Sunday, August 30, 2015

LONGMIRE | Thoughts | S.3 | Eps. 1-5

A periodic post recording my ever so slightly obsessive watching of Longmire
Time to wrap this series of posts up in preparation for the release of Season 4 on September 10 on Netflix!  So excited though I will sadly be in no-internet land but you can bet I will be binge watching as soon as I get connected again.  Something to look forward to!

Each season of the show thus far has escalated the drama.  I think folk's mileage varies as to how much they enjoy this and I fall mostly on the side of enjoyment.  There is no denying that this season is pretty darn grim and depressing and it starts right off the bat.  Branch has been shot and as he recovers his behavior quickly becomes erratic and obsessed.  If I have one thing I don't like about the events of this season it is that we lose cocky but charming Branch.  He does have a point of course but he unfortunately loses points for being increasingly unbalanced in his pursuit of the truth.

Also, Henry is arrested for the murder of a Denver drug addict and it quickly becomes clear that jail is not going to work well for him.  To make matters work, the significant amount of money he's put by which should buy him a good defense has gone missing.  

Vic also has a bad season as well but in the first half of the season, that mostly involves an increasingly complicated relationship with her boss and a deteriorating relationship with her husband.  She's also developing some disturbing suspicions of her fellow deputy and is unsure how to deal with them.  

So all in all a fraught start to the season and it's only going to get worse in the second half of the series.  There is still some of the humor but it's definitely being overshadowed by the overall bleakness of people's circumstances.

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Episode 3.1  | The White Warrior

Short Synopsis:  Walt has a VERY busy episode which starts with him saving Branch's life, then running down and trying to save Henry.  He has to try and figure out how to help Henry and who shot Branch especially since Branch is insistent it's a dead guy.

Short Review:  This is an exciting first episode but also pretty grim which signals a trend for this season.  Also some things don't add up, like Walt being so blindly insistent that Ridges is dead even though he's usually the first to think outside of the box. Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:
  • Even in his franticness Walt notices details like Branch saying he tastes green.  
  • Henry so admires and loves Walt.  He kept the teeth so that there would be no way for Walt to take the fall if things went bad.   
  • Interesting that Vic shuts down Ruby and Ferg so that she can grill Walt.  More surprisingly Walt allows it and goes along with it.  She follows him into the bathroom and they have an interesting interlude while he changes his shirt and Vic looks intrigued and embarrassed all at once. Walt then invites her along.  It's an interesting scene because as we've seen he does not like to be pushed but he lets Vic push him here and is relatively cooperative. Okay sure, maybe it's because they need some exposition delivered but still. 
  • It is a little odd that Walt so resists the idea that David Ridges is still alive.  There was something hinky about the tape of his suicide and the scene and there is no body.  
  • For how wise and noble Henry is, he has terrible taste in women.  
  • I really can't help but like Jacob.  He's an unconventional "bad" guy.  
  • Barlow Connally: "Nothing like a little family trauma to remind you why you divorced someone."

Episode 3.2  | Of Children and Travelers

Short Synopsis:  A Russian teenager is found murdered and Walt and Vic must untangle the complicated path that led her to Absaroka County. 

Short Review:  While I am a little confused about what exactly Polina's situation was, I really like the journey of this one and the teamwork between Vic and Walt.  Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:
  • Is Walt the best bartender ever or what?
  • Walt finds Polina's passport in her boot:).  A callback to a few episodes back when Cady indicated that it was a rule of her mom's to carry any money over $50 in her boot.  
  • From the very beginning Vic's sympathy is entirely with Polina even though she hears all the terrible things the kid does.  I think we're meant to understand that Vic really identifies with her but I seriously doubt Vic was this bad of a "bad girl".  
  • So Vic just walks up and says she got the address for the school in Arizona and we should go check it out and Walt just nods and takes off.  Aren't Wyoming and Arizona like seriously far apart??
  • Vic and Walt do a lot of play acting in this episode  - they both read each other pretty well and I think it's a nice visual of how good a team they have become.   
  • Ahhh... The weird bar scene.  I have no idea what the subtext of this scene really is.  Vic almost seems to be flirting with Walt, enticing him with her "I'm a naughty girl" reveal but it's almost like it's born of nervousness/awkwardness.  Meanwhile Walt stares at her with a look that could mean "you're drinking my g-damn beer" or could mean "I'd like to rip your clothes off."  It's very ambiguous but it does feel like a moment.  Then there's the hijinks with opening their room doors and then the significant stare each of them gives the adjoining door of their rooms.  Vic would totally like to jump him. Walt could be thinking the same thing or could be just puzzling on whether Vic was actually flirting with him earlier.  It's a recognition of tension but not necessarily preference on his part.  
  • Walt takes the measure of the security guard pretty darn quick - I love how they play him. "I know this looks bad but I'm actually a really good guy."  When someone says that?  They ain't a really good guy.  
  • So I don't really understand who these parents at the end are?  Why do they look out for troubled Russian girls?  Is the father sexually abusing them?  And the wife just goes along with it? Is Sofia Polina's real little sister or just someone she connected with?  I find it all very confusing but I'm just going to go with...they were bad people.  

