If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Doctor Who met The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then look no further. Jacqueline Rayner’s The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is exactly what it sounds like. After traveling to 1939 LA to see the world premiere of The Wizard of Oz, the Doctor and her friends are shocked to learn nobody’s ever heard of the film, the book, or its author. Even more shocking is when a tornado carries the TARDIS (and all of its occupants) away to a suspiciously Oz-like land. To escape, the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and a stowaway named Theodore have to act out the events of the book and find the Wizard of Oz before the mysterious Wicked Witch gets to them. It sounds like it’s gonna be a big gimmick, but it’s surprisingly emotional. The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is a quick, fun read that exemplifies the endless possibilities of Doctor Who. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: Mild spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.)
Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz Written by Jacqueline Rayner When a sudden tornado engulfs the TARDIS, the Thirteenth Doctor and her fam find themselves transported to the magical land of Oz. With a damaged TARDIS and an unexpected stowaway from the 1930s, their only hope of getting home is to follow the yellow brick road.
But when an army of scarecrows ambushes them, they quickly realise that everything is not as it should be, and they’re thrown into a fight for survival against a mysterious enemy. As each of her companions becomes a shadow of their former selves, only the Doctor is left standing.
Desperate to save her friends, she must embark on a perilous journey to seek help from the mysterious Wizard of Oz – and stop whatever forces are at work before she and her friends are trapped in the fictional world forever.
There’s something special about big movie musicals. The way the music, visuals, performances, and spectacle all mesh together—there’s just nothing like it. Even when they’re bad, there’s still some joy to be found in them. In the Heights is one of those musicals that’s been begging for a film adaptation since it first debuted. It’s just so joyous and full of energy, with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton) trademark earwormy music and a lovely, heartfelt story. It’s no wonder fans have been waiting a decade for this movie. And thankfully, after a period of development hell that saw the film pass between producers and studios, In the Heights finally has its film adaptation—directed by Jon M. Chu and written by Quiara Alegría Hudes (the musical’s original writer). And it’s good. Honestly, as a fan of the stage version, I can’t imagine how it could be much better. In the Heights is unabashedly a musical. It’s filled with breathtaking beauty, realistic characters, and so much charm. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll feel a part of a community. It’s everything I could’ve wanted and more. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
“In the Heights“ Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes Directed by Jon M. Chu Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda The creator of “Hamilton” and the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” invite you to the event of the summer, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big… “In the Heights.” Lights up on Washington Heights… The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life. “In the Heights” fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s kinetic music and lyrics with director Jon M. Chu’s lively and authentic eye for storytelling to capture a world very much of its place, but universal in its experience.
A mysterious game found only in the darkest, most obscure corners of the internet. A game that ties together a multitude of conspiracy theories. A game that might be killing its players and lead to the end of the world. It’s a pretty great hook for a book, right? Thankfully, Rabbits, Terry Miles’ debut novel, lives up to its promising premise. It’s a fast-paced, twisty, mind-bending read. But it closest itself some to vagueness and underexplained ideas, resulting in an uneven climax that doesn’t quite bring its mysteries to a satisfying conclusion. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an early copy of the novel from NetGalley and Del Rey. All thoughts are my own.)
“Rabbits” Written by Terry Miles Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. The identity of these winners are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself.
But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past—and the body count is rising. And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K—a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts, or the whole world will pay the price.
Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.
There’s a pretty common problem that many first books in a series suffer from. And that’s an overall lack of focus. Often, the first books of a series try to be too many things all at once. They introduce a host of characters. They spend a lot of time expanding the series’ universe, sowing the seeds for future books. And they try to tell their own self-contained, satisfying narratives. Some books get the balancing act between all of these perfectly right. Others don’t. The Library of the Dead falls into the latter camp, suffering from a pretty chronic case of first-book-in-a-series syndrome. It’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It just tries to be too many different things at once and comes off as unfocused instead of compelling. All of the elements are there, but the plot, itself, feels a bit like an afterthought. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Tor Books. All thoughts are my own. This review will be as spoiler free as possible, though may contain very light spoilers.
The Library of the Dead By T.L. Huchu Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.
A punk rock ghost story sounds pretty cool, right? Home Sick Pilots often lives up to its cool-sounding premise, but the plot and characters surrounding that premise are a little too thinly sketched for the comic to work as well as it could—for now, anyway. Simply put, volume one of Home Sick Pilots is a promising start to an ongoing series, but it’s not a home run. On paper, all of the elements are there. The artwork is great, the premise is intriguing, the pacing is solid, the broad strokes of the plot work well, and even the characters are interesting. The problem is just that not enough time is spent on any one thing, so everything feels a bit glossed over as though this volume is more of a prologue than a first act.
Home Sick Pilots, Volume 1: Teenage Haunts Written by Dan Watters, illustrated by Caspar Wijngaard In the summer of 1994, a haunted house walks across California. Inside is Ami, lead-singer of a high school punk band- who’s been missing for weeks. How did she get there? What do these ghosts want? And does this mean the band have to break up? Expect three chord songs and big bloody action as Power Rangers meets The Shining (yes really), and as writer DAN WATTERS (Lucifer/COFFIN BOUND) and artist CASPAR WIJNGAARD (Star Wars/Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt) delve into the horrors of misspent youth.
