Saturday, August 24, 2013

Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 8: The Asparagus is Kicking In

At Ander’s office, Dawn has the thankless task of pointing out to Colin and Anders what they’re doing wrong. Namely that Colin is seen at many functions always with a different woman – and very young women at that; giving, as Dawn says, the message that Colin isn’t serious, he’s a playboy having a laugh (we also see that Anders has spent far too much time convincing clients everything is fine than actually fixing problems). She leaves and Colin tells Anders, in his usually crude terms, that he is turned on by Dawn. Anders is quick to rush in with a “no no, aw hell no” on that one – especially since she’s part of their crew.

To Dawn herself, and Lance and a little insight into their relationship where we see they endure each other’s hobbies with barely concealed tolerance and suffering. Ty has another, mopey “I used to go out with her” moment – which seems to be tipping his Hodr powers again.

Axl and Mike bond over exploiting Mike’s shiny shiny powers for $10,000 which comes with lots of shiny toys and a can of beer the size of Zeb. Speaking of – Axl goes home and finds Zeb half naked on the couch apparently not having eaten in 3 days. He’s been fighting desperately to fend off all the unpaid bills, couldn’t buy food and generally has had a rotten time. Axl arriving with money, food and shiny toys alleviates things a little.

The next job is to go to Stacey’s business and talk to Olaf – about his missing car which Olaf is very very unhappy about. Especially since there is awesome surf happening and he is stranded without a car. Axl needs to talk about Jormugandr – so has to play taxi to the surfing oracle.

At the beach, surf, asparagus role and beer combined, Axl shows Olaf the note – and it is something that Eggther (the not-very-effective-giant) said to him before as well. However, they get no answers until Olaf has his weed and the asparagus kicks in. An oracle that runs on marijuana and asparagus.

Back to the flat, Olaf gets stoned and Zeb reveals his own Norse research – he knows what Jormugandr is (the world serpent, one of Loki’s kids, who surrounds Midgard and holds his tail in his mouth) and what Ragnorok is – the end of the world which will happen if Jormugandr lets go of his tail due to whatever’s upsetting him. Of course Olaf (while praising Zeb for his research and criticising Axl for his lack) admits that he doesn’t know how many of the stories are true. Olaf’s also fairly blasé about the end of the world since he keeps getting reborn; Axl is rather more worried, especially when Zeb brings up Fenrir, the wolf that eats Odin (another of Loki’s kids).

And Mike returns to his bar to find Ingrid there – not looking for booze for once. She’s there with Michele to help with the renovations. And apparently Michele and Mike have moved out of the flat with Karen – Michele’s mother – who is also gone (all of which is news to Mike). Going up this flat he finds it all finished and amazingly decorated – it seems that Sjofn has a powerful talent for finding builders and motivating them.

Olaf and Axl take their Ragnarok worries to Mike, who sends Axl away for a second so he can chew out Olaf for derailing Axl just as Mike had managed to get him back on track – Axl now thinks he’s causing global warming (in a round about, Ragnarok kind of way). Mike doesn’t want to have to deal with more shit – but Olaf is confident he can handle it. The asparagus is kicking in.

That sounds worrisome. Or like bad gas.

Back to the beach and some holy skinny dipping. Where they meet one of Olaf’s old friends – Tigilau, a Polynesian deity, guardian of sharks and fishes. He zaps Axl (as the sea was doing to him recently), blaming him for the upcoming Ragnarok and the chaos Jormugandr is causing in the oceans – since it was Odin who unleashed baby metaphorical serpent Jormugandr waaay back in the day. He also doesn’t see any way to stop it.

And when they leave the water they’re arrested for public nudity. Mike bails them out and is monumentally pissed with Olaf for further messing with Axl and leaves him to walk home. And back at the flat, Zeb is stocking up on canned goods for the approaching apocalypse. Mike is endlessly frustrated by the whole thing and he desperately wishes everyone would ignore Jormugandr since it makes no sense (so says the god Ullr). He encourages Axl to just get on with life – real life –and find a job

Later Axl thinks about this and decides he has a job – finding Frigg. And if he finds her, he’ll get his powers and therefore he can stop Ranarok. (That doesn’t quite make sense since the Eddas on Ragnarok still include the end of the world with a fully empowered Odin). But he’s energised because he now has a REASON to find Frigg, beyond vague pronouncements of destiny. Find Frigg, save the world. Zeb tries to bring some mortal reality to Axl’s sudden enthusiasm but Axl is running with it – he just needs a job to fund it.

To which he sees a flier on their cluttered table to work as a pizza delivery man – a job which also lets him knock on doors and meet the possible future Frigg. Zeb agrees that this is a sign. I realise by the copious amounts of empty bottles that they’re probably both drunk. I should probably have realised that earlier.

Back to Colin’s campaign and Dawn prepping Colin for meeting with a collection of conservative donors – which means lots of family values. He claims he can’t remember all her teaching so Dawn must accompany him. Anders tries to leap in to save Dawn (and to use his Bragi powers) but Colin turns back to Dawn – who already has an excuse with her boyfriend. A choice between Lance or Colin; poor Dawn – she ends up choosing Colin to prevent him getting his own date that could be unsuitable. Anders is not happy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Iron Daughter (Iron Fey #2) by Julie Kagawa

Meghan begins her stay in the Winter Court, hostage to the Unseelie Queen, Mab, and seemingly friendless, especially as Prince Ash turns cold towards her in the unforgiving environment of Tir Na Nog.

But The Iron Fey have not stopped their plotting just because their king is dead. A new monarch has arisen and he has sent his agents to steal the Sceptre of the Seasons, the powerful artefact passed between the courts to signify their changing power – and the changing seasons. Mab instantly accuses the Summer court and the two great courts of faerie march to war – leaving them vulnerable to the Iron fae’s attack

Only Ash and Meghan know who truly took the sceptre – and no-one believes them. It’s down to them to find the sceptre and save the fae. And the world – because while the sceptre is out of the court’s hands, the weather will rage out of control.

