Monthly Archives: February 2015

Way Back Wednesday: Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovich

waybackwednesday

We’re halfway to the weekend and that means it’s time for Way Back Wednesday hosted by A Well Read Woman.   The purpose of this meme is to look back on those books that made a special impact on you and that you love to read.

This week’s entry comes from the Target line of Doctor Who novelizations.   In the days before we could collect Doctor Who on VHS or DVD, there were the Target books, which adapted just about every broadcast Doctor Who story for the printed page.   A majority of these were written by one-time script-editor Terrance Dicks (and I’ll probably get to at least one or two of those adaptations in a future installment), but there were other writers in the range.   As the books caught up to the stories airing on our screens, there were times that the original script writer would adapt his or her work for the printed page, often adding in scenes that didn’t make the broadcast due to time or budgetary reason or giving deeper background to scenes or character development.

Remembrance of the Daleks Novelisation Cover“Remembrance of the Daleks” falls into the category of a script adapted by the original writer and one that expanded on an already great story and made it even better.

Featuring the seventh (and my favorite) Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, “Remembrance of the Daleks” aired during the show’s twenty-fifth season and celebrated the anniversary of the long-running show.    The Doctor and Ace are back in 1963, just days after the original TARDIS crew began their adventures together and find themselves helping a para-military group that is caught between two warring factions of Daleks.  Both sides want the mysterious Hand of Omega, a Time Lord artifact that each side believes will give them the upper hand in their civil war and their drive to conquer the universe.    Continue reading

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Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Heir to the Jedi

In his introduction to Heir to the Jedi, Kevin Hearne says that the inspiration for his first novel set in “a galaxy far, far away” was a question that many Star Wars fans of a certain age may have pondered when The Empire Strikes Back made its debut — how did Luke Skywalker go from a novice in the Force to being able to pull his lightsaber to him in the ice cave on Hoth?

The movie series doesn’t give us any answers or explanation, but Hearne’s novel does. Narrated by Luke, Heir to the Jedi takes place between A New Hope and Empire and not only gives looks at how Luke developed his Jedi powers before he headed off to Degobah for training but also some of the realities of the day to day running of a rebellion. Hearne lets us spend some time with a few old favorites and introduces a few new characters for this novel that quickly grow on Luke and the reader.

I’m sure that fans who read every single page of the Extended Universe novels will be annoyed to learn that LucasFilm and Disney have rebooted the novels. But as a reader who fell behind on the EU and increasingly felt like the cool kids were having a party that I wasn’t invited to, I’m happy to see the novels get a reboot and start fresh. And if Heir is any indication, these novels are in good hands and headed in an interesting direction as we all count down to later this year when Episode VII arrives on our movie screens.

The combination of one of my favorite genre universes with one of my favorite genre authors is pays off extremely well here. Hearne quickly settles into the Star Wars universe and you can tell he’s having a great time answering a question that has consumed his curiosity over the years. He ties in enough continuity to keep Star Wars fans happy but still keeps the novel accessible and entertaining enough that a casual reader can drop in and enjoy a well done tie-in novel.

This is a solid example of a tie-in novel done right.

And I hope that Star Wars fans who haven’t dipped their toes into the wonderful urban fantasy universe that Hearne has created will like what they read here and pick up one or more the Iron Druid Chronicles.

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

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Top Ten Tuesday: Pop Culture Heroines

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and Bookish) looks at the top ten heroines from popular culture.  My list will include heroines from comic books, movies, tv shows and books.

1. Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird.  It’s one of my favorite novels, so you knew it had to make the list.   Scout’s first-person narration of Mockingbird is just one of the many highlights of this great book.   I will admit I’m a bit nervous about the upcoming “sequel” that will hit shelves later this year.  This book is so close to perfect to me that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a second installment can’t possibly live up to my expectations.

2.  Barbara Havers from the Elizabeth George mysteries.  — I look forward to each new Elizabeth George novel not only for the tightly plotted mystery, but for a chance to catch up with my literary friends Inspector Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers.  Havers isn’t what you’d think of as your “typical” heroine, but I can’t help but love her, flaws and all.  Barbara enjoys foods that aren’t good for her, smokes too much and has a tendency to speak before she thinks.   Her fashion sense is questionable and I often delight in the outfits that George chooses to describe her wearing in each installment.   And yet for all that, she’s still a great partner to Lynley and a fascinatingly compelling character.

Anne-of-Green-Gables-The-Sequel23.  Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables series.  This one’s kind of a mixture of the character presented in the novels and the various mini-series starring Megan Follows that aired when I was growing up.  Red-haired Anne Shirley is sent by mistake to the Cuthberts, who wanted a boy to help around the farm.   Anne has a tendency to dream huge dreams and to say the wrong thing.  She’s also prone to mishaps.   And I can’t help but love the character.

