Friday, February 14, 2014

Blood of Angels (Blood Hunters#2) Marie Treanor

Istvan is a vampire hunter and a brilliant inventor.  Now that he is recovering from an injury which almost killed him, Istvan finds that he has time on his hands to explore ideas he has been tinkering with for awhile.  Istvan begins to wonder about the power of angels and this leads him to the beautiful but agoraphobic Angyalka.  Before they know it, they are caught up in a torrid love affair.  Unfortunately for them both, the new alliance between vampires and humans is about to be tested.  Can their love survive the hatred on both sides?

I like that Angyalka and Istvan take their time getting to know each other and don't immediately declare HAE after knowing each other for a scant amount of time. They both are unsure of where their relationship is going and are highly cognizant of the differences between them.  This adds tension to their interactions. Angyalka is unapologetically sexual and her concerns have to do with Istivan's status as a hunter, rather than any concern about her virtue. There was however a strong element of prescribed gender with Istivan feeling the need to dominate Angyalka sexually because she is physically stronger than him. For the relationship to work, Angyalka had to be made to feel helpless by Istivan and I find that gender dynamic to be problematic.

Like any paranormal romance book, Blood of Angels follows the standard script.  Boy meets girl and there is instant attraction but distrust.  They share a relationship based in lust but then  have a misunderstanding and fall apart, only to be reunited by the very same conflict.  Of course this leads them to a HAE. There is absolutely nothing original about this story and the characters themselves are card board cut outs.

Blood of Angels does fixate on the romance between Istvan and Angyalka; however, there is an ongoing narrative with the other characters in the series.  Elizabeth's pregnancy continues to be a primary concern and the child is referred to as the most important child since Christ.  We see that Saloman has solidified his vampire base, even though both humans and vampires are uneasy about this truce.  I wish that Treanor would slightly expand her world and give more focus on the politics.  The mystical pregnancy alone is not great enough to provide the ongoing world building that this series needs. 

At what point are fans being screwed?

'Money' photo (c) 2010, 401(K) 2012 - license:

Fans can be wonderful, passionate, amazing people (they can also be aggravating, obsessive and more than a little scary). To be a fan is to really invest in a series, to invest time and energy and passion and hopes and enthusiasm - and money.

Definitely money. Fans love their precious and will reach into their pockets, grab the plastic and buy all kinds of things associated with their beloved series. They’ll lay out money for the next book as soon as it comes out, they’ll buy DVD series - and much much more. Just having the name of the beloved show or book on something will guarantee invested fans will show up desperate to hand over their cash.

And content creators, producers and certainly marketing people know this too well and are quick to cash in. There’s gold in them thar fanpoodles!

But there’s ways and means to cash in on that resource - because some tactics employed are downright sketchy and certainly show very little actual respect for the fanbase. In fact, the need to screw every penny out of the people who have made a series such a success can feel pretty damn contemptuous.

Probably the first thing that springs to mind is merchandising - but to be fair we don’t really see a problem here. Sure we’ll laugh at people like George Lucas’s notorious merchandising everything that can possibly be sold (and it was wonderfully lampooned in Space Balls), but if fans want to buy Game of Thrones playing cards or glasses or a Dragon Egg paperweight (it’s a rock! You’re buying a damn rock! IT’S A ROCK!) then more power to them

Because it’s honest. What you see is what you get. If you really want to drop your money on
Game of Thrones beer (and yes, yes you can) then you know what you’re drinking and for how much. It’s the fanpoodle’s choice and it’s clear what they’re getting - nor are even the most dubious items required to continue to be part of the fandom. You may get super geek points for having that statue of Lord of the Ring’s Gollum or the genuine City of Bones Shadow Hunter make up - but it’s not an essential for anyone following the series.

No - there are far more dubious ways to reach into the fan’s pockets

Especially when the series hits the television or movie screens. Urban fantasy has caught the attention of visual media. There is no such thing as a fanpoodle who isn’t giddy with delight to see their favourite series turned into a television show. The fanpoodles have much to dance about with Twilight, True Blood, Game of Thrones, The Mortal Instruments, The Vampire Academy, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Bitten, The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries having all made the leap from the page to either the television or the large screen and there are more in the works. Since these new shows or movies are all based on very successful books, movie and television producers can agree to fund them with a modicum of confidence that they will be a success. These converts from books have yielded great financial rewards and once the gravy train starts rolling in, actually pulling into the station is more difficult than starting the damn train in the first place.

