Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"William Shakespeare's Star Wars" by Ian Doescher

My best friend received this book as a Christmas gift and after reading it lent it to me. 

Summary: Honestly, this is the story of Star Wars, Episode 4: A New Hope. That's it. 

Well, there are some differences. Like how the whole thing is written in the style of William Shakespeare. Many of the speeches are adaptations of famous Shakespearean soliloquies or turns of phrase. I have not read many of his plays, but even I recognized a lot of bits here and there that were space-age adaptations of the Bard, like "Once more unto the trench, dear friends, once more!" for example. It was also interesting to imagine this as a stage production with actors reading these lines to a live audience. The play includes stage directions explaining where the actors should go and what they should be doing. The space battle even envisions pilots arranged on the stage to attack the Deathstar. 

Many times the characters have wonderful soliloquies where they explain their thoughts to the reader in a way that is never done in the movie. R2-D2 finally gets to say some things, but only to we readers. There are also a few illustrations that are inspired by the Renaissance era, but depict the high tech world. All around this is a perfect book for that nerd who loves sci-fi movies and Renaissance festivals!

What I Liked: This is a very funny book because this combines two things that don't necessarily go together. They pair up awkwardly which is fun to read. Since this is a retelling of a popular story, it also is a commentary on the story. We get to see what Doescher thinks about the inner minds and motivations of the characters.

What I Didn't Like: Shakespearean writing is always a bit frustrating for me.

Rating: AMAZING. If you like Star Wars (which, of course you do) then you will find this book very entertaining.

Also Read by this Author:  This is his first book, but I will be reading the next two in the trilogy.

Reviewed by: Nick

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Shadow Spell" by Nora Roberts

Picture via GoodReads
I say this every time, but I'm a total sucker for a Nora Roberts story.  The characters are normal enough (or as normal as an moderately wealthy, incredibly attractive, happily employed 20-something can be), the dialog is current, and the characters often live or work in amazing places.

Summary:  This latest installment of Robert's Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy takes us back to the misty land of Ireland where three cousins must fight an ancient evil that has been haunting their ancestors for centuries.  Connor O'Dwyer, sexy Irish falconer finds himself the target of the sorcerer Cabhan's latest attempt to destroy the Dark Witch of county Mayo.  As Connor, his sister, his cousin and his closest friends plot to destroy Cabhan once and for all, he finds himself falling hopelessly...and gloriously...in love with his long time friend.

What I Liked:

  • Since spending May Term in Ireland between my junior and senior year of college, I've had a soft spot for the Emerald Isle.  Roberts describes the land, the weather and the lingo with an accuracy that does the nation proud without falling into generalizations or stereotypes.
  • It's hard to go wrong with a classic good vs. evil tale, and I enjoyed the twists of magic and fairy tale.
  • The best bits of the book were the portions that covered the original Dark Witch three.  Although written in small bits, the characters are fully fleshed out, the plots is fast paced and exciting, and the language Roberts uses is absolutely captivating.

What Drove Me Nuts:

  • We all know I love Nora, but I had a hard time enjoying her dips into fantasy.  As like the other book in this series, I felt that Robert's didn't explore the depths of her characters as much as she does in her non fantasy books.  She focuses more on mystical and less on the relationships and personalities of the characters.
  • I felt that Meara was a little ho-hum.  Roberts clearly was more interested in Connor, which was fine, but I felt that Meara wasn't developed into being a strong...or interesting...match for Connor.  The romance felt like it was an afterthought instead of the point of the plot.

Rating:  This book is best enjoyed on a stormy night when you're looking for something quick and easy.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Also Read By:  For a complete listing, go to www.noraroberts.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Dark Witch" by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts kicks off a new trilogy of family, love and magic set in Ireland.  

Summary:  Long ago in the lush country side of County Mayo, there lived a witch named Sorcha.  The Dark Witch was powerful, though she used her power sparingly and only for good.  While Sorcha was loved by her family and accepted in her community, there was one who wanted her power, and her body, for his own.  Sorcha's match of will and power with the Sorcerer Cabhan sets into motion a fight of good versus evil that plays out for centuries.  Will Sorcha's ancestors be able to stop Cabhan once and for all?

What I Liked:
  • This first installment of the Cousin's O'Dwyer trilogy introduces us to Iona, an American who has quit her job, sold her belongings, and moved to Ireland in the hope of restarting her life off in a way that lets her feel like she is truly living.  I will come right out and say that I love this concept.  Nothing is more exciting than the idea of sticking it to the man and starting life over with a blank slate.
  • The settings the author uses and paints are amazing.  An stone castle?  Ancient ruins?  A small cottage in the woods?  Sign me up, I'm going there now.

What Drove Me Nuts:
  • I hate to say it, but Iona.  While the author tried to paint her as bubbly, happy and energetic, she came off a little flighty and irritating.  Maybe I just have a problem with adult characters that consistently dance in place when they're happy.  I blame pregnancy hormones.
  • Moving on: t he story its self.  While I was absolutely enthralled with the story of Sorcha and her children, the actual meat of the story left a lot to be desired.  Iona and Boyle's romance felt surface deep and lacked Robert's usual care with characters and plot.  The romance was meant to be the primary driver of the book, but was clearly secondary to the magical plot.  And I don't think that was intentional.
  • I was overall underwhelmed.  Roberts last two series blew me away, so my expectations might have been a little too high.
Rating:  It's worth a read to get a taste of Ireland, but don't go in with high expectations.

Reviewed By:  Tami

Also Read By:  For a complete listing, go to www.noraroberts.com

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Ice Bound" by Dr. Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers

We selected this book it combined my interest in science and Tami's interest in autobiographies. 

Summary: This is the story of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, an emergency room doctor who lives in Ohio. She talks about her personal life and how her family fell out of her reach. This moved her to a mental space where she was lost and uncertain about her future. She decided to apply to be the winter doctor at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station on Antarctica. She describes the process of getting ready for a year long stay at the pole and how one gets there. She talks about the summer crew she met when she arrived and the "night shift" when the summer folks flew out. Once the summer ends, the team is in total physical isolation without any planes able to safely land or takeoff at the pole. Even their communications is limited by the brief windows of satellite reception available at the pole. They learn to make do with what supplies they have and keep a very close eye on all critical systems. She talks about the kind of people who choose that sort of job and way people behave while they are down there. There were 41 people total on the winter crew and they got to know each other very well.

The doctor describes the sorts of training she received before and during her stay. As an emergency doctor she saw a lot of different injuries, but at the pole there would be only one doctor who would be expected to treat any and all injuries. Unfortunately for her, she ended up becoming her own patient! Trapped on the station with limited supplies, Nielsen led her own medical treatment with the assistance of specialists via satellite. Eventually, after deciding her life was in danger the US Government decided to risk a dangerous flight to the south pole in the middle of winter!

What I Liked: It is always interesting to hear people talk about their lives, especially when they are doing something exciting in an exotic place. I learned a lot about the south pole and doctors from this book.

What I Didn't Like: We listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author. She is not an experienced voice actor, so it was distracting.

Rating: This was a very good autobiography.

Also Read by this Author:  None.

Reviewed by: Nick