Category Archives: review

Review: Those Girls by Lauren Saft

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Those Girls

Heading into junior year, Alex, Mollie and Veronica are the queen bees of their school — and they know it. They’ve all been friends since elementary school, but things are about to start changing for each of them.

Lauren Saft’s Those Girls feels like its channeling the spirit of Mean Girls without any of the heart that made the movie work. The stories are told in alternating points of view from each of our three protagonists and I’ve got to admit that somewhere around a third of the way through the novel, I found myself losing track of certain plot threads, like which girl pined for the boy next door and which one was hooking up with him.

There’s a lot of very bad behavior by all these characters, making each of them completely unsympathetic as the story progresses. Saft tries to get us to understand what motivates each of these girls with the alternating first-person narration, but I slowly found myself getting irritated by the girls and their actions instead of understanding them or sympathizing. Each girl (and the other characters who they come into contact with) come across as shallow, vain and down-right mean. It makes it hard to spend close to 300 pages with them.

Which brings up the question of why I kept reading when I wasn’t really enjoying the novel. I kept hoping that Saft might be setting up Alex, Mollie and Veronica for some kind of a fall in the final chapters or maybe we’d finally see their actions catch up with them. Alas, this doesn’t happen — nor do any of the three appear to really learn anything from their actions. This includes random sex, seducing each other’s boyfriends and two of them slipping the third a roofie that nearly costs a male teacher his job.

Maybe I’m just not the target audience for this novel. Whatever it is, I have to give this one just a single star.

In the interest of a full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book.

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Short Movie Thoughts

All the President’s Men

Based on the true story of the journalist duo that pursued the truth behind what happened at the Watergate hotel, All the President’s Men is like catnip to aspiring journalists.

But this one feels more like a police procedural than that of crusading journalists relentlessly pursuing the truth along the lines of Walter and Hildy from His Girl Friday. This one shows Woodward and Bernstein pursuing leads, getting doors shut in their faces and going down blind alleys in the quest for a story. It also gives a hint of the frustration of waiting for things to come in, all while the ticking clock of deadline looms above.

And yet for all of that, the film is never dull. A lot of the credit goes to director Alan J. Pakula and the script by William Goldman. Even knowing how it all ends, it’s still compelling to watch how it all unfolds.

My high school journalism teacher showed this to us in class over the course of several days. Back then, we came away shocked that she’d be allowed to show us a movie that used the f-word this much. This time around, I’m impressed by the acting, writing and directing. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: The Flash, Volume 2: Rogues Revolution

Today’s Comic Book Friday is also part of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

The Flash, Vol. 2: Rogues Revolution

I’m a bit a novice when it comes to The Flash. My knowledge of the character comes from his portrayal in various television programs — both live action and animated. But I’m interested enough by what I’ve seen in those portrayals to want to go back to the source material and learn more.

This second collection of the New 52 Flash is an interesting one. While many of the characters are familiar, I don’t know enough about their history to definitively say whether what happens here is good, bad or somewhere in between. Back in Central City, the Flash faces overwhelming anti-Flash public sentiment, whipped up by one of his old friends. Couple that with several adversaries coming back into town, all with a new take on their old weapons and you’ve got a very interesting dilemma for the Scarlet Speedster.

I find it interesting that a comic book series would spend a run of issues delving into the minds and psyche of our heroes various foes as this one does. Most of these faces are familiar from the just completed first season of the show and I’ll admit I found myself having to separate what we saw there from what we get here.

I also found it a bit confusing to come across a massive cliffhanger and then go into a storyline that gave us the capsule history of the Flash and had no ties to said cliffhanger. I understand these collected editions are meant to put together a couple of months worth of continuity, but a little more explanation might have left me not scratching my head as I wondered just how and when the flashback to our hero’s origin was going to come into play. I guess this is my Marvel bias showing through because it feels like Stan Lee used to give us a reminder of everyone’s origin every two to three years as a way to welcome in new readers.

Overall, this was an interesting little story. I’m sure to pick up the next installment simply because the cliffhanger left me curious as to where things might go next.

