Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Almighty Johnsons Season One, Episode Two: This Is Where Duty Starts

So when we last left the Johnson family, Mike and Valerie were trying to  were trying to conceive a child through IVF and Axl had been informed that his quest is to find the goddess Frigg, in order to become a full God.  It seems that even if you are a God, things don't always go as planned.  

Mike and Valerie learn that their second attempt at IVF has failed.  While the doctor is talking to them, Mike zones out and imagines the doctor telling him that his God sperm is not compatible with human sperm and this is why Valerie is not getting pregnant.  He blames himself entirely.  We get a flashback to when Mike was 21 and first a God.  It seems that Valerie didn't start off as his girlfriend's but his best friend Rob, who incidentally is in a coma. 

They get a call to come to the hospital and learn that Rob's condition has changed.  Every once and awhile a tear rolls down his face, but more importantly he seems to be speaking ancient Norse, the very same language that Olaf did when he zoned out during Axl's entry into his Godhood rights. This disturbs Mike greatly.

In the meantime, Anders is not at all content to allow nature to take its course and has decided that despite Mike's directive that he must get Axl laid.  Axl says that he is interested in someone, but Anders tells him to just have sex with her and find out whether or not she is Frigg and then move on.  Because the lives of all of the brothers are dependent upon Axl finding Frigg before he dies, Anders is not prepared to wait.  

At his office, he looks through model catalogs because he has determined that Frigg must be a model since she is a God. He centers in on an attractive athlete named Carla, in part because she posed for a picture exposing her breasts.What he does not know, is that Stacey, the Goddess Hel has infiltrated his office to keep track of what the Gods are doing.  She quickly reports back to Agnetha (the Goddess Freyja) about what is going on.  They are quite dismissive of Anders reasoning and make a point of saying that he is not the brightest of Gods. Agnetha decides to beat them at their own game by getting by having Ingrid (who is Snorta the Goddess of Wisdom and Prudence) work on a genealogy to figure out who Frigg really is.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Red Band Trailer

Our review of the book will be up on Monday, but in the meantime, we thought you might enjoy the trailer for the movie.

Review: Managing Death by Trent Jamieson, Book 2 of the Death Works Series

Steven de Selby is the newest RM of Mortmax industries, member of the Orcus and avatar of death for the whole of Australia.

And that’s not an easy job. It’s especially not an easy job when you have lost as many people as he has and are still reeling from the shock of a near regional apocalypse.  Now he has powers he barely understands, duties he understands even less and none of it is something he wanted or asked for. Worse, the other RMs are all ruthless murderers who reached their position by climbing over the bodies of their predecessors and he has to deal with them.

The Stirrer god also draws closer – a being that could herald the end of all life itself; but before he can even think about dealing with it he has to bring all the RMs together in a Death Moot to discuss strategy.

But they’re playing their own game. They have a long term plan that involves him – but he’s not part of it. And as he’s dragged into it by Suzanne, RM for North America, he also learns far more about what it means to be an RM and the Hungry Death that lurks inside all of them; even as the association damages his relationship with Lissa.

And then there’s Rillman an ex-employee of Mr. D’s who left under bad terms. In fact he wants to kill Steven as slowly and painfully as possible, and the other RMs and quite possibly destroy death itself. This could be a Bad thing. Especially since it seems he just might be able to do it.

In the first book Steven spends a lot of time flailing around, lost, confused and utterly overwhelmed

In the second book, Steven spends most of the time flailing around, lost, confused and utterly overwhelmed. Yes, again. The difference is that he’s has been doing this job for 3 months now and he’s still flailing around ineptly. In fact, by the end of the book I still had zero idea what a Regional Manager of death actually DID except exist, have birds spy on his girlfriend and have lots of discussions with other Regional Managers. Lissa and Tim intervention him about slacking off and doing nothing but after that he doesn’t seem to do anything differently.

Yes he has suffered losses – but so have Lissa and Tim. And they’re moving on, putting in double shifts to keep the organisation going while he drowns himself in rum and sleeps in (despite not needing to sleep). He has these new shiny powers but he doesn’t know how to use them. He makes little to no effort to learn about them and no effort to practice the few powers he does know. He has Mr. D to act as guide and advisor but he has to be virtually dragged to his presence to get any advice or training. He knows Aunt Nettie is angry with him but he makes no attempt to reconcile – instead preferring to avoid her. The only reason he learns anything about his job, his powers, the company’s history or anything else is because Suzanne the North American RM pushes him into a deal that forces him to spend time listening to her train him.

True Blood Season 5 "Everything Is At Stake" Promo

Absent Mothers in Urban Fantasy

This piece was originally posted at BitchFlicks

Urban Fantasy is here to stay
Urban Fantasy -- the bringing of the fantastic (vampires, werewolves, magic, fae and so much more) to a modern, real world setting -- has become ever more popular as a mainstream genre. From Twilight to True Blood to The Vampire Diaries, it is now firmly entrenched on our televisions. The books regularly reach the best seller lists - this isn’t a fringe genre. It’s here, it’s huge and it’s here to stay.

This means the portrayals represented matter. Any popular media has the power to shape culture and society; any stories that are consumed by a large number of people are going to draw upon our societal prejudices and, in turn, feed and encourage those prejudices and portrayals.

