Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Almight Johnsons Season One, Episode Three: God's Gift to Zebras

This episode begins with Axl finally deciding to do some research on Norse mythology and he visits a library.  There he notices that the women are taking a lot more interest in him than normal.  He reports this sudden change to Anders who only wants to know if any of them are Frigg. Anders encourages him to sleep with as many women as possible, but Axl is concerned by how Carla reacted.  Anders is quick to suggest that Carla spazed out because she was "drunk and stoned, or because she is a professional athlete and therefore on steroids." He then admits that he slept with her after his brothers left.  Clearly Anders is a rapist. 

Stacy returns to the Goddess headquarters and reports that Axl is now doing research. Ingird says, "it's good that he is taking an interest in his heritage, even if it's all wrong and written by people who know nothing."  Michelle feels that he can "learn what pricks Gods are", but Ingrid counters with the belief that there is no reason for Goddesses and Gods to coexist. For her part, Stacy is sick of watching the girls mooning over him.

Anders goes to see Ty to complain about Axl's resistance to bed hopping, but Ty says that since it was his first time that he has nothing to compare it to.  Anders leaves in frustration and Ty gets a call to go to a club to fix their refrigeration.  There he sees Helen and is instantly mesmerized.

In the meantime Axl has gone off to see Olaf about the sudden interest he is getting from women.  Olaf tells him that this is all natural and makes an analogy to zebras.  He says on some level these women recognise that there is something different about him. Ty shows up at the house to see Olaf and Val is quick to complain. Ty bursts in the room and says that he felt something he has never felt before when he met Helen. It seems that for the first time in a long time he actually felt warm. This is amazing because he has not felt warm in ages, even food turns cold in his mouth. When he asks why, Olaff says that he needs to think about it. 

Axl goes back to the library to return the books and he starts to chat with the librarian named Sonya about mythology. He tells her that he is Odin and she admits to being Frigg.  His mouth drops open in shock.

Axl immediately goes back to see his brothers to tell them that he has met Frigg.  They tell him that involving mortals in God business is not right.  Axl wants to believe but he doubts it because of how they met.  Of course Anders wants to know if he felt a desire to sleep with her.  The brothers head to the library to stare at her to try and determine if she is Frigg.  Can I just pause to say that this is some first grade stalking behaviour. 

Stacey goes back to the goddess's  office and reports on Johnsons interest in Sonya.  Ingrid immediately sends Michelle to check out the genealogy.  It seems the brothers belief that she may be Frigg is the information that is valuable. The brothers take off to Anders office and once again he tries to push Axl into having more sex.  Olaf then begins to reminisce about his two affairs with goddesses.  He describes Axl's grandmother as "a cold hearted bitch," but then goes on to say how wonderful the sex was.  I don't know about you but I could have done without hearing a man use the word bitch to attack a woman. He doubles down by referring to marrying a goddess as taming her. "Goddess are tricky, there's always a catch when you bag a goddess." Honestly I could have done without this entire conversation.  This much sexism was not necessary to tell Axl that Frigg is the goddess of marriage.

Axl is shocked and is not happy about the idea of marriage. Anders tries to calm him by telling him that marriage between gods means hooking up.  When Axl doubts this, Anders points out that Axl is the God of Gods and that therefore his marriage can mean whatever he wants it to mean. Apparently because Axl is Odin he should be free to sleep around as he pleases.

Helen calls Ty back to the club with a fake refrigeration emergency this time. He quickly sees through her rouse and so she offers him an apple martini. Ty asks Helen why he finds her so irresistible before they share a sweet kiss. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Beauty by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 20.5 in the Anita Blake Series

So I begin every review with a plot synopsis. So here goes:

Anita has sex.


Beauty is less than 16 pages long, according to my Kindle. The rest of the “book” is a preview of the next book and standard publisher pre-amble pages.

I don’t normally talk about the price of e-books or books in general, but here I have to - it was £2.00, which isn’t expensive in general. But £2.00 for 16 pages? Even at that price, that’s ridiculously expensive. This isn’t a short story, this isn’t a novella, it’s not even a story. This is a sex scene. That’s all it is. It’s 2 chapters (mini Laurel k Hamilton chapters) of sex scene. As an added bonus, at least 4 of those pages are wasted on endless, over-written descriptions of how hot everyone is.And how blue jean-claude's eyes are. She wrote a paragraph on those eyes. A really really awful paragraph, at that.

The sex scene isn’t original or new. It contains more desperate forays into D/S sex, but, as ever, is as vanilla as an ice cream van. The sex involves more screaming, bath tubs and a threesome and is described in pretty much the same way as every other Ikea sex-scene we’ve seen in the series. It’s not original, it’s not new – and if I wanted a hot sex scene I could google up some porn that’d be much easier, much faster, much hotter and certainly much cheaper.

Anita has a brief moment of her eternal angst about not being pretty enough, as does Asher. Again.

Review: Interview with a Jewish Vampire by Erica Manfred

Rhoda is 41 years old, overweight, Jewish and looking for a Jewish man to settle down with after her marriage broke up and she’s had a series of poor relationships since then. Just her luck that the first man who seems interested isn’t a man at all – he’s a vampire. But at least he’s Jewish. And he’s into her – zaftig and all.

Dating a vampire isn’t easy, especially not a vampire in an orthodox community when you’re anything but. Rhoda has to work through her own personal insecurities as well, as someone who has been through the wringer a few times already, it’s hard to be so invested in someone who is so very different; Rhoda flails between worry about their relationship to desperately trying to make it work even while Sheldon has to deal with his own family and friends.

