Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr, Book 2 of the Wicked Lovely Series

Leslie is a girl with a very hard life. She has an abusive home that drives her to work as much to get out of her home as much as she needs the money to try and keep paying the bills while her father falls into alcoholism and her brother is consumed by drug addiction – and abusive friends he is willing sell her to his dealer for drugs.

Her life is further complicated since she is a good friend of Aislinn, the new Summer Queen of the Summer Court of the Fae. Her association brings her to the attention of Niall – the Summer Kings advisor who fears he will addict her to him due to his fae nature. And worse, ultimately coming to the attention of the Shadow King.

Irial, the Shadow King has a problem, the new peace between the Summer and Winter fae have left his people without the chaos and pain they need to thrive. His perceived way out is to find a way to feed on mortals – by binding a Shadow Girl to the court and to him. Through her they will be able to feed and even feast – and he will be able to placate his court that is pushing for a self-destructive war they cannot win against the other courts for the chaos it will bring.

But in linking to Leslie, he finds a humanity coming back the other way, leaving the already reluctant king ever more uncomfortable with being ruler of the Dark Court

I said in the first book that I love this world and that hasn’t changed – the courts, the way the different fae interact, the politics of it is immense fun to read. And the complexity of the many different kinds of fae, drawn from a dozen fae legends all interacting together. There is a vast variety in these stories and I love to see them brought together – with the added bonus of the invisible world, all of this existing completely undetected by humanity.

The story was deep and well paced – it wasn’t action packed, it was a story of experience and development rather than action and events. As Leslie is pulled more into the world, as the different fae are torn more over how to deal with her and how to manoeuvre their courts, as friendship and love and need all clash, it become an extremely involved book. It was a story based more on character interaction than event progression and it was handled excellently, never leaving me bored and lacking any excessive tangents. The characters from Wicked Lovely are present, giving continuation to the story, but they’re not dominant, ensuring they do not eclipse Leslie’s story.

There is a lot of complexity in this book that I also hope to see expanded in later books given the very nature of the Dark Court. It’s easy to create a court of faeries – especially the Dark Court – that exists to torture people for fun. In fact, in the Wicked Lovely, we often saw these fae torment mortals and other fae, it was sadistic and often gratuitous and seemed to be just because the court was evil. This book, looking much more closely at the Dark Fae, brings a different slant which needs so much thinking about. With the Dark Court literally feeding on negative emotions – on fear and pain and anger and blood shed in battle, then this becomes much more complex. Without their torments, these fae grow weak, they starve and they become vulnerable.

Bedlam, Season 2, Episode 5: Dare

We have a man breaking and entering a long disused chapel -  he seems less than pleased and lobs a cross across the room, lights a ciggie and then realises… he’s being watched. Cue Bedlam spookiness – even in broad daylight. The ratchet it up a notch by having the cross he threw reappear on the altar. The man isn’t frightened though – he shouts a challenge instead.

Now to Bedlam, Max and Ellie are doing the friendy thing and finally Ellie tells Max that she had an abortion last week, she chose to go alone. Max is supportive, she’s apologetic for not telling him, but he’s very clear it’s her choice and she’s very clear she did the right thing with the position she is in life.

And 2 more people are breaking into the same chapel, meeting up with their friend – and Ellie gets a vision of a vicar running from something and grabbing the cross – the one that tidies itself up after being disturbed. Quick summons to Max, a check to see a church local to bedlam (where inmates may have gone) and it’s time for a little trip.

This involves awkward scenes as they visit local churches and pose as an engaged couple, which is awkward but not quite so much as Ellie’s way out (which I had to admire). At least Max learns that the Bedlam inmates never went to the church – they went to their own chapel (which makes more sense and they really should have thought of it).

Max and Ellie do more jokey flirting – Max amused at the idea of Ellie as a bride, saying he’d always stand by her unlike her fiancĂ© (who she defends), but Ellie assures him he can have a big fancy wedding so long as she gets to be bridesmaid. Ouch, Max, not-so-subtle hint there

In the spooky chapel, 1 of them (Liam) wants to film evil/ghosts/demons/lack of common sense whatever and put it on the internet. He’s poking the ghosts, it seems, because of his religious father and something apparently unpleasant that happened. Liam’s dislike of the church seems to be provoking the ghost, though.

Women in Teen Wolf - The Menfolk Say it's a Matriarchy

Teen Wolf is far removed from the original Teen Wolf movie starring Michael J Fox.  We have gone from camp to a story involving menacing werewolves, and werewolf hunters.  Since the show is still largely aimed at a young audience, we are subjected to copious amounts of angst and the usual social justice fails.  We have decided to focus on gender this time because after a season a half, the women of Teen Wolf are treated quite differently than the males.

