Skip to content

Series Review

Series Review – Star Trek Continues

StarTrekContinuesThis will be an unusual post for me. I don’t remember the last time I reviewed a TV series. I may have done a post about Firefly years ago. I don’t watch a lot of TV, after all.

Star Trek Continues, however, is not on TV. They are fan-made webisodes. So this is a first. I watched these webisodes by hooking my computer to the TV by means of an hdmi cable. That way, we were all able to enjoy it.

Star Trek Continues is the brainchild of Vic Mignogna, who alsoSTCKirkMcCoy plays Kirk. It is unabashed fan fiction. It seeks to continue Star Trek: the Original Series (TOS) as if it were never cancelled. That means being faithful to the original set, equipment, make-up and costumes. This means heavily made-up men and styles reminiscent of the 60s. Don’t expect amateur performances. These episodes are engaging and highly polished.

It has attracted a lot of attention. Christopher Doohan–the son of the original Scotty–plays, well, Scotty.  The guest starts include Lou Ferrigno (who plays a green-skinned Orion!), Michael Dorn, and former Star Trek guest stars Michael Forest and Asia DeMarcos (who, I swear, has not aged. A day). Two of the STCMcKennahSpockepisodes, the first and the third, continue (and conclude) stories that began in the original series. For those, I recommend watching the original TOS episodes first.

The series features the same iconic characters–Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Uhuru, Sulu and Chekov. It adds a new cast member, McKennah, the ships counselor, pictured with Spock, at the left.

The first episode, Pilgrim of Eternity, continues the Apollo episode, Who Mourns for Adonais? In it, Apollo is now an old STCEp3man, played by the original actor. This is the only one that I think looks just a little rough. The makeup and the costumes improve greatly from this episode, so don’t let it put you off. The set, however, looks terrific, and the story is very faithful to the original. Including a godly wreaking of havoc.

The second episode, Lolani, is, as far as I can tell, is an original story. It is about an Orion slave girl who wants to be free. Except there’s this problem of other sovereign states with their own laws, and a little thing called the Prime Directive. This is the Lou Ferrigno episode, and he doesn’t play a good guy.

The third episode, Fairest of them All, is my favorite. It continues Mirror, Mirror from the last two minutes of the original story. In that story, Kirk–in one of those numerous transporter malfunctions–switched places with an evil Kirk from an STCUhurualternate universe. This story follows Spock in that original story, as he attempts to effect change in the the Empire.

And the fourth episode will be making its debut at the Phoenix Comicon.

Star Trek Continues has been funded by Kickstarter campaigns. The current Kickstarter is in a Fully Funded status. I expect there will be future Kickstarters, as well.

I really enjoyed the first three episodes, and am looking forward to the ones that are coming next. Michael Dorn is shown among the list of guest stars, so he must be coming up soon.

To watch, go to the webside, www.startrekcontinues.com. Before you dive in, I recommend you play around a bit. There are a lot of short videos, including comparisons showing scenes that took place in both TOS and Star Trek Continues.

I’ll be interested in your comments–did you watch them, or do you not care to see it? If not, why? If you watched them, what did you think?

Historical Series Review: The Pink Carnation 5-7

TemptationOfTheNightJasmine
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Volumes 5-7
by Lauren Willig
Dutton and NAL

