Sunday, December 31, 2017

Aragami Update 2

My editor just got back to me with her thoughts. I'm currently going through my manuscript and implementing her suggestions. Lots of work needs to be done but I'm still planning on an early 2018 release.

Seriously, if anyone needs an editor, give Cathy Lopez a ring. You can reach her at She does fantastic work.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

James Review -- Safehold: At the Sign of Triumph

This week I decided to review Safehold: At the Sign of Triumph by David Weber.

The war between the Church of God Awaiting and its allies and the alliance led by the Empire of Charis is nearing its end. Using an identified Temple agent to slip false battle plans to the enemy, the Alliance manages to lure the many hostile forces out of position while the Alliance’s newest warships move to seize control of the seas. But the Alliance’s armies are still massively outnumbered and the military commanders of the forces facing the Charsian alliance’s armies are swiftly learning how to counter the technological advances that have given the alliance its greatest advantages in the war.

Meanwhile, a plot by Temple Loyalists to overthrow Empress Ahrmahk is brewing in her homeland of Chisholm. While the advanced technology available to the Empire’s leadership means they know of the plot, they have to find a way to shift forces to stop the loyalists without warning them before they commit crimes allowing them to be arrested and tried openly.

And within the Temple Lands those loyal to the church but opposed to the brutal rule of the Inquisition reach out to the Empire for help in overthrowing the Grand Inquisitor. But within the Inner Circle, those who know the truth about the history of humanity and Safehold, must decide if they can accept such a pact knowing that a Church of God Awaiting reformed will oppose their long-term goals…

I give this book 9.5 out of 10. It has a nice variety of battles and political maneuverings and I thought all of the important players in the story had good characterization. However, there were some things discussed that I wish we had seen from the viewpoint of a character present in the area or at the event. Also, there were a couple of things characters considered important problems which I felt the characters in question should be able to easily find a way to resolve.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Titan: Fortune of War

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Titan: Fortune of War by David Mack. The story opens with a short chapter showing the extermination of the Husnock species, which was mentioned in the Next Generation episode "The Survivors". It then jumps forward twenty years. The Federation has been secretly trying to find the worlds of the Husnock to study their technology ever since the attack on Delta Rana IV which led to their extinction. A Husnock colony has been found, but as the linguistics team is preparing to announce that they have discovered how to program the written Husnock language into the universal translator. 

But a group of Nausicaans, dedicated to restoring their civilization after their homeworld was destroyed by the Borg, raids the camp, kidnapping the linguistics team and killing many other scientists.  A task force led by Admiral William Riker is dispatched to pursue them but soon find themselves facing a more powerful Breen fleet that is seeking to obtain Husnock technology.

Meanwhile, a group of Pakleds have discovered an automated Husnock weapons factory capable of producing weapons that can destroy planets and even star systems. But they are driven from the factory by a team loyal to the fugitive Ferengi arms dealer Gaila, who is being pursued by his former business partner turned bounty hunter Brunt.

The Titan’s task force finds itself outmatched in a desperate battle against a Husnock fleet that is being remotely operated by the Breen. Gaila works to negotiate a deal with the Breen even as the Pakleds move to claim vengeance and Brunt moves to claim his prize. And soon the fate of the Federation and its allies depends on a desperate mission to the Husnock homeworld as the Breen-controlled armada moves ever closer to its destination.

I give this book 9 out of 10. I thought the author did a great job weaving the various plots together, and there was a nice variety of problems for the various characters to deal with and I found the characters well-written. However, I wish we had gotten to see more of the scientists studying the Husnock, and there were a few points where I found things occurring that were suspiciously convenient, like how easily the various groups that gained access to Husnock technology were able to bypass any security measures on it. Also, there were a few points where it seemed like previous technological developments elsewhere in the setting were being ignored, with one very strong example of this occurring near the end of the story.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

James Review -- Kris Longknife’s Relief

This week I decided to review Kris Longknife’s Relief by Mike Shepherd. 

The book opens with Admiral Santiago having just returned to the Alwa system only to discover that all hell had broken loose while she was gone. The duties of viceroy were split between two people, Admiral Santiago handling things spaceside while Rita Longknife handles things on the ground. But Longknife has used a clause she added to the agreement without telling anyone to nationalize any industry where human colonists from Alwa and members of the sentient ostrich-like species native to the world are working. This has led to both human immigrants, and colonists who remember how harsh Longknife’s rule was in the colony’s early years, going on strike. 

Then, once the initial issues are dealt with, Santiago has to convince the civilian workers to accept a delay in production of the commercial goods used to pay them to allow new jump point defense platforms to be built in a timely fashion. And, while building the platforms and preparing for a new expedition to the planet suspected to be the homeworld of the People, a pair of battle cruisers bring back a mostly intact People cruiser, the study of which leads to new revelations about the society of the People.

Eventually, the expedition reaches its destination, finding the horrifying response of the People to the threats Kris Longknife left during her visit, and proof of some of their theories regarding the history of the People. Meanwhile, Santiago’s forces manage to destroy one People force but soon discover two more approaching. Making things worse, unlike most People fleets which press their attacks without thought of defensive tactics, these forces are willing to blockade the jump points leading away from their home system, leaving Santiago’s forces scrambling to devise a plan for assaulting guarded jumps before any ships sent from Alwa to check on them accidentally reveal the secret of the fuzzy jumps to the People…

I give this book 8 out of 10. The parts dealing with the economic and social issues on Alwa were a lot more interesting than I thought, other than a few parts tied to something I’ll mention later. There weren’t many battles but they were interesting. I wish there had been some scenes showing what was happening on Alwa after the expedition left, though. And there are some questions I wish had been answered in this book because I don’t see them coming up in future books. 

