REVIEW: “Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter” by Russell T. Davies and Ben Cook

With Russell T. Davies set to return as the showrunner of Doctor Who in 2023, it seemed like the perfect time to finally read The Writer’s Tale. Published in 2010, Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale explores the final two years of Davies’ original run of Doctor Who – from the earliest days of season four to the final days of filming the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration special. Told through emails sent back and forth between Davies and Doctor Who Magazine writer, Ben Cook, The Writer’s Tale chronicles the good, the bad, and the in-between of producing these episodes. It’s less of a how-to-write book and more of a book about writing. And for that, it stands apart from the crowd of various behind-the-scenes books for TV shows and movies. (4.5 out of 5 wands)

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale – The Final Chapter
Written by Russell T. Davies and Ben Cook
When The Writer’s Tale was published in autumn 2008, it was immediately embraced as a classic. For this extensively revised and updated paperback edition, Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook continue their candid and in-depth correspondence to take in work on the last of Russell’s 2009 specials – and the end of David Tennant’s era as The Doctor – while also looking back to the achievements of the first three seasons. With over 300 pages of all-new material, including new photos and original artwork, The Writer’s Tale is a fitting tribute to Russell T Davies’ phenomenal achievement in bringing Doctor Who back for a new generation of fans.

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REVIEW: “You Feel It Just Below the Ribs” by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson

Imagine an alternate twentieth century. One that’s been plagued by a deadly pandemic, a multi-decade-long war, and a ton of social upheaval. Imagine that in the wake of all of this chaos, a unifying global government rises to power. And imagine that you’ve played a part in the development of one of that government’s key policies. That’s the world of Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson’s You Feel It Just Below the Ribs. Taking the form of an in-universe memoir, You Feel It Just Below the Ribs explores the history of this New Society through the eyes of a scientist who worked for them, Dr. Miriam Gregory. At times, it’s a bit meandering. The pacing is all over the place, and there’s often a lack of urgency. But at its heart, it’s an emotional, thought-provoking reflection on the fragility of memory and the importance of trying to do the right thing. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: I received a review copy of You Feel It Just Below the Ribs from Harper Perennial/HarperCollins and Edelweiss+. All thoughts are my own.

You Feel It Just Below the Ribs
Written by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson
A fictional autobiography in an alternate twentieth century that chronicles one woman’s unusual life, including the price she pays to survive and the cost her choices hold for the society she is trying to save.

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REVIEW: “The Autumnal” by Daniel Kraus, Chris Shehan, and Jason Wordie

An idyllic town hiding an unsettling and disturbing underbelly is one of my favorite horror tropes. There’s just something inherently scary about places that seem too perfect. And it’s a trope that Daniel Kraus uses to perfection in The Autumnal. Featuring a tense and emotional script from Kraus, some hauntingly abstract artwork from illustrator Chris Shehan, and gorgeous colors from Jason Wordie, The Autumnal delivers a rumination on generational trauma that’s as emotionally satisfying as it is scary. It’s a traditional creepy town story wrapped around an emotionally raw story about a mother and her daughter just trying to survive. And it’s a delightfully haunting read. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(Note: I received an ARC of this graphic novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. Additionally, mild spoilers follow.)

The Autumnal
Written by Daniel Kraus
Illustrated by Chris Shehan
Colors by Jason Wordie
Following the death of her estranged mother, Kat Somerville and her daughter Sybil flee a difficult life in Chicago for the quaint—and possibly deadly—town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire. From NY Times best-selling author, Daniel Kraus (The Shape of Water, Trollhunters, The Living Dead), and rising star Chris Shehan, comes a haunting vision of America’s prettiest autumn.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Dune” (2021)

For years, Frank Herbert’s Dune has been considered unfilmable. And having seen Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation, maybe the problem with all of the other Dune adaptations really is the source material itself. Dune: Part One, as the movie repeatedly calls itself, adapts roughly the first half of Herbert’s novel. And it shows. For most of its runtime, Dune feels less like a movie and more like a two-and-a-half-hour trailer for a different movie. And instead of reaching any kind of climax, the film just ends. Like it’s an episode of an ongoing serialized TV show, coming to a sudden cliffhanger to entice you to tune in the following week.

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QUICKIE REVIEW: “Halloween Kills”

Halloween is one of those franchises that just keeps on going and going, reboot after reboot. The 2018 reboot (also called Halloween, to confuse the innocent) was a direct sequel to the original 1978 Halloween and ended up being a solid examination of intergenerational trauma mixed with a more traditional slasher film. But what about its sequel, 2021’s Halloween Kills? Well, it sets out with lofty goals but doesn’t execute them anywhere near as well as Halloween 2018 did. Watching Halloween Kills feels like reading the Wikipedia summary of a fairly compelling movie. All of the pieces are there, but there’s just not enough time to properly explore everything with any real depth.