If you’re not a fan of River Song, you’re probably not gonna like The Ruby’s Curse, Alex Kingston’s first Doctor Who book and River’s first solo novel. It’s pure, unadulterated River Song, with all the pros and cons that come with that. The book’s been advertised as a sort of melding of fact and fiction, with River writing a new Melody Malone story only to have elements of that story bleed into her reality. And, honestly, it’s every bit as mind-bending as it sounds—in the best way possible. Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse is a love letter to River Song and her time on the show. It’s clever, thrilling, action-packed, and oh-so-meta. Is it perfect? No, but it sure is a lot of fun. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
Doctor Who: The Ruby’s Curse by Alex Kingston 1939, New York. Private Eye, Melody Malone, is hired to find a stolen ruby, the Eye of Horus. The ruby might hold the secret to the location of Cleopatra’s tomb – but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. Can Melody escape the ruby’s curse?
1939, New York. River Song, author of the Melody Malone Mysteries, is forced to find a reality-altering weapon, the Eye of Horus – but everyone who comes into contact with it dies. River doesn’t believe in curses – but is she wrong?
From the top-security confines of Stormcage to the barbarism of first-century Egypt, River battles to find the Eye of Horus before its powers are used to transform the universe. To succeed, she must team up with a most unlikely ally – her own fictional alter ego, Melody. And together they must solve another mystery: Is fiction changing into fact – or is fact changing into fiction?
It may not be the most beloved episode of Doctor Who (or of season 7, even), but I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Angels Take Manhattan.” I love River Song and I love film noir-style detective stories. So, of course, I love an episode where River is a film noir-style detective. And in that episode, there’s a book that’s based on her adventures as this detective—Melody Malone. It’s one of my favorite elements of the episode; I mean, who doesn’t love a good book-within-a-show? Honestly, I’d love to read a novelization of the episode written like a Melody Malone novel. And, when I first came across Justin Richards’ “The Angel’s Kiss,” I thought that’s what I’d be getting—a recreation of the book featured in “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Unfortunately, that’s not what this is.
Look, I’m gonna be honest—season two of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist started to lose me a bit during the middle episodes. A lot of it felt like retreading familiar ground, with the show continuing to rely on the Max/Zoey/Simon love triangle (to the point where it became a love hexagon for a hot minute). But the last few episodes easily won me back, offering buckets of character development, heartfelt moments, and a whole lot of humor. And the season two finale hits a home run, managing to be everything you want a season finale to be. It satisfyingly brings many of the ongoing storylines to a close while offering a compelling pitch for a third season. As the episode ended, it felt like the show had so many different places it could go, not least of all by further exploring that jaw-dropping cliffhanger. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the very beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start. (5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: There are major spoilers for the season two finale of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Read at your own risk.)
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 2×13: “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye” (Written by Austin Winsberg, directed by John Terlesky) In the season finale, Zoey must face a difficult goodbye.
It’s an absolute delight to be living in a world where Christopher Eccleston is acting in new Doctor Who stories featuring his Doctor. Like Paul McGann, Eccleston’s time on the show was brief but full of promise. So, it’s quite nice to see him return to the role after a nearly sixteen-year absence in a new series of audio dramas for Big Finish. Unfortunately, the first set of these stories, Doctor Who: Ravagers, isn’t the home run it could’ve been. It’s not a bad set, or anything, just an underwhelming one. It’s a three-part story that’s stretched across two-and-a-half hours and, honestly, the story just doesn’t support its length. But still—it feels like a story that might’ve aired during the Ninth Doctor’s era. Plus, Christopher Eccleston was always going to be the selling point of these sets and he doesn’t disappoint here. (3 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: Minor spoilers for Doctor Who: Ravagers follow. Major plot points are not spoiled, but read at your own risk.)
“Doctor Who: Ravagers” (written by Nicholas Briggs) 1.1 Sphere of Freedom – On the Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor is about to shut down an evil Immersive Games business empire. He’s assisted by a valiant galley chef called Nova. But his plan spectacularly fails… And who exactly is Audrey?
1.2 Cataclysm – Nova is dislocated in time while the Time Eddies are out of control. Meanwhile, the Doctor is about to face the end of the universe. Or is that just the Battle of Waterloo?
1.3 Food Fight – The TARDIS is starting to get a little crowded! Audrey finds herself haunted by a ghostly Doctor.
This might be controversial, but I enjoyed Child’s Play 2 more than I enjoyed the first film. Yes, it’s an obvious rehash of Child’s Play, but without the need for tons of exposition, the movie simply gets right to all of the good stuff, resulting in a more dynamic, fast-paced film. This time around, it’s two years after the Chucky doll’s first murder spree, and Andy’s been bouncing around the foster system after his mother was institutionalized for standing by Andy and his stories about Chucky. As the film begins, Andy is taken in by a foster family, only for a re-awakened Chucky to quickly find him and resume his reign of terror. The rest of the film plays out similarly to the original Child’s Play: Chucky terrorizes Andy and his (foster) family, nobody believes Andy about Chucky, and a trail of carnage leads to an explosive climax.