This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks what are the top ten books you’ve read in the first half of 2017. So, here we go…
- Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
- The Magicians by Lev Grossman
- Vicious by V.E. Schwab
- Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally
- Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chimzar
- All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Matasi
- High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glen Frankel
- Dark Knight: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini
- Camino Island by John Grisham
- The Serpent King by Jeff Zetner
After penning a hundred issues, Stan Lee turns the reigns over to writer Roy Thomas (at least for a couple of issues) and there’s a perceptible change in the storytelling quality.
Seeking to cure himself of being Spider-Man in order to have a normal life, Peter Parker downs an untested serum, falls into a deep sleep (in which we are treated to a summary of Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s life up to now) and wakes up with six arms. Horrified by what he’s done, Peter scrambles to find a cure all while battling new threat Morbius the vampire and the return of the Lizard.
Another arc centers on Flash Thompson’s return from Vietnam and the fall-out from his attempting to do the right thing for a group of villagers. The arc starts well for Flash but quickly goes in an entirely less than politically correct direction for the remainder of its run.
Then Spidey and company are off to Antartica to find Ka-Zar’s forgotten world and deliver a photo feature that will save circulation at the Daily Bugle. (Interesting to see that newspapers were having issues with circulation back then and not just as we continue to explore the digital age). Gwen Stacey tags along as a model, which complicates things when Peter has to go all Spider-Man to battle Kraven the Hunter as well as various prehistoric beasts that inhabit the area. Continue reading
There are times reading a Terrance Dicks adaptation of a classic Doctor Who serial that I imagine the poor man, chained to a typewriter, given only bread and water and told to churn out the next Target adaptation as quickly as possible. Dicks was prolific adapting the classic Who stories in the age before we could own the entire run on VHS or DVD. And many times he could turn a less than memorable story into a more memorable one by either harnessing the reader’s imagination or creating some deeper characterization than we were treated to on-screen.
Unfortunately, he’s not able to do much with the second story of the Peter Davison era, Four to Doomsday. It’s an entirely faithful adaptation of what we saw on our screens with little or no room for embellishment. The televised version had Monarch offering commentary on what the Doctor and his companions were up to across the ship with jump cuts for a reaction and a word or two. The novel keeps those intact and feels a bit scattered and unfocused at times. Dicks also tries his best to give some motivation to Adric’s shifting loyalties and trying to make sense out of the long term invasion plan that Monarch is running. Neither is entirely successful, but it’s nice of him to try.
This one was part of my Target collection back in the day and I believe I picked it up right after seeing the serial in question repeated on my local PBS station. Years later, listening to it again as an audiobook, I found myself enjoying it a bit more than on the printed page simply because of the performance by Matthew Waterhouse. Yes, you read that correctly.
While he was never the strongest asset to the series, Waterhouse has delivered a couple of nicely performed audio books in the Target range. Waterhouse ably mimics the speech pattern of Monarch and he gives the reading some subtle shading as it goes along. It doesn’t help make the story itself any better, but it did lead me to enjoy listening to this story again a lot more than I originally expected.
It also made me almost give into an urge to dust off the DVD and give the story another look.
When you write a book as successful as The Girl on the Train, expectations for your second novel are going to be through the roof. Paula Hawkins crafted one of the most page-turning novels of the year with Girl.
For her sophomore effort, Hawkins presents another shifting viewpoint mystery/thriller, but this time around readers are given more than three characters viewpoints to follow. With Into the Water, Hawkins attempts to go a bit deeper into the mystery of two drowning in a small town and the impact the crime has on the community. Like many of today’s better mystery writers, Hawkins’ story is not just interested in revealing the solution to the crime but also at the factors that led to the crime being committed and what that means for the characters that inhabit her world. Continue reading
With the eighth installment in Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series, Greg Hefley’s luck isn’t getting much better. His best friend Rowley is no longer available to help him look out for dog poop on the walk to school because Rowley has a new girlfriend (they’re celebrating their nine-and-a-half day anniversary!). This also means Greg needs to find someone knew to write out his homework because Rowley’s been doing that all year for him as well.
