Saturday, March 14, 2015

Vampire Diaries, Season 6, Episode 16: The Downward Spiral

Humanity-less Caroline is drinking and invoking her dead mother so as not to be cut off. It’s harsh and nasty – and still not even slightly as tasteless as asking whether Stefan likes her in front of her mother’s open casket. Anyway because she has no humanity, dead mumsy no longer features but tight shoes are still a pain. Being humanity-less means she’s also happy to flirt with Liam (who is very hot, it has to be said – this is one of Elena’s brief cast offs)

Snack food time!

Stefan and Elena are looking for Caroline – and Bonnie appears! Champagne time as Bonnie finally gets to change her clothes (and a nice touch of Bonnie not being completely unscathered – a champagne cork startles her). They also explain Jeremy not coming back because they’re not going to tell him so he can have a normal life

Don’t stare at this storyline too much, it’s too fragile. Instead Caroline comes home and, obviously, isn’t all emotional about Bonnie’s return because she hasn’t experienced true happiness and got her soul back has switched off her humanity. Anyway, Caroline didn’t kill Liam because while she is delightfully evil, she’s also practical and doesn’t want to deal with the police or body disposal both of which are just sooo annoying.

Anyway, this is Caroline’s deal – since she has proven she can handle her evil and she is smart enough not to want Elena to arrange an intervention, she wants a year. A year where Elena et al lets her be evil trusting that even if she’s not moral enough to be good, at least she’s smart enough not to be evil. She will go evil if anyone tries to make her human before that

Stefan’s angsty. Damon’s generally not caring all that much. Stefan goes investigating Caroline’s non!rampage which means asking Liam questions about his kissing technique.

Kai is still around. Oh dear gods why is Kai still around? And he is still telling us how all this guilty stuff is annoying. He’s annoying Damon who apparently wants Kai around while he digs up his dead mother to try and be sure if she is actually dead (something Damon is rooting for because he’s not up to dealing with vampiric magical imprisoned mummydearest) This show has had far too many mothers in coffins lately. Unsurprisingly, she isn’t dead

So probably is a magically trapped vampire and likely evil. Kai agrees to help Damon get to his (very likely evil) mother, in exchange for a meeting with Bonnie so she can beat him repeatedly with a lead pipe until only mush remains he can say sorry.

Enzo is still ingratiating herself with Sarah Salvatore who just learned about vampires last week. Ye gods does anyone, anywhere in the entire world actually care? Sadly we’re dragged along anyway while Enzo shows off his powers and reveals he’s a vampire. She’s weirdly unimpressed – and Caroline drops in for more fun. Enzo rolls his eyes over

Time for inevitable party time. Yes even evil Caroline organises parties. It’s like some deep seated compulsion with her. If she were ever trapped in a Gemini prison dimension she would have the whole place festooned with streamers.

To the party and Caroline is… partying, but generally behaving herself. While Bonnie burns a guy who gets far too grabby for her liking. Bonnie is still awesome. Elena, in a moment of actual common sense, thinks that Caroline may actually be in control and maybe they don’t have to do anything – but Stefan can’t have that he’s consumed by the guilt weasels! Because it’s all his fault!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The 100, Season Two, Episode Sixteen: Blood Must Have Blood: Part 2

Jaha Moses and his three remaining followers are still paddling the boat.  Now that it's dark, they have no idea if they are headed in the same direction. Craig decides that he is done  rowing and wants to sleep but of course Jaha Moses demands he continue to row.  Suddenly, land becomes visible and they start to celebrate. The celebration does not last long because something in the water hits the boat, causing Craig to drop the oar. Richard falls into the water but instead of pulling him up, Jaha demands he grab the oar.  In the process, Murphy is hurt.  Jaha starts to tend to Murphy's wound but whatever is in the water is far from appeased and attacks again, causing the boat to spring a leak. Craig freezes in a panic and Jaha throws him over board, where Craig is eaten by some monster fish creature.  Jaha finally starts paddling and says that he threw Craig overboard so that they can live and because Murphy cannot row.   Nice to see that he is still such a generous, thoughtful leader. 

An alarm goes off in the tunnels and Octavia gets to her feet only to see Pox thrown down the waste shoot.  Clarke comes running in and is shocked to see that Octavia stayed.  The two bicker back and forth and Clarke explains the deal Lexa made with Mt. Weather. I am so not cool with this.  Octavia is not impressed with Clarke's leadership skills and brings up the fact that Clarke let a bomb drop on Tondeecee.  They don't get to argue for long because Bellamy and Maya make an appearance. They are followed by Monty and Jasper.  Maya's air suit starts to run out of air and they talk about the fact that the only tanks are on level five and that it's not safe.  Octavia, Jasper and Maya leave to get more air for Maya and Clarke, Bellamy and Monty decide to go and see Monty.

Lincoln is in the woods with the rest of the Grounders.  He is approached by Indra and the two bicker about Lexa's decision to make peace with Mt. Weather.  Indra points out that under the terms of the truce, the land surrounding the mountain is forbidden and if Lincoln violates this agreement, Lexa will never take him back.  Indra adds that Octavia made her choice and now it's time for Lincoln to make his.  Cue the useless suspense music because we all know already what Lincoln is going to do.

On level five, the Mt. Weather people are actually festive.  Cage is told that Emerson is back and that he is needed in the dorm. Emerson and Cage enter the dorm and all of the Arc people are restrained with their hands above their heads.  Emerson reports that he is the only cured member left but Cage is not concerned, stating that in 48 hours they will all be on the ground.  Kane is absolutely horrified and Abby questions what they have done with Clarke.  Cage apologizes, saying that he is sorry it had to come to this. In the background screaming can be heard.

Raven is chosen to go next and she puts up a valiant fight, as Craig begs that he be taken instead.  Raven resists screaming at first, as they begin to drill in her hip but eventually the pain becomes too much.

