Thursday, July 30, 2015

TOUGH TRAVELING | Flying Rides

 

Tough Traveling is a fun meme that aims to tour all the tropes big and small, abhorred and loved that are littered across the fantasy landscape. It was conceived of and is hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and here's how it's explained on the blog: 

Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week's trope is Flying Mounts Rides:
 Because honestly?  Horses just got boring.  (Thanks to author Anne Leonard for the suggestion).
All week I've been thinking the topic was "Flying Mounts" which implies living creature and I've been wracking my brain to come up with flying critters you can ride that I haven't already gushed about.  Flying Rides though?  That's totally different right?  Inanimate objects become fair game! At least that's my read on things and I'm going with it.  


These are glider-like planes that can be flown by magic and they are sort of alive and sentient.  They can be made to go faster by whistling up a wind. They're great little rides for the Abhorsen and company to get around as long as they stay in The Old Kingdom but they don't really work if you cross over the wall into unmagical Ancelstierre.

Thar' She Blows!
This is the coolest elevator ever imagined.  It's zips around in every direction and can take you to any room in the chocolate factory.  But the best part is that when you press this one particular button it flies up out of the factory and glides out over the town.

In Miyazaki's film the castle actually lumbers along on legs (a little like Baba Yaga's cottage) but Jones has said that when writing she envisioned it as gliding over the the ground, kind of flying.  So that's what I'm going with because the castle is just too cool not to include!

  • Airships from Every Steampunk Fantasy Ever Written
I'll single out Changeless by Gail Carriger because I love this series and an airship plays a large role in this particular book.  Airships are awesome and part of the reason I read Steampunk quite frankly. There so...piratical. Too bad they have the tendency to explode in real life so they've never "taken off."  Hee.  See what I did there?:)  Some other books on my read list that feature airships:  Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton, The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith.

Riding a flying broom probably feels a little like this.
Can I just say that I really want a flying broom.  I mean, balancing on the thing sounds tricky and it can't be that comfy to sit on but it still sounds like a thrilling way to fly.

Well I think that's all the thrilling rides I can think of for the moment.  How about you?  Ever dreamt of flying through the air on a XXXX?  For more lists of flying rides check out the lists of the other tough travelers at Fantasy Review Barn. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

DOCTOR WHO | 50th Anniversary Love + Some Complaining

Finally, only about two short years after the rest of the world, I sat down to watch Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary episode, The Day of The Doctor.   I had vigilantly guarded myself from being spoiled though I did have an inkling the Tenth Doctor would make an appearance.  I can say without hesitation, that I liked it a lot.  It has also made me quite thoughtful about my relationship with Doctor Who. 

Since 2005, I've included it as one of my top five favorite shows but in reality I'm really only basing that on the first four series of New Who - the Russell T. Davies era, if you will.  Seasons 5-7, the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Clara, River Song just fill me with ennui.  This counts as a minor little catastrophe in my TV watching life or at the least, is a little sad.

This post, a little bit like life, will be an amalgam of celebration and disappointment; great joy and despair.  Basically, I'm going to whine for a bit and then blow sunshine up the 50th anniversary episode's behind.  It's going to be a very odd post.  I'll start by trying to list the reasons why I think I prefer the first 4 seasons to the last three and then second, with that context, I'll review The Day of the Doctor.  I'm sure I'll muddle them up in there a bit as well.  

Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat Duke it Out

So why am I so attached to those first four seasons?

