When she's chosen to be one of three exchange students with the recently discovered alien race the L'eihrs, Cara Sweeney sees not only a chance to get...moreWhen she's chosen to be one of three exchange students with the recently discovered alien race the L'eihrs, Cara Sweeney sees not only a chance to get a full ride to college but also the change to jump start her career as a journalist. But that Cara didn't expect was rampant xenophobia from her friends and planet or that her exchange student Alix might have a different agenda than promoting peace and understanding between the two cultures.
Oh, and she also didn't expect that she'd start to fall for the alien living under her roof.
Melissa Landers' Alienated starts off with a very interesting premise and story line, tackling some interesting threads and showing us the unintended price that Cara is paying for making the choice -- she loses her boyfriend and her best friend in the rampant xenophobia overtaking her community. But somewhere around the third or fourth disc of this audiobook, things began to quickly go awry and I found myself enjoying the story less and less. It's probably about the time that both Alix and Cara begin to fall for each other. It's not because Landers doesn't spend a time in the first half of the book setting these two unlikely heroes up as a couple. It's because once the Cara starts trying to making food palatable to Alix's alien palate that things the story begins to lose track of the interesting questions that drove the first half of the novel and slowly begins to center on just attracted these two are to each other.
Dropped from the story is the thread about how Cara's mother was saved by L'eihr technology and how that could impact Cara and her family's acceptance of Alix and his fellow student ambassadors.
About the only thing that kept me going for the final half of the novel was the mystery of what Alix and his exchange program counterparts are devising to inflict upon humanity in order to destroy both sides willingness to form an alliance. Unfortunately by the time we get around to any answers, I'd long since lost interesting and found myself doubling the audio rate on my iPod simply to get through the book. The answers aren't anything I hadn't already sussed out from the novel's early stages and by the time I got to the final disc, I was ready for the whole thing to be over and done.
Which is a shame because, as I said before, the story starts off well with some interesting questions. The novel ends of a cliffhanger of sorts but I can't say that I'm curious enough to want to pick up the story when the next installment hits shelves.(less)
Following his final confrontation with the Queen in "Planet of the Spiders," the third Doctor is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Determined to ge...moreFollowing his final confrontation with the Queen in "Planet of the Spiders," the third Doctor is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Determined to get back to his friends at UNIT to say farewell, the TARDIS brings him on a side detour to what appears to be an English village. But beneath the happy surface, there is something sinister going on -- including that no one is allowed to utter the "D-word" or else face the consequences.
Joanne Harris' The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller captures the essence and character of the third Doctor in this fascinating, light novella set at the end of Jon Pertwee's tenure. Reading the story, I could hear Pertwee delivering the dialogue that Harris creates for his Doctor and this one feels like a nice little side-step into a familiar era of the show.
It's interesting that I picked this up right after listening to the Big Finish version of "Love and War." That story also references the end of the third Doctor era and his dying of radiation poisoning. This story slips nicely into Paul Cornell's take on the end of that era with the Doctor spending a decade in the TARDIS alone, dying of radiation poisoning.
I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.(less)
Before I started running, I often wondered why people who ran did it. After all, as the old joke goes, you never see a runner smiling widely or lookin...moreBefore I started running, I often wondered why people who ran did it. After all, as the old joke goes, you never see a runner smiling widely or looking like they're having much, if any, fun.
Like author Matthew Inman (better known as The Oatmeal from his on-going web-comic), I didn't really understand the appeal of running long distances until I actually got out there and started doing it.
Inman's attempt to explain why he runs long distance is chronicled in The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.
Not a how-to manual on the best technique or style to run, this book chronicles what drives a person to get out there and hit the roads, chalking up the miles and signing up for races that seem to be impossible distances. Some of the stories are serious and some offer humorous insights into the mind of this particular runner. Inman gives us some insight into how he developed his running technique and things he recommends doing (push on past the first mile, get used to being uncomfortable for most of your run) and things that he doesn't recommend (treadmills, using an iPod while running). Some of these I agree with (treadmills are good but they have their limitations) and some I don't (I'm just not focused enough to run without my iPod because I'd spend much of the time talking myself out of going farther). But it's still fascinating to get inside the head of a fellow runner and hear his successes and foibles out there grinding out the miles.