And then there’s Rhoda’s mother with the heart condition. She has to go through yet another horrendous surgery or she won’t live much longer – and at 81, that surgery doesn’t look too safe. Unable to stand the thought of life alone, Rhoda makes the leap into seeing her mother – and her friends “the goils” become a vampire and join the Golden Grandmas – a network of elderly vampire women.

But while undeath brings her mother a new lease of life and energy, allowing her to throw herself into activities she hasn’t enjoyed in decades, it also brings with it a disturbing blood lust, a hunger that drives her to the darker side of life and death. And one that leaves bodies in its wake – and the possible attention of the vampire authorities

There is a wonderful sense of Jewish culture – Rhoda and her family and contacts are all very real people who live their culture and carry it with them at all times. It’s in their language, their food, their family bonds, their history and their understanding. It’s funny without being mocked, heavy without being stereotyped. It’s used for in community jokes but never outside mockery. It’s funny, it’s witty and the characters are extremely real and natural. The characters make this book.

We also have some fascinating conflicts – Sheldon being torn between his fellow Hasids and fellow vampires, whether Rhoda, a non-kosher, non-practicing Jew would fit in with such a traditional, orthodox family and, of course Goldie, Sheldon’s golem who is determined to see him settle down with a nice, orthodox, Jewish vampire. I’m also really disappointed with how Goldie was handled, especially since she’s clearly a stand in for Sheldon’s mother. I would rather have had reconciliation rather than the future wife having to kill her future mother-in-law for the wedding to even happen.

Motherhood in Game of Thrones

In real life, motherhood is many things. It is love and bonding, affection and protection and most certainly inspiration. Mothers have been inspired to incredible feats over the years on behalf of their children, for their children and for the world their children live in. We have a world where motherhood can be a great strength and a source of great power and resolve.

In Game of Thrones, however, motherhood seems to coincide with victimhood - being a mother is rarely, if ever, a source of strength for the mothers of Westeros, but so often another avenue through which they can be vulnerable, attacked and manipulated

This is, perhaps, clearest of all with Cersei Lannister, Queen of the 7 Kingdoms, and mother of Joffrey, Marcella and Tommen. Cersei has lead a life with little love and a great deal of harshness. A callous father lead to a loveless marriage which in turn has lead to her seeing love as a weakness. She openly advises Sansa not to love because to love is to leave one vulnerable to being hurt. And with that assertion she has another lament - that you cannot help but love your children, she sees her children as an weakness.

And, considering her eldest son, it’s no surprise. Joffrey is, without a doubt, the most evil character in the Game of Thrones. Callous, selfish, cruel, sadistic and not very intelligent, he is a blight on Kings Landing and the throne - and everyone loves it when Tyrion slaps him. Cersei isn’t blinkered to the flaws of her son. She sees what he is and how truly awful he is - and has expressed so with Tyrion on more than once. She has told Sansa that she knows she will not be happy as Joffrey’s queen and she’s fully aware of the atrocities he’s committed, whether it’s slaughtering babies or having prostitutes brutalised.

Yet, she is still driven to protect and support him. She still worries about him when he goes into battle, she still wants to save him, she is still driven to support him. She is bound to the loathsome boy and even as she sees his crimes, she cannot turn away from him. She doesn’t even get any power from being the mother of the king as she is increasingly both outmaneuvered by Tyrion and, ultimately, unable to curb the excesses and foolishness of her son. Her son is a burden, something to endure.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

AMC's ~ The Walking Dead Social Game ~ Sneak Peek

Review: The Killing Dance by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 6 of the Anita Blake Series

Anita is faced with a new challenge- a professional hitman. For vast sum of money, someone is paying professionals to kill her – and kill her quickly. In many ways this is far more terrifying than anything she has faced before – she has faced witches and werewolves, vampires and even faeries all with murderous intent, but never a coldly professional human killing her for business. And never one willing to use modern technology to do it.

She and Edward have to find a way to keep her alive and, for preference draw out both the hitmen and the person paying for them so they can be put out of business. Permanently.

Alas, she can’t focus on anything so simple as a death threat – not with werewolf politics playing such a large role. Tensions between Richard and his pack leader, Marcus are getting ever higher, with the pack splitting in half between the two contenders. Richard could defeat Marcus – but the only way to be the new king is to kill the old one – something Richard refuses to do. Marcus and Raina have no such compunctions and are doing their best to use his morality – and his vulnerable people – against him.

There’s also a visitor in town. Sabin is a vampire who has given up blood and has suffered from a virulent disease because of it, rotting alive. It’s hoped that Anita’s powers as a Necromancer may be able to cure him. But to do that involves Anita exploring her powers with both Richard and Jean-Claude and discovering how their magic can work together – which could also be useful in making Marcus and Raina back down.

And of course, there is the big relationship conflict. Anita and Richard go ever closer but Jean-Claude is still there, demanding equal time. Anita has to make her choice – and deal with the fallout of it when she does. To say nothing of the standard dramas of vampire politics, new arrivals and the drama they can bring.

