Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Ledberg Runestone (The Jonah Heywood Chronicles #1) by Patrick Donovan



Jonah Heywood is a shaman and a grifter, just scraping by -barely able to pay his ever spiralling booze bill

Which is a problem when you owe a large sum of money to a loan shark quite willing to break every bone in your body then move on to your family.

So when a woman approaches him with a deal he knows he shouldn’t take, a job he should avoid and a magical artefact he knows he wants no part of; he has to say yes


Jonah Heywood is a character that makes a lot of terrible decisions and he’s pretty unique for that

At which I hear you all yell “but you complain constantly about characters making terrible decisions!!!” Which is true - but in those cases I’m complaining about a character making terrible decisions that no-one - least of all the author - is willing to acknowledge as such. This isn’t a protagonist leaping blindly through portals or conducting one person searches of all Siberia - and succeeding. This is a protagonist making bad decisions which are constantly acknowledged: in fact so much of the plot ran simply because Jonah makes bad decisions which constantly put him in bad situations and leave him with further few good options.

Jonah is an alcoholic. He is in debt and making terrible choices to get out of debt. He is traumatised and not dealing well - or at all - with his traumatic past. He is making the worst enemies in the worst ways and generally just about everything he does I want to yell “STOP! STOP!”. But this isn’t like so many books we’ve read because - because the book is written to EXPECT me to say “stop”. At no point am I expected to agree with Jonah’s choices. At very least every time near-constantly drunk Jonah gets behind the wheel of a car I cringe.

And there’s a really nice balance between Jonah doing terrible things because he has not real choice while at the same time Jonah simply not making good choices: largely because he is in utter denial of where he is (especially in relation to his alcoholism) and in utter denial of the fact He Needs Help. Jonah needs an intervention. Jonah needs a keeper.

I want to route for Jonah. But not for him to win but for him to LEARN. I don’t want or need him to be awesome - I need him to be better; I don’t want him to ascend to be the all powerful one, I want him to put his life together. I want him to sort himself out.

And this is interesting to me because in the opening lines of this book I was sure I knew what this story would be - from the starting in a bar, hard drinking, war wounded, cynical with a woman coming in - who even if she wasn’t DESCRIBED that way you mentally call “dame”. The hyper-powered, hard bitten noir-ish: the Harry Dresden, the Yancey Lazarus, the Remy Chandler (and I won’t lie, I LOVE that whole schtick. Yes yes I do) but then for it to surprise me by turning what I expected to be a hyper-powerful over-the-top character into, perhaps, what that cynic, hard-bitten character would ACTUALLY look like was really an interesting twist. And I found myself really loving that

Side note here: it feels almost like whoever edited this book skipped the first few pages. The writing is actually inexcusably terrible, it’s long winded, convoluted, the dialogue is comic when read aloud, it’s super repetitive (with different characters all quirking eyebrows at each other) and I wrote loads of notes about the abysmal text… but that fades really quickly. I’m not sure why the first few pages skipped editing but it’s worth it to hang on in there.

And Jonah isn’t hyper powerful either. He has magic - he’s a shaman who has some nifty tricks up his sleeve but he is far from dangerous and mighty and definitely not a heavy weight. His magic nicely fits into the world building which is really nicely hinted at in this book (i really love the depiction of spirits here) but there’s more a foundation for more to come. For a story all about a shaman stealing a magical artefact from an all-powerful voodoo Mambo at the behest of a near god it’s all quite mundane.

The plot itself is fun - not unique in and of itself: it’s a classic find the Maltese Falcon plot line. We have twists and an exceptional one at the end; but what holds it together is this unique character and the foundations it lays for something truly epic to come.

The biggest powerful force in this book is a Black woman and her family - she’s extremely powerful but also clearly good. And that is important for any practitioner of voodoo since it’s so often demonised in the media. She is compassionate, even in opposition to Jonah and while she doesn’t play a huge role; she clearly represents the road not taken: the Sensible Choice. Also I think she’s going to be a major element of this series far more so.