Episode 3.3  | Miss Cheyenne

Short Synopsis: The death of a doctor distracts Walt while he is also trying to support Henry through his Bail hearing and serving as a judge in the Miss Cheyenne Nation pageant.

Short Review:  This is one of the most intriguing of mysteries that also deals with a  morally complicated issue.  Again, there is a very strong supporting cast and also the suspense of Henry's bail hearing.  Grade: A

Random Thoughts:
  • WALT: "Are you wearing makeup?" HENRY: "A little."  the way Henry says it - all defiant is adorable.
  • Nice callback to the first episodes of the show with the girl who they saved from prostitution in that episode showing up as a contestant in the pageant in this episode.
  • Love the response of the nurse at the Res clinic to Branch - giving him a big hug, like an old friend.  
  • It's great to see Cady in her professional capacity and not just as Walt's daughter.  It's also great to see how Walt and Cady's relationship has evolved  - they are pretty sweet together.
  • Love the testimony by Miss Stillwater - Henry is awesome.  
  • Branch paying the remainder of Henry's bail is a little sketchy and Branch does of course take advantage in later episodes.
  • Again this show produces a very powerful and moving confession scene. They do a great job constructing these scenes and hiring guest actors that can really carry them.
  • Walt sure does end up carrying around a lot of injured people.   

Episode 3.4  | In the Pines

Short Synopsis: Branch loses his mind while the rest of the Sheriff's department investigates the murder of a youth wilderness adventure leader. 

Short Review:  The mystery in this episode didn't really grab me but it has some interesting guest actors.  I wish Branch wasn't going insane and that Vic and Walt and Sean weren't quite so angsty. Grade: B- 

Random Thoughts:
  • The episode where Branch really starts to go off the rails. 
  • Poor Walt realizing that one of his enemies may be responsible for his wife's death.
  • Oh Sean.  And Poor Walt - this is all he needs with everything else going on.  Again I think Sean is mostly reacting to a read of his wife and his own baggage jealousy issues and not from any preference for Vic he's witnessed coming from Walt.  
  • Vic has told Walt that she and Gorski were lovers - why lie about not knowing what 32 means?  She's definitely trying to play things down and keep Walt out of it.
  • Trey's mom is a little over the top but pretty perfect as the clueless mother of a troubled kid.  The actor who portrays Trey is also very good.  Creepy and off.  
  • And then Vic brings the whole 32 thing back up at a really inappropriate time.  It's like she has good intentions of keeping Walt out of it but she wants to lean on him and have his protection.  And Walt seems a little irritated with her for bringing it back up and that he has been dragged into Vic's personal problems. He keeps encouraging her to spend time with Sean.   I notice that Vic now wears her wedding ring.  
  • I like the conversation between Sean and Vic  - they really sound like a husband and wife who are having problems.  Sean admits that he knows Walt and Vic are not fooling around but that doesn't make him less jealous of Walt.  
  • Go Ruby.  "I want you to hurt 'em."  She's got some Wyoming in her after all:0)!

Episode 3.5  | Wanted Man

Short Synopsis:Walt teams up with Lucian to visit some of his cleverest and most devious enemies in an attempt to figure out who might have killed his wife and her killer.  Vic is left in charge and investigates the kidnapping and drugging of a Cheyenne Man.

Short Review: I don't like how separate everyone is but there are some great scenes and I do love a Walt-Lucian team.  We also see the emergence (out of jail) of Malachi who promises to be a sinister adversary indeed.  Grade: B+

Random Thoughts:
  • WALT: "Character is Fate. The philosopher Heraclitus said that. I think he meant, Man makes his destiny through his choices and his values."
  • Walt's testimony against Malachi is pretty damning and he's the damn sheriff.  It's pretty bad that the parole board still decided favorably for Malachi. 
  • Yay for Walt teaming up with Lucian:)!  
  • I kind of like Travis and feel bad for him.  His mother is hilarious as is Vic's bossiness.  
  • Vic is SO suspicious of Branch at this point - she can smell the bullshit for sure.  Interesting that Walt pauses to make sure all is well. 
***************
What do you think about the darker and more drama-filled tone of season 3?  What was your favorite of the above five episodes?  I really love the first three episodes.  How do you interpret Vic and Walt's little interlude at the hotel?  How excited are you about season 4??

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sarah MacLean-apalooza – 3 Books, Many Thoughts

I can’t believe I’ve dilly dallied so long in writing up my thoughts on three of Sarah Maclean’s books.  I read A Rogue by Any Other Name and One Good Earl Deserves a Lover back in May for Pete’s sake!  Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord was a little more recent but jeezo flip, I loved these books and should have sung their praises earlier. With that in mind, I beg your pardon for not adding my voice to the MacLean Chorus of Love earlier though I have reviewed...Nine . 

I’m reviewing these in order of how much I loved them from least to most but they all get love! And this is going to get a little long – longer than I was expecting!