As ever with Anita Blake, I love how we have several separate storylines yet they all come together. Anita has a busy life but you see how the threads are connected at the end. The only thing I will say is that it’s becoming expected now – an established part of Hamilton’s style that we don’t expect side-plots to be side-plots per se, but more likely a separate branch of the main plot we haven’t seen yet. Still it’s interesting, really well done, comes together elegantly with excellent pacing and the right amount of attention paid to each line. The clues are there, even if you don’t put them together until hindsight. It’s, in short, a brilliant mystery story. Well paced, information well delivered and action, tension and theme well maintained. The world building was also extremely well done, there were some lectures but always within appropriate context and never just info-dumped. Questions were answered but not over explained and plenty was shown as well as told.

I like the wordiness of Anita’s point of view, it sets them theme, adds context, world building and wonderful snarky commentary as well as having an almost noir feeling to it. It is something I’ve liked in previous books as well. But this book definitely crosses the line into over-description, especially with the men. There is too much description of how she and Richard interacts, of what Richard looks like and even of Richard’s house – I really didn’t need an itemised list of Richard’s furniture, or details like his washing up. And with so many vampires and people in spiffy clothes, there was just a lot more excessively lenthy description here that became dull and overdone. Some pages felt skippable simply because so much time was spent on Anita describing things or Richard’s angst train going round and round in circles.

There’s an interesting theme that’s ongoing about Richard’s self-acceptance and whether he could even endure Anita’s acceptance of him since he hates what he is so much. If she accepts him, when he is so awful, then doesn’t that say bad things about Anita? There’s a similarly huge conflict over Richard’s idealism. His morals aren’t wrong – but are they appropriate for his situation? And it’s all very well being willing to die for your convictions, but what about when people have supported you and rely on you for protection? What do you do to protect those you love and care about? Which, of course, also brings us to Sabin’s situation. To say nothing of Anita’s increasing willingness to kill when necessary.

Blood Ties, Season 1, Episode 9: Stone Cold

Vicki and Celluci meet jogging and discussing the ramifications of last episode. It seems that things are tense but Vicki is confident things will be fine between them. As an added bonus, she reassures Celluci they’ll be fine. Which doesn’t please me.  But more on that later.

Anyway, back to the plot – and a young couple are busy getting down to business, clothes come off and then she grows snakes and he turns to stone. Surprise gorgon! That’s got to put you off. Almost as much as the awful special effects.

The man’s (Brendan) modelling manager comes to Vicki to ask her to find him because she’s all he has in the world. Oh and he owes her $6,000. Celluci has recommended the case – which cases Coreen to suddenly start cheerleading for Celluci (and here was me thinking she was Team Henry) and acting like Vicki is unreasonable for not instantly forgiving him

Time for Vicki to do what she always does when she has a case – go see Henry. Yes I’ve ranted about this before as well – it’s a simple missing person’s case, Vicki, you’re a detective, you’re not even going to try and investigate before dragging the vampire in? This makes Vicki look so incapable and weak as detective that she can’t even begin to pursue a case without begging help from a vampire. How did she manage before Henry came along?

On to the nightclub where the man disappeared to pick up leads, speak to bar staff and eventually lead to the club owner (the gorgon), Elena who knows nothing, remembers nothing and has never had any trouble ever. Which is, of course, very very suspicious. In particular Henry heard her heartbeat race showing a lie and Vicki catches on that Elena mentioned “sexual predators” before she did –pointing to what she was thinking. Good detective work, I like it. Time for more Vicki and Henry flirting

Back to Coreen to check a website that Henry heard about in the club – a website where men post pictures of the women they’ve slept with. Yes, it’s classy. Thankfully Vicki treats it accordingly. But open for the women from Brendan’s profile has the club owner’s distinctive tattoo.

Celluci follows up to the same club asking questions because it has suddenly become a police matter, and starts flirting with Elena

Knowing she lied, Vicki and Henry go to her house – planning to enter unofficially (also known as breaking and entering). Out come the lock picks (or Henry entering through an upstairs window) and Henry hears a far-too-slow heart beat inside (wait, his hearing is that strong?) And inside they find a statue of Brendan – with the too slow heartbeat. Vicki and Henry rush out with the statue (and an acknowledgement and reminder of Vicki’s disability, at last) just as Celluci and the club owner bring the flirting home.

Coreen, Vicki and Henry all gather at Vicki’s office to discuss the stoned Brendan – and Coreen the very well read comes up with basilisk or gorgon. Vicki suspects Elena, but Henry advocates more caution. There is also much teasing of Vicki over Celluci going to Elena’s house. For some reason Vicki wastes her time taking this to Celluci who, obviously, ignores everything she says as usual and is snippy because she’s not all fuzzy and warm to him and wonders why they don’t just end everything. Y’know, Mike, I thought exactly the same thing myself. Why does Vicki put up with you?

In frustration and with characteristic courage and recklessness but, I have to say, uncharacteristic spunkiness, Vicki taunts Elena the gorgon to try and draw her out. And it works – a masked man turns up at Vicki’s office to smash the statue. She smacks him around really nicely but one blow puts her down. This is followed by reasonable depression and a really powerful conversation between her and Henry about love, youth and connection. Speaking of powerful scenes – Vicki buries the statue fragments that are all that is left of Brendan.

Cover Snark: The Longer the Series, the Less Clothes the Women Wear

We have complained a lot about the unnecessarily sexualised and frankly ridiculous covers on so many Urban Fantasy novels. In particular we have complained at how the covers so often do not reflect the people who are actually in the book - there is no way the protagonist we know would dress or pose like that.

What is unique this week is that we have looked at the Chicagoland Vampire series, a series we really like by Chloe Neill - and I have to pity Ms. Neill for having to watch her cover artists gradually lose their ever loving minds.

