What a January, huh? All sorts of bananas things happened. An attempted coup, an inauguration, all sorts of stuff. I also read some books. Here they are.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry – When I hear people talk about the Expanded Universe (Legends), they bring up two books. Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (trash) and Shadows of the Empire (not trash). I read the Thrawn trilogy and absolutely hated it, so I was wary when I started Shadows. I was pleasantly surprised. It was campy and goofy in the way that I want my Star Wars to be. This is set a few days after the events of Empire. Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewie are working on their incredibly convoluted plan to save Han. Luke is also wrestling with Vader’s revelation of paternity. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Black Sun, the biggest criminal organization in the galaxy and their leader, Xizor. Xizor is trying to gain favor with the Emperor, so he sets out to kill Luke Skywalker. Dash Rendar is also there. I really liked this one. Next time someone asks me where to start with the EU, I will continue to say The Bane Trilogy, but this will be a close second. 4/5, 8/10

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris – This was the first Freking Book Club pick of 2021 and it was… Enjoyable? I guess? The plot was unnecessarily convoluted and the twist was laughably guessable. It’s not a bad book. It kept me turning the page to find out if I was right or not. As for the plot, it’s a Gone Girl-like. Finn is dating the sister of his ex-girlfriend and wants to marry her. His ex-girlfriend, Leila, went missing years before. Suddenly, little Russian nesting dolls start showing up around their property which is relevant to the sister’s backstory. He starts seeing Leila around the town even though she’s been missing for years. It’s messy, but interesting. I did the audiobook and I got REAL tired of hearing “little Russian doll” over and over. Also, this narrator didn’t really do a lot of extra emoting except when he was supposed to yell. It was incredibly uncomfortable to listen to. ALSO, Finn has this weird thing about his dog where he bought her because he reminded him of Leila and I really hated that. Like, it was almost sexual, the way he talked about it. Not a fan. 3/5 5/10

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar – I like good old Steph King as much as anyone. This is probably the best book I’ve read by him since Revival. It’s a novella, so it’s a very quick read. Gwendy meets a man who wears a bowler hat and he gives her a box. On the box are buttons and levers, each with a certain purpose that he does not reveal. There are good levers, bad buttons, etc. The good levers will make her better. The bad buttons will, well, do bad things. The whole story is about Gwendy coming to terms with having this box that can literally destroy the world and what she should do with it. It’s a quick, fun read and the ending surprised me. Check it out. There’s a second one out as well, but Steph isn’t involved. 4/5, 8/10

Short Short Stories by Dave Eggers – Have I talked about how much I love this man? This is a collection of 1-3 page stories that were originally featured in The Guardian. There are so many great ones to choose from, but my favorite was “You’ll Have to Save That For Another Time“. Eggers does such a great job writing these small, intimate slice of life stories. No matter what the situation of the story is, it’s relatable. Seeing a famous person, knowing how to spell a word that people across the room don’t, laughing at really dumb jokes from a flight attendant, these are all things we have or will experience. It’s remarkable. It’s kind of a rare book, apparently, but you can read all the stories on The Guardian’s website. 5/5 10/10

Jay the Great by Benjamin Frost – Remember when I wrote about Nick and I was REALLY upset because I wanted that perfect Gatsby-adjacent book? Well, this isn’t perfect, but it’s a really good re-imagining of the story. Dominick (Nick) is heading off to school to be a poet. He hangs out with his cousin, Lily, and her boyfriend, Tom. They have a bad relationship. In his apartment complex, his upstairs neighbor always throws crazy parties. Her name is… Jay. Anyway, it plays out almost exactly like it does in the original. There’s a pool, a scandal, drug use, all sorts of fun stuff. It’s definitely worth a read! 4/5, 7/10

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade – Are you still mad about how Game of Thrones ended? This book is perfect for you. Marcus is the leading role in a Thrones-like series called Gods of the Gates who secretly writes fanfiction about how he believes the show should be. April is Gates fangirl who also writes fanfiction that is… a little more saucy than Marcus’. She decides to post a picture of her Lavinia cosplay on Twitter which leads to a bunch of trolls calling her fat and generally being terrible. Someone brings this to Marcus’ attention and he asks her on a date, initially as a publicity stunt. But, he likes her and actually wants to be with her. It’s a sexy, funny read that involves the use of the word “pegging”. What more do you want? 5/5, 9/10

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – I really can’t go into much of this book without massive spoilers and I REALLY want you to enjoy this book with as little knowledge as possible. So, basic plot, Jason is a professor and he has a wife and son that he loves. He gave up being an award winning scientist to settle down and get married. He doesn’t regret it. He loves his life. Then, everything changes after he is kidnapped. I. Loved. This. Book. Please. Just go read it and then we can talk to each other about it. This was also a Freking Book Club pick. 5/5, 10/10

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – Look, I actually quite liked the first two books in this series. They were from a perspective that I don’t think we get to see very often. They were honestly well written as well. It’s a sappy love story with a lot of heart and I loved that about the first two books. This one, though. This one sucks. Lara Jean is putting all of her hopes into getting into one college, UVA. Her boyfriend, Peter, gets in on scholarship and she doesn’t. Drama ensues. So, maybe it’s because I’m past this point in my life, but, MAN, Lara Jean was really annoying about that in this book. Like, get over it, lady. You got into a bunch of other, better schools. Do long distance or move on! Good lord. She was also just EXTREMELY annoying in general. Her dad is getting married and she takes over the wedding. She’s obsessed with finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She’s ~*~quirky~*~ and I hate it. Again, maybe it’s because I went through a phase like this and I didn’t like seeing myself reflected in a trash book, but STILL. Not great. Just read the first one. 2/5, 3/10

Looking for Alaska by John Green – I’m just going to get this out of my system before we even start.


Okay, good, that’s covered. Pudge, AKA Miles, goes to a boarding school and he falls in love with the first girl he sees there because that’s what a horny teenager does. Her name is Alaska. His roommate, The Colonel, gets Pudge to come out of his shell and it’s nice and fun and NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT BUT OKAY. Alaska is severely depressed, but tries to make the best of it by being ~*~quirky~*~. This book is the equivalent of the movie Garden State, so it will really only appeal to people who were in high school after 2005. Now, I hated Lara Jean because of her quirkiness, but Alaska’s quirk fit the tone of the story. I dunno, it’s just different okay? That was a gross oversimplification of this book, which is honestly fantastic and the best thing John Green has ever written. It’s the first time I read it and it took me right back to high school. Stealing cigarettes from my family, staying out late with my friends, getting into light mischief, all the staples of a late 2000’s high school career. Would I do it again? God, no, high school sucked ass. 4/5, 8/10

I also read A Sister; Siri, Who Am I; Candy Hearts; and The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club this month and you can read my reviews by clicking on each link.