Tag Archive | 4 Star

Force of Habit by Marian Allen (Book Review)

forceAll she wanted was a breath of fresh air. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

Isobel Enid Schuster never planned to go into space. She almost wished there had been no Vatican III, and the clergy had not gone co-ed, or at least the Jesuits had not.

But all those things had happened. The Galactic Union Space-Troopers teamed up with the St. Bennedetta Jesuits to form the Space Academy Preparatory School, and now Bel is a Professor of Extra-Terrestrial Humanities and Value Systems on a starship.

Restricted shore leave on the planet Llannonn is better than staying on the ship, especially when Bel swaps clothes with a close-look-alike Llannonninn woman and slips out to see the sights. But the woman is the target of a criminal from another planet. The woman thinks Bel is a police agent, come to take her place. The criminal thinks Bel is his target. Yet another criminal thinks Bel is a VIP he can kidnap and hold for ransom.

The only thing between Bel and a life of slavery in the provinces is the tenuous friendship she’s formed with Tetra Petrie, a language professor from the planet Gilhoolie.

Gangsters aliens, local law enforcement and highly placed political operatives all get into the act, as a tangle of misunderstanding, miscommunication and mistaken identity land Bel in court, facing what passes for a legal system on Llannonn.


farce /färs/

1. A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.
2. The genre of such works.
3. Force of Habit by Marian Allen.

Clocking in at a mere 220 pages, Marian Allen’s Force of Habit is a pure comical tour de farce! After finishing the book, I read an interview with Allen where she explained that it started as a Star Trek fan fiction but then grew into its own story as it became more and more comical. This struck me a particularly hilarious as my initial description of the book would be if the crew of Star Trek went on shore leave on Tatooine and had to deal with Jabba the Hut.

It would probably be the crew of Voyager because let’s face it, they weren’t too swift to begin with. And before anyone argues with me on that all the other incarnations of Star Trek would have successfully navigated the situation without much effort.

For TOS, Kirk would have slept with every available female, including the grumpy ambassador thus nullifying much of the tension. In TNG Riker would have slept with every available female, including the grumpy ambassador thus nullifying much of the tension. And if that didn’t work, Picard would have smooth talked his way out of it. DS9 wouldn’t have shoreleaved and Enterprise just doesn’t count.

That leaves Voyager. The crew of Voyager would totally have mucked this up. If you honestly think about it, Voyager was the most “soap opera” of all Star Trek incarnations (once again, Enterprise doesn’t count). I can just imagine Seven of Nine’s handling of the hostage situation ending in even more confusion than this one did.

Okay. Okay. Enough about Star Trek. Back to the review.

Great! Now I have Voltaire’s USS Make Some Shit Up stuck on repeat in my head.

One of the things that makes this story so great is the absolute absurdity of the whole mistaken identify bit. Each character jumps to what the reader will see as wildly illogical conclusions but those conclusions actually make sense from the character’s point of view. At various points in the book, Bel is mistaken for a bookkeeper, a high level ambassador/diplomat, a secret agent, and a galactic union police.

I find that many times with farces or comedies, the author inserts a character that has it all figured out and sees through all the misunderstandings. Allen resists this urge, which made me quite happy as I often find the author is going out of their way to make sure that the reader understands the absurdity of the situation. When a farce is well-written, this character is unnecessary at best or breaks the fourth-wall at worst. At one point or another, every character in the story mistakes someone else for someone else.

Wow! You think I could have said that last sentence better.

Another aspect of the story that lends itself well to the mistaken identity device is the strained/casual relationship of Bel and every other character. Bel is a woman who is struggling to breathe through the boredom and tedium of her post as a teacher on a starship. She often bucks against the system enough to satisfy her need for rebellion but not enough to bring sanctions against her. This causes understandable tension with her crewmates, who must then become her rescue crew.

The alien races are also a hoot. One of the main antagonist is Gord Pron, a Stokk mid-level mobster looking to move up the ladder. You could describe the Stokk as if Jabba the Hut was a lizard type creature with less intelligence and finesse, more aggression, but equal ambition. If they actually succeeded in capturing Han Solo in carbonite, they would have accidentally him during a fight. But in all likelihood, they would have skipped the carbonite and just cracked him on the head.

Force of Habit is fun ride that will have you occasionally face-palming yourself as the character stumble through one mishap after another.

The Bookworm gives the book 4 out of 5 stars.