If there's one criticism I have of the book, it's that it feels a bit repetitive at times. It could be that it's meant to be read in single chapter servings rather than one big gulp as I did. It feels like Inman circles around a couple of points multiple times during the course of his own personal running journey.
So, if you're a runner and you have difficulty explaining why you do what you do, this book might be a good way to help non-runners understand it a bit better. It won't help you be a better runner, but it may help you understand your motivation to get out there and clock those miles.(less)
There are certain monsters and villains that lend themselves well to audio and some that don't. The Zygons probably fall somewhere firmly in the middl...moreThere are certain monsters and villains that lend themselves well to audio and some that don't. The Zygons probably fall somewhere firmly in the middle since their ability to disguise themselves as various people in the story can be more easily realized in the audio landscape. But then again, the Zygon voices also suffer from the same thing that the Dalek voices do -- they can be a bit grating to listen for an extended period of time in an audio release.
And so it is that we come to Zygon Hunt, the final release of the current fourth Doctor adventures and a story that worked far better than I initially thought it could or would. I'll say that the story suffers a bit in comparison to how superbly the Zygons were used in the fiftieth anniversary story, but overall I can't help but feel that this current run of fourth Doctor stories has gone out on a solid note, even if it never delivered on the early conflict between the Doctor and Leela that we saw in The Kings of Sontar.
The Doctor and Leela arrive on the planet Garros where they meet up with expedition that is hunting the Zygons for sport. But the question quickly becomes who is hunting who and just how does this play into the Zygons' plan to conquer the Earth? As I said before there are doppelgangers and questions of loyalty abounding in this story, but once those big reveals are stripped away, I'm afraid the overall story does quite hold together. Part of it that the supporting cast aren't really all that interesting or memorable so it's hard to really care much about who is human and who is a Zygon in disguise.
Overall, I feel like the latest fourth Doctor season started out on a high note and that it was all a downhill slide from there. Certainly Zygon Hunt isn't as disappointing as the last two entries in the range, but I still came away feeling a bit letdown overall by the season. (less)
Being a Doctor Who fan these days is interesting. What was once a more solitary fandom has now become more social. Where it was once just me enjoying...moreBeing a Doctor Who fan these days is interesting. What was once a more solitary fandom has now become more social. Where it was once just me enjoying my VHS copies of the stories and haunting my local bookstores for the latest novel, it seems like these days you can't turn around twice without seeing Doctor Who merchandise for sale everywhere.
It's become so pervasive that there were copies of "Deep Breath" for sale in Wal-Mart the other day. Wal-Mart! It appears we're in a golden age for tie-in merchandise to my favorite series.
And with a new Doctor arriving on the scene, it seems that the BBC is doing all it can to capitalize on fan enthusiasm, starting with the release of three new Peter Capaldi Doctor stories this week. Thanks to the kind people at NetGalley, I was able to secure ARC copies of the books a week or so before Capaldi made his debut on our screens. But being the obsessive fan that I am, I couldn't bring myself to crack the digital covers of the books until I'd at least seen his debut story. I didn't want to unintentionally spoil myself on details of the first story or to create any more notions of what I wanted from the Capaldi Doctor.
First up in the reading list was Mike Tucker's The Crawling Terror. The Doctor and Clara arrive in a small town that is literally crawling with giant, potentially deadly insects. Investigating further, the Doctor uncovers unnatural experiments taking place that could have a tie to British and German experiments from the second World War and a potential alien invasion just waiting to happen.
While the concept of an alien invasion of our planet through the U.K. isn't necessarily the most original Doctor Who plot, Tucker throws in just enough references to the classic and new series and gives it just enough of a twist that I didn't necessarily mind that much. I'm also impressed with how well Tucker had translated Capladi's take on the Doctor to the printed page. There are many instances where I could hear Capaldi delivering the dialogue that Tucker gives the Doctor. Clara is also well served by the story and feels authentic as well.
