Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Vampire Diaries, Season Three, Episode Episode 22: The Departed

We survived season three of The Vampire Diaries.  There were a lot of flashbacks this episode and for me they felt like empty filler, in a season that was riddled with filler and could not seem to find a direction.

Elijah made an appearance, and I was glad to see it. He is the only one who has consistently behaved like he is a thousand year old vampire.  That right there shows the sexism of the show.  Rebekah Vampire Cheerleader has the maturity of a 16 year old girl and her brother, who btw has been a vampire just as long is a mature man.

When we last left Elena, she had collapsed on her bedroom floor bleeding.  Jeremy calls 911 and she ends up in the hospital.  When he calls Damon and Stefan to inform them, they are upset and believe that he has just made her a target. Stefan and Damon demand that Jeremy get Elena released from the hospital immediately. By the time Alaric shows up, Elena is already gone and so he threatens Meredeth.  Alaric dumps Meredeth's supply of vampire blood, and promises to get her medical license pulled.

Back at the house, Matt makes tea for Elena and they have a little chat about the past and the ongoing trouble that they are facing thanks to the vampires.  In the meantime,  Caroline and  Tyler are approached by their respective mothers.  It's their plan to get the kids out of town, because they believe that now that the council knows about them, that their lives are in danger.  Caroline is resistant at first but Tyler insists.  Caroline agrees to go with him as soon as she helps her friends.  Of course, she cannot put her life first when Elena the precious is in danger.

In the meantime, Alaric approaches Jeremy with a plan.  He wants the vampires gone and suggests that Jeremy help by turning over Klaus.  Jeremy promises to kill the vampires, and then to allow Bonnie to put the same spell on him, that she placed on Klaus.  He uses the fact that their lives are constantly in danger to persuade Jeremy.  Jeremy concedes, but it is only a ruse.

Elijah wants Klaus back and though Damon says that this is a bad idea, Elena of course agrees.  I loved that he made a point of saying that every decision Elena made has been bad. Finally, someone is admitting that Elena's spunky agency is a problem.  When they get to the storage area, Klaus is indeed dessicated and bound just as his father was. Bonnie asks for a moment with him.

In the meantime, Matt has drugged Elena and put her in his truck.  He tells her that he did this for her own good and that they are leaving town.  I understand the reason why Matt did this, but it is absolutely controlling and manipulative behaviour.  Elena does not even get upset with him, because apparently if your attentions are good, drugging and kidnapping a woman is not a bad thing. 

Alaric shows up and demands to see Klaus. Damon and Rebecca manage to sneak Klaus out of the locker, but before they can leave the storage facility, Alaric finds them and stakes Klaus.  Rebecca moves to go after him, but Damon holds her back and tells her to run.  In the last episode, Klaus said that he was the originator of Damon and Stefan's vampire line.  Damon realizes that he is now living on borrowed time.

Secret Circle. Season 1, Episode 22: Family

Unfortunately we begin with Diana the endlessly mopey waking up with Grant and being so very upset that the life and death struggles are getting in the way of her teenaged romance. I am so past sick of this character’s drama.

While Diana is moping, Faye has been kidnapped and this Circle is meeting to discuss getting Faye back., Diana wants to use the Circle (first time ever it seems) but that idea is shot down. Eben (Evil Black Witchhunter) calls them with a deal – exchange Faye for 1 crystal, stopping them making the Indiana Jones knock-off skull. But Jake is quick to speak up against trusting witch hunters (oh how I laughed. It’s at this point you wonder if the writers are deliberately satirising themselves). More planning and plotting, distrust of Blackwell and more arseyness from Diana.

So Casssie and Diana go to see John who tells them to create the skull they will unbind the Circle (good! Lack of individual magic has been an extreme nuisance and it’s not like they use Circle magic at all!). After token angst from Diana they agree.

At the boat where the witch hunters are, Melissa, Adam and Jake are ready to attack – and we finally learn that it’s Melissa’s mother who died! Only took until the season finale! They all feel the Circle being unbound but don’t know what it means – until Adam accidentally spells Jake.

Faye, in the boat, of course, has her magic back and she is much much harder to hold prisoner with her magic and she manages to call her mother, pretty much revealing everything to the parents who, of course, already know

In Evil parent world Charles tells Dawn about his “haunting” by Amelia’s ghost (well, John’s magic). Dawn points out it was probably John and they have a really poorly acted realisation that she’s probably right and how little control they have over everything. Oh and I have to quote here:  “And our blind quest for power set it all in motion”. What, really? Really? Who speaks like this? And could there be more tell not show here – yes we know these parents set it in motion for the sake of power and are now regretting it – you couldn’t have shown this by, I don’t know, having them crying and worrying for their children or growling recriminations at each other? Instead you have overdramatic monologues that almost sound like a “previously on the Secret Circle” info-dumping?

To save their children they go to Charles’ mother (Evil Grandparent) and ask for their powers back, they need it to save their kids. But their power is gone – so she agrees to give them hers (or she could go rescue, just a thought). We have a wonderful line from Charles’ mother about family – and apparently Charles wants to kill the demons and find redemption

Cassie and Diana make their new gothic bling, but Cassie objects to John taking it from them (so would I – why trust him with this?) but in classic Secret Circle fashion it isn’t because she distrusts John, oh no, it seems to be her getting happy feelings from the skull. Diana’s suspicion comes in handy and they both say Cassie should hold the skull. John shows everyone that he’s evil and knocks Cassie and Diana unconscious – he has different goals. They wake imprisoned in a circle in the Magic Shack.

