Saturday, May 5, 2012

Secret Circle, Season 1, Episode 21: Prom.

The Circle is gathered in angst and melodrama discussing that Cassie and Diana saw Nick last episode and that he’s looking surprisingly good for a dead man. There’s debate as to whether it’s Nick, whether it’s a demon, whether he’s merrily mauling people. With high emotions from Melissa (who loved Nick) and Jake (Nick’s brother). We also have some flaring of the trust issues between John Blackwell and Diana with Cassie trying to sooth it all over and declaring her trust for John because… actually I don’t have a reason.

Later Faye chides Jake on not being sensitive over Melissa’s feelings over Nick which is almost funny coming from Faye. Did everyone skip the part where Nick is Jake’s brother and there’s probably a big reason why Jake is upset over the whole issue? She tries to get him to “talk it out” but he’s not especially open to that. Faye, again, has the best line “you’ve got that look… that look that you’re about to invade a small country with nothing but your tortured soul.” Such a perfect line, I have to steal it. And Jake decides to arm himself just in case

Cassie’s super special blood is going to help her find the crystal hidden in the school – so off she toddles (alone, of course) and she gets to hallucinate the past – including seeing her mother with the crystal. She hopes to see more so she recruits Diana to help her see more (despite her outrage over Black Magic). They plan to do it the next night on prom so the school will be open (and full of people. In fact, I’d say this makes prom the worst possible night to choose) though Diana is upset that she will miss Prom – the most special day of the school year

We top up the angst with Diana and Charles (her father, Evil Parent#2) and then some more prom drama with Adam, Faye (who has invited Jake), Cassie and Melissa with Faye pushing to have a “normal” prom and celebrating it properly – I actually kind of love her ultimatum “There Will Be Dancing”. Faye continues to push for more promness. Diana also meets up with Grant (pointless Australian Guy) just to keep the angst levels nice and high.

Finally plot wise we get Melissa meeting Nick at the Magic House. Nick needs the crystal and says he’s dying but he doesn’t seem to be in his right mind and storms off when Adam turns up. Yeah, Adam kind of makes me feel the same way. Melissa insists that Nick is in there to be saved by Ada (Wet Lettuce) and Jake (Sexy Evil One) think he was just after the crystal and he’s wild, feral and dangerous.

At prom they cast the spell (choosing the worst night of the year also allows them all to have magical hijinks in formal dress) and they flash back to the school in past and see the Amelia and Elizabeth (Diana’s dead mother) arguing over John and how evil he is and how it’s Amelia’s fault for trusting him (oh and to ratchet up Diana’s angst levels even more)

Amelia returns the crystal to the Adam’s (Wet Lettuce’s) grandfather who is a teacher at the school – and tells him that Ethan (Wet Lettuce’s dad) is turning John over to the Witch Hunters to have him killed – Granddad Lettuce isn’t best pleased at the idea of trusting the Witch Hunters but it turns out that Blackwell has been casting fertility spells ensuring that all of the women in the Circle got pregnant at the same time – ensuring their children would (also explaining why they all had kids while still in high school) grow up together. (Did the Elders do the same thing with the Parent Circle? Because they all seem to be of an age as well). He’s creating his own Circle with the kids. Granddad Lettuce agrees to hide the Crystal while Amelia flees.

Discovering that John Blackwell has been manipulating the parents and the kids, Diana has a huge hissy fit and blames it all on Cassie before flouncing out of the room, letting Cassie up her angst levels.

In the present, Melissa adds some more angst, lamenting to Adam about how they never have a normal life because of magic – Wet Lettuce uses some magic and dancing to cheer her up. Faye and Jake discuss how Jake stood her up at prom years ago and drags him out to the dance floor. This gives her the chance again to try and make Jake talk about his brother

Anyway the crystal is found but Nick finds it first so they all (except Diana who is having an angst meltdown) chase him (humour moment – all of the girls run while putting on their coats while chasing him outside, no really, because in a chase scene you worry about getting cold) and, yes, everyone is running not using magic. And they’re all running in formal clothing and formal shoes. They, naturally chase him into a deserted, spooky junk yard (but Faye wonderfully mocks it of course)

Nick is meeting Eben (Evil Black Witchunter) and wants to trade the crystal for his demon – which Cassie says is what’s keeping him alive, so he wants it back. Melissa, Chief Angster for Nick declares that having a demon inside you is no kind of life (this is foreshadowing for why it’s ok to re-kill Nick/let him die again). Now with 3 of them (Adam, Cassie and Melissa) they could use the magic of their Circle together to get the Crystal back – but of course Cassie can’t do that and stomps out on her own all dark magicy to make Nick drop the Crystal. Eben sends Cassie flying (with magic… somehow? Was that ever explained?). The rest of the Circle tends to flutter around not doing much – and Blackwell shows up for a show down with Eben. Faye stays to help Eben (alone – so how her bound powers can help I don’t know)

The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode 21: Before Sunset

We're almost there everyone, one more episode and The Vampire Diaries will be over for the season. I cannot say that I am going to miss it during the hiatus.  Last week, I threatened to stop watching if Bonnie was killed to turn Alaric into a vampire and since they chose to let her live, I have to keep watching.

Caroline and Tyler have a talk where he informs her that he is off to help Klaus pack and move.  Caroline sees this as Klaus' petty way of getting to Tyler because she rejected him. They head their separate ways, and Caroline ends up at the gym where Rebekah Cheerleader Vampire is cleaning up after the dance. She is upset that she has to clean because she planned the dance and missed it.  Once again I am reminded that the writers of this show simply have no idea how to write a mature vampire. Why would this thousand year old vampire be sad because she missed a high school dance?  Rebekah Cheerleader Vampire informs Caroline that Matt got called into work, and this means that they have to work together without Matt to act as a neutral middle.  Instead of tearing each other apart, they both give condolences for their various losses.