We do have a gay character - and in some ways it’s excellent that he does have his life together despite very similar origins and obstacles to Jonah. He is what Jonah could have been with a life, a partner (albeit one never seen) and the ability to help others. But the flip side of this is he appears only when Jonah needs help. He’s Jonah’s greatest friend and he literally only appears when Jonah needs saving, a bed, a ride, someone to clean up after him: this is the very essence of a tokened trope. I want to see him have a life and I want a friendship which goes both ways. Similarly the only women in the book who isn’t his fridged dead sister or a quasi antagonist is a woman Jonah’s playing Saviour to. I’d like to see a woman who Jonah a) isn’t afraid of b) doesn’t need saving and c) has died tragically to give him trauma.

Jonah is a disabled man - he’s an alcoholic, has a lot of unresolved trauma and he has a disabled leg - and it actually affects him. I’ve seen a few characters who are described as having a bad leg - and then they promptly start sprinting, break dancing and setting new records in the triple jump… but not Jonah.

This book has introduced an excellent, new character with a very different focus to many in the genre, an interesting world and a promise of a whole lot of epic coming





The Librarians: Season 4, Episode 1: And the Dark Secret



We have a wonderfully ornate ceremony being practiced by the whole gang which teases so very close to being an actual wedding between Flynn and Eve. Nope - it’s a practice for a ceremony that will bind them to the library forever, making them immortal and ensuring the Library stays on the side of good

People are fuzzy as to how evil it could get. But previously the Library was bound to the immortal Charlene and with her dead there is a Problem. And even though Apep is out of the picture, Jenkins is even more paranoid because at least then he had a prophecy to follow - he had a guide, he knew what to do. Now he’s flying blind and somewhat worried.

Ominously this is when an alarm goes off - because a “cornerstone” has been found

Exposition! These are the Corner Stones from the original Library - the Great Library of Alexandria. Until Caesar arrived and decided to be all arsony. So the Library became virtual except for the 4 stones which could make it physical again. This would be terribad and basically destroy the Library (they explain this by the Library being virtual, personally I go with the Library not even remotely following the laws of physics any more)

So they need to find the stones. Except they don’t know where they are and have no way to track them… but someone may

Which is when a guilty Jenkins reveals he may have a clue. Because he has someone locked in the basement who may know - Nicole

Nicole, Flynn’s first Guardian, the Guardian who joined Flynn in the first film and who we all assumed was dead when a time machine went a little haywire. Instead she was blasted to the past and, according to Jenkins, became bitter and furious with the Library for not rescuing her from the past, stealing artefacts to use against the Library (including one to give her immortality - which is becoming seriously common these days) and generally planning naughty bad things. He also points out that becoming immortal kind of messes you up and makes you dark and twisted without a human connection (Charlene was his… which is also a worrying statement on Jenkins’s future).

Nicole argues she was continuing to do her job collecting artefacts to save the Library - and yes she hates the Library (and Jenkins) but this is because she has been locked up for several centuries - and really solitary confinement for several centuries would do way way way way way way more damage than this

Flynn and Eve are both kind of shaky over the idea of someone being locked up forever but Jenkins justifies this under the need to preserve the Library. And the aforementioned prophecies required it. Jenkins is all about the ends justify the means (Cassandra and Ezekiel continue to follow this argument: Ezekiel definitely leery about any organisation that decides on life imprisonment based on so little while Cassandra is firmly on the side of “you hurt the library, you got it coming”).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Queen of England: Coronation (The Queen of England #2) by Courtney Brandt



Queen Victoria is dead, killed along with her whole family in a terrible terrorist attack that shook the empire and led to Juliette, young, inexperienced and far from the throne as the next queen

The New World Order has claimed responsibility for the deaths and threatens not just Juliette’s reign but the world itself; Juliette must try to expose this conspiracy while securing her nascent throne, some inconvenient romances and the hunt for Excalibur itself.