Melissa and Jake go to help Faye while Adam goes to check on Cassie and Diana – but Eben catches Faye, Melissa and Jake unawares and with his demon magic. And we have a dramatic tied to the stake with fire moment in which they all scream and panic (it’s the worst burning ever – the flames are in a huge circle around them)

Evil Parents to the rescue! Charles takes down Eben by summoning the demons out of him and into himself. Dawn puts out the fires and Jake gets to go and give the demon-less Eben a good stabbing. Evil Black Witch Hunter is dead. At last! If you’re not going to use lethal magic at least make with the stabbing! Full of demons, Charles throws himself in the water – since drowning kills demons. Noble sacrifice redemption time (or possibly new enemy to fight in Season 2, hey keep your options open)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Review of Phoenix Rising: Book one of A Ministry of Peculiar Occurences by Pip Ballentine & Tee Morris

Miss Eliza Braun first meets archivist Wellington Books when she saves him from captivity.  Like all missions involving Braun, she does not completely follow orders, and leaves behind a trail of destruction.  Her punishment is to be sent down to the archives to assist Books with cataloging the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences case files. For someone who loves to be out in the field, chasing down bad guys, this is punishment.  Books for his part is not happy to have someone meddling with his case files.

It isn't long before he catches Eliza investigating the last case that her former partner worked on. Books knows that he should not get involved and that he should return to his much loved archives, but he gets drawn into the intrigue when he discovers that an ancient secret society is behind several unexplained deaths.  Eliza loaded with guns, and a bullet proof corset urges Books on as they go undercover in an attempt to reveal the depths of the depravity.

This book is easily one of the best steampunk novels that I have ever read. It had a blindingly quick pace, yet one never feels as though the story is being rushed.  The relationship between Eliza and Books grows from distrust to true partnership with a hint of a romance, leaving the reader wanting more of the illustrious pair.  The banter between them flows between delightful snark, and true concern.  It is impossible not to adore either Eliza or Books, or hope that Eliza is successful in corrupting the moral fortitude of her partner.

Female Vampires: Children, Villains or Servants

'Vampire Pam (True Blood) Fan Art' photo (c) 2009, Angie22Arts - license:

Looking at Urban Fantasy we see a lot of vampires. A lot of vampires.  Sparkly vampires, sexy vampires, daylight walking vampires, sexy vampires, magic vampires, sexy vampires, viking vampires, sex vampires - did we mention sexy vampires? Yes, lots and lots of sexy vampires.

Who are men. Nearly always men - especially when we look at Urban Fantasy on television. Men men and more sexy men wall to wall - and very very few women. Of course, part of this is because most of the human protagonists are women and Urban Fantasy is extremely heteronormative and will only pair them off with a male love interest. But looking at the few female vampires we can dig up and it’s not a great sign - we seem to have 3 models: children, servants and enemies.

Much of the models that we see in vampire stories involve an ancient male vampire and a young, often innocently virginal human female.  You would think that when a relationship forms between a female vampire and a young human male that the pattern would simply repeat, but such is not the case. Female vampires are quite often infantalised, though they are at times well over a thousand years old.  The best example of this is Rebekah from The Vampire Diaries. She is 1000 years old and in comparison to every other vampire on the show, she is absolutely childlike.  Rebekah has thus far concerned herself with proms, dances and even becoming a cheerleader.  Why oh why would a person who has seen so much history be interested in these things, especially after spending so many years trapped in a coffin?

When Bill was forced to turn Jessica into a vampire on True Blood, she was just a young teenage girl who had not seen much of the world.  True to form, she was also a virgin. When she discovered that she had been changed, Jessica delighted in cursing, as this was something that she was not allowed to in her parents home.  It was the act of a child rebelling against that which she had been taught.  Much of Bill and Jessica’s relationship takes the form of father/daughter, based in the fact that Bill is her creator.  He only reluctantly takes responsibility for Jessica, after Eric makes it clear that he will not.  Jessica has matured over the years and has really begun to figure out exactly who she is; however, thanks to being turned into a vampire when she was still a virgin, her hymen reforms after each act of sexual intercourse, thereby constructing her as a perpetual virgin.

In Interview with a Vampire, Lestat turns Claudia into a vampire after finding Louis feeding from her, in the hope of forcing Louis to stay with them.  In the novel, Claudia was only about 6 years old at the time she was turned, though she was portrayed to be between 10-12 in the movie.  Even when Claudia has long past the age where she would find dolls interesting, Lestat continues to gift her with a doll on the anniversary of the day he turned her.  Claudia is desperate to grow up and put away childish things but she cannot because she is trapped in the body of a child, though she has the mind of a grown woman.  Her age means that she is forever dependent upon an adult vampire.  Claudia never does achieve her freedom and dies at the hand of the theater vampires, her very existence seen as a threat. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr, Book 1 of the Wicked Lovely Series

Aislinn is a mortal gifted with the Sight. She can see Fairies. The invisible denizens of the fairy courts stalk humanity, playing tricks, playing games sometimes cruelly and maliciously. They’re not to be trusted, she’s always been told by her Sighted grandmother. Not to be trusted and always to be avoided. Especially as a Sighted mortal – fae have been known to kill and blind mortals with her ability.

Mostly she tries to ignore them – but 2 of them, Keanan and Donia, have started following her and paying far too much attention. Worse of all, they’re not just fae, but nobility of the fae courts and Keanan is determined to insert himself into her life.

