Category Archives: review

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here

Looks like I’m 0-2 when it comes to Gayle Forman’s novels. And it’s looking less and less likely that I’m willing to give her a third strike to try and turn things around.

The problem is that both of Forman’s books I’ve read have had interesting hooks. The first chapter of I Was Here, where we get the devastating news that Cody’s best friend killed herself using an industrial cleaner but had a time-triggered e-mail that gave friends and family instructions on where to find her is haunting, tragic and the kind of thing you wouldn’t wish on anyone.

The problem is that it’s all downhill from there. A lot of my issues from this book come from how truly unlikeable Cody becomes over the course of the next hundred or so pages. Despite claims about being best friends with Meg (the girl who dies) and her family, Cody comes across as self-absorbed, petty and a person who has extreme issues with her mother. (Mom isn’t going to win mother of the year by any stretch of the imagination but it feels like Cody is far too disrespectful and dismissive of her mother at several points in the novel).

Cody and Meg had plans to go to college together, but those went awry for Cody, who now cleans houses to make ends meet and is flunking out of her local community college. Meg’s family asks Cody to head up to Meg’s college and pack up her dorm room for them, sending all of her personal effects back home. At this point, Cody meets some of Meg’s roommates and college friends as well as snooping into Meg’s life to see what might have led her down the path to suicide.
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Review: Alone Forever: The Singles Collection by Liz Prince

Alone Forever: The Singles Collection

As I’ve said in the past, one of the fun things about NetGalley is skimming through the comics and graphic novels section and finding treasures there I might not have heard of before or might have overlooked.

Liz Prince’s Alone Forever: A Singles Collection is one such collection. The series of comic strips examine Liz’s attempts to find love in the modern dating world that includes things like OK Cupid and texting your feelings to someone and then awkwardly waiting for a reply (this cartoon reminded me a lot of the Seinfeld episode where George tells his latest date that he loves her, only to not get a response.).

For the most part, Liz’s observation are self-deprecating, witty and amusing. I can’t help but hope she’s exaggerating some aspects of these stories, if only for her own sake. But having been out there in the dating world once upon a time, I have a feeling that some of the more extreme quirks aren’t necessarily all that exaggerated.

This collection was a quick, pleasant read and it’s one that makes me curious to see what else Prince has to offer. I may have to seek our other collections by Prince or just surf over to her web site and see what other observations on life she has to offer.

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

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Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Heir to the Jedi

In his introduction to Heir to the Jedi, Kevin Hearne says that the inspiration for his first novel set in “a galaxy far, far away” was a question that many Star Wars fans of a certain age may have pondered when The Empire Strikes Back made its debut — how did Luke Skywalker go from a novice in the Force to being able to pull his lightsaber to him in the ice cave on Hoth?

The movie series doesn’t give us any answers or explanation, but Hearne’s novel does. Narrated by Luke, Heir to the Jedi takes place between A New Hope and Empire and not only gives looks at how Luke developed his Jedi powers before he headed off to Degobah for training but also some of the realities of the day to day running of a rebellion. Hearne lets us spend some time with a few old favorites and introduces a few new characters for this novel that quickly grow on Luke and the reader.

I’m sure that fans who read every single page of the Extended Universe novels will be annoyed to learn that LucasFilm and Disney have rebooted the novels. But as a reader who fell behind on the EU and increasingly felt like the cool kids were having a party that I wasn’t invited to, I’m happy to see the novels get a reboot and start fresh. And if Heir is any indication, these novels are in good hands and headed in an interesting direction as we all count down to later this year when Episode VII arrives on our movie screens.

The combination of one of my favorite genre universes with one of my favorite genre authors is pays off extremely well here. Hearne quickly settles into the Star Wars universe and you can tell he’s having a great time answering a question that has consumed his curiosity over the years. He ties in enough continuity to keep Star Wars fans happy but still keeps the novel accessible and entertaining enough that a casual reader can drop in and enjoy a well done tie-in novel.

This is a solid example of a tie-in novel done right.

And I hope that Star Wars fans who haven’t dipped their toes into the wonderful urban fantasy universe that Hearne has created will like what they read here and pick up one or more the Iron Druid Chronicles.

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

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek: The Q Gambit

Star Trek: Ongoing, Volume 9: The Q Gambit

IDW’s re-imagining of classic Star Trek installments in the rebooted timeline takes a break for a couple of issues with the ninth collection, “The Q Gambit.”

After debating with Picard about the reality of a “no-win” scenario, Q decides to put the one man who didn’t believe in the “no-win” scenario to the test. Q arrives on the Enterprise in the rebooted universe and after some spirited debate with Kirk, Spock and others sends the ship and crew forward in time to the Deep Space Nine era and a very different outcome to the Dominion War.

Seems that the Enterprise‘s vanishing threw the time line in an entirely different direction — one where the Federation fell and the Dominion had an easy time conquering the Alpha Quadrant.