I said in the review of the last book that, while I found the romance and budding love triangle annoying and fast tracked, they were properly second to the main plot and while they were a little irritating, they were ignorable.

Which is why, when this book started there was a moment when I nearly put the book down and refused to pick it up again.

They’re heading to Tir Na Nog and Ash reminds Meghan that any display of fluffy emotion will mean that Mab & co will see it as weakness and promptly exploit it to the doom of them both. We even get a vast copy and paste from The Winter Passage to drive the point home. So when we get Meghan in the same room as Mab and Ash?

Meghan: *soulful puppy eyes at Ash*
Ash: uh… hide emotions… remember
Meghan: love me Ash! Love me! ZOMG WHY ARE YOU NOT LOVING ME!?
Ash:… y’know, Mab is RIGHT THERE watching us
Evil prince: Hey human-princess I loathe and despise – want to eat this totally innocent apple?
Meghan: Fairy food in fairy land offered by an obvious enemy? WHY THAT SOUNDS DELICIOUS! Clearly there can be no catch to this
Ash: Meghan…
Ash: *sigh* Of course we do not love each other, that is only banned by all our laws and would get us both banished or executed *hint hint* so no, I don’t love you. *icey angry eyes*
Meghan: ICY EYES! Zomg he hates and despises me! It was all a lie! He clearly isn’t acting and he must totally mean he hates me! Oh woe is me! WOOOOOE! WOE!!!!!!


Ash: Come Meghan we must go!
Meghan: NO! You hate and despise me!
Ash: uh – secret remember? Showing emotion is weakness? We did explain all this – did you hit your head or something?
Meghan: NOOOO! Clearly you only pretended to be in love with me and it was all a trick to get me to Tir Na Nog!
Ash: Yes, that makes sense. You had no power, no magic and can’t fight – I could have dragged you to Tir Na Nog by your hair if I wanted to. Why would I even bother to trick you?
Meghan: You did it all to mess with my head and break my heart like you do to mortal girls!
Ash: Yes, I went to a land that poisoned me with its very air, burned me with acid rain and nearly killed me so I could screw with some girl’s head. That makes perfect sense.

Dead Like Me, Season 1, Episode 14: Rest in Peace

George thinks the day will be good – and is confirmed by a random $20 bill landing in her bike spokes, that’s a good sign. Of course when she gets to the Waffle House Roxy randomly chews her out apparently for quitting her job the very day after she quit her last job. But it’s George’s day, according to Rube (which George is a little suspicious about) but this means free breakfast, more Roxy snark – and even no assignment from Rube.

Since it’s her day, George decides this is the day she will get her job back with Happy Time. And Delores tells her “no” – because she quit Happy Time to take one of Happy Time’s postings and quit that job after 5 minutes. She has been replaced and Delores – Ms. Herbig - is no longer friendly.

George leaves in an epic huff to wait at the lifts – and Delores comes running, distraught, trying to leave the building because she gets a phone call saying her cat is in dire straits. After tasing a passing arsehole by the lifts, George takes Delores’s keys and offers to drive because distraught Delores is in no fit state to.

At the vets, George stays with Delores. And she starts staring at a boy in the waiting room – he has a post it in his comic. One that looks a lot like the post-it’s the Reapers get. She assumes he’s a pet Reaper hassles him. George is a massive support for the panicky and upset Delories and her elderly cat. She finds words of comfort in trusting that the universe will ensure that everything will be ok, eventually – words she’s not sure she believes but gains confidence from saying and, in some way, making things ok.

And it turns out the kid is an animal Reaper – but he’s there for a rabbit, not Delores’s cat. The cat is fine. George offers to stay longer with Delores but she says she’ll be fine – and gives George her job back. She catches up with the Reaper kid and they both share death stories. Finding that the kid is pretty much homeless, she gives him the $20 she found at the beginning of the episode.

Roxy, Mason and Daisy go their merry way with Roxy guessing various people they meet are Reapers, Mason whining about whether he’s an attractive man (yes yes he is) and that he hasn’t had sex in 15 months (Roxy: Jesus, pay for it!). There follows Daisy trying to teach Mason to get a date and the writers trying to convince us someone who looks like Mason finds it impossible to find a woman who likes him. Until he finds a Goth who is into Reapers, that works.

And Rube’s appointment takes him to a yoga studio and he gets roped into joining in and then dies trying to show off to one of his female students. And is immensely frustrated by the fact she was flirting with him and eager to be with him and now he’s dead. He encourages Rube to be less on the edges, that he needs to know how to live. Until he passes on to the first overtly religious afterlife we’ve seen.

True Blood: Dubious Consent, Abuse and Relationships

We have spoken before on how many books have presented abuse, sexual abuse and complete lack of consent as romantic - but the same themes have also been heavily present in True Blood as well. Sometimes shown blatantly in the show, some made deeply problematic by the show creators and some rendered problematic by fandom’s reaction. The show has many sexual scenes and relationships, it’s a recurring and often explicit theme, but many of those sex scenes and relationships (or the conversation around them) are highly dubious and are sorely in need of more vehement challenge.

This season’s antagonist was Warlow, played by Rob Kazinsky. Warlow is a centuries old vampire/fairy hybrid who had determined that Sookie will be his one true love and his companion in the centuries to come. Speaking about Warlow’s feelings, Kazinsky had the following to say.

"He's been waiting six thousand years for her," he says. “For that reason, it didn't matter whether she was as attractive as she ended up being or not. He didn't know she was going to be a babe. He knew that she was going to be a fairy and a princess and that's all that really mattered to him, because he killed his entire tribe and she is the last of his line."

