Saturday, May 19, 2018

Star Wars Saturday REVIEWING Dark Disciple

It is Star Wars Saturday!! As promised, today I'm reviewing a book within the Canon EU of Star Wars.



Dark Disciple

Author: Christie Golden
Publication Year: 2015

Synopsis:

The only way to bring down the dark side's most dangerous warrior may be for Jedi and Sith to join forces.


In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.

But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force's power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku's side still runs deep, Ventress's hatred for her former master runs deeper. She's more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos's quest.

Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don't compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior's spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was also a book I read from the library as an e-book using Overdrive. Asajj Ventress was a character that was introduced in The Clone Wars, the animated TV series that I have raved about before (in my Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir review). She was a Sith apprentice to Count Dooku before he turned on her. This book focuses on her, after the show ended. This book was actually based on scripts for The Clone Wars episodes that were unproduced at the time the show was cancelled. I binge watched the series and was sad to see it end, but was excited to get to read the continuing adventures in the Expanded Universe timeline.

This is my favorite Star Wars novel thus far, in full honesty. Between Canon and Legends timelines, this book is the BEST of all the ones I have read up to this point. For this one I read around five chapters a night, and even that was not enough to satiate me. I forced myself to stop. The book ended all too soon though. It gripped me tight and took me on a rollercoaster that I was not entirely ready for.

Asajj Ventress at first, in the show, is a character that is just evil. She fights the Jedi, we don't know much about her, and that's the extent of it. In later seasons however, she becomes very developed as her life changes (abandoned by Dooku, showcasing her backstory, featuring her as a main character for some episodes). By the end of the show, I actually found myself having a lot of sympathy for her and wondering what would happen to her between end of the show, and the next animated series I've gotten into watching (Rebels). This book takes that backstory and character development one step further, revealing what happens to Ventress at the show's close.

Ventress still wants revenge on Dooku and the Jedi are really tired of dealing with Dooku's plots, so an unlikely alliance is formed. If anything, I think this is a much better book to qualify for a title like "Fatal Alliance" than the actual Fatal Alliance book I already reviewed. Jedi are normally a group that provides aid after trouble has begun and tended to mind their own business until the start of the Clone Wars, which forced them into a more militaristic way of life, temporarily. In Dark Disciple, the Jedi are pushed a step further, taking action into their own hands with a secret mission. The Jedi known as Quinlan Vos is sent undercover, with a secret identity, to recruit Ventress to ultimately take down Dooku once and for all. Definitely a much darker path than the Jedi usually tread on. Ventress has been a solo operator for a long time and does not want connections to ANYONE, but Vos somehow finds a way to wriggle into a very dominant place in her life.

One of the best things about this book is the way it balances the differences in the two main characters. The rapport between Vos and Ventress is incredibly dynamic, with lots of snark and respect going both ways. The combat sequences are highly satisfying and both characters are accurately represented. Over the course of the novel, it is revealed that in order to carry out the final plan, it is necessary for Vos to actually engage with and learn about the Dark Side of the Force. This is a huge obstacle and something that raises a lot of moral questions and confusion among the Jedi Council. Is Quinlan going to be lost to the dark side? Is he already lost? Will he return and be a Jedi still should he succeed in his mission? The book also succeeds in providing even Ventress with a moral compass, showing that even a Sith apprentice can be redeemable in certain ways. It provided each character with significant choices, that they were able to make of their own will, without external factors FORCING them to be just one way, even if there were influences that pushed them in certain ways. Ultimately, the choices they made were THEIR choices.

For me, this one was also a bit of a tearjerker. I won't say why, because I am very ANTI-spoiler. Then again, anyone who knows me knows that basically anything can make me cry when it comes to entertainment. This includes but is not limited to: happy tears when major emotional elements are resolved, critical moments of sacrifice regardless of if there is a happy or sad ending, character deaths, loss of anyone important to a character where emotional tones run high... I do a LOT of crying. It wasn't so bad when I was a kid, or even a teen, but sometime after I started college I turned into a walking bubble of tears ready to release waterworks at the slightest pierce of said bubble. I'm not proud of it, but I will own up to it without any hesitation. So yes, I cried while reading this book. I was emotionally invested. That is a marker of a good book for me. It made me feel and question and get excited.

