Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Mist, Season One, Episode Six: The Devil You Know

Because of The Mist is not a reasonable answer to all of the events that took place in this episode.  From the very beginning, The Mist has had its characters jump to feelings of immediate peril and act in ways that seem far out of proportion from what they've personally witnessed.  Unlike the 2007 movie of the same name, a television show has time to expand upon a plot and slowly move towards a crescendo.  The pacing at this point is absolutely horrid and has destroyed any kind of enjoyment in this show.

The cast continues to be large, unwieldy and divided. In a show of this nature, a large cast is necessary because it will require a large rate of attrition. The entire point is to have The Mist ever so slowly cause death and unbalance among the cast members but it seems as though the writers just want to do 0 to 60, bribing the audience each week with a few good shots.  This week for instance, we got the Mist coming out of Mia's mother's smashed in head and the Mist coming through the key hole of a door.  Yes, those scenes were awesome and added to the whole creep out factor but it's not enough to making for the continual problem of bad pacing. 

At the church, Link takes his concerns about Nathalie's idea about the mist to Father Romanov, who has seperated himself from his parishioners.  It's clear that Link feels that Romanov is shirking his duties by hiding in his office and that the only way they're going to get through this is by prostrating themselves before God. Before this episode, Link showed absolutely no signs of being some kind of freaked out religious fundamentalist but the writers escalated this minor character in order to increase the already overly tense situation between Romanov and Nathalie.  Unsurprisingly, it turned out that Nathalie can handle herself just fine and though she had to endure a slap across the face, she had no problems sacrificing Link to the Mist and then playing feeble old woman in need of protection, thus triggering Police chief Connor Heisel's protective instincts. Connor may no longer see himself as a cop but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel a drive to protect others.  

Speaking of Connor, it's clear that he saw something in the Mist and he is slowly bonding with Nathalie, even as Romanov tries to remind him of civilisation by talking about being by his wife's beside when she was dying.  Romanov is trying to play on Connor's sense of loyalty by pointing out that he didn't let the Heisel family down and that Connor's wife was faithful to God, even in the face of an early death from cancer.  It's clearly manipulative and Connor sees right through it.  At this time however, it's worth pointing out that Connor made such a big deal about Mia and Bryan being criminals in episode four and yet by episode six, with no explanation, he's ready to take off the badge that clearly means so much to him without us seeing any further escalation which would engender such feelings.

At the mall, Alex and Eve decide to work out their angst riddled relationship with a little shopping and why not, they're in a mall. Alex wants to know why the smoke monster bypassed her and is certain that this means that there's something wrong with her. Look, I get Alex is a teen but really? Couldn't the reason be that there's something special about her rather than something wrong? Who whines about not being eaten by a mist monster? 

Eve decides that since the shopping trip distracted Alex that the residents of the mall need some distraction as well. She prints off some pamphlets encouraging citizens to stay indoors, making it look as though the pamphlets came from the government or the military. Gus catches Eve at this task and Eve of course responds with snark, causing Gus to wonder how they got there. Yeah, I wanna know how you got there as well Gus. When the residents of the mall find the pamphlets, conveniently just next to the doors, they experience a sense of relief as a cautious Gus looks on.  This of course is going to come back to haunt both Gus and Eve.

Zoo, Season 3, Episode 5, Drop it Like it's Hot

The news is reporting on all the drama of the last episode by saying New York is the latest city to be “ravaged” by flying hybrids

Ravaged? Methinks that’s a trifle exaggeration I think. I’ve seen more violence at footbal games.

The hyrbids are currently chasing the drone on the improbably expensive plane and my they can fly fast to keep up. The gang hastily hatches a plan to drop the drone in the Mexican volcano

These would be the eruption causing volcano birds. They’re  going to drop in a volcano. Yes. Yes they are.

With all the birds smacking the plane (which just causes rumbling… I mean a moderate sized goose can take down a plane if it hits the engine - all of these giant birds just bounce off) then our torture monkey in the basement (this plane has a basement, just run with it) manages to escape and hide in one of Jamie’s flash cars.

The same car Abe, Dariela and Jackson put the drone into and drop into a volcano


The hilarious thing is that this is everyone’s reaction! Abe, Mitch, Jackson, Jamie “we just dropped a guy in a volcano!” “whoops, how embarrassing!”