Dante sits alone in his cell when Clarke, Monty and Bellamy enter.  Bellamy begs for help but from the look on Dante's face, Clarke knows that Dante will not help.  Dante is angry that the power has been cut but Clarke is just as angry, pointing out that they cut the power knowing that level five would be a safe haven and destroyed the turbines in a way that they could be repaired. Dante questions what would have happened had they released the Arc people and Clarke doesn't answer.  Instead, Clarke asks Monty to get them into the command center so that they can see what is happening on level five.

Jaha Moses and Murphy have reached land.  In front of them is a lighthouse.  Jaha offers Murphy help but Murphy wants nothing to do with him, bringing up Craig.  Jaha pulls a Spock and says that he sacrificed the few to save the many.  Murphy struggles to his feet and declares that he is done following Jaha but he doesn't get far before collapsing to the ground.  Suddenly, the drone appears in the sky overhead and Jaha calls out that they need help.  Murphy tells Jaha to go ahead because he cannot make it.  Jaha takes off running, promising to come back for Murphy. 

Clarke, Bellamy, Monty and Dante make it to the control room.  Dante says that he is not with his people because deliverance comes with a cost. 

Jasper, Raven and Maya make it back into the mountain.  Jasper make it clear that they are not leaving Maya behind.  Jasper is determined to kill Cage. 

Monty gets the cameras working and they see Raven tied down and all of their people in the dorm.  Bellamy grabs a mic and demands that Dante tell his people to stop.  Dante refuses, so Clarke grabs the mic and contacts Emerson instead.  Emerson hands the radio to Cage and Clarke threatens to kill Dante if her people are not let go.  Dante however tells Cage to stay the course.  Clarke once again demands that her people are released but Dante says that it would mean the end of his people.  Clarke points her gun at Dante and asks him not to make her do this.  Cage looks up at the camera and promises his father to take care of their people.  Clarke then fires her gun and Dante listens as his father collapses and dies. With Dante dead, Clarke warns Cage that she will not stop until her people are free, even if it means irradiating level five.

Infinity (Valkyries: Soaring Raven #1) by Sedona Venez

Infinity is a singer, a super star, rich and influential – and burned out. After getting hooked badly on the cure-all-pills Rejuvenators and a very public break down, she’s pulling herself back into the limelight with  grand concert – a concert that is aimed at bringing down the predatory Collective Corporation that exploits people with its pills

A collective run by vampires, who are not happy. But that is the tip of the iceberg. Unknown to Infinity, she is the keystone in the master plans of many supernatural factions and she’s suddenly very much on their radar;

This book comes with a lot of potential.

We have a world with vampires controlling a vast pharmaceutical empire with deeply nefarious goals. We have complicated issues of class and exploitation. We have a hyper-rich, powerful singer both enjoying vast wealth but also being discounted for her attempts of philanthrophy. We have not just numerous supernatural beings, but each of these groups is split into factions with a myriad of goals – all of which with crafty cover stories for the greater human society. Underneath it all we have strong hints of dark powers and a central protagonist pulling herself out of addiction and with great big powers and secrets to be revealed

It has immense potential. Immortals and gods and vampires and wereanimals and Valkyries and ravens and big corporations and magic and so much more. Immense potential indeed

People who have read a lot of my reviews will realise that when I start a review talking about potential, I’m going to now say how it completely failed to deliver that potential

And oh, yes did this book fail to reach that

First of all, there’s our introduction to the supernatural elements of the show. Or lack thereof, because the main character we follow, Infinity, is rather indifferent about the whole thing. She has scary prophetic dreams with being that call themselves various wonderful things and she doesn’t do anything about them. Her mother tells her that werewolves and vampires exist…. And she has no follow up questions. Really, it’s like “VAMPIRES ARE REAL!” “Really?! Hey, it’s really cold, let’s go inside.”

I am less than impressed with her reaction to the supernatural – and the fact we’re following a protagonist who shows little interest in and has little involvement with the supernatural factions driving this world we never really delve into much of anything. Worse, her indifference doesn’t man everyone is indifferent to her – she is involved in all of this plotting as an object to be obtained

Because we do get some viewpoints from the various supernatural elements in the world – wereanimals, vampires et al and it’s clear they’re involved in some very heavy politics and competition with multiple factions on every side plotting to do various nefarious things – all of which tends to involve one element. Infinity

Urban Fantasy Awards 2015

Due to various technical and health issues we haven't been drawing as much attention to the voting of our Awards as we would like - thankfully we forgot to include a due date for he voting so we will do one now!

Voting for the Urban Fantasy awards 2015 will be closed on Friday 20th March - for Results to be publish soon after

Get your votes in now - who deserves the blessing of a Golden Fang or the shame of a Dread Fanpoodle

VOTE for Golden Fangs here

VOTE for Dread Fanpoodles here

The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out War Part 2

One thing that has dramatically changed in the last few volumes which we’ve touched upon is the whole tone of the comic books. Obviously, for a long time The Walking Dead is all about survival against the Walkers. Then it was survival against various human groups that were generally awful against the backdrop of the constant threat of the walkers

This is kind of off the table. The fight for “survival” is more a fight for dominance, control. Yes, it’s a fight to not be controlled by a brutal, raping dictator who is, frankly, a caricature of evil, but it’s not the same tone as the series has shown.This isn’t a battle for survival in a zombie ridden world. This is a war between two factions - good and bad - with zombies floating around in the background

Part of this is due to the sheer cast of characters now. We have three factions (on the “good guy” side)- Alexandria, Kingdom (the place with the tiger guy) and Hilltop (that’s the place full of random cowardly extras that Maggie now leads). And we have a squillion characters (this number is an approximate). If you look back on some of the earlier volumes I continually kept a living/dead list. because there were so few characters, anyone could die and while not all deaths were meaningful, they did significantly reduce the number of the group. There were undeveloped characters, but even the most expendable of them made a significant difference to the group composition and fear of the stories. They risked extinction constantly

We don’t have that now. We have people dying I’ve never even seen before. We have a whole death bed scene with Heath and Denise and I only have the vaguest idea of who any of them are. The groups have apparently taken vast losses in the war - but the mere fact they have the NUMBERS to take vast losses says how much these comics have changed. They have canon fodder. The tone of the comics, the nature of loss and the nature of the group has changed dramatically and I’m not sure I’m on board with the change. I know there would be change - there should be a change because there’s a limit to how long you can play the same storylines over and over, but I’m not sure how far they’ve sold the new reality yet. Part of it is, I think, because they haven’t spent a great deal of time exploring the people and processes of Alexandria -let alone Kingdom and Hilltop (the big town o’ extras). The stakes have changed, the cast and character has changed - but there hasn’t been a great deal of investment in making me care about the new reality before everything was torn up by war. I also kind of want to know why they could spend months wandering around and only finding isolated strongholds but on arriving in Alexandria there’s villages all over the places. I bet the Governor would be kicking himself over all the conveniently poorly defended towns there were out there to claim.