The cover of Some Girls Bite, the first book in the series. And it’s pretty much perfect - maybe the t-shirt isn’t entirely Merit, but this isn’t too far from how I pictured her and the cover looks pretty intriguing anyway. A good cover.

Now we move to book 2, Friday Night Bites, and we’re slipping. High heels have creeped in. There’s some navel peeking. We have a sexy lean.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fated by Benedict Jacka Book 1 in the Alex Verus Series

Alex Verus is a mage with a very interesting power - he can see into the future.  He owns a small magical shop in London by which he makes a living.  The dark mages are no fans of him after his escape from his master Richard and the council has little respect or use for him, that is until one day when when he is brought a very powerful key by Luna, the woman he considers to be his student.  Luna is cursed and anyone who gets to close to her risks being hurt or even dying through association.  

Alex does not immediately know the purpose of the cube Luna places in his care, but when he sees into the future that a dark mage will kill him if he discovers the cube, Alex knows that he has to protect it and by extension protect Luna.  All of the other mages with foresight leave town and Alex ignores the advice to do the same, because he realizes that doing so would be a death sentence for Luna.  Alex is quickly involved in a battle between the mages possess the fateweaver.  Both sides want his skills and the one thing that is certain is that both sides will kill him when he has served his purpose.  Can Alex keep himself and Luna alive?

A mage whose power is the ability to see into the future is quite fascinating.  Because he does not have an active power, Alex has to out think his opponent.  He has a few tools like a cloak that allows him to blend into his environment but his greatest weapon is his intelligence.  I really like that Jacka did this because far too often with male protagonists, power comes from physical force reducing a protagonist to nothing but a ridiculous super hero. 

Being Human U.K Season Three, Episode 6: Daddy Ghoul

This scene opens with  flashback of Herrick and Mitchell having an argument.  It seems that Mitchell wanted some company and Herrick was dead set against recruits. Herrick tells him that the old ones only ever turn someone once and that it is an eternal bond.  Apparently an heir inherits all of your secrets and potentially a savior. Herrick says, if something happens to you they can bring you back.  

In the present day, Nina wakes to George staring at her while she sleeps. Nina questions whether they are in an ideal baby raising environment. She says that they have to start thinking about the future and ensuring that the world is safe for their child. In his room, Mitchell looks through the newspapers for more news on the box car murders.  Instead of seeing the news on the murders, Annie notices an obituary for George's father.  They gather around the kitchen table to tell George and Nina. George decides that he needs to go the service and when Nina offers to accompany him, he says that he needs to do this alone.

Upstairs in the attic, Herrick is riddled with pain. Mitchell approaches him and asks him if he wants him to make the pain go away.  Mitchell takes a knife and slices his arm open, saying "I can make you powerful again, I can make you strong again."  Mitchell forces Herrick to drink saying that he needs to learn how to survive because he is finally happy and that he does not want to leave Annie.  When it does not have the effect that Mitchell desires he realizes that Herrick needs fresh human blood.

Standing in the shadows at his father funeral, George sees a man run away and follows him only to realize that it is his father.  George tells his father that he is a ghost and in return his father tells him that he is not a freak.  When George notices that his former phys ed teacher is comforting the other he is upset.

Back at the house a police officer rings the doorbell. Nina see this and heads back upstairs. George Sr. takes George to the trailer where he used to leiv.  He says that his wife left him and started dating George's former teacher.  George is not pleased that his father didn't fight hard enough to keep his wife.  George Sr. offers to make a cup of tea and George rolls his eye at the possibility of another ghost who makes tea he cannot drink. George explains to him about the door as they walk past the place where George Sr. died. Apparently, George Sr. died in a fire and this news really upsets George because all he can think about is the pain that he must have been in. 

In the house, Nina is helping the detective clean up. Upstairs in the attack, Herrick lifts a panel so he can see and hear what is going on.  The smell of blood causes his fangs to descend. The detective tells Mitchell that she was sent to talk to him but Mitchell quickly denies any knowledge of the murders on the tube. Mitchell takes her to the door, and Annie asks Nina who she thinks gave the police Mitchells name. Nina calls George who says that she wants to be with him, but George says that he is fine and tells her hat George Sr. is a ghost.

George goes through the list with his father of the things that he might have unresolved, but none of his efforts make an difference. George Sr. suggests that George should go and see his mother when he is gone, but George says no.  Nina shows up at the trailer.

Back at the house, Annie is upset that someone tried to link him to death of 20 innocent people.  She tells him that she knows that something is worrying him and asks him to tell her. Mitchell starts to tell her about Daisy, and suggests that Daisy alone committed this crime. He tells her that they have a code about not ratting each other out, but Annie says that if he won't protect himself that she will. Upstairs, Herrick had made his way to the bathroom. He takes the blood kleenex out of the waste basket and sucks the blood out of it.  

Wednesday Reboot: Wasting Away

Wasting Away was released in 2007 and stars Matthew Davis, Julianna Robinson and Michael Grant Terry.  At a  secret military base the government is attempting to make a super soldier.  They inject a soldier with formula and it  turns him into zombie.  Realizing that they need to get rid of it, they label the tins of it baby formula and begin to transport it.  Along route the transport is forced to stop when a motorcycle rides into the middle of the road.

