Friday, April 6, 2012

Being Human (US) sneak previews!

Review: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris, Book 2 of the Sookie Stackhouse Series

Sookie has 2 separate adventures to deal with this book. First, the unfortunate discovery of Lafayette’s corpse in Andy Bellefleur’s car puts her in the awkward situation of having to use her telepathy to solve yet another murder. A delicate matter that becomes even more awkward when it becomes clear that Lafayette was murdered at a sex party – and that there are some very surprising participants in the orgy

But she can hardly focus on that issue as she has another job to do – the vampires of Shreveport have hired her our to the vampires of Dallas to help them find a missing vampire. What begins with a simple reading of employee’s minds quickly winds up with Sookie up to her neck in a major anti-vampire hate group and one that has targeted her as well.

Of course there’s the ongoing problem of Eric’s attraction for Sookie, to say nothing of the difficult tightrope of having a relationship with a vampire in the first place. And then there’s the maenad, an ancient creature of incredible power, no rules and a passion for violence.

This story is interesting in that it felt like two stories one after the other. We start in Bon Temps with Lafayette’s murder, then move to Dallas seeking for Farrell then come back to bon Temps. The stories aren’t even linked yet at the same time the book doesn’t feel disjointed. I actually like how they’re both presented so separately – a reminder that issues don’t just arrive one at a time in neat little clues and just because something is happening in one part of your life doesn’t mean it has to be linked somehow to the rest of your life. I don’t see it often in books – either we have distracting sideplots or all the main plots tend to be linked somehow – it’s rare to see 2 equally dominant, equally important plot lines presented without them either encroaching on each other or one being a distraction to the other. It was well done and well balanced.

I also like the action of the story, it was well paced and ordered and every step was reasonable – nothing was forced, nothing was rushed and nothing dragged. Again, it was a nice balancing act. I didn’t see the actual betrayal and didn’t predict it at all – there wasn’t a confusing mystery but the steps to it were unexpected and surprised me.

We also had some nice elements. We got to see Sookie’s na├»ve joy of travel from such an inexperienced perspective, but it didn’t overwhelm the plot. It added flavour without being a distraction – as did Sookie and Bill’s relationship issues and arguments. They were there, they were realistic but they didn’t get in the way of the plot at all. There was a lot of little extras like this added but never in a clumsy or interfering manner.

We had some more world building being introduced in a natural manner with the maenad and the shapeshifters – and also more questions raised that weren’t answered – because not every question will get an answer, it’s even unrealistic for everything to be explained. Enough was shown to tell the story and to leave me intrigued and want to know more.

We have numerous gay characters in this book but I can’t say I’m happy with any of them. Lafayette only counts as being part of the book if you count his murdered and raped corpse. We have Farrel, the gay vampire, who is kidnapped and tortured, then we have the bisexual orgy which is massacred. Worse, all of them are lured into their fates by their sexuality – Lafayette by having sex with the men who killed him, Farrell by being seduced by a man, the bisexual orgy for being a bisexual orgy. It follows disturbingly on from the last book in punishing people for being sexual. But worse, Jason is saved from being a part of this bisexual orgy death because he’s a homophobe – his homophobia has protected him.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Circus of the Damned, by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 3 of the Anita Blake Series

There’s a rogue master vampire in town – and he’s eating people with his vampire followers and casually dumping his kills publicly. He’s killing a new human victim every night – and Anita has to find out who he is before the kill count gets too high, a task that’s even more difficult since there’s only supposed to be 2 master vampires in the city.

And it’s only complicated further by those victims rising as Revenants – animalistic vampires driven by hunger and immune to pain

Anita also has some new clients – members of Humans First who want her to tell her the identity of the Master of the City and his resting place. Though they’re not much happier dealing with her, either. She also has a visitor – Edward, the only vampire hunter more deadly than she is – and he wants the identity of the Master of the City as well. There’s also an ancient vampire comes into town also hunting Jean-Claude, followed by a vampire as old as time itself – also seeking out the Master of the City

Jean-Claude is on a whole lot of people’s hit list. Of course, as he takes the opportunity to bind Anita even close to becoming his human servant, even Anita starts to want Jean-Claude dead – and finally wants it enough to do something about it

Despite her busy schedule Anita also struggles to find time for a fledgling relationship with Richard – a highschool teacher of all things – and to train Larry, a new Animator. Unfortunately, she’s also dragged into Jean-Claude’s vampire politics – and the plotting of Master Vampires is never simple.