On paper, this seems like it should be a fun, entertaining little “what if” story. But I found the story overstayed its welcome a bit as it worked a bit too hard to make sure we got a check-in with every character from DS9 and got to see them pair off with various members of the rebooted original series crew.

An interesting little twist comes late in the narrative, but by this point my interest had really waned.

I’ve enjoyed much of what IDW’s done in re-imaging some of the original episodes in the rebooted universe and their lead-up stories to both movies really offered some new and interesting shadings for the two films. “The Q Gambit” represents the first significant mis-step I’ve seen in this series. Hopefully the series will get back to the elements I enjoy in future installments and the next collection.

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

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Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

My 2014 reading year was book-ended with offerings from the stars of Parks and Recreation. One of those books I loved and the other I was a bit disappointed in.

I hate to admit it but I didn’t much care for Nick Offerman’s book, despite loving his character of Ron Swanson on the show. But I was pleasantly surprised at Amy Poehler’s autobiography Yes Please.

Part of this could be that I chose to listen to the audio version of the book. Poehler narrates her book and has a number of guest stars stop by the audio booth to lend a hand. This helps the book take on a conversational style and made me feel more like I was sitting across from Poehler as she related each of these stories. (It also helps that the final chapter is read in front of an audience and comes across feeling less like an essay and more like a testing out of new stand-up comedy material).

Having Poehler relate her life’s story helped me to understand why she bragged about some things and why she was reluctant to talk about others. But over the course of the several hours I spent listening to this, what I came away with was a feeling like Poehler and I were now old friends who might hang out and grab waffles sometime at J.J.’s Diner (wait, that’s Leslie Knope…but you get the idea).

An entertaining, fun listen on audio book. And one that doesn’t overstay its welcome and left me wanting just another few minutes with it.

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Review: Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin

Denton Little's Deathdate

On the morning of his funeral, Denton Little wakes up in the bed of his best friend’s older (by a year) sister with little or no memory of what happened the night before. Now as he prepares for his funeral and his final day on Earth, Denton must piece together what happened the night before as well as clues about his own identity and some of the mysteries surrounding it.

It’s going to be a busy final couple of days for Denton, who has always known the day he’s going to die. In Denton Little’s Deathdate everyone knows the day of his or her death thanks to advances in technology. So instead of waiting until after the person has passed on, funerals are now a celebration of that person’s life with the soon-to-be-deceased in attendance and possibly saying a few final words.

Lance Rubin’s Denton Little’s Deathdate is a delight from start to finish. Mixing in teenage angst with a dollop of science-fiction and more than a few mysteries, this one is a winner on just about every front. A lot of that rests squarely at the feet of Denton, who relates the story of his final days on Earth and his confusion at various aspects of his life. For example, did he really break up with his girlfriend the night before, thus leading this his waking up with no clothes in the bed of his best friend’s sister (who he’s always kind of harbored a crush on, anyway)? And now that he’s finally ready to leave this mortal coil, will he find out answers to questions about his biological mother, who died giving birth to him? And what is the nature of this purple splotch on his skin that keeps growing all during his final few hours on Earth? And maybe most importantly, will Denton give in and spend his last few hours on Earth at the prom?

Denton’s witty, sarcastic narration is just one of the highlights of this novel. Rubin wisely parcels out details on Denton’s life at a regular rate and kept me guessing about where the novel might go in its final chapters. I’m not necessarily sure if this is intended as a start to a series or not, but I can say that I’ll be intrigued to read more stories set in this world if Rubin wants to tell them.

All in all, this is a satisfying novel with just the right blend of humor and drama to make the pages quickly and easily turn. Highly recommended.

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

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Review: Moriarity by Anthony Horowitz

Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes, #2)

In general, I’ve found Holmes stories or novels not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to be a bit of a mixed bag. I always look forward to enjoying one more adventure with one of my favorite literary characters, but I generally walk away feeling a tad bit disappointed or (most likely) feeling like I should just re-read the Holmes canon again.

Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarity has a twist that other non-Conan Doyle Holmes stories don’t — it’s focused on two minor characters from the Holmes canon instead of Holmes and Watson.

I’d hoped going into the novel this might give it a leg up. Unfortunately, it did not.

Set between “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House,” Moriarity teams up Inspector Athelney Jones (introduced in The Sign of Four and a New York Detective Frederick Chase, who is a member of the Pinkerton Agency. The two were working to prevent a meeting between Moriarity and the head of a London-based crime syndicate. But news of the Professor’s death has the two scrambling to try and bring the elusive head into the light of day so he can be arrested and brought to justice. The duo decide to impersonate Moriarity to keep their plan going forward.

It’s an interesting premise and for the first few pages, I found myself intrigued by it. But as with much of the Holmes canon, I find that less is more. About two-thirds of the way through, I felt that the story might have been better served as a short story.

Horowitz wins points for his extensive knowledge of the Holmes canon and his attention to detail. But that doesn’t quite make the story as interesting or as compelling as I’d hoped it might be.

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