The formula rolls off the truck and somehow ends up outside a bowling alley where Mike, Vanessa, Tim and Cindy are hanging out before Mike opens the alley for the day.  Tim grabs a tin of the formula mistaking it for a keg of beer and tosses it into the ice cream maker with the smart idea of making beer ice cream.  When it comes out green, Tim tells the others that it's just the light and so they consume it quickly.  They die and become zombies but don't realize it.  When Cindy starts to complain that she is in pain, they attempt to use the phone but discover that something is wrong with it.

They head out into the street and try to approach a couple of guys that they run into but the group runs from them.  The movie switches to black and white and we see that Mike Vanessa Tim and Cindy shambled towards the group of men groaning.  Clearly what the men saw was a group of zombies and that is why they ran away.  Mike, Vanessa, Tim, and Cindy are confused until they run into Nick Steele, who tells them that he is special ops and that the population has been infected.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - New Trailer

It's only a few weeks until the preview of this summer vampire movie.  We discussed the book last night on the podcast and discussed the appropriation and it looks like the film, from this preview is going to continue this.

Review of Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein Book of the Anna Strong Series

Anna has now been a vampire for about six months and the riff between her and chief Williams at the end of the last book, has lead her to believe that she will finally be able to live her human life. Gloria, her partner David's girlfriend, seems to exited his life, thrilling Anna.  Trish, the young girl that her parents believe to be their grandchild, who we met in Blood Drive,  has settled into their family.  Only Anna knows that Trish is not a blood relation, but she keeps the secret because she recognizes that her inability to age, means that her parents will need a child to dote on when she is forced to exit their lives. 

Well, when things are that perfect, they certainly cannot remain that way for long.  On yet another trip to Mexico to feed, because Anna still refuses to get a human partner, she runs into a largely female werewolf pack. Culebra recognizes the danger immediately and attempts to get Anna to leave, but before he can get her out the door, she runs into Max, her ex boyfriend with a female vampire.  Anna is immediately pissed, and he tells her that it's not that he can't get passed what she is, but that she lied about it for so long.  On her way to the door, Anna comes to the attention of Tamara, who instantly challenges her and has to be called off by Sandra, the alpha of the pack.  Anna is immediately filled with lust for Sandra and is confused because Sandra is a woman.  She begins to wonder if Sandra is using some sort of magic over her.

Gloria makes a reappearance in her life when she shows up claiming that she is being blackmailed by her business partner.  It turns out that Gloria hasn't exactly been faithful to David.  When Gloria is accused of murder, Anna jumps into the investigation -- not because she likes Gloria -- but because she does not believe her capable of murder.  As part of her fee, Anna demands that Gloria cease all contact with David immediately.  For his part, David is hurt by the betrayal and lashes out at Anna repeatedly.  Matters are only made worse when Tamara meets David and he ends up scheduling a date with her.  David still has no idea what Anna is, and worse yet, one bite from Tamara and he will become a werewolf.  Anna must find a way to break this date, without David learning why, and without jeopardizing her relationship with her.  The reasons for her issues with Tamara are justifiable, but her continual negative commentary on Tamara's performance of femininity are not.

Continuum, Season One, Episode One: A Stitch in Time

Continuum has one of the most interesting premises that have seen on television in a long time. It begins in 2077 with a terrorist bombing which killed 38,000 people to kill 20. In the year 2057, corporations bailed out the failed government and society is now run by corporations. It's meant a loss of representation, free speech and assembly.  Instead of having a distinction Canada and America, there is one united North American Union.

The group responsible is due for execution and so Kiera Cameron a police detective is called in.  She is married with a child and seems to work out of Vancouver District Prison.  At the execution, gestures between the prisoners lead Kiera to believe that something untoward is about to happen and so reaches out and touches one of the captives, only to be transported with them back to the year 2012.

At first Kiera doesn't even realize she has left her own time and goes chasing after the suspects, while asking for help using a chip that has been implanted in her brain. Instead of reaching the authorities, she reaches Alec Sadler, who at first believes that she has hacked his computer systems.  Kiera manages to catch up with Lucas who tells her that they have shifted in time. It seems that they had only intended to go back 6 years in time and instead traveled 60 years.  Lucas tells her that they cannot get in and that they have to become ghosts and blend in. Kiera hides when the police show up, leaving Lucas to get arrested.. 

Alec has been listening to the entire exchange and then tells her that the tech that they have been using has not been circulated and again asks again how she has the tech.  The other time shifters are confused and worried that Lucas is who is the only one who knows what happened is not with them.  Kiera asks what's going on and tells Alec that she is from the year 2077 and he still believes that this is an elaborate ruse until using the implant from her brain, she shows him images from the previous day. When she logs off for the night, Alec goes back through her memories and spies a logo for his company.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 9: Blackwater

Ser Davros is leading Stannis’s fleet to Kings Landing and, as is usual with Ser Davros the Onion knight, we get some more exposition as he speaks to his extremely devout and fanatical son.

In Kings Landing Tyrion wakes next to Shae, discussing the war, how he has no choice but to fight it and admitting his fear while Shae again makes it clear her loyalty is with him. Cersei is having her own council before the war – with Maester Pycelle , giving her a potion that would help her sleep or be used as a powerful poison.

Bronn is partying on the eve of battle (including naked women, of course) and singing in rather good harmony, actually. It seems that the soldiers of the Lannisters could double as a decent choir. But the revelry is interrupted by Sandor Clegane, the Hound and he and Bronn lock horns. Sandor to strip the illusions from Bronn and make his cold violence and love of killing seem more honest. The show down as to who is the most dangerous of the 2 is averted by an alarm bell ringing.

