Book Review – Cat in an Aqua Storm

  • Title: Cat in an Aqua Storm
  • Author: Carole Nelson Douglas
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/18/2019

I started the e-book Cat in an Aqua Storm while I was on vacation and I had finished the books and graphic novels I brought with me but when I got home from vacation I promptly forgot about it. Then I picked it up again. Cat in an Aqua Storm is a light mystery story. The main character, Temple Barr, is an independent PR consultant in Las Vegas. Midnight Louie is her black tomcat. The book alternates between chapters told in a straight forward fashion about Temple, and chapters told in first person from the point of view of Louie. This is the second book I’ve read in this series, though the other one was later on in the series.

Temple, as she is wont to do, falls into a mystery, when a rival PR person is attacked while providing coverage for a stripper contest. This guy is rude and sexist, and continuously harasses Temple, but after he ends-up in the hospital, she agrees to provide PR for the contest, something she had turned down initially. Then Temple proceeds to trip over bodies – also something that seems to happen to her a lot.

Over the course of the book, four strippers are killed, all of whom had entered the contest in hopes of winning the cash prize and changing their lives. All had been in abusive relationships at some point in their lives and that abuse had led to their careers as strippers. Temple is forced to confront some of her own assumptions about the lives strippers lead. She even encounters a woman who protests the stripper contest, though this woman is made out to look like a fool who is out of touch with reality, which is a bit unfair.

Temple has also recently lost her boyfriend, who disappeared on her, but she inherited his condo, something that costs her a lot of money. She’s also met a handsome man who teaches self-defense courses and works at night at a helpline for abused women.

Midnight Louie meanwhile pursues the pampered Persian cat that belongs to one of the contestants in the contest. Temple stumbles around, getting to know the various strippers, and trying to figure out who the killer is. Eventually, the crime is solved, and the conclusion makes sense.

Cat in an Aqua Storm is a fun, lightweight, mystery story. The only thing about it I found weird is that the main character is not a private investigator, or police officer, or lawyer, or someone who has any reason to be involved in solving murders – she’s a PR person. Someone who gets paid to help companies, events, people, or organizations get good publicity. It seems incongruous that such a person would constantly stumble over bodies and then get involved in solving the murders. I like Midnight Louie, but he also doesn’t seem to be a “gumshoe” and doesn’t work to solve the crime. Overall, the book is a fun, light read, but it leaves one wanting a bit more depth. Overall, I’d give this novel 3.5 stars.

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The Flash Season 5 Review

  • Series: The Flash
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Hartley Sawyer, Jessica Parker Kennedy
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

This review contains spoilers for Season 5 of The Flash.

The mysterious young girl who appeared at the end of Season 4 of The Flash is Nora West-Allen, Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future. She’s traveled to the past to meet and spend time with her father who has been missing most of her life and to stop Cicada, a villain that the Flash never caught. To solve the mystery of Cicada, the team at S.T.A.R. Labs brings in Sherloque Wells from another Earth – the best detective in the multiverse. Sherloque is French, a good detective, and initially not good with people – he’s also been married seven times and has five ex-wives, so he likes being paid for his work so he can keep up with his alimony payments.

Season 5 has Nora building her relationship with her parents, she initially doesn’t get along with Iris but they work things out, and the season also has the season trying to stop Cicada. Sherloque tells them who Cicada is – but due to Nora’s interference in the timeline not only is this Cicada killing different victims – it’s a different person. It turns out a man named, Dwyer, who works in a chemical plant, became the guardian of a little girl named Grace after her parents were killed in an accident. Dwyer initially has no idea how to raise a child, but he grows to love Grace and tries to be a good parent to her. The night of the Enlightenment when Barry and Nora break up the satellite and sent dark-matter infused shards to Earth, Dwyer and Grace are at a street carnival. A dagger-shaped shard hits Dwyer and Grace is knocked on to the concrete and ends-up in a coma. Dwyer, with the help of a very prejudiced doctor, decides that meta-humans were to blame for Grace’s coma and her parents’ death and that all metas are dangerous and therefore evil. Dwyer decides that all meta-humans must die and becomes the serial killer, Cicada.

