Occasionally I try to do posts about the books I’ve read, or whathaveyou. This is one of those times. I’ve been on a nice reading streak, and honestly, I’m already working on multiple books right now at the turn of February. It’s been nice to be on such a streak as compared to previous years.

When I was a kid, I used to tear through books, because, well, I had nothing else going on. I was a kid. But I know that if I used my adult-time wisely, I could still do that. So here I am, starting 2018 off with more books. I’m going to give you a few quips about what I’ve read and my ratings below.

Title: Stephen Hawking’s Universe
Author: John Boslough
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: ★★★★★

This book reads like new journalism. It’s a nonfiction following of Stephen Hawking’s work, a recalling of his exploration of black holes in space. Boslough does a great job of recounting his time with Stephen Hawking in a way that is still captivating while being highly scientific and informative. The author finds a way to explain Stephen Hawking’s – and other cosmologists and quantum physicists’ – theories on outer space as they pertain to the physics and understanding of the stars and black holes. There is a chance that quite a few people might find this type of rhetoric and prose dry, but I really enjoyed it. Space is… For lack of something better to say, it’s fascinating. I read this in conjunction with Heir to the Empire, and the influx of space and space battles really held my attention. On top of the conversations and explanations of the many theories of the galaxies outside of our reach, it was also humbling to see Stephen Hawking actually in a state of nerves as he tries his best to formulate his thesis about black holes and present it to masses of colleagues who so often scrutinize each other harshly until proven otherwise. With all of his wherewithal, prestige and genius, there was comfort in knowing that he still very much worried about legitimacy and being taken seriously in his field. If you enjoy space, I highly recommend this book.

Title: Heir to the Empire

Author: Timothy Zahn
Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi
Rating: ★★★★★

Heir to the Empire is a Star Wars book by Timothy Zahn. Zahn is a titan when it comes to Star Wars fiction. My best friend Melody purchased this novel for me for either my birthday or a Christmas, and I’ve been holding onto it since, waiting for the right moment to dive in. This novel takes place after Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi. Leia and Han are married, expecting twins. Luke is feeling the pressures of being a Jedi/Jedi Knight, and one of the few remaining that he is contact with. Leia is practicing her Force-sensitive talents. The droids are being my fav robot sons. Chewie is still large and in-charge, and the Empire is still trying to keep their momentum and take over the galaxies within reach despite their losses. The New Republic has stood up from the ashes of the war before it, to be the face of democracy in a time of little direction. And at the forefront of Zahn’s novel, Grand Admiral Thrawn has assumed his position and taken on a full-frontal assault to track down the Skywalker twins. Zahn gives you a full-view of the worlds that were otherwise un-visited through just the films. Most SW fans, however, know that in order to get to know the full breadth of SW lore, we have to rely on more than just the films. My only “complaint” about this novel, is that the descriptions for these worlds were a little lacking in places. There were some settings that I could picture on my own – whether or not it was his vision or not – while some complete worlds I wouldn’t have completely understood their makeup without having already known about those worlds from previous stories or games. But even then, you’re building a story based on an already-existing world. Which isn’t easy, because how can you ever do it clearly enough in a way that’s new or helpful to an audience that will pick up the book? Overall, the book completely captures the attitudes, mannerisms, manners and speech patterns of our well-known characters while illuminating spaces of lesser-known characters. At the end of the day, that’s the main reason to love and enjoy this series from its start. It feels familiar and true.

Title: Red Vengeance
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★☆

This is the second book in the duology for Marvel’s Black Widow by Margaret Stohl. Honestly, I teeter on 3-4 stars for both books, but I chose to give this one 4 stars because it focuses more so on Natasha than it does the other character, Red Widow, Ava. In the first book of the series, Ava is introduced as another abused girl raised in Ivan Somodorov’s Red Room – the same base of Russian illegal ops that raised and modified Natasha Romanova into the Black Widow known today. Ava is an interesting character in that she spends most of her life as an orphan after the Black Widow saves her from the Red Room. While SHIELD did their best to house and take care of the child, they did so in what was more aptly considered a cell – especially to Ava. Feeling more free on her own, she chose to live under the Y in the city, and eventually took up fencing with her best friend on a team. Ava found herself both drawn to the Black Widow and completely begrudged to the famous heroine for abandoning her. After a series of events – that I won’t spoil – the two end up side-by-side again in what becomes an adventure for a young girl who discovers that the Red Room managed to do quite a bit of damage to her psyche, but afforded her the ability to handle her own in the field among the lead, ex-pat Russian, assassin, Natasha Romanova. Stohl does a great job of showcasing some well-known Marvel heroes’ personalities in both books. My favorite, of course, being Tony Stark. I do believe that she captures a side of Natasha Romanova that we don’t often see, though I did struggle with some of the ways in which Natasha lingered on some of the characters of her past. I am not completely sure that I believe some of the inner monologue that was in this particular book, but I also tend to give a lot more leniency and vulnerability to Natasha than most people will, so it’s all forgiven. She is a strong, hardened assassin, but she has a soft side that makes her easy to get along with and a learned team player. If you are looking for a Marvel novel, definitely give this a try, but recognize that there is just as much focus on Ava, the Red Widow, as there is Natasha. I would love to see a story that’s just Natasha, personally.

Title: Locke & Key, vol. 1-3
Author: Joe Hill (art by Gabriel Rodriguez)
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

I completely ate these up. Locke & Key is a graphic novel series written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. Honestly, it may not even be fair to qualify him as his father’s son. With a work like this, he definitely stands on his own as an author. Locke & Key is about a supernatural house, a “keyhouse”, in which multiple keys are hidden away that unlock different abilities and doors. Part of me wants to talk about each key, but I really don’t want to ruin the experience of seeing them for yourself. This series is gritty, dark and violent. It opens with murder and trauma and every episodes hinges on some variant of that, or the finding of another key that could completely change the landscape of the story. Volume 3 ended on a strong cliffhanger that almost made me angry I didn’t have the fourth volume. Honestly, that just means the story is doing its job! The art style of this series is honestly some of the best I’ve seen in a graphic novel. It calls to a quite traditional style of graphic novels, but the line work is so precise and well done. Nothing ever gets muddled in the action sequences. And the way that the artist plays with shadow during some scenes that actually plays with shadow as a theme is remarkable. Really, I just don’t know what else to say without giving too much away. If you’re looking for a good graphic novel, please consider this one. I can’t wait to read the rest.

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