Fantastical Steampunk is one of my favourite genres - I do like the whole aesthetic and plot of running around in dirigibles with mechanical arms and steam powered gadgets - but to throw magic, unicorns (unicorns!!!) and arthurian legend in as well and I am sold. We’re taking those elements - magic and machines - and engaged in deadly attempt to take down a shadowy conspiracy that would plunge the whole world into chaos by any means necessary, with battles, shadowy plans and lots of hidden agendas and looking behind every corner for who the enemy is.

If anything I wish this book had explored this more because the world we have laid out here is really excellent. The existence of magic, Excalibur and air ships it all tantalises so much - but that’s kind of the theme of this book: tantalises. We have Excalibur with apparently lots of powers and perhaps its own agenda but we don’t really explore that.

We have a fascinating female crime boss with a shadowy but apparently legitimate past running around doing swashbuckling things… but we don’t really focus on her except as a provider of resources.

We have the American heiress to a major technological corporation pursuing an illicit love affair and ready to offer friendship - but we don’t really explore her

We have a street urchin turned footman with a mechanical arm and lots of streetwise contacts

We have a society of magic users who apparently follow the legacy of Merlin and have done so for generations - but they’re only mentioned.

A county whose principle resource is unicorns, is in much demand by European nations and appears to be African (it’s not explicitly stated but North Africa was implied), but we only get their prince visiting?

It’s like this whole book throws out a million fascinating storylines, characters, world building etc and we don’t actually spend much time on examining any of these amazing things instead focusing on Juliette

Who is a decent fun character but kind of overshadowed by the vast potential of everyone around her. Not because she’s bad, but because everyone else around her, everything else around her, could be so amazing

The Walking Dead, Season 8, Episode 8: How It's Gotta Be



We open with some heavy handed moral reminders because the writers of this show think everyone watching it is a damn fool and needs the moral lessons to hit us around the head with the same subtlety as a sledgehammer: Carl talking to Rick about Siddiq and how they need to be better after they defeat the Saviours or what’s the point of defeating them in the first place

Less torture, people burned with hot irons and rape but let’s keep dancing to this moral equivalency tune.

Alas the rest of this episode is depressing because the Saviours are back and counter attacking and WHY CAN’T NEGAN BE DEAD ALREADY?!

At the Kingdom Ezekiel is rocked from his depression by the arriving Saviours. Gavin arrives to tell everyone how he totally wanted to play nice but now everything is going to suck, so there. I almost believe he means it. He demands the Kingdom people hand over Ezekiel which is going to happen 2 weeks after never. Instead Ezekiel is rocked into action and manages, through distraction and a school bus, to get most the people of Kingdom out and away - but in doing so ends up staying behind to provide distraction and delay, much to Carol’s outrage

And mine. I mean, yay go Ezekiel a hero and all that but there’s absolutely no reason why he had to sacrifice himself here. I’m going to treble that if he dies. This is a chance for Ezekiel to grow and become more - not for him to “find redemption” in martyrdom. I’m hopeful that Morgan lurking outside the Kingdom may change this

Maggie’s group is ambushed on the road by Simon and some other less pleasant Saviours who have Jerry hostage. They kill one of Maggie’s men and demand she come with them peacefully or they kill everyone and drag her… Maggie surrenders. But she keeps her wits about her and asks for the coffin (the one they expected to take her to Negan in) to bury her dead man in. Simon agrees

I’m not sure I buy him agreeing, to be honest, it seems dubious - but I guess it shows how confident they are and a willingness to avoid conflict when they’ve already been hit hard. Especially since, as he says, Hilltop is the only settlement being spared since it IS the primary good producers.

Maggie has a different idea. At Hilltop she finds the captured Saviour who has been a pain in the arse and shoots him even as he says she won’t do it. It certainly shakes Good Saviour guy and Jesus - but Jesus doesn’t say a word in protest though he does wonder at her plans to fortify. Maggie seems to have written off the other two camps but fully expects there to be survivors who will head to Hilltop - so they need to be fortified for a last stand

She puts the dead Saviour in the coffin and paints a little sign saying she has 38 more captives if Negan & co don’t stand down. Part of me says Maggie’s not playing but part of me also thinks it’s awfully convenient she thought of prison exchanges back when there was no indication this would be needed. Still this leaves Hilltop as the one remaining outpost to fight

Because Alexandria is also gone. Negan himself leads his forces to Alexandria and Carl leads the defence

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lucifer, Season 3, Episode 10: Sin Bin




This is the mid-season finale of Lucifer and finally brings us all the answers of Sinnerman

I guess?