Despite Kazinsky’s suggestion that Warlow has true feelings for Sookie, what is evident is that he loved the idea of her, not Sookie as a person. When Warlow approached Sookie with his plan to capture himself a fairy princess, he knew absolutely nothing about her. Sookie essentially was a prize for him to possess and this is proved by his violent reaction to her suggestion that they should date rather than immediately commit to each other for eternity. A man who loves a woman does not try to force her into a relationship against her will, nor does he slap, threaten and stalk her when she refuses to capitulate. Perhaps this was his attempt to soften the character of Warlow but it reads like apologism for violence against women. Urban Fantasy like many other genres has a long history of justifying abuse as love and this has everything to do with our misogynistic culture.

Jason is also the centre of several of these controversies. In season 4 of True Blood, Jason was kidnapped by the werepanthers of Hotshot. He was abused in many ways but, in particular, he was repeatedly raped by Crystal and many of the young women of the village being forced to have sex with him while he was tied down. This scene is both graphic and painful - there is no romanticising the rape or treating it as a happy fun time for Jason, there is even some ongoing suggestion that Jason has been traumatised by the event. This is the positive. On the negative side, Jason wonders if him being raped was a “punishment from god” for having too much sex.

This is made far worse by comments by writer Alan Ball and Director Jason Petrarca about how Jason was getting his “comeuppance” for his promiscuous ways and how Jason, who views part of his sense of self on his sexual prowess, is now having that used against him.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Harvest Hunting (Otherworld #8) by Yasmine Galenorn

We follow Delilah this book – and how her life has changed. Following a skunk-inspired make-over and realising that her relationship with the now nigh-immortal Chase is coming to a close, she enters a new chapter of her life with the Autumn Lord – and his sexy representative.

Along the way, they have a kidnapped werewolf to rescue, a spirit seal to find and some dangerous werecoyotes to thwart. And, of course, there’s still the Bonecrusher to defeat – and she’s bringing the fight to the sisters’ home.

This series is HUUUUUUUUUUUGE!

And I don’t just mean number of books. I can tackle several books. But it’s HUUUUUGE within those books. It has a vast cast of characters and the author has really gone out of her way to ensure every single one of those characters is a character. They’re not just names. They have things happening in their lives. They have lives, they have issues, they have their own stories and battles and causes.

Which is certainly good in some ways, don’t get me wrong! But there are a gazillion billion trillion of them all handling their stuff at the same time. Ok, maybe not handling their stuff, but certainly mentioning their stuff at least.

This goes along with a huge amount of recapping. A truly vast amount of recapping – and so much has happened in each sister’s life and the story in general that some of it is helpful – but it adds to the unwieldiness, bogs down the pacing and drags the story down.

There’s also still a problem with the writing. It has IMMENSELY improved since earlier books, don’t get me wrong, especially the fight scenes (though I still think we see far more of what everyone else is doing in combat than is realistic or necessary) but we still have things like the group meetings where everything is reiterated (again, not nearly as bad). The worst habit remaining though are clothes, cares and scenary. They can drive from A to B without me knowing exactly how they’re getting there, I don’t need to know what car they’re driving or who is in what car and I really really really don’t need to know what clothes everyone is wearing all the time. By this stage, we know what clothes everyone habitually wears, take it as a given.

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 9: The Fourth Hand

Julia takes Barbie to see the Minidome. But when they get there there’s no egg and no Minidome – there’s a crater instead. The mystery of the missing Minidome is left to Julia because Linda calls Barbie with reports of gunfire

They’re excitable people in Chester’s Mill. And well armed. The combination is not a good one.

Barbie arrives at the shooting, an older man has been grazed by a bullet. His neighbour, Ted, shot him; apparently some “freak” knocked on his door and started ranting, he fired a warning shot which the freak ignored and accidently hit his neighbour. Oopsie. Another wave of hysteria also follows but is quickly quelled.

Can someone tell me why Linda wasn’t able to handle this by herself? Except for ensuring Barbie has a role in the storyline and remains as protagonist?

They go check on the man who is ranting and raving about the Dome putting voices in his head. Linda recognises him as a drug addict called Larry; he’s on a new drug called “Rapture” which Linda’s never heard of. And it was sold to him by the dead Rev. Coggins and now he wants more.

So it’s off to Coggin’s mortician/vestry – yes he was mortician and preacher. Able to fulfil all your death needs (and, since he deals drugs, that probably includes killing you). Inside one of the coffins they find drug making paraphernalia, much to Linda’s shock which tells you she’s not a church goer because anyone who watched Coggins for more than 10 minutes must have suspected him of using SOMETHING. Anyway they find is recipe which includes liquid propane which Linda finds a little odd; Barbie comments that Chester’s Mill is overflowing with the stuff.

At the Diner in town Jim’s all full of himself though Angie says “I hear Barbie got the water flowing”. Uh-oh Jim, Barbie’s stealing your thunder. Jim’s quick to say lots of people got it going before blowing his horn about making a deal with the farmers for townsfolk to swap goods and services for food. What, he needed to set up a deal to instigate basic trade? Angie’s happy though because she wants the Diner to stay open – her diner. Yes she wants Jim to give it to her. Something Jim will have to think on.

He leaves – and Junior arrives. Angie tries to kick him out of her diner, again saying she isn’t sick… right before she collapses into a fit and chants “the pink stars are falling, the pink stars are falling in lines.” Just like Norrie and Joe.

She wakes up in the backseat of Junior’s locked police car and duly panics. But he lets her go once she gets home – don’t you dare try to redeem Junior, Under the Dome, don’t you dare!