The story in this book is excellent, we have twist followed by twist followed by twist, it weaves into the side plots well and we have many clues and avenues of investigation – and then ends by turning it all on its head. Anita has to change her views and decisions as new revelations appear and it’s certainly not as simple as it first appears. All in all, it’s a mystery I like and appreciate – not a simple line but not ridiculously convoluted either

I do like the side plots in this book. Anita isn’t just working for the police, or up to her eyeballs in vampires – she does have some kind of life. She has her work outs with Ronnie, she has zombies to raise, she has Larry to train, there’s issues with Griswald falling into Jean-Claude’s hands, fighting the revenant in the vault. Sure, her work does tend to encroach in all of these areas – she is, after all, a workaholic with a hero complex who doesn’t want to see more of the bad guys victims (something that’s pretty clearly indicated in the books) but she does have activity outside of the main plot. And this serves to expand the world – especially in relation to what an Animator is and what it does (as well as where Anita’s income comes from. It’s pretty creative how many uses for the zombies there are and how that works as Anita’s bread and butter. I especially like it since so many Urban Fantasy protagonists either don’t work or have a job that directly parallels their investigation that it’s nice and unique to see a protagonist who has to argue to get time off to fight the vampires.

The side plots also allow the meta to continue and the ongoing themes to be developed – Anita’s job doesn’t stop because x drama has happened, Jean Claude doesn’t stop wanting Anita to be a human servant because Y is happening – issues from earlier books don’t just disappear.

I really like the writing style of this book and series for that matter. The internal monologue can be very funny is definitely amusing most of the time and helps explain most of Anita’s decisions – and generally makes them understandable and reasonable. I don’t think she’d be accuse of Spunky Agency without the monologue, but it does help dispel any possibility of it because her reasoning is sound.

Cover Snark: Facial Expressions

While many books do remove the heads on their covers, we still have plenty of others out there that let us see the faces in their full glory. And we wish there’d be less disembodiment just so we could see some of these classic facial expressions. 

Now these make me think that the cover artist is trying to provide commentary on the romance in the books. In Frostbite, the woman looks positively bored. Did the cover take a long time to make, is the model getting tired? She looks monumentally fed up - not exactly the hottest romance ever As for Shadow Kiss, that expression says to me that she’s not only fed up but seriously sick of the guy. Is it just me or does that expression say “this guy is a douchebag”? Sorry man, your smouldering look doesn’t seem to be working. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Being Human Season 2, Episode 12: Partial Eclipse of the Heart

Sadly, with everyone doing their own thing again I’m splitting this review down the character lines. I wish they’d have a more integrated storyline and actually be together more.


So Henry has caught up with Aiden doing a runner and he and his 2 friends managed to take Aiden down awfully easily considering Aiden’s skills – but don’t worry, Henry is still Team Aiden and helps kill the other attackers, saving Aiden’s life.

Henry has been in hiding for a century and is confident he can help Aiden avoid Motehr but only if he dumps Suren – which Aiden won’t do. He even points out that this exile, this freedom is exactly what Aiden wanted – except for his love for Suren. And where did that even come from I have to ask? We seemed to leap from Aiden barely tolerating Suren’s presence to full blown infatuation-willing-to-die-for her. Aiden stabs Henry to give him a cover story to get back in Mother’s good graces

Suren doesn’t want to stay cooped up in the motel and she’s hungry for blood. She says she’s tried of being treated like a damsel by Aiden – but it feels less an assertion of strength and more whining to get her own way. She also wants to go back to Mother to save Aiden’s life – again, it feels less like noble sacrifice and more like petulant dislike of her current circumstances.

Aiden visits Amish county where the Vampires of the Corn await. He wakes Adley, the vampire who he allowed to take the credit for killing the pureblood werewolf (which, of course, Aiden killed while Adley fled) – he wants sanctuary with them. He also points out that Mother has done very little to support or help them. But to convince them that he’s not a heretic, Aidan has to provide fresh blood dinner for the evening.

Aiden returns to Suren – but Suren has returned to Mother


Josh is dreaming about the man who made him a werewolf – and Nora’s revelation that he can stop being a werewolf if he kills the man who turned him. Of course, in going to scout on Ray in real life he finds that the man has a family, he has won his wife and son back. This turns into Josh talking to Ray and at least appearing to reach out to him – except he says he’s the only one like him he knows, but Josh has met a fair few other werewolves. Ray encourages him to tell Julia the truth about him being a werewolf as he has to his wife, Val.

