In seven days, New York lawyer Lily Wilder will walk down the aisles, capping off her whirlwind romance with her finance, Will. The two met seven montIn seven days, New York lawyer Lily Wilder will walk down the aisles, capping off her whirlwind romance with her finance, Will. The two met seven months earlier in a bar and after a passionate weekend, the threw caution to the wind and decided to get married. But the question looming over the wedding is do these two really know each other and are they the right fit?
See, Lily has a side of herself that she's kept secret from Will. Lily enjoys living up to her last name and living wilder than many -- binge drinking, sleeping with strangers, friends, really anyone who comes on her radar (she's even carrying on an affair with her boss at her law firm). She also has a dark secret from her past that she's hidden from everyone (or so she thought) and that if it comes to light, it could undo all her current and future happiness.
Despite warnings from family members, friends and lots of other signs saying that maybe she isn't ready to settle down and that she and Will aren't a good match, Lily is determined to go through the wedding.
At times, Eliza Kennedy's I Take You can be laugh out loud hysterical. But those funny moments cover up a darker side to this story and to Lily that make me hesitant to really recommend this book. As much as Lily tries to justify her behavior to herself and readers, she keeps coming across as shallow, spoiled and completely unready to make a commitment to man she hardly knows. At several points in the story, Lily seems to be talking herself into why she should love Will instead of showing us that she really does love him. The fact that she's seducing members of the wedding party, her boss, etc. in the days leading up to the wedding (despite having fantastic sex with her finance) makes you wonder if Lily is really ready to settle down or if she's getting married for the right reasons.
And despite a chorus from those who care about her, she seems to determined to plunge forward and damn the consequences.
There are some interesting moments in the book like when Lily and her friend debate why women who enjoy sleeping around are perceived in a negative light and given names that shame them while men who sleep around are perceived as positive and given names like "Romeo". It's an interesting passage, though the it starts to lose points when Lily goes from it to trying to seduce a hot guy she's just met at the bar. Lily lives fast, works hard and plays hard. And while you may like her a bit at first, I found myself going tired of her antics and overall selfishness as the novel careened toward their wedding day.
As much as I wanted to like this book, I could only come away from it feeling like there was some great potential here that isn't necessarily lived up to. Kennedy does some interesting things in the final fifty or so pages, but they don't necessarily feel earned. In the end, I found myself growing more and more impatient with Lily and wishing she's listen to the advice of those around her and grow up already.
In the end, I'm not sure it's a book I'd necessarily recommend. It's good but not great.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program....more
I'll admit I was initially enthusiastic about the idea of continuing Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comics, especially since Joss Whedon was going to beI'll admit I was initially enthusiastic about the idea of continuing Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comics, especially since Joss Whedon was going to be involved in the project. (And more than just cashing the checks, I assumed).
Season eight was good, season nine wandered a bit too much and I was at a bit of a crossroads on whether or not I felt like I wanted or needed to read season ten. But my local library got in the first two collected editions of season ten, so I decided to give it a try.
And, for the most part, it's a lot more enjoyable than season nine was -- at least so far. With magic restored to the world -- via a new magical system -- the Scooby gang is contending with trying to be grown ups all while learning the new rules of the game. Seems there's a big book that you can write the rules into and they become reality. Buffy takes it on herself to guard this book and I have a feeling that the book will come to play a big role in the season arc that will eventually unfold in the comics.
Meanwhile, there are consequences to restoring the magic. Dawn has been reset to a certain point before she and Xander were a couple. And while she loves him, she doesn't love him in that way, leading to all kinds of awkwardness and angst. And yet, as with much of the awkwardness and angst of the Buffy-verse, it feels earned and authentic. In fact, it almost feels like something Joss himself would have dreamed up as a way to keep our couple apart but give us hope they'll get back together soon.
Also on tap are a return to Sunnydale and Andrew trying to resurrect a certain dead character that I won't give away. Nicholas Brendan even steps in to co-write an issue that has Spike and Xander falling under the spell of a couple of sirens. I'd almost say this is my favorite installment from the first dozen or so issues of season ten, if only because it pulls away from the heavy arc that the other issues are carrying (even a standalone with Harmony and Clem making a guest appearance gets caught up in arc stuff in its final few pages, including one very interesting reveal).
