Friday, July 1, 2016

Canada Day!

Since one half of our blogging team is Canadian, she is going to be spending the Holiday riding moose and waving hocky sticks and doing... Canadian stuff. Possibly with beavers.

I am sad that this is as close as we'll get to a werebeaver

While the other half of the blogging team is going to make wintry Canada jokes (of course)

Happy Canada Day North of the Wall!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Magician King (The Magicians, #2) by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater has what he always wanted, he's a king of Fillory. He no longer needs to read about the Chatwins and their adventures because he is part of the story now.  Sure, it means hunting trips, staging tournaments and leading a life of excess but that's the life of a king right? The problem of getting everything you ever wanted is that it gets old fast.  Quentin decides to go on a small adventure to collect taxes from a far flung island for something to do and it leads to the quest he didn't know he wanted.  Quentin only wanted a break from the mundane role of being King but quickly finds himself on a quest to save magic altogether.  It's a clear lesson of be careful what you ask for.

I didn't like Quentin as a protagonist in The Magicians and nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing makes him happy.  He had the perfect life as King of Fillory. This was supposedly his dream and yet Quentin just had to poke the bear.  It costs him of course and he ends up back in front of his parents home with Julia and vows never to take Fillory for granted again.  That lasts about a hot New York minute because now he has to play the hero and save magic.  Quentin just has to be special even though he's a weak ineffectual asshole, who's completely wrapped up in himself.  As I said in my review of the first book, a protagonist need not be likable; however they should at least be interesting and I found that throughout The Magician King, I simply wanted Quentin to go away and never come back.

When The Magician King shifted to Julia, I actually became hopeful for this book. Women really didn't fare well in The Magicians and I naively thought that Grossman was attempting to redeem himself. Quentin can see that Julia is the shadow of her former self and his solution is for them to have some torrid affair. Yeah, he's the Magician King, so I suppose his penis is magical now.  When he and Julia get shifted back to earth, they have to depend on the skills Julia picked up as a hedgewitch.  Julia took a very different path to magic than the safe Brakebills version that Quentin did and while she's prepared to navigate earth, she wants to get away from it as fast as possible because it is fraught with too much pain.

I love the idea of Julia joining up with a group of hedgewitchs who have mental illness to finally learn not only about magic but the source of magic altogether.  Julia's quest for magic costs her even before she meets up with Murs, because she has to give up her family. By the time Julia realises that she doesn't actually need more power and has everything she needs, having created a new family with her fellow hedgewitches, it's too late to stop.  For her trouble, Julia is raped by a trickster Fox God and has her humanity ripped away from her.  We are told that the rape lasts for ten minutes and how expert the Trickster God is at rape because he kicks her legs open before penetrating Julia from behind.  But wait, there's a pay off.  When the God empties his semen into Julia, she actually receives an increase in power and it feels good.  Sure, she has to suffer the loss of that which makes her human but hey more power right.  Grossman then doubles down because losing her humanity makes it possible for Julia to become a demi Goddess of sorts - a dryad.  It's all good and the rape is forgotten because now Julia gets to babysit a tree.  What the ever loving hell.

Wayward Pines, Season Two, Episode Six: City Upon a Hill

From the very beginning, the fact that Pilcher named the devolved humans aberrations, set up a way which is reductive in terms of how the abbies are viewed.  In a flash back, we learn that the abbies have familial groups and care for each other.  Pilcher arrives with a helicopter and shoots a community of abberations in order to clear the valley for habitation by humans thus striking first blood in what is to become a war between humanity and the abberations. We watched as the Abbie worked togetehr to get the injured to safety. Clearly, the abbies aren't just animals. When the abberations pulled away after being set on fire to protect the crops, humans viewed this as a success, never understanding that they were handing the abbies a new war tactic.

Jason and Kerry are having a rare moment of intimacy and it seems that Jason has decided that they need to do their part as members of the first generation and reproduce.  Kerry isn't down for this and points out that the town isn't exactly secure. Right so everyone else must be a child mother but Kerry gets to avoid that responsibility.  Theo and Rebecca also have a conversation about reproduction because Theo wants to know if she tried to have a child while he was a sleep.  Neither couple gets to resolve their reproductive issues because the alarms start going off.  The abbies have set fire to the crops and every adult male is forced to rush outside to fight the fire. Theo heads to the hospital to set up for incoming injuries. Rebecca rushes off to see Xander, who asks for access to the Mountain so that he can grab a gun to defend himself outside the walls.  Unlike the other citizens, he's not willing to trust the soldiers to protect him as he fights off the fire.