Aislinn is reluctantly dragged into a war between the Summer and the Winter courts, with a future being forced upon her, playing a game she doesn’t know the rules of – where she has to decide what she wants and how much the fae are demanding she sacrifice. Especially with her grandmother’s warnings still loud and clear

The world is interesting – the fae always allow for vast variety and variations and even more here where we have not just the classic 2 courts so often seen in stories – but several courts all with their own fae, their own customs, their own nature and their own problems.

The idea of invisible fairies, despite being such a major part of faerie lore, is still not something that has been overly developed. And I really love the idea of the faeries being everywhere invisibly and how someone with the Sight has to negotiate through that world.

The battle between Winter and Summer is literally epic on a world wide scale –while at the same time being deeply personal. While the knowledge that Winter is slowly taking over the world and is eventually going to destroy life it’s still a very personal fight. Yes the world is in the balance, but it’s also a personal battle between Keanan and his mother with Donia dragged along. It manged to balance both epic and personal together extremely well.

Storywise, while it’s an interesting world with interesting characters it was faintly predictable. There was a twist in that Aislinn maintained her own demands as well as with Donia’s fate and it was certainly a fun, interesting story – but it was a story where the ending could be seen pretty early on and I didn’t think there was much maintained tension. It was fun and interesting – but, perhaps, not exciting and tense. I also feel the ending was somewhat anti-climactic and seemed to end too suddenly. The epic confrontation was too short .

I really like the character of Aislinn. She manages to be strong without being perfect and without being impossibly aggressive and ridiculously reality denying.  Nor does the world magically change to fit her because she has defied it.

She is faced with a deeply unpalatable situation – but it doesn’t go away just because she’s insisted it should. She doesn’t want to be a fairy or the Summer Queen and never once relents in this. She doesn’t like Keenan and doesn’t want him – no matter how many times he pushes her and tries to seduce her, she doesn’t melt to him. This is a wonderful change from a genre that has oodles of reluctant women who are finally brought round by the persistent, stalking, can’t-take-no-for-an-answer heroes.

Blood Ties, Season 1, Episode 6: Love Hurts

Vicki has what seems to be a mundane case in her office – Mr. Hausen believes his wife is cheating on him and wants her to investigate. Mundane, bread and butter work for a detective. I do have to have a little cheer moment for Vicki for her truly excellent advice and attempt to send him to couples therapy before resorting to a detective.

We flip to the wife of said couple indeed sleeping with someone else – then the screaming happens and we cut to an obvious crime scene investigation.  Marcy Hausen is dead and Vicki and Celluci are on scene (yes Vicki is at another crime scene). Mr. Hausen is fully aware how guilty he looks without an alibi and asks Vicki to investigate who killed Marcy, since the police will likely focus on him. And sure enough, Celluci’s sidekick and Show POC token #1, Detective Graham, shows up to question  Hausen.

Vicki decides to go to a bar with Henry for some flirting, vampire hand tricks and so Vicki can tell him all about the case she’s working on (showing that Vicki has the professional ethics of a goat) in what is, no doubt, yet another convoluted way to drag Henry into one of her investigations. More flirting follows before Henry flounces out of the room because Vicki makes a sex joke to defend Henry’s unwarranted criticism of Celluci’s professional capabilities.

Vicki goes to question Marcy’s friends who all say what a wonderful person she was and how happy they all are while knocking back the booze and eyeing up the Latino gardener, Emmanuel (Latino servant, let me mark off a notch in stereotype bingo).  Time for Vicki to question/flirt with sexy Emmanuel who was arranging the ladies’ flowers during the murder (there’s a new euphemism!).  She also gets to meet Bruce Caldwell, a husband of one of Marcy’s friends who begins pumping her for information and she begins spilling things like how she died to him (Goat Ethics strikes again). She also gets to poke around his totally-not-a-plot-point anthropological sculptures left to him by his grandmother. And Vicki photographs them. Why? I have not the slightest idea.

More flirting between Vicki and Henry where she tells him everything she’s thinking about the case and her suspicion of Emmanuel and the ladies’ flower arranging (did I mention the Ethics of a Goat?) with Henry jealous of the poetry quoting Emmanuel. Vicki, as ever, is perfectly, wonderfully snarky about it. But that night she has a vivid erotic foreplay dream with a man running his hands up and down her. She wakes highly perturbed and runs to Henry’s to see if he was the midnight groper. He wasn’t and we have some more flirting and Henry is upset because she would be relieved that he WASN’T running his hands on her body and how could she think it would be horrible – and Vicki, who is awesome, says artfully that it’d be entirely different if he were invited.

Some more sexy investigating and, yes, there’s more than flower arranging going on between Emmanuel and the lonely housewives and Vicki suspects them of lying. Now she could do her old detective work, but instead she’s going to drag Henry along to use his vampire mojo (oh Vicki, really? At least it’s cute when she makes him promise not to bite them). But despite all of his charm, all agree they were arranging flowers with Emmanuel and all resisted Henry’s charms

Time for a plot surge – Vicki is walking home with Coreen, discussing Vicki’s lack-of-sex life, Correen suggests her vivid sex dream the other night was an Incubus (foreshadowing, take note) and then we have screaming and Vicki running to try and save Isabelle (one of Marcia’s friends), in her bedroom who is having blue energy sucked out of her mouth by a cloaked and hooded figure who vanishes when she tries to smack him.

On to Henry who confirms that it was an incubus – demons who can put a whole house of people to sleep and then drag women’s souls to hell (and this is why he couldn’t charm the women, his ego is salved). And an internet search finds a picture of an incubus idol – which just happens to match one of the anthropological statues Bruce Caldwell has (the one Vicki randomly took a picture of. Booo bad plotting, bad plotting).

