A Cold Day for Murder, Dana Stabenow (what a great name for a mystery murder novelist).
Kate Shugak, a Seen-Too-Much-and-Said-Goodbye detective is dragged back out of her solitude by a double missing person case: a wet behind the ears park ranger (with a US Congressman father), and then the detective who went looking for him. This is a 3/5 book all the way through. I don’t know if it’s the author’s first novel or not, but nothing about it really clicked.
Unlike the last tough-as-nails heroine named Kate reviewed on this blog, Shugak’s list of characteristics (tough, worked her way up by her bootstraps, frontier living, scares everyone, including the men she sleeps with) never really comes to life in a way that makes me think her badassery would be much better appreciated, like Karrin Murphy’s, if she were a secondary rather than a main character. Or, at the very least, other characters would stop fangirling/admiring her, because that’s always a bad sign.
As far as earning the three stars, this was an interesting mystery, with a few amusing false leads (the best red herring, the person spotted secretly dumping a heavy object off the side of a cliff on the night of the disappearance…was getting rid of an illegal moose corpse. Heh.), and there is a small but satisfactorily gruesome reveal that could have been milked for more drama than it was. (The second corpse is hanging up in the culprit’s meat locker when Kate comes by to ask questions.)
–Not great, but good enough to make me check out the sequel to see if that one’s any better.

Heir to the Empire, Thrawn Trilogy book 1, Timothy Zahn.
Everyone says that the Thrawn Trilogy is one of the best books in the Star Wars EU. It’s got the best antagonist ever seen in the SW-EU, the best plot, the most dangerous threat to the heroes, etc…
Here’s the problem: this book isn’t very good. At all.
I could bullet-point out all my complaints but, well…
It just isn’t.
Oh well.

Absolutely pathetic

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote one of the most influential and beloved children’s historical books (fictionalized memoirs) in the US. A group of politically-correct scolds has decided that her lived experiences as a woman in the time of past patriarchal attitudes are toxic and problematic…OK, dang, that’s too many buzzwords for me. I’m quitting before my brains bleed out of my ears.

The board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) made the unanimous decision to change the name on Saturday, at a meeting in New Orleans. The name of the prize was changed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

The association said Wilder “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values”.

You pathetic morons.

Some additions to the Evil Overlord List…

– If I am telepathic, I will use this ability to issue orders and therefore prevent the heroes from overhearing them.

– If a woman possess the MacGuffin and is actively running from me, I will not attempt to gain her favor by alluding to our shared past, even if it was she who broke it off.

– Especially if it was she who broke it off.

– Nor, if I ever have her in my clutches, will I ever attempt to use this as an excuse to resume the relationship at all. If she makes advances, it’s probably merely an attempt to seduce me and escape; If I do, I will be seen as lecherous and dastardly, and there’s nothing like attempted rape to destroy my positive image.

– I will not renege on my promises if there is any choice at all possible in the matter. If I absolutely must kill someone whom I have made a deal with, I will not announce the decision to their face. The order will instead be whispered into the ear of a lieutenant skilled with a garotte or a stiletto.

– I will not expose a mole in front of his or her companions. If he has betrayed them once, he’ll betray them again, and I can use all the help I can get. I will, however, remain aware of the overwhelming possibility of said turncoat experiencing an overdose of guilt that may backlash and result atonement-seeking on the part of the traitor. (this always happens)

– If in the past I or my people possessed an unstoppable weapon that has since been lost or hidden because of we feared its powers, I will keep in mind several things: 1) tactics and weaponry change, and what once was useful may not be so any longer. 2) I have henchmen. Macguffin hunts are suitable activities for henchmen.

– Assuming there is some means by whose use I alone can raise and use the weapon, I will quietly secure this means, and, if possible, the weapon also, before I announce my intent to use said weapon. Only once I have secured my methods will I let it be known that I seek the weapon itself, and let the heroes toddle off to try find it “before me.” This gives me time to buy other weapons.

– Important dead people will be subjected to thorough maschalismos, and burned. This includes me. Even if I am brought back around for the sequel, it will be in conjunction with two or three other (laughably incompetant) franchise villains, and I will be defeated embarrassingly fast along with them.

– If I share twin synchronicity with my physically frail sibling, I will make damn sure that 1) my twin is on my side, 2) my twin is heavily guarded against assassination-by-proxy attempts (heroes are noble, but accidents tend to happen in their favor). If my twin is not on my side and has no intents of cooperating, I will use a strait jacket.