Urban Fantasy is a genre that seldom gets critical examination. At first blush, the opposite would appear to be true when one considers the social conversation around Twilight or True Blood, but these are only two examples within an extremely large genre. It is interesting to note that much of Urban Fantasy contains female protagonists and is largely produced and consumed by women. Considering the ongoing gender divide, it is hardly surprising that this immensely popular genre is being ignored by critics.

Just because Urban Fantasy is largely produced by women and consumed by women does not mean that it is free of sexism and misogyny. When it comes to motherhood, a role that most women will one day assume, it is hardly surprising that within the genre most examples are highly problematic --  when they appear at all.

The lack of representation of motherhood is so extreme that the viewer is forced to ask is, “where are the mothers?”. It seems like such an odd question, because you’d expect most characters, like most people, to have a mother lurking around somewhere; especially since most of the heroines in these stories are young women or even teenagers. Search as we might, the mothers are conspicuous by their absence.

The most common cause of the missing mother seems to be death -- indeed, it is almost mandatory for an Urban Fantasy heroine to have a tragically dead mother. In The Vampire Diaries Elena’s mother is dead. True Blood has the orphaned Sookie; Charmed killed the sisters’ mother off before the series even started; Cassie, Diana, Melissa, Jake and Adam all have dead mothers in The Secret Circle. Buffy’s mother died part way through the series. In The Dresden Files, Harry’s mother died before the series began. In Grimm, Nick is yet another protagonist with a dead mother. The whole beginning motivation of Supernatural revolves around their dead mother. In Blood and Chocolate, both mother and father are brutally murdered. In The Craft Sarah Bailey's mother is dead. In Underworld, Selene’s mother is murdered by Viktor.

This list is extremely -- even excessively -- long but it’s shocking that we looked through all the shows and movies that we’ve watched and actually found it hard to find a series where the mother was alive and present.

Even in stories where the mother is lucky enough to have dodged the bullet and is actually alive, she is still often absent. In Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, Renee, Bella’s mother, is absent, living in a completely different state. In The Vampire Diaries, Bonnie’s mother, Abby, is absent through much of her childhood and, when they are finally reunited, Abby not only presents Bonnie with a child that she raised as a replacement, but quickly disappears after becoming a vampire. Abby is well aware of the pain that her absence has caused Bonnie and yet she steadfastly finds a reason not to engage with her daughter. Once Upon a Time sets records for absent mothers -- Augustus never had one, Snow White and Ruby’s mothers are dead, and Emma grew up in the foster system without her mother.

I suppose we should be grateful these mothers ducked the Urban Fantasy plague that has put so many parents in their graves, but they still have little to no actual influence and presence in their children’s -- the protagonists' -- lives.

With such a massive pattern, we have to ask why. Why is it almost a requirement in Urban Fantasy for the young, female protagonist to be lacking a mother (and often a father too for that matter)?
One reason seems to be to make the characters sad, relatable and, frankly, angst ridden. It’s quick, cheap and easy characterisation to establish a sad, tortured or otherwise issue-laden character with “depth” to kill off a parent and have them be sad about it. These dead mothers are sacrificed for quick and easy back story for the protagonist. Take a heroine, load her up with a shiny ability, a bit of snark, a love interest -- now kill her mother so she has “depth.” The back story is established: we have a “3-dimensional character” who has suffered (which seems to be shorthand for an established character in far too much fiction).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Chill Factor by Rachel Caine. Book 3 of the Weather Warden Series

Joanne and David are trying desperately to catch up with Kevin and Jonathon – Kevin has stolen Lewis’s powers, the most powerful Warden in the world and without them Lewis is slowly dying. And Jonathon is the most powerful of the Djinn, bottled for Kevin to use. Between them they have vast power and the potential for extreme destruction – especially since they’re extremely careless how they use that power. The growing instability is threatening a global environmental disaster.

Then there’s the organisations that shape the world who are determined to become involved. The Wardens want David and Jonathon’s bottles, Lewis playing his own game and a new force, Ma’at, sees the Wardens as a deadly threat – but has little compassion for humanity.

It’s been a long time since she has been in Vegas as well – but the place holds terrible memories for her of events that are very much connected to the current crisis – and the growing number of missing Djinn.

I’ll start with fulsome praise for the World Building. The world building and research is impressive but, again, perhaps too impressive. It’s not as extreme as the last book, but I’m not a meteorologist (or a seismologist for that matter) and while the science is well explained, there’s a lot of it. It’s nice to see magic have a grounding in reality, but at times I think I’d be happier with “she waves her hands and it rains” than the scientific chain of events that causes air born moisture to form precipitation. It’s impressive, but perhaps too much for the lay reader.

Beyond the world building of the magic, the Djinn, Ma’at and Wardens are all coming together with more detail and more information about each of them and how they interact together – and in turn adding a lot more information to the magic system and the way the powers actually work. It’s artfully done without ever resorting to lecturing even if Joanne’s point of view about weather manipulation can be excessively complicated and detailed.

The story is fascinating – all these organisations, the dilemma of taking down Kevin, how Kevin himself is not an entirely unsympathetic character, Jonathon’s own plotting and Joanne trying to negotiate between these many different forces and powers – and choosing who to trust. We have the very struggle of getting near Vegas with the most powerful Djinn in the world trying to brush you aside; the complex ethics of what to actually do with Kevin; the need to save Lewis while at the same time dealing with his and the Warden’s behaviour and, through all that, the presence of Ma’at, their own agenda, their demand that Joanne joins them and their own shady ethics. There’s a lot here, a lot of twists and turns and several times just when you think it’s all ironed out, a new curve ball lurches out to surprise you. It’s well paced and interesting never dragging but I do have to say there may be one twist too many – towards the end of the book I reached a point where I just wanted her to win already and be done because there was so many new twists added on at the end.