By all accounts neither the books or the movies of the Twilight series were great. In many ways the Twilight series is a literary disaster but it made money. There is nothing interesting about any of the movies but they also made money. The only problem for the producers in this case is that Twilight is a finite story. It has a very definitive beginning, middle and ending but when the money is that good why not stretch it out just a little bit more - especially when this can result in $281,275,991 USD. The problem, of course, is that there certainly was not enough plot to justify splitting Breaking Dawn into two movies, but hey, since people will pay, to hell with integrity.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Beauty and the Beast, Season 2, Episode 13: Till Death

Cat goes to investigate the cell where Tori died and nearly shoots a shadowy figure who turns out to be Gabe – careful there Gabe, we know how trigger happy Cat is. This is his desperate attempt to flirt with her and bring her coffee because she’s never around. She complains about her new boss wanting her to do work and stuff – and has a random flashback as Gabe as a beast when he kidnapped her. In the midst of her little moment she spills her coffee – and hears it dripping into a cave

Time to see Dana and Sam – who has cleaned up and gained a lot of stability it seems – but he knows nothing of a cave under the cell. They talk about their plans to renew their vows over an epic breakfast, Cat again mentions how unreasonable her new boss is for wanting her to do the work thing – and she is vaguely horrified to discover she had FORGOTTEN VALENTINES DAY! More worrisome is she agreed to see Gabe on Valentines day – which is a much more reasonable worry since agreeing to see a potential love interest on Valentines day cannot not be a date. It’s a rule.

Boss is, unshockingly, pretty unpleasant though at the same time he’s unpleasant because he kind of demands they do their job which isn’t unreasonable. But he has a little chart that’s roughly on par with the sort of thing you find in a telemarketer den – for police detectives it’s a horrifyingly bad idea. Just to ensure we hate this guy, he throws in some sexism that doesn’t even come close to being professional.

On leaving his office Cat calls Vincent – of course she does. She wants him to focus on Barnes (who was using an imposter) so she and Tess can close some cases. Put those cases on hold because Cat said “with Gabe” which means Tess now needs to talk men and sex because she literally has no other topic of conversation. If Tess were magically moved to a world without men in it, she would become mute; and Cat brings up her odd little flashback which rather chills the mood.

I am stunned how quickly they forgot the ultimatum from new boss.

Vincent, meanwhile, is moping. Oh Vincent, I just watched Being Human, I’ve filled my mope quota. After trying to distract JT by poking him for sending anonymous flowers to Tess, Vincent cracks and tells JT Tori’s ridiculous last words “you belong with Catherine”.  Vincent mopes a little more when Cat arrives – with Tess (so he can hold that against JT at least) to recruit Vincent to investigate fake!Barnes but he’ll totally be alone they promise…

Until they get a call that Sam was attacked and drag Vincent along. Some goons are trying to silence Sam, which is a bit late – and Sam totally wants them all to come to his and Dana’s valentines renewal of vows to keep them safe during the ceremony. Events have conspired to make Vincent and Cat spend Valentines together. I am shocked by this. Really. She calls Gabe about all this – who is up to something surreptitious involving him getting his photo taken.

Vincent goes to investigate the cave – and Cat shows up there as well for REASONS. Mainly she’s there to add to the romantic tension and create lots of mopage. She tells him about her nervousness about Gabe and then they find a furnace full of bones – back to the case! The bones, when they take them to JT, turn out to be humans who have been experimented on to make them beasty. And Tess arrives after having done some actual work (apparently) complaining about the hideous bouquet she received (awww poor JT). She also had to make Sam’s attack official just so she could convince their boss they’re actually doing their job despite, y’know, not.

Rumors of Wars by R.L. Craven

In a harsh, dystopian world after the economic collapse of the US, Perish is a bounty hunter and a tough woman with many talents. Including one very rare and very valuable talent that she may have to a level unseen anywhere else.

That makes her valuable. It particularly makes her valuable to the wizard Gregor, head of the Confederacy of Talents. His organisation does not accept no for an answer; but Perish, and her long standing friend Pride, brother of the werewolf pack leader, are sorely tempted. Especially since it’s apparently the Confederacy is not united behind Gregor…

But Gregor also has a carrot to offer – knowledge of her own heritage that has been long denied her and she is desperate to learn. But is it worth the risk of using powers she barely understands?

Let’s begin with the world – I think with a new series, especially for a book that isn’t just an urban fantasy but a dystopian as well, you really need a solid world as a good foundation. This definitely has that – society is collapsed, it’s clear, but it’s also quite original in how it’s collapsed; there was no grand cataclysm or disaster, just decades of economic selfishness and incompetence on the part of the powers that be. As such, the economy collapsed, many parts of the city are abandoned by anything approaching civil authority or organisation, everything is decaying or ugly and corruption is rife. In many ways it is bleaker than most dystopians precisely because it didn’t take a plague or a bomb or some zombies to make it happen – just the kind of political awfulness we’re all so desperately familiar with.

The dystopia is also well maintained throughout with constant references, especially to class. With economic collapse, the poorest are the most vulnerable and it is something that often needs addressing in any decent dystopia. From little references like the begging children through to parts of the city giving up on money altogether and adopting a barter system, the dystopia is always carefully present without overwhelming the plot.

