Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mini book review: The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, his Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess and Sundry Other Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, his Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Other Magical Persons Besides, by Ben Tripp, is as entertaining a YA fantasy as its title is long.  Kit Bristol, former orphan, is in the employ of one Master James Rattle, also known as - as in a secret identity - Whistling Jack, the notorious 18th century English highwayman.  When Whistling Jack is killed, Kit takes his outfit, his bulldog Demon and his horse Midnight, and finds himself on an adventure beyond his wildest imaginings.

A witch, to whom Kit has been tasked to deliver Demon, assigns to Kit the quest his master had been on: to rescue the faerie princess Morgana from an arranged marriage with the human King George III of England.  Not only must Kit revamp his world view to include the presence of magical beings, he must now contend with those beings: feyin, pixies, goblings, ogres, gryphons, enchanted mirrors and maps and the like.  In addition, the human Captain Sterne, is convinced that Kit is actually Whistling Jack, and is pursuing him singlemindedly, determined to hang him for the thief and rascal he is.

The best word I can think of to describe TAH:BtToKPhHMaMPaSOMPB is swashbuckling.  Kit surprises himself with his bravery and loyalty, charging into his exciting adventures wholeheartedly to support the Princess Morgana and his new faerie friends.  The story moves right along, the writing lighthearted and clever, annotated with footnotes.  This volume is the first in a planned trilogy of Kit and Morgana's adventures - I have no doubt that the subsequent books will be as much fun as this first one.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Year end

It's like a ghost town around here ...

I dunno, y'all.  I don't really have anything to share.  I've been watching SyFy's three night Ascension which, meh, is a poor, pale imitation of SyFy's BSG, despite Tricia Helfer's best efforts.  I'm getting into the original French The Returned (or, Les Revenants), which I really like - moody, atmospheric, creepy and subtitled - but it is not fast paced and I've fallen asleep twice (two out of the three episodes I've watched).  The Flash, Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had strong mid-season finishes; I'm not dropping Gotham yet but things do seem a little heavy on the comic book side, especially when you factor The Walking Dead in too.  And while I'm looking forward to Cougar Town's return for one more season (although I hope they don't focus on Trav and Laurie's upcoming baby too much), I'm not sure if I'll bother trying to track down Yahoo