4.  Ramona Quimby from the Ramona books.  Growing up, I read the Ramona novels over and over again.   Beverly Cleary’s creation, who is allowed to grow up over the course of each novel is one of best things in all of literature — children’s or otherwise.  From her confusion at how long she should sit at her desk to her fights with older sister Beezus to trying to understand how a new baby will affect her family, Ramona feels more like an old friend than a literary character.   Continue reading

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Musing Mondays: Discussions

It’s time again for Musing Mondays, hosted by Should Be Reading.

This week’s random subject for conversation is this question:

Do you enjoy debating / discussing the books that others are currently reading? Why, or why not?

As with a lot of things, it depends on the book. I’ve been involved with several book discussion groups and have found that some books, while very enjoyable to read, don’t necessarily lend themselves to an in-depth conversation.

One example I can think (that is done by a LOT of sci-fi/fantasy discussion groups when they first begin) is Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Don’t get me wrong here — the book is wonderfully witty, well observed and out and out funny. But I’m not sure it lends itself to discussion beyond looking at “well, what was your favorite funny part?”

(I suppose if you were willing to look deeper at it and look at the various versions of the story that Adams wrote over his lifetime (the radio series, the novels, the TV show, the movie), you could get some more out of it. But I’m not sure if this might be homework above and beyond reading the book.) Continue reading

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Booking Through Thursday: Collections

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Do you prefer to read collections that are all of works by the same author? Or collections by different writers? Consistency or variety?

It kind of depends on my mood.

If it’s a collection of stories by a favorite author, I’m content and happy to read them all. But one of the fun things about a short story collection is the chance to meet new authors or to have a little variety in my reading without necessarily having the commitment of a full novel.

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Review: The Rosie Effect by Don Simsion

The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)

About halfway through Graeme Simsion’s follow-up to The Rosie Project, I paused to wonder if perhaps too much of Don Tillman wasn’t a good thing.

In the sequel The Rosie Effect, we find Don and Rosie living happily together in New York City. Since the end of the last novel, the newly married couple is adjusting to life together when Rosie announces that she’s expecting a baby and their lives are thrown into turmoil. As Don wrestles with the question of how to be a supporting husband to Rosie during this experience and how to be a good father, he makes an increasing number of well-intentioned but misguided choices that begin to drive a wedge between himself and the love of his life. One such choices finds Don landing in hot water because he wants to observe children and parents interacting so he head out to a local playground and starts recording them on his cell phone.

Part of what made The Rosie Project work so well as that while it hit many of the predictable marks for a romantic comedy novel, Simsion gave us a reason to be invested in Don and Rosie and to root for these two to finally get together. In the sequel, Simsion attempts to tear them down in order to build them back up as a couple and potential parents, but those steps end up making Don look less than noble and Rosy less than pleasant. Thankfully, the novel includes a large group of friends for Don (it’s grown to six now for our hero) to help redeem Don a bit and to at least attempt to stick the landing when the novel reaches its conclusion. (How much of the landing it sticks will be up to readers. This one wasn’t entirely convinced, but was entirely relieved). Continue reading

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Way Back Wednesday Review: My Antonia by Willa Cather

waybackwednesday

Time again for Way Back Wednesday, created by A Well Read Woman. It’s a chance to reflect back on a book that created a lasting impression on us and offer a mini-review.

myantoniaThis week, I’ve picked Willa Cather’s My Antonia.   It’s a book I read a part of my AP English course in my senior year of high school and  recall enjoying it a great deal more than many of the other assigned books that were part of the curriculum.

Two decades later, I picked it up again, partly on a whim and partly out of a desire to visit an old friend and see if it lived up to my memories.

The good news is that not only did it live up to my fond memories of it, it exceeded them. I’ll admit that I’d forgotten portions of the novel, making it feel at times like an entirely new reading experience while at others feeling like I was spending time with an old friend.

Told as the affectionate reminisces of Jim Burden on his lifelong friendship and love for Antonia Shimerda, I couldn’t help but feel as if My Antonia is Little House of the Prairie for grown-ups. After being orphaned, Burden moves to his grandparents’ home on the prairie, meeting the immigrant family the Shimerdas along the way. Jim forms a bond with the family, especially their daughter Antonia. Over the course of the novel, Jim and Antonia come into and out of each other’s lives at various points — the death of her father (a suicide in one of the novel’s more vivid sections), moving to town, growing up, getting married and raising kids.

I suppose if this novel were written today, Jim and Antonia would eventually end up together. However, Cather doesn’t go for the obvious romantic resolution, instead allowing the reader to fill in the blanks on the unspoken love that exists between Jim and Antonia. (The edition I picked up from my local library includes a discarded prologue that has an older, more cynical Jim reflecting on his love for Antonia and seeing her as the “one who got away.” I’ve got to admit I think the novel is better with the revised introduction that is included in most editions). This is a far richer, more nuanced love story than you’ll find in many of contemporary novels claiming to have a love story for the ages.

Re-reading this one, I was struck by some of the simply elegant passages and scenes of this era in American history created by Cather. I will admit that visiting this one again, I am (once again) curious to pick up more works by Cather.

I’m happy to report that this one fully lived up to my memories of it. In fact, it may have been better the second time than it was the first.

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