There’s another shift that comes with this - moral ambiguity. Ok, we had the Governor and the cannibals and there was always a clear good and bad guys; but at the same time “what will we do to survive” has been an ongoing theme of the The Walking Dead, one of the defining characteristics of the whole franchise is making hard choices in impossible situations. This is destroyed by Nagin because he is cartoonishly awful; even the Governor was hastily fitted with a humanising backstory to show he WAS once not entirely an irredeemable monster of a human being. Nagin is hard even to hate because he’s pretty patently ridiculous. This also means that the nuance/turning point moment of Rick not killing him lacked the moral turning point moment - this wasn’t a point of the defining characteristics of civilisation vs brutal survivalist society because we’d kind of left that point in its wake

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cursed by Fire (Blood & Magic #1) by Danielle Annett

Aria Naveed is a mercenary and a pretty good one; but one with a secret. She’s a pyrokinetic, when she gets angry, things burn. This makes her very deadly – but very much in demand

But when her investigation into the death of murdered child uncovers a complicated plot that could bring the vampire Coven and shapeshifter pack to open warfare, she finds her secret perilously close to be revealed

And an intriguing stranger is ready to recruit her – but even with her long dead family involved, she’s unsure about exactly what it is he wants her to join

I was immensely frustrated by the writing in this book. It is so terribly overwritten and full of redundancy and repetition that it made it a bit of a slog to read. Descriptions maundered on for far too long, dialogue was just a bit too long winded to be taken seriously, everything was drawn out and repeated over and over in an attempt to establish setting and theme while failing to do either. Like the opening scene of the book is Ari being upset about a dead child – but she maunders on for so long, repeating herself in the most melodramatic way that any actual emotional impact the scene could have is just rather lost.

Or there’s how she describes Mike, her colleague at the mercenary agency, is no longer in peak shape for active duty:

“Did he seriously think he was up for this? I mean he was great and all but he’d been playing desk duty ever since the day he hired me. And in those two years, Mike had visibly grown soft in the most literal way. A good twenty pounds of softness if you asked me. He was nowhere near the shape he needed to be in to hunt down murderous vampires. At best he’d slow me down, at worst, he’d get both of us killed. Having Mike along was a liability and he knew it.”

Just look at the redundancy in that paragraph! The point was made by “the day he hired me” but we have to revisit it in 5 more sentences each saying exactly the same thing. Or there’s this on how vampires don’t like sunlight:

Cover Review: 2nd March to 6th March

Dark Debt (Chicagoland Vampires #11) by Chloe Neill

Ah Chicagoland Vampires; whenever I think the era of all the silly covers is over, this is the series that keeps on giving. Look at this one! We’ve got the crouching into battle, the tight sexy leather, the grossly inappropriate for the weather clothes, and high heel boots. Oh dear gods, Merit is wearing high heel boots while crouching in tight leather in the rain while her long hair blows in the wind and she looks sexily at the camera.

Let’s repeat that: Merit is wearing high heel boots while crouching in tight leather in the rain while her long hair blows in the wind and she looks sexily at the camera. Merit would actually have to stab herself.

Poisoned by Deceit (The One Rises #4) by Anna Wolfe

This cover is right in so many ways. It focuses on the protagonist, Edie and it’s a really good representation of her and she definitely isn’t whitewashed. It shows the setting as well… but it is lacking in any supernatural elements which I think Urban Fantasy books really do need that.

It’s good in many ways so I feel grumpy by saying I just don’t like the art style of this series

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Originals, Season Two, Episode Fifteen: They All Asked for You

Rebekah is walking through the quarter talking to Elijah and Klaus on the phone, playing referee to the brothers, who are arguing about the best approach to protect Hope.  A frustrated Rebekah has to remind them both that they are on the same team before hanging up in frustration.  Rebekah notices that she is being watched and starts to push her way through a crowd.  Unfortunately Rebekah quickly finds herself at a dead end and only manages to escape due to the intervention of Marcel, after her magic fails to work.  Rebekah is shocked to learn that though she had concealed her identity from Marcel, he knew who she was.

Freya talks with a now resurrected Finn. Freya wants to talk with Michael despite Finn's protestations that Michael is a monster.  Freya however is insistent and Finn concedes after Freya makes it clear that Esther means nothing to her because Esther gave Freya away to Dahlia.

At the vampire compound, Klaus tries to order Jackson to use the wolves to track Finn.  Jackson however believes that Klaus should compel humans to track his enemies and that the wolves are better off at the compound protecting Hope.  The two men argue, until Hayley intervenes to say that Klaus is right and that the disappearance of Finn's body from the morgue means that Finn is either powerful enough to heal himself, or Freya healed Finn.  Jackson tells Klaus that he is giving the order to the wolves to find Finn because Hayley asked, making it clear that he will not take orders from Klaus.

Later, back at his place, Marcel admits that he had been following Rebekah because he knew that she was up to something.  Rebekah admits that she was looking for a way to boost her magic, having promised Kol that she would bring him back. Elijah rushes in and Rebekah explains that the attackers knew the woman whose body she is currently inhabiting.  Marcel suggests talking to Josephine LaRue, who is the matriarch of the covens outside of the quarter about why the witches want the owner of Rebekah's new body dead.  Elijah immediately agrees to take on this task but is warned by Marcel that not only is Josephine eccentric, she does not like vampires. 

At the burial area, Finn covers Esther's body with a shroud and removes Esther, reminding Freya that Michael is not the man she remembers.  Slicing her hand with a knife, Freya wakes the sleeping Michael. 