Vicki confronts Cheryl another of Marcia’s friends and she cracks – and talks about how they drunkenly and accidently activated the statue, the sex dreams they had afterwards and then Emmanuel appearing – and that they were all having sex with the said gardener.

Cover Snark: And 2 Seconds Later, Our Heroine Fell Over

Now, Urban Fantasy covers go to many lengths to try and sexualise their heroines. Bodys care contorted, ridiculous costumes

And, sometimes, even gravity is defied! Yes, we’re not going to let a piffling thing like gravity prevent us from posing these women! I have a mental image of the camera snapping and then these women collapsing painfully into a heap.

Ok, maybe these women just have really strong thigh muscles after posing for different covers. But I still think they’re 2 seconds away from their arse meeting concrete.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Bloody Bones by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 5 of the Anita Blake Series

Anita Blake has been called out to an animating job in Branson, far away from her usual connections. But she’s the only one in the country who may be able to do it – raise an entire graveyard full of 200 year old bodies, preferably in one night.

As if that weren’t a big enough problem, the motivations of the parties involved is far from clear – and the presence of fae magic in the graveyard, and faeries willing to guard it, raises many more questions.

And there are vampires running amok – as the neighbourhood vampire expert, Anita is called in but the local police are far from welcoming. The resulting lack of communication is beyond difficult when there seems to be 2 separate vampire killers.

Negotiating with the local vampires, of course, requires getting further involved with Jean-Claude and he never keeps anything simple

Like in previous books, this has several storylines intertwined – but also like the previous books, they all come together. From her original job to raise the graveyard, to the vampire death, to the serial killer all three plot lines are paced really well. If I had a slight criticism, it would be that her job to raise the zombies was put too far on the backburner. It was her actual reason for being in Branson in the first place and it seemed extremely low in her priority list. I can understand that since she was dealing with serial killer cases, but I’d have least expected Sterling or someone to ask where she was and what she was actually doing while they were paying her to complete a time sensitive project. Still, it was understandable given the circumstances and doesn’t bog down the story. I really like how all three storylines come together, how they’re all linked and make up important aspects of the whole – and can all be handled in one big finale that doesn’t feel contrived.

Having read both the books before and the books after this one, I’m left with the feeling that this book is vaguely filler. Because they’re pulled out of St. Louis we’re not advancing a lot of the plot or relationships. And the creatures in this book are fae. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like fae in a book, they’re some of my favourite supernatural beings. But the fae here appear briefly, with precious little foreshadowing or depth, do some shiny stuff then disappear again, never to be heard of again. Short of giving Anita an extra-special shiny vampire to kill, I’m not sure what the point of the fae even were – and a powerful master vampire could probably have filled Xavier’s spot just as well. Because of that, I don’t think this book added anything to the world building – while technically introducing whole new creatures, it just doesn’t fit the overall theme and shape of the series.

We had some development of her relationship with Jean-Claude, but it was mainly her letting him closer to her more than anything. Still there’s closer connections and we also see some more fleshing out of Jason as he grows further into the full character he will become. But largely that’s all it is, we don’t get especially new insights into either characters and they’re mainly around more to show that, yeah, they’re around more.

I’m still all kinds of uncomfortable with how the relationship between Jean-Claude and Anita began. He constantly ignores her “no” and keeps pushing. Then she forces her to date him by threatening Richard’s life (because she has to give him a fair chance to seduce him? Why does she?) and then we continue with the constant boundary pushing regardless

Finally, there’s an ongoing issue with how Anita relates to other women. Other than villains and victims, Anita deals with 2 women in this book – Dorcas Bouvier and Sergeant Freemont. And in both cases Anita strikes sparks. It’s like strong willed, independent women have territories that need to be defended against other women like them. She had a similar worry in Lunatic Café when she saw Deputy Holmes – she could be a friend or, equally as much, they’d hate each other and this is before she even spoke.

Both women were also aggressive and hostile for little reason – or they overreacted in an aggressive manner with little provocation in a way that made Anita seem almost clam. It’s a strong case of Keillie Independence.

Being Human U.K Season Three, Episode Three: Type 4

George and Mitchell are having a chat about Annie.  Apparently, despite all the clues that she has given, Mitchell is unsure about how Annie feels about him.  George is frustrated and feels like Mitchell is behaving like a 12 year old. Annie comes running home from a club because she is being followed by a dead woman named Sasha.  At first they try to keep her outside of the house, but when Sasha makes such a racket that Mitchell, George and Annie are worried that the neighbors will call the cops.  It turns out that Sasha is a zombie and is not aware that she is dead.

At first they plan to simply take her back to the hospital but when Annie and Mitchell go there, they learn that the doctors were experimenting on the corpses without anesthesia. Annie is horrified by the video.  It seems that because Mitchell entered the afterlife, the four people who died were not able to cross over and so he feels responsible for Sasha.

Back at the house, George is cleaning up in the bathroom when he discovers a pregnancy test.  When he approaches Nina she admits that she is pregnant and that she planned on having an abortion.  Nina tells him that her mother used to beat her as a child because she blamed her for ruining her life.  This is why Nina does not want to have the baby.  George asserts that he wants the child and when Nina tells him that it is her body, he responds, that it is not all her body because part of what is living in her is his and that he has rights.  Thankfully, Nina tosses him out of the room.  She was absolutely right, the decision always belongs to the mother.

