Recommendations

Reading About Wonder Woman

Next Friday Wonder Woman makes her long anticipated big screen debut. Many people know about Wonder Woman – she’s a goddess, she’s a feminist, she’s powerful, – but the popular image of her ends there. While she’s been a comic book character for 75 years, the fact of the matter is that very few people have actually read all, or even most, of her comics. Let alone her numerous TV appearances (both live action and cartoon).

So, where is a person to turn if they want to know more about Wonder Woman? Especially if they want to learn more about the context in which she was created? The answer is, of course, a book.

There are two books about Wonder Woman and her origins that were written somewhat recently. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley and The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. Which one you should read depends on how in depth you want to go.

Hanley’s book is a quick read that glosses over some of the details and attempts to sensationalize others. The book is just 300 pages and the writing is breezy and easy to read. If you just want a taste of Wonder Woman’s history and development as a character, this book is the one for you.

If, instead, you’d rather get a detailed look at every possible influence behind the creator of Wonder Woman, then Lepore’s book is the one you should read. The book starts off with the parents of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and traces the strands of influence from the Suffragette movement to Wonder Woman. Everything about Wonder Woman is accounted for. From her clothes to her weapons to her all female society.

Can’t decide which of these books to read? You could always do what I did and read both. It’s interesting to read two books on the same topic and see where they agree and where they diverge. While there is a lot of overlap in information between the two books, the author’s distinctive voices makes reading them together anything but boring.

You can find these books and more at your local library.

Reviews

Good Time Coming, Review

Good Time Coming by C. S. Harris

4 stars out of 5

I was enchanted by this book from start to finish; the author’s melodious prose captivated me from the first page to the last, the lyricism of which gave this book a mesmerizing effect. The language is amazingly beautiful throughout and has a uniquely haunting quality that sets the tone for the entire story. I fell in love with the book after the first three paragraphs and just couldn’t put it down.

Set during the Civil War this book takes a hard look at what it means to be a woman during that time. As the Federal troops advance through the South things grow increasingly difficult for those left behind, the women, the people of color (both free and slave), the immigrants and the elderly.

Written in believable and natural dialect this book tells the story of a young teen who is coming of age as the war ravages her homeland. The author is careful and detailed in her writing, she doesn’t preach about how right the South was, or how slavery was actually beneficial to those who were enslaved. She does, however, write about the people, and what it was like to live among them, and what they did to stay strong as the war raged about them. She populates her world with a wide variety of people and gives the reader a hint at what the antebellum South might have actually been like. Communities weren’t separated into oppressive plantation owners and oppressed slaves, there was a lot more nuance than that, and the author draws out the nuance beautifully.

I only have a few qualms about this book, there are a couple of plot points that are mentioned late in the game but left unresolved in the end. It seems, too, that the author was trying very hard to establish the main white characters as non-racist and pro abolition, to the point that it seemed like she tried a little too hard. What’s more is that even though there are several black characters in the story, they are all free, all of the people who are enslaved are so minor as to be virtually nonexistent, and I think this is an oversight that robs the narrative of its depth.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The writing is superb and the perspective is fresh for the most part. It’s nice to see a story that focuses on the women and their lives, instead of on the generals and the wars. I think the author did a great job with this book and look forward to reading more of her.

Recommendations

Recommended Star Wars Novels for Adults

There’s almost an overwhelming number of books available with the Star Wars logo emblazoned on the cover, as such, it can be intimidating to try and start reading them. A new reader may ask questions like: Where do I begin? Do I have to go in order? Is there an order to go in? Do I have to read all of these to get the backstory for the movies?

To answer the first few questions, just start somewhere, anywhere you like. There’s no particular order for most of the books, and reading them out of order doesn’t really affect the enjoyment of the book. If a book looks interesting, read it. Don’t worry about doing it “right”. Another strategy is to find an author or character you like and follow them. Whatever you do, have fun and read lots.

Original Trilogy

There really aren’t that many books that cover the period of the Original Trilogy, and of the ones out there, I’ve only read maybe three or four. So there is only one book set during the Original Trilogy that I can recommend, and that is:

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
5 stars out of 5
This is a fun heist story that’s just the right blend of Ocean’s Eleven and Star Wars. A highly recommended stand-alone book.

Prequel Trilogy

These books were all written before Disney acquired LucasFilm and are set during the events of the Prequel Trilogy. Kenobi is technically set after Episode III, but it comes right on the heels of Revenge of the Sith so I included it with the other Prequel Trilogy books.

The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster
5 stars out of 5
This book is a fun adventure story set shortly before the events of Attack of the Clones and actually sets up that movie quite well while remaining a stand-alone book. This book gives the reader a window into the lives of the Jedi before the pressures of the Clone Wars take over the galaxy. If you like Anakin or Obi-Wan it is a must-read.