Umm…so after that declaration of love for these books, I looked at my notes and most of the thoughts I recorded for this book are pretty negative.  I promise I did end up loving it!  The Set-up is this:  Penelope Marbury is on the shelf after a scandalously broken first engagement from a decade earlier (haven’t read it yet but I’m pretty sure this is part of the story in book 3 of Maclean’s loosely connected Love by Numbers series,  Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart).   In the ten years since, she’s longed for real love and become reluctant to accept anything less but as she has gotten older and turned down other proposals, her chances for this have dwindled to nothing. She somewhat wistfully remembers her childhood crush and neighbor, now the Marquess of Bourne, who she hasn’t seen or heard from in years.  That’s because Bourne has been fighting against a scandal of his own that robbed him of everything but his title. He’s worked hard to become a rich man, partner in an exclusive gaming hell, so he can re-claim his lands and take revenge on his former guardian.  And it is because of this that Bourne and Penelope are about to collide again because Penelope’s father has added Bourne’s estate to his daughter’s dowry in an effort to get her married off and be rid of her.  It’s actually a kind of complicated set up now that I’m trying to describe it but it makes sense in the book.

Bourne is your typical Alpha-hole rogue who likes to pretend he doesn’t have a heart.  His whole existence is focused on beating his jerk of a guardian and recovering his family’s legacy.  Penelope is just a means to an end despite the fact that they were good friends as children.  I generally don’t love strongly Alpha male characters but Bourne is written just right.  His personality was shaped by some very traumatic events that happened at an impressionable age.  He does some pretty awful things but his disrespect for other people is not just focused on women – he’s an equal opportunity people-hater.  These two things, a solid reason for his A-Holeness and his lack of misogyny, made him much more palatable for me.  I compare this with a romance I read around the same time, Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens, where Devil was an autocratic asshole because he could be and his opinion of women was that generally they should stay locked up safe and not worry their pretty little heads about anything – HATED him.  Anyhoo…

The character I struggled with at first (like the first 50% of the novel) was Penelope.  I did love how MacLean established Penelope’s long time love for Bourne by including interspersed correspondence between them as children up through her twenties (by which time he had stopped responding).  It was a great way to have the reader buy into the two character’s history with each other and to show how much Bourne has meant to Penelope. Plus the letters are delightful but they did not make it easier for me to empathize with how much Penelope lets Bourne play with her for the first 50 % of the book, constantly getting her hopes up and then being crushed.  It makes sense and sets up the second half of the book’s much more awesome Penelope but I really wanted to hit her upside the head a lot in the first half.   The payoff is worth it so stick with her even when she’s being an idiot.  In the end, Bourne needs rescuing and it is Penelope that is the Knight(ess) in shining armor! 

FINAL VERDICT:  Despite being rather irritated by the first half of this book, it still sucked me in and the payoff in the second half is SO good.  3.5 out of 5 Stars


This book saved my life.  Seriously.  Okay partially seriously.  Back in early July, I had the longest travel day ever which included about 7 hours sitting around in airports.  At the first airport, I cracked this book open and was completely consumed and entertained for the next umpteen hours before arriving home.  Yes I am a slow reader, thank goodness because if I had finished this before my travel was over I think I would have cried.  I think I had roughly 15 pages left to finish when I got home:0). 

Anyhow, the story is this.  Remember Nick St. John?  The twin brother of XXX from Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake?  The one that’s a recognized scholar of “marbles” (ancient statuary, not the small glass balls)?  With his brother married off, Nick has become the Eligible Bachelor #1 of London society so when an opportunity arises for him to go haring off into the country to look for a Duke’s missing sister, he grabs at the chance.  Because he was apparently some big superspy in the past, known for his tracking skills? His back story here is patently ridiculous but thankfully it’s pretty easy to ignore. 

The trail for the missing ducal sister leads him to a small village where he encounters Lady Isabel.  Isabel is the daughter of a disreputable jerkwad of a father who made a habit of gambling off his daughter’s hand in marriage and essentially killed his wife (Isabel’s mother) by breaking her heart.  The only good thing about him is that he never ever visits his country estate leaving Isabel to do as she pleases while trying to raise her younger brother to be a better lord than their father.  She also has established a halfway house for women who find themselves in trouble and at sea for any reason.  The most recent addition is a certain missing ducal sister.  Things are always a little unconventional at the estate but they have become more so with the death of Isabel’s father.  Needing to secure a bunch of cash in a hurry in order to take care of all the house’s occupants before her father’s appointed estate manager arrives, she resolves to sell her family’s world class collection of marbles.  Lucky for her, noted expert on such things, Nicholas St. John happens to be in town and available to value the collection.  Hijinks ensue. 

I loved Lady Isabel.  Experiencing her mother’s weakness (because of love) and her father’s treachery has made her fiercely protective of her heart and her independence.  She clings to her ability to be self-sufficient though every once in a while, in a weak moment, she wishes there was someone, a partner who could help share the load with her.  I totally identified with her and appreciated her situation even if it was perhaps pretty unlikely for that time period.  I also loved the household she had created  - run on a shoestring budget, some of the women who had found shelter there had picked up staff roles in the house – groom, cook, foot”man”.  Nick is a good hero as well though there isn’t anything particularly unique about him.  He is a good partner for Isabel.