The love fest does not last long. Alaric shows up at the school and attacks Caroline and Rebekah Cheerleader Vampire. They struggle but only Rebekah Cheerleader Vampire manages to get away. Rebekah Vampire returns to the Michaelson manner where she informs Klaus that Alaric is on the loose and at the school.  Klaus promises to run as soon as he picks up Elena.  Rebekah Vampire Cheerleader is upset and begs up to reconsider. She says that they have always had each others back and will again, but Klaus is determined to ensure that he can make more hybrids.  Rebekah Vampire Cheerleader tells Klaus that she is leaving with or without him and when he does not reply she takes off.  I have to say that this is the first sensible thing that Rebekah Vampire Cheerleader has done since she was written into the show.

Elena and Jeremy are painting Alaric's old room when Stephan shows up.  Jeremy is not please to see him and asks if Stefan and Elena are back together.  Elena stumbles but manages to spit out that they are just friends.  Jeremy turns on Stephan and asks him to leave because after what they have lost, they want one vampire free day, before walking out of the room. The doorbell rings and Stephan answers it to find Bonnie and Damon at the door. They tell Stephan about Alaric in between bickering. Out of curiosity was I the only one wondering why having a near death experience meant that Bonnie had to have her hair clipped? Is this the version of the scarlet letter given to Black women when they feed a vampire?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Review of Charmed Season Four

This season began with the death of Prue.  I cannot say that I was sorry to see her go. That should have brought to an end to the power of three, but  that would have meant the end of the show, and so the writers rewrote their cannon and introduced  Paige Matthews.  It seems that Paige is the result of an affair that Patty Halliwel had with her white lighter. They knew that they could not keep the child and so they gave her to a nun, who in turn arranged for Paige to be adopted by a family. Prue's death triggered Paige's latent powers. At first Paige was resistant to the idea of being a witch, but after facing temptation by the source she joined with her sisters to recreate the power of three. 

Paige's adjustment period is not smooth.  She has issues with Phoebe and Piper not respecting her personal space and has a few hiccups learning to negotiate her powers.  She has to learn the hard way about personal gain spells when one backfires as leaves her with what appear to be triple F breasts. As a half white lighter, Paige can orb and move things with her mind.  

When the Charmed ones were made up of Prue, Piper and Phoebe, it was clear that Prue and Piper were the mature sisters and Phoebe who was the baby sister was often infantalized. No matter the challenges and experiences, relative to the other two, Phoebe in many way remained an overgrown child. With the death of Prue, Phoebe was finally allowed to grow up but it seems that the writers could not do without their infantalized female. Piper spent much of the season four sucking on lollipops and displaying the maturity level of a 12 year old. This proves that just because a show focuses on female characters, does not mean that it does not promote sexist tropes.

Review: Dream Chaser by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Book 3 of the Dream Hunter Series

We met Xypher in Devil May Cry. And he got a prize for helping them stop the Dimme – a month free from Tartarus. A month he can spend getting revenge on Satara, the woman who betrayed him and caused him to be condemned to eternal torture in Tartarus in the first place.

Of course, getting to Satara isn’t easy and while hunting he runs across Simone – a pathologist seeking answers to an apparent serial killing. Simone is dragged into Xypher’s world when Satara’s agents bind them both together – rather than try to kill the immortal Xypher, the only have to kill the only-too-mortal Simone to kill them both. Oh and the binding stops them getting more than 20 feet from each other.

Forced to live in close proximity, Simone (and Jesse, her 80s ghostly companion) have to deal with his extreme surliness and complete lack of trust – after centuries of being tortured and betrayed he’s unwilling to get close to anyone, even though Simone starts to melt him

Then there’s the problem of the Dimme that is apparently loose in the city and Xypher’s demon brother who has been sent out to kill Simone, Xypher or both. And that’s before people start making deals with Jaden - a being so powerful demons make Faustian bargains with him

Ok I have to say that there were some major issues in this book (especially the romance) that were pet hates of mine – because of this (and the same applies to any review, but doubly so here) if they don’t annoy you so much you may actually enjoy the book. But me, they annoy – and annoy a great deal.

Firstly – and this is a trope the Dark Hunter series uses excessively – Xypher has a horrible tortured past (like everyone in this series. It’s almost reached comical levels). And because he has had such an awful tortured past he lashes out at everyone around him – including Simone – he can’t trust other people again, ever, because one person betrayed him and now he hates everyone and everything – rawr! Not only is it tired and overdone and we’ve already seen the exact same story played out in
Devil May Cry, Dance with the Devil, Upon the Midnight Clear and even Night Pleasures,              (far more if we just include men who have had long tortured pasts) but it also serves as a justification for him constantly lashing out at Simone.

And Simone? Pities him. The angrier he is, the more he lashes out at her, scares her and has temper tantrums at her, the more she pities him. Every surly outburst or sullen pout is just more proof of how tortured and sad he is and why she pities him even more! It reached a point where, if he had stabbed her, I think she’d have spent her dying breath to wail “oh see how much he suffers!”

I hate these tropes combined. I hate the whole Loving Contempt trope, I hate the idea that you should tolerate abusive behaviour because it may hide a delicate, sensitive soul. I hate the idea that it’s laudable to endure the surliness and I hate the idea that lashing out is ok if you have a painful past – while it makes it understandable, there’s no reason why Simone should bear the brunt of it. And I really really hate the idea that a surly, angry man can be won over if you’re patient enough and kind enough and loving enough. Enduring abuse shouldn’t be a praiseworthy activity nor should it be the path to happily ever after true love – it’s horrendously skeevy.

More tropes I hated in the romance – yes the fast forward button was pressed again. Xypher and Simone spent less than 2 weeks together – in fact I think it was more like 3 or 4 days. And yet they BOTH were willing to sacrifice their lives for the other and Simone was desolate without him. really? They’re not even acquaintances yet, but they’ve already reached “I can’t live without you!” stage? Even most depraved stalkers need a little more time than that to get hung up on someone.

