Monthly Archives: December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday — Resolutions

toptentuesday2It’s Tuesday and time for the Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is our upcoming resolutions for the New Year, book related or not book related.  I figured I’d break mine down into some book related resolutions and some non book related ones.

I will admit I couldn’t come up with ten resolutions, but I did come up with five thing I’d like to do in the upcoming year.

1.  Whittle down the TBR pile a bit.   My to-be-read pile seems to grow without my making a huge dent in it.  I hope to whittle it down a bit this year and maybe knock off some of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now.  This includes those physical books that have piled up and those stacking up on the e-reader.   And hopefully this will get my ratio on NetGalley up higher than it is currently.

2.  Challenge myself more as a reader.  Last year, I started off the year with the intention of trying to read something “literary” at least once a month.   And while I had good intentions, that fell by the wayside as I got distracted by other books.   I’d like to try and get back to the once a month (on average) reading of something that is a bit more challenging.

3.  Make to a book club meeting.  A local bookstore has started up a new classics book club and I’d like to try and make it to a meeting.   I read the book for November’s meeting but didn’t quite make it to the meeting.

4.  Watch more movies from the “1001 Movies You Should See In Your Lifetime.”   A bout with strep throat and the TCM app got me started on this kick last summer.  I’ve seen some of the films on the list and others are sitting on the DVR waiting for me to view them.   Like reading, I feel like I want to stretch a bit with my cinematic viewing.

5.  Lose Weight.  Yes, it’s generic but I really do need to lose some weight.  More portion control and making sure I’m making better eating choices is a good start.   Plus I know it will benefit my health in the short and long term.

Happy New Year!


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Movie Thoughts: “Gildersleeve’s Ghost”

gildyghost“The Great Gildersleeve” is my favorite old time radio show, but I can’t necessarily say this big-screen version is the best example of what made the show work so well.

Running for police commissioner, Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve is caught up in a whirlwind affair involving an escaped gorilla, an invisible woman and a mad scientist lurking in a mysterious mansion near Summerfield. The chain of events is set in motion by two ghosts from the Gildersleeve family tree (played by Harold Perry, in addition to his work as our favorite Uncle Mort). Of course, only Gildy sees the gorilla, the ghost girl and other mysterious goings-on, leading everyone to believe he’s probably going a bit mad.

Lots of the humor comes from misunderstanding or conveniently placed trap doors and invisible girls vanishing at just the right moment. Plot threads are brought up and then dropped just as quickly (once the ghosts vanish in the first reel, they’re not heard from again, despite claims they want to help our hero).

As a fan of the radio program, it’s fun to see various cast members from the show on screen, playing their familiar roles. Marjorie and Leroy are played by different actors (a necessity since both roles were played by older actors than the characters they played) however. Mr. Peavey and Judge Hooker are on hand, with Mr. Peavey playing the foil to Gildy throughout the film. (You may become weary of his famous line, “Well now, I wouldn’t say that” before the final reel).

At just over an hour, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome, but it’s not necessarily anything to write home about either. If you’re a big fan of the radio show, give it a try. If you’ve not heard of Gildersleeve, find some of the radio programs first to get a better feel of why the show was so popular.   The plot and characterizations used in the movie isn’t necessarily reflective of what exactly the radio show was all about (Birdie, the family cook isn’t well served here) and part of the fun of the radio show was hearing Gildy square off with  Judge Hooker and other denizens of Summerfield as well as keeping track of his increasingly complicated love life and his lack of competence as water commissioner.    There is little to no time for any of that here and the movie suffers as a whole for it.

There are some fun aspects to it.  Seeing Perry play multiple generations of the Gildersleeve family is fun and seeing the facial expressions that go with some of Gildy’s signature catch phrases work well.  And it is nice to see how similar and how different the real versions of these characters are as opposed to the mental pictures I’ve created of them while listening to the show.

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Review: A Christmas Carol Written by Charles Dickens, Performed by Tom Baker

A Christmas Carol

Along with trimming the tree, making cookies and enjoying the lights, there are certain traditions that I look forward to each Christmas. One of them is enjoying stories of the season in various forms of pop culture media — movies, television shows (if the second season episode of Happy Days where Fonzie comes over to the Cunningham’s for Christmas dinner doesn’t make your heart grow three sizes with Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will) and literary ones.

One of the familiar stories that makes its way into my rotation every few years is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ll still admit I’ve got a soft spot for the Disney records adaptation that my parents gave me years ago on vinyl with Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge and a lot of catchy songs that will get stuck in your head for days, but I still enjoy visiting the story of Scrooge and the spirits in the original Dickens. I’ve listened to a couple of audio versions of the story, performed by various actors from Patrick Stewart to Tim Curry, but this year’s visit was performed by the man best known for his role as the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.

I’ll admit I’ve got a certain fondness for Mr. Baker, so it’s hard to set aside that bias here. But his performance of this classic story is among the more satisfying and enjoyable I’ve heard. And given that I’m not generally a huge fan of his readings of classic Doctor Who Target novels, that really surprised me. Baker is restrained at times and completely over the top at times, but it all works. He brings an infectious joy to the transformed Scrooge that works so well that he cast aside memories of the previous audio version I’d listened to with Tim Curry. (He won’t necessarily make you forget Patrick Stewart, but then again few actors will make you forget Patrick Stewart).

