Saturday, August 11, 2018

Immortally Yours (Argeneau #26) by Lynsay Sands

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Beth has had a thing for Scotty, the Scottish laird for as long as she's been an immortal but unfortunately, Scotty has proven time and time again that he's far from Beth's number one fan. With most of the North American hunters in Venezuela, Scotty shows up in Toronto to lend a hand to the North American hunters. Beth's libido might be happy to see Scotty again but she's not exactly pleased to be working with a man who thinks so little of her.  Scotty and Beth become intertwined when they are forced to travel to B.C. to deal with the daughter of the head of the Russian Council, exposing Beth to a second attempt on her life. Knowing someone is trying to kill you is a tough thing to deal with but Beth is actually more uncertain about the fact that Scotty seems to have changed his mind about how he feels about her. 

This is the twenty-sixth novel in the series and so by now, it's pretty formulaic. Unlike the previous books, Sands doesn't try to add anything new to the world.  Immortally Yours, is entirely predictable with no real twists and turns. Sure, Sands tried to turn the identity of the person trying to kill Beth into a mystery but a two year old could have figured out who the antagonist is from the very beginning. Because the mystery is so uninteresting, the only real thing to draw the reader is the relationship between Beth and Scotty.

As a female protagonist, I like Beth very much which is not something I often have to say about Sands's female characters. Beth is very strong, independent, smart and most importantly, she's a survivor, who has no interest in being saved or having her past erased. Beth has completely accepted who she is and the path that led to her current identity. Beth was sold into prostitution by her father, had her virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder and was beaten regularly until an immortal intervened in her life. For most of Beth's life she worked as a prostitute, determined to be self reliant until the end.  I absolutely love that she pushed back against the shame society and even Scotty tried to make her feel. 

This review wouldn't be complete if I didn't take the time to talk about Sands's treatment of sex workers in this novel. Sands floated back and forth between the socially constructed hooker with a heart of goal, and the money grasping evil whore.  It would not be understating it to say that Sands's treatment of sex workers is absolutely toxic and misogynistic. Scotty spends much of the book disparaging Beth because of her past as a sex worker.
Now that he was being forced to confront his feelings on the subject, he admitted that before meeting Beth he'd always thought prostitution to be the lowest of trades. He'd been raised to believe prostitutes were shameless, deceitful whores who cared only about coin... and he couldn't bear knowing that Beth had once been one. (pg. 200)
Odilia, in part based her hatred of Beth on the fact that Beth was once a sex worker.
"You are a prostitute! A whore! You probably spread your legs for half of London back in the day, and half of Toronto since you got here. He will believe it, and he will see how cheap a slag you are and how unworthy you are of him and the love he proclaimed for you. (pg339)
Even characters like Magnus are more than happy to make excuses for Scotty's slut shaming by suggesting, "We come from an earlier era, one that forged our morals and opinions. We were taught prostitution was an abomination to our Lord God. Of course you would struggle with it." Even when Scotty does do a turn around, it's only because Beth has redeemed herself in his eyes with her willingness to care and sacrifice herself for others. It was further cemented by him realising that Beth chose to continue her profession because she didn't see that she had any other options. By telling her story, Scotty came to realise that not all women prostitute themselves because "it was easy coin, or because she enjoyed the power of controlling men with her body." 

To make matters worse, we learn that Scotty's disdain for sex workers is because of his hatred of his cruel mother. 
"And then there was me mother. She was a whore. No' professionally. At least, she did no' have a pimp or live in a brothel. However, she traded sexual favors for -" he shrugged helplessly, his chest moving under her -"basically for whatever she wanted. She slept with the king to gain favor for her father, and boost his - and by extension her- position at court. She slept with high ranking officials, lairds ... basically anyone who could do something for her that she wanted. And then she slept with me father."
Through Scotty's description of his mother, we learn that he saw her as a conniving social climber. This description is heartlessly cruel when put into social context.  Men held all the power during that time and the only influence women often managed to gain was through using sex expertly or manipulating social associations to their best advantage. Scotty didn't bother to interrogate the world which gave women few choices but instead shamed women for utilizing the only path to power they had.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Requiem: The Originals

After five seasons The Originals has finally come to a close; after coming back from he dead over and over again this show has finally died for the new season of Legacies to drag itself from the ashes.

The Originals was one of those shows that actually managed to pull off a spin off - it made it work and managed to create a unique entity that both had all of the connections it needed to the Vampire Diaries while still being its own unique creation. And that kept going for five seasons

Whether or not that was a good thing is… debatable.

