Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Paradise Damned (Descent Series #7) by S.M. Reine






Elise is trapped within the Garden of Eden - and it is time for the godslayer to finally comfront God himself. Or at least try to survive his presence...

James has run to the rescue - but he is trapped and lost in endless limbo. While on Earth forces gather, the Union, hunters and even demon/angel hybrids as a cataclysmic event is predicted


This book is an odd book. There is plot but for the most part it doesn’t progress and go anywhere. We follow Elise almost exclusively now she is trapped in The Garden with her long nemesis - Adam, God. The god, the god that she, the godslayer, was always intended to face

But while in that garden she experiences a great deal - but, through sheer powerlessness doesn’t do a great deal or move the plot forward. And I think that works and is very necessary to convey just how very powerless and lost Elise is at this moment - how her just surviving and continuing to go forwards in a realm that is inimical to her very being in the face of a being of literally omnipotent power. Being frustrated, being stuck, seeing no way out but fighting on anyway is the core of this book and Elise herself

And while that happens we have the revelations - oh the revelations and truly fascinating world building and take on the ancient Adam and Eve mythology. The nature of Adam/God, the very different nature of Eve (which definitely flips the power scale before Adam ruined everything) the nature of Lillith, the birth of angels, of demons of humanity, why the whole idea of sacrificing women to the clearly dangerous and broken god keeps working, Metaraon and his motives towards all the events in the series so far, including the shape of this coven - so much is here.

On top of that we have nice moments from Nathaniel (James’s son), Elise’s mother Arianne and James himself all adding new shades to their characters both now and going forwards as well as more flashbacks of Elise’s past which helps understand her a bit more. I especially appreciate, after my previous complaints, that Elise and James have a major confrontation over the information he has been hiding from her - and it’s neither dismissed nor swept up. In fact it’s a nice contrast how she kind of rebuilds a lot of bridges with Anthony after their deeply broken relationship after they were both emotionally reeling - but such a neat resolve is denied James

The book ends with epic. And I think it needed to - after so longer with Elise captured and helpless we needed reminding of her awesome strength, we needed reminding that just because she was so helpless in the face of an impossible force doesn’t make her weak. It worked - and I think it worked even more that we had a sort of mini epilogue to basically say that it isn’t over That despite the whole massive, world changing hugeness that just happened, life still goes on and it goes on in quiet, sad and often mundane ways

One odd side effect of all the epic hugeness this is that Lucas, Malcolm and Anthony, making their way to Oymyakon, seeing the Union getting up to various shenanigans is a very fun romp (and I will always kind of love Malcolm, the quintessential rogue) but also jarringly out of place and bizarrely mundane next to all the epic world building and revelations out there - but at the same time the only part of the story that is actually moving forwards

Box of Frogs (The Fractured Faery #1) by Helen Harper





Madrona woke up on a golf course next to a decapitated body and with absolutely no memory of what just happened, who she is or anything else for that matter

And with three goons apparently trying to kill her, amnesia may be the least of her worries. At least she seems to have super powers to help save the day! And with these powers she can certainly do a lot of good

I mean, she is one of the good guys. Right?



When I read The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series (people say it’s a trilogy, I adamantly refuse to accept that this series is only 3 books long. Refuse refuse refuse. No novellas don’t count) I was joyously surprised as it was one of the funniest, realist, most entertaining book series I’ve read in a long time. I loved it and was determined to read more of this author’s work - especially since I had had another series but this author recommended (not this series… this is what comes of whimsically working from memory)

So I went into this book with immense amounts of glee and joy and so much of it worked.

I loved how Madrona, suffering from amnesia, goes about learning who she is - and what she is. I love her creeping realisation that she’s not actually a nice person, her horror when she thinks something that is… less than charitable and reels back at her own reaction. It also goes really nicely with her generally highly upbeat attitude and positivity and infinite confidence. I also like her snark and sass, her complete lack of shame and her willingness to dive in head first. And while this genre has no end of protagonists who prove they are Strong Female Protagonists but shouting and swearing at the closest authority figure or big guy with a large gun to show their strength. But the difference here is that Madrona is very aware that her mouth is an issue, a character flaw

And there’s also a very real conflict under the fun and snark - as Madrona learns more about her past activities and herself there’s a very real conflict and angst about exactly HOW much of a not-nice-person she was. And this is such a powerful thing - not having any memories of yourself but clearly having done some dubious things - and dubious things without the comfort of the little lies and excuses we tell ourselves. It’s an excellent internal conflict

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Mane Squeeze (Pride #4) by Shelly Laurenston





Bears!

