Category Archives: book review

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Mind of EvilMany Whovians consider “The Daemons” to be the Pertwee-ist story of the Third Doctor’s era.

I tend to disagree and point instead to “The Mind of Evil” as the story that brings together most of the elements required for a “essential” Pertwee-era adventure. Featuring UNIT, the Master, and multiple threats to Earth, “The Mind of Evil” has long been one of my favorite stories from this era — and even the entire run of classic Doctor Who.

Which is why it’s a darn shame that Terrance Dicks’ adaptation of the story doesn’t even begin to do it justice. If there were ever a story crying out for the rounding out of things that Dicks was able to do with “The Auton Invasion” or “Day of the Daleks,” it’s “The Mind of Evil.” Instead, we get Uncle Terrance late in his run of adapting the original version for the printed page. Continue reading

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Review: You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks

You Were Made for ThisNo one here is exactly what they appears to be….

That quote from the first season of Babylon Five applies in spades to the trio of protagonists in Michelle Sacks’ debut novel You Were Made for This.

When Sam inherits a house from his Swedish aunt, he and his wife Merry decide it’s the perfect time to move and set-up the perfect home for their newborn son, Conor. As Merry delves into becoming the perfect stay-at-home mother, Sam pursues his passion to become a filmmaker. But lurking below the surface are secrets that each is hiding from the other — whether it’s Sam’s real reason for fleeing his job as a professor or Merry’s true feelings on becoming a mother.

Enter into this scenario a visit from Merry’s oldest friend, Frank. Frank knows Merry better than anyone else and her visit begins to slowly shatter the illusion that Merry and Sam have built up. It also exposes some older, deeper wounds and resentments that Merry and Frank harbor from growing up together. Continue reading

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Review: Who Killed the Fonz by James Boice

Who Killed the Fonz?In the late 80’s and early 90’s, fondly remembered television series of the past received made-for-television reunion films. James Boice’s Who Killed the Fonz feels like it could be a long-lost reunion movie for the cast of one of my all-time favorite shows, Happy Days.

Beginning in 1984 (the year that Happy Days finally ended its epic run), Who Killed the Fonz finds Richard Cunningham at a crossroads in his Hollywood career. While he’s had success as a writer, including an Oscar nod, he can’t quite get his dream project off the ground. When his agent tells presents him an offer to make write a Star Wars clone, Richard is less thrilled. However, it’s either write the movie he doesn’t want anything to do with or face the end of chasing his dreams in Hollywood.

Then, Richard receives a call from Milwaukee that his old friend, Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli had died in an motorcycle accident. Seems that Fonzie flipped off the front of his bike on a bridge, plunging to his death in the icy waters below. Richard goes back to Milwaukee for the first time in twenty years to bury his old friend and to consider what the next stage in his career will be. (Marion moved out to Hollywood with Richard and Laurie Beth years ago after Howard passed away and they left the famous house to Joanie and Chiachi).

Billed as an 80’s noir thriller, Who Killed the Fonz is a loving homage to the classic series. Boice clearly knows his Happy Days lore, sprinkling in a few nostalgic flashbacks to classic episodes and moments from the series run as Richard comes to terms with the Fonz’s death and that he hasn’t been back to see his old friends in two decades.* He even has Fonzie’s funeral take place at the same funeral home used in the “Fonzie’s Funeral” two-parter late in the run of Richie episodes. Continue reading

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Review: The Reckoning by John Grisham

The ReckoningSince I first picked up The Firm a quarter of a century ago, I’ve enjoyed journeying through the pages of a legal thriller with John Grisham. When he’s on top of his game, the pages seem to turn themselves.

At times, his latest novel The Reckoning had the pages turning quickly. At others, it was rough sledding to turn the pages, wondering why Grisham was taking us on an extended flashback sequence to the second World War.

Local war hero Pete Banning is a pillar of the community, farming his land and providing not only for his family but also the people who work for him. But that’s not to say that Banning hasn’t dealt with his own share of setbacks — whether it’s a poor growing season, low crop prices, or having to commit his wife to the state mental facility, forbidding his kids from visiting her.

