The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher— brief review and commentary

DiaristI’ve met a few people who have never seen Star Wars or any of its prequels and sequels. Weird, huh? For me, when it premiered in 1977, it was the best science fiction film I’d ever seen, and to this day, it ranks among my favorites. The characters leapt off the screen and into the pop culture of the United States. Even those unfortunate folk who mistakenly believe the film has nothing for them are probably familiar with some of its tag lines, such as, “May the Force be with you.” Literary critics sometimes opine that writers can tap into themes that go far beyond what they, as writers, envisioned, and I do believe that George Lucas managed that with Star Wars. Much has been published about his source material, from Saturday morning serials to Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. Yes, the film has some flaws, but it gets a lot of things right, including setting, plot, and especially character. Casting a young Harrison Ford as the scoundrel Han Solo was a great choice, as was Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-wan Kenobi, and Mark Hamill certainly looks the part of a young man on a heroic quest. Perhaps the most controversial choice would be casting the very young Carrie Fisher as a princess, but who else could have blended innocence, sass, and strength the way Fisher did?

For some forty years, Fisher was both herself and Princess Leia. Video of interviews and even stage performances document how much the role influenced her career and her life. But, Fisher was also an able writer; indeed, she wrote multiple books and was often called upon to assist screen writers as a “script doctor.” Her last book, published shortly after her death, is a witty and poignant recollection of the filming of Star Wars, a three month interval that she documented via journaling.

The Princess Diarest includes both journal entries and some poetry, mostly about Fisher’s affair with co-star Harrison Ford. The framework, that is her introduction and conclusion, are far more interesting to me, as they benefit from the wisdom and perspective of those forty years after the filming of Star Wars. While the diary entries can be interesting, mostly they reflect the infatuation of youth. The framework, however, was fascinating, just like the author.

Some people never saw her performance in Star Wars, but it’s likely that they heard her voice, as she did quite a bit of voice work, or saw her in other roles. The world lost an icon when Fisher died in 2017. Her talents were many, but some roles can’t be left behind, and Princess Leia Organa was such a role.

A romance from the grave

Texas FreeRecently, I updated my credentials to virtually check out books from my local library. Free is a good price, right? Unfortunately, apparently, there is little demand for science fiction at my library, so I looked at titles in the romance genre.

When I first read romance novels, I had a list of authors who were my “go to” writers. One of them was Janet Dailey. Generally, she did a good job of integrating setting, plot, and character, and that’s no easy task, because romance writers are under a lot of pressure to produce, produce, produce. Romance readers seem to be perpetually thirsty for new novels, and I saw a new series by Janet Dailey, so I checked out Texas Free,  copyright 2018.

The opening states that the events happened in 1985, which would have been at Dailey’s peak, in terms of both popularity and proliferation. The story is actually a good one, if a bit formulaic. Rose Landro returns to her childhood home in Texas, on the run from a Mexican drug cartel. Unsure of her welcome, but desperate, she stakes her claim on land that should have been hers, as it belonged to her grandfather who had intended to deed it to her before his untimely demise. As the land is an access point to water for cattle, her stake is controversial, and the reader follows the twists and turns of the plot, wondering if Rose will succeed in establishing a homestead, and if any of her neighbors will assist her in her quest.

Janet Dailey has penned a great many books, but the copyright page indicates that this one belongs to a “Revocable Trust” created by some folks who share the same last name. So, is this “Tylers of Texas” series a repackaged group of novels from earlier, or are her heirs using a ghost writer? I suspect the latter, as Janet Dailey died in 2013.

Ghost writing has been around a long time, and there are sometimes very good reasons for using the process. Celebrities who are good at something else often write books, but the more honest ones have a “with so and so” under the author line. Both Tom Clancy’s and Robert Ludlum’s publishing careers have gone on without the author as other, named writers, do the work, but these ghost writers are a least named in the fine print. As I have the eBook version of Texas Free checked out, I might not be seeing it, but if there is an acknowledged ghost writer I didn’t find it. On the other hand, authors I know have reprinted their books with new titles to “up date” them. I kinda think that is cheating a bit, but reputable writers do it.

