Star Wars Radio Drama Review

The audiobook on my iPad.

There’s a reason why this radio mini-series is so iconic.

The NPR radio adaptation of the first Star Wars film really nails what a retelling should be—it shares the story in a fresh way that adds something new to the original plot.

With this 13 episode series, we learn more about the original characters, especially Leia and Luke. The first few episodes are set before A New Hope even begins—we see Luke hanging out with Biggs and his friends on Tatooine, and we see Leia fight tirelessly for the Rebellion.

For me, Leia’s story was the most compelling. She didn’t get as much airtime as Luke does (for good reason—I’ll get to that in a moment), but we see her in the middle of a mission, making snap decisions in an effort to salvage her cause and fight for the galaxy. Some of the most heart wrenching moments come when Leia interacts with her father, especially her final conversation with him when they decide that she should be the one to get the Death Star plans. Ann Sachs is an excellent Leia—her performance in the Alderaan destruction scene is truly breathtaking.

The series also gave me a new appreciation for Luke. I’ve never not liked Luke—I really love his character. But he was never my favourite, like Leia or Han. However, I felt like I really got to know him in a way I didn’t during A New Hope. The series gives him a more fleshed-out arc, and Mark Hamill gives a killer performance as Luke. You feel his journey throughout the story and understand his emotions.

However, I have a couple of minor quibbles. During the scene where Luke and Han talk about Leia shortly after their escape from the Death Star, the conversation is played more as Han messing with Luke instead of the hint of vulnerability we get in the film. This isn’t a knock against Perry King as Han, but it’s something I wished had stayed in the radio drama. As well, Leia gives Luke an additional kiss “for luck” before the Battle of Yavin. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it, but it feels like the radio drama is really pushing the Luke/Leia pairing. George Lucas et. al. may not have decided on the (much better) Han/Leia pairing by that point, but it still feels a little weird to listen to considering they’re eventually revealed to be brother and sister.

Overall, this is an excellent adaptation—it’s everything I want in a retelling of the classic Star Wars story. The series stays true to the original message and characters while breathing new life into the story. Without that additional special element, there’s no point in a retelling.

If you’re a Star Wars fan and haven’t listened to it, what are you waiting for?

A Simple Favour Book Review

The Kindle edition on my iPad.

This was so underwhelming and it makes me so mad.

Oh, and there are some spoilers.

I first heard of the book around the time the movie came out. I never got to see the movie in theatres, but I love Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding—a dream cast come true!

I saw the book in the book store and without much thought, placed a hold on an ebook version through the library and promptly forgot all about it.

If it wasn’t automatically checked out to me, I’d probably never read it.

Turns out, I could have lived without reading it.

The book’s description compared it to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl and after reading the book, I have to say that’s pretty inaccurate. I mean, it’s technically a thriller, but it didn’t really feel like one. I was tempted to just return it, but it was only 300 pages long and a pretty quick read.

For me, the most frustrating part about the book was how aggressively ‘meh’ it was. The story was really compelling—it’s what kept me hooked throughout all 300 pages—but the writing and story structure basically stripped away any potential.

When I started the book, I loved how the author used Stephanie’s blog as a narrative device—it was a cool way to frame the story and show Stephanie’s public face while still revealing important plot information. If the author continued using this device for the part one, I think it would have kept the tension high and maintain interest in the story.

Instead, any intrigue with Stephanie’s character was gone in the first third of the book, and I didn’t end up caring about her for the rest of the book—which is a real bummer when you’re supposed to feel some sympathy for her later on.

Which brings me to my next point—the characters. I ended up not caring about or connecting to any of the three main characters. All of their motivations were either nonsensical or ridiculous. With Gone Girl, the characters may not have been good people, but I could understand them and sympathize with them to some extent—especially with Nick prior to the big twist.

With Sean, Emily, and Stephanie, I disliked them for being bad and/or dumb people from the beginning and the more I read, the more I disliked them. I mean, the person you’re supposed to feel the most sympathy for had a years-long affair with her brother (technically half-brother, but she refers to him as her brother in several instances) and conceived a child with him. 

She may not have deserved what happened to her, but it’s hard to feel good feelings about someone whose true love was her brother.

Even though the story had so much potential, actually reading the book was pretty painful. It wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely didn’t live up to its potential.

That being said, I’d be interested in seeing the movie version—maybe the story would be better served in a retelling. It could be the first book-to-movie adaptation I actually prefer over the original book.