To finish off, in standard terms this immortal couple gets to be immortal (rather than just relying on their heritage to get the job done) by effectively enslaving Simone to Xypher. Awwww, sooo romantic *uckies uckies uckies*

Magically Diverse, Humanly Erased

'Multicultural Mural' photo (c) 2011, Michael Coghlan - license:

One thing we love in most Urban Fantasy is a rich world. I have to say that they’re my favourite kind - maybe I’m jaded, maybe I’m greedy, but vampires alone just don’t do it for me any more. I love A world that has a vast range of creatures in it - it has vampires, it has fae, it has magic, it has werecreatures, it has demons and angels and all variety of things that go bump in the night. We have different realms, we have creatures drawn from every corner of the world’s mythology - and it makes for truly excellent worlds and stories. These diverse worlds are great to read, great to watch and among some of our favourite Urban Fantasy products.

Unfortunately, it does make something glaring - we have these worlds with this vast diversity of monsters, but the humans within these stories are anything but diverse. We have these homogeneous worlds lacking in more than a token appearance of POC or GBLT people or other marginalised people. We can have this vast portrayal of every kind of creature imaginable - but only ever one or two kind of people

We see several extremely rich worlds that have, at best, only the slightest of minor tokens. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files has an amazingly diverse world. We have three vast and very different courts of vampires, we have several variations on werewolves. We have the warring Summer and Winter courts of the fae and the vast diversity within each. We have wizards, we have demons (several kinds again) we have an incredibly rich world here. And we have, at best, token, brief appearances of POC and no GBLT characters at all. This Chicago is magically diverse yet incredibly homogeneous.

Speaking of Chicago - Chloe Neill’s
Chicagoland Vampires also have a growing diversity of creatures - vampires, wizards, river nymphs, sirens, wereanimals - it’s all there, each more fascinating then the last. The people, however? As straight and white as they possibly can be.

I absolutely loved the succubus series by Richelle Mead.  I loved that it had a large world that included many supernatural creatures but it did not escape my notice that Mead could not be arsed to even attempt inclusion.  All the characters were White, straight, cis gendered and able bodied.  So much imagination had to go into writing lines for a succubus who was friends with demons, vampires and an imp.  At times it felt like the large supernatural cast was meant to cover for the lack of diversity in the series itself.  

Last year we coined the term the Marginalised Maris. One of the ways in which authors attempt to allude to diversity is by talking about a marginalized character without ever really introducing the character to the audience.  A perfect example of this is the Anna Strong Series by Jeanne C. Stein.  Stein went to great care to create an extremely diverse word which includes, several forms of shape shifters, vampires, witches etc., but manages to do in an all straight, white, cis world. In, The Becoming, we are told about Michael, Anna’s gay best friend.  The only thing we learn about him is that he has been gay bashed. He never becomes a part of the story, he exists solely as a cheap reference for some quick GLBT inclusion.  Stein was far more interested in creating a diverse cast o supernatural creatures than having a diverse cast of marginalized human beings. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review of Disintegration Book 5 of the Autumn Series by David Moody

When I first started reading Moody's Autumn series, I was completely drawn in.  Moody's work is stark but it grabs you right away.  With each word, the reader is forced to place themselves in the place of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse.  Moody has once again re-entered his post apocalyptic world to give us yet another story of survivors.  What started out as innovative and new has simply become repetitive and boring. 

As in other books, even when dealing with different survivors, Moody attempts to connect them to each other.  In this case, the connection was a helicopter which we are meant to assume was the one used to ferry the survivors to Cormansey to avoid the continuing threat the zombies posed.  Trapped a hotel, trying to be as quiet as possible these survivors are desperate to get the attention of the helicopter because with each passing day it becomes clear that the distraction that has been for the zombies is no longer holding their attention.

The new element in Disintegration is a disease that is now killing off survivors who survived the initial release of the virus.  They believe that it comes from contact with the diseases that a mass amount of dead bodies would create.  They are forced to decide whether to quarantine and ignore this latest round of victims or attempt to help them at the risk of getting sick.  The question then becomes, is it okay to leave someone who is sick alone to die at the hands of zombies to save your own life?

Blood Ties: Season 1, Episode 5: Deadly Departed

  We begin with an argument – Vicki being rather good at those (and usually in the right as well) between Vicki and Celluci. After weeks of refusing to hear anything to do with the supernatural he is furious that Vicki didn’t tell him that Henry Fitzroy was a vampire! He also tries to argue two pronged that Henry is a threat (because of all the stuff he has seen in the movies) and pour scorn on the idea that Henry helps her deal with the supernatural cases (which he pours scorn on for believing in). I’d demand he pick a point and argue it rather than arguing 2 mutually exclusive points. Still, Vicki has ordered far far too much Chinese food, so this can be discussed over a meal

We move to what looks like a haunting and a death because of it – a really really scary haunting actually. That was really well done considering what looks like an extremely small special effect budget. The deceased is a defence attorney and his widow wants Vicki to investigate (the police believe it was a heart attack). She believes the attacker would be Magnus O’Connor, an ex-client of Freddie’s. Except it seems like Magnus killed himself a week ago.

This of course leads Vicki to go see Henry because… I have no idea. To pose for a picture for him (except the picture he’s drawing isn’t actually in the pose she’s sat in… details details). More flirting and foreshadowing. The next day it’s time to go interview Magnus’s grieving mother – she gets no information but makes the woman cry and Magnus’s younger brother threaten her.

On to the most excellent pathologist, Dr. Rajani Mohadevan (she is my favourite character in the show – even if it is dubious that Vicki has constant access to her morgue) who points out that cardiac arrest just means “heart stopped working” and doesn’t indicate much in terms of cause of death. Bruises on the heart suggest someone reached into his chest and squeezed it. She also finds out that Magnus died with a pentagon carved into his chest – something that Celluci lied to her about.

Back to Henry for more feeding him of information which leads to the inspiration of Magnus’s suicide being a Celtic death ritual to allow him to seek revenge after death. On to see Sinead, an ex of Henry’s (they broke up because Sinead used magic to bind him to her – something she tries to do again, using magic to coerce Henry back into her bed) who says  that the spell on Magnus’s bodies was just the equivalent of the Last Rites.