The Walking Dead Volume 13: Too Far Gone

Life in Alexandria continues and the group quickly establishes themselves as essential community members. But all is not well, Rick discovers some ugly secrets while acting as constable and finds Douglas reluctant to address them. While his unstable outburst threatens them all, an attack on the community elevates the group and establishes Rick as the new commander

The first theme that struck us in this volume was, after the perfection of Alexandria presented last week, how utterly hollow it is. Now we get to see the cracks - the denial, the compromises and the general thin layer of perfection they have. We learn that Alexandria was formed by a man, Daniels, who was sexually abusing the women in the town and Douglas was forced to murder him to protect the community. This is wonderfully epitomised by Gabriel trying to have Rick & Co evicted from this “perfect” community - he can only condemn Rick’s murders because he is alive to do so. He is only alive and in Alexandria because of Rick and the group - he relies on the violence to protect him while he hides, but then hypocritically becomes sanctimonious and judgemental about the acts that saved his skin.

And this stands in well for Alexandria. While people do surreal things like walk pets and recruit Rick to help move their planters or read the same newspaper over and over again to create this facade of normality, the reality is far uglier. The community was started and secured by murder. And even then Douglas turned a blind eye until a woman committed suicide. Which seems to be a pattern with Douglas because, again, when presented with something less than perfect in his community - Pete the wife-beater - he turns a blind eye again. It is only Rick’s admittedly unstable actions that force him to address the issue. Outside the wall, the builders believe they are chosen because they are expendable and it’s notable that any women Douglas finds attractive are given positions near him.

Through this facade of normality, Douglas insists his authority be respected at least in public - determined to remain leader until it’s clear he’s unsuitable; it’s all maintaining appearances and the facade that keeps him in control. The people aid and abet this because they are desperate and afraid - they want to deny the world outside, the realities of the apocalypse, and the facade allows them to do so.

This facade is exposed in part by how necessary the group is to Alexandria. Andrea and Rick successfully defend Alexandria against an attack that would have ironed over the community without them. Abraham completely overhauls the building team which has been constantly losing people. Even Glenn is a far greater guide than runner Heath. And while Rick’s actions are extreme, he refuses to tolerate the threat from within the community, allowing abusers to act unchallenged. Their help not only shows how useful - how essential - they are to the community but also how fragile Alexandria is. It’s only really through pure luck that Alexandria hasn’t faced a force like the Governor or a Herd or severely abusive members before now.

Rick assuming leadership, especially in such fraught circumstances, with bodies on the grounds shows Alexandria’s facade cracking and the group moving in to fill the cracks.

Now that the team is no longer in clear and present danger they are far more willing to challenge Rick’s leadership and go with the status quo. Even as the residents of Alexandria see Rick’s group as a necessary addition to their little township and are changed by the presence of Rick et al, Rick’s group is also changed by the residents of Alexandria. When Rick and Glenn took the guns, Rick commented that he was worried about a member of his group turning against him. After everything that the group has been through they had really become tightly knit, yet Rick doubted their solidarity knowing full and well the precious nugget of safety that Alexandria potentially provided; in other words, a member of the group may buy into the facade. His feelings of doubt were bared out by Andrea questioning him when he presented her with a gun. Andrea wanted to live by the rules as presented to her and it was made clear that the taking and holding of weapons was Rick’s risk and not hers thereby establishing a clear line of demarcation between the two of them. This is a small fracture but a fracture nonetheless, showing us that though these people had been through a lot it was only because of circumstance and not choice. At the end of the day, people wanted to do what made them feel safe and if that meant thwarting Rick’s leadership so be it. We can see this spirit again when Michonne disarmed Rick after he attacked Pete. Rick was shocked that Michonne acted against him having always perceived her as his weapon, his attack dog.

There is also an ongoing theme of mental health among the group as well. Able to relax for the first time in a long time, many of the characters have a chance to take a breath and feel. Maggie talks through her insecurity with Glenn. Abraham talks through his fears, Carl grieves for his mother, Rick has his break down and even Michonne asked to talk to Rick about their hallucinations.

In fact, Michonne is the annoying exception here. Michonne has probably suffered more than anyone else in the group but she’s also the one who is least allowed to show pain or grief. This partially explains her anger towards Morgan’s grief for his wife or her fury at Rick for his breakdown - she has suffered more than both and she has managed to hold herself together; it’s legitimate that she would be angry at both of them.

But, it’s problematic that she didn’t get to grieve or fear or break down. All she gets to display is anger - the proverbial angry Black woman. Why can’t she grieve? Why can’t she hurt? Why can’t Michonne be vulnerable and show how she is hurting - like Rick, Morgan, Andrea, Carl, Abraham - just about everyone else? It makes for an unpleasant trope. Similarly unpleasant is her being show explicitly nude; not that it was inappropriate for the scene, but even in sexual situations the other women have not been depicted that way.

I would also like the still implied gay couple of Aaron and Eric to not be erased so soon after introduction - after 78 comics and an enormous number of characters, it’s too soon for this scrap of representation to be rendered into the background.

Alive: Rick, Michonne, Carl, Andrea, Glen, Maggie, Sophia, Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Morgan, Gabriel.
Aaron, Eric, Heath, Douglas, Spencer, Olivia, Barbara, Nicholas, Paula, Mikey, Holly, Tobin, Jessie, Ron, Bruce, David, Erin, Dr. Cloyd and a whoooooooole buncha Alexandria people

Dead: Regina, Pete, Scott

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rush of Wings (Maker's Song #1) by Adrian Phoenix

Heather is an FBI agent tracking down a serial killer who has been leaving a trail of victims across the country over the last 3 years. The trail has now lead her to New Orleans

And there she finds far more than a serial killer – she finds Dante. A vampire.

But far more than just a vampire – he’s a target for her serial killer and constantly under the eye of a Fallen Angel who seems to be hiding his own secrets; not least of which the truth of Dante’s past, shrouded by his fractured memory.

Heather faces the supernatural for the first time – and the realisation it may actually exist – still has to hunt a serial killer and is embroiled in a conspiracy that cuts to the core of people she respects and her own principles.

Opening this book, I felt bombarded.