When we were first introduced to Erica she was a young teen suffering from epilepsy.  She was sweet and kind but, because she never knew when she was going to have an attack, Erica was quite removed from her contemporaries. When she meets Derek and is turned into a werewolf everything changes for Erica. Suddenly she is turned into a complete sex vixen who draws the attention of others the minute she walks into the room. Erica suddenly goes from weak and forgettable to powerful and desirable; however, her power is limited because as a beta, she spends most of her time doing Derek’s bidding. Erica has the distinction of being the only female werewolf and most of her power is based in her ability to beguile whereas Derek intimidates and did so from the time he was a beta.

Teen Wolf could reasonably get away with having Erica do Derek’s bidding because she is his beta but the fact that they have turned her into a vapid, jealous, angry person is incredibly sexist. Other than doing Derek’s bidding her only other purpose is to drive a wedge between Allison and Scott. This of course serves the purpose of giving the characterless Allison something to fight for. Erica’s sudden obsession with Scott is never explained.

Then we have Lydia, who is actually very smart, but pretends not to be intelligent in the hopes of keeping Jackson’s interest. In fact, Lydia does not show her intelligence until she is asked to translate ancient Latin after Jackson has left her for greener pastures.  Much of Lydia’s life involves putting on a show in the hopes of either achieving or maintaining the acceptance of others. Though she is supposedly best friends with Allison, Lydia is often left to her own devices to deal with her issues and only draws the attention of the group when she is need of saving. Stiles has had a long obsession with her and see her as a prospect for a girlfriend but beyond being physically attracted to her, he makes no real effort to get to know he as a person. In Abomination, (season 2, episode 4)  Lydia clearly needs to talk but Stiles says he will be right back and leaves her sitting in the car for a night. For all of the ridiculous antics that antis Stiles pulls to get her attention, when she really needs him, he is nowhere to be found.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost, Book 1 of the Night Prince Series

In the same world asthe Night Huntress series we’ve moved the focus away from Bones and Cat to Vlad. Vlad Dracul, or, as he hates to be called, Dracula. He lives with the myth that has grown around his name, based on a core of truth but heavily embellished by his enemies, he ultimately has one aim as a vampire – to keep his people safe, no matter who he has to hurt and what he has to do (including impaling) to make that happen.

And someone is trying to kill him and to do that they’re using our protagonist, Leila. Since being struck by lightning, Leila has the ability to see people’s history (reading their past and their sins on their skin) connect to their present and even see their future. Used properly she can see where someone is, where they’re going to be – and when they’ll be alone and vulnerable. Abilities that are certainly a threat to Vlad, but also an asset to him in finding who wishes to kidnap Leila and kill him.

It’s a solid truce, but Leila is confronted with the brutal reality of Vlad’s ruthlessness, she’s willing to work with him, but what would he have done to her, to her family, if she had not been? And how does he treat those who cross him and can she live with that? Especially with her growing attraction to him, compounded by the fact he is immune to the lethal electric shocks her body produces, making him one of the few men she can touch. Unfortunately, he’s also one of the most arrogant men she has ever met – and has a nasty habit of reading her mind and intruding on even her most private thoughts.

This is the same world as the Night Huntress series, which I always loved, following Bones and Cats adventures as we saw an ever growing larger and more impressive world. Even when focusing on just the vampires, (though there are far more than just vampires there) the politics and the intricacies of that world were always great fun to read.

We don’t see a lot of this world in this book, since it is very much stand alone and reading the other series isn’t required, but we do get hints of it coming through, connections and guest appearances that mean if you have read the other series, you can feel the continuation and the stretching of the canon which I really enjoyed. We do follow Vlad, who was an intriguing character from the previous series, but, I have to say, not one I enjoyed very much then or now.

The story itself isn’t original – she has a special power that makes her valuable and the people after her need to be stopped and she kept safe. But it had enough twists to keep it interesting; Vlad’s uneasy relationship with his past, his history and the myths that have built up around his name was a nice twist. Her relationship with her family, her dealing with his ruthless and extreme nature, the way her powers interacted in the mix especially when met with mind reading as well – the core story wasn’t original but the embellishments were. And sometimes I don’t think a story has to be original to be told well so long as the world and the characters can carry it.

The pacing was good, I was never tempted to put the book down, the descriptions were appropriate, even the musings and the internal monologues were appropriate and in context; even the sex scenes fit both the pace and theme of the book. It was nicely put together.

