Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Vampire Diaries Season Three: Episode Fifteen All My Children

I hope that you enjoyed Thursday's episode, because that it's until March 15th folks.  This series seems to have one long hiatus after another.  At any rate, shall we jump right in?

Elena immediately starts her day with angst after calling Stefan, only to have him not answer the phone.  She then turns to Damon, who shows little patience for her, and even makes a point of telling her that everything is not about her.  I could not have been more thrilled with that line.  In fact, the writers could have had Damon say that line 15 times, and I would not have been bored with hearing it.  As protagonists go, Elena is pretty wretched. 

It seems that Elena has gotten it into her head that Elijah should not have to die with all of his siblings, because he is the honourable one.  She cannot forget how he tried to help her, when Klaus was attempting to break the curse of the sun and the moon.  As far I remember, Elijah left them high and dry and broke his word to her, but yeah, accuracy is unimportant when the angst needs to be driven up a level.

Elena trots over to Damon's, only to find cheerleader vampire [read: Rebekah] leaving.  She is of course upset that Damon slept with her.  How could he not spend every moment tortured over his unrequited love of her? She is after all the doppleganger.  What is this world coming to? 

When she returns home, who should show up at her door but Elijah.  He tells Elena that he wants to show her something and so she gets in his car.  Does this woman even have a modicum of sense?  Elijah has already betrayed her once, but hey, a drive sounds nice right?  They get to where the old encampment used to be, and Elijah tells her that he knows that she is lying about Mommy Dearest's [read Esther] plans.  When Elena denies the truth of this, Elijah tells her that he can hear her heartbeat, which speeds up every time she lies. Finally, Elena tells him of Mommy Dearest's plans and expresses sorrow at not being able to help.  Elijah responds by jumping into the underground tunnels trapping her with Cheerleader vampire as a guardian.

Elijah then goes to the Salvatore abode to once again use Elena as leverage.  It seems that the only way to stop the spell is to get rid of the source of Mommy Dearest's power.  Did I not say when Bonnie's mother arrived that she was dead witch walking.  The only character of colour that they have allowed to live in three years is Bonnie, and that is because Elena needs a perpetual servant. Bonnie's family has after all been in servitude to the White folks for a 1000 years, so why stop now right?  Elijah gives Damon and Stefan until 9:06 to kill the witches, because at 9:07, the moon will be high enough for Mommy Dearest to return the balance to nature [read: kill her kids]

Damon and Stefan try the nice approach first, now that they know that all the originals are linked.  Cole and Klaus are at the local watering hole and coincidentally so are Dr. Fell and Alaric.  They talk Caroline into distract Klaus long enough for Alaric to stake Cole, knowing that once he is staked, that this will neutralize the rest of his siblings.

Caroline does her pied piper routine, and Klaus follows her out of the bar.  He tries to woo woo Caroline, claiming that he is over their little spat.  He begins by saying that he wants to know about her hopes and her dreams.  Caroline has grown a lot of three seasons of The Vampire Diaries, but I still do not buy into the idea that a 1000 year old vampire, is crushing on an 18 year old girl.  What could they possibly have to talk about?  It's bad enough when their is a huge difference between humans, but I am supposed to buy the idea that a 1000 years is not big deal? Though this is just a ruse for Caroline, it also served as yet another opportunity for the writers to rehabilitate Klaus. 

The Secret Circle, Season 1, Episode 15: Return

So we have a new episode of Secret Circle and Gale Harold has new hair and… hmmm… ok, I won’t be distracted, I must pay attention to the plot. Wait, must I? Gah I suppose I must.

So after many episodes of absence, Cassie’s grandmother, Jane (also known as The Only One With Sense) is actually coming home. So Cassie returns to the house to find it all open, someone’s there! She bravely grabs an umbrella and announces she has already called the police! Rather then, y’know ACTUALLY calling the police, or her magical coven, or her dark magic. That would be sensible. Sadly, it isn’t an axe murderer waiting to chop Cassie up into teeny tiny pieces, it’s Jake (Evil Scooby). Oh and the witch hunters are back with their crafty trick to kill witches – ash and salt.

Ok, mini break for a rant. Dear Witch Hunters, I’d like to introduce you to a concept. GUNS. One bullet, one witch, one ex-witch. C’mon you already figured it out with knives.

Anyway, Jake turns all he-man protector but Cassie shows an astonishing amount of sense and independence, kicks out Jake (he who, we have to remember, repeatedly consorts with said Witch Hunters because, alas, he has as much sense as the rest of the inhabitants of Chants Harbour) and makes it clear with her power she can defend herself.

Clearly, this display of independence and kick arseness has over-taxed Cassie’s quota, so we fast forward to Cassie’s new job (and plot distraction, after all, since when have any of these kids had less than infinite funds?) as a server in a coffee shop where Adam (the Wet Lettuce) shows her how to do it right. While, yes, Adam has been serving in his father’s bar for a long time, the whole scene reminded me of those skeevy men who try to teach women how to play golf by virtually groping them.

And it turns out that the Single Sensible Person is not returning home and Cassie just wants to go home to sleep in her own bed (reasonable) so she can be all alone at night when the Witch Hunters attack (less reasonable). But don’t worry, Adam will drop round (go Wet Lettuce) wow, it took all of, what, 5 minutes to undermine Cassie’s independent kick-arseness? That could be a new record.

And then daddy shows up – Richard Blackwell. Cassie’s second question? “Are you actually alive?” Uh-huh. And Cassie makes a start of being tough and resistant – but daddy was just keeping her safe! And he wants to meet her alone with no-one around! Wet Lettuce Adam is quick to try and point out some sense to her Spunkiness. But no, Cassie is determined to go and we have a big emotional scene on the pier. Of course he wants the medallion and Cassie, rather belatedly, tells him off and storms off into the hands of the Evil Black Witchunter. Yes, she’s been kidnapped. Thankfully these are witchunters so rather than stabbing her while she was unconscious, they surround her with special powder instead.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: Vanish by Sophie Jordan, Book 2 of the Firelight Series

After the events of the last book, Jacinda is now returning to her Pride under the shadow of having completely revealed herself to hunters. They now know draki can appear as humans and they know what Jacinda looks like. All because she loved Will, one of the hunters, and couldn’t stand to see him die.