My one major complaint is that there is actually a secondary romance that occurs in the book between Nick’s Turkish companion and Isabel’s best friend and cousin.  This one held just as much interest if not more for me but it was kept very, very secondary. 

FINAL VERDICT:  Kept me totally absorbed for hours while traveling for a day. A very easy heroine to love, a good partner for her and of course lots of witty banter and UST shenanigans.  4 out of 5 stars


Now for my favorite!  Oh how I love the hero and heroine in this book and the set-up is also pretty great.  The blurb starts out with “Lady Philippa Marbury is odd.”  It’s a great beginning and is actually 100% true.  It’s not just that she is more interested in science than parties she’s also very awkward socially though not really shy.  She just says strange things and thinks about things that most in polite society do not.  She knows she’s odd and she thinks of herself as being dispassionate and objective so marriage for her is just something she must do…not anything to get worked up over.  Luckily she has found a suitor who is pretty well perfect…he’s not very smart but he’s kind, accepting of her eccentricities and they both love dogs.  Is there anything else needed in a marriage of convenience?  The problem is Philippa is anxious and nervous and feels wrong and she’s not really sure why.  It’s not a common state for her to be in.  She decides it is because she is nervous about the physical side of marriage and her lack of experience.  Being a scientist she sets out to investigate the problem and in that way relieve her nerves.

She does some research and decides that Cross, the bookkeeper for the Fallen Angel gambling hell is the person to investigate with.  He has a reputation for being a ladies’ man and he is also considered to be quite brilliant and scholarly so should be swayed by her scientifically framed arguments.  He is appalled and refuses her vehemently but he is also very, very tempted.

This book is special because of the journey both characters go on, particularly Philippa.  This book is all about her journey, discovering that she has a heart AND that it is just as important as her brain.  Everybody is concerned about her match with her fiancĂ© because he is not her intellectual equal but what is most missing is love and passion.  The dance between her and Jasper and how they finally come together is really lovely. 

Cross is also on a journey, learning to forgive himself and put the past in the past.  He was a selfish jerk as a younger man and ended up hurting people in his family.  He has spent years trying to make up for it and he has not allowed himself to recognize that he is now a very different, and much better, man. 

I did love this one but there were a couple of negative things that kept this from being a 5 star read.  I read A Rogue… and One Earl… back to back which ended up being a detriment.  Cross is a great hero, because MacLean writes great heroes BUT he was very very similar to Bourne – same endearments (darling, love), same reactions to particular situations.  We are told that he is a big old nerd and there is some appropriate window dressing (office overflowing with books, in depth knowledge of astronomy and the classics) but I would have liked if he had been a tad geekier and we had actually seen him indulging his nerdy pleasures.  Same with Philippa, actually.  Her behavior is more decidedly odd and unconventional than Cross but we don’t actually witness much scientific geekery. 

FINAL VERDICT:  This was the only one of the three that while writing the review I got a strong urge to re-read.  A quirky heroine and a romance that involves personal growth and witty banter.  I loved it!  4 out of 5 stars.

Phew!  That’s a lot of thoughts! To wrap up, I’ve noticed a trend that MacLean likes heroes that screwed up when they were young and foolish and it has had repercussions on their adult life.  Refreshingly, all the heroes take responsibility for their own actions even if there was also someone else to blame and it is their acceptance of their own stupidity that has helped them be more decent human beings and less judgmental of others.  It makes for some good, swoon-worthy heroes.  She is also one of the best at keeping her tone light and playful while still having intelligent heroines with backbone and pretty involved plots.  It’s a perfect blend that is catnip for me!  If you are interested in started one of MacLean’s series, from my personal preferences, I would say start with Nine Ways… because I liked it a tad better than A Rogue… as a series starter.

Enough!  What characteristics would your perfect romance hero have? 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WEDNESDAYS IN THE GARDEN | Why Are There So Many Bison in My Life?

Hello there internet!  How lovely, shiny and exciting you are!   I've been living in a cabin in the woods for the last ten days and have been brutally cut off from you except for a surprisingly strong 4G signal on my phone.  I dutifully wrote the below post up in a word document and then tried to post it at the closest small town library but their wi-fi was not up to the task.  So it feels good to be taking a brief break back home and be able to play with you again.  You're the best!

OUTSIDE and LIFE (Because they have become one for the time being)

First week out in the wilds of Western Iowa and it’s been quite nice.  The first couple days, it did nothing but rain and my first day in the field didn’t go smoothly but it was all minor setbacks.  The place where I am staying is so beautiful and it’s up on a hill so I actually have some cell and 4G coverage.  The only thing I am having to adjust to is no running water.  Indoor plumbing is a serious luxury that I shamefully take for granted!  There is a nice bathhouse ~ a 3 minute walk away but it seems more like 567 years when it’s pouring rain or 3 in the morning (or both) and you have to … ahem…use the facilities.  Anyway, here are some pictures:

Bur oak acorns with their adorable fuzzy caps

One of my favorite butters - the Regal Fritillary. I did part of my grad work on this species

Sulphurs puddling
The view from my cabin in the woods
WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Detailing what I have been WATCHING is easy because that would be nothing.  Out in the sticks y’all!