Overall, I like season ten a bit more than I thought I would. Reading this collection, I still yearn to go back and dust off my DVDs and maybe revisit Sunnydale again. ...more
While many of us can figuratively lose ourselves in a book, Jane Shore has the ability to literally do so. As a girl, she learned that she could tetheWhile many of us can figuratively lose ourselves in a book, Jane Shore has the ability to literally do so. As a girl, she learned that she could tether herself to reality and simply step inside the pages of a book to experience her favorite scenes and stories. Jane shared this ability with some of her friends, but as she grew older she stopped stepping into the pages of great novels and became a librarian.
Until one day when her path crosses an old friend who encourages Jane (who moved away and lives under a new name) to use her gift for profit. As Annapurna (love the name), they sell the opportunity for people to lose themselves in timeless works of literature.
I've been a big fan of Elizabeth George and her Lynley mysteries for a while now. So when the opportunity came along to check out an original story, I jumped at it. This wonderful novella is a lot of fun and while it's not quite a hard-hitting mystery that George usually delivers, that doesn't make it any less of a delight to read. I especially enjoyed some of the rules that Jane and her partner set up for what books or even scenes from books can be visited. Jane won't allow readers to step into E.L. James' novels, there are no love triangles and there is only one vampire worthy of meeting (and it ain't a sparkly one!).
A quick, delightful read The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy makes me curious to see what other offerings the Bilbiophiles series has. And seeing that there is an entry from Laura Lippman, I can predict where I might land next.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
While Kate Mulgrew's memoir Born With Teeth touches on some of the iconic roles that brought her to the public eye, the focus isn't on her career butWhile Kate Mulgrew's memoir Born With Teeth touches on some of the iconic roles that brought her to the public eye, the focus isn't on her career but instead on the personal choices that made her who she is. And while the Star Trek fan in me hopes that someday she'll revisit her time on Voyager in greater depth, I can't help but really like what Mulgrew shares here.
She's not afraid to be unconventional, witty and self-deprecating, many times within the same paragraph. As Mulgrew relates the story of her life and how that shaped her into the actress and person she's become, I couldn't help but be fascinated by it. Mulgrew is just as quick to point our her shortcomings and faults as she is her strengths. And this memoir is the stronger for it.
Hearing of her decision to give up her child to adoption early in her life and career and then impact that has on her made me think. Mulgrew's story is one of love and redemption and you can't help but begin to cheer for her as her life unfolds.
I feel like I understand a bit more of what Mulgrew brought to the role of Janeway and it makes me appreciate her work on Voyager a bit more. It also makes me appreciate her more as an actress and a person. ...more
Cassie's mother taught her a lot of things -- including how to read people. But Cassie's ability is far more than just figuring out clues about a persCassie's mother taught her a lot of things -- including how to read people. But Cassie's ability is far more than just figuring out clues about a person in order to give them a psychic reading. She has a natural ability as a profiler -- something the FBI is aware of and wants to take advantage of.
Recruited to a team of fellow teens with natural abilities (Dean can profile, Lea can read if you're lying, Sloane is gifted in reciting facts and figures and Michael can really, really read people), Cassie is promised that she'll get to enhance her abilities and maybe use the FBI resources to finally track down who killed her mother.
The world that Jennifer Lynn Barnes has created for her The Naturals series is a fascinating one. The idea that there would be five teens who would come together as a kind of Criminal Minds for the younger set works very well. It also creates a very bizarre household where there are body outlines in the swimming pool, a test lab in the basement and a library full of cold cases for Cassie to train on.
When The Naturals sticks its procedural aspects, it works very well. I'll give Barnes a lot of credit -- she was able to put in enough red herrings as to who the central villain of this novel was to keep me guessing (wrongly as it turns out) over the entire run of the book.
It's when The Naturals gives us the young adult trope of a love triangle and a conflicted girl trying to choose between two competing guys that I found myself rolling my eyes and wanting to fast forward the audio book. Dean and Michael both engage in a contest to try and woe Cassie and she's clearly torn between the two. But as I listened to the audio version of this book, I couldn't help but wonder why these two guys were so into. Beyond the mystery surrounding her mother, there really isn't a lot of detail given about Cassie. There's not much reason given to why the guys are so in love with her other than she's our narrator and entry point into this world.