I like Leila as a character. She has an interesting power that makes her valuable and sought after – as well as giving her the ability to defend herself when needed, but it doesn’t make her super-woman and has limits that prevent any kind of “awesome chosen one” level. She can channel electricity (shocking people she touches, even accidentally) and she can read people’s “sins” in their skin – seeing their worst actions and reliving them. She has endured a great deal (and has a tragic childhood and a dead mother, of course) and through that has become jaded and cynical – but not in a bitter, withdrawn manner. She doesn’t trust easily, she doesn’t expect much and, in many ways, she is inured to pain and suffering in many cases because the power of her touch means she has already lived through the worst deaths imaginable. I like how that is done to not take away the horror of torment and torture, while at the same time making the commonness of it something that Leila can endure and move past. If I have a problem with her power, it’s that she didn’t develop it, Vlad had to show her how to use it and it has some dependence on vampire blood – it feels like it couldn’t just be her power, Vlad had to be behind it somehow.

She is kidnapped and suffers terribly for it – but she also rescues herself and ruthlessly deals with her tormentors in an extremely satisfying manner. She has a tragic past and it does mark her with guilt and worry, but she doesn’t spend a lot of time angsting over it, we don’t have long internal monologues nor do we have wailing. Unfortunately, she does have guilt – which is rather misdirected. She reconciles with her family, it’s touching but it’s also a little contrived, like too many major issues are forgiven and covered too quickly and too easily.

Unfortunately, while I do like a lot of things about these characters, they have elements that bother me – and it’s these elements that largely throw a spoke in the wheel of an otherwise great book. Pretty much everything else in the books I like, I’ve always liked the world, I like the majority of the characterisation, the story is pretty good – but the characters have elements to them that I don’t like which, in turn, brings the book down.

Blood Ties Season 2, Episode 1: D.O.A

Vicki starts the new season with a new client. Paul Deeds, an undercover cop who wants her help in a murder investigation since she has a reputation for handling odd cases. Whose murder? Why that would be his – he says as he walks through the door.

I love how the interact within 5 seconds – he’s a ghost but she’s mocking him for his marital problems. Rarely do actors have that kind of instant chemistry. I also love how they poke fun at that classic ghost depiction – how can he not pick things up but he can still sit down?

Back to investigating, Deeds doesn’t know how he died nor does he know where his body is, but he does know that he was undercover in a bike gang and his supervisor was Fry – but for some reason he can’t remember the last time he check in with him. Coreen, alas, cannot see him – but is excited about the whole thing (of course she is) and not skeeved about the fact the ghost proves his existence by spotting her red thong and passing the info onto Vicki (I was skeeved, thank you).

Vicki has 2 methods of dealing with a mystery – ask Henry for help or ask Celluci for help (and yes, I am tired of that) and this time it’s Celluci’s turn, to go ask the nice undercover police people to spill all their information to someone not involved in their case. Because that’s going to go down well. She tells Celluci all she knows (he has his obligatory sceptic moment, but at least it only lasts a couple of seconds); makes it clear he didn’t like Paul “dirty” Deeds since he has a reputation of securing his convictions “no matter what” (that sounds ominous. Even worse on a detective programme, since most TV detectives wouldn’t know proper law and procedure if you beat them about the face with a legal ethics book). But he agrees to speak to the undercover guys who are sure to be forthcoming.

Next step in the investigation is to talk to Henry (yes, really. This hereby concludes Vicki’s investigative skills) learning not much except that Henry is suspicious and also can’t see Deeds. But Deeds does remember the biker bar he was last in before he died, one of Henry’s hunting grounds. Henry and Coreen do some research but we largely see Henry’s worry – sure it looks like Deed’s ghost, but there are plenty of creatures

Cover Snark: Why Did you Change the Cover?

With some of the bigger series out there, they have several different cover versions of the covers. I always look forward to that, since it gives me so many more chances snark, after all. Particularly when a cover starts out relatively sensibly - and then new editions lose every bit of common sense. Yes the creeping sexiness will raise its ugly head - we’ve seen it before with series progression and now with different editions

Take Kelley Armstrong’s excellent Otherworld Series. Now, when I bought Bitten, this is the book I got

I actually like the cover, it’s pretty, it’s abstract and it attracted me to the book and, through it, the series. Now let’s look at some later editions of Bitten

Uh... This is Elena? Someone has stolen her clothes.

And speaking of Stolen - when I bought that book, I got this excellent cover

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blue Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells Book 5 of the Sabina Kane Series

Blue Blooded Vamp is the last installment of the Sabina Kane series. I have to say that it was absolutely epic and I didn't want the story to end.  It is always wonderful to find a great series and heartbreaking to see it come to an end. 

Sabina is out to kill the one man who cannot be killed - Cain.  Unfortunately for Sabina, she is also being hunted by Cain because he wants to use her to gain access to Lilith.  The God Asmodeus also has chosen this time to demand that Sabina repay a blood debt, thus throwing a wrench into her hunting plans.  Sabina must travel to Rome to find the mage Abel in the hope that the mage who once trapped Cain, will know how to neutralize him again.

