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.
If you’ve ever seen a slasher film, then you’re familiar with the Final Girl. She’s the girl who makes it through the end of the movie, vanquishing the Killer and surviving the bloodbath. But what happens to a Final Girl after the credits roll and the story’s over? How does she cope with all of that trauma and survivor’s guilt? Is she ever able to move on and escape the shadow of the Monster that hunted her? Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group explores all of these questions, acting as both a love letter to slasher films and a deconstruction of the genre and many of its tropes. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling read that you won’t want to put down. Hendrix delivers a novel that’s every bit as action-packed and horrific as the best horror films. But he also deftly explores the trauma of multiple Final Girls – all of whom are inspired by some of the most popular horror franchises. If you’re a fan of horror movies, The Final Girl Support Group is a must-read. (4.5 out of 5 wands)
(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. All thoughts are my own.)
The FInal Girl Support Group Written by Grady Hendrix Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For decades she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece. But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife…they will never, ever give up.
Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is my favorite My Chemical Romance album. It’s this wonderful explosion of sound, color, and joy. All of the promotion that surrounded it built up this wildly creative world that was delightful to spend time in. I loved the original True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys comic, too—the one that came out a few years after the album and concluded the story that began in the music videos. Yes, it was a bit abstract, and the ending didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I loved it anyway. I say all of this because I wish I liked The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem more than I did. It’s a great premise, with some delightfully gritty and horrific artwork. But the story is just… disappointing. (3 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and Dark Horse. All thoughts are my own.)
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon Art by: Leonardo Romero Colors by: Jordie Bellaire The Fabulous Killjoys, once a group of teenage exterminators determined to save reality, have lost their way—and their memories. After a period of mental confinement, former Killjoys leader Mike Milligram gets de-programmed and hits the road to bring the gang back together for a final showdown against an evil pharmaceutical corporation, their monstrous hitman, and savage gang rivals.
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.
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.
Most movie novelizations end up being a not-quite-final draft of the film’s script converted into prose. There’s the occasional deleted scene or expanded character backstory, but it’s mostly just a book version of the film, as you’d have seen it. Doctor Who: The TV Movie is precisely that kind of novelization. It’s well written, sure, and Russell’s prose adds a fair amount of depth to the story that a ninety-minute TV film simply can’t have. But it’s still a very safe, very standard novelization. It’s a little disappointing compared to how different some of the other recent Target novelizations are to their original stories, but I’m kind of okay with Russell’s adaptation being as faithful and safe as it is. I have quite the soft spot for the TV film, and Russell’s novel does a great job of capturing what works about the film. (4 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review features mild spoilers for Doctor Who: The TV Movie and its novelization. Read at your own risk.
Doctor Who: The TV Movie (written by Gary Russell) It’s December 1999, and strange things are happening as the new millennium nears. A British police box appears from nowhere in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the mysterious man inside it is shot down in the street. Despite the best efforts of Dr Grace Holloway, the man dies and another stranger appears, claiming to be the same person in a different body: a wanderer in time and space known only as the Doctor.
But the Doctor is not the only alien in San Francisco. His deadly adversary the Master is murdering his way through the city and has taken control of the TARDIS. The Master is desperate to take the Doctor’s newly regenerated body for himself, and if the Doctor does not capitulate, it will literally cost him the Earth… and every last life on it.