Reviewed by Superwench83

The first four books in Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series introduced us to Napoleonic-era espionage, flower-named spies, and a host of charming and not-so-charming but unforgettable characters. And the adventures continue with a trek through India’s wilds, a Christmas pudding, and a cameo of Jane Austen herself.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, and The Mischief of the Mistletoe are, like the rest of Willig’s historical romances, crazy fun reads. After seven novels, one might think the series concept of Napoleonic-era spies would get old, but no. One of the best things about these book is that each novel features a new hero and heroine, one or both of whom have appeared as minor characters in previous books—and these prior protagonists turn up again as side characters in later books. It’s like going to a class reunion or a rural county fair, meeting all these beloved or familiar faces in each new book. To tie it all together, each book (with one exception) is a new chapter in the life of Eloise Kelly, a present-day grad student who is researching all of these spy characters for her dissertation, and her adventures in finding a love of her own.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine features Charlotte Lansdowne, the shy granddaughter of a ferocious cane-wielding dowager duchess with plans to marry Charlotte off to the highest bidder. Too bad for the duchess, but shy Charlotte isn’t very good man-bait, more interested in fanciful novels than dalliances on ballroom balconies. But when her distant cousin Robert, Duke of Dovedale, returns from India, Charlotte finds herself swept off her feet…and swept into the dangerous schemes of the notorious Hellfire Club, which Robert is bent on infiltrating. A favorite side character of mine ever since she appeared with Henrietta in The Masque of the Black Tulip, I was pleased to see Charlotte—and her dashing duke—get a novel of her own. Charlotte may be shy and quiet, but she has a strength built from years of enduring her harsh grandmother, and a sweetness all her own.BetrayalOfTheBloodLily

In The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, Charlotte’s friend Penelope Deveraux finds herself just where people kept telling her she’d end up—in disgrace and married hastily to a man who was much more charming before she had to marry him. Although nobody said anything about India! But when her husband is offered a position there, to India she must go…where she meets Alex Reid, a man nothing like her husband—and a man nothing like her husband is just what she wants but cannot have. As in her earlier novel The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, in this book Willig takes a character I wasn’t very fond of in earlier books and makes her compelling and sympathetic.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe is just so much fun! It may well occupy my second-favorite-in-the-series slot…which is funny, because I was one of the few Pink Carnation fans who was skeptical about a novel featuring the handsome but bumbling Turnip Fitzhugh. Throughout the series, Turnip has always cracked me up with his strange and unwittingly hilarious comments and manners of speech, but Turnip as a romantic hero? Well. Shows how much I know. In The Mischief of the Mistletoe, Turnip wouldn’t know love if he knocked it over and squashed its foot with a Christmas pudding, which is exactly what he does. And soon enough, he and schoolmistress Arabella Dempsey discover that Christmas puddings aren’t always as innocent as they seem, for this one is wrapped in muslin printed with a secret message. Poor Turnip, often mistaken as the famed Pink Carnation, has just bumbled his way into a bona-fide spy adventure! And Arabella discovers that Turnip, like Christmas puddings, is more than what he seems.

MischiefOfTheMistletoeThe Mischief of the Mistletoe is the only book thus far which doesn’t include snippets of grad student Eloise’s life in the present day. (I guess Eloise doesn’t know about Turnip’s Christmas pudding.) Though this book takes place out-of-sequence with the rest (before and during the first part of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine), I would like to have seen some Eloise chapters, anyway, as if she were discovering an out-of-sequence bit of info for her research. But with Jane Austen as a secondary character, who can complain? And I must admit that the Eloise chapters aren’t as exciting as they used to be. In early novels, where she and Colin were just getting to know and flirt with each other, there was so much more thrill. In The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, the tension starts to slide in the Eloise chapters, and in the romantic tension’s place is Eloise’s weird theory and frantic nosiness about Colin’s job. It just doesn’t work for me. But I really like Eloise. I want her chapters to work!

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily are in bookstores now, but The Mischief of the Mistletoe isn’t out until October 28. Although there are benefits to reading the books in order, it is by no means a necessity, so if one appeals to you more than the others, just dive right in. These are light-hearted, witty, and page-turning books, great for Regency history and Austen fans everywhere.

~*~

Tia here. Just a reminder that all commentors are automagically entered into my Amazon Review Drive Giveaway – Phase II! Details on sidebar!

Historical Series Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation 1-4


The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Volumes 1 – 4
by Lauren Willig
Signet and NAL

Historical Spy Romance

Reviewed by Superwench83.

Several years ago while doing research on Ireland, I stumbled upon a historical romance about spies on a mission in Ireland. At the time, I still suffered from the misconception that historical romances were nothing but sappy dialogue and purple prose—a misconception based on one bad experience. (Yes, I should have known better.) But I figured this book might help with my research, and that the spy angle might make it interesting, so I read it. And promptly put the rest of the series on my to-read list.