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much Book Review

The hardcover edition.

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

Part of me is a little nervous about writing this review, but considering how author Mark Shaw is still alive, I think I’m okay with this post.

I want to preface this by saying that I’m not a conspiracy theorist—I don’t wear or own a tin foil hat, and I don’t plan on purchasing one anytime soon. But I’ve always been fascinated with the life—and mysterious death—of Dorothy Kilgallen.

About three years ago, I fell in love with What’s My Line?, a panel game show that ran from 1950-67. It was fun, respectful, classy, and surprisingly progressive for the age. It was also a ratings star and hugely popular—I mean, it ran for 17 years.

Through the show, I came to know and appreciate Dorothy Kilgallen’s work. She was a prominent reporter and Broadway columnist whose work was syndicated in newspapers across the country. Apart from her work as a columnist, reporter, and television personality, she hosted a popular radio show with her husband called Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. In fact, fans would send mail to “Dick and Dorothy, New York City, NY” and they would get the letters.

With her strong media presence, she was like the Oprah of her time—which makes it all the more shocking that she’s been forgotten in history.

I don’t want to make this post too terribly long, so I won’t go into all the details surrounding her death. But in a nutshell, she was found dead in a bedroom she never slept in and wearing her makeup, hairpiece, and false eyelashes—which she never wore to bed. She was also on the verge of completing her investigation into the JFK assassination, something she’d been working on for nearly 18 months.

Now, Dorothy is not a crazy person—she had a sharp mind and strong investigative reporting skills. She was praised and recognized for her work as a journalist, and she was widely respected. Dorothy specialized in crime reporting, and she was one of the only reporters who criticized the original Sam Sheppard verdict. He was eventually acquitted in a second trial.

My point is this: if she said there were suspicious things about the JFK assassination and the events following, there had to be something there.

I’d done some low-key investigating on my own when I was in my third year of journalism school—I even managed to track down her FBI file through the Internet Archive. I didn’t go too much further with it—life and school got pretty crazy for me. But I never stopped thinking about Dorothy and the case.

Enter The Reporter Who Knew Too Much.

I saw Mark Shaw make a post about the book in a Facebook group dedicated to What’s My Line? I was excited—virtually nobody had cared about Dorothy outside of a biography written about her in the 70’s.

I got the book pretty much immediately after it came out, but I just finished it in December 2018.

It’s a well-researched, thoroughly investigated book, but the writing is very rough and hard to read. It’s not necessarily bad, but it would have benefitted from a ghost writer polishing it up. I ended up finishing it by listening to the audiobook, narrated by Gabra Zackman. The narrator does an amazing job reading the book, and Zackman moves between the different characters’ “voices” easily throughout the chapters.

In the book, Shaw presents a very plausible explanation for Dorothy’s death: Dorothy had discovered the assassination was a mob operation, and the mob essentially murdered her and used the NYC medical examiner’s office to cover it up.

Reading that last paragraph over, it does sound crazy. However, there is a lot of credible evidence that leads to that conclusion. You could say there were just a lot of coincidences, but at a certain point, when the coincidences keep adding up, you have to admit there has to be more there.

One of the reasons I wanted to spend a lot of time with the book is because I wanted to take my time reviewing the evidence, some of which Shaw has put up on his website. In my opinion, as someone who’s also looked into Dorothy’s life and death, the evidence and research are credible and worthy of more investigation.

That being said, it’s likely that this book (and possibly the sequel, which I plan to read soon) is as far as it’ll go. Dorothy died in 1965—well over five decades ago. While I think it’s important to bring this evidence to light, I don’t think the DA’s office or the Department of Justice will be willing to open new investigations. Both of these departments are overworked as it is, and they have bigger fish to fry.

There’s so much more I could say about this book and the evidence (mainly about Ron Pataky’s creepy-ass poetry), but here’s what I’ll say in conclusion. I think this book is a well-researched love letter to Dorothy Kilgallen. While it could have used some better writing, it was a very satisfying read purely for the affection for Dorothy and the new research and evidence surrounding her death.

All in all, I think Dorothy would be proud of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much.

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess Book Review

The Kindle edition on my iPad.

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

I’ve always had mixed feelings on Andrew Morton. Maybe it’s the way he comes off in interviews, or how some of his books have had some contested assertions, but I get a weird vibe from him. Yet on the other hand, I somehow get the sense that he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Princess Diana and some elements of the royal family in general. It’s a complicated relationship.

