Category Archives: digital arc

Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

No One KnowsSeven and seventeen and five. That’s how Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life.

The seven years before she met Josh, the seventeen years they knew each other and were together and the five years since he went missing. Josh vanished the night of a friend’s bachelor party under mysterious circumstances. Five years of questions, rumors and a trial for Aubrey haven’t provided any answers as to where Josh went or why.

As the state of Tennessee has her husband legally declared dead, Aubrey’s life takes an interesting turn with a man who reminds her a lot of Josh and the coming battle with her mother-in-law, Daisy, over the beneficiary of Josh’s rather large life insurance policy.

With the abundance of unreliable narrator mystery/thrillers on the market today, J.T. Ellison’s No One Knows could easily feel like it’s just another entry in an already crowded field. But Ellison deftly weaves in enough questions about Josh’s disappearance and gives readers just enough of a glimpse of the history of Josh and Aubrey to set the hook early and continue reeling you in for the entire story’s length. Continue reading

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Review: The Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner

The Girl From HomeThe Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once a high powered financial whiz, Jonathan Caine’s world has come crashing in around him. Accused of insider trading, his assets are frozen and his seemingly charmed life has evaporated around him. With no where else to turn, Jonathan decides to head back to his family in New Jersey to care for his ailing father, just in time for his twenty-fifth high school reunion.

Jacqueline Williams is the former prom queen who married the high school quarterback. But Jackie didn’t get the happy ending she was hoping for — her husband abuses her and has threatened to kill her and cut off access to their children should she ever bring up the word “divorce” to him again.

Back in the high school, Jonathan couldn’t have thought of approaching Jackie. But now he’s back and the two soon strike up a romance. If only they could find a way to get Jackie’s husband out of the picture without creating more harm for Jackie or her kids.

Adam Mitzner’s The Girl From Home starts off with a great hook and then slowly unravels the lives of Jonathan and Jackie. The first section of the novel moves from the past to the present, painting a solid picture of how and why Jonathan and Jackie have got themselves into their respective situations and then beginning their affair together. It’s one the past and present merge that the novel hits a bit of bumpy spot and loses some of its early momentum. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War

When the best thing you can say about a comic book cross-over event is — well, at least the art was nice, you know something isn’t quite working. Or maybe that this particular cross-over event isn’t your cup of tea.

Collecting the six-issue run of Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War, this limited run series is not two great tastes that taste great together. In one reality, the Green Lantern corp has just been wiped out by some evil force. Rings of various colors hop over to the JJ Trek verse and assign themselves to familiar faces in the final frontier.

Adventure ensues. Along the way, there’s a massive battle between all the various colors of the spectrum and the planet Vulcan comes back from the dead, complete with zombie Vulcans.

And yet for all of this, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d arrived late for the party and missed some important details that reduced my enjoyment of this crossover event. It could be that my familiarity with Green Lantern is limited to what I’ve seen in the DC cartoons and the big screen version of the character with Ryan Reynolds. I hope that those who are more versed in Lantern lore will get more of seeing why various rings chose certain characters that I missed here. And I suppose if I recognized any of the Green Lantern pantheon of foes beyond Sinestro, I might have felt a bit more drive and drama to the battle to save the universes.

Instead, what I felt for much of this collection (beyond the first issue) was confused and uninterested. The third issue does little more than tread water as we set up things for the return of zombie Vulcan and Scotty inventing his own power ring.

In all honesty, I can’t necessarily recommend this one to a casual fan. It feels like we’ve got a shoehorning of the JJ-verse Star Trek characters into a Green Lantern event mini-series. And it’s one that left me as cold as General Chang’s bones in space at the end of this story.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this comic book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek, Volume 11

Star Trek Volume 11Star Trek Volume 11 by Mike Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

IDW’s re-imagining of certain episodes of the original (and still the best) Star Trek has been hit or miss. This latest installment, collecting issues 46 – 49 of the on-going series is no exception.

