Category Archives: review

Review: The Confession by Robert Whitlow

The Confession

Robert Whitlow returns to his roots with his latest character-driven legal thriller The Confession. After giving us a couple of novels that stretched both him and his readers, it’s nice to see Whitlow get back to a well-told legal story that is easily on par with some of his best works.

Years ago, Holt Douglas made a mistake — and his best friend died. Holt lied at the time and has been carrying around that guilt since that time. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at Holt’s life today. He’s an assistant DA in a rural Georgia county whose star is on the rise, he’s dating a successful and beautiful business-woman and he’s got a nice home complete with a friendly, lovable dog. But when a cold case is left on his desk, Holt begins to put his personal and professional future on the line as he begins to do a bit of digging into a mysterious death in the town’s history.

To help him dig into the past, Holt asks Deputy Trish Carmichael to delve a bit into the details of the cold case. Like Holt, Trish is dealing with some issues from her past that are clouding her present. And she’s also got a bit of a crush on Holt, which could be holding her back from a potential new boyfriend in her life, Keith. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: Year Four

Star Trek: Year Four

Maybe I’m expecting too much from IDW’s Star Trek comic book line. Every time I pick up a collection, I find myself coming away disappointed in some way. In the case of this collection of seven stories from Star Trek: Year Four, I came away with far more disappointments than I anticipated or wanted.

Freed from the limitations of a television budget, I was hoping for some stories that captured the spirit of the original series while taking full advantage of the nearly limitless special effects budget of what can be drawn within a comic book panel. Instead, what we get are some stories that feel like they’re trying to be too clever for their own good (including one where the crew stumbles across a planet that is addicted to reality TV shows and the Enterprise becomes the focus of one. It should have been fun, but the meta-ness and the feeling of the writers trying to be too clever for their own good quickly takes over. It even feels too long and it only runs about twenty or so pages) or end up feeling a bit too rushed into the single-issue running length. It’s ironic that many times reading modern comics, I can’t help but wonder if we’re getting one issue of plot spread over six issues of publication. But I kept thinking that maybe making some of these stories into two-part installments might have allowed them to breath a bit or given us a few more moments to enjoy a bit of time with the characters. Continue reading

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Review: The Complete Peanuts, Volume 1: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schultz

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Growing up, I loved checking collections of Peanuts comic strips out of the library. During my younger years, there were two size to the Peanuts collections — the smaller, standard size paperbacks, which rarely included the Sunday strips and the larger trade paperbacks that included more comics per page and the Sunday strips. I have found memories of reading those collections over and over again and always heading to that section of the library with the hope that a new collection was on the shelf today — or at least one I’d only read a dozen or so times before.

Part of this love stemmed from the animated Peanuts specials and the feature length movies. And part of it came from the collection of Charlie Brown records, where dialogue from the animated specials was put onto vinyl and I could listen them over and over again. Like the books, there were two sizes — the shorter play records that ran from eight to fifteen minutes and the LP that included pretty much the entire special in audio form. In the days before we had VHS (yes, there were such dark days. We also walked to school, against the wind both ways through snow drifts, even in the middle of summer or when I lived in climates that didn’t have snow), those records helped me to enjoy the stories of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Snoopy over and over and over again.

It was always fascinating to see the strips that became some of the source material and inspiration for those various animated specials (and records). Continue reading

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Doctor Who Target Audiobook Reviews: “The Leisure Hive” and three quarters of “The Trial of a Time Lord.”

Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive (Target Doctor Who Library)Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive by David Fisher

Revisiting some of the original Doctor Who Target novels in audio form has been an interesting experiment, especially going back to those that I have strong memories of or recall enjoying a great deal the first time around.

One that elicits good memories and feelings of enjoyment is David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive.” My recollections of the novel were that it did a nice job of world-building and character development, all while keeping the basic story from the television screen in tact, even if it wasn’t necessarily a beat for beat adaptation.

In fact, I’d say that Fisher spends the bulk of his time adapting what is (on-screen anyway) the first installment of the story that the rest of his novel ends up feeling a bit too rushed to get to the finish line. I’d love to know what Fisher might have done without the publisher imposed page-count on the Target novels of this era.

Alas, it appears that Fisher isn’t going to re-work his initial novelization or expand it any for the audio release, which I think is a bit of a shame.