The season has Team Flash, including Sherloque, working to solve this mystery – Who is Cicada? How can they stop him? As in any long-form mystery, they gradually discover clues and information about the case. Cicada himself is a meta and using the dagger he can dampen the powers of other metas – this makes Barry and company helpless when they fight him. The season also has Cisco and Caitlyn developing a cure for meta powers. They insist the cure will not be used as a weapon, but that only people who choose to do so will cure their meta-human powers. Barry suggests using the cure on Cicada, but Cisco and Caitlyn insist they have to give Cicada a choice. They also discover that the reason Grace didn’t wake up from her coma is that she has a piece of the satellite embedded in her forehead, flooding her body with dark matter and making her a meta who can steal powers from other metas.

Team Flash is able to capture Cicada and offer him the cure. When they explain Grace is a meta, he agrees to take the cure if Grace gets it too. Dwyer also insists that the doctor he’s been working with administer the cure. But when they try, a second Cicada breaks into S.T.A.R. labs. She kills the doctor. Team Flash has to reset and figure out who this new Cicada is. Nora travels back to the future to speak to her up to now unseen partner – it’s Eobard Thawne who is on death row. Sherloque has been trying to solve the case of Nora West-Allen throughout the season, and when Nora is about to admit she’s working with Thawne, Sherloque interrupts her and tells the team she’s working with Thawne. Barry flips out and takes Nora back to the future. Iris and Ralph use a Time Bubble to travel to the future to talk to Nora and bring her back, but when she realizes Barry isn’t there – she gets so angry she uses Thawne’s last lesson and disappears into the Negative Speed Force. Back in 2019, she gathers together a group of young, female rogues and robs a military weapons research lab to steal a mirror gun that will destroy Cicada’s dagger.

Nora and Barry repair their relationship and the team refocuses on stopping Cicada II (a future version of Grace). Sherloque also meets and falls for Rene Adler, Earth 1’s version of Irene Adler (all his wives are Irene Adler’s from different Earths). Cisco meets a photographer in a bar named Kamilla and starts dating her. Joe West and DA Cecille Horton raise their new baby girl. Wally is in a few episodes at the beginning of the season, then goes on sabbatical in Tibet and isn’t seen again, though he’s mentioned a couple of times.

Team Flash discovers Cicada II has a weapon that will kill all the metas, not only in Central City but in the US. Sherloque sends Rene to his Earth to keep her safe. CCPD, under the direction of Joe West, organizes a mass distribution of the cure. Team Flash tries to stop Cicada and destroy the dagger, stop Cicada’s cure-bomb, and even convince Grace to take the cure – but the cure doesn’t work because of the dark matter shard in her head. They eventually wake up Grace and manage to stop her from becoming Cicada.

However, Barry also wants to stop Thawne and when the dagger is destroyed, instead of being led to his execution (in 2049), he escapes. Also, the timeline changes catch up to everyone and Nora is wiped from existence and the Crisis which had been predicted for 2024 is moved up to 2019. Barry Allen will disappear in the Crisis.

I really liked Sherloque Wells – he’s an element of lightness in what could have been a very depressing season. Nora is earnest, and makes a lot of mistakes – and she didn’t deserve her fate. I hope that’s reversed in next year’s crossover.

This season includes Elseworlds – a crossover that is so much fun it deserves its own review. After Elseworlds, we are promised that next’s year’s crossover will be Crisis on Infinite Earths. Crisis was a massive DC Comics crossover, the first of its kind in the industry, and a story in which heroes died and nothing was the same. Read my review of the graphic novel Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Read my Review of The Flash Season 1.
Read my Review of The Flash Season 2.
Read my Review of The Flash Season 3.
Read my Review of The Flash Season 4.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Hidden Human History

  • Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Hidden Human History
  • Authors: Jody Houser
  • Artists: Roberta Ingranata (Artist), Rachael Stott (Artist),  Enrica Eren Angiolini (Colorist), Viviana Spinelli (Assistant Colorist), Sarah Jacobs (Letterer), John Roshell (Letterer)
  • Line:  13th Doctor
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O’Brien, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin (“Yaz”) Khan
  • Collection Date: 2019
  • Publisher: Titan Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/14/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The TARDIS lands in Europe in the 1500s, during the Guelder Wars, only for Yaz, Ryan, and Graham to be the ones explaining the time period instead of the Doctor. The Doctor wonders how they know so much about a rather obscure area of history, only for Ryan, Yaz, and Graham to explain they learned about it from a podcast called “Hidden Human History” or H3. According to the companions, “everyone” is listening to it. Team TARDIS runs into Magda who is running away from war and “monsters”. The Doctor and her companions discover the monsters are Stilean Flesh Eaters, an alien race that subsists on fresh blood. The Doctor remarks they were once carrion-eaters but they grew to prefer fresh blood instead. They also aren’t evil, just dangerous. In many ways, the Stileans are implied to be no worse than humans who eat meat. The Doctor finds these aliens and one bites her, although the Doctor isn’t hurt. The aliens chase the Doctor to the middle of the local village and the TARDIS Team is surrounded. But then alarm bells go off, rung by Magda. The Stileans leave.

The Doctor and her companions leave the 1500s and arrive in North Carolina in 1711 during Cary’s Rebellion – the subject of another episode of Hidden Human History. The Doctor and her team run into Schultz and Perkins who are now and have been for ten years agents of the Time Agency. Once again, the Stileans, who look closer to humans than they did in the 1500s – and somewhat owl-like are on the loose, taking advantage of the small war to find fresh blood and carrion. The Doctor tries to have a discussion with one of the Stileans, the one who bit her before, but their conversation is interrupted by the Time Agency agents. Still, Team TARDIS finds that a diet of human blood is altering the Stileans and making them more human-looking. The Doctor theorizes that one day they will be able to pass among humans.

Although the Time Agency agents suggest that the Doctor go to The Battle of Ridgeway, they find themselves instead at the funeral of William the Brave, then they travel to contemporary times to track down the woman behind Hidden Human History.

Team TARDIS tracks down Bethany Brunwine, podcaster, and meets her London flat. They enjoy tea and biscuits with the woman, who, yes, is the Stilean who bit the Doctor all those years ago. She was struck by something the Doctor said – history records names, facts, and dates but often ignores the stories of normal every day people who live through those times. Hidden Human History aims to bring the lives of normal people to, well, to life, as people whom contemporary people can emphasize with and understand. The Stilean has lived a very long life but will die soon. H3 is her way of giving back.

I enjoyed this volume of the Thirteenth Doctor by Titan Comics. It’s a fun, light adventure. and it’s a refreshing change to have a “monster” who is no more monstrous than the average carnivore. Also, one of the Stileans is inspired by the Doctor to not only “fit in” to Earth society but to teach humans about what they have missed in history, and to bring to life the stories of normal people. This is a light and enjoyable volume and I recommend it.

Gotham Season 5 Review

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 12
  • Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith, Camren Bicondova, Morena Baccarin, Cameron Monaghan
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Blu-Ray, Color, Widescreen

The fifth and final season of Gotham does the “No Man’s Land” storyline from Batman comics. The title “No Man’s Land” even appears on-screen. After Jeremiah Valeska blew up the bridges leading out of Gotham – the city is cut off from “the mainland” and from any form of help or assistance from government or other sources. This is a little difficult to believe, but it does give the entire season a claustrophobic feel – as Captain Jim Gordon and the GCPD are the only ones holding the city together and trying to provide essentials like food, water, shelter, and medicine. Gotham is soon split into territories run by different gangs, so we do get to see brief appearances by groups such as The Mutants (even though in the comics they only appeared in Frank Miller’s Elseworlds graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns). Most of the short season focuses on a few groups: Sirens – run by Barbara Kean, City Hall – run by Penguin, and Edward Nygma (who is on his own but very important to the story). Other characters that we’ve met through the years on Gotham also make appearances. These appearances are integrated into the storyline and do not seem to be there simply for the sake of a character or actor appearing in the final season.