I’m really curious how Joanne reacts to the people around her from here. So much has opened up – the true nature of the Wardens, Ma’at, the Djinn, Lewis, yet at the same time she has been given zero reason to trust any of them. In fact, each of them has betrayed her in some fashion, sometimes pretty severely. Where does she go here when she has little reason to trust or want to be part of any of these groups?

Blood Ties, Season 1, Episode 8: Heart of Fire

Last week Celluci’s jealousy (coupled with Henry’s obtuse need to be as mysterious and non-communicative as possible) lead to Henry getting the ugly sun brooch to drain his powers and leave him vulnerable to Javier the vampire hunter.

Vicki is not pleased by this turn of events. No, no she is not and makes her displeasure very well known with judicious application of knuckles to jaw. Celluci seems to think that working with vigilante priests is part of his job – wow, the job description of a police officer just got way wider. They agree to work together because Vicki wants Henry back and Celluci wants Javier Mendosa – why? In what way has Javier acted differently to what Celluci expected?

Henry is a chained up for the pleasure of Javier, who is quoting the trippier parts of Revelations. Henry spends a lot of time rather pointlessly flailing in his chains and trying to bite Javier from a distance of several feet. We also get some wonderful flashbacks about the last time Henry was held captive by the Catholic Church.  We also see that it was the same priest in both cases – making Javier over 400 years old.

Javier drains his blood and offers him a rat to eat – which Henry rejects out of mercy. There follows classic inquisition techniques of torture for confession and showing henry video of Delphine, one of his vampire children who Javier also tortured into confession. This goes on in extremely dramatic fashion – it’s very thematic but it’s also very melodramatic. In the past eh escapes by winning the sympathy of Mendosa’s female assistant, Maria – and praying over the rosarie to convince her he’s not evil. Then he eats her – hey, he’s hungry, snack time! But he also offers her his blood to make her a vampire. She wakes – sees Mendosa and calls him her love – and he stakes her (with a hammer as well – very realistic and traditional).

Celluci goes back to the police station for more flirting with Kate (to his cluelessness) and boss lady Crowley on the warpath (because she doesn’t like Vicki, because strong, independent tough women must hate each other, It’s a Rule). And Vicki sets Coreen on the research trail.

Police work includes harassing prostitutes for more information (there was a prostitute murdered last week as well). I dislike the harassment but I do like how the sex-worker makes it clear that she needs the money and makes their harassment clear as harassment. She takes them to an abandoned church where  Javier tried to take her to feed the last vampire he had kidnapped (Delphine)

They find Delphine, chained and starving Vicki feeds her and asks her a few questions – but then the sun comes up and Delphine burns to ash. They do find the research that Javier left behind. We also get Celluci being all sad because it was such a horrible way for Delphine to die.

More research later, including awesome pathologist, reveals a Chinese herb revered for immortality mixed with vampire blood (yes, the pathologist is awesome). And Coreen finds that the 8 rayed sun is also of Chinese origin – again for eternity (I think the mythology is played very fast and loose here). They also learn that there was a priest in the Sapnish Inquisition called Javier Mendosa as well. It’s at this point I back away from the screen in case it wants to slap me any harder with blatantly obvious clues.  With this barrage they finally come to the conclusion that Javier is using vampire blood to extend his own lifespan.

Cover Snark: POC Erasure

The above image comes from a truly excellent study into YA covers performed by Kate Hart and we strongly urge everyone to go read her brilliant piece and the amazing work she’s put in on this to raise a very vital point about publishing.

Naturally following this excellent study we cast a gaze over the books we’ve read. Before we go any further we stress that we realise this is a publisher problem, not an author problem - authors usually have very little control over the covers of their books.
Still, there is one area where authors do bear some responsibility -  most of the books we’ve read won’t have a POC on the cover quite simply because they don’t have a major POC in the actual book. The erasure that is so common in the genre automatically assumes a white person on the cover because that’s what the reader will find within anyway. Even if the publishers were saints and faithfully representing the content on the covers, we’d still see a vastly overwhelming White majority.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Midnight in St. Petersburg by Barbara J Web: Book One in The Invisible War

A vampire, a sensitive, a templar knight and a fae descendant, are all called to St. Petersburg.  It sounds like the opening line of a joke doesn't it?  Well, in this case it's a very serious matter.  Something is desperately wrong with the city and Rose, the sensitive, can feel the blackness in every waking hour.  They are offered a contract by an unnamed employer, to discover who is responsible for the murders.  For Rose, this represents the opportunity of a lifetime, because not only will she finally be in the company of people who understand her, this deal represents more money than she ever thought possible.  Unfortunately for Rose, none of her fellow teammates have any trust that she is up for the fight.  Everyone seems to have secrets except for Rose, and no one is anxious to share.

Things escalate as Rose is attacked in her dreams.  The tension between Mike the templar and Nazeem the vampire continue to stymie any possibility of trust between the group.  As a servant of God, Mike sees Nazeem as unholy, and therefore beyond redemption.  Nazeem, for his part, only wants the opportunity to help and despite himself, he is attracted to Rose. Ian, the fae descendant, only took the job to discover what happened to his long missing father and while he is excited to be there, this is clearly his priority.  

