Book Review: Hunted by the Others

Last week as I was walking into work with a book under my arm, a client stopped me and asked me, all excitedly, if it was a Harry Potter book. I stopped and held it up so he could see it, “No, it’s another YA fiction series. But often scifi/ fantasy series use the same font and similar cover art, so it can be confusing!” In fact, font often plays a big part in why I will pick up a new series as I’ve come to recognize certain ones that invoke memories of other series that I love. Font is one of the reasons I picked up Hunted by the Others, by Jess Haines, when I was at the library the other week.

hunted by the others

 

Summary from Amazon

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm – if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires. As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend – a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing – and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil – whether she likes it or not…

Shiarra is an interesting urban fantasy heroine. Her parents and brothers are still around and supportive, she works with her best friend doing what they both love, and money problems are her biggest concern. Often urban fantasy heroines come from broken homes, bad backgrounds, and find their only support network is the vampires and werewolves in their lives. But not Shia, and I think that is what makes this series interesting. Yes, she has more to loose, and that can be played against her, but she also has a reason to live and to find a way around the maneuverings of the mages and vampires. However, one of Shia’s flaws is her bigoted thinking of Others, influenced by her family’s phobia, so having a strong family network does not always help. While she does learn to set aside some of her prejudices as the book develops, the process was a bit clunky. While I’m all for the badass huntress thing, Shia’s is more window dressing than anything real substantial as she grapples with her new place in the world. But, seeing as this is the first book in the series, I will give some latitude to her learning curve and save final judgment on her character for a couple more books. 

I quite enjoyed the cast of characters in this book from the sexy vampire to the geeky mage. Some of their characteristics were predictable, especially Alex the mysterious and overbearing vampire and Chaz, the ex-boyfriend, with a puppy-dog like desire to follow her around. But despite the sexy vampire being a dark brooding vampire and the hot werewolf being all hairy and manly, nerdy Arnold the mage is my favorite secondary character. He is intelligent, sneaky, and willing to help when it suits his purpose. While he has ulterior motives up the wazoo, none of them include sleeping with Shia which was refreshing. I mean the whole triangle thing is obviously going on with the werewolf and vampire, but if the mage was after her too, I was going to be a bit – le sigh all the boys want Shiarra. I found Shia’s partner and best friend, Sara, interesting and the brief look into her unusual past only whetted my appetite to learn more. I’ll admit by nerdy and law interests bias me in favor of these characters, because I like how they think and act. I especially like that though nerdy, Arnold gets into the thick of things. Sara wants to use her brain for good and struggles with moral gray areas. What? A lawyer portrayed with ethics? Yes, and thank you. 

Speaking of lawyers.. after the reveal of the Others in the wake of 9/11, legislature became very important to try and stop the Others from committing atrocities toward the poor humans (no wonder Shia has some biases). One way is through the requirement of a Contract between the Other and the Human stating that the Human has willingly given over to the Other and that if the Human is killed, the Other is not legally responsibly. This plays into Shia’s first case with Alec because he insists she sign a Contract with him. How she handles this is the most surprising part of the book, and one of the reasons I kept reading the book and want to continue with the series.

While this series is not as dark as some of the other urban fantasy I’ve ready, as it does have its lighter moments, it was not a light-hearted romp, by any means. If you like police procedural urban fantasy with a dose of chuckles check out Hunted by the Others

Read a review by Love Vampires, The Happy Logofile, and check out the author’s site for a list of more reviews and the other books in the series. 

Television Review: Witches of East End

After the bar I needed something to help me decompress from an extremely stressful summer and keep me occupied as I made boutonnieres, glued burlap and lace to jars, and created bridesmaids bouquets for my upcoming nuptials. Netflix kept recommending I watch Witches of East End and sometimes Netflix is right, so I decided to give it a chance and I’m really glad I did. 

witches of east end

Julie Ormond (First Knight, Legends of the Fall, and Sabrina) stars in this show as a powerful witch who is keeping a secret from her two daughters, that they too are witches. Joanna has many secrets from her grown daughters, Freya and Ingrid. But when the girls start exhibiting powers, she can no longer act dismissively and must begin to reveal to them their heritage. Then her sister shows up at her doorstep as a cat, and Joanna’s life becomes even more complicated. 

