Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Quickie Review of Saga, Volume 2, by Brian K. Vauhan

Saga, Volume 2It's probably obvious by now that I'm not as comfortable reviewing graphic novels as I am with standard novels. It's more or less an entirely different medium, and my ability to criticize it is just not very well developed. I can't, for example, effectively comment on are style or layout because my experience is simply inadequate. However, my mission on this blog is to share good stories when I find them and warn against the bad ones. This is a good story.

Saga was a weird little reading detour for me. I'm not sure why I picked it up, considering the fact that the only graphic novel series I've bothered to invest time and money in (Fables and Sandman), were ones I chose because they have legitimacy and history and dozens of great reviews to recommend them. Saga, on the other hand, is fairly new. This volume only marks issues 7-12, but every single issue is a larger than life demonstration of the upper limits of what graphic novels can do when it comes to the weird and the wonderful.

Story-wise, we are still following newborn Hazel and her family, and this volume introduces us to her paternal grandparents. What has impressed me most about the series so far is the layer of sincere emotion laying right alongside the bizarre-creepy-gross. Alana and Marco fell in love, not entirely by accident--you kind of get the sense that they really wanted to. Irrational and impulsive though they might be, they really just want to hold their family together. When that means being honest with Marco's parents, and when they seem to react badly, Marco and Alana are prepared to stand their ground.

The dialogue is the best thing about this book. It's funny without being too silly. Whenever you're in danger of taking this book too seriously, the characters are there, hanging out right on the edge of ridiculous. I particularly enjoyed meeting the author of the trashy novel that changed Alana's life. He offers this sneaky little commentary on author intention vs. reader interpretation, while never tipping us off as to what his real leanings are. This, in the same book that has robot alien sex and monster penises. It's a raunchy book, but the sex and unapologetic nudity pretty much work in context. It's not a book for children, but again, the weirdness is part of the charm.

 In any case, I fully recommend that this is not a book for everyone. It is explicit and it is violent and it is easily the strangest thing I've read this year. At the same time, if that warning doesn't put you off, I encourage you to at least give the first twelve issues of Saga a try. It's worth experiencing. 4.5 stars

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review of Moonshifted by Cassie Alexander

Moonshifted (Edie Spence, #2)It's no secret that I heartily enjoy urban fantasy, particularly the kind with kick-ass female leads and large scale monster hunts. The Edie Spence series is more of the same, except that the heroine is not particularly kick-ass at all. Edie is a nurse working third shifts at a hospital ward secretly dedicated to creatures of the night--shapeshifter, vampires, and vampire's servants. Moonshifted is the second book in the Edie Spence series.

After the events of the first book, I thought it was interesting to see that Edie is becoming even more settled into her role at the hospital, and in fact might even enjoy knowing the secrets of the supernatural world. This, despite the fact that her zombie boyfriend left her, she witnessed a brutal hit-and-run on a werewolf, and she's been asked to appear at her vampire friend's induction ceremony.

What made this book (and the first one) work for me is Edie. She's incredibly well written, and she just feels real to me. She's relatable because she's both an underdog and a bit of a screw-up, yet she's not stupid. Throughout the book, she's genuinely trying to make the best moves and work out who she can trust, but she makes mistakes and the odds are against her. In addition to the supernatural conflicts--the fight between werewolf leaders and the vampire politics, we also get a painfully realistic look at her personal life. Edie's brother is the motivating factor for her working in the supernatural ward in the first place--the powers that be keep her brother off of drugs as long as she works for them. She really and honestly loves her brother, she wants to help him, but she's also faced with the constant realization that her help can only go so far, and she can never afford to trust him completely. Plus Edie is broke, PB&J for dinner every night broke. The girl can't catch a break. My point is, there's something cathartic about seeing Edie's messed up life and her bad decisions with regard to men and her endless fight for survival as a human in a tooth and claw world. She survives on pure determination, and it's awesome.

While I obviously can't say enough about how much I like Edie, the plot of this book in itself was nothing too special. The power struggles of alphas, like we see with the werewolves, is on the point of being old hat in the urban fantasy world. Same with the vampire politics. To her credit, the author does a good job of making us question who Edie can really trust and what the smartest path for her really is. To her discredit, by the time I finished the book I was left with few truly memorable plot points to carry me forward. We'll have to see, with book three, if the originality of the plot improves.