Later we get to see the excellent pathologist again when the prosecutor in Magnus’s case also shows up dead with Magnus’s fingerprints on his heart – causing Vicki to go check on the judge as well. He’s covering in fear after a threatening phone call (really judge? In your profession a spooky phone call sends you to the panic room) and Vicki questions him on exactly why Magnus is so eager to kill them all – it seems they covered up some of the evidence in his case being contaminated. She packs the judge off with Henry to a hotel to keep him safe but, alas Magnus arrives and kills the judge anyway (despite Vicki’s truly pathetic attempts at first aid). But they did find out that Vicki’s marks from the demon allow her to touch Magnus’s ghost.

There follows some fun confrontations with the police (especially the Nasty Police Chief who just Hates Vicki, Crowley) over the judge’s death. Time for Henry and Vicki to question Sinead for the truth of the ritual while Celluci and Dave Graham (his side-kick – can a bit character have a side-kick) question Magnus’s brother who has been seen at each of the crime scenes. Sinead tells them some random vague stuff about Vicki’s tattoos and that the ritual on Magnus’s body wasn’t cleansing ritual (surprise) but actually *gasp* blocks the spirit and keeps it on Earth (you need an expert to figure this out by now?) and that it has been bound to a person! If only they could figure out who? I mean he has “mother” written across his chest in big letters.

Cover Snark: The Hip Thrust

Book covers exist to entice the reader to purchase a book.  Given that this is their purpose I simply cannot understand why women are continually placed in the most ridiculous positions.  Today we are going to look at the famous hip thrust.  For some reason, a woman standing with her hip ridiculously thrust out is supposed to emphasise her femininity while making her look tough and sassy.

Unfortunately most of these women look like they are about to dislocate their hip.

Now, for those who can’t manage the spine dislocation, there’s always the hip thrust. It saves you the spinal surgery, but there’s still little dignity in thrusting one hip out until you can hear the bones creak. Amateurs start small here with the sideways leans

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review: By a Thread by Jennifer Estep, Book 6 of the Elemental Assassins series

Gin Blanco is having a holiday. There’s just too much stress in Ashland, especially since everyone knows she’s the Spider now and she’s constantly having to fend off petty thugs trying to take her down for the reputation. Time for some relaxation with just her, her friends and her sister Bria, to see if they can finally build a relationship in the aftermath of the epic battle they just fought

Of course, even on holiday there’s no peace. Bria’s best friend since childhood is being menaced by a powerful vampire of extreme influence and power. Past people who have stood up to him have died – and he’s virtually untouchable from the police. Of course, being untouchable to the police doesn’t make them beyond the Spider’s grasp. And she’s just killed the most powerful and devastating elemental in 500 years  - how hard could this be? But Gin’s own over-confidence may be her undoing.

And there’s another problem – her old lover, Donavon, is Bria’s friend’s fiancé. And he’s just as judgemental and disapproving as ever – firmly holding to his morality that won’t have anything to do with assassins no matter who they are killing and why. He doesn’t want her help, even if it costs his fiancée her life. Worse, will opposing Donavon’s morality also put her at odds with Bria, another police officer who is more than a little disapproving of Gin’s murderous ways?

I won’t say the story was exactly a twist per se – but it wasn’t linear either and it did catch me by surprise. Because of the aftermath of killing Mab, there was a strong sense that Gin was just going to walk over the enemy – the real conflict was going to be Donovan and Bria disapproving of her naughty murderous ways and getting in the way of her actually getting the job done. It wasn’t going to be difficult to kill the bad guy – but it was going to be hard to do so without Bria and Donavon knowing and/or handling the fallout. So I was shocked by the twist that all that confident set up was a case of supreme over-confidence and  cockiness – which turned into a storyline to run along side the much better planned assassination attempt, the hecklers disapproval  and Gin’s re-examination. I think this made the story work on many levels and in many ways because we had the same plot line but multiple different themes and twists on that plot and the implications of it and what it means for all of the characters and their interactions. It took the plot line and made it far more complex and nuanced than imagined – while keeping the excitement of hunting down a truly evil, exploitative and powerful foe and examining related issues without being bogged down in angst

I did like how Gin learned in this book and grew in many ways. In particular I liked the mistake she made. She’s just killed her nemesis, the most powerful Elemental in centuries, or so everyone says. And she’s, well, cocky. She’s a little arrogant about it – which is a very natural human mistake, but it’s also a mistake and it does end up costing her.  This was really well done because it was a humanising element of Gin – yes, the Spider believed her own press too much and after spending the last few weeks killing low level thugs she’s underestimated a severe situation. It also helped re-establish tension in the story. We have killed the big bad, but something doesn’t have to be on par with Mab’s level of personal power to be dangerous nor is Mab the only person out there with that kind of power. For the story this is a great step because it re-injects the tension and threat rather than us, like Gin, resting on the laurels of Gin’s power and Gin’s victory – the fact that the bad guys are still dangerous and deadly has been really well reinforced.

Now while I’m not especially pleased at the amount of violence Gin has inflicted on her, she does have a violent profession and she usually stabs the people who attack her so it’s very much redeemed. Similarly, the mistakes that Gin made in this book were reasonable not Spunky – and she asserted her agency and self-worth (and had both validated) in an amazing way which we have needed for a while.

Being Human U.K. Season Three, Episode Two: Adam's Family

This episode with a look at Adam a teenaged vampire and his family packing to move once again.  It seems that people are asking questions.  Adam is not happy about the decision to move but his father says that they have no choice.  When Adam says that he hungry and heads to the kitchen to feed from his mother, his father volunteers.

At the bed and breakfast, Annie has made everyone breakfast but Annie and George have to head off to work.  Before he leaves, George reminds Mitchell that he arranged an interview for him to be a cleaner at the hospital.  After a few bites of toast Mitchell gets up to leave which upset Annie, but he reminds her of his job interview.  Annie decides that she will be his guardian angel and follow him to his interview to ensure that he gets the job.

