Category Archives: review

Review: Make Me by Lee Child

Make Me

After a couple of a disappointing entries in the Jack Reacher saga, it’s nice to see Lee Child get back to form with Make Me.

Traveling cross country by train, Reacher stops in the town of Mother’s Rest. Curious about how the town got its name, Reacher inadvertently steps into a conspiracy and cover-up. He meets up with Michelle Chang, a private investigator who came to Mother’s Rest at her partner’s request. Now that partner is missing and Reacher is drawn into the mystery behind his disappearance.

The set-up for Make Me is classic Reacher. And for the first half, watching Reacher take swings in the dark as to exactly what he’s stumbled across is a great deal of fun and makes for a compelling mystery. It’s once we get to the second half of the story that that things begin to break down a bit. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination and it certainly fits well into the Reacher mythology. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit like, “That’s it?” when we finally figure out what’s going on in Mother’s Rest and meet the various forces behind a massive cover-up. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Ark in Space by Ian Marter

Doctor Who and the Ark in Space: A 4th Doctor novelisation

Whenever I’m asked by new Who fans for a good starting point to watch classic Doctor Who, I don’t point to “An Unearthly Child” but instead to Robert Holmes’ classic fourth Doctor serial, “The Ark In Space.”

Not only does the story kick off a great run of stories, but it comes from an era this is (arguably) the most consistent and best in the entire fifty plus year run of the show — classic or otherwise.

The story includes a minor call back or two to the previous installment, but for the most part it’s a self-contained horror story set in the near future. Promising Harry a quick trip to the moon to prove the TARDIS is what the Doctor says it is, our trio instead ends up in the far future thanks to Harry’s twisting the helmic regulator a bit too much. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on a future space station that is home to the final remnants of humanity in suspended animation waiting their chance to awaken and begin the conquering the Earth again. But something has gone wrong and humanity has overslept.

What’s gone wrong is the Wirrin, an insect race that can survive in deep space and has journeyed to the ark seeking our humanity. The Wirrin are also driven to survive and are looking for a new home — and the ark and the Earth look like just the right place to get started. Continue reading

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Review: The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes

The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes

Murder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.

Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himself in the game a bit by occasionally doing favors for the local sheriff’s office.

His latest assignment is wearing a wire to incriminate a woman who wants to do away with her husband. But it just so happens that that woman in question is the girl of Doak’s dreams and not only does he help her to not incriminate herself, but he begins a relationship with her that leads to his working out just if and how the husband should be killed.

The latest entry in the Hard Case Crime series, Lawrence Block’s The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is everything that a reader has come to expect. A sexy cover, a hard-boiled protagonist and a fem fatale. The fact that Doak is carrying on affairs with not only the title character but two other women only helps to underscore his role as the noir lead.

Told in quick chapters, Girl is not for the faint of heart. This novel is an homage to pulp fiction at its best — lurid, quick to read and full of all kinds of graphic details that aren’t normally discussed in polite company. If you’re squeamish about adults acting like adults (for good and bad), then this book probably isn’t for you.

At multiple points in the story, Doak takes in a few classic noir films that have people trying to get away with murder and always getting caught. These sequences seem to be Block calling upon a shared vocabulary for this type of story and it helps us see how he’s trying to not only pay homage to it but give it a bit of a new twist in this story.

Not for the faint of heart, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is gritty, raw and compelling.

I’ve not read a lot of Block’s previous works but after reading this one, I’m intrigued to look at his extensive back catalog and see what other gems are there.

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Review: The Doctors Are In by Graeme Burke and Robert Smith?

The Doctors Are In: The Essential and Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who's Greatest Time Lord

Reading The Doctors Are In reminded me a lot of those heady days when I first got on-line and discovered there were fellow Doctor Who fans out there who loved to debate the show as much as I did. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me since I’ve had debates with at least one half of this writing duo about various aspects of my favorite television show long before I picked up this book.

But reading this in-depth look at each era of the good Doctor (wisely divided up into two eras for the fourth Doctor because, let’s face it, there are two eras to Tom Baker’s run on the show), I couldn’t help but feel like certain only flames were being fanned and I kept looking around for the reply button so I could begin to debate Robert Smith? and Graeme Burke on various points they have about each era of the show. (This is especially true when they pick their five stories that represent each era of the show. Because really — “Planet of the Spiders”?!? You must be messing with me!)

Reading Smith? and Burke’s debates about various eras of the show and the actors who played the Doctor is entertaining and informative. And while this book isn’t exactly breaking new ground, it has a leg up in that you can feel the passion and fandom these two have for the series.

This may be a selling point for some and it may be a detraction for others. If you’re looking for a by the numbers look at the Doctors, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for spirited debate among two long time fans who don’t agree on everything, this is worth picking up and spending time with. It may even make you want to debate the two and it may even make you want to visit the stories they refer to in their top five of the era. And while I can find some points of contention I have with some of their arguments (I’ve finally found that one fan who doesn’t love “Genesis of the Daleks.” He’s wrong, of course.), these come more from my feelings on the show than on Smith? and Burke laying out their points.

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: 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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Re-Opening The X-Files: Pusher, Teso Dos Bechos, Hell Money

xfiles pusher

Mulder: Modell psyched the guy out, he put the whammy on him!
Scully: Please explain to me the scientific nature of the Whammy.


Vince Gilligan’s second episode of The X-Files is not only a superb monster-of-the-week story, but it can also be looked at as a rough draft for Breaking Bad.   There are elements of Walter White in Robert Patrick Modell — cancer, a “little” man who wants to be something more.   And both characters give us a quotable through line.  In Walter’s case it’s “I’m the one who knocks” and with Modell it’s “Cerulean blue.”

OK, so maybe I’m reading a bit too much into things and being overly analytical.  But I can’t help it because “Pusher” is one of my favorite “stand alone” episodes of the show.

Part of what makes the story work so well is the connection we see between Mulder and Modell. If Modell were just your average monster of the week, I’m not sure he’d be so memorable. The fact that he gets under Mulder’s skin so and takes such a personal interest in Mulder is what makes the episode work.  Modell is an ordinary guy who dreams of being something more — in this case, he wants to be a ninja warrior.   He wants respect, he wants power and he’s willing to put his own life on the line to do it.   Continue reading

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Reviews:One Step Away by Eric Wilson & The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

One Step Away

Bret and Sara Vreeland don’t have it all — in fact, there are times when they wonder how they’re going to make it through the month. But they have each other and they have their faith.

But what if something were to happen that changed all of that?

Eric Wilson flips the story of Job and instead of having everything taken away to test the faith of the Vreeland, the couple is given everything that could ever dream of (at least from a worldly perspective). But just as with Job, there are trials to come with being blessed beyond measure.

Wilson tells a good story with One Step Away. It’s good to see that Bret and Sara aren’t saints, but instead people with flaws and secrets. There are some secrets from the past that will come back to haunt them (a few I figured out a chapter or two before Wilson let us in on the details). But overall, Wilson keeps the pages turning and kept my interest us for the entire novel.

I also like the fact that while this is apparently the start of a series, the action of this novel is self-contained. I can say I’d enjoy a visit to the world that Wilson has created a self-contained story that can be enjoyed on its own merits. Continue reading

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