Barbara controls access to food and alcohol, and Penguin controls access to arms and bullets, even starting a bullet factory – so Capt. Jim Gordon has to work with them to get these “essentials”. Edward Nygma keeps waking up in strange places with no memory of how he got there or what he did. At first, he thinks the “Ed” (or Riddler) side of his personality is behind this. But we find out he’s being controlled by Hugo Strange, and behind him is Amanda Waller. Nygma discovers it was Ed who destroyed Haven, a building full of refugees – set up by Captain Gordon, with a rocket launcher. Hundreds of innocent women and children were killed by Ed’s actions. Nygma is disgusted when he realizes what he’s done, but discovers Hugo Strange literally put a chip in his head to control him and get him to do whatever he wanted. But it was Amanda Waller, a military agent, who gave the orders, including the order to destroy Haven. Waller’s ultimate plan is to use the military to completely destroy Gotham because she thinks the city isn’t worth saving. Waller also doesn’t care about the innocent civilians who suffer under her plan – even though she could have used the military to evacuate Gotham instead and then rebuild the city.

Waller also arranges to have Jeremiah Valeska escape from Arkham. Jeremiah immediately causes a lot of chaos and destruction. He is, though, dropped into a vat of chemicals at Ace Chemicals by Jim Gordon (Gordon didn’t push him in but he fell when he tried to push Gordon in). Jim also drives the truck loaded with chemical weapon bombs that will poison Gotham into the Gotham River. Waller also turns one of her mercenary troopers into the venom (a form of steroids) ingesting super-villain who tries to destroy the GCPD, and in particular, James Gordon so Gotham can be destroyed by General Wade. Wade initially arrives for “Reunification Day” and compliments Gordon on his holding Gotham together and using Wayne Enterprises technology to clean Gotham River water. But Wade has also been chipped by Waller, so instead of reporting that Reunification can go through, he orders that Gotham be completely destroyed with military bombs. The military begins to follow this order as well as landing on Gotham with tanks and hundreds of troops led by Bane.

During the course of the season, Capt. Jim Gordon works with Barbara, Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma. This shaky alliance continues, though at times various players fall back to their resentments from issues they’ve had with each other in the past. But especially after he figures out what Strange and Waller did to him, Nygma works with Gordon and even forms an alliance with Penguin. Barbara and Gordon have a one night stand that results in Barbara getting pregnant. She tells this to Gordon when Lee Thompkins finally returns, having been missing for most of the season. Gordon and Thompkins also marry. Barbara and Jim Gordon will, ultimately, co-parent their daughter, Barbara Lee.

The season is very, very dark – and a lot of horrible things happen, as you may expect in a city under siege storyline. However, the penultimate episode, “They Did What?” actually both concludes the season and the series – and is positive and hopeful. I don’t want to spoil it. The final episode is set ten years after “He Did What?” and introduces Batman. Yes, Batman.

Even though parts of Season 5 of Gotham were extremely dark and difficult to watch, I did, ultimately like the season, and I think a big part of that was the episode “They Did What?” which did a very good job of concluding the season and the series. Characters we’ve followed for five years were allowed to follow their storylines and in the final episode, we see how they’ve become the characters we know from a more “standard” Batman universe. Gotham was developed with the premise, “What made Bruce Wayne, Batman? What was he like as a child/teenager?” and it succeeded in this. But Gotham also succeeded in telling the story of a city. It explained why the Gotham City of a more standard Batman universe is so messed-up and where the supervillains came from, especially the ones that seem to have almost supernatural powers. Yes, Gotham is a different take on Batman, and it really plays with timelines (especially introducing “No Man’s Land” and Bane before Bruce became Batman) but that also falls under the category of “What if…” What if Bruce didn’t just wander the world learning how to fight, but he was pushed into leaving Gotham? What if there was a real reason that there were so many weird, superpowered, criminals in Gotham beyond just “they are there because of Batman”?

Overall, I really liked the series of Gotham. The entire cast was brilliant – especially Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth), Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle), Cory Michael Smith (Edward Ngyma) and Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot). Not that the rest of the cast weren’t brilliant too – I loved Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, Chris Chalk as Lucius Fox, David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne and Ben McKenzie as Jim Gordon – but Gotham was in many ways all about the villains. The villains and a few brave souls (Bruce, Alfred, Jim, Harvey, and Lucius) that decided to fight them. The series is definitely worth watching, on Blu-ray if you can (I replaced my first and second season DVD copies with Blu-rays to get the full effect of the excellent filming, direction and use of widescreen techniques.)