1)  They Were My First:  The 2005 re-boot of the show was my first exposure to the world of The Doctor.  I was so ignorant about the show that when the Ninth Doctor re-generated at the end of season one I was confused and up in arms! Were they going to try and sell some other actor as the Doctor, lol?  I was ready to hate him but of course I loved the Tenth Doctor.  The point is RTD's vision of Doctor Who was my introduction to the show and while I'm flexible enough to accept a new Doctor and sometimes a new companion, I am apparently not flexible enough to buy in to another person's vision of the show.  Rose is also my favorite companion I think because she shaped how I think the companion should function.
2) I'm Simple: Yes I am admitting that I may be just a little bit thick (to quote Rose:).  Steven Moffat is a highly imaginative storyteller with a nuanced and complicated view of the Doctor and his universe.  Some of the episodes he wrote for the first 4 seasons are on my list of favorites; The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Blink; but in his reboot of the show it sometimes seem he is just challenging himself to see how complicated and convoluted he can make it.  I like clever twists and turns as much as the next person but it can be overdone and I guess I prefer the simpler more sentimental stories that prevailed under RTD.
3) I Like a Plan:  This may not seem completely coherent or fair but the first 4 seasons seemed more connected and purposeful to me than the last three have.  Granted I haven't spent the time watching, re-watching and analyzing the newer seasons but I liked the connectedness of the first 4 seasons. I don't necessarily mean plot wise but more with the characters and the development of the Doctor.  The Doctor's relationship with Rose has implications in the following seasons, Martha makes a couple of appearances in season 4, each of the companions plays a particular role for the doctor that is a result of where he is in his head, even the differences between the tenth and ninth doctor make sense based on context.  RTD seemed most interested in exploring the Doctors alone-ness and the emotional complexity of his relationships with his human companions.  This spoke to me.  The Eleventh Doctor just seems to be.  The 50th anniversary episode actually provides a bit of a reason for this perhaps by labeling him The Doctor who forgets but whatever the reason I have never warmed to him.
4) I Hate Season 5:  I've watched it twice and just find it boring.  Season 6 is brilliant but that didn't keep on into season 7 in my opinion. Regardless, since season 5 was my first impression of the re-boot of the re-boot, my feelings have just never recovered.
5) I Don't Like the Characters in Seasons 5-7:  While I have grown to appreciate Matt Smith a bit more with additional watching, I have never connected to him. This despite the fact that I was quite excited when I heard Matt Smith got the role.  Maybe it's because I loved the Tenth Doctor and we had him for 3 years so the transition wasn't as easy?  Also though, the Eleventh just strikes me as a less charismatic version of the Tenth. I don't feel like Matt Smith brings much new to the role and he's too similar in the way he acts to the Tenth Doctor that it's like watching a bad copy for me.  There was a very clear difference between the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and I think that helped me love both.  I also have yet to connect with any of the Doctor's friends in this new series.  I like Rory okay and can deal with Amy when she is with Rory but otherwise do not really like her.  Clara is okay though I'm not sure there is anything unique about her. In fact I just did a google search for her and this was the highlighted entry that came up: "The Doctor's current companion, and her most notable characteristic is that she is just totes adorbs! Oh look at you! Who's a pretty companion. You are!" Yup. Pretty much. Finally, I have never been a fan of River Song and her storyline so yeah... not a fan in general of Moffat's companions.  Also as an aside, is it my imagination or did he totally rip off Rose's whole Bad Wolf stint with Clara's Impossible Girl stint?  Aren't they pretty close to the same thing??
6) Character over Plot?:  I do tend to favor character and relationships over plots and it's just struck me while writing this list that maybe that is where the crucial split is - the RTD years favored character and relationship over plot while the Moffat years are more complicated plot over character? They both have both of course but there is perhaps a subtle difference in which is emphasized? I think I may be full of crap here.  I know there is all sorts of complicated emotional shenanigans between Amy and Rory and the Doctor so maybe it just goes back to which characters I care about and which I don't....
7) Too much re-booting?:  While I get that Moffat needed to reset the series to deploy his vision of the Doctor and the show it feels like too much of a departure.  I've touched on this already but think it is an important reason  - it feels like the companions and the adventures of the past have been firmly put aside except for River.  I would have liked more of a connection with the RTD years.  I think that is why the 50th anniversary episode works so well for me because it addresses this.

So that's a lot of defensive babbling up there. I know it is but I'm just really sad that I no longer love a show that was one of my all time favorites. I also feel like I am the only person on the planet that feels this way! I needed to think through and articulate why it just didn't work that well for me anymore.  What it comes down to of course is personal preference and that's as individual as it gets and doesn't always contain logic.  I'd love to hear others' thoughts on how they have enjoyed the transition and what you think the biggest differences are? Do you have a preference for seasons 1-4 or seasons 5-8 or do you love it all equally and think I am mad for thinking they are any different? 

THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR 

**spoiler alert** I can't really talk about the 50th anniversary episode without revealing some of it's big revelations so beware if you want to remain spoiler free.

I kind of expected a Stolen Earth/Journey's End-esque reunion type episode and while there are visits from some beloved faces that is not what we get at all. There's perhaps a teeny tiny little part of me that is sad that we didn't get a big old Who family reunion but the larger part of me is grateful it didn't go there.  What we get is a proper, if longer, episode that has the ambition to actually take on the Time War and CHANGE the outcome. Wow.  Up until now the Time War has been only ominously mentioned and even with that it had hung over the series and The Doctor like a dark depressing bird.  It's provided some interesting character development for The Doctor but it was perhaps time for the light of hope presented here and it has the potential to change everything.  Not bad for an anniversary episode!

Besides this more serious life-changing plot there is also lots of nostalgic joy to be had.  The Tenth Doctor joins forces with the Eleventh and it is as brilliant as you might imagine (though for me solidifies the Tenth Doctors superior charisma). I think they likely would have also liked to include the Ninth Doctor but Chris Eccleston has not played terribly nicely with his Doctor Who past (sadly) so they substitute in a previously unknown Doctor played by John Hurt.  He's the war Doctor - the one who hit the switch during the Time War.  It's so great to have three versions of The Doctor interacting and especially the way the war doctor with his greater gravitas makes fun of his more childish future incarnations. There's also all sorts of hijinks comparing screwdrivers and the Tardis illustrating how they have changed over the years.  There is even the appearance of a few other players from classic Who that will make all happy, I think. 


Billie Piper also appears much to my delight though not as Rose.  Instead she is the personification of the doomsday weapon The Doctor uses/used to end the Time War and she appears in her Bad Wolf personae.  It's a nice role and makes sense as the weapon chooses someone of significance to The Doctor (from his past or future). Rose will be instrumental in helping the Doctor recover from what he is about to do so it is appropriate that her face is what the sentient weapon sees most strongly. Only the war Doctor interacts with her and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that we didn't get to see her and Ten interact but her role is appropriate and for the best I think.
The take home message is that the episode did a stellar job of telling a compelling story, that has massive implications for the future while also embracing nostalgia and celebrating the Who legacy.  The balance was really well done.  I laughed and cried and smiled fondly and immediately went back to start a DW re-watch.  Well done Doctor Who and Happy Anniversary! A+!