Werebears! Why do we have so few shapeshifter books about werebears? We need more werebears!

Big clumsy snuffling, curious werebears that just want to know how things work and then end up breaking them because they’re just big, hulking, strong goofy people who are just adorable!

And all the bears want is plenty of honey and salmon and sleeping a nice long time all in peace without the other shapeshifting species getting in the way.

While those other shapeshifting species view them as massive engines of destruction to be poked at your own risk. And I think that’s a nice element; I mean we have big scary wolves and lions but when it comes down to it, a grizzly bear is a grizzly bear and every other predator is better off leaving it alone.

So we have Lock, our big, sexy, lumbering bear with his ice cream and honey and nice long sleep in and his quietly perfectionist carpentry, being generally exasperated by the manic antics of all the other shapeshifters around him. Oh and he knows that lions, tigers or bears, a Philly girl is apparently scarier than anything else, which amuses me muchly.

And those antics include the Wild Dogs which may still be my favourite shifters in this series because they’re goofy and silly and they have fun and they play and they chase their tails but are still probably more united and more serious and even more dangerous than the other packs. I love their whackiness, their geekiness, their squabbles and how they leave the poor bears thoroughly thoroughly confused by all that energy, random weirdness and big tearful eyes if they need to get there.

And I like Gwen and her story - I like her struggles for independence in the face of her mother’s plan for her - and her brother’s interference. I like that, even though she has the skills and knowledge to follow in her mother’s footsteps, she’s pursuing something else she wants to do. She faces a lot of discrimination because she’s a hybrid - a child of two different shapeshifters: She’s a Tigron, half tiger half lion. I think more could have been made of her Tigron nature and what it means - same as her best friend Blayne who is part wolf part wild dog. But I think it’s interesting that they didn’t emphasise any supernatural difference: because it’s not necessary or even accurate - and instead focused on how they were treated differently. A lot of supernatural prejudice involves a group facing discrimination but it turns out that, yeah, there’s a good reason for that. This managed to emphasise both the direct hatred they faced AND the subtle, not-feeling-welcome feeling that Gwen’s family gave her felt more real.

Gwen and Blayne have a great mutually supportive relationship covering their mutual plumbing business (which is excellent) through to calling each other out on their ridiculousness, through to roller derby. They work really well together and have an excellent us-two-against-the-world vibe.

So I like Gwen and her storylines building her own life . I like Lock, the concept of him and this poor, hulking lethal giant just wanting a quiet life with his family and the wild dogs pushing him to be more

But I’m not sure I see their connection. It’s not that they’re bad together - because her random weirdness and his quiet curiosity make for a lot of very fun scenes. But I don’t see them really being connected in any of the larger metaplot, nor is Loch part of the family/friend group established in the last three books - which is different from the actions of the previous books - and rather than kind of introduce Lachlann to the greater friend group he’s kind of dropped in as if he’s always been there with a sudden military link and friendships that seem to have come from nowhere. It hasn’t said “hey, here’s Lachlan, let us introduce him and build connections”, instead it just pretended he’d always been there.

Charmed, Season 1, Episode 5: Other Women




Harry is now living with the Charmed Ones which comes with funny little misunderstandings around the bathroom which apparently doesn’t have a lock. What bathrooms don’t have a lock?

Also Harry in a dressing gown? Yes. Yes we can have that. Yes yes we can. Oh yes

This episode actually contains a lot of good which is a little surprising after the last couple episodes have kind of raised progressive issues and then dumped all over them… but this kind of followed through and then dropped something pretty awful to ruin it all.

So, the elders have the Book of Shadows for vetting and research and everyone has relationship issues. Maggie feels super guilty because Parker kissed her and now he’s dumped Lucy and she’s super super sad and is recruiting Maggie to try and figure out who Parker is cheating on her with. Which is awkward. And Macy is having problems because Galvin has pretty much given up on her and is now with beautiful, successful woman Summer.