He talks to Sally about telling Julia about being a werewolf (we briefly discussed Sally’s issues but we can’t maintain that for long).

And he’s having a cosy relationship with Julia but faced with the dire terror of Chelsea – Julia’s best friend who refers to Josh as the Demon-man-child-who-ruins-lives. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – while they didn’t know Josh was a werewolf, they did know he’d come through a horrendously traumatic near-death experience in which he saw his best friend murdered in front of him – yet they don’t seem to give that any consideration when wondering why he ran off.

And Josh is faced with whether Julia should tell Chelsea about them or not – especially after his Nora vs Julia debate last week – and if she tells Chelsea she will end up telling everyone. He shows up and they make their peace over a bottle of wine. Chelsea is also a wonderful best friend.

Review: Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon, book 8 of the Dark Hunter Series

Sin was an ancient Sumerian god – before Artemis betrayed him and stole his magic. Now relegated to the Dark Hunters, he now goes his own way and is left alone to his own devices, his own plans and his own goals

Except Artemis still fears him as an enemy – and he does hate her more than anything. So she sends Katra down to finish him off altogether. Except the man Katra sees is not the man Artemis described. Certainly not the evil, cruel person she imagined – even if he is suffering

And she also discovers his quest. The Gullu demons were created by the ancient Sumerians to fight the Charontite demons of the Atlanteans. But now both the Atlanteans and the Sumerians are dead – and the prison the Gullu were sealed in is weakening with only Sin left who knows how to fight and defeat these creatures that are so much worse than Daimons.

Even worse, there are still more demons out there that the Sumerians imprisoned. And these demons could devastate humanity if they were ever allowed to run free – and their prison is weakening.

One thing I do love about this book is how much of the world building has been blown open. There was a lot I guessed and a lot more I suspected, but this put everything down clearly – exactly who Acheron is, exactly who Katra is, clarifying the relationship and history between Artemis and Acheron, fitting Appolymi in with all of them, more information on the Cthonians and generally just so many blanks filled in, so much information put together and developed

And, again, I am deeply impressed with the depth and knowledge of this world. The sheer amount of the Greek pantheon included, not just the big deities, but the minor deities and less well known gods like the Dolophoni are included. There’s a huge amount of Greek mythology here. And while I’m not exactly an expert on the Sumerian mythology, there’s clearly a lot of knowledge and research gone here as well – even little touches like Sin being known by 2 names depending on what era he was worshipped in.

There’s also a continuation form previous books. Even though we’re now focused on the gallu demons, we haven’t completely forgotten than the daimons existed, we still have references to people, places and events that happened in other books and what implications they have for this one. We’re also  touching issues that were raised well in earlier books as well – like the unfairness of the curse levelled on the Daimons and the curse on the Oneroi - there is still that meta ongoing.

I like the inclusion of another pantheon as well – before now we’ve seen the Greek pantheon, the Atlantean pantheon and 2 deities from the Celtic pantheon – it’s nice to see more pantheons out there and I really do wish I could see more of them. The Sumerian pantheon was a fun addition and suggested that there is more to come and I can hope for other pantheons raising their heads now and then.

I also liked the story – it was tense and while I never for a second through the world would end I did wonder how exactly they would fix it and what would happen along the way – and was very happy to see the answer wasn’t just “throw Acheron at it! Yay fixed!” There’s also enough loose ends left in this book to make me think it will be part of the greater ongoing meta-plot and not just a side-one off as the last few books have felt. This is going to have some impact in the rest of the story and not be an interlude.

Sadly, I didn’t care for the romance again. Partly it’s the usual problems – Sin and Katra have more than enough other problems to deal with but quickly get consumed by their love – which happens extremely quickly, it’s another acquaintance to love leap. There’s a lot of sex, a lot of maundering about love, a lot of lovey-dovey monolguing about how perfect and wonderful the other is (as well as a lot of lusting) and it builds up very quickly to be hip deep and a little tiresome. Especially since there’s a totally unnecessary, ridiculously short and altogether clumsy scene where Sin chases Katra off because he needs to be strong and love makes him weak!

Lost Girl, Season 2, Episode 22: Flesh and Blood

We begin with Bo and Kenzi looking over their sharp and shiny toys and Bo worrying whether any of her weapons are good enough to help her take down the Garouda even with Lachlan’s venom (well, first of all, she could try a combat style that doesn’t involve standing still and being beheaded – which should do better than Lachlan. But this was the fae who was beaten by a human dominatrix, so I doubt her style will be any better). Of course Vex is their very sexy houseguest and is both annoying and unamused by their worries.

