Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sense8, Season One, Episode Five: Art is Like Religion

Lito is on set and he is getting his makeup done while in Korea, a tired Sun gets out of bed.  Lito complains to his makeup artist that he feels bloated. Yep, you guessed it, Sun has her period and Lito is supposedly feeling the effects of that. I already don't like where this is going.  While looking in the mirror, both Sun and Lito are confused when they see each other.  It's important to remember that at this point ,Will is the only one of the Sense8s who knows what is going on.

Speaking of Will, he is getting his ass handed to him for going to see Jonas.  Will tries to say that he was trying to get some intelligence but is strongly told that no one has time for anymore of his fucking around.

Wolfie has gone to see his uncle and it seems that his uncle is aware of the diamond robbery. Even more interesting, the safe was actually cracked and not drilled through. Of course, the fact that this is the same kind of safe that messed up Wolfie's father has been noticed.  The connections are clear but Wolfie plays it cool, responding that he is not as stupid as his father.  Woflie is told to remember who he is.

Capheus finds himself talking to Riley and they are both surprised that they understand each other. Riley finds herself in Nairobi and at the same time, Caephus finds himself in London.  An excited Capheus helps himself to some of Riley's tea.  The fun however quickly comes to an end when a truck pulls up full of gang members in front of Capheus, demanding the bag he is carrying.  Capheus gets into a fighting stance but unfortunately for him, he is no longer channeling Sun and promptly falls on his ass, only to have the bag taken by the thugs and getting his ass kicked. Capheus is laughed at and called, "Van Sham", before the gang takes off with his bag.  Capheus takes off running in pursuit but not before saying a little prayer to Sun.

Lito is dressed and ready to go and he plots the scene with the director.  Lito however is aware how much pain is in the movie but the director warns him to keep it all sexy.  His leading lady makes her way down the stairs to see him and instead of being the hypermasculine man that the director expects, Lito starts to cry.  Yeah, Lito's period hormones are on full blast.  The director calls cut and Lito explains that he is just a little emotional today and was struck by the actresses beauty.  Lito struggles to pull himself together.

Kala gets hennaed for her wedding as her mother instructs her about why this process is necessary. Kala clearly still has many reservations about the wedding and questions if her mother was nervous or excited on her wedding day. Kala is informed that she is the first in the family to marry for love, except we all know that she isn't.

Sun is in the park going through training.  Her sensei complains that Sun is unfocused and of two minds.  Sun is informed that whatever she must decide or do, she needs to decide and do.

Lito is stuck in traffic and he is talking to Hernando.  Lito complains about the cramps and is extremely hormonal.  Then comes a moment of road rage, as Hernando tries to tell Lito to calm down. Lito is crying and flipping out. Lito suddenly finds himself in Korea with Sun and she finds herself in the car in Mexico.  Lito explains to Hernando that there's a crying Korean woman standing next to him and she's not crying, the same way he isn't screaming. It's actually a hilarious scene.

Capheus has tracked down the gang, so he does a smash and grab and takes off running.

Will contacts Janet Marks (Nomi's mother) trying to find her. Janet uses Nomi's former name, complaining that this isn't the first time Nomi has had problems.  Janet believes the problem is the hormones Nomi takes. Thankfully, Will corrects Janet and says that her name is not Michael but Nomi.

Nomi is in the park and is joined by Amanita.  Nomi tells Amanita that she makes her feel like she fits in and belongs but when she first saw Amanita, she didn't recognize her.  Amanita points out that at some point her very existence was impossible.   Amanita is quick to assure Nomi  that impossibility is a kiss away from reality.

At the wedding preparations, Kala is presented with a plate of Indian sweets from her father.  Nomi complains that a moment ago her coffee tasted like coffee and now it tastes like a sweet desert. Nomi is worried that the doctor is right and that something is wrong with her brain.  Nomi however wants to investigate the doctor and Amanita assures her that together they are going to figure out what is going on.

Capheus delivers the bag only to learn that he risked his life for a bag containing two coconuts.  It seems that it was all a test to discover how far he would go.  Capheus is handed the drugs his mother so desperately needs and is told that he will be contacted.  How could Capheus not even open the bag?

Wolfie and Felix are at a bar and laughing about the fact that Steiner is furious about the stolen diamonds. When Felix in his excitement speaks too loudly, Wolfie is quick to silence him. Wolfie warns Felix that they are being watched but Felix doesn't take the threat seriously.  Wolfie heads to the bathroom and when belches, it's Kala who hears it.  Kala believes that Wolfie is in her bathroom and Wolfie accuses her of being drunk. Of course, when Wolfie checks out the other stalls, he finds them empty.  Kala recognizes Wolfie's voice as the singing man in her dream.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Queen of Shadows (Shadow World #1) by Dianne Sylvan

Trigger warning for discussion of gang rape, racism, and violent homophobia.