It makes me curious how much background material Tucker and his fellow authors were given to the early episodes. Did they read scripts or see test footage?Was it BBC sanctioned or did they have to get the scripts and footage via alternate means (since the first five scripts and working prints of a couple of episodes leaked to the Internet).
Whatever the case, Tucker does a solid job with The Crawling Terror. The story is effective and creepy.
As I said before, I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (less)
On the night of her father's funeral, Alex's best friend Becca slept with her boyfriend. Needless to say this didn't go over well with Alex and she ha...moreOn the night of her father's funeral, Alex's best friend Becca slept with her boyfriend. Needless to say this didn't go over well with Alex and she hasn't spoken to Becca much since.
Now as a new school year arrives, Alex decides it's time to get past Becca's indiscretion and continue their friendship. Looking for her friend on the first day of school, Alex discovers that Becca has cancer and that the time they have to forgive and forget may be less than both of them expected or counted on.
To make up for lost time, Becca gives Alex her bucket list of items and asks that Alex begin to cross them off for her. Some are fairly straightforward and easy to cross off while others like touching the rear of Battlestar Galactica star Jamie Bamber or having sex with someone you love may take a little more effort and work. And instead of being maudlin about the list and calling it a "bucket list," the two decide to call it The F--- It List..
In the world of young adult stories, it feels like stories centering on someone with a terminal disease are a dime a dozen these days. Julie Halpern's The F*&^ It List brings something different to the table because it tells us the story not of the person diagnosed with the disease, but of her best friend. And while Becca's diagnosis serves as a catalyst for the story, it's really the story of Alex's need to forgive herself and deal with some of her unresolved issues surrounding not only Becca but her departed father.
In short, the novel is a winner on just about every level with Alex as a fundamentally flawed character who is struggling with a lot of authentic issues and situations. It's interesting to see how Alex uses others around her to try and escape dealing with some of her larger issues and it's nice to see that the novel allows her to get away with this to a point and then begins to call her on it.
I'll admit that I was drawn to the book by its title, but once I'd cracked the cover, I stayed for the well-drawn characters and Halpern's storytelling. I will warn some of you who don't like to deal with the fact that young adults think about and participate in such things as masturbation and sexual intercourse that you probably won't want to read this novel. Both of these things, as well as a little flashing of the homeschooled boy who lives next door to Becca, occur in the novel. So, if you think you or your young readers can't handle that, I'd suggest not picking this one up.
However, if you think you can handle young adults acting like young adults, then I highly recommend this book. It stands out from the crowd. (less)
Something happened on trivia night at Piriwee Public -- something so tragic that the police had to be called in to investigate and try to separate the...moreSomething happened on trivia night at Piriwee Public -- something so tragic that the police had to be called in to investigate and try to separate the truth from the rumors.
Liane Moriarity's Big Little Liars starts with the tease about trivia night and then sends us back in time to build up to that night for four-hundred pages. It's the story of three women -- Jane, Celeste and Madeline -- who each have children enrolled in Miss Barnes' kindergarten class. At an orientation day, Jane's son Ziggy is accused of bullying another girl in his class. Despite Ziggy's denials, the incident polarizes families for and against Ziggy.
Jane secretly fears that Ziggy could have a bullying streak based on the one-night stand she had with his father, whom she hasn't seen since. As Jane slowly becomes part of the community and friends with Madeline and Celeste, the three begin to discover that each of them is hiding things and that things aren't as rosy as they would appear on the surface of their lives.
Over the course of Big Little Liars, Moriarity lays the foundation for everything to come to a head at trivia night. There are some fascinating but expertly set up revelations that come from the evening and what happens there. I'll give Moriarity credit that while I was able to suss out one of the revelations, most of the others were a satisfying surprise.
To say much more is to give away too much and to rob readers of the opportunity to experience this novel for themselves.