Finally, I don’t see why the author felt the need to add a sexist slant to the society of the People. Does he really think we need some additional reason beyond their civilization being dedicated to wiping out all non-People sentient life to see them as villains? And I also see no point in tying some of the solutions to the political issues on Alwa to this revelation, either.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

James Review -- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume Four

This week I decided to review Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume Four written by Kyle Higgens

Billy Cranston and Tommy Oliver are still trapped in the timeline ruled by Lord Drakkon, this timeline’s counterpart to Tommy who rejoined Rita’s forces after being freed from the Mind Control spell she placed him under. The pair are led by this timeline’s Saba to the Coinless, an anti-Drakkon resistance movement led by this timeline’s Trini Kwan and Zack Taylor. While roaming the Coinless headquarters, Cranston finds a library dedicated to his dead counterpart and tracks down Kwan trying to find out what happened. Kwan explains that Cranston’s counterpart was killed protecting her during a lost battle. And when Drakkon tracks Saba to the Coinless base and launches an attack, Kwan leads Cranston to the last resort option of the Coinless, his counterpart’s power coin, the last one in this timeline not controlled by Drakkon. But Cranston is uncertain if the power granted by the coin will be enough to allow him to turn the tide against the overwhelming army the rebels face…

Meanwhile in the primary timeline Trini Kwan, Jason Scott, Zack Taylor, and Kimberly Heart are trying to find a way to regain their powers, and retake their command center, now serving as Rita Repulsa’s base of operations. Alpha 5 contacts them, revealing an unguarded route into the command center. But when the rangers arrive they discover that Alpha has been reprogrammed to lure them into a trap and find themselves in a desperate battle against a squadron of enhanced versions of Goldar
There is also a short scene where Zordon, trapped in a space between timelines, observes what happened in Drakkon’s timeline. He also has a brief discussion with his dying counterpart as well as meeting that timeline’s Saba.

I give this book 8.5 out of 10. I still enjoy the new forms of the original characters a great deal as well as the overall story. But there were a number of questions about Drakkon’s timeline left unanswered which I wanted answers to badly. Also, there’s a point in the simultaneous climatic battles where even after re-reading them several times I’m not sure which timeline it takes place in or if it is supposed to mean the same thing is happening in both timelines because the shifts aren’t always made clear and I feel that shifts between timelines should always be obvious.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Aragami Update

I have finished the first draft of Aragami, the next book in my Divine Protector series. It's editing time. Here's the current schedule:

  1. Self-editing
  2. Implementing suggestions from beta readers
  3. Professional edit by my oh-so-professional editor
  4. Commission cover from my artist
  5. Convert to Kindle
  6. List it for pre-order on Amazon
I'm shooting for an early 2018 release with a paperback release to follow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Phasma

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're all having a merry holiday. Much like the original pilgrims, today's review also concerns the story of a group of people struggling to survive in a harsh environment. It is Phasma: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Delilah S. Dawson. Finally we get the origin story of The Force Awakens most mysterious character.

The story begins with Resistance spy Vi Moradi exiting hyperspace and running smack dab into a First Order ship, the Absolution. She is promptly captured and taken prisoner by well-respected officer Captain Cardinal. He escorts her to a secret dungeon aboard the ship and interrogates her about Captain Phasma. He wants information he can use to take the chrome-plated woman down, and he believes Vi has it. Vi agrees to cooperate if he'll let her go afterwards. Cardinal says he will, if she gives him the proof he needs to discredit Phasma. Vi then tells him a story.

Years ago, on the ravaged planet Parnassos, there lived two sibling teenagers, Keldo and Phasma, who governed their crappy spot of land. You see, on Parnassos there was very little plant life, sparse food, acid rain and hostile neighbors. In other words, it sucked. They made the best of it, however, managing to eke out a meager living.

One day a ship crashes on Parnassos, and from the escape pod emerges a man named Brendol Hux. He's a First Order officer and promises to save them from their miserable existence if they help him get back to his ship. Phasma sees it as their only hope for salvation, but Keldo disagrees. Phasma disobeys him and takes her best warriors, along with Hux and three stormtroopers, to set out on a journey that will decide everyone's fates. Cardinal listens to Vi's story, but what will he do once it's finished? 

After a rather underwhelming presence in The Force Awakens, Phasma needed something to keep people interested in her. Thankfully, her namesake novel does just that. Dawson has managed to churn out a compelling and well-realized psychological profile for this character. You'll get to know Phasma very well and understand the forces that helped shape her into the lethal First Order presence she became. Dawson's writing isn't perfect, but unless you're an author like me, you'll probably never notice.

If you're a fan of Star Wars and looking forward to The Last Jedi next month, you've got read this first. It'll give you a much better appreciation for Phasma's character going into the new film.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Movie Review -- Justice League

The DC Comics cinematic universe soldiers on in this week's big-time offering in Justice League. Once again directed by Zack Snyder, is it another bomb like Batman VS. Superman? Let's find out.

The story begins with Batman (Ben Affleck) luring out a mysterious creature called a Parademon and trying to capture it. These things are popping up all over, and something needs to be done about them. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) informs him this is the work of a demonic tyrant called Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Realizing time is of the essence, they set out to recruit other super-powered beings. Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is an athlete turned cyborg who can interface with computers. Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) is super fast. And Arthur Curry (Jason Moma) is the prince of Atlantis and handy with a trident. Together they set out to stop Steppenwolf, but Batman thinks they're still not enough. He wants to bring back the world's greatest hero, but is that a good idea?

I hear this movie's been getting bashed by critics. I don't know what complaints they might have because I don't read reviews of things I'm going to review myself so as to avoid being influenced. But just like the Ghostbusters reboot, I'm here to tell you this movie's A-OK. Sure, it's just The Avengers with DC characters (and with a very similar plot). And yes, the message doesn't get any deeper than a speech about the power of hope. But is this really a bad thing? You want your superhero action, and this gives it to you. You'll see all the badassery you want, delivered with all the panache you want. The only thing missing is Tony Stark's snarkiness (or is that Starkiness?).

And this is all accompanied by a terrific score courtesy of Danny Elfman who did the theme for the 1980's Batman movie. You might think he's only good for the Simpsons theme, but he's actually very talented. I feel the change in composer works well here since even Hans Zimmer is sick of doing this (hence the reason he retired from superhero movies).

Finally, the post-credits scene really sets up a conflict of epic proportions to be continued in a future film.

Bottom line: You can't go wrong with Justice League.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Thoughts

I just saw Thor: Ragnarok today. Since it's not quite timely and you've probably seen it already, I won't waste your time with a full review. I will say I like the new direction the series has taken. Tonally it is different from previous Thor movies, opting for a more caper-esque action romp with a new electronic soundtrack by Mark Motherbaugh. Cate Blanchett still looks stunning despite being almost 50. Newcomer Tessa Thompson plays her part well and in a less obvious way (I was not expecting a drunken Valkyrie to fall off her ship's ramp upon entry). Loki delivers fewer surprises and acts pretty much how you would expect from him.