In a city known for it's musical talent, Miranda Grey is a rising star.  Each night when she gets on stage, she somehow manages to channel the emotions of the crowd into her performance. Some songs are so moving that people end up weeping and some so euphoric that the audience leaves in a state of complete ecstasy. As much as Miranda loves her time on stage, it comes with a personal cost. Miranda is slowly losing her grip. At the beginning the emotions of others only invade her mind when she is onstage but now, the only place where she can be safe is in her apartment and only after dulling her senses with booze. Now cut off from all of her friends, Miranda cannot even bear to make eye contact with someone lest she be shown their darkest secrets.

What Miranda doesn't know is that all of her troubles are about to change and that she is going to be challenged in a way she never imagined.  One faithful night, Miranda is attacked and gang raped. After she manages to fight off her attackers, the mysterious vampire prime David Solomon arrives and whisks her away for her own safety.  When Miranda awakes, she learns that a shadow world of vampires exists and that in order to survive, she has to learn to control her gift.  The task seems insurmountable and made even more so by the prophecy of her death and a looming vampire rebellion. Can Miranda fight off her demons, her awakening attraction to David and somehow survive?

This series was recommended to us in 2014 and it is absolutely the worst book that I have read all year.  The premise of someone being able to use emotion as a weapon is certainly unique; however, at least the vampire section of the story felt too similar to Chloe Neil's Chicagoland Vampires. The vampires are organized into territories and each territory has its Prime. The vampires must go through initiation to join each each territory and swear allegiance to their Prime. There isn't a general ruling body thus far but we very strongly pick up that something far older than vampires created a ruling structure.  I can live with the similarities to Neil's series, the majority of my problem with Queen of Shadows stems from its gratuitous rape, homophobia and racism.

As  aforementioned in the description of this book, Miranda is gang raped.  Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination.  Miranda's attacker even stands above her broken and bloodied body, masturbates and then ejaculates on her face. At first Miranda does not fight back believing that if she is compliant that her attackers will just go away and finally when it's clear that they plan to kill her, Miranda uses her power to turn the emotions of their victims on them.  This is a fitting end to these rapists.  The problem however is the suggestion throughout the book that if one does not fight back during an assault then one remains a victim.  People survive rape any way they can and there's no correct reaction to being violated.
"Had the other women begged? Yes, most of them had.  They hadn't fought, but they had appealed to hearts, that were little more than lumps of rotten wood.  Women always went for emotions.  Men went for fists.  That was how the world worked."
Clearly Sylvan has an extremely dichotomous view of gender, evidenced by the position that women are always the victims and men are always the oppressors.  Such a position ignores that intimate partner violence also happens in same sex relationship.  It also ignores that while women are overwhelming in the position of victim in this situation, it is not uniform and there are women who are abusive to their male partners.  Further, the problem of continually positioning women as victims absolutely negates the strength of women and the various ways we have learned to cope with the untenable. David taunts Miranda with remaining a victim when she has trouble learning how to cope with her powers.  For Sylvan, it's not enough to survive, one must absolutely fight

Miranda is plagued by her rape throughout the story. This is not something she can just get over except of course when it comes to David. Even the flashbacks of Miranda's gang rape are graphic with her remembering the sound of her attacker's zipper being lowered and being told, "You know, baby, you've got just about the sweetest little pussy I've ever fucked."  For some reason, with David, though she is initially scared, Miranda is able to overcome her fear of intimacy.  Miranda however is the only woman David actually allows to have affirmative consent.  He uses his power on those he chooses to bite and manipulates their sexual feelings.
"He drew Maria to the corner and pressed against her, feeling her small hands and long fingernails clench his upper arms.  She had no intention of saying no, but still, he turned so that if she wanted she could still get away, even as he took firmer hold of her mind and titled her chin back. " (Page 45-46)

American Horror Story, Season 5 (Hotel), Episode 11: Battle Royal

Last week we had Liz and Iris, being the only characters on this show I gave half a damn about, deciding to murder the Countess.

But Donovan gets in the way, which is kind of what he always does, and the Countess is merely badly wounded. Liz is all for hunting her down but Iris is more focused on her dying son whose dying wish is not to die in the hotel and become one of its many over dramatic dysfunctional ghosts. They grant that wish and drag him out to die on the pavement before burning his body so Iris can roll around in the ash

Though that is every bit as disgusting as it sounds, Iris does an excellent job of selling it as tragic.

The Countess was saved by Sally who feeds her her own little vampire kids. I guess this is sad but compared to Iris’s tragedy it doesn’t even touch the sides. Especially since her sadness is interspaced with Sally’s awful backstory of heroin, threesomes and human centipedes because we really needed that.

Anyway, Sally has saved the countess because she wants her to go out, find John and bring him back so he can be murdered and become her eternal ghostly companion. As ever, this show doesn’t even try to be subtle and is sure to really beat us over the head repeatedly with the fact Sally has abandonment issues

Really? You think?