Varys and Tyrion are indulging in some verbal sparring while Tyrion puts on his armour. Varys has a map of tunnels under Kings Landing through which they can escape if necessary (though Tyrion is determined to stay, for which Varys has a wonderful little snarky barb). Varys also reveals he knows about Mellisandre, the priestess of Asshai that Stannis has – and that he believes in her sorcery and that Stannis has used the dark powers to gain his army. Something Varys considers intolerable.

Tyrion and Bronn  have a moment (I do like Bronn) and Tyrion sees Sansa has been called to see Joffrey off (rather than stay in the most secure keep), Tyrion also makes a point of pretending not to know Shae. Sansa pledges to pray for Tyrion’s safe return just as she does for Joffrey – now make of that what you will! Sansa’s getting good at these little barbs. Unfortunately, Joffrey arrives (alas, may something kill him soon) and calls Sansa like a dog. Sansa shows more of her devious cleverness as she manipulates Joffrey to fight in the Vanguard.

Cersei and Sansa retire to the secure keep, with Ser Ilyn (the mute executioner) standing by to guard them and to execute any servants trying to flee the castle with full pockets. Cersei busies herself getting drunk and trying to teach Sansa hard lessons about being a queen.

Cersei continues to get drunk while Sansa prays. Cersei reveals some more about how hard she is and why. She encourages Sansa to drink and expresses her frustration about being trapped and discusses how she would use seduction to win over their attackers if it weren’t for it being Stannis. She speaks frankly and callously to Sansa about what happens when a city falls and how the women in the room are likely to be raped, including Sansa.

Cersei speaks about how she and Jaime were treated so differently even as children when they looked almost identical. It’s a really good, angry summation of the fierce and rigid gender roles in Westeros and how much they devalue and demean women and Cersei in particular. Sansa protests that she was Robert’s queen but Cersei artfully points out that Sansa will be Joffrey’s queen and she’s unlikely to be happy about it. She also notices and question’s Shae – whose actions and inability to curtsy rouse Cersei’s suspicions.

They’re interrupted by Lancel carrying news and it distracts the tipsy Cersei who reveals the real reason for Ser Ilyn’s presence – to kill them all should Stannis get through. Cersei doesn’t intend them to be taken alive.

Joffrey and Tyrion have an amusing and childish game of communicating through proxies. And Ser Davros leads the fleet into a nearly empty harbour – the Kings Landing fleet is missing. And Tyrion’s plan becomes clear – 1 ship has sailed out, empty of men, trailing wildfire across the water. One flaming arrow later and it sets the water alight and explodes, devastating Stannis’s fleet and killing Ser Davros. But Stannis still lives and still outnumbers them – he’s determined to go forwards even though the cost will be far higher.

Joffrey loses his shit – predictably, while Tyrion keeps his cool and moves his soldiers appropriately. The Hound, Sandor Clegane, reminds us of his fear of fire (recall that the scar on his face was caused by his brother holding his face in the fire. He's deathly afraid of fire to the point of phobia) and threatens the fire archers painfully if any arrow comes near him. I’m not even entirely sure why they’re using flaming arrows since the stabby part seems to work just fine and a small flame isn’t likely to do that much more damage, but hey, it looks dramatic.

Time for dramatic fight scenes! It looks stylistic and bloody – arrows and dropped rocks and people and all kinds of nasty bloody, death. Thankfully, Clegane opens a door for them and dramatic swordplay is added to the mix. It’s pretty hard to see who is who in the night fight or who is on whose side. Clegane cuts people in half with his big sword and Lancel gets shot with an arrow.

There’s more and more fire on the battlefield (which I doubt helps either side) and Clegane becomes more and more frozen with his fear. He’s saved by Bronn but eventually leaves the battlefield, and the Lannister troops retreat, closing the doors behind them.

Fangs for the Fantasy: Episode 68

We discuss Game of Thrones and the way Sansa and Cersei have grown as well as the awesomeness of Tyrion. We talk about the Almighty Johnsons that, despite its many problematic issues, is something we love and fanpoodle. And we look at the new series starting of Continuum – it looks like it’s a great start but there are some things we hope they improve but in general we’re really enjoying this pilot.

We discuss out book of the week, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith and the extremely problematic appropriation that takes up the book. We discuss the glorification of the south, the glossing over and denial of atrocities around the world and the putting of Abraham Lincoln on a Pedestal.

Our book of the week we will be discussing next Monday (4th June) is: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Our book of the week we will be discussing on (11th June) is: The Strain by Guillermo Del Torro

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln, statesman, orator, president of the United States, leader of the Union during the Civil Warm, the man whose Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the US and a vampire slayer.

Being left the journals of Lincoln, a young aspiring writer is given the mammoth task of chronicling Abraham Lincoln’s life. His entire life – and that included hunting vampires almost from childhood after his mother fell beneath the fangs of one. Since then he has trained hard and fought desperately against vampires across the US. At every stage of his history – from his youth in Kentucky through to Washington DC, vampire slaying was always a part of his life

But Vampire slaying was more than just a part of his life. Vampire slaying is one of the prime motivations of his existence – to fight and destroy all vampires in the US, firstly out of revenge for his mother’s death. But, as he learns more about them and their schemes, eventually it becomes a battle to save all of the United States from falling under their brutal control. It’s a fight that causes him to pursue the presidency. Ultimately, it’s a battle that leads him and the whole nation to war.