My main complaint about the book is it’s sparse. The world is deep and rich and shown to great effect – but I need more. What are talents? Why? How does the Confederacy of Talents operate? What are all these creatures that are mentioned? The author has done an excellent job of not bogging down the book with excess description but has also left me a little frustrated by the lack of flesh – it’s not that the story lacks depth, I can feel the depth there – I just want to look into some of that depth a little more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Almost Human, Season 1, Episode 10: Perception

One young woman walks through the woods and sees everything as graphs, equations and angles. Another woman stands in a concert hall and sees sound waves and harmonies which she uses to create music. They are both awed by their vision – until they collapse and apparently die.

John wakes up from another nightmare about his girlfriend and Insyndicate – and when he wakes up he writes himself a note “Anna had something for me?” when he gets a call from Maldonado about the case. Both women went to the same Academy – one is in the morgue but the woman in the woods is still there.

He arrives on scene and complains at Dorian for telling Maldonado where he was while Dorian asks why John turned off his locator chip for 2 hours that morning (because that’s not creepy at all). Detective Valeria Stahl is also working the case (she gets to work a case rather than just provide computer support for John and Dorian!) and is with the other victim in the morgue. Both women have dilated pupils and small DNA-locked canisters (Valerie and John assume drugs), both of which are empty.

At the police station, Maldonado tells Valerie that both girls were “chromes” (genetically engineered) and she wants Valerie to be liaison with the parents because she’s a chrome as well – though apparently she doesn’t get on very well with other chromes.

The examination does find that the girls were on a drug but they don’t know which kind – though it’s surprising they were using drugs since, though chromes experiment, they don’t become addicted; they also find a third girl who drowned but may have had the same drug in her system – she went to the same school and all three were friends (insert creepiness at how easy the police track their social network connections).

John continues to have minor flashback to the Insyndicate raid – and his hand starts shaking. He takes a small pill to calm it – witnessed by Maldonado on the CCTV (which she’s apparently watching for funsies).

Dorian confronts John about the drug – a memory enabler – and he questions whether John is seeing a recollectionist (like he was in the pilot). Dorian recites a list of all the negative side effects of the drugs John is taking but John insists all is well

John and Dorian interview the parents of the girl who died previously – Lila – and find she wasn’t a chrome, she was a “natural” but gifted anyway and she was let in on scholarship since her mother could never have afforded it. She believed that everyone was covering up her daughter’s death, especially since if she took drugs she would have done so with friends, but her friends denied even knowing her. Of course, her friends are the two girls who just died. The recordings she got from a private detective that she shared with the police proving the friends were actually her friends were also erased at the police station. John suspects a dirty cop.

Valerie goes to the school to investigate and talks to the only other natural in Lila’s grade who is surprised to see a chrome as a police officer (Valerie puts in detective, but it’s clear that chromes are expected to do bigger and better things than become police). Lila tried very hard to compete with the other chromes and fit in but the other natural girl feels intensely out of place and unable to keep up despite her grades.

Circle of Death (Damask Circle #2) by Keri Arthur

Kirby’s life has just collapsed around her – after a life of constantly running from the threats her best friend Helen can see in the future, those threats have finally found them. Helen, the one person she had in her life is dead – and whatever dark force killed her is now hunting Kirby.

The Damask Circle are aware that there are magical slayings going on and Camille, Russell and Doyle have been sent to investigate; Doyle to guard Kirby while they figure out what is going on. Of course insta-attraction hits.

The force threatening them is far closer tied to Kirby than they imagined – but to fight it they need to dig into her mysterious, and painful past.

I love the Damask Circle world's potential. It’s crammed full of supernaturals, vividly described and handled powers and lots of cunning nefarious plots around the world that need uncovering and foiling. It’s International rescue, with vampires and werewolves.

You could tell so many awesome stories with this world – and I can kind of see them. But they’re obscured so much by a very very dull romance. And that dull romance completely overwhelms any kind of world building (can anyone explain the telepathy between the main characters in this book? Anyone?) so more sexy times can be crammed in

The problem is that things are feeling a little formulaic – both in terms of Keri Arthur’s books and in terms of the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genre in general

The female protagonist is vulnerable and uncertain (in this book, newly shaken by a murder) – she has had an unhappy and/or outright tragic childhood (in this book, she’s an orphan with an abusive past) which has left her with few family ties or support (orphan) and those either dubious or soon to be uprooted.

She is sexually highly inexperienced (in this book her trauma makes her too uncertain with men), having few past lovers and those being extremely dissatisfactory or outright abusive.

She has some deep, powerful woo-woo but doesn’t understand its full potential and is probably afraid of it and runs from it or avoids it. But with the male hero’s reassurance and guidance she gains more confidence in her power

Despite having deep and powerful woo-woo she is completely ignorant of the supernatural world until the male hero arrives to open her eyes and then play guide (despite every other child in her foster home having woo-woo, she was still ignorant). Her woo-woo will be magic, his woo-woo is more likely to be related to physical prowess (she’s a witch, he’s a werepanther).