Other than that, it's pretty much your standard Marvel movie, which is either good or bad depending on your point of view. Not groundbreaking but pretty solid.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gamma: Original Sin by David R. George III. 

The novel has two primary stories. One of these is set in the novel’s present of 2386 and the other is set in 2380 being told as a series of flashbacks.

The present story begins with the USS Robinson, commanded by Captain Benjamin Sisko, making its first contact with a new civilization since its long-term exploration of non-Dominion controlled portions of the Gamma Quadrant began. However, the ships that they encounter attack them first with weapons that disrupt space and create zones of non-space, then with sonic weapons that knock out the crew. 

While the crew is unconscious the attackers kidnap dozens of children including Captain Sisko’s daughter Rebecca. With the Robinsion’s engines useless due to being in non-space, the crew first must discover a way to free themselves. 

After the starship escapes from the area of the attack, she sets out to find the base of their attackers, discovering the remains of other ships that had suffered similar attacks along the way. When the home world of their attackers is discovered they try to negotiate the release of the children but the Glant, their attackers, refuse. The Glant eventually reveal that their culture creates each new generation by having organics create mechanical bodies then harvesting the brains of children to install in those bodies. With very little time before the harvesting begins the Robinson’s crew struggles to find a way to rescue the children before it’s too late…

The flashback story starts with Rebecca being kidnapped by an extremist from a Bajoran religious sect that believes she is the Avatar of their prophecies. But as the length of her captivity grows her captor becomes more unstable eventually deciding that the prophecy calls for him to kill Rebecca so she doesn’t become a tyrant. When he takes her to a large forest planning to kill both her and himself a desperate race to stop him begins…

I give this book 7 out of 10. While nothing is particularly bad I feel it has some key flaws. First, I feel the flashback story could have used more development, perhaps even its own book. Also, while I don’t dislike the story, I feel it is a poor choice for the first book of the Gamma sub-series. I think it would have been better for the first book of the sub-series to have a story that didn’t have such a large portion dedicated to flashbacks. Instead, I feel the space would have been better used getting to know the Robinson’s crew. Finally, while I see some interesting possibilities from what the ending revealed, I’m worried they will be shoved aside for a long time before anything is developed from them.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Flame Kissed

Alexis Radcliff is back with a new series called Seeking the Dragon. She asked me to review the first book, Flame Kissed, and so here we go.

The protagonist is 17-year-old Ella Denton. Years ago, her family was killed in a mysterious fire and she got shuffled between foster families until finally arriving at the Dentons. So now she's settled in and getting ready to go off to college. But before she does, she heads off to a ski lodge with friends and family. There she is reunited with her long-time crush Nick. She plans to confess her feelings for him, but stuff happens and she ends up getting transported to a parallel world called Ether-Realm which seems to be filled entirely with dicks. They all either want to perform unspeakable medical experiments on her, enslave her, or just beat her into submission. Not a good way to spend summer vacation. I get the sense there are nicer people around, but we don't meet them in the first book. But hey, at least she has some strange magic power to make things a little better.

And that's pretty much it for the first volume. It's very short and mostly just serves to introduce us to Ella and the Ether-World. Obviously there are big secrets to be revealed, but you'll have to wait until later. Honestly, you can almost skip this one because I've told you just about everything. Still, it wouldn't hurt to start from the beginning, and you can knock this out in about an hour. For the most part, it's written well, although Radcliff uses words like "feel" and "saw" instead of just showing what was felt and seen.

I sort of feel this should have been longer, because it just doesn't do as good of a job as it should bringing us into the world. It doesn't really get good until the end. On the flip side, however, that hopefully means the subsequent books will be even better.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

James Review -- Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End

This week I decided to review Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig. 

The story opens with Norra Wexley’s team hunting Imperial Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, whom they believe is responsible for a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations using mind- controlled agents, including Nora Wexley’s husband Brentin. Meanwhile, Sloane and Brentin have joined forces to hunt down Gallius Rax, the true mastermind behind the assassinations and now leader of the Empire in all but name. Both group’s find their way to Rax’s home world of Jakku. Sloane and Brentin arrive first and begin a long journey across the world having to ally with the local Hutt crimelord.

When Norra’s group arrives, they find a massive Imperial fleet gathered around the planet. While their ship flees Norra and Jas Emari take an escape pod to the planet’s surface, and Norra’s son Temmin sends Mister Bones, a B1 battle droid he had repaired and upgraded to protect his mother. 
Soon Norra and Jas are captured and separated. Eventually Norra is rescued by Mister Bones and they shortly regroup with Jas, who had also escaped captivity.

Meanwhile, on Chandrila, the current Republic capital, the members of Norra’s team that fled Jakku find themselves caught in a maze of Republic politics as they try to gain support for an attack on the Imperial fleet over Jakku. Eventually they succeed, but as the battle rages, Norra’s group and Sloane’s duo discover what Rax’s true plan is. And other enemies are closing on the Republic’s leaders while the bulk of its fleet is away…
he book also includes several sections showing events away from the main plot, and flashbacks to earlier portions of Rax’s life and his education by Palpatine.

I give the book 7 out of 10. I still like most of the characters and the battle sequences were entertaining. It was also interesting to see a little of Palpatine’s thought process behind the plan he entrusted to Rax. However, the political scenes dragged on far too long in my opinion, and felt like filler for the most part. Also, there were a number of sections near the end that made little sense to me. Finally, I feel that the ending created more questions than it answered.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Horns of the Ram

Last year I reviewed Austin Rogers' intriguing sci-fi novel Sacred Planet ( A while back, he asked me to review the follow-up. I was sitting on a sizable pile of stuff to read and couldn't get to it right away, but while it's no longer timely, I'm keeping my word and finally reviewing it. Here is Dominion Series book two, Horns of the Ram.

The story picks up shortly after the first book. Davin and Strange are the only two members of the Fossa to survive the ambush in Jerusalem which resulted in the abduction of Sierra Falco. Davin is patched up by a Middle Eastern group of freedom fighters called the Defenders of Glory, and they task him with rescuing Sierra. They send along a Defender named Kiki to help them/make sure they don't run away. The trio sets off in the Fossa for Carinian space.