Reading

I’ve been driving myself batty with the reading.  I can’t decide what I am in the mood for. I’ve picked up two different books read about 30 pages and put them down again.  No fault of their own, just me being finicky and weird.  I think I just want some fluffy historical romance and of course, though I brought like 15 physical books plus my kindle loaded with books, I don’t have exactly what I am looking for… #bookpeopleproblems.  Since writing this I have finally settled into a couple of books but am still feeling a little edgy...

Finished (in the) Last Week (and a half):

  • World After by Susan Ee: The second book in the Penryn and the End of Days series.  It's super grim - grimmer than book one - and I loved it.  What is wrong with me?
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater:  I really loved it but I am so worried about what the series has in store for all the characters!
  • Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole:  My other two device audio books (Of Noble Birth and The Founding) are not doing it for me so Doctor Who it is!
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher:  I am officially caught up with the Dresden Files Series.  *twiddles thumbs*
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente: I was a little bored by this book at first but by the end really loved it!
  • The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson:  This is the third installment in a fun YA paranormal mystery/Urban fantasy series.  
  • Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn:  This was a re-read of a book I thought I should have adored but just liked.  Upon re-reading?  I still just like it.  
  • Red by Alyxandra Harvey:  This was a real disappointment but a very fast read. 
NOTE:  So, I can apparently get some reading done with no TV, Blogging + a lot of driving. I'm a little impressed with myself:0).

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 look encouraging.
  • 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.  This book is officially on hold at the moment but I'll get back to it one day soon. 
  • Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak: I may DNF this one.  Despite the presence of pirates it is not making me happy mostly because of deficient humor and boring main characters. 
  • Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone:   Despite my real misgivings about the number of series I'm in the middle of, I pick up a new one.  And it's good.
  • The Duchess War by Courtney Milan:  This is a historical romance novelist that I've head great things about.  This is my second book by her and while I totally get all the praise, her books and I aren't really getting along.  
  • Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter:  This is an non-fiction ARC addressing work-life balance and feminism.  
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier:  I actually read the second book in this series first (horrors!) and while I was out in the wilds last year so this seemed appropriate. 


On the BLOG LAST WEEK:

SUNDAY: Fifth Longmire post featuring the last three episodes of season 2.
TUESDAY: Review of Hostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff

On the BLOG NEXT WEEK:

I've got one review post ready to schedule and I am going to try and get a couple more ready while I'm here in internet land.  However, my time is brief in this shiny land so I'm not going to hold my breath.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

REVIEW | Hostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24388317-hostage-takerHostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff
Publication Year: 2015 (August 18th)
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime
Series: Eve Rossi #1
Awards: NA
Format: Advanced Reader Copy provided through NetGalley by Random House-Bantam Dell Publishing - Thanks to them for providing this free advanced copy!  Receiving the book for free does not effect my opinion or review of it.
Narrator: NA

I requested this ARC because I am a huge fan of Pintoff's historical mystery series featuring Simon Ziele as a police detective in turn of the 20th century New York.   Hostage Taker represents a complete departure from that series as it has a contemporary setting and it leans closer to the thriller end of things then a straight mystery.  The setting is still New York and it centers around a female  FBI agent, Eve Rossi, whose specialty is hostage negotiations.

When we meet Eve she is on a self-imposed extended leave from the FBI because of a spectacular failed hostage negotiation which made her switch jobs and then the additional blow of her mysterious CIA agent stepfather's violent death.  She gets pulled back into her job when an unnamed hostage taker asks for her by name.  She is intrigued despite herself because the kidnapper has chosen the iconic St. Patrick's Cathedral as his target and his actions are atypical for a hostage taker.  For one thing, asking for Eve by name, for another his only demand is to assemble a group of five people who are seemingly completely unrelated.

Once Eve is sucked in she insists on bringing in her crew - a secret unit of the FBI that is made up of ex-convicts which has been disbanded since she's been on leave.  The crew are all pretty well stock characters that are exactly what you might expect. There's Eli, an awkward accountant type who is such a genius with financial systems he couldn't help but do a little embezzling.  Mace is an alpha male basketball hustler, a man of action with street knowledge and cred. Garcia is a troubled career military warrior who knows explosives and guns and infiltrating difficult places.  Finally, Haddox, a charming Irish rogue who is an expert at using technology to spy and rip people off.  He and Eve have "a past" because of course they do.  He's Irish, and charming and roguish after all.  Round out the cast with an FBI administrator who cares more about politics than being a good boss and you've got a big old pile of rather stale characters but more about that later.

The format of the book was fairly unique.  Chapters are short with the intention of moving the action along and alternate between news bulletins, short diatribes by the mastermind of the hostage taking and narratives of Eve and her team as they try to figure out who the hostage taker is so they can resolve the situation.  The hostage taker is by far the most interesting character in the book.  He/She is mysterious but we do get a peek into their heads.  At first it is confusing because it is unclear who it is that is talking to us in the intermittent chapters that slowly reveal the motives and plan of the hostage taking.  The slow roll out of the hostage taker's intimate feelings interspersed with the desperate activity of the people trying to understand and stop the crisis, works well and still allows for many twists and turns along the way.

