Category Archives: audiobook review

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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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock by Terrance Dicks

horroroffangrockFor some odd reason, I never picked up a copy of “The Horror of Fang Rock” during my Target novel collecting days. Whether it’s because the bookstores I frequented didn’t have a copy or there were other books that got my hard-earned cash instead, I don’t know.

So, I came to the audio version of the fourth Doctor and Leela adventures without any memories of the original on the printed page.

And I’ve got to admit, this one was pretty well done. Adapting his own script, Terrance Dicks creates a bit more backstory for some of his characters and gives the reader some context as to the social norms and assumptions of the day. These additions give a greater depth to how some of the characters interact over the course of the novel.

And while his adaptation of “Horror of Fang Rock,” doesn’t necessarily create a larger canvas for the story like “Day of the Daleks” or “The Auton Invasion,” “Fang Rock” still feels a bit more substantial than others from this era that simply feel like Dicks is adapting the shooting script for the printed page.

The audio version of the story adds an extra layer of tension to the already tense story, thanks in large part to the performance of Louise Jameson. While the actress who brought Leela to life has been a fixture in the Big Finish range, this is her first Target novel reading. Based on the work she’s done here, I hope it won’t be her last. Jameson reads the story like we’re gathered around a camp fire and she’s sharing a scary tale with us. Jameson wisely doesn’t try to offer her imitation of each actor from the original broadcast but instead creates her own performances for each of her characters. It goes without saying that her Leela is a highlight of this novel.

 

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Review: The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand

The IdenticalsWhen Eleanor Roxy-Frost and Billy Frost decide to go their separate ways, they decide to divide everything equally. This includes their twin daughters, Tabitha and Harper.

And so, at the age of seventeen, the sister play a game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who “wins” and gets to go with Billy and who “loses” and has to go with their mother. Decades later, the outcome of that game casts a long shadow over the lives of the estranged twin sisters.

When their father passes away, the sisters are forced back into each other’s orbit. Harper lives on Nantucket, where she’s done everything from landscaping to package delivery to being an unwitting drug mule. The last position has granted her a bit of infamy on the island (and the ire of the drug cartel she unwittingly helped bring down), but not nearly as much as the latest news that she’s having an affair with her father’s married doctor.

Tabitha lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her rebellious teenage daughter, Ainsley and works in her mother’s sinking boutique (based on her mother’s line of clothing and an infamous dress designed years before). Referred to by an ex-boyfriend as “a piss-poor parent,” Tabitha blames Harper for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including the death of her infant son, Julian, fourteen years ago. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday by Terrance Dicks

 

fourtodoomsdayThere are times reading a Terrance Dicks adaptation of a classic Doctor Who serial that I imagine the poor man, chained to a typewriter, given only bread and water and told to churn out the next Target adaptation as quickly as possible. Dicks was prolific adapting the classic Who stories in the age before we could own the entire run on VHS or DVD. And many times he could turn a less than memorable story into a more memorable one by either harnessing the reader’s imagination or creating some deeper characterization than we were treated to on-screen.

Unfortunately, he’s not able to do much with the second story of the Peter Davison era, Four to Doomsday. It’s an entirely faithful adaptation of what we saw on our screens with little or no room for embellishment. The televised version had Monarch offering commentary on what the Doctor and his companions were up to across the ship with jump cuts for a reaction and a word or two. The novel keeps those intact and feels a bit scattered and unfocused at times. Dicks also tries his best to give some motivation to Adric’s shifting loyalties and trying to make sense out of the long term invasion plan that Monarch is running. Neither is entirely successful, but it’s nice of him to try.

This one was part of my Target collection back in the day and I believe I picked it up right after seeing the serial in question repeated on my local PBS station. Years later, listening to it again as an audiobook, I found myself enjoying it a bit more than on the printed page simply because of the performance by Matthew Waterhouse. Yes, you read that correctly.

While he was never the strongest asset to the series, Waterhouse has delivered a couple of nicely performed audio books in the Target range. Waterhouse ably mimics the speech pattern of Monarch and he gives the reading some subtle shading as it goes along. It doesn’t help make the story itself any better, but it did lead me to enjoy listening to this story again a lot more than I originally expected.

It also made me almost give into an urge to dust off the DVD and give the story another look.

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Audiobook Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney

Double Down (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #11)Whether it’s believing he’s the subject of a reality TV show like The Truman Show or joining the school band to get invited to a big Halloween bash, Greg Hefley’s trials and tribulations never end. That’s good news to this reader, who despite being too old to be in the targeted demographic for the Wimpy Kid novels continues to enjoy them.

Listening to the audio version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down, I chuckled and laughed out loud multiple times as Greg continues to grow up. Whether’s it’s conspiring to win a jar full of candy in his school’s annual balloon launch or using the Internet to convince his parents that he’s actually learning to play the French Horn, Greg’s antics never failed to amuse. And despite not having the benefit of the cartoon illustration in the printed version, I found the novel and its narration creating some hilarious moments in my head as I traveled to and from work.

I also discovered that I’ve missed a couple of releases in the series and any now eager to go back and catch up on what I’ve missed.

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Halloween Review: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Trick or treat! To celebrate Halloween, I re-visited the classic horror story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Listened to it while working out last week and enjoyed it a lot more than I did when I was a younger reader!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

My first exposure to this classic story came by way of the annual Halloween episode of The Wonderful World of Disney and clips from the animated version of this story. The images from those clips interested me enough to seek out the original story as a young reader — and to not necessarily love it.

Now that I’m a little (OK, a lot!) older and with an audio reading featured on last week’s Audible Channels, I decided to visit the story again. This time, I came away with a whole different appreciation for the story. Continue reading

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Audio Review: Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos: A 3rd Doctor novelisation

While some of my peers were reading the Sweet Valley High or R.L. Stine’s novels, I spent my teenage years reading Stephen King and Target adaptations of classic Doctor Who stories. One of the most prolific authors of the Who range was former script-editor Terrance Dicks. If you take a step back and look at the sheer volume of novels published by Dicks during this era, it’s staggering — to the point that I had an image of poor Terrance chained to a desk, fed only bread and water and forced to hammer out adaptation after adaptation on his typewriter.

Visiting some of Dicks’ output again thanks to BBC Audio has only underlined again just what Dicks was able to do for an entire generation of Doctor Who fans — keep the series alive and fresh in our imaginations when we couldn’t see all the stories we wanted to again, much less collect them to sit our shelves. The fact that these novels are still readable and enjoyable today is a testament to just how good Dicks was.

“The Claws of Axos” comes from an era when Dicks wasn’t given as much time to adapt serials as he had in the bookends of his Doctor Who adapting career. “Claws” is pretty much a straight-forward adaptation of the original script with some nifty descriptions and one or two embellishments thrown in for good measure (for example, at the end when the serial ends with the Doctor’s chagrin at being “a galactic yo-yo,” Dicks allows the action to continue onward with everyone saying their farewells and the Doctor rushing out to ensure the UNIT guys don’t jostle the TARDIS). Continue reading

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