To sum up, I've really been enjoying the fish-out-of-water nature of Edie's story, and I love her character, and for that reason I do continue to recommend this series. I expect good things from it in the future. 4 stars.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review of The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand

And yet more contemporary romance! Laura Florand's Amour et Chocolate books are a bit like quiet, modern fairytales set in Paris, where food artists make impossibly brilliant and delicious things with chocolate. They aren't books to read if you're on a diet, because you will want chocolate, and if you're like me you will eat all of the chocolate.

Jolie is trying to talk pastry chef Gabriel Delange out of suing her father, who used an image of a lovely pastry rose on the cover of his new cook book--a rose that he has been passing off as his own work, despite the fact that it was Gabriel's personal creation. Jolie argues that he father's health is fragile and that Gabriel should not be a bully. Gabriel has a serious grudge against her father, though, and is determined not to let up. Taking advantage of the situation, Gabriel concocts a scheme that will force Jolie to work with him in writing a cookbook. After all, Gabriel has a hard time in the dating pull, and Jolie is more than a little attractive.

The second book was so magical that somehow, I expected the same sort of tone from this one. What I got instead was a more petty seeming drama and a tone of conflict similar to the first book. It works alright in it's own way, but it's just not what I prefer. I got impatient with Jolie constantly defending and protecting her father, who's deflated ego seemed to rule her life and actions. I found her very smart and enthusiastic, but her motivations were to irritating to keep her relatable.

Gabriel was charming but far more forgettable than the heroes of the previous books. I finished this book at the end of May, and already his character has faded to almost nothing. I know that he's meant as the "beast" of the piece, that he roars and throws things and traps Jolie into staying with him, because that's the only way he can hold onto a woman long enough to woo her.

As I said, this book lacked some to the enchanting qualities of the previous installment, but it's nonetheless an appetite inducing indulgence. If not perfectly memorable, it is at least perfectly readable and quite tasty. 3.5 stars.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review of Down London Road by Samantha Young

Marching right along with my "catch up" reviews, we have another contemporary that I read in May (lots of contemporaries coming up--hunker down, kids).

16140408I'll admit that Samantha Young's On Dublin Street series has taken me a bit by surprise. The way that the first book looked, the descriptions, and most of the reviews (both positive and negative), had me kind of convinced that it wasn't for me. And yet in the case of the first book and Down London Road, I was at least occupied if not fully entertained by the story. It's just engaging enough that it keeps you reading, though something keeps it from being elevated to my "favorite romance of all time" list.

Jo is a bartender who lives with her alcoholic mother and teenaged little brother, whom she protects at all cost. Her highest ambition in life is to marry a rich man, mostly for her brother's sake. She suffers from your text book self esteem issues--figures she pretty enough to land rich boyfriends, but not smart enough to do anything meaningful. But then along comes Cameron, and he's sexy as hell and very intriguing...but he's kind of between jobs, and ends up working at the same bar as Jo. In short, he's not at all her target guy. He's just irresistible enough to have Jo lowering, or perhaps raising her standards.

I'll say right off the bat that Jo is an annoying hypocrite at times. The book desperately wants to show us that she's not shallow, and at times I can believe that. She loves her brother, she works hard, she has all sorts of hidden talents. But when it comes to gifts and help and money, she's totally incapable of thinking logically. She's fine accepting expensive presents from the boyfriends that she dates because they're rich. She's fine with the idea of letting them support her, should one ever purpose. To her credit, she tries to put her heart into her relationships and does develop real feelings for these guys, but the term "gold digger" still applies. She's fine exchanging affection for money, but when her friends offer to help her financially, or even just to get her a better job, all of the sudden she's too proud to accept help. That's messed up. The author means us to think this of course, but I think Jo is more frustrating of a character than the author intended her to be. Like Jocelyn in the first book, Jo's emotional baggage is so obvious and so telegraphed that it actually becomes absurd. Instead of making her more three dimensional, it just serves to remind the reader that she's entirely fictional, and not very likeable to boot.

