admit I was a bit sad that Greg Keyes didn’t took part of it more actively. His lore references are scarce and pretty vague. If you have a basic knowledge of Tamriel, you are not going to get the lore dosis you are used to. If you are new to that world… you are going to be lost all the time. The author doesn’t explain anything about the world sorrounding the main characters. Except with the brand-new Umbriel. Unfortunately, the floating city is more gross than interesting…

The other thing I was expecting was plenty of action. Epic battles, swordmasters, spellcrafting! Buuuut, no… There is action now and then, but it’s not exciting at all. Most of those scenes are just plain carnages that take a couple of sentences to describe. Not really engaging or fun. Does that mean the book is boring? No, not even close. Greg crafts very short chapters, so the reader doesn’t have time to get bored in any part of the plot. At least I’ll give him that.

The only character I really like and I want to read more about is Attrebus. From now on I will call him Treb, because I feel we are friend already. I LOVE his parts of the book. It’s must be hard to realize that your life is just a perfectly orchestrated play to make you look good. But he owned it and rose about all of that more beautiful than ever. I’m not a supporter of the Empire, but I must admit that Treb is going to be a great Emperor someday. Or maybe he already was? Crazy timeline…

So, if you have been a fan of Elder Scrolls videogames for a long time it’s not very likely that you will enjoy the book. If you have no idea what that is about, your likelihood of liking it is even smaller. If you are in the same level as me… I guess you could enjoy it. Sadly, there is almost nothing remarkable about it…

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Next: Lord of Souls by Greg Keyes