So what did you think of the 50th Anniversary episode?  Would you like to have seen more of the former cast come back or do you think the way it was done was the best?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

REVIEW: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones + Film by Miyazaki

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2294528.Howl_s_Moving_Castle
Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
Publication Year: 1986
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Howl's Moving Castle #1
Awards: ALA's Notable Books for Children (1986); Boston Globe Horn Book Award (1987)
Format: eBook (from Library)
Narrator: NA

I was excited to read this book for a couple of reasons.  Reason one was that I had never read anything by Dianna Wynne Jones.  Shameful, I know, but at least I have corrected the deficiency!  The second reason, which drove my choice of Howl's Moving Castle is that I adore the Miyazaki film so much that I even own it.  More about the film later in the post.

Howl's Moving Castle takes place in a somewhat recognizable world that is just a little bit slanted.  Sophie is the eldest of three sisters and as such she is not expected to do much in the world.  She has so embraced this idea of her own insignificance that in many ways she has given up on life.  She makes hats in her family's haberdashery and doesn't even notice when her creations change people's lives.  One day, inexplicably, the Witch of the waste comes into the store and places a curse on Sophie, changing her into an old woman.  In a somewhat vague attempt to have the curse removed, Sophie runs into the countryside looking for the fearsome Wizard Howl and his moving castle.  She finds him and discovers that Howl is not exactly who she thinks he is and somewhat more surprisingly that she is also not who she thinks she is.

My favorite part about this weird tale is how Sophie slowly gets to know herself.  The change in her appearance - being in disguise - frees Sophie to be bolder and ironically truer to herself.  She has strong opinions and is rather forceful about expressing them, nagging the flibbertigibbet Howl into being more responsible and less self-absorbed. She's much braver as well, running across the countryside when she thinks her sister is in trouble and even going toe to toe with the King on Howl's behalf while at the beginning of the story she was almost too timid to visit her sister at a baker across town.  Her will is even strong enough to tame Calcifer, the fire demon that powers Howl's extraordinary home.  Sophie also succeeds, quite quickly, in turning the castle into a home, providing structure to the household and serving to balance Howl's unpredictable ways.

Howl is also fascinating.  He is playing a role that actually serves to conceal who he truly is.  He works out almost right away that Sophie is under a curse and isn't really old.  His dealings with the King that make him seem a coward are also a ruse that allow him to eventually defeat the Witch of the Waste.  It is impossible to know how to take him - his sister back home in Wales (!) despairs of him but he cares for his mundane family and does everything he can to protect her and his niece and nephew.

Basically, neither Howl nor Sophie are your typical romantic hero and heroine and for all that their story feels more sweet.  Because they do fall in love of course but it is so gradual, born out of getting to know one another.  Sophie denies it the longest as she gets crabbier and crabbier every time she thinks Howl is out wooing another woman.  Meanwhile Howl is slowly trying to give her everything he thinks she wants including becoming a better self. 

All that unique character stuff is also wrapped up with the wonderful imagination of Diana Wynne Jones.  Enchanted scarecrows with turnips for heads, enchanted dogs smitten with their mistresses, a castle that is really four things at once in four different locations and a fire demon that is really a falling star.  What Calcifer is and the nature of his contract with Howl is a mystery that runs throughout.

If I have any complaints it is that the story is at times a little confusing.  One example is that a connection to our world  - the mundane modern world where Howl comes from and where he is known as Howell - is thrown in with very little explanation about the how the connection between the two worlds works.  That's fine but it seemed like a confusing addition that didn't really add much to the story though perhaps it does in later books?

FINAL VERDICT:  An imaginative story of self-discovery that has adventure, romance and an unmistakeably unique quality to it.  Tells a rather classic tale in a lovely unique way.  4 out of 5 Stars.



Howl's Moving Castle: The Movie (2004) by Hayao Miyazaki


I love Miyazaki's films as a rule - they are beautiful, magical and utterly unique and I think Howl's Moving Castle is my favorite amongst the works of his that I have seen.  When I picked up the book it had been a while since I watched the film and I saved a re-watch until after reading.  It was a good plan as it allowed me to experience the book somewhat fresh. 

The first thing I have to say is that the book and movie are actually quite different though they really don't feel that way.  As I was reading, I kept thinking to myself how closely the movie had followed the book so I was completely taken aback when I watched the film again and saw how different they are plot wise.  The movie instead catches the essence of the book while deviating wildly from it's particulars. In a way this is really great - I felt similarly while experiencing both but got two different  stories. 

I believe most of the changes in the film are to enhance the drama and to perhaps promote Miyazaki's own ethic.  There is less back story on both Sophie and Howl and the romance is a little more front and center particularly towards the end.  The Witch of the Waste is less of a threat in the movie (and is actually a more interesting character) while the King and his sorcerer are the big bads - starting a war that Howl fights against (there is an anti-war message here fitting with Miyazaki's pacisfism).  Michael is called Marko for some reason and is quite a bit younger in the movie which helps enhance the feeling of home and family.  While Howl and Sophie are still unique, their edges are softened just a bit for the movie.  For example, the Howl of the book loves to woo women, and then abandon them when they fall for him and this is perhaps slightly alluded to in the movie but it's not explicit. 