But a brief reprieve is realised with Tamra’s draki finally manifesting and limiting the damage. But all is far from good – the leader of the Pride has greatly tightened security and limited the freedoms of the draki – he’s also definitely gunning for Jacinda to force her back into line and make her compliant, and cutting her off from any support network she could have. Jacinda finds herself widely reviled and certainly far from her old, special status.

And maybe she could have assimilated back into the Pride – especially with Tamra’s manifesting meaning she is now holding a coveted position. Maybe she could have learned to love Cassian as he continued to hold onto his affection for her – except she still loves Will. And he has found the camp.

This leaves Jacinda caught between her love, her friends and an increasingly hostile Pride – and that’s before she loses someone to the Enkos, the people who fund the draki hunts.

Let us start by saying that this book has a truly great world. The concept of the Draki, with their myriad powers, their hidden society and the very concept of these dragons masquerading as humans is a fascinating one. Not only that but there is clear evidence of a well built culture and some fully developed world building. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Sophie Jordan actually has a massive tome of world building notes behind this series.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the end of what I enjoy about the book.

I find the characters, in general, to be overdone. Severin, the boss man, is dictatorial to an extent that is almost at melodrama villain levels and he continually makes decisions that have no real purpose beyond simple cruelty and power tripping. It’s like someone sent down to central casting for a cartoon villain. Corbin is completely unnecessary to the story and exists only to add to Jacinda’s pity-fest without actually being around enough to be an issue. Cassian just lives to serve Jacinda, no matter how far she goes or what she does, he’s part punching bag, part servant, all by the power of his love-struck puppiness.

Alcatraz: Episode 1-6 Recap & Catch Up

In the year 1963, suddenly with no explanation, all of the prisoners and guards residing on Alcatraz suddenly disappear without warning or explanation. The government of course creates a cover up to explain the disappearances and no one is any the wiser until the prisoners start coming back and resuming their criminal activity in the present day.  The project to recapture the prisoners is highly classified and the government still has no idea who or what is behind the disappearances.

Det. Rebecca Madsen of the San Francisco police is drawn into the mystery first when her partner is killed and then again when she surreptitiously runs a finger print from a murder scene in which she had been removed, only to discover that it belonged to a man once housed at Alcatraz and had since been declared legally dead. To fill in her knowledge on Alcatraz, she contacts Dr. Soto, who has written a book on the infamous prison. Together they stumble upon the secret that the government has kept hidden for the last 49 years.  Emerson Houser, the leader of the top secret government task force, decides to bring Madsen more firmly into the case, and when she chooses Dr. Soto for her partner, he becomes her civilian advisor.

It turns out that Hauser might actually need Rebecca far more than she needs him.  It seems that her grandfather was once a prisoner at Alcatraz, and at one point, Hauser had even tried to hire her uncle, who was also a guard at Alcatraz to aid in the search for these returned prisoners.  There is definitely a connection between the Madsens and the mystery that is unfolding.

Lost Girl: not as Gay Friendly as it Seems.

Editors Note: For some reason, many of the comments in the last few days have ended up in the spam cue.  I have just released all that I found there.  If your comment is still not appearing on the site, please send us a short note, and we will attempt to look for it.  This was in no way an attempt to stifle disagreement or conversation.  We apologize for the technical difficulties. 

There has been a lot of talk about how progressive the Showcase/Syfy show Lost Girl is.  What stands out to many is the fact that not only is there a same sex relationship, there is even a same sex love triangle. There is a ton of GLBT erasure in urban fantasy, even when a show is set in a city like San Francisco, (yes I am looking at you Charmed) gay people are erased.  When they do appear, they often fall into the trope of a bff, and they are decidedly celibate.  Considering this, at first blush, it makes Lost Girl appear to be positively transcendent, and this is specifically why we must take a critical look at the same sex relationships.  Just  because Lost Girl  has one bisexual character, and two lesbians who actually engage in sex, does not make the portrayals perfect. In other words, faulty inclusion does not make up for erasure.

From almost the very beginning of the show it was clear that Bo and Lauren had some pretty heavy chemistry.  Because Bo is a Succubus, she was extremely worried about draining her lovers to death, and it was Lauren who taught her to control this.  These lessons in control included some extremely sexy kisses, and it wasn’t long before fans were beginning to wonder when and if Lauren and Bo would consummate their relationship. Sadly, it was not to be the great scene we imagined and problems abound. The very first time that they had sex, though Lauren claimed to care about Bo, it was because she was ordered to so by the old Ash as a distraction.  The fact that their first sex act was forced, tainted their interaction.  It also fed horribly into the meme of women having sex at the behest or benefit of a man, because sex between two women is only acceptable if it benefits a man in someway.

In fact, the foundation for Bo and Lauren’s relationship from the very beginning has been fraught by deception. Bo didn’t even know Nadia existed for a very long time setting the whole relationship up on a very dubious foundation. There has continuously been something deceptive about Lauren and yet we are supposed to be excited every time to the two of them get it on. The second, and last, time Bo and Lauren have sex, is when we learn that Lauren has a girlfriend - yet more deception. Bo and Lauren have not been allowed to have a moment of intimacy without there being something dark and deceitful casting a shadow over it.

When it comes to Bo having sex with women other than Lauren, I can recall 2 incidents.  In the first she had a threesome with a man and a Fury. And why does she go have sex with them? Why because Dyson (the real relationship) just turned her down. And it all ends up with everyone but Bo dead.

And then Ryan gets her a woman as a gift (do we even have to say how wrong that is?) for her to perform with in front of him (more on this later). These are what we have for same-sex relationships.