Fast forward to present day and Adam is in hospital feeding from his father.  Nina and George are forced to chase him down.  When Nina corners him, she tells Adam that she knows exactly what he is and tells him that he should be ashamed for feeding on a helpless old man. Adam admits that he was feeding off of his father and compares the act to breast feeding.  When George makes a remark about Adam's youth, Adam responds that he is 46.  Does something about being turned as a teenager instead of an adult restrict his ability to mature?  They decide to take him home so that Mitchell can help him.

At the interview, things do not go well.  Annie attempts to give Mitchell advice but ends up getting in the way, until he pauses to yell at her, making him appear to be extremely unbalanced.  He stalks out of the interview and meets, Richard, a representative of "the old ones."  He demands that Mitchell come with him.  It seems that "the old ones" are upset that Mitchell's behaviour in the tube could lead to exposure for all of them.  The police are actively looking for him.  Mitchell says that he can evade capture but Richard insists that he take one of his boats to South America and hands him travel money.  Mitchell takes the money but says that it's not an agreement to leave.

Back at the house, Adam is doing his level best to be the most annoying teenager on the planet. He makes rude comments to Annie about them having sex repeatedly.  In fact, sex is all Adam seems to be interested in talking about.  When George hears Mitchell downstairs he goes to tell him about Adam.

Wednesday Reboot: Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps was released in 2000 and stars,  Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle and Kris Lemche.  Two angsty White teenage sisters named Bridgette and Ginger Fitzgerald live in an urban setting. They exist as misfits filled with what is meant to be ironic teenage angst.  As with every high school, you have the hot guy and the mean popular girl. Bridgette follows her older sister Ginger's lead. They have a pact that they will die by 16 together.  A werewolf is killing all the animals in the neighbourhood but no one seems overly concerned.

In an attention grabbing stunt the girls work on a death project where they take images of Bridgette posing like a corpse. This is clearly meant to disturb, which the teacher sees right away though the class applauds.  Their parents have an uncomfortable relationship with the girls.  Their father is extremely detached while their mother is concerned with being their friend and talking to them about their development.  When Bridgette's back begins to hurt, her mother is excited that this may well mean that she is starting her period and is super excited about this because apparently though she has breasts, Bridgette is late menstruating. 

That night they go out to take more photos when Ginger notices blood on her leg.  Yes, that's right, she got her period.  Ginger is disgusted and  makes Bridgette promise not to tell. Ginger is attacked by a werewolf but Bridgette manages to helps her to run.  They cross the street and the werewolf is killed by local drug dealer and stoner, Sam. Upon investigating the body, he quickly realises that he killed a lycanthrope.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review of Green Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells Book Three of the Sabina Kane Series

This book could really be described as the evolution of Sabina.  She is forced to consider her true feelings for the mage Adam, confront both her grandmother and her magical powers as well as the fact that despite her shoving everyone away from her, she is really a member of a team.

When last left Sabina, her sister Maisie had been kidnapped by Lavinia and the mage society was nearly destroyed thus making it difficult for them to go on the defense let alone offense in the coming war.  After making a deal with Tanith, Sabina, Adam and Giguhl head off to New Orleans to save Maisie.  There they meet with Zen a Voodoo priestess who is part mage and her friend Brooks a crossdressing fae.  Sabina begins her search for Maisie but like all things in which she is involved, this journey is not simple.  She must deal with werewolves, mage politics and even ghosts from her past.

To make matters worse, Sabina realizes that her grandmother intends to release Cain, the father of the dark races.  This revelation forces her to realize that everyone she has come to love is at risk.  Though used to anger and hate, love is a brand new emotion to Sabina and she is uncertain of what to do.

As with the other books in this series, Green Eyed Demon is fast paced and hard to put down.  More than ever, this story makes one root for Sabina and a happy ending that she deserves.  Along the way, Wells introduces us to a unique cast of characters though there are quite a few problematic portrayals, as well as extremely problematic language.

One of the most interesting characters in Green Eyed Demon is Brooks/ Pussy Willow, a fae cross dresser who was raised by human parents.  Wells goes as far as to suggest that Brooks fae identity was closeted, which is highly problematic and that coupled with the fact that Brooks later chooses to identify solely as the feminine Pussy Willow rather than a male makes him a part of the GlBT community.
"He said, I'm a changeling.  My fae parents left me with humans right after I was born.  I was raised as a human kid until it became obvious I wasn't like the other children. I tried to hide it for a while but then I couldn't deny it any longer.  Unfortunately, my human parents weren't too thrilled when I came out of the faery mound, so to speak.  They kicked me out when I was fourteen." [page 69]
 Right, so Brooks faces discrimination not because his identity blurs the gender binary but because he is fae.  This amounts to appropriation and it makes no sense that Wells would choose to go down that road when she is writing about a character who would have experienced at the very least cissexism along with perhaps some homophobia.  It felt as though Wells was not really committed to Brooks.

Brooks spends much of the books flirting with Adam who is clearly uncomfortable with the idea. This sets up the reductive meme of gay men as predatory.  The only one receptive to Brooks is Giguhl.  When Sabina expresses shock by this the following exchange occurs:

Once Upon A Time. Season 1, Episode 20: the Stranger

In fairy tale land Geppetto and Pinocchio are struggling on a raft in a stormy sea to escape the whale. The raft goes down and Pinocchio hands Geppetto the life preserver and jumps into the ocean – saving his father. But on the shore, Pinocchio isn’t moving and is an inanimate puppet (dead? Hard to take a pulse or be sure). In comes the Blue Fairy to turn him into a real boy (no, a life real boy – turning him into a real corpse would be kind of funny, but also extremely cruel) and so long as he remains brave, truthful and unselfish he will remain a real boy.

Later Geppetto, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket are visited by the Blue Fairy bringing menacing news about the Evil Queen’s Curse – but there is hope if Snow White’s child can be protected until she is 28, she will be able to break the curse. To protect her from the curse, she needs to be put in vessel carved from a magical tree – which, of course, Geppetto can do.