Abe, Dariela and Jackson also do some secret sharing: Isaac is imprisoned and Abigail is Jackson’s sister. Jackson has embraced this weird sense of responsibility for the evil stuff his sister does and somehow this takes priority over saving Isaac. So this ends up with Jackson going down to the volcano, coincidentally running into Tessa again who just happens to be passing through this part of Mexico. As you do

They want to convince the remaining residents to evacuate from the volcano and while doing so get to spend some time bonding including Tessa explaining why she’s extra pissed at his dad because she always always wanted to be a mother and now can’t be; while Jackson brings out a tragic dead family from is-this-the-first-time-it’s-been-mentioned land? I mean shouldn’t this have come up before at some point? Is this a hasty copy and pase job?

Anyway, duly sad and bonded again they go to an old woman who is known as a witch because she can apparently control the hybrids. Eerily they see that the volcanic ash and smoke also hasn’t reached her little clearing. When introduced she asks Jackson if he is Mr. Duncan. Jackson says yes, because why not? So the nice men with the big guns take him to a shipping container where they have a giant baboon hybrid locked up - and it speaks and knows Jackson’s name and I just don’t know any more. Talking baboons! Here’s lots of action and fighting and Jackson destroys the clicker thing he uses to control his trained lions and Tessa tries to appeal to them because he’s Abigail’s sister and everything is confusing and nothing works

So Jackson calls his lions. Without any machine, just using his woo-woo - definitive proof he has woo-wooo

Of course I would like to point out controlling lions is nothing compared to the fact the last time we saw these they were in Seattle and now they’re, where, Yucatan? Teleporting lions!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Outcast, Season 2, Episode 9: This is How It Starts

The main storyline here is Rose and Giles. Because Rose is being utterly torn up and traumatised by the fact that she killed her best friend. Yes he was possessed but still her friend - the horror of it is eating at her, consuming her and it’s really well acted as she tries to deal with this.

All the while Giles s supportive and loving and caring and trying to help her

And then she gets sick - of course the opening symptoms of flu also resemble the opening symptoms of possession. Giles panics and calls Kyle - who can’t get there because of other plot lines - and Rose insists she be restrained. Through it all the emotion and the acting is so powerful here

Eventually she convinces him she was just ill and gets free - and she seems to have been right - but when she is apart from him she commits suicide.

When Kyle arrives and starts to blame himself for being late Giles denies it - he says that Rose killed herself not because she was possessed but because every day there was a possibility she would be. He hates what she did - but he respects her choice to make this decision

And that, everyone,is a grade A Marginalsied Swan Song. Take a marginalised character who has been pretty peripheral to the cast, suddenly put them front and centre even have a beautiful, emotional, powerful goodbye scene - and then kill them. This is not ok. No matter how beautiful and emotional and deep the bond between her and Giles is, it’s clearly being thrown in too belatedly and too shallowly to properly develop this character.

Kyle didn’t attend on account of being kidnapped by Blake who is doing his very best to be the worst character on this show. The possessed woman he questioned last episode he has now kidnapped and is assaulting, abusing and sexually assaulting her - why? I mean, he’s completely fixated on Kyle, why throw in this completely characterless (does she even have a name?) woman just for him to abuse? Do the writers think we won’t realise he’s a bad guy without him threatening a random woman with rape? This is a trope, this reduces the woman to a tool and is just unnecessary. Yes she helps Kyle escape (and then vanishes) but the man with the burning hands couldn’t finangle his own escape?

After rambling a lot Blake is apparently getting visions because why not. There’s nothing like a good vision to drag the plot along when you’re out of ideas. Anyway captured plot device frees Kyle, Blake is thoroughly beaten and he escapes to run to Dr. Park

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shards of Hope (Psy/Changeling #14) by Nalini Singh

Aden is the leader of the Arrow Squad, the most dangerous and highly trained Psy on the planet. When he and his fellow Arrow, Zaira, wake wounded and captured they know there’s a new enemy out there they have to stop

Of course, holding an Arrow isn’t easy.

While bringing down this new enemy is a focus of the squad, Aden has a deeper mission: how to help his Arrows, his damaged, dangerous, Arrows, adapt to this new world without Silence and hope they can finally find a future and a home; an idea that has become alien to them.

There’s a lot about this book I loved - because this is a story that has been brewing for a while - the story of the Arrow Squad. We had an introduction with Vasic but this really does take their story to the next level of detail.