The Good

The acting. There has always been some top notch acting on this show. Even with these often terrible storylines, even having to force all of these endless angst and drama scenes over and over and over. They were not given a lot to work with but damn they worked it well.

I also think the underlying world setting of this series is good. The Original Vampires, the different kinds of witches, the werewolves and their curse - at its core it was a fascinating world setting I would love to explore. It actually makes me a little angry that the writers cared so little about continuity that they ruined this one element I liked

The Bad

When The Originals first spun off from the Vampire Diaries the writers had two major problems. Firstly, The Originals were the worst. Oh Rebekkah and Elijah had been shown with some redeeming features - but Klaus and Kol were definitely irredeemably awful. It was hard to think of how these characters could be sympathetic protagonists unless you’re going to outright run with “audiences will tolerate any evil so long as the guy is hot.” While this is true, it’s unusual to outright openly rely on that

The second, and bane of any writer, is that they are ridiculously powerful. For much of Vampire Diaries they were figures of almost legend. The founding vampires, the first, hundreds of years old and more powerful than anything in the world. Which works for a mighty antagonist your cast is afraid of - but as a protagonist?

This scenes encapsulates the problem:

Each Original is quite capable of massacring entire armies - and we KNOW they have no moral qualms about killing since pretty much all of them has slaughtered people on occasion. One alone is pretty unbeatable - get any number of them actually working in tandem and the writers are faced with trying to think of a convoluted reason WHY Klaus/Elijah/Kol/Rebekkah don’t just unleash a massacre. Several seasons of Marcel challenging Klaus? Massacre. Nazi vampires? Massacre. Angry witches? Massacre. The Stricts? Massacre. The return of Lucien and their oldest children? Massacre. Angry werewolf pack? Massacre. Massacre, massacre, massacre.

This led to the writers either continuing and exacerbating The Vampire Diaries habit of changing the various powers and abilities of the creatures based on what is narratively necessary with mighty Original vampires either massacring armies or being brought down with a convenient magical item or not that impressive witch in between

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shadowmancer (The Circle #1) by Lee Isserow

Jules is a powerful magician… but has spent much of his life avoiding the greater magical community living as normal a life he can with his husband and child

His magical skills are rare - and when a new supernatural threat those are in demand. The Circle needs his magic and his help - the world needs it. But Jules’s grandmother warned him about the Circle and how it was falling to selfish corruption… can Jules work with them even for the sake of humanity?

This book had a really excellent foundation, especially with some really good characters and world. We have Jules, a Black gay man with a strong grounding in social justice and considerable suspicion of authority. At this point it would be easy to create a shell character who exists more as a PSA than a character - but he isn’t; his opinions and vehement beliefs are worked well into the character and his story. We also have some really neatly incorporated world building through children’s stories which does an excellent job of introducing the world, his family - both his son and his infamous grandmother - and giving us some insight into magic. It was really neatly done and is an excellent example of how good the writing is

The actions scenes are fun and excellently written, well paced and nicely knife edged and in even the brief time we have we do get surprisingly amounts of information about the characters. Again with brief words we get a better shape of the world, the circle and the how magic works.

Unfortunately in addition to all that it was also… really short? And kind of undeveloped because of it. Like I love that Jules is gay and has a relationship with Akif and a son. But Akif is a name, I think he has three lines in the whole book. Yes there wasn’t a lot of chance to showcase this relationship but that, again, is part of how short this book was. The actual chance to develop Jules, Akif, his relationship, his history, who he is, who they are are all somewhat missing. We get Jules’s history with his grandmother and a brief reference as to why they’re in London but then we kind of hit the ground running, Akif is forgotten which is a shame because it clearly should be a major part of Jule’s life. It would have been nice to build more of a base line for Jules and Akif et al before the plot got moving, maybe introduced his powers, some concepts of magic etc. Because the author already did a really good job with the stories he tells his child (giving us some magical world building) which makes me think the that more world building would be really well done

Albeit there’s just a little side line of gross-out and obsession with orifices in the magic world we could probably do without.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Preacher, season 3, Episode 7: Hitler

This episode is called “Hitler”

It also begins with Hitler working in a sandwich shop and planning a fourth Reich which is supposed to be funny

This is not and will never be funny.

Thankfully the Saint of Killers arrives to drag him back to hell before I have to endure more of this so we can get to other plot lines

At Angelville we have a brief funeral for the criminally underused Sabina before the Grail finally responds to their call. Starr and Featherstone arrive.

Starr is willing to offer Marie lots of shinies if she will lend them her grandson for a little while. Marie is not here for this patronising nonsense and makes it clear by pissing on his shoes. She wants souls. She wants lots of souls

Hey, remember that Japanese soul stealing operation? Turns out the Grail owns it. They can get her millions of souls (I can’t help but think this is a bad idea). Why it’ll be easy!

