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Audiobook Review: Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Keeping You a Secret

Heading into the final semester of her senior year, Holland is trying to figure out her future. Where will she go to school? What are her goals in life? Will she stay with her perfect boyfriend Seth?

Instead of taking an extra study hall, Holland takes an art class. She also starts to notice and make friends with the new girl, CeCe, who has just transferred to her school.

Before the semester ends, Holland’s life will change completely in ways she couldn’t expect.

Julie Anne Peters’ Keeping You A Secret is a coming of age and coming out story for Holland. Over the course of the story, Holland begins to realize that the dreams her mother has for her (and seems to consistently force upon her) aren’t the dreams she has. Her mother dismisses her interest in art, continually belittles any school that isn’t Ivy-League-level, and even casts dispersions upon Holland’s growing friendship with CeCe, at one point telling Holland she needs to drop CeCe as a friend. (SPOILER alert — things get a lot worse when Holland comes out to herself and is then forced out by her vindictive ex-boyfriend, Seth). Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World by Ian Marter

Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World: 2nd Doctor Novelisation

Until five missing episodes miraculously turned up in time for the series’ fiftieth anniversary, the only thing most Doctor Who fans had to judge “The Enemy of the World” on was an orphaned middle-episode that didn’t really highlight the story’s strengths and Ian Marter’s Target adaptation. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that once we had the complete serial back in the archives and available to view that the collective fan assessment might rise over the last half-dozen or so years.

It’s hard to blame Marter for the failings of this Target novelization. Clocking in at a mere 127 pages, Marter is hard-pressed to compress six episodes. He does try nobly to do so, but in the end, it never quite works. Scenes are dropped and while the outline of the story is still there, it never quite feels as solid as the David Whitacker scripts were on-screen. There are some interesting choices of what to leave out and what to include by Marter over the course of the novel.

But it’s not like Marter hasn’t shown he can compress a large number of episodes into a smaller amount of pages. He will later do it with the Patrick Troughton era serial, “The Invasion.” Of course, having emotionless adversaries at the heart of that one may have helped a bit.

As with all of Marter’s novelizations, there is a darker streak running through this story with all the on-screen deaths being just a bit more gruesome on the printed page.

At least the audio version of this story has Patrick Troughton’s son David performing the story. His interpretations of his father and the other actors in this story are spot-on and well done. I’m just glad the serial is back now so we can compare his take with what the actors did on-screen.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Smugglers by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who: The Smugglers: 1st Doctor NovelisationUnless you were watching in 1966, odds are you haven’t seen Doctor Who‘s season four debut story, “The Smugglers.”

Sure, we’ve got a couple of clips thanks to the Australian censors (though why they kept the clips and not the full episodes is something I’d really like an answer to) but there isn’t much out there to experience when it comes to this lost historical serial.

And yet, for some reason, I skipped the Target adaptation of this one when it was released in the late ’80s. Whether it was to save my money for another Target book coming later or that I was weary of Terrance Dicks’ adaptations, I can’t quite recall. But my omission then allowed me to enjoy the audiobook release of this one now as something (almost) new to me.

And I have to admit, I kind of liked it. Unless they somehow recover part of all of it tomorrow, this four-part serial’s biggest claim to fame will be a link to “The Curse of the Black Spot” from the modern series. As a historical, it works fairly well, though it does feel a bit as if the script is borrowing a bit of Ben’s reaction to time traveling for the first time from Stephen’s reactions in “The Time Meddler.”

After barging into the TARDIS, Ben and Polly are sent back in time with the Doctor to a seventeenth century Cornish town under assault by pirates. There’s a bit of chasing back and forth during some of the middle episodes from the pirate ship to the town settings, but overall the story moves along at a crisp pace and works fairly well. Of course, there’s a pirate treasure at the center of all this and apparently, the Doctor is the only one with the necessary clue to try and uncover it.

Read by Anneke Wills who played Polly, this audio adaptation is another solid release from this range. I realize that we’re slowly getting to the end of this range and there are fewer fondly remembered adaptations ahead of us. But having the chance to experience this one, I find it a solid offering from Dicks. It’s not quite on the level of his early work, but it’s not quite the translating the script to the printed page with a few descriptions that we got in the Tom Baker era.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Paradise Towers by Stephen Wyatt

Doctor Who: Paradise Towers

How you feel about Stephen Wyatt’s adaptation of his own script for “Paradise Towers” probably depends on how you feel about the televised story. If you liked the broadcast version, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you weren’t a fan, there isn’t much here to really add to what we saw on television screens.

Back before season 24 aired, I met Sylvester McCoy at my local PBS station’s hosting of the Whomobile (a semi packed with props, set pieces, and an opportunity to sit in Bessie). McCoy regaled the audience with stories about his first season, making it sound far better than season 24 turned out to be.

“Paradise Towers” isn’t necessarily a terrible story. It’s one that has some ambition to it, but given the limited budget of the time and that it’s a studio-bound story that features a lot of running up and down corridors, it still ended up disappointing me at the time. The novel is extremely faithful to what we saw on screen, though Wyatt does try to make certain characters a bit more credible on the printed page. Pex, for example, seems to look the part a bit more in the descriptions we’re given in the book than the actor did in the television version. It also helps the Chief Caretaker be a bit more menacing when I’m not constantly taken out of the story by Richard Biers playing the role (though I will admit the audiobook isn’t done any favors by Bonnie Langford doing a fairly good impression of what Biers does on-screen).