At times, I found myself thinking that a book told from Sloane or Lia's point of view might be a bit more interesting.
I suppose I should just be thanking my lucky stars that there are no sparkly vampires or misunderstood mythical creatures lurking in these pages.
And while Cassie may lack the depth I was hoping for, I will admit that Barnes creates enough of a backstory for Michael and Dean that we can see why Cassie is torn between them. Both offer positives and negative reasons why Cassie could or should choose one or the other.
Luckily Barnes keeps the angst to a minimum, concentrating more on the team and the serial killer who may be targeting Cassie. The final few chapters and the big reveal are all well earned by Barnes and the questions about if and how this ties into the fate of Cassie's mother are intriguing enough.
They're intriguing enough that despite my eye-rolling at the love triangle, I'm willing and interested enough to give the next installment in this series a try. ...more
The first couple of chapters of Paul S. Kemp's Lords of the Sith reminded me of my childhood, playing in the yard with my Star Wars action figures. IThe first couple of chapters of Paul S. Kemp's Lords of the Sith reminded me of my childhood, playing in the yard with my Star Wars action figures. I could create a wide variety of scenarios and battles among the action figures, including making Darth Vader the baddest bad guy in all the universe.
The bookends of this one make Vader (and to a lesser extend Emperor Palpatine) just that. Set in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, this story establishes Vader as a complete and total bad-ass. In the opening chapter, Vader uses his ship to kamikaze another after he's ejected to board the ship and then takes out an entire crew of 24 with just his lightsaber and the Force. At this point, I was fully hooked, wondering if and how this book couple top that. But I was ready to give it the chance to do so.
Unfortunately, the book peaks early and never quite gets back to that point of pure awesomeness that felt like it was straight out of my childhood back yard. Instead, we get a lot of characters who are part of the growing rebellion that we have little or no connection with in the movies. I understand from looking at other reviews that there is a connect to the animated universe, but I've not had the time to delve as deeply into that part of a galaxy far, far away as I'd like.
Vader and the Emperor travel to an outer world that is the source of the rebellion. The rebel leaders plan to try to take our Vader and the Emperor. Things do not go as planned.
It's not that this isn't interesting so much as I felt like for a book titled Lords of the Sith, we don't spend a lot of time with Vader and the Emperor.
I wanted to love this one, but ended up only really liking it. It has some great moments, but overall it's not my favorite Star Wars tie-in novel since the books rebooted.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ...more
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 actiI'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. ...more
It's rare to find a Doctor Who novel that will allow us inside the mind of the Doctor. More often than not, we'll see into the mind of his companionsIt's rare to find a Doctor Who novel that will allow us inside the mind of the Doctor. More often than not, we'll see into the mind of his companions and those around him.
That makes a story like "The Deadly Assassin" difficult to adapt for the printed page since it's the only story in the classic canon that doesn't feature a companion for the Doctor. It's also a story whose third episode features a lot of action pieces and very little in the way of dialogue.
Because of this, Terrance Dicks' attempt to adapt the classic Robert Holmes four-parter falls a bit short. I can't help but wonder if Dicks had produced this story at the beginning or the end of his association with the Target range if he might have expanded some things a bit or made some different storytelling choices. As it is, this comes from the middle period when Dicks rarely had time to do more than adapt the shooting script for the printed page. He didn't have time to add the flourishes that made novels like "The Day of the Daleks" so memorable.
With two mysterious adversaries for the Doctor to battle (one works for the other), Dicks decides to give away the identity of one earlier in the novel than the televised story does. I can't help but wonder if it might have been better to let readers in on who is working for the Master rather than the Master himself. It's disappointing that one of the more pivotal and controversial stories in the classic series run only gets a novelization that's par for the course. Dicks tries his best, but this is a story that works better visually (at least the sections inside the Matrix do) than they do on the printed page.