Elijah is now chatting with Gia, as she puts her violin in a case.  Elijah believes that if Gia plays for Josephine that it will soften Josephine's heart.  Gia however wants Elijah to compel someone from the symphony but Elijah believes that Gia is a true artist and can show Josephine that vampires have a wide culture.  Gia is not pleased about being forced into a dress and snarks about Elijah needing his life messed up by a woman, forgetting that Hayley has married another man.  Gia apologises and adds that at one time, she thought that she would have a thing with Marcel.

Hayden and Jackson argue about the best way to deal with Finn.  Jackson wants Finn hunted down as a pack but Hayden is worried that they are going to lose good men. Jackson makes it clear that it is his job to worry about the pack.  The moment Jackson leaves, Klaus appears and points out that it was Hayden who ran the pack while Jackson went on a self imposed sabbatical.  Klaus then suggests that Hayden should not use a group as Jackson suggested but a few men working in stealth.

Marcel has contacted a witch to tell them whose body that Rebekah has been inhabiting.  Rebekah admits that the reason she didn't tell Marcel about the change in her identity is because she didn't want to him to see her this way and didn't feel comfortable kissing him while in the body of another.  The conversation is cut short when Reuben Marks enters.  Marcel lies and says that he found Rebekah on the streets with her memory wiped clean. 

At the crypt, Michael stumbles to his feet and Freya explains that she is someone he once loved deeply.  Michael follows his natural instincts and attacks, even as Freya explains that she is the daughter he lost so long ago.  When Michael accuses her of lying, Freya lists facts that only she would know.  Freya explains that she was taken by Dahlia and Michael falls to his knees with tears in his eyes.  The two embrace in tears.

Hayley has just put Hope down for a nap when Jackson walks in with a sandwich, offering to help with Hope.  Hayley however feels that since she has missed so much of Hope's life that she needs to do this.  Hayley brings up the fact that she hasn't seen much of Jackson and he makes it clear that he didn't want to feel like an obligation to Hayley.  Hayley realises that Jackson has been avoiding the issue of sex and suggests that they just put on some Marvin Gaye and get to it.  They don't get to act on Hayley's suggestion because Hope starts to cry.

Vampires are Forever (Argeneau #8) by Lynsay Sands

The Argeneau family matriarch Marguerite has gone missing.  Thomas has always been considered the irresponsible one in the family but when all of Marguerite's children find themselves entangled in commitments that are difficult to separate themselves from, it becomes Thomas's job to fly to London and locate his missing aunt. To help on this task, Bastien assigns the vice president of U.K productions for Ageneau industries, Inez Urso to help.  The search will take the two on a dangerous small European romp, with Thomas realising that somehow in the midst of all of the family drama going on that not only has he met his life mate but he has to find a way to woo her while keeping her safe from danger.

As with all of the Argeneau series, Vampires Are Forever, is essentially a paranormal romance with mystery thrown in as sort of an aside. The mystery gives the characters something to do while supposedly falling in love lust (supposedly because people don't fall in love in a week without the woo woo Sands uses).  Thankfully, because the missing character is Marguerite, it means that her children make an appearance in the story giving the readers a chance  to see a little bit of what has been going on with them.  Though each Argeneau novel is essentially a one off, the family connection helps to tie the books together.  

In this book, Inez is the female love interest and other than the fact that she speaks Portuguese when she is angry or horny, we don't get much of a cultural sense from her.  I really found this annoying because despite the fact that this series moved from the United States and Canada to Europe, it still reads like a one note cultural mishmash.  It's now book number eight and we have yet to meet any people of colour.  Inez being Portuguese with dark curly hair, is as close as we have gotten so far.  Where are all of the people of colour in this series?

The Returned, Season 1, Episode 1: Camille

4 years ago

A school bus full of kiddies, including a girl called Camille, falls off a mountainous road.

Present Day

Camille climbs her way out of the ravine and walks back to the town (which is in the middle of the mountains of the Pacific Northwest). As she walks home, a power cut shuts off the town

In town a group of people are meeting and a woman called Chris tells everyone that she and Matthew are having a baby and how the group has helped them keep going after their loss. Everyone is totally happy about this news (or really good at faking socially appropriate joy). Except for the grumpy guy, Jack, in the corner.

In the darkness, a woman (Claire) lights candles around pictures of Camille, it looks like a shrine. The peculiar power outage hardly lasts and back at the meeting Jack snarks at proposals for a (admittedly kind of ugly) monument commemorating 32 dead children – the kids who died in the bus crash. He seems to make a habit of being the grouchy one in the corner and he’s not the most popular

Camille goes home and starts making lots of sandwiches, much to the visible shock of Claire. She tries to recover rather than just staring poleaxed

On to the local bar where Camille’s sister Lena is doing shots and, in the back room, Jack gets dressed after clearly having sex with another woman. She’s fighting her husband for legal custody and Jack is giving her money. They’re interrupted when Claire calls and asks Jack to come to her house, sounding a little shaky to say the least.

Claire is still shellshocked around Camille, her daughter and hastily pulls apart her shrine. Jack comes over and joins the shellshock when he realises Camille is there – even opening the bathroom door in shock. Claire quickly fills Jack in that Camille remembers nothing – not the bus crash or the other kids dying.

Jack and Claire are joined by Peter who runs the support group and is a psychologist (Peter and Jack exchange angry eyes and if they attacked each other with antlers it couldn’t be clearer that Claire is the point of contention between them). Upon seeing Camille, he gets the same shell-shocked look. He gives Camille a super supportive speech about accepting what happened and being there to help her, which would be great if she actually knew what happened.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Baskerville Tales (Short Stories): The Adventure of the Wollaston Ritual, The Strange and Alarming Courtship of Miss Imogen Roth, The Steamspinner Mutiny: Emma Jane Holloway

The Baskerville Tales contains three short stories in the Baskerville world.  Each short story includes characters we have become familiar with as protagonists.  They are an accompaniment to The Baskerville Affair series and don't really add much to what we already know. 