Turns out this is a huge lie. Sure The GRAIL owns it but there’s no way Starr can requisition a lot of souls without drawing the attention of the All Father. So instead they have to raid it and steal some souls.

Starr insists on sending Featherstone (who has a ridiculously over-complicated cover story and a limp obsession) and Tulip (expert thief who always uses the same cover story which is basically a name). Tulip and Featherstone loathe each other and it’s more than a little hilarious

My money’s on Tulip. Though Tulip is fighting her own desperate inferiority complex and her belief in the O’Hare screw up curse. I don’t think Jesse’s speech, nice as it was, really reassures her.

Of course it means we get a 16 hour flight with Tulip vs Featherstone and the standard frustrations of air travel. The world may end, burned to ash by Tulip’s rage. Before she leaves, Tulip kisses Jesse goodbye. Featherstone clearly angles for the same from Starr… nope, not happening. Also Starr ignoring TC is just so perfect because of how little Starr doesn’t give a shit

We also see part of Marie’s twisted relationship with Jesse, alternating between threatening to kill him brutally - as she did with his mother - but also being genuinely and deeply upset by the idea that he is leaving her, her precious grandson is leaving her and she’s super upset by that. She asks him to come back and he promises he will - but it sounds ominous and a threat

Jesse doesn’t trust Starr, especially with his most recent rounds of lies he just told Marie which Starr dismisses as “industry standard”. He is very very suspicious though Starr has his own wariness. He is, after all, going to give Jesse Genesis which will give him super powers (especially since Jesse is still clearly reluctant to be the Messiah) He asks Jesse to promise not to use Genesis to betray him…  which Jesse does

Oh, there’s a snag. Because before Jesse becomes messiah he has to kill the Allfather - just as he points a gun at Jesse’s head and informs the Allfather that he has brought him Jesse Custer as instructed. This is going to be messy.

Over to Cassidy

Cassidy is with Les Enfants du Sang and looking shockingly hot in a vest. My he seems to grow hotter every season.

He is having fun talking about drugs and making an excellent job telling everyone how nostalgia is terrible and things are generally better today than they were before. Which is excellent - and I love that a being who is essentially immortal is, in his own broken way, shooting down the idea of a past golden age we hear so often

He is finding his place with them but is still not all in on the vampire cult thing: and openly mocking (but nicely) Eccarius sleeping in a coffin (and getting a coffin for Cassidy). There’s going to be another blood ritual turning another human into a vampire; Lisa. And Eccarius wants Cass to do it

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Wynonna Earp, Season 3, Episode 3: Cold Weather

Dolls died this episode and one thing the show is making a major point of this episode is emphasising just how much he meant and how devastating this was. Which, as we’vesaid before, is very very important when actually valuing the death of acharacter, especially a marginalised character. Even the theme tune was changed to make it sadder. I approve.

Though I’m still not happy with him being dead at all

So Wynonna is raging and drunk and drunk and raging and everyone’s kind of trying to manage her, give her time and space and generally hope she doesn’t explode or commit suicide by Revenant or do something else equally unwise.

We also have a really awesome moment with Doc and Wynonna which is full of grief and Doc’s voice cracking just perfectly with unshed tears and I applaud. I applaud.

That leaves Waverley and Nicole to be both awesome together (as always) and make practical arrangements. Like the funeral (and poking the funeral director who asks after their husbands and, yes, that’s EXACTLY what i would have done) and learning that a) Nicole wants to have a sky funeral and be eaten by vultures. She also learns that there’s no plot for her in the family graveyard which obviously gets Waverley’s feels all up there

They also do practical things like check out Doll’s hotel room for appropriate funeral clothing for personal effects etc - in which Waverley finds a letter from Dolls to Wynonna and Nicole talks about her own connection with Dolls. How she was a survivor of the cult of Bulshar as a child, a massacre Black Badge covered up and she only recently remembered though she had traumatic memories all her life and nightmares. Dolls was helping her with that and I like this in that it’s building the idea that Dolls had other relationships.

Doc is visiting Kate - yes the vampire. She’s still around, playing with tarot cards and getting under Doc’s skin and mentioning their big big history. Which is complex. Kate makes things further complex by stealing Waverley’s bag - with the letter to Wynonna in it which, of course, causes ISSUES., (Though Nicole and Waverley agree on their hotness)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Killjoys, Season 4, Episode 3: Bro-d Trip

Hullen Johnny continues to cause shenanigans. He and D’avin have abandoned Delle Saya and are going on a road trip with him being the most annoying little brother there has ever been. The plan is to find some green goo so Johnny can use his newly minted Hullen-ness to contact Dutch and save them all.

