20 Books of Summer, 2022 Edition

A couple of summers ago, I participated in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge and really enjoyed it. So, when I heard the challenge had continued and was renewed again for this summer, I decided to jump in. And since technically it’s only been a few days since meteorological summer began, I’m only slightly behind, right?

So, here’s what I hope to read this summer (and this could totally change, of course)

  1. Star Wars: Brotherhood by Michael Chen
  2. Ordinary Monsters by J.T. Miro
  3. Sparring Partners by John Grisham
  4. Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins
  5. Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
  6. Something to Hide by Elizabeth George
  7. Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll by Terrance Dicks
  8. Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  9. Book Worms by Emily Henry (audiobook)
  10. Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror by Ian Marter (audiobook)
  11. Boom Town by Garrison Keillor (audiobook)
  12. Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  13. This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
  14. When She Was Good by Michael Robotham
  15. The Club by Ellery Lloyd
  16. Doctor Who and the Face of Evil by Terrance Dicks (audiobook)
  17. The Decomposition of Jack by Kristen Tubb O’Donnell
  18. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  19. Birds of California by Katie Cotugno

And I’m going to leave myself some wiggle room with a couple of “wild cards” because you never quite know what will catch my eye on the library shelf or the Galley of Nets.

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#20BooksofSummer: Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Power of Kroll: 4th Doctor Novelisation

Back in my early days of Doctor Who fandom, some friends caught a few moments of “The Power of Kroll” and incredulously mocked me because the Doctor somehow defeated a giant squid creature using a tiny stick. Of course, I tried to explain to them exactly what was happening in the scene and how it wasn’t really a tiny stick, but my pleas fell upon deaf ears and taunts about the budgetary limitations of my favorite show.

Years later, removed of the mocking jabs of my youth, I’ve come to see that “The Power of Kroll” is a rough draft for Robert Holmes’ triumphant “Caves of Androzani.” And while most fans will be quick to cry that its the scripts that make classic Who so special, the comparisons between “Androzani” and “Kroll” show sometimes there are other elements involved as well.

Pursuing the fifth segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on a moon of Delta Manga. A revolutionary station is processing protein from the swamp and sending it home to feed the greater population. One obstacle is a group of natives, who were displaced from Delta Magna originally and now stand in the way of full development of the small moon’s resources. Lurking in the swamp is a large creature, worshiped by the natives and known as Kroll. After some time being dormant, Kroll is on the move again — and is hungry. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Reading

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks about books with summery covers. However, my mind started whirring and got me thinking about books I’ve read during the summer — books I was assigned to read during the summer and books I read for the first time during the summer or because my dad was in the military, we’d move around so I might “miss” some of the standard classics because they were read before or after I left a school district. I would, sometimes, read them on my own during the summer for my own enjoyment/edification. So, I’m going to include a few of each:

Assigned/Required Reading for School:

  1. The Power Game by Hendrick Smith
  2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Summer Reading For Books I “Missed”:

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  3. 1984 by George Orwell

Summer Reading “Because I Wanted To”

  1. Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
  2. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q-Squared by Peter David
  3. Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George
  4. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

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#20BooksofSummer Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Face of Evil by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Face of Evil: 4th Doctor Novelisation

Featuring one of the best covers in the Target range, The Face of Evil is a solid adaptation of a classic serial from an era when Doctor Who could seemingly do no wrong.

Originally titled “The Day God Went Mad” (at least according to fan legend), The Face of Evil is a tight, taut, confident four-part story from Tom Baker’s third season in the role of the Doctor. Fresh off his adventures on Gallifrey, the Doctor arrives on a jungle planet that he’s visited before and had a huge impact upon. However, the Doctor has no memory of his previous adventure there nor the damage he’s inflicted on the societies there.

Terrance Dicks fills in the gap of the Doctor’s previous adventure with a deft, concise backstory that places the original visit during a slight gap in the fourth Doctor’s first story, Robot. It’s hard not to wish that Dicks had a bit more time adapting this one and an expanded page count because a chapter detailing the Doctor’s first visit might have been welcome.

Instead, we get an adaptation of the solid script, complete with a bit of character work for some of the supporting cast. In many ways, this is Doctor Who‘s take on the original Star Trek trope of a mad computer holding a society hostage. However, there’s no Captain Kirk around to “Gracie Allen” logic said computer into submission. Instead, the Doctor has to find a way to undo an error he made in a post-regenerative haze.