Outbound Flight by Timothy Zhan
4 stars out of 5
Timothy Zahn finally gives us the backstory to the Katana fleet. This book gives readers the answers to all that transpired when the fleet vanished. It’s a good story with interesting characters and the usual Zahn flare. However, this book is best read in conjunction with the Thrawn Trilogy, otherwise the Katana fleet thing doesn’t really hold much interest.

Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
4 stars out of 5
John Jackson Miller shows himself to be a capable novelist with this offering. Taking place just after the events of Episode III Obi-Wan must navigate life on Tatooine while keeping a low profile. Part western, part Star Wars this book is great for any Obi-Wan fan.

I am going to preface the next section by saying that the following three books do not deserve the rating I gave them. The writing is fanfictiony in the worst way and the dialogue is laughable. Melodrama abounds and the plots are contrived at best. That being said, I did enjoy reading these books immensely and rated them on my enjoyment, not their objective quality. If I were to give them a fairer rating it would probably be around two stars each. Still, I enjoyed reading them and have enjoyed rereading them, so if fanfiction style writing is your thing you may enjoy them as well.


Wild Space by Karen Miller
4 stars out of 5
This is literally the only EU novel that features Bail Organa as a primary character and in this book he is in fine form. Bail and Obi-Wan go on a secret mission together and we finally get to see the man who raised Leia in action; and he is everything I could ask for. Bail has the sass and spunk that we see in Leia as well as being likable and shrewd. His character and Obi-Wan have some great moments together and it also fills in the some gaps in Episode III, like why Obi-Wan and Yoda trusted Bail enough to let him raise one of the twins. This is a fun book and is worth looking into if you like Bail or Obi-Wan.

Stealth and Siege by Karen Miller
4 stars out of 5
I’ll recommend these books together because they are really one story telling one continuous plot. Anakin and Obi-Wan go undercover in Separatist space. While this book is light on plot it give the reader a lot of interaction between Obi-Wan and Anakin. If you like those two characters and their relationship then these books are for you.

LegendsEU

These are books that continue the story of Star Wars after Return of the Jedi before LucasFilm was bought by Disney. They continue to tell the story of Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the galaxy in a somewhat cohesive way continuing the adventure for many years.

The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zhan
5 stars out of 5
I’m going to go ahead and rate these as a set because the story is continuous throughout the three novels. Each book is a five star book for me. These books could easily be Episodes 7, 8, and 9. They capture the feel of Star Wars and suck you into the continued struggles of Leia, Luke and Han. These books also introduce the characters of Talon Karrde, Mara Jade, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Gilad Pellaeon, Winter and many, many other characters that have become staples in the EU. Zahn set the EU into motion with these books and should be on everyone’s Star Wars reading list.

Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning
3 stars out of 5
While this book may not be as highly rated as some of the others on this list it is still a good read. This book tackles Leia and her relationship with Anakin, her perceptions of Vader, and her connections to the Skywalker family. If Leia is a character you like then this book might be just what you’re looking for.

Rogue Squadron by Micheal Stackpole
4 stars out of 5

This book is the continuing adventures of the Rebellion against the Empire. The story focuses around Wedge Antilles and the X-Wing pilots as they attempt to drive the Empire out of all corners of the galaxy. This book is entertaining and well written and a treat to read. This book is especially recommended for Wedge Antilles fans and fans of pilots.

NewEU

These are books published after Disney bought LucasFilm, and therefore tie into the new movies and have their own continuity that is different from all the books published before the Disney acquisition. I haven’t read many of the new books yet, so I only have one real recommendation in this category.

A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
4 stars out of 5
If you are a fan of the show Rebels then you need to read this book. This book gives you the story of how Kanan and Hera first meet and how they decide to work together. It’s a fun story and a great plot and should be read by anyone who likes the characters of Hera and Kanan.

All these and more can be found at your local library!

Reviews

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Review

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

4 stars out of 5

This is an intriguing book no matter which way you slice it. 377,000 medieval manuscripts in danger from being destroyed barbaric zealots who have the city of Timbuktu under their sway, and the only people who can save the day are the librarians and archivists who collected and curated the tomes in the first place. This book promised a lot, and somehow it delivered.

The book starts with the collection of the manuscripts and the history of the city of Timbuktu. It talks about the immense intellectual tradition of the ancient city, and how over the years the city has perpetually been in the midst of a tug-of-war between reactionary conservatism and loose liberalism. The author then details the latest wave of dogmatic conservatism to sweep Timbuktu, Al-Qaeda. With the manuscripts under threat by the foreigners, the librarians of Timbuktu undertake a daring evacuation of all 377,000 books to safety in Mali’s capital, Bamako. In the end the books were smuggled to safety not a moment too soon as the invaders destroyed what books they could find before fleeing ahead of the French army before they were finally routed from the country.

