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review 2018-07-17 03:11
Colgan Captures the 10th Doctor's First Adventure Perfectly in this adaptation.
Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion - Jenny Colgan

Back in High School, I remember attending an author event -- some SF author that I'd never heard of (you probably haven't either), but what did I care? He was an actual SF/Fantasy/Horror writer visiting Idaho (it happens a little more now, but back then I hadn't thought it was possible). He discussed getting to write a novelization of a major Horror film thinking, "How hard can it be? Take the script, throw in some adjectives and verbs -- maybe a few adverbs and you're done!" He then went on to talk about all the things he learned about how hard it was taking a script of whatever quality and turning it into something that works in an entirely different medium. That's really stuck with me for some reason, and I've always respected anyone who can pull it off well (and even those who get close to doing it well).

 

Before I babble on too much, Colgan is one who can pull it off pretty well.I discovered Doctor Who a couple of years before I saw that unnamed SF author, but didn't get to watch much of it, mostly because I lived in about the only place in the States where PBS didn't air old ones. I saw a few Sylvester McCoy episodes (mostly due to the magic of VHS and a friend who lived somewhere with a better PBS affiliate). Other than that, it was the small paperback novelizations of episodes. I owned a few, the same friend owned a few more -- so I read those. A lot. Then comes Russel T. Davies, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, etc. and all was better. But I still remembered those novels as being Doctor Who to me.

 

So when they announced that they were re-launching that series this year, I got excited. I own them all, but I've only found time to read one -- I started with Jenny T. Colgan, because I know how Paul Cornell writes, and I assume I'll love his -- ditto for Davies and Moffat. Besides, The Christmas Invasion is one of my favorite episodes ever.

I won't bother with describing the plot much -- you know it, or you should. On the heels of regenerating into the 10th Doctor, Rose brings a mostly unconscious stranger into her mother's apartment to recuperate. At the same time, an alien invasion starts -- the British government -- under the direction of Harriet Jones, MP -- and the Torchwood project tries to respond, but really is pining all their hopes on the resident of the TARDIS.

 

Colgan does a great job bringing the episode to life -- I could see the thing playing out in my mind. But she doesn't just do that -- she adds a nice little touch of her own here and there. Expands on some things and whatnot. In general, she just brings out what was there and expands on it. Adds a few spices to an already good dish to enhance the flavors. Colgan absolutely nails Rose's inner turmoil about who this stranger in her old friend's body is.

 

I particularly enjoyed reading the scene where the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, finally awake and ready to resume being Earth's protector -- between Rose's reaction, the already great dialogue, and Colgan's capturing the essence of Tennant's (and everyone else's) performances in her prose. Seriously, I've read that scene three times. I never do that.

 

I'm not particularly crazy about the little addition she made to Harriet Jones' downfall, but I get it. I'm not scandalized by it or anything, I just didn't think it was necessary. Other than that, I appreciate everything Colgan did to put her stamp on this story.

 

If the rest of these books are as good, I'm going to be very glad to read them, and hope that there are more to come soon.

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text 2018-06-22 23:59
Phoenix Blood by Jenny Schwartz 99 cents
Phoenix Blood (Old School Book 1) - Jenny Schwartz

In a grim biker bar with wizard mercenaries on her tail and a “found” amulet around her neck, Sadie Howard needs a miracle. What she gets is the man who broke her heart nine years ago.

Marcus Aurelius is a changed man, in more ways than one. The preppy, confident medical school student is now a hard-bitten, magic-wielding assassin. He’s also a man on a mission. He has debts to pay and old wrongs to right before he dies—sometime this week.

As the secrets of Marcus’s heart are revealed, Sadie learns that nothing is as it seems and that the man who broke her heart also saved her life and paid in agony for her freedom.

With wizards trying to kill her, phoenix blood burning in Marcus’s veins, and a villain who’ll stop at nothing to acquire the amulet Sadie has promised to a friend, their roadtrip is a one-way ticket to extraordinary adventures. The question is, who will survive?

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review 2018-06-21 08:51
A challenging but satisfying book written in a unique voice that deals in momentous and relevant themes.
Just: A heart stopping thriller, full of emotion and twists - Jenny Morton Potts

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are interested in getting your book reviewed, you can check here) and thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of her novel that I freely chose to review.

