book review: phasma by delilah s. dawson

Phasma is a novel written by Delilah S. Dawson which was released on September 1, 2017, as a part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi marketing campaign. The novel centers around Resistance spy Vi Moradi and First Order captain Cardinal, and it reveals the origins and motivations of Captain Phasma.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  Discover Captain Phasma’s mysterious history in this “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” novel.

One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favor of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression on her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins—and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.

Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution, a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of a crimson-armored stormtrooper—Cardinal. But the information he desires has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against the First Order.

What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past—and with it whatever long-buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order. His prisoner has what Cardinal so desperately seeks, but she won’t surrender it easily. As she wages a painstaking war of wills with her captor, bargaining for her life in exchange for every precious revelation, the spellbinding chronicle of the inscrutable Phasma unfolds. But this knowledge may prove more than just dangerous once Cardinal possesses it—and once his adversary unleashes the full measure of her fury.

Review:  This book was not what I was expecting.  I thought that it would be told from Phasma’s point of view, and instead, it is told from the point of view of Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy, and Cardinal, a First Order stormtrooper.  Through Vi’s storytelling, we get the point of view of Siv, one of Phasma’s fellow members of a band called the Scyre on the planet of Parnassos.  (And when I say band I don’t mean like a musical band.  It’s like a tribe.)

Siv’s and Cardinal’s points of view are thoroughly interesting, while Vi’s point of view is not as chocked full of information about her or the Resistance as much as it is about her storytelling giving us Siv’s point of view.  We learn that Vi has a brother and that she reports directly to General Leia Organa, but we don’t learn much else besides that when it comes to her role in the Resistance.  She is obviously very well informed about the subject of her mission, talking about video footage from First Order ships that she shouldn’t have seen and knowing details about the way the First Order does things that surprises Cardinal.

Cardinal, meanwhile, gives us a lot of personal information, particularly when it comes to his feelings towards Phasma and her place in the First Order, and his desperation to find some sort of information to bring her down.  He’s not above torturing Vi to get what he wants, but he comes to realize that he’ll get more information out of her if he doesn’t, and as the stories are revealed, his facade as an emotionless stormtrooper goes away and a real person emerges.  You begin to really feel for Cardinal, and when the confrontation with Phasma happens at the end, you are really invested in how Cardinal is going to come out of it.

But the most interesting point of view is Siv’s.  Of course, this is the storytelling that Vi does, and it does include comments from her every once and a while, but Siv is the narrator of these stories, and through her, a picture of Phasma begins to be woven.  Phasma was the most fearsome warrior of the Scyre, and Siv was one of her fellow warriors.  When the ship of Brendol Hux, father of General Armitage Hux (who is portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson in the Star Wars feature films)crashes to the surface of Parnassos, his coming is seen by Phasma to be the saving grace of her people, who barely survive on rock spires with little water and food.  This thought is opposed by her brother Keldo, Phasma’s fellow leader of the Scyre, and it tears the two apart.  Phasma and her warriors leave with Brendol and his stormtroopers to find his ship and leave Parnassos for a better life in the stars, and the journey they go on is filled with moments of peril, action, excitement, despair, and you begin to see Phasma grow into the cold, calculating Phasma that I found her to be in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens and some of the subsequent canon material.  But I also cared for Siv and for many other members of the warriors that traveled with Phasma, and the end of Siv’s story was both sad and poignant and yet there was a tiny bit of hope.

This s a phenomenal read if you’re a Star Wars fan.  It is extremely well written, and vivid as well, the descriptions Delilah S. Dawson used bringing up imagery in my head to accompany the scenes.  The story weaved together beautifully, Dawson titling each chapter with where it was taking place in the timeline, either in the present on the Star Destroyer Absolution or ten years previous on Parnassos, so I was never confused about where I was in the storyline.