All that being said, I mostly enjoyed this biography—the first in-depth one—of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (formerly known as Meghan Markle).

I didn’t really know too much about her prior to her relationship with Prince Harry—my dad was the one who broke the news to me. He’s a big fan of Suits, and just had to call and tell me that Meghan Markle (“A Canadian!” he wrongly asserted) was dating Prince Harry. The Toronto (and Canadian) newspapers really caught on to the hometown angle of the relationship, even though Meghan only lived in Toronto to film Suits and really came from California.

As I read the book, I felt like I really got to know her better. Andrew spoke with many of her former colleagues, her friends, and a few of her family members for the book, and their knowledge really shines in his writing. As a biracial woman, I related to her story—I recognized many of my own thoughts in hers, and we share some of the same experiences regarding our mixed-race heritage. We even have a few personality traits in common, which kind of freaked me out.

When I finished the biography, I got the sense that being married into the royal family was a perfect fit for Meghan. She studied international relations in school and interned at the American embassy in Buenos Aires. Her experience with international relations, together with her film career and her charity work, makes it easier for her to adjust to royal life. Make no mistake, she’s primarily in love with Harry—that much is crystal clear. But being a royal gives her a platform to do good in the world.

However, there was one thing that really annoyed me—I felt that Andrew was very heavy-handed in describing the “themes” of the book. I found that the books and writing I enjoyed the most employed the method of “show, don’t tell.” While the rest of the book had much more show than tell, I felt like Andrew was trying to shove the “themes” down my throat and I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this biography—it makes me excited to see what Meghan brings to the royal family.

A Dog’s Way Home Book Review

The Kindle edition on my iPad.

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

I didn’t think it was possible, but I actually love this book more than A Dog’s Purpose.

A Dog’s Way Home is a heartwarming tale about a rescue dog named Bella trying to find her way back to her person. The basic premise is more grounded and simple compared to A Dog’s Purpose, but it ends up becoming more meaningful and it leaves a tender place in your heart.

In this novel, there’s only one dog with one singular purpose—as readers, we fall in love with Bella (easily one of the sweetest dogs in the world) and connect with her on her journey. W. Bruce Cameron does a brilliant job of weaving in different themes and plot elements without feeling forced. Bella encounters people among many different walks of life, and they all feel like real people—not symbols of a bigger issue or plot devices. These are the people who help Bella along in her journey and as Bella says, if she hadn’t found these people, she wouldn’t have been able to find her way home.

From the beginning of the novel, Cameron makes it clear that Bella is a smart, sweet dog. These are the traits that help her succeed throughout the book. She spends two years travelling across Colorado doing Go Home—deep within her soul is a burning desire to be a good dog with her person. As much as we don’t want to ever be separated from our canine best friends, I think we all hope to be good enough people to our dogs that they would climb mountains to find us again.

Cameron’s storytelling abilities are much stronger in this book compared to A Dog’s Purpose—he seamlessly weaves the different themes and characters together, and even though we don’t get much time with people who aren’t Lucas, Olivia, or Mom, we feel like we get to know them. And any hardships they face feel all the more poignant when we see them through Bella’s soulful eyes.

This novel is a beautiful, nuanced tale—everything works together effortlessly to tell a sweet and emotional story about the bond between dog and human. Dogs need people, and Bella needs her Lucas.

As much as I love both books, A Dog’s Way Home holds my heart just a little bit more. Bella’s journey, her singular purpose in her life, gives me hope and a little bit of joy in a time when things feel unstable. If you love dogs or want to understand why people love them so much, I highly recommend this book.

Make ‘Em Laugh Book Review

God, I love Debbie Reynolds. She has the status of a legend with the spirit of a fan, which makes this book a hugely enjoyable read.

In her final memoir, Debbie focuses the majority of the book telling amazing stories about her famous friends and her life in Hollywood. In between stories about Bob Hope and Groucho Marx, she would talk about her many talk show appearances and the delightful gowns she wore. While she mostly had fun anecdotes and praise for celebrities, there were a few dishy stories about the people she didn’t like—and those were just as delightful to read.

But the book wasn’t only about her famous friends—she wrote several eloquent pages about her dear friends and assistants, Donald and Jenny. Debbie really had a huge heart and a deep love for everyone around her. You can see that through the loyalty she inspired in her friends and fans.