Meanwhile, Ulrich Morvan continues his mysterious and sinister agenda to make Carina great again. He's championing for war, and he doesn't particularly care who it's with. His sights are set on Earth--the Sacred Planet, and he wants to claim it for Carina.

Meanwhile, Cristiana of the house of Eagle wants to be the champion of Zantorian of the Sagittarium Regnum like her hero Kastor (only with a more optimistic future). She competes in an intense race across a volcanic planet to make it happen, but the competition is fierce.

Back on Earth, the Defenders begin their campaign to seize Jerusalem from the Confederacy. Backed by a mysterious adviser, it looks like they might have a shot at pulling it off. Zantorian is concerned by these developments, so he sends Cristiana and fellow warrior-noble Larkin to get to the bottom of it. But when they arrive, they discover the identity of the adviser, and it's the last person they would ever suspect.

So some people want to start a war, and others want to prevent it. Regardless of who succeeds, the galaxy will never be the same.

As I reported last time, this series is pretty much Game of Thrones in space. But before you go writing Austin Rogers off as a George R.R. Martin wannabe, hear me out. Horns of the Ram is a worthy follow-up to Sacred Planet. It's well-written, has great action and endearing characters. There are also very detailed descriptions of what is happening in each scene, so you feel like you're there. If you like science fiction, you have no excuse not to pick this up. Give this series a try, and you won't regret it.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

James Review -- Rita Longknife: Enemy in Sight

This week I decided to review Rita Longknife: Enemy in Sight by Mike Shepherd. 

When this book begins, the series namesake is in command of a heavy cruiser dedicated to exploration. She has found the wreckage of an alien ship, in a time where humanity has never contacted any non-human sentient life, and evidence that first contact was made by pirates. After her ship returns home, a council decides to commission a task force to deal with the growing pirate menace before attempting to locate and establish peaceful contact with the aliens. Rita is assigned a command of the warships assigned to the mission with her husband Ray attached to the fleet’s ground force.

Meanwhile the pirate fleet splits into two groups, each with a small colony as a base. But they swiftly reunite when an alien colony rich in gold and silver is found. At first the occupation of the alien world seems to go well, but it swiftly turns into a fight with the alien settlers waging a guerilla war against the pirates. And after some of the pirate ships seeking more worlds to plunder are routed by an alien fleet and lead it back to the occupied colony, the pirate armada flees, planning to make a stand at the nearer of the two colonies they were using as bases.

The anti-pirate task force encounters a suspected pirate vessel near the planet Savannah and sets out in pursuit but the acting leader of LeMonte, one of the pirate base worlds, manages to convince them his world is just an unregistered colony rather than a pirate port. The naval force returns to base but soon one of the two pirate ships that survived the first battle with an alien fleet, and whom had abandoned their comrades, arrives warning of an alien attack force. The naval fleet sets out again but this time discovers that both pirate colonies have been eradicated. The warships move on to the alien colony the pirates had occupied and find themselves facing an alien fleet of unknown power and technology…

I give this book 9 out of 10. It has a nice variety of scenes, and I like some of the new characters a lot, or, at least the ones that weren’t in books I have read before, but there were two major drawbacks that keep me from rating it higher. The final battle was too short for my taste and, even worse, the battle between the pirate armada and the alien pursuit force was skipped entirely. After all the pirate-focused chapters I was really looking forward to this conflict but, instead, the pirate plotline ends as soon as the pirate fleet is deploying to make its stand. I’ve always liked this author’s space battles so I view this as a horrible error.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pandora's Box 4S 800

Today I want to tell you about an exciting new product I just acquired. It is the Pandora's Box 4S and it is a dream come true. It's pretty much a retro videogame console that only plays arcade games, but man, they are some of the best games ever. This isn't shovelware; these are real arcade games you used to have to shell out your hard-earned money to play in the arcade, or plunk down thousands of dollars for a full cabinet in your home. There are multiple versions of this available, but I'm going to focus on the particular one I bought.

The thing comes pre-loaded with (depending on the model you purchase) 800 or more arcade games. It has many of the greats such as the Ninja Turtles games, The Simpsons, X-Men, countless fighting games like Street Fighter, and obscure Japanese titles. If I had this as a kid, I would have literally died of joy.

However, I should mention it's not perfect. Here are the pros and cons.

1.) 800 of the greatest arcade games ever
2.) HDMI support. You can also hook it up to your PC monitor.
3.) Uses an authentic joystick setup
4.) USB support
5.) You can create a Favorites list so you don't have to keep cycling through the massive library to find the game you want to play.
6.) The games run pretty faithfully from what I've seen so far.

1.) The emulation isn't perfect. I've noticed some slight (and not so slight) glitches.
2.) Comes with a very cheap HDMI cable which broke the same day I set it up. You're better off using your own.
3.) The power cable comes in two pieces that don't fit very well together.
4.) The model I got has a two-player joystick board which requires you and a friend to pretty much be rubbing up against one another to play. There are other models which come with different controllers, so maybe shop around a bit.

So far, I feel the pros outweigh the cons and this thing is fantastic. I'll keep playing on it, and if my opinion changes, I'll let you know.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of The Federation: Patterns of Interference

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of The Federation: Patterns of Interference by Christopher L. Bennett. 

The story begins shortly after the prior book. After the chain of events that led to the collapse of the Partnership of Civilizations was started by the Federation trying to help them without understanding their situation, Admiral Jonathan Archer is trying to set up a non-interference directive in the hopes of preventing any future such disasters. But he faces strong opposition from his friend Thy'lek Shran, who views such a directive as an indictment of one of his proteges killed at the forefront of the crisis, and others who fear such a directive will lead to Starfleet officers doing nothing while less advanced civilizations are destroyed by forces beyond their control--such as natural disasters.  

While Archer doesn’t consider the latter scenario likely, he must also struggle with his dedication to his cause after realizing that both the Orion Syndicate and Section 31 hope for the directive to become reality as well as the news that his beloved dog Porthos is dying.