In a season full of classic serials, The Face of Evil is another outstanding outing. The audiobook is full of the usual highlights from the Target audio range from sound effects to dramatic music. Louise Jameson turns in a solid performance for this one, though I will still argue her interpretation of Tom Baker’s Doctor doesn’t always necessarily ring true.

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#20BooksofSummer: The Club by Ellery Lloyd

The Club

Can we all agree to retire in media res? Or maybe just put it (and the unreliable narrator, for that matter) on the back burner for a couple of years?

Ellery Lloyd’s The Club establishes early that something nefarious has happened on the opening weekend of the exclusive Island Club — the latest in a long line of clubs where the rich and famous play in the lap of luxury. However, exactly who is murdered and why only slowly becomes apparent as the novel fills in a lot of gaps and introduces a lot of characters who have a very good motive to murder Ned Groom, owner and head of the Club, and a lot of other people staying on the island.

An interesting set-up for a locked-room mystery is pretty much squandered by the time we get around to the big reveals of who did what and their motive. The cast of this one is fairly large and each chapter rotates to the viewpoint of various characters with motives to do away with Ned, though it feels like a lot of the middle part of this book is treading water until Ned finally meets his final end (or does he?!? the book will tease).

As intriguing as the early set-up is, the central mystery itself is never quite as interesting as it should be. Part of that is Ned is portrayed as an all-around terrible person who really had it coming from a lot of the people on the island. While the book does try to create sympathy for everyone who comes into Ned’s sphere of influence, Ned himself keeps coming across as a complete jerk and you can see why people might stoop to murdering him. I suppose we don’t have to necessarily love the victim, but if everyone else can get time in the novel to be sympathetic, then so could Ned.

The Club isn’t necessarily one you’ll want to join for long. Try it at your own risk.

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#20BooksofSummer Review: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl

Like tie-in novels from my favorite pop-culture franchises, rom-coms are a great way to distract/entertain myself while working out or completing daily life stuff.

But every once in a while, one of those stories breaks out from the pack and surprises you in the most unexpected of ways. That’s exactly what Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Weather Girl did.

Ari Abrams has achieved her professional dream, working for the woman who inspired her to study meteorology at the station she grew up watching. But this dream isn’t exactly everything Ari hoped it would be since her would-be mentor and her ex-husband, Torrence and Seth Hale, spend more time feuding than they do running the station or mentoring the news staff. After a spectacular blow-out at the office holiday party, Ari and sports anchor Russell Barranger hatch a plot to Parent Trap the Hales back together, in the hopes of allowing the station to become more professional and for them to get the professional encouragement and guidance they crave.

It isn’t long before Ari and Russ begin to see each other as more than just colleagues helping their bosses get together. There’s already an undercurrent of romantic tension, one that slowly builds over the course of the novel.

What makes Weather Girl such a refreshing entry in the rom-com field is that both Ari and Russ have obstacles separately and collectively along the way to “happily ever after.” Ari and her mother are clinically depressed and Ari worries that her depression makes her “too much” for anyone who might find out the truth about her. Russell has a “dad bod” and a 12-year-old daughter who is into musical theater. Oh, and he hasn’t…ahem…dated in five years either.

As each obstacle arises in Ari and Russ’s journey together, the characters actually come together in a mature fashion and discuss the obstacles facing them. And while the truth isn’t necessarily a magic cure nor does telling it instantly fix everything, it’s nice to see characters interacting in a mature, believable fashion to overcome obstacles and not allow them to become bigger than they could or should be.

Even late in the game with a huge obstacle arises, it’s dealt with realistically based on what we’ve learned about the characters to this point.

A sweet, funny, authentic-feeling rom-com is nothing to sneeze at. And this may be why this one has lingered with me a bit after I finished listening to it.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR List

It’s time again for the Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl).

Summer is one of my favorite times for reading. There are few things I enjoy more than swimming some laps and then relaxing by the pool with a book. And don’t get me started on the fun of the summer reading program (you read and get cool stuff?!? Win, win to this reader!).

Here are a few selections I’d like to read this summer.

  1. Star Wars: Brotherhood by Michael Chien
  2. Ordinary Monsters by J.T. Miro
  3. The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
  4. Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
  5. Something to Hide by Elizabeth George
  6. Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate
  7. Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light by Rona Murno (audiobook)
  8. Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii by James Horan (audiobook)
  9. Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror by Ian Marter (audiobook)
  10. Boom Town by Garrison Keillor (audiobook)

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Review: Sparring Partners by John Grisham

Sparring Partners

Like Stephen King, John Grisham has earned a spot on the best-seller list for just about anything he chooses to publish. And similar to King, it appears that Grisham isn’t content to crank out the same book year after year to his adoring fans (I’m looking at you as the biggest culprit James Patterson)

This time around, Grisham offers up three novellas he says were written during the lock-down instead of a full-length novel.