Iris and Liz have to turn to Plan B which means releasing neglected plot point Ramona and throwing her at the Countess. Neglected Plot Point Ramona is willing to get over the issues she has with Iris and Liz and decides that she’ll get on board with the whole Countess killing plot. But first she needs some blood to recharge

Enter enraging cameo from Queenie. Yes, that Queenie. Because the terrible storylines of Coven wasn’t problematic enough, clearly it’s necessary to bring her back, have her appear for 5 minutes before being brutally murdered (because her human-voodoo power doesn’t work on ghosts and James March intervenes). Seriously I thought Ramona was underused, but this is ridiculous. To bring her back to murder her so quickly! It’s an appalling abuse of an already much abused character.

It’s almost impressive that they managed to make this terrible portrayal even worse.

Quiet Portrayals of Minorities

We, along with many others, have said time and again how important it is for us to have marginalised people depicted. Erasure is extremely damaging, and tokenism is little better improvement.

Many authors and writers are catching on to that - either due to a genuine hope to make things better or because they’ve caught on that diversity may be a useful marketing ploy in some circles (yes, I tend to be that cynical - indeed anyone looking at the conquest of the Shondaverse should have realised there’s money in diversity).

One of the things that feeds my cynicism are the “Quiet Portrayals.”

“Quiet Portrayals” can come in many forms: the Blink-and-you-miss-it-bisexual, the ambiguously-olive-skin-tone, the absent POC ancestor, the careful avoidance of labels and identities, relying on vague descriptors or relying on brief one off mentions in long series.

Ultimately, they are portrayals of marginalised characters - but kept as low key as possible. It very closely resembles the idea of having to Google The Minorities, but while there you can only tell that a character is marginalised by looking for extra-textual clues and statements by the author (the infamous Word of Gay which renders Dumbledore gay, honest), in this case you have to carefully study every book and every episode and pick out the one or two references that indicate that a character is a minority. The information is in the book, it’s definitely there - it is just very brief and easily missed to people who aren’t taking careful notes.

The marginalised person is portrayed as marginalised in the book or on the show - but
but carefully masked, subtly presented to not be too overt or too present or too offputting for the privileged mainstream. That’s not saying that the writers here are expressly thinking in those terms - in many cases I would say certainly not. However the pressures of “maketability”, the societal default and our overwhelming sense of what a protagonist should look like, as well as the ongoing insistence that a book with marginalised characters must be entirely about marginalised issues make the Quiet Portrayal a very easy trap to fall into.

For marginalised readers this may be a portrayal of themselves - but it comes with a subtext: yes you can be in these stories so long as you are quiet. So long as you aren’t TOO Black/gay/Asian/trans. So long as you don’t “flaunt” or “stuff it down people’s throats.” Again, this may not be the intended message of the author - and they may even have more overt marginalised characters (but who are probably not more prominent, not as major a character or not the protagonist), but it does carry this message. The main characters, the protagonist can be marginalised so long as they are sufficiently “low key” while marginalised characters who cannot hide, cannot pass or whose marginalisation is not easily overlooked are pushed to supporting roles.

There are many ways this Quiet Portrayal can be achieved. One of them is to make references to the character’s marginalised nature to be brief and one off in a more overarching story. Take Sanctuary, Dr. Helen Magnus, who despite being a co-protagonist and appearing in 58 episodes over 4 seasons there is one, one single episode, where her bisexuality was referenced. If you missed that episode, you would think this series completely lacked LGBT characters, it certainly didn’t help that this belated revelation only crept onto the scene in the second-to-last episode of the show. Doctor Who also lept on that trope with River Song giving us a last minute spoiler that she is bisexual. Witches of East End lasted only two seasons - but it was two seasons full of overwhelming amounts of graphic sexuality and sexual relationships between opposite sex couples; except two episodes. Two episodes in which it was revealed Joanna is bisexual and has had a female lover who we briefly meet. Her bisexuality is not mentioned before this and never mentioned again - in a show that is wall-to-wall naked skin and humping.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Doctor Who: The Deviant Strain (Doctor Who: New Series Adventures #4) by Justin Richards

A soviet era nuclear naval base has been abandoned.  The town surrounding it is surviving essentially at a subsistence level.  There is something far more dangerous than the radiation leaking from the subs.  It's been there quite a long time sending out a message for help, which Captain Jack inadvertently answers forcing him, Rose and the Doctor to ride in for the rescue. Though their Russian is perfect, at least one person knows that there's more to the arrival of the threesome than their cover story implies.

I love Doctor Who with a ridiculous passion but that being said, this book left so much to be desired. Because Eccleston was only the Doctor for a short time, these stories are precious.  After all, who doesn't want a bit more of the Fantastic?  Unfortunately, this book is almost painful to read.  It's a scant 256 pages and yet felt like a tome that was never going to come to an end.  This is the first of the Doctor Who books that I almost gave a DNF rating.