Being Human US, Season 4, Episode 5: Pack it Up, Pack it In

Aidan’s big revelation is still causing Kat lots of joy and laughter before dissolving into worry when she realises that Aidan actually believes he’s Dracula. Aidan finally clues in that no reasonable person will actually take his word that he’s a vampire so holds her head to his chest – and she hears no heartbeat. She rather frantically checks his neck for a pulse. She’s a little freaked out – and she leaps back across the room when he blacks his eyes. Then she faints

When she wakes up there’s tears and hugs and pushing away and dramatic music – and the questions about trust and how many people has Aidan killed. Oops, hard question. And she pulls a knife when he gets too close, she’s not thrilled by the whole “it’s not me anymore” as an excuse. She tells him she’s scared – of him – and he offers to leave. She’s very eager to take him up on that offer.

On to the wolves with Nora and Josh dropping in on Andrew and Caroline to check in on their werebaby, April. Mark and Wendy are also visiting and are fellow werewolves (worse, Mark is a hugger- not just a hugger but a hugger who goes in for the hug on first meeting. Get the silver bullets). Mark also goes out looking for werewolves because he wants COMMUNITY, yeah, Josh not a fan of that. Once Huggy and Silent leave, they can all be all gushy around the baby. Though Caroline has a sad moment that the pregnancy was so quick and worry filled they didn’t get to do all the standard pre-natal stuff: decorate a nursery, baby showers etc. Of course Nora volunteers to Baby Shower

And back home realises what a bad idea that was – and Josh hates Mark the Huggy, interpreting his “wrestle hug” as a dominance gesture. Josh tries to drag Aidan into the baby shower but he’s clearing out and adding some moping since Kat is now moving out of Nora’s apartment and is probably not talking to any of them any more. Josh tries to cheer him up which doesn’t work and he points out to Nora that since Aidan is immortal he can mope forever. Yes I laughed.

Aidan goes upstairs to mope and to be taunted by the murdered blood-stained underwear-clad ghosts Beth and Holly before Sally shows up and banishes them (deriding them as “bitches” when, really, they kind of have a right to a grudge). Aidan is angry by this – those were necessary for him to properly wallow in self-hatred to reach proper Hootie status. As he begins his rant about how evil he is Sally just teleports out – no-one has time for that.

And at the door appears – Josh’s sister! Yes she’s out of the plot box! And out of rehab – and wants to crash with them for a few days. Which means she’s part of the baby shower with lots of terrible babbling due to nervousness – and Mark arrives bringing more people (werewolves) without telling anyone which makes Josh’s heckles rise. Josh asks Andrew about this – and it’s Andrew’s idea, he’s thinking about joining Mark’s sorta-pack. Josh thinks that’s a hella bad idea, but Andrew is worried about keeping April safe; particularly against vampires who are growing in numbers again.

Aidan goes wandering through town angsting away and Kenny catches up with him – perfectly summing up what Aidan is doing, much to Aidan’s annoyance who lashes out that Kevin knows nothing about it. Hah, but he got Aidan pegged exactly. And he invites Aidan round to step #2 of the pity party – a fridge full of bagged blood so he can drown his sorrows. Why do I think this is a bad idea?

The party at the house grows – this pack is huge (hey, at least Josh gets a compliment on the devilled eggs) and Sally returns – having just spent a magic caused 4 days in 2001 watching teenager Josh (Josh finds this cool rather than a spooky invasion of privacy) with teenaged Julia getting it on for the first time (see my creepy invasion of privacy comment). And Emily is having problems with the huge party and the vast amount of booze all of Mark the Hugger’s friends have invited

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 18: Riddled

The middle of the night and Scott gets a call from Stiles – a staticy panicked call because Stiles has no idea where he is or how he got there. He’s cut off after he says an ominous “there’s something wrong with my…” Scott manages to reconnect to learn Stiles is somewhere dark and he can’t move his leg – which is also bleeding. Stiles begs Scott not to tell his dad who is already so worried

When Stiles hangs up Scott wakes Isaac so they can go hunting for him.

Did I mention that Teen Wolf can really hit some acting highs?

To Lydia sketching Aidan at the school at night – he’s worried about security but in a moment of glorious lampshading Lydia tells him there is no security – there have been so many murders at the school that no-one will take a night job there. Aidan leaps on some interesting ideas with them all alone, when Lydia’s Bean Sidhe senses kick in – she hears voices instead of music on the radio saying “…find me”.

Did I mention that Teen Wolf is doing a great job with the creepy this season?

Scott gets another call from Stiles – brief because of his dying phone – revealing he’s in a basement of a large building and it’s freezing. And he’s whispering because he thinks there’s something in there with him

Meanwhile at Kira’s house, Kira’s bulb goes. As she reaches for it the dead bulb glows – but when she touches it, it explodes. Her mother arrives to replace the bulb – and when she puts in the new bulb it glows as well. Looks like her mother’s also a kitsune.

