Star Wars #9 (Princess Without a Planet) Review

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I thought this review would just be an Instagram post, but it turns out I have a lot more to say than I thought I did.

Let’s start with the cover for Star Wars #9—I think both the cover artwork and the pull quote are a little misleading. I understand this is an issue that’s part of a larger series and I am reading it out of order, but I purchased the ebook under the assumption that the main focus of this issue would be Leia in Alderaan’s ruins.

This was not the case.

Leia was only in the first five or so pages of the story, and while her storyline was very interesting, there wasn’t nearly enough for my satisfaction. Leia, Han, Luke, and the rest of the characters were very much in-character for their storylines (thank you, Legends universe!), but the cover and pull quote weren’t reflective even of Leia’s storyline.

On another note, the artwork is incredibly well done but didn’t feel true to how the characters actually look, in my view. It felt too comic-book style for my liking—it felt too slick and stylish. It didn’t have the heart seen in other Star Wars graphic novels and comics. While the actions were in character, the art didn’t seem to match—I barely recognized the main characters.

All that being said, I still really enjoyed the overall storylines and I’d like to read the whole long-term story. But just reading this issue fell a little short for me.

Uncommon Type: Some Stories Review

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NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

If there’s one word to describe how I felt reading this book, it would be surprise.

When I borrowed the ebook from the library, I thought it would be a memoir of sorts—I adore Tom Hanks, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Little did I know that it was a book of short stories.

“Tom Hanks? Writing short stories?” I thought. “Okay, America’s Sweetheart—I’m in.”

It took me a little while to get into the first story, mainly because I went in completely blind. But soon I was sucked in to each individual story, frantically flipping pages on my iPad, ready for the next page. There were a few recurring characters who I adored, but most of the stories weren’t connected—again, not what I was expecting. However, I really enjoyed reading about such vastly different walks of life.

When I was in high school, I took a class called Writer’s Craft. We basically wrote a little bit of everything, fiction and nonfiction. When we got to the short story section, my teacher drilled into me that the short story needs to have a point, a meaning.

Initially I was looking for a meaning for each of these stories, but when I got to the second or third story, I realized that not everything has to have this big, deep, significant meaning. A slice of life, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes—that can be just as significant as any deep personal meaning. And that’s exactly what Tom Hanks accomplishes here.

He has surprisingly beautiful prose—I immediately understood what he wanted to convey with each passage, and I understood the characters quickly. This is a necessary skill when it comes to short stories—you don’t have as much time to get to a character’s motivation.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of short stories. Tom Hanks drew me in, but the good writing and the characters made me stay. I hope he decides to come out with more short stories—or maybe even a novel—in the future.

Star Wars: A New Hope Cinestory Comic Review

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I don’t care how many times I read it or watch it—I’ll never get tired of the first Star Wars story. So when my friend told me about this Cinestory comic, I knew I had to get it.

This adaptation took stills from A New Hope and put them into comic book form, complete with speech text bubbles. It was a fun way to read one of my favourite stories—the editors made some interesting choices in what stills they used.

I flew through this book. When I flipped through the pages, I could hear the characters’ voices—it was like watching the movie all over again. It was like a fun escape from my life, wherever I was.

However, I have a hard time writing this review because there’s nothing really to say. It was a fun experience, but this adaptation didn’t really add anything to the overall story. With graphic novel and comic book adaptations, there’s usually extra nuances in the artwork that bring out another layer to the Star Wars story we all know and love. Reading this almost felt like a lower-quality version of the movie, as much as I enjoyed it.

Overall, it was a fun ride but nothing special. I don’t regret reading it, but I’m ready to move on to the next Star Wars adventure.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Film Review

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When I heard To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was going to be made into a Netflix movie, my first thought was something along the lines of, “I need to get my act together and read this damn book.

Well, I did that—and now it’s time to watch the movie.

Oh, and this won’t be a spoiler-free review—if you haven’t seen the movie yet, leave now.

I think the movie was pretty faithful to the spirit of the book, if not the overall storyline. They changed a few details out of necessity—the plot was more streamlined to focus more on Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship. One of the downsides of film is there isn’t enough time to explore all the relationships between the characters and nuances behind their actions.

The casting choices were completely spot-on. Lana Condor is a perfect Lara Jean, and Margot and Kitty are just as I pictured them in my head. John Corbett was a surprising choice for me—when I first saw him on the screen, I thought he would be too much of a laid-back surfer dude for Dr. Covey. But he brought a sweetness and earnestness to him that I wasn’t expecting, and he ended up being the perfect choice.