I actually did like Cameron. I felt he seemed like the typical guy, not overly perfect as men in contemporary romances can sometimes be. The moments when he was kind of a jerk to Jo? Well, I was kind of on his side, honestly. She's the kind of person that begs to be judged, and he makes up to it with hotness and a reasonable level of reliability. I like that he's unflinchingly honest, even if it means being a dick. Sometimes dicks are necessary.

I'm a little hazy on the plot details since I read this in May, and my notes are sparse and I can't recall there being a plot for the most part. Much of the internal drama centers around Jo's above mentioned insecurities, which thankfully become easier to ignore as the story progresses. The external plot is that Jo's parents are awful people, but she has Cameron and the two of them can fuck like bunnies. Jo has to deal with the fact that her mother is an apparently irredeemable alcoholic and her father is absent until he's needed as the villain of the climax of the story. She deals with that by learning to lean on Cameron, have monkey sex with Cameron, and believe in herself. The usual.

Overall this book was very readable, but probably forgettable long term. I like certain aspects of the characters but got a bit frustrated that the author used all the most obvious traits and the laziest path of character development for Jo. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Return of the Penguin, and a Quick Review of A Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss

Here I am, returning to the world of book blogging after a long 2 1/2 month absence. Wow. When I decide to take a break from reviewing, I honestly never intended to be away for even a whole month. My original justification was that I had major readers block and I just needed a breather so I could come back fresh, and I thought two weeks would do it. Life happened, as it often does. I have no justification other than the basic fact that I was doing other things. Fun things. Important things. Non-bookish things.

The first month of my absence was spent rereading Harry Potter. Because...it just felt like the time to do that. It felt like a restful thing to do. I can't really explain the comfort of wrapping myself in the warm blanket of nostalgia, but I'm sure it's something every adult is familiar with. It was also interesting to experience these books for the first time as an adult. The last time I did a reread was just before book 6 came out (with Deathly Hallows I decided to forgo rereading and just dive right in). So it had been a minimum of five years since I touched these books. Viewing Harry Potter through new eyes, I was just as enchanted as I'd ever been, though I spot more details now, and I spot more flaws now. Finishing the series was just as bittersweet this time as it was five years ago.

Anyhow, I still really wanted to keep up with my reading and pursue this years goal to read 113 books, even though I wasn't sure when/if I'd get around to reviewing them. While finishing my HP marathon, I chose to read a lot of graphic novels in order to (almost) keep up with my goal. If that sounds a bit like cheating...I don't care. If Goodreads counts them, that's good enough for me. I plan on reviewing them all in good time as well.

That brings me to my final "housekeeping" notes before I move on to my review. While RtP is back up for review purposes, I'm going to be operating at a tempered pace while I try to resume my reading/reviewing rhythm. I'm keeping all featured posts and memes (with the possible exception of quickies like Follow Friday) are under suspension until such a time as I'm caught up on plain old book reviews.

With that in mind, I'm going to start by doing a quickie review of a book that I read all the way back in May. Yeah. Obviously I'm going to be hazy on the details, but I still wanted to cover it, since Karina Bliss is one of my all-star authors.

16160119A Prior Engagement is the final book in Bliss's Special Forces series, every one of which you should really go read like right now. They are Harlequin's Super Romance line at it's best--dramatic, heart-wrenching stories that go just a shade deeper than your average category romance. In this book. For three books, Lee was thought to be dead. His SAS buddies watched him die, or so they thought. In reality, he's been in enemy hands all this time--tortured, starved, and barely holding on to his sanity. When he's finally rescued and brought back to the world of the living, it's to discover that his once girlfriend, Jules, has betrayed him. Before he left on his last mission, he asked her to marry him. She turned him down flat. Yet now she wears his ring, spends his money, and has all of his friends believing that in her goodness.

