Monthly Archives: October 2020

Review: The Babysitter by Nancy Bush

The Babysitter

Blurbed as a thriller, Nancy Bush’s The Babysitter is more of a character-driven story with some thrilling moments bookending the story.

All Jamie Whelan wants to do is attend the big senior party where Connor said he hoped to see her later. Standing in her way is her responsibility to babysit a local family’s twin children. After much begging and bribery, Jamie gets her older sister Emma to split the babysitting duties with her.

After Jamie leaves and the kids are put to bed, Emma is savagely attacked by an intruder. The incident destroys Emma’s life as she is scarred physically and mentally by the attack. Jamie leaves town as soon as high school is over, putting distance between herself and her family. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Keeping You a Secret

Heading into the final semester of her senior year, Holland is trying to figure out her future. Where will she go to school? What are her goals in life? Will she stay with her perfect boyfriend Seth?

Instead of taking an extra study hall, Holland takes an art class. She also starts to notice and make friends with the new girl, CeCe, who has just transferred to her school.

Before the semester ends, Holland’s life will change completely in ways she couldn’t expect.

Julie Anne Peters’ Keeping You A Secret is a coming of age and coming out story for Holland. Over the course of the story, Holland begins to realize that the dreams her mother has for her (and seems to consistently force upon her) aren’t the dreams she has. Her mother dismisses her interest in art, continually belittles any school that isn’t Ivy-League-level, and even casts dispersions upon Holland’s growing friendship with CeCe, at one point telling Holland she needs to drop CeCe as a friend. (SPOILER alert — things get a lot worse when Holland comes out to herself and is then forced out by her vindictive ex-boyfriend, Seth). Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Don’t Move by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Don't Move

Don’t Move starts off with a gruesome, chilling first chapter and never lets go.

Enjoying a summer evening at the local traveling carnival, Megan Forrester’s life shatters before her eyes when a horrific accident claims the lives of her husband and son. Months later, Megan is trying to get her life back together and overcome the near-paralyzing guilt she feels. A church camping trip seems like the perfect way to ease herself back into the world a bit and start claiming her life.

Little does she or any of the other members of her party realize that what started out as an innocent weekend excursion will soon become a terrifying, deadly fight for survival in an isolated part of the Monongahela National Forest. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World by Ian Marter

Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World: 2nd Doctor Novelisation

Until five missing episodes miraculously turned up in time for the series’ fiftieth anniversary, the only thing most Doctor Who fans had to judge “The Enemy of the World” on was an orphaned middle-episode that didn’t really highlight the story’s strengths and Ian Marter’s Target adaptation. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that once we had the complete serial back in the archives and available to view that the collective fan assessment might rise over the last half-dozen or so years.

It’s hard to blame Marter for the failings of this Target novelization. Clocking in at a mere 127 pages, Marter is hard-pressed to compress six episodes. He does try nobly to do so, but in the end, it never quite works. Scenes are dropped and while the outline of the story is still there, it never quite feels as solid as the David Whitacker scripts were on-screen. There are some interesting choices of what to leave out and what to include by Marter over the course of the novel.

But it’s not like Marter hasn’t shown he can compress a large number of episodes into a smaller amount of pages. He will later do it with the Patrick Troughton era serial, “The Invasion.” Of course, having emotionless adversaries at the heart of that one may have helped a bit.

As with all of Marter’s novelizations, there is a darker streak running through this story with all the on-screen deaths being just a bit more gruesome on the printed page.

At least the audio version of this story has Patrick Troughton’s son David performing the story. His interpretations of his father and the other actors in this story are spot-on and well done. I’m just glad the serial is back now so we can compare his take with what the actors did on-screen.

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Tunguska/Terma, Paper Hearts

Tunguska, Terma

tunguska1At this point, The X-Files seems to be spinning the wheels a bit when it comes to the mythology. The series had moved to Sunday nights and maybe the point of this one was to introduce viewers to the larger mythology of the series, all the while not necessarily pushing anything forward in any significant way. The elements of a good conspiracy episode are here – the black oil, the Syndicate, Krycheck etc.

But all those pieces never add up to anything that feels all that significant.

Part of that is that it falls into the trap of a lot of the mythology episodes by giving us a sweeping canvas but having to somehow hit reset by episode’s end.

A diplomatic pouch with an alien rock in it shows up, along with Krycheck. If you’re a fan, all of these things are familiar. I do wonder just how Mulder manages to keep his job when he’s repeatedly assaulting Krycheck (Skinner too for that matter). Or even taking him to Russia only to let him escape. A lot of these episodes are excuses for Mulder to hit Krycheck. Continue reading

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Review: Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen

Squeeze Me (Skink #8)

A lot of your enjoyment of Carl Hiaasen’s latest novel Squeeze Me is going to come down to how you feel about the person currently occupying the Oval Office.

If you love him, you’re not going to find much here. If you dislike him, you’ll probably find a great deal to like here.

While never explicitly named, the President and First Lady both serve as major characters in the story. Referred to by their Secret Service handles of Mastodon and Mockingbird, they play a pivotal role in escalating the peculiar world that is Hiaasen’s Florida. In this case, when a rich donor is consumed by a python, things quickly spiral out of control with Mastodon is drawn into the political fray involving double-crossing, dim-witted criminals, an illegal alien who is a convenient rallying cry, and the typical Hiaasen heroine who is smarter and more able than half the men in the novel.