When the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack arrive, they discover one young man dead and his girlfriend Valeria drained of her youth.  She is nothing but a husk, with no ability to communicate and absolutely incapable of taking care of herself. Because this is not the first time something like this has happened, townspeople have become suspicious and actually blame Vourdalk - a vampire from Russian folklore.  That sounds interesting doesn't it?  Naturally, it cannot possibly be Vourdalk as we discover when the Doctor begins investigating. Nope, it's all about aliens, glowing blue blobs and zombies.  It seems some people decided that they want to live forever.  The story takes a massive turn and feels like a bad rip off of Stephen King's Tommy Knockers.  Since King already told this story and brilliantly at that, inserting the Doctor does nothing but remind us that we're reading an author with less than half the talent of King.

The story quickly turns from an intelligent investigation to the Doctor, Rose and Jack running from the blue blobs, and setting shit on fire.  That's when it absolutely lost me because it felt like a complete bait and switch. Yes, I get that as much as the Doctor is a super brilliant Time Lord, he spends a good deal of time running and dodging to get away from the bed guys but that usually comes with a coherent story which The Deviant Strain greatly lacked.

In terms of characterisation it was absolutely off.  Yes, I can picture Captain Jack running into combat and working to save someone he saw as vulnerable and need of his help.  My question however is where did my smiling, flirtatious Jack go?  He was absolutely generic.  Even though The Deviant Strain is set before Torchwood, there should still be some sense of who Captain Jack is.  This character is such a cardboard cut out with no personality that he really could have been anyone with the name Captain Jack tacked on for fan service.

Teen Wolf, Season 5, Episode 11: The Last Chimera

At the end of the midseason break everything was terrible. Everyone was dying, sick, sulking or angry with everyone else. It was messy and nasty and generally awful and very very sad.

First and foremost among the sadness is Sherriff Really-Needs-a-First-Name Stilinski dying because he’s been attacked by a chimera and is all sick and awful. This is the saddest thing because Stiles is in pain and, as we’ve seen before, that means acting that could rip the heart out the tin man.

Scott was also injured when Liam tried to kill him last episode (because of various reasons but I’m going to go with “Liam is awful”) but he seems to be recovering from that (since he passed out I’m sure there’s some kind of nasty poison at work which will reveal its ugly head later). Faced with everyone either dying or hating everyone else he goes to Stiles to offer to help – relations aren’t exactly good between them (especially since Stiles responds by trying to attack Scott) but they need to find out whatever it was that attacked the sheriff so they can stop him dying, Stiles’s ultimate heart breaking priority

Seriously his “no just me” to the question of whether the Sherriff has a next of kin? They should weaponise the heart-breakyness of that.

After a brief questioning of Theo (the uber bad guy who says lots of cryptic ominous things about newly-revealed Hellhound Parrish) they conclude a new Chimera has attacked the Sherriff and use both good investigating and Malia (relations between Malia and Stiles are…. Strained and Malia isn’t talking about her issues with her mother the Desert Wolf) to track down the chimera Noah. Don’t bother learning his name, he’s another briefly appearing POC on this show who will end up dead.

They find Noah, and we all pretend it makes sense that a newly arrived Chris Argent (long time no see!) is better at holding off the Dread Doctors (worst name EVER) than werewolves and werecoyotes, but hey it brings the gang together. They do find the cure which they pass in to Melissa  (who is always awesome) who shares it with Liam’s dad Dr. Geyer (who realises that Melissa knows stuff and this is likely to become a Thing in later episodes). Sherriff Stilinski is saved!

Which is kind of the turning point of this episode and, I think, the foreshadowing of things to come. I said at the end of the mid-season finale that this is the pattern – everything is terribad awful and sad, the heroes are beaten down. Then they stagger to their feet, pull it together and unleash the awesome. This is clearly the first step – the Sherriff is saved and Scott has, tenuously, begun to bring his pack back together.

Of course things are still pretty bleak. Liam is alive. He’s desperate to find Hayden’s body which leads to an angsty treasure hunt with Mason. The whole storyline can be summed up with:

Liam: I am a terrible monster who attacked Scott and couldn’t save Hayden
Sparky: Yes, yes you are
Mason: No you’re not – because I exist only to support and follow you like a very low maintenance pet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Awakened (House of Night #8) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Zoey is taking a holiday to avoids all the drama and sad things that have afflicted everyone (but which makes her super sad because she’s so special). The bad guys are not respecting her wish for a happy holiday so Zoey will eventually have to get back into the action

Meanwhile the redemption of Rephraim continues, because what’s a little murder when you’ve decided a guy is going to be your freaky birdy love interest?

Zoey spends a lot of this book hanging out on the Isle of Skye-author-isn’t-quite-sure-about-the-difference-between-Ireland-and-Scotland-but-likes-guys-in-kilts (Scotland doesn’t use Euros) deciding she wants to take a time out because it’s all so sad and hard and everyone else tries to think of ways to get her back into the action. Also I’ve been to the Isle of Skye – it’s not just a made up place but the author has just overlaid the whole island and made it vampire world.

