Star Wars IV – A New Hope

To celebrate the finish of the nine Star Wars films, I’m writing reviews of the films and taking a break from book reviews. I am reviewing them in the order they were made not the timeline sequence.

Star Wars IV – A New Hope 1977 Written and directed by George LucasIMG_2841 (2)

Released in 1977 this was eight years after the moon landing and space exploration was a new frontier. George Lucas brought space travel, lightspeed, alien creatures, a death star, and so much more to the screen. For that, he deserves everyone’s thanks. I won’t dwell on the technology and science of the movie. That was cutting edge for the time and opened up doors for special effects in all genres and the acceptance of droids, artificial intelligence, and nerds. Since I’m a writer, I’ll focus on characters and plot.

What I liked: The plot was straight forward with bad guys (the Empire) destroying whole planets with a Death Star battle station and good guys (the Rebellion) stopping them.

A hiccup: The Empire had two goals – find the stolen plans and find the rebel base. They knew the plans were in a robot but allowed R2D2 to escape from the Death Star (that wasn’t logical). Leia was smart enough to know they let them escape to track them to the base and kill them. This increased the urgency to find a weakness to destroy the Death Star. As a writer, you have to increase the stakes as the story progresses.

The characters grabbed our imaginations and hearts. Obi-Wan Kenobi, portrayed by Alec Guinness, was an excellent choice as the wise teacher who sacrifices his life so the student can escape and grow. Nearly all adventure stories have the combination of teacher and student. He introduces the Force – a mystic energy field created by all living things that surrounds, penetrates, and binds the galaxy together. I thought it odd that everyone seems to know about the Force (a lost religion) as they say, “May the force be with you” at the rebel base before the attack.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is the lone mercenary who realizes friendship is more important than money and the role launched Harrison Ford’s career as a hero and leading man. Han shows the most growth as a character from cynic to loyal rebel fighter.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is the young dreamer who discovers his destiny is far bigger than he imagined. He is the everyman who has a special force within him to fight evil. As the hero he must save the day with the shot – using the Force – to destroy the Death Star.

Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is defiant to her captors and after Han and Luke rescue her, she takes charge, shooting her way out of the detention center. Women and girls wanted stronger role models, and Leia provided that – all by herself in this predominantly all-male cast. She is affectionate and hugs or kisses the main characters. This shows they care about each other and focused on the friendships.

Darth Vader became one of the greatest villains of all time. Not only did he wear all black, his breathing mask made a scary sound to announce his presence and James Earl Jones’ voice was perfect for intimidation and authority.

R2D2 and C3PO were the storytellers that link all nine movies together and provide comedic relief. Ownership was debatable. C3PO knows Princess Leia initially but then doesn’t recognize her in a hologram. He says his old master was Captain Antilles. Then Luke takes ownership.

What I didn’t like: While the male roles were well thought out and defined, Leia seemed an afterthought. Lucas didn’t even know how to label her. Was she a princess, diplomat, senator, or rebel leader? Pick one. He gave us the cinnamon bun hair-do that makes Leia instantly recognizable even though she wore that hideous white gown that no young woman would be caught dead in.

What scene/dialogue was missing: If Lucas knew Leia was Luke’s twin sister and they were the children of Darth Vader, why didn’t Vader recognize the connection? He senses Obi-Wan and Luke from a distance while Leia is inches from him on the deck of the Death Star. He does remark that Leia’s resistance to the mind probe is considerable and she won’t break under torture but senses no power of the Force in her. A weak excuse is she isn’t trained but neither is Luke at this point.

As a writer, I would have hinted at the parentage by Vader showing an unusual interest in Leia, one that freaks her out. Also, when they destroy Alderaan, her reaction should have been more emotional. Her father and everyone she knows has been killed. A few tears were expected – even if she waited until returning to her cell.

Problems: The stormtroopers wear full body owner but it doesn’t seem to protect them. They are referred to by numbers which may explain why they are expendable. They aren’t portrayed as individuals until Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens when Finn shows a human side to the stormtroopers.

History: Uncle Owen tells Luke that Obi-Wan Kenobi died at the same time as Luke’s father. He also describes Ben Kenobi as a wizard who is a crazy old man. He’s afraid Luke has too much of his father in him.

Ben admits he is Obi-Wan and says he hasn’t gone by that name before Luke was born and doesn’t remember owning a droid (although he should have recognized both from his younger years).

Luke said his father was a navigator on a spice freighter and didn’t fight in the Clone Wars (lies told to him by his uncle no doubt).