As a rule, Sabina always doubted that she was the chosen one and when she does decide to take on this label, it is only to further the fight against Cain.  With everything she has done, she finds it hard to believe that she above all people is capable of bringing peace to he supernatural species.  With Giguhl and Adam by her side, the clock is quickly counting down to the moment where not believing in her destiny, could mean the death of all she loves.

Okay, from the start of this book, there was never any doubt that Sabina was indeed the chosen one, and so it was only a mater of how Wells would tie up the loose threads.  What made this compelling is how they all came together moving swiftly from revelation to revelation. I particularly loved that Wells took great care in making it clear that what Cane was doing was unacceptable and that Lilith was well within her rights to leave a man who stalked her and demanded that she love him.  This kind of behaviour is too often cast as romantic in urban fantasy.

I think that Wells is an excellent writer and the Sabina Kane series is particularly imaginative; however, once again it is filled with social justice fails.  

In the last few books, Brooks / Pussy Willow was a huge problem.  In Blue Blooded Vamp, Brooks has cast aside the identity of Pussy Willow and now completely identifies as male. Brooks explains the transition back in the following:
"Zen helped me realize that I was hiding my pain behind all the makeup and the fabulous accessories  She encouraged me to let my Brooks flag fly." He executed a Z - shaped snap through the air.  (page 25)

Being Human U.K. Season Four, Episode Three: The Graveyard Shift

This episode begins with a flashback to England in the year 1855.  It seems that Fergus and Hal are on leave together from the army and they have decided to stop off at a mansion and kill the residents and the servants.  Of the two, Hal is the more blood thirsty one.

In the present day, Hal packs his bag with stakes and puts Eve in a baby carrier to go shopping.  At the cash out, Annie helps to shoplift some items and Tom justifies it by saying that it's not stealing, if it's a big shop and besides, Eve needs food. What neither of them realize is that they have been spotted by the record keeper, who just happened to be doing some shopping himself.

When they return to the house, Hal is listening to the stereo, and Tom and Annie approach him about getting a job. He says that he is not relaxing and that he's just barely holding on. Hal turns the stereo back on and says that going to work is out of the question. Annie tell him that it might be difficult but that he cannot expect to stay there for free. Tom wants to know why Hal isn't loaded, because vampires live forever and that even with basic compound interest that his investments would be through the roof.  Hal says that a series of bad investments before the crash wiped him out and that on his list, it clearly states...but before he can finish, Tom cuts him off saying "stuff your list." Hal tries again saying that keeping away from people is how he manages his condition, but Annie reminds him that he has been dry for over 50 years and that a few weeks out there won't so bad. Hal asks, "where will I work? Jobs just don't fall off trees."

In the next scene, Hal is at the cafe dressed in a red stripped apron and blue gloves with Tom. He is clearly not happy with this development. He asks Tom to kill him and suggests that he tell Annie that he attacked him.  Tom puts him to work scraping grease.

The record keeper shows up at the house and when Annie asks him what he is doing there, he responds, "what are you still doing here? I cannot believe you're still in Barrie. I cannot believe you're still in Wales."  The record keeper says that the vampires don't want Eve because they think that she is dead but if they spotted her shopping, then they would come for her again and he would be done for.  Annie promises to try and keep a low profile but the record keeper stops her saying that he found something else in the prophesy - something else is coming for Eve.  Annie is upset and says that prophesy's are all about bullshit and mind games, and that she doesn't want to hear anymore saviour nonsense. The record keeper slips a piece of paper through the door with his phone number, saying that if she is serious about the welfare of Eve Annie needs to listen.

At the restaurant, Hal is cleaning the table when he meets a Michaela who tells him that she is writing a journal.  She shows him a drawing of a skull that people can drink out of  and asks if he thinks that she is weird.  Tom interrupts saying that Hal is taking to long to clean the table and that they have customers waiting.  Hal moves to the next table and Michaela interrupts again saying, imagine the streets with everyone dead and no one but you. 

Annie takes the baby to the park when Fergus shows up asking why the baby is still alive.  Annie asks if he has kids and he says he had two, who are long since dead, but that he checks in on his descendants. Fergus holds a knife to Eve saying that many are afraid of the baby, but he isn't because he sees her as an opportunity. Fergus believes that the old ones will be grateful when he gives them Eve's head as a present and then leaves because of the kids in the area.  As he walks away, Annie asks, "why can't you just leave her alone, she's just a normal baby?"  Fergus responds, "do you really just believe that, or is this desperation?"

At the restaurant, Hal's OCD ways continue to slow down the restaurant.  When he grabs a towel to dry his hands, a stake falls out.  Tom says that he must of forgotten that he had it, but it's good just in case.  Hal is shocked because he does not believe that they are going to be over run by vampires.  Then he realizes that the stake is for him, in case he fell off the wagon. Hal says that Tom is hoping that he falls off the wagon because that would give him the perfect excuse.  Tom does not deny the charge and Hal walks out.