Meanwhile, Sauria has been conquered by Emperor Maltuvis, who received economic aid from the Federation in exchange for valuable resources found in his nation before launching his plot to seize control of his world, and is now receiving covert aid from the Orion Syndicate. Starfleet sends a team to assist resistance forces opposing him but the Orions plan to arrange a disaster involving the aid team to encourage isolationism within the Federation. Charles Tucker III hopes to use the Saurian situation in his quest to destroy Section 31 by planting evidence showing that the organization’s apparent leader is working with the Orion Syndicate. But he must decide how much he is willing to sacrifice to end Section 31 and face the possibility that he is becoming too much like his enemy.

There is also a plot involving the planet Birnam where the Earth Cargo Ship Verne has discovered that some of the planet’s mobile plant life contain compounds that would be of great pharmaceutical value. But there is some evidence that the plants in question might be sentient and the only way to harvest the compounds is to kill the plants. After the USS Endeavour arrives to investigate the possibility that the plants are intelligent, tensions quickly heat between the Starfleet crew and the members of Verne’s crew who believe the plants aren’t intelligent and that the tests are taking too long, thus delaying pharmaceutical deals.

I give this book 9 out of 10. It has a nice variety of scenes but there is very little action in it. Even the Sauria plot only has a couple of short action scenes. Also I feel it suffers from the fact that the ultimate resolution of most of the plots has been established elsewhere. Finally, the Birnam plot feels completely disconnected from the Non-Interference Directive and Sauria plots.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

James Review -- RCN: Death’s Bright Day

This week I decided to review RCN: Death’s Bright Day by David Drake. 

The novel starts with the wedding of Daniel Leary and Miranda Dorst. The couple plans to take the yacht Princess Cecile, formerly a naval corvette that Leary had commanded for much of his career, to the planet Jardin for their honeymoon, based on stories about the world told to the bride by her deceased father. 

However, the Cinnnabar government asks Leary to take the ship to the Tarbell cluster after his honeymoon ends. The cluster is in a state of civil war with each faction supported by a branch of the Alliance of Free Stars’s Fifth Bureau, or their secret police. The Republic of Cinnnabar fears that if the Tarbell rebels claim victory, it will set in motion events leading to a resumption of the war between Cinnnabar and the Alliance.

But first Leary and his wife have to escape after being abandoned in a cave system on Jardin by a guide who feels his family’s legacy is violated by their presence and has a grudge against Dorst’s father. Escaping just as their allies were about to come in after them, Dorst returns home while the Princess Cecile and her crew continue to the Tarbell cluster.

There Leary leads a swift raid against pirates, and under pressure from Adele Mundy, Leary’s friend, signals officer, and Cinnnabar intelligence agent, the Tarbell government gives Leary command of their naval forces. While Leary works to make the ships and crews fit to fight, Mundy finds herself having to take on the duties of a critically injured Fifth Bureau member, who was supposed to aid the Cinnnabar mission. Leary plans and executes a mission that captures the heavy cruiser that was serving as the rebel flagship. But as he leads his strengthened forces towards the rebel capital he finds that the rebellion’s allies have supplied it with a battleship leaving his fleet facing a much stronger enemy force…

I give this book 9.5 out of 10. It has a great variety of action scenes and battles. It also has some nice humor in the early parts of the book. My only complaints are that the scenes on Jardin feel disconnected from the Tarbell story, more like filler then part of a larger tale, and I still wish the setting would return to a full war instead of smaller conflicts. It  feels like the story is just dancing around something major that is coming.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Author Interview -- Bridgett Morigna

Today I'm talking with fantasy author Bridgett Morigna who has found an unorthodox way to earn money writing via Patreon.

1.) How would you describe your writing? Darker than expected. The first time someone called The Dreams dark I was caught off guard. To me, it was just the story that I had to tell with the characters I created. Now that I've had some time to step away from the project, I can see what others saw. I never set out to make my stories dark, but once I start writing and exploring the concept and characters things inevitably take a dark turn. 2.) Why write for free? I'm a big believer in the goodwill of the internet. Growing up I was always in awe of the hours upon hours of reading material I could find for free online. I guess a part of me always wanted to be part of the internet repository of creativity. 3.) Where did the idea for The Dreams come from? The Dreams is the result of more than a decade of accumulated inspiration. The original idea started as a fanfiction concept combined with a fascination with kitsune while I was in high school. The idea that finally became the current story combined elements of that original idea with my experiences in college and during a serious illness. I'd held onto this idea for so long that elements of it have been drawn from a number of places in my life. 4.) What made you decide to study Japanese? It all started with anime. I've always been a big fan of shows involving history and folklore and learning the language helped me better understand those shows in context. 5.) You've chosen to be supported solely through Patreon. How has that worked out for you? I think it is working out really well! I love the idea of giving people the option to support my writing without forcing them to pay for the content. It's great having my Patreon as a place to post things that would only be of interest to people that are already invested in my writing. 6.) Your Twitter pic is Serial Experiments Lain. Are you a big fan of that series? Yep! I've been a fan since way back when I saw it on TechTV. 7.) Have you seen Haibane Renmei? It is also from Yoshitoshi ABe. I haven't watched Haibane Renmei. If it's anything like Lain, I'll have to check it out. 8.) Any plans to put your stories for sale on Kindle or Nook? My goal is to one day have my stories available in places like Amazon, Smashwords, etc. My serials need a lot of extra work to get them into tip-top shape for ebook format. 9.) What advice do you have for aspiring authors? There isn't one right way to be an author. Write, publish and measure success in a way that suits your personality. You'll be happier and more productive than if you tried to follow someone else's path to success.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Cool Kickstarter Project -- Lona: Realm of Colors

Do you have serious problems? Don't you wish you could just paint them away? Well, good news! In this indie game I recently found on Kickstarter, you can. It is Lona: Realm of Colors.

This point-and-click game stars the titular Lona, an artist with a heavy heart. She begins painting to deal with her problems, and the more she does it, the more she gets sucked into it and loses her grip on reality. Here are excerpts from the official Kickstarter page:

What happens if you could escape from life difficulties that you can do nothing about? What if you could paint all your troubles away or turn them into magical musical notes? “Lona: Realm of Colors” is an artistic adventure about a girl trying to deal with her difficulties by painting them. The more she paints the more her drawings transform real life troubles into abstract art forms and as she is more and more consumed by her paintings she loses touch with real world, and finally gets trapped in her art.