Ben tells him his uncle didn’t want his father to get involved. Ben admits he was a Jedi knight like Luke’s father and they fought in the Clone Wars. He was the best star pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior. He was a good friend. Then he gives Luke his father’s lightsaber – he wanted him to have it when he was old enough but his uncle wouldn’t allow it – he was afraid he’d follow Ben on an idealistic crusade like his father did. It is the introduction of the lightsaber, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age – Jedi’s were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic before the dark times of the Empire.

Luke asks how his father died. Young Jedi Darth Vader, who was Ben’s pupil until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy nearly all the Jedi knights and murdered Luke’s father.

General Kenobi served Leia’s father in the Clone Wars.

I make a note of the history to compare to the earlier stories beginning with The Phantom Menace. A lot of the facts given here do not match with what was revealed in the earlier stories, which is why I have an issue with them. Do you?

For more book (movie) reviews got to authorfreeman.wordpress.com

Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson

Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson

I don’t normally read chick-lit/romance, but I did enjoy Bridget Jones’s Diary and this book is an 32 Going on SpinsterAmerican version of a woman named Julia Droning, who is 32 and has discovered she fits the definition of spinster. She lives in her parent’s basement, she has worked at a dead-end job for 10 years, and she has no social life. She works for a software company and avoids work by going on smoke breaks with co-worker Betsy Brown and gossiping.

Then enters Jared Moody, who gets the job she applied for in human resources. They have a cute-meet and after overcoming her embarrassment, they become friends because spinsters don’t have romances. Julia has to deal with her little sister Anna, who has racked up $50,000 in credit card debt and wants her basement apartment. She decides to finally get her own apartment and shares her stories of Jared with Anna, who has bonded with her.

Then she loses her job. Yes, the one she hated, but also learns Jared had a part in her being fired. Julia has to adapt to change, something she is not good at, and finds a job at a bakery. She loves to bake but it pays half of what she used to make. Then Jared shows up at the bakery…

The novel is written in first person and Monson uses a lot of self-debating with Julia in the beginning. Then as she gains confidence, the debating diminishes. She makes us root for the spinster who has finally found some love and joy in her life but may throw it all away because she doesn’t know the first thing about men. Do any of us?

This is the first book in the Spinster series and the preview for “Thirty-Three Going on Girlfriend” looks good enough to read.

The Future Widow’s Club by Rhonda Russell

The Future Widow’s Club (Bless Her Heart Book 1) by Rhonda Russell51d3jojakTL

This is an author to read. She has published more than 45 books but this was the first one I read and it was an excellent choice. Russell hits all the bases when writing a mystery romance. We have a sympathetic heroine in Jolie who is married to a cheating, lying, bum Chris Marshall who seduced her after she broke up with the love of her life, Jake when he hesitated to marry her.

Chris has stolen money from her family and friends in the small town of Bless Your Heart, NC, and she has been trying to recoup the money Chris has hidden in their joint business and repay the investors before she files for divorce. She also has been gathering evidence of all the women Chris has slept with during the two years they have been married but sleeping apart. When Chris slaps her and leaves her face bruised, Jake accidentally hits him by opening a door too quickly for Chris to avoid. It also spurs the women of the town to take action.

Russell has introduced the circumstances leading to the mystery of a very unsympathetic victim and shown the chemistry and lover of two people who made a mistake and can’t be together. The reader can’t wait to find out how the story ends. Jolie is invited to join the Future Widow’s Club, a support group for women with awful husbands. Jolie follows their advice and adds $100,000 to Chris’s life insurance, buys widow garb, and looks into a pre-burial plan for Chris a week before Chris turns up dead in his shower. Jolie looks awfully guilty even though she has an air-tight alibi, and Jake is the detective on the case. It’s details like this which make Russell a skilled storyteller.

Russell also adds plenty of humor with a severed member of Chris’s body turning up on the town square statue, and the three founders of the Future Widow’s Club enjoying their own antics in the town. She adds a surprise ending that leaves the reader satisfied and all the details tied up.

If you’re looking for a book to read, this is it.

Pretty Little Secrets by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Secrets – A Pretty Little Liars Collection by Sara Shepard 2011

IMG_4411Publishers always want authors to write holiday books. Not only does Shepard write a Christmas holiday story, she shakes up her style by writing novellas for each of the four characters. So instead of bouncing back and forth with different points of view, we have one pov for a fourth of the book. The story takes place after the first four. Mona or –A is dead and Ian is in jail but all four of the girls are nervous and keep seeing someone who reminds them of Allison. The stories are also tied together by Aminospa, an energy drink that is more than an advertisement placement in each story. Shepherd uses this book to give us more insight into the family lives of each character and why they are so messed up.

Hanna has lost her best friend Mona but what can she say? Mona tried to kill her. She’s always losing someone she loves. Now Lucas, her new love, is going on a family vacation with another family and Brooke is all over Lucas. Then her dad, Isabel and the perfect Kate move in and Hanna starts to eat. We learn Kate was friends with Naomi and Riley, Ali’s old friends before the fab four. Hanna joins a gym to get back into shape and meets instructor Vince. Dinah competes for Vince, but Hanna gets her revenge.