As you might guess from the above paragraph, I do think that this part of the book, the actual thriller part, is complex and creative and interesting.  I think for most it will be a page turner.  It kept me reading for sure but perhaps not terribly obsessively which was likely not the book's fault.  Contemporary thriller's are not really my cup of tea.  Set a thriller plot on a British sailing vessel in 1830 or make one of the twists an inter-dimensional time shift and I am riveted but your modern day run of the mill, FBI, blah blah blah thriller is just okay for me.  I took a chance on this book because I love the author and it's a testament to her that I did like the book quite a bit but overall it was just okay.  Not bad, just fine.

The thing that could have offset my general ennui with the book and bumped it up from good to excellent is if I had fallen in love, engaged with, been interested by...SOMETHING...with the characters.  There is a hint of a bigger story with Eve that could be developed into something interesting in future books but the problem here I think is that there was just too much to do.  You can tell by the cover art, Pintoff was going for a fast-paced wild ride of a novel and pulling that off while introducing five ensemble characters is nigh on impossible.  In my opinion, the characterization suffered and fell back on cliches and tired tropes.  There was no time for more development which was a shame.  I compare it with another completely unrelated series which is on my mind because I have been reading a lot of it lately; The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  The Dresden Files books are super duper fast paced, non stop action and suspense but I feel like I also have a very high level of affection and knowledge of the characters so what's the difference between this series and Hostage Taker?  I realized that in the Dresden Files we are really only in the head of Harry and really only know him well from the get go.  The large cast of characters who I have great affection for have all been developed slowly piece by piece over 15 volumes.  So Hostage Taker was super ambitious to try and develop reader-character rapport with five characters all at once OR perhaps I just need to give the series a little time to flesh them out.  Finally, and this is the last I'll say about it, we are introduced to these characters in the middle of their relationships which is frequently a problem for me.  I generally like to see things developed from the beginning but if Pintoff had taken that road, it would have involved even more time with the characters and the book would have lost its momentum.

FINAL VERDICT:  I guess it all comes down to what you are looking for.  If it's an action packed police procedural thriller?  This is your book!  It's a solid and even inventive example of this type of book. I liked it but would have loved it, if more attention had been given to character and relationship development among the ensemble cast.  3 out of 5 stars.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

LONGMIRE | Thoughts | S. 2 | Eps.11-13

A periodic post recording my ever so slightly obsessive watching of Longmire
The last three episodes of season 2:  You've got Omar and Jim Beaver in one episode, Lucian in another and then a season finale that will make your head spin.  It at least should make Walt's head spin.  Things get very very crazy doodle.  I like how these three episodes also perfectly illustrate how law enforcement in the rural Wyoming of Longmire is very different than other crime procedural shows.  They investigate a murder tied to an elk poaching case, a case that originated with stolen dinosaur bones and finally the beating of a man by an Indian vigilante with his own code.

Here are my thoughts on the episodes:

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Episode 2.11  | Natural Order

This is how the ep starts. Jeepers Walt, that looks like it hurts.
Short Synopsis: A young Game Warden is found murdered right next to a poached Elk. Turns out it's all related to a Chinese Health Supplement.

Short Review:  The solution is truly a surprise and again it is hard to feel totally against the "bad" guy.  This episode also has one of the more effective scenes of the entire show.  Jim Beaver! Grade: A

Random Thoughts:
  • So Walt was a high school football star.  Not sure how that fits into his persona.  
  • Jim Beaver!  I LOVE Jim Beaver.
  • I actually really like Omar even though he is a sexist ass hole.  He has a code and hates poachers.  He's okay in my book.  Mostly.  
  • Henry' story of he and Walt's first meeting that he tells Branch is nicely illustrative.  Walt's innate protectiveness was obviously an early developed trait.
  • David Ridges.  Oh how he will haunt the next many episodes.  I'm almost sorry to hear his name come up for the first time.  
  • The scene between Lee (Jim Beaver) and his wife is another one of those scenes that this show does so well.  Very emotional and true - it has yet to fail to make me cry right along with Lee and his wife.  And it is the supporting actors once again that steal the show. 
  • WALT: "I know I had some problems with Branch in the past but I've got to let that go.  I've got to let a lot of things go.  Maybe I'm just starting to mellow." Cady: "I should get hit by a car more often." 

Episode 2.12 | A Good Death is Hard to Find

Henry's "Listening to Cowboy Poetry" face.
Short Synopsis: Walt is mailed a safety deposit box with a severed finger which leads him to the prison death of a James Notley who was put behind bars by Lucian. 