Y’know I’d be sympathetic – but the shit she’s been through is not any deeper or smellier than what everyone else has been through (hey, remember Dragon mourning his wife of several centuries? Or Aphrodite changing species? Or Stevie-Rae and the Fledglings dying and coming back? Remember any of this?) and none of them had their soul shattered and then decided to take a prolonged island holiday. This follows book after book after book of everyone worshipping Zoey and centring her grief to the complete exclusion of everyone else’s. Stark’s death? All about Zoey. Stevie-Rae’s death? All about Zoey. Heath’s death? All about Zoey. Has anyone even told Heath’s parents yet? Anyone? Having an all-about-Zoey holiday so she can be all schmoopy with Stark the Redeemed Rapist and have a whole new set of vampires declare how super duper awesome she is just causes migraines.

And that’s ignoring the multiple prophecies all saying that if she doesn’t get her arse back into gear then the whole world is going to fall apart. No, screw prophecies, that is with her KNOWING Neferet is out there doing terribad awful things, but hey time out holiday time because precious Zoey!

Let’s hit another annoying element (and there are so many!): Rephaim’s redemption storyline – in fact, no, cut that. This isn’t a redemption storyline. Redemption storylines suggest some level of trying to make amends for the shit you’ve pulled. Redemption storylines mean actually working to earn forgiveness and being a better person. Wave the woo-woo of Nyxness and suddenly declaring yourself team good guy is not a redemption storyline.

Yet that’s basically what Rephaim does. As we all saw coming (with the inevitability of a train racing towards us while we’re tied to the tracks), Rephaim loves Stevie Rae (and she has a thing for bird guys) and that means all is good! Nyx even totally comes to seal the deal!

Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands, Season, Episode One:

Beowulf is based on an epic 3,000 line old English poem. In the source material, Beowulf is the hero who battles a monster named Grendel, Grendel's mother and a dragon.  Obviously for the sake of television this already long poem is going to be drawn out.

The opening theme quite disappointingly is quite reminiscent of The Game of Thrones.  Given the age of this epic saga, it absolutely has no need to play upon the popularity of The Game of Thrones.  It should be able to stand on its own. Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands begins with Beowulf travelling with Breca to see king Hrothgar, only to learn that Hrothgar is deceased and that he will not be allowed to see the body.  I must admit to the shock that Hrothgar died so early, particularly because he was played by William Hurt.

King Hrothgar's death does however serve to provide the fuel in the political situation.  It seems, having decided that his son Slean is not up to the job, Hrothgar chose Rheda to succeed him.  It's clearl early on that there is tension between Slean and Beowulf largely because Slean is positioned the lesser man.  Both are sons of Hrothgar but only Beowulf knows this truth of this and if that were not enough, Beowulf is also the better fighter.  For Slean, Hrothgar represents a challenge to what he sees as his birthright and like a conniving little weasel that he is, much of Slean's inferiority is covered by Rheda.  It does however make me wonder if they will move away from the original story and have Beowulf battle Rheda in revenge for his murder of Slean, who I already think needs to die? Even Rheda however is quick to bend when Beowulf returns after injuring the troll/Grendal. If nothing else, it's clear that things are going to come to head between Beowulf and Slean, particularly now that Beowulf, hero that he is, has saved Elvina from the troll, whom I assume to be Grendal.

What I did find interesting about the troll, is that it wasn't mindless. It clearly captures Elvina in search of a mate of sorts and has feelings for her. Unfortunately it had me thinking of King Kong which is not what I should have been thinking about during Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. I do however hope that the character of the troll/Grendal will be developed as the story goes on. I want to see that he has motivation for actions, rather than acting on instinct alone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba #1) by Daniel José Older

Carlos is an Inbetweener, the only one he knows – a man not entirely dead nor entirely alive and a definite asset to the New York City Council of the Dead. Though not usually a happy one

But one of their jobs for him introduces him to others like him. Which would be easier to celebrate if he hadn’t just killed one of them, Trevor, which official Complicates his attempted relationship with Sasha, his surviving sister.

A further complication is knowing where she stands with the scheming of a sorcerer – who has dark plans both for the city and for someone he cares deeply about

I am in two minds about the voice in this book – I don’t particularly like it or find it very natural or flowing and it doesn’t draw me in. But it does really work towards the theme and atmosphere of the book – the sense of place and the characters themselves. So I both don’t particularly like it but also appreciate the skill with which it is written and what it adds to the overall book.

I really love the world setting here –it’s dark, it’s gritty and it is extremely original. We have a world of ghosts, it’s grim and gritty but with nice moments of humour to stop it being overwhelmingly dark. It’s hard to have a nicely grim setting while having regular humour as wall – and this book nails it.

But it’s also really original and not something I’ve seen elsewhere. The nature of ghosts (and their organisation which I an excellent skewering of bureaucracy everywhere), the different kinds of ghosts, the drawing on of different belief systems, the portrayal of the underworld are all excellent, different and would have me coming back to this series for sheer novelty value if nothing else. And it all works well with Carlos and the odd place he occupies as an Inbetweener, a man who is dead and alive, able to be one with the dead but still moving around in an almost dead body.