But nothing could prepare his children or the community for the morning when Pete Banning takes his gun, visits the office of his local Methodist minister and shoots the pastor dead in cold blood. Banning heads home and prepares himself for his arrest, offering no defense for his actions and refusing to offer any explanation as to why he killed the minister. Eventually, Banning is sentenced to the electric chair and executed. Continue reading

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Review: Elevation by Stephen King

ElevationScott Carey is mysteriously dropping weight. Despite no changes to his diet or lifestyle, the number on the scale is slowly decreasing. And what at first seemed like a good thing, despite the fact that his outward appearance isn’t changing to coincide with his weight loss, Scott is slowly becoming worried about what might happen if he continues to waste away.

But before he does, Scott has decided he’s going to accomplish a few things in the small town of Castle Rock. One of those is befriending and helping the lesbian couple that moved in a few doors down from his house and who recently opened a Mexican restaurant.

Stephen King’s novella Elevation doesn’t have King pulling any punches or hiding his feelings on the current day political climate in our country. Several digs at the current administration are present, making this reader wonder if and how well this story will age. Odds are it not age as well, which is a shame because when King isn’t scoring a few political points, Elevation is a taunt story that unfolds nicely over its 200 or so pages. It’s not vintage King and it’s not the best thing he’s published this year (that goes to The Outsider), but it’s still a story that explores one of King’s favorite themes — how do ordinary people act and react when extraordinary things happen to them.

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Audiobook Review: Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt

Luke Skywalker Can't Read: And Other Geeky TruthsListening to the essays that make-up Luke Skywalker Can’t Read: And Other Geeky Truths, I feel like Ryan Britt and I would be good friends if we ever met in the real world.

Covering things from why reboots happen and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing to the sad truth that Luke Skywalker and company don’t place a high value on literacy to the admission that he grew up listening more to Star Trek soundtracks that he did the popular music of the day (boy, did that one resonate with this guy, who can tell you pretty much were most musical cues from the original series featured first but couldn’t tell you much about the popular music of my teenage years), Britt keeps things entertaining, humorous, and compelling throughout.

Pointing out how the Back to the Future is every genre of film in one trilogy and then proceeding to deconstruct the time travel paradoxes within the film, Britt had me nodding in agreement at multiple points and considering some of my favorite genres and some of their most popular entries in a new light. And his final essay finds me wanting to visit Issac Asimov’s I, Robot again to see how it differs from most of the other robots in pop culture since the mechanical creatures don’t want to rise up and exterminate us all.

And while I agree with what Britt says in most of the essays, I differ greatly with him in his analysis of modern Doctor Who (but then again, I differ from a lot of fandom in my assessment and enjoyment of the revived series, especially the esteem to which a certain Doctor is held (ahem..David Tennant…ahem)). But that’s why I say I feel like Britt and I could be friends – because you don’t want to agree with your friends on everything….

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Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

The Cabin at the End of the WorldOn a warm summer afternoon, Wen is capturing grasshoppers in a jar near the cabin rented by her fathers. Fully intending to return the grasshoppers to their native habitat after she’s done naming and studying them, Wen finds her peaceful afternoon interrupted by the arrival of four strangers.

Taking her fathers and Wen prisoner at the isolated cabin (cell service is non-existent), the four strangers say they’ve come to ask an extraordinary favor of Wen and her fathers. One of them must willingly sacrifice themselves in the next few hours or else there will be serious consequences to their captors and the planet as a whole.

A slow-burn of ever-increasing horror, Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World slowly draws you in and then dares you to look away as things slowly spiral out of control. Tremblay spends the first third of the book developing Wen, her fathers, and their captors so that, even while you don’t agree with this decisions and choices, you understand their motivation and what’s brought them to this brutal crossroads. Exposing old fears, long-held resentments, and areas of their relationships that probably would be better staying hidden, each character is stripped down during the course of the standoff.

The first chapters are almost hypnotic, but once the revelations come, they’re well paced and well earned by Tremblay. The master of modern horror, Stephen King, called this Tremblay’s best offering to date. And while I’m not sure I necessarily agree (A Head Full of Ghosts haunted me in ways this one didn’t. But that’s probably just a matter of personal preference), this is still one of the more haunting page-turners I’ve read this year.

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