Even as the abbies attack both the field and the new food settlement that the residents of Wayward Pines are trying to create, inside Megan's lab, things take an interesting turn.  The male abbies are extremely agitated but the female is giving Megan some creepy ass cut eye.  Yep, Margaret is more than sentient, she's clearly controlling the males.  Isn't it interesting that in Wayward Pines, the women tend to have to take a back seat; whereas the abbies seem to be a matriarchy?

The battle goes in favour of the abbies, who not only manage to burn all of the crops, they kill half of Jason's soldiers.  Adam and Theresa are brought into the hospital and she has been injured to such a degree, that her collapsed lung is the least serious part of her injuries.  Theo tries desperately to get the Wayward Pines pseudo doctors to understand triage and actually be useful for a change.  It's a mark of his professionalism that he didn't immediately smack Oscar because I sure as hell wanted to. Jason waltzes into this medical emergency situation and demands to know why the first generation aren't being given priority treatment.  Is this douchebag for real?

Once again, Theo shows diplomacy by not responding thus forcing Jason to head elsewhere and mope about his ineffectual leadership.

Zoo, Season 2, Episode 1 & 2: The Day of the Beast/Caraquet

A year has passed and everything is still bad. Which may get even worse as Reiden Global’s plan to wipe out all animals and then try and rebuild the population afterwards

The gang thinks this is a bad idea because it would be “murder.” I think it’s a bad idea because there’s absolutely no way humanity could survive the global ecosystem collapse that would be brought about by mass animal extinction. Besides, how would it even be done? If would could wipe out rats we would have done a long long time ago.

Still irrational people don’t always think clearly – and following the end of last season. We had a vast stampede likely to make things unpleasant for everyone and stopped them going to get Jaime and her bad CGI leopard (is it just my memory or is the CGI definitely worse this season?). We have a whole lot of action while everyone is split up and faces off against various monsters before reuniting at the International Animal Defence Group to join with new Official Ally person, Eleanor Lewis.

It’s all bad news – cities are being attacked all over, people are being moved into safe zones (including Mitch’s family) and it’s all very dramatic and scary. Resources are stretched thin and there’s even more push for global suicide by wiping out all animal life unless their intrepid team can somehow make the cure work. Though even if they do, the fact insects have started to be affected by the virus means the plan to spread it via mosquito bite seems unlikely.

Still they need that leopard cub – so everyone’s going on a helicopter ride (except Chloe) and being treated like heroes on the cusp of victory (their reputation precedes them) to go rescue Jaime

Except in Canada, Jaimie has been driven out (and her friendly First Nations plot device has been killed) and is running through the woods chased by wolves, bears and buffalo. The gang find the leopard she hid – but not Jaime. Mitch (as Jaime’s designated love interest) is desperate to stay and look for her despite them being surrounded and eventually Abe has to bodily drag Mitch back to the helicopter

This now begins a terrible sub plot in which Mitch stomps around like a child snarling and insulting Abe and genuinely blaming him for Jaime’s loss. This almost has a good moment when Mitch admits he’s acting like a child and that they’re all family – but then he continues to go on stomping and snarling and Abe and generally being an arsehole.

Containment, Season 1, Episode 10: A Time to be Born...

Raise your glasses, it’s time for another episode of Containment!

So Alex and Sabine are released from quarantine to find a lot of angry protestors upset that the National Guardsmen who went into the Quaratine zone are all being hidden from them. Sabine takes over, is very gracious to Captain DamnFool ad very honest with the press, showing them the guardsmen are infected

Wow, awesome, Sabine is actually acting competent! I’m shocked shocked!

Of course, to Alex and Leo this is just further proof of her evil evilness. See, a CDC official who knows how to dispel panic during a crisis is just evilly manipulating the press! Evil!