Thankfully, the audio version features a reading by Geoffrey Beavers, the only actor who played the Master in the classic series who is still with us. Beavers reading is, as always, a delight and he brings a lot to the read, especially when called upon to read lines for the Master. You can just hear Beavers voice dripping with contempt as he channels the Master in this one. I can't help but wonder why this line hasn't seen fit to let Beavers read a story or two that doesn't feature the Master. I think he'd be great. Why not let him read "Day of the Daleks" -- one of the truly great entries from the Target line that hasn't yet been adapted for audio. ...more
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 thI'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....more
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 brotheDon'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?
Sarah Ockler's The Book of Broken Hearts attempts to answer those questions. Listening to Jude's struggle between her growing feelings for Emilio and her determined denial that the Alzheimer's will claim her father's memories drives a great deal of the first half of this novel. Jude's quiet desperation to prove the experts wrong is as touching as it is heartbreaking. As a reader/listener, I quickly realized that Jude's pinning her hopes that by restoring the Harley, she might restore her father was totally misguided but completely understandable. Add in that Jude's old friends don't quite know how to react to her father's new condition and begin distancing themselves from her while Emilio is patient with her father and doesn't flinch when her father has an episode and you've got a recipe for the good girl falling for the bad boy, who may not be as bad as he appears.
Ockler creates a fully realized, realistic world for her teenage romance. It's interesting to hear that one of Jude's sisters is a reader for a publishing house. This gives Ockler (via Jude) the chance to comment on how real life romance rarely involves supernatural elements or sparkly vampires. The occasional jabs at those areas of the young adult shelf are welcome.
But what really drives the story is our first person narrator Jude. Her conflict between what she sees as her loyalty to her family and her growing attraction to Emilio helps drive much of the novel. It's not an easy road to romance for these two, but the obstacles (both real and imagined) feel realistic and earned. And while Ocker resolves some of the threads in Jude's story, not everything is conveniently wrapped up by the time we get to the end of the final disc. This part of Jude's journey is complete, but that doesn't mean everything is neatly wrapped up with a bow.
Ockler's story is an entertaining one. I listen to audio books while working out and I found this one worked as a good distraction from how hard I was working and, at times, I looked forward to my next work out so I could see how the story of Jude and her family would progress. ...more
Have you ever had one of those weeks when a couple of the books you're reading seem to be related even if they're from two different sections of the bHave you ever had one of those weeks when a couple of the books you're reading seem to be related even if they're from two different sections of the bookstore or library?
In the case of Every Fifteen Minutes and To All the Boys I've Loved, it's not a thematic similarity the books share, but instead my growing frustration with the main characters of each novel. Reading/listening to both books, I kept having to resist the urge to want to reach into the novel and tell the protagonist to wake up and smell the coffee already!
With Every Fifteen Minutes this urge comes about a third of the way into the novel, after Lisa Scottoline has spent a hundred or so pages setting up the story and situation of Dr. Eric Parrish. Separated from his wife, Parrish is the head of an elite psychiatric department who also has his own private practice. Parish is introduced to a young man whose grandmother is dying and who has other issues due to his lack of any parental figures. Parrish takes the boy on as a patient and quickly becomes concerned about his mental health and the boy's apparent obsession with a young girl he tutors as part of his job.
The hook of Every Fifteen Minutes is that every couple of chapters, a first-person, self-admitted sociopath shows up to remind us that he or she is working to destroy Parrish's life. And just as you reach the middle third of the novel, the unnamed sociopath begins to pull the rug out from Parrish, slowly manipulating him into making decisions that can and would ruin his personal and professional lives. It's as this point I began to get increasingly frustrated with Parrish, if only because he makes a series of well-intentioned decisions that aren't necessarily the most practical. For example, when the young boy goes missing after his grandmother passes away, Eric throws caution to the wind to try and find the boy, fearing he's suicidal. Eric goes so far as to track down the girl who is the focus of his patients obsession, stalking her at her job and then following her home to try and catch a glimpse of his patient. This doesn't end well when bad things happen to the girl and Eric suddenly becomes the prime suspect in the case.
There are moments when I can see what Scottoline is trying to do by putting Eric in a situation where his professional ethics can't be violated -- even if it means damning himself by his silence. And yet I still couldn't help but feel that Eric brought a lot of his trouble on himself through some of his decisions and not thinking through how this would all look to someone on the outside.