Here are my thoughts on each of them.

Homecoming
Grisham returns to his world of Ford County and Jake Brigance. As a big fan of Jake’s, it’s nice to get to spend a hundred or so pages with him and the cast of characters Grisham has created. “Homecoming” centers on Mack Stafford, a former lawyer who got tired of his life in Clanton and disappeared three years before, leaving his family behind. He also took a large chunk of several settlements as well. Mack wants to come home three years later and see his family again. He reaches out to Jake and Harry Rex about coming home and the wheels start turning. Continue reading

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Review: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

Reckless GirlsReckless Girls is a case of the marketing team/dust-jacket writers completely misselling a novel and, thus, creating some expectations that the novel can’t and doesn’t fulfill. That’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad book, mind you. But I will admit I came away from this one a bit disappointed.

If The Wife Upstairs is an homage to Jane Eyre, this one is a homage to Agatha Christie mysteries. And since I’ve been immersed in a couple of Christie’s novels early this year, Rachel Hawkin’s Reckless Girls shows just how deceptive Christie makes constructing a locked-room mystery appear.

Lux McAllister left behind her life to sail around the world with her new boyfriend, Nico. However, the two have been stuck in Hawaii for a few months (worse places to be stuck, I guess). When a pair of college friends contract Nico to sail them to a deserted island, it appears that Lux and Nico’s dreams of sailing around the world are finally getting started.

That is until we get to the island and find another couple there and then a third boat shows up, disrupting the quiet paradise that everyone was hoping to find.

Reckless Girls spends a lot of its run time setting up the characters and the situation, including flashbacks of just about every major character who steps on stage, before the novel pivots a complete 180 in the last third and goes ape-poop crazy. And your enjoyment of this story is going to depend on a lot on just how much you buy into the pivoting the story does. This reader wasn’t necessarily sold by it and I kept finding myself rolling my eyes in the last pages as Hawkins piles on twist after twist, each one seemingly more outrageous than the last.

And yet, I see a lot of people on my timeline who love this book. So, maybe it’s just me finding it disappointing. Again, I think the marketing for this one really misrepresented it and ended up setting expectations that this one didn’t live up to.

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The Orville: New Horizons – “Electric Sheep”

orv-301review-head2-777x437Multiple episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation involve Data or Worf going rogue, seemingly abandoning their lives in Starfleet only to see the light by the end of the episode and be assimilated back into day-to-day life on the ship with little or no mention of the incident or any consequences.

The Orville has been an homage to TNG since its beginning so the fact that no one on board has said much about Issac’s betrayal and then reinstatement in season two just feels like it’s the nature of the series. Until the third season premiere, which finally looks at the consequences of Issac’s decision not only on him but the various characters around him. In the end, “Electric Sheep” ends up feeling a bit like what “Family” was to TNG – the opportunity to examine the consequences of what could and should be a fundamental shift in a character’s life.

And yet, I can’t help but think “Electric Sheep” isn’t as strong an entry as “Family” was, though it was probably just as necessary to The Orville.

Issac’s ostracizing by the crew, especially the new character of Charly Burke (who has a legitimate bone to pick with Issac), works well enough and sets up some interesting questions and moral concerns. Seeing the crew struggle with their relationship with the artificial lifeform worked well as does the dichotomy of knowing how to feel when Issac decides his continued existence is harming crew efficiency and he takes his own life. I have to admit I didn’t necessarily see that coming, though I did like the choice. Also, allowing the episode to not be constrained by a running time because it’s streaming now allowed us to live in the grief for a bit longer. Seeing the crew’s reaction to Issac’s decision and the various points of view worked well and walked a fine line.

I do wish that same restraint extended to other areas of the show. Because Seth McFarlane is one of those creators who does better when he’s not allowed to roam free. As much as I liked seeing everyone live in the grief, I felt like there were some other “look, we’ve got new toys to play with” moments in other spots. One particular sequence is the introduction of the shiny new shuttlecraft and the games played to break it in. It also feels like McFarlane and company put in a lot of new exterior shots of the ship simply to show off the exterior of the ship and not to add to the overall story as a whole. (And this comes from a fan who loves and defends the Enterprise fly-by in The Motion Picture).

As with most things The Orville, it’s hit or miss for this fan. The parts that work, really work. The parts that don’t connect really take me out of it.

However, it’s fun to have this show back and I am looking forward to seeing where this season may take up.

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