REVIEW: “Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere”

To be frank, I nearly quit reading Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere several times. Having read the first book when it came out, I knew that the whole gimmick was that it’s not supposed to be good. But there’s only so long a book can rest on those laurels before it needs to try something else. And to the book’s credit, it does come close to doing just that, crafting a meta-narrative that almost takes things in an intriguing direction. But it doesn’t quite pull it off. To be honest, the only reason I ended up finishing the book was that it moved at such a breakneck pace that it was fairly easy to just get caught up in the story and let it wash over me. But that’s definitely not a ringing endorsement.

NOTE: A review copy of Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere was provided by Permuted Press. All opinions in this review are my honest reactions.

Ghost Hunters Adventure Club and the Express Train to Nowhere”
Written by Cecil H.H. Mills
This is a story about three idiot wannabe detectives: J.J. and Valentine Watts and their new friend Trudi de la Rosa. Again, they’re idiots, but in a fun way where they go on adventures and occasionally use swear words. In this book, they’re riding a train on official Ghost Hunters Adventure Club business when an old friend from the past shows up to ruin everything. It’s up to our three young adventurers to solve the mystery of the Express Train to Nowhere before they’re locked away forever for a crime they didn’t even commit.

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REVIEW: Keeping Company with Sondheim

Patti LuPone and Katrina-Lenk in Broadway’s “Company.” (Courtesy of Matthew Murphy/PBS.)

Nominated for nine Tony Awards, Marianne Elliott’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical, Company, is the talk of the town. Elliott’s production reimagines the show’s main character, Bobby, as a 35-year-old woman (Bobbie, played by Katrina Lenk), bringing an entirely new dynamic to this beloved show. And PBS’s new documentary, Keeping Company with Sondheim, takes viewers behind the scenes of this innovative revival. Featuring loads of footage from various productions of the musical and a host of interviews with the cast and creative team of the current revival, Keeping Company with Sondheim delivers an intriguing glimpse at the creation of this production as well as an emotional love letter to the late, great Stephen Sondheim. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be wowed by all the talent on display.

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REVIEW: “Rosebud” by Paul Cornell

If you’re a fan of weird, creative, deeply original science fiction, then Paul Cornell’s new novella, Rosebud, is worth checking out. A quick, dense read, Rosebud is unlike anything I’ve read in ages. Featuring a group of immediately captivating characters and an absolutely mind-blowing plot, Rosebud isn’t always an easy read and it could benefit from being expanded into a full-length novel. But when it works, it works very well.

NOTE: I received a review copy of Rosebud from Macmillan/Tor and NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Rosebud
Written by Paul Cornell
When five sentient digital beings―condemned for over three hundred years to crew the small survey ship by the all-powerful Company―encounter a mysterious black sphere, their course of action is clear: obtain the object, inform the Company, earn lots of praise. But the ship malfunctions, and the crew has no choice but to approach the sphere and survey it themselves. They have no idea that this object―and the transcendent truth hidden within―will change the fate of all existence, the Company, and themselves.

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REVIEW: “Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry” adapted and illustrated by Colleen Doran

Some comics just blow you away the moment you start reading them. Whether it’s a mind-blowing story or a collection of gorgeous artwork, there’s no feeling like reading a brilliant graphic novel. And Colleen Doran’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story, Chivalry, is a perfect example of this. While the original story is a sweet little tale about an elderly woman who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop, Doran’s adaptation raises things to a whole new level. With artwork that bounces back and forth between warm and comfy watercolors and pages that look like an intricately illustrated manuscript, every page of Chivalry is a work of art all in itself.

NOTE: I received a review copy of Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.

Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry
Adapted and illustrated by Colleen Doran
An elderly British widow buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail from a second-hand shop, setting her off on an epic visit from an ancient knight who lures her with ancient relics in hope for winning the cup.

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REVIEW: Dark Horse Comics’ “Norse Mythology Volume 2”

Dark Horse Comics continues its adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology with Norse Mythology Volume 2. Collecting four more retellings of Norse myths, Norse Mythology Volume 2 features artwork from Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Hernández Walta, and Sandy Jarrell. And, much like the first volume, adaptor P. Craig Russell and the various artists deliver a faithful, entertaining retelling of these stories. If you’ve read Gaiman’s original book, you’ll enjoy seeing these tales brought to life like this. And if you haven’t, then Norse Mythology Volume 2 is a great place to start.

NOTE: I received a review copy of Norse Mythology Volume 2 from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.

Norse Mythology Volume 2
Adapted by P. Craig Russell
Illustrated by Matt Horak, Mark Buckingham, Gabriel Hernández Walta, and Sandy Jarrell
In this second volume, Gaiman and Russell once more team with a legendary collection of artists to bring more Norse myths to life, including the origins of poetry and a mead that many will die for, Thor and Loki’s eventful trip into the land of giants, the gods’ woeful bargain that might lose them eternal life, and the beloved god Frey’s journey to Valhalla and beyond to find a certain missing something.