Annie shows up at the record keepers door and asks why he is helping them. He responds that four hundred years he's been pouring over dusty molding documents and no one wanted to know about his work. In fact, they simply laughed at him and it has to be worth something. If Eve does not mean the end of all vampires, then the work that he has been doing for all of those years will mean nothing. Annie admits that she is there because she is scared and still does not believe that the baby is the chosen one. In exchange for information, the record keeper now wants to share a moment. 

He orders Annie to think about the first time she had sex and they are magically transported back through Annie's memories. It turns out that the only way that he can experience her memories is as her.  As Annie's lover starts putting the moves on the record keeper, he says, "make it stop".  Annie tells him that he didn't last that long and was gentle. The record keeper says they can forget the sex memories and that he will tell her what she needs to know.

Back at the restaurant, Hal is taking out the garbage and Fergus approaches him. Hal tries to tell him that he has got the wrong man, but Fergus is not convinced. Fergus gets down on one knee saying, "my lord."  When Hal shoves him up against a wall by his throat, Fergus tells him not to panic because he is still loyal and Hal responds, "then forget you saw me."  Fergus will not be brushed aside and says that there are no old ones right now and that they two of them could take over because Hal is so old.  Hal continues not to be interested saying that is not who is anymore.  Fergus tells him that he does not have to be working in a greasy spoon with Tom, who has a target on his back. Hal shoves Fergus saying that there is no target on Tom as long as he is with him.  Frustrated, Fegus tells him that either he is an old one or he isn't and that they plan to return tomorrow to teach Hal's doggy a lesson. Hal says that Tom is not his anything.

When Hal comes back in, Tom squirts him with ketchup as a joke, but Hal is not impressed. They find a porn magazine on the table and Tom asks Hal if he wants it, because he finds the magazine demeaning to women. Hal pulls out his rubber glove and drops the magazine in the garbage. Tom wonders what the mothers of the models thinks and comments that no one would want to court them.  Hal picks up on the archaic language and says that he knows the term because he was around during the coronation. They have a little banter about women and Hal says he does not play in that arena anymore and Tom responds that he is waiting for the right one. They make a bet to see who will get the number of the first woman to walk in and both agree that they will not call her.  In walks Michaela, the woman from earlier.

Teen Wolf, Season 2, Episode 5: Frenemy

Last episode we learned that the weregecko was Jackson and he has a new friend (aww). I predict there will be a lot less effort spent keeping him alive because, well, he’s Jackson.

Danny has finished fixing Jackson’s video, and as per his lord and master’s instructions, he hasn’t watched it – he puts his tablet in his car. Meanwhile, the weregecko is fleeing from Derek who wants to slice and dice him. Derek and the weregecko have a semi-good fight (a little too choreographed – lots of punching ridiculously at a shield and the weregecko completely forgot about his paralysing venom, but still pretty good) when Daddy Argent arrives and totally cheats – shooting the weregecko repeatedly in the chest. Yeah, that’s not going to work. That never works. Daddy Argent looks for Derek who has disappeared –leaving the fallen weregecko to get back up again (never turn your back on the monster. You’d think the professional werewolf hunter would have guessed this). The weregecko kicks him (yes that venom stuff? Totally out of it) and in the glare of the lights we see the weregecko bonding with his friend – Granddaddy Argent.

Stiles and Scott follow in Stiles’ jeep (wasn’t that requisitioned as evidence?) and Scott running ahead when the jeep meets a barrier. Scott takes a swing at the weregecko and ends up facing Granddady Argent who stands there looking menacing and/or constipated.

Allison is dropping of Lydia and need Lydia to promise not to tell anyone what happened. While Lydia is more concerned with actually what happened. Derek, Jackson, Erica – someone explain! Allison, rather than talk about the life and death issues, decides to talk about keeping her relationship with Scott secret (Allison, please, for five seconds, try to focus on something besides Scott. Like the weregecko? Look, there’s Lydia right there, you could at least take a stab at passing the Bechdel test? No?) and bringing up all the romantic gooshiness (oh nauseating teen crushes how I despise thee), with an extra side-order of “this is the wonderful romantic love I have that you haven’t.” I waited for Allison to bring out the thumbscrews to see if we could elevate Lydia’s suffering even more, but she refrained.

Scott runs into Stiles while looking for the weregecko and Stiles resorts to sarcasm – as he points out, the only weapon he has in this fight (poor Stiles). They wonder at Jackson passing the test and Stiles, the only person on the show with a working brain, points out that Jackson isn’t actually the Kanima weregecko when in human form so why would he be immune to the toxin (which, of course, is what I said. Yes, I am “I told you soing” sue me). They do see the weregecko sneaking into a club – and Scott smells Danny’s Armani aftershave and assumes that’s who the weregecko is after (possibly since Danny is the person who decoded the video and could know who the weregecko is).