As for Lara Jean’s love interests, I really liked Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky. I must say, I developed a bit of a crush on him as I watched—he reminded me of Mark Ruffalo. (Comment down below if you thought that too!)

Josh Sanderson was a bit of a disappointment for me. Israel Broussard did a fine job playing him, but he had a much smaller role in the film. I really wished there was more opportunity to explore Lara Jean’s growth through her relationship with Josh, but I understand there’s only so much plot you can shove into a movie before it becomes too much.

I think I would have enjoyed the first viewing more if I wasn’t constantly comparing it to the book. Of course Jenny Han’s novel is much better than the film really could be, but it’s still one of the best teen coming-of-age stories to come out in the last few years. I’m so happy it wasn’t white-washed—the film tells a truly realistic story of growing up and finding love.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and I’d like to see it again—but only if I haven’t read the book first.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Review

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NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

What a ride.

I’m a biracial woman—my mom is Chinese Jamaican, and my dad is about as white as they come. When I was younger, there weren’t a lot of biracial kids in school or in daycare. For the longest time (as far as I know), I was the only mixed-race child. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more and more mixed-race kids out and about and with that comes more representation in the media.

However, I can count on a single hand the number of half-white, half-Asian actors that are decently high-profile—I can’t even recall seeing a half-Asian character in a movie until Emma Stone played one in the disastrous Aloha.

So seeing a young half-white, half-Asian female lead in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was groundbreaking for me.

As soon as I realized Lara Jean Song-Covey was half-white and half-Korean, I immediately texted my mom. She’d been bugging me to read this book for the past three years, but I never bothered with it because other books interested me. With the Netflix movie coming out soon, I decided to take the plunge and start reading.

After Mom finished her “I told you so” dance (I assume), I told her how this was the first YA book I’ve ever read with a half-Asian female lead—until that moment, I’d never read about a character who looked like me and shared some of my experiences. I could relate to Lara Jean on a level I couldn’t relate to my other favourite female characters, and I related to my mother on a level I hadn’t been able to before.

I don’t want this review to be entirely about Lara Jean’s race, but I wanted to mention it to highlight how important representation is in the media, especially in YA fiction. These are the books tweens and teens are reading right when they start to become their own person—showing different backgrounds can only help young people as they grow and develop. Exposing readers to diverse main characters broadens their horizons and expands the way they view the world.

Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled book review.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the first YA book I’ve read in a long time, and it made me remember why I love reading books in this genre. The characters were relatable and realistic (especially Jamie Fox-Pickle, who’s a Wheaten Terrier—just like my Shelby and Charlotte!), yet the situation was not something I’d ever experienced before. I’ve never been in love, and until I find that person, books like this are as close as I’m gonna get.

The thing I loved the most about this book is how unpredictable it was. I was sucked into the story right from page one—I wasn’t comparing it to other YA books as I read through Lara Jean’s coming-of-age tale. It was only as I started thinking about what I would write for this review when I realized I couldn’t have anticipated anything that happened. It was such a refreshing experience—I only cared about the story, not about when Lara Jean overcame the odds to date her crush.

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of major points got resolved in the last 30 pages, and none of it felt rushed. As a reader I didn’t feel cheated, and that takes major skill—mad props, Jenny Han.

All the relationships between the main characters were painfully accurate—complex, but never over the top or unrealistic. Margot and Lara Jean’s relationship was beautifully developed, even though Margot was away for most of the book. Plus, I have a soft spot for Lara Jean’s sweet father.

Overall, this is easily one of my favourite books of all time. It’s fast-paced, beautifully written, and so relatable. Jenny Han has become a top author in my books—I’ll definitely have to check out her other books soon.

Now, Mom and I can watch the movie when it drops on Aug. 17!

Unsinkable: A Memoir Review (Audiobook Version)

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God, I love Debbie Reynolds.

Initially, I was only vaguely aware of Debbie as an actress. I knew she did Singin’ in the Rain, and I knew she was a respected actress from the golden age of Hollywood. I liked her but other than that, I had no real frame of reference for who she was as a person.

I started becoming more familiar with her in early 2016 when I became a big Star Wars and Carrie Fisher fan. As I read through Carrie’s books and watched her interviews, I saw Debbie through Carrie’s eyes: a kind yet eccentric woman she loved very much.

