Beyond Uhura

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Beyond Uhura
Nichelle Nichols, 1994

This was an awesome memoir.

The Trek stories were fun of course, but it was really the span of Nichols' career and interests that intrigued me most. She was often in the right place at the right time to meet important directors and performers, and it's always enjoyable to get new perspectives on important movements in theater and dance.

I feel a little silly saying it, but it is more affecting to have some stories told by someone you feel like you know – even if you only 'know' them from being a fan. Stories like when she loses a big contract when she refuses to sleep with a producer. or is assaulted and threatened when on an out of town job alone. A personal account of sexism and racism is simply more moving than statistics.

The chapters dealing with her family and her heritage were fascinating: both moving and highly entertaining to read.

Her account of every part of her life seemed very fair-minded. Her verbal pictures, especially of the people involved with Star Trek, were highly nuanced. No one came off as a bastard or as a saint, just as people, which makes me think her depictions are probably pretty close to the truth. She calmly explains various incidents with charm and grace toward all concerned, even when she was angry at the time.

I was also impressed to read more about Nichols' work with NASA and other science organizations, promoting women astronauts, science education, etc.

This was a great read. I feel uncomfortable assigning a number rating to a memoir...but okay

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

Beyond Uhura on

Provenance of Shadows (Star Trek Crucible: McCoy)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Provenance of Shadows (Star Trek Crucible: McCoy)
David R. George III, 2006

These books have been tempting me from the shelf of the local library for a while now, and I finally broke down and borrowed this one. I used to read Star Wars novels, but I haven't read much licensed fiction in a while.

Premise: During the episode “City on the Edge of Forever,” Doctor McCoy went back in time, and created an alternate timeline. Kirk and Spock restored history, but on some level, McCoy both returned to the Enterprise with his friends and lived out the rest of his life in the 1930's.

This book started strong.  I really enjoyed the beginning; it was fun and fast, and the idea of following alternate McCoy was great.  The problem was, it couldn't sustain its pace.

The book is split between alternate McCoy living in the past and standard McCoy (of course, no relation to 2009's New!McCoy) living in the 2200's.  The story following AltMcCoy is actually really strong overall, it has good character work, interesting plots, etc.  The best scene in the book is when McCoy realizes how he changed history, and his horror that he can't do a thing about it.

However, the other half of the book devolves quickly into a fan-fic-esque tour through the rest of the Original Series and the movies. The narrative never stops in one time long enough for me to care about what is going on, and the connections to the other story are tenuous and obnoxious. Far too much of it is direct references to episodes, etc. It's a really frustrating read.

The end of the book was hokey, pandering and dull.  The beginning was intriguing enough and it was a quick enough read that I might flip through another book in the series next time I'm at the library, but if it's another “This is Your Life” ramble, I'll pass.

2 Stars – An Okay Book (only barely squeaks up to 2, entirely based on the 1930's storyline)

Find Provenance of Shadows at

Follow Friday May 27

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is: 

How many books do you read in a week? And in what format do you read them, or listen to them?

It's wildly changeable for me, largely dependent on the rest of my life. The high mark is probably 7-9 books, the low mark zero, like last week. Since my job (freelance theater, mostly Stage Management/Wardrobe) ranges from nonexistent to 80-plus hour weeks, my reading varies similarly. My average is probably 1-5 books per week, depending on thickness/density of prose, mostly read on the subway.

I read variously on my Kindle or hard copies from the library, depending on what I feel like reading. 

Next Week here at the Bookshelf: STAR TREK WEEK!

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #15, Ruse #3, X-Men: Legacy #249

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: X-Men: Legacy, but it was really close!

All issues were new in stores on 5/25/11

American Vampire #15 (Ghost War Part 3)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Colors: Dave McCaig

As usual, the only thing wrong with this issue is that there aren't more pages! The tension of this plot is rising: Henry and the soldiers cut off, Sweet with them, Pearl on her way, I'm left wanting so much more.
(Although, this book does include a huge ad for Super 8 that is a mini comic in its own right, and an awesome looking preview for the upcoming AmVamp mini!)