Alex has a highly improbably memory of what looked like a corporate logo on some blurry papers in a corner of the photograph of Leo’s dead friends. CONSPIRACY. They send in Jake (who totally has nothing better to do being the only cop in the cordon and pursuing the dullest of romances with Kate) who finds all “evidence” destroyed. CONSPIRACY (or looting). This leads to a rapid chain of presumptive leaps in which the side I’m supposed to be rooting for decides that officer Meese who fell in the Cordon is totally evil and so is the Chief. Everyone is evil who actually focuses on curing the plague!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Demonists (Demonists #1) by Thomas E. Sniegoski

John and Theodora are television psychics. Who actually find the thing that goes bump to the night – and destroying them, banishing them and removing them.

Until they find a well of darkness that is way way worse than anything they had encountered before. New dark forces are rising with both them personally under attack – and the entire world in the balance.

John and Theodora make an awesome team, backed up with John’s deceased, ghostly, yet still effortlessly awesome nana, these TV paranormal investigators are actually the real thing. Their battle against the darkness – along with the parallel story of a whole new dark force rising are both immensely creepy. The sense of this book – the darkness, the grief, the horror and (I’ll keep saying this over and over again) the overwhelming creepiness are really well done. It’s thematically excellent. So very very excellent – the whole feel of this book is perfect.

I love Theodora’s storyline the most. The way she was almost destroyed by the demons, saved only by her husband’s dedication and devotion – and new allies – and then turned it into an immense strength was excellent. I don’t want to spoil this which makes it so so so hard to adequately describe the awesome here – but she goes from bed ridden and helpless to the one leading the charge, telling the darkness who is boss and embracing a whole new existence of possibilities. She is awesome and her power is book changing.

The plot has lots of excellent action, twists and feel and is excellent to read.

I have that issue that keeps coming up a hundred times in the books I read – a kind of unsupported middle. We kind of waffle for a bit and lose any forward momentum. But as I read the words I’ve just written, I realise that it’s less about the middle of the book and far more about the whole book and the lack of coherent world building

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Divine Descendant (Nikki Glass #4) by Jenna Black

Nikki and Liberi face some of the biggest threats to their existence – a furious and vengeful Olympians and a genocidal campaign of actual gods. Which is a big step up from the descendants

And Anderson, their own god on side, is absent, leaving everyone with unanswered questions and a sense of betrayal.

In this book Nikki really steps up as a leader of the Liberi – and it’s really excellently done. She doesn’t demand, she doesn’t start dishing out orders. But she steps up. Anderson is missing and also heavily discredited; everyone is confused, betrayed and sad and kind of lost. Someone needs to step up, someone needs to take over. Someone needs to stop the Olympians from crushing them now their protector who has gone missing. Someone needs to have difficult meetings with Cyrus, head to the Olympians. Someone needs decide what to do about Niobe and her potential world ending campaign. Someone needs to try and find a solution that is both morally acceptable and will save humanity and get some sense of justice. And that someone was repeatedly Nikki. It was excellent to see her becoming leader because she truly earned it. She’s a leader because she showed leadership, she’s a leader because she led when everyone else was hiding and backing down and panicking – she rallied them, made them put aside their differences and kept many disputing factions together to address the actual problem.

I can’t stress enough how pretty awesome she was in this – this book was not about her special powers or her relationships or the world setting – this was about Nikki taking an absolute dog’s dinner not of her making, being surrounded by terrible options and finding a path through them for everyone to follow. She was good and unlike so many leaders in the genre, I am 100% behind Nikki

The whole plot excellently showcases this with great pacing and well conveyed confusion and uncertainty without the plot being either

I do like her relationships as well. Her relationship with Anderson is excellent – she is both in awe, and angry, she is respectful but disappointed, she both demands him being more human while recognising how alien he is. There’s a lot of layers to that

Preacher, Season 1, Episode 5: South Will Rise Again

Jessie is now a lot more popular after his impressive conversion of Odin Kincannon last episode – he’s popular with the whole town (though Emily is definitely suspicious that something is going on) and the most boring kids in the entire world invite him to play “who is your favourite gospel?”. He’s using the word of god over and over again

I don’t think this will be the show to examine it, but it’s grossly not right what Jessie is doing. Even if he thinks he’s doing the right thing, he is completely removing the choices of many of these town folk to make them conform to what he thinks is right.