This is definitely a MUST READ for fans of The Clone Wars series, and any fan that has familiarity with these characters (mostly Ventress). This book is the quintessential Ventress story, hands down. Should anyone want to know what direction her arc takes after the show, THIS is where you will find all the answers you need. It also feels just like an episode, albeit an extended one, which is great for anyone who, like me, misses the show. I really wish this book would be adapted into an animated film, similar to what DC has frequently done by adapting their comics/graphic novels into animated films (ex: The Killing Joke, The Flashpoint Paradox, the upcoming Death of Superman, etc.). It would make a phenomenal film.

Star Wars Dark Disciple receives a LoneStar Rating of:

✯✯✯✯✯

Star Wars Canon Novel 
      Reading Order

✅ Dark Disciple 
✅ Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
 Kanan

Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According to Sam. I'll be back with the final Star Wars Saturday post of my Star Wars month festivities, NEXT SATURDAY, 5/26. That will be focused on the Kanan comic omnibus. Hope to see you then!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Star Wars Saturday REVIEWING Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel


Welcome to the first Star Wars Saturday of Star Wars month!!!!

Today we will be covering the book that comes first in the Canon timeline of Expanded Universe materials: Catalyst - A Rogue One Novel.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel

Author: James Luceno
Publication Year: 2016

Synopsis: 

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.




I read this as an e-book via my local public library's use of OverDrive. I was actually really psyched to read it, because 1) you all already know I'm into Star Wars and 2) I really liked Rogue One.

Catalyst is the second novel in the official Canon expanded universe of Star Wars. It takes place just before Rogue One, before Galen Erso (Jyn's father) is on the planet in the opening sequence of the film, where Krennic comes for him. This book tells us how Galen came to be on that planet, how Orson Krennic rose to his position in the Empire, and it also provides some actual character development for Lyra, Galen's wife and Jyn's mother.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book for me was seeing all the background for Galen, Lyra, and Krennic. Lyra is not in the movie for very long, so she felt like an almost useless character there, but here we actually get to spend time with her. We can see why she is wary of Krennic, nervous about her husband's work, and worried about the safety of her daughter. She is worried about the influence and motivations of the people now employing Galen and it is evident why. In this book she is an actual character and I wish they almost would have done some of the things within this book in the actual movie. Another component of this book is the way that it builds upon Galen's role. In the movie, Galen is needed in order to help finish building the Death Star. That concept raises a couple of questions: 1) why this guy in particular? 2) how could the empire build an entire Death Star with hardly anyone knowing until it is too late?
Now we know just what Galen was studying that made him so important to the Empire. I really enjoyed the passages that focused on when Galen was working, because they show the kind of person he actually is. He isn't just some guy in a Star Wars movie, he is a scientist with his own goals and motivations with a conscience that factors in a lot within the book. I also enjoyed seeing how Krennic rose to become Director and be able to speak directly to Darth Vader. He and Galen have a very entwined past and seeing how the two interact was interest piquing for sure. You see who he doesn't quite get along with and how those things factor into the movie. 

The best thing about this book is the deeper understanding that it provides about the characters. While the plot is interesting and plays into how things in the movie turned out, I just found the background of the characters more intriguing in the long-run. Is it the best Star Wars book I've read so far? No, but I think that people who liked Rogue One might be interested in seeing how things became what they are at the start of the movie. The movie tosses us right into action, at a point we need to be at, since Jyn is of more importance for the story being told, but that means we don't get to know the intricacies of how the Empire came to be or worked to get the Death Star built, or how any of the first three characters shown ended up hiding away from Krennic and avoiding the Empire. This is a great story for background. 

SIDE NOTE: I finally figured out how to use this site better and went sifting through the available symbols. So now I can do actual star ratings with cool little lone star-esque Stars, instead of writing numbers, which I am pretty happy about. From here out I shall be calling it the LoneStar Rating, because it fits my general Texas theme. 