Scott and Isaac arrive at Stiles’s room to find Lydia and Aidan already there, guided by bean sidhe senses – and find dozens of red strings from his mystery boards threaded through to the bed; the red strings he uses for unsolved cases. Apparently they’re there to pick up Stiles’s scent which seems a little off that Scott and Isaac don’t already know his scent, but maybe it’s the start of a trail, except Stiles’s jeep is also missing. Lydia isn’t impressed by the whole promise not to call his dad – they need the police, especially since, as Aidan reminds them, Lydia only gets bean sidhe feelings when someone’s about to die.

Scott goes to the police station while Lydia stays to commune with the room because she’s sure something’s there

Stiles is in a basement – and his leg is caught in a bear trap, ouch. He searches the room with his phone as a torch to find the person he can hear moving around – and sees a man crouched in the corner. We can’t see much of him but what we do see seems to be badly scared – he draws the Oni’s kanji on the wall in chalk. Seeing it, Stiles gasps “stop” and a wind runs through the basement, stirring the dead leaves and lifting the chalk from the wall in a line of dust

Sheriff Stilinski rallies his men to find Stiles – everyone’s worried that it’s the coldest night of the year and Stiles is dressed in sleep clothes; the Sherriff is also smart enough to check any supernatural help.

They find the jeep outside of Melissa’s hospital and head in, Melissa already has her minions sweeping the hospital and she leads the Sherriff to the basement. Scott and Derek go to the roof and Derek thinks Stiles is gone – but they find his scent on the roof and after Derek gives him a crash course on smelling emotional signals, they smell that Stiles was stressed, anxious – there was a struggle, apparently with himself.

Agent McCall, who is not dead damn it, he’s not even missing any significant body parts, wants to know why the police station is deserted (and why the sketches of his attacker are really not even close to what he described because even the sketch artist hates him) only to be informed that he’s not anyone’s priority.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee

The apocalypse has come in the form of Angels from heaven determined to wipe out humanity.  Penryn struggles to survive with her mother and her sister Paige sleeping and scavenging food were they can.  Together the three are no match for the angels who are bent on the destruction of the human race.  The three come across angels in a deathly battle and try to hide but when they are discovered Paige is taken.  Penryn does the only thing she can do - help the wounded angel in the hopes that he will help guide her to her sister.  Together Raffe and Penryn make a perilous journey towards the angel stronghold each with the their own objective.  Can their temporary truce hold long enough for Penryn to get her sister back and for Raffe to reclaim her wings.

I'm not normally a fan of YA but Angelfall hits all of the right notes.  The writing is beautifully descriptive making it easy to picture the desperation of humans and the utter destruction of the landscape.  The humans are clearly caught between forces they can barely comprehend and still yet they preserver.  At it's heart, Angelfall is a story of survival.

 Penryn is also smart enough to try and coax information about angels from Raffe though and she is constantly caught between her budding relationship with him and wanting humans to win in the resistance movement. Penryn questions whether collaborating with the enemy to save her sister makes her an enemy of the human race. As much as she comes to trust Raffe, there are lines even she won't cross. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 5

It's Monday! Time for another episode of Fangs for the Fantasy, the podcast where we examine many of the shows we've been following this week, along with our book of the week and dissect them all from a social justice lens (though, alas, still no mermaids.).

You can join us here and you can listen live on our youtube channel, here, or in our sidebar. All will also carry a recording after the show is finished. As ever all our previous podcasts can be found in the archive

The podcast begins at 7:00pm EST (technology willing)

Including: The return of The Walking Dead (and Carl and Michonne being awesome and deep), Lost Girl (and the hot mess of this season), Almost Human (and meaty meta), The Tomorrow People (and ruining their own canon), Teen Wolf (which is awesome in so many ways) and Being Human.

For those keeping up with our books of the week - our next few reads are:

3rd February - 10th February: Wild Things by Chloe Neil
10th February - 17th February: Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
17th February - 24th February: Blood Passage by Connie Suttle
24th February - 3rd March: Undead Pool by Kim Harrison
3rd March - 10th March: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

The Walking Dead, Season Four, Episode Nine: After

The prison is crawling with zombies.  Michonne stands and watches from a distance in shock as the building goes up in flames.  Michonne walks through a field cutting off heads as she goes and hops over a barricade. Michonne then makes herself new walker escorts and on her way out, she finds Hershel, who is nothing but a head turned into a zombie  Michonne takes pity on Hershel and puts her katana through his brain before leaving the area.

Carl is walking in front of a very wounded Rick.  Rick has to call out for Carl to stop and he reminds him that they have to stay together to find food and supplies.  Rick starts to reassure Carl but when Carl gives him a look, he simply stops talking.  Carl continues to race ahead of his father. They come across a restaurant and Rick orders Carl to wait outside but Carl points out that he can hardly stand.  Begrudgingly, Rick agrees to check it out with Carl. Carl finds a note which says please do what I couldn't do and Rick draws the zombie out.  Rick's axe gets stuck and Carl shoots the zombie in the head.  Rick is not impressed and points out that they need to save bullets.  They head into the kitchen and find food and water.

Michonne is on the move with her zombie escorts and she pauses when she sees footprints on the ground. Instead of following the footprints, Michonne heads in another direction.