All of that said, this one holds up remarkably well. Again, a lot of it comes down to Fisher’s world-building and filling it details that are merely hinted at in the television version. Fisher also brings a bit of a Douglas Adams sensibility to certain passages of the novel, which works fairly well, for the most part.

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Mini-Reviews: Leviathan Wakes, Wool, Dad Is Fat

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes languished on my to-be-read pile ever since it was nominated for the Hugo Award a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what this says about me as a reader, but it was news that the novel was being developed for a potential SyFy series that finally drove me to crack the cover and give it a chance.

Also, the notion that with the series reaching a fourth book and getting some good buzz, I’d better jump in now or risk being so far behind that I’d never want to catch up.

I’m glad I waded into the book because it’s one of the more enjoyable space opera novels I’ve read in a long time. Space opera can be a bit bleak at times and while this one does have those moments, it still manages to rise above them at others and keep things entertaining. Part of it could be the parallel stories that intersect at just the right point and then continue to escalate events from there. Part of the hook is that one is a mystery set within this genre universe and that helped me to connect to the story and want to keep reading. It also helps that both storylines reveal different aspects of the politics of this universe and how they are unfolding and developing. Even the info-dumps necessary for a novel like this don’t feel like the entire plot is screeching to a halt in order to have characters stop and give us information we need in order for the story to continue. Continue reading

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Review: 24: Underground

Part of the hook of 24 is the real-time component of the show. Take that away and you lose some of what makes the show work so well and what makes Jack Bauer one of the more entertaining fictional heroes in recent memory.

I’ve tried reading some of the tie-in novels for the series and found them lacking, namely because the real time concept doesn’t translate quite as well to the printed page. With this collected comic book, 24: Underground, I was hoping the graphic novel structure might lend itself better to the show’s structure.

Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case. Set before the events of the recently concluded 24: Live Another Day, this five-issue series attempts to fill in some of the gap of what happened to Jack Bauer between the end of season eight and the start of season nine. Jack’s working the docks somewhere in Russia and his past is about to catch up to him.

My big issue is that there’s too much of a “been there, done that” feeling to the story. Jack’s hiding out and making friends, but then his past comes calling and his new friends are caught in the middle. Feels like the start of a lot of previous days in the life of Jack Bauer. And since we’re only given a brief glimpse into his current life, we never quite feel any connection to these new characters or much concern over their fate.

There’s also the issue of the art for this series, which I find hit or miss. I must be getting too old for tie-in comics because I actually feel like the characters should look like they do on the show and be easily identifiable. And I also wish there were more distinctions between the supporting characters and villains, many of whom simply blurred together as I read. (And I read the entire arc in two sittings. I can’t imagine waiting a month between issues and losing track of who is who!)

If you’ve missed 24, stream a season via various on-line services, watch it on DVD or pick up the latest shortened season to get your fix of Jack Bauer. This one is a miss.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders is one of those cases of me picking up a book based solely on its title. I defy you to pass that title in your local bookstore or library and not, at the very least, be curious.

When Gabe discovers that the proceeds from the school’s vending machine have been redirected from the band program to a new cheerleader dance squad, he sees red. And not the Mountain Dew Code Red that he’d been purchasing from the machine with his hard earned, part-time job money at a local doughnut store. With passion and zeal, Gabe throws himself into figuring out how this has happened and what he can do about it.

Starting with giving up his beloved soda, Gabe embarks on a campaign to find what happened to the band’s funding and what, if anything, he can do to get it back. Over the course of the novel, Gabe alienates school administration, his father and some of his older friends while learning a bit more about how to make his voice heard, gaining new friends (and possibly a girlfriend) and the value of getting to work on time.

From the beginning, we know that Gabe has gone too far since the story is told from Gabe’s side of the conversation with his lawyer.

This is my first time reading a novel by Geoff Herbach and I can say it likely won’t be my last. Gabe’s story is funny and compelling, helped a great deal by Gabe’s asides and comments on the events unfolding. Gabe’s zeal in getting the band program reinstated, all while trying to make better choices only to be thwarted by himself time and again makes for a poignant portrayal. Sometimes Gabe doesn’t realize he’s gone to far until it’s too late and the book wisely allows us to see that Gabe faces consequences to his actions, even if they prove to be successful.

While the book is self contained, I can’t help but feel like I’d enjoy another book with Gabe, if only to see how things develop from here. Can he maintain the new workout regiment and diet that he and his grandfather are doing? Can he continue to work on his relationship with his dad? And what about the new friends he gains over the course of this book?

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