The visuals and the music of the movie are really lovely.  I love the main musical theme that runs throughout - very sweeping and romantic. Sophie and Howl look just as they should and the envisioning of the castle is perfect.  One of the effects I love best in the movie is how Sophie's appearance actually changes with how confident and happy she is feeling, visually illustrating that she is partially responsible for the curse and its effects. 

It's a lovely movie, well worth watching!  I would love to hear what others think of the movie particularly if you came to it as a lover of the book first.  Did the differences bother you? Is there anything you strongly prefer from one or the other?  Do you think Miyazaki did a good job capturing the essence of the book?


Sunday, July 26, 2015

LONGMIRE | Thoughts | S.1 | Eps. 6-10

A periodic post recording my ever so slightly obsessive watching of Longmire
Starting with episode five of season 1, Longmire really steps up into the realm of awesome for me.   Episodes 5-7 are some of my favorites of the whole show and the finale for season 1 is fantastic.  

Things between Cady and her father come to a head, first because of Cady's relationship with Branch which Walt perceives as betrayal, and more seriously by his neglecting to tell her that her mother was murdered and didn't die of cancer.  In both cases, they were each trying to protect one another and neither likes being treated as weak.  I really like how we get to see a side of Walt that is not heroic and is in fact quite childish and foolhardy.  It adds to the complexity of his character and keeps him from being too much of a Gary Stu.

Lucian makes his first appearance and in the same episode as Omar! Ack!  Lucian makes approximately one appearance per season and they always seem to be one of the more interesting episodes.  Not only is he an interesting character but as the previous sheriff he serves as an intriguing contrast with Walt.  We have yet to see him interact with his oily but formidable brother, Barlow (Branch's dad) and I am dearly wishing for that in some future season.

The "thing" between Walt and Vic also heats up along with the solidification of their awesome abilities as a professional team.  It is revealed that Vic is actually married (why was this kept such a secret until now - was it added by the show creators as an afterthought?) but her marriage is rocky.  Her husband Sean is portrayed as kind of a jerk but as we learn in future seasons, their marriage's problems are not all his fault, not by a long shot.  By the end of the season, I think Vic is realizing that she may have some inappropriate romantic feelings for her boss and this is made pretty clear.  Walt's feelings are MUCH harder to interpret.  He has come to respect and rely on her in a professional capacity and they have become friends of a sort.  He trusts her.  I also think he finds her attractive, physically at least, but recognizes all the obstacles that exist, most importantly the fact that she is married. Walt would never interfere in a marriage.

Plot wise, the season ends by bringing to the fore what has just been the shadow of Walt's wife's murder throughout the rest of the season.  I remember watching it the first time wondering if Walt's marriage wasn't all that is hinted at and that perhaps she had cheated and he had killed her - that all his depression etc... was really born out of guilt.  The last episode puts this idea to rest and clarifies that his wife's murderer is dead and that makes Walt a very attractive suspect indeed.  

It's also apparent that season one only covers a few months and we are still in the middle of the sheriff's election.  Coupled with the revelation that Cady and Branch dated, tempers between Walt and Branch are very high culminating in a middle of the road brawl which Vic has the break up.  Another example of Walt's occasional childishness.   

My thoughts on the second half of season one:

*************

Episode 6 | The Worst Kind of Hunter

Short Synopsis: Walt and his minions investigate a fatal bear mauling only to find the bear is just as much a victim. 

Short Review:  As mentioned below Omar AND Lucian together in an episode kind of breaks my brain.  The involvement of a bear and a bear biologist also breaks my brain.  There are a lot of threads at play here and the conclusion is awesome.  Plus I think this is probably the first official episode to launch the Walt and Vic 'ship.  Grade: A
The long (smart-ass) stare of Lucian Connally

Random Thoughts:
  • Introduction of Lucian who is a character I really adore.  AND it has Omar.  The two together are like some tornado of awesome. 
  • Omar: "I want that feisty Italian." Walt: "Careful what you wish for."
  • This is the first episode that there is any hint that Vic is married and we pretty much immediately learn that it's not a terribly happy marriage.  
  • Omar: "His granola son-of-a-bitch license!" Hee!
  • Vic: "You're different because you're a man Walt."  Damn...
  • Confession by bear:0).
  • Walt and Vic Update -  Walt's pretty peeved when Vic is shot by a tranquilizer and rushes to the hospital.  The drugs loosens Vic's tongue/inhibitions and she obviously embarrasses Walt by spilling about how crappy her marriage is.  Walt is uncomfortable but Vic's revelation that she respects Walt more than her husband causes some worry or maybe thoughtfulness on his part. 

Episode 7 | 8 Seconds

Short Synopsis: The rodeo's in town and a rider's sponsor gets the crud beaten out of him.  It's a case that is broken by the offhand comment of a rodeo clown.

Short Review:  What's better than a tangled web of family secrets and lies?  Not much.  The perpetrator of this is certainly unexpected and does kind of come out of left field.  Lots of good Vic and Walt stuff though and it's good to see him start trying to move on from his wife's death.  Grade: A-

Vic excited about her first rodeo.

