Reading With Shortcake

It’s been a while since I checked in on Reading with Shortcake.  But not for lack of reading to her.  If anything, we’ve read a lot of books together — most of them many times.   It’s to the point that she can recite some of them to us and even knows when to turn the pages (which I’ve got to get on video soon, I keep reminding myself).

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading:

Another Monster at the End of This BookAnother Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

After picking up a copy of the original Monster at the End of This Book for Shortcake, I was both excited and wary of this sequel.

We checked a copy out of our library and I’ve got to admit this one isn’t quite up to par with the original. The concept is the same — Grover is worried about a monster at the end of the book but instead of trying to keep the reader from turning pages, this time he’s trying to keep Elmo from proceeding to the final page with the promised monster.

This book confirms what many of have suspected for years — Elmo is a jerk. He knows Grover is worried about this monster but keeps tearing down every defense Grover throws up to get to the promised monster at the end of the book. All while claiming to be Grover’s friend.

We love the original. This one just isn’t quite as good. Continue reading

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Shelf Space

Author Fonda Lee took to Twitter recently, lamenting the lack of shelf space in her local Barnes and Nobel for new fantasy authors. In the post, Lee points out that J.R.R. Tolkien had “3.5 shelves worth of space” and Robert Jordan had “2.5 shelves.”

Putting aside that 2.5 shelves of space for Jordan probably adds up to a total of four books (cause man, that guy wrote some huge tomes!), I find Lee’s comments interesting.  I understand her point about new authors trying to find a way to break into the publishing ranks and even her point that it was difficult to find novels that had either been recently nominated for or won genre awards.

When Barnes and Nobel opened a store that was convenient to where I shopped and did my errands, I was excited.  I frequented the store regularly and enjoyed browsing the aisles to find something new that may not have necessarily been on my radar at the time.  These days, it’s been months since I darkened the door of that local Barnes and Nobel.   And a large part of it ties into Lee’s lament.

In the past five years, I’ve noticed that more of the floor space of Barnes and Nobel has been given over to items that may or may not necessarily be related to the reading experience.  Everything from toys and games to collectible figures to things associated with reading.  I’ve also noticed that the amount of room for actual books has decreased dramatically.  At first, it was a shrinking of the shelf-space for new releases, then slowly the aisles for each genre seemed to become smaller.  What was first two and a half aisles for sci-fi and fantasy has become one and a half.  Same thing for mystery novels.  And while we get a bit of space given over to new releases, I find that what whoever deems a book worthy of such a spotlight has very different tastes than I do.

Insert rant about how much shelf space in the SF/F aisle paranormal romance gets these days here.

I understand what Lee is saying about the limited shelf space being given to older books by authors who may or may not necessarily be still around.  And while I share her concerns, I feel certain if we asked the buyers at Barnes and Nobel why this was, it would go back to the old adage that things like Tolkien and Jordan move product.

Look, I’m all for the classics getting shelf space.  Certainly, they’ve a proven track record and that fact that they keep finding Tolkien to publish (I expect his grocery lists to be published at some point) means he and other authors are always going to take up some shelf space.  I just wish that the experience of going to Barnes and Nobel was closer to what it was when my local store first opened and not what it is today.  I feel like the stores have become more about book adjacent items and less about the books themselves.

And that’s a shame.

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TV Round-Up: The Orville: Identity, Parts 1 & 2

identity2For most of this season, I’ve felt like the better episodes of The Orville have come from everyone but Seth MacFarlane.  And then, he has to go and deliver what is probably the best episode of the series so far with “Identity, Part 2.”

This two-part installment felt like The Orville’s attempt at “Best of Both Worlds,” taking our characters to some dark, scary places all while facing the potential obliteration of humanity at the hands of robotic beings.  And while the cliffhanger here isn’t quite up to “Mr. Worf, fire!” (to be honest, few cliffhangers are), it was still enough that I was glad I’d let episodes build up on the DVR and didn’t have to wait a week to see how it all played out.