“Lona: Realm of Colors” is a point and click adventure in nature focusing on art and narration instead of fetch puzzles and dialogue. Each level is an abstraction of Lona’s story and it is up to you to bring peace and balance to her painting and find out what has happened to her.

Each level has two sides: a chaotic side represented by Ms. Schmidt the cat and a dark side represented by Mr. Ruppel the crow. You can switch between the two worlds at will and try to bring balance to these extreme interpretations of a single situation. You can use items from each world in the other one and everything you do might affect both worlds. There will be 15 unique scenes from Lona’s memory and paintings each having two sides.

This game looks like it's going to be something really special, and as always, I encourage everyone to support it. We need more unique, beautiful games like this and lli. Become a backer today!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

James Review -- Starcraft: Evolution

This week I decided to review Starcraft: Evolution by Timothy Zahn. 

The story begins six years after the end of Starcraft 2. There is an uneasy truce between the three largest powers in the Koprulu Sector. The Terran Dominion led by Emperor Valerian Mengsk, The Protoss led by Hierarch Artanis, and the Zerg led by Overqueen Zagara. 

Zagara sends a message to Mengsk requesting his aid to defend the Zerg presence on Gystt, a planet that was the site of a Terran colony destroyed by the Protoss in the early stages of their anti-Zerg campaign which led to the events of the original Starcraft game. Mengsk decides to investigate personally and when he arrives at Gystt, Zagara invites him and Artanis to a meeting on the planet.
There she tells them that the Zerg wish to atone for their past actions. Using the Adostra, a new form of Zerg created using a limited supply of Xel’Naga essence, they can heal worlds devastated during the recent wars. 

But a Terran team en route to examine the Adostra in one of their three breeding grounds find themselves assaulted by Pryolisks, a new form of Zerg. Artanis believes this is proof that Zagara has lied to them and prepares to wipe out the Adostra. 

However, in the aftermath of the attack on a second breeding ground, the Terran team, accompanied by an exiled Protoss, comes to believe that the Pryolisks are deliberately trying to get the Terrans and Protoss to exterminate the Adostra. Megnsk launches a desperate effort to discover his people’s true enemies while struggling to convince Artanis not to launch an offensive that will reignite the war between the three powers.

I give this book 9 out of 10. I liked the battle sequences a lot and enjoyed the new characters. However there were a couple of early scenes that I feel should have been integrated into the main plot better and some of the periods between battle scenes were rather dull to me. Also, I feel the story is a little too self-contained. I wish the story had some better hooks for possible sequels because I would love to see these characters again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kindle Spotlight -- Kissed by Literature

Jordan Elizabeth is back with a new book, this one a little different from her previous novels. It is Kissed by Literature: A Collection of Short Stories. Is it worth your time? Let's find out.

As the title tells you, it's a collection of short stories, though many of them are actually flash fiction clocking in at only a few pages. The stories are mostly supernatural in nature, featuring ghosts and other spirits, though there are others which feature either science fiction or the mundane such as a girl meeting her favorite author. Many of the stories feature an M. Night. Shyamalan twist at the end.

There are some good ideas and a few good stories in this collection, but the book suffers from too many stories. The problem with a short story collection is you have to get re-invested in each new story, and with the sheer amount of stories on offer here, it drags on for too long. Jordan should have stuck to just a small handful of stories rather than the more than dozen here. It also doesn't help that she gives us a parade of young female protagonists that blend together. I honestly can't remember most of them which is why this review is shorter than most of the ones I write.

In addition, she should have done more research. In one story, a girl becomes incapacitated from unknowingly drinking snake venom. But venom is generally harmless unless injected into the bloodstream (

I will, however, say I like the one story that ties into Jordan's previous book Escape from Witchwood Hollow.

This isn't necessarily a bad offering from Jordan Elizabeth, but it's not for me.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

James Review -- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume Three

This week I decided to review Mighty Morphin Power Rangers volume three written by Kyle Higgens.

The story begins shortly after the end of volume two. Rita Repulsa has seized control of the Power Ranger command center with the aid of the Black Dragon. Billy Cranston, The Blue Ranger, has been captured and the other four original rangers have been forced to tap into the Green Ranger Tommy Oliver’s unique link to the Morphing Grid after being cut off from their usual powers.

The rangers manage to halt Repulsa’s attack on major cities using their Zords Cranston is imprisoned with Goldar. who controls the dimension they are trapped in but refuses to leave without the permission of his Empress. Cranston convinces Goldar, who hates the Black Dragon, to free him so he can help the other rangers defeat the Black Dragon thus possibly convincing Repulsa to restore Goldar to his place at her side. The rangers soon realize that the Black Dragon is a Zord that can alter its size. While most of the rangers launch an attack to force the Black Dragon to become the size of a typical Zord so Cranston and Oliver can infiltrate it via its access hatch.

The two manage to ruin the Black Dragon but find themselves in the future of an alternate timeline where the world was overrun by Repulsa’s army and Earth is now ruled by Lord Drakkon. The pair sets out in hopes of finding allies and a way home while reeling from what they have learned about the nature of this Earth’s ruler…

There is a flashback sequence focusing on Cranston as he begins to doubt whether he can truly become a hero. The chapter covers the battle that shook his resolve and his efforts to try and discover what makes a hero.

The volume also contains a short section of The Ongoing Adventures of Bulk and Skull by Steve Orlando. In this adventure the namesake duo find themselves recruited by Rita Repulsa to pilot Finster’s latest monster and hilarity ensues.

I give this volume 9 out of 10. The main story was interesting but there were a few parts I feel should have been explained in more detail and it could have used more combat. The flashback was fun but I think it would have fit in better if it had occurred earlier in the volume. The Bulk and Skull section was a nice counter to the grim tone of  the latter sections of the main story and I found it much more amusing then any of the attempted comedy sections focused on the duo in the original TV series.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Revisiting the Classics -- Time Bandits

Today we're taking a look at the 1981 fantasy movie Time Bandits. It was brought to us by several of the Monty Python crew, but is it as good as a Monty Python movie? Let's find out.

