Monthly Archives: September 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Growing the TBR Pile

toptentuesday2

It’s time again for the Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the Broke and the Bookish.   This week’s subject is the top ten authors you’ve only read one book by but want to read more.

Without any further adieu, here we go.

1.  Hugh Howey –– I finally crossed Wool off my TBR pile and I was intrigued by Howey’s world-building and story.   While Wool was self-contained, I see from GoodReads that it’s part of a larger universe and it’s one that I want to visit again.
2 .  James S.A. Corey — Another book crossed off the TBR pile with Leviathan Awakes.  Great space opera and I’m ready to visit the universe and characters again.
3.  Liane Moriarity —  Just finished Big Little Lies and enjoyed it immensely.   I’m curious to read more by Moriarity.
4.  Craig Johnson – I’ve read the first Longmire novel and have the rest on my TBR list.
5.  Miranda KeneallyBreathe, Annie Breathe was great and I’ve got a couple of her other books on reserve.
6.  Michael Robotham
7.  Jo Walton
8. Andy Weir — While I didn’t love The Martian, I’m curious to see what he does next.
9. Megan Abbott
10. Kelly BraffettSave Yourself was one of my favorite books I read last year.  I’ve had her others on my TBR list since that time but haven’t got to them yet.  As I compose this, I ask myself why and realize I have no good answer.

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Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Alienated

When she’s chosen to be one of three exchange students with the recently discovered alien race the L’eihrs, Cara Sweeney sees not only a chance to get a full ride to college but also the change to jump start her career as a journalist. But that Cara didn’t expect was rampant xenophobia from her friends and planet or that her exchange student Alix might have a different agenda than promoting peace and understanding between the two cultures.

Oh, and she also didn’t expect that she’d start to fall for the alien living under her roof.

Melissa Landers’ Alienated starts off with a very interesting premise and story line, tackling some interesting threads and showing us the unintended price that Cara is paying for making the choice — she loses her boyfriend and her best friend in the rampant xenophobia overtaking her community. But somewhere around the third or fourth disc of this audiobook, things began to quickly go awry and I found myself enjoying the story less and less. It’s probably about the time that both Alix and Cara begin to fall for each other. It’s not because Landers doesn’t spend a time in the first half of the book setting these two unlikely heroes up as a couple. It’s because once the Cara starts trying to making food palatable to Alix’s alien palate that things the story begins to lose track of the interesting questions that drove the first half of the novel and slowly begins to center on just attracted these two are to each other.
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Review: Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller

Following his final confrontation with the Queen in “Planet of the Spiders,” the third Doctor is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Determined to get back to his friends at UNIT to say farewell, the TARDIS brings him on a side detour to what appears to be an English village. But beneath the happy surface, there is something sinister going on — including that no one is allowed to utter the “D-word” or else face the consequences.

Joanne Harris’ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller captures the essence and character of the third Doctor in this fascinating, light novella set at the end of Jon Pertwee’s tenure. Reading the story, I could hear Pertwee delivering the dialogue that Harris creates for his Doctor and this one feels like a nice little side-step into a familiar era of the show.

It’s interesting that I picked this up right after listening to the Big Finish version of “Love and War.” That story also references the end of the third Doctor era and his dying of radiation poisoning. This story slips nicely into Paul Cornell’s take on the end of that era with the Doctor spending a decade in the TARDIS alone, dying of radiation poisoning.

I’ve read several of the digital shorts in the Time Trips series and this is one of the more enjoyable.    The story has a good mystery and it doesn’t overstay its welcome or suffer from excessive padding.   If you’re a fan of the third Doctor, this is definitely one to pick up.

I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror (New Series Adventures, #55)

Being a Doctor Who fan these days is interesting. What was once a more solitary fandom has now become more social. Where it was once just me enjoying my VHS copies of the stories and haunting my local bookstores for the latest novel, it seems like these days you can’t turn around twice without seeing Doctor Who merchandise for sale everywhere.

It’s become so pervasive that there were copies of “Deep Breath” for sale in Wal-Mart the other day. Wal-Mart! It appears we’re in a golden age for tie-in merchandise to my favorite series.

And with a new Doctor arriving on the scene, it seems that the BBC is doing all it can to capitalize on fan enthusiasm, starting with the release of three new Peter Capaldi Doctor stories this week. Thanks to the kind people at NetGalley, I was able to secure ARC copies of the books a week or so before Capaldi made his debut on our screens. But being the obsessive fan that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to crack the digital covers of the books until I’d at least seen his debut story. I didn’t want to unintentionally spoil myself on details of the first story or to create any more notions of what I wanted from the Capaldi Doctor.

First up in the reading list was Mike Tucker’s The Crawling Terror. The Doctor and Clara arrive in a small town that is literally crawling with giant, potentially deadly insects. Investigating further, the Doctor uncovers unnatural experiments taking place that could have a tie to British and German experiments from the second World War and a potential alien invasion just waiting to happen.