Recommendation:  Highly recommended, particularly if you’re interested in Captain Phasma as a character.  She was so mysterious coming into and out of The Force Awakens, and this book answers the question of who she was and how she became who she is.  The story will keep you interested from the beginning until the end, and it’s a very easy read.

book review: leia, princess of alderaan by claudia gray

Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a young-adult novel written by Claudia Gray and published by Disney–Lucasfilm Press. It was released on September 1, 2017, as part of Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a series of books leading up to the release of the feature film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Category:  Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Publisher’s Summary:  It is Leia Organa’s sixteenth birthday and she participates in the traditional ceremony where she declares her intention to one day take the throne of Alderaan. But she’s much more concerned about the way her parents are acting lately: lots of meetings and late dinners and not talking to her as much as they used to. Eventually, she discovers the reason for their secrecy: their involvement in the increasingly organized rebellion. When Leia decides to become involved herself in the fight against the Empire, whether her parents approve or not, she will have to prove to them that she is a valuable asset who must be allowed to take a stand, regardless of the risk to herself. Her stand will also put her at odds with a pacifist young Alderaanian man who gives Leia her first kiss…and her first real loss.

Review:  Claudia Gray is my favorite Star Wars author in the new canon.  Lost Stars is amazing, Bloodline blew me away, and now this book has come out and once again, Claudia hits it out of the park.  Leia, Princess of Alderaan is a fantastic book that details our favorite princess as a sixteen-year-old who is making the transition from child to adult in the midst of a growing rebellion, and I cannot imagine it being written any better than Claudia has here.

There are lovely tie-ins to the rest of the Star Wars universe, especially as this is in the leadup to Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.  We spend a lot of time on Alderaan in this story, and I will never look at the scene in A New Hope where the Empire destroys Alderaan the same way again.  Alderaan is described as a beautiful, vibrant place and the idea of it being destroyed so soon after the events of this book makes me so sad to think about.

We also spend a good bit of time with Leia’s parents, Breha Organa, Queen of Alderaan, and Bail Organa, Senator and Viceroy of Alderaan.  I was particularly happy to spend time with Breha because she is never depicted in other materials, only mentioned.  Breha is a great character with a great love for her daughter and a loving relationship with her husband, though that relationship is put to the test by the growing rebellion.  And Bail is shown to be struggling with what the rebellion must become, not wanting to go to war and refusing to admit that it was the only way.  The conflict is played out in such a natural and organic way that it didn’t feel forced, and Leia’s part in the growing rebellion and Bail’s reactions to it made perfect sense.  The way that Bail and Breha try so desperately to keep Leia from becoming a part of the rebellion showed a great deal of love for their daughter, even if I felt as much frustration at their latest block of her offer to help as I’m sure Leia did.

Leia also meets a group of people around her age during a pathfinding class that her mother arranges for her.  One of those people is Amilyn Holdo, a human female from Gatalenta and member of the Apprentice Legislature, who at first Leia finds a bit odd but eventually becomes a good friend.  Holdo will be portrayed by Laura Dern in the upcoming film The Last Jedi.  She also meets Kier Domadi, a fellow Alderaanian, and member of the Apprentice Legislature, who will become the man in Leia’s first relationship.  The relationship plays out slowly and naturally, never forced, and you believe every second of it, right till the very end of the novel.  I really enjoyed that portion of the story, and once again, Claudia nails a romance in one of these books set in the Star Wars universe, just like she did in Lost Stars.  Claudia Gray is three for three so far in her forays into the Star Wars universe and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

There’s so much more I want to say but I don’t want to spoil anything beyond what I might have already.  It’s just a phenomenally written book by a fantastic author who you can tell loves Star Wars so much.  Every page is seeped in the universe and sometimes the tie-ins are so subtle yet make you so happy once you read them.

Recommendation:  If you’re a Star Wars fan, if you love Princess Leia, you really should pick up this book.  I did the audiobook version of it, and Star Wars audiobooks are always fantastic because they’re like radio plays with sound effects and music and all of that.  But whatever medium you choose, this is a fast, fun, easy read.  I finished it in a day.  It really is fantastic, and I hope that you give it a chance.

i’ve learned. – a poem

I’ve learned.

