December 29, 2020 · 7:00 am
Leading up to Christmas, I enjoyed a few holiday-themed audiobooks from Audible’s free for subscribers collections. One was my traditional (at least for a while) visit with Charles Dickens and the other two were very different ends of the rom-com spectrum.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Adapted by R.D. Carstairs)
For a while, I followed a tradition of visiting Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol each holiday season. And while that tradition fell to the wayside the last few years, I decided that 2020 seemed like as good a time as any to revive it.
This year’s visit is a full-cast adaptation by R.D. Carstairs. Featuring a solid cast that includes Derek Jacoby as the narrator/Dickens, this version of the Carol hit all the right notes. The cast is solid, the adaptation is good, and I even found myself picking up a few highlights or notes that I hadn’t before.
Eight Winter Nights by Liz Maverick
Rachel met Oz at last year’s Hanukah party. But despite having a great connection and meeting him first, her friend Tamara swooped in and has been dating Oz for a year while Rachel pines away for him, filling journal after journal with love letters for Oz. Then, Oz hurts his leg and gets jilted by Tamara, who conveniently asks Rachel to take care of him while she’s partying in a sunny, warmer clime. Continue reading →
December 28, 2020 · 1:45 pm
Celebrating fifteen years of original podcast science-fiction, Escape Pod offers up an anthology of fifteen stories from some of the most prominent names in the genre.
I’ve always found short story collections a nice way to sample an author’s work and decide if I might want to wade deeper into their works. This collection contains several authors I’ve read a great deal of what they’ve written (John Scalzi), some I’ve wanted to read for a while but haven’t quite taken the plunge yet (N.K. Jemison) and some that I’m aware of but haven’t picked up something from yet. Overall, it’s a pretty good collection with some interesting introductions by editors S.B. Divya and Murr Lafferty.
Being a Scalzi fan, his story stood out, though I think I’ve read it before. I will admit that Lafferty’s entry felt a bit abrupt, almost as if the author had a word or page count and just stopped writing when it was achieved. The other complaint with that story is that it’s set within the universe of her Hugo-award nominated novel and I felt like I was missing some of the contexts of the story having not read the novel first. It did make me want to seek out the book and finally get it off the to-be-read pile, so I suppose that’s something.
I’m a big fan of podcast fiction and have enjoyed the podcast this collection celebrates. I’ve read these stories were originally presented as episodes of the podcast and halfway through, I couldn’t help but wonder what they might be liked experienced as audio stories. I may have to look around a bit and give that avenue a try.
I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
December 9, 2020 · 9:39 am
Set a few years after the events of A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s latest legal thriller a Time For Mercy takes us back to the small-town world of Jack Brigance, aka as Grisham’s answer to Atticus Finch. Living on the reputation of his work in Kill, Jake and Henry Rex are knee-deep in a wrongful death case that could bring a huge windfall to the family involved and to their bank accounts as well when they get their cut.
When a local deputy is killed by a young man named Drew Gamble, Jake is assigned the case by the court. Like the case in Kill and its sequel Sycamore Row, the case against Gamble is steeped in controversy. Drew killed the deputy in question after a pattern of abusive behavior toward his mother and sister, including thinking his mother had been killed in a drunken rage by the deputy on the night of the crime. Facing trial as an adult and the death penalty, Drew’s situation looks desperate as the community makes their collective assumptions about the case and those involved in it.
Grisham’s A Time to Kill may be his best book and I can see how it would be tempting for him to go dip back into the world of Clanton, Mississippi. Wisely, Grisham develops Jake as a human being who is trying to serve the greater good — for his clients and himself. At one point, Jake makes a human error in the case against the railroad that ends up turning around to bite him. This plot point serves well to remind us that while Jake is idealistic, he’s not necessarily a saint.
As for the rest of A Time for Mercy, it felt like a bit of a mixed bag. There is clearly a need for justice to be served here, but somehow I came away from this one feeling oddly unsatisfied. Part of that could be that for a legal thriller, the novel spends less than a quarter of its page count with Jake in court defending Drew. A lot of background is given into the Gamble family situation and the community’s reaction. But if you’re expecting the usual Grisham thriller where the central court case is wrapped up in a neat bow by the time you get to the final page, you may come away as disappointed.
And yet, I can’t deny that it wasn’t nice to spend a few hundred pages with Jake and the world of Clanton again. I can’t help but feel that Grisham has left the door open for one more visit to Jake and Clanton again in the future. And if he does, I will be there to see where just where he takes us and Jake next.
December 2, 2020 · 10:39 am
Each Thanksgiving the Dickinson siblings gather together for a traditional meal and watching of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles on VHS. Little do they know that their gathering in the fall of 2016 will see their yearly gathering begin to profoundly change. Whether it’s the oldest brother Pete and his wife expecting their first child soon or middle brother Charlie’s wife’s latest diagnosis (it’s not good) or youngest sister Sophie and her tradition of naming the turkey after her disastrous previous Thanksgiving date from the year before, the next four years of the Dickinson’s lives are going to be a roller coaster ride.
You Can Thank Me Later is a bittersweet slice of the ups and downs a family faces over the course of four years. Checking in every two years at the Thanksgiving gathering, Kelly Harms weaves together a profoundly moving story that never fails to tug at the heart strings. There are moments of great hope, moments of great sadness, and lots of potential disasters for the three siblings. But all along the way, Harms never hits a wrong note nor does she allow her story to become too maudlin or melodramatic.
There were multiple points during the story that I found a bit of a lump in my throat, while at other I couldn’t help but grin with glee and hope.
Like a great Thanksgiving dinner, this one left me feeling completely sated but somehow wishing I had just a bit more room for just one more bite of everything. I wouldn’t be averse to Harms checking in with the Dickinson family again at some point in the future if only to see how certain developments in Sophie’s life pan out.