But the main issue is Mel. Last episode Tripp, Niko’s partner, was killed and the elders both faked his suicide and had him confess to being a serial killer in his suicide note and dumped lots of evidence on him as well. Needless to say Niko is pretty traumatised by this - not only that a man she cared about and respected killed themselves and was a serial killer but she’s a detective and noticed nothing so she’s beginning to doubt her own abilities and self worth and believing everyone who disparaged her.

Naturally seeing this utter self destruction in the woman she loves is devastating for Mel. But Niko has received messages from Tripp which point to him having evidence about the death of witch elders - several women being murdered including Mel’s mother. She also learns that Tripp has hidden evidence including DNA - she’s super excited about this and thinks Mel will get on board because, of course, Mel has been insisting her mother was murdered since the first episode. This is why Niuko broke up with her - because of her obsession with her mother’s murder. So Mel suddenly saying that nah they shouldn’t investigate this strikes Niko as rather odd.

But there’s motive - a shapeshifting demon is trying to track down this information and that evidence and is willing to kill to do it. He’s faking being an FBI agent, is able to assume Tripp’s shape and follows Niko to Tripp’s fishing cabin where he has lots of evidence for the conspiracy and hidden witch elder DNA. As one does. Niko finds it (honestly her only just remembering this exists kind of makes me think that maybe she isn’t that brilliant a detective) and the shapeshifter arrives to knock her out and set the place on fire with eerie green hellflame. Mel manages to save her despite the time magic resistance

The demon makes another attempt in the hospital, stopped only because Mel realises there’s two nurses and actually (and perhaps most shockingly) calls Harry for help - he’s also been the one offering most comfort and support for her in this hard time. I like this because it’s dealing with their antagonistic relationship and developing a new level between them.

To the others - Macy is super jealous of Summer who has an amazing resume and is just practically perfect in every way and Maggie suggests (having read her mind to get in on the whole drama) that she’s a demon. Macy refuses adamantly to demonise another woman in the name of jealousy but Maggie suggests that maybe Summer is an actual demon. Consulting Harry, he concedes she could be a succubus and gives some pointers on how to identify one (I actually like the idea that demons with wings and tails etc hide them but then replicate them as tattoos because it’s overtly giving the nod to a trope that is used a lot with little explanation). And she has those tattoos.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Van Helsing, Season 3, Episode 5: Pretty Noose





After various time travelling shenanigans, Vanessa, Scarlett and Axel head to San Francisco - because that’s where the B’ah sailed to a couple of hundred years ago so of course she’s definitely still there? Apparently?

Anyway, they arrive in the city and find three very young soldiers who are the only remnant of the military presence in the city. They talk about how their unit was working to try and secure the city until new vampires with shiny powers showed up and started murdering them all. They also recognise Vanessa by her super powers, have apparently heard of her and think she is their saviour.

Axel is obviously moved by the plight of these teens, struggling to keep fighting but not knowing what to do without any leadership. Vanessa decides to encourage Axel to stay with them and help them partly because she rather blatantly doesn’t want him there and is as fluffy and friendly as a honey badger.

With Axel dumped, Vanessa and Scarlett head off, Scarlett suggests some level of concern for Axel and Vanessa is not having this - caring for people is not allowed! There can only be endless rage!!!!!

Pictured: Vanessa

Scarlett does manage to get Vanessa to almost smile talking about her daughter Dylan before we get a combat scene with Chinese vampires throwing around lots of martial arts including pointless side flips done only to look impressive. They fight and fight and fight and fighter and ye gods this fight goes on and on and it would have more effect if it weren’t for the fact Vanessa is pretty much immortal. They win with the completely unnecessary help from Barry, a human in a luchador mask. He introduces them to his little group sort of led by Marybeth, a local weather anchor who has become kind of defacto leader simply because everyone recognises her.

They tell Vanessa that the vampire influx is recent and she assumes that the B’ah was asleep until she had her memory dream which woke her up. Ok…. I guess… your dream wakes up vampires across the country who are apparently asleep? Ooookay, not the most ridiculous plot I’ve seen

Of course Vanessa feels super guilty - because she woke the B’ah. She’s also worried because Scarlett has been poisoned with B’ah poison and is now dying - but mainly so Vanessa can go off lone wolfing.

She does with Barry the disposable guide heading to a warehouse with many boxes which they conclude there are many vampires

Well. No. Shit.