As I have a back list title that I republished as an eBook (Trinity on Tylos) I am not complaining about republishing, but unless there is a dusty old manuscript, or computer file somewhere, a back list title should be just that. A novel written by someone other than the named author breaks the contract between a publisher and the reader. If I see an author’s name, I expect that the author wrote the book, and I doubt that I am alone in that expectation.

The entire Tylers of Texas series has publication dates after 2013. FYI.

Trading for a Dream— review of book 2 in the Yrden Chronicles

TradingDreamcoverSince I first began reading eBooks on my iPad, I’ve used Amazon’s Kindle more than any other app, because it works well and the content is both plentiful and inexpensive. An early favorite author was D.A. Boulter, whose novel Courtesan impressed me quite a lot. I’ve revisited his work from time to time, and recently I read the latest entry in the series that began with CourtesanTrading For A Dream (The Yrden Chronicles Book 2).

Boulter’s Yrden books are based upon the idea that somewhere in the future, Trading Families will own fleets of cargo ships that not only carry paid cargo, but that there would be trade representatives on board who scout for local merchandise at each port of call, buying and selling or bartering, providing new goods for their customers as well as adding profit to the Family. Of course, the Yrden Family is the core group, but Courtesan is a stand alone book which occurs some generations before the events in the two available Yrden Chronicles novels. Trading For The Stars (The Yrden Chronicles Book 1) recounts the story of Clay Yrden and Colleen Newborn who meet on a primitive planet, Erin.

Trading for a Dream continues their story, but the main point of view character is not one of the Family; instead, as the novel opens, the reader meets Adrian Telford, who is engaged in arranging an accident (i.e. he’s a hit man.) However, when the victim’s wife and son witness the “accident” Telford loses his taste for a life of crime. In an effort to clean up his act, Telford rides a shuttle to Liberty Station, a space station which is on the trade route of Blue Powder, a Yrden Family ship.

(spoiler alert)

When Blue Powder docks, Clay and Colleen soon meet Mr. Telford. Clay sees him as too risky due to his past association with criminals, but Colleen sees a desperate man in need of a hand up. Needless to say, the interactions between the Yrdens and Telford make up the rest of the novel. The yarn is suspenseful due to the efforts of the baddies to make Telford go back to his former profession, as well as an attempt to relieve the Yrdens of some of their goods.
While there are some mostly stereotypical characters, the author does a reasonable job of creating engaging characters, including the folks on the ship, the bad guys who used to be Telford’s business associates, and other folks who get involved, so there are quite a few of them for the reader to keep straight. Having read the other novels in the series helped me a bit in that regard.

I’ve enjoyed Doug Boulter’s stories, and I really liked this one, too. The only caveat I have in recommending these is if you want sex scenes, you’ll be disappointed, as these stories are remarkably clean without being intended for a young adult audience. These stories are reasonably priced on Amazon, and I encourage readers to discover this relatively unknown author. I am so glad I did.

Sky Hunter— a review

Sky Hunter coverThere are taboos in writing fiction, including this one: female characters can’t be raped. I don’t approve of this crime, any more than I approve of murder, of child molestation, of armed robbery, of well…lots of felonies. Still, crimes do happen, and if a novel is to keep it real, sometimes bad things happen to the main character. Still, rape is taboo. As a writer, I have paid the price for violating that taboo. And, this isn’t much of a spoiler, but in Chris Reher’s Sky Hunter, the heroine does have that experience, early in the novel. But, this is a serious tale of warfare in space, and bad things happen, including the afore mentioned violation.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me say that Reher’s Sky Hunter is a very, very good space opera. The main character is one I wanted to see overcome the difficulties of the opening chapters. Caring about the heroine is absolutely necessary, especially when a book isn’t a light-hearted romp. The other characters, at least some of them, also enjoyed significant development, and the plot twists like a scenic mountain road. Reher’s world building is pretty good, too. For military buffs, there is action aplenty, and enough political intrigue to keep the reader guessing.

Right now, this book is free as a Kindle title, and I highly recommend it to fans of military fiction. But, if you’re a whimp, don’t bother.

