After sixteen entries, it would be easy to think that Jeff Kinney could be running out of material for his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. However, if Big Shot is any indication, that won’t happen soon.
This edition finds Greg dipping his toe into the world of sports — first with field day and then with basketball. Both situations have their amusing moments, including some nice moments with Greg and his mother as she pushes his basketball career. Kinney does a nice job of keeping Greg relatable to readers and his asides are usually pretty funny and well observed. There won’t be any huge surprises here, but after sixteen books, you can’t really expect Kinney to reinvent the wheel.
What you do get is a satisfying entry to the series that was entertaining and welcome.
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Michelle Frances’ The Girlfriend‘s cover blurb had intrigued me enough to put it on my Audible wish list. So, when it was included in the Audible plus program, I figured I had nothing to lose except a few hours listening to it.
When Daniel falls for his real estate agent, Cherry, his mother, Laura can’t wait to meet her. And while their first meeting is cordial, both sides believe the other has an agenda for Daniel and his future. And so, begins the long, slow burn between Cherry and Laura.
The Girlfriend hints at something nefarious happening early in the novel before jumping back and forth in time to catch readers up on what’s happened and why. The problem quickly becomes that it’s difficult to sympathize with any of the characters over the course of the story. Every one has something to hide and it feels like Daniel becomes a pawn in some odd game between Cherry and Laura. And yet, I was intrigued enough to want to know the answers, even if my own guesses proved far more interesting to me than what we actually get here.
Reading/listening to What’s Not to Love, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the early days of the Sam and Diane romance on Cheers. One scene, in particular, kept standing out, when during an argument that ends up with Sam and Diane smacking each other, Sam points out that he didn’t hit Diane as hard as he wanted to. It’s a dark moment for the show, one that indicates just how opposite these two romantic partners really are.
Of course, if you’ve watched Cheers (and if you haven’t, why are you still reading this?!? Get to streaming it immediately!), you know that Sam and Diane were on-again, off-again for several more seasons before she left.
I bring up that moment because it feels like the kind of moment you can’t really come back from — and there’s one like it in the middle of What’s Not to Love. Ethan and Allison have been rivals for all four years of high school, competing against each other with ever-increasing stakes and a blatant disregard for themselves or the people around them. Both of them want to get into Harvard and are on the school paper, which brings things to a huge boil when both parties do something equally unforgivable in an attempt to sabotage the other — again, not thinking about if or how their actions might impact other people in their lives. Continue reading
Like most people, Nora Seed has regrets. She regrets giving up swimming because of the strain it placed on her relationship with her dad. She regrets calling off her wedding to Dan and working with him to start a country pub. She regrets quitting a band with her brother just as they were on the cusp of success due to crippling social anxiety.
After being laid off from her dead-end job in a music store, Nora decides that her life is no longer worth living. She sets about ending things, only to find herself at The Midnight Library. The library is a kind of way station between this world and the next, in which Nora is allowed to pick from a myriad of books that represent different choices she could have made during her life’s journey. The hope is that Nora will find a life in which she’s happier or one that helps her erase the heaviness of her personal book of regrets.
And so, Nora starts trying on lives. She can return to the library at any time if she starts feeling the life doesn’t live up to her expectations. Continue reading
One of the eternal questions debated on many a playground is if you could pick one superpower, which one would it be and why? Odds are that a lot of the responses are going to be the old standards of flying, running fast, or becoming invisible.
The becoming invisible portion is the basis for one of the building blocks of the science-fiction genre in H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. Odds are that even if you haven’t read it, you’re aware of the basic outline of the story thanks to multiple pop-culture retellings or uses of the character over the years.
For this year’s Vintage SciFi Month, I decided that I’d take a look at the foundational novel in the genre and see if it holds up.
Since it was included as part of my Audible subscription, I decided to take advantage of it and began listening. And immediately found myself not really looking forward to going back to it. The story of a scientist who invents a serum that allows him to become invisible and then becomes a raging ball of id just never quite connected with me this time around. Doing a bit of research, I found that Wells initially serialized the story, which then put into the Doctor Who frame of mind of figuring out where the cliffhangers all were. And maybe the story would have worked better unfolding in weekly or monthly installments. But I’m honestly not so sure. Continue reading
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
How you feel about Stephen Wyatt’s adaptation of his own script for “Paradise Towers” probably depends on how you feel about the televised story. If you liked the broadcast version, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you weren’t a fan, there isn’t much here to really add to what we saw on television screens.
Back before season 24 aired, I met Sylvester McCoy at my local PBS station’s hosting of the Whomobile (a semi packed with props, set pieces, and an opportunity to sit in Bessie). McCoy regaled the audience with stories about his first season, making it sound far better than season 24 turned out to be.
“Paradise Towers” isn’t necessarily a terrible story. It’s one that has some ambition to it, but given the limited budget of the time and that it’s a studio-bound story that features a lot of running up and down corridors, it still ended up disappointing me at the time. The novel is extremely faithful to what we saw on screen, though Wyatt does try to make certain characters a bit more credible on the printed page. Pex, for example, seems to look the part a bit more in the descriptions we’re given in the book than the actor did in the television version. It also helps the Chief Caretaker be a bit more menacing when I’m not constantly taken out of the story by Richard Biers playing the role (though I will admit the audiobook isn’t done any favors by Bonnie Langford doing a fairly good impression of what Biers does on-screen).
All-in-all, this is a solid enough adaptation that ranks in the middle of the range. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great as other Target books featuring the seventh Doctor would be.
Literary confession: I’ve never read Anna Karenina. And, honestly, I’m not really tempted to pick it up any time soon.
So, the thought of reading a re-telling of the story with elite, privileged teenagers standing in for Russian nobles of the day seemed like a good way of getting a taste of the story without necessarily having to commit weeks of my life to actually reading it.
Jenny Lee’s Anna K is the potato chip version of reading classic literature — tastes great in the moment, but it doesn’t have any long term nutritional value. Continue reading
A dark, grim television story becomes even darker and grimmer on the printed page.
I’ve often felt like “Revelation of the Daleks” was Eric Saward’s attempt to one-up what Robert Holmes did the season before with “The Caves of Androzani.” Both stories are bleak at times but are visually stunning thanks to Graham Harper directing. And while Saward does his best to try and channel Holmes with witty dialogue and double-acts, he never does quite succeed in capture what made “Caves” so special.
“Revelation of the Daleks” suffers from a lot of the issues that plagued season 22 and the move to 45-minute episodes. Each story in the season suffers from long sections of the first installment keeping the Doctor and Peri from the central action unfolding in the story as characters, situations, and worlds are created. A better novel might have streamlined large sections of the Doctor and Peri walking into the trap laid by Davros, but instead, Saward follows the basic outline of the script and makes us take every step with them. Continue reading
Time-travel isn’t a new trope in fiction, but Oona Out of Order‘s take on how time travel could work is one of the more interesting storytelling devices I’ve come across in time.
Each year on her birthday (which happens to be January 1), Oona Lockhart leaps forward or backward in time. Externally, she’s whatever age she would be in the year she’s arrived, but internally, she’s only aged one year. Each time she leaps (I couldn’t help but have visions of Quantum Leap while reading this novel), Oona equips herself with knowledge for the year, a secret binder containing information on investments that can be made to support her independently wealthy lifestyle, and a letter from her previous self to help get her up to speed on where she is in time and her various relationships.
Like Quantum Leap, Oona has her own version of Al — in this case, it’s her mother and her mysterious assistant Kenzi, both of whom are there to try and help her transition from one year to the next. Continue reading