Compare this with her relationship with men. Bo/Dyson has been written in the stars since the very first episode. They have definite attraction - and affection - for each other. Dyson cares so much for Bo he is willing to sacrifice everything for her to the Norn - and from that we have proof of his love - because he cannot love anyone else. From the very beginning their love has been dramatic, epic, star-crossed and based on deep mutual love, mutual desire with nothing bringing them together but their love for each other. In essence, this big dramatic love makes it clear that it is primary and any others are just distractions from the true, real opposite sex relationship.

Even Bo’s relationship with Ryan is based on greater honesty than her relationship with Lauren. Ryan may be irresponsible, selfish, reckless, immoral and deceptive - but he has never been anything but honest with Bo about his intentions. Their relationship may have problems but it has always been honest and based on mutual attraction and desire; not the deception and secrets that Lauren and Bo had. Or, for that matter, that lie between Lauren and Nadia since Lauren cannot tell her about her relationship with Bo or about the fae, working for fae or being owned by the Ash.

There is also a bemusing reluctance to actually use any of the language of GBLT people. In fact, in the Syfy interview the actors are proud that they have deliberately avoided using the words lesbian, gay or bisexual.:

Anna Silk: Yeah. And I love that on the show too, we don't - it's not talked about as a same-sex relationship.

Zoie Palmer: It just is one, yeah.

Anna Silk: It's not one could be - yeah, it's just - it's a relationship, and that's that.

Zoie Palmer: The Coke and gay thing or the - it's just the - there is - yeah, that's cool. It's that there's just in the relationship, whichever - whatever it looks like, however it...

Anna Silk: Yeah.

Zoie Palmer: the way that Dyson and Bo are in one, and it's never discussed on the show...

Anna Silk: Yeah.

Zoie Palmer: ...which I love too. I think that's great.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Game Of Thrones Season 2: In Production - Iceland

Review of Killing Rites by M.L.N. Hanover: Book 4 in The Black Sun's Daughter Series

It took three books, but Hanover finally wrote a book that I enjoyed reading. Perhaps it's because Jayné [Gods above how I hate that pretentious faux French name] the protagonist seems to have finally achieved a level of maturity.  After killing an innocent man in Vicious Grace, she is haunted by her actions and questioning whether she is actually in control of her body. Because her powers seem to be increasing, rather than diminishing, Jayné determines that a rider has taken up residence in her body.  

Jayné and Ex head to Sante Fe, leaving Chogyi Jake behind to meet Father Chapin and a group of Vatican approved exorcists that Ex was formerly involved in.  Father Chapin immediately suggests that Jayné seek out psychiatric help.  He feels the fact that she had a controlled childhood, inherited a lot of money from her not gay Uncle Eric, lost her faith in God and Eric, as well as defiled the temple of her flesh [note: nice way to call her a whore for having two lovers].  Though slut shaming is disgustingly sexist, I was not surprised to see it in a Catholic priest. Jayné convinces Father Chapin to go through with the exorcism. She learns that her riders name is The Black Sun's Daughter and it seems as though the demon is somehow related to the desert.  At the moment when the rider is just about to be pulled from her body, Jayné feels another trying to slip in and calls a halt to the exorcism.  Father Chapin with Ex's support believes that Jayné has been overcome by the demon living inside her.

The rest of the novel is essential spent with Jayné looking to prove that another demon was indeed trying to take control of her body.  This however does not mean that it was free of problematic elements.  The following a quote from the book regarding Jayné's feelings on going for an exorcism.

Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire, Book 4 of the October Daye Series

Before the first book, October was turned into a fish for trying to rescue Luna and Rosalyn from the clutches of Simon and Oleander. But now, Oleander is back. A master illusionist and poisoner and a brilliant assassin, she is hunting October and those she loves.

As people she loves and values are brought down, October has to find a cure for the poison and catch Oleander before more people are lost. Or discover whether Orleander actually exists and isn’t just a figment of her own breaking mind?

As if an arch enemy poisoning people weren’t enough, her rival and other enemy, Rosalyn, ends up with unprecedented power in the Shadowed Halls. And the unstable and dangerous Queen of Northern California has her own vendetta against October – and is determined to settle the score. And here are these murders, ideal for framing.

And in the process, October learns far more about Amandine and herself than she ever imagined

As far as mysteries go, it was an odd one. There wasn’t  choice of villains or really choice of methods. From almost the word go we knew it was Oleander, in the Knowe, with the Poison. There’s more detective skill goes into a game of Cluedo than that. However, I don’t think it was a mystery or a detective story per se – though there was a considerable amount of detection involved in finding the exact vector of the poison – so maybe it’s a different kind of detective story.

I think far more it counts as a part action book, part political intrigue. October doesn’t need to find out whodunit so much as howdunnit and how to stab whodunit repeatedly when we have Rosalyn and the Queen on her back and so little of her normal support network. And I liked it. I was curious as to what would happen next, I wanted to see how the political intrigue would developed and I was interested to see how they would actually find their way through the maze and actually resolve everything. I never really knew what was coming next or how the plot would resolve – and it was a fascinating trip to the end as October dodged the obstacles in her way to finally confront the big bad in true heroic fashion.

Cover Snark: Who is this sex object and what did you do with my heroine?

So we look at a lot of the covers of our books and this question keeps arising. Who is this sex object and what did you do with my heroine?

See, this is more than the characters on the cover being sexual (and in ridiculous sexual poses with leg cramps, random squats and twisted spines). Sometimes those characters are very sexual in the book as well. No these are characters who would never do this, who wouldn’t dress this way, who would scream in fury or mortification about being portrayed like this.

In short, these are characters who have had their character removed in favour of having some eye candy.