I mean sort of? Or maybe just throws it all away and brings out a much different plot.

So, Lucifer is all celebrating that the Sinnerman is in prison while Maze thinks if the Sinnerman managed to steal Lucifer’s devil face and give him back his wings then there’s no way that a prison cell will hold him. And if he’s after Lucifer he could go after all the things that are important to him (basically, Chloe). So it’s back to focusing on this man

So back to the police station where Chloe accidentally tells Ella about Pierce’s dead brother and Ella continues to obsess over him in a way which would be kind of cute in a teenager and is vaguely creepy and deeply unprofessional in an adult towards her boss. Boundaries Ella, boundaries.

They question the Sinnerman - well Chloe does while Pierce and Lucifer argue about who gets to question him. Sinnerman continues to be cryptic and Ella, who knows nothing about police procedure, decides to interrupt them with the news his phone is ringing - they answer it in front of him to show a woman is being held hostage in a reservoir and about to drown. Clearly they assume Sinnerman craftiness, an accomplice and all sorts and need to run the the rescue. Lucifer decides the best way would be to take the Sinnerman’s suggestion and work with him to be led to the victim

Everyone else is kind of against letting the serial killer go and decides to use actual police work which Lucifer, in his classic fashion, disapproves of, pouts and is generally a spoiled child to get his way

Investigation doesn’t go very well, though we do find out that Chloe is a big fan of roller derby (which I understand is a sport where two teams of women try to kill each other on roller skates) and run down a lot of fake leads, with Lucifer being a nuisance the whole time. Until Lucifer insists on freeing the Sinnerman. Chloe doesn’t necessarily agree with this - but she backs Lucifer because he’s her partner. At least she does if he stops being all Loose cannon and Lucifery all the time

So one very very convoluted gaolbreak later which both works and involves more taunting of Dan for funsies, and picking up Pierce. Because he’s not fooled but he wants to join in the the freeing of the woman

Monday, December 11, 2017

Z Nation, Season 4, Episode 11: Return to Mercy Labs



Thankfully after the utter nonsense of last week it’s time to get back on track

So everyone is following Warren and has been for some time to catch up with her visions. Murphy is starting to get whiny about it as well. As they walk 10K and Liley talk a little about their goals, history and attitudes (and how Liley still considers herself a marine and 10K is still holding out hope for Red - and how he has a whole lot of faith in Warren)

They eventually reach their destination: Mercy Labs. A place with powerful history with them. This is where 10K met Red and 5k. This is where Dr. Tiller looked for a way to cure zombies with his experiments. It’s where they desperately fought the Man to stop him taking the now dead Dr. Tiller to Zona. It’s a place with a lot of emotion - and definitely hits 10K hard.

Warren walks through the corridors in full on vision, finding a sealed hidden lab, opening the keypads, aided by her vision. She finds an ominous white room with a big metal block sealed by multiple padlocks - which she opens, her visions providing her the codes. She does have a moment when she and 10k are attacked by a zombie. Warren doesn’t even notice in her dream mode until she’s knocked over. And has to get back to dream world to finish opening it - making 10k punch her to get her back into the zone (and he so gets squeamish about this).

Inside is a cannister - similar the cannister she already got from
Dr. Caligari’s lab. Still a mystery what they’re for.

The rest of the gang has found gooey zombies, utterly horrible experiments left behind by Dr. Tiller. And Dr. Tiller’s son, preserved in amber with an apparent mercy-hole in his forehead. Obviously dead. Except Murphy’s woo-woo power kicks in and says the boy is alive and being kept that way by life support systems that are still being powered by solar power.