The collection starts off with a re-telling of one of my favorite installments from classic Trek, “The Tholian Web.” As with other re-imaginings of episodes from the original series, I find myself torn between wanting the story to be as faithful as possible to the original story and somehow offer me something new to make it feel like it’s worth my time to spend reading this version of the story. Unfortunately, this telling of the Tholian storyline doesn’t really succeed on either level. The new twist is that in the re-imagined universe, the NCC-1701 has the ability to separate the saucer section. So the Enterprise is in two pieces, trapped in the titular web, which I suppose should double the drama. Instead it merely isolates the characters who need to be working together to get out of this region of space. Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell

Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation

When a pyramid from another world appears in Sydney Harbor, the Doctor begins to investigate how it got there and what can and should be done about. Also hot on the trail is a familiar time-travelling archaeologist, though as the cover warns you, it’s not necessarily the one you were expecting.

In his afterward, Gary Russell says that the reason he decided to use Benny Summerfield instead of River was because series runner Steven Moffat nixed the idea. Russsell goes on to say that Moffat suggested bringing Benny back because he’d always liked the character and that then novel turned out to be better because of it.

I’m glad Gary thinks the novel turned out better than he originally imagined. Because this reader found the novel a pretty big disappointment. Continue reading

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Review: Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick

Bittersweet Creek

Bad blood has existed for years between the Satterfields and McElroys. But when Romy is assigned to tutor high school football player Julian, sparks begin to fly and the two fall madly in love. Planning to elope the night of their high school graduation, Julian stood Romy up, never offering a reason why he didn’t meet her and head off to Nashville to follow their dreams together.

A decade later, Romy is coming home to take care of her father and with a new boyfriend in tow. The new boyfriend comes from a well-to-do family and has every intention of making an honest woman of Romy. But there’s one small catch.

Actually, there are several catches before Romy and her new boyfriend can live happily ever after. There’s the question of just who and where she wants to live out happily ever after.

Set in the same small town as The Happy Hour Choir, Sally Kilpatrick’s sophomore novel Bittersweet Creek not only lives up to the high expectations I had for it, but it eclipses them. Kilpatrick sets up a romance that has obstacles to it — and they’re obstacles that are authentic and earned. There are moments in this novel when we’re just as uncertain who Romy will choose as Romy is and there are moments when I couldn’t quite figure out what was going to come next — because Kilpatrick had created a believable scenario where one of many choices could happen. Continue reading

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Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Black-Eyed Susans

When she was sixteen years old, Tessa was only survivor of the Black-Eyed Susans killer. Dumped in a shallow grave with some of her fellow Susans, Tessa survive to testify against the man authorities believed was the killer. But over the years, Tessa always wondered if she helped convict the right man. As the convicted killer’s execution looms, Tessa is forced to question her role in the conviction and if the real killer is still lurking out there, taunting her with black-eyed Susans planted under her window.

Told in alternating time frames, Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans expertly doles out detail after detail of Tessa’s time in recovery and testifying and now as she tries to help an apparently innocent man avoid a wrongful execution. Heaberlin deftly sews each seed for the truth of what happened to Tessa and who was really behind her disappearance.

I’ll admit this one hooked me in the early stages. Tessa’s doubting of herself and her narrative (as well as her admission of her manipulating certain aspects of her therapy) made me question her reliability as a narrator. But this comes less from an agenda and more from wondering what Tessa is hiding from herself that may eventually come to light.

There are a couple of plausible explanations for what happened to Tessa and just if and how it ties into her family and her friendship with a girl named Lydia, who mysterious vanished after throwing Tessa under the bus on the witness stand. Heaberlin teases these details early and slowly builds up toward the revelation of what happened. Continue reading

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Review: The Salvation of Doctor Who by Matt Rawle

The Salvation of Doctor Who: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture (The Pop in Culture Series)The Salvation of Doctor Who: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture by Matt Rawle

Can my favorite secular television series offer us any insights on the divine? The answer is yes.

Matt Rawle’s book The Salvation of Doctor Who looks at spiritual lessons we can take away from the over fifty year run of the series. The book is broken down into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the series from the Doctor himself to the nature of time to the various foes the Doctor has faced over the years. Rawle offers short chapters that are intended to be read daily and to help the reader find deeper meaning from the series.

As a starting point for a conversation, I’ve got to admit I enjoyed this book a great deal. And while I may not necessarily agree with all of Rawle’s points in the book, I still found his arguments were well made and I could see where he was coming from.