Legacies, Season 1, Episode 3: We're Being Punked, Pedro




We have a special scary knife which Alaric is studying in detail to see why it’s so special, which means reading lots of ancient French and us getting a flashback over a gargoyle killing a couple of ancient witches who tried to steal the fancy knife. Which seems pretty resistant to fiery magic.

He has also decided to punish his brawling high school students who have drawn attention to themselves by sending them into the town under the eyes of his chief librarian Dorian to do community service. Because mixing your volatile supernatural kids with hostile and volatile towny kids is just such a great idea. Lizzie protests that she was provoked (true) and then breaks and totally throws her sister under the bus blaming her. Bad twin etiquette!

Hope is angry that she isn’t being allowed to stay with Alaric to research the dagger - but Alaric dismisses her, let the adults handle it (her and Dorian the Librarian) and Hope is angry about this because he wasn’t saying this when he called her in to use her magic to fight the dragon last episode. Again, this is the problem with Alaric running the school - I’ve said this repeatedly even as this series was proposed - a completely human Alaric does not have the tools to handle the problems that can arise with this school. Instead he uses his students - Hope and MG - to be tools in his tool box to fix whatever problems he has. Which is both inappropriate, exploitative and means Hope has a very real point. It also really undermines his authority - a headmaster cannot run a school when he relies on his students to handle major structural procedures of that school

Also he needs Dorian to do research but has just sent him to monitor students doing community services in the nearby town probably without a great deal of relevant reading material. Alaric’s decision making is… pretty much consistent with everyone else in this world.

They go for litter picking and graffiti cleaning and lots of snarling. Lizzie is shunned by Josie, has many issues with Hope and then gets into a nasty milkshake accident with one of the locals. She storms back to the school in a rage.

Josie and Hope are pretty much together after a rockys start - Josie points out that Hope is continually poking them and picking fights and how this isn’t going down well especially since she’s already keeping secrets with Alaric - and Alaric is spending more time and attention on Hope than he is with his own daughters. They have issues, she’s clear which Hope kind of concedes, especially after Hope accidentally impales her own foot and Josie helps and Hope reveals that she didn’t tell Alaric that Josie helped her with the naughty black magic. Also Hope pushes Josie to make a play for Rafael because she shouldn’t always defer to her twin

Meanwhile MG makes out with a local towny girl before compelling her to find out why and discovering that she’s only doing it to make another guy jealous - but since he’s doing the same thing for Lizzie, he recognises that he can’t be angry and also that continuing to make out with her knowing the underlying motives is kind of exploitive. He compels her to forget making out with him (so if anyone talks about it to her later she looks like she’s suffering from weird amnesia) but also remember he’s awesome (he’s a teenager. Apparently. Maybe. He’s a vampire so who even knows). But later he finds fellow vampire Caleb is also compelling that girl so he can feed off her… and he agrees to keep his secret when he appeals to friend and fellow vampire (and possibly fellow Black man). He also has some disturbing ideas on the superiority of supernatural beings over humans

Lizzie returns to the school, she curses out her father with Emily, the therapist, apparently believing it’s appropriate as a professional to get involved in this family discussion uninvited. Lizzie blames everything on Alaric’s absence as a dad and how he is more focused on Hope than his own daughters. Which… is…. Not wrong

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Z Nation, Season 5, Episode 6: Limbo




We open with an epic and disgusting zombie fight - because Z Nation always brings the icky. Doc, George and Warren are following the markings of the Talker hiding and it leads them to Limbo

Yes, the same place the blends told Murphy they were waiting. It’s a… club. A casino. And general place of debauchery ranging from the standard table dancers and roulette to chainsaw duels and whack-a-mole.

Murphy runs the place now wearing a ridiculous outfit which honestly he kind of makes work and he’s much beloved by his people (there’s also a moment where he says he’s in a bisexual threesome relationship which would be more noteworthy if it wasn’t a single throwaway line for comic relief and to emphasise the debauchery of Limbo rather than actual representation.)

We have lots of scenes of the general ickiness and it’s notable that there are a huge number of Talkers in Limbo. Murphy claims to be apolitical and not involved in Altura’s issues but Warren notes that his is the only settlement in Newmerica which allows Talkers to move around freely. AND Limbo is marked as a safe place for Talkers - so it seems Murphy is not nearly as apolitical as he claims

They do have a gang of Talkers now, but they’re very very hungry and Murphy isn’t THAT kind - most of the Biscuits in Limbo are used for stakes in gambling. Among the Talkers is Marjorie - Dante’s wife.