I really enjoy this series. I think it is an incredible cast of characters and as the season goes on they become more of an ensemble cast than it just being about Joanna. Plus, the series pulls in some serious acting power! Each of the girls characters takes shape and they each have their own story lines that are interwoven with the family and magic. Ingrid is a librarian and her geeky side really helps her understand the Latin spells, plus the library she works in is just amazingly beautiful! Freya is  a free spirited bartender who is engaged to one man, but starts to fall in love with his brother who shows up in her premonitions. Everything gets wonderfully complicated in a this-would-never-happen-in-real-life-i-hope kind of way. And Joanna’s sister, Wendy, sticks around for the season and her character beautifully complements Joanna’s. Where one has a weakness the other has a strength. They don’t just blindly follow each other, but discuss and disagree with respect. Most of the time. 

Witches of East End reminds me of Charmed in that it is a female ensemble cast with their own problems that comes together and help each other out. Often women on television are shown as katty and unhelpful toward each other, so it is quite refreshing to see a cast of women actively and sincerely involved in each others lives. However, unlike Charmed, this show is less campy and more on the dark side. For example, Ingrid brings someone back to life and there are some really serious consequences I thought the show would gloss over, but did not. Some of the choices the women must make are heartbreaking. 

If you like magic, ensemble shows, and empowering female characters who are multidimensional with their own vices and problems, check out Witches of East End. 

Webseries Review: Kissing in the Rain

Earlier this week I reviewed a webseries about Poe writing The Raven called A Tell Tale Vlog and if you haven’t checked out either my review or the webseries you should do both. Right now.

Go. Do it.

The creators and producers of A Tell Tale Vlog have a few other webseries under their YouTube channel Shipwrecked Comedy, including two season of Kissing in the Rain. Each episode is about two minutes long. The first season is seven episodes long and the second season five.

Kissing in the Rain is the story of two actors who continuously end up starring opposite each other in different movies based on literary characters. Each movie has a scene where the actors find themselves kissing in the rain. But in spite of the onscreen chemistry the actors relationships with each other are awkward, tempestuous, and sometimes silent. Little bits of real life leak out after the director calls cut.

This series is absolutely adorbs. I mean ridiculously adorable. Sean Persaud plays romantic lead after romantic lead as a romantic lead. It’s a bit mind bendy, but in a fun way. Mary Kate Wiles plays opposite him and she has honed her craft as an actor, some of the best webseries acting I have seen. Plus, she’s so purty. Their little story has its own arc over the seven episodes, which I absolutely devoured, and their chemistry as they play actors playing parts is equally as strong as the chemistry between their characters.

It was with some trepidation that I began the second season, which stars Sinead Persaud and Sairus Graham, because I didn’t think there could be as cute of a couple as Sean and Mary Kate. However, while not quite hitting the adorbs spectrum in the same manner as the first season, Sinead and Sairus have their own chemistry as they play period scenes with each other. I like how in the second season the producers started saying which characters the actors were playing, because, while I got a few from the first season, I’m sure I missed some of the comedy from not knowing exactly who they were supposed to be.

Another interesting concept that the creators of Kissing in the Rain added to their webseries were the first seasons episodes Companion Canon Drabble written by Yulin Kuang and the Follow the Kissing in the Rain Fan Canon Experiment via tumblr. Basically:

Anything reblogged to the main Shipwrecked Comedy tumblr following the release of Episode 1 will become canonical. That means fanfiction, fanmixes, one-line headcanon, fanart of imagined scenes, and anything else our Shipsters can think of.

The goal of this experiment was to involve the audience by using Tumblr to “create a curated, community-written canonical companion work” to the first season of Kissing in the Rain. I have not delved into the Tumblr experiment, but I did reach each Companion Canon Drabble by Yuliln Kuang. While each episodes stands on its own and each season has its own tale, the writings of Yuliln do add to the experience and I recommend taking the time to read them.