– My henchmen will have differing areas of expertise and chosen methods. Problems are not nails, and it is rare that they can be solved by punching them into a wall. Thus, to recover a rare and ancient manuscript from its collector, store owner, I will not send a nine-hundred pound cave troll with a club, but rather a ninety-pound elf with a bag of gold.

The Last Jedi: the “gift” that keeps on giving

Long story short (hi Mom):

The new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, was terrible. It was garbage that insulted and destroyed everything good about its own franchise. I reviewed it before. I even pointed out how the even the elements it plagiarized from good science fiction didn’t work. People got mad. People got really mad.

They got even madder when the directors, actors, producers, journalists, glorified fanfiction writers, and people who scrub the studio floors, instead of either keeping quiet in lieu of apologizing, apologizing, or commiting seppuku to publically apologize, insulted and derided them for being upset.

The people struck back.

Star Wars merchandise has been famously losing tons of money. Solo: A Star Wars Story bombed hard at the box office. The other stupid Star Wars sidequels may be all cancelled. Someone made a recut that removed most of the stupidest characters and their resultant stupid decisions: The Chauvinist Cut. Someone made a four-hour point by point breakdown of how every part of the movie, from the camera angles up, was a failure, and shot to Youtube fame.

Other people, taking heart (and espying money) from this, took up the flag and launched into Star Wars criticism in a serious way. One of the best/most entertaining, and widely followed of these people is Comic Artist Pro Secrets, also known as Ethan Van Sciver, a comic book artist and writer who also covers Star Wars news, speculation, and controversy on his Youtube channel.

Controversy? Controversy, because the director, actors, producers, et all, continued doubling down on insulting and angering the fans, calling them generally variations on: toxic, misogynistic, bigoted, and the new favorite, “manbabies.” (Seriously. No wonder the dialogue in TLJ was moronic if you can’t even come up with a clever insult.) Noticeably, hardly anyone disputes any particular x, y, or z statement about TLJ that is bad, just that people are toxic, misogynistic, bigoted, manbabies for pointing it out. But back to the topic.

Hm, looks like this isn’t such a short TLDR after all.

Ah well, so, the long and the short of it, is, someone is claiming to want to remake The Last Jedi and collecting money for it, and all of the usual suspects are going insane.

Sample: (video long but hilarious)

Allegedly 30 million $ have been pledged.

The rest will be made up out of the booming pre-ticket popcorn sales.

QuicReview – Marnie

Marnie is a 1961 novel by Winston Graham (no, I’ve never heard of him, either) which was adapted into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock (who does sound familiar) in 1964. The movie met mixed success, but is well-regarded critically, these days. The book apparently has been mostly forgotten.

The book is way better than the movie. I know, shocking.

Synopsis: Margaret “Marnie” Elmer, an attractive, intelligent, perceptive young woman, steals money from the companies she has worked for to support her crippled, widowed mother. She’s done three jobs so far and is confident in her abilities to lie as readily to her employers as to her mother, but taking a job as cashier to [COMPANY NAME I FORGOT] turns out to be the step too far.

Marnie has been twisted; although not lacking in empathy, she is remote and distant enough that it might as well be the case. On this job, however, she starts to connect with people, interacts with people (especially: male people), and this starts to change: she has conversations, makes friends, and the firm’s part-owners, Mark Rutland and Terry Holbrook, take an interest in her. Terry is an affable slimeball, but Mark is a gentleman–and also sincerely in love with Marnie. Enough to cover for her when she makes her move, search when she disappears, haul her back by the ear, and….blackmail her into marrying him.

Mark’s also an idiot, because he thinks that this will all work out fine, somehow.

Marnie, however, has what TVTROPES helpfully categorizes as Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality. She goes absolutely berserk at the thought of consummating the marriage, a state of affairs which continues through the honeymoon until Mark gets fed up and–Trigger Warning–rapes her. (He apologizes after.)

He also insists that she see a psychiatrist.

Marnie’s sparring with the psychiatrist, with Mark, with Terry (who is smart enough to suspect something is up with his partner’s new wife when it’s that bloody obvious), her alternating escape plans and tentative efforts to acclimatize herself to her situation–and efforts to find a new source of cash to bring home to Mother, take most of the novel’s second half.  Despite heroic efforts on Marnie’s part, the good doctor makes some progress at helping her realize that she is missing something: events that don’t add up, memories that can’t be real, wrong dates, unlikely coincidences. And finally, at the extreme end, Marnie finds the key to it all….