Interestingly, Scottoline includes a few nice red herrings before the final revelation of who the sociopath really is. I had a guess and it turned out to be off-base (though I'd argue that if Scottoline had chosen to go the route I thought she was going, there was enough ground work in place to make it seem like a reasonable choice within the structure of the story).
The first third of the novel hooked me, the middle third had me rolling my eyes at the moves being made by Eric and the final third had me guessing and then second guessing the identity of our main antagonist. That's not necessarily a bad way to spend four hundred or so pages. If Every Fifteen Minutes were a movie, it'd be one of those popcorn thrillers that everyone talked about for a few weeks. As a summer read, it works very well -- all frustration with the main characters aside.
On the other side of the coin, there's Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Love Before.
Now, I've made little or no secret that when I run, I sometimes enjoy a good young adult fiction audio book. The reason for this is that these books can be a bit lighter and don't always require that I pay as close attention for details as I might for other novels. And sometimes a little teenage angst can be a nice way to pound out those miles as I run.
With To All The Boys, I found the more time I spent with LaraJean, the less I liked her and the situation she finds herself in. The middle of three sisters, LaraJean has never had a boyfriend before. She's had guys she loves and when she felt she was over them, she wrote them a letter and then put into a hat box. LaraJean never intended these letters to see the light of day, much less be read by the five guys she once loved.
One was her good friend from junior high, Peter K and another was the boy next door, Josh, who dated her older sister Margo for several years, before the two separated when Margo goes to Scotland for college. LaraJean begins her junior year with the knowledge that someone has mailed the letters to the one-time objects of her affection. She decides to avoid Josh (hard to do since they are good friends and he lives next door) while Peter K decides the two should take advantage of her once feelings by creating a fake relationship to make certain people jealous (in his case, his ex-girlfriend who is the queen of school and in LaraJean's case, maybe Josh might get jealous). The two even sign a contract, laying out what is expected from each side in this pretend relationship.
If you can't see where this is all headed, odds are you haven't seen a romantic comedy in the last dozen or so years. And while I don't mind a book that treads the same ground that others have in the past, I do mind when the book doesn't really try to do much new with the material. This even boils down the thread that Peter and Josh don't like each other and that the lady's man Peter might have more to him than meets the eyes while Josh may not be the white knight that LaraJean has built him up to be in her mind.
Where my frustration began to set in with LaraJean and the story as a whole is that little, if any consideration is given to the fact that Josh was her older sister's boyfriend for a significant amount of time. Neither LaraJean nor Josh come out looking good when they're both willing to consider a relationship with each other or when they admit they were attracted to each other before Margo entered the picture. Couple this with the revelation mid-way through the book that Margo and Josh slept together and I kept looking around for Barney Stinson to show up and give Josh a lesson in the Bro Code. Or for someone to realize that maybe trying to be romantically involved with sisters isn't going to be a good idea.
Another frustration comes from LaraJean and her lack of maturity. It's hard to believe she's a junior in high school when, at times, it feels like she's acting like someone in middle school. I can see what Jenny Han is trying to do with making her a bit more sheltered and having Margo be the one who had to grow up quickly and sheltering her sisters from certain things. But I still found myself scratching my head at times at just how LaraJean was behaving and relating to the world. I also kept thinking that it was fortunate that Peter isn't the bad boy his reputation suggests because a guy like that could do a real number on LaraJean.
The audio version of the book may not have helped things here. Maybe hearing the performance by Laura Knight Keating as LaraJean took me out of things a bit -- or maybe it made LaraJean seem whiner than might on the printed page. It's nothing against the performance, but this could be why I felt LaraJean came across as younger than she really is.
Of course, a lot of my frustration could have been dealt with if I felt like we could a satisfactory ending to things. I don't feel like this happened and instead we're left with an emotional cliffhanger to lead into the next book. Whether or not I'm going to spent more time with LaraJean remains to be seen. After listening to her story all week, I feel like I'm invested enough to see if everything at I'm not sure that spending more time with these characters right now would be a good thing. ...more
For most of When We Were Animals, Joshua Gaylord pulls off the trick of writing a hybrid werewolf and coming-of-age-novel that is clever, subtle and uFor most of When We Were Animals, Joshua Gaylord pulls off the trick of writing a hybrid werewolf and coming-of-age-novel that is clever, subtle and utterly compelling.