After Carrie’s death and her death, I began to read more about Debbie—a remarkable woman in her own right. I read her first memoir, Debbie: My Life, and I was amazed by her life and how she carried herself. But that book barely scratched the surface of her story.

The beginning of Unsinkable picks up where Debbie: My Life left off: she and Richard Hamlett were, she thought, happily married. Unsinkable does a deep dive into the entire saga of her marriage and how the man she called “the devil” brought her into financial ruin again. But this book isn’t a sad story—it’s about resilience and survival.

Aside from her third marriage and her Las Vegas hotel, Debbie also talks about her efforts to create a Hollywood memorabilia museum. As she recounts each step in the road, you can hear the hope she had in her dream. She never gave up on building a museum until it was close to leaving her destitute. With every high and low, you wanted Debbie to succeed. When you realize it ultimately wasn’t meant to be, you feel Debbie’s heartbreak.

The second half of the book features Debbie going through each of her movies and talking about her experiences making some of Hollywood’s classic films. Listening to her tell stories about Bette Davis, Tony Curtis, Tony Randall, and Shelley Winters (among others) made you feel like you were sitting with her for lunch or coffee. Debbie’s delivery was that of a close friend who’s always happy to see you—her stories were funny and clever, making you feel like you were right there with her.

Overall, Debbie’s second memoir is a home run. Hopefully I can listen to or read her final memoir, Make ‘Em Laugh, soon—her stories and her personality are simply delightful.

The Force Doth Awaken Review

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I wanted to have this review up on May the Fourth, but I was slacking a little too hard yesterday. So I’m just going to pretend today’s another Star Wars holiday—Revenge of the Fifth, anyone?

When I was in high school, I was the freak who actually loved Shakespeare. My favourite play is Othello, but I always enjoyed the Shakespeare unit in English class. My classmates rarely agreed with me, but I didn’t care. I loved the language and the stories—I understood the tragic, flawed characters.

So when I discovered the Shakespeare and Star Wars crossover books a couple years ago, it was a match made in heaven. The stories and characters from Star Wars, plus the beautiful Shakespearean language? Sign me up.

Now, a disclaimer: I’m not a fan of Disney canon and how the new films treat the original characters. In a nutshell, I believe TPTB regressed Leia, Han, and Luke to who they were before the original trilogy—making any of their character development completely null and void. In my heart of hearts, Disney canon is not my canon.

However, unless I never want to see another new Star Wars movie or enjoy another book or piece of merchandise, I’m gonna have to accept that I will have fundamental disagreements with the way things are handled in the sequel trilogy, and I need to just enjoy the films for what they are—someone else’s interpretation of my beloved franchise and characters.

With all that being said, I won’t be reviewing the actions and plot line of The Force Awakens—I’ll just be discussing the interpretation of that plot in the eyes of Shakespeare. If I were to dissect what I disliked in The Force Awakens, it would distract too much from the main review. I’ll save those thoughts for another post.

As usual, Ian Doescher perfectly captures Shakespeare’s voice while still remaining true to the characters and the spirit of Star Wars. The internal monologues and soliloquies really help to develop the new characters in a way the movies were unable to do. I fell more in love with Rey, Poe, and Finn when I read their inner thoughts and I despised Kylo Ren, especially after reading his thoughts during Han’s death scene.

But my favourite interactions were between Han and Leia (is anyone really surprised?). They had more scenes together than in the movie, and their “new” relationship was better developed and explored—I felt like I understood these new versions, whereas I was just plain confused in the theatre. I still don’t agree with the direction they’ve taken, but I understand it better in this book.

Overall, if you’re a Star Wars fan and you love Shakespeare, you need this book (and all the others) in your life. It’s not really a parody—it’s a faithful adaptation that’s fun to read.

Debbie: My Life Review (Abridged Audiobook)

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Debbie Reynolds is a remarkable woman—there’s no other way of saying it. If anyone else had accomplished what she had before she turned 30, they’d consider it a successful life. But if you’re Debbie, you’d only be just getting started.

In the first of three memoirs, “Debbie: My Life” provides an overview of Debbie Reynolds’s life from birth to the late 1980s. It goes through her early life, her time at both Warner Bros. and MGM, and through her marriages, ending with her happily married to Richard Hamlett (although that didn’t end well in real life).