Wednesday Reboot: Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengenance

This second installment in the Ghost Rider Series was released in 2011 and stars, Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds and Idris Elba.  Johnny Blaze has separated himself from humanity as much as possible and has learned somewhat to control the rider.  He is very much desperate to find away to free himself from the ghost rider. When he is approached by Moreau who is played by Idris Elba with a deal to free himself by saving a child named Danny. Johnny is leery at first because he doesn't really do protection, in fact, his sole purpose for existence is to punish the evildoer. Johnny takes the deal when Moreau promises him that he will free him from his curse.

Danny is on the run with Nadya from Roarke. They are in danger because Nadya made a deal with the Roarke when she was on the cusp of death. In return for being allowed to live, Nadya gave birth to Danny, Roarke's son. When in human form, Roarke is very weak and that is why he wants Danny.  Apparently, Danny has all of his power and none of his frailty and so he wants to put his essence inside of Danny.

This is essentially a movie that moved from one explosion and special effect to another. The plot is absolutely thin.  If you're going to watch this movie, do so with the expectation that there will not be any great acting despite Edris Alba and Nicholas Cage. Watch the movie for the special effects. I do have to warn those who saw the first Ghost Rider movie that the special effects this time around, are not nearly as good as the first movie.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn, Book 9.5 of the Kitty Norville Series

We follow a series of short stories to catch up on various parts of Carrie Vaughn’s world here.

From ancient vampires in the court of Henry VII, as well as the parable of Daniel, through to Rick, the current master vampire of Denver’s long history both in the time of Coronado as well as his brushes with past attempts by the US government to study supernatural beings.

Kitty, of course, has an outing and we get to see how she dealt in all her solo time away from the pack and we fill in some much needed information about TJ

The star of the book, we get to see both Ben and Connor growing up, Connor as a monster hunter and, of course, his time in prison meeting Amelia and what that entailed.

This is a book that collects several of Carrie Vaughn’s short stories that have appeared in various anthologies. I’ve said before that I don’t like short stories and I include that as a caveat here – look at my rating from the understanding this isn’t my preferred style of writing.

The main problem I had with all of these stories is that there was an awful lot of naval gazing. Lots of angsting, lots of monologuing, lots of sitting around rambling about their feelings. Now this isn’t something I’m a fan of at the best of time since it tends to be a whole lot of telling not showing and the length of angst just serves to either make it feel fake or make me wish one of the side characters would give them a swift kick and tell them to snap out of it. But it’s worse in a short story context because we have a big chunk of angst, then when it’s resolved we move on to a new chunk of angst from a different person/situation.

Another issue I had is that many of these short stories radically expanded the world. We had stories where brand new creatures are introduced and they’re background mentions. I’m sat reading it thinking “no no, stop – you can’t just introduce unicorns and merfolk and skip ahead! Back to the unicorns, someone explain the unicorn to me!” I found it kind of frustrating that we’re not looking at the unicorn instead we’re going to tell a love story (one that didn’t end Happily Ever After – which was certainly unique and new).

There were also several stories in this book that I didn’t particularly enjoy – I don’t think they added a great deal, especially Catherine of Aragon, the Daniel parable and Rick’s back stories. They were moderately interesting in their own right but didn’t add a great deal to the overall ongoing meta, they just weren’t relevant enough to what was happening in the 9 book series for me to be very engaged by them. I also didn’t particularly like that we were looking at Rick’s story in colonial Central America but the only glance we have at the native population is as victims Rick heroically saved. The other books with Kitty and Emma were decent enough stories but didn't really grab me.

One story I am mixed on is TJ’s story. In many ways this was sorely needed – the treatment of TJ in the first book was awful and to update his non-existent back story they added that he had AIDS. Danger, danger, this character is drowning in damaging tropes and causing me to start drinking early.

So more history for TJ wasn’t so much wanted as rather desperately needed – and his turning into a werewolf, his first pack and his interests as a biker were perfect to plug some of the holes. Him turning into a werewolf because he had AIDS after being so reckless with lots of unprotected promiscuous sex while at the same time being alone not so much. Still it was a step up – admittedly the only way was up, but it was a step up. Unfortunately, Carrie Vaughn's notes on this story in the back of the book are pretty appalling, I'm afraid.

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 21: An Apple as Red as Blood

In fairytale land, Prince James has been captured by King George, his erstwhile wannabe father (after he ran out on his wedding with Princess Abigail, the daughter of King Midas whose wealth would have saved George’s kingdom). They put James in a guillotine while George goes to his portable throne (does he have these impressive e wooden thrones everywhere, just by his execution tools or does he employ a man to carry it around in his wake, I wonder?). The blade turns to water, however, with the intervention of Regina – who wants to buy Prince James off King George to use him to get at Snow White

Meanwhile an assault force has gathered. Snow White leading Granny, the 7 dwarfs, a large number of fairies and Red Riding Hood – the Queen is there but they decide to go forward anyway while the Queen is busy menacing Prince James with an apple.

They storm the castle, slicing through several guards (reminding us, again, that Snow White is several times more awesome than Mary Margaret the Wet Lettuce). I do like a good fight scene.

Once they arrive for the rescuing, however, she finds a mirror – James is already at Regina’s palace – Regina gets to taunt her and demand a parlay – with Snow coming unarmed. Which she does (Red’s right, she is too noble for her own good). Her friends disapprove most mightily

At the parlay Regina tells her that Daniel died at her mother’s hands – because of Snow White when she failed to keep her secret. Regina offers Snow a choice – eat an apple cursed to trap her in her body dreaming of endless regrets, or James dies. Of course Snow crunches down on the Golden Delicious, causing James to have psychosomatic angst.