MacFarlane and his writing staff pull a lot of threads into focus here, from the romance of Doctor Finn and Issac to the on-going conflict with the Krill to the revelation of why Issac was really on the ship to begin with.  Watching as Issac and his robotic others revealed that Issac was there less to learn about becoming a member of the Union and more to probe for weaknesses and possible ways to destroy humanity really put the comment about his race being “incredibly racist” from the pilot into a completely different light. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Mind of EvilMany Whovians consider “The Daemons” to be the Pertwee-ist story of the Third Doctor’s era.

I tend to disagree and point instead to “The Mind of Evil” as the story that brings together most of the elements required for a “essential” Pertwee-era adventure. Featuring UNIT, the Master, and multiple threats to Earth, “The Mind of Evil” has long been one of my favorite stories from this era — and even the entire run of classic Doctor Who.

Which is why it’s a darn shame that Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the story doesn’t even begin to do it justice. If there were ever a story crying out for the rounding out of things that Dicks was able to do with “The Auton Invasion” or “Day of the Daleks,” it’s “The Mind of Evil.” Instead, we get Uncle Terrance late in his run of adapting the original version for the printed page. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: Batman Volume 7: The Wedding

Batman, Volume 7: The WeddingAs Kevin Smith has often pointed out, comic books are mainly concerned with the middle part of the story. This explains why certain plot points are introduced in one issue only to see them nullified a few issues later. Such is the case with superhero relationships and potential romantic pairings.

So it is with Batman and this collection of issues leading up to the big marriage of Batman to Catwoman. Either the series was getting ready to have a major change to the status quo of Batman or else there would be a big reset button hit before Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle got to the altar.

SPOILER ALERT: It’s the reset button.

But even before we get to the altar, there are about a hundred pages of treading water to get us there. Putting aside the double sized issue that is the wedding issue with splash pages by some of the most influential names in Batman lore, there are two collected arcs here leading up to the wedding. One is Booster Gold trying to make Batman happy and failing miserably at doing so (which should be a warning as to where all this is going) and the other is Joker and Catwoman battling it out, becoming mortally wounded and then discussing their history together for what feels like an eon.

I was beginning to get frustrated with both stories without having to wait a month or so between issues. Whether I would have enjoyed them more in single installments spread out over time is up for debate, but I have a feeling I’d be left feeling frustrated.

I’ve heard some good things about Tom King’s run on the Dark Knight. And I suppose he had some big shoes to fill when Scott Snyder left. But from what I’ve read here, I’m not in a huge hurry to pick up more of his collected editions. I may at some point out of curiosity. But I am not exactly in a hurry.

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TV Round-Up: The Orville, “Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes”

An open letter to Seth MacFarlane:

Dear Seth,theorvillefishes

Do you mind if I call you Seth?

I understand that your new series, The Orville is intended as a homage to the optimistic spirit of Star Trek.  And I know that many of your other animated comedies feature callbacks to certain moments from popular culture.

So, you will understand if I’m a bit concerned that it feels like the latest (at least to me) episode of The Orville feels like you crossed the streams of your series.  I can understand and forgive the plot line where Gordon is taking the command test and pulls out the “we’ve got this weapon that will reflect back whatever you throw at us” moment.  After all, Captain James T. Kirk only used that twice in the original series (and did it better.  Of course, when does James T. Kirk not make just about anything better?!?).  Continue reading

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Review: You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks

You Were Made for ThisNo one here is exactly what they appears to be….

That quote from the first season of Babylon Five applies in spades to the trio of protagonists in Michelle Sacks’ debut novel You Were Made for This.

When Sam inherits a house from his Swedish aunt, he and his wife Merry decide it’s the perfect time to move and set-up the perfect home for their newborn son, Conor. As Merry delves into becoming the perfect stay-at-home mother, Sam pursues his passion to become a filmmaker. But lurking below the surface are secrets that each is hiding from the other — whether it’s Sam’s real reason for fleeing his job as a professor or Merry’s true feelings on becoming a mother.

Enter into this scenario a visit from Merry’s oldest friend, Frank. Frank knows Merry better than anyone else and her visit begins to slowly shatter the illusion that Merry and Sam have built up. It also exposes some older, deeper wounds and resentments that Merry and Frank harbor from growing up together. Continue reading

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