I’ve learned –
that you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is
be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.

I’ve learned –
that no matter how much I care
some people just don’t care back.

I’ve learned –
that it takes years to build up trust
and only seconds to destroy it.

I’ve learned –
that you can get by on charm
for about fifteen minutes.
After that, you better know something.

I’ve learned –
that you shouldn’t compare
yourself to the best others can do
but to the best you can do

I’ve learned –
that it’s not what happens to people
that’s important.
It’s what they do about it.

I’ve learned –
that you can do something in an instant
that will give you heartache for a lifetime.

I’ve learned –
that no matter how thin you slice it,
there’s always two sides.
That doesn’t mean that they’re both
right.

I’ve learned –
that it’s taking me a long time
to become the person I want to be.

I’ve learned –
that it’s a lot easier
to react than it is to think.

I’ve learned –
that you should always leave
loved ones with words of love.
It may be the last time you see them.

I’ve learned –
that you can keep going
long after you think you can’t.

I’ve learned –
that we are responsible for what we do
no matter how we feel.

I’ve learned –
that either you control your attitude
or it controls you.

I’ve learned –
that heroes are the people
who do what needs to be done
when it needs to be done
regardless of the consequences.

I’ve learned –
that learning to forgive
takes practice.

I’ve learned –
that there are people who love you dearly
but just don’t know how to show it.

I’ve learned –
that money is a lousy way
of keeping score.

I’ve learned –
that my best friends and I
can do anything or nothing
and have the best time.

I’ve learned –
that sometimes the people who you expect
to kick you while you’re down
are the ones who will help you get back up.

I’ve learned –
that sometimes when I’m angry,
I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I’ve learned –
that true friendship continues to grow
even over the longest distance.

I’ve learned –
that just because someone doesn’t love you
the way you want them to doesn’t mean
they don’t love you with all they have.

I’ve learned –
that maturity has more to do with
what types of experiences you’ve had
and what you’ve learned from them
and less to do with how many
candles are on your birthday cake.

I’ve learned –
that you should never tell a child
their dreams are unlikely or outlandish.
Few things are more humiliating,
and what a tragedy it would be
if they believed it.

I’ve learned –
that your family won’t always be there for you.
It may seem funny, but people you aren’t related to
can take care of you and love you
and teach you to trust people again.
Families aren’t always biological.

I’ve learned –
that no matter how good a friend is
they’re going to hurt you
every once and awhile
and you must forgive them for that.

I’ve learned –
that it isn’t always enough
to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes you have to learn
to forgive yourself.

Chester Bennington (1976-2017)

Celebrity deaths can often times be shocking, but this one hit me out of the blue with a sucker punch.  Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington was one of those people who affected my life in ways that he couldn’t possibly have ever known, but I will always remember.  The lyrics that he helped to craft and then eventually sang reached a part of me deep inside that I didn’t know at times could be reached, and the songs he created with his bandmates have been part of the voice of my subconscious since their debut album, Hybrid Theory, came out in October 2000.

I really don’t have the words to describe the shock and sadness and utter loss I feel right now, so I’m just going to post some of my favorite Linkin Park songs.  Thoughts and love to Chester’s family, bandmates, and friends.  Rest in peace, you talented, talented man.

film mini-review: spider-man homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Homecoming was directed by Jon Watts and stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture, Jacob Batalon as Ned, Zendaya as Michelle, Laura Harrier as Liz, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man.

This was a film that I didn’t see coming.  Having been influenced by Sony’s five previous attempts at making a Spider-Man film, Spider-Man was a character that I simply didn’t care about.  I understood that he was beloved by comic book readers around the world, and that those who liked or loved the previous films were in the same boat, but I had pretty much decided that Spider-Man was just a comic book character that I wasn’t going to relate to.  The biographies of the character that I had read online never seemed to match up to what I watched, and since the visual media was not providing me with the Peter Parker I wanted to see (and it was really the Peter Parker aspect that was lacking for me, the Spider-Man stuff was just fine), I’d given up.