The supernatural community is in an uproar because no one can tell for sure who is next to die.  It could be a voider, or even a vampire, but what is certain, is that in just a few days, someone else is scheduled to die.  Can the ragtag team get it together long enough to hunt down the evil, while negotiating the various politics at play?

First, let me say that it is refreshing to read an urban fantasy novel outside of a North American setting. One could almost feel the cold, and bleakness of St. Petersburg as Rose wraps herself in as many layers as possible. Web also used food, as a way to give the reader a sense of the setting.  It felt authentic and that is something a lot of writers have problems with.

The only character of colour in the novel is Nazeem, but we don't really learn much about him from a cultural standpoint; however, we do learn about vampire culture through him.  He is yet another in a long list of what I would call self loathing vampires.  On the outside, he seems to accept himself for who and what he is and yet, he seems to be seeking redemption, which implies that he is not completely accepting of himself, or of other vampires for that matter. In a moment of passion, Nazeem kissed Rose and when she told him to stop, he did so immediately.  I really liked that Webb included this scene as far too often, a woman in an urban fantasy novel is swept away by an otherworldly creature when there is much evidence that she should be running the other way.  I liked that Nazeem did not force the issue, which helped to assert Rose's agency and her right to say no.  Too often in these novels, no means yes and to see the opposite affirmed is really important.

teen wolf gag reel from season 1

Being Human U.K Season Three, Episode 5: The Longest Day

This episode beings with George in the psychiatric ward of the hospital.  He watches confused a man crawls on the ground. That man is Herrick. The staff is talking about taking Herrick's picture to see if they can find any relatives or at the very least find someone who can explain what happened to him.  This of course upsets George immediately.

Nina and Annie are in the bathroom mooning with excitement over Nina's ultrasound - happy to have discovered that a baby can survive a transformation. Just as Annie pops out, George calls Nina to tell her that Herrick is in the psych ward.  Nina hurries and George tells her that he has no reflection and that he is sure the man in question is Herrick.  George is worried that the staff will find out what he is. Nina walks into the ward with a wheelchair and asks Herrick if he knows her.  She tells him her name and asks if he wants to get out of there.  On the camera, because Herrick has no reflection, it looks like Nina is pushing an empty wheelchair. A man puts his door in the elevator stopping Nina and George from escaping with Herrick.  When confronted, Nina claims that Herrick is her uncle Billy.

Back at the house, Mitchell is looking over clippings from the train massacre. Sally calls him and he comes downstairs to find Herrick standing in the living room. George says that they had to take him, because the police where there and were going to take his photo.  George asks Mitchell if it is indeed Herrick and what they should do.  Mitchell says stake him and he runs into the kitchen and breaks a chair leg.  Mitchell begins to attack Herrick, who struggles to get away as Annie begs him to wait and to stop.  Mitchell raises his hand to strike, just as Nina pulls him off Herrick.

The doorbell begins to ring and it turns out that there is a social service worker. Nina says that she believes that they are there to find out why uncle Billy from Bristol ended up in a psych ward.  Nina rushes Herrick upstairs, and tells George to get the door. George begins to ramble with nerves

As the carewoker chats on the phone, George continues to freak out and demands to know how Herrick ended up there considering that he killed him.  Mitchell suggests waiting until the worker is done and staking Herrick. Annie says that Herrick doesn't know them, and he doesn't even remember that he hates werewolves.  Mitchell insists that he is faking it and is shocked that no one can see this, but Annie counters stating that Herrick was really scared and it was horrible to watch. Annie suggests giving him some clothes and some money and settin him free.  Mitchell gets George to agree with him about staking Herrick, though George says that he cannot do it.

Upstairs, Herrick notices that he has no reflection and he starts to scream. He starts running around the house naked screaming.  Nina tells Herrick that it was a trick mirror.  She explains to him that there is a lady downstairs waiting to see him.

The doorbell rings and since no one is around, Wendy the care worker gets it. Proving that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, at the door is Cara.  Cara asks to speak to Mitchell and Wendy invites her in as Annie scurries off to find him. When Wendy asks about Cara, Mitchell claims that she is a hard core raver and will be fine with a hot shower.

Wednesday Reboot: Zombieland

Zombieland was released in 2009 and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson. So a zombie apocalypse has taken over the world and there are very few survivors.  Columbus has a list of rules for survival that have kept him alive.  The movie starts off by showing all the people who died when they violated this rule.  Columbus is a geek who is absolutely terrified and has largely survived by segregating himself, which for Columbus is not really different than how he lived before the apocalypse.

He runs into Tallahassee whose main motivation is to find the last twinkie.  You would think that since a twinkie could probably survive a nuclear war, that a twinkie wouldn't be hard to find but that is not the case.  Tallahassee is rough and tumble and is a great foil to Columbus.  The two meet Wichita  and her little sister Little Rock.  All of the characters in Zombieland go by their place of origin rather than their names.  Wichita and Little Rock manage to con Columbus and Tallahassee out of their vehicle and guns not once but twice.  Columbus takes an instant liking to them and especially likes the fact that they were con artists before the apocalypse.