There were vampires (though they weren’t originally referred to as such, leading to more questions) and fallen (which may or may not be angels), which were referred to in many different ways, a serial killer, a nomad (who is an llygad and I still have no clue what that means but it’s apparently relevant), True Blood all without any explanation until a lot further in.

Add to that a serial killer, some bloke called Etienne who is pissed about something – and I’ve finished the book but I’m still not sure why he’s pissed, a vampire, a winged bloke, a band, some blokes at the bar who have their own agenda that isn’t instantly apparent, some local police, an FBI agent, an FBI agent’s boss and then a shadowy figure who won’t become clear until waaaaay later, scattered with a  random minor character I have no clue about – and I stagger a bit more. Especially when the random POV switches happen – at one point we POV switch to someone who I didn’t even know at that point.

Then drop in a whole load of Cajun French and some language that looks like Welsh but isn’t – none of it translated or explained (there’s a glossary at the back as I discovered at the end).

All of that together and I started to get rather irritated. It was too much at once, there was no time to grasp at anything and I kept forgetting who various people were and what they did. Ronin’s name kept escaping me, I still have no clue who Etienne is and I even forgot Heather was an FBI agent. As for Silver, Gina, et al – I had only the vaguest idea who they were and it quite destroyed the tension that was supposed to revolve around them

I actually thought I had missed a book – there was so much information here that wasn’t explained that surely I was book 3 or 4 in a series? But apparently not. This is actually the first book.

Winter's Passage (Iron Fey #1.5) by Julie Kagawa

There isn’t really a plot to summarise of this story – this is Meghan’s travel from her home to Tir Na Nog to fulfil the contract she made with Ash.

This novella is a nice bridge book.

It doesn’t exist to advancer the plot per se. Nor really to develop the characters. Puck, Meghan and Ash are the same people in this book as they were in the last book. You don’t need to read this book.

But it does elegantly take you from the end of The Iron King to the beginning of The Iron Daughter without having to slow down the beginning of the next book with unnecessary travel or having a huge jarring leap from one scene to the next. It’s a bridge book

Along the way it helps fill in a few of the gaps – checking on Puck where he rested in his tree, a little revisit with Grimalkin just to add to his omnipresent mystery. And it added a little depth and texture to Ash and Meghan’s relationship. Since that relationship was pretty fastforwarded in the last book, I appreciate some attempt to flesh it out into something more meaningful, even if it is awfully fast.

It also reiterates a theme that will be important in the next book – how emotion is a weakness in the Unseelie court, how Mab and Ash’s brothers are Not Nice People and how Ash doesn’t look forward to coming home and they need to carefully hide their relationship or, better yet, call the whole thing off and recognise it as doomed to failure.

This message is important for the next book when Meghan IGNORES IT ENTIRELY!

We also get heavily reminded that Ash is the supreme Prince of emo moping, Lord of pouting, Grand Duke of the Sulk and Knight of the Order of Passive Aggressive Silent Treatment. It’s not endearing. Which also adds layers of insecurity and “waaaah he doesn’t really love me” to Meghan. It’s important to get these fixes now so you are not completely smacked with it in the next book

Romance does not bring out the best of either of these characters.

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 12: Lunar Eclipse

The three surrogate sacrifices, Stiles, Scott and Allison, wake up from their ice baths – in a plain white room with lots of lights. And a the giant tree stump of the Nemeton, its roots punching through the floor. Looking at the tree stump, Scott sees his tattoo, the two rings, in the tree rings which he seems to think is significant. I didn’t see anything except, well, tree rings. All trees have rings.

Touching the Nemeton, he’s suddenly in a forest, looking at a younger version of himself (from season 1) on the night he was bitten. It happened next to the Nemeton. Stiles has a flashback to another event in the woods at night in the forest – next to the Nemeton, as does Allison.

They all come out of their ice baths – knowing where the Nemeton is. But they’ve been under water for 16 hours – the full moon rises in 4 hours. And Scott still wants to work with Deucalion to stop Jennifer the Darach and Deaton even agrees that it may be necessary (albeit to use Deucalion as bait. No-one else is thrilled with this.

Derek and Cora are all happy that Cora is alive – but Peter still worries that Derekk has completely drained himself before Kali arrives to kill him.

Then Ethan arrives at the vet clinic, looking for Lydia. He wants them to help him stop Aidan and Kali from killing Derek. They go to the werewolf loft with both Peter and Cora encouraging Derek to run. To confirm how bad it is, they ask Lydia how she feels – she feels like she’s standing in a graveyard. That can’t be a good sign.

Which means when Kali arrives with Aidan looking for Derek she only finds Ethan and Lydia. Lydia snarks and when Kali advances on her, Aidan growls at her? Derek and Cora have driven off – Peter telling them not to call until they’re a hundred miles away. While Kali snarls at Aidan, Jennifer the Darach drops in from the ceiling. She easily defeats Kali and Aidan so the twins quickly take off their shirts (I approve of this combat style. How come they can merge while wearing trousers but not while wearing shirts). Jennifer prevents them from merging and forces them apart – and knocks them unconscious. She confronts Kali, demanding she look at her face; Kali looks disturbed since she was the one who almost killed Jennifer, though she says she doesn’t care. Jennifer uses her power to levitate a storm of glass shards from the floor – and stabs Kali with them multiple times.

Kali dies – and Jennifer turns to Lydia – but she hasn’t been watching Aidan and Ethan and they merge to form werewolf Voltron.  He attacks Jennifer and, with infinite ease, she dodges his attack and breaks his neck. Voltron collapses, bleeding from the mouth.

Did she just kill the wonder twins and Kali in 5 minutes?  Uh… well, on the plus side, Scott doesn’t have to recruit the Alpha pack any more because… there isn’t one.