Ruse #3
Writer: Mark Waid, Artist: Minck Oosterveer, Colors: Antonio Fabela

This was a stronger issue than the last one. Tension is running high in this title as well as Simon and Emma's unknown enemy continues to close in on them. The dialogue and narration was more compelling this month.

X-Men: Legacy #249
Writer: Mike Carey, Artist: Rafa Sandoval, Colors: Matthew Wilson

This has been a great week overall. The aftermath of Age of X continues to play out with the characters I'm interested in, in ways I love. I love the way it was broken up among the different stories. I am really interested in this arc for Frenzy, which I'm glad about. I didn't know anything about her before Age of X, but I really like her now. Great issue of a really intriguing book.

Top Ten Tuesday - Books You've Lied About

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt is: Top Ten Books you lied about

I'm sure there were some, but I'm having a hard time thinking of any. I can't even think of any books assigned for school that I "lied" about reading (i.e. didn't read but passed the test or whatever). And more than once I felt like a chump for actually reading those books, let me tell you. I can think of a few bookish lies I've told in my time, though:

1: No, I wasn't reading (when I was supposed to be doing xyz).

2: Sure, I've heard of (book that you think I should have heard of).

3. No, I've never read fanfic (certainly never wasted hours on the damn addictive stuff).

Generally, if I've read something, I'll own up to it. Well, depending. There are a handful of romance/erotica type books I've made it through that I don't exactly advertise except among my girlfriends. But if you asked me straight out, I'd probably tell you. Unless you're my Mom. Who reads my blog. 


Hi Mom!

Did I ever tell you about how that book you bought me in high school with the unicorn on the cover had sex in it? I think I lied about that for a while...

New Event: Star Trek Week!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Okay all you lucky people, it's time for another game of "Lindsay reads way too many books on one subject and/or theme!"

I love Star Trek. I've always liked Star Trek, but only in the past few years have I really grown to love it. So of course I attempted to destroy my young and fragile love by reading a flood of related media. I've got reviews coming up of a bunch of memoirs, a couple novels, plus I'm going to revisit my small collection of Trek related comics.

Next week, my friends, is old school. Wall to Wall Original Trek.

Here's the schedule:

Monday May 30: Provenance of Shadows (Novel)
Tuesday May 31: Beyond Uhura (Memoir)
Wednesday June 1: Reading Star Trek Comics: The Past
Thursday June 2: I Am Spock (Memoir)
Friday June 3: Harbinger:Vanguard (Novel)
Saturday June 4: Up Till Now (Memoir)
Sunday June 5: Reading Star Trek Comics: The Present

Book Blogging - The Final Frontier!

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981)

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981)
Stephen Sondheim, 2010

First off, this feels almost like a reference work, so don't expect to just sit down and read through it unless you're an even bigger musical theater geek than I am. Most of the text is lyrics, just as it says, surrounded by annotation, photos and additional information.

It's an interesting hybrid: there is information about the development of some of the shows, but a large amount of the commentary is either self-deprecating nitpicking about his own lyrics or tangents about the merits and flaws of many classic Broadway composers and lyricists. I think someone with an exhaustive knowledge of classic Broadway composers would get more out of his opinions of them than I did. It's still an interesting series of pieces detailing various techniques or habits, but without the ability to mentally call up obscure works of the other artists immediately, comprehension sometimes got a bit muddy for me.

Also, I have to agree with what Sondheim says in the introduction: “Theater lyrics are not written to be read but to be sung.... A printed collection of them, bereft of their dramatic circumstances and the music which gives them live, is a dubious proposition.” That isn't to say I didn't enjoy reading the book, only that I skimmed the lyrics for the most part, and mostly jumped over shows that I'm not familiar with the music for (Saturday Night, Do I Hear a Waltz) to only touch down on the commentary.