Meanwhile Trick is trying to track down the Garouda and is worried about Bo taking on too much power and going dark – so gives Bo her grandmother’s super-amazing life essence which has great healing powers and can stave off the darkness. Unfortunately the touching hallmark moment (with weapons) is ruined by some utterly dire special effects (seriously, in the age of CGI that shadow is unacceptable) that kidnap Trick.

In comes the Scooby Gang and Hale guesses they’re Raveson – shadowy underfae. The classic moment goes to Vex finding out that Trick is the blood king and very very very carefully putting his booze back. I think that moment more than anything we’ve seen emphasises just how powerful and how important Trick is.

Kenzi starts translating Trick’s notes to see where Trick thought the Garouda was (and gets extra points for “hieroglyphics mixed with a doctor’s prescription pad). Hale helps with neck massages and Vex tells them to just have sex already (THANK YOU VEX! At last, someone said it!)

Bo drops in on Lauren for Lachlan’s venom while Lauren urges Bo to make sure the Garouda suffers. Good, Lauren has a huge reason to loathe the Garouda with Nadia’s death and that’s kind of been brushed under the carpet (with Lauren deciding to urge Bo to kill Nadia then offer naked healing last episode). There’s also some more beautiful emotional pep talks – Lauren’s emotion is extremely well done.

Bo is also worried about how the Garouda made them fight each other and she has an answer – her blood. It has the power to unite them – as shown when she enslaved Ryan. Bo also asks Kenzi to be ready to break the bond if Bo goes dark – or kill Bo if she needs to. It’s another powerful emotional scene that again emphasises the emotion between them (though I think Kenzi’s emotion was more powerful than Bo’s). Everyone get’s a Bo blood injection – except Vex who sneaks out of it.

Dyson asks Bo to sleep with him to give her more power – though it could be the blood talking. Before we have to have another poignant scene, Kenzi cracks the code and reveals where the Garouda is. And they’re joined by Val – Hale’s sister. Bo’s great plan is to make them split up into mini teams to attack the facility. See, this is why she really needs the mind control blood – to convince people that her plans are even remotely sensible. She also has some interesting team choices.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review of Eye of The Tempest by Nicole Peeler Book 4 of the Jane True Series

Shortly after arriving in Rockabil, Jane and Anyan are attacked by humans of all things. Anyan is almost immediately incapacitated, leaving Jane to defend them both.  Jane is aware that they took out Anyan first because he was assumed to be the real threat, while her size, her gender, and her identity as a halfing made her appear nonthreatening.  Jane grasps all of her power, despite being told not to in the past and draws all of the water out of their bodies.  Jane manages to save the day, but not without putting her life in extreme jeopardy. 

Jane goes into a coma and while she is asleep, the blonde ancient that had helped her out in Tempest's Legacy, ingratiates herself with Jane's family and the super natural community by keeping Jane alive. When Jane awakes, she finds her father at her bedside.  She is happy to see him and shocked to learn that he is fully aware of the supernatural world, and Jane's role in it.  He admits that he always knew that there was something different about her.  He follows up this news by informing her that his heart ailments have been completely cured.  Though he loves Jane completely and wants her to stay near, he let's her know that it is okay for her to live her own life and leave Rockabil if she has to.

Unfortunately for Jane, her father's awareness of the supernatural world is not all she has to learn.  It turns out that some kind of power is drawing the supernatural creatures to Rockabil. This creature is ancient and has the potential to destroy the world.  Anyan informs her that the clues to the location of the creature are hidden within an Alfar nursery rhyme. 
"Four locks for power,
Four locks for force.
Four locks for the old one,
Whose time has run its course."
Blondie tells Jane that if the old one is released, its wakening will cause the destruction of the eastern seaboard.  To makes matters even more urgent, Jane also learns that the ancient will choose a champion and give that champion an enormous amount of power.  With a war coming, Jane, Caleb, Anyan and the crew, know that it is essential that this power not fall into the hands of the Alfar. For the first time, Jane is forced to realize that the split within the supernatural community is much larger than Jarl and Morrigan because there are factions forming across the globe. When Nell and Anyan are sidelined, a reluctant Jane is pushed into a leadership position.