Zombieland is essentially a comedy and this is quite different than how the zombie apocalypse is normally framed in the media.  It does include the angst of the survivors but Columbus' survival rules add a lightness.  In one scene, a woman kills a zombie by dropping a piano on him for instance.  Another man is eaten by a zombie while using the bathroom, and Columbus quips about not using public bathrooms.  One woman is killed because instead of shooting the zombie twice, she shots him and then taps him with her foot to see if he was dead, thus inspiring the "double tap" rule for killing zombies. I do however feel it necessary to mention that Columbus makes it clear that no fat people survive because of an inability to move quickly.  Fat people apparently were the first ones killed off.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 3 Behind the Scenes #1

Even though The Walking Dead hasn't been wrapped for too long, I already miss it.  I loved this behind the scenes promotion for season three and so I thought I would share it with you.  I have to say hearing Andrew Lincoln who plays Rick Grimes speak in his natural accent, makes him that much sexier.

Review: Dancing on the Head of a Pin by Thomas E. Sniegoski, Book 2 of the Remy Chandler Series

Remy Chandler is recovering from the death of his wife and wondering at his place in the world – if he even has a place in the world. Especially since the Thrones have offered him a place back in heaven.

But the world doesn’t stop for a grieving angel. Several weapons have gone missing – weapons from every stage in history, each the very epitome of their kind and craftsmanship. They are the pitiless and they have power far beyond being devastating tools of destruction.

And other people certainly want them - not least of which the Denizens, fallen angels who have returned to Earth from Hell to live out the rest of their penance and seek redemption. They’ve absorbed the forces of Hell and aren’t seeking a path back to Heaven – but revel in the corruption of mortals around them.

But the Pitiless contain power even they don’t know – and are part of a scheme that can rock Heaven itself to its core.

I do have an issue with the pacing of the book. It takes a long time for the book to get going and a long time to set the actual plot and premise up. We spend a lot of time with Remy’s emotions and dealing with his wife’s death and considering his place in the world – and whether he truly wants to remain with humanity or re-ascend to heaven. There follows a series of side-characters he deals with to find the pitiless who serve no real purpose at all. I’m not sure why the Denizens were there or what purpose they served or the semi-human purveyors of stolen goods. They seemed almost place holders that could have been equally filled by anyone else. They felt like fillers, interactions with them felt unnecessary and all it really did was mean Remy didn’t have to do any real investigating.

The contrast is that once he does get his hands on the actual Pitiless, it’s run and keep up, no sprint and keep up with action left right and centre, passing into hell, fighting through Tartarus against hellions, against the fallen and we’re up to our eyeballs in gore, scary feelings and big rebellious falling angels.

It was a little disjointing to say the least. I vaguely felt like I’d plodded to the top of a hill then fell down the other side.

But other than pacing the story was pretty good. It was an adventure – I wouldn’t say much of an investigation since the action came to find Remy rather than him tracking down the clues. But the way the nature of the Pitiless unfolded and the epic way the whole confrontation was set up was extremely well done – form Francis battling in the portal to Remy fighting to get and keep the pitiless there was a full sense of epic that was established. But then it was just battle after battle. Buuut some of the fights were unnecessary. Some of the hellion attacks, battling the denizens, Uriel – it just felt like another fight scene without any real purpose. Just throwing in random stuff to fight time and again, even when the scenes are well written, gets a little dull after a while. Books aren’t action movies, you can’t get by with cool fight scenes to keep things going. It also got me lost, after fight scene after fight scene after fight scene I was a little “so what we fighting now? Why? What were we actually doing again? Aw, screw it, stab something already”.

Yet, despite the epic set up, the ending wasn’t predictable, it had a couple of twists I never imagined and caught me by surprise and I definitely didn’t see the big show down at the end – I thought we’d have an entirely different conclusion.

The world setting here is excellent. The different orders of angels, Tartarus, the nomads, the guardians, the whole extremely well researched lay out has a lot of depth and there’s been a whole lot of work gone into it. From the Thrones to the vividly described Tartarus there’s a whole lot there.

Review of Violet Tendencies by Jaye Wells Book 4.1 of The Sabina Kane Series

Normally, I skip short stories in any series that I read but because I have become such a fan of Jaye Wells, problematic elements not withstanding, I simply had to read Violet Tendencies.  Adam, Sabina, Giguhl and his vanity demon lover Valva have arrived in Los Angelos to search for Sabina's missing sister Maise.  Sabina is hoping to sneak into town unnoticed so she arrives at Fang's vampire bar, with the hope that he will put her up for a few days.  Fangs is hesitant because if the Dominae discover that he  has given them sanctuary it could mean death for him.  Sabina promises that he will keep mum about his involvement; however, she is unable to keep a her appearance low profile because Valva has other ideas.

Valva hopes on a stripper pole and all hell breaks loose.  Before Sabina or Adam can react the vampire strippers are throwing punches, and the bar is on fire.  Realizing that the situation is out of control, Ada zaps them out of there leaving the bar on fire, as the Dominae's guards enter and demand their surrender.  He shifts them to the famous Hollywood sign where Giguhl makes it clear to Valva that his woman is not to behave like a cheap tart in public.  

Valva begins with lip pouting but when he realizes that Giguhl sees her as a possession to be owned, Valva makes it clear that she will shake her ass when and where she wants regardless of how she feels about it.  Despite being a minion, Valva is not only tired of Giguhl but of Sabina, who orders her around.   Valva feel unappreciated and so decides to leave, which shocks them all after declaring that Sabina has split ends. 

Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell

Robb Stark is having a merry conversation with Talisa about his upcoming nuptials to an unnamed Frey daughter and the powerful duties and responsibilities of being a lord. It’s all very pleasant until they get a message – Jaime Lannitser escaped during the night, Catelyn the Spunky freed him in the hope that this would lead to Sansa and Arya being freed. Naturally, Lord Karstark, whose son was killed by Jaime Lannister

Brienne is escorting (well acting as prison warder) Jaime Lannister while he tries to taunt and mock her – not that it gets him very far.

