Monthly Archives: August 2014

Two by Harlan Coben: Missing You, Six Years

Missing You

Given a year membership to a popular singles dating site, New York detective Kat Donovan reluctantly logs-on, hoping to give her love life a jump start. What she finds instead is a profile from the man who broke off their engagement eighteen years before and has mysteriously disappeared (she’s drunk Googled him a couple of times and comes up short).

Kat reaches out to him, using the lyrics of one of their favorite songs to catch his attention. But when he abruptly shuts down their communication and warns her not to contact him or seek him out again, Kat’s suspicions are raised. Could the disappearance of this guy be somehow linked to the death of her father all those years ago and the man who is about to die in prison for confessing to her father’s murder (as well as several others)?

And is her former fiancee connected to a string of rich widows who are disappearing under mysterious circumstances?

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Doctor Who: Deep Breath

doctor_who_deep_breath“Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.”

Looking back on the year leading up to the fiftieth anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if Steven Moffat and BBC America were doing something even more subversive with the Doctor’s Revisited than just introducing new series fans to the classic Doctors.  Could it have been that Moffat knew that he was going to take the series back to its classic roots with the next Doctor and was getting fans ready for it by showing us four-part classic Doctor Who stories that had a moment or two to breath and were paced a bit more leisurely than much of what we’ve seen for the past ten years?

It certainly seems like it could be the case based on “Deep Breath.”

If this is how the rest of series eight is going to be, consider me fully on board for this one.

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Bookstore Frustration

While running errands this weekend, I stopped into my local brick and mortar large chain bookstore, feeling the urge to possibly engage in some impulse book buying.

And I left empty handed.

Why you ask?

Pretty much the same frustration I have every time I enter a brick and mortar location of a large chain bookstore these days — the lack of space actually given to books coupled with the lack of selection once you actually start browsing the shelves.   As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I am perpetually frustrated by the lack of any substantive selection in the “new” section.  I often feel as if a lot of what’s put in this section is classified wrong.  I get that supernatural romance novels are selling well these days, but that’s not the only thing being published in the world of science-fiction and fantasy, for heaven’s sake!  

Of course, there are also the tie-in novels, which I am not above admitting that I’ve read more than my fair share and I’ve enjoyed them.   But I’m at the point with a lot of tie-in novels that I’m so far behind in the ever-increasingly continuity driven, interconnected, you have to read six books before this one and four books before those six to understand or enjoy what’s going on, that seeing these tie-in novels only reminds me how far behind I am and how much out of control my to-be-read pile is and that adding ten plus books to enjoy one new one doesn’t seem like the most realistic goal.  (Yes, that was a run-on sentence, but I hope it conveys my frustration and my thought process.)

Please don’t get me started on the ever-growing issue of having book three of a series but not book one in stock.  Nothing frustrates the side of me that wants/needs to read a series in order to be curious about book three, but not able to find book one on the shelf.  (This extends to my local library as well, though I will admit they’re doing better about having as much of a series as they can available to either check out or put on reserve).  

While browsing, a thought struck me.  I recalled seeing that the Hugo Awards were announced last weekend and so I decided I’d look for the newest winner, Ancillary Justice.   Pulling out my smart phone and connecting to GoodReads, I found the author information and began to skim the shelves, hopeful to spend a little discretionary income on the book.   And I found no copies of the book in the store.   I even checked the store’s “find a book” kiosk to find no copies in the store.

I could understand if this were some niche book that few had heard of, but this book just won the Hugo Award for heaven’s sake!  Couldn’t we spare some space for a copy or two so that impulsive shoppers like myself could pick it up.  I will admit I hope that maybe I was just behind the curve and that the one or two copies they did have were sold out, but given my earlier frustrations with the store, I highly doubt it.

And they wonder why so many readers go to the on-line retailers to buy our books….

For the record, I managed to leave said brick and mortar chain without purchasing a single book. 


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Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies

Something happened on trivia night at Piriwee Public — something so tragic that the police had to be called in to investigate and try to separate the truth from the rumors.

Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Liars starts with the tease about trivia night and then sends us back in time to build up to that night for four-hundred pages. It’s the story of three women — Jane, Celeste and Madeline — who each have children enrolled in Miss Barnes’ kindergarten class. At an orientation day, Jane’s son Ziggy is accused of bullying another girl in his class. Despite Ziggy’s denials, the incident polarizes families for and against Ziggy.

Jane secretly fears that Ziggy could have a bullying streak based on the one-night stand she had with his father, whom she hasn’t seen since. As Jane slowly becomes part of the community and friends with Madeline and Celeste, the three begin to discover that each of them is hiding things and that things aren’t as rosy as they would appear on the surface of their lives.