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Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Book 1 Lost by Ron Vitale (Book Review)

Cinderella“What happened to Cinderella after she married the Prince? Set in the late 1700’s as Napoleon is rising to power, Cinderella embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to come to terms with her failed marriage and her inability to have a child. Torn between the Queen’s insistence that she try all means necessary to conceive and her own desires, she agrees to travel to Paris to consult with a witch to help her become pregnant. Her journey leads her to find her long lost Fairy Godmother and aids her to solve the mystery behind her mother’s death…”

Let me start off by saying “I love, love LOVE fairy tales”.  I love how they have made a resurgence lately and been re-tooled with stronger female characters that don’t lose their femininity and still manages to stay away from being “Chicks in Chainmail“. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I definitely enjoyed Chicks in Chainmail back in the day and am giddy that I found them on kindle, but when it comes to fairy tales, I want my princesses/heroines/main female characters with a little softness to them.

One thing I always wondered about fairy tales is “what exactly is happily ever after?”.  You don’t really ever see that addressed.  And if no one ever goes into detail about it, then how do you know it is even happy or ever after.

Enter Ron Vitale and his Cinderella’s Secret Diary series.  In this book, you learn (through Cinderella’s private journal) what exactly “happily ever after” looks like.  Turns out that its not so happy after all.  What I love about how Vitale approached this is that the characters are indeed human.  They aren’t perfect and have a bit of tarnish on them (sometimes though a bit too much). 

In this tale, Cinderella pours her heart out to her much missed fairy godmother through her journal practically begging for another miracle.  This added a level of realism to the story because we humans are greedy creatures.  I know that many people would say “Oh she already got one miracle.  She should be happy with that.”  But the truth is that we are never truly happy.  We always want more.  Especially when things don’t turn out quite as we think they should as they obviously have for this Cinderella.

The reader is given the very real character of a woman who was never prepared for life outside of her family much less the responsibilities that come with being royalty.  She soon finds out that there is more to being a princess/future queen than balls and parties.  Her plight is very reminiscent to that of Anne Boleyn (though with none of the rumor or slander), perhaps the most famous woman to fall in hot water for not being able to bear a (male) child.

As I was reading this, I was making notes (as I always do) of possible continuity errors/problems.  I am happy to say that Vitale definitely ties it all together in the end.  It is a quick read at 187 or so pages and I found it a great literary pallet cleanser.  It was something light, sweet, quick, and clean.  It gave my brain a much need rest and boost before delving into deeper selections.

Though it was not without its flaws, the Bookworm gives it 4 out of 5 stars!

Visit the author’s page at http://www.ronvitale.com or grab Cinderella’s Secret Diary from the Bookworm’s Amazon Store If you liked the review, check out our previous reviews of Kainan, The Northern Star and Dragon Fate. Follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google+.

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The Northern Star: The Beginning by Mike Gullickson (Book Review)

So here is my first ever review for The New Polder Review blog!  The site is a group of reviewers dedicating their reviews to small press and self-published books worth reading.  You should definitely check them out!  And now ON TO THE REVIEW!

The Northern Star:  The Beginning by Mike Gullickson

The year is 2058. The great oil shortage that we have been warned about since the 1970s has finally come to pass, causing the Great Migration, where people began moving from the suburbs and back into the cities. Enter Cynthia Revo who successfully frees the mind from its physical prison. People now live more in cyberspace than in reality. But it is much more than that. Cyberspace is now the new reality. It has become necessary for almost every aspect of society. The economies of countries depend on it. But no one suspects the evil that lurks around the next cyber corner.

The Northern Star: The Beginning

At first glance, I was prepared to dislike this book. I feared it was going to be a preachy environmental tale hidden behind a story that was part pre-Matrix, part Mechwarrior, and part Ender’s Game. I was delightfully surprised. I was treated to an old school science-fiction romp.

The characters are complex creations that grow and evolve throughout the story which, at its core, is a morality tale. Would you do bad things for the right reasons? When does the greater good trump personal freedom? Not even the villain is truly beyond redemption, though such redemption does not come in this book.

My one complaint is the addition of what, in my opinion, is an unnecessary section at the beginning of the book. It expounds on the background of a character that isn’t a factor in the rest of the story. What we learn about him has already been covered by other characters in the story. In fact, he’s probably the one non-complex character in the whole story. Oddly enough, the narrator for this part dies at the end of the chapter so even he doesn’t have any value.

Nor is the setting for this chapter important. It takes place in the jungles of Venezuela, but Venezuela is never mentioned anywhere else in the book. And the placement, early in the book, is all wrong and disrupts the flow. It breaks with how the rest of the book is laid out.

The book wraps up nicely with lots of action and suspense, setting up for the sequel brilliantly. I am looking forward to the next book which I’m sure will explore the question of at what point do we stop being human. At least, I hope it does.

The Bookworm gives this book 4 out of five stars.

You can visit Mike Gullickson’s website and see the other books in the Northern Star series as well as other works!

Did you like this review?  Check out our previous reviews of Goddess-Born and Dragon Fate. Follow us on twitter @ErinEymard.  Also feel free to check out a categorical list of our previous posts.