Random Thoughts:
  • We get to meet Sean quite intimately:).  And Vic leaves bed with her husband on her day off when Walt calls.  Walt's maneuver is pretty sneaky as all he wants is a ride home.  Not sure why he couldn't just call a cab?  It would be like him to not want others in the community to know the sheriff is too intoxicated to drive.  One interesting moment here is when Vic in her annoyance tells Walt that his little stunt interrupted her and her husband having breath-taking sex, and Walt says "Well then, I'll have to apologize to your husband." and gives her this flirty smirk and she tilts her head all saucy like back at him.  Not sure how to read that but it's fun. Is Walt perhaps suggesting that Sean is the one really losing out since he was lucky to have Vic as his partner?
  • The scene with Sean is insanely humiliating.  He does seem like a douche but I kind of don't blame him for being really irritated. 
  • Bob: "I had no idea she even had a husband." Walt: "We all have our little secrets, Bob."
  • Walt purposely uses Vic and her "attractions" to suck in Levi.
  • I learned a new term"Chasing Trim". Trim is apparently a colloquial name for lady parts.
  • Now it's Walt's turn to be humiliated by Lizzie revealing in front of Vic and Branch that Walt drunk dialed her.  Ha Ha!
  • Vic: "Sometimes you just realize you married the wrong person."
  • Henry: "You are Alive. She is not. That sucks but it is what it is." Walt: "I hate that phrase."  I really love this scene between Henry and Walt.  Walt doesn't like things out of his control.
  • They never explain why the painting was taken?  Was it a lame attempt to mislead investigators to think it was robbery?  Even though he left his belt and buckle and bloody footprints everywhere.
  • Vic and Walt Update:  So what got Walt interested in getting some lady company?  Coincidence that it is right after Vic's drugged confession that she respects him more than her husband?  Stirred up some feelings maybe which he can't pursue with the lady that stirred them so looking for an alternative?  I know.  I'm stretching.  But I don't think I'm stretching to suggest that Walt and Vic have definitely reached a new stage of their relationship, even if it's mostly professional.  Walt is relying more and more on Vic and trusts her. To the point where he admits to her that he called Lizzie on purpose and that he felt like he was cheating on his dead wife AND more importantly he puts weight in Vic's answer to his confession.  Vic has also developed some firm and devoted loyalty to Walt.  So much so that, she jumps when he says jump even if it means alienating her husband.  Vic no longer seems thrilled with the Walt-Lizzie match making.

Episode 8 | An Incredibly Beautiful Thing

Short Synopsis:  A distraught young lady shows up in a convenience store pleading for help and the next we know, the convenience store owner is dead.  Who killed him is not the only mystery either - the identity of the young woman is unknown and following her trail leads to an abandoned baby.  Walt and crew try to untangle the mess. 

Short Review:  The only thing better then dysfunctional families is a cult!  This one was good but missed the mark a little and could have ratcheted up the creepy a bit though that is not this show's m.o.  Grade: B.
This sort of thing just doesn't happen back east.

Random Thoughts:
  • In Wyoming, the first two numbers of the license plate identify the county - that's useful.  
  • I wish we got more Ruby - she's great in this episode making sure we remember the victim is a good person.  
  • The Ferg teaches Henry a little something and makes a major break in the case!  Go Ferg!
  • One thing that confuses me about this is that when the social worker GETS STABBED, Branch's first concern is whether Cady is all right (she is totally fine), then he runs off to see if Vic is okay as she's just been hit by a car.  Nobody seems concerned about the lady that GOT STABBED. 
  • Vic gets hit by a car, pretty violently and just continues on, business as usual.  Tough Cookie is she.  
  • Hippie organic farmer types = cult.  Not sure I love that connotation:).  
  • Awesome ending, reminding us of the victim.
  • Vic and Walt Update:  Vic's husband has developed a dislike for Walt.  Vic and Walt play off each other perfectly when interviewing the energy company exec - they've become a very in sync professional team.  

Episode 9 | Dogs, Horses and Indians

Short Synopsis: An important tribal elder and administrator ends up dead just outside the reservation boundaries sinking Walt into a complicated and incendiary murder case.

Short Review: I like that we see a little of the less-than-perfect Walt Longmire in this episode and it all happens on a fascinating backdrop of Cheyenne politics and culture.   The chase scene is a highlight and Jacob Nighthorse just gets more and more intriguing.  Grade: B+
Boys. *shakes head in disgust*