Over the course of Big Little Liars, Moriarty lays the foundation for everything to come to a head at trivia night. There are some fascinating but expertly set up revelations that come from the evening and what happens there. I’ll give Moriarty credit that while I was able to suss out one of the revelations, most of the others were a satisfying surprise.

To say much more is to give away too much and to rob readers of the opportunity to experience this novel for themselves.

Go, read it. I think you’ll like it.


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A New Era Begins


Fifteen years ago, if you’d told me that not only would Doctor Who return to our screens but that it would become a world-wide pop culture phenomenon, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’d never have believed the series would get not one but TWO cover stories from Entertainment Weekly or that the arrival of a new Doctor would get coverage from USA Today, The New York Times and other media outlets.   Or if you’d told me that you could find a wide assortment of merchandise (a TARDIS spatula?!?) related to the show, I’d probably have thought you were crazy.  And don’t get me started on my complete skepticism that there would be anything to celebrate fifty years of the show but a couple of repackaged classic serials on DVD.

You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t channel my inner third Doctor and bit and become a bit grumpy and cantankerous with new fans who have bemoaned that we’ve “waited so long” for new episodes this time or that they’re only doing twelve installments series instead of 13.

I want to shake them and go — we got to see the fiftieth anniversary in theaters!  After it got a world-wide virtually simultaneous broadcast on the anniversary date!    Monday night, if you want to you can see the feature-length season premiere in theaters, surrounded by fellow fans who may have different preferences from you, but who all enjoy Doctor Who.  Don’t even get me started on the whole announcement of the new Doctor special last year that generated huge audiences and was also simulcast worldwide! 

And while I may disdain the segment of fandom who have decided there is only Doctor and he is David Tennant (mirroring the segment of classic series fandom who only sees merit in the Tom Baker era), I still have to take a step back and take the time to enjoy the moment.   I will admit I’m looking forward to this new era with Peter Capaldi in the title role and seeing what he brings to things.  I’m hoping for an older, crankier Doctor maybe along the lines of Jon Pertwee, William Hartnell and (at times) Tom Baker (watch his first couple of seasons and you see a bit of a crankiness to the fourth Doctor).  

All I can say is — if you’re new to the party, welcome on board.  Please at least consider giving the classic series a chance.  Yes, it’s a bit different from the modern show, but I hope you might see some of what made many of us fall in love with the show.  

This evening, the new era begins.    I’m intrigued, excited and a bit nervous to see how the new Doctor will be.

Pretty much the same way I felt years ago when my PBS station aired the feature-format version of “Time and the Rani” for the first time…..

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Booking Through Thursday: Mystery

btt button

Do you read mystery novels? If so, why? Is it the mysteries themselves that appeal to you? The puzzle-solving? The murders? Or why don’t you read them? What about them doesn’t appeal?

Yes, I read mysteries –and I really enjoy them.

What I like most about a good mystery is one that offerings enough red herrings that it keeps me guessing until the culprit is revealed. But I can be picky about it — I don’t like red herrings for their own sake or just to try and throw me off. I also like to feel like the solution hasn’t come out of left field and that it’s been earned by the author and those he or she has solving the mystery.

Some of my favorite mystery writers include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly and Laura Lippman.

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Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

After ten years in prison, former party girl Janie Jenkins has been released from prison on a technicality. But rather than use this opportunity to put her life back together, Janie has decided it’s time to uncover the truth of who really killed her mother (Janie was doing the time for the crime) and the motive for her mother’s killing.

Janie hasn’t been wasting any of her time in prison — she’s taken advantage of the prison library to study details on the small town her mother escaped as a young girl. Free again, Janie launches a plan to change her identity and head back to the small town — all while eluding various members of the media who want a photo of the former party girl turned convict and one particular blogger who has an ax to grind with Janie.

If you’re worried I’m giving away too much of Elizabeth Little’s engrossing mystery-thriller Dear Daughter, don’t be. All of what I’ve described above is laid out within the novel’s first fifty or so pages (or if you want to be even more nitpicky, on the cover blurb) and most of it’s set-up for what’s to come as Janie peels back the layers of her past to find out who her mother really was and who might have killed her.

Janie is completely unapologetic for her attitude and world-view, both of which are dour, pessimistic and sarcastic. Janie fills us in on details of her present and past on a need to know basis with hints coming first and then later filling in the necessary details. And while you may think you’ve guessed the ultimate ending to the novel by the mid-way point (as I did), Little is able to still pack in a few twists and pull the rug out from under you moments in the finale that are earned and appropriately foreshadowed.

It all adds up to one of the more impressive mystery debuts I’ve had the pleasure to read of late. It also puts Elizabeth Little firmly on my radar as someone to watch for future installments and see where she goes from here.

I was given a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Light Fantastic by Jeffrey Lang

The Light Fantastic (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Lately I’ve found myself wishing the Pocket Books Star Trek tie-in novels could get a reboot.