Lauren Willig’s popular series about Napoleonic-era spies begins with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and continues with The Masque of the Black Tulip, The Deception of the Emerald Ring (that’s the Ireland one), and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. It features Eloise Kelly, an American grad student working on her dissertation. That work has brought her to England, where she hopes to uncover the identity of the Pink Carnation, an English spy who thwarted Napoleon and his men in their attempts to bring England to its knees. Standing in Eloise’s her way is Colin Selwick, the handsome but overprotective guardian of the papers she needs to uncover the Pink Carnation’s identity. Interweaving Eloise’s story through the narratives, each novel is a two-for-one: a daring adventure of spies and romance, plus another chapter in Eloise and Colin’s struggle…and their own chance at love.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation features Colin’s ancestor, Richard Selwick, a notorious English spy known as the Purple Genitian. He is good at what he does, and he doesn’t like when people get in the way of him doing his work…which means Amy Balcourt and her cousin Jane aren’t his favorite people on the earth. Intent on becoming a spy herself, the very un-spy-like Amy causes no end of trouble for the Purple Genitian. Which is why Richard is quite surprised to discover that he’s falling for her.

The Masque of the Black Tulip brings Richard’s best friend and sister center-stage. Miles Dorrington and Henrietta Selwick love Richard dearly, but are tired of living in his shadow. They want to do their part to keep England safe from Napoleon’s minions. So when Miles’ employer finally sets him on the trail of the notorious French spy known as the Black Tulip, he eagerly sets to work. What Miles doesn’t know is that the Black Tulip has set his sights on Henrietta, for she has taken it upon herself to deliver correspondence from the Pink Carnation to a London contact. This sends Miles on a perilous threefold quest: unmask the Black Tulip, keep Henrietta safe, and figure out what to do when you fall in love with your best friend’s sister.

The Deception of the Emerald Ring features Richard and Miles’ friend and fellow spy Geoffrey Pinchingdale, who has long been captivated by the charms of Letty Alsworthy’s older sister. But when Geoff and Mary’s elopement plans go awry, Letty finds herself married to a very bitter Geoff and whisked away on an Irish honeymoon which is more than it seems. With the Black Tulip loose in Ireland, Geoff can’t afford to take time off to celebrate his unwelcome marriage. Still, as much as he might wish otherwise, Geoff finds himself in Letty’s company for long enough that he begins to see things about her which he overlooked while distracted by her high-maintenance sister.

In The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, Letty’s scorned sister Mary Alsworthy finds herself in a bit of a bind. Letty has stolen her would-be husband and is now the only person in the family with the necessary funds to find Mary another. Damned if she’ll rely on Letty for support, Mary accepts a risky but much-preferable offer from the rakish Lord Vaughn: become a double agent and help the Pink Carnation stop the Black Tulip from his latest attempt to deliver England into Napoleon’s hands. Apparently, there’s a lot of money in espionage. And a lot of risk, of course, but as time goes by, Mary begins to wonder which is more dangerous: failing to stop the Black Tulip, or falling into the disreputable Vaughn’s arms.

Both as a whole as well as in regard to the individual books, I highly recommend this series. Spies and romance. It worked for Bond, and it works for Willig’s characters. Though the protagonists change in each book, the series feels unified both because of the relationships each set of protagonists have with each other and because of Eloise, whose story is just as riveting as those of the spies she uncovers. I love the contrast between the modern scenes and the historic ones. It’s a great literary device, jumping out of one place and into another at just the right moment. A great technique for creating suspense. I also love how the author creates a vivid historical setting without bogging things down with paragraphs full of nothing but description. That’s no easy task.

And the characters. The characters are so convincing and sympathetic, even the ones you might find annoying or just plain don’t like. One mark of a good author is building a character your readers will dislike, then turning everything on its head and showing what makes the character that way, forcing readers to change their minds. Mary Alsworthy was that way for me. I liked Letty so much that I just hated Mary for being so snide, but after reading Mary’s story, I had a change of heart. And let’s not forget the humor. Witty comments and snide remarks on nearly every page are one of the highlights of these books.

