Monthly Archives: August 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Tie-In Novels

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Over the years, I’ve read more than my fair share of tie-in novels.  And while I can’t recommend a steady diet of them, I think that good tie-in novel can be a great way to clear the reading pallet if you’ve just finished something heavy, dark, emotional or intense.  Or they can be great bubble gum for the mind, whether reading or hearing them on audiobook (I re-read a lot of classic Doctor Who adaptations while running or working out.  Great distraction without being too distracting).

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to look at underrated books in a particular genre.  So, here are my top ten underrated tie-in novels. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday Audiobook Review: Spider-Man: Forever Young

Spider-Man: Forever YoungAs a re-imagining of the “Table of Time” saga from multiple issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Forever Young is a bit of a disappointment.

The strongest parts of the story are borrowed directly from a couple of issues in the Stan Lee/John Romita days of ASM. Filled to the brim with angst for Peter Parker, multiple villains for our favorite web-slinger to contend with and a McGuffin to drive the story (in this case, an ancient tablet that contains the formula for a fountain of youth serum), the first half of the story is entertaining, riveting and chock full of classic Spidey goodness. Continue reading

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Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of UnrequitedWhile Molly Pescan-Suso has experienced 26 crushes in her life, she’s rarely acted on them. Entering the summer before her senior year, Molly yearns to find the right person to share a first kiss with and possibly take things from being a crush to actually being her significant other.

Now, Molly has two possible new crushes on her radar — the popular guy Wil and the fantasy t-shirt wearing, Reed. Which one, if either, will Molly chose makes up most of the drama and teen angst of The Upside of Unrequited.

Becky Albertalli caught my attention last year with the funny, entertaining and thought-provoking Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And while Simon has an Easter egg cameo in this book, overall Upside ranks as one of the more disappointing stories I’ve read lately. Much of my frustration with the novel comes from its first-person narrator, Molly. Albertalli tries her best to make Molly self-deprecating about her lack of romantic experience, chalking a lot of it up to a lack of confidence because of her body type. Molly’s own self-image isn’t necessarily the most positive as she repeatedly refuses to believe that anyone else would find her attractive, despite there being signs from that two potential crushes might be interested in more than just being an unrequited object of her affection.

I get what Albertalli is trying to do with Molly and giving us the perspective of someone who is an outsider, looking in at what the “popular” kids (including her own twin sister) are doing. But it felt like Unrequited was getting a bit redundant and hitting all the expected romantic comedy touchstones for Molly instead of giving us an authentic journey for her. In the end, it feels only like Molly comes out of her shell because a boy likes her and not because she realizes that she has inherent worth as a person regardless of her external appearance.

Albertalli fills Upside with a diverse group of characters, many of whom feel one-dimensional. Too many of them feel like they’re summed up by one or two characteristics instead of being fully realized characters.

It all adds up to a disappointing sophomore effort by Albertalli. Maybe my expectations were too high for this one. But I can’t help but feel like this one had potential that it never quite lived up to.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Never Apart by Romily Bernard

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Mid-week and it’s time to not only look forward to the weekend but some new books.  This week’s Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine) is Never Apart by Romily Bernard.

This one comes recommended by best-selling author lady and friend, Sally Kilpatrick.

Here’s the back cover blurb, courtesy of Goodreads. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Required Reading I Want to Re-read

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Growing up, I often bristled at the assigned reading in school.  Part of it was probably that I was in the midst of another book that I was reading from pleasure and regretted the time I had to spend reading the stuff for school.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) is a back-to-school theme.  So, I decided to look back at the books that were assigned reading and that I might want to visit again now that I’m a bit older. Continue reading

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Joss Whedon becomes more like Gene Roddenberry

josswhedon.jpgEver since “discovering” Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the mid-90’s (in season two, before it was cool to like it), I’ve had an admiration for Joss Whedon.  He’s a creative guy who wrote and directed some of the most memorable episodes of television of that era.

He’s since gone on to shepherd some of the best-loved loved TV shows and movies of the last two decades.  Much of his output has been about female empowerment and creating strong roles for women, up to and including Whedon seeming to earn the label of a feminist.