With the Fall of Silence and with the Arrows going from whispered, almost mythological, force hiding in the shadows to being very open and involved in dealing with the problems of the fall of silence it’s such a huge shift for them

The Arrows themselves are such an excellent representation of the challenges of Silence. All of them have lethal, terrifying powers and were given the strictest and most brutal of training and the most rigid Silence to actually survive them. If anyone cannot live without Silence, it is the Arrows - not only are they powerful and dangerous but they’ve also been deeply traumatised pretty much from birth because torture is how they’re trained

Damaged, lethal, rigidly controlled - it’s going to be hard for them. What I really liked in particular was Aden and Zaira learning how to even behave around children, how to raise children, how to learn the basic thing about them. With all Arrows recruited as very small children and tortured by the program since then the very alienness of play is perhaps more stark than any depictions of the torture they suffered

From that I also liked the little offshoots of concern - like how the older Arrows will manage with this changing world they don’t seem to fit in. Or what to do with those members of the squad who have been so utterly hurt that they’re not entirely functional.

And then there’s those whose Silence did actually cover up a monster - the emotionless killers who secretly enjoyed it. How do you find them and what do you do with them?

I do think that, perhaps, this was just a little but simplistic in some issues, especially in relation to Psy with dangerous powers. I mean, we had Psy literally fearing their own extinction due to their rates of suicide, mental illness and violent crime as well as uncontrolled dangerous powers - this is while Silence was enacted. So introducing their hyper-dangerous Arrow children to having to write essays as punishment just seems… well if that worked then why would the Psy have ever enacted Silence. I think it would have been better if we had seen them incorporating more of the lessons, mental exercises etc of Silence to show WHY these tactics work now.

Travelers, Season One, Episode Four: Hall

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Very early on we learned that there are several Traveler cells in the past working to avert what ever disaster has lead to the near extinction of humanity.  The Director is the person from the future assigning tasks and has clearly established protocols to be followed. One of them is that Traveler teams are not to be in contact with each other.  The cell that we are currently following are new to the mission and just like us (read: the viewer) they have a lot of assumptions about what their job entails and how the different Traveler groups are meant to interact with each other. This week, MacLaren's leadership is really tested for the first time and he has to decide how much he's going to stick to the rules. 

MacLaren and Forbes are on a stake out and they watch a shady deal go down between two groups. Forbes is confused because it looks like the shady deal is about car parts but it clearly has something to do with future tech.  Things go south quickly when one group tries to steal the tech and a shoot out occurs. MacLaren and Forbes leave their position and move to deal with the aftermath. When MacLaren approaches a man who is dying on the ground, he gets a message from the director. MacLaren tells Forbes that he is going to chase the party who got away and suggests that Forbes stay behind and wait for back up. You know damn well that MacLaren is going to get caught in a lie sooner rather than later at the rate at which bullshit just falls from his lips. Anyway, MacLaren gets into contact with Philip and Marcy to help out with their new mission. Philip is tasked with finding the messengers coordinates, and Marcy with grabbing her medical bag. It's Carly with impressive cache of weapons who picks up Marcy because Philip is still recovering from being shot.

When MacLaren arrives on scene he discovers that the Traveler he's been ordered to assist is one of the men from the exchange he and Forbes had been watching go down. Hall the leader of the cell and Carter, aren't exactly welcoming to MacLaren when he first enters, unsure about whether or not MacLaren is actually a Traveler. They're particularly suspicious because the mission was given to MacLaren by an adult and only children can pass messages from the future. MacLaren explains that giving the message killed the already dying man.  Given the seriousness of Luca's injuries, Carter and Hall decide that they really have no choice but to trust MacLaren. 

Now that trust has been established, MacLaren wants to know exactly how Carter, Hall and Luca ended up in this position.  It turns out that  Carter, Hall and Luca were on a mission to get a piece of tech and pass it on to another cell. The Russian travelers were in a difficult position because with their historian dead, they were in a tight spot in terms of cash. Now we know why Philip has memorized the outcome of so many sporting events and even winning lottery combinations. Hall agreed to give Russians money for passing on the tech but the Russians decided to turn on Hall's cell in the hopes of selling the tech to someone else. This really throws MacLaren because if Hall is to be believed, it means that Traveler cells are turning on each other.  So much for the greater good I suppose. 

MacLaren's reaction to learning that Travelers turn on each other is enough to alert Hall to the fact that MacLaren must be a new arrival and so he immediately seeks to throw his weight around. A small argument ensues about the damage to the tech but it is brought quickly to an end by the arrival of Marcy and Carly. Hall, Carter and Luca's problems are about to get a lot worse because Marcy doesn't have the equipment she needs to be able to treat Luca and they cannot go to the hospital because they have a criminal record. If that were not enough, Carter is bleeding internally. 