The story begins somewhere in United Kingdom suburbia. Poor Kevin (Craig Warnock) is just a pre-teen adolescent trying to get some sleep when six unruly dwarves (little people, not the Tolkien variety) burst from his closet. Turns out said closet is a portal through time and said dwarves came through it to escape from their master the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) because they have just stolen a map of all the "time holes." They have a brilliant plan to get rich robbing their way through time and they drag poor Kevin along for the ride.

Their first stop is Napoleonic France where they decide to swindle the big N himself, played by Ian Holm (so that's where Ash went after Alien). After some comical misadventures, they find themselves in medieval England where they have a humorous run-in with Robin Hood (John Cleese as the top of his comedic game).

Unfortunately for our time-traveling pilferers, the Lord of Evil (David Warner) wants very much to get his hands on the map, and he hatches a scheme to get it from the dwarves and free himself from his prison in the process. And anyone who stands in his way or otherwise annoys shall get turned into an animal (and that's that if they're lucky), you better believe it. Not that his minions mind; in fact, they very much welcome unnecessary explosions.

With Kevin and the dwarves on a collision course with the prince of darkness himself, will anyone get out alive?

You might at first mistake this for a fantasy Monty Python movie. However, it succeeds at forging its own identity. Yes, it has funny jokes, but it also has somber moments courtesy of Kevin. This poor kid just wants to find a loving family (not sure what's wrong with the parents he's got, other than them being dull), and he tries very hard to connect with the dwarves and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery), but in the end, he may end up alone.

In addition, the movie is very imaginative. Think that's just a ship they're sailing? You'll never guess what it really is.

Time Bandits also has great special effects for 1981, and even better production values. I already prefer this film's version of Titanic to James Cameron's, by the way. Yeah, it hasn't aged so well in some parts, but I feel it holds up as a whole.

The only things I'm iffy on are the pacing and the deus ex machina resolution to the story. It sort of trivializes all the hard work Kevin and the dwarves put in to stop Evil. I do, however, like the ending. It's a total WTF moment that will make you question everything you've just seen.

In short, I recommend Time Bandits to anyone who's a fan of fantasy and/or Monty Python.

Friday, July 28, 2017

James Review -- Legion of the Damned: Andromeda’s War

This week I decided to review Legion of the Damned: Andromeda’s War by William C. Dietz. The story begins not long after the end of the previous book. Legionnaire Andromeda McKee, who is secretly Cathrine Carletto one of two surviving members of a family targeted for annihilation by the empress Ophelia, is pondering her decision to not kill the Empress when she had the chance.

Back on Earth, the resistance group led by McKee’s uncle, the only other survivor of her family, manages to kill the Empress’s secretary and lover. But this leads to a massive retaliatory attack to kill anyone in the area where the secretary was assassinated and Mc’Kee’s uncle falls during the battle. John Avery, McKee’s lover and former superior, has found himself assigned as Ophelia’s military attache. But most of his time is focused on Prince Nicholai, Ophelia's young heir. The group goes on a tour of the outer colonies but the Empress’s ship is badly damaged during an ambush by a fleet belonging to the alien Hudathan. An emergency jump carries the Empress’s cruiser to a crash landing on the planet Savas where there is a small human outpost. But Savas is also where disgraced Hudathan Admiral Nola-Ba is working to build a secret base. The natives allied to the Hudathan find the wreckage of the human ship and launch a massive attack which Avery, Nicholai, and Daska, a synthetic double of the Emperss, manage to escape but Ophelia and the rest of the human survivors are captured.

McKee is selected to lead a small team to rescue the Empress while the Imperial navy fights to secure the space around Savas. But will she pass up a second chance at vengeance even knowing that such an attempt might lead to retaliation against her subordinates?

I give this book 7.5 out of 10. It had a nice variety of battles and some interesting characters. However I feel some events and decisions by characters happen more because they need to for the plot to move where the author wants than because they make sense. Also, I think there were some parts that could have been removed or shortened without hindering the story.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cool Kickstarter Project -- lli

Last night I was browsing Kickstarter projects and I came across one which grabbed my interest. It is a videogame being made by a developer named Misha in New Zealand.

The game has you guiding an immortal girl named lli as she explores her memories and tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of an entire city. With a decided lack of combat, you must talk your way out of conflict. This may turn off some, but I find it refreshing. Here's how Misha describes it:

"Ili is a person haunted by regret and who longs for the past. Your aim is to guide Ili through her past and meet the ghosts from her past. While Ili is the game’s protagonist, you control most of her actions and act more like her spiritual guide. You are to help her say or do things that she would be too afraid to do by herself. The problems put in front of both you and Ili can be solved in different ways through talking. Do you intend to change the past? Or is it better to make peace with the past and to move on?"

The art style is both gorgeous and desolate. lli herself looks like a character from Ah-Ha's music video for "Take on Me," and her hand-drawn world looks like you're exploring someone's Dungeons and Dragons map come to life. Honestly, words can't do it justice; you really have to see it for yourself.

I don't know about the music yet. The song that plays during the demo is beautiful, but Misha wants to compose an original soundtrack if the project gets enough money. 

There isn't a whole lot of time left in the Kickstarter campaign, so I encourage everyone to hurry over there and back this project. Clearly, it's going to be something special. And, like I said, there's a demo on there, so you have no excuse not to give it a try.

Friday, July 21, 2017

James Review -- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales

This week I decided to review Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack. 

The story begins shortly after the fall of Section 31. Garak is leader of the Cardassian Union when a report investigating the possibility of war crimes committed on Bajor during the Cardassian occupation of the planet emerges. The report recommends further investigation and trials which Garak agrees to. But doing so sparks resentment among the military which fears any soldier or unit that served on Bajor will be blamed whether they were involved in the crimes being investigated or not.

Doctor Kathrine Pulaski and her colleague Peter Alden, a former Starfleet intelligence officer who now serves on a research ship with Pulaski, arrive on Cardassia Prime so Pulaski can accept a medal on behalf of the team that discovered the treatment that solved the Andorian Reproductive crisis in time to prevent the extinction of the Andorian species. But Pulaski swiftly clashes with Garak after he denies her request to visit Julian Bashir. Bashir is in a catatonic state induced by the mental breakdown he suffered due to the psychological trauma he endured in the final phase of his quest to destroy Section 31. He has been receiving care on Cardassia Prime since Section 31’s downfall.