They go to see the magic tree which he can turn into a wardrobe – there’s enough magic in it to protect 2 people and the Blue Fairy plans on it being Prince James and Snow White (pregnant with Emma) who will be safe then at 28 be the one who fights the Evil Queen. But Geppetto is worried – if they go to a world without magic, won’t Pinocchio turn back into wood? The Blue Fairy doesn’t know – and Geppetto insists that Pinocchio takes the second spot inside the wardrobe (much to the consternation of Jiminy Cricket). Geppetto silences him by reminding him that it was Jiminy who killed Geppetto’s parents. They agree to tell Snow White and the Prince it can only protect one.

But the plan is scuppered because the saviour baby (Emma) is to be born early – if Snow White doesn’t go through with her then who will tell her who she is and make her believe in her magical destiny in a world without magic? Geppetto still wants to protect her son – and decides that Pinocchio can protect her and tell Emma her destiny – and in 28 years he must make the saviour believe. He is put in the wardrobe and comes out in the real world before the curse – followed soon by Emma as a baby.

But when they end up in the children’s home – a bleak and uncaring place from the little we see,  Pinocchio runs away and leaves her behind

Emma, Augustus and Mary Margaret are installing some nifty new bars and locks on the door, aware now of the skeleton keys Regina carries around. There’s also some concern about Emma’s threat against Regina to take Henry away from her – not just because Regina is a big bad enemy – but because Emma will have to be Henry’s mother then.

To granny’s to meet Henry with Augustus – and Augustus wants her to look at the big picture and learn more in order to tackle Regina – since she doesn’t believe in the Fairy Tale. Augustus is one of the believers – and he wants her to come with him for a day, but she has to meet Henry.

There’s a new story in the book – an unfinished story about Pinocchio. And then we move to Augustus playing with Pinocchio’s hat! Aha, we have his secret identity! And now he has compromised himself to Gold after the last episode and is spying on Emma for him – is that brave, truthful and unselfish? Apparently not because his leg is turning to wood (on the plus side, that’s really going to help convincing Emma something’s going on)

At Gold’s shop, Augustus runs into Geppetto leaving and, yes Gold knows who Augustus is now and his relationship with Geppetto. With more and more people knowing the truth (or admitting they know the truth) the line between the fairy tale land and the real world is blurring. Augustus still believes he can make Emma believe – but not while she’s focused on a custody battle – so she wants Gold (who Emma is planning on hiring) to direct her to Augustus.

Game of Thrones. Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghosts of Harrenhall

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.

We start with King Renly, in his camp who was facing off against his older brother Stannis last week. He’s in discussion with Catelyn the Spunky who is assuring him that Robb has no interest in the Iron Throne – and them agreeing that Robb can be King the North but swear fealty to the Iron Throne. In exchange Baratheon and Stark will ally. But, despite Catelyn getting everything Robb could want, she still urges Renly to make peace with Stannis (why? On what ground? They both want to be king, Renly has the larger army – what compromise should Renly offer to a man who is famous for being uncompromising? And why is she even negotiating on Stannis’ behalf?)

However the discussion becomes moot when the evil shadow Melisandre conjured last week appears and kills Renly. Since the shadow disappears that leaves Brienne being blamed for his death – and forced to kill the guards to defend herself. Her grief over dead Renly is extreme and poignant – she always loved her king. Catelyn the Spunky convinces her to flee so she can avenge him later. Meanwhile Loras and Maegery are convinced to flee as well by Baelish.

We later see Brienne and Catelyn riding north to Robb’s camp – and Catelyn’s plan to return to Winterfell. She wants to convince Brienne to join Robb rather than waste her life trying to kill Stannis. Brienne instead swears to serve Catelyn, so long as she is not held back from avenging Renly and killing Stannis and Catelyn accepts her fealty.

To Kings Landing where Cersei and Tyrion are discussing Renly’s death. Cersei is celebrating – but Tyrion is worried because now the whole army is united behind Stannis. Cersei is also bitter about Tyrion’s plans to send Marcella to Dorne – but Tyrion says she’d be safer there – and that Marcella is a sweet, innocent girl (unlike her mother). Tyrion wants to talk about the siege preparations but Joffrey has decided to handle that himself – or so Cersei says.

Of course, Tyrion has other sources even if Cersei is stonewalling him and learn as about her plan to use wild-fire (like Greek Fire) against Stannis’s forces. He also tortures poor Lancel most cruelly (and amusingly).  He walks the streets of Kings Landing considering Tywin’s many losses against Robb and what chance they have against Stannis’s army – pausing at a street preacher to consider that dear King Joffrey is a horrendous choice as well. I’m glad that Tyrion firmly rejects and is angered by being called a demon moneky and manipulating the king – since he is doing his best to save them. He doesn’t just accept it.

Tyrion consults an alchemist to find out about wildfire, something that the Targaryens used to hold onto power after their dragons died – a chemical that burns extremely hot. Bronn, a ware veteran, is doubtful because people panic, even well trained soldiers and there’s a high chance of the pots breaking before they’re fired in the chaos – burning the city down. The alchemist has over 7,000 jars. Tyrion is also wary of wild fire – so decides to take control

Over to Stannis, he is pointedly not grieving for his brother Renly – and Ser Davros is most disturbed by what he saw with Melisandre but Stannis won’t talk about it or any debate about Lady Melisandre. He finally listens and agrees to lead the attack without Melisandre in the face of Davros’s hard truths.