I had read great reviews of the author’s previous book Hiding and when I saw that her new novel was available, I knew I had to read it. I’ve been lucky with most of the books I’ve reviewed so far. I’ve read many good books in recent times. Some have been well-written and entertaining genre books (and I love a good genre book. There is something reassuring and satisfying about reading a book in a genre we like. We know what to expect, and we can be pleasantly surprised when the book pushes the boundaries of the genre or is an excellent example of it), some I would count among some of the best books I’ve read on a topic or genre, some have managed to mix different genres, sometimes even genres that seemed hardly compatible and have pulled it off beautifully, and there are some books that have surprised me, because they seemed to keep wrong-footing the readers, challenging them, and demanding their attention. They are not for easy consumption and they do not reassure. But they can be very rewarding. Just is one of these books.

This novel is told in the third person from a variety of points of view. We have women who cannot move on and let go (of past relationships, or their past and their families), and can at times seem pathetic and self-pitying, whilst at others, they will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for those their love (at a great cost). We have men who are ridiculously devoted to women (a close friend they’ve known forever, or somebody they’ve worked with but hardly know anything about), hopelessly romantic, and willing to go to any lengths to “save” or “help” this women (who might or might not need saving).  There are friends and relatives who will keep secrets that will cost them dearly. All the characters have very distinct voices, and the reader needs to pay attention at all times, as the dialogues are dynamic, and the author rarely uses tags, so it can be a challenge to know who is talking at times, especially when new characters are introduced.

I’ve seen some comments about the book that mention that none of the characters are sympathetic. Leaving to one side personal preferences and the fact that unsympathetic or downright unlikeable characters can be protagonists as well, as long as they engage our curiosity (why are they as they are?, can we connect with them at some level, even if we don’t like what they do?), in this case it is clear that the author has carefully chosen how to tell the story, and this contributes to the way we feel.  Although the book is written in the third person (and that puts us in the role of the observer), we do see things from inside the heads of these characters, and, as we all are, they can be mean, cruel, egotistical, and truly annoying at times. Personally, I wanted to slap some of the characters sometimes, but there were some I quite liked, and by the end of the book, I definitely felt I had gained an understanding of most of them. As the book evolves we discover that we don’t know as much as we thought about all of these people, and only then do we realise how carefully constructed the novel is, and how its structure creates a whole that is much more than its parts.

The book touches upon important, controversial and difficult themes, both at a general, societal level (terrorism, emigration, wars, international aid and charities, adoption, indoctrination…) and at a more individual one (new models of family, friendship and love, letting go, romantic love, parenthood, family bonds…) and  I doubt any readers will remain indifferent to the plight of the protagonists. When I finished the book, I felt I had gained insight into subjects I had read about or seen in the news often, but the novel managed to make them feel much more personal and immediate.

There are wonderful settings (from Cambridgeshire to Libya), and scenes (beautiful and poignant) that I won’t forget. (I don’t think I’ll be able to look at shoes again the same way). The book is not evenly paced, and there are some contemplative moments, and some when we are taken from one scene to the next and left hanging on, trying to make sense of what just happened. A lot of the book deals in serious subjects but there are some light moments and plenty of humour, some witty, some dark, that bring some relief while underscoring the gravity of the issues at hand.  If some of the scenes might stretch the imagination and require suspension of disbelief (too romantic or contrived, or so I thought when I first read them), we are later obliged to re-evaluate them, we come to see them in a new light and they make sense.

I highlighted many sentences, but I thought I’d share a few:

Muduj had a weak stomach behind her strong heart.

Where once there were honey bees, now the metal drones buzz. Everything good has been replaced by manufactured evil.

Her body now was a foreign attachment to her head. Her heart was beating in her gums. Her eyes felt like transplants.

And so you don’t think it’s all very serious:

I always think it’s a worrying sign, when someone starts to read poetry.

I always recommend that prospective readers check a sample of the book to see if they feel it suits their taste, and this is especially true in this case. As I have warned, this novel treats in serious themes and is not a feel-good book (I will not discuss the ending, that I loved, but is not traditional, as it pertains such a book) for somebody looking for a light read. But if you are interested in discovering new talents and don’t mind harsh content (some sexual scenes as well) and are up for a challenge, this is a treat.