Maclaren steps aside when he gets a call from Forbes to inform him that there are three dead bodies at the scene.  MacLaren lies to Forbes AGAIN and claims that he lost the car that he was chasing. In the meantime, Marcy has been working on Luca but has been unable to remove the bullet. At this point, Marcy is certain that if she operates on Luca that he will die. The only solution is to use Carter's blood to save Luca's life and since Carter is coughing up blood, he's going to die anyway. Hall isn't pleased with his options but he chooses to go along with it. Marcy spends the night operating while MacLaren heads off to run interference. 

Trevor, who hasn't been involved in this latest mess is spending the day adjusting to his new life. Trevor is out on the track with his friend and dude can really run. Unfortunately, when Trevor tries to throw a football, it turns out that he didn't inherit his host's skills. Trevor gets a visit from Mrs. Day, one of his teachers about a meeting she has set up with Trevor and his parents regarding his academic achievement. 

Having done her part to aid Marcy, Carly is on her way home when she is ambushed by Jeff.  Clearly having not learned anything from his first few interactions with the new Carly, Jeff tries to be physically aggressive, only to find himself bent over in pain when Carly responds by kicking him in the nuts. Carly makes it clear that they are no longer a couple and that if he wants to see his son, he needs to start paying child support before driving off. 

Philip is still going through his own issues with adjustment to his new life. Philip gets a visit from Ray, who has brought percs with him.  Unfortunately, Ray's visit gives him a chance to check out the list of names and dates that Philip has written on the wall. Ray incorrectly assumes that this list has something to do with Philip's ability to so accurately place bets. Sensing Philip's vulnerability, Ray is able to blackmail Philip into giving him some more winning bets to place. 

For some reason, Jeff decides that he is going to interrogate Marcy because he's made a connection between her beating down her assailants and Carly's sudden ability to defend herself and defy him.  I really think that the writers are stretching this connection really thin because there's no real reason that Jeff should assume anything in common between Carly and Marcy. Marcy dodges all of Jeff's questions and so he changes tactics and brings up that Marcy is living with her social worker. Jeff ponders if Marcy is doing so well, why she is living with David. At this point, I really want to see Jeff take another shot to the nads. Jeff points out that Marcy's living arrangements would make David guilty of fraternization and could lead to David's dismissal. Rather than answering Jeff, Marcy answers her phone and walks off. The call is about Luca, who accidentally opened his stitches up in his sleep. Marcy returns and stitches Luca back up.

Shadowhunters, Season 2, Episode 17: A Dark Reflection

Clary now has visions nightmares because she isn’t special enough. And she needs more sexual tension with Jace.

She’s also all torn up about leanring her brother Jonathan is actually still alive! Yay! But he’s also been injected with demon blood which is probably not good. He’s also been raised by Valentine completely alone who is super duper evil. Therefore he’s probably Made of Evil and terrifying and we should stab him repeatedly

So Clary wants to find him and hug him.

Because Clary’s logic train doesn’t so much derail as it does spontaneously combust while carrying nuclear material.

Basically, whatever the worst possible decision you could make in a situation? That’s what Clary does. It is known.

Jocelyn kept a box of baby keepsakes for Jonathan but disguised Jonathan/Sebastian has intelligently raided it to make sure they can’t track him. How very forward thinking of him.

Alas this means we have to track in on Jonathan and Valentine- and it appears that Johnny boys issues have grown exponentially with Valentine around (which makes sense since Valentine is pretty much the source of all of his issues). His desperate need for validation and family and to be seen as a hero or a good guy are yelled out and Valentine desperately has to tip-toe around his raging dangerous super powered son to manipulate him

First they’re trying to get Cleophas, Luke’s sister who fell off the planet but is apparently in Valentine’s custody, to fix the Genocide Sword - which she can’t do (this would mean undoing Clary’s work and she is the total bestest). His mind control serum (of course he has that) isn’t working well on her because Iron Sister Mojo. this also allows her to send off a fire message, but not escape. She also takes the opportunity to taunt Jonathan and say how Clary is so special and smarter than he will ever be.

So Valentine resorts to plan B - if you have the Sword the Cup and the Mirror you can do badass cosplay. Also you can summon the Archangel Raziel and ask him for whatever you want. This would be bad.