Her friends turn and find Snow – unconscious without breath. Time for a wailing about her noble sacrifice (rather than a slapping for her silly one). Of course James is still in prison randomly screaming at Regina’s magical CCTV.

In the real world we begin this episode with a wonderfully dramatic dream from Regina, imagining all of Storybrook rising up against her and having her beheaded. Regina is definitely losing her grip on the town. She checks on Henry and thinks he’s there, but, of course he’s already been taken by Emma

Who is trying to leave Storybrook right now with Henry. But Henry says she can’t leave – she has to break the curse and heroes don’t run. More dramatic scenes of Henry begging Emma not to leave everyone and her family

Regina wakes to find that the apples on her tree have all gone rotten.  She stomps off to confront the wisecracking Gold, because she thinks it’s a sign that the curse is weakening. Regina is not a very happy bunny at all and also expresses her wish to get rid of Emma – but killing her would apparently break the curse. There you go Henry! A solution! Of course that was a clause inserted into the curse by it’s creator – Gold – so Regina wants him to change it. But he can’t because there is, obviously, no magic – and he wants to curse broken anyway.

So Regina decides to make a deal with Gold. Ooooh dear, that never ever ever ends well. She even says she will give him anything if he gets rid of Emma without breaking the curse (oh Regina, this is pure desperation). But Gold points out she has nothing he wants (ouch). And extra points for Gold slipping into Rumplestiltskin’s speech patterns. That’s more than a little creepy. He also reinforces her dream – when people remember who she is and what she did, they’re going to be out for blood.

Regina seems to have a plan – and leaves a card with a white rabbit on the bike of a school girl called Paige, Jefferson’s (the Mad Hatter’s) daughter. Having seen the card, Jefferson goes to see Regina. She wants him to use the hat to go back to fairyland – he can’t make it work without magic, but she happens to have a little reserved. He agrees on the condition that he forget, that he gets a new story and with his daughter and they both forget who and what they were.

Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 6: The Old Gods and the New

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 begin with Bran’s dream about the Sea coming to Winterfel coming true. Theon Greyjoy lead his forces to attack one of the Stark’s bannermen and while their forces were away, they then invaded Winterfel. Theon then spends a lot of time almost begging everyone to acknowledge him as the Lord of Winterfel – it’s a well presented scene as, even with his forces all around and the keep controlled by his men, he is still blustering for control. Osha offers obedience to Theon to fight for him (and, unnecessarily, makes it clear this is Bran’s dream coming true). He throws that he was a hostage in their faces – especially the extremely defiant Ser Roderick, but they know they raised him and treated him better than a hostage needed to be and no-one respects his defence. As the defiance escalates, Theon is forced to execute Ser Roderick – again it’s really well acted with Theon driven to do things he doesn’t like and knows are wrong to try and prove himself to his men – and Roderick dies with incredible dignity.

I have to praise again the acting in this entire scene, from Theon’s conflict to Roderick’s dignity to the people’s grief – it’s very well done.

Osha continues to try and ingratiate herself with Theon. Which involves her getting naked, of course, and exchanging sex for her freedom. While Theon is asleep she sneaks out, seduces and kills another guard (shame she didn’t kill Theon) and flees the castle with Bran. Hordor, Rickon and their dire wolves.

Arya is still in Lord Tywin’s camp and we get to see Tywin’s harsh but extremely intelligent and perfectionist leadership style. It’s hard not to respect him even as he is one of the villains. Then Lord Baelish arrives – Baelish who knows what Arya looks like. Baelish and Tywin discuss the death of Renly, the undeclared nature of the Tyrells (the house with the third largest army in the Seven Kingdoms, Loras and Maegery’s house). Baelish proposes recruiting the Tyrells to the Lannisters for the sake of revenge against Stannis. All the while Arya tries to hide who she is from Baelish.

Later Arya and Tywin have some conversational back and forth which, again, is really well done. He questions her reading and family. We also learn that Jaime appears to have been dyslexic. She also manages to steal a note from the table – though I think it may have been planted by Tywin. She is caught with the note and has to run to Jaqen to name another man to die – and he does, just as the man opens the door to see Lord Tywin.

In Kings Landing Myrcella is being sent to Dorne according to Tyrion’s plans – and Cersei is not happy and makes that viciously clear. Joffrey is, of course, as vile as ever, expressing disgust for his little brother crying at his sister’s leaving. Sansa tries to interject some humanity but, of course, Joffrey doesn’t have any. And he has to go back to the palace surrounded by hostile – and hungry – commoners. Tyrion sees the riot before it happens – but it flares when someone throws a cow pat at Joffrey and he demands the crowd be executed. Oh why can’t someone kill him already.

Joffrey rants and screams – but Tyrion is equally hacked off with him and sets him down with some excellent lines and points out that they only threw a cow pie at him – and that because they’re starving because of his war. I don’t approve of slapping children but it’s hard not to approve of slapping Joffrey. In fact I’m going to rewind and rewatch it. It’s almost therapeutic. And again. Tyrion is also the only one who worries about Sansa who has been separated from them during the riot – though at least part of that concern is that they’ll never get Jaime back without Sansa.

Sansa has been captured and dragged down by a gang of men intent on raping her – until she is saved by Sandor Clegane, the Hound who left Joffrey’s side to find her during the riot. Two people who care about Sansa at least. While Sansa wasn’t stripped nude, another woman has her breasts randomly bared during the riot.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast, Episode 65

This week we discuss the Vampire Diaries and A Game of Thrones and the joy of watching Joffrey being slapped and how Daenerys has evolved as a character

We discuss out book of the week – Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris, which was truly awful including the writing and awful characters. We also discuss Laurell K Hamilton’s series. And Tami is still reading her porn.