With Hard Luck, Kinney gives readers another funny, warm installment in his popular kids’ series. Whether it’s trying to find a new friend at school, looking for black market, already complete science fair projects or his thoughts on the family Easter dinner, Greg’s reflections, observations and penchant to get into trouble still makes his reader (or in this case listener) grin knowingly. The hilarious implications of Greg deciding to use a Magic 8 ball to make all his decisions (including doing homework and the answers to tests) alone is worth the price of admission.
Kinney’s series shows little signs of running out of comedy fodder and situation for Greg and his family. After eight books, he’s still keeping it real as well as allowing his characters to grow up. But hopefully Greg won’t grow up too soon. I’m still enjoying his middle school escapades.
Full disclosure: I’m probably not the intended audience for this book.
Betsy Singleton Snyder is a Methodist pastor with four children, including a set of triplets. Stepping on Cheerios is reflections on finding time for God and the divine even when your deep in the midst of parenting.
And while I’ll admit there were some observations that Snyder makes that are specific to women and mothers, there are also some universal themes of parenting and the chaos that can come with it here. With easy-to-relate-to stories, insights and Biblical tie-ins, this book was a nice devotional for my wife and I. And while we only have one toddler at this point in our lives, it’s easy to recognize ourselves in the stories related by Snyder.
As a parent, I found this book to be a nice reminder that we’re not the only parents who have our highs and lows. And it’s nice to be reminded that even in the midst of a Cheerios, Legos and other bits of childhood, we need to find time for God and that we’ve been given a great responsibility and joy in raising our daughter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.
Stan Lee always wrote his comics as if each issue was someone’s first entry into the universe of that particular hero or team of heroes. So there are times reading any collected edition of his works that you may feel like the story is repeating itself a great deal or going back to reflect on the origin of whatever hero or team he’s chronicling.
And while that happens a bit in this collection of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hard to find a few gems from a creative team that was firmly in a grove at this point. Collecting issues 88 to 99 of the original run, Spidey does battles some classic and not-so-classic foes all while Peter Parker’s life is upended by his decision to continue being Spider-Man. The collection includes a couple of pivotal events in the life of Spider-Man from the death of Captain Stacy to the infamous drug addiction storyline that Marvel had the courage to print without the endorsement of the comic code authority. Re-reading this story now, it seems a bit light-weight and a bit like something you’d see on a daytime drama. But looked at through the prism of when it was published, it’s downright revolutionary and hard-hitting. Continue reading
Ever since she dipped her toe into a pool, Maggie has been obsessed with being the water. Driven to be one of the best swimmers in her state and country, Maggie is training hard for her final year of high school and her college career as well as a shot at the United States Olympic team.
But in between keeping her grades up and swimming laps, Maggie can’t help but wonder if she’s missing out on something. Namely, dating, guys, relationships and the logistics of making out. As Maggie ponders this situation, she begins to see her best friend and fellow swimmer, Levi in a new light. So Maggie proposes that Levi teach her the basics of making out before she graduates from high school.
What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading
Principal Linda MacDonald wants Career Day at Gaudalupe Middle School to be memorable. But as she frets over the language of her introductory speech, little does she know what will unfold on this day and how truly memorable it will be for herself, the students and the participants.
Laurie R. King’s Lockdown bills itself as a novel of suspense. And like a film by Alfred Hitchcock, King gets us to invest in her characters to help build and ratchet up the tension until it finally reaches a boiling point. And when it does, King not only earns the payoff, but has a few well foreshadowed surprises for readers as well.
Alternating between multiple viewpoints and characters, King invests the world of Gaudalupe Middle School with several potential scenarios, slowly building to the (seemingly) inevitable outcome and the lockdown of the title. Leading up to an event that is taken from today’s headlines, King gives readers multiple options of who and what might be the trigger for the events of Career Day. Continue reading
Gwendy’s Button Box feels like an homage to Richard Matheson’s superlative short-story “The Box” (which if you haven’t read yet, please add it to your summer reading list!).
Young Gwendy Patterson is running the town’s Suicide Stairs in the summer of 1974 in an attempt to leave her derogatory nickname behind when she enters middle school that fall. She meets a mysterious man in black who offers her a box with buttons. One button will give her a chocolate treat that will help curb her appetite. Another dispenses silver dollars and the others come with warnings that they shouldn’t be pushed except under extreme circumstances. Continue reading