 Carl and Rick are still moving and Carl refuses to slow down.  They find a house and Rick decides that they should check it out.  Carl and Rick make their way through the house and Rick tells Carl to stop in frustration.  Carl starts to call out for zombies yelling, "hey asshole, hey shitface," and Rick yells for him to watch his mouth.  Carl makes his way upstairs, as Rick looks through the kitchen.  Later, Carl and Rick bicker about whether or not the door is secure. Rick tries to get Carl to eat but Carl says that he doesn't want any.  Finally, Rick demands that Carl eat.  Rick checks out his bruises in the mirror and he is rasping when he breathes, making me wonder if one of his lungs is collapsed.

Michonne is in the kitchen, while she is talking with her lover Mike and a friend.  Michonne cleans her katana and a little boy comes running for a hug.  Mike says that he is not taking his son out there.  Mike wonders where the happy ending is here and says that this isn't life  Michonne continues to hold her son.  When Michonne looks up, the men are sitting there without arms and she starts screaming.  It turns out that this was a dream and Michonne finds herself in an abandoned car.

Carl wakes in the morning and when he looks over, Rick is still asleep.  Carl grabs some food and heads into the other room.  Carl pours two bowls of cereal at the table.  After eating, Carl reads a book upstairs, then heads down to check on his father.  Carl shakes Rick screaming wake up but Rick does not stir.  The sound of his yelling draws the attention of the walkers and so Carl heads outside.  Carl leads them down the road away from the house.  What he does not realise is that a zombie is approaching behind him. The zombies grab Carl and he trips and falls on the ground.  Carl shoots each one in the head and they fall on top of him.  Carl struggles to get from under the mound of zombie bodies, stands and says, "I win".  Carl makes his way back to the road, finds it deserted and moves on.

Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) by Chloe Neill

Merit and Ethan are forced to leave Chicago to try to avoid the Mayor’s persecution of the Vampire houses, Cadogan House in particular. They take shelter with the local shapeshifters – though not many of them are exactly thrilled with their presence. Especially since it’s a major werewolf holiday and outsiders are not usually welcome.

That hostility only grows sharper when the party is attacked by a mythical creature that shouldn’t even exist. An impossible attack – and one that builds suspicion, which only gets worse when it turns out the local werewolves aren’t the only supernatural group that has been targeted. Under the threat of being scapegoated by the werewolves, Merit and Ethan have to investigate

But Chicago doesn’t remain quiet with their absence; the other vampire houses now fall under the mayor’s eye.

And Lakshmi, member of the Greenwich Presidium, is back in town with their judgement for the killing of one of their own – and an interesting and dangerous proposal

In many ways, the writing and character development of this book has come a long way over the rest of the series. I can actually believe Merit as actually being her age (and I can believe Ethan as an adult, if not quite the 400 year old vampire he’s supposed to be). Merit also showed some levels of skills and abilities and general thinking that made it clear why people were turning to her for help – something that in previous books seemed a little bemusing. While the book focuses nearly entirely on Ethan and Merit, we also have a fair few interactions between Merit and other female werewolves (including a couple of scenes of them being awesome) and Merit and Mallory  have mended their relationship in a very organic way. Previously Merit had been so very surrounded by men, it’s nice to see strong female connections and some competent capable women around Merit as well. We also have some excellent displays of leadership – more from Gabe than Ethan, but there’s a sense of understandable leadership from both of them.

With both Mallory and Tate the book also brought up some excellent depictions and considerations of redemption – what is needed for redemption, what true contrition looks like, and the necessity of making things right

The relationship between Ethan and Merit also works well. We have some navel gazing about losing Ethan because of the GP plans, and definitely some appreciation of how attractive he is, but on the whole the romance is there, reminding us how much in love they are, without distracting from the matters at hand. We don’t have tense scenes interrupted by drooling, for example.

Unfortunately, half way through the book we have a lull. It’s hard to write a mystery without these – the characters don’t have any answers, are lost and confused and are chasing down false leads. Red herring and dead ends abound while everyone has to wait around until they get answers – this is a very natural part of any investigation, but it’s not very fun to read. It’s hard to keep the story going while still conveying this inherent waiting – and the book does try and isn’t nearly as bad as many I’ve read, but it still has a mid-book lull.

It doesn’t help that the book doesn’t have any real side plots of merit – there are things introduced like the elves and Merit agonising over Lakshmi’s proposal – but the former is just completely undeveloped and the latter is clearly a prequel for future storylines. We have the ongoing Mayor of Chicago is abusing all of her powers storyline but it’s also unsatisfactory – because Ethan and Merit has left the city we just have reports of various things happening without them really getting involved. Which is a shame, because I think the legal drama, drawing in the governor and federal government, suing and counter suing, calling in friends and allies in various establishments could all have been an interesting storyline

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

It's another Monday which means it's time for our next podcast - episode 5 of 2014 where we will talk about all of the shows we've been following this week (or as many as we can get to), our book of the week and whether Renee manages to carve through the permafrost to her home or not - all through our social justice lens. Feel free to join us, listen, ask questions or make suggestions

Like all  the Fangs for the Fantasy podcasts (archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. 