Random Thoughts:
  • Walt just poured his coffee on Vic's arm on purpose to demonstrate how blood would drip from a wound in someone standing up, lol.   I'm not sure I ever registered that before. 
  • Malcolm Eaglestars' girlfriend is gorgeous.  He seemed kind of middle aged and dumpy and has a gambling problem - how'd he score her??
  • I like when Walt and Mathias work together - I wish Mathias could relax and just admit he likes Walt:). 
  • Mathias has a prairie chicken painting in his office!!
  • This is a big episode for the development of Walt's character.  He loses his shit over discovering that Branch and Cady dated which causes him to make some VERY questionable choices.  We get to see what happens when he lets his buried emotions come out - he opens up a very unwise can of whup ass on a tattoo parlor full of bikers.  It's pretty bad ass but a  juvenile and unhealthy way to deal with his anger.  Vic:  "It's all subjective, right. One man's excessive force is another's gentle persuasion. Nobody died, right?"  Always sticking up for him:).  His anger at Cady is COMPLETELY unfair but loyalty seems to be of paramount importance to him and he feels Cady has betrayed him.
  • Mrs. Lamebull is kind of awesome! "I'm a gold digger.  So sue me."
  • I really love how Walt works the bikers with the one odd duck, convincing the rest of the bikers that odd duck is spilling the beans.  Vic and Ferg play along effortlessly.  
  • And Jacob Nighthorse has now appeared to do another good thing. 
  • Cady "Dad, you can't keep avoiding this situation." Vic: "Just watch him."
  • The chase of the perp - is another great example of how well this show uses music.  It's hypnotic.
  • The U.S. Government only quantifies three things by blood - dogs, horses and Indians.  
  • Vic and Walt Update:  Vic gets to see a less than flattering side to Walt.  Her expression in the biker parlor is pretty classic What the Hell, tinged with disappointment.  She still defends him though and is mad at Branch while sympathetic to Walt.  

Episode 10 | Unfinished Business

Short Synopsis: An old case comes back to haunt when the boys accused and (likely wrongfully) acquitted of raping a mentally challenged Cheyenne girl start dying. 

Short Review: The ultimate scene that resolves the mystery is a powerful and surprising moment.  With that plus the menace of Detective Fales and the emotion between father and daughter it makes a fantastic finale to a really strong season.  Grade: A
Fales finally pins down Walt.

Random Thoughts:
  • The morning with Lizzie is SO awkward.  Also awesome once Vic and Ferg show up.  Walt's embarrassment is delicious and hilarious. 
  • I like the constant reminder and symbolism of Walt's wife's voice on the answering machine.  
  • No wonder Detective Fales thinks Walt is guilty and corrupt to boot.  
  • Henry to Walt: "What a rich inner life you lead.  From time to time, you should consider sharing it with the rest of us."
  • Branch and Walt exchanging punches but first they must remove the cowboy hats - they mustn't be dented:).  
  • Vic's disgust at the rampant testosterone between Walt and Branch is potent.  
  • The scene between Lizzie and Vic is hilarious in its fakeness and cattiness.  They both pull it off REALLY well.  Vic doesn't even try to hide from Ferg that she dumps the froofy present from Lizzie in her bottom drawer :).  
  • The scene between Walt and Cady is really well done  - the two actors hit it out of the park.
  • Vic and Walt Update:  I think it's fair to say at this point that Vic has developed some feelings for Walt.  She not only isn't encouraging the match between him and Lizzie she's actively hostile to it at this point and is protective of Walt.   One scene I missed the first three times I've watched this series is Vic contemplating her wedding ring and then the gift for Walt all pensive like. It seems to suggest that she was bull shitting Lizzie, at least a little as to why she doesn't wear her ring.  She's unhappy in her marriage and starting to realize she may have inappropriate feelings for Walt.  Walt at this point seems oblivious and rightfully distracted.  I still question the timing of his deciding to half-heartedly pursue Lizzie though he really doesn't seem emotionally ready.  My theory is that he's rebelling against some feelings of physical attraction to Vic and hoping that blond Lizzie will distract him.  I'm currently reading book two of the Longmire series and there's a lovely description of Walt's "situation" with Vic: "I guess it had never really occurred to me though I constantly swam against the undertow of my attraction toward her.  The thought of myself involved with a woman who was the same age as Cady was an image so pathetic that I erased it in wide sweeps on a regular basis."  I basically think this is where Walt is as season 1 comes to a close.
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Favorite episodes in the second half of Season 1 are definitely The Worst Kind of Hunter and Unfinished Business followed closely by 8 Seconds.  What about you?  Favorite moments? 

Next week  - first half of season 2. 

PREVIOUS POSTS:
Season 1: Eps. 1-5

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden - Raggedy Garden and Fluffy Clouds

OUTSIDE

My intention is to keep this week's Saturday in the Garden short and sweet.  I worked today leading a couple of butterfly hikes for a bioblitz event.  What the heck is a bioblitz?  A bunch of taxanomic experts all gather on a particular natural area on the same day and do an inventory for their group of interest.  It's often morphed into an educational event where the public comes out and learns about the area and the wildlife and the area gets a species list in return.  Fun!

So....There's been no major activity in the garden except for things starting to look pretty ragged.

The sky was pretty this week and we have a couple of adorable Barn Swallow chicks growing out of their nest on the front porch of our office.
 
LIFE 

I don't usually do links round-ups but I've encountered a few random articles over the last couple weeks that I've liked and they're way more interesting than anything going on in life!

WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING


Watching

It was sort of a random watching week.  I started watching a few episodes of The West Wing which I have, shockingly, never watched.  It's clever and interesting and funny but it almost lost me pretty early on when they featured the wildlife conservationists on their "Crackpot Day" episode but I'll probably keep going eventually. First I have to get over my Doctor Who jag.  I finally watched the 50th anniversary episode which was Fan-freakin'-tastic.  I've also been reading a bunch of Doctor Who novels featuring the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and that started me down the road of a 57th re-watch of season 1 and....who knows where this ends:0).  