There's a lot to enjoy here for a fan like me: witty remarks about various plots and songs, background for why one song or another was cut or written. There are anecdotes about working with various collaborators and actors, although it doesn't ever descend into gossip. I was personally amused to come to the five full pages devoted to writing out the lyrics to Simple (Anyone Can Whistle). That is one long, crazy song. Seeing everything in order also allows you to trace the development of various techniques in his work.

The most useful parts for me were the short descriptions in front of each song giving it its place in the show. This provides a fuller understanding of shows I haven't seen live, and is particularly informative for songs that were cut: songs that I've only heard on compilations. (For example: for some reason I didn't remember “Two Fairy Tales” was written for A Little Night Music, to be sung by Anne and Henrik. That makes sense!)

Note the cover: it only chronicles up to 1981, leading up to, but not getting to, Sunday in the Park With George. The ending implies that part two is only a matter of time. (The internet reports that the second volume will come out this fall.)

Overall, this is an enjoyable book, though highly specialized.

4 – A Really Good Book

Finishing the Hat is available on

All Quiet Here on the Bookshelf...

Because I've been working 10-18 hour days for most of this past week. Posting should go back to semi- normal now.

God's War

Monday, May 16, 2011

God's War
Kameron Hurley, 2011

Premise: Nyx is a bounty hunter on a desert world eternally at war. She is sent on a troubling mission to find an alien woman who she's told is able to end the war, but she might lose her team and her life trying to find the woman and find out the truth.

I think this may be a case of missed connections, because everyone seems to love this book, and I just didn't. I don't think it's a bad book, I think it's well written in a technical sense, but I didn't enjoy reading it.

I found the first 50 pages uselessly slow, and by the time I started to actually like the book around page 160-70, there were only 100 pages left. I don't know what to think. The main character is similar in some ways to a noir hero. She struggles, mostly futilely, against uncaring thugs, conspiracies and powerful figures, and it's set up as a world of grey shades where there is no way to win. It should have been right up my alley, but I just didn't click with the writing.

The story was fine, but I didn't connect to the style or the setting at all, and that seems to be the main strength of the work. The bug-based tech is intriguing on the surface, but it never seemed to go anywhere, just remaining as flavor. There were a lot of implications about religion and race and gender, but hardly any of them were explored in depth.

I don't know, maybe this just wasn't up my alley. What bothers me is that it should have been. A society of badass, masculine women, future religion, magic-bug-based technology... it all sounds great. There was something off about the characters than I'm having trouble putting a finger on. It was as if Nyx oscillated between being blankly badass, just a collection of tropes, and having an unconvincing squishy underbelly. The other main characters were more believable, in some ways, but balancing a masculine woman in the cast with a feminine man is boring, and I just couldn't muster much care for what happened to them.

Maybe I just missed the hook somewhere.

Or maybe the setting is just much more awesome if you've never heard of Dark Sun.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

Check out God's War on

Follow Friday May 13

Friday, May 13, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is: 

The Blogger Apocalypse made me a little emotional. What is the most emotional scene in a book that you have read lately?

So apparently I missed the great Blogger crash. I've been working like crazy the past few days and not checking blogs, including my own. Apparently everything is in order here, I hope all of your blogs are well.

In terms of emotional writing... here's a couple of completely different examples:

I've been doing a bit of re-reading of older Mercedes Lackey books recently, and the end of Knight of Ghosts and Shadows made me laugh and smile uncontrollably.

On a darker note, yesterday I read Brecht's "The Good Person of Szechwan" for work. It was a beautifully sad play, and I'm really glad I had occasion to read it.

I'm off to do more amongst yourselves ;)

Comics Briefly: Batgirl #21, Birds of Prey #12, X:Men Legacy #248

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Favorite Issue This Week: Birds of Prey #12

All books new in stores on 5/11/11

Batgirl #21
Writer: Brian Q. Miller, Penciler: Dustin Nguyen, Inker: Derek Fridolfs, Colorist: Guy Major

Strong issue. Good developments with most of Steph's supporting cast, leading to what should be a good shakeup of of her status quo (her status quo wasn't quite clicking for me anyhow). Steph herself is in rare form; her attitude and skills are right on.