They break in and lo, it’s a gay club (Danny, the gay guy going into a gay club? No! How surprising!) Danny is upset over his ex and being encouraged to hit on another guy by the bar tender (guess this explains why his boyfriend only made the briefest of cameo appearances). The weregecko enters the dancing crowd (no-one notices?! On a crowded dance floor? I don’t care how dark the place is or how much smoke there is – you notice a weregecko) clawing and paralysing random men, including Danny, leaving them helpless on the floor. But Derek is also in the crowd, and while Scott protests (why?), he slits the weregecko’s throat. The club empties, people screaming as they see the collection of bodies lying about.

Scott follows the trail of blood from the weregecko into the car park and finds – Jackson, in human form. They load him up in the car (apparently not to murder while he’s helpless and unconscious), quickly confirm that Danny didn’t see anything unusual and prepare to drive off when the sheriff, Stiles’s dad arrives. And Stiles has to explain to him why he’s there – especially since his dad doesn’t believe he’s clubbing there since it’s a gay club. Stiles actually starts to pretend to come out (ye gods… really?) but his dad doesn’t believe it – no way his son could be gay dressed like that. (Oh please. Really?)

Stiles tries to delay his dad while Scott knocks Jackson back out so he doesn’t draw attention (and because its fun to punch Jackson) and Stiles’s excuse is that they’re there to reassure Danny since he’s just broken up with his boyfriend.

They drive off and wonder what to do with Jackson. Scott wants to take him somewhere secure until they can convince him he’s dangerous. Stiles wants to kill him (team Stiles!) and after lost of banter (Stiles’s banter makes this show. In fact, this show should all be about Stiles). And Jackson wakes up chained up in a prison van – yelling threats against Stiles and Scott. Stiles explains the situation to Jackson – who brushes over the whole “I’m killing people” and points out his parents will be looking for him. But Stiles is ahead of him – and sent a fake text from his phone.

Which was spotted by Mr. Whitmore, Jackson’s father who is reporting him missing to the police. The text signed off “love you” and, since he was told he was adopted, Jackson never says that to his parents and hasn’t said “I love you” in 11 years (while this is some powerful character building for Jackson, I really question how many teenaged boys sign off their texts to their father with “love you”? or maybe that’s just me).

Wednesday Reboot: The Village

The Village was released in 2004 and stars Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt and Joaquin Phoenix. It was directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan.

The movie opens at the funeral of what can only be a small child, judging by the size of a casket. The year on the tombstone reads 1897.  The community gathers to eat when suddenly a horn is blown.  They all stop and stare and look into the distance.  When nothing happens they continue their meal.  It seems that the community is very much a rural setting with gender roles that appear very defined. Though men and women are both on the town council, the women knit during it.

It seems that the community is terrorized by a group of beings which they call, "those we do not speak of." When an animal is found dead with its fur removed, the children begin to speculate that "those we do not speak of" are terrorizing the people of the valley but Edward Walker, their teacher, tells them that they are not in danger and that they have a treaty with "those we do not speak of". More animals continue to appear, but the elders say that it must be a coyote or some kind of "mad animal."  Apparently the color red attracts "those we do not speak of" and so they bury everything that they come across with this colour.

Lucius Hunt is a man of few words, but he senses that there are secrets in the town that no one will speak of.  He asks to go to the towns, to trade for medical supplies but to do this he has to walk through the forest of "those we do not speak of."  He believes that they will sense his bravery and good intention, and let him pass, but he is rejected by the council.  When "those we do not speak of" make an appearance in the town, the citizens lock their doors and windows and hide in shelters under their houses.  Lucius believes that he is at fault for their appearance because he crossed into the forest out of curiosity. The next day, the community leaves an offering of a dead pig at the border of the forest.

A romance is clearly developing between Lucius and Ivy Walker. She is blind and very much a free spirit.  When Lucius tells her that she runs like a man, Ivy sees it as a compliment. Though Ivy cannot see, she claims that certain people have a colour surrounding them.  It's actually Ivy who proposes marriage by asking Lucius if he will dance with her on their wedding night.  Lucius is frustrated that Ivy always wants to lead but he admits that he loves her and promises to dance with her on their wedding night.

When it is announced that Ivy and Lucius are going to marry, Noah Percy pays him a visit and stabs him in the stomach with a knife.  It seems that Noah is also in love with Ivy.  When Ivy leans that Noah was found covered in blood, she walks to Lucius' house and finds him unconscious. Noah is locked away and when Ivy goes to see him, she smacks him several times across the face, until she is dragged out of the room.  Ivy asks for permission to go to the towns to retrieve medicine to save Lucius.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Epsiode 74

And we have another episode of Fangs for the Fantasy! Where we discuss Urban Fantasy through a social justice lens. This week we discuss the new episode of True Blood, where everyone takes it in turns to tell Sookie off, Falling Skies and its treatment of minorities, Teen Wolf and the characterless Allison and out book of the week, the Fall by Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan – which was totally Tami’s fault.