Robb seeks more comfort with Talisa in face of Theon’s betrayal, his mother’s foolishness and all the other stresses of his life, exchanging more small talk and personal history stories. Which leads to Robb and Talisa finally giving in to the sexual tension  in a sex scene where Talisa strips naked and Robb manages to keep his trousers on, uh-huh.

At Harenhal Arya is still playing servant to Lord Tywin while he has a war council. Tywin plans a secret march to get ahead of Robb’s forces – and to leave Arya at Harenhal with Clegane the Mountain.

Arya shows a much craftier side – having lost the chance to name Tywin to Jaqen, she names Jaqen himself as someone Jaqen has to kill. She will un-name him only if he helps her and her friends escape. She secures his help (if not his happiness). It seems the ridiculously stifling Stark sense of honour and Tully lack of sense has skipped Arya at least.

In Kings Landing Tyrion is stressed over the up coming siege and trying to plan defences. For added stress, Varys congratulates Bronn (the new head of the city watch) on the reduction in crime rate – by rounding up all the suspected thieves and killing them. Tyrion isn’t especially thrilled by this tactic but Bronn and Varys believes it’s necessary in a siege when shortage and theft are rampant.

Cersei has dinner with Tyrion and they discuss Joffrey’s intention to fight – Cersei obviously doesn’t want to, he’s only a boy. But, as Tyrion points out, there are boys of the same age in his army fighting for him. She protests his place is not on the battlefield and Tyrion points out it’s not on the throne either (best line of the episode).

But Cersei has her own plan – kidnapping and abusing a prostitute to control Tyrion, relying on his affection and love for her and threatening her to ensure that Joffrey comes to no harm. Except they got the wrong prostitute – the one they have captured and abused is Ros, not Shae. (Ros is, again, disposable). Naturally Tyrion runs to check on Shae and warns her to be more careful.

Later Tryion and Varys have the joyful task of listening to Joffrey who wants to strike against the Starks while they’re distracted (as Tyrion points out, there is a siege approaching in Kings Landing). Neither Tyrion nor Varys are especially impressed by Joffrey’s boasting . This gives Varys and Tyrion chance for some verbal fencing – though their extreme intelligences and natural suspicion makes it difficult. After much discussion and exposition (really well done) we find that Varys is aware of Daenerys and her dragons – though everyone is far too distracted to worry about her.

Stannis is sailing on Kings Landing with his fleet and having some more exposition with Ser Davos, the Onion Knight and declaring that he intends to make Ser Davos his Hand of the King (he has to win it yet). Other than some not very necessary exposition, I’m not sure what the point of this scene was.

Theon Greyjoy is still lurking in Winterfell and is, alas, not dead, when his sister Yara finally comes to see him having received his message. She pours scorn on his excuses for killing Brandon and Rickon Stark – and 2 such valuable hostages. And, no, she hasn’t brought men to help defend Winterfell. As should have been apparent to any fool (so not Theon) the Greyjoys are Iron Islanders, sea farers and reavers – Winterfell is too far from the sea, defending landlocked castles is not their expertise. And after he killed the Stark children the Northerners would slaughter them. In the first moment of actual sibling bonding between Yara and Theon, Yara almost begs him to leave – it’s good to see some actual emotion between them beyond the posturing of the Iron Isles.

Between Theon discussing paying off the farmer whose boys they killed to pretend they were Bran and Rickon (no need, his second in command killed him) and examining the bodies, Maester Luwin gets suspicious – and finds that Osha, Hordor, Bran and Rickon have all been hiding inside Winterfell’s crypt. They try to keep the knowledge of the dead farmer’s boys from Bran but he overhears them

North of the Wall, Jon the Pouty has been taken prisoner by Ygritte and taken to the Lord of Bones (a man with unique fashion sense) but they’ve already taken Qhorin Half-hand prisoner and don’t need him – or wouldn’t if Ygritte didn’t argue for him. Jon also learns that Qhorin’s team is dead – they were ambushed looking for Jon when he decided to play games with Ygritte.  

But Qhorin has a plan – when Mance leads his forces against the Wall, a Nightswatchman on the inside would be better than 1000 on the wall (maybe because they’ll actually wear clothing that has a remote chance of camouflage in the snowy wilderness).  But only if the insider (Jon) could be trusted – and he begins to set up fake antagonism between himself and the confused Jon Snow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy: Episode 67

We discuss Game of Thrones and the amount of seemingly unnecessary scenes this week and Catelyn the Spunky’s endless spunkiness as well as the role of mothers in the Game of Thrones. We discuss our new series, the Almighty Johnsons.

On books we discuss 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, forever known as Tami’s porn. We talk about Charlaine Harris’s various book stories, Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire and we pass the buck for American Horror Story to Tami, who didn’t suffer through The Secret Circle

We also discuss out book of the week, Eat, Slay, Love by Jesse Petersen.

Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 8: Storm Front

It’s a dark and stormy night and a couple are having a romantic moment together – when they start bleeding massively from the mouth. Way to spoil the mood guys

To Harry who is, ironically, musing that he thought when he became a detective that all of his cases would start with a sultry femme fatale. Uh,  be fair Harry, a good half your cases so far seem to have involved femme fatales or, at very least, you getting awfully close to your female clients. I think you’ve hit your femme fatale quota already.