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 18: The Stable Boy

In the past we have a flashback to Regina’s youth – with her doting father and her abusive, manipulative and controlling magical mother. And a stable boy she is having an illicit relationship with. But he is not happy with having to keep their relationship hidden from her mother and her aggressive social climbing and her dangerous magic.

And Regina saves a young girl – Snow White - on an out of control horse stampeding out of control. And giving a trite lesson on facing her fear.

Of course, Snow White is the daughter of the king and the king visits, much to Regina’s mother’s joy, to meet Regina – and the king asks her to marry him on that first meeting in order to secure a woman who cares for his daughter.

Regina runs to Daniel the stableboy and they try to run away together. But Snow White sees them and runs – but Regina catches her and explains True Love to her. She begs Snow to keep it a secret for her, especially from Regina’s mother. Unfortunately Snow White is a gullible child and easy manipulated by Regina’s mother, playing on Snow White’s grief for her own mother – and she spills the secret to her.

Of course her mother stops her running away – and she kills Daniel, taking his heart because she thinks love is an illusion that does nothing for you – power is what endures and keeps you strong. And Regina learns that Snow White was the one who betrayed her. And we see the beginning of her heart hardening

We begin in the real world with Regina and Gold in a flashback –Gold asking a favour from Regina to get out of his battery charges. He offers a plan to get Mary Margaret – killing Katherine, framing Mary, Mary escaping with Regina’s key and then dying trying to leave town. All this plot, all that has happened in the last few episodes – it’s all been Gold’s plan.

In the present, David is trying to encourage Emma to let her visit Mary Margaret but after he all but accused her of killing Catherine Mary doesn’t want to see him. Regina is visiting Mary and trying to push her into confessing and Mary can’t understand why Regina loathes her so.

Stanley is still playing a double game, pretending to work for Emma while really working for Regina. Gold’s legal plan is to play up Mary Margaret’s sterling record, being sweet and co-operative. And the interview with the DA doesn’t go to plan – even less so when Mary bemusingly loses her temper and says the worst possible thing. Oh and the DA is King George, Prince Charming James’s (David) father.

Emma gets to brainstorm with August – who I really wish we’d know more about – and they go detecting – and find the shard of a spade broken from the burying of the heart. If they can match it up they can prove who buried the heart. So recruiting Henry and trying to look at Regina’s tool shed (I do love the forgetting the code book though), finding the damaged spade that matches perfectly with the shard.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 1: the North Remembers

I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.

Game of Thrones is back. I expect so much from this season. Dragons and breasts and kings and prostitutes and brutal murders and breasts and politics and prostitutes and war and breasts. Ok, probably more snarky than intended – I actually expect a lot of great action and story in this series – but I also think it’s going to be told against a backdrop of a thousand naked prostitutes

So without further ado, let the gratuitous jiggling – err, story - commence

In Kings Landing Joffrey is continuing to be the hateful little worm he is – now indulging in blood sports while Sansa tip-toes around his torturous, sadistic and petulant demands – including cleverly manipulating him into saving Ser Dontos’ life. At least Joffrey’s siblings are pleasant.

In Queen Cersei’s council the Maesters has confirmed that the summer is finally over. Cersei’s way of dealing with the many refugees in this time of war and coming winter is to have them evicted from the city

Except now Tyrion is here as well, with his all encompassing awesome. He sets Joffrey down most wonderfully, provides what comfort he can to Sansa in her awful predicament and to show Cersei that Tywin has appointed him hand while he’s away. Tywein takes the chance to poke Cersei perfectly (particularly the “it must be hard for you, being the disappointing child) with all her many varied failures. Alas for the Starks, now Tyrion is making the decisions.

Tyrion has brought Shae, despite his father’s orders.

While Cersei is hoping to find Arya to fix one of her mistakes. She approaches Baelish (her advisors don’t trust Varys being a eunuch) and she exchanges battles of wit with him which she loses – but she then has her guards hold a dagger to Baelish’s throat and show the true power she has. I have to say, the Lannisters do have style.