And while Squeeze Me starts out as an amusing enough book and is packed with the usual witty observations by Hiaasen, it begins to wear out its welcome by the mid-point of the novel. I get that having the guy in the Oval Office must be a boon for a humorist like Hiaasen, but there are points in which the novel just feels like it’s piling on the jokes and they start falling a bit flat. Indeed, the second half of the novel loses the central driving narrative at multiple points, making me wonder if this might have been better served as a novella or short story.

It may not help that this one comes down to feeling like a greatest hits album. Hiaasen is funny and certainly in our current world, anything that pokes fun at where we are is appreciated. But it feels like Hiaasen put himself and this novel on cruise control.

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man

musingsEarly in this episode, Frohike warns us that we shouldn’t take everything that we’re about to see and hear at face value because information about the Cigarette Smoking Man can be contradictory and unreliable. So, if you take this episode with that huge grain of salt, you can an enjoyable episode that does a much better job telling a story about a supporting character than we got with the Skinner-centric, “Avatar.”

The biggest insight of the episode seems to be that the CSM is a frustrated author who can’t get anyone to believe the endings he creates for his action-adventure stories. At multiple points, we see the CSM working on a story, only to be told it isn’t up to the standards of publication. Even when he finally sells a story to a magazine, he has his original ending re-written. Continue reading

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Review: Obliteration by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Obliteration (Awakened #3)The first installment in “The Awakened” trilogy was an atmospheric, tense page-turner of a story.

Now comes the final installment of the trilogy and I can’t help but be reminded of how Star Trek infamously had to “de-fang” the Borg a bit in order to keep the popular adversaries coming back.

Picking up a year after the second installment left off, “Obliteration” finds the creatures suddenly swarming from their nests and exterminating any human being unlucky enough to be caught in their path. Humanity has only one hope — VanNess is holding one final card and he’s willing to play it, for a price.

If you’ve read the series until now, odds are you can easily deduce what the price is.

Now, I mention the Borg because that threat was neutralized a bit by the introduction of a queen-figure. So, if you’re reading this trilogy, you can figure out that there is a queen-figure and eliminating her is the key to stopping the creatures once and for all. And an army of hybrid soldiers that VanNess has created and hidden at a secret base in Antarctica.

There’s a couple of new characters who come into play in this installment, though I sort of deduced early why and how they would play a role in the final battle.

Look — a lot of stuff happens over the course of this novel. And perhaps I didn’t pay enough attention in the second installment, but it feels like a lot of what’s introduced here just comes out of left field. The sense of terror and dread that pervaded the first novel is diminished quite a bit and what’s left is a lot of pages of gore piled on top of gore. Sure, I found myself rooting for humanity to win — but, it’s not like I can root for the monsters tearing us all limb from limb every chance they get.

I wanted this series to go out on a high note. Alas, this was just a pretty good note.

I’m glad it’s wrapped up but I honestly don’t feel like I want or need to spend more time in this universe.

I will say that if you’re a fan of James S. Murray from Impractical Jokers, there are (once again) Easter eggs if you know your lore about the group and Murr’s life in particular.

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Review: The Answer Is…. by Alex Trebek

The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life

Like many of us, I invite Alex Trebek into my home a couple of times a week. And while I know him as the host of Jeopardy and the guy who had a laugh-out-loud perfect cameo in an episode of The X-Files, I can’t say I really know much about Mr. Trebek.

So, I was intrigued to read his reflections on his file in The Answer Is…. And while Trebek doesn’t give us every single detail of his life, he pulls back the curtain a bit so we can get to know him a bit better.

The first thing I look for in a celebrity non-fiction book is, does that voice on the page sound enough like the voice of the person I’ve seen in whatever media outlet he or she is part of. In the case of Trebek, the answer is a definitive yes. For a bit of the book, I was tempted to seek out the audiobook to hear Trebek tell his story in his own voice, but then I found out Trebek only performed the introduction.

Trebek gives is glimpses into his world growing up (I was delighted to hear him mention my favorite old radio show, The Great Gildersleeve), his personal journey and his professional journey to become the host of Jeopardy. His reasoning for referring to himself as the host of the show instead of the star is a nice one. Trebek is also willing to share some of his faults with us as well as his strengths. There are a few rallying cries for action and giving back to the community that could be considered to skew political, but they are limited to a few chapters and done in such a way so as to not necessarily call out one side or viewpoint.

In short, the book reads like if you sat down for coffee with Alex Trebek. And that’s a good thing.

Sure, I wished he’d delved a bit more into what it was like playing himself of The X-Files and Cheers, but that’s probably just me.

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Reading With Shortcake: Chapter Books, Captain Kirk, & Dinosaurs

Shortcake continues to share her parents’ love of reading. But now we’ve moved from Daddy and Mommy reading to her to her reading to us. Here are some thoughts on a few favorites we’ve enjoyed together.

Junie B. Jones and the  Stupid Smelly Bus (Junie B. Jones, #1)Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With a good ratio of illustrations to text, we decided it was time for Shortcake to graduate up to the Junie B. Jones series of books. And because Daddy is who he is, we started with the very first installment in the series.

Over the course of ten evenings, we enjoyed the adventure of Junie B.’s first day in kindergarten. Of course, things don’t go according to plan between having to ride the stupid smelly bus of the title to the bathrooms being locked after school and Junie B. calling the fire department to school.

Of course, Daddy couldn’t help but recall Ramona Quimby’s first day in kindergarten (we’ve got those and will be trying them soon). Shortcake loved the story and looked forward to a new chapter and finding out more about what would happen to Junie B. next each evening. Continue reading

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