Two of the standout sections focus on her marriage to Eddie Fisher and her time filming “Singin’ in the Rain.” It’s fascinating to hear her perspective on the relationship with her first husband—how he was the man she lost her virginity to, how he became a different person after they married, and how she grew as a person during the experience. As for “Singin’ in the Rain,” I won’t spoil too many of her stories—many of which feature Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor—but let’s just say she wasn’t kidding when she later said the hardest things she ever did were childbirth and “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Overall, it was a great book and Debbie read it in a way that only Debbie could. However, I felt like it was more of an extended Wikipedia article rather than a personal story. I don’t believe she was lying or anything, but it felt a lot less personal than what I might expect from someone’s autobiography. This might be because I listened to the abridged version of the book, but I thought she could have gone deeper than she did.

Even though we didn’t learn that much from this book, it was still enjoyable to listen to. I can’t wait to listen to her other two memoirs!

The Year of Magical Thinking Review

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This book has taken me a long time to get through, not because it was a bad or poorly written book, but because it forced me to deal with the grief that I’d been burying for a long time.

Let’s go back in time for a minute. Right after Christmas, I was out shopping with one of my best friends when I felt . . . drawn to “The Year of Magical Thinking.” I can’t tell you exactly how I felt, but it was almost like something or someone was pushing me towards this book. After carrying it around the store for a little while, I decided to bite the bullet and buy it.

I’m a huge Carrie Fisher fan—she’s one of my biggest inspirations and one of my heroes. She came into some of my group chats on Twitter and talked to us, and she liked one of my tweets once. Other than that we never interacted, but I felt connected to her through our shared struggles with mental illness.

When she passed, I was shattered. I may have appeared to keep it together, but inside I was a mess—and I’m not even sure I was aware of how deep I was in grief. For a full year, I was grieving but I never started the mourning process.

Enter Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

Written in the year after Joan’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, passed away, it examines Joan’s grieving process and what was going through her head in the aftermath of losing her husband of 40 years while also dealing with her daughter’s illness. She’s somewhat linear when describing the timeline of the year with Quintana’s illness and John’s memorial, but it’s often scattered with memories and reflections—much like my own grieving process.

While reading this book, I often found myself agreeing with her observations on losing a loved one: reconstructing the moment of collision, hoping and planning for the loved one to somehow come back, not really anticipating the blow of the loss, thinking your crazy thoughts will only be isolated to the weeks after the death. In many ways, it felt like reading my own thoughts.

I could go on forever highlighting poignant passages, but there is one thing I wanted to address. Near the end, Joan talks about how she didn’t want that year to end because it took her further from John. Once the year anniversary passed, whatever had happened the year before no longer included her husband. He started becoming softer and more fuzzy in her mind—whatever she needed to deal with living life without him.

Yet she comes to the conclusion that we, the left-behind, must let the loved one go. Let them be the picture on the mantle or the memory. It’s not easy, and for a long time I didn’t really think it was necessary—then I looked at my weight gain and overall blanket of emptiness and realized that yes, it was necessary.

I can’t say that I’m completely letting go of Carrie, but Joan helped me start the process. And for that, I’m in her debt.

My Mother Was Nuts Review (Audiobook Version)

Before I get into my review for this book, I have to tell you why I love audiobooks.

Way before I got into journalism, I’ve always been a fan of people telling their own stories—you get to hear a really interesting perspective that you might not have considered otherwise. Audiobooks are a perfect form of that. My favourite kinds of audiobooks are memoirs/autobiographies read by the authors—reading them in print is one thing, but listening to fascinating people tell incredible stories breathes life into them in a way you otherwise wouldn’t experience.

So naturally, I loved Penny Marshall’s audiobook of “My Mother Was Nuts.”

You may know her as Garry Marshall’s sister or Laverne in “Laverne and Shirley,” but this book introduces you to Penny the person and makes you fall in love with her almost immediately.

Penny brings her trademark dry humour and wit as she reveals intimate details of her professional and personal lives—anyone who loves behind-the-scenes stories from their favourite movies and TV shows will enjoy all her anecdotes from “The Odd Couple,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Big,” “A League Of Their Own,” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” Yet she can make you cry just as easily when she describes losing her mother, her abortion, and her lung cancer and brain tumour diagnosis.

A lot of famous faces make appearances in her memoir—particularly Garry and her “partner in crime” Carrie Fisher—but this is without a doubt her story, and she tells it beautifully. Her voice is unique, and no one’s lived a life quite like hers.

Near the end of the book, Penny talks about bucket lists and how she never had one—yet she managed to cross off everything she could have ever had on it. She’s a remarkable, accomplished woman who’s done everything anyone could hope to do and more.

She may have stumbled into fame, but she has most certainly earned her place among other Hollywood legends.