Joffrey starts emulating the Targaryen decorations and even steps over the line with Cersei – even Cersei is seeing what a disgusting little toad he is and how little he cares about anyone but himself – including her, Jaime and Tywin.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if we didn’t have some jiggling breasts in a brothel. I was beginning to think we wouldn’t see one this episode and I’d have to edit my opening. The guards are hunting and killing all of Robert Baratheon’s illegitimate children, even the babes in arms. That also sets them on the trail of Gendry – who has joined the Nights Watch and is travelling north with Arya

In Winterfell Bran and Maester Luwin are holding council as the lord while the other Starks are away which looks both dull and cold. Bran continues to have vivid dreams – dreaming of being a Dire Wolf and seeing a comet in the skies. He follows it up with Osha and Hordor (treated as a pack animal again) walking through where he walked as a Dire Wolf – and Osha and Bran discussing what a comet portends. Osha says it means dragons.

Daenerys has merely a handful of followers left, few supplies and few horses – and 3 baby dragons. They’re heading east across the red waste, a desert, with so few supplies. It’s the only way they can go and protect the dragons – south and west both have too many enemies. Her horse, the one Drogo gave her, founders and dies but Daenerys has to be the strength  for the people and their leader. We also focus a little more on one of her bloodriders, Rekharo.

In the North, beyond the wall, the Night Watch has ridden forth and are at a Wildling camp – where a wildling man has many daughters who are controlled by him – and he has more daughters incestuously by them – which is appropriately regarded with disgust. He’s the last wildling encampment for miles around, the others have allied with Manx Raider, the King of the Wildlings. He’s gathering a huge army and it’s speculated he’s going to lead them south – and he has more men under arms than any of the Seven Kingdoms.

Of course, Jon Snow is pouty and undisciplined and a bit whiney. Which is pretty standard.

Stannis Baratheon, the second Baratheon child and the legitimate heir to the throne is watching a woman in red, Melisandre, burning the statues of the gods (the New gods, the seven). She’s a priestess of a different religion – a lord of light and shadows. She gives Stannis a burning sword and they kneel to her god. Not everyone is happy about it – but they are loyal to Stannis.

Stannis is a harsh but very honest man and has a letter sent across the world proclaiming that Cersei’s children are illegitimate and fathered by Jaime, her brother (which is true). He won’t ally with Renly, his younger brother, because he has declared himself king and he won’t ally with Robb Stark because he has declared himself king in the north – but it leaves Stannis with few forces.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast, Episode 60

This week we discuss the Game of Thrones (which is back!), Being Human (US), The Vampire Diaries and Lost Girl. And our book of the week, Jennifer Rardin’s Once Bitten, Twice Shy. And we discuss Tami’s porn, of course.

Review: Once Bitten, Twice Shy, by Jennifer Rardin, Book 1 of the Jaz Parks Series

Jaz Parks is a CIA assassin and a Hellsinger – an expert at killing vampires. She and her partner, Vayl, have been teamed up for several months to track down and eliminate various international bad guys

And in Miami they had what seemed to be a simple hit. A plastic surgeon working for terrorists, human and simple. Except they quickly found themselves in deeper than they had ever imagined with a plot that encompassed ancient, other-worldly forces, a devastating plagues and a large number of vampires and even a member of the government.

Throw in a mole, Vayl’s evil and lethal ex-wife and a vampire from her own past and it’s overwhelming. And Jaz is already more than overwhelmed with her family and her own past experiences – to say nothing of her growing feelings for Vayl

Before I get to the problems with the story I have to complain over the writing, alas. It is very overwritten, overly descriptive and full of distractions. The book is told from Jaz’s point of view and she has the concentration span of a concussed gnat on LSD. She constantly flits from topic to topic, interspaces everything with various coping mechanisms and her endless doubts and insecurities. We keep maundering on about a 6 year old bully and her long deceased grandmother (I have no idea why) and you can generally get lost in the space of a paragraph.

The plot (which I will complain about at length) is also such that the pace is ridiculous. I hate slow novels, but this goes far too far the other way. We have so much to deal with we’re positively racing through this book

The problem I had with the story is that there were 2 books worth of story in there. Maybe even 3. There was a lot happening here. A crooked mole, trailer trash assassins, Vayl’s ex, an abused wife, Jasmine’s many many issues and past, her issues with her brother, her father who has a secret and has sacked his nurse, her pregnant sister, there’s a plague and a demon and terrorists and a super vampire and this hot guy called Cole and and and – there’s just so much here. In some ways I applaud that a plot can have so many facets and so many actors all coming together, but there was just too much to follow and we kept jumping between them. I got lost quite a lot, I was confused, I almost had to take notes.