This case does not start with a femme fatale – it starts with Detective Kirmani who has come to mock harry for his wizardness (Detective Kirmani not being Harry’s biggest fan) and to reel him in for Murphy. She wants him to look at the 2 bodies – who have had their hearts exploded (the guy is a mobster, the woman a student). Literally exploded out of their chests. Only one thing does that – black magic! Ominous music time – and a lot of revelations to Murphy too.

Which leads, naturally, to the High Council who are officially in charge of stamping heavily on that. Which, of course, leads to Morgan, one of the chief stampers, who introduces himself with a sword to Harry’s throat, of course. Because he’s a nice guy like that. But Morgan’s not in charge here – it’s time to meet Ancient Mai. Who is a very very scary lady indeed and is willing to not kill Dresden for the crime – if he can prove someone else did it. Yes, not the fairest justice system in the world, but Dresden is on probation after killing his uncle with black magic in self defence.

Now highly incentivised to return to the case, he goes back to Murphy and gives her a lecture on Thaumaturgy – including the need for strong emotion to power ripping someone’s heart out. Now someone hating Tommy Tom (oh dear gods, really?) everyone can understand – but why would anyone hate poor Jennifer Randal? Time to check her nearest and dearest – including the parents of her deceased friend, Grace.

And it seems Mrs. Cutler wasn’t Jennifer’s biggest fan since she was the one who introduced Grace to the drugs that killed her. And while he’s musing about that he’s attacked by something invisible – but he drives it off with his hockey stick flamethrower! (Yes, I’m moaning about the props again)

Time for some investigating – by contacting his friend with benefits, Susan, the investigative reporter. Now she does exist in the books but she doesn’t exist in the series, not yet anyway. But she seems to have been just dropped into the series with no backstory or introduction – and as a full blown friend (and more) of Harry at that. It’s rather clumsy, we’re 8 episodes in, she deserved some kind of background presence.

Their little date is interrupted by a fire breathing demon at the door. Definitely ruins the mood (though, it has to be said, not as much as the heart exploding). I love that Susan is determined to get her coat before escaping (I think I may like this character) she also has no patience for being cast as the helpless damsel (yes I do like this character) before Harry fries the demon with a lightening bolt.

Morgan blames the demon summoning on Harry (of course) and Harry locks him in a circle (mainly for knocking Susan aside – yes, he’s a white knight through and through). Susan, well, asks lots of questions, demands respect, demands answers and generally is very demanding. Did I mention I liked her?

Meanwhile, Linda, the other friend of Grace’s who introduced her to drugs? Is also dead. Linda has the name “Bianca” in her phone so, of course, Harry assumes this means vampire Bianca. He also magically dazzles Detective Kirmani rather than explain why he’s with Linda’s body in the car – moooore magic!

Time for a dramatic confrontation with the vampire who loses her temper at the suggestion she has hurt Linda. Battle time – and again we have more magic, including bright lights and Harry’s pentacle holy symbol. And Harry learns the real reason Grace died.

Linda, Jennifer and Grace all found things at Bianca’s club – but what grace found was magic, black magic. Magic that is addictive and corrupting – and very dangerous when you do it wrong, eventually killing her. Magic runs in families and Harry tells all this to Grace’s mother – hoping that Monica would lash out with magic when Harry hit her with these hard truths – hoping to show she was responsible for killing Grace’s friends who she blames for Grace’s death. But if it’s not Monica – what about her supposed suicidal husband. Grace’s father. Who left an unidentifiable corpse and was cremated.

Review: Eat, Slay, Love by Jesse Petersen, Book 3 of the Living with the Dead Series

Sarah and Dave are heading towards the rumoured Midwest wall; with the cure for being a zombie in their pocket. Quite literally a test-tube that could save the country, possibly the world

David, meanwhile, is changing. Since he was bitten by a zombie and cured, he hasn’t been quite human. And while this comes with certain advantages, it also comes with a whole lot of worries.

Not least of which is trying to keep it – and a secret – from their new companions. The aging, perpetually stoned rocker isn’t a problem. But Nicole trained journalist and stalkerazzi, well she’s a much more difficult challenge – she doesn’t miss much and she even carries a video camera around with them

And it’s not as if the trip across the US After Zombies is easy anyway – with wrecked  roads, lack of supplies, constant threat of attack and, of course, other survivors carving their own lethal kingdoms out of the badlands, it’s a difficult journey to say the least. Then, when they reach their destination, absolutely nothing is what they expected.

World wise I am still impressed by how this book is balanced. With any kind of zombie apocalypse movie there is going to be scenes of tragedy, of fear and of sheer massive horror. And this book includes that, thoughts of people who are lost, of things they’ve had to do. Moments of fear, if not panic any more (simply because Sarah and Dave are far too experienced and well trained now for panic).

We also have the standard examples of how humanity devolves in these situations. Petty despots, cults, preying on weaker people, draconian cruelty and tyranny. And when you put them all together along with the desperate fight for survival and craving of sugar, you often get a rather bleak book.

And this book has those elements – there are those bleak moments. But it’s also funny. It’s also light hearted. Sarah and Dave, in the midst of all this horror, manage to have fun. It provides some excellent balance and keeps the book a light, happy read. Even with zombies.