Emily’s family has accepted her lesbianism but her mother is upset her baby Jesus was stolen from the church nativity. They suspect the Merry Elves and she forces Emily to dress as Santa and spy on the elves – Cassie, Lola, Sophie and Heather. She befriends them instead and realizes their lives are as messed up as hers. When Emily joins the gang for a major holiday prank, we know nothing good can come of it but Shepard surprises us again.

Aria joins her dad and brother Mike on a special outing to celebrate the winter solstice but a pregnant Meredith shows up and ruins it. Aria heads home alone but her first boyfriend in Iceland, Hallbjorn, shows up hiding from the law because he tried to save puffins. They head to Atlantic City to elope. Yes, Aria wants to marry him. As part of the wedding package, they go to a show where two panthers are in the act and Hallbjorn is enraged by their mistreatment. With winnings from gambling, he buys Aria a snake ring, and they get married. She wakes up alone in bed and the reader can guess where animal rights activist Hallbjorn has gone.

Spencer, Melissa and her arguing parents head to Florida for the holidays and stay in Nana’s mansion. They run into Mrs. DiLaurentis there. Spencer has memories of Ali in Florida. The sisters, who appear friendly, compete for tennis star Colin. Melissa encourages her to break Colin and his girlfriend Romona up only to claim Colin herself. Melissa really is the sister from hell. But in Shepard fashion, even enemies can be friends – temporarily – and the sisters join forces for a special act of revenge.

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

The Frog Princess by E.D. BakerIMG_4297 (2)

This is a variation on a fairytale, “The Princess and the Frog” with Princess Emeralda “Emma” being ungraceful and unsure of what she wants at the age of 14. Her mother has invited Prince Jorge to the palace hoping they will become betrothed. Emma escapes to the swamp, her favorite place to hide. She meets a talking frog who claims to be Prince Eadric and if she kisses him, he’ll turn back into a prince. She refuses and visits her Aunt Grassina in the castle tower. Grassina is a witch and has attempted to teach Emma a few spells, but she messed them up. When Grassina leaves for a few days, Emma visits her swamp, and the frog convinces her to kiss him. But Emma is wearing a bracelet from Grassina that reverses the spell and Emma turns into a frog.

The story focuses on Emma and Eadric as frogs as they learn to love eating insects, staying away from predators, and breaking the spell. Emma and Eadric argue most of the time but become friends. They also make friends with a bat and snake who help them return to Grassina.

It’s a fun twist on an old fairytale and Emma’s introduction into magic which is the focus of the next book.

 

Marriage Can Be Murder

Marriage Can Be Murder by Emma Jameson 2014

Marriage Can Be MurderSet in England in 1939, Dr. Benjamin Bones and his wife Penny are returning to her hometown near Plymouth. She was the beauty and sophisticated young woman that no one liked. He was a young doctor when he met her and married her soon after. He realized her pregnancy was too far along for him to be the father, but the baby was stillborn. Then she had an affair and he considered divorce. They are trying to patch up their marriage with a change of scenery. Instead of joining the army, he is exempted and being sent to the town to help out after the local doctor died. They arrive at night and as they cross the street during a blackout, they are struck by a car. Penny is killed and Ben breaks both legs.

He is still in a wheelchair when Lady Juliet requires his medical expertise concerning a sick maid. Juliet kicked out her husband after she realized he married her for her money. She has yet to formerly divorce him. She is attracted to the doctor and he admires her honesty. She is tall and dresses like a man but joins him in his quest to find out who killed his wife.

The story introduces many interesting characters from the inept constable Gaston to Mrs. Cobbeput who believes in ancient magic, a ghost named Lucy, and several patients.

The story reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca where he discovers new and disturbing secrets about his wife, Penny. The story has plenty of British words and captures the period of 1939 England for those who want to experience the time and place of the story.

There is a hint of romance between Ben and Juliet and rival Rose, a schoolteacher. Juliet and Ben begin to rule out suspects including Mrs. Archer, whose husband had an affair with Penny and ran off leaving her with twin sons who like to burn things. They find a lighter belonging to Freddy who was beaten as a child and lost his teeth and hearing because of it.

Social class and prejudice are woven in with spying and Nazi loyalty during the period. The people in town help and hinder Ben’s search for the truth. The story held my attention, but I was a little disappointed by the long confession at the end.

 

Cranberry’s Bluff by Deborah Garner

Cranberry’s Bluff by Deborah Garner

Cranberry BluffThis story could be considered a cozy mystery but there is no dead body. Garner weaves an interesting and complex story about a bank robbery involving innocent Molly Elliott.