The Adventure of the Wollaston Ritual

This short story takes place while Emma and Imogen are still at Wollaston Academy.  It is a prequel to A Study in Silks.  With her time at the academy coming to an end Emma is concerned about her future because unlike her fellow classmates, coming out in London and searching for a husband just isn't in her cards.  Though the Academy has done much to turn her into a proper lady and smooth down the rough edges she acquired living in a circus with her father's family, traces of all she learned are still with Emma.

When a deliver girl brings a rotting arm to the Academy campus, as proof of the supposed ramblings of Dr. Larch, Emma and Imogen are the only ones convinced that this isn't just a sign that Dr. Larch has taken leave of reality but a sign that something unnatural has occurred.  When Imogen catches a chill due to her weak constitution, it's up to Emma to develop a plan of execution.

By the time we meet Emma in A Study in Silks her affinity with devas and mechanicals is well established.  This story explains how it is that Emma combines magic with mechanical objects.  To solve the mystery of the shambling zombie, Emma must trust in her abilities and accept that the blood (read: magic) will always be with her.  Emma learns that there is place to employ the skills of proper feminine behaviour and place to cut to the chase and deal with what's at hand. I do however wish that there had been less time spent on the mystery of the zombie and more time spent delving into how Emma felt about her powers and the conflict she faces regarding them.

The Strange and Alarming Courtship of Miss Imogen Roth

As the title infers, this short story is about the romance between Bucky and Imogen. It occurs just after the end of A Study in Silk.  Emma has been sent away in disgrace, and Imogen's father is facing great financial difficulties.  Imogen is being pressured to make a good match to help improve the family's fortunes and standing. Imogen however has her heart stuck on Bucky who while set to inherit a fortune does not have the class background that her family approves of.

As with all romance stories, this one includes a misunderstanding between the couple before leading to a dramatic HEA.  Unfortunately, I found the drama to be trite an uninteresting.  What drew me to this series is most certainly not the relationship between Imogen and Bucky and I found my eyes skipping over sentences in a rush to finish this story.  Imogen didn't appear strong in this story and in fact acted like an infatuated school girl, leaving me to wonder where the quiet confidence she had displayed in other books went?

In keeping with the steampunk theme of this series, Holloway does include small elements through the use of Bucky's inventions; however, it's not enough to give this story a real steampunk feel.  More than anything this is a short story about romance with small steampunk elements thrown in. For me, it was a disappointing read.

The Last Man on Earth, Season 1, Episode 3: Raisin Balls and Wedding Bells

1 wedding dress, 1 suit, 1 church and some vows and Carol has her marriage. Phil is distinctly unimpressed and almost as bemused as I am by the whole charade. Even more bemusing is that this is some kind of nightmare of Phil’s where there are actually still people left alive and she’s duped him into marrying him

He wakes up, therefore sparing us from a dream that’s even more ridiculous than the plot. He is relieved and reassured that the human race is still nearly extinct. I am saddened that the human race is merely “nearly” extinct. Alas Carol joins the scene and adds her gross “insight” on pornographic magazines, declaring that all the women in them were molested.

Carol continues to have a secret stash of some drug because there can be no other explanation for her behaviour. The only saving grace is that Phil, as annoying and revolting as he is, has just about as much bemused exasperation for her as I do.

So Carol prepares all the decorations for a wedding while Phil burns things and talks to balls and the mannequin he was obsessed with.

Wedding time – music, white dress, d├ęcor and, of course, Phil has forgotten the rings. Carol storms out

After a while Phil goes looking for her since she’ giving him the cold should and finds her house has been massively decorated for the wedding, along with a wedding cake. He tracks her down and admits that, enraging though she may be, he’d rather endure her endless annoying habits than live alone.

Not the choice I would have made.

They go jewellery shopping and Carol embraces random destruction in the name of diamonds. They complete the wedding

And that night go to bed together though Phil looks decidedly unenthused and Carol very business like. She is… truly horrifying during sex. Art least during what appears to be supposed to be sex? She has some after event criticism.

Once Upon a Time, Season 4, Episode 14: Unforgiven

For 5 brief seconds, Mary Margaret almost pretended to be a tough and no-nonsense character last episode. So now she’s having guilt dreams about some nebulous thing she did to Maleficent and the terrible revenge she will wreak against Mary Margret’s family

I have to vote in favour of terrible revenge being wreaked against the Charmings. More wreaking!

She wakes up and she and David fret over the upcoming vengeance wreaking

At this rate I’m going to stop even pretending I’m not Team Evil.

Time for an Enchanted Forest flashback – David and Mary Margaret returning from the honeymoon with Mary Margaret focused on the Evil Queen (Regina) still being out there looking to do some vengeful wreaking. They come home to find the whole castle is under a sleeping curse. In the castle they’re met by the three villains looking to make a deal. Of course, Regina got the Dark Curse that created Storybrooke from Maleficent back in season 1 so they know she has it – and don’t particularly want her to use it either. To defeat Regina they need to speak to a magical fae tree of knowledge (hereby known as the Wikitree) that doesn’t like evil people so much (though cringe at the ego of David who assumes “most valiant heroes” means him and Mary Margaret).

The villains plan to escort Mary Margaret and David to the Wikitree. On the way they run into guards who don’t really want to let villains cross a bridge – so Maleficent roasts them. Mary Margaret and David protest… and let it go. They do try to ditch the villains to go to the Wikitree alone – but it refuses to answer their questions. They failed the valiant hero test. Someone Wasn’t worthy.

They draw swords when the villains catch up which is kind of hilarious given how powerful the three are. Apparently the tree rejected them not because they’re not worthy (c’mon that could be an answer!) but because Mary Margaret is pregnant and her baby isn’t a valiant hero. Opportunities of heroism are few in a womb – and potential for great good comes with an equal potential for great evil (super duper evil).

That night we inch closer to the big dark secret – Maleficent visits Mary Margaret to appeal for them to work together in the name of their shared motherhood. Maleficent is pregnant and doesn’t want her child to suffer Regina’s curse. Mary Margaret refuses in the name of their integrity and keeping her baby pure.