Then came Sony’s financial troubles, the leaked emails showing discussions with Marvel about a collaborative effort with the character in an attempt to earn some cash, and the eventual announcement that Spider-Man was coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I was very skeptical about this whole idea based upon my previous attempts with the character, but I was surrounded by people who were thrilled with this, so I decided to go into it with an open mind and see what happened.

What happened was a first appearance by Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and I had the biggest grin on my face during the couple of scenes he was in.  It wasn’t much of a sample size, but it looked like they might have finally gotten the Peter Parker I wanted to see right.  He was an awkward, anxious fifteen-year-old kid who was so nervous in Tony Stark’s presence, especially when he started to realize that Stark knew that he was Spider-Man.  It was a nice teaser for his own solo film, and I looked forward to that film greatly, despite the fact that I was worried about the collaboration between Marvel and Sony.

I didn’t need to be worried.  Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fantastic film filled with humor and heart and great action and a wonderful twist I didn’t see coming and, most importantly, the Peter Parker I’ve always wanted to see on screen.  This fifteen-year-old kid who is struggling with going back to being a high school student after going on a mission with Tony Stark and fighting alongside the Avengers has a great story arc.  Even though the trailers that Sony put out gave away far too much of the film, leading me to know what was going to happen more often than not, there were still plenty of moments that surprised me.  The characters were superb.  Peter’s best friend Ned was a particular highlight, as was the girl with no friends Michelle, and I even liked their interpretation of Flash Thompson.  (“Penis” Parker, anyone?)  I loved that the group of kids were all a bunch of math and science fanatics and that a large plot point centered around an academic decathlon team that they were all on.  And the main villain, Adrian Toomes/Vulture as portrayed by Michael Keaton, was a memorable villain who made an impact on the film in many different ways.  You understood his motivations, you understood why he acted the way he did in certain situations, and when Toomes and Peter finally come face to face, it’s in a truly memorable way.  There is very little about this film that I didn’t like, and I was not expecting that.

Score: 9.5/10

me. – a poem

read it all the way down, and then read it from the bottom up.
I need to go
So do not tell me
I know what I’m doing
You need to see me for what I really am
I’m a fighter
I’m a crier
Do not tell me
Books written that no one reads
Poems written that no one understands
These things were done with crippling insecurity…
An imposter!
I am not
Welcome here
I should feel
To leave my comfort zone
I should learn
Share my pain
Share my heart
Let me
Get rid of myself
Is it now the right time to say
This is my life and
I don’t belong here anymore?
Don’t be so stupid to think that
I should look upon it in a different way

let the fortnight of no sleep™ begin.

The Australian Open quite possibly might be my favorite slam.  I always say that Roland Garros is my favorite slam, but nothing makes me as excited to watch tennis as the Aussie.  I have been slowly adjusting my sleep pattern for the last two weeks so that I can be up all night during the fortnight to watch the tennis, because the tennis starts at six p.m. here and goes to about four or five a.m. the next morning.

There are replays of certain matches on television, and there is ESPN3 to watch others, but there is something about watching it live that is so much fun.  Interacting with my friends on Twitter during matches, seeing what other people are saying about matches I’m not watching, filling out my draw to see who is going to play who next.  It’s just a blast.  And right now, I need that in my life.

The happy slam, as the Aussie is known, is going to provide me with some much needed happiness I hope.  Hell, even if all of my favorite players lose in the first round, which they won’t, I’ll still watch and I’ll still be happy (well, unless Djokovic wins AGAIN) and it’ll be a great two weeks.  And then I’ll sleep all day on Monday, get up on Tuesday morning, and be a normal functioning person again.

The things I do for tennis. ♥

i hate it when americans get “interested” in the usmnt.

Argentina 4-0 USA.

You know what the problem with this scoreline is? This.

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Stuart Holden. Aly Wagner. Alexi Lalas. All former US internationals. All current Fox Sports pundits. Every single one of them talking and talking and talking for the past five days about this game, making the hype for it ratchet up and up and up and up until it got to epic proportions leading up to the moment tonight where all three of them picked us to beat Argentina.

