Book Review: Undone by Rachel Caine

Two years ago I discovered Rachel Caine who wrote the Weather Warden series about a universe where Djinn and humans with supernatural abilities, called Weather Wardens, fight each other over power. The Djinn were enslaved by the Wardens because the Djinn enhance the abilities of the Wardens. I read several books in that series and reviewed the first of them, Ill Wind. You can read the review here. You can read more about the Weather Warden novels on Caine’s website.

Recently, I discovered another series based on the same universe with some cross-over characters by Caine. The Outcast Season novels revolve around an outcast Djinn, Cassiel. In Undone, Cassiel is sent to earth to live among the very humans she despises so much after being cast down by her ruler, Ashan. From demigod to mortal human flesh, Cassiel has to learn how to live with her human body, emotions, and limitations while being hunted by an unseen force. undone

While Joanna in Ill Wind is a Weather Warden, human, trying to understand the Djinn, Cassiel is the opposite, a Djinn trying to understand humans. I was afraid that the two female leads would be so like each other as to make the two series so similar as to be indistinguishable. But, I was wrong. Cassiel is quite the character, I love her non-human reactions to things. I love how she tries to make sense of the world she has been thrown into while trying to stay aloof from the mess of knowing a human. And she fails, in the beautiful emotional sense of failing to keep emotions separate from the mess of life.

The mystery of the unknown foe was well played throughout the story as little pieces are revealed and Cassiel’s past problems hunt her down on earth. But there is more at play than past wrongs, the abilities of the Wardens are being used against them. Cassiel and her partner must figure out who they can trust while they track down kidnapped children. The action never ends. In fact, neither story is wrapped up by the end of the book and I was glad I had the second one in my possession when I finished the first. Though, that only managed to make me want to read the third as the twist keep coming and the story continues to evolve.

I wouldn’t recommend taking on this book unless you have time to take on the series. There is so much going on that very little gets resolved, but especially not Cassiel’s new found romantic interest. A hard to put down book that leads into a hard to put down series, clever, imaginative, well written, Caine’s Outcast Season novels is an unforgettable urban fantasy series.

Television Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (AoS) Season 1

I adore Coulson, he’s my favorite avenger/super hero. He has the best wit. Clark Gregg has an amazing face and I love love love him as Agent Coulson. I mean, how can you not love this face? Adorbs!

clark-gregg-marvels-agents-of-shield-newscom-325So, I haven’t not been keeping up on all my superhero movies. My husband is not a fan of them. I know, right? So I have yet to see quite a few of them. BUT, he cannot stop me from watching copious amounts of TV while he is at work. Working retail means working weekends and a lot of evenings. This means sometimes we are more like strangers passing in the night than a couple living together, but it does makes watching vastly different types of TV shows easier. I’m sure I’ll catch up on my movie watching soon, but for now here are some of the best things about AoS Season 1.

The Cast

I was absolutely sold on all of the characters right from the beginning, except for Skye. I grew to accept her and appreciate what she brought to the crew, but it wasn’t until the last two or so episodes that I really saw her as a great character and understood what Whedon saw in Bennet. I have a huge crush on Agent Coulson, so it was no surprised I loved Gregg reprising his role on the small screen. But I was also quite drawn to Ming-Na Wen as May. She is so tough and smart and bada$$ in such small and quiet ways, that she is all that much more powerful in her being. Baugh! I cannot get enough of her! I love how Ward starts off as a very static character that appears to have a particular story arc, but one that way outside the norm of such a character. It was kind of mind blowingly amazing how Brett Dalton took such a character and brought his story arc to life. Kuddos to you sir. Kuddos. 

But my absolute favorite characters where of course FitzSimmons, the nerds who were more than that. The nerds who were the heart of each and every episode. Of the entire season. The people who made me laugh and smile and cry. Their characters absolutely resonated inside of me. Just. ::Sigh:: Yes, wonderful beautiful thoughtful full bodied characters. My absolute favorite moment of the season was when Simmons was asked, “You wash up on a deserted island alone. Sitting on the sand is a box. What is in that box?” And she says, “That’s a hard one. Let me think. The TARDIS.”

simmons2

The CG and Backdrop

The ship that the crew live on was such a big part of the show and made each episode feel bigger and grander than some dinky little TV show. Whedon is masterful at the use of his stage and backdrop and incorporating them as characters into his show. I loved it. I thought the CG was all done wonderfully and only once or twice was a bit hokey. I like that there were new places where the story was told, but that everything was brought back to a home base. It kind of reminded me of another story about an amazing crew on a flying ship… ::coughfireflycough::

The Storytelling

While not every episodic story was extremely strong, the overall story arcs for the characters in season one were excellent. I love the slow build to find out what happened to Agent Coulson and how he died and was brought back into the series. There was well drawn out suspense with a good payoff. Each of the characters grows wonderfully and I’m super excited to see what Season 2 brings and how the crew grows and changes over the season.