Our books of the week for the next month are:

3/7-9/7: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues: Diana Rowland
9/7-16/7: Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
16/7-23/7: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Review of Fae Hunter Book One of the Soulstealer Trilogy by Nicolette Reed

The fae of Dell’Aria are terrified for their lives.  Something is causing their magic to be stolen and though the fae naturally live long lives, they cannot live without their magic.  Valora Delos is a fae hunter charged with discovering who is responsible.  Because it is believed that the blight is being caused by soul stealing fae, everyone is suspect.  If she cannot discover the responsible parties in time, Dell' Aria fall will fall from the sky into selkie waters and destroy not only the fae, but their home. 

When Valora Delos heads to earth on behalf of the King, she learns that Aric's intentions may not be as pure as they seem.  When she meets the half fae Dooley, she is instantly attracted to him, but Aric still has a hold on her and has promised to make her his queen.  Valora is caught between the man that she has always loved and has a responsibility to serve, and the man it seems that fate has placed in her path.

I had a hard time getting into this story at first because it begins with an action scene.  This is a horrible way to start any book, because the reader has no investment in the characters or any idea what is going on. It also has the very typical chosen one theme, which in this case was completely unnecessary as Valora - the protagonist - has more than enough motivation to find the soulstealers because her mother died in an attack. It didn't help that the first few pages are all an info dump in an attempt to set up the story.

Women in the Anita Blake Series

The Anita Blake series has now reached a massive 21 books now and I always find these long series as fascinating to examine, just as I did J.R Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. With a long series you can see patterns and trends, you can see ongoing erasure and repeated stereotypes and tropes to really reinforce a point.

So, I turn to Anita Blake - I already looked at the idea of Anita as a champion of sexual agency, but now I’m turning my eyes on another fraught issue - the treatment of women in the series. Especially women who aren’t Anita.

And the first thing I see is there aren’t actually an awful lot of them. Considering how long this series is as well as the sheer, massive number of characters (Anita has actually slept with more characters than most book series include) and you see an awful lot of men and... not even a quarter as many women. Especially not in Anita’s immediate circle - how many female friends and peers does Anita actually have by the end of book 21? I think I can count them on the fingers of one hand - and I don’t think I need all of them. Anita lives in an incredibly male world.

Which is really common with strong female protagonists (and something we will address in another post for the genre in general), they tend to be the only one. The only woman - perhaps the only capable woman. A woman whose only equals and peers are, ultimately men - implying women are not capable of keeping up with her.

The way Anita refers to herself, her work and her capability, coupled with this rejection of nearly all other women also shows an uncomfortable pattern. Remember, Anita is “one of the guys” and she speaks the “guy code” and knows “guy language” so she can communicate with the men around her far better than another woman could. We get language like this throughout the series. She even impresses the police in Hit List not with skill or capability or knowledge - but with her (supernaturally enhanced) upper-body strength. Throughout it seems we’re not presenting the ideal that a woman is just as good as a man in these circumstances but that she, Anita, is a special woman who can be just as much a guy as the guys.

Especially if you contrast this to how so many other women in the series are treated - a treatment that gets more extreme the more stereotypically “traditionally feminine” the women present. The more stereotypically feminine these women are, the more they are likely to be either sexually manipulative bad guys or fragile victims.

Now contrast that with the women who she (almost) regards as coming close to approaching Anita’s level - Ronnie, Silvie (especially given the dubious treatment of sexuality in this series - which is another post) and, especially Claudia. In varying ways, these women also reject traditional stereotypes of femininity and “femaleness” and have those qualities emphasised.

It’s also sad that the vast majority of women in the series fit into a few categories. Of course there are exceptions (Claudia, Dr. Lillian), but they are few and usually minor or one off characters and do not fit in regularly in Anita’s life (though most of them fit as well)

Falling Skies: Season 2, Episode 4: Young Bloods

In previous episodes I said that it was necessary for Matt to grow up fast and get used to the world they’re in, to learn how to fight, to, in many ways, be desensitised to the violence that now rules the world he lives in – that he can no longer live a normal childhood.

Yeah, that didn’t stretch to “hey, let’s use him as bait for Skitters and then splatter their blood and organs all over them”, no it did not. And you have to laugh that he’s wearing a helmet while playing on the scooter – because safety first while taunting children-targetting aliens, right?