Books

Finished Last Week:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter Book 3) by J.K. Rowling: Part of my Harry Potter re-read by audio.  It was bitchin'!
  • The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #3) by Maryrose Wood: This is a totally adorable middle-grade series that I am listening to as the narration by Katherine Kellgren is fantastic!
  • Doctor Who: The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards: Doctor Who adventures in book form.  Fun!  This features the Ninth Doctor and Rose. 

Currently Reading:

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: So maybe some day I'll pick this up again?  Until then it will sit here on the currently read and produce feelings of profound shame.
  •  In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker:  Immortal cyborgs in Elizabethan England!  Need I say more?
  • Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13) by Jim Butcher: Harry is actually dead and a ghost in this one.  Clever Butcher, very clever.  
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty #1) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: This is the first book in a series that follows a single British family through numerous generations into modern times.  This first book takes place in the early 15th century.  This is such a fascinating idea and I have high hopes but I have to say the characters in this first book are shallow and are doing nothing for me. 

On the BLOG LAST WEEK:


SUNDAY: LONGMIRE - the first half of season 1. The first in a series of obsessive posts about this show.  Sorry. 
TUESDAY: Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Celebrate Diversity - Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
THURSDAY: Tough Traveling: Middle Aged Heroes. A fun meme hosted by Fantasy Review Barn to explore all the beloved tropes of the SFF genre.
FRIDAY: REVIEW: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman  - I was disappointed and this review was a bitch to write:0(.

On the BLOG NEXT WEEK

SUNDAY: Second Longmire post featuring the second half of season 1.
TUESDAY: The Top Ten Tuesday topic this week doesn't excite me so much so wild card post today.
WEDNESDAY:  Book Review TBD.  
THURSDAY: The Tough Traveling meme is highlighting Middle Age Heroes Flying Mounts in Fantasy land.  Learn more over on Fantasy Review Barn.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, July 24, 2015

REVIEW: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16085457-shadow-scale
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Seraphina #2
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrator:W. Morgan Sheppard

This was one of my most highly anticipated releases for 2015.  The first book Seraphina was the first YA novel I read that I really loved and was one of my top ten reads of 2013.  Shadow Scale had a lot to live up to in my mind and while it certainly maintains the complex realistic characters and fascinating world-building, this book never quite captured my interest like the first book did.

Synopsis: At the end of the first book Seraphina's secrets have been revealed and the royal family of Goredd has been devastated which thrusts Seraphina's friends Glisselda and Lucian Kiggs into roles of heavy responsibility.  Seraphina wants to help them but is also consumed by the idea of connecting with other half-dragons in the world thinking she can track them down using the inexplicable mental connection she has with them.  When it appears that bringing all the half dragons together could actually help protect Goredd from the imminent invasion of rebel dragons  - Seraphina sets off to search for them all and bring them together.  But a new enemy has unexpectedly appeared and gains in power until she seems impossible to defeat.

While all of the action in the first book took place in the Capitol of Goredd, Shadow Scale widens the scope to epic levels by following Seraphina as she travels through all the major countries of the world looking for the denizens of her mental garden.  All of the new settings are well developed and feel real, each with its own culture and prejudices against the few half dragons in their midst. Seraphina's quest to find and gather the other half dragons is presented as the emotionally complicated thing it is.  Seraphina has spent all her life feeling alone and different and she imagines the others feel this way too.  She frames it in her mind as a selfless quest to help others but she is forced to confront that it is equally motivated by a selfish wish to belong and have others like her around.

The new villain that appears is equally complex and ties in to Seraphina's feelings of alienation.  Jannoula claims to have the same goal as Seraphina and in a way she does but her upbringing has not provided her with the same sense of what is right and wrong. Her methods are deliciously insidious and her entrance into Seraphina's life is described in a way that gave me chills.  In a way Jannoula is what Seraphina could be if she had not had her uncle and her music.   Jannoula is hard to feel sorry for in the end but she's a worthy and interesting villain even if she does sort of appear out of nowhere and take over the story.

Another thing I loved about Seraphina, that is continued in Shadow Scale, is an overall theme of acceptance and tolerance.  There is the obvious point being made about prejudice against the half dragons that is irrational and is belied by the fact that half dragons played a crucial role in society's history.  Also Seraphina's vision of a utopia for the half dragons never happens - Seraphina must accept that not everyone has the same needs as she and her vision was in essence a selfish one.  She must also face her own prejudices as she is somewhat put off by the less human looking half dragons.  Finally, the book presents many different kinds of relationships, all of them valid. 

Taken as a whole it's a good book that continues and wraps up the story presented in Seraphina quite well.  You can feel the "but" coming though can't you?  I was ultimately a little disappointed.  This was still very much Seraphina's story but somehow it felt less personal.  The scope was opened up to allow more characters and broader view of the world but we lost Orma and much of Kiggs.  Seraphina is mostly interacting with strangers, or characters we just met and I missed the cozier feel of the first book.  It's like that awkward transition when a TV show set in high school tries to transition its characters into college and it just doesn't work anymore.  The setting and world is just too different to have the same feel and it didn't totally work for me here.  It's exacerbated a little because for the first time in her life Seraphina doesn't have to hide and she has in fact found a happy place as a trusted adviser to the Goreddi Court and Queen Glisselda.  So the tension of her character is completely thrown off and different and didn't feel quite right.  She has new inner and outer conflicts of course but I found them much less compelling.