And this is the first book as well – which means this is our introduction. This is the book where we’re supposed to learn about Jaz, her job and role, her issues, her personality as well as Vayl and introduced to what exactly their relationship is, what the foundation is exactly who and what he is. And then we throw in the peripheries – her boss, her sister, her father, Vayl’s past. She also has super contacts that just drop out of the sky – Cassandra the super-psychic and Bergman the super-duper tech guy that would make James Bond drool. These could have been introduced in a more preliminary novel and not had the super dream-team just drop out of the sky.

It could also have given us chance to explain what these special titles Vayl is giving to Jaz actually mean and a chance for Vayl to explain his past without the sense of “guys, this is REALLY a bad time”. Same goes for Jaz’s powers which are, at best, vaguely touched on. Or her family issues (utterly irrelevant to the story but shoe-horned in as well)

There was too much here – and in a book that was 270 pages long that meant all of this was brushed over a lot, rushed through a lot and generally crammed in with a crowbar.

I’m also not keen on Jaz Parks. Now, I am very happy to see any character that has suffered trauma actually show the effects of trauma since urban fantasy has a habit of brushing over horrific pasts. BUT, Jaz is affected to the point where she’s borderline non-functioning. She has blackouts – she’s a CIA agent, well-armed assassin going out on undercover missions to kill international bad guys and she has frequent, long lasting blackouts. This trained killer is losing time. She also has some amazing mood swings, horrendous low self-esteem, frequent flash backs to a childhood bully she once endured (as well as a granny who keeps coming up but seems to have zero relevance to anything) and is extremely conflict averse to the point of whining because her boss may yell at her. Even aside from her blackouts and mood swings, her whining, neediness and poor impulse control combine to make her a not very strong character to me – just because she can fight doesn’t make her strong.

Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 1: Birds of a Feather

The show is nicely introduced by a dream - seeing young Harry – with a father who doesn’t believe in monsters (either he’s lying or he was ignorant), the knowledge that his mother is dead and a nice shield bracelet provided by said deceased mother. It’s a pretty nice lead in to the character, concept and themes and an elegant bit of back story.

We see more flashbacks of his past – of him using his magic to help his father’s work as a travelling magician’s – and his father’s worry because people will use him and prey on him for his abilities. Including Uncle Justin Morningway. Justin wants to train Harry in his magical gifts but his father is worried about the plots Justin is involved in. Unfortunately Justin doesn’t take no for an answer and he is a powerful, amoral wizard.

Of course modern Harry is much less afraid of things that go bump in the night and wakes up next to a young lady with whom he has been creating many such noisy bumps last night. Speaking of, we also meet Bob, the magical knowledge spirit and possessor of much sarcasm and giving us some more backstory of Harry’s magical, evil uncle who he “self-defenced to death”.

In fact this episode is generally good at introduction – Harry is listed as a wizard in the yellow pages (as pointed out by a young boy wanting to hire him to save him from monsters) and he is friend with Karin Murphy, a police detective and her side kick Detective Kirmani. Who have a horrible, skinless body to deal with.

Bob is worried that Harry dismissed the boy too quickly – or, rather, worried that if the kid is eaten by monsters that he will have to endure Harry moping for several weeks – and convinces Harry to do some more investigating. And the kid sees ravens and pale people raven-ish people and runs screaming.

Harry does provide them with a protection spell (for the kid’s peace of mind) and that spell keeps the boy’s teacher out of the house. The symbol also ends up carved on the ceiling outside the boy’s room.

Murphy calls Harry in for an opinion for – he’s a paid expert for the police and she recognises the dead woman’s picture as the kid’s teacher – making her a skin-walker. A creature that steals skin and uses them as a disguise. Naturally it’s cavalry time but they arrive too late as the raven-man has taken the boy. Harry also learns that ever since the boy came home he has been stalked by ravens – which Bob identifies as raven-clan mercenaries.

The boy has the gift – the potential to be a wizard – and the Skinwalker catches up with harry to ask some painful questions and while they give up information they also learn that the Skinwalker is working for someone.

Using a raven feather, Harry casts a quick tracking spell to find the raven’s nest where the boy is having a banana split. The ravens plan to keep moving and running, taking the boy away to escape the Skinwalker – but Harry, after his transient childhood finds this less than ideal.

One of Bob’s bag of tricks takes care of the Skinwalker, develop during Bob’s days working for Justin. Now Harry is going to have to be ready to teach the boy when he grows older

A Sadly White-Washed Hunger Games

Natalie Wilson is a literature and women’s studies scholar, blogger, and author. She teaches at Cal State San Marcos and specializes in the areas of gender studies, feminism, feminist theory, gender studies, cultural studies, body studies, and literature. She is author of the blogs Professor, what if…? and Seduced by Twilight. She also writes a column at Girl with Pen and regularly blogs for the Ms. Blog.