Really, who is this person on the cover of these books?  I know that the publisher is telling me that this is an image of Jayné Heller, but these images look nothing like her descriptions in the various books.  Who is this woman who walks around in a bra and long coat in the dead of winter in ski country no less?  The person who chose the image for Killing Rites could not have read he book. How is she not suffering from exposure and frost bite? We cannot even blame her demon, The Black Sun’s Daughter because she only comes out when Jayné is in physical danger.  Nope, I am not seeing a whole bunch of sense there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review of Flesh and Blood by Kristen Painter: Book 2 of the House of Comarré Series

Tatina of the house of Tepes, and Chyrsabelle the comarré, still have unfinished business.  When we last left the house of comarré series, Tatina had murdered Maris, Chyrsabelle's mother, and in return, Chrysabelle had severed her hand.  Back in their own separate spheres, Tatina is even more determined to capture Chrysabelle, and force her to hand over the ring of sorrows.  Chyrsabelle of course wants vengeance for the death of her mother, and to keep a promise to Mal about finding away to end the curse that plagues him.  Doc, a leopard Varcolai, (shifter)  is desperate to find a way to save Fi, the ghost woman he loves, and he is even willing to take on the powerful anathema Dominic to do so.  There is also Creek, a member of an secret society named the Kubai Mata, whose purpose is to protect mankind, and his mission is to secure the ring. 

As you can see, there are several story lines being intertwined in this one book.  The one that is the most typical, and quite frankly the most annoying, is the love triangle that develops between Creek, a Native American man and Mal the cursed vampire.  Creek was sentenced to seven years in prison after he murdered his father to protect his sister and jumped at the chance to be become a Kubai Mata, to secure his freedom and gain a better life for his family.  He makes it clear repeatedly that though he is a member of the group, that they don't trust him enough to give him a lot of information.  With everything that he has at stake, he still finds Chrysabelle quite irresistible.  At first he cracks it up to not being with a woman for many years, but in the end, he simply decides that there is just something special about her. In part, Mal is heavily attracted to Chrysabelle because she is a member of the comarré and has been bred specifically because of the specialness of her blood.  He is impressed by her determination and physical strength.  What I don't understand is why Mal continues to love her, after she takes away his only chance to be human in what is clearly a selfish act.  Unlike many vampires who are self-loathing in urban fantasy because that just seems to be the in thing, being twice cursed adds validity to Mal's desire to remain human once given the chance.

I am particularly upset with Creek's fascination with Chrysabelle, because it seemed in many ways to be based on her Whiteness.  There were constant mentions to her skin virtually glowing and her long blonde hair might was well have been a crown.  Not for one moment are we allowed to forget that Chrysabelle is White and many ways, this Whiteness is given a moral value of pure goodness.  This is especially true when juxtaposed to Tatiana, the Roma antagonist. At times it reads as though getting Chrysabelle to agree to a relationship with Creek, would equal an elevation of his person.  

Being Human U.S. Season Two, Episode Five: Addicted to Love

"Every monster had their own version of an addition; it's written into our blood."

There was a lot going on with this episode of Being Human.  Now that we have reached the fifth episode of this season, it is clear the characters are on the dark path that we have been promised.  Much of Aidan's story was told through flashbacks this episode.   

Suren had chosen Henry after Aidan refused to run away with her.  I can fully understand her desire to get away from Mother.  In the 1930's, she had already reached the age of 700, and had yet to be granted any autonomy over her life. Mother very cavalierly tells her to make the most of the party that they are at because she is tired of Chicago and that they will be leaving the city.  Suren suggests that she will stay on her own, only to be quickly denied. 

Even in the present day, there seems to be nothing that Suren can do to please her Mother, who makes it very clear, that she has created an empire from her hard work and demands that Suren become an absolute duplicate, to be seen as acceptable. Tension between mother and daughter is not at all creative or new, but it certainly was acted well. 

Suren walks in on Henry, Aidan's child, have sex with another woman.  He claims that she means nothing to him, and that he brought her upstairs to feed.  Suren does not believe him, and so Henry appeals to Aidan to tell her that she is being childish.  He could not have chosen words that were more wrong. Suren rushes downstairs where a party is happening, while Aidan and Henry fight.  Aidan breaks Henry's arm and banishes him from vampire society.  

Downstairs, Suren sees the woman that Henry was screwing, and feeds on her in front of everyone.  Mother is livid that they have been exposed, and demands that the doors and windows be locked.  The vampires kill every single human in the room and Mother orders Suren be put to ground.  As she screams about not wanting to be grounded, Serene is carried away by two vampires. The language chosen makes it appear that Suren is a six year old instead of a 700 year old woman.

In present day, Mother is still dissatisfied with Serene progress and makes an appearance at the hotel to tell her so.  She wants the orphans culled immediately, because she fears that they are organizing.  In a fit, Serene runs up to see Aidan and tells him that they have to find the orphans.  When he tries to placate her, Serene reminds him that he does not even remember what it's like having a mother, and that therefore; he should not lecture her on how to deal with hers. 

Aidan finally admits that he has known all along where a nest is.  When they show up at the funeral home, all the orphans have fled with the exception of Henry.  Aidan is very surprised to see him and hides him from Serene.  Clearly this is a mistake, and I think in time we will come to find that Henry has assumed leadership of the orphans now that Bishop is dead.  Why would he be waiting there for Aidan in the first place?  The man is clearly conniving and is up to something.

Wednesday Reboot: A Haunting in Salem

After so many weeks of vampire movies, I thought a little good old fashioned horror might mix things up a bit.  A Haunting in Salem was released in 2011 and stars  Bill Oberst Jr., Courtney Abbiati and Jenna Stone. I peaked at the Amazon reviews before watching it and so I was prepared for it to completely suck.  In the end, I don't think it was a bad movie, but it wasn't great. It was almost as if the director made the film using a checklist to ensure that the expected made it into the movie.

Wayne, a  veteran who is suffering from PTSD moves his family to Salem, after being offered a job as a sheriff. This job comes with the bonus of free lodging.  What he does not know is that every single sheriff who has occupied this home since the Salem witch trials has died in that house.  If you are going to go with the whole haunted house motif, then the house should look legitimately creepy, instead of charming and welcoming.  From the beautiful front porch, to the updated kitchen and gorgeous wood, I kept thinking about how much I would love to visit it.  Perhaps it is because much of the movie is filmed in daylight and that does not exactly help to inspire fear.