Not since Joss Whedon used a werewolf in Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the supernatural being used to comment on the transformation and confusing time of being a teenager been so well done.
When the children in her small town hit a certain age, they begin to undergo a type of transformation. Three nights a month, then become wild, savage -- shedding clothes and societal norms to run in the woods and do things that animals do. Lumen is a bit of a late bloomer, not undergoing the process until later in her teenage years, though there is one particular boy who is willing to try and help her along with the change.
There's also something that happened -- a twist that Gaylord hides right in plain sight for much of the novel. That is, until he smacks you squarely between the eyes in the novel's final chapters as if to say, "You should have been playing closer attention to what the left hand was going, but I had you completely distracted with the fireworks I had in my right hand." It's a nice twist that more than makes up for the fact that I felt the novel was starting to lose a bit of momentum once Lumen transforms and we see her life from that point forward.
When We Were Animals is a surprisingly fun, entertaining and thought provoking novel. It's also of one of those books that has passages that are so eloquent you can't help but go back to read them again, allowing them to wash back over you and marveling and Gaylord's technique and storytelling. ...more
Watching The Flash's brilliant first season has piqued my interest in the original source material for the Scarlet Speedster. So, I was pleasantly surWatching The Flash's brilliant first season has piqued my interest in the original source material for the Scarlet Speedster. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the five-part mini-series Flashpoint sitting in a collected edition on my library's shelf. I'd heard good things about it from the animated version (which I haven't seen yet) and from a bookmark my library was giving away with a listing of essential DC graphic novels (or collected comics, if you prefer that term).
Barry Allen wakes up one day to find the world has entirely changed. Superman isn't on the scene, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are leading their respective peoples in a battle for dominance of the Earth and Batman isn't Batman. Add to all this that Barry doesn't have his powers, but he has memories of having them. Turns out Barry went back in time to save his mother from dying and sent the entire world as we know it on an entirely different time line. Of course, there is a nefarious force at work behind all of this, manipulating Barry into doing this but that reveal doesn't come until the end of the fourth issue.
The real highlights of this issue are the first and the last one. The first one creates a sense of paranoia and the "something ain't right feeling" that permeates many of the best episode of modern Trek. The cliffhanger to end part one is a thing of beauty and one of those moments that really make you take a step back and look at just how different this world that Barry has created is. The other moment comes at the end when Barry has "put right what once went wrong" and made the leap back to his DC universe and his delivery of a note from a father to a son. It's a moment that is completely and totally moving and one that's earned by much of the story and history that has come before.
In between these two moments, there's a lot of story and a lot of getting the band together as Barry and this reality's Batman must assemble the Justice League to try and stop Aquaman and Wonder Woman. In many ways, this universe feels like the timeline Biff created when he stole the Sports Almanac and gave it to his younger self in Back to the Future, Part II.
I will admit I did question why the big bad of this whole plot bothers to show up and gloat over Barry, though I suppose if he didn't, we couldn't have three or four pages of exposition told to us and everything neatly explained. Part of me feels like the story was rushed at points, while other parts it felt like things were taking too long. An entire issue devoted to Barry getting his powers back feels a bit too much, but there are some ideas (like the fact that Superman has been kept locked up and out of the sunlight for many years) that feel like they're not given the time they need to fully breath. I'm not one who usually thinks that a comic book storyline should be expanded (quite frankly, it feels like too many these days are expanded just to sell more issues) but in the case of Flashpoint perhaps a bit more exploration of the alternate universe might have been nice or given the story a bit more depth.
In the end, the story is enjoyable enough despite a few weaknesses. I tried to read this collected comic in single issue installments and not all at once. I think the story may have benefited from that a bit. ...more
Trying to find a new way to travel, a group of scientists may have made the breakthrough of a lifetime -- a machine that allows you step from one distTrying to find a new way to travel, a group of scientists may have made the breakthrough of a lifetime -- a machine that allows you step from one distant point to another in the blink of an eye (think the Stargate from the movies on TV show). But the new technology may have some unintended side effects.
Enter Mike Erickson, a school teacher with a photographic memory and friends in high places. During his summer break, Mike is convinced by his highly placed friend to look into the new device and make sure that everything is on the level and that our government should continue funding.