As always, when it comes to re-reading a familiar story, I’m struck by the nuances that are included in Dickens’ original telling and those that don’t generally make it into the pop culture adaptations. One thing that struck me this time is that the ghost of Christmas past takes Scrooge back to his childhood and establishes a bit more of his relationship with his sister and tells us her fate. It’s helps to establish one more reason that Scrooge becomes as hard-hearted as he is when we meet him in this story. I also find it intriguing to see what his nephew’s wife thinks of Scrooge during the ghost of Christmas present segment. Too often, I think adaptations in pop culture emphasize the Cratchett family and Tiny Tim and overlook some of the other connections that Scrooge has.

It’s one good reason to be a literary snob and pick up the original source material every once in a while — whether on the printed page or as an audio book. And this audio book is one of the more engaging and spirited (pun fully intended) versions I’ve experienced and one that I highly recommend if you’re looking for a good way to enjoy a classic and get into the holiday spirit.

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Review: Killing Ruby Rose by Jessie Humphries

Killing Ruby Rose (Ruby Rose #1)

If I’d stopped after three chapters Killing Ruby Rose might have been one of the better guilty pleasure books I’d read in a long time. For those first few chapters Jessie Humphries channels Veronica Mars at its best — with a smart, drive heroine who isn’t intimidated and refuses to back down from a challenge.

In this case, the challenge is solving the murder of her father by investigating five potential subjects, all of whom could have a connection to the case. But it’s here that the issues that ultimately dropped this novel down a lot in my estimation began to rear their ugly head.

I’m all about willing suspension of disbelief (my favorite TV show of all time features a character who can change bodies and travels through space and time in a blue box that is bigger on the inside) but sometimes it has to be earned. And it’s unfortunately not earned in Killing Ruby Rose. Even though her father was a police officer and her mother is DA, I find it hard to believe that Ruby would be able to have the amount of access to the files she does or that she could cover her tracks on having them as effectively as she does. And while I’m not female and have never worn high heels, a bit of Googling makes it hard to believe that any sane person would chose to do a bit of undercover investigation in the shoes that Ruby describes in the book. (Honestly, I can’t see Veronica Mars in high heels like this — at least while out on an investigation!).
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Top Ten Tuesday — Top Ten Books I Read in 2014


It’s Tuesday and time again for the Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s subject is your top ten books from 2014.

I’m going to go ahead and post my list, but I reserve the right to revise it in a few days if some of the things on my to-be-read pile jump up and demand inclusion.

If I’ve published a review of the selection, I’ll link to it.

1.  The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To by D.C. Pierson
2.  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
3.  The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters
4.  Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
5.  Revival by Stephen King
6.  Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
7.  Lock In by John Scalzi
8. Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick
9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
10.  Breathe, Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally


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Review: Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

Tunnel in the Sky

For years, a good friend has been recommending Robert A. Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky to me and for years it’s sat on my to-be-read shelf, silently accusing me of neglect. One excuse I’d used was I was part of a sci-fi/fantasy book group that read a novel by Heinlein to start the year and I figured we’d eventually get around to Tunnel.

But the book group became extinct and the book just kept sitting there, expectantly. So, I finally dusted it off and cracked the cover.

If you follow my reviews, you know that I’m not a huge fan of Heinlein. I know he’s an influential writer in the science-fiction genre, but I find that I enjoy less of his output than most people do. Part of it could be that my first entry into the universe of Heinlein was some of his later works, which I’ve come to understand aren’t the best entry points or examples of what makes him so well regarded.

I will also say that I find his “juvenile” novels to be far more entertaining and readable than some of his novels intended for more “mature” readers. And that’s the case with Tunnel in the Sky.

With Earth exploring the universe by a series of gates, young Rod Walker wants nothing more than to leave Earth behind and explore a new horizon. Signing up for a survival course, Rod and his classmates’ final assignment is to take a trip through the gate to an unexplored, unknown world and survive for up to a week. Encouraged by his older sister (who is a member of the military and took the course during his school years), Rod sets out on the assignment, but soon finds something has gone wrong. Cut off from Earth and hopes of returning home, Rod and his classmates set out to not only survive but also to create a society for themselves.
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Review: Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black

Lights Out

For the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, Puffin gave readers a series of novellas by popular young adult authors, each one focusing on a different incarnation of our favorite Time Lord. With the dawn of the Peter Capaldi era, Puffin has given fans a complete set of Doctors with Holly Black’s “Lights Out” story.

And yet as I read the novella, I couldn’t help but feel this was less a Doctor Who story than one that Holly Black might tell with the Doctor inserted into it.

In many ways, this story reminded me of stories from the (then) annual Strange New Worlds collection that were written by fans about just one installment of Enterprise aired. Black’s story feels like it was written right after “Deep Breath” aired with multiple references to the Capaldi Doctor’s eye brows and his over more gruff demeanor. He comes across our first-person narrator on a future world where coffee is scarce and the two meet while waiting in line for some.