All of that seems to be crashing around Whedon with his ex-wife, Kai Cole, publishing an op-ed piece that says Whedon is “hypocrite” and that he had multiple affairs during the course of their marriage.

Reading Cole’s piece and then seeing Whedon’s response (it feels like a non-denial denial in addition to closing down a website devoted to his fandom), I can’t help but feel like Whedon has become Gene Roddenberry for a new generation.  For those of you who don’t live and breathe Star Trek, I’ll try to keep this short.

Roddenberry created Star Trek and founded his view of humanity’s future on some wonderful ideals.  As Ken Wray, co-host of the superlative Mission Log, recently put it, Roddenberry’s vision was that not only do we make it to the future, but we get past many of the issues that face our society today. Or as Trek put it, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.

And while Roddenberry had a great vision for the future, he was still a human being with weaknesses.  One was that Roddenberry had a weakness when it came to women.  The guy put his then-mistress, later-wife Majel Barret into the pilot and then crafted a recurring role for her on the original series as Nurse Chapel.

And it feels like Whedon has almost followed a similar path.  The letter by his ex-wife says that Whedon had multiple affairs over the course of their marriage and

Despite understanding, on some level, that what he was doing was wrong, he never conceded the hypocrisy of being out in the world preaching feminist ideals, while at the same time, taking away my right to make choices for my life and my body based on the truth. He deceived me for 15 years, so he could have everything he wanted. I believed, everyone believed, that he was one of the good guys, committed to fighting for women’s rights, committed to our marriage, and to the women he worked with. But I now see how he used his relationship with me as a shield, both during and after our marriage, so no one would question his relationships with other women or scrutinize his writing as anything other than feminist.

And while I’m disappointed that both Whedon and Roddenberry didn’t live up the ideals or the image they portrayed themselves to be in pop culture, this doesn’t mean I’m not going to let Shortcake view their creative output (when appropriate for her.  I don’t think she’ll get a lot out of Buffy right now!)

Both men created women who are smart, funny, empowered and aren’t defined by their relationship to men.  As the father of a little girl, I’m grateful to them for creating pop culture heroines that my daughter can look up to and emulate.

I also think it could be a valuable tool to teach her about the difference between the public and private persona that people can have.

I still respect the output of both men.  And I understand the public persona they created, even if they were flawed and failed to live up the lofty expectations they and their fans created for them.

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Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Lie to MeWith Gone Girl casting a huge shadow across the literary world, it seems like we get a potential “next Gone Girl” hitting the shelves every week.

On the surface, J.T. Ellison’s Lie to Me could be classified as another book trying to be the “next Gone Girl.” But that would sell her new psychological thriller short.

Ethan and Sutton Montclair appear to have a perfect life. Successful writing careers, the nice house, a perfect marriage. But if you pull back the layers a bit, things aren’t quite as perfect as they seem. Sutton is being harassed by a book blogger with an ax to grind, Ethan’s got a severe case of writer’s block and their marriage is on shaky ground from Ethan’s one-night stand and the death of their infant son. When Sutton vanishes one morning, leaving a note for Ethan not to try to find her, suspicion begins to fall firmly on Ethan. The discovery of a burned body that could be Sutton only ratchets up the scrutiny from the authorities and the media.

Ellison does a nice job of layering the tension in Lie to Me. As she peels away the layers of the Montclair marriage, we find out that neither Ethan nor Sutton is quite as innocent or as sweet as they portray themselves to the outside world.

While most of the novel is third-person narration, Ellison includes the occasional chapter from the first-person perspective of the mastermind of things. Determining who is speaking and what their vendetta is against the Montclairs really drives much of the novel
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That is until we get the big reveal and things kind of go off the rails a bit.

I won’t ruin anything for anyone. But I can honestly say the first two-thirds of this novel had me gripped, intrigued and not able to turn the pages fast enough to see what development would come next. And then we get to the big reveal and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. I wanted to make the jump with Ellison, but I just couldn’t.

That’s not to say that Lie to Me isn’t a good novel. It is very good. It’s just not a great one. And that’s a shame because, as I said, the first two-thirds of it are completely compelling.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

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