Birds of Prey #12
Writer: Gail Simone, Artist: Jesus Saiz, Colorist: Nei Ruffino

Now this is a good issue. All the character voices were on, and the tension was strong without edging into melodrama. Everyone got a nice moment, the team coordination was great, the art is fluid, clear and gorgeous. Yay for Question showing up!

X:Men Legacy #248 
Writer: Mike Carey, Penciler: Jorge Molina, Inkers: Craig Yeung and Pat Davidson, Colors: Matthew Wilson

This picks up from the end of the Age of X event, and it is basically what I want an X-book to be. Strong character writing all over the place. Plenty of angst, which comes right up to the edge of silly for me but pulls me in anyway. There are half a dozen little character plots going on, and I'm actually intrigued by all of them. Highlights: Emma, Scott, Frenzy, *won'tsaybecausespoiler*, Gambit, Rogue, Magneto. Basically the whole issue. Lowlight: One really ugly panel of Frenzy's face. Not sure what happened there.

Also Considered: 

Flashpoint #1
I skimmed/read this. The reveal at the end was cute and all, but I am not sold on the idea of this event. All the alternate characters seem boring to me.

Top Ten Tuesday - Jerks!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Weeks Prompt: Top Ten Jerks In Literature (all those jerky guys in books..those who truly WERE asshats and those who just acted like one but could be quite loveable) 

Hmmm. Doesn't seem quite fair to me to include too many loveable jerks only two weeks after the list of mean girls. I am defining jerks as: usually minor villains who enjoy the misfortunes of others, and aren't above rubbing it in. Petty cruelty is a hallmark of the jerk.

1: Raven (Chronicles of the Black Company, Glen Cook, review) Because occasionally doing the right thing or having reasons for being an arrogant criminal loner doesn't mean you're not a jerk, even according to the Black Comany's low standards.

2: Regin (The Novice, Trudi Canavan) is a straightforward stuck-up schoolyard jerk and tormentor to Sonea, the main character. He eventually grows out of it.

3: Byerly Vorrutyer (A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold) is a jerk for the forces of good... this week, anyway. A sophisticated young man with seemingly nothing to do but hang about the capital cadging drinks and flirting, he is cutting with a turn of phrase, and runs merciless verbal rings around anyone with the misfortune to catch his eye.

4: Most of the low-level villains in Harry Potter: Draco and his cronies, most of the run-of-the-mill Death Eaters, are just your standard annoying asshats with magic. This is, I think, one of the great missed opportunities in the series. (Almost everyone in the books is a jerk occasionally, which is one of the good things about the series.)

5: Pavel Young (Honor Harrington Series, David Weber) He is a pathetic little weasel who uses his position and family wealth to undermine Honor whenever he can. Weber has a lot of eminently hate-able villains, but Young might be the pettiest jerk. 

6: Desire (Sandman) While she/he is one of the major players in the series, most of his/her behavior is motivated by sheer petty narcissism and general jerkitude.

There's a split again this week. Here are some Magnificent Bastards

(Aside: I'm going to speak briefly in tropes: Why is it that male villains are so much more prone to Draco in Leather Pants or similar phenomenon? Many of the impressively manipulative jerkass male villains I can think of I reflexively think are cool, the women I reflexively dislike. Food for thought.)

7: Raistlin Majere (Dragonlance, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) Because that 99% of the time he's not being a good guy, he's tricking people into helping him take over the world. With supreme snarkiness.

8: Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas) That is one awesomely protracted and complicated revenge scheme, right there. Arguably justified, but still. 

9: Lex Luthor. Because modern Luthor is a smart man who has this one bee in his bonnet about this one guy whom he just HAS to be better than. Unreasonable oneupmanship is a common quality of the jerk. Also he's frequently written as being arrogantly rude to everyone.

10: James Bond. He's great at his job, most of the time, but his job often requires him to be a cold-blooded jerk. That doesn't prevent him from being sympathetic now and again, but after he gets his heart broken in the first book, he retreats into an arrogant shell.