Isaac, Scott and Allison go to Allison’s home to find something for scent – and find that Scott’s FBI agent dad, is there waiting for them to ask questions. A delay they do not need. Allison is not putting up with this crap and first of all presents why her dad has so many weapons, impressively naming them all – before throwing a smoke grenade at the FBI and running with Scott and Isaac.

Stiles, speeding through the terrible weather on the roads crashes into a tree. And at the werewolf loft, Jennifer advances on Lydia and shows her her true face. Lydia unleashes her bean sidhe scream – which is heard by Cora and Derek driving away. Derek realises it’s Lydia – and that they have to go back (well, Kali’s dead).

Scott, Isaac and Allison arrive for their meeting with Deucalion – but Stiles is unconscious in his care and not answering texts. The plan is for Deucalion and Scott to keep Jennifer busy while Isaac and Allison rescue their parents.

Derek and Cora arrive at the Wolf Loft to get another sales pitch from Jennifer – Derek’s not buying. So she has a deal – she needs a guardian and for that she took 3 parents. She’ll release them if Derek will help her against Deucalion – which she needs despite her easy crushing of Kali and the wolf twins because Deucalion is a lot more powerful than they know. She needs Derek to help her get Deucalion in the right place at the right time. She doesn’t have a chance if he has Scott – not without Derek, especially since the eclipse only lasts 15 minutes.

Isaac and Allison head to the Nemeton and Isaac hears Chris’s super-sonic emitter. They untie the parents as the ceiling collapses – and the stairs leading out. Isaac desperately holds up the ceiling with werewolf strength to stop them all being crushed.

Derek and Jennifer apparently left, leaving Lydia and Cora – and the twins. They’re still alive. They hurry the twins to Deaton to see if he can save them. He rushes around trying to heal them (and Lydia is bothered by needles).

Scott sends Jennifer a message of where he and Deucalion are, calling her out. Big show down time. Jennifer & Derek vs Scott & Deucalion. And Deucalion transforms to his demon wolf – showing everyone why she had to sacrifice so many to face him – even Scott is taken aback. Derek attacks Deucalion – and does nothing. Jennifer unleashes her magic – and also does nothing. Oh dear. Both are completely helpless and he knocks them back easily – before gabbing Jennifer and taking her to Scott, telling Scott to kill her (which should screw up his “true alpha-ness”). Deucalion roars, driving Scott to his knees and making him shift. Deucalion demands he kills her to save his mother and parents of his friends while Jennifer tells him Deucalion will make him kill everyone he loves.

Scott stands up and says they’re not dead yet – Deucalion asks who will save them, his friends (he mocks) and Scott says “my pack.” Awesome line. Complete with golden glowey eyes. Deucalion drags Scott to Jennifer intending to force him to kill her like he forced Derek to kill Boyd and Scott pulls out a flashbang grenade – as Gerard (evil granddaddy Argent) said – Deucalion isn’t always blind.

They stagger back and as their vision clears, the eclipse happens – Derek, Scott and Deucalion lose their wolfy shapes. Time for Jennifer to go full Darach. Derek hides, she knows Scott across the room – and pounces on Deucalion, batting his head repeatedly against the floor, but Derek stops her (whyyyy?!). Telling her Deucalion has not seen what she really looks like – the price she paid for him bringing Kali into the pack (and we think Deucalion would care, why? He ordered the Emissaries killed, why would he be upset by one living but being scarred?) She uses her Darach power to restore Deucalion’s sight. He sees her and panics

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Year of the Wolf (Changeling Sisters #1) by Heather Heffner

Citlalli and her family have come to South Korea to join their mother after their oldest sister, Marisol, disappeared after slowly weakening over a long period.

In Seoul they face many difficulties acclimatising and fitting in with the culture around them – and they have not achieved the safety they sought. Raina, Citlalli’s sister starts to fall prey to the same symptoms as Marisol

Desperate not to lose another sister, and frustrated by medicine’s inability to cure her, Citlalli pursues more and more mystical avenues to find an answer – and finds far more than she imagined. Ghosts and spirits, creatures of legend – and vampires, slow, life draining vampires and their enemies, the werewolves.

She’s in over her head and she needs to learn quickly – but Citlalli is determined that the vampire queen will not take another of her sisters, no matter what she must do to stop her.

When this story started I found it incredible disjointed and confusing. The chronology moves back and forth – we see Citlalli in the past coming to South Korea interspaced, lots of flashback that has happened to her and her family interspaced with the present. They’re not clearly labelled, we don’t always know if we’re in the past or the present and I found it extremely confusing and really not to my taste. It was a real pain for me and there was a moment when I nearly put the book down because it was too much work to follow it.

This part of the book also coincides with a very long preamble to the story. There’s foreshadowing to the supernatural, but it is just foreshadowing and it feels like an extremely long run up to the actual meat of the story. It’s frustrating and, again, made it a hard book to get into and tempted me to stop.

But once you get past that original barrier, the book opens up considerably. Not only does it improve, but it improves sufficiently that it is more than worth battling past that beginning shakiness, because it opens up into a truly original and excellent story that is definitely worth a read.

The story itself draws heavily on Korean mythology and elements of east-Asian mythology and beliefs. I can’t venture to say how accurate it was or how well it got it or how much different traditions were mixed up – or even what were western inserts – because I’m not nearly well versed enough to make that judgement. I will say that there was a sense of considerable research- places were named, streets were named, areas were referred to, there was a lot of use of the Korean language (and the little I knew seemed accurate, same goes to the relatively small elements of mythology I recognised) but all of this comes from a place of profound ignorance on my part. I can’t say if it was authentic, only that there was a definite amount of research going on.

Utopia, Season 1, Episode 2

We open with a man removing what looks like the Utopia manuscript from an archive and posting it – all the while looking around nervously. And he’s squished by a very very big lorry. See, sometimes you’re not paranoid, they really are all out to get you.