To give people a chance to read along with us, especially over the holidays, we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

 Our podcast will be at 7:00pm EST tonight 

3rd February - 10th February: Wild Things by Chloe Neil

10th February - 17th February: Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
17th February - 24th February: Blood Passage by Connie Suttle
24th February - 3rd March: Undead Pool by Kim Harrison
3rd March - 10th March: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Bitten, Season One, Episode Five

Elena listens in as Clay, Jeremy and Nick discuss the problem with the mutts. Elena surmises that at the rate the mutts have been dumping bodies at Stonehaven that they cannot be far.  She adds that Marsten arrived quickly when Nick called.  Elena suggests that they search between Stonehaven and Syracuse but Jeremy refuses because the plan is not strategic. Jeremy then says that he is willing to listen to what Santos has to say, though he cannot be trusted.  Elena stands and demands to be the bait but Jeremy asserts that they will find the mutts together.  Elena walks out in a huff.

We get a flashback to four years ago with Clay, Peter and Nick walking through the hallways of a school. They stop outside of Clay's office and find Elena waiting to see Clay about a job.  Peter and Nick excuse themselves and Clay introduces himself and asks Elena to come back tomorrow.  Clay watches her walk away and Peter jokes that Elena put a blush on Clay's face.  Clay asserts that nothing is going to happen.

In present day, the sheriff's department find Michael Braxton's abandoned truck at the edge of Stonehaven. William's suggest that there is some Manson family level stuff going on but Morgan is not sure.

Clay approaches Elena to tell her that she might be onto something with Marsten but Elena dismisses the suggestion, reminding Clay that they have been given their orders. Clay suggests that they use Nick to cover for them so that they can track down this lead.  Elena is shocked that Clay is willing to go against Jeremy. The conversation stops when Clay hears sirens.

Out front, Clay tells Morgan that he hasn't seen Braxton since his dog attempted to attack Elena.  William's points out that Braxton's truck was found by the property line and Morgan adds that there was a trail of blood which leads from the truck to the land.  Clay points out that if he did anything to Braxton, he wouldn't leave the truck at the edge of the property.  Morgan is worried that when words gets out about this that the townspeople are going to start pointing fingers at the Danvers Clan. Clay asserts that he didn't do anything and Jeremy offers the sheriff the right to search his property. The sheriff leaves to round up people for the search.

Jeremy and Clay head inside saying that the wolves will be helping with the search.  Elena immediately declares that this is Marsten's doing. Clay says that Braxton's body could be out there and Jeremy adds that if Braxton is here, this is the best chance to mitigate the situation.  Jeremy does not want the police to get a search warrant for the house.

The locals arrive and the townspeople are not happy that the Danvers people are going to help with the search.  Due to the reaction, Jeremy quickly excuses himself and Clay from the search. 

In another flashback, Elena is walking back and forth in front of Clay's office, practicing what she is going to say and Clay overhears each word.  Clay opens the door and lets Elena in the office.  It seems that in one night, Elena read Clay's book and she tells him that she really wants this job.  Clay tells Elena that he is not sure this is going to work out and points out that she might not know a lot about his specialty. Elena asserts that she is self sufficient, so Clay tests her by asking her to spell a word.  Elena tells him to stop looking for reasons not to hire her and heads for the door.   Clays stops Elena and spells the word for her.

Back at Stonehaven, Nick, Travis and Elena pair up, with Travis making it clear that he is there to keep an eye on Elena in case she decides to tamper with anything she finds.

Victor is meeting with the warden about his pending release from prison.  It seems that the warden has reservations about Victor's release and points out that the parole board turned him down three times for good reason.  Victor says that he needed to stay in there to keep his nose clean. Victor claims that he found love online with Amber and that he is a clean man.  From the conversation, Victor seems to prey on young women.

In the house, Clay is pacing about not being on the search party.  Jeremy points out that it would be good for Clay to be there when Daniel arrived.  Clay again argues that Daniel cannot be trusted. Jeremy brings up when he first found Clay as a feral little boy and how he waited for Clay to trust him. 

Elena is walking through the woods when she gets a call from Diane demanding to know when she is coming home. Elena of course says that it's complicated, so Diane points out that Beckie's other bridesmaid is in a tailspin and they need help with the wedding. It seems that Beckie wants Elena to replace her sick bridesmaid, which means that Elena needs to return ASAP.  Philip grabs the phone and apologises for the ambush and Elena tells Philip that she would be honoured to play a role in the wedding.  They end the call and Diane asks when Elena is coming back.  Philip tells Diane that he doesn't know and that the funeral was two days ago. Diane is suspicious that Elena didn't want Philip at the funeral.   Nick and Elena talk about the conversation she had, as it seems he used his wolf hearing to listen in.

