Monthly Archives: October 2020

Going Outside My Reading Comfort Zone

My wife loves romance novels. So, every once in a while I like to read (or listen to) one or two to understand and share that love with her.

And now, I’ve read three different books that are a bit outside of my usual reading comfort zone and I’ve got a few thoughts….

Beach ReadBeach Read by Emily Henry

January Andrews and August Everett have been rivals since their college days. But while January sees Gus on the best-seller list, she never quite expected to run him again.

That is, until, her world comes crashing down around her following the death of her father. Breaking up her long-term boyfriend, rocked by revelations about her dad’s fidelity (or lack thereof), and facing a looming deadline, January retreats to her father’s lakeside cottage to get it ready to sell and hopefully get some writing done. But she didn’t count on the fact that Gus Everett would live right next door. Continue reading

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Filed under 20 Books of Summer 2020, audiobook review, book review, review

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Smugglers by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Smugglers: 1st Doctor NovelisationUnless you were watching in 1966, odds are you haven’t seen Doctor Who‘s season four debut story, “The Smugglers.”

Sure, we’ve got a couple of clips thanks to the Australian censors (though why they kept the clips and not the full episodes is something I’d really like an answer to) but there isn’t much out there to experience when it comes to this lost historical serial.

And yet, for some reason, I skipped the Target adaptation of this one when it was released in the late ’80s. Whether it was to save my money for another Target book coming later or that I was weary of Terrance Dicks’ adaptations, I can’t quite recall. But my omission then allowed me to enjoy the audiobook release of this one now as something (almost) new to me.

And I have to admit, I kind of liked it. Unless they somehow recover part of all of it tomorrow, this four-part serial’s biggest claim to fame will be a link to “The Curse of the Black Spot” from the modern series. As a historical, it works fairly well, though it does feel a bit as if the script is borrowing a bit of Ben’s reaction to time traveling for the first time from Stephen’s reactions in “The Time Meddler.”

After barging into the TARDIS, Ben and Polly are sent back in time with the Doctor to a seventeenth century Cornish town under assault by pirates. There’s a bit of chasing back and forth during some of the middle episodes from the pirate ship to the town settings, but overall the story moves along at a crisp pace and works fairly well. Of course, there’s a pirate treasure at the center of all this and apparently, the Doctor is the only one with the necessary clue to try and uncover it.

Read by Anneke Wills who played Polly, this audio adaptation is another solid release from this range. I realize that we’re slowly getting to the end of this range and there are fewer fondly remembered adaptations ahead of us. But having the chance to experience this one, I find it a solid offering from Dicks. It’s not quite on the level of his early work, but it’s not quite the translating the script to the printed page with a few descriptions that we got in the Tom Baker era.

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Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

The Night SwimAfter two successful seasons of a true-crime podcast, Rachel Krall has found the third season for her show – the small-town trail of a young man accused of rape and its impact on him, the alleged victim, and their community.

Reading Megan Goldin’s The Night Swim, I couldn’t help but wish I’d decided to listen to the audio version of this story. Well, at least that was the case in the chapters when Megan is narrating her podcast. I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something by not listening to Rachel narrate the story as it unfolds.

Rachel’s investigation into the current rape charge brings up some old undercurrents and possibly cover-ups in the small town. The Night Swim doesn’t pull any punches or shy away from examining the implications of the rape on all those associated with it. It’s a hard, eye-opening look and yet, somehow, the novel walks a fine line. The mystery of what happened the nights in question drives the narrative and while I wouldn’t call this a suspense thriller, I will say that I was curious to see where the actual truth would lie in the final pages.

As with many great crime novelists working today, Goldin’s interest isn’t just in solving the central mystery but looking at the impact that mystery has on its characters and society as a whole. Coming away fromThe Night Swim, I found myself thinking about it and pondering those implications long after the final page was turned.

I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Doctor Who: Jubilee by Rob Shearman

Doctor Who: Jubilee

“Jubilee” is probably best known as the inspiration for the instant classic episode, “Dalek.”

And while the two stories share the same starting point and a couple of story beats, there are enough differences to make enjoying both versions of this story a worthwhile experience.

Once again, Big Finish provides evidence that the sixth Doctor’s era could have been a classic if it had better scripts. Colin Baker’s work here is nothing short of superb, especially given that he’s allowed to play two distinct versions of the Doctor over the two-plus hours the story runs.

The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn become trapped in a parallel world — one where the Doctor led a major battle against the Daleks a hundred years before. Now, England is a world superpower and celebrating the anniversary of overthrowing the Daleks. But there are dark secrets hiding not only in an addition to the Tower of London but also the upper level of the Tower itself.

Rob Shearman’s script for “Jubilee” is simply gorgeous. Well, at least it is for three episodes before going a bit sideways in the final installment. (I’m not saying anything here Shearman himself hasn’t admitted in other forums). The idea of a lone Dalek being held prisoner and tortured into talking in here. If you’ve seen “Dalek,” odds are you will suss out the first cliffhanger fairly easily (even if you haven’t and just look at the cover, you will), but that’s part of the point of the story. Shearman toys with our expectations for Dalek stories from the classic era here all the while having bit of fun by subverting those expectations time and again.

The story makes some fascinating commentary on the commercialization of the Daleks (I find it ironic that they bring up that slapping a Dalek on something makes it a best-seller given the sheer amount of Doctor Who merchandise I keep seeing today) as well as really making us look at how close the Daleks we can and sometimes to become. The sharpest barbs resonant through with the President of the British empire (superlatively played by Martin Jarvis). Indeed, you may find that some of the observations and actions of this character have become scarily more pertinent now than they were when this story was originally produced.

And yet, it all goes a bit sideways once we get to episode four. Honestly, the first three episodes set such a high bar that it would be difficult for any conclusion to do it all justice.

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