While the concept of an alien invasion of our planet through the U.K. isn’t necessarily the most original Doctor Who plot, Tucker throws in just enough references to the classic and new series and gives it just enough of a twist that I didn’t necessarily mind that much. I’m also impressed with how well Tucker had translated Capladi’s take on the Doctor to the printed page. There are many instances where I could hear Capaldi delivering the dialogue that Tucker gives the Doctor. Clara is also well served by the story and feels authentic as well.

It makes me curious how much background material Tucker and his fellow authors were given to the early episodes. Did they read scripts or see test footage?Was it BBC sanctioned or did they have to get the scripts and footage via alternate means (since the first five scripts and working prints of a couple of episodes leaked to the Internet).

Whatever the case, Tucker does a solid job with The Crawling Terror. The story is effective and creepy.

As I said before, I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Why Do You Run? Two Books Help Provide Some Insight

During my sports editor days, I covered a lot of athletes. But one that has stayed with me was the story of a local woman who was involved in a serious car accident.

Doctors were able to save her life but they told her she’d never walk again nor have children. Two years later and a lot of hard work, physical therapy, prayers and a miracle or two, she not only gave birth to a child, but she was getting ready to run the Disney Marathon. Interviewing her for the story I was writing, she said she wanted to put on a running event in her home town as a way to give back. At one point, she said that I should consider running in the event and my first thought was — not unless I’m being chased by a bear.

Back then, I was exercising, but I didn’t really get how or why people ran.

Fast forward a couple of years and one evening I couldn’t go to my regular spin class. Instead, there was a running class and the instructor invited me to join. I did and while I didn’t love it right away, I began to understand a bit more why people run.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t have any interest or desire to run (as I once did). But a couple of books I’ve read have shed some new insights and given me a couple of new ways to respond when I’m asked, “Why do you run?


The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long DistancesThe Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman

Before I started running, I often wondered why people who ran did it. After all, as the old joke goes, you never see a runner smiling widely or looking like they’re having much, if any, fun.

Like author Matthew Inman (better known as The Oatmeal from his on-going web-comic), I didn’t really understand the appeal of running long distances until I actually got out there and started doing it.

Inman’s attempt to explain why he runs long distance is chronicled in The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.

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Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek”

intothedalek“Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.”

“Dalek” was an early classic for the new Doctor Who, ranking among my favorite stories of all-time.  So a story that features callbacks to that classic Christopher Eccleston era story was already going to be right in my wheelhouse.  Add in another superb performance by Peter Capaldi and some interesting bits about just who this new Doctor is and you’ve got another winner for this new era.

I know I’m probably in the minority on fully embracing and loving this one, but then again, I was quick to embrace and love “Victory of the Daleks” at the start of the Matt Smith era.  And while that episode hasn’t held up as well as my initial reaction, I still think it’s a lot better than most fans give it credit for.

“Into the Dalek” finds the Doctor brought in to heal a malfunctioning Dalek — one that has become “good” instead of wanting to exterminate everything it encounters.   Conflicted about what he should do, the Doctor brings Clara onto the scene because she’s a “carer” and does his caring for him.    Not sure if there really can be a “good” Dalek, the Doctor and Clara agree to be miniaturized and head inside the Dalek to fix what’s gone wrong and hopefully find some redemption for the Daleks as well as the Doctor.

In a story that calls to mind not only “Dalek,” but also “The Invisible Enemy,” the Doctor and Clara’s journey inside of a Dalek proves to be a fascinating one, not only because we have to contend with Dalek antibodies but we also get a look around inside the internal portions of the blobs of hate in bonded poly-caribide armor.  Much of the episode centers on just how alien and distant this new Doctor is, including his disdain for soldiers (setting up something when the Doctor and Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink cross paths, I’m sure) and the fact that he doesn’t believe there can be anything good in a Dalek.  In the end, the Doctor and Clara reconnect the memories that made the Dalek “good” and send it back among the Daleks as a changed Dalek — one that exterminates the fleet invading the ship and then convinces the Dalek fleet that all the humans have been exterminated.

The Dalek gets a look inside the Doctor’s mind and proclaims that he would not longer make a good Dalek as we heard during Eccleston’s era but that he is a good Dalek.  His hatred of the Daleks is so all-consuming that he’s become not much better than his mortal foes — the Doctor even references that it was his original visit to Skaro that defines who he is and when he became more than just a name he chose for himself.

It all adds up to some great speeches for Capaldi.  Of course, the episode also includes a lot of scenes that we’ve seen referenced in the trailers including the aforementioned “carer” and the “Am I good man?” question.   It seems as if the question may be one that the entire series is going to have to address and look into.  It may also come into question when and if we find out who Missy is and why she’s choosing certain victims of the Doctor’s influence to bring back.  Interestingly, she’s chosen two people so far that the Doctor doesn’t hold in high regard — the clockwork robot and a solider.  Is she collecting people the Doctor has dismissed to teach him a lesson or to create some kind of force to go up against him later in the season?

After a solid debut in “Deep Breath,” “Into the Dalek” is a nicely crafted hour that works well on just about every level.  I love the new storytelling pace that allows the show time to breath and to allow things to sink in a bit.  I also love the work Capaldi is doing  and the solid scripts he’s getting.   We’re two for two in this new era and this is one Doctor Who fan who is wholly satisfied.

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