Kissing in the Rain plays out literary characters literally kissing in the rain, tells its own tale of two awkward actors, and made me laugh more than once and squeal a time or two as well. If you like period pieces, awkwardly romantic moments, or watching people make out, check out the webseries Kissing in the Rain.

Webseries Review: A Tell Tale Vlog

I was contacted a while ago (::coughlasthalloweencough::), by Yulin Kuang to view the YouTube channel Shipwrecked Comedy. Created by Yulin Kuang, Sinead Persaud, & Sean Persaud, Shipwrecked is a sketch comedy channel that is “[h]ere to fulfill all your historical literary comedy webseries needs.” One of the series on Shipwrecked is, A Tell Tale Vlog, the vlog of Edgar Allan Poe with commentary by Lenore, the beleaguered spirit.

Summary:

 “You’re not the only ghost in town.” Edgar Allan Poe attempts to record a writing vlog while the lady ghost Lenore haunts his study.

A new mini-webseries by Shipwrecked, loosely adapted from “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Each of the 8 episodes of A Tell Tale Vlog is about two minutes long and follows the awkward ramblings of Poe, played by Sean, and his “Poe-em,” The Raven. Poe’s fake mustache is to die for. If you need a little giggle, watch the first episode below and check it out! Lenore, played by Sinead, pops up several times per episode with her own sighings about life as a ghost. My favorite lines from her are “Such a ghost whore,” and “Next time you see me, I might not be here.”

This channel is full of comedy gold. I laughed every episode, some of them several times. I enjoyed how the series uses technology to add to the story rather than interfere with it. Poe’s written pleas that pop up on his videos are quite amusing and I thought a genius way to give him dialogue without making the sketches longer. For example, as he is signing off of one episode more of his thoughts pop up on the screen, “Lend me your thoughts on my new poem ‘The Raven’ in the comments below.” A beat and then, “If you don’t like it, I can write you another.”

This is one of the best webseries I’ve seen in a while, and each sketch well written. The acting is excellent, the sound engineering great, and the wit of the writers will make you laugh.

Webseries Review: The Court Supreme

I was contacted by, Arik Sternberg, the writer and produce of The Court Supreme who thought I might be interested in viewing it and sharing it with you all. I was not compensated for this review. He told me:

 It’s a surreal legal comedy about the highest Court of Law in the Universe, where pop-culture characters and comic book stereotypes are put on trial.

Pilot Episode: Blood-Knight vs The Blade of Doom

Summary from The Court Supreme

When a BLOOD-KNIGHT from the proud Berserker clan wants to start a new life and leave all the blood and gore behind, he finds out that the cursed blade that served him dutifully during his many battles, is not willing to let him go so easily, especially not when she finds out that she is going to be replaced by a woman.

 

Left with no other choice, the BLOOD-KNIGHT calls upon the eternal justice of THE COURT SUPREME to release him from his Curse and/or Contract.

While obviously a pilot webisode, there are a few excellent moments in the Blood-Knight vs The Blade of Doom. The concept of stereotypical comic book characters on trial or in front of a judge was quite intriguing to me. I like watching people verbally spar, and enjoy doing it myself, to the chagrin of my friends. There is no actual fighting, but I was prepared for it, and since I went in with only an expectation of verbal debate, wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the website explains the webseries is for a specific audience.

So if you read too many books, love language and its rhetorical pitfalls, are fascinated by legal maneuvers, enjoy cultural stereotypes & archetypes, and don’t mind getting into a good argument from time to time – then this web series is for you. 

I liked the question of standing and mootness, though not called by those in the webisode. Basically the lawyers argue whether the Berserker can even bring a case if there is no one to bring the case against. Once that is hammered out, the next question is what is the cause of action, and here the episode took a twist that actually surprised me, The Blood Knight wishes to divorce his Lady Blade of Doom, because he cannot claim it is a defective product, rather that his his contract with the blade is more akin to an accidental marriage. I admit this tickled my fancy and I chuckled a time or two. 