With Tywin’s army at Harenhall, Arya is serving as cupbearer for Lord Tywin. Tywin shows himself to be a very intelligent man with very little willingness to believe what he wants and deny reality – facing the harsh truth that Robb Stark is a powerful force and they can’t keep underestimating him. he also pegs Arya as a northerner and asks her what they say about Robb – Arya tells some great tales about Robb and even mixes in a rather good, subtle threat. Arya also meets again with Jaqen H'ghar, the criminal who was being taken to the wall to the Nights Watch whose life she saved – he owes her 3 deaths. She chooses the Tickler (the torturer) first – I’d have gone with Tywin myself. And later, the Tickler is found suddenly dead

Now to the storylines that don’t seem to be involved with everyone else

At the Iron Islands Theon is captaining the ship, the Sea Bitch, and finding that his crew has about as much respect for him as his father and sister. And of course we have casual mention of – no, pride in! – being rapists which seems to be common to the Iron Isles. They won’t respect him unless he earns it – or so says his first mate. And between them they hatch a plan to do far more than raid some fishing villages

In Winterfell, Brann is ruling alone with Maester Luwin – but proves to be good at it despite his age – and when it is learned that one of the bannermen is under siege, Brann is quick to send a large force to protect them. He discusses his dreams with Osha – who takes them seriously. He dreamed the Sea came to Winterfell and flooded the castle

And up to the North, beyond the Wall where Jon the Pouty is marching with the Night Watch. We get a history lesson from Sam  and the introduction of a legendary ranger. Manx Rider has gathered all of the widlings together into a huge force –that could probably take the wall. Corwin Halfhand, master ranger, plans to kill Manx which will scatter his army, their best chance. Of course Jon wants to be part of it, despite not being a ranger – because he’s Jon the Pouty
Her Blondeness, Daenerys is in Qarth, is playing with her baby dragons and encouraging Doreah to sleep with men in Qarth and be her spy – and there’s some culture clashes with her personal servants bringing Dorthraki culture to Qarth. And then more of her warriors are discussing how to steal things from their hosts – and she has to correct them, like the proper civilising influence she is on the bad naughty savages. In between educating her people she meets the warlocks of Qarth – though Xaros, her host, dismisses them as parlour tricks. Xaro and Daenerys discuss what she wants and her interpretation of what a conqueror is – someone who takes what they want. And she has no shame of it. Xaros wants to marry Daenerys (a political alliance more than anything else) showing his ambition as a conqueror is higher than she expected. Xaros has heard that Robert Baratheon is dead – and this is the best chance.

Ser Jorah doesn’t approve – they haven’t verified the information and if they win Westeros with an army of foreign mercenaries, there’s no way they’ll win support from the Seven Kingdoms. And, of course, he loves Daenerys and is jealous. He has a very good speech as to the kind of Queen he thinks she would be (kind and compassionate. He forgot overwhelmingly entitled). He wants her to take 1 ship, go to Westeros and find allies there.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast, Episode 64

This week we discuss Game of Thrones (and the shock of no naked women) and The Vampire Diaries

Our book of the Week was Tricked by Kevin Hearne – which we love beyond reason and fanpoodle most excellently. We all loved this book in every single way and it took up most of our time to praise.

We also consider with some displeasure, upcoming book releases we are not looking forward to. To balance we discuss some of our favourite authors as well. We also discuss the gratuitous female nudity in Game of Thrones

We also discuss some of our favourite books and authors. And, of course, Tami’s awful porn.

Review: Tricked by Kevin Hearne, Book 4 of the Iron Druid Series

Atticus is back for another excellent adventure. Now having left his home after killing Thor and a goodly part of the Norse pantheon he has some problems to handle. Firstly there’s the fact that the Norse want him dead and so do several Thunder Gods… just because really (they’re thunder gods, they don’t need a lot of explanation).

There’s also a problem of killing a large portion of the Norse pantheon. Seems that those gods were largely the reason Ragnorak wasn’t happening – and now you have Hel and the denizens of Niffilheim running around unchecked. Add in that Leif’s incapacitation means that there’s a whole lot of vampires flocking to the area to fill the void.

And Atticus owes Coyote a favour. Which is never, ever, ever a good thing. It seems simple enough (in an almost impossible way), Coyote wants to rebuild the economy in an area for the Navajo (Diné) people. But the Trickster has far more in mind than that – as you would expect – and Atticus soon finds himself up to his eyebrows in far more than he expected.

When I finished this book I was sad. Because it was over and I now have to wait months, MONTHS, before Kevin Hearne releases another awesome book.

To assuage myself I turned back to page one and read it a second time – I didn’t even put it down between readings. Alas, I have finished it again and, again, I am sad that it is over.

In short, this book is most awesome.

What? You want more?

The characters are amazing. I love Atticus and Granuaille and their relationship. Atticus engages in a lot of deep and fascinating introspection, grows as a character as he accepts his own arrogance and pride have tripped him up once too often. And, of course, he is utterly and unbelievably funny and awesome with amazing wit, clever ideas without them being ridiculously over the top and a powerful sense of both the ridiculous and righteous wrath.

Oberon remains beyond hilarious. And he gets to be the hero as well, showing he’s not just a witty, sausage obsessed doggy with the best lines. And Snugglepumpkin has a very very very amusing and likely accurate hypothesis.  The whole book is full off wit and humour that lightens

The world is incredible – the pantheons of the different gods and belief systems with creatures and beings from each pantheon and culture all apparent. And the mob attack by the collected thunder gods was worth reading over and over again.

The Dresden Files. Season 1, Episode 5: Bad Blood

We begin with a gunfight where 2 glamorous women manage to drive off 3 masked attackers with machine guns – though they lose their bodyguard in the process. One of the women, Bianca, runs on to interrupt Harry’s date (and his date is less than amused by the secrets Harry’s keeping, it seems).

Harry doesn’t want to work for Bianca – especially since she is a vampire. Unfortunately he owes her after she helped him long ago when he was injured – she not only took him in but hid him while Morgan was looking for him in the wake of his uncle’s murder by black magic. She even listens to him angst and complain.

But he really doesn’t trust her and Bob most certainly doesn’t.

She is under attack and Bianca’s worry is that the attack is sanctioned by the High Council who, as we learned last episode, police supernatural activity. The vampires have treaties with the High Council but she doesn’t know if they have been broken. She wants him to approach the High Council and see if it is them behind it.