Wayne and his daughter Alli are the most effected by the house.  The ghosts uses instant messenger to communicate with Alli, proving that though they died in the late 1600's,  they have stayed updated with the times.  Watching I kept wondering if they had a facebook page, and if they found the 140 character limit on Twitter limiting.  Yes, I'm being an ass, but seriously, we never really find out the purpose behind the instant messages, and they feel like big huge reminders that the family is living in a haunted house, lest the viewer become distracted from this point. 

Wayne sees visions of rotted faces, instead of the faces of his family.  This results in two separate occasions of him accidentally hitting his children.  These incidents encourage Carrie, Wayne's wife, to believe that he is having flashbacks that are PTSD related.  When he claims to be fine, she pushes the point because she believes that he is in denial and needs treatment.  Carrie quickly moves from suggesting that Wayne go to the VA hospital to moving out of the house with the kids.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Matchbox Girls (Senyaza Series #1) by Chrysoula Tzavelas

Marley is a young woman in LA, struggling with anxiety and depression and barely getting by with the help of her friends Branwyn and Penny. When she gets a phone call from 2 4 year old girls, twins under the care of their uncle, her friend Zachariah. Zachariah has disappeared without a trace leaving them alone with instructions to call Marley if they need help.

Simple babysitting quickly gets out of hand when it seems there are some powerful forces out to get the twins – and not just powerful with wealth and influence, but with abilities she cannot understand. But even they seem to weak compared to the twins themselves.

Marley ends up trying to protect the child with powers she doesn’t understand, from forces she doesn’t understand, with potential allies she neither understands nor trusts and in the process she learns things about herself she never imagined.

But it’s not just Marley dragged into a world with Angels, Demons, faeries and Nephilim – her friends are in the firing line as well, targeted to get at her

Marley spends much of this book lost and confused. And, since we’re only watching through her lens, then we spend most of the book in the same state. It manages to pull it back just in time before I reach the point of putting the book down in frustration. But up until about 40% into the book I feel lost. There are pieces of the puzzle but none of it first together and a whole lot is missing. I like questions and mysteries and investigation – but if the questions don’t come together and at least begin to form a pattern it just becomes confusing and a little lost. For so much of the book we know something is after the twins, but we don’t know who or why. there are people who seem to be trying to help but we don’t know why or who or what or whether they can be trusted. There are strange things happening but we don’t know how. And Marley spends much of the time running away – including from potential explanations (reasonably, since why should she trust these people, but still).

However, once we’re past that 40% the story starts to come together and we can follow along much easier – which means the plot picks up in a way that makes sense and the main characters can start engaging with the plot more rather than reacting to it in confusion. After that, Marley starts forging her own path, speaking to the beings she wants to, working her own way and coming up with her own ideas and plans. Once we know about the world, Marley tackles it and we start to dive into it more solidly. She follows ideas and clues, learns why the twins are so targeted, actively seeks Zachery and confronting the enemies rather than running, hiding and being confused. Then we get a lot more excitement, a lot more fascinating world building and I can start cheering and rooting for Marley rather than being confused along with her.

Some of the mystery remains right to the end – the exact nature of the twins and Marley for that matter, remains unknown – but some questions leading into the next book are great to have. It’s too many unknowns for the plot to handle that loses me.

The world itself is fascinating and unique. In a genre where we see the same patterns and the same creatures repeated often in very similar ways (but with many interesting twists), a completely new take on things is a refreshing breeze. We have the Nephilim, children of immortal, celestial beings. And we’re way beyond simple angels and demons – and even the angels and demons aren’t like we expect. In theory we have the potential for a vast variety of beings based on which celestial being created the Nephilim and how the Nephilim adapt (we even had a griffin, that’s a new one on me for Urban Fantasy) to the world and what powers they have. Even the villain is certainly an unusual choice but it all fits the world setting with humanity (and their cousins, the Nephilim) living in a world where the celestial beings have been limited and contained – held away to preserve humanity’s independence. It’s, frankly, a brilliant world and I want to see much much much more of it.

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 12: Skin Deep

In fairy land we have a war council – a war council of a lord and his advisors discussing the war with the ogres (the same war Rumpelstiltskin ran from?). They wait for a saviour – Rumpelstiltskin. Oh I do like him, yes yes I do. But how desperate do they have to be to rely on him for help? Of course he has a price – and the price is Belle. The daughter of a lord and the betrothed to Gaston (Beauty and the Beast?) Naturally she agrees to save her friends and family. Part of me applauds her firmly saying that she refuses to let Gaston or her father make the decision for her, but she’s still being a traded commodity here.

And she is to be his servant – but not skinning children (I don’t know whether Rumplestiltskin’s sense of humour is bad and wrong or snarky and fun or both). And yes we are in Beauty and the Beast – only Rumpelstiltskin is the Beast. Ansd yes they grow together, share secrets, grow close, Rumpelstiltskin turns Gaston into a flower to give to her, aww sweet. And it seems Belle sacrificed herself to be the hero (a woman’s heroism involves being kidnapped, it seems) and to see the world (by becoming a live in servant) because women don’t have many opportunities in their world (what, so she sold herself to be a glorified cleaner? Nah, I think women generally do have the opportunity to be maids, but I find it unlikely this is the opportunity this well-to-do woman was after).

And Rumplestiltskin loves her and lets her go – as is happily pointed out by Regina, the evil queen who just happens to be passing and also points out that true love’s kiss can break any curse! Even Rumplestiltskin’s! Go Stockholmy! Go, back to your loving kidnapper! Except, of course, Rumplestiltskin doesn’t want his curse broken – his curse being broken would strip him of him quite considerable power (hence why Regina wants it breaking in the first place). Rumplestiltskin loses it several times over not least of which because he feels betrayed and how no-one can possibly love him.