Review: Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris, Book 12 of the Sookie Stackhouse Series

Felipe, King of Nevada, Arkansas and Louisiana is in town searching for answers over who killed Victor. Hosting a king is never easy – but is far harder when Eric and Sookie are trying to hide that they are responsible for Victor’s death.

And then a woman visiting the party turns out to have been bait for Eric – aimed at him and primed with fairy blood to be irresistible. Eric, with help from Sookie, resists – but she’s then found murdered outside the house and the police have been called.

As if that weren’t enough of a problem, Sookie is plagued by the deterioration of her relationship with Eric, especially since Freyda, the Vampire Queen of Oklahoma is in town. Ambitious, talented and beautiful, Eric’s sire made a contract with her for Eric as her consort and that contract is still binding in the Vampire world.

And then there are the fae – with great-grandfather Niall visiting and revealing that there has been a long term, devious plot against Dermot and possible Niall himself. And while Claude and he investigate it, the fae at Hooligans are getting restless

Where was the plot? Where? We had an event at the beginning of the book and then the rest of the plot was jammed in the last few chapters at the very end. In between we had a whole lot of nothing. The daily life of Sookie filled in with lots and lots of moping and angst (which I will return to, oh yes I will)

Now this is something that this series does a lot. We get a lot of insight into Sookie’s life, the people around her, their lives etc – and it’s not normally a bad thing. It gives us a sense of the community and the local culture. The people of Bon Temps are people who live in each other’s pockets, they know each other’s business, they care about it, they have friends and neighbours and everyone is involved in everyone’s lives. So this constant minutiae of life in Bon Temps really establishes this and is a useful story tool – but only WHEN there is a story in the foreground. It makes good background colour, but you can’t have a background without a foreground to focus on. Without a foreground story, the daily life of Sookie is just incredibly boring.

I don’t particularly want to know about Tara’s marital difficulties or her children or Kennedy’s boyfriend trouble or Jason wanting a Sweet Potato Pie or his marital issues. I don’t care that Sookie has met Maxine Fortenbury at the library, I don’t care that she’s going to the local Piggy Wiggly rather than Wal Mart or that Terry Bellefleur has met a woman who likes breading Chata-whatever dogs or that Halleigh Bellefleur is pregnant and has put cinnamon in Caroline Bellefleur’s legendary cake recipe

I don’t care about the gossip of my own home town, I’m not even slightly entertained by the gossip of a fictional one.

There were a lot of events that not only were dull minutiae that I didn’t care about – but they didn’t do anything to the story. Why did Quinn call except to make it clear that every last man who has ever been with Sookie is now miserable without her (no, really, every last one. Alcide, Bill, Eric, Sam, Quinn – they’re all pining for the Sookie. Any man who goes near her is forever addicted to the Sookeh!). That phone call served no purpose whatsoever. Sookie going to make a will – purpose in the story? None. Her antique’s dealer demanding the Cluviel Dor? Story purpose? None! They didn’t even add to the background of pointless gossip. Someone please shoot Sookie with Chekhov’s Gun and put her out of my misery, please!

The Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 6: Soul Beneficiary

Ok, so in an extremely surreal twist we have Harry waking up to a woman bringing him breakfast in bed and carrying a big knife. She seems justified by her menacing knife carrying since Harry can’t seem to remember her name – however the slightly off-filter colours suggest this is a dream sequence and Harry, alas, was not stabbed.

Instead he is with a client, Mr. Franks, who is very nervous indeed – he has visions of dying and is afraid of leaving his wife Nancy alone. Harry doesn’t believe him and tries to send him to a therapist – so he drops dead on the carpet. Hah, that’ll teach you to doubt your clients won’t it Harry? The next one bleeds on the rug, be told!

In comes Murphy to investigate the death (and snark that being married for 10 years may have done it, I love how full of love and sunshine she is, having an ex-husband will do that to her) . Bob think it’s the appallingly dirty tea service is responsible for the death – and laments they have none of the bigger organs to test to see what killed him.

In the morgue we see Waldo Buffers the pathologist (where’s the polka music? Oh my book fannish ways demand polka music – at least he’s funny and snarky with Murphy and pokes her habit of not touching anything he, the pathologist, has touched) who says Mr. Franks died of a heart attack – much to Nancy, his wife’s shock since he was healthy.

Harry continues to investigate the death (with endless extremely amusing pokings from Bob). And Nancy arrives asking lots of questions about why her husband was going to see Harry, she gets agitated and then she drops dead on Harry’s rug as well. Y’know, 2 in one day, that’s just rude. Maybe Bob’s snark about the housekeeping has merit.

In comes Murphy (not amused, of course) and some more magical testing (at least Harry has hair to test this time). Bob also posits the theory that since a Wizard shorts out technology (something that really needs more explaining in the series – it’s explained in the books but this is the first time it’s been brought up here), he could be causing the deaths by overruling the heart’s electrical impulses.

To the morgue (yes Harry gatecrashes, no he’s not supposed to, no, no-one’s going to make him leave, not really. Standard staple of mystery shows is, alas, that random busybodies have every right to access crime scenes, mortuaries, police files et al). In the much snarking between all the characters (they really bounce off each other well, I have to say), Harry manages to grab a handful of Mr. Frank’s cremated ash (can I just say how extremely, stunningly quick that was? The man hasn’t been dead for 6 hours!). Testing the ash, however, reveals an elderly woman – someone at the mortuary has been naughty

Which is why Harry ends up dragging a mortician to the police station (causing Murphy to win $20 from her sidekick Kirmani since she bet Harry would find something before they did. Did I mention how much I like how they bounce off each other?) A woman who sounds a lot like Butter’s assistant (actually, no she doesn’t. Because “pretty young Asian woman with glasses” is not an especially detailed description and I dare say should cover RAAAATHER a lot of women in the Chicago area, but this is Urban Fantasy land were POC are few and far between) has paid money for the body.