An example of this? Eugene – Eugene comes home to find “finish the job” and an arrow pointing to a shotgun in his room. This to a man who tried to kill himself with a shotgun… that’s… cold. His dad is clearly cracking desperately and while Eugene desperately tries to be the nicest man in the world – and his dad snaps and basically repeats “finish the job” to him.

Ouch… all the pain

Eugene is duly upset… because his dad is suffering. He still hates himself, thinks he deserves everything he gets – but his dad doesn’t deserve to suffer. Jessie decides to deal with this by taking Eugene to see Terri Loach and her comatose daughter, Tracy Loach (who Jessie helped wake with his god of voice). Terri promptly loses her shit – screaming at Eugene as a murderer and trying to kill him – before Jessie uses the word of god on her and making her forgive Eugene

Ok… I just can’t imagine what Eugene has done to deserve the level of revulsion he faces and, given how earnest he is, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy. I’m not full on Team Eugene because I really need to know what he did. But whatever he did it’s not ok to force someone to forgive, no matter how much it brings peace to other people, no matter how much it will protect, help and heal clear innocents – you don’t get to force someone to forgive. Not even if you think it’s good for them. It’s not ok to forgive

But it’s clear this isn’t the only time Jessie’s abuse of power is going to backfire – one thing we can see if Odin Kincannon. Now serving god, decides to do so by meeting with the company he refused to meet last episode by urinating in the mayor’s briefcase – and now decides to shoot them

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 10: Winds of Winter

It’s the last episode so we know it’s time to return to Kings Landing where the trial is finally happening. All the Kings Landing dignitaries are gathered for the trial… except Cersei and Tommen. Cersei because she decides not to attend – and Tommen because Cersei’s undead knight is blocking his way

Pycelle, the High Septon, Margaery, Mace et al are all gathered along with the great and the good (presumably). Loras is finally dug out of his plot box long enough for us to continue his homophobic persecution (his one and only plot line… which even then wasn’t really his as much as his sister’s). Margaery and Mace are pretty infuriated but Margaery really should have had something better planned – or something planned – for this eventuality.

It’s the prelude before the main event though… Cersei’s trial. Margaery is the first to realise something is wrong but because no-one else has her mind, the High Septon refuses to let people leave when she yells at everyone to leave the September

Oh he should have listened. After both Lancel and Pycelle are killed by Qyburn’s incredibly spooky mobs of knife wielding children (uckies uckies no words for how creepy that is) we see the huge stacks of wildfire Cersei has planted under the Sept.

Which explodes… everyone within and anyone in the same neighbourhood is decimated by the incredible explosion. In one act, Cersei has killed Margaery, Mace, Pycelle, her uncle and the High Septon.

But not the Septa who tortured her. Oh no, Cersei has kept her, waterboards her with wine and then gives her to her zombie knight to torture while she leaves chanting “shame shame shame”

I said for a while that that Septa was definitely going to get it

Seeing the horrendous explosion and likely realising who caused it – and that the High Septon and Margaery are dead, Tommen, Cersei’s last child, jumps out a window to his death.

Ok so that happened?

Am I surprised? Not really – it has been increasingly clear as more of Cersei’s children died, as she was increasingly sidelined, increasing denied the power she felt was due her, the respect and honour she felt was due her. As she was repeatedly lessened, humiliated and generally gone from being the most powerful woman in the kingdom to a reviled, powerless being, not even able to influence her own family. This is not the act of a woman trying to regain power. This is not the act of a woman trying to get revenge even. This is the act of a woman who has SNAPPED. And I think the choice of Dragonfire is especially deliberate – because this is what the ”Mad King” Aerys tried to do to the city as well. I think we can see the definite parallel – especially when Jaime comes home from the Riverlands and sees what his sister has done. Remember, this is exactly why he killed Aerys in the first place. Him coming home to find his sister crowned queen while part of the city burns is not a cause of celebration for him – even aside from his son being dead.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Blood Queen (Blood Destiny #6) by Connie Suttle

Oh dear gods this book is awful. I mean, really awful.