In Storybrooke the villains are having trouble fitting in (and the Knave is present, all is good in the world – also did he just call granny “mum?”) with added snark of bringing up Regina’s evil past in front of Henry which Regina considers a terrible faux pas. She still insists to Mary Margaret that redemption is possible and she’s not really entertaining Mary Margaret and David’s fears

So David goes to Emma (and it seems Ursula and Killian have had dealings in the past) to convince her to follow the villains

Who go to Gold – Belle’s – shop to be duly threatened with a toad potion. At some point in the past the villains kidnapped Belle (Cruella barely remembers it, it all blurs together) and they congratulate her on what an utter mess Rumple has become for lots of Belle conflict. While they talk, Ursula uses her tentacle to steal a box. This is part of their plot to bring Maleficent back

As David and Emma stalk the villains, Emma realises there’s a little more to David’s obsession than “aargh villains!” But Belle has discovered the missing wooden box (she has some awesome inventory skills) so they pull the villains over. David finds the box, insider which is what looks like the head of Maleficent’s staff. He lies to Emma and says he didn’t find anything.

Waaaaait, doesn’t everyone know by now that it’s impossible to lie to Emma? Emma grows ever more suspicious but doesn’t call him on the lie. To add to the suspicions, she asks Killian who he knows Ursula and he dodges the question. And then Mary Margaret and David try to convince her they’re going “hiking” and totally don’t care about the villains

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Walking Dead, Season Five, Episode Thirteen: Forget

Sasha heads to the armory to get a weapon, as Olivia natters away. Is it me or Olivia just the most irritating resident of Alexandria that we have met yet?  Outside the walls, Sasha takes target practice by shooting at the pictures of the family that were hung up in her home.  Clearly, this is Sasha attempting to break the illusion that she feels Alexandria to be.  Once finished, Sasha puts down her gun and says, "come and get me." For Sasha, the struggle is clearly not over, despite the normalcy that the people of Alexandria are trying to push down her throat.

Rick, Carol and Darryl are gathered outside of the wall.  They are forming a plan to get into the armory and it's Carol who suggests leaving the latch on the window open. Rick is insistent that they arm themselves quickly just in case, adding that the townspeople are lucky because he has arrived with his group.  Rick however suggests that they want the others of the group to try and that they should keep the plan to steal guns between them.  On their way back, they pause when they see a zombie with a W carved into its forehead.

Michonne is dressed in her sheriffs uniform and is joined by Rick, who questions if Deanna giving them authority is some kind of play.  Michonne however thinks that this is a smart play because when the people see them as an authority figure, there will no longer be a division between Rick's group and the citizens of Alexandria.  When Rick questions if this a smart play for before the apocalypse or now, Michonne is adamant that they are living in the now. 

Darryl is outside the walls hunting when he stops suddenly and orders the person following him to come out.  Aaron steps out with his hands up, asking if Darryl can tell the difference between walkers and humans by sound.  Aaron then asks if Darryl can tell the difference between a good person and a bad person, adding that Rick doesn't seem to be an expert at that.  Darryl replies that it doesn't make much of a difference anymore and demands to know why Aaron is following him.  Aaron replies that he is out to hunt rabbits and asks to join Darryl. 

Back inside the walls, Deanna explains to Michonne her new role as sheriff as Maggie and Rick listen in.  Deanna tells Michonne  that the people will listen to her because she is telling them to.  Deanna then adds that there will be a government in Alexandria one day and that this is why she wants Maggie working with her.  Deanna says that she sees a community at Alexandria with industry, commerce, and civilization.  Rick then asks to talk about security. Outside, Rick warns Deanna that people are the real threat now and asks for a 24 hour watch in the clock tower, to make sure no one scales the fence.  Sasha steps forward to request the position as main lookout and Deanna says that there hasn't been the need to keep someone up there permanently.  Deanna then questions why Sasha would want that role and Maggie tells Deanna that Sasha is one of their best shots.  Deanna agrees to consider giving Sasha that role, if she agrees to attend a party she is holding that evening to welcome Rick's group to Alexandria.

Carol is trading recipes with one Alexandria's women and excuses herself when she sees Rick.  As they walk down the street, they talk about the fact that the party will give them an excellent opportunity to gather some guns.  When Rick offers to back up Carol, she points out that people will wonder where he is, since he is the new constable.  Rick quickly removes Darryl from the equation, feeling that Darryl is being too closely watched.  Carol however says that what's great about Alexandria is that they all get to be invisible again.

Fury's Kiss (Dorina Basarab #3) by Karen Chance

While the war rages on and the American Vampire Senate looks to fill its empty seats, Dorina is still part of the squad looking to track down the smugglers using portals to arm the Dark Mages with deadly weaponry and creatures to tip the balance of the war

The investigation turns deadly when several vampire agents are destroyed leaving only Dorina as a survivor with a hole in her memory. To find out what happened, she will have to deal with vampires, fae, fallen angels – and more plots than she could ever have imagined.

But while all this is going on Dorina has another battle – with herself. Old barriers in her mind are coming down and everything she believed about her dhampire nature is being challenged – presenting new threats and new possibilities

There is a lot about this book I love

I love the development of what Dorina is, of the very nature of the dhampires and how this relates to vampire culture. The whole sense that vampires are deeply social and hierarchical and that Dorina’s vampire side feels all of that but is then isolated from the hierarchy by vampiric hatred of dhampires and her human side’s own weakness. It’s a wonderful little twist and manages to greatly expand what Dorina is without the sense of retconning or changing the established world setting at all. It also led to more excellent exploration of Dorina’s character and history as well as vampire culture. There’s also the ever-complicated relationship between Dorina and her father which is also wonderfully expanded on and explored in this book.

I also really liked Ray in this book. We had a lot more of his history as someone who is half-Portuguese and half-Indonesian and his history of being rather stuck between two cultures (including an interesting insight that previous Asian vampiric masters had used him, in centuries past, to be their guide to Europe but missing that European blood doesn’t give knowledge of language or custom). He really grew as a character in this book beyond his standard role as somewhat inept comic relief. He’s survivor and a chancer. A vampire who will never be a major power nor has any real close family ties to keep him safe - he’s always found his niche by being clever and being daring. He takes risks, he’s willing to try things no-one else would consider (sometimes for very good reason) he’s imaginative and creative and comes up with a lot of crafty answers and work arounds because of it. He becomes an asset and we can see him as an asset without having to greatly increase his power.