So with background for the movie, better character development for Galen Erso, Lyra, and Orson Krennic, and an interesting story about hidden agendas and actions, I can honestly say that Catalyst is worth taking time to read. It isn't a grand, fast paced space adventure, but it does a good job of providing things the movie didn't have time to present with good enough detail. 
LoneStar Rating: ✯✯✯✯

Star Wars Canon Novel 
      Reading Order

✅ Dark Disciple 
✅ Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
 Lords of the Sith
➖ Tarkin
➖ A New Dawn

Next Saturday I will be posting up a review for Dark Disciple, which actually comes quite a bit earlier in the timeline. It is the book before Catalyst, but it takes place during the Clone Wars instead of after Revenge of the Sith like Catalyst. Happy Star Wars month, see you in a week!

May the Force be with you 😁

Friday, May 4, 2018

Comic Updates & May the 4th!!!

Hey everybody!!!

Double post today, for a very good reason, I promise.

First, May the Fourth be with you!!!! It is Star Wars day!!! Sadly, I do not have a Star Wars review going up today, BUT that is because I would rather celebrate Star Wars over the course of a MONTH. I am planning to have Star Wars Saturday posts every Saturday this month starting NEXT WEEK. I'll be reviewing the following 3 Star Wars titles, although not necessarily in this specific order:
     

Marvel Comics' Kanan Omnibus
     
 Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel 
     









Dark Disciple











Later this month I am also hoping to put up reviews for the Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude and the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Prelude comic volumes. These were requested by a reader and I am only too happy to oblige. I am always up for requests, especially where comics are concerned.

╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ ╳ 

In other news, tomorrow, May 5th, is Free Comic Book Day (FCBD).

If you go to one of your local participating comic stores, you can get free comics! Many stores also have sales going on, so tomorrow is a FANTASTIC day to pick up some issues you are behind on or to pick up that one title you've been debating starting.

To know if a shop near you is participating (it must be listed, please don't go begging just any comic shop to give you things for free), you can go to this link and enter your zip code: Participating Store Locator

Additionally, please do not go into any comic store and expect everything to be free, because that is not how it works. Store owners deal with this a lot and it is a pet peeve for many when it comes to Free Comic Book Day newbies. There are select titles available for giveaway. Some stores let you pick any you want, potentially all 50 titles. Others may limit you to 2-5 titles. The good news is, you can see ahead of time which titles are available and know which ones you really want, just in case you ARE limited. Follow this link for a full list of the books that will be given out: FCBD Official Site Catalog of Free Titles

That is all the news and updates that I have for today. Busy weeks ahead to be certain! I wish you all the best of luck if you have any finals coming up or any other end of semester tasks. For those of you not in school anymore, enjoy your freedom! 
See y'all soon! 😀💙












Master's Experience #13: End of Semester Update

Hey everyone!

It has been a while since my last post. I was doing so well with weekly posts, but things kicked up big time. I had managed to keep up with all of March, but April slammed me around like Hulk did to Loki back in the first Avengers movie...and then to Thor in Ragnarok.

SIDENOTE: I haven't seen Infinity War yet, don't ask me about it, don't bring it up. I still have to see Black Panther as well. The reason? As mentioned above:

Grad School = Hulk
Smash = Me

For the past month I was working on 3 big projects:
                        1) IOP Draft [hockey collection digital system]
                        2) College Football Digital Library
                        3) 2018 MIRS Symposium

So for #1, I was finishing up the last draft needed for a semester long project. I wrote a 32 page paper that basically sets up rules for an information retrieval system. It was a technical writing kind of paper and our system was based around the idea that we were to have a collection of our choosing. We were required to put ten items into it. I chose to do a hockey book collection, so my information system included fields related to hockey to facilitate user search. I finally got that turned in last week. 

Earlier last week I was also wrapping up a digital library project. For it I was in a 3-person group and our task was to create a digital library of some kind. The minimum requirements were 1 exhibit and 40 items in the collection, with guidelines for metadata input. My group chose College Football as our theme. I created and organized both exhibits, posted all Texas related materials (30), created the interactive timeline, and HTML coded all the NFL draft tables (cumulative & Texas specific).  It is public from now until May 9th if anyone is interested in checking it out. 


On top of all that I also had to do a final for Indexing which I will be turning in next Monday. That will consist of three 500-800 word essays and four short answers with no more than 300 words each.