Since they have the cup and the sword they now need the mirror. Which means beating up a warlock called Elliot who apparently knows where it is. Elliot uses inefficient magical suicide rather than tell them where the mirror is. Really, Valentine and Jonathan just kind of watch him chant a like 5 minute death spell and all they can do is yell at him.

He doesn’t actually have the mirror, he has a sigil on his arm which shows the location which now vanishes.

Over to Alec Jace and Clary and we recap the above - what the shiny objects can do when lined up together and how the Clave totally doesn’t have the sword



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Slouch Witch (The Lazy Girl's Guide to Magic #1) by Helen Harper

Ivy isn’t a heroine. Ivy isn’t a solver of problems, she doesn’t fix things and if you’re in trouble she’s the last witch to call. She’s much happier driving her taxi and developing a deep and abiding relationship with her sofa.

Sadly when someone screws up the paperwork she finds herself drafted by the Magical Order’s Arcane branch and magically linked to way-too-energetic, way-too-serious over achiever Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter

They do not have compatible personalities.

This is a book that just makes me smile - no grin - through every page. Mainly because of Ivy, the protagonist, a witch and a woman after my own heart.

She’s lazy.

Y’know in a genre that occasionally flirts with portraying an “every-man/woman” a person all of us can identify with, we’re constantly shown somone who steps up and acts the hero, pulls out miraculous feels while being heroicly brave and amazingly virutous and impossible impressive.

And I’m sure we’d all love to say we identify with that person. But it’s a lie. It’s a dirty rotten lie. Here we have Ivy. The woman who needs to be dragged out of bed in a morning. The woman who would rather cut her own leg off than exercise. The woman who invented a rune to make things lighter because she was too lazy to carry heavy things. The witch who made a run to open her front door because she couldn’t be bothered to dig her keys out of her disorganised hand bag. A woman whose idea of a good time is spending some quality time with her sofa and television. A woman who uses the lift when she really should use the stairs.

There’s something so very real about her.

She’s also extremely snarky and I know we have a whole lot of snarky protagonists out there. But it really works with this character because she is so reluctantly involved in the plot line and that plot line itself, at least for most of the duration of the plot, isn’t that high stakes. Her history with the Order is painful and it hasn’t treated her well. She’s also only ever seen it at its worse - and then she’s magically, accidentally, drafted to help Winter (designated love interest and boring guy to be snarked at) which absolutely no-one wants but no-one can get out of. Naturally she’s not going to be favourably inclined to help anyone. And it’s not really massively selfish for her to be a colossal pain in the arse - and seeing her stomp through this stuffy, rigid hierarchy not giving a damn about any of it was glorious. She doesn’t owe these people anything. She doesn’t respect them. She doesn’t like them. She isn’t invested in her mission. So damn right she’s going to be awkward and snarky and disrespectful.

She’s dragged into this against her will and it works. If I have one complaint about the plot in this book it’s how quickly Ivy capitulates to the Order - honestly I would have been 10 times more awkward).

Preacher, Season 2, Episode 6: Sokosha

Opening odd foreshadowing weirdness to remind us of the weirdness that is just Preacher: a man ominously buying some white powder extracted from poor, desperate people for a moderate sum of money - and then sold to very rich, desperate people who pay much larger sums of money to use it to cure alzheimers.

Ominous -and yes there are comments to make about class and exploitation - but, c’mon, it’s not exactly subtle or require a nuanced examination.

Cassidy, Tulip and Jessie are still squatting with Dennis the odd French man (Cassidy continues to have a conflicted relationship with Dennis) and things are… happy but tense. Everyone is playing nice but there’s a lot of tension and unresolved ish under every word. But they make nice while they do that odd American thing of having dessert for breakfast

While Viktor’s daughter leads the Saint of Killers to their door

Well, their neighbour’s door anyway. The Saint of Killers works his way through them one at a time with gun and knife - one of his bullets making it’s way to Dennis’s fridge and alerting Jessie that there’s something going on - they run.