He needs proof of who did it – and they have the eye from their dead bodyguard allowing Dresden to get an eye-witness testimony with a spell. And it’s Clive – a hitman for the High Council (well based on the fact the attackers wore ski masks and body armour. No, really, the fact they disguised their identity identified them apparently). Next step is to see Morgan, the head of the Wardens of the High Council who says the hit wasn’t sanctioned and they’re at peace with the red court. And he’s upset because Harry interrupted his pudding

Asking too many questions ends up with Harry kidnapped by Clive – who is angry because he says he didn’t try to kill Bianca (if he did she’d be dead, damn it!). Unfortunately Clive is awfully acted  - really melodramatically acted. But we’re spared more bad acting by another gang mercifully putting them all out of our misery with automatic weapons (though Harry’s shoved out of the action so we don’t see anything – boooo, poor special effects budget!)

Harry, in his brilliant decision making skills, then goes to confront the vampires about Clive’s murder.  He decides to believe their protestations of innocence, goes home for more Bob snarking and a visit from the High Council’s Top Dog, Ancient Mai (Asian Dragon Lady stereotype) who is not amused and looking for Bianca – they believe she is involved in Third Eye (a drug for the Undead and presumably its distribution).

Another consult with Bianca (because consulting with the enemy is a great idea) who claims she is being set up – and Harry starts trying to put the pieces together (he gets a pained look on his face when he’s thinking) and after some magic they identify Clive’s killer as a Black Court vampire. Time to interview Arvin – the Black Court vampire. And Bianca has interesting interview techniques but he knows very little and is nearly out of his mind with the Third Eye.

And Bianca knows who is setting her up – Darius, her ex-business partner and ex-boyfriend who she parted with because he wanted to sell Third Eye. Except this is another half baked idea that doesn’t exactly pan out – and Dresden is shot – by Natalie, Bianca’s sidekick. Thankfully because that conversation was going nowhere – it’s about time the bad guy revealed herself because there was no way Dresden was going to find her.

Overdramatic speech time! Yes, there’s a twist in the end, sort of. Fight scene time – Natalie ends up in Mai’s bracelets, Mai arrives, peace wins out.

Face off: Most Blatant Token

'Septa Token' photo (c) 2009, Lindsey B - license:

As you know one of the things we strongly believe is that inclusion is not enough.  Far too often what we see a cardboard cut outs reifying every trope possible masquerading as characters.  As they live out tropes rather than helping marginalized characters they actually hurt us because they present  prejudices and stereotypes as truth.

There are so many problems with them - not only because of the damaging tropes that these characters represent - but also because, repeatedly, this is seen as ENOUGH. When we complain about erasure, this is presented as the alternative. This is enough for the inclusion cookies - which means we’re not expected to demand more.

So, which pathetic excuse for being inclusive wins as the most blatant token?

Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries:  Bonnie is the classic White girl painted Black for the purposes of inclusion.  In the original books written by L.J Smith, the character Bonnie is White.  There is nothing about Bonnie that reflects her supposed African-American culture.  Though Bonnie is supposedly a strong Bennett witch, she exists solely to serve the protagonist Elena.  Whenever she is not need to perform said woo woo, Bonnie is thrust back into the plot box, not to be seen or heard from.  We know very little about her home life as her father is always out of town.  Her grandmother was killed in season one like the good Black witch that she was, and her mother disappeared again after being turned into a vampire.

Melissa from the Secret Circle: Oh, Melissa. Out of all of the witches, she is the one who is the least integral to the plot. In fact she’s the only witch who can actually disappear entirely for several episodes at a time - I assume she’s dumped into a plot box until she is needed, then she’s dusted off to help serve Faye, or Diana or the endlessly special Cassie. Which is, of course, all that Melissa does - serve. She has had one plot line only (the victim of a very pointless Voodoo priest) which turned her into a drug user. Other than that she serves - she’s Fay’s best friend, she’s Diana’s best friend, she’s everyone’s damn best friend. Need someone to help find a crystal? Ask Melissa to help. Need to help Diana run one of her endless parties? Call Melissa. Faye need a wingwoman? Call Melissa. Most telling of all this blatant addition is that she is the only character who seems to have no family at all. We’ve seen a grandparent and/or a parent from each of the other witches (except Jake whose parents are dead) and we don’t even know what family Melissa has left!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 19: Leave it to Beavers

“’Wait!’ the troll said, jumping in front of him. “This is my toll bridge. You have to pay a penny to go across.”

So we begin with Eddie and Nick wrestling around in the wood and Nick not wanting to be eaten. It’s a Grimm training session! (Shouldn’t they have done this several episodes ago?) And a chance for Eddie to play with the Grimmy toys – I think this is supposed to show that Nick and Eddie spend a lot more time together than we have seen.

To the actual crime there’s a deal between 2 Wesen , an Eisbiber and some kind of troll (I guess), the Eisbiber is going to the DA and not giving troll the money he expects. Bye bye Mousey. But another beaver witness escapes – and goes to yet another Eisbiber.

In come the police – Nick, Hank and Sgt Wu to see the cement covered dead Eisbiber (and owner of a construction company). Checking up on the witness they find him missing – but Nick recognises a picture of him with the Eisbiber he knows - the one who starting making him food and fixing his door.

Following some police work they find the only enemy he had was someone at the planning commission, Mr. Butrell (the murderer) - time for more interviewing. He has an alibi but it gives Nick
a chance to see his trolly Wesen nature. And lets Butrell and his cronies know there’s a Grimm involved.

Nick, meanwhile, follows up with the Eisbiber he met before – apparently most the construction firms in town are owned by Eisbibers but when building bridges you have to pay a cut to the trolls because they consider them to be their property by tradition – and are willing to extort it if they can. He leaves his number in case the Eisbiber gets in touch with the witness.

Bud (Nick’s Eisbiber) goes to talk to Arnold (the witness) to convince him to come forward to Nick since he’s a Grimm and on their side. Since the result could affect all Eisbiber they decide to take it to the lodge

Bud decides to take Nick to the Lodge meeting to make inspiring speeches to a large crowd of Eisbibers – encouraging to help put an end to the troll’s exploiting them. Unfortunately the majority are too afraid of the trolls. Bud claims that the Eisbiber are just not a courageous people – despite Bud’s willingness to work with a Grimm. But Bud’s shame for his people’s cowardice is heard by Arnold and he is driven to come forward.