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Audio Book Review: Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovich

Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks

Before I began running, I used to joke that running couldn’t be as much fun as they say it is because you never see anyone running with a big grin on their face. And while I may not have a big smile planted on my face most days while out pounding the pavement, I can’t help but think I had a big smile planted on it for much of the time I was working out while listening to Remembrance of the Daleks.

Based on one of my favorite seventh Doctor stories (and one of my favorite stories from the entire run of Doctor Who), this novel was one that I spent months looking for in book stores when it was first published (back in the days before Amazon and other on-line sellers) and then eagerly consumed once I’d found it. It was one of my favorite entries from the Target novels lines — taking a great story and making it even better with some world building, character development and hints about the past of the our hero, the Doctor that, at the time, I lapped up with a spoon.

I’ve still got my original copy of the book, sitting proudly on my bookshelf with all my seventh Doctor Target novels. And I was fascinated to see that this novel was chosen to represent the seventh Doctor’s era for the fiftieth anniversary books that came out a couple of years ago. And yet for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to re-read the book. Part of me was worried that my memory would cheat and the re-read couldn’t live to the memories I had of reading it. And then there was part of me that said — man, if there was ever a novel I’d love to see become part of the audio range, it would be that one.

And so it was that when the Target audio range finally got rolling again this year, I was took great delight to see that Remembrance of the Daleks was headed to audiobook. I ordered it the audiobook, quickly converted it to .mp3 for my iPod and was ready to start listening. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

The Book of Broken Hearts

Don’t fall in love with a Vargas. That’s the vow of the Hernandez sisters after two of Jude’s older sisters had their hearts broken by a Vargas brother. One got stood up at prom and another saw an engagement called off just weeks before the wedding. Each of the four Hernandez sisters swore and signed an oath that they wouldn’t get involved with a Vargas boy.

But when her father develops early onset Alzheimer’s, Jude wants to defy the doctor and experts by helping her father restore his Harley. And that means hiring a Emilio Vargas to work on the bike. Jude hopes she can keep his identity hidden from her sisters and parents, who may not react well to having Emilio spending time in their barn, working with their father and putting the old motorcycle back together. But as her father slowly disappears into his illness and parts of his life vanish from his memory, Jude finds herself isolated from her old friends and touched by Emilio’s sensitivity and connection not only to the Harley but to her father as well.

Could it be that Emilio is the apple that fell far away from the family tree? Or will he eventually revert to family type and break Jude’s heart?
Continue reading

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Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

20-books-of-summer-master-image I Am Princess X

At a young age, best friends Libby and May created Princess X together. No ordinary princess, Princess X wore red chucks and wielded a sword. Together, May and Libby created a wide variety of adventures for her as well as adversaries, backstories and side characters. But the entire collection was given to charity when Libby was killed in a car wreck with her mother and her dad donated it.

May was heartbroken by the loss of her friend and sent her parents on an obsessive quest to every charity store in town trying to find the collection. She never succeeded and thought that the saga of Princess X was lost, until years later when she sees a Princess X sticker in downtown Seattle. Digging deeper, May discovers that Princess X is a web comic — but it may be something more. With the help of a hacker, she begins to suspect there is more to the story of Princess X than meets the eye and that her old friend Libby may still be alive and trying to reach out to her.

Cherie Priest has given readers some fantastic stories over the course of her career. And I Am Princess X is no exception to that rule. It’s a fun young adult story that can be read by kids of all ages. I’m sure this will win her new young adult fans and it may even get a few new older readers as well. As an entry point into the fantastic worlds created by Priest, it works extremely well and is a self-contained story (not that I’d mind spending more time with the world, mind you). It’s also a breath of fresh air to find a young adult novel that doesn’t include sparkly vampires or a love triangle with our heroine torn between two brooding guys.

My only drawback with this one was I got an ARC from the Amazon Vine program that didn’t include the final drawn graphic novel panels for much of the book. But instead of turning me off the book, it simply makes me want to seek out a final copy and see what these drawings look like. The ARC includes descriptions and some early drawings in the first few chapters so I could imagine what they might look like.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

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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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