Also the Chief Academician of the University of the Union is retiring. Professor Natima Lang, once of the leaders of the dissident movement during the period when the military ruled the Union, seeks the post. However Garak opposes her being given this role. Soon afterwards, Doctor Elima Antok, heavily involved with the report urging further investigation into war crimes on Bajor, discovers evidence that Lang had approved the university supporting genetic experiments on Bajoran-Cardassian hybrid children to remove their Bajoran traits. These experiments killed or maimed a number of their subjects, and Antok, who is herself part Bajoran, doesn’t want to believe that Lang, one of her personal heroes, could do such a thing but she soon receives threats should she reveal what she knows.

Antok meets Pulaski and confides in her about what is going on, but soon after, both women are kidnapped. Pulaski escapes but she has become convinced that Garak is behind a plot to discredit Lang and the kidnappings so she gathers a few allies and tries to find and rescue Antok on their own. Meanwhile, Garak attempts to find the true mastermind behind the kidnappings and to discover the truth about the accusations against Lang even as the conflict with Pulsaki reaches new heights.

I give this book 8 out of 10. It had an interesting blend of subplots and how they came together. However I felt the ending was weak and it seemed like the Federation characters were far too eager to go along with Pulsaki’s suspicions against Garak to the point of barging into his office demanding answers when then have no actual proof he is currently involved in any plots against anyone.

Friday, July 14, 2017

James Review -- Destroyermen: Blood in the Water

This week I decided to review Destroyermen: Blood in the Water by Taylor Anderson. 

The story begins shortly after the previous book. The SMS Amerika is carrying a number of the Grand Alliance leaders and thousands of wounded home. But Contre Admiral Rauol Laborde of the fascist League of Tripoli is angry after being forced to withdraw from his blockade of the capital of the Republic of Real People, so he decides to intercept an capture Amerika. The attack initially goes well but then Amerika's mentally ill former captain makes his way to the bridge and orders his ship, a cruise liner converted to a raider cruiser, to open fire on the battleship that has captured Amerika, then flee and when the battleship returns fire,  Amerika is destroyed, killing most of her passengers and crew though a number of high level Alliance personnel were transferring to Laborde's flagship at the time. This leaves the League's leadership reeling as they scramble to try and incorporate Amerika's destruction into their plans to spark a war that will cripple the Grand Alliance and its various non-League enemies clearing the way for a global takeover.

Meanwhile Japanese officer Hiashi Kurokawa has been secretly building a group of aircraft carriers and planes for them to deploy. He uses this force to launch a massive attack on an Alliance convoy carrying badly needed supplies and troops and both the convoy's transports and the escort fore which includes the first two modern, roughly World War II tech-level, warships built by the Grand Alliance, quickly find themselves in a desperate battle.

The two expeditions sent out to find possible allies for the Alliance press on. Fred Reynolds and Kari-Faask manage to capture a number of Holy Dominion troops shortly before making contact with the New United States, formed by a group of troops and the transports carrying them to their timelines's version of the war between the United States and Mexico a century before the book takes place. Unfortunately, they discover that the claim by a NUS agent that they were preparing a massive force to attack the Holy Dominion is false and are left trying to convince their hosts to ally with the Grand Alliance.

The team sent to find the long lost kin of the Alliance's Lemurians struggle to survive attacks by the various hostile animals in the region and narrowly manage to avoid getting into a full scale battle with those they are seeking to befriend. They are surprised to discover that much about what they have done in this universe is known thanks to a World War II Allied bomber that was shifted to this area and crashed with an intact radio receiver. Talks go well and they group soon finds itself launching an attack on a Grik-run slave labor camp in hopes of liberating some of their new allies.

I give this book 8 out of 10. The battle scenes were nicely written and varied but there weren't enough of them in my opinion. Also, I noticed a number of minor errors that never should have made it past the editor. I wish the New United States plot had been extended and there are a couple of scenes that I'm honestly not sure why they were included since I feel they have little or nothing to do with any key points of the book. And there are a few events that don't make sense to me, especially in the League of Tripoli subplot. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Movie Review -- Spider-Man: Homecoming

Is it that time of the month? Yep, it's time for another Marvel movie, this one being Spider-Man: Homecoming? Is it worth your time, or should the series be rebooted yet again? Let's find out.

The story begins right after The Avengers. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his salvage crew get the screw job of their lives when the government steps in and takes away their right to salvage the alien technology left in New York City. Not one to give up so easily, Toomes manages to keep a decent cache and turns his crew into high-tech thieves and gun runners with it.

Flash forward to the present. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is helping out Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as Spider-Man while trying to get through high school. Peter wants to be an Avenger, but Stark thinks he's far from ready, and so Spidey is stuck fighting petty crimes.

One night, however, Peter intercedes to stop a gang of thieves from robbing a bank. But said thieves fight back with their advanced weaponry, and much property damage ensues. This catches the attention of Toomes, who makes it his mission to eliminate Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Peter still has high school to deal with. There's an academic meet coming up, and he hopes to catch the attention of the lovely Liz (Laura Harrier). But with Toomes putting everyone in danger, there may not be time for a social life. Can our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man save the day without getting grounded?

When it comes to Spider-Man movies, you have the Tobey McGuire era, the Andrew Garfield era, and now we have the start of the Tom Holland era. How does the current era fit in? In terms of quality, I feel it's better than the Garfield films (haven't seen the Tobey ones in years, so I can't really make a comparison to those). For one thing, Homecoming has tight action and is genuinely funny (something I haven't been able to say about the movies I've seen lately). The ending, in particular, features a great reaction from Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) when she discovers a shocking secret.

Some may say the Vulture is a minor league villain for Spidey, but it's understandable at this early stage in Peter's career; he's just getting started and isn't ready for heavies like Doc Ock. Michael Keaton puts in a respectable performance as the villain and looks a lot cooler than the lame old guy from the comics.

If I have any criticism for this film, it's the fact I don't think Spidey's suit looks as good as the one from the Tobey days. That is, until the end of the movie which I won't spoil. On the plus side, Homecoming Spidey's lacking style is taken to the extreme when he is forced to fight without his suit. I enjoyed this part as he really comes into his own here and proves his worth as a hero.

One other bright spot in this film is Michelle (Zendaya) who manages to steal the show with her quirky apathy even though her true identity isn't confirmed until the end.

Bottom line: Not bad.