Not only did I find the conflicts in this book intriguing, but I was surprised by how not cheesy they were. Bliss handles Lee's PTSD perfectly. He tries not to wallow, he makes a conscious effort to work through his issues on his own. He has a lot to work through, and he's developed a bit of a dark side that he needs to cope with. What I liked about Jules was how reasonable the author made her position seem. When I first read the description I thought, "What a BITCH,". But once you learn the circumstances behind her lies and half-truths, they seem almost completely justifiable. She accepted Lee's ring to honor his memory and make his friends happy. She spent his money to help Lee's father fulfill some bucket-list dream vacations, and only thinks of her own desires after the fact. She tries very hard to put things right once Lee returns, so she ends up being quite a sympathetic character.

I didn't so much care for the fact that Lee fakes amnesia and tells other lies just to screw with Jules. Again, he's been through hell and has no reason to think anything of her but the worst, but I felt his way of handling everything was a bit immature.

So in the end, this wasn't the strongest or the weakest of the four book series. As usual Bliss takes a cheesy trope like the Back-From-The-Dead hero and turns it into an enjoyable story. 4 stars.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Watch This! Angel (Pt. 1)

Welcome to Part One of a three part post series on Angel. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a show that was unique at the time and became iconic, to the point that many shows and movies have since tried to capture it's particular brand of appeal, with varying degrees of success. It seems natural that such a larger than life show would deserve a spin-off. Angel was a natural character choice for a spin-off series. His history and mythology are deep enough to be expanded upon over the course of many seasons. It's still surprising to me that the series only went on for five seasons, when it rightfully could have gone on much longer, as evidenced by it's continuation in comic form. But let's just work with the show we have, for now. This initial post will focus on the main cast of characters, with heavy bias on the ones I find the most interesting.

Angel, Out of Sunnydale

Angel himself is far more interesting in his own series than he is in Buffy. One of the problems with his existence in Buffy is the fact that he is supposed to be centuries old. Buffy, throughout his entire tenure as a main cast member, is a high school student. However wise, worldly, and jaded Angel is supposed to be, however tortured he is, we don't get to fully appreciate it because he's  in the role of high school boyfriend. And that, my friends, has an undeniable ick factor to it. Whether or not you like Buffy and Angel together, whether or not you think they're soul mates, you have to see the truth that as long as Buffy is not grown up, Angel cannot act his age. The writers have to temper his maturity so that it doesn't come across as ridiculously skivvy.

Once Angel gets to LA and starts his mission for redemption, all of the sudden you start to feel his age. He is written as a tortured, reluctant super hero. Suddenly his backstory as a vampire with a soul seems darker, and it fits with the darker tone of the entire show. We see, for example, that he isn't mindlessly good all of the time. He makes questionable choices and get's caught up in the need for revenge. In season two, he becomes so focused on taking out the bad guys of Wolfram and Hart that he completely severs himself from his friends. His mistakes are what make him engaging.

Cordelia, All Grown Up

Cordelia is our second transplanted Buffy character. She was originally a shallow, privileged, mean
spirited foil for Buffy. Gradually, however, she was given more depth. She's shown to be smarter than she let's on, and more complex than the typical cheerleader character is usually allowed to be. She dates the comically unpopular Xander, hangs out with the Scooby Gang, and survives some of the bigger battles of Sunnydale. So while you might initially think that she seems like a rather random choice for a main character in the spin-off series, it actually makes some sense. She's already well established, and at least redeemable if not likable.

One of the things I  appreciated about Cordelia's development is that she kind of continues to be a little vain and a little shallow, despite learning empathy and the need for a higher purpose. She's given the gift of visions of people who need Angel's help. The visions are painful and rob Cordelia of the possibility of a completely normal life, time and time again. As a result, she becomes less of a socialite and more of a fighter, though she has much fewer opportunities to kick ass than the boys do.

In terms of how well she functions as a romantic interest for Angel...well, that never rang true for me. While I'm not the biggest fan of the Buffy/Angel pairing, I never felt like Angel's chemistry with anyone else was really complete.

Wesley

In Buffy, Wesley was best described as Not Giles. He's there to try to replace Giles when the council determines that Giles sucks at his job. He comes across as irritating and even a bit comedic, and his character continues in this fashion throughout his initial appearances in Angel. His character development takes a series of turns, however, beginning with the episode in which he's captured and tortured by Faith. From this point on, he becomes steadily darker and more complex, making some morally questionable decisions, but always trying to fight on the side of good. Like Cordelia, I initially disliked his character, and like Cordelia I felt he remained flawed throughout the series. However, his character get's a better treatment in terms of both romance and send off. I really liked him with Fred, is what I'm saying.