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REVIEW: “The Kaiju Preservation Society” by John Scalzi

I think it’s safe to say that nobody’s been watching the most recent Godzilla movies for their stunning human characters. No, we’re all just there for the cool world-building and the big Kaiju vs Kaiju action scenes. But imagine a book that combines cool world-building, bombastic action scenes, and compelling characters, and you might end up with something like John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society. Featuring a breezy plot, well-rounded characters, and blockbuster-worthy thrills, The Kaiju Preservation Society is as good as the best Kaiju movies. A fun read from start to finish, The Kaiju Preservation Society might just be the pick-me-up we all need right now.

NOTE: I received a review copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society from Macmillan/Tor and NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

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REVIEW: “Peter and the Starcatcher: The Annotated Script of the Broadway Play” by Rick Elice

If you’ve never seen Peter and the Starcatcher, the stage adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s popular Peter and the Starcatchers series, then you absolutely need to. Even if it’s been ten years since its Broadway debut. Telling the story of how Peter Pan became the boy who never grew up, Peter and the Starcatcher follows three orphans as they get wrapped up in a swashbuckling tale of pirates, English nobility, and Starstuff. I’ve never read Barry and Pearson’s original Starcatchers series, so I can’t speak to how faithfully the play adapts the novel. But as a fan of J.M. Barrie’s original Peter Pan play, Peter and the Starcatcher just makes my heart sing. If you ever wondered how Captain Hook lost his hand, how Peter Pan got his name, and how Neverland came to be, then this is the story for you. But better than that, it’s a genuinely emotional, heartbreaking look at friendship and at growing up. It’s a gut-bustingly funny, thrilling, and heartfelt love letter to the theater. And to say any more about the story would ruin some of the fun.

Peter and the Starcatcher: The Annotated Script of the Broadway Play
Written by: Rick Elice
The hilarious script for the Broadway play Peter and the Starcatcher is presented along with commentary by the playwright, the directors, the composer, the set designer, and our own Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Filled with behind-the-scenes information and photos of the cast and crew, this annotated script will enchant and entertain fans of the book and the play alike.

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REVIEW: “The Paradox Hotel” by Rob Hart

If you’ve ever wanted a book that combines elements of time travel, murder mysteries, and ghost stories all into one, then Rob Hart’s The Paradox Hotel is the book for you. Genre-defying to a fault, The Paradox Hotel crams so much story into its 300-odd pages that it’s kind of a miracle everything works as well as it does. But overall, The Paradox Hotel is a genuinely impressive book. The mystery’s satisfying and well-plotted. The emotional stakes are clear and well-developed. And the book is just so much fun to read – a shining example of a compulsive page-turner.

(NOTE: I received a review copy of The Paradox Hotel from Random House Publishing Group/Ballantine Books and NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.)

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REVIEW: “The Halloween Moon” by Joseph Fink

To this day, my favorite kinds of horror stories are those aimed at a family-friendly audience. Films like Hocus Pocus and books like Coraline, Bunnicula, and Goosebumps. Stories that are scary without being traumatizing. Horrific, but in that safe kind of way that family-friendly horror usually is. And Joseph Fink’s The Halloween Moon slots in perfectly alongside those other stories. One part coming-of-age story, one part fantasy adventure, and one part family-friendly horror, The Halloween Moon is a delightfully spooky read from start to finish. Though occasionally hampered by the restraints of middle-grade novels, The Halloween Moon is sure to delight readers young and old alike.

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REVIEW: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” Play Script – adapted by Joel Horwood

Of all of Neil Gaiman’s novels, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is probably the one most suited for a stage adaptation. While stuffed full of magic and monsters and other such fantasy, it’s more of a quiet story at heart. Introspective, even. A story about what we choose to remember and what we don’t. About a boy who has to grow up a bit too quickly. And it’s these elements that Joel Howrood’s adaptation, the basis for the critically acclaimed National Theatre stage production, focuses on. Perfectly capturing the feeling of wading through an ocean of memories, Horwood’s script faithfully adapts Gaiman’s novel with all of the adventure and emotion you’d want. I haven’t seen the play yet, but the script is a breathtaking piece of writing all to itself. And I can only imagine how brilliantly it translates on stage.

NOTE: This review contains mild spoilers for both the original novel and Joel Horwood’s adaptation of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Adapted by Joel Horwood
Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. When he meets an old friend, he is reminded of a name he has not heard for many years: Lettie Hempstock. And is transported to his 12th birthday, when Lettie claimed that this wasn’t a pond at all, but an ocean…

Plunged into 1983, our young protagonist struggles with the ripples of a disturbing event that makes him question his deepest assumptions about his fractured family. Striving to come to terms with his newly unknowable world, together with his new friend Lettie he must reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything and in turn learn to trust others to find his own feet.

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