I remember the days when you could pick up a Star Trek novel and enjoy a couple of hundred pages with familiar faces and friends from the franchise. There might be a continuity reference to an obscure-to-you episode thrown in or a wink to a previous novel, but it didn’t hinder you from enjoying the story or feeling like you were being left out.

But somewhere along the way, the Star Trek novels have become more insular and dependent on an internal continuity that seems to be growing more complex with each passing novel. With three of the four modern Treks sharing the same publishing universe, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to pick up and fully enjoy a novel set in them. And it’s a shame because I really enjoy a good Star Trek novel.

The Light Fantastic had the chance to be a really good Star Trek novel. Following up on the success of Mortal Coil, Jeffrey Lang focuses once again on Data and his family. Apparently, Data is back from the dead (because no Trek character killed on-screen can stay dead for long on the printed page) and living on Orion with his daughter Lal and her mysterious “babysitter” Alice. When Lal is kidnapped by Moriarty (seen in two TNG episodes), Data is forced to come out of hiding to try and find his daughter. Seems that Moriarty has figured out that he and his wife are trapped inside a computer bank and not really out among the stars as he thought and he wants to be free with a real body outside the holodeck or computer core.

Lang ties-in a ton of Trek continuity from various television shows, movies and (I assume) books in his story. How Moriarty determines he’s in a computer core and how delicate that life can be is a nice tie-in to events in Star Trek: Generations. And the tie-in of building an android body to a couple of classic Trek installments is also nicely done.

But where the novel falls down is its over-reliance on previous novels in the franchise that I haven’t had the time or inclination to read. I’m going to assume that Data’s return to life is a central plot point of the last trilogy that I didn’t read. And while I could read and enjoy (most of) The Light Fantastic without knowing every single little detail, I still felt like I was missing something by not having spent 900 or so pages with the past trilogy (which was built on the last trilogy which built on a couple of other novels….well, you get the point). It all adds up to a frustrating experience from a book that I was, quite frankly, looking forward to.

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Reviews: Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me

Perusing reviews of Lies My Girlfriends Told Me, it appears the books is a bit polarizing among readers. There are some who call is “ground breaking” while others are quick to dismiss it as your standard teen angst novel.

My thoughts on the subject are that yes, the novel is full of teen relationship angst and that it’s not necessarily as ground breaking as some reviewers would have you believe.

When Alix’s girlfriend Swanee passes away of cardiac arrest during a run, Alix’s entire world is shattered. But not nearly as much as when Alix sneaks into her girlfriend’s room and discovers her cell phone full of voice-mails and text messages from LM. Seems that Swanee had more than her fair share of secrets, including the fact that she was in a relationship with not only Alix, but also this mysterious LM.

Driven by a need to find answers, Alix quizzes Swanee’s younger sister, Joss for clues and eventually begins to answer back the mysterious LM’s texts. Alix eventually founds out that LM is Liana, a cheerleader at another school who Swanee assured Alix she’d broken up with when they got together. Confused, Alix seeks out Liana, wanting to find answers and possibly get some closure. But things get complicated when Alix and Liana share a connection, becoming friends and possibly more. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: No Time Like the Past by Greg Cox

No Time Like the Past (Star Trek: The Original Series)

While he’s not quite in the same pantheon as Peter David, Greg Cox still offers up more this fair share of intriguing, well-told Star Trek tie-in novels. So when I saw the cover of No Time Like the Past promised an “epic crossover event,” I was willing to give this blending of classic Trek and Voyager a chance.

And for the most part, it was a fairly fun read, even if I felt like the book overstayed its welcome by about fifty or so pages.

Thanks to some relic in the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine is sent back to the era of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. In order to get back and to prevent damage to the future time-line, Seven enlists the help of Kirk and company to reassemble a time-travel device and return home. Pieces of said artifact are scattered across the galaxy, all on planets that Kirk and company visited during the original seventy-nine episodes. Add in that the Klingons are aware of Seven’s presence and potential value and a commodore is up the usual classic Trek standards of cluelessness and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fun, diverting visit to the Star Trek universe.

As he’s demonstrated in the past, Cox has a firm grasp on history — Star Trek and otherwise. That is fully on display here and I’ll admit the classic Trek fan in me ate up the references and returns to some familiar locations.*

* It was almost enough to make me want to re-visit the three major episodes referenced in the story.

But the novelty and fun begin to wear out long before the novel reaches its final pages. By the mid-point of the novel, I found myself growing a bit weary of the constant reminders that everyone wants Seven for her future knowledge and potential to get a leg-up on the balance of power in the quadrant. And the book has to go to some huge lengths to have Seven regenerate since she’s cut off from her Borg cubicle.

It’s not to say the novel isn’t a fun one. It’s just that it feels a bit longer than it needs to be. There’s a bit too much treading water in the middle section and that drags the story down a bit.

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