Short Review: I do love a Lucian episode and there's all the angst between Walt and Vic  - these are the things in it's favor.  And yet while the mystery involved dinosaur bones and chopped off human fingers being sent to Walt, it's just not my favorite.  Grade: B+

Random Thoughts:
  • Lucian's a poet! Henry's face during the poetry is hilarious.  
  • This is one episode that splits up Walt and Vic and has Walt and Branch working together.  I like to see he and Branch working together but I find it odd that Vic has all this time alone to pursue Ed Gorsky.  I also don't buy her being as afraid and panicked as Katee Sackhoff  plays her.  I think Vic would be pissed off more than anything.  Sure she'd be scared but it wouldn't be so obvious. 
  • Lucian: "And some people can kiss my once magnificent rump." I do love Lucian and he was certainly a different kind of sheriff than Walt. 
  • Branch's obsession with David Ridges is already beginning.  I thought it hadn't really started until after he is almost killed by him but apparently it starts earlier.  What's driving this little obsession at this point? Cady, yes?
  • Yay Ferg!  Ferg's skills are developing - Walt doesn't compliment him but reveals a secret proud little smile.  
  • Lucian: "Every one of those fingerless pissants had it coming." 
  • Walt is a pretty good actor when it comes to getting folks to open up to him. 
  • Vic and Walt Update:  Walt shows a lot of concern for Vic when he finds her sleeping in the cell and even though they are interrupted before she confides in him, he comes back to it as soon as he can.  Would Walt do this with any/everybody else in the office (this is my gauge for Walt's feelings)? Probably.  His concern does seem a little more acute with Vic.  After she reveals all, his response is very intense, obviously angry that she is being threatened and immediately insists that she stay with him while Sean is away.  His identity as protector is a major part of his character so this situation is the type that would really awaken that side of him  - it's unclear if his response is more intense because the situation involves Vic or if this is how he would respond if any of his deputies were threatened.  Ruby certainly senses the intensity when she walks into his office.  Walt is also somewhat old fashioned and I can see him having a slightly more violent response when a woman is threatened versus one of his male deputies.  And then there is the situation with Lizzie.  I think Lizzie's response and immediate assumptions that there is something between Vic and Walt is more based on her own past experiences and her observation of Vic's feelings.  It's not really some thing she has picked up on between them like she implies.  At this point, at least on screen, it doesn't feel like Walt has definitively shown any interest in Vic. And Oh My God is that SUPER awkward for Walt and Vic. And the threatening of Gorski?  With his damn badge on?  He would certainly have done this for Ruby or Cady and really perhaps any woman being threatened so I don't know that it is special for Vic. 

Episode 2.13  | Bad Medicine

Fales is such a jerk.
Short Synopsis:  David Ridges appears to have sabotaged Cady's car and then committed suicide, rather inconveniently.  Meanwhile, Ed Gorski shows up beaten all to hell and Vic tries to contain his malice. Walt starts working on two fronts to save Vic and figure out about Ridges. In the middle of it all Detective Fales shows up with search warrants.  Basically everything goes to shit.

Short Review: Things get really hairy for Walt and they are just going to keep getting hairier into season 3.  This is a crazy and awesome season finale! Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:
  •  So I get really confused by the whole scenario with Gorski.  Why didn't Walt tell Henry to call off or not even approach Hector with Vic's proposal when he decided he was going to do something about it? Or even after he made the threat?  It seems like a really stupid lack of communication.
  • It's nice to see Branch and Walt on the same wavelength, working and talking together about Cady's accident.  Too bad it doesn't last long.
  • I don't really get what Gorski is about exactly.  Especially when he doesn't file the report? 
  • Vic's a pretty good actor as I think she sells the story of her beating up Gorski pretty well and seems genuinely surprised by the thought of Hector doing the beating.  Seriously, what the hell happened with the whole Hector hiring debacle.  
  • The actress playing Cady does a great job in the scene with her mother's ashes and the police searching the house. 
  • Vic: "You can't protect everyone Walt." Walt: "Well it's kind of my job to try." This pretty much sums up Walt's character perfectly.  
  • When Fales tells Walt he's arrested Henry we get to see what happens when Walt's feelings escape from the place he usually keeps them buried. Yikes.
  • Henry's arrested, Branch's shot and Vic's terrified for her life.  Quite an end to season two!
  • Vic and Walt Update:  By the end of season 2 Vic is obviously smitten with Walt and Walt's feelings are a little more murky and unclear.  With the advent of Gorski, their "personal" lives have become a little more entwined.  Walt obviously feels a sense of loyalty and protectiveness towards Vic but these are common feelings Walt exhibits for his friends.  
*************** 
Season two is the perfect intermediate between seasons 1 and 3.  It still has plenty of episodes with the straightforward crime procedural mystery structure that season one introduced but it also builds on the personal drama which will play a huge role in season three.  I've encountered some fans who were disappointed by the escalating melodrama in the show but I'm not really one of them.  I maybe have a little nostalgia for the simpler days and I am bummed by Branch's descent into obsession but I am also a big fan of character and relationship growth.  I also understand that the stakes, they must be upped sometimes to keep things interesting.  Regardless season two has a nice balance and is a really strong season.

My Favorite Episodes - Season 2:
2.1 Unquiet Mind
2.2 Carcasses

2.6 Tell it Slant
2.10 Election Day 
2.13 Bad Medicine

So what thought have you regarding season 2?  What are your favorite episodes from this season?  Who was your favorite guest character/actor?

 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden - I'm Off to Hunt Butterflies

OUTSIDE

Well I haven't taken a single picture this week and don't feel like I've spent any time outside at all really.  Not truly outside. I took some time this morning and cleaned up the garden; removing the dead sugar snap, tomato and zucchini plants and pulling some weeds.  I also went ahead and planted some more sugar snap pea and radish seeds in the spaces where I pulled things just to see if I could get a fall crop.