The other major problem I think the book suffered from wonky pacing.  This book was longer than Serphina and it really felt like it and not in a great way.  It was slow and baggy in places, almost repetitive and then, in the end, gets wrapped up quite quickly and easily. Seriously, once Jannoula is dealt with, very conveniently I might add, the war against the dragons is wrapped up in what feels like a couple of paragraphs.  And it's not just the big conflicts that end up getting short schrift in favor of developing Jannoula.  Kiggs and Seraphina's relationship which I was a big fan of in Seraphina felt shoe-horned in, in Shadow Scale. I'm glad it didn't take over, and perhaps this is getting back to my disappointment at Seraphina interacting mostly with a bunch of characters we don't know, I would have liked them to have had a little more screen time together. 

I've tried to point out some places where Shadow Scale fell down though I am not sure they add up to much and really I think it comes down to my having HUGE  and likely unfair expectations of the book.  I wanted another book just like Seraphina and was too rigid in that desire that I couldn't quite go with this book's differences.  The point being, some of my disappointment is certainly my own fault.  However, I stand by the criticisms I've mentioned and do believe they made this a less enjoyable book than its predecessor. 

FINAL VERDICT:  Jeezo Flip, I hated writing this review!  Shadow Scale is a fine but, ultimately for me, disappointing follow up to Seraphina.  3.5 out of 5 Stars.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tough Traveling - Middle Aged Heroes

 

Tough Traveling is a fun meme that aims to tour all the tropes big and small, abhorred and loved that are littered across the fantasy landscape. It was conceived of and is hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and here's how it's explained on the blog: 

Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week's trope is Middle Aged Heroes:
This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game.  And, occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved.  It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in between ground.
I really like this topic because...well... as I get older I find myself appreciating, even gravitating towards, a more mature hero or heroine.  And the definition of hero I'm using is a protagonist who does heroic things whether those things be the traditional slay the dragon type deeds or something more subtle.  After all with age, supposedly, comes wisdom so a hero shouldn't have to use his/her fists or swords.

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Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Harry didn't start the series as a middle-aged hero but I think he's probably getting at least close these days.  It doesn't seemed to have slowed him down probably because he's a Wizard and they have much longer life spans so really he's still a young pup but that's semantics.  I think.  

Ista and Cazaril from the Chalion Series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold is really fantastic at creating atypical heroes.  Cazaril is in his mid-thirties so not quite middle aged but he has served as a galley slave and it has aged him beyond his years.  Despite his desire to hide from life, he ends up saving the kingdom of Chalion in The Curse of Chalion from...you guessed it...a curse on the royal family.  Ista is the Queen Mother of Chalion and is thought to be mad but that doesn't stop her from having quite the adventure in Paladin of Souls.   Both of these books are really excellent if you have not yet read them!

Aral Vorkosigan in the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster BujoldSo what did I say about Lois McMaster Bujold?  She's awesome.  Especially with the atypical heroes. Aral is Miles' father and only gets to really be the hero of one (or maybe two?) books and quite frankly he's outshone by his wife Cordelia who is a good bit younger than he.  He is a very interesting character however.  I would have liked to include Cordelia Vorkosigan but she is a bit younger when she gets center stage (maybe young 30s) BUT and I am very very, very, very, very, very, very excited and happy about this, the scuttlebutt is that the next Vorkosigan book will be focused on Cordelia!!!  And yes this is the second list this series has been on this week!


Kelsier from Mistborn by Brandon SandersonSo I really didn't love this book but it keeps finding its way onto these lists, lol.  Kelsier is perhaps a secondary character but he is also the hero and puppetmaster of Mistborn.  And he ain't young.

See!  He has gray in his beard!
Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
So Aragorn is apparently 87 which is prime of life for his race which is particularly long-lived (what is up with the long-lived folks in fantasy, one would think we mortals have fantasies about living longer lives...) so that confuses matters but I've always thought of him as being in his early to mid forties.  Regardless, he's no spring chicken though he can still swing a sword with the best of them.  I'm even going to be all cocky and predict that I'm not the only one who thinks of him as middle-aged and that he will be the most popular pick on the lists this week!

Shara from City of Stairs by Robert Bennet Jackson
This is a bit of a gamble because I don't really remember if we even know how old Shara is.  However, my impression of her was mid to late 30s, so a little shy of middle age but close enoughThe practical, sardonic and authoritative approach to all crises speaks to her experience and more mature place in life.  Plus she drinks a ton of tea.

Odysseus from The Odyssey by Homer
Odysseus may not be middle aged when he starts his adventures but he certainly is by the time he ends them and returns home 20 years later.  I always picture him as a more mature hero...perhaps THE iconic mature hero.

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That's it for me this week.  Yay for middle age?  Check out the other awesome lists produced by the whole crew of tough travelers over at Fantasy Review Barn.