Several times as I read The Fold, I found myself reminded of vintage works by Stephen King or Richard Matheson. I also found myself thinking this could have made a great installment of The X-Files back in the day (that may be my current re-watch of the series as well). Peter Clines creates a group of well imagined characters, spending the first half of the novel on character building and slowly foreshadowing what's really going on with the fold. If you're a science-fiction fan, you may be able to piece bits and pieces of what's really going on here together but I will give Clines credit that while I pieced together part of what was happening, I didn't quite think through the impact and consequences of it as well as he and his characters did.
The Fold is a suspenseful, mystery thriller that works on just about every level. Clines wisely allows us to have time to invest in the characters for the first half so that when things start to go awry and answers begin coming our way in the second half, there is an impact to it beyond the raised eyebrow. Clines has created an interesting character in Mike, especially in the way that Mike sees his photographic memory working. The ability to recall everything he's seen or done is compared to ants, all swarming about with various pieces that Mike needs to solve the problem. Like ants, they can be organized or disorganized, depending on what Mike (and the plot) needs.
The Fold is a fun, entertaining novel that had me hooked from the first page and kept my interest for the entire story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Outside of his Dark Tower novels, Stephen King isn't really a writer who offers readers out and out sequels to previous works. Yes, he built up his fiOutside of his Dark Tower novels, Stephen King isn't really a writer who offers readers out and out sequels to previous works. Yes, he built up his fictional towns and connected elements from some of the novels together in a way that rewarded his Constant Readers, but there weren't many novels that picked up on the characters or events from previous installments.
Until the last five or so years when King has shown an interest in playing again in some of his own fictional sandboxes. Last year we got a sequel to The Shining which while not as great as the original was a solid, entertaining book. Now King visits the world of Bill Hodges again with the middle novel of a trilogy about those characters with Finders Keepers.
And yet for a sequel to last year's Mr. Mercedes, King keeps Hodges and company off stage for the first half of Finders Keepers. Instead, King gives us several new characters, all connected by their love of the best-selling author (and perhaps literary) genius of John Rothstein.
Morris Bellamy loves the work of Rothstein -- well, at least his first two novels. Feeling betrayed by the choices made for Rothstein's lead character of Morris Gold and certain the reclusive author has written more, Bellamy breaks into Rothstein's house, stealing some money and notebooks that contain a couple of short stories and two new novels. Bellamy also murders Rothstein, throwing a monkey wrench into his plan to read and then sell the notebooks to a wealthy investor through his library/book collector friend. Bellamy is eventually caught on other charges and sent to jail, but not before he buries the money and notebooks in the woods in a secure location, just waiting for the day he can be released from prison and get his grubby mitts back on them.
During that time, Pete Saubers finds the buried treasure, using the money to help his family through a turbulent time (it's connected to the events in Mr. Mercedes) and falling under the spell of Rothstein's writing. As the money begins to run out, Pete decides he might need to come clean about the notebooks, though he wants to profit from them. This leads him to the book dealer known to Bellamy and puts these two literary fans on a collision course.
As I read Finders Keepers, I couldn't help but be reminded of Kevin Smith's response when people complain about George Lucas' tinkering with the original Star Wars trilogy and the three prequels. Smith has often said that it's Lucas universe and his playground and he's allowed to monkey with it however he wants. The fans don't own it, Lucas does.
King's creation of the characters of Saubers and Bellamy underscores this a bit. The two are different sides of the same coin -- fans who are a bit obsessed and take a bit too much ownership of literary and fictional characters and universes. In many ways, it feels like King (like Smith) is talking to the haters who don't like the way a story goes because it doesn't match up with their own expectations or the way they imagined the story going in their minds (or even their own fan-fic). And while Finders Keepers goes a bit farther than a majority of fans might, it's still not difficult to imagine an obsessed fan taking things to the point that Bellamy does in this novel.
It all adds up for a fascinating story about the power of fiction and the literary world. King has given us glimpses into the mind and world of a writer before and what can happen when fans go a bit too far. Finders Keepers is just another solid example of that world.
As for Bill Hodges and company, they're more secondary characters this time around, though the novel's final pages hint that King may be setting us up for a heck of conclusion to this trilogy when it hits shelves. ...more