Okay, who am I forgetting?

The Ambassador's Mission

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Ambassador's Mission (Book One of the Traitor Spy Trilogy)
Trudi Canavan, 2010

Premise: Twenty years have passed since the Ichani invasion of Kyralia. Lorkin, son of the Black Magician Sonea, is a full-fledged Magician himself now, and eager to do something with his life. He volunteers to assist the Ambassador to Sachaka, but his parent's history with the people of that nation could come back to haunt him. Meanwhile, Cery and Sonea must deal with a mysterious rogue magician who may be targeting major thieves in the city for elimination, and the influx of a dangerous new drug.

I read the Black Magician Trilogy a few years back, and really enjoyed it. This is more of the same.

It's solid fantasy action, with an interesting world, complicated politics, sympathetic characters, and not so many characters that you get lost. I don't think a new reader would have any problem getting up to speed here, because enough time has passed since the events of the first books. If you read The Ambassador's Mission, and want to know more about Lorkin's parents, I do highly recommend the Black Magician Trilogy, even though you would know from this book at least some of what happens and which characters survive.

My only hesitation with this book is that many of the characters feel somewhat the same. They aren't really, but there isn't a lot of variation in narrative voice. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and it hints at more intriguing explorations of gender politics to come.

3 Stars – A Good Book

See more about The Ambassador's Mission on

Comics Briefly: Belated Edition: Avengers Academy Giant-Size, Avengers Academy #13, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #2

Saturday, May 7, 2011

So I was sick earlier this week, and didn't get a chance to pick up this week's books until today. Since today was Free Comic Book Day, I was off to the local stores today anyhow, so that worked out just fine.

These books are full price, standard issues; stay tuned for my report on the FCBD books in a week or so.

Favorite Issue This Week: Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #2

All books were new in stores on May 4, 2011

Avengers Academy Giant-Size
Writer: Paul Tobin, Penciler: David Baldeon, Inker: Jordi Tarragona, Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

This special one-shot teams up some of the Avengers Academy kids with a few characters from Young Allies. It's a fine little adventure, and the art was quite good. There were some awesome moments for most of the characters, but the writing was a lot weaker than in the Avengers Academy ongoing. It was an okay issue overall, fine to read, but the characters felt slightly off. (Also it has to take place at least a few issues ago in AA continuity, and doesn't really work with the arc of Reptil's power development...just sayin'.)

Avengers Academy #13
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Sean Chen, Inker: Scott Hanna, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

Awwww. The plot: Super Hero Prom. It's pretty frickin' adorable; everybody's in a romantic mood. I wasn't as interested with some of the subplots that deal with characters who are visiting from other books, but the touch with the teen characters is a subtle and great as ever. The art was even good! The plot was a little heavy on the cheese by the end, though.

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #2
Written and Illustrated by David Petersen

Oh Mouse Guard, I have missed you! There were some silly things about this issue, maybe a few weak spots, but a average Mouse Guard issue is still better than a great issue of most series. I really liked some of the details about the problems faced by mice traveling by sea. The art, as always, is glorious, and the teaser image for next time has me eagerly awaiting Issue #3!

Top Ten Tuesday - Books Recommended to Me

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt: Books I'm So Happy Were Recommended To Me (all those books you probably wouldn't have picked up without a good recommendation)

This is going to be a bit haphazard, since I often read a greater quantity and more eclectically than most people around me.

Also, I'm not sure that "never would have picked up" applies to most of these. Most times when I read a book I "never would have picked up" it turns out... that I shouldn't have picked it up. These are more like, "might not have noticed/gotten around to soon without a good recommendation."

1: The Warrior's Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold  This is a good example, I probably would have gotten to these eventually, but I started reading them when I did because a friend at one of my jobs in 2004 saw me reading a Honor Harrington book and suggested the Miles Vorkosigan books. Now they're one of my all time favorite series. Thanks!