That’s called overhyping something that will not deliver.

I knew from the moment Argentina beat Venezuela to set up this match that we were going to lose it. I just did. Argentina are vastly superior to us in every way when it comes to the sport of football/soccer. They are arguably the best team in the world at the moment (I’m not entirely sure I think those FIFA rankings are right.) and they have arguably the best player of all time on their roster, Lionel Messi. Now if you know me, you know I prefer Cristiano Ronaldo, but that doesn’t mean I discount Messi’s talents for a second. He’s extraordinarily gifted and can do things with a football that I can’t believe sometimes. Trying to tell an entire country that we’re going to beat a team like that, not that maybe we’ll beat them, or that you’ve got to go into this knowing the gulf in class between the two teams? That’s just hurting the game in this country. I’m sorry, but it is.

I am sick and tired of these sort of highlight games turning into an event for American soccer. It certainly does on Twitter. So many people I follow who have absolutely nothing to do with sports were tweeting about it. And in a way that’s great. But all the overhyping of this match makes people think we’re better than we are, and so all these people on Twitter think we’re better than we are and we’re going to beat Argentina, and it just makes it worse when we get our asses kicked. I am so frustrated with people who only watch these highlight games turning into “EXPERTS” who know what’s wrong with the team or the formation or the coach or anything. You don’t have a clue, assholes. Try watching every game. Did you watch the SnoClassico? Do you even know what it is? How about how we’re doing in the Hex? What about that? Huh? About the only thing that makes me more angry when we’re playing a game is the tweets from Americans actively cheering against our team. Oh, we’re playing Argentina tonight? Then vamos Argentina! Fuck off. I don’t care if you prefer Germany or Spain or Italy or Portugal or England or whoever ahead of us. Be fans of theirs. That’s fine. I’m a fan of Spain and Wales. It’s not always good or easy, but it’s fun. It means I have a interest in tournaments like the Euros beyond just watching great games. But when my team, my country, is playing, I cannot imagine cheering for anyone else.

Now to the game itself. Messi was Messi. Of course he was going to score that gorgeous free kick goal tonight. He doesn’t miss many of those. But from minute one of this game, Argentina punched us in the mouth and didn’t stop. They out-classed us throughout the whole game, even the small moments when we had the ball, it still felt like Argentina was completely in control. They thoroughly deserved this game. We looked nervous, we were shaky, and we kept giving away the ball. It was a pitiful performance, and in no way did we deserve a goal, let alone the one shot that the scorers gave us before rescinding it. It was definitely not the performance that I would have liked to have seen, and I’m one hundred percent sure it’s not the performance they would have liked to have given. But it’s just a game. It’s just a game. There will be another one.

In fact, there is, on Saturday, versus the loser of tomorrow’s Chile-Colombia game. We’ll probably lose that game too. And that’ll be okay. You know why? Because the Copa America Centenario came to the USA this summer. It brought with it every South American nation’s national team. There were some other CONCACAF teams involved too, Mexico the most prominent. And even if we lose on Saturday, and I think we probably will, we’ll still have finished fourth. FOURTH. Better than most of South America. Better than Mexico. And isn’t being better than Mexico really the goal all the time?

Speaking of being better than Mexico, we didn’t quit. Mexico quit after Chile went 3-0 up on them in their quarterfinal, and they lost 7-0. We didn’t quit tonight. Yeah, Argentina got four, and that’s what they deserved probably. I think the scoreline reflects their performance. But we worked and worked and worked. We made mistakes, we gave them plenty of gifts, but we didn’t quit. And I’m proud of them for that. That’s about all I’m proud of tonight, but I’m proud of that.

I’d like to close by sending best wishes to Ezequiel Lavezzi, who tumbled over the advertising boards and landed hard, fracturing his arm. No one likes to see a player get injured, especially not a player of his quality and especially not like that. I hope the injury is not too serious, though they did say he’s having surgery in the next few days, and that he recovers soon.