Weeks before the final, my professor suggested that the two groups in my class submit papers we wrote to the 2018 Multidisciplinary Information Research Symposium that UNT was hosting. I suggested combining the papers since they were very related, and my professor approved. I then ended up doing the majority of the preparatory and presentation work, which included: writing a short abstract, writing an extended abstract (1000 word max), creating presentation slides, and giving a presentation on the work at the Symposium. When I say I did the majority of the work, I mean I did all of it. Everyone was involved in writing the initial papers, but the symposium aspects were all me and the professor. I provided real time working links to do collaboration (thank you Google Doc and Google Slides), but no one had the time to help out apart from my professor I guess. The topic was the future of indexing and my presentation was called, Revisiting Indexing in the Digital Era, since the theme of the symposium was rediscovering knowledge. I presented remotely, after a PhD student and a former graduate. It was a TON of work to do in as short a time as I did it in, but it was the first ever research presentation I have ever delivered and the first professional presentation I have ever given. I prepared the abstracts in one evening and created the presentation over two additional evenings. When I need to, I can really hit some tough deadlines. It is tiring, but possible. 

Most of my presentations have been in classes or for organizations that I was an officer of, but this one was way different. This was a presentation done in front of other information professionals, professors, and grad students. It was a great learning opportunity and it gave me the chance to see just how effectively we can use technology for communication and bridging distances. I am in the process of reworking the papers so they can be put in the UNT repository along with the presentation slides I put together. 

Due to all of that, I have been unable to write a single blog post or Master's update, but I promise that it hasn't been for lack of wanting to. I have just had a really full slate. 

On top of that, I have also lost track of my page count.....because I had to cover so much material so quickly that I was unable to do my weekly breakdowns or keep track of all the webpages I was digging through. 

Some things I was able to keep better track of, but this definitely isn't everything I read. 

KNOWN Page Count Week 1-End: 2,461 pages

I think it would be safe to say that I read around 2,500 pages this semester. 

Since I read ~2,500 pages this semester and 1,076 last year, my total page count for my first full year of grad school is approximately: 

3,576 pages

Once I'm through next Monday, I will officially have completed a full year of graduate school! That means no more Master's updates until the fall! Summer break is here at last! 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Master's Experience #12: Week 10

Hello everyone!

Good to have you all here again. It is time for another update on what I'm doing in grad school and as I prepare for a career in library and information science.

This past week I worked on indexing special items, which requires more considerations than indexing academic articles or books for back-of-the-book indexes. I indexed a listing for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, a newspaper article from the Washington Post, and a piece of sheet music.

Additionally, I had to review a digital library for my Digital Library class. I chose the Denver Digital Library that is associated with the Denver Public Library and they were very helpful when it came to questions I had, so a mini shout-out here to them for being so fast to respond to my inquiries. I also did quite a bit of research to see if there was related literature regarding the Denver Digital Library's collection/digitization efforts. Did a lot of work on that project.

Most of the things I had to do were also just document oriented things for next semester. I have received a scholarship for next semester, so I had to fill out forms to send in and I also had to submit forms to register for classes in the fall.

Weekly Page Tally:

Week 10: 281 pages

While this week's reading was less than last week, it was still more than the average amount for my semester thus far.

Running Total for the Semester: 2,115 pages


RANDOM HIGHLIGHT:

This past week it was announced that the El Paso Public Library was one of the libraries in Texas to receive the 2017 Achievement of Excellence in Libraries Award. This was awarded by the Texas Municipal Library Directors Association (TMLDA) and EPPL was 1 of 52 libraries in the state to receive it out of a total of 548 public library systems. I am so proud to be a volunteer of the El Paso Public Library system and hope they continue to make the city proud and be one of the best in Texas.

The article where I found the announcement of this achievement was posted by the El Paso Herald Post and can be accessed using the link provided in the Reference annotation below.


This concludes another MLIS update, there will be another next week, as usual!


Reference: 

Staff Report (2018, March 27). El Paso Public Library receives state library excellence reward. El Paso Herald Post. Retrieved from https://elpasoheraldpost.com/el-paso-public-library-receives-state-library-excellence-award/