Book Reviews · Horror · POPSUGAR Reading Challenge · Science Fiction · Young Adult

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020 Update: Week Twenty-One

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! I hope that you’ve had a wonderful week so far, and that you are continuing to stay healthy.

As many of you know, my grandmother suffered a fall a few weeks ago and has been receiving hospice care at the retirement home where she lives. This week, I am excited to be able to report that she has rallied! She sounds stronger on the phone and is able to talk for longer periods of time before getting tired. Even though Grandma’s condition has improved, the fact that we cannot be with her during this time is still very difficult for our family, and especially for my mum. If you could continue to keep my family in your thoughts and prayers during the upcoming week, we would greatly appreciate it.

While much of this week’s reading has focused on short, easy reads and manga, I did have the opportunity to finish two POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompts, which brings my total up to 38 completed prompts (out of 50).

An anthology…

The first book I finished was Star Wars: Tales from Jabba’s Palace, a collection of short stories written by a group of extremely talented authors. The anthology was edited by Kevin J. Anderson, and features stories written by Anderson himself, Kathy Tyers, Dave Wolverton, Timothy Zahn, and many others. Each story focuses on a different character who has chosen (or is forced) to call Jabba’s palace home.

The last time I read this collection was when I was a teenager, and I found that my opinions about the book really didn’t change with time. While there were stories that I really enjoyed, there were others that I just didn’t care for. (This is a fairly common occurrence for me when I read short story anthologies, so I was not surprised by this.)

Overall, Tales from Jabba’s Palace is a good read, which further develops a lot of minor or background characters from George Lucas’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Even though the stories are all written by different authors, they often intertwine, giving the reader the chance to see how different characters respond to the same events.

I do think it is important to mention that two stories in this collection do contain situations which might trigger emotional distress for readers. Both “Shaara and the Sarlacc: The Skiff Guard’s Tale” and “Skin Deep: The Fat Dancer’s Tale” contain references to attempted sexual assault.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars and interested in reading about some of the unique personalities that don’t get a tremendous amount of screen time, Tales From Jabba’s Palace is a good book to start with. And, if you enjoy this book, there are several other similar anthologies available, including: Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales of the Bounty Hunters, Tales from the Empire, and Tales from the New Republic. (Personally, I have only read Tales from Jabba’s Palace and Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, but I enjoyed them both.)

A book with an upside-down image on the cover…

The other book I read for the Reading Challenge this week was Alien Echo, by Mira Grant, which takes place in the same universe as the movies in the Alien franchise.

“My name is Olivia Shipp, and I am not on this planet of my own free will.”

Alien Echo, by Mira Grant (page 2)

The story is narrated by a teenage girl named Olivia. She and her twin sister, Viola, have grown up moving from planet to planet along with their parents, Doctors John and Katherine Shipp, who are known for their work as xenobiologists. Their current survey contract has taken them to a colony world called Zagreus, a planet with two suns and an orange sky.

When Olivia and Viola’s father is offered the chance to survey a scientific research vessel that is in orbit around the planet, he feels like he has to take the job. But partway into the expedition, something goes horribly wrong, and he has just enough time to send them a terrifying message. Something is heading for the surface of the planet, and they need to get to their ship and leave…right now.

I have to admit that I approached this book with a little trepidation. I saw Alien for the first time as a college student. (It was one of the required films for my science fiction seminar class.) While I was impressed by the movie, I also found it absolutely terrifying, not only due to unpredictable jump scares, but also thanks to the use of uncomfortable camera angles and lighting. Watching it caused a fear of enclosed and poorly lit spaces that lasted for the better part of a month, and it also resulted in one of my most embarrassing moments as a first-year college student.

After watching Alien in our usual Friday night film lab, my classmates and I returned to our dorm for the night. My roommate wasn’t home when I got back, so I walked into my dark dorm room…and found myself screaming bloody murder when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the alien poking its head out of my closet. I might not have one of those stereotypical horror movie screams, but I was certainly loud enough to bring nearly every boy in the hall running to my aid. If it hadn’t been a false alarm, I would’ve appreciated the backup, but given the circumstances…it was extremely embarrassing.

And just in case you’re wondering, what I actually saw was the silhouette of my backpack hanging on a hook next to the open closet.

Despite the embarrassing associations, and my fear of the original movie, I ultimately decided to read Alien Echo because it was written by Mira Grant (who you might also know by her real name, Seanan McGuire). I’ve been a fan of the novels McGuire writes under her Mira Grant pseudonym for quite some time, and was curious to see how she would approach the Alien franchise in a young adult novel.

The book does have some very intense (and occasionally gross) moments, but I found that it was actually a very enjoyable read. It got progressively more exciting as the story unfolded, and I ended up reading the entire novel in one sitting. Alien Echo is a great representation of the Alien franchise, combining suspense and scares with a compelling female main character, who is both intelligent and resourceful. Whether you’ve seen the Alien movies or not, if you’re a fan of the science fiction and horror genres, you will probably enjoy Alien Echo.

While I am continuing to refrain from setting reading goals for the foreseeable future, I am planning to spend the next week reading a couple of books that I’ve really been looking forward to. The first is Network Effect, by Martha Wells, and the second is The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins.

Have you had a chance to check out this week’s series of articles about the importance of summer reading, and summer reading programs? The final two posts will be coming out tomorrow, and will focus on great Young Reader/Middle Grade and Young Adult books. If you’ve missed any of this week’s posts, or would like to read the entire series of articles from the beginning, you can find them in the Summer Reading Programs section here on The Unapologetic Bookworm.

Happy reading!

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