Aside from their little brother’s growing collection of traumatic experiences, Hal and Ben are busy scouting a path to Charleston for the 2nd Massachusetts (where the new civilian government is supposed to be. They find a building with Mechs and power and alien stuff going on, and make a note to avoid it. I say “they” but Hal is talking and Ben is busy staring zombielike at the aliens. Heart-to-heart talk about his silence is called off on account of people stealing their bikes. Thankfully Ben is there with his disturbing alien super-powers to hear which way they’re going.

Following them they find a camp of kids and teens lead by Diego, there’s a stand off but Ben acting as sniper makes them back down. Hal wants his bikes back but notices how many kids there are , with no adults at all - and he offers some of the 2nd Mass’s supplies. Diego agrees to bring a team to check it out – at the urging of his girlfriend and second in command.

Back at the camp, Tom and Ann are flirting and bonding over very-out-of-date chocolate treats and going from “I never thought I’d have a chocolate pie again” to “I never thought I’d have TWU LUB AGAIN!” inevitably, their dizzy making out (no, really, was the cameraman circling them or were they spinning like a couple of drunken ballerinas?) is interrupted by Lourdes.

Tom runs to rescue Matt when he realises he is being subjected to truly cringe-worthy rapping. And the possibility that, in this dystopian world, his 9 year old may be given *gasp* beer. Before we accuse him of the most ridiculously messed up priorities, it turns out while he agreed for Matt to go as a runner to help report things, he didn’t actually agree to Matt being used as alien bait. Tom is, rather unsurprisingly, Not Amused By This and rakes the men over the coals and back. To which Matt slopes off in a tantrum because he totally wanted to be alien bait.

Weaver emerges just in time for he and Tom to greet Hal, Ben and some of the kids. One of which is Jean – Weaver’s daughter. Time for reuinion, joy and sadness since his ex-wife and her mother is dead, but also happiness to be together. Yes, it’s schmaltzy, but you can’t be all grit grit doom gloom.

Diego is helping Hal update his scouting maps and pointing out the damn obvious, that Hal and Maggie are becoming a couple. (Frankly, I thought they were a couple already). And Tom invited Diergo’s group to join them to come with them Charleston. They don’t try to pressure Diego to join them though and let them make their own decision. Tom takes the chance to try to patch things up with Matt – telling him his actions just weren’t smart and were risky – and Matt throws getting onto an alien spaceship back at him. To which I have to say; 9 year old, 1: Tom, nil. Wow, Tom just got told by a 9 year old; it must be hard to raise a kid when you have demonstrated the same level of common sense and intelligence normally reserved for moss. This is what it is like to never ever have the moral high-ground again – no matter what stupid crap his kids do, it pales before his.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast

Reminder guys - this week the podcast is happening tomorrow (that would be the 3rd of July) at the usual time:
6:00pm EST
11:00pm GMT

And you can join us by clicking here and listen to us discuss the shows we've been watching and the books we've been reading

Our books of the week for the next month are:

25/6-3/7: The Fall by Guillermo del Torro and Chuck Hogan
3/7-9/7: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues: Diana Rowland
9/7-16/7: Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner
16/7-23/7: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
23/7-30/7: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Read along with us :)

Review: The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Master’s vampires are furthering their control over New York City – and not just New York, similar planes are landing throughout the world. On every continent, cities are falling and the vampires are spreading. And that’s before the Master’s plan with the nuclear power plants comes to fruition.

In New York, Fess, Strakarian and Ephraim are reeling from the failure of their attack plan. The Master isn’t dead, sunlight and silver didn’t kill him, he is only injured but still able to move his plan forward – with the help of his mortal agents and former Nazi vampires. The number of vampires in the city is growing, fire and smoke are blocking the sun during the day, robbing them of their main weapon and the vampires are using tunnels and the subway to get round the running water, resisting all attempts to be contained.

The mortal authorities, compromised by the Master and reeling in panic, are slow and ineffective to address the threat in any realistic manner.

Even the other Ancients, the other Vampire Masters of the world, seem helpless before the rogue. The only hope they have is a book that is supposed to contain the secrets of vampirism, their origins and, perhaps, a way to stop the plague.

This world is really coming together in this book – the Ancients, how vampires normally work without destroying the world, what vampires are – it’s all being built upon here. If The Strain introduced the world, then The Fall is filling in the details and giving it flesh and form.

And the same applies to the plot – we’re getting the details of the Master’s plan, and the both the scale and power of it, the full scope of human collusion and we’ve even got a semi-long term goal for the survivors. Dystopians can often devolve into a series of events while the main characters try to live – and while survival horror has its charms, it’s nice to have some kind of goal beyond “live to see tomorrow”. But with the book and the codes within it, there’s hope for a lot more. The plot has also tightened on the characters, largely because a lot of them have died, and now they all have a place in the book and the story that is established. There are less hangers on.