The Flash: The Flash is Born, Power Outage

theflashGetting ready for tonight’s epic (or so the promos tell me) crossover event of The Flash and Arrow, I realized I hadn’t written up my thoughts on the last two installments of my favorite new series.

Both installments show the Flash comfortably growing into itself and hitting an early season stride that, quite frankly, it took Arrow half a season or so to find.   One of the elements of this show that I’ve really been enjoying is how much Barry enjoys being the Flash and how much he enjoys helping people.   This was nicely underscored in “Power Outage” with Barry having his powers removed and his growing frustration that he can’t help the team in the lab nor race to Iris and Joe’s rescue at the hands of the Clock King.*

* And given that it was a high-profile guest star in the role and that the character didn’t die in the end, I fully expect to see him return before season’s end. Continue reading

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Short Story Review: Five Fires by Laura Lippman

Five Fires

I love a good short story and Laura Lippman’s Five Fires is not only a good short story, it’s a great one.

It’s summer time in the small town of Bellville and Beth is holding down a job at the local sandwich shop while dreaming of escaping to college and a major in Criminal Justice. But when a series of fires breaks out across town, Beth puts her deductive skills to the test and thinks she’s got the tip that will break the case wide open for the police.

As with her other works, Lippman is more than just about the mystery, she’s about the impact of the mystery on her characters and the community as a whole. In her typical fashion, there’s more going on here than meets the eye and having Beth as a first-person narrator helps set things up for the final few reveals and some well-earned surprises.

Lippman’s storytelling is sound. As I generally say with all Lippman works, if you haven’t read her yet, you should be. And if you’re looking for just a taste to find out what those of us who love her have been raving about, then this short story is a quick way to get hooked.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Top Ten Tuesday — Winter TBR

toptentuesday2

It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for the Top Ten Tuesday, hosting by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s question is what are the top ten books on your winter to-be-read pile.

1.  The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

end_of_eternity2.  The End of Eternity by Issac Asimov.  This one could be a two for one as part of Vintage SF Month in January!

3.  Killing Ruby Rose by Jessie Humphries.

4.  Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

5.  Symbiont by Mira Grant

6.  The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

7.  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerrbookofstrange

8.  The Peripheral by William Gibson

9.  The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

10. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Mini-Reviews: Gray Mountain, Afterworlds, Playing It Safe

Gray MountainGray Mountain by John Grisham

When her rising career with a prominent and high profile New York law firm is put on hold for a year, Samantha Kofer is given the option to spend a year working as a volunteer with a legal aid society and return to work in a year without sacrificing her career status. Scrambling to find a position, Samantha chooses a legal aide society in rural Virginia.

The community of Brady is one that depends heavily on strip mining and its related industries. But that isn’t stopping local crusading attorney, Matthew Wyatt from going after the coal mining companies. Samantha finds herself draw to Matthew and his crusade, learning more about the tactics coal mining companies use to avoid lawsuits and legislation in the process.

Despite a promising premise and a couple of intriguing characters, Gray Mountain unfortunately quickly descend into a political statement by John Grisham that’s about as subtle as a two-by-four upside the head. The initial hook of the big-city lawyer coming to the rural area and discovering things about life and the legal issues there held a lot of promise. But once Grisham gets readers to a certain plot twist (I won’t give it away here, but I believe the book jacket does. You have been warned), Samantha goes all-in on the crusade against the mining companies and the book loses any early momentum it had.

Grisham has shown he can tell a political parable and offer social commentary without necessarily being readers over the head with his message. That isn’t the case with Gray Mountain. It mars what otherwise could have been a better than average Grisham novel.  Continue reading

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The Flash: Plastique

fla105a0448bjpg-eb5f10_960wI’m not quite sure why The Flash took a week off only four weeks into the season, but I have to admit I missed seeing it last week.   But the short hiatus allowed me to catch-up on some other super-hero themed shows (hoping to do a big round-up of those soon, but don’t hold me to it).  That said, I was still happy to return to the world of Barry Allen this week and see how things were developing.