Banished from his home, she returns to her father who shuns her, locks her in a tower and his attempts to purify her of Rumpelstiltskin’s presence drove her to suicide… an all out tragedy. Or so Regina says

Meanwhile in Storybrook, Gold (Rumplestiltskin) is foreclosing on a florist’s van who owes him money (the florist is called Game of Thorns? Oh I love it). For this is Gold and even Regina can’t dictate to Gold. No-one crosses Gold – or do they? Someone has burgled his house (brave brave brave person). After threatening Gold a bit, Emma goes hunting the florist, French (Belle’s father in fairy tale land) has stolen a lot of stuff, including something precious. Now Emma has to get to him before the very unhappy Gold does to find whatever precious Gold is missing (is it the ring? Go on, tell me it’s the ring!)

Gold has his own version of justice, it involves kidnapping, losing it and beating him badly. This ends up with Gold being arrested, so Regina can now talk to him. Is this Regina’s crafty machinations all this time? All hail Regina, putting French up to the theft to manipulate Gold – I’m impressed. And all this? To make him admit he knows his real name… Rumpelstiltskin. Like Regina, Gold knows the truth (yes, I admit, I gasped, yes yes I did). And he calls her “Your Majesty”. Oh and they are not friendly, no they are not.

And his precious? The chipped cup that Belle damaged. Awwww. And of course Belle’s not dead, Regina wouldn’t waste so useful a tool

Review of Lost Girl Season Two, Episode Sixteen: School's Out

The themes in this episode were mean girls, high school, bad bff's and of course the ever popular love triangle. After the threesome last week, it was quite clear that Bo had no intention of letting go of Ryan, and so it was hardly a surprise to find him in her tub sipping away at champagne. Despite caring for Kenzi enough to claim her as her BFF, she hides Ryan under the bubbles, and outright lies about ending her little affair.  To make matters worse, Kenzi even tells Bo that she doesn't want her to "lock up her honey pot," but believes that Ryan not only did her wrong, but is bad news.  If Bo even had the smallest amount of conscience, she would have come clean at this moment, instead of scheming to make sure that Kenzi didn't see Ryan, and rushing her out of the apartment as quickly as possible.

Lauren is back from her road trip with Nadia, and this of course is to remind us of the love triangle and to re-introduce some angst, in case you were missing it from the show.  Though Lauren has not been completely honest with  Nadia about her relationship with Bo, or her involvement with with the fae, Nadia clearly sees Bo as a threat, and gets super clingy in front of her. She acted quite like a dog marking her territory.  

Nadia's territory marking is interrupted by Dyson, who has a new case.  It seems that teenagers are suddenly getting extremely smart and then dying. This of course calls for the intervention of the local succubus and her bff. It is deemed that Kenzi has the inside track with teenagers, and she enrolls in the school undercover. Bo becomes a substitute teacher, and Dyson becomes a guidance counselor. For the rest of the episode, Dyson's basically reflect him drowning in teenage angst.

It turns out that there is a type of fae called atvans, who mature slowly and simply do not have the intellect of others. To counter this the procure a special egg from a smur, which increases intelligence.  This is highly illegal. Unfortunately, the eggs are deadly to humans, and so when Earl, one of the infected boys, kisses a girl, she has a quick increase in intelligence and then she dies. It is Lauren,  with a little help from the infected Kenzi who figures out what is going on.  Bo of course is terribly worried that Kenzi's brain will be fried forever, but I simply cannot take her concern seriously, when earlier in the episode Bo cast aside Kenzi's interest to do the dance with Ryan. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 52

This week we discuss the Vampire Diaries in all their glorification of the old South, the Secret Circle with the Wet Lettuce and Being Human (US). We also celebrate the return of the Walking Dead where we hope Shane will die. We also discussed our book of the week: Secrets of the Demon by Diana Rowland.

Review: Secrets of the Demon by Diana Rowland, Book 3 of the Kara Gillian Series

Kara Gillian is out for another mystery in Beaulac. It starts out peacefully enough – a stalker threat against a popular musician – but becomes much more complicated when the stalker is shown to be non-human

And then the bodies start piling up – bodies that aren’t so much unconnected, but have so many different connections it’s not sure which ones are actually relevant and the reasons behind the killing. Add in that the arcane forces being used in the attack are beyond Kara’s knowledge or experience and we have both a mortal and magical mystery to solve. And, of course, she has to manage this while negotiating the standard problems of the justice system and keeping her secret, secret. As well as the dilemma of what to do with a case you cannot prove?

At the same time Kara continues to have her confusion relationship with Rhyzkahl in her new role as his Summoner as well as juggling her mortal relationships – especially with Ryan. And even more so as more of his past becomes known.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again about this series - the plot was well written and paced with enough side issues to keep Kara interesting during the slow parts of the investigation but not too many that we’re distracted and bogged down. It had enough detail about the investigation to make it feel real and realistic, enough clues to keep us guessing but enough mystery to stop us knowing the answer too early. There was also well maintained meta-plot and character reactions without any excess or dull scenes dragging the book down. I think perhaps, in an effort to make each book stand alone, we have scenes and settings described more than is necessary (the dimensions of Kara’s office, for example) but it’s not a major issue by any stretch

I actually like how many people are now in on Kara’s secret, though your mileage may vary. A little hoop jumping to try and hide the supernatural is fine, but considering her job and the people around her, Kara keeping the secret from so many would rapidly become untenable. Her ability to solve crime would involve pages and pages of desperate cover up and/or convoluted luck brushing everything under the rug. I really like the way it’s done, she has a small circle of people she can trust who know what the real score is and none of them are in vast positions of influence for it to be abused for Deus Ex Machinae reasons. Also it means she has a Scooby gang, I like a Scooby gang, I do. Speaking of the Scooby gang, I also have to praise the banter between Kara and her friends, it never fails to make me smile

And, of course, we had a lot more backstory hinted at and revealed with Zach and Ryan. There are still far more questions to answer (and I am dying to know) but we’re getting a few more revelations with each book – the meta-revelations are moving on through the series preventing it being a lot of “monster of the week” books. In fact, there is general growth – Kara’s relationships, Kara as a character, Kara’s knowledge and power as a Summoner (without her developing massive new super powers every new book, which, yes irritates me). It makes not just the books well paced, but it makes the series well paced as well.