But, I do have a few objections. I have some legal objections, claiming to be a court of equality the judge wants to split everything in half, whereas, here in the states many courts look more at an equitable division in divorces or under the public policy of what is just and right for any particular divorce. This is because the courts have figured out that often one spouse will stay home and not make a lot of money while supporting the other person, loosing job and business opportunities and so an equitably division is often more favorable than an equal fifty/fifty split. But perhaps I dig too deep legally in a comic book setting and perhaps the courts in Canada, where this series is based, have a different public policy around divorce which fed into this universes policies around divorce.

Also, I would have had several objections to lines of questioning in terms of relevance, but there were no objections entered into between the two arguers. I found that surprising, but perhaps this court does not allow objections or such objections are entered into later in the series. 

My other major objection is the sound quality. Understandably, a self financed and produced series isn’t going to have access to amazing sets or cinematography, but using what appears to be a big theater was perhaps not the best choice for picking up sound without echoing. Because the whole episode is just people talking, the quality of sound was a tad of an issue. Not horrible, but not the greatest. 

I did like the ending and the sentencing was not what I expected, and that was a pleasant surprise. The acting was decent and believable as people who like to argue some rather strange cases. The episodes do run a tad longer than some webseries, the first episode was over 15 minutes long. I liked that there was depth to the arguing, but it could have been tightened up a bit as well. 

 I enjoyed the first episode enough to start the second and may see myself finishing the other three as well. This series is exactly what it advertises, interesting rhetoric about comic book stereotypical characters and the problems they face, in the court room.

Television Review: Bitten

After catching up on some of my Netflix series I decided to check out Bitten as it keeps popping up on Netflix as something I might like. But Netflix can be wrong and so I was a bit wary when I started the series. I’ve watched three episodes, my usual requirement to adequately determine if I do or do not like a show (versus whether or not I like the pilot). My initial reaction, as brought on by the very first scene and many thereafter is: That’s a lotta nekked. And the boys are not afraid to show their butts. (Their very nice nekked butts.)

bitten-castWhile not as gory as True Blood’s vampire and werewolf series, nor as sexually explicit, Bitten definitely dances on the edges of overly sexualized characters as substitute for plot. However, as the series progresses and the characters become a bit more fleshed out (or clothed out?) it gets more and more interesting. 

SyFy’s Summary

Based on the Women of the Otherworld novels by #1 NY Times best-selling author Kelley Armstrong, Bitten is an emotionally charged supernatural thriller starring Laura Vandervoort (Smallville, Ted) as Elena Michaels, the lone female werewolf in existence. Desperate to escape both a world she never wanted to be part of and the man who turned her into a werewolf, Elena has abandoned her pack and taken refuge in a new city. There, she works as a photographer and hides her werewolf existence from her new boyfriend. When bodies start turning up in her pack’s backyard, Elena finds herself back at Stonehaven, the werewolves’ ancestral domain. Torn between two worlds and two loves, she quickly realizes that – when push comes to shove – she’ll stop at nothing to defend her pack.

Laura Vandervoot plays her character smart and grounded, and she is what saves this show from being overly campy. Thought I admit to laughing at the show on a number of times in the pilot especially. I really like Elena’s relationship with her boyfriend Phillips. They seem to trust and take of one another on a day to day capacity that isn’t just about danger saving, and Phillip genuinely cares about her for her whole well being not just her sexy side. I hope they last, but I’ve a feeling it might not. Especially with Elena’s incredibly sexy (and hairy) ex-boyfriend back in the picture. 

The human’s change into wolf is painful for them, and painful for the viewer to watch. The graphics are just not that great. All of the wolves are glaringly CGI. But when there is no CGI to mess it up, the cinematography is excellent, with the use of light and shadows to aid in the story telling. The mythology is a bit vague and not as well narrated as it could have been done. Also, I like all the different characters and how the “cousins” interact with one another. Just like any dysfunctional family.

But I do like seeing a female lead in a werewolf show and I’m willing to continue to give the show a chance. Seeing as there are now two seasons, other people must have agreed with my assessment. I definitely see potential for the cast to grow and for the story about the “Mutt” to unfold over the series. It also makes me want to see if I can find the books, usually characters are better developed on the pages of a book, though not always. Poignant at times, a little cheesy in others, Bitten is a decent supernatural series with potential for stronger plot and deeper character development. 

Also, nice butts on both genders. 

Read another review here