Of course as they go, D’avin becomes increasingly disturbed by Johnny’s Hullen skills (especially since he accuses Johnny of liking his new super powers just a bit too much) and powerful Hullen mood swings. Even those may not be what it seems - because Johnny is definitely losing himself to his Hullenness, the occasional Dutch hallucination is all that’s left of Vintage Johnny and he definitely has his own nefarious end game.

Johnny does ask D’avin to kill him if he goes full Hullen but that may be manipulation as well - especially when they get physical several times and Johnny definitely has the edge over his brother.

Plans are somewhat scuppered by Warden Juno managing to send some troops after them, requiring Johnny to use Hullen skills to rig a bomb to kill them - using his Hullen healing skills to take the blast and protect D’avin… and D’avin takes the opportunity to chain Johnny up. Johnny tries to push all of D’avin’s emotional vulnerable spots (making the point on how emotion is a weakness) but D’avin won’t bend, especially since he can see Johnny talking to his hallucinations

It isn’t enough though - when Johnny finds the green pool of Hullen goo he turns on D’avin and even though D’avin is pointing a gun at his brother Johnny wins, breaks his chains and shoots D’avin.

Who is thankfully wearing body armour and they fight - him trying to reach Vintage Johnny, resorting to using his anti-goo powers and still losing and getting strangled. Until Dutch rises from the goo pool and shoots Johnny

The pool crystalises - which is new - and Dutch collapses.

Back at the prison we have Supreme Queen Before Whom Everyone Should Worship Delle Sayah facing off against Juno the warden. Bea advises her not to mess with him to which Delle Sayah says:

No honey, I never want to mess with men like this, but if you don’t they’ll never leave you alone.

As Juno establishes his authority Bea begs Delle Sayah to keep her head down

“Keeping my head down isn’t my thing, it messes with the crown.”

So she waves her authority as being head of the Nine but Warden Juno isn’t into that, doesn’t care and intends to sell her baby (after turning off the cameras - apparently selling organs for the company is ok. Selling babies for his own profit is not). He quips about her delicate condition to which Delle Sayah slams several people into hard surfaces and takes several drugged darts before finally going down

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Originals, Season 5, Episode 13: When the Saints Go Marching In

This is the finale episode of The Originals - the last episode of the last season so it is definitely the goodbye episode. And to me it’s something of a comment on what this show could have been but sadly wasn’t - but more of that in the conclusion

Klaus was about to be stakes last week - until Hope intervenes while Elijah is distracting him. Kalus is unconscious but he’s still filled with lots of dark magic driving him to do terrible things. Since he’s so powerful this basically means he’s going to go dangerously mad straight away and start killing people: already he hallucinates Mikael telling him to kill people and Cami telling him not to

This is the last episode, a lot of old actors are going to be making come backs.

I thought this was going to be another episode of Klaus doing terrible things which wouldn’t be his fault but thankfully they managed to bring him down and subdue him and Freya even manages to find a spell to temporarily transfer to the darkness (surprising no-one, Elijah the perpetual martyr, steps up) so we can focus on the real point of this episode: goodbyes

And they are beautiful. We have Elijah and Klaus discussing that Elijah is the biggest marty of them all and he should be the one to die. Klaus talks about being a father and how much it means to him and how Elijah doesn’t understand - but Elijah does since he’s been Klaus’s father figure and awwwww.

Kol speaks for all sensible people when he says “Klaus will always survive” and also that Klaus is the worst so why do they care. Unfortunately for Kol, he’s the only sensible person around and Rebekkah is there to shame him, criticise him and eventually stand in front of his car to to prevent him leaving (she’s immortal Kol, keep driving… though she did threaten to crush his car and she probably could). Kol lashes out at Rebekkah constantly getting in the way of her own happiness but he eventually joins them for the big goodbye

Caroline drops in for her goodbyes and to convince Klaus she needs to say goodbye to Hope in order for her to have closure and not be haunted by him. It’s nice and ends with a kiss which would be much more pleasant if it weren’t for their horrendous abusive history.

Klaus and Hope have a moment, of course, which is full of emotion and goodbyes after Hope first thought he was going to die without seeing her (his initial plan). And it’s all shiny and sweet. He talks about finally being able to have an honourable death after an awful life - because of her

This culminates in an awesome dinner with the extended Mikkaelson family together for a funeral dinner which sounds super depressing but they all have fun and it’s so nice to see them all together without trying to murder each other.