Face off: Grimm vs Once Upon a Time

A little different this week, rather than characters we’re going to pit two series against each other - Once Upon a Time vs Grimm. Both of these stories started at the same time and they both cover fairy tales, naturally the two would be compared. We’ve followed these shows since they both started and seen them both grow. I think they’re both still among the shows we greatly enjoy, though neither is safe from deeply problematic elements.

So this week we’re setting them against each other in a face off, which fairytale story is better through our plot and social justice lens?

The role of women:

Grimm: The snarky side of me is tempted to just say “pass” to this one. There are 2 recurring female characters in Grimm - the pathologist (an extra) and Juliette, Nick’s lover interest. Because Juliette isn’t in on the big Grimmy secret, she doesn’t pay much of a role except as someone for Nick to worry about. Now if kick-arse Aunty had lived then maybe. Because there are no recurring female characters women are relegated to victims, monsters or love interests or victims or monsters. And of them all, they’re probably more often victims waiting for the big strong menz to save them. There’s very little good to say here, alas.

Once Upon a Time: Women are extremely central to Once Upon a Time.  Both the protagonist and of the antagonists are women.  Unfortunately this has often lead the writers to get into the debate as what constitutes a real mother as Henry is the adopted son of Regina and the birth son of Emma.  

All of the women in the story are extremely capable and refuse to be handled in anyway shape or form.  Emma even chased down a man in high heels in the first episode.  There isn’t any situation that they are afraid to handle.  While these major characters are indeed women, their femininity does not define or limit them in anyway.  They are simply characters who happen to be women.

The treatment of visible minorities

Grimm: There are only two reoccurring characters of colour on the show and unfortunately they largely fill the role of sidekick to Nick. Other than the color of his skin, there is nothing to mark Hank as a man of colour.  This is made further problematic by the fact that the only thing we do know about Hank is that he once framed a man he deemed guilty.  Though he works as Nick’s partner on the police force, Nick seems far more dependent on Eddie.  We don’t know if Hank has a family, or what his interests are.  Essentially he is the man with the gun who has Nick’s back, even when Nick’s actions make no sense simply because that’s what partners do.

Sergeant Wu only shows up long enough to deliver sarcastic lines and then he disappears back into the plot box.  I will however Wu kudos because many of his lines involve calling out racial bigotry.  They have not developed his character at all.  We don’t know if he has any family, what his likes or dislikes are.  

Once Upon a Time: Are there any? Oh yes Magic Mirror and Regina’s father are both POC. Very limited indeed - the Magic Mirror lives a life of service in both Storybrook and fairy tale land and his story as told in Fruit of the Poisoned Tree is filled with dubious racial tropes and exoticism with him pining after a married white woman and then being betrayed by her and still serving her! While Regina’s father? Is a servant who is again sacrificed. We could talk about Regina but, though the actor is Latina, she’s very much cast in a white role (and something we will be addressing)

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode Eight: Nebraska

This episode begins right where we left off, with Rick shooting Sophia and everyone standing and crying. As Hershel and his family head back to the house, Shane who is not dead, loses his top and starts screaming that they knew all along.  When he moves to get into Hershel's face, Maggie slaps Shane. This had me cheering because it's about time Shane got put into his place. I am sick and tired of him bullying people at will.  Of course, Shane who is not dead, is not content and accuses Rick of not handling the situation, because he believes that Rick had them out in the woods looking for a little girl that was dead all along. 

As Andrea covers Sophia's body, Darryl approaches Carol in the RV.  In the house Glenn questions Maggie about Sophia being in the barn.  He tells her that this is for the best, and now they can move on. When Maggie asks what happens now, Glenn simply says that they will bury Sophia. It's so clear that what Maggie really wants to know is what Glenn's intentions are.  Outside they agree to bury the bodies of the ones they love and burn the rest. This is further proof of their detachment from the walkers.  At this point they are just monsters with no remnants of humanity attacked to them.

Laurie pulls Rick aside to offer words of  support.  She assures him that he did everything that he could. Considering Lori's history, this is obviously going to be temporary and in fact, I crack it up to shock at finding out that Sophia was in the barn all along.  Rick says that he is broken, because he believes that people are counting on him, but he had them chasing a ghost in a forest. Honestly, he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.  Until some sort of resolution was found for Sophia, she always would have been an issue in the group. There would have been those who would never have forgiven him, had he halted the search for her.

When Shane goes to get the truck to move the bodies, Dale is staring at him.  Shane reminds Dale that he had the chance to shoot him and that he didn't.  He also makes a point of saying that he does not believe that Dale is doing enough to keep everyone safe. Things are clearly coming to a head between these two, but I don't see how far they can go, considering Dale has already made it clear that he will not shoot Shane. I think that if Dale continues making his hatred obvious, it will put a target on his back.  With the death of Otis, Shane has proven that he will always put his well being first.

With the exception of Carol, they all gather for the burial.  Carol feels that Sophia died a long time ago, and that she didn't go hungry, she didn't try to find her way back to them, and she didn't cry herself to sleep at night. Carol's pain in this scene was absolutely heartbreaking, and as a mother I found myself feeling her pain.  A parent is not supposed to outlive a child. 

Maggie asks Glenn if he plans on leaving, if his group leaves. Before they can get further into the conversation, Beth collapses with grief.  Is it snarky of me to point out that the writers were playing into the fragile White woman with this. Also, how does passing out with grief lead to a fever? The group realizes that Hershel is missing, and they find an empty flask. Glenn offers to go with Rick to bring him back, but Maggie does not want Glenn to go. Why is Glenn always the first to put himself in danger for others?  Hershel hasn't even bothered to learn his name, and routinely refers to him as "that Asian kid".  Even Maggie, his daughter, does not think that Glenn should endanger himself.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Secret Circle, Season 1, Episode 14: Valentine

So we begin with underwear humping between Zak and Faye, which, to be fair, is still closer to showing sex than I ever expected from the CW. It’s almost risqué. I’m sure we will have angst about this later. The way she describes this “relationship” to Melissa sounds oh-so-healthy and wise. What does sound wise is Faye’s plans for Valentines day – horror movie marathon. I may give this episode and extra fang for that suggestion alone.