 Do I think Jennifer Lawrence is a phenomenal actress? Yes. Do I delight in her astute, feminist commentary? Yes. Do I love of the fact she rejects the toothpick paradigm of Hollywood and proudly proclaims her love of philly cheesesteaks? You bet. But, I still wish that an actress of color would have been cast to play Katniss Everdeen.

The book describes Katniss as having black hair, olive skin, and gray eyes. More significantly, as argued by Alexiel at the blog Sanctuary, “the entire metaphor that runs through the book about oppression, hunger, and excess is meaningless if none of the main characters are people of color.” 

The dystopian future documented in the novel is beset by extreme levels of inequality, with the Capitol functioning as the figurative 1% and the districts as the 99%. This wealth and power differential can also be read in relation to the Global North and the Global South, with the Capitol operating as an oppressive and exploitive seat of empire. As Alexiel notes in her post, the children of The Hunger Games can be read in relation to sweatshop workers and child soldiers of the Global South. Doing so, as she points out, stays true to the fact the book “was bubbling over with revolution – with images and ideas that were easy to analogize to the current world economic order and power structure.”

To be fair, the revolutionary aspects of the narrative are not lost in the film adaptation, but they are certainly watered down, and, more to the point, extensively whitewashed. Not only is Katniss white, the majority of people in District 12 are white, as these image convey:

The casting, which problematically only called for caucasion actors to audition for the role of Katniss,  goes against the books clear description regarding the fact that District 12 is divided along racial lines, with the merchant class having “light hair and blue eyes” and the working class having “olive skin.” As Director Gary Ross notes “it’s a multi-racial culture.” 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 15: Island of Dreams

“Soon her was so in love with the witch’s daughter he could think of nothing else. He lived by the light of her eyes and gladly did whatever she asked.”

Another quote I don’t recognise, though I suspect a theme here – femme fatale incoming? Evil seductive women? Oh dear, Grimm, you don’t have the record with women to pull this off methinks

Police Chief Captain Renard (Reaper-Maybe-Evil-We-Don’t-Know-Because-We-Never-Get-Any-Damn-Meta-Plot) examining a painting (and dropping the hint he has been around for several centuries) and talking to Adalind the Hexenbiest they saved waaay back in the beginning of the series and a semi-almost recurring character. Renard wants her to seduce a police detective – they want to control Nick and to do that they’re going through Hank.

She takes his blood (obtained by Renard from a police physical) and goes shopping at the Fuschbau’s pharmacy (the only wesen shop in town it seems) for more ingredients (and she’s scary enough to get her shopping for free). She makes these into cookies for Hank (giant cookies at that. Hey, I don’t care if it’s evil black magic – chocolate cookies get me on side). And yes, she starts dreaming of Adalind. He also doesn’t share his cookies with Sergent Wu forcing him to resort to cookie theft. Hank also starts hallucinating about her and then asking her out on a date.

Meanwhile 2 wesen are inhaling fumes then go rob that same shop for some white powder referred to as “J”. The shop keeper manages to bite one on the leg before being shot. In comes the Grimm team. Nick, hank and Sergent Wu turn up and find the flesh in the Fuschbau’s mouth he has ripped off his killer (uckies uckies).

Nick, of course, knows the place and they check the basement and Nick gets to inform the deceased’s sister, Rosalie, who gets to come down and answer all the sad questions the surviving relatives have to at these times and Nick takes her to the shop where she goes all fuzzy Fuschbau and sad over the blood stains. She also recognises Nick as a Grimm and has the obligatory moment of panic (y’know, if I were Nick I’d severely question the activities of my fellow Grimm if this universal panic is the automatic reaction) and they discuss the illegal trades her brother has done in the past and what else he could have been involved in.

To the Grimmopedia, Eddie! Unfortunately, Eddie may know what some of the things in the shop are – and whether Vesen would kill for them –but not by the chemical names that the police labs have given them. Going to the shop he recognises J – poisonous for humans, but an incredible painkiller for wesen – and a narcotic taken for its high.

And the wesen who did the stealing come back for more J – Rosalie cuts one and escapes and then gets to come to the police to ID the thieves. Eddie goes home with her to help protect her (and because he’ll be able to smell them).