And brainstorm how to stop the Saint. Of course, Tulip’s very sensible suggestion that they just run and stop using the Word doesn’t work for Jessie who is still hunting god. So they need a plan B:

Lots of research - it turns out that there are a lot of very very very accurate stories, comics, romances and books on tape about the Saint fully filling in his past. But before they can decide how to use that against him Cassidy remembers Dennis is coming home and going to run into the Saint

They call him and hear the Saint attacking - to save his life Jessie uses the Word and says he’s on his way

It’s a huge gamble - but when he arrives he manages to convince the Saint not to kill him. He guesses that Fiore made a deal with the Saint - kill Jessie and god will reward him by sending him to Heaven to be with his dead wife and child rather than in hell reliving his worst day forever more. A nice offer - except, as Jessie proves (for a given definition of prove... ) with the audition tape that god isn’t around so he isn’t getting to heaven

Not by god anyway. But Jessie has sent someone to hell with the word, Heaven can’t be that much different. But there’s one missing piece - he needs a soul. The Saint of Killers, his mythology says, is the one man in Earth without a soul.

The Saint agrees to give Jessie a chance - and one hour to get him a soul. And he’s holding Jessie, Tulip and Dennis captive until Jessie gets back.

The time is especially tense because Dennis is ill and needs a hospital - which plucks at Cassidy’s heart because Dennis is his son… yes son and yes Dennis speaks no English and Cassidy no French: Cassidy admits to not being the best father but still he cares. Tulip tries to appeal to the Saint to let Dennis go but he just lifts her to the ceiling by the throat

Midnight Texas, Season One, Episode One: Pilot

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This series is based on the Charlaine Harris novels by the same name.  Given that this story originates with Harris, I'm going to admit that I went into it with a certain set of doubts, despite her success with True Blood. Let's be honest, Charlaine Harris is no lover of women and doesn't write marginalised characters very well at all. 

The first person we meet is Manfred, who is a psychic.  One of his sessions goes a little bit further than he planned and a ghost ends up taking over his body. Fortunately, Manfred is able to fight off the ghost but it still leaves his client freaked the hell out.  Proving that a bad day can get even worse, Manfred gets a call from a man who is threatening him. Fortunately for Manfred, because he sees ghosts, he is able to take the advise of his dead grandmother which is to move to Midnight Texas because he will be safe there. 

On the outside, Midnight Texas looks to be a sleepy small town where nothing ever happens, except that it is filled with supernatural beings. This means that Manfred blends in quite well. Midnight Texas has angels, werewolves, witches, an ill tempered talking cat and vampires; together these creatures have formed a community of sorts.  The supernatural beings are actually a lot more welcoming than the local motorcycle gang the Sons of Lucifer. 

Manfred moved to Midnight with the hope of leading an unremarkable life and not attracting any notice but that all changes when Aubrey's body washes up dead, ruining a local fall gathering. While the town is filled with supernatural creatures, Manfred is the only one who can see an interact with Aubrey and so she reaches out to him, bloated body and all.  Having recently had a bad interaction with a ghost, Manfred decides to take some precautions before agreeing to help Aubrey and this includes making a circle and gathering up some holy water.  Using a ouija board, Manfred communicates with Aubrey and she gives him a location. The conversation however is cut short when Manfred realises that by opening the door to Aubrey, he also allowed several other spirits to make themselves known, including something red and ominous underneath his floor.  

Manfred's weird behaviour brings him to the attention of the police and so to stop them from looking into him, Manfred reveals the location that Aubrey gave him. The cops are suspect of Manfred's tip but when they drag the lake and pull up the gun which killed Aubrey, they decide that he is now necessary to the investigation and cannot leave town.  Unfortunately, the retrieval of the gun leads to BoBo, Manfred's landlord, owner of the local antique/pawnshop, and Aubrey's ex boyfriend. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dragon Rose (Tales of the Latter Kingdoms #2) by Christine Pope

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Rhianne Menyon is just months away from her 20th birthday and as the eldest sister, she is due to marry. Rhianne however is far more interested in painting in her fathers pottery shop despite the fact that isn't suitable work for a woman than tying herself to a man.  

Marriage as it turns out is the least of Rhianne's worries. One night she dreams that the dragon who rules the castle high in the mountains has put out a banner signalling that it is now the duty of the town to provide him with a wife. Given that there will be 100 young women in the lottery, Rhianne believes that the odds of not being selected are in her favor. When Rhianne's engaged best friend is selected in the lottery, given her lack of prospects, Rhianne decides to take her friends place.  This could very well be a death sentence but the 1000 gold coins that will be paid to her family will keep them in comfort, even if it does land her in a cold grave.