The few gripes I have are very small, and related to individual books, not the whole series. I just finished The Masque of the Black Tulip and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose this month, so they’re fresh in my mind. In The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, I found the technique Vaughn used to get Mary into the Black Tulip’s service unconvincing. Entering the Black Tulip’s service just seemed too easy. As cynical as Vaughn is, I would have thought he’d find this suspicious. I know I did. As for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Deception of the Emerald Ring, it’s been long enough that I can’t recall much in the way of specific qualms I had. I figure that if I can’t remember what those qualms were, they must not be any reason not to read the books.

Lauren Willig’s series is a fun and fast-paced ride through the world of Napoleonic espionage. They’re like crack for English history lovers. And best of all, there are more of them. The series continues with The Temptation of the Night Jasmine and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, and The Mischief of the Mistletoe comes out in October. I’ll be reviewing these in the near future…but I’ll give you enough time to read these books first!

About the reviewer:

Katie Lovett, better known around these parts as Superwench83, is an aspiring novelist and published short fiction author. She blogs about writing, books, and the fantasy genre at her website, www.katie-lovett.com.

Series Review – Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom Series

Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk

  • Magic to the Bone
  • Magic in the Blood
  • Magic in the Shadows
  • Magic on the Storm

Reviewed by Deborah Blake

Allison Beckstrom knows better than most that using magic comes with a cost. She’s a Hound—someone who traces illegal spells back to their casters—and she’s paid the price in lost memories and two-day migraines. But she isn’t about to give up the career she loves, or the chance to stay independent from her influential (and slightly shady) businessman father.

Over the course of these four books, Allie gets caught up in an illegal magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, corporate espionage, deadly blood magic, energy-eating ghosts, the city police force’s magical enforcement division, the Authority (a secret organization of magic users that wants her to join—or else), and the mysterious Zayvion Jones. Who may or may not be on her side, but is darned attractive either way.

MAGIC TO THE BONE is a the first book in the series, and introduces the reader to Allie and the Portland she lives in, where magic is real and can be harnessed by those with talent or the money to buy it. Allie has spent her adult life keeping her distance from her prominent businessman father and all that he stands for, even if that means living hand-to-mouth and taking on jobs she doesn’t much like. But when her father is implicated in a horrible crime, Allie must call on all her Hounding skills to find out the truth—even if she isn’t sure she’s going to like the answers she gets.

In MAGIC IN THE BLOOD, Allie is dealing with the gaping hole in her memories, an after-effect from a major magical working that almost killed her. She’s pretty sure she’s missing some important information, especially about the man she supposedly fell in love with, Zayvion Jones. But that mystery has to be put on the back burner when the city’s magical enforcement division pulls her into a missing-persons case that is much more complicated than it seems.

MAGIC IN THE SHADOWS finds Allie coping with even more lost memories and a loss of another kind. But the loss isn’t as final as she’d hoped, and having another person inside her mind drives her to seek the help of the Authority and Zayvion Jones. Unfortunately, failure to learn to control her abilities isn’t an option, since the alternative would strip her of everything she holds dear.

MAGIC ON THE STORM ramps up the action, the risks, and the price of using magic even more, putting Allie on the front lines of a battle where no one and nothing is what it seems, and losing the war could mean the end of the city of Portland—and everyone in it.

Allie lives in an alternative future Portland, and the city is almost as vital a character as her father, her love interest, and her fellow Hounds. The protagonist herself is realistically delineated and easy to like, despite her flaws. And the world-building in this series is second to none.

I was fortunate enough to discover these books when the third one was about to be released. I devoured the first two back to back, ordered the third as soon as it came out, and then waited with baited breath for the fourth. I give them my highest recommendation.

If you like urban fantasy that is gritty but not so dark you want to hide under the covers after reading it, and don’t mind getting so caught up in the characters’ lives that you think you know them personally, this series should immediately go to the top of your “to be read list.”