In another flashback, Elena is helping Clay pack up his office and Clay keeps giving her an intense look.  Elena assures Clay that some university will be lucky to have him and that she will survive.  Clay says that he cannot pack because he is not ready to go and has never felt this way before.  Elena admits that she feels the same way and takes Clay's hand.  The two share a sweet kiss, which quickly gets more passionate.  Clay and Elena end up making love on the sofa in his office.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Beauty and the Beast: Season 2, Episode 12: Recipe for Disaster

Cat and Tess are actually doing something that doesn’t involve Vincent! (Previously this may have included work but they don’t do that any more it seems). They’re having some kind of cooking class with celebrity chef and Tess is complaining because all the single guys are hitting on Cat, including the chef and then there’s something about aphrodisiacs

Yes, it’s still about men. Of course it’s about men. Tess does not have another topic of conversation. She also warns Cat that Gabe has technically finished at the police station and now it will return to normal command – meaning he’s leaving. Apparently this is cause for relationship drama

Speaking of, Vincent calls Cat and the exposition everything. Seriously, it’s an epic info dump of shit-we-both-know-but-we’re-reminding-the-audience before getting to his supposed reason for the call – finding the gem. He’s decided that since Agent Dana (who is now all suspicious) has notes about the many previous times the gem has been at crime scenes, it’s best to go to where it was previously found in the vague hope that the current gem holds have decided to take it back there. Yes, it’s reaching that badly that they’re going to look in an apparent dungeon where the gem was found in 1840. Anyway the place is hidden very very very well.

Call over, Tori is very jealous of Vincent for spending so much time talking to Cat. And outside Dana is listening with a mic

The whole cooking party thing is for a huge party for JT who just won a very very impressive research grant that has the whole university loving him. Cat takes the opportunity to confront Gabe about leaving – he’s just advancing his career and repeats how he still wants to be with Cat. And Vincent and Tori arrive to talk shop, well, Beasts. They break it up when JT arrives so they can all celebrate and Tori leaves in a huff and Vincent has to follow her.

Tori’s upset because she feels like an outsider – which is reasonable considering the group has been together so long and she is a new addition. She thinks she’s losing Vincent and is all jealous. And she has reason – because Vincent doesn’t know how to feel around her, especially since their Beatiness amplifies thoughts and feelings around each other (which is a nice, clumsy way of introducing the idea that maybe their feelings aren’t authentic). He wants to take a break…

Though back at the party Cat tells him to talk to Tori since he has a habit of shutting people out and trying to do everything alone. Being a recluse will do that to you.

But Tori gets back to the boat and finds Dana there performing an illegal search.

Helix, Season 1, Episode 6: Anigatiga

Day 6

It’s cold. Really really cold. And someone disturbs one of the bodies in the snow (Sergio?) while Alan stands over a line of bodies that are all bagged up (they can hardly bury them) to say goodbye to Doreen. Being sympathetic for 10m seconds, Alan quickly reverts to type and snarls at Daniel about finding Sergio

Who, bemusingly, wakes up – the man’s not dead? What is he, Rasputin? He struggles with the person dragging him – who sounds like a woman – until they smack him into unconsciousness.

Inside, Sarah wheels up with Van Egan’s body and a lie about where she was found. Of course Alan doesn’t just take her word for it and notes that the woman isn’t a Vector – a goo zombie – she’s just dead. Sarah tells him a morphine overdose that she gave her – and she’s nervous but completely unapologetic.

Daniel snarks a little so Alan naturally snarls to show who’s in charge – wanting to speak to Hiroshi after he goes down to look for Julia; Daniel draws his own line in the sand – no Hiroshi’s busy you’ll have to wait and no, you’re not going to the quarantine floor because it’s a quarantine – and yes he has a gun. Alan explodes, of course, but Daniel is insistent even as Alan insults and belittles.

Alone with Sarah, Alan tells her he’s going to get Julia anyway because she’s a total expert that he really needs now, honest. Sarah is much more sensible, questioning just how sick or stable Julia is; but he declares her their only hope and gives her pills for her “migraines” because he can’t have her on morphine.

He uses his knowledge of chemistry to burn a hole through the floor so her can Sarah can go down. He seems quite upset that the quarantine is locked (what would be the point if it wasn’t?) Alan starts to saw through the chain – and they’re swarmed by goo-zombies breaking the window and reaching for them; forcing Alan to saw off one of their arms to free Sarah.

Back to safety and Alan checks Sarah for cuts while berating himself for putting Sarah at risk (even while she tells him that’s her choice, which he ignores of course.) Alan’s plan – to get to Julia they need to treat the goo-zombies between her and them…. The alternative is the powers that be burying the base with them in it.

Speaking of Julia, she doesn’t look so good, being more and more obviously infected and is now hallucinating a little girl with a doll. Because this show hadn’t scored sufficient creepy points, apparently. And a completely healed and well Peter shows up as well – not being a fool Julia concludes this is probably a hallucination. Despite that she still tries to talk to the child – who is a goo-zombie