Carlos himself is also an interesting developed character, more than just an agent of the bureaucracy and more than just a hard bitten, bitter operative, all jaded and sad. He has friends, he has interests - he’s very well read and that also informs his character as much as his jadedness, his friendships and his snark.

The story itself works as an excellent mystery because we often don’t have answers - but that very slow discovery of what is happening is an excellent vehicle with which to introduce the actual world setting, the characters and how everyone fits in it. The pacing works and leads us to more and more new and fascinating concepts in this world though I do think there’s a shaky moment in the middle were it becomes more than a little wobbly and I’m not sure where the book I going from there

The Returned, Season 2, Episode 1: L'Enfant

A new season of Returned comes with a lot of ominous, beautiful imagery and spooky music. This show has always been more about the theme and feel far more than the actual details of what happened. I would say it fits into the category of an eternal mystery show, except I think the theme and feel are the point, not the mystery.

Season 2 opens 6 months after the last season ended with flood and a horde of newly returned. The authorities have moved into town with a lot of soldiers and a new investigator called Berg but they only know about the flood – few of the locals are talking about the undead (for obvious reasons). They know the locals aren’t telling them everything, and it’s all kind of ominous and spooky.

Of course, a lot of the locals have left after the flood which has still left large amounts of the town under water

Jérôme and his daughter Léna are still around – but there’s a lot of tension between them. Jérôme seems to be the only guy telling the truth so is largely considered a liar. All they get from everyone else is ominous mentions of “thieves” and absolutely no bodies being found

Neither of them are fans of Pierre who is also still going – running the Helping Hand and making it look more and more like a very spooky cult. Pierre’s also recruited Frédérick, Léna’s ex. They’re still very culty.

Adèle is also still in town and heavily pregnant with Simon’s child. This is causing her all kinds of angst, including her daughter, Chloe, wondering if the baby will be a zombie or not and Adèle generally being in a terrible state, not seeing a doctor and repeatedly trying to abort her baby. Something she confides in her closest confidant – a Catholic Priest. Well that’s quite possibly the worst choice but I’m, impressed.

Then Toni returns. Or possibly Returns. Last season Toni drown in the lake but death isn’t that much of a problem on this show. He’s now back – in time to be hit by a car (driven by Berg) and taken to the hospital – where he cause quite a stir among everyone because he’s supposed to be dead.

Another return is Audrey – she seems to have been on the same bus as Camille in season 1 and has just returned, much to the consternation of the local military. One of those soldiers tries to take her home – which isn’t there any more. Instead he wants to take her to where new people have settled.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson #8) by Darynda Jones

Charley is heavily pregnant and ready to give birth any day now to Beep, the prophesised daughter who will save the world. Until then she has to hide in their new home on hallowed ground so the 12 Hellhounds don’t find her and kill her

Confining Charley is… an interesting experience for everyone. Especially since Reyes is definitely up to something in the name of her protection

Not that she’s bored in her hideout. She has weddings to arrange, a case to solve, an evil stepmother who keeps visiting and a whole lot of prophecies to make sense of

Take a deep breath for this book – because this is when it all happens

This is when we finally delve into truly what Charley is – as we’ve been threatening and nearly achieved in the last book. Here Charley is finally approaching her full power, she’s mighty, she’s strong, she’s terrifying. She’s also pregnant and finally giving birth to the much anticipated Beep, revealing the truth to many of the prophecies they’ve been agonising over for so long. We even have an appearance of the ultra-big-bad, Reyes’s dad, Satan himself. We even, finally, get an explanation for Mr. Wong.

In short, a lot of the storylines which have been brewing pretty much since the first book all come to fruition. On top of that we have ongoing stories of Charley and her much hated step-mother kind of had some kind of rapprochement and her murdered dad’s ghost drops in to be cryptic about something involving the Vatican. Oh and Cookie got married. There’s also

Then we have an actual case from Special Agent Kit and her friend who want to recruit Charley despite her inability to leave her new monastery home because of the 12 hellhounds. On top of that there’s also a ghostly nun with a story to tell as well.

Or, to put it another way –ye gods there’s a lot happening in this book! Honestly, there’s perhaps a bit too much happening in this book. So many plot lines, some of the could really have waited to the next book while we digest the vastness of the prophecy and what Charley is and the amazing new directions and revelations of this book (though, honestly, I think the whole revelation about the twelve is… contrived and unlikely and smells a lot like a retcon).

Hemlock Grove, Season 3, Episode 1: A Place to Fall

A guy and a sex doll in a cab. Well way to set the tone Hemlock Grove!

While… distracted, he runs into Peter running naked across the road – who then turns into a wolf in his usual very gory fashion and he and 4 more wolves surround the luckless trick driver. Said drive falls to his knees and prays gloriously terribly (yes, I laughed, I’m a terrible person) only to look up and see the wolves are gone – and someone has stolen his truck.