The end reveal is different in the novel than the film (again, the film was dumbed down a lot), enough so that I didn’t expect and won’t spoil it here. There, the issues are resolved by a chat with Mother and a good cry, and Marnie is now at peace with Mark and society. Here…the reveal doesn’t so much show all to the audience as it does give Marnie the tools she needs to understand what others have told her about herself: that she isn’t evil or crazy–just, in a highly specific and also harmful way, sick.

Marnie finds this knowledge, Mark’s support, and her own newfound awareness, empowering enough to walk through a door and face down her enemies at the cliffhanger climax of the novel. We don’t know if Marnie will go to jail after all, but now she has the stability to handle a trial, and is able to accept Mark’s love (no, his feelings) at last.

The book, which is first person, is a character study of Marnie…and she’s a fascinating character. She lies easily and smoothly. She can remember the day and hour she decided to steal for the first time. She loves her mother, but also somewhat despises her. She loves her horse. She’s extremely intelligent, good with numbers, a quick learner at whatever she turns her hand to. She was raised in poverty by a poorly educated and unintelligent woman with a twisted view of the world and how to raise children in it.  Marnie was twisted by her upbringing, shaped by it, and yet she grew up all right, except for the few little parts in her that bent too far out of shape and broke.

Mark is an interesting character well, although as the novel wears on, Marnie’s loathing for him does not diminish, and his patience never fails, he does strain credulity. The version of him played by Sean Connery is actually quite good, either because Connery’s charisma pulls it off, or because he does lose his temper occasionally.

Terry Holbrook, a book-only character, is someone who might have been excellent when  played by George Saunders. My exact notes on Terry state: “affably despicable when he’s bad, affably smug when he’s being nice.” Marnie headbutting him in the nose was a definite high point. Focusing the book more on corporate intrigue, backstabbing, and blackmail, would have been interesting. Different–but interesting. In the movie, Terry’s character is converted into Mark’s jealous step-sister, Lil Mainwaring, probably because Diane Baker was more photogenic.

What else do I have to say about this….

Oh yes.

I’m working on a thesis that the difference between an OK work and a great one is: horses. Fort Dobbs? Last Train from Gun Hill? No focus on horses, and they’re … OK. Quantez? With a comparable cast, budget, and script, + horses? It’s much better than OK. Maybe not “great”, but very good. The Subtle Knife books? OK but then sharply declining in quality–no horses. Narnia? Not only horses, but Talking Horses; a modern literary classic. The Dragaera novels? No horses. The hero even has to do his wandering the earth on foot. I rated the last one poorly and the rest of them absolutely don’t hold up to re-reads. Lord of the Rings? You have Bill the Pony, the entire country of Rohan, and Shadowfax. LOTR is legitimately a great work. The Blue Sword? It’s literally swords-and-horses fantasy and it won the Newberry. (…a blue ribbon…?)

Yeah, um, back to the topic.

Marnie’s love for her horse, Forio, is one of the most human things about her, and the thing that motivates her the most. A reviewer elsewhere derided Marnie’s going to an injured Forio first, instead of her husband, as evidence of a terrible person, and as  unrealistic. This reviewer has obviously never owned a horse before, or heard one scream.

Anything else…Well, Marnie is an excellent narrator. Objectively, she’s a terrible person–a liar, impersonal, resentful, a thief–but from the inside she’s understandable, relatable, and sympathetic. Her steps toward finding her own identity, settling into the role and community of “Mrs. Rutland” are actually rather heartwarming to read.

I’m out of things to say about this book, except that I was up until about 12:53 reading it.

Rated: Five stolen payrolls out of five.


“You have hybrid squash! There must have been hanky-panky going on….hanky-panky!…must have been garden gnomes.”

“Are you having a heart attack?”
“About what?”
“That I only used one ligature?”
I am going to sleep well tonight.”

“You better not be writing down what I say. Because I’ll deny it.”

The Clone Wars – Very QuicReview

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is something that feels and looks like the Star Wars of the prequels–an epic in the minds of its creators, broad in vision and shallow in execution. It wanted to be Dune, but ended up as Flash Gordon.

The problem is, that at any point where depth could have been surgically injected, Big Thoughts outlined, mythological themes expanded on, stakes raised, and scales widened–they aren’t. In fact, the creators/writers undercut themselves at any point where this is a possibility of happening to make sure they don’t do something like this.