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REVIEW: “Truth of the Divine” by Lindsay Ellis

Alien first contact stories are a dime a dozen. They always focus on the immediate impact of extraterrestrial contact – how does humanity survive that first encounter? But what about the aftermath? What happens months later when the dust has settled and the shock dissipates? What are the long-term impacts of knowing humanity isn’t alone in the universe? This is the question at the heart of Lindsay Ellis’s Truth of the Divine. Picking up where the first book, Axiom’s End, left off, Truth of the Divine simultaneously expands the world introduced in that first book while delving even deeper into the psyches of its characters – human and alien alike. Truth of the Divine takes everything that worked in Axiom’s End and makes them even better. And it’s a thrilling, thought-provoking read that stays with you long after the first page. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)

(Note: I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. Additionally, mild spoilers for both Axiom’s End and Truth of the Divine follow.)

Truth of the Divine
Written by Lindsay Ellis
The human race is at a crossroads; we know that we are not alone, but details about the alien presence on Earth are still being withheld from the public. As the political climate grows more unstable, the world is forced to consider the ramifications of granting human rights to nonhuman persons. How do you define “person” in the first place?

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REVIEW: Chucky (SYFY and USA Series)

After three decades and seven movies, the Chucky franchise has finally arrived on TV. Once again helmed by creator Don Mancini (this time acting as showrunner and director of some episodes), Chucky picks up where the previous film left off while introducing a whole new slew of characters for the killer doll to terrorize. Having seen the first four episodes, Chucky feels right at home on TV. These first episodes are heavy on the new elements, holding back many returning plotlines and characters until later in the season. But the new characters and stories introduced are more than enough to hook audiences. And the show lives up to its campy, gory reputation. Things get off to a slightly slow start, but as the show progresses, the tension only gets higher. And it’s so much fun. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Chucky
Created by Don Mancini
An idyllic American town is thrown into chaos after a vintage ‘Good Guy’ doll turns up at a suburban yard sale. Soon, everyone must grapple with a series of horrifying murders that begin to expose the town’s deep hypocrisies and hidden secrets. Meanwhile, friends and foes from Chucky’s past creep back into his world and threaten to expose the truth behind his mysterious origins as a seemingly ordinary child who somehow became this notorious monster.

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REVIEW: Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog

The moment I heard Warner Bros. was releasing a Scooby-Doo/Courage the Cowardly Dog crossover movie, I knew I had to watch it. I’ve loved Scooby-Doo for as long as I can remember. And watching Courage the Cowardly Dog was a foundational part of my early media exposure. So, the idea of combining these two franchises immediately grabbed my attention. And, honestly, it’s ludicrous that a crossover hadn’t been done already. Because Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is an utterly delightful film. Sure, there’s not enough plot to fill out the runtime, and the mystery isn’t the most captivating. But the movie so openly embraces the absurdity of both franchises that it’s very easy to just go along with it and enjoy the ride. (4 out of 5 wands.)

Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog
(written by Michael Ryan, directed by Cecilia Aranovich)
An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out?

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REVIEW: “Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol” (Episodes 1-3)

After five books and three movies, Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series is finally hitting TV screens. Or, more accurately, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock. Adapting the third Langdon novel, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol proves once and for all that Robert Langdon belongs on TV. The first three episodes offer a promising start to this series – though, there’s also a lot of room for improvement. The central mystery is captivating enough. But some questionable pacing choices and underdeveloped characters and ideas hold the series back a little. However, with a total of ten episodes, there’s a lot of room for the show to develop into something deeply enjoyable. (3 out of 5 wands.)

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol
Developed for TV by: Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie
Based on Dan Brown’s international bestselling thriller “The Lost Symbol,” the series follows the early adventures of young Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who must solve a series of deadly puzzles to save his kidnapped mentor and thwart a chilling global conspiracy.

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REVIEW: “Poison for Breakfast” by Lemony Snicket

Like many adults of a certain age, I grew up on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. To say that book series had quite an impact on the world of children’s literature feels like an understatement. Sure, it didn’t have the wild, uncontrollable fervor of Harry Potter or Twilight at their heights. But it still left a sizable impression on many young people. And now, after 13 A Series of Unfortunate Events books, 4 All the Wrong Questions books, and a handful of picture books, Snicket is back with a new novel, aimed at a more mature audience – Poison for Breakfast. While on the surface, Poison for Breakfast looks like Snicket’s past books, it bears little in common with them. Poison for Breakfast is not a mystery novel, even though there is a mystery at the heart of the story. Instead, it’s a leisurely stroll through Snicket’s thoughts on various topics – including how best to prepare an egg, various philosophical ideas, and the very concept of literature. Fans of Snicket’s voice will adore the book. But those looking for a mystery with a bit more meat on its bones should, perhaps, look elsewhere. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. All thoughts are my own.)

Poison For Breakfast
by Lemony Snicket
Over the course of his long and suspicious career, Mr. Snicket has investigated many things, including villainy, treachery, conspiracy, ennui, and various suspicious fires. In this book, he is investigating his own death. Poison for Breakfast is a different sort of book than others we have published, and from others you may have read. It is different from other books Mr. Snicket has written. It could be said to be a book of philosophy, something almost no one likes, but it is also a mystery, and many people claim to like those. Certainly Mr. Snicket didn’t relish the dreadful task of solving it, but he had no choice. It was put in front of him, right there, on his plate.

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