Gunn

The first non-transplant character in Angel is also the most manufactured of the main characters. I urban character, a tough guy who has lived on the streets, maybe even been in a gang of sorts, but is still on the right side of the good/evil line." And out of that mold springs Gunn, with his tough sounding name and his tough attitude and his tough toughness. Still, it's hard to dislike the guy, who frequently serves as the team's muscle despite a lack of formal training or super powers of any kind.
can almost hear the writers cooking this guy up. "Okay, we have this urban fantasy set in Los Angeles. We need a really

Angel has a lot of other recurring characters who, depending on what season you focus on are part of the main cast. It would be impossible to fairly cover all of them. In terms of which recurring characters I liked the most...

Darla seems like a natural addition to the cast, since she's Angel's maker and a huge source of conflicted emotions for him. During one of the shows more interesting arcs, she brought back to life as a human with a soul, and she struggles with how to deal with that. Later she's given the Mystic Pregnancy treatment, and her character basically becomes a plot device. I'm mostly okay with the way the writer's handled this, however. I like that, while she's mostly a villain, we do get a sense that she has a good side, a part of her does actually love Angel, and she is capable so sacrifice.

I also really like Lindsey, both as an antagonist and reluctant ally. He's a cynical, jaded character with a murky sense of morality--basically he's the clich├ęd lawyer from all shows and movies. During his time at Wolfram and Hart, you kind of get the sense that he's in over his head, that he doesn't want to become entirely evil. Yet he's not above some underhandedness, and he does stay with them despite a chance to jump ships. He's the kind of character that I really enjoy, because you can see his motivations, but you're never sure how evil he actually is. And, in fact, he's probably mostly just selfish.

That's the run down of Angel's most interesting characters, or at least as much as I'm able to do in a reasonably sized post. In Part 2, I'll be discussing the world building and How Things Work in the Angel/Buffy universe. The final part of the posting series will of course be a top ten episodes list, and then we'll be moving on to other things. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review of Cut Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1)One of my goals for this year is to read more M/M romance, and this series was recommended to me for that reason. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I honestly did not expect to enjoy it. The premise is that our two heroes are FBI agents forced into a partnership with the goal of catching a serial killer. Romantic suspense, specifically the kind with murder mysteries, is not my usual cup of tea, but reviewing would be no fun if I never stepped out of my comfort zone.

Ty Grady is a cocky, rough-around-the-edges agent recently pulled from an undercover case that ended in disaster. Zane Garret has been playing everything carefully by the books during his stint at a desk job, and this is his first out-on-the-streets case in a long time. Ty dislikes his buttoned up, serious visage on sight. This case, however, is something of a last chance for both agents. And given the fact that the killer has already taken out two FBI agents, this case is personal.

The chemistry between Ty and Zane is absolutely explosive. Their initial dislike for one another and all of their macho posturing just helps to build up the tension that culminates into a lot of very steamy sex. More impressive, perhaps, is that they have romantic chemistry--they have the beginnings of a real emotional connection, the kind that comes with protectiveness and affection and intimacy. Just the beginnings, but it's there and its so very sweet.

I loved the character development. These are two older guys who already have a lot of history and a lot of baggage. Zane had a wife, who's death still haunts him. He's a recovering alcoholic and his addictive personality is still, and will probably always be an issue. Ty spent time in the military and has already gone several rounds with PTSD. They spend this entire book getting physically and mentally beat to hell, and by the end they start to see each other more clearly, even to the point of almost swapping roles.

The action in this book is well placed and well paced. There are just enough tense moments to keep you invested without robbing the story of it's character driven core. I'll admit freely that I did get drawn into the mystery, drawn into the case, and I wanted resolution as much as Ty and Zane did.

I kind of liked the fact that it didn't end on an HEA sort of note, or even a happy for now note. It's more of a together for now, but we've got shit to work through kind of ending. It's hopeful, but it's not sappy. It fit both of their characters and the overall tone of the story, and left me wanting the next book immediately.