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text 2018-06-06 18:45
May 2018-That's A Wrap!
Kill Creek - Scott Thomas,Bernard Setaro Clark
Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter - Donald E Westlake,Fredric Brown
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple - Jeff Guinn
Saga, Volume 8 - Brian K. Vaughan,Fiona Staples
Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors - Kasey Lansdale,Joe R. Lansdale
The Outsider - Stephen King
Artificial Condition - Martha Wells
Wicked River - Jenny Milchman
Walk the Sky - Robert Swartwood,David B. Silva,Matt Godfrey
Bad Pennies - John F Leonard

I've read 13 books this month!

 

Graphic Novels

 

SAGA, Volumes 7 and 8   4 and 5 * respectively

 

Total: 2

 

Novellas

 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells 4*

Jurassic, Florida by Hunter Shea 4*

 

Total: 2

 

Audiobooks 

Walk the Sky by Robert Swartwood and David Silva, narrated by Matt Godfrey 4*

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas, narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark 5*

The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn, narrated by George Newbern 5*

 

Total: 3

 

ARCS/Reads for Review

Wicked River by Jenny Milchman 4*

Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts' Casebook of Horrors 4*

Bad Pennies: A Supernatural Horror Novel by John Leonard 4*

 

Total: 3

 

Random Reads

Carrie by Stephen King 4*

The Outsider by Stephen King 4*

Pardon My Ghoulish Laughter by Fredric Brown (Short story collection) 5*

 

Total: 3

 

 

 

Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge:

Challenge: Read 40 Books Already on my TBR

 

1. City of the Dead by Brian Keene

2. The Warblers by Amber Fallon

3. October by Michael Rowe

4. It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World by Curtis Lawson

5. Bad Pennies by John Leonard

Status: 5/40

 2018 Running Total: 74

 

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review 2018-06-04 14:41
You Can Go Home Again
The Cafe by the Sea: A Novel - Jenny Colgan

Sorry, the main reason I cannot give this above three stars is that I can never cheer for a woman (fictional or not) being the reason that a man who is an asshole changes his ways. It never feels realistic and it just ends up making me annoyed the author writes a guy that you end up not liking and wish would just disappear from the book. I liked the character of Flora and her family (her three brothers and father are great) but thought she was self absorbed and sharp to people too much. I did love the book getting into the recipes her mother passed down and the author including some of them in the back of the book was much appreciated. That said, I found that there was a bit too much going on in this first book. We have a couple of plot-lines and though the selkie myth was intriguing, I wish that Colgan had leaned a bit more into that and had an air of magical realism in this book. 

 

After having a fight with her family, Flora resolves to never return home to the island of Mure (off the coast of Scotland). Flora is determined to have a life in London and though she has crushes here and there, is mostly fixated on her boss, Joel. When a client demands that Joel's firm handle a potential issue on Mure that will impact his hotel and livelihood, Flora is sent to Mure to deal with things. Being back home among her family and friends, Flora finally comes to grips with her past and present. 

 

Flora was an okay character, but I think another character her supposed childhood best friend Lorna who I think at one point pretty much tells Flora she needs to get over things. Lorna apparently has gone through similar things as Flora, but you don't see her being a jerk about it. Flora has two love interests in this book (I was only rooting for one) and is doing her best to have her firm look its best with her on hand on Mure to help.  


We have secondary characters in this, but the book mostly revolves around Flora. I did love Flora's brother Fintan a secret that he has been harboring for a long time. His resentment of Flora for getting away from Mure was a bit much to take after a while though. I was glad when that all got resolved. I did wish we got more conversations/dialogue with Lorna.

 

The writing was okay, but after a while the whole book started to feel a bit same-y to me. We have Flora realizing her family's farm isn't doing so well, we have her not really working, and then she cleans and cooks. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's not until Joel shows up in Mure does the story start moving forward a bit. 

 

The island of Mure sounds magical. I liked reading about selkies and we finally get Flora re-counting a story her mother told her about the mythical creatures at the end of the book. As I said above, I wish that Colgan had leaned in a bit more into the magical realism genre. 

 

The ending was not the least bit realistic. However, this is a romance, so everyone gets their happily ever after. 



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