Doctor Who Season 8 aka Why Moffat is a Mad Genius and Why I Hate Him

Whenever I start a new show I like to watch at least 3 episodes before making any decision on whether or not I like it. With a new person as the Doctor, I thought I would give Peter Capaldi the benefit of at least 3 episodes before making a decision on whether or not I enjoyed him as the Doctor and whether or not I thought the new season was any good. I don’t plan on doing episode reviews of Doctor Who this season, but I have been joining in the discussions over at Those Who Geek. You can start with Season 8, Episode 1 (Deep Breath), and join the conversation there if you want! As of last night I am caught up on season 8 and here are my general thoughts after watching 6 episodes. *MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

Peter-Capaldi-Peter-CapaldiPeter Capaldi as the Doctor: I was really really hoping to just fall in love with Capaldi’s version of the Doctor, but I cannot. He always looks angry, he is almost always angry, confused, or in denial, and he’s mean much of the time. Every episode jokes about his angry eyebrows, but all I can think is ‘THAT IS WHAT THREADING IS FOR!’ He’s dismissive of Clara’s well being at times, but needs her to function. His relationship with Clara is extremely unhealthy for her in a similar but not exactly Martha/Doctor relationship way. I’m just not impressed at all. I think Capaldi is a great actor and perhaps we are all supposed to hate him just a little, but every time he is on the screen playing his angry version of the Doctor I want to make angry age appropriate (for me) finger gestures at the television. I’ll be the first to admit my absolute admiration and adoration for Matt Smith may be clouding my judgement at bit, so sure, I’m biased, but I have tried very hard to be open to his interpretation of the Doctor and where Moffat is taking him this season. But I’m not liking it one bit. Now, I’ll also freely admit that this may all be Moffat’s fault, but the Doctor has lost a huge portion of his charm in this version of him, and I can only hope as he grows as a new person he will gain some of it back.

jenna colemanJenna Coleman as Clara Oswald: I’m absolutely in love with Clara Oswald. Jenna Coleman has really begun to shine in the latest season of Doctor Who. She was fine opposite Matt, but in season 8, she keeps blowing my mind with each new episode. I have the hugest girl crush on her. She is gorgeous, smart, clever, and however awkwardly expresses genuine emotions other than anger. I may be a bit hateful where Moffat is taking the Doctor’s character, but his development of Clara Oswald’s character is brilliant. Which is the hard thing about Moffat shows, there is usually one part that I absolute am in love with and another part that I hate. Usually it’s the camp, the really nonscary Daleks, but having it be the Doctor this season is stirring up so many emotions, it’s a bit hard to handle. Clara is my saving grace and the sole reason I continue to watch Doctor Who this season. I could care less if the Doctor appears, I just want to learn more about her and see more of her life. Jenna Coleman shines in her role and I keep hoping Clara realizes she needs to do what is best for her and not necessarily for the Doctor. I slightly hesitant to declare it, but she has become my favorite companion, even out shining Donna to me, and that is saying something.

danny pinkSamuel Anderson as Danny Pink: OMG what a beautiful man. I love his eyes! His eyes are amazing! Pink’s initial awkwardness around Clara is adorable, and as his character comes into his own through the first of the season, the transformation is just wonderful. Anderson is a great actor and quickly becoming one of my favorite characters on the show. I love finding out more and more about his past and future as the season progresses and I’m far more interested in what he and Clara mean to each other than I am whether or not the Doctor is clever enough to figure out if there are people in the shadows. His confrontation to Clara of who he sees the Doctor as was amazing, and I had to agree wholeheartedly. Which makes me mad at Moffat, I just know that man is playing with my emotions- on purpose!!! Ugh. But if it means more Danny Pink… than I’m all in. Oh so pretty. Such pretty people this season!!!

Michelle Gomez as Missy (The Doctor’s Girlfriend?): We know so little about her, Doctor Who Series 8but I find that one of the most intriguing things about this season. We see little snippets of her, she seems to be in charge of some version of the afterlife, or an alternate dimension she is pretending is the afterlife. She seems knows so much and yet reveals very little. She claims to be the Doctor’s girlfriend, yet is too busy to greet some of the people that make their way to her dimension after a bout as episodic companions of the Doctor. Who is she really? What is her true connection with the Doctor? So many questions and yet another draw to this season.

The story telling in season 8 has been a big draw, little pieces of a larger puzzle are falling into place and I’m anxious to find out what it all means. Even if Capaldi’s Doctor is a tad callous for my taste, I respect his acting chomps. I look forward to every scene that has Clara or Pink in it and I eagerly anticipate every new episode. Even knowing that the episode is probably going to elicit explosive comments not to be repeated in front of polite company.

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.