It's easy to recommend this book, to romantic suspense fans and to M/M fans in general. Its a sexy, action packed book with truly excellent characters. 4 stars.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review of The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

On the surface, this seems to be your typical historical romance, with the arguably gimmicky catch of a hero who is "mad". In fact, Ian suffers from Asperger's, which can best be described as very high functioning autism. I'll be honest, that's what made me buy this book in the first place. For some reason it seems that mental disorders are fairly taboo in the romance with, with the obvious exceptions of PTSD and depression. You'll probably never find a hero or heroine with schizophrenia or bipolar or crippling OCD--hard to make those things both realistic and sexy, I guess. So yeah, even comparatively minor, increasingly common things like Asperger's are underrepresented in the romance world. How does this author pull it off? Well....

Ian seeks out Beth, a wealthy widow, because she's engaged to his rival and he wants to warn her off him. He quickly becomes obsessed with having her, and she is fascinated by him. Their growing relationship is soon threatened by a detective who hates the Mackenzie family, and is determined to pin murder on Ian.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #1)
There are some instances where I thought the author absolutely nailed Ian--his quirks, his personality, his intensity, and even the symptoms of his disorder make him come out of the page. He's unreasonably intelligent, but obsesses over inanimate objects (Ming bowls). He's an intense lover, but he has trouble connecting to anyone emotionally. He understands high finance without trying, but misses subtle nuance in conversation and doesn't get Beth's jokes. The author clearly has an understanding of what Ian's disorder means, and how he might reasonably be expected to adjust to the challenges of life (or not).

Here's the thing though: despite this excellent set-up, the execution is sloppy as hell. Beth and Ian connect with an ease that belies his carefully explained disorder. Ian, who is perhaps overly self aware, explains that he cannot love, he does not know how to connect with people, and so forth. But then he connects with Beth and starts to love her simply because she's there, being non-judgmental and having excellent sex with him.  For her part, Beth is just a bit too understanding for a person in a time period when no one had any understanding of Ian's disorder. She never once thinks that perhaps he's just cold, just anti-social, just doesn't like her. She shrugs it all off, and it's not long before he's confessing his love to her. The transition between point A (first meeting) and point B (we're in love!) just wasn't there for me.

As for the murder mystery, it just hampered my enjoyment all the more. I almost never get invested in murder mysteries, and this one is delivered in a sort of off-handed manner that did nothing to increase the tension.

On a positive note, I did genuinely like all the characters. Not only are Ian and Beth oddly charming, but Ian's entire family is intriguing. His brothers are a rugged alphas that don't give a fuck, and aren't too concerned with fitting into society. But they have a ton of money, and they each have their particular talents. If there's a question as to whether I'd read more of the series, the answer is yes, I believe I would.

While I wished this book had focused more on emotional development and logical transitions in a romantic relationships, and while I wholeheartedly wish the mystery had been left out altogether, I did enjoy many aspects of it. The author has a nice style, and the characters are appealingly quirky. 3.5 stars.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review of Easy by Tammara Webber

I didn't want to read this book at first. Yes, it's true that I want to try more new adult books, but the college setting makes me leery since I'm only a year removed from living in that setting. Tammara Webber managed to win me over with a truly excellent love story, much to my surprise.

The book opens with our heroine, Jacqueline, very narrowly avoiding getting raped by her ex-boyfriend's frat brother. Her rescuer, Lucas, is sexy, mysterious, and everything her ex-boyfriend was not. The attack has made Jacqueline feel like a victim, especially when her attacker starts following her and telling lies about her. With Lucas there to support her, Jacqueline finds perspective, strength, and power against helplessness.

EasyThe relationship between Jacqueline and Lucas is simply precious. I found their emails and texts really charming. Jacqueline initially comes off a bit judgmental, labeling Lucas (because he has tattoos and piercings) as a slacker and a bad boy. To her credit, though, she seemed all too willing to be proven wrong. Once she sees him in the right light, she's eager to help him slay his personal demons (and he's got some serious demons). What I enjoyed most, though, was the fact that Lucas is protective. Not just that he's protective, really, but that he wanted her to be able to defend herself, and he fully believed that she could. The care he takes in giving her the empowerment of self defense is as emotionally impactful as it is practical.