Harvesting has been mostly of cucumbers, green beans, blueberries and the Juliet tomatoes.  With the tomatoes I don't have enough yet for any canning and they're not very good just slicing and eating.  I don't really have time to process them because life is about to get very hectic for the next 6 weeks - I likely shouldn't have planted them this year.  Ah well.

LIFE

As I alluded to above, I am headed out to do field research for the next six weeks or so.  I'm looking forward to it but also nervous because it makes life super complicated.  I'll be spending most of my time hiking around here:
I head off tomorrow and I'm pretty well prepared.  I'm stocked up on books, the dogs have been groomed and are ready to stay in rentals, and the car has had an oil change and some tender loving care.  Bring it on!

WATCHING, READING, and BLOGGING

Watching
I've been desultorily (awesome word alert!) watching Avatar: The Last Airbender for the 478th time.  It's nice to have on in the background while I futz around with other stuff.  I've come to the realization that as much as I just want to universally love everything about this show, Season 3 does disappoint me more than a little bit.  I need to move on to Korra but I can't deal with Aang being dead. 

Reading

Finished Last Week:

  • In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker:  Immortal cyborgs in Elizabethan England!  Despite an awesome premise that is fairly well executed, the characters did not draw me into this one.

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 look encouraging.
  • 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.  This book is officially on hold at the moment but I'll get back to it one day soon. 
  • World After by Susan Ee: The second book in the Penryn and the End of Days series.  It's super grim - grimmer than book one - and I'm loving it.  What is wrong with me? Almost done with this one.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: I am almost done with this and so far I have really loved it but I am so worried about what the series has in store for all the characters!
  • Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak: I may DNF this one.  Despite the presence of pirates it is not making me happy mostly because of deficient humor and boring main characters. 
  • Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole:  My other two device audio books (Of Noble Birth and The Founding) are not doing it for me so Doctor Who it is!
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #15):  This will officially catch me up with the Dresden Files series.  I'm a little sad there will be no more.


On the BLOG LAST WEEK:


SUNDAY: LONGMIRE - the second part of season 2. The fourth in a series of obsessive posts about this show.  Sorry. When will season 4 come out???
TUESDAY: Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I've read many books by.  Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
WEDNESDAY: RE-READ | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
THURSDAY: Tough Traveling: Forbidden Love. A fun meme hosted by Fantasy Review Barn to explore all the beloved tropes of the SFF genre.

On the BLOG NEXT WEEK

SUNDAY: Fifth Longmire post featuring the second half of season 2.
TUESDAY: Review of Hostage Taker by Stefanie Pintoff

***The Blog is going to be on semi-hiatus for the next few weeks.  As far as I can tell I won't have reliable access to the internet during that time.  I'm hoping to write and schedule a few more book reviews but I don't expect to be able to participate in any memes. I guess we'll see.***


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

TOUGH TRAVELING | Forbidden Love



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 Forbidden Love:
Even in Fantasyland parents are not always happy with their children’s choice of partners.
This topic totally rocks my socks so I'm sad that I couldn't really find many examples amongst my reading.  I am looking forward to other people's lists because I'll either a) kick myself for all the books I spaced ('cause that's fun) or b) add a bunch of new books to my TBR.  Probably both. Just like every week.


This one is literally forbidden love - like forbidden by the big kahuna himself.  If Penryn (human) and Raffe (angel) get together they will create horrible monsters called Nephilim.  Not to mention that the angels in this book are almost universally great big jerks. 


Seraphina and Kiggs are kept apart out of loyalty to a friend.  Kiggs is engaged, in a royal arrangement, to his cousin Princess Glisselda.  Seraphina is Glisselda's music teacher and becomes her good friend.  Seraphina and Kiggs fall in love with each other but they don't want to hurt Glisselda.  In the end they resolve the problem by entering into a polyamorous sort of relationship which was pretty refreshing to see in a YA novel.  


Marco and Celia are meant to be engaged in a battle of magic that must end in one of them dying.  So it's kind of inconvenient when they fall in love.

Source/Credit

Nahadoth is a God of darkness and is pretty darn dangerous and all around probably bad news.  Yeine knows she shouldn't have the hots for him but she totally does. 

Source/Credit

They briefly think they are brother and sister and incest is icky.  Spoiler Alert: they are not so it's all fine.  


So I know this is a movie and not a book but I love it and it includes the ultimate example of forbidden love.  Navarre and Isabeau are in love but they have been cursed so that Navarre is a wolf at night while Isabeau is human and Isabeau is a hawk during the day when Navarre is human.  There's a few seconds at dawn and dusk where they are both human and it's heartbreaking and so sad. *sniff*  Matthew Broderick is reluctantly in the middle of it all.  I'm pretty sure I have not seen this movie since the 1980s so it may not be as good as I think it is BUT I'm going to stick with my belief that it is awesome.

So what are some of your examples of forbidden love in fantasyland?!  If you'd like to see other folks' picks, head on over to Fantasy Review Barn.