Molly is making a deposit at the bank for her boss in Florida when a women, bearing a striking resemblance to her, robs the bank and runs out. After recovering from the initial shock, Molly walks to work but is arrested. Everyone thinks she robbed the bank according to the news even though the police discover their error and let her go. Then she begins receiving threatening notes saying they know she took the money. The police can’t figure out who is sending the messages or who searched her apartment.

It’s all too much for Molly who inherits a Cranberry Cottage bed and breakfast across the country in Oregon. She screens customers and seems to have her life under control again until one night when five guests arrive.

The honeymoon couple Dan and Susie, the shopper Sadie, a quiet loner Charlie and a handsome writer Bryce turn out not to be who they say they are.

Garner shows talent releasing the information slowly to reveal the suspects, motives, and plots to find the money and blame Molly for the crime. Some readers may guess some things early on, but she holds back a few surprises for the ending. This is a great read for those who like to solve mysteries in a cozy setting.

 

 

A Mail-Order Heart by Janelle Daniels

A Mail-Order Heart by Janelle Daniels

Mail Order HeartThis is the second Mail-Order bride story I bought, and a lawman married both of them. This one has a dramatic kidnapping and chase in it unlike the other, tamer story. There was nothing wrong with the story, but I would have liked the women and especially Clara to face more realistic hardships. Daniels introduced Simon as a bad guy and didn’t use him. Maybe he returns in a later book since this is a series. I think Daniels is ambitious having nine mail-order brides, especially if each woman has her own story.

Clara Stewart arrives in the mining town of Promise Creek, Montana to marry Ivan only to find out he has eight other women he’s promised to marry, and Ivan is dead. Sheriff Sawyer Morrison and Clara butt heads but also have a strong attraction to each other.

Sawyer thinks as sheriff he isn’t entitled to a bride, and Clara takes charge of the women and is determined to make the best of the situation. There are plenty of men who are looking for wives, but the women want to choose. Mayor Bracken tells them Ivan has left them his large house and gold mine, but they all have to agree to stay. Clara convinces them its best. The women’s different personalities clash but Clara takes the brunt of the problems.

Sawyer and Clara are in the mine when it collapses but find another way out. Someone caused the cave-in. They spread the rumor there is gold in the mine only their lie is the truth and leads to trouble.

 

To Catch a Spinster by Megan Bryce

To Catch a Spinster by Megan Bryce

To Catch A SpinsterIn most Regency novels, the man seduces the innocent woman and is forced to marry her. This is a regency novel that turns the genre on its head with a woman more interested in losing her virginity than keeping it and refuses a proposal of marriage afterwards.

Olivia is 27 years old with five married sisters. She has accepted her lot in life as a spinster but would like to experience being courted and bedded at least once and live on the memories. She chooses Nathaniel Jenkins, 39, who is being henpecked by his mother to wed. He is not interested in the young girls dressed in orange.

Olivia asks her brother-in-law to introduce her to Nathaniel and she offers to pay him to court her and bed her. Nathaniel, being a gentleman, refuses but is intrigued by Olivia. They are well-matched and likable to the reader. As he gets to know her, he changes his mind and after a night of lovemaking, he proposals.

Olivia, much to his surprise, refuses him. The families on both sides try to change Olivia’s mind through most of the book. She is afraid they will fall out of love like her parents and other couples she has known.

I enjoyed the writing and the twist about Olivia being the seductress but the plot was too simple. I expected more to happen. But for writers, this is an excellent example of taking an idea and adding to it. So much more could happen to the heroine in your version with similar circumstances. It’s all in the telling, after all.

The Blow-In by Susanne O’Leary

The Blow-In by Susanne O’Leary 2017

511XhiWz+DL._SY346_This is another ebook I purchased. It is a modern sweet romance set in Ireland and to the author’s credit, she uses the setting and language to put you in the Irish countryside. If you’re going to visit Ireland, read this book first.

The story is told in first person by Finola McGee, a reporter who has quit her job after exposing corrupt politicians and moves from Dublin to the countryside of Knockmealdown. She takes over as editor of a small-town paper and plans not to stir up any trouble. But there is already a mystery as to why the previous editor left town in a hurry. Also her publisher informs her they need to double circulation or lose the paper. So much for resting.

Finola has three men introduced into her life for a new romance. Her old one crashed and burned.

One is a kind veterinarian but no spark; one if a momma’s boy with no spine; and one is a movie star named Colin working on a film that may save the paper.

The author introduces us to bullying in the small town and the hatred toward immigrants. Even Finola is called a “blow-in” for not being born in the town even though she’s Irish.

To discover more, you’ll have to read the book.