Black Hole Bounty— a review

Black Hole Bounty coverRecently, I read Sienna Bronwyn’s Black Hole Bounty, which was a little more erotic than the romances that I normally read, but this one was quite good. The heroine, Jerusa, is different (an albino of Central American origin) who wears a nose ring and is scared of heights. Actually, she’s scared of lots of things…but that’s what a big part of what makes her an interesting heroine. She’s already married and has a daughter, and that’s atypical as well. The plot is not as far from the norm (for science fiction romance) as are the characters, so I’ll call it character driven fiction. It’s also rather funny, because the POV character is, well, quite a character. Still, this story is an action/adventure, and Jerusa never runs out of beings who make her afraid. Often, she has every reason to be scared silly.

As some of the reviewers stated, the worst thing about this story is that it is first in a series and the other entries are not yet available. Some authors are great at writing a series where each story can stand alone, but lots of writers are not bothering with that these days, and that’s annoying, but again, not unusual.

If Ms. Bronwyn can get part two of this series out before I forget all about the story, then I will be happy to purchase it. So, dear author, get busy.

Rich Man’s War— a review

Rich Man's War cvrA couple of entries back I reviewed Poor Man’s Fight by Elliot Kay, and I really did like that book. Okay, in part, I liked it because it is in one of my favorite sub-sub-genres— a coming of age military science fiction story. But, that book was well-written and highly entertaining, and such books are sometimes too formulaic. Rich Man’s War is the sequel, and it does take up shortly after the events of the first novel in this series. The action, once it really gets going, is almost non-stop in PMF, but RMW is a more complex story, so it doesn’t move with the vim and vigor of the first one. Worse, it is quite easy to get bogged down in the “who is this part about, friend or foe” because the battles are large scale, so the cast of characters has grown exponentially.

Still, I am glad for the sequel to PMF. Somehow, readers just knew that Tanner Malone had a career ahead of him, and there is a natural desire to see the character evolve. Both Tanner and some subordinate characters from the first novel are important characters here, but in this entry, the corporations which have pretty much made Archangel inhabitants into economic slaves are the enemy. The plot development is organic, that is, what happens in this novel often has roots in the first one. I do not believe that RMW stands alone particularly well, so do read the first book first.

That said, I did enjoy the further adventures of highly decorated war hero Tanner Malone, and it is a good read if not a great one.

Short Reviews of my Summer Reading (thus far)

I’ve read a few new (or new to me) titles, which could all be loosely grouped into the sub genre of science fiction romance. These titles were chosen because the authors are favorites of mine.

First, I read the novella “The Day Her Heart Stood Still” by Susan Grant. This yarn, originally published in a collection, is now available as a stand alone from Amazon’s Kindle Store. Grant’s early works, especially the suspense filled Contact and the light-hearted time travel novel Once a Pirate are my all time favorites by Grant. TDHHSS is just as light-hearted as the latter, but is more like Contact in subject matter. Anyway, it is the story of an astronaut’s encounter with an extra terrestrial, and since the format is short, the love story happens at a whirlwind pace. As I read it, I kept thinking it would have made a great stand alone novel. And, Grant is especially good at connecting with her readers, so she has a neat back story on the story on her website/blog.

Pauline Baird Jones is a fabulous writer, and there are a some wonderful examples of her creativity in her sequel to a sequel, Kicking Ashe. The book which began this series, The Key, is one of my favorite science fiction/romance stories. While I liked the sequel, Girl Gone Nova, I didn’t love it. Maybe it has been too long since I read those yarns, but somehow the Kicking Ashe story didn’t really work for me. However, Jones’ character development and prose is as entertaining as ever, and this story has earned great reviews and a Galaxy award over at SFR. Maybe it was just me….

Another series in this genre that I have enjoyed is by Janet Miller, and it all began with Promises to Keep, followed by the first book I read in the series, Beloved Enemy.  I seemed to have missed Beloved Traveler, but I enjoyed Beloved Stranger quite a bit. All of these books are far more romance than science fiction, but in a day and age when marriage between men and women is more and more ephemeral, the idea of mating for life is something to admire or even fantasize about. Indeed, the whole Gaian concept of “attachment” of males to females is a bit more fantasy than science fiction, but I have enjoyed the stories in this series and I do recommend them to true romantics.

I’ve read a few other items too, but nothing worthy of a review. Still, the hottest part of the summer is yet to come, so I will probably be reading rather than out sweating….