Stylistically, I’m not fond of this book. It is written as if by a modern author adapting and transcribing Abraham Lincoln’s journals with many direct excerpts. This means the book often switches from 3rd to first person and we sometimes switch actors as well. It wasn’t hard to follow but it wasn’t a style I enjoyed nor do I think it made it easier to read.

Ultimately, I think this story rests on gimmickery. This isn’t just a 19th century vampire hunter, it’s Abraham Lincoln. I think I miss part of the power of that simply because I’m English. Abraham Lincoln isn’t a major figure in my history or my culture – nor are the events and times described. It doesn’t have the same impact for me. It also means as we follow most of this book – following his life, his childhood, his family, his relationships, his children, the places he lived and the jobs he worked – well, to me they’re not all that interesting or fascinating. Maybe if, culturally, he was a more major figure to me it would be more compelling. As it is, I was rather bored, I didn’t find it fascinating or even particularly interesting. I won’t say it was awful – and I’ve certainly read worse, but it was never more than mildly amusing to me.

I didn’t find the plot – a man hunting and killing vampires which are evil monsters – to be especially fascinating. It’s not original, it’s nothing special. I won’t say it’s boring – and I found the action parts of the book to be great fun and really well written – well paced and perfectly described without so much that it feels bogged down yet not so sparse that we can’t follow the action.

I think this is a book that’s going to be very dependent on taste and whether the insertion of a historical figure into fantastic story is something you find appealing. Personally, it’s not exactly to my taste

Ok, now to the biggie that I cannot ignore and knew was coming from the moment I opened the book. Appropriation. There was no way a fictionalised book with Abraham Lincoln as the core character wasn’t going to involve some appropriation but oooooh it was a doozey. It was one of those books I went into faintly cringing knowing it was coming and I was still bowled over when it actually happened.

The Dresden Files: Season 1 Episode 9: The Other Dick

To continue to be a police consultant Harry, apparently, has to get his private investigator’s license, which involves class rooms and tests (well, given that he continually uses magic which doesn’t look good on police investigations and half of the cases he’s worked on must be marked unsolved, I think it’s a miracle he’s still a consultant at all). Unfortunately for Harry, the class isn’t a charity and he isn’t paying his fees – sending him begging to Murphy for money.

Oh, and for extra fun, his teacher (Brenan) turns up dead. Really, murdering the teacher in a private investigator school? Surely someone’s going to figure it out! (But it’d make a great final test wouldn’t it? Who murdered your teacher – for an A) and, of course, Harry was found over the body (which is such a habit of his Murphy doesn’t even suspect him any more. Honestly, Harry must stand around bodies waiting to be discovered lurking over them). The man was also charged with electricity – shocking Harry when he touched him

The main clue they have is that he was working on something before he died – though his notes are in code and his assistant, Fontaine (who thinks Harry should be arrested) knows nothing about it. Harry wants to solve this case because the deceased was a decent man, a good man. And Bob thinks he wants to solve it because Fontaine is an attractive woman. Of course, Bob is a dirty old lecher – but not always wrong when it comes to Harry and his disturbing  habit of getting very close to female clients.

Using some magic on the notes translates them and he heads to see Ronald Jones, HR manager at a meat packing plant where he meets up with and teams up with Fontaine.  Turns out Jones hired Brenan to follow his wife who was spending a lot more time away from home – but Brenan cleared her of having an affair, something Fontaine doesn’t agree with. There follows much tug of war between Harry and Fontaine over who is in the lead.

Following the wife, Felicity, leads them to many many shops and a fertility clinic in a ley line cluster – something Harry wants to follow up alone but ends up having to bring Fontaine along with him. Naturally, hilarity ensues. But Harry follows a ley line into a room. Now, I think the writer was aiming for this “alternative therapy room” to be full of creepy occult stuff (so the music implies). To me I just see a metric fuckton of candles with some rather abstract artwork and odd little potpourri piles. It’s quite pleasant, really. Anyway Felicity is being treated in the pleasantly decorated not-very-spooky occult room. Other than Brenan being grabby with Fontaine, they don’t find much else and leave with piccies of the occult room and a sample of tea from it.

Face Off: Which Book do you Want to See Turn to TV?

'Llaunes i cel·luloide 04' photo (c) 2007, Miquel Angel  Pintanel Bassets - license:

As anyone visiting our site knows, we have read a lot of Urban Fantasy. A lot of those books go on to be made into a films or, even better, TV series - which we always run to check out. And, we have to say, we’re often disappointed, upset and even bemused by the choices made. After watching an entire season of Secret Circle, the only good thing I can say about it is that at least it wasn’t repeated for another season. Having attempted to read the books, I can’t imagine anyone expecting better. Another CW creation is The Vampire Diaries. Now, we have spoken at length about the problems of The Vampire Diaries and we’re not exactly looking forward to it coming back, but, having read the books I have to applaud CW. Yes, I applaud them - because the series is monumentally better than those books.

True Blood, which we enjoy, was hardly based on our favourite series. Of course, maybe we should be grateful as some books I have enjoyed - the Dresden Files and Blood Ties have been turned into rather mediocre TV series

But now we’re looking at what series we’d really love to see reach the TV screen - if The Vampire Diaries and Twilight were worthy of TV and film adaptation, then surely some of our favourites deserve a chance!

So, which one of these do you think should make it to the screen? Or do you have your own suggestion?

Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.

From the moment I picked up Hounded I was absolutely hooked on this series.   Atticus O’Sullivan is a 2000+ year old druid, who draws his power directly from the earth, and lives with his Irish wolfhound Oberon.  Atticus bound his mind to his wolfhound which allows Oberon to speak intelligently. I have to tell you right now, Oberon is one of the best charcters in Urban fantasy, and I would dearly love it if Hearne would write lines for my dog.  Atticus move from adventure to adventure battling various mythical pantheons.  With various Gods always wanting to kill him, the world’s last remaining Druid must be quick on his feet. The absolutely best exchange of the series happened Hammered the third book in the series, when Atticus meets Jesus Christ.

Jesus appears wearing a tie dyed T-shirt in predominantly reds, yellows, and greens, with a white peace sign screen-printed on the front of it.  He also wore a pair of relaxed fit blue jeans and classically black Chuck Taylors. Hearne even went as far as to suggest that "Jesus looked like the guy from the Old Spice bodywash commercials".  I dare you to tell me one single place that you can find Jesus described in this way?  What ensues is an irreverent exchange, with Jesus providing fish and chips to a crowded bar, explaining that "miracles are so much more fun when people are expecting them of you," while pounding back 60 year old whiskey. I laughed until my tears poured from my eyes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hex, Season 1, Episode 1 & 2: Pilot

Our introduction is the extremely fabulous manor house in the UK owned by extremely callous slave traders – and the mistress of the house sneaking to the slave cabins for an illicit liaison with one of the men there. While there we see an African (possibly Yoruba) ritual to heal a sick child, in which a chicken is killed.

Fast forward to the present, the series is set in an extremely exclusive private school which the old manor house of grand proportions has become. We have many teenagers going about their school business. We have Cassie (the rather soggy protagonist) her lesbian best friend Thelma (who is sassy, funny and several kinds of awesome), Troy the sexy love interest (played by the actor who plays Klaus in the Vampire Diaries, only with more shirtless and rear naked scenes. Yes, I’m shallow), Leon the sexy love interest’s annoying friend, and the not very bright girl, Roxanne. Pattern is well established, after all though I am impressed by the absence of grossly over the top mean girls (there are popular girls who snub Cassie but they’re not over the top mean girls we see so often). The main difference is the glorious settings and teachers who are both amusingly snarky and, probably, should be fired for talking to their pupils like that. Especially the extremely inappropriate yet outrageously funny headmaster.

But Cassie sneaking off for a crafty ciggy in an abandoned outbuilding and in there she finds a cross made of chicken bones – and the blue pot that was used in the chicken-killing ritual. Clumsily, she cuts her finger on the pot and lets her blood drip inside it to the sounds of very ominous whispering. Of course, she takes said ominous vase back to her room. As you do. Going to sleep next to the the pot results in creepy dreams back in time, to the woman and her liaison, to her pregnancy, to her calling on Azazazeal, to her being hanged and lots of similar pleasant images. Let this be a lesson to you – no spooky demon jugs by the bedside.

Spooky jug’s affects are felt later in the day with spooky whisperings of “Azazeal” and a traumatic, shaved head reflect of her appearing in a suddenly broken mirror and various other spooky goings on and flashed visions of the past. Causing her to be bad tempered and snarly to poor Thelma

The gloriously inappropriate headmaster (his lesson of what history teaches us: No matter what you do with your life, in a 100 years time no-one will give a toss) fills Cassie in on some history of the house – that it was built on the slave trade and Rachel McBain (the woman in her visions) who became fascinated with the religion of the African slaves (described as Voodoo), sacrificed a woman to try and summon something and ended up going mad. And Cassie starts levitating cups. Briefly anyway.

We have a side plot with Roxanne having an affair with Ben, the art teacher, which Cassie learns and agrees to keep secret for Roxanne. As her teacher says – Cassie is intelligent but would rather be less intelligent, but popular and uses this good will from Roxanne to get into the popular clique. Becoming more popular, trying to fit in and her magical happenings is pulling her away from the awesome Thelma. Roxanne, growing increasingly irritated with Cassie using her secret to ingratiate herself into Roxanne’s social circle, tells the obnoxious Leon Cassie likes him – causing him to get grabby and not take no for an answer – until Cassie’s magical oddness blows out the electronics nearby – nothing like flying glass and a shower of sparks to get the message across – Cassie runs home for more atmospheric haunting.

Cassie flees to Thelma, can’t quite tell her about Leon but tells Thelma about the magic instead for comfort and rebonding. Ironically later Thelma tells Cassie she sometimes feels Cassie watching her even when she’s not there- but Cassie isn’t listening and is watching a man in the distance. No chance Thelma, even when you are there you don’t have Cassie’s full attention. What she does get is to see Cassie absently move nail polish bottles with her mind.

Time for some more outbuilding searching where she finds a block of wood with “Azazeal” written on it. And some fiery magic aimed at Leon in art class. Taklking to the Awesome Inappropriate Headmaster about the incident also gives her chance to ask about Azazael (he’s a good info dumper), the leader of the Nephilim. 200 Angels who fell in love with mortal women and taught them the secrets of witchcraft – and as punishment they were hurled into the abyss.

Another party (do these kids have any lessons beyond art and English Literature? Maths? History? Anyone?)  and more Cassie drooling over Troy (throwing in an unnecessary gay stereotype at Troy) and using her little mind tricks against Leon – seen again by Thelma.