Now I’ve read a lot of awful books lately – usually because they’ve had some social justice fails that are inexcusable like the House of Night series and the Shifters series. So very inexcusable

This is not the case with this book (don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly stellar on that front), this is terrible because it reads like it was written by a 10 year old. It has that level of complexity

This has been the problem with this series for a while now, I’ve complained before about the utter simplicity of the world setting, especially as they’ve expanded too many alien creatures and worlds. I’ve also complained at the utterly simplistic lack of conflict in the conflict with such terribly un-nuanced abilities like being able to “smell” evil (and, of course, the evil being so very very very evil and lacking in nuance or development that you can just kill them). This is the tone of this book. The evil is evil and you just have to kill it (it has no reason to be evil. It’s just evil). It has no subtlety, no difficulty in identification. It’s just evil.

This book takes this whole child-like simplicity and takes it tenfold further.

Firstly there’s Lissa, Supreme Queen of Mary Sues. Oh dear gods she is. And this Sue-ishness is the core of why everything in this book is simple to the point of boring. There are no challenges, none at all. There can’t be. Lissa has super powers, powers that completely eclipse everyone and everything. We open this book with a desperate struggle where the forces of good (and their amazing super powers) are being completely overwhelmed until Lissa arrives and destroys nearly the entire army by herself. There are creatures that are literally destroying entire planets which Lissa completely wipes out in her free time between dinner dates. And the closing scenes of this book involve Lissa pulling off completely unexplained god-like feats with no damn explanation at all. She just ZAP decides the bad guys can no longer have their powers – and lo, entire species across the galaxy are fundamentally changed in terms of magic, physical abilities and lifespan.

Where she gets these powers? I don’t know. And it doesn’t even matter – it’s just a ridiculous over the top tool. Even if you could justify your protagonist having these powers, it’d still be a bad idea because it destroys any kind of tension in the plot. Sure we generally expect the protagonist to win, and the genre is full of protagonists who have awesome powers who we know will win in the end – but when Anita Blake pulls another load of super powers from her vagina, there’s at least an attempt to present the conflict as an actual conflict with the suggestion that Anita COULD lose, that there’s an actual fight

Not in this book. Lissa shows up. The enemy dies. There’s no conflict here. Lissa shows up. Super powers happen. Enemy dies. This isn’t conflict – stepping on an ant has more conflict than this. And it’s boring

Outcast, Season 1, Episode 4: A Wrath Unseen

I’ve seen this show being advertised repeatedly as being spine-tingling and terrifying. I can’t say I feel it to be honest. Maybe because they’ve really tried to build up the horror in the advertising but so far I’m not feeling it.

This episode actually did a better job with the horror to my mind with Megan’s personal horror rather than all the blood and gore.

Megan and Mark have a rather sweet relationship and are being all nice and couply when Donnie interrupts things. Donnie was an old foster child cared for by Megan’s parents – and he sexually abused her.

Mark notices Megan’s rapid change of demeanour – we see a lot of flashbacks from her point of view and it’s clear she’s being hurt by Donnie’s return. She doesn’t want to tell Mark though – mainly because she’s worried that he will decide to take matters in his own hands and end up getting in trouble/losing his job/being arrested. This is why she goes to tell Donnie to get out of town; to protect Mark from the consequences of finding out about him – not for her pain or trauma: because, as she makes clear to him, he is absolutely nothing to her. Especially when the man tries to present himself as the victim. Yes this guy is way worse than the demons. He also creepily reveals how he’s been Facebook stalking and in the one time he’s right he says how scary it is how much information we put out there now. I do like her speech firmly putting Donnie in his place but I do think this abuse storyline may focus more on Mark

This is also why she tells Kyle to back off and leave it alone (after his desperate and failed attempt to attack Donnie). Kyle was living with Megan at the time and did his best to try and help her as much as he could – unfortunately this also puts him in the perfect place to reveal all to Mark: he knew Megan had been abused but not by who and had discounted the story as a way for Megan to try and make Kyle look like a hero so Mark would stop hating her

Yeah, you think your wife made up a story about being abused as a child? Damn Mark, and I was all ready to be on your side.

Unfortunately Mark doesn’t listen to Kyle and my worry about the storyline focusing more on Mar seems to be confirmed when Mark pulls Donnie over and brutally beats him. While being recorded on his dashcam. This will not end well.