I mainly read this book through the Kindle ebook and the audiobook, read by Judith Ivey. Make Em Laugh was incredibly well-written—I could hear Debbie’s voice through the pages as I read. However, I have mixed feelings on the audiobook.

I first listened to Judith Ivey read The Year of Magical Thinking, and I thought she had the perfect voice for Joan Didion’s work. Maybe it’s because I’m so familiar with Debbie as a person and performer (she recorded the audiobooks for her two previous memoirs), but I felt Judith’s voice didn’t really capture Debbie’s spirit. I was still able to engage with the stories, but I basically replaced Judith’s voice with Debbie’s in my mind. That being said, Judith really nailed the different accents and impressions throughout the book.

Overall, I really loved both reading and listening to this book. If you love Debbie Reynolds or Old Hollywood, this really is a necessary read. Debbie captures her favourite stars as real people—not just names in neon lights.

The Dogs of Christmas Book Review

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

Around this time of year, there are two things I absolutely love: Christmas and dogs. And this novel promised to deliver on both.

Did it succeed? Well, yes and no.

This book is essentially a Hallmark Christmas movie in a novel. But not one of the newer movies that tend to be a bit more nuanced—one of the older ones that can be a little too contrived and cheesy for its own good.

For me, the highlight of the story was the journey between Josh and the dogs. The book isn’t that long, but we get to see Josh heal and change for the better as he cares for Lucy and the puppies. Together, the dogs and the human take care of each other, and they develop a strong bond that can only exist between dogs and their people.

As for the romance, I feel torn. I love Kerri as a character and I think she and Josh are a great couple, but I think the story would have been stronger if it was focused more on the relationships between Josh and the dogs. The romance felt unnecessary and the two main characters acted certifiably insane at some points—Josh more so than Kerri, although her overreactions during her first phone call with Josh almost made me put the book down.

When Josh revealed that his ex-girlfriend Amanda was not actually dead, I was pretty shocked. He never implied she was dead, but the man still kept her photos up like his home was a shrine to her former life. I mean, I assumed she was dead too—instead he’s just a crazy dude who has a strange obsession with an ex-girlfriend.

And while I’m on the topic of Josh, why does he act like a toddler when it comes to letting his dogs go. When he found out Lucy was actually stolen from Serena, why was his first instinct to just keep the dog? He is an adult human male, right? I understand feeling sad and upset, but being a child about it just made me actively dislike him until he did the right thing and called Serena. As much as I enjoyed the book, that was just ridiculous.

The best-written parts were the interactions between Josh and the dogs—that’s where W. Bruce Cameron shines as a writer. Those parts were sweet and real without being too cheesy—exactly why I loved A Dog’s Purpose. If he focused more on Josh and the dogs and put Kerri and Josh on the back burner, it would have been a more satisfying read.

That being said, I still really enjoyed reading this Christmas book. It had a heartwarming story about dogs and their people finding each other—what more could you want on a snowy day in December?

A Dog’s Purpose Book Review

The paperback edition.

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

I am admittedly a huge dog person. Ever since my mom and stepdad got our Wheaten Terrier, Shelby (and later, our other Wheaten Terrier, Charlotte), I’ve loved them unconditionally and I gained a soft spot for all dogs. You can just ask my growing stuffed dog collection living on my bed.

So naturally, a novel about a dog written in the way humans think about dogs was right up my alley.

This book was life-changing for me. Reading about how a dog can have a greater purpose in life and how a dog can live through many lives to come back and help his people made me both laugh and cry.

Lately, Shelby’s been going through some health troubles. She’s doing alright now, but for a few months, we had no idea which way things would go.

Reading A Dog’s Purpose made me feel so much better as I went through all of this. It’s a strangely comforting thought, the idea of a dog being reborn and remembering their previous life. They take the lessons they learned from their different lives and through this, they live out their great purpose.

For Bailey, it was to save people—especially his boy Ethan. 

And the best part about all of this is it was equal parts funny and heartwarming. There were some sad moments, but it all worked out in a way that was sweet but wasn’t too sentimental.

I can’t wait to read more books by W. Bruce Cameron. A Dog’s Purpose gave me a lot to think about, especially with my own Wheaties.

One Day in December Review

The Kindle edition on my iPad.

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

I think I’ve found it—I think I’ve found the literary equivalent of a classic Christmas story.