This book has a heavy influence on the modern Doctor Who. And while I can see why the book might lean more on the modern stories and their situations, the classic Whovian deep inside me kept wishing we got more than a passing nod to the original stories. I realize that there a lot of new Who fans who haven’t or won’t watch the classic stories and this book is designed to appeal to all fans. But I still can’t help but feel like Rawle only did a passing glance at the fifty year history of the show and possibly overlooked a few lessons that are sitting there in the classic era run.

Also, I can’t help but feel that my reading this book straight through in a couple of sittings wasn’t how it’s intended to be read or experienced. I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley, so instead of reading one lesson a day and allowing it to sink it, I read the book straight through in a couple of sittings. This lead me to notice that Rawle begins to repeat certain points in later sections of the book. I might not have noticed (as much) had I used this as a devotional or a conversation starter from a small group as it’s intended.

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

I’ll have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I first heard news that IDW was crossing over the Star Trek and Planet of the Apes franchises. Unlike the crossover of Trek and Doctor Who, this one didn’t necessarily seem like two great tastes that would taste great together.

And now having read all five issues in this collected edition, I can only say that my initial doubts were confirmed by what we get here. Set in the non-rebooted TOS era, the Klingons have found a gateway into an alternate universe — one where the Organian peace treaty doesn’t hold up and they can exploit various planets for their resources. One of those is the Earth found by Taylor in the original Planet of the Apes film (again, not any of the reboots) and where Kor has decided he’ll arm one sect of the apes against the others.

Kirk and company stumble across this and seek to find a way to stop Kor. They also have to stop Taylor from trying to take over the Enterprise and raining down full scale destruction on the apes in his attempts to set his own history “back on course.”

At five issues, the concept wears thin very quickly. The first issue feels like it’s treading water until the time that we get to the big reveal that we’re all headed to the Earth from Apes. (This is also seen in virtually any Doctor Who story with “Daleks” in the title as the audience is made to wait for 23 and a half minutes for the pepper pots to reveal themselves, even though the opening credits told us they were coming). The final issue also feels like it treads water a bit too much and like they resolved the conflict and story long before they filled the total page count for this one.

What could have been a fun romp instead turns out to be a less than impressive one. I tried to have an open mind on this one, but nothing here sold on this being mini-series being a great idea. I kept hoping there would be something here that would make me sit up and take notice, but I can’t honestly say much here did that.

The series does have some nice nods to the original continuity in the Apes films. I suppose that’s something.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this collection from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Comic Book Friday: Strong Female Protagonist, Volume I & The Flash: Move Forward

Strong Female Protagonist Book One

Strong Female Protagonist 

One of the best aspects of NetGalley is that I get to try things that are a bit outside of my wheelhouse or that I wasn’t previously aware of until I skimmed the latest offerings. It led me to discover the sublime Sex Criminals, Volume I last year and now I’ve come across another gem with Strong Female Protagonist.

This web-comic takes ingredients from some of the main-stream comic publishing events (Marvel’s Civil War springs to mind) and the sensibility of Buffy and other Whedon-verse shows to offer us the story of Alex Green. Once known as Mega Girl and part of an elite fighting force of superheroes, Alex publicly unmasked and is trying to live a normal life. As a freshman in college, Alex struggles with the remnants of her fame, including a professor who holds an obvious grudge against her (and when it’s revealed why, it’s one of the most heartbreaking and moving moments in a story filled with them) and the fact that she can’t stop at fast food place to enjoy a burger and fries without being recognized.

As a deconstruction of super hero stories, Strong Female Protagonist works extremely well. But more than that, the story is a compelling, fascinating character examination of not only Alex but also others affected by the realization that they have super powers. It’s a world where these powers have consequences, both negative and positive. One haunting aspect is a former super villain who has come up with an interesting way to use her powers to atone for her sins. There’s also the fourth chapter of the book that fills in details of Alex growing up and her relationship with his family and the family’s favorite pet. The fourth chapter alone is worth the price of admission for this book, but I’d say it’s far more affecting having spent the first three chapters getting to know Alex and her world. Continue reading

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