The plot itself is amazingly complicated (which I have some problems with which I will get to) which draws on every element of this vast world – and it is vast. I think every faction and player that has been introduced in the last two books all plays a hand in this book – the fae, the vampires, the mages and some new ones we’ve never heard of before. It all adds up to an incredibly complicated master plan which fits so well in this rich and wide world that is laid out for us

The pacing of the book is break neck (which, again, is not without its problems). Dorina runs from action to action, scene to scene at an incredible rate with no time to catch your breath before the next concept or battle or revelation lands on you. This doesn’t pause or get bogged down, though it can certainly exhaust you as you struggle to keep up with the battles or absorb yet another chunk of world building, all of it thrown at you with little chance to process.

The main problem I have with this book is that it feels long. It is somewhat long, that’s certainly true, but it’s the feeling of its length that is the problem. That sense as you’re reading that this book has already gone on for a very long time and isn’t it about time it started to get wrapped up?

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

It's Monday and time for our podcast - and yes, the sickness Moose have been banished and we are back in action!

Naturally, since it's been a few weeks we have a lot to tackle, but we're certainly up for the challenge! We will get through it all, including our past books of the week

If you have missed any of our previous podcasts, they're all available here.

The podcast starts at 7:00pm EST (12:00am GMT) You can follow us by the sidebar, this website or our youtube channel.

Our books of the week - both ones we're catching up on and our next few reads are:

9th February - 16th February: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop
16th February - 23rd February: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs
23rd February - 2nd March: Dark Debt by Chloe Neil
2nd March - 9th March: Fury’s Kiss by Karen Chance
9th March - 16th March: Ash by Malinda Lo
16th March - 23rd March: Grave Visions by Kalayna Price
23rd March - 30th March: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger
30th March - 6th April: The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
6th April – 13th April: Vengeance of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Bitten, Season 2, Episode 5: Rabbit Hole

Just in case we weren’t already convinced that Dr. Bauer is a little creepy we open in her lab playing classical music and surrounded by mutated creations and experiments. I think this is a flashback because we see her boss (who isn’t Alistair, but her boss Randall) shutting down her experiments and killing her terrifying mutant monstrosities for being creepy even for a sinister lab. She’s so upset but the death of her minions that she attempts suicide – only to be stopped by Alistair who magically blocks her pain and promises her many more abominations in the future. She seems passionate about joining him – and having her pain back

Well, one short scene and Sondra has established her creepy credentials.

Which is used as a background explanation for the current events – not only have all the experiments on witch and wolf blood not quite worked, but Sondra has injected herself with Elena’s werewolf blood and is now going through the change. Alistair is rather vexed by this and wants Elena to fix this – he needs his evil scientist. Elena, of course, can’t do anything to help and expected Sondra to die (most people don’t survive the transition from human to werewolf). Alistair demands Elena save Sondra or die. Because ultimatums make everything work.

After last week, Savannah is considerably less happy and trusting of Alistair and is now all friendly with Elena. Alistair disapproves because of the whole werewolf thing. Moral outrage is put on hold for a magic lesson and ominous music.

Over to Stonehaven and Clay is trying to track down Sondra so checks in with ex-boss Randall who is very circumspect about firing Sondra – recognising that the personal relationship they had makes any kind of criticism he levels seem suspect and is initially reluctant before telling Clay what she was up to

Nick and Paige continue snarking back and forth with Nick trying to be nice and Paige snarling back repeatedly. They do find Bauer’s last boyfriend to go looking for her. Thy head off after checking on Jeremy and Ruth – Jeremy is continuing to try and get Ruth to reveal what’s going on, Ruth continues to play ignorant. But she has a side plot for them

Back to the compound and Elena talks Sondra through how generally horrible becoming a werewolf is though her message is somewhat lost because, even while screaming, Sondra declares that the pain is “beautiful”. She refuses any pain relief, saying it’s hers and for Alistair. Elena tries to ask Sondra questions and gets lots of crypticness in response. Alistair still questions her about it, mainly so we can see him use his magic to make Elena helpless and so he can rant out his past – being cast out by the witches and raised by hyper religious people. Hyper religious people who weren’t super understanding about him magically killing a cat and resorted to abuse to try and change him. He shows off his scars

Nick and Paige go to see this Timothy’s mother (Timothy will apparently lead them to Sondra). She suffers from dementia and denies having anything to do with Timothy; and it’s clear this Timothy is Alistair as she rambles about the devil possessed boy who managed to magically kill her husband. She doesn’t give any more information because she panics when she realises Paige is a witch (apparently something she can tell from looking in Paige’s eyes).

Getting back to some exposition, Alistair talks about destroying all the witches (I think) by injecting Savannah with werewolf blood and “introducing a predator”. Everyone on this show has a master’s degree in cryptic.

Cryptic interrupted by Sondra escaping and leaving bodies in her wake and Elena convinces Alistair to let her go find Sondra an stop her eating Savannah – but he sends a minion after Elena to kill her if she tries to kill Sondra.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

12 Monkeys, Season One, Episode, Eight: Yesterday

Year 2043

Ramse and Jones are worried because Cole has not returned and the fact that they are still there, indicates that they didn't stop the army of the 12 monkeys.  Cole's coordinates are found and when they try to bring him back, the machine goes wonky.  Jones pulls Ramse aside to say that they are losing their real time tether, which means that Cole could be lost in time forever.

Year 2015

Aaron and Cassie talk about the fact that it could potentially be all over.  Cassie however says that if Cole's body is still there, then the threat of the virus is still very real.  Aaron offers to attempt to get a meeting with Royce to discuss the aftermath of the explosion.  The camera centers in on Cassie's watch, where the scratch is still evident. 