About the Reviewer

Deborah Blake is an award-winning author with five books on modern Witchcraft. Two of these are coming out this year: EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK (Llewellyn, July) and WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING (Llewellyn, September). She also writes Urban Fantasy and is represented by Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. Deborah gives a number of highly successful online writing workshops and has a loop, THE CREATIVITY CAULDRON, for paranormal authors. Her website is www.deborahblakehps.com.


Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series

I can’t believe I’ve never reviewed any of these novels.

The Maisie Dobbs novels are one of my favorite mystery series. The author is Jacqueline Winspear, and her first novel was Maisie Dobbs. It introduced us to Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator. It begins in 1929, when Maisie opens her investigation office after serving an apprenticeship of sorts with a legal scholar who also worked as an investigator and scholar. Maisie was a nurse who served in a casualty clearing station in France during the Great War. Maisie Dobbs is a wonderful book, with frequent flashbacks to young Maisie, when she had to go work for the Comptons, a noble family, at the age of thirteen after the death of her mother. Through the Comptons, she meets her mentor, who is a family friend of the Comptons. Lady Rowan Compton eventually sponsors Maisie’s education.

Although it was a mystery, it was also a tragic romance and a historical novel, and it really didn’t fit into the framework of a traditional mystery. The remaining novels do settle into that framework, which is why Maisie Dobbs remains my favorite book of the series.

Although these are considered mainstream mysteries, they have light but unmistakable fantasy elements, mostly in the power of Maisie’s mind, which borders on psychic. The fantasy elements are very subtle, and exist mostly in premonitions that always come true, brief flashes of the future, and feeling a wrongness about certain areas.

These novels are sometimes more plot-driven than I like. I’m not really reading this mystery series for the mysteries. Maybe because of that, I’m not a true mystery fan. I read novels for the characters, and when I come back to novels again and again, it’s because of my love of the characters. Alexander McCall Smith understands this, which might be why his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series is more about the characters than about the very light mysteries (and where the main character even got married and not only managed to continue her career, but whose career sucked in her husband).

Because of the plot-driven nature of each novel in the Maisie Dobbs series, events in her personal live progress at an arctic pace, even while the novels themselves are quick reads. She has a romance that lasts several novels before you as a reader realize that the romance is going nowhere. It takes Maisie a whole other novel to come to the same conclusion. And then you have an entire novel without any hint of romance whatsoever, except to drive the final knife in the love story of the first novel.

I think the reason I love this series so much is because it immerses the reader so well in another time and place. I rarely read contemporary novels because I love to be swept away to elsewhen when I read. There are little touches everywhere throughout the books, from the way Maisie answers the phone, to having to type out lengthy manuscripts more than one time because there is no document duplication, to the necessary proliferation of public telephone kiosks. London is called “The Smoke” because of the horrible pollution of coal-smoke, and people literally flee it at least once a year for some fresh air. The worldwide depression is more and more evident with each novel, and in the later novels (1931 and 1932), you see people beginning to worry about what’s going on in Germany. Widows and spinsters (like Maisie) abound because so many y0ung men were killed.

Maisie has her faults, and one of them is that she tends to hold on to a grudge. She doesn’t always do the right thing. But she always repents, which is why we always forgive her. The most intriguing thing about Maisie — and the most compelling — is that she really doesn’t belong anywhere. Because of her education, she no longer fits in among the humble people of her birth. Even her manner of speaking sets her apart. However, her birth will always separate her from those who are born higher. Her aging father is the only person she has left in the world.

Here are all the books in the series so far:

  • Maisie Dobbs (2003)
  • Birds of a Feather (2004)
  • Pardonable Lies (2005)
  • Messenger of Truth (2006)
  • An Incomplete Revenge (2008) (which I just read)
  • Among The Mad (2009) (which just came out in paperback, and which I will read very soon!)

I high recommend this series. Not a single novel has disappointed me so far.

Sorry about the lack of links. I just wanted to introduce you to the series before I posted my review. If you want more information, Jacqueline Winspear‘s website is the best place to look. Check it out and let me know what you think.