Which is problematic because Warren returns at the same time when Kaya and Citizen Z call them on the radio for a vital update: and they need power to get in touch

10 Highly Bingeable Urban Fantasy TV Series

What to watch, what to watch hmmmmm…. The Netflix ponder. It’s always a toughie. If you’ve got a bunch of time on your hands then you might want to check out something where you’re going to be tuned in for 6 hours straight, glued to the edge of your seat, unable to take a break between episodes… a full binge upon you. Fantasy is our favorite genre, whether it’s TV series, movies, or games, the creative essence still remains.
In today’s article we check out 10 of the most bingeable fantasy shows, ranging from 80s titles right through until today. You’re sure to find something new to have you stuck on the couch in our list – check em out!

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

When it comes to the blueprint for bingeable urban fantasy, it has got to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The vehicle that rocketed Joss Whedon to the top of everyone’s fantasy-writer wishlists, Buffy is the story of Buffy, a high school student with a bad-ass secret – by night she’s a demon kicking, vampire slaying “chosen one”. The show packs a punch with its quick quips and high energy action sequences that don’t get bogged down in gruesome details. Do yourself a favor with this one and - if you haven’t already had a watch - make sure to tee it up on your Netflix. There’s 7 whole seasons to keep you going for weeks on end.

2. Misfits

Don’t just look to the US for your fantasy TV cravings – head across the shores to the UK and check out their quirky offerings, too. Misfits oozes style and substance. The show kicks off with a bunch of young “misfits”, offenders who’ve been put together to do community service. However, it then soon comes to light that many of these outcasts have a unique magical or special talent. Queue them teaming up for the use of their powers both for good and also to get up to no good too – they are delinquents after all! Check out all 5 seasons.

3. The Magicians

An off the radar series, The Magicians is relatively new to the Syfy channel and is one that draws heavily on the quirky, witty wordplay of Buffy, but is way less G rated in its delivery. The Magicians is kind of like Harry Potter – where our cast are attending a magic school – however in this one they’re all grown up and in college, with plenty of swearing, innuendo, adult themes, and even steamy sex scenes. Featuring a hot young cast, the show now has three seasons under its belt and a fourth is slated for 2018.



Cult status beckons for this crossover show.

4. Supernatural

The boys are back in town! Sam and Dean, the Winchester brothers are the hunters who seek to address and banish all the supernatural bad guys that they come across. Each episode is a good old fashioned ghost story in itself, with the show maintaining enough presence across seasons for viewers to remain interested – and even on the edge of their seats! It doesn’t hurt that the two stars are major babe material. In terms of bingeability this show may not have you hanging from episode to episode, however with no less than 13 seasons at your fingertips (and more to come), it’ll be a long time before you run out of eps to watch.




11 Seasons of pure entertainment

5. The Ghost Whisperer

Here’s another one that is more on the supernatural side of things – and more with a soft touch than a spooky one. The Ghost Whisperer, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, is a series that ran from 20005 to 2010, and is set in a gorgeous little town, with the other J Lo as a woman who discovers she can speak to ghosts, and to help them transition to “the other side” once they’ve resolved what’s necessary in the physical world. It’s a bit soap opera-ish, a little daytime TV, but to be honest, that’s what we like about it. A great show to binge watch when you’re home from work sick and feeling a little self indulgent.

6. The OA

A bizarre and compelling series, with just one season so far (and another to be released in 2018), the OA follows the story of Prairie – a woman discovered wandering who turns out to have been missing for 7 years. But something very strange has happened – she can now see, when once she was blind. Where has she been? Is it really her? How did she become cured? You’ll be on the edge of your seat wanting to find out her whole story in this highly original show. Be sure to tune back in next year for the follow up in season 2. Stars Brit Marling and Phyllis Smith.

7. Orphan Black

Another British offering on our list comes in the form of Orphan Black. Orphan Black is now in its fifth season, after a slow but steady start. If you like thrillers and strong female leads, then Orphan Black makes for great watching. The show starts off when Sarah, after witnessing the suicide of girl (who looks just like her) then assumes her identity, but she then finds out there is still more to the strange coincidence than there seems – she was actually a clone! And there are more where that came from! Actress Tatiana Maslany crafts such delightfully different characters for each of Sarah’s clones that you would think they are all separate actors playing different parts. Binge this one with abandon.