Cut to the gang at the house and Jessica telling them they come with her or they’re all dead. She also knows who everyone is and takes the gun off Ian (by telling him it has the safety on – distracting him enough for her to take it. Though she points out most guns don’t actually have safety catches). That sorted she gathers everyone to leave before they all die (assuring Wilson she will take care of his dad – and yes she does know where he works, she has lots of creepy knowledge).

They escape out the back (Jessica considerably more gracefully than the gang) and sneak through someone’s home to avoid the CCTV. Into a stolen car and some backstory – in the 70s the Soviets had a scary scary bio-warfare programme. To combat it, the west set up “The Network”; a completely deniable, unaccountable group that could do things democratic governments couldn’t be part of.  Needless to say they did bad bad things. And it’s the Network that wants them.

And Jessica wants the gun so she can rob people – much to Becky’s horror. Jessica lays down their new lives – they need to change their appearance, they need to adapt, they need to abandon their own lives and they can’t use their money or anything else. If they can’t manage that, they’ll die. Simple as.

From there it’s a quick change of clothes and then finding a van (to help hide Wilson) and blowing up their old car. Which Jessica does with studied, professional coolness that is incredibly intimidating. She reveals to Ian that she hasn’t taken steps to protect Wilson’s father – she does what she must to survive even if they’re hard. Ian is just completely lost and freaked out

From there they go to an empty house – Jessica hacks airline companies to see when people are on holiday. Once inside she rigs up a trip wire alarm and tells everyone they always have to be ready to leave within 60 seconds. No baths, no showers – no time to worry about looking pretty she snarks – aimed at Becky. Becky and Jessica are clashing and it’s revolving a little around Ian (edges of jealousy). Becky demands Jessica explain more. Time for more exposition

2 men created the Network: Phillip Carville and “Mr. Rabbit” whoever he is. The Cold War ended, the governments left the Network but Carville and Rabbit kept going. When Carville wanted to leave they tortured him to make him keep working until his mind snapped entirely – to which he was dropped in a psychiatric hospital and became Mark Dean- the writer of the Utopia Manuscript. What’s in the manuscript – or some of it – is real (including BSE being the Network’s fault). And Jessica knows this because she’s Carville’s daughter and has been on the run since she was 4.

And Wilson’s on heroin for the pain of his eye. Well, it’s an opiate. Jessica wants to “find Utopia” with Ian – and leave Becky behind because she’s “not strong enough” and “not ready”. Which Becky is pretty pissed about, especially when Ian doesn’t back her up.

Ian and Jessica follow her trail back to Jack Tate, the man who published Utopia (and we saw go under the big lorry at the beginning of the episode).  Time to speak to Mrs. Tate, his wife, while posing as officials – which is when Jessica learns Mrs. Tate is a widow. But it’s ok – she does have papers they may want to see.

Monday, August 19, 2013

True Blood, Season 6, Episode 10: Radioactive

Sookie and Alcide have a post funeral walk to muse about things before they run into a pack of ecstatic, high and sunlight loving vamps in various states of undress (as we remember, Lillith blood is intoxicating). Sookie realises Billith was right (so, I don’t think Sookie spent any time disbelieving Billith so much as recognising him as an arsehole). And Jason’s among them – Sookie decides to join them and talks Alcide out of being the big protector (and what exactly is he going to do if a pack of day walking vampires decide he’s lunch?) She joins the half naked, dancing partying vamps who are burning their prison clothes. She finds Jason and Violet – who decides that since Sookie is Jason’s sister she’s her sister as well – and promptly kisses Sookie on the mouth (this is not a common family greeting I am sure). Jason tells Sookie he’s actually pretty happy with the whole Violet situation, feeling like she has his back – and Sookie tries not to drop a bomb of cynicism all over everything.

And Pam hugs Sookie and sounds happy! After this shocking event, it’s Tara’s turn to hug (what, Sookie, Tara and your friends were having issues you didn’t know about again? Well how surprising is this?!) Tara reveals they’re all high on Billith blood and Tara even says she can’t hate Bill any more (I’m sure that will change).

Bill is inside being all mopey. Why? I’m sure they’ll tell us soon. Or maybe Bill is just auto-angsty

Sookie leaves and heads to soft-filter faerie land where Warlow has created a hippie-flower-power maypole. He talks about soul mates and the faerie soul mate ceremony while Sookie gives him a complete “oh shit I don’t want to do this” look. Shouldn’t she be at Terry’s wake right now supporting Arlene? She talks to Warlow and says that since eveyrone’s safe they don’t have to bond forever and ever right this second and they can take time to get to that stage rather than basing their eternal relationship on “we made a deal and I had to stick to it.” Which isn’t that romantic. She wants to date, she wants to see Warlow fit in with her family and friends – Jason and Tara and Arlene. In response to which Warlow grabs her by the throat and angrily demands who she thinks she’s talking to

Well, that torpedoes that romance.

Back to vampire party, we have more fun and Violet is definitely feeling a little jealous of Jessica and Jason – and Pam is back to brooding. Tara realises Pam’s thinking of trailing after Eric and calls it out as a bad idea – and Pam threatens to release her. She leaves Tara to take care of Willa while Tara accuses her and Eric of being the worst makers ever.

Inside Jessica joins the brooding Bill – and it seems that all the blood loss has drained him of his Billithness. He is now just plain ol’ Bill. And with new Bill-ness he now mopes about poor Sookie and how she’s going to be made a vampire. Woe. Jessica delivers a fiery speech and it’s time for team rescue Sookie which includes a very annoyed Jason. But killing Bill takes second place to saving Sookie – which means they need to go through the fae portal which means they need a fae – Adalind, Andy’s remaining daughter.