On the whole, I liked “Plastique,” but I will admit that there were a few details that didn’t quite all add up in the end.  As I said last time, the sheer wonder that Barry has in discovering just what his new-found abilities can do (running up a building, walking on water) is one of the factors that makes this show really work for me.   Cisco and Wells’ computations of just how fast Barry would have to run to complete both tasks was nicely done.  It also dovetailed nicely into the theme of the episode — how Barry is lucky to have found this team and what he could be if he hadn’t.   With Plastique, we see someone impacted by the explosion who doesn’t necessarily want to be a psycho killer, but who doesn’t quite know what to do with her powers.  I kept thinking it might have been interesting to see her around for a couple of episodes in a recurring way as she came to grips with her powers and their implications for her.   It might have been nice to see her trying to fit in as part of the team and further underscore the theme of friendship from this episode.  (And maybe it would have been a way to fit Iris into the episode a bit more naturally is she because jealous of the bond that Barry and Plastique shared).

It would also have given a bit more time for the whole military pursuit of Plastique plotline to unfold and not feel quite as rushed. Continue reading

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Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

The 100 (The Hundred, #1)

I’m not sure how or why I missed the debut of The 100 on the CW, but thanks to Netflix streaming, I’m DVRing season two and catching up on a season one. As of the writing of this review, I’m only three episodes into the series (not because I’m not enjoying it, but simply because there is a lot of good TV to watch these days!) and I’ve got to say the TV version is a whole lot better.

It’s one of those cases of two stories starting from the same point, but taking different paths. And maybe I should have read the book first because I kept getting distracted by the differences between the plot and the one that unfolds here. But honestly if it weren’t for the TV show, I’m not sure how long I’d have kept with the published version of The 100.

After Earth becomes a wasteland due to nuclear radiation, humanity has taken refuse on a orbiting space station. But after 300 years, things are breaking down in orbit and humanity is faced with some difficult decisions in order to survive. One solution is to send one hundred convicted juvenile offenders down to the surface of the Earth to see if it’s ready to support life again. Included in those are four of our POV characters (one remains behind on the station), all of whom had their own reasons for being put into Confinement on the station. Taking a page from Lost, we see characters in the present and then get flashbacks to the events that led to their being on the wrong side of the law. Continue reading

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Review: The Complete Peanuts, Volume 2: 1953 – 1954

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 2: 1953-1954

Just like its predecessor, there are a lot of Peanuts cartoons collected here that I don’t recall reading in my younger days. How much of that is that the memories of those collections are lost to the ravages of time and how much of it is that these particular cartoons weren’t included in previous collections, I can’t really say. What I can say is that reading the entire creative output of Charles M. Schulz from two years is a fascinating journey.

In this second collection, the characters and characteristics of those characters are starting to come into better shape. Snoopy still acts like a regular dog, only occasionally talking to the audience and rarely having the flights of fancy that will later define him. Lucy comes to the fore a bit more and feels like the showcase star of this collection — from her being a fussbudget to her dissatisfaction with going to nursery school. There are hints of the Lucy that many of us associate with the character developing here, though I’d argue she has a gentler, more human side than we see in later years. (This may be something that I will have to observe as I continue to read these collections).

Over the course of two years, you can see Schultz refining his technique, his humor and his characters. There are some characters who make appearances here that will slowly fade into the background, while others are just emerging. Schroeder has his love of Beethoven and serves as a sounding board for budding cartoon artist Charlie Brown. Pigpen makes his debut toward the later half of the collection, with various observations that you can kick up a cloud of dust everywhere you go and still be happy and well adjusted. One of the more intriguing introductions toward the end of 1954 is Carlotta Brown, who essentially looks like Charlie Brown, drawn in a dress and with curly hair. Her other defining characteristic is that she talks in a loud voice (think Monty Python’s guy who likes to shout). It will be interesting to see how long she stays around and if and how Schultz fazes her out. I’ll be honest that I’ve never come across her in previous collections — and there may be a reason.

The book remains a fascinating look at an iconic comic strip as it develops. It also continues to show that Peanuts is never static.

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