My main example: In one arc, three Beings of the primal Force summon Anakin and his companions to test if he is really the Chosen One, and if he will take their place one day. Very myffic (if you’ll excuse my Prachettism), quite good. I was all fired up for it to go really epic.

…but it didn’t. Instead, it turned simplistic (and aggravating): Anakin takes approximately ten seconds to turn Dark Side when urged to, Obi-Wan goes on a MacGuffin quest in the pit of a volcano (giving me brief hopes that the arc could be rescued and some kind of Descent Into The Underworld/Escape from Hell would result–but, no, Ahsoka flies in on a flying bike and pulls him out, and then they use them macguffin dagger to stab a bunch of people),–and then they all freaking forget about the damn thing happening, because that would make it harder to write the rest of the series.

I call that wasted potential. You had all the material, right there, and you blew it, because you wanted to keep it all simple, easy, and dumb.

Oh well.

Is it all bad? Not at all. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, since there are many good single episodes and, to be honest, there are individual arcs that stand out as enhancing the worldbuilding and characterization leading up to Revenge of the Sith. (Mostly concerning the clones). Darth Maul came back. The Nightsisters. Plo Koon and Luminara Unduli. Those freaking creepy Geonosian mind-control worm things. Ahsoka chases lightsaber thieves across Coruscant. Padme and Anakin have a date night. Jar Jar becomes about 80% redeemed (OMG).

I’m out of time and can’t expound more. 3/5 assassins in the senate.


Ahem. Thank you.

I’ve barely ever seen the ocean….

Servants of the Ocean—traitors:
To their treason only faithful—
Strong sea-winds went out to seek her;
Four swift winds sought o’er the brine,
But no maiden, storm-tossed, found they,
And in failing feared to turn back—
Not the west wind, not the east wind,
Nor the north wind, grim of going
Or the swiftest, southwards racing
Fled and to the glove returned not
On his shoulder did not settle
Who had sent them, outwards flying
As the falcons fly, prey seeking;
Or as hounds rush, running limber
In the pack, along the trail.

In the moving waters running,
Nine waves ranged, afar roving:
Under mist their high heads raising,
Over sea, their clear eyes peering,
Upon land, their mantles falling;
From their long hair flinging sea-foam,
With their laughter, calling lightnings
With their white hands, striking spray:
Nine tall waves, in light mirth leaving,
Nine swift waves in wrath returning.

Then rose Ouranos, the Eldest—
Of creation’s spawn the first-born
Of creation, first, the sire—
Goaded with a brand the greenest
Bridled not, in jealous swiftness;
Curbed not, in great haste going:
Waked his tides, and tempest summoned:
Called his servants, storm-winds swiftest
aithless sent, but faithful summoned—
Called his daughters, about him gathered
Nine waves ‘neath the sea-mist flowing,
Nine great waves in the deeps rising.

long list

J. Eden spread his hands and grinned. He probably meant the smile as winning and innocent, but under the circumstances it came across as gormless. “Why not?”
The grin faded a few notches as Yulia rounded on him. It faded a few more in the seconds while she stared at him.
“Ok,” she said, “OK. I’ll tell you why not. Firstly,” she held up an illustrative finger, “Because non-sanctioned fights are considered duels and duelling’s illegal. Secondly, because it’s not only illegal, it’s against Regulations. Thirdly, it’ll have an adverse impact on your career to have been arrested for attempted murder. Fourthly–” J. Eden’s smile was almost entirely gone by now, while Yulia’s had stretched to her canines, “Because it’ll look bad for my career if I don’t report you. Fifthly, because you’ll lose. Sixthly–what is it?”
The vendor had touched her shoulder respectfully. “Madam, your pasty.”
Yulia’s smile went from predatory to genuine as she turned to him. “Oh! My pizza! Yes! Thank you! I shall be there momentarily. One moment, please. Thank you!”
The vendor faded back out.
“Where was I?”
“Sixthly,” someone said.
“–Thank you. Sixthly,” she brought her left hand up to bear, ignoring J. Eden’s mutter that he’d got the point, “Because you will look stupid and people will laugh at you. And seventhly,” she finished, beaming, “Because you will look stupid and I will laugh at you.”

Author’s note: would you believe that I actually did have this conversation in real life with somebody? Except for the bit with the pizza.