As a set-up, it’s decent enough, but even as a novella it feels like the Doctor’s involvement is tangential at best. Even given the more “at arm’s length” approach to the companions that Capaldi’s Doctor has taken, it still didn’t quite feel right here.

The second half features a few attempted twists and turns that I’m not sure work as well as they could or should.

All in all, I came away from this entry feeling a bit disappointed. I wonder if I’d read it closer to the time that Black wrote it and instead of having a dozen episodes to get to know this new Doctor if my feelings might have been different. As it stands, I have to call this one of the lesser entries in Puffin’s offerings.

I received a digital ARC of this novella from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Flash: “The Man in the Yellow Suit”

yellowsuitI don’t know what Arrow or Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD have up their sleeve, but it’s going to be VERY hard for them to top The Flash‘s mid-season finale.

“The Man in the Yellow Suit” hit just about every button of what has made The Flash my favorite new show of the season.  And I couldn’t help but thinking as I watched the hour unfold that whoever is in charge of the DC movie empire might want to call up the writers from The Flash for some pointers on how to do a DC superhero movie right.    Quite frankly, this single hour of The Flash was far more entertaining and compelling that the last couple of DC related superhero movies I’ve seen (really much of anything outside the Nolan-verse Batman films) — especially Green Lantern and Man of Steel.   I’ll also have to admit it makes me less enthusiastic to see the big-screen version of The Flash simply because I’m loving what this show is doing with the character and universe here.

Call me a fan-boy if you want, but I love this show.

And “The Man in the Yellow Suit” delivered on just about every level, answering just enough questions while raising a few more.    Continue reading

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Review: Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever

Considered by many to be the finest hour the original Star Trek ever produced, the televised version of “City of the Edge of Forever” is very different from the initial storyline submitted by Harlan Ellison. Ellison has been famously unhappy ever since his story was re-written by various Trek staff members including Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon and Dorothy Fontana, even going so far as to publish the original script and various drafts a decade ago, along with a long rant about how terrible Gene Roddenberry was.

As a long time fan of Star Trek, I read the book though I’ll have to admit that I find reading a television script a bit dry. Years later, IDW got Ellison’s blessing to adapt the original script as a comic book and give fans a taste of what the story might have looked like visually had it gone before the cameras as Ellison intended back in 1967.

The result is the five-part mini-series collected in this volume.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t find a lot in Ellison’s original draft that is any better or more nuanced than the final version of “City on the Edge of Forever.” In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that the televised version is a better episode of Star Trek than what we see either in the script book or in this comic book adaptation.
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Top Ten Tuesday — 2014 New (To Me) Authors


It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for the Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s focus is my top ten new (to me) authors I read during 2014.

1.  D.C. Pierson‘s The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To wasn’t published in 2014, but I finally got it off my to be read shelf early in the year and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.

2.  Ben H. Winters The Last Policeman was chosen for my local community read earlier this year.  And while I never quite made it to any of the discussions of the book, I still read the entire trilogy during 2014.   Set in a future Earth facing imminent collision with an asteroid, the series examines how society would crumble in the wake of a such news and how various people would react to it.   Our hero is a police detective, promoted only because so many others have abandoned their jobs, who keeps trying to close cases, even if there’s no way to really convict the culprit or even if the sentence for said culprit would be a life sentence.   The entire trilogy is superbly done and as the asteroid gets closer to Earth, it’s fascinating how society continues to break down and the various scarcities that develop.

EmilyStJohnMandel1SMALL3.  Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven is making a lot of year-end best book lists — and for good reason.   It’s a book about the end of the world that is far less bleak than The Road, but equally as compelling.    But Eleven wasn’t the only Mandel book I read this year.  I also read and enjoyed The Lola Quartet.   Both are worth every heap of praise that you’ve probably already heard.  Consider this just one more recommendation for both.

4.  William Campbell Powell.  If I had a vote for the Hugo Award for 2015, I’d give it to Expiration Day.    In the near future, the ability to have children has been dramatically reduced, leading to couples adopting robotic children.  Each year, the family goes on a “vacation” where the child body is upgraded until such time as the children get too old and they’re retired.   Our hero is one of the adopted children who realizes that she’s not human and has to struggle with the implications that her life is coming to a close and what, if anything, she can do about it.   This one may be shelved in the young adult section of your library or book store, but it’s worth finding.

5.  Miranda Kenneally’s Breathe, Annie, Breathe was outside my usual reading comfort zone, but I’m glad  I found it and read it.   Annie’s struggling with issues related to the death of her boyfriend and so to honor his memory, she vows to run and finish the Country Music Marathon.    But Annie faces more than just the physical toll of trying to get in shape for the epic run.  She faces the guilt over her memories and the guilt over her new feelings for a fellow runner and adrenaline junkie.    Kenneally brings Annie’s dilemma to life in a believable way and one that doesn’t become cliched.    And I’ll admit part of the fun was seeing familiar locations from the Music City area referenced in the book.

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