I'm all for fairy tale re-tellings because the good ones are creative and add something new to a story that a reader is overly familiar with. As you may have guessed, Dragon Rose is a version of Beauty and the Beast.  Unfortunately however, Pope adds very little to the story to distinguish it from the original . There isn't a tea cup named chip or excessive singing but it's just as saccharine as the Disney version. The changes are so insignificant, it's enough to make me wonder why Pope bothered at all.  Obviously, Rhianne is now dealing with a dragon instead of a beast; however, this change adds nothing to the story and feels random for the sake of random.  

Theran (the dragon) acquired this condition because he told a young woman that he wasn't into her and she responded by taking her life.  What Theran didn't know is that the young woman's father was a mage. The mage decided to punish Theran by turning him into a dragon until he could find a woman who could see through the horror of his being to who he truly is.  What is the moral here? In the original, the Beast was turned into a beast because of his mean and horrible behaviour; it was a teaching lesson.  What exactly did Theran learn from being turned into a dragon for five hundred years? Theran's mistake was simply not being into someone, that's it.  

You would think that given the boring way in which Theran became a dragon that we would at least have an interesting reveal but you would be wrong.  Pope drops it all in the last few pages of the novel, once he is cured by seeing Rhianne's painting of his pre-cursed self. This is particularly irksome after Theran went on a big rant about how they aren't living in a fairytale and that Rhianne cannot simply change him back with a kiss.

The Strain, Season 4, Episode 2: The Blood Tax

This is another episode of catching up where everyone is. All the while Partnership propaganda plays about how wonderful the new world is. Desai, one of the men Eichorst recruited, is starring in them.

The theme of this episode is, I think, collaborators. Either active participants or people just trying to keep their head down and live and easy life. Abe even paraphrases the “triumph of evil line”: talking about how we assume progress is safe, lower our guard and don’t stop the evil creeping back in and dragging us back.

Dutch and Abraham were together, trading with Gus (Augustin) who is now running what looks like a Black market, allied with Creem (the pair have put aside their differences somewhat in the aftermath. And, as Abraham points out, all of the wealth he’d acquired meant anything in Strigoi controlled world).

In one of their trips they return to find their home being raided - and on fire. Fearful of the Lumen burning Dutch manages to grab it and hide it somewhere it won’t burn - but both she and Abe are captured and taken to a prison camp: where families are separated

To Abe, holocaust survivor, that’s a stark reminder and he has to resist, even if futilely. They’re separated and Dutch, along with other women with B+ blood is moved into a facility. At every stage we see human collaborators, from the guards at the camp, to the nurses at the facility

And it is a medical facility for B+ women - to artificially inseminate them and have them pop out babies. Women who prove to be infertile disappear (they’re told to a better place but everyone knows what a lie that is). Of course Dutch plots to escape - but is frustrated by some of the women in there just being happy to go along with things or at least endure them - because it is better in there than it is outside. Not wanting things to be worse breaks defiance and rebellion as so many people passively accept their circumstances.

We also have the secondary theme - resistance without thought is equally useless. A woman losing her temper and ranting at the nurses and guards doesn’t achieve anything and Dutch quickly defuses the situation because she’s just going to get herself killed.

It does draw her to the attention of Desai who runs the facility. He wants to recruit her - and he’s a mess of conflict. You can see his guilt, his desperate justifications for how he’s totally making things better by working in the system (oh how often have we heard that before?) and resisting the system is just selfish rather than working to make it better (ignoring the inherent corruption and predation of the system). Oh he carries so many awesome messages and cautionary tales in one rant. All the excuses colluders tell themselves are there. Dutch, naturally tells him where to go.

She has her own plot to escape which ends up going wrong because both the guy she’s blackmailing is cowardly and inept - and she changes her plans half way through to rescue someone else rather than herself

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 2: Stormborn

Time for the epic

Beginning with Dragonstone with everyone making the super dramatic speeches around Daenerys and planning her conquest of the world

First point which comes quickly from Tyrion and is picked up by Daenerys is that they don’t want to launch an all right assault, unleash the dragons and reduce everything to ashes. She actually wants to have a people to rule after this and not a whole load of more massacres.

Which brings us to what for me, was the most awesome part of the entire show: Varys and Daenerys. And I am waving the Varys flag here.

See there’s some unresolved issues between Daenerys and Varys. Varys served her father - and then betrayed him and served Robert Baratheon. And then was behind her marriage to Khal Drogo to try and set up Viserys as king (betraying Robert) and then tried to kill Daenerys at Robert’s command

They have history. While Tyrion repeatedly tries to speak in Varys’s defence, Daenerys points out that Varys has a major loyalty problem. What kind of servant is that?