While Violet and Jason get on that, Bill let’s professor Takehashi go, glamouring him to forget them and leaving him with a huge bag of money. Violet and Jason go to Andy’s and have a little drama when Andy realises Violet is a vampire (she points out she’s 800 years old, she can resist temptation – besides she and Jason are monogamous). Andy doesn’t want to risk Adalind but she – after some mind reading – wants to save Sookie, the only other part-fae she knows - just as she couldn’t save her sisters. They load up with anti-vampire equipment (including UV bullets. Really – Warlow is immune to sunlight).

Warlow is busy imprisoning Sookie, declaring how he, several thousand year old faerie royal, is far too good for the likes of her Bon Temps hick friends, and he just wants to use her – before biting her. Just in case anyone had any illusions about Warlow being a good guy.

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep

Gin is trying to have a fun day out with her friends, at the spa with a whole lot of food (and a whole lot of chocolate) when assassins, kidnappers and thugs interrupt things. Life as the Spider, the most lethal assassin in the corrupt city of Ashland, means never having a day off.

But this time the thugs do not focus on Gin, they focus on Sophia, one of Gin’s closest friends. The demons in her past have finally caught up with her; kidnapping her and imprisoning her where she had escaped so many years before.

Of course, these kidnappers don’t realise who they’re dealing with – and how very loyal the Spider is to her friends.

So many things I love about this book – and most of them I have covered so many times in the series. I love Gin, I love the world and its diverse elements that create a truly unique feel. I love the fight scenes and how they’re laid out. But there are also several elements to this book that put it above most of the series.

One thing I really liked about this book is Gin only gets incidentally beat up – and most of that from random blows in fights and her taking a nose dive off a cliff. There’s no prolonged torture/beating scene of Gin (albeit some witnessed of Sophia) that leaves her a complete wreck (there are times when things try to beat her – and find that it doesn’t do a lot with her Stone magic) which made me feel a little more comfortable. Apart from anything else, Gin is an awesome, lethal assassin; I don’t expect her to get out of any situation unscathed but I don’t expect her to have prolonged “Gin gets tortured” scenes every book either. It felt a little torture porny and I was glad to see it skip this book.

I also liked that Gin used her magic so overtly. My old complaint about this series is that Gin is supposed to be the most powerful elemental ever (or one of them) but she very rarely uses that power, even when faced with other elementals. It was frustrating. So I loved to see her just doing her epic thing and taking down small armies with her power

In fact I loved the whole epic of this book. I know that overpowered characters can be hollow – but Gin has had 8 books to hone her power and skills, how nuance et al. Sometimes it’s nice to have a character who is just unassailably awesome. Shallow of me? Maybe, sometimes I just like to see someone who kick’s arse in epic fashion. I especially loved her embracing her notoriety. People knowing she’s the Spider is a constant source of aggravation to her these last few books, but it’s nice to see her turn that into a source of power – to look at enemies and announce that she’s the Spider and how dead that makes them.

But Gin is more than that – yes she’s deadly and powerful – but she’s also intelligent. She didn’t just run into a gang of men and show off her powers and kill them all – she used strategy, she used tactics, she used the terrain and the vulnerabilities around her. She’s not just a terrifying fighter – she’s a clever one.

And she’s a clever one with friends – good friends. I love how Gin has built up her network of friends and supporters since the first book. I like that all of them have had sufficient backstory and attention paid to them to have their own storylines, their own personality and their own characterisation. I love that it doesn’t just say “Gin loves this person and is loyal to them” but we’ve seen the reason for that loyalty, the reason for that connection and the shared history between her and the people in her life. So I really liked that this book explored Sophia and Jo Jo more since they’[d been background characters for so long, integral parts of Gin’s life, but never with any real explanation as to how they joined her circle. It felt like a completion, making sure every one of the people around Gin were fully realised as people.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 7: Typical Auckland God

Axl wakes up, naked with a woman, Suzy, who would be naked if she weren’t wearing his t-shirt. And they play the memory game where Axl tries to remember how this state of affairs came to be followed by a repeat of some of those better memories.

Having relived those memories Axl goes to check on Derek, taking his truck back. His house is a wrecked mess with more than a few discarded weapons. Derek wakes up, disorientated and kind of nasty in pyjamas that the nice people who took him home must have dressed him in. Derek loses his shit and strips naked in horror of the indignities they may have visited upon him. Apparently Tom and Kerry are the “bandits” that stole Mjolnir.

So that sends Axl to the neighbours who are no fans of Derek’s. Kerry is a man, Tom and Kerry are a gay couple and Derek is a homophobe (the “indignities” Derek feared are now cast in a nauseating light) and, in addition to telling everyone he’s Thor, he threw his hammer at the house along with an anti-gay slur because he disliked their music. If he wants his hammer back they want an apology (because they’re extremely generously not pressing charges) and him to actually remove it from their house -  because they can’t shift it.

Of course, Axl can remove it. But Tom and Kerry still don’t want to give the hammer back until Derek apologises. Oh and they’d like their land back.

Axl tries to talk sense to Derek who is adamant he won’t apologise. And he calls them bandits not because they stole his hammer – no, he calls them “arse bandits.” Language that Axl is quite horrified that Derek is happy to use – and apparently publicly.

As to the land, it turns out the land does belong to Tom and Kerry but Derek won the land from “drunk Murray” in a game at some point and they never got round to doing any paperwork. Derek protests he farms the land and has for 15 years (examining the clearly unused land, Axl asks what he farms.)

Axl gets more information from Suzy – Derek stopped farming and took up drinking when Delphine (his daughter) moved away with Ross. When Tom and Kerry moved in and tried to claim their land Derek got a new hobby – harassing the “poofters” next door. Suzy gives Axl the full history of the land dispute and adds that, despite how out there Derek is, she still worries about him. She says this while pouring Axl a drink from a bottle Axl just tried and found empty… He distracts her, drinks his beer and tries to pour from the bottle – it’s empty. But when she returns and pours the bottle is full again.

Golden hair, cares about Thor… some distinct Earth-goddessness with spawning of ale (agriculture). Is this Sif?