2: The Black Company, Glen Cook (review) I love what I've read of this series so far, and I thank the perceptive friends who recommended them!

3: The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King (review) If I'm remembering right, this book was recommended to me by two different people, in two different cities, within about two weeks. I promptly devoured the entire series.

4: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez. One of a very small number of books that my husband read before me. I'm glad I read it, even though I found a lot of the middle dead boring.

5: Death Gate Cycle, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I had read the first one but been unable to get into the second when a friend in college enthused about them. So I went back and plugged through the first bit, and ended up quite enjoying the series by the end. (You'll see a lot of that 'going back to books' on this list.)

6: Harry Potter, JK Rowling. I hated the first one when I tried to read it in 1999. I saw and enjoyed the first film, and possibly the second? I don't recall... before I went back to pick up the series. I finally read 1-5 in the summer of 2003, because I was surrounded by other summer interns who were super excited about book 5.

7: The Dark Tower, Stephen King. I should actually expand this one a bit; I don't remember whether this was so much one recommendation as a growing sense that most people I knew had read and loved something by King and that Dark Tower would be the best place for me to start. All those people were right. That led to reading and loving many of King's books, when I had previously avoided them.

8: Sandman, Neil Gaiman. Like many college women, I was happily seduced to the world of graphic novels when someone (my then-boyfriend, now husband) placed these books in my hands.

9: Mouse Guard, David Petersen. (review) Thanks, staff of Cosmic Comics (RIP). The recommendation notice caught my eye and then the art drew me in, and I've bought every issue since then.

10: Avengers Academy, Christos Gage. (first profiled in this Comics Briefly) Thanks, Three Chicks Review Comics Podcast! I don't agree with everything you say, and your episodes can get a little long-winded, but without your heartfelt recommendation I might not be reading this great book.

Whew! I made it to ten without subverting the theme! It was a close one, I also have a list of books that I kinda wish hadn't been recommended to me... ;)

Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

Monday, May 2, 2011

Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel
Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, 2011

New Release! E-Galley provided by the publisher though NetGalley

I had forgotten the premise of this book between the time I requested the galley and the time I read it. This did not improve the experience, as I was not mentally prepared for steampunk. Bear that in mind.

Premise: Archivist Wellington Books and Agent Eliza Braun are thrown together by their jobs at the Ministry, but must learn to work together and trust each other in order to track down and foil the secret society endangering steampunk Victorian England.

Is it me? I would think steampunk should be a good fit for me, but I just found this book tedious.

The characters began unlikable, and despite glimmers of interest now and then, never graduated to anything higher than fine.

The plot feels haphazard in my opinion. It meanders for a long time without a clear direction, and then once the main set piece picks up, it's just a pile of cliche after cliche after cliche. I knew almost everything that was about to happen, and not in a satisfying way. Plus the bad guys just didn't seem dangerous to me. They seemed venal and obvious, with some big plans tacked on at the end, and I couldn't muster much of a sense of tension for the plot.

I ended up skimming a lot.

The book isn't badly written in a technical sense, and if I'd been in the mood for a trope-y romp, I might have really enjoyed it. It just had a very odd balance, between history and not-history, between playing up tropes for fun (as is implied by the cover) and beating them to death (as was my personal experience); a tone that I couldn't sink my teeth into. I wanted more about how this world is actually different than history, not just a few gizmos. I wanted more heart to the characters underneath the cutesy names and styles, and substance sometimes shined through, but I never connected.

(Side Note: I've read a few egalleys now, and many of them say "uncorrected reader copy" or some such thing. This one said that constantly, and a good thing, too. This galley had more typos, grammatical errors, and downright confusing formatting errors than any other galley I've read by a factor of five. Now, the reason I'm telling you this is because it will probably be a much more pleasant book to read in its published form, even without any change in story/character content. However, this is the version they released to reviewers, and so this is the version I read. The score does not reflect the errors (a book with such errors would be an immediate 1 or 0) but the experience of reading the galley was unavoidably colored by confusion.)

2 Stars - An Okay Book

More about Phoenix Rising on