“The kind of servant the kingdom needs. Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty”

And that’s just his opening line because Varys is on a role - yes he will betray the king because he is loyal to the people. And if you’re a cruel and terrible king (like her father) or an incompetent indifferent king (like Robert) then he will replace you for the sake of the people and the Realm. He’s not a noble or aristocrat, he grew up in the gutter and it is to the people he is loyal

You have Varys’s loyalty when you deserve it. And a knife in the back the second you don’t.

Daenerys seems to accept this - making him swear if he ever thinks she is not serving the people that he should say it to her face… but I notice she doesn’t promise to take note and she does promise to burn him alive if he betrays her.

Still team Varys. Hail Varys.

We also get the return of the Red Priestess Melisandre, still spouting prophecy but not aas confidently as before. She advises a big pinch of salt after her debacle of Stannis (though while Varys tries to rub her nose in it Daenerys notes that she’s decided to “pardon those who serve the wrong king” with extra royal side eye. Royal side eye is an important skill for any monarch)

Her prophecy is about a promised ruler (since the noun is non gendered in Valaryian) who will “bring the dawn” and also links her (and her dragons and dragon glass) with Jon Snow. I wonder how.

She decides to send a letter after Tyrion also speaks up for Jon (and wants to be best man). She also demands he bend the knee.

No not like that.

She gathers her advisors - all of them. This includes Yara from the Iron Isles, Ellaria from Dorne and her supreme awesomeness, Olenna from Highgarden. There is much snarking (Olenna is in the room) but ultimately everyone is impressed with her plan: the Tyrells and Dornish siege Kings Landing therefore dispelling the idea that scary, dark-skinned, savage foreign types are invading, with Yara using her ships to transport the Dornish. While Grey Worm takes the Unsullied and brings down Castlery Rock, smashing the Lannister’s power. It’s extra powerful that Tyrion describes this plan helping to assuage any doubts people may have about his loyalty (though he and Ellaria have issues over Mycella’s death)

It’s a good plan and gets lots of approval - though Olenna does hang back to add her own advice: people are stupid, she’s outlived all the smart men, and aristocrat or commoner, they need to fear her, she needs to be the dragon. I don’t know how much of this is wisdom and how much of this is bitterness because Margaery did play the game of being the most popular monarch around - and still died.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bleeders (Daemons of London #1) by Michaela Haze

Sophia was a barmaid in London. She had a life, friends, a job, a family

And then her sister died. Sophia fell into a deep, dark depression to which she is sure only vengeance against her sister’s murderers can possibly release her.

The hitman she reaches out to is a daemon - and though he is able and willing to do what she asks, in doing so she risks dragging herself, mind and soul, even further into the darkness

This book is a somewhat hard one to review - which is appropriate because it is a hard book to read.

The book is… powerful. Powerful is a good word: because it’s not fun. It’s not an easy story to read. It isn’t packed with action or even, for that much of plot or world building. Both are certainly there and create the setting and background for Sophia, but this book is about Sophia and her journey

Sophia does not lead an easy life. She suffers from extreme mental illness - depression, schizophrenia. She is pulled down by alcoholism. Most of this is triggered by the tragic death of her pregnant sister and her inability to get over this as well as her rage at the men she considers responsible for this. Sophia is a deeply damaged and hurting person and a lot of the book examines this. Her struggle with her mother, her struggle with mental illness, her alcoholism, self-harming, pushing friends away who care for her, her house denuded of all furniture for fear of invoking her sister’s memory while still maintaining a shrine to her sister.

The book is told from two different time periods - the present when Sophia is confined to a mental institution, suffering from some severe hallucinations and recounting her past while plagued by delusions and hallucinations. The other is the actual past she’s describing, drowning in depression and pain. Both are stark, brutal and very powerful

This continues when she find Henry and she starts to move out of her pain - and I admit I have a big note here screaming “gah, magical healing penis!” because she seems to be getting over her issues quickly. I then crossed it out - partly because of the woo-woo, but mainly because this is the next stage of her rollercoaster ride: obsession with him, abandonment, another addiction and hitting a whole new low of rock bottom as she transmutes her issues from one to another which does an excellent job of subverting the idea of romance healing all mental health issues

I also really like how even the base of her tragedy - her sister’s death and even her mother’s callousness are all just a bit more complex than she initially presents in her complete obsession. I like that, I like that things aren’t as simple as her angry, hurting mind portrays and that there are layers to her experiences which go beyond simplistic villains who hurt her.