This book is a riveting read. The author uses his best journalistic skills to put all the pieces together so that the story is complete. He gives the reader an understanding of the people of Timbuktu and Mali, the history of the city and the region, the social and political climate of the area, past and present, and the rich heritage that Malians have kept hidden for decades. It’s a stunning work that gives the reader everything they need to know to truly understand what is happening and why it is happening.

On that note, some may not like it very much because it does digress from the main keep-the-books-safe narrative. It talks about the different members of Al-Qaeda and their individual histories, it talks about the legacy of French colonialism on the region, and the ever-simmering tensions between the Malians and the nomadic Tuareg people. He gives the readers all the parts of the story, but some may find the extra detail boring. Personally, I found it fascinating to read, I really felt like a had a handle on Mali’s story instead of just a partial picture. The author did well and the book was enjoyable throughout.

The only caveat I have for the story are the parts where it seems like previous articles the author has written slip into the larger narrative. This usually involves a sudden shift in tense and perspective and while it is not bad writing, it does take the reader out of the story somewhat when the point of view suddenly shifts from third person the first, or vice-versa. Other than that, it was a well written and smooth narrative with a voice that suited the subject matter.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and while the performance was adequate that was all I could say about it. The author’s accent seemed a strange choice for a story set in Africa, and there were a number of times when the narration itself felt choppy. I almost had the impression that the narrator had recorded some of the more difficult to pronounce words separately and they were later inserted into the appropriate place which made the cadence of the reading somewhat odd. I think this audiobook can be skipped.

Reviews

Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin, Review

Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin by Charles Soule

3 out of 5 stars

Set between Episode I and II, this book compiles issues 1-5 of the Obi-Wan & Anakin comic, and, for only being five issues long it tells not only one, but two stories using an interwoven timeline format. The main story is a straightforward adventure story. Anakin and Obi-Wan are stranded on a dsytopian planet engulfed in civil war. They have to keep their wits about them to stay alive, but also stay true to the Jedi code and try attempt to create a peace. The other story, the one that is the emotional centre of the story, is one where Anakin contemplates leaving the Jedi order, and his struggles to come to terms with what he wants, and what he thinks is expected of him.

This books is written with typical comic book style. It’s slick and goes over well. Obi-Wan and Anakin are more or less in character. The author does a particularly good job on depicting Anakin as a young teen who is beginning to question his life. The early teen years can be ones of great confusion and change for many adolescents, and the author conveys those feelings with believable care. Additionally, the author portrays Palpatine beginning to groom Anakin for the Dark Side in a careful and somewhat frightening way. This book does a lot of good for Anakin’s story, and fills in the inter-movie years quite well.

Obi-Wan is actually much more of a secondary character here, so if he’s the main attraction to reading this book, you may be disappointed. He plays a reasonable and sympathetic supporting role in driving the story along, but, like the movies, this is really Anakin’s story.

Finally, the art. The art throughout this book is excellent, absolutely no complaints here. It is a comic book, so the art is stylized to advance the story (and make the characters look cool) but everyone looks quite like themselves. I especially like how Anakin looks, it’s a good blend of child and teen. The action too is easy to follow and visually spectacular. Overall, this is a fun read.

As far as things I didn’t like, the main story leaves something to be desired. It’s a fairly dull story, there isn’t a lot of interest, and outside of Anakin being kidnapped, it has very little to keep the reader engaged. The secondary flashback storyline is far more intriguing making the primary story feel that much more bland.

Reviews

Girls & Sex, Review

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein

4 stars out of 5

Peggy Orenstein is a journalist, and as such she seeks to not only tell a story, but also tell the reader why the story is important. She is not an academic, a researcher, or a scientist. This is important to bear in mind as you read this book. Orenstein is telling a story and she backs up her findings with both data and anecdote. She uses good journalism to get to the heart of the issue and talk to the people who are affected, and that is really the strength of this book.

Orenstein carefully guides the reader through the stories of various people that all have the common thread of the sexual lives of young adult women in high school and college. She talks about why they decide to become sexually active and how ideas about virginity and “sluttyness” shape how girls and women think about sexuality. She talks about American sexual culture and how media representations shape our ideas without us even really noticing. Orenstein is thorough and reasonable in her approach and her assessments. Anyone at all would benefit from reading this book which, at the very least, acts as a thought-provoking conversation starter.

I do wish, however, that Orenstein might have cast a bot of a wider net when conducting her interviews. After a few chapters it seems like the story is the same for the rest of the book: middle-class white girls and the college party/hook-up scene. She didn’t really touch on experiences outside of that rather narrow focus. As far as what she did cover, she did an excellent job. I look forward to reading more from Peggy Orenstein.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and it was read by the author. I much enjoyed hearing the author’s own voice putting inflection and emphasis on her own words. It all worked together seamlessly and I rather enjoyed the listen.