Money that Harry uses in a tracking spell and some magical breaking and entering follows. Well, entering, the magic renders the breaking unnecessary. And they find the very alive Kelton Franks – though he doesn’t recognise Harry and attacks him – magic ensues and we have an unconscious Kelton.

Face Off: Worst Friend in Urban Fantasy

An Urban Fantasy protagonist wouldn’t be the same without an entourage. Every protagonist needs people to support her awesomeness and bask in her glow. what boggles us, however, is just how awful some of these protagonists are to their friends. Basking? I’m amazed these friends aren’t giving them a  good slap and reading them the riot act. I’d have got a restraining

Sookie Stackhouse.

Watching True Blood I am amazed with every passing episode that Tara hasn’t shot Sookie and buried her in a shallow grave.  She completely ignored that Bill and Eric were more than happy to ignore that Tara was a captive and then lectured Tara of being anti-vampire.  This is a woman who had been tortured by Franklin Mott for days I might add.

Last year when Tara was trapped by Marnie, Sookie was more than happy to leave her behind to go and warn Bill about the dangers the witches posed.  She didn’t worry for one moment about the dangerous situation that she was leaving Tara in.

Even in the books she’s scarcely better - in particular she is incapable of being happy for anyone. Tara is pregnant? She mopes about her lack of kids. Jason getting married? Well time to judge him on his wedding plans!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

True Blood Season 5: Vampyr Tease

I don't know about you, but I am totally excited about season 5 of True Blood.  I love Christopher Meloni and can't wait to see what role he will play in the upcoming season.  Here is a small teaser.

Game Of Thrones Season 2: Anatomy Of A Scene - Theon Being Baptized

Grimm: Season 1, Episode 20: Happily Ever Aftermath

“And they lived happily ever after.”

We begin with Mr. Adacoff – facing arrest for fraud and embezzlement, shooting himself. One of the men defrauded, Arthur seems rather perturbed – especially since his wife, Lucinda, doesn’t realise their money isn’t secure and is spending it. Everything he had was in Adacoff’s hands and he turns to his friend, Spencer, for advice. He goes to his wife’s step-mother for money but she’s far from receptive (not that I can entirely blame her).

Spencer is most displeased with the step-mother and regards the money she has as being owed to Lucinda since the step-mother married Henry, Lucinda’s rich father. As Lucinda’s godfather, he is determined to help her.

That night, the step-mother is attacked by a monster under her bed which then chases her, screams at her and the scream both shatters glass, causes her to bleed from her eyeballs and fall off her upper balcony. Of course, the bleeding eyes could be from the site of the awful costume and the throwing herself of the balcony could be the actress declaring “no, I refuse to be part of a show that thinks third rate Hallowe’en costumes make for good monsters”. Ok, I normally reserve the snark for the end, but really, early Doctor Who episodes had better quality monster costumes

One of the step-mother’s daughters, Tiffany goes to the house to check on her and finds the body – time for Nick, Hank and Wu to race into action. Clearly not an accident – claw marks and exploded eyeballs after all as well as the massive amounts of shattered glass. Interviewing Tiffany and Taylor (the other sister) they’re quick to point the finger at Arthur.

At Arthurs they talk to him, Lucinda and Spencer – who is a Murcielago, a bat Wesen. They agree to come to the precinct but want a few minutes alone first – because leaving your prime suspects alone to make sure they’ve got their stories straight is such a great idea.

After much questioning and police rambling it seems the money all goes to the step-sisters, none of it to Lucinda. Which seems odd – except Lucinda decides to go visit Tiffany alone – and she’s a Murcielago as well – and not a happy one.

Nick and Eddie do some research and find some info on the Murcielago (as a nice aside, we also see that these creatures also have different names in different languages – so all the German Wesen is not because they all have origins in Germany, but that Nick’s research and Eddie do) and the way to fight one is to use a kind of siren – which Nick has in his collection of weapons. It’s a new toy and yes, they love it – these 2 are such fun when they’re together

Nick naturally goes looking for Spencer – and Arthur and Lucinda direct him to Tiffany’s house where spencer has just arrived in time to see Tiffany’s body, killed by Lucinda of course. Nick finds Spencer and arrests him.

We do have a great moment in the interview room though  - Spencer says he knows who Nick is and Nick knows who he is so there’s no need for games – except Hank is in the room and knows nothing, though he quickly backtracks in response to Nick’s eye-flicks (damn, sooo close. That was really well done). He confesses, naturally, to the murders to protect Lucinda. Hank asks how he did it… which is awkward so he tells the truth – he can make high pitched screams that kill people. Hank is… dubious. When he leaves he can tell Nick the truth - Lucinda has no conscience and she is only controlled by getting what she wants – and she’s the one behind the deaths.

Hank gets the same idea by checking the will showing that Taylor is the only thing that stops Lucinda inheriting – when a high pitched scream rocks the police station – Spencer has escaped by screaming and shattering the windows of the interrogation room.

Everyone to Taylor’s house to play rescuer – Nick, Hank and Eddie (with the siren) driving Lucinda out into Spencer’s arms who screams her to almost death… not quite enough since she bites him and rips out his throat.