Now, perhaps the only downside to the book is the fact that it gets a bit heavy handed with its message. Not only does it preach self defense and personal safety up, down, and sideways, but it also returns time and again to rape and how rapists should be treated--it's a huge part of the plot, and it's a little bit after-school special. Even as I write this, though, I can understand that their are teenagers and young women that can never hear these messages enough--they need to hear that rape is not the fault of the victim, that rape needs to be reported, that rapists need to be apprehended. Yes, I'm quite certain there are young readers who need to marinate their brains in these thoughts until they sink in past all of the rape culture we've been stewing in. For me though, I must admit, I got sick of it.

To sum this book up, it's a lovely romance and a nice contemporary story with awesome intentions. If the messages felt a bit tiresome to me, the characters made up for it by being adorable and sexy. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Watch This! Once Upon A Time, Season 2 Micro-Review

A few notes, just to keep everyone informed:

Now that I've completed my Buffy series, I am planning on moving on to Angel. Hopefully that will be a more organized and comprehensive review series, now that I'm starting to grasp how I would like to structure those posts. I need some time, of course, to rewatch most of the episodes. Tentatively, I that series will start next Wednesday.

To continue that thought, it does look as though many of the Watch This Wednesday posts for the foreseeable future will be retrospectives of older/cancelled shows or shows that have a good number of seasons out already. This is do not only to the accessibility of those shows but also to the fact that I'll have the most to say about things with hours of content. So, if there is a show, mini-series, or movie series that you would like to discus  here, please feel free to drop your suggestions in the comments.

Today, though, I'm between retrospective posts, so it seems like a good time to go over what I though of Once Upon a Time, season 2. I started off the fall TV series watching tons of shows, but sadly Once was the only one I was able to keep up with (without sacrificing reading time). If you're wondering what I thought of Grimm, Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, or Supernatural...well, so am I. Hopefully I'll find an opportunity to catch up on those shows over the summer. In the meantime?

Once, season 2....


When season 1 ended, I felt that the writer's may have made the mistake of blowing the lid off of things too dramatically and too soon, and I worried about where they would go from that point on. One of the things I enjoyed about the show was the one episode retellings of individual fairytales, and seeing how they were reflected and fit into the Storybrooke world. Now that everyone remembers who they are, things are less episodic, more connected. This type of narrative can be problematic if the writers constantly have to find a way to one up themselves, to the point where the story loses it's natural flow. This season showed a struggle to not fall into that trap, managing to be enjoyable despite some stumbles along the way.

 
Henry is more of a plot moppet than ever. Always there to whine about people who want to kill the evil queen or just let her die,. Always there to be the motivation of the other characters, and to get in harm's way when the plot demands it. Poor kid is annoying as hell, and sadly one of the downsides to the show.

Emma, on the other hand, is the show's best attribute in a lot of ways. Interesting and respectable, as much as any fish-out-of-water/savior character can be. She's not vapid, she's decently developed, and she's not solely motivated by romance. Sadly, in the current TV climate that makes her a top shelf heroine.

But this show has an ensemble cast so...what about the rest of them? Well, they're a mixed bag. Snow and Charming are somehow less interesting this season, though I'm glad we're past all of the infidelity business. They tried to give Snow this conflict where she darkened her heart by killing Cora. It's a failure, both because Cora deserved to die and because Snow is all too quick to feel bad about her actions, negating any of the interest you usually get from dealing in moral gray areas. Mr. Gold remains the most interesting cast member, both because he actually does dabble in those moral gray areas and because he's given conflicts that are actual conflicts.

I'm going to leave off with a list of my favorite episodes for the season. These are the episodes that, if/when I do a top tend list, would be contenders.

Tallahassee (Episode 6)
Child of the Moon (Episode 7)
The Outsider (Episode 11)
Manhattan (Episode 14)
The Miller's Daughter (Episode 16)
Selfless, Brave and True (Episode 18)
Second Star to the Right (Episode 21)
And Straight on to Morning (Episode 22)

Happy Watching, everyone!
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