We also have much more development of the world including what has happened with the last of the government. It’s a nice twist that makes perfect sense considering what has happened to the country – I still didn’t see it coming and it adds a whole new dimension of depth

On the character front, like in the last book, we have a jealousy subplot which put me off for a while since it’s both being done and wasn’t very appealing to me the first time round either. What comforts me about both plots though is that at least neither Sarah nor Dave are ever tempted to actually stray and lead us away from glorious zombie killing story and into fraught relationship drama story. I mean the whole premise of the books is that the zombie apocalypse brought this warring couple back together – to have it broken up again would have been really depressing

Which brings me to Sarah’s towering moment of awesome. I didn’t see this coming – in fact I was getting worried. With Dave developing more and more super powers I was worried that Sarah would be relegated to side kick, or chronicler of Dave’s marvellous adventures.  He’d do the amazing things and she would stand around gasping in awe at his impressiveness. But no, Sarah not only held her own but went well above and beyond what was expected in spectacular, dramatic fashion.

Face Off: The Men Sookie Broke

'Foto: True Blood' photo (c) 2010, Cristian Krause - license:
Now, if you’ve been strong (or masochistic) enough to continue reading the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, you  know that when it comes to love, Sookie has an almost magical effect. She ruins men for all other women. Yes, when a man has lain with the Sook-eh no other women will do - indeed, in Deadlocked, Quinn rang Sookie for no other reason than to remind us how much every one of Sookie’s lovers pines for her forever more.

Because of this, Sookie naturally can pick and choose between these men (forever marked as hers), so, if you were in Sookie’s shoes, which one would you choose?

Bill Compton

Bill was turned at the end of the civil war and was 30 years old when he became a vampire.  Despite the passage of time, he still has an antebellum sensibility in his attitude.  He is secretive and has a history of lying to Sookie.  Much of the time, he frames his dishonesty as attempting to keep her safe.  

Though he is now Sookie’s ex boyfriend, he continues to moon over her and confess his love for her constantly.  Her best interest and her safety are always uppermost in his mind and if that means lying to her, so be it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grimm, Season 1, Episode 22: Woman in Black

“It shall not be death, but a sleep of a hundred years, into which the princess shall fall.”

Season finale of Grimm! Let us see some plot developed and tied off and see what we have to pull us in for season 2.

Hank has been affected by the Grimmy things he has seen – he’s been having nightmares and Nick is talking to Eddie about how he has changed. They’re worried that Hank may break trying to assimilate what he’s seen – that he’s seen the impossible and won’t be able to fit that into his head without breaking his sanity or believing he is insane.

But while having this conversation, someone else is photographing them. And contacting someone ominous to bring them in to Portland and see the many many photos he has in a collage around his room. Maybe they’re a nation-wide scrap booking club?

Meanwhile Nick is also checking up on Akira Kamora who killed his parents, finding that he has killed other coin dealers and that he has a Viking tattoo on his face. Last seen in Lisbon – but of course he’s here! Yes, he’s the ominous scrapbooker and looking for Marquesa (one of the 3 Fuschbau who died for those Greek megalomania coins). Scrapbooker #1 (yes, I am keeping that name) has been following Eddie, Renard, Nick and Hank looking for the Megalomania Coins. Akira goes all Wesen-y and kills the Scrabooker since he doesn’t need him any more (see, told you it wasn’t worth me looking up a name). And murders in expensive hotels are just such a bad idea – daily visits from cleaning staff, CCTV, credit card trails – just not sensible.

A hooded woman comes in later and finds the scrapbooker’s corpse. And later Nick and his sidekicks – Hank and Wu check out the body and find that the body’s been moved (by Hooded Woman) and a key to his rental car full of camera equipment – which shows he’s been watching them which is more than a little creepy.

Renard comes home to find the flat wrecked, Patty (his housekeeper) dead – and an angry Akira leaping on him in full Wesen mode – before Nick and Hank have time to contact him. Renard is captured and not-so-politely asked about the coins – awww, I expected him to put up more of a fight. C’mon Renard, you can’t have a full season of crafty awesome to be taken down so easily. Akira leaves when Wu arrives with a disposable extra who is disposed of (followed by Hank and Nick, all watched by the totally-not-suspicious hooded woman in black). Renard Renard, I expected better. But Renard gets to tell them that the baddy is Akira Kimora

Time to warn Eddie and hit the books for some Wesen knock out drugs to allow some alone time with Kimura. Which of course they have in stock in the Grimm Trailer (and Eddie and Nick still bounce off each other well it always has to be said).

Hooded lady is still following Akira – and finally gets spotted being uber-suspicious by Wu. Y’know if you’re going to do something clandestine, the spooky hooded cloak is not actually the most subtle way to do it. Still she beats up the police and runs – more suspicious.

Hank returns home to find his house has also been destroyed (really, is there even any point ripping a house apart looking for something as tiny as 3 coins? They could be anywhere) like Renard’s with the Hooded Woman being all ominous and stealthy in the background. There’s no-one else there but Hank arms up and looks like he’s seriously losing it to paranoia and fear.

Meanwhile, the now disempowered ex-Hexenbiest, Adalind has a kitty. With ominous music. And it is an ominous kitty indeed, for she takes it to see Juliette (who, if you can bare to remember anything about this extremely hollow character, is a vet) to treat – but Ominous Kitty claws Juliette and then her kitty eyes go black. With even More Ominous Music. (Sorry, pet hate of mine is to take a scene that is utterly mundane and try to use music to ratchet up the tension. If the scene doesn’t carry tension then that’s a problem with the scene, melodramatic music is a clumsy plug).