Peter and his fellow werewolves celebrate the heist, everyone very impressed by Peter’s willingness to be hit by a truck. He’s not going to do another job, though, since he still wants to find Nadia and Miranda.

They pass on the stolen goods to a fence who also updates Peter on how his mother’s doing (she moved back to eastern-Europe last season) and passes on some family jewellery, his granny’s ring. He passes that to Andreas along with the family blessing to marry Destiny.

Destiny, the seer (because we’re still hitting every Rroma stereotype) has an ominous dream about the giant manta-ray things that Miranda’s doctor turned into at the end of the last season to kidnap Miranda and baby Nadia. I still have no idea what they are

Roman is missing his baby, the ominous eye-ball-destroying Nadia

Destiny is trying to use her psychic powers for Roman and Peter to find Miranda and Nadia – and gets nothing, while the detective Roman’s hired has a whole lot of not-very-polite-scorn. He’s done a whole lot of investigation looking for the baby but, ultimately, hasn’t got any clues or leads. Being a good detective he has found a whole lot of suspicion though, not least of which the fact Nadia has no birth certificate or that Roman is not going to the police about her disappearance. Of course Roman isn’t divulging anything.

In the bar, Roman and Peter reflect on how impossible it is to tell their detective anything given the givens. Peter is also going to stay with Roman for a while to give Destiny and Andreas space while Roman makes intense eye-contact with an ominous woman in the bar who then vanishes. This is a bad bad idea. She’s also waiting for him outside when he gets a blowjob from another woman he finds. She vanishes then as well.

Two vanishings is enough, Roman now starts looking for her and finds her the next day (and a very unhappy woman who he dumped the day before) and begins flirting – only to have her vanish on him again

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 year in Review

As is our habit, with another year passed, it's time for us to look back over the 200+ books we've read and innumerable shows and Friday discussions and have a review - and look to the future


What were you Top series/books you read this year?
I’m not going to mention all the old faithfuls (well, I’ll get to them) because Kate Daniels and Kara Gillian would always dominate this list

Normally I’d say the same about the Magnificent Devices series but I think it needs mentioning simply because of how the books are shifting and changing and still being awesome. They’re not maintaining their current awesomeness but moving to a whole new awesomeness

I also give a nod to The Astounding Antagonists being utterly awesome, and Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew up the Moon carrying on the awesome fun of this series. I’m also overjoyed that the Habitat Series is continuing and expanding. Sorcerer to the Crown also promises a whole lot of awesome to come.

What book(s) pleasantly surprised you?
I’m going to go with the Charley Davidson series because it is fun. Many series have drama, many others have angst, many have horror - but so few actually have hilarity. Sometimes you need some fun

What was the worst thing you read this year?
I am currently reading the House of Night Series. This must be a violation of several laws against cruel and unusual punishment

What was the worst thing you watched this year?
Under the Dome and Falling Skies can go head to head for being the utterly worst series because they lacked even the remotest pretence at coherence. And considering how many of these shows play fast and loose with their canon, it speaks volumes about how terrible these have been.

Stick a fork in ‘em, they’re done: Shows that need to be cancelled:
Why is Vampire Diaries still happening? Whyyyy? You’d think getting rid of the protagonist would earn us a reprieve!

What was this year’s guilty pleasure? Which book/series are you embarrassed to admit you liked?
Supernatural is probably always going to be on this list. It has a litany of fails, it repeatedly enrages me and, with the death of Charlie - and yet of all the shows we follow I find myself enjoying it more than most shows

Biggest Disappointment of the Year:
For books I think my biggest disappointment is simply that I didn’t get chance to read a new installment of some of my favourite series - Rivers of London, Dresden Files, Iron Druid Series.

Apparently I did get to read a new Kara Gillian Series book his year but it was soooooooooo long ago!!! At least I had Kate Daniels and Rowan Summerthwaite and the Others to comfort me.

Once Upon a Time probably takes the prize for disappointment I think. With Merlin, the return of Lancelot, Guinivere the much hyped return of Mulan and Regina and Emma being so very very very awesome together I thought we were going to see some legitimate reversals of the terrible treatment of minorities on this show. I thought it was going to turn it around and it looked like we were heading that way and then…. nope, death, shelved, plot box.

Were your expectations for 2015 met?
Looking back at last year’s post I apparently was looking forward to the return of Helix. My gods was I drunk?! And Olympus?! Someone get me the Doctor, I need to go back to last January and slap myself

iZombie was, thankfully, even more awesome than I anticipated, though its treatment of minorities has been sadly lacking.

One thing I am disappointed by is how this genre has not stepped up. Diversity has become a much more prominent discussion over the last year and some progress has been made in some areas - but Urban Fantasy really does seem to be lagging now. Relatively few of our shows has a minority protagonist or even significant prominent secondary characters: and the ending of Lost Girl, Defiance and the shakiness of Sleepy Hollow aren’t adding to hope

The book front hasn’t added a lot, LGBT protagonists, POC protagonists and Disabled protagonists are still few and far between

What are you looking forward to in 2016?
The discourse around diverse books has made more conversation out there and more lists - I am clinging to the hope it will help us find more books with minority protagonists. The only problem is both these lists tend not to include our genre and a few tend to be… optimistic about the diversity mentioned (I’m not a fan of side characters being presented as major)

I also want to make more of a point of looking for books with diverse characters written by authors who reflect that diversity - because there is power and importance in authentic stories.