All-in-all, this is a solid enough adaptation that ranks in the middle of the range. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great as other Target books featuring the seventh Doctor would be.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Caves of Androzani: 5th Doctor Novelisation

Regarded as one of the best stories in the Doctor Who canon (classic or new), “The Caves of Androzani” gets a rather disappointing Target adaptation from Terrance Dicks.

Listening to the audiobook, ably read by Peter Davison, I couldn’t help but wish that the Dicks who adapted “Spearhead From Space” into “The Auton Invasion” was on-hand and could work that same magic on another solid script from Robert Holmes. Maybe Dicks didn’t have the time or the inclination to do that here and it’s a shame because there is so much that could or should be expanded upon on the printed page.

Imagine expanding or delving into the history of Morgus and Jek a bit deeper or giving a deeper dive into Chelak’s career before being saddled with this losing campaign on Androzani minor. I’m not talking about expanding “Caves” to three-hundred plus pages like we’ve seen with recent adaptations of “City of Death” or “The Pirate Planet.” But there’s just so much more lurking beneath the surface of this story that it’s a huge disappointment that the Target novel isn’t any more than a standard retelling of the televised story.

This tragic story to end the fifth Doctor’s era is one of the most unique and compelling in the Doctor Who canon — one of those perfect coming together of acting, directing, and scripting to create something that transcends the genre and material. The only letdown is the forced inclusion of the Magma creature, which stands out a bit like a sore thumb on the screen. I will give Dicks some credit that he tries to make the creature a bit more threatening than the budget allowed for on our screens.

Alas, this is still a big missed opportunity for a Target novel to take one of the undisputed classics of Doctor Who and make it into one of the undisputed classics of the Target range.

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Audiobook Review: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite MatineeDelia’s dad vanished from her life just after her eighth birthday, leaving behind a love of b-grade horror movies and a plethora of nagging questions. He also left stacks of VHS tapes with the horror films.

With her best friend Josie, Delia shares the horror films on their hit public access show, Midnite Matinee using the alter egos Rayne Ravencroft and Deliah Darkwood.

As they graduate from high school, both girls face questions about their future. Josie wants to pursue a career in television but is juggling options from staying in Jackson to do the show with Delia and an internship with the Food Network while attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Josie’s also got a new romance with Lawson, a burgeoning MMA fighter who distressingly (to Josie) counts pancakes as his favorite food. Delia struggles with feelings that everyone she loves abandons her and with what to do with the information she’s paid a private investigator to track down about her father.

The solution to many of these problems could come at the annual Shudder-Con in Orlando, Florida if the two can find a way to attend. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

The Rest of the StoryEmma Saylor expected the three weeks following her father’s wedding to be filled with lazy days by the pool with one of her best friends, Gretchen, trying to catch the eye of cute twin-brother lifeguards. But a health emergency in Gretchen’s family leaves Emma and her father scrambling to find somewhere she can stay (their new house is under constructions and her Nana’s apartment is being renovated).

The last place Emma Saylor expected to land was North Lake, the area her mother grew up. Divorced from her father a decade ago and then overdose five years later, Emma has always felt a bit of a hole in her life when it comes to knowing who her mother was and where she came from.

Could three weeks give her some answers or possibly begin to fill in The Rest of the Story? Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Anna K by Jenny Lee

Anna K: A Love Story (Anna K, #1)Literary confession: I’ve never read Anna Karenina. And, honestly, I’m not really tempted to pick it up any time soon.

So, the thought of reading a re-telling of the story with elite, privileged teenagers standing in for Russian nobles of the day seemed like a good way of getting a taste of the story without necessarily having to commit weeks of my life to actually reading it.

Jenny Lee’s Anna K is the potato chip version of reading classic literature — tastes great in the moment, but it doesn’t have any long term nutritional value. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks by Eric Saward

Doctor Who: Revelation of the DaleksA dark, grim television story becomes even darker and grimmer on the printed page.

I’ve often felt like “Revelation of the Daleks” was Eric Saward’s attempt to one-up what Robert Holmes did the season before with “The Caves of Androzani.” Both stories are bleak at times but are visually stunning thanks to Graham Harper directing. And while Saward does his best to try and channel Holmes with witty dialogue and double-acts, he never does quite succeed in capture what made “Caves” so special.

“Revelation of the Daleks” suffers from a lot of the issues that plagued season 22 and the move to 45-minute episodes. Each story in the season suffers from long sections of the first installment keeping the Doctor and Peri from the central action unfolding in the story as characters, situations, and worlds are created. A better novel might have streamlined large sections of the Doctor and Peri walking into the trap laid by Davros, but instead, Saward follows the basic outline of the script and makes us take every step with them. Continue reading

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Review: Oona Out of Order

Oona Out of OrderTime-travel isn’t a new trope in fiction, but Oona Out of Order‘s take on how time travel could work is one of the more interesting storytelling devices I’ve come across in time.

Each year on her birthday (which happens to be January 1), Oona Lockhart leaps forward or backward in time. Externally, she’s whatever age she would be in the year she’s arrived, but internally, she’s only aged one year. Each time she leaps (I couldn’t help but have visions of Quantum Leap while reading this novel), Oona equips herself with knowledge for the year, a secret binder containing information on investments that can be made to support her independently wealthy lifestyle, and a letter from her previous self to help get her up to speed on where she is in time and her various relationships.

Like Quantum Leap, Oona has her own version of Al — in this case, it’s her mother and her mysterious assistant Kenzi, both of whom are there to try and help her transition from one year to the next. Continue reading

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