Year 2043

Jones works with the scientists to fix the core.  Jones needs a specific part and Whitley offers to go and get it.  Jones does however suggest that Ramse accompany Whitley and of course, Whitley is not pleased with this suggestion.  Jones believes that Ramse is as motivated as she is to bring Cole home.  It seems that Whitley and Ramse will be traveling to Spearhead - the place where the president and all the top minds where transfered to wait out the virus.  The scientists worked there for twenty years before the virus mutated and killed them off.  It was Col. Foster who when he lost his wife due to the virus mutating, who started a coup killing the last of the leadership.  It was then that Jones left  and started project Splinter.  Because the virus has now mutated a further two times, Jones is absolutely convinced that the only way forward is to stop it from being released altogether. 

Year 2015

Surprise, surprise, Cole isn't dead.  He is however injured and dealing with it by pouring alcohol into a leg wound and pulling out a bullet.  Outside, he hears people speaking in Russian and Cole calls out to them for help.

Back in Washington, Cassie and Aaron enter Senator Royce's office to ask if anyone survived the drone strike.  Royce declares that he is not giving them any more information but Cassie is not taking that lying down and once again threatens to tell the news because if anyone survived, they would be patient zero.  Cassie demands to know if Cole survived and is told that Wexlar and his men were pulled out but Cole was not found.  Royce declares that no one survived but Cassie asks to be put on the ground under CDC jurisdiction to make sure the coast is clear. 

Year 2043

Ramse and Whitley drive into Spearhead where it turns out that Whiteley's father is Foster's head of security.  Whiteley speaks to his father and asks to talk to Foster.  They are led into the compound where children run around freely.  Scientists are working in a lab and Foster is praying when they approach him.  Whitley and Ramse confirm that project Splinter works and ask for a stabalizer manifold and suggest a trade. Foster leads them to the computer network he has created, saying that its function is to find a cure for the plague.  Ramse however brings up the fact that the virus mutates quickly, making a cure an impossibility but of course, Foster is not dissuaded, firm in his belief that they are only a few years away from a vaccine.

Year 2015

Cole calls out again for help and is answered by Aza and Mikaail, whose first question is if anyone knows that Cole is there.  At this point, with everything he has seen, Cole should be suspicious.

Year 2043

Ramse has gone off to brood after being rejected by Foster and runs into Elena, who is one of the lab techs there.  It seems that these two have a history together and Elena is a little reluctant to talk.  Elena left Ramse because the seven were hunting them and she didn't feel safe.  Ramse declares that he would have protected her but Elena replies that it wasn't her she was worried about.  Elena then takes Ramse into a play area and introduces Ramse to a child named Samuel

Jones works frantically to try to get the Splitter machine up and working because Foster has turned them down.  Jones is told that without the stabilizer, tremendous stress will be placed on the core.  Jones calls for the generator to be started, saying that Cole is the priority.

Helix, Season 2, Episode 8: Vade in Peace

Aftermath time. And in Classic Helix style we have a horrendous juxtaposition of music and terrible scenes as Anne, Kyle and Peter see the aftermath of Michael’s massacre.

Day 8

Michael tells the remainder of his loyal flock – including Landry – to “purify” anyone left in the abbey. Including the CDC except for Sarah

Alan and Sarah are both arguing about the aftermath of Sarah losing her baby. Alan wants her off the island or at least not working while she not only wants to return to work but is sure that her baby is alive somewhere.

Michael goes to tell the imprisoned Amy that he has slaughtered everyone and how very hard it is, especially the children. Amy pretends to be sympathetic while her face (turned away from him) shows how little pity she has for him and his murders. She tells him he has a new goal, to be by his side as a partner, to be the best wife/daughter he’s ever had, to surpass all of her “sisters” who came before her.

She kisses him and he begins groping her and telling her how much he’s looked forward to having sex with her ever since she grew up which is immensely creepy on every level. Mid groping they’re interrupted by Landry and the minions who grab and outraged Michael; Amy snarks at them for taking their time.

He tries to intimidate Amy with his 500 year life span and immortality but she isn’t shaken. She drops him in the oubliette and snarks at him wonderfully – she’s very very good at it. He throws lots and lots of arrogance at her while she is so epicly unimpressed that I have to applaud. And, no, she’s not going to put any of the horrible things in the pit Michael imagines and dismisses – she’s just going to cement it closed and leave him in the Oubliette to be forgotten. It is an oubliette after all.

In the massacre room, Kyle can’t move from the dead while Peter reflects how much harder it is to deal with so many dead when it’s murder, compared to the diseased he is used to dealing with. He also tells Anne that Michael will pay for this – because he has associates on their way (Ilaria, we assume). Alan and Sarah join them and massacres are ignored while Peter attacks Alan. Kind of deservedly I admit. Kyle breaks it up – and a squad of armed and armoured troops enter the room.

It’s captain Winger from the boat – she’s been sent by the CDC because the pathogen has spread and there are now multiple quarantines. They tell her about Michael, the cult and his massacre. Either way, the captain wants to take Peter to help with the outbreak since he has more experience with it than anyone else on the planet; they also introduce Alan and, thankfully, she hasn’t heard about his terrorism past and is just happy to have another expert CDC doctor on the team. She’s also not asking – everyone is coming with her whether they like it or not. The island is going to be evacuated and quarantined – including the surviving cultists despite everyone’s protests.

Peter runs after Anne who is in shock from both the dead and the fact she is going to be forcibly removed from the island which is the only home most of them have known for generations. Peter helps her handle the many dead. While they do, Anne tells him about the past when Michael had slaughtered everyone and Peter confirms he knows all about the immortality thing and that he’s met a few – that originally there were 500 immortals. At least Anne is no longer a member of the Michael fanclub.

Kyle and Sarah have a moment and Kyle decides, randomly, that now is the time to show Sarah the family tree he found – and that it shows the same man as the father for every child born over the last 400 years. Sarah makes the clear leap that the father is Michael (or Michel Dubois) and that this may be related to the pathogen. Of course Kyle finds this rather dubious so Sarah decides to show off her eyes and tell him the full truth of the Immortals. She also shows off her impressive healing and when he still doubts it, she eats the infected honey.