And, just as there are shows ending, there are some opportunities for diversity in 2016 (GOOD diverse shows with non-tokened, non-troped minority characters!) Killjoys (ok, not quite our genre) is awesome, The 100 good go to excellent places, and Into the Badlands has been surprising while Sens8 is shockingly amazing, flawed in places, yet amazing.

I’m also definitely intrigued by Lucifer. Old favourites, Penny Dreadful, Orphan Black

And, in the plus side, Falling Skies, Under the Dome, Helix and Da Vinci’s Demons have ended which, cynically, means I don’t have to recap them


What were you Top series/books you read this year?

I think my favourite series this year is the Imp series by Debra Dunbar.
Sam is a demon who has spent years hiding on earth.  When she comes to the attention of an arch angel, things get really rough.  Sam knows that she should be on her best behaviour but the imp in her just cannot resist trouble.  I love this series despite its problematic elements and find myself constantly laughing at Sam’s antics.  I love how she has grown and her various relationships.  I came across this series quite by accident and am very happy that I did.

What Was The Best Thing You Watched This Year?

This is the year that I absolutely fell in love with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.  I was never a really big fan of Matt Smith though I do acknowledge that he had a tough time having to follow David Tennant.  I wasn’t completely sold on Capaldi during his first season as the Doctor but that completely changed in the very first episode of series 10. Just like Tennant, Capaldi has managed to embody the soul of the Doctor. Sometimes without even a word, Capaldi says so much and you can see the years of pain and loss on his face.  

What was the worst thing you read this year?

That’s actually quite easy, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  This series was recommended to us and though a little bit outside of our genre, the fact that he had been turned into a television series peaked by interest.  On every level that I can possibly think of, the Outlander series fails.  If that were not enough, the series is absolutely rapetastic.  I had to pause reading them because each book felt like hardship.  I know that there’s a lot of talk on the internet about the show and the book being woman positive but I think that they are given far too much credit.   

What was the worst thing you watched this year?

This is actually pretty tough because some of our shows this year were pretty horrendous.  I think I’ll have to at least mention Helix which rebooted itself for the third freaking time and made even less sense than usual.  It’s a relief that the damn show has been cancelled really.  I think I will also have to give a nod to The Leftovers because like Helix it also did the reboot thing and made absolutely no sense.  From the very first episode when we were suddenly shifted to prehistoric times with absolutely no explanation I knew this season would be a problem.  The Leftovers is all about asking questions and providing no answers and I have little patience for that.

Stick a fork in ‘em, they’re done: Shows that need to be cancelled:
I am more than ready for The Vampire Diaries to be finished now.  I had hopped that with the loss of Elena, that we would see Bonnie do more awesome things but instead we saw the fumblings of Damon and Stefan.  None of what is happening in Mystic Falls makes any sense or is even remotely interesting.

I also think it’s time for the Leftovers to wrap up. They are pulling the Lost thing where they ask questions and never provide answers. None of this previous season even made any sense at all.  I cannot believe that it got renewed.  

And finally, I have to nominate Sleepy Hollow.  I had a little bit of hope when they finally killed off Katrina but the show simply hasn’t gotten any better.  They have replaced Katrina with Betsy Ross and are meandering along with the whole Pandora thing.  They threw a hail mary with a crossover episode with Bones which made no sense, even for Sleepy Hollow.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year:

Without doubt my biggest disappointment of the year is Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I wanted this movie to be epic.  I had so many hopes when the previews showed a Black stormtrooper only to find the character of Finn hopelessly problematic.  Even George Lucas wasn’t thrilled with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I understand that from Disney’s perspective the aim was to draw in new and perhaps younger fans but they gave nothing to the Star Wars faithful. I could say more but am refraining for the sake of spoiling it for those who have yet to see it. We do however have a review posted on Fangs.

The Biggest Disappointment of the Year

Due to various health matters and family issues, I wasn’t able to read as much as I normally do.  I guess that my biggest disappointment is that I fell behind on so many series that I have come to love and I hope that in 2016, I will be able to find more time to curl up on my couch and lose myself in a great story.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Being a massive Doctor Who fan I am anxiously awaiting the return of Doctor Who.  I want to know who the new companion is and what adventures the Doctor will have now. I am also looking forward to the next Star Trek movie.  I love the idea that the series will be returning to its roots having the staff of the enterprise boldly going where no one has gone before.  I have also heard whispers of Star Trek returning to television and if that is indeed the case, I will truly get my giddy on.  Having grown up watching the original series in reruns, this is something from my childhood that I have continued to not only embrace but enjoy.

I am very much looking forward to the new series Lucifer.