He insists that the Talkers are just dropped on his doorstep from a truck and he knows nothing. George changes her opinion of Murphy and hits him with the full weight of her super empathy and gives him one of her awesome speeches

Murphy is impressed - but not buying. Even George’s beautiful idealism runs aground on Murphy’s cynicism. Murphy also remembers Estes from Zona - and thinks he was dispatched on a secret mission not that he left as Estes claimed. There’s also a hairy moment when the near zombie Talkers need to be corralled

They’re interrupted by the arrival of the truck Murphy mentioned - and he has a psychic sense of Lucy. He hurries down, thinking his dead daughter has somehow come back and opens the door to find…

ADDIE

Yes it’s Addie! I called it last episode! That spiky mace had to be Addie! She’s back! She’s back. And… perhaps a little broken. She’s deeply sad about Lucy’s death and she, Murphy and Doc drink to her passing, reminiscing and sounding deeply sad (the least said about the booze they’re drinking, the better). She resists the idea that she’s a saviour for the Talkers despite clearly being so - and angrily backs off when they mention Dante. She thinks there’s absolutely no way he’ll get anything resembling a fair trial and she leaves angrily

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Supernatural, Season 14, Episode: 5 Nightmare Logic




Maggie is hunting

It’s possible that, like me, your response is “who”? She’s one of the new Hunters in the Winchester cave from the angel hell dimension. Her hunt goes horribly wrong as a thing attacks her

Back in the Winchester Cave Sam is being the big leader, giving lots of advice and training and hunting tips to his new little army of followers and while Dean is being snarky - because every big brother has to be snarky. But Dean is worried about Sam… while impressed by what he’s doing, Sam is working far too hard, barely sleeping and driving himself to the wall

And I really like to see this- Dean frets about his hulking baby brother… but it’s over big epic things like losing his soul or dying etc etc. But worrying about day to day welfare, if Sam’s mental health is ok, if he’s looking after himself? That’s not something Dean does. In part because Sam is way way better at self care than the reckless, permanently self destructive Dean who generally follows the philosophy of “suck it up and move on”. I like to see the maturity that has developed to be a little more

It’s also really really nice to see Sam step forward a little bit and not be in Dean’s endlessly melodramatic shadow all the time.

When Sam learns Maggie has been attacked he instantly gives up on her - it’s not that he doesn’t care about her but because he wants to wrap his guilt around himself and wallow in it as a terrible leader. While Dean is in the odd place of shaking Sam and being the source of hope - and this isn’t entirely out of character. Sure, Dean rarely expects happy fun results, but he doesn’t give up on a fight until everything has been duly stabbed repeatedly in the face. He doesn’t know what hope is, but he also doesn’t know what giving up is- and he insists they head to see what happened

They arrive to find a household with its own private cemetery and assume the identity of historical preservation society members. They meet the household - a nurse looking after a very infirm old man and that old man ‘s daughter Sasha who is there to provide vast amounts of daddy issues.

They also find Mary and Bobby who have assumed exactly the same fake identity to investigate Maggie’s disappearance as well. This slightly annoys Sam because it means they haven’t checked in at the Winchester cave and are generally operating outside the system he set up. While Bobby thinks the new system is terrible and the people leading this (Sam) are Idjits

And that sound is my heart breaking because Bobby may be wrong and I may be expected to disapprove of him. Bobby. Our saintly Bobby.  Nooooo…

Mary steps in to split everyone up - showing she is definitely a mother. Because I have never yet met a mother who doesn’t have the epic ability to quell bickering. She and Sam go off so she can reassure him that Bobby isn’t himself at the moment being really cut off from Mary, not talking and being all hunting all the time. He doesn’t talk… like their father. To which Sam laughs because their father doesn’t come close to being open and sharing and after Mary died (and came back. It’s Supernatural, it’s complicated). It underscores that Bobby was their father figure even when John was alive - Bobby was the man they (we) revered  and loved… and this Bobby is not necessarily that Bobby - but it also shows just how much Sam is hurt by his criticism.