In fact, I am happy to see everyone mocking Valentines day. Cassie with the “greeting card, florist, chocolatier industrial complex” Faye with the wonderful “Anti-independence day” and Melissa with the much more depressing “loneliest day of the year.”

Adam is setting new records of wet lettuceness. I cringe with contact embarrassment whenever he appears on screen. And Faye is still hanging around with voodoo guy for… I have absolutely no clue why. He has a really ugly bedroom ornament that will make her strong. Chances of this backfiring into a useless plot line? Pretty high.

Meanwhile Cassie is talking about her evil medallion that lets her use her evil powers to sense her evil father. Which is fun! She also seems to be being stalked by a ghostly burlap wearing figure – that’s a daring fashion statement. Cassie shows her action girl potential, with her great power, her dark magic and her death medallion she sees a man dressed in a robe and she screams and runs. Right to the Wet Lettuce. Cue more sogginess.

But she can feel her father getting closer… is this a good thing? Look now you’re making Adam talk sense to Cassie’s foolishness. Don’t make me agree with the Lettuce.

And Jake? Jake is meeting with the witch hunters again. Head, meet desk. Why he would even listen to one of these I have no clue! But the witch hunter claims that the evil medallion is evil and they must get rid of it. Showing that he may be weevil himself but he isn’t entirely a fool. Oh and though Jake saw the past, he totally misinterpreted the whole stabbing and throat cutting thing and it was all Cassie’s evil father’s fault (I suppose if he’s going to show up I should call him by name, Richard). Uh-huh, is this a desperate attempt to put the canon back together?

Just in time for Cassie to consult him about obscure symbols on her hallucination/ghost’s robes. Apparently it’s the symbol of the Nedaros coven – really oooooold witch coven, dead, ghostly witches. To differentiate them from the Child Circle and the Parent Circle and the Elder Circle, this will now be known as the Crusty Circle. Apparently the Crusty Circle was killed by Evil Father and he used the medallion to steal their powers – and now the medallion is working all the dead witches who lost their magic are coming to get their shiny back. Or so says the Witch Hunter who Jake is STILL TALKING TO?

And then we get the slumber party with Faye and Melissa. And Chief Scooby Diana who shows up to the horror movie sleep over because… why again? Is this Melissa’s new role? Try to drag Diana and Faye together now she’s not connected to the Wet Lettuce? Ah, no, her new role is that of drug pusher, trying to get Chief Scooby on her happy Devil’s Spirit (which is honestly mellow and herbal guys! Don’t mind the name, it’s totally harmless!) There follows drugged out bad ideas and drugged out magic. And then Voodoo guy shows up because Faye simply MUST have her voodoo thing fixed RIGHT now. And then Cassie shows up and they’re not even trying to make up a reason why now.

Interview with IronE Singleton AKA T Dog From The Walking Dead

IronE Singleton went to University of Georgia on a full athletic and academic scholarship and after dreams of an NFL career didn't work he started his career in acting a little earlier than planned. Prior to his role as T-Dog on AMC's record breaking ratings hit The Walking Dead he was best known for playing drug dealer Alton in The Blind Side.

Al Norton: Were you at all familiar with The Walking Dead when you got cast on the show?

IronE Singleton: I was not familiar with it at all; I just knew that Frank Darabont and Gail Anne Hurd were on the project as executive producers and that excited me enough to want to be a part of it.

Al Norton: What drew you to T-Dog, or was there something about the subject matter that turned you on?

IronE Singleton: Yes, the subject matter because it was relative to what we are going through here now given the present state of our economy and this dismal state that we've been going through for the past so many years. I thought it was a perfect metaphor for life; I thought, "this is what we're dealing with and people will really be able to relate to it", and they have. That's the reason why the show is so successful; the audience can see a lot of themselves in our characters and the struggles our characters face. They see themselves going through the same things.

Al Norton: Do you ever get used to seeing the extras walking around the set in full make up?

IronE Singleton: Sometimes (laughing). For the most part yes but it depends on how hideous the zombie – the walker – is. Like that well walker, I don't know if I could get ever get used to seeing him walk around like that. Certain other zombies, too. I call them my marquee zombies; they're just too hideous to ever get used to.

Al Norton: With the intensity of the subject matter you all are dealing with, do people tend to be goofy and loose the minute the director yells cut just to get away from it?

IronE Singleton: It all depends on our mood for that day but for the most part that's what we tend to do, we tend to jump to the other side. We need a breather from that dark side and that's what we do most of the time but then sometimes, if it's too deep, we have to stay there in that moment. Like with Sophia at the barnyard, that scene didn't allow us to jump to the other side so quickly. We were caught up in it because that moment was so horrific, so tough for us to see one of our own go down like that after she had become a part of our family. It was heart wrenching for us.

Al Norton: Did that scene take longer than usual for you to shoot?

IronE Singleton: It did. That scene took us probably two days. We were occupied with that scene for almost two full days and normally a typical scene for us…we may shoot four or five scenes in a day.

Al Norton: Every time you get a new script are you flipping through to make sure you are alive at the end?

IronE Singleton: I could have answered your question after your first couple of words (laughing). We get asked that all the time and the answer is yes, I flip thought. I think we all flip through. I think I've heard every cast member say that except for maybe Lincoln (Andrew Lincoln), who plays Rick, and possibly Carl. The rest of us are flipping through that thing thinking, "please don't let this be my day to die."

Al Norton: You must have been reading the script where T-Dog got caught and thought, "oh no, this is it."

IronE Singleton: I jumped up and then skipped ahead in the script to make sure he survived it and was happy to see that he did. I read that thing front to back to make sure I didn't miss anything (laughing). 

Read the rest of the interview here