Read my Review of Season 1 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 2 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 3 of Gotham.
Read my Review of Season 4 of Gotham.

Book Review – Titans vol. 4: Titans Apart

  • Title: Titans vol. 4: Titans Apart
  • Author: Dan Abnett
  • Artists: Paul Pelletier, Tom Grummett, Tom Derenick, Andrew Hennessy, Cam Smith, Mick Gray, Trevor Scott, Adriano Lucas, Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual, Travis Lanham
  • Line: Rebirth
  • Characters: Titans, Wally West, Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Arsenal (Roy Harper), the Justice League
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/31/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Titans vol. 4 Titans Apart picks up where the previous volume left off. After the near disasters of the previous volume, the Justice League arrives at Titans Tower and grounds the team, telling them they are no longer operational. Everyone goes their separate ways. Donna is taken to the Watchtower satellite and placed under house arrest. Wally moves into a new apartment and gets some help from Dick Grayson with his move. Only Roy Harper, Arsenal, ignores the order to stand down, launching a one-man war on drugs, especially a new designer street drug called Bliss.

Roy goes after the drug dealers, suppliers, and labs – and runs into his old girlfriend, Cheshire. She saves his rear during a firefight and explains she’s working for a consortium of families who lost love ones to drugs. Together Cheshire and Roy take down an Intergang distribution site and lab that is producing a knockoff of Bliss and even find a sample of the original drug. Heading to Roy’s apartment, they celebrate with some pizza and then sleep together.

Roy had also been in contact with Donna by phone since she’s under guard in the Watchtower. But when Cheshire shows up, Roy gently tells Donna he thinks it isn’t good for her to continue to be in contact with him. This has more to do with Roy hanging out with his ex-girlfriend, Cheshire, than his sudden disinterest in Donna. Donna, unfortunately, thinks that Roy might have slipped back into his drug addict ways while trying to take down dealers.

Roy wakes up, to find Cheshire and the sample gone – and realizes he’s been dosed with Bliss. Roy also realizes there is something far more dangerous going on than a new street drug. Unfortunately, when he calls Donna, she is more convinced than ever that he’s, well, taking drugs. Donna, to her credit, tells Batman and Wonder Woman what Roy told her, but of course, they don’t believe her and Batman even insists he’s done a sweep with Watchtower equipment and found nothing.

Meanwhile, we find out Mallus, the intelligent gorilla and Brain – the hyperintelligent brain in a jar, are behind Bliss. The drug forms a gestalt or cloud mind that Brain taps into to raise his intelligence even more. Brain wants to ascend, so he won’t be dependent on his life support unit. Mallus (the French hyper-intelligent gorilla) cares for Brain and tries to help him through the pain.

As Brain grows ever more intelligent, he also figures out how to control the weather and sends storms and disasters all over the world. The Justice League responds, but the storms are traps keyed to each member of the League and meant to destroy them. Donna t first tries to convince Batman that the storms prove Roy was right. When Batman insists the storms are random, Donna leaves the Watchtower. Brain then organizes an electronic break-in of the Watchtower systems and an attack on Batman.

Dick and Wally are initially sent by Batman to bring Roy in to get him help. However, especially once Donna arrives, the other three Titans realize Roy was right in the first place. They storm the hideout belonging to Mallus and Brain. All the time, Brain is getting more and more intelligent and seems to be attaching himself from Mallus, his caregiver and friend.

The four Titans fight Brain’s robot defenders, successfully. But when they are attacked again, they have more trouble getting through the fight. They run into Mallus and convince him to help them to save Brain. Mallus, with help from the Teen Titans, is able to defeat Brain, who goes back to his normal hyper-intelligent self. When the Justice League arrive, again, the Titans point out that, first of all, Roy was right, there was a major threat brewing, and secondly the Titans handled it just fine without their mentors and they deserve to be back on active duty.

I liked this issue of Titans. It’s really about young adults coming out from underneath their “parents” (mentors) shadows. And it’s Roy, who doesn’t have a mentor any more, who ends up pushing the others to independence and to insisting that their famous parents treat them as adults. Also, despite the “Titans Apart” title, this book is really about the Titans coming together as friends first, and as a team second, and I liked that very much. Titans vol. 4 Titans Apart is a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend it.