Truly stellar performance by Tatiana Maslany

8. Stranger Things

Haven’t gotten around to watching Stranger Things just yet? Well you must. Even if you think you won’t like it just because everyone else does, and maybe you’re into quirky things usually – you’ll like it anyway, just trust us. It’s the series that has been gripping the world with its “totally nailed it” 80s adventure vibe. Think The Goonies but less cheesy and more adult. With the second season released recently, it even has Goonies alum Sean Astin starring, as well as everyone’s favorite 80s babe Winona Ryder. It’s cool, it’s highly bingeable, and its available now. Can’t wait to see what happens in 2018!

9. The Twilight Zone

The remake of The Twilight Zone series ran from 1985 to 1989 – and if you can get your hands on a copy of this binge-worthy show you’ll be grateful you did. The series has standalone episodes, each featuring a very strange tale (or tales) with a twist. They’re creepy, they’re kooky, they’re altogether ooky – but they’re nothing like the Adams Family. The Twilight Zone has been referenced in pop culture since the dawn of time, so check this series out to make sure you know just what everyone is talking about.

10. The Stand


Rounding out our list is the TV adaption of Stephen King’s The Stand, a treasure from 1994. It’s technically not a series – but was a made for TV miniseries so has a super bingeable runtime of 6 hours – perfect for a Saturday or Sunday in. For those not familiar with the novel of the same name, it is one of those creepy “end of days” type scenarios – this time it comes about from a plague wiping out the majority of the human race. From the survivors, two different factions form, one good and one evil it seems. A thoroughly creepy and enjoyable ride, The Stand stars Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Laura San Giacomo, Rob Lowe, and more.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Once Upon a Time, Season 7, Episode 9: One Little Tear



Opening back in the fairy tale past where we have Rapunzel driving a cart with her sick husband and two young daughters. Desperate she resorts to stealing some food from a garden to try and feed them

And is confronted by Mother Gothel - which is a close parallel to the original fairy tale. She offers Rapunzel a deal: her family with have lots of wealth and happiness and what will Rapunzel give for that. She says “anything”

Which is so monumentally stupid. Honestly she should be happy she was dealing with Mother Gothel and not Rumpelstiltskin because he’d take her to the cleaners

Rapunzel ends up locked in a tower for funsies, crying out for her family until she finally manages to escape using her hair to climb down. It’s been 6 years before she finally returns to her daughters: Anastasia and Drizilla and her husband Marcus. Who has married again in her absence: married Cecilia and is raising his new step-daughter Ella

Awkward.

Marcus thanks her dearly for all the many sacrifices she’s made for their family and, yes, he still loves her. But he loves Cecila too. Soo polyamory?

Apparently not. More Awkward.

They try to bring their family together but Drizilla was so young when Rapunzel left she’s clearly bonded with Cecila more: while Anastasia still loves her mother Rapunzel, Drizillia is just drifting away. And Once Upon a Time can only bring together blended families after a few seasons of crawling over broken glass. It’s a thing.

Mother Gothel returns to offer a new deal - have a magical Wonderland poison mushroom to use on Cecila to make everything better! Rapunzel refuses - that’s appalling and evil and Cecilia is an innocent. Gothel comments that she thinks if Rapunzel keeps this up she will find happiness which is part of Once Upon a Time’s message that being good means you earn a Happily Ever After

Can we have an aside to say this is not a good message. Being good is not always or even usually rewarded (and a poor motive for being good besides): nor is being evil always punished. Someone without a “happily ever after” has not earned that through their deeds.

And then Drizilla calls Cecilia mother at her birthday party after being thoroughly disinterested in Rapunzel’s present (also is Rapunzel being a waitress at this party? Marcus did you turn your ex-wife who sacrificed everything for your prosperity into the help?) at which point Rapunzel snaps and uses the mushroom on Cecilia’s drink