We’ve moved on from the trashterpiece that was The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal. This is now my favourite Christmas book, and I’ll definitely be reading it every Christmas from now on—much like I rewatch movies like Elf, Love Actually, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

I jumped on the One Day in December bandwagon when I saw Reese Witherspoon tweet about it as her December book club pick. A Christmas romantic comedy book endorsed by Elle Woods herself? Sign me up!

And thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

This novel is really the perfect combination of a quintessential British romantic comedy, a Hallmark Christmas movie, and reality. It blends just enough of each genre to be exactly what you’d want in a Christmas read. It’s not too sweet, it’s not to stupid—It’s all somehow just right.

The book follows Jack and Laurie through ten years of their lives, with major moments happening around the Christmas season—starting with a fateful encounter on a London bus. I was hooked from the very first meeting, unable to stop reading or listening for three days.

A big part of the reason why I love this book is the writing. Josie Silver creates two very different characters with their own distinct personalities. It’s easy to just write in one voice and slap “Jack” and “Laurie” over each section, but Josie has managed to give each of the main characters their own minds and their own opinions.

The story is just as strong as the writing. I have to apologize to all the people who had to share a bus with me as I listened to the book—all the faces and noises I made must have made me look insane. The major parts I expected did happen—this is not a love story where the main characters end up with other people forever—but the way it happened was so different from what I was expecting, and those twists only strengthened the story and kept me invested.

I guess the major question you want answered is: is One Day in December overhyped? And the truth is, it is and it isn’t. If you don’t like Christmas romantic comedies or love stories, this is not the book for you. It’s not revolutionary or a literary game changer. 

It’s a really well-done Christmas love story—if you’re glued to the Hallmark channel during the holidays and keep replaying Love Actually on Netflix, this is the book for you. As someone who’s constantly Christmas-obsessed, it was right up my alley.

If you need a little extra sparkle this holiday season, pick up this novel or borrow it from your library—if you can get your hands on a copy.

The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal Review

The Kindle edition on my iPad.

NOTE: I’m part of the Amazon affiliate program, and the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. You can click on the link and purchase the item listed to support this blog at no additional cost to you—I make a (very small) commission from any purchase made. Thanks!

Where do I even begin with this book?

I have a word for books, shows, or movies that are so bad, they’re beautiful in their own horrible way: a trashterpiece. This book, my friends, is the Christmas chick lit equivalent of a trashterpiece.

It was, from beginning to end, a complete mess.

The basic premise is Mia and Wyatt are best friends who’ve always had an attraction to each other, but they’ve been dating other people. Wyatt meets a woman named Loretta (who is allegedly a woman under 60 in 2016, the year the book was published) and quickly becomes engaged to her after she tells him she’s pregnant with his child.

But it turns out she lied to him! (I’d say take a shot every time Loretta’s described as a “stone-cold bitch,” but you’d have alcohol poisoning halfway through) She was pregnant with another man’s baby all along and played him for a fool!

So Wyatt goes to Mia for comfort and they make love. But that night, Mia became pregnant and the very day she was going to tell him, Wyatt tells her he’s moving to his family ranch in Montana.

Later on, Mia decides to fly to the ranch to tell him in person but she miscarries. Since then, she’s kept the baby news to herself, not thinking Wyatt would believe her and not wanting to trap him.

But around Christmas time, two of Wyatt’s brothers are getting married and having a baby and naturally he’s triggered. So he calls Mia and begs her to be by his side. He realizes he’s in love with her and wants to be with her.

The rest of the book is basically the story of how they end up together in the end. Except it’s not just that.

Story aside, the writing is very clunky and overall laugh-out-loud bad. It’s almost like the author just learned how to swear and simultaneously kept remembering she was allowed to swear in the book. There ends up being random swear words thrown in like chunks of salt, and it doesn’t work with the rest of the writing.

As well, the author seems to be cramming as many soap opera twists as humanly possible. Aside from the main story about Wyatt and Mia, there’s a murder-suicide, an alcoholic absent father, a prince, and a missing sister, among other things.

When you have a book that’s only 200 pages long, you don’t have that much time to tell your story. You can hit your emotional beats in a much more efficient way that doesn’t overpower the main plot line. As a result, when you try to cram in too many crazy twists, everything becomes more dull and you forget the main story.

The core love storyline may have worked, but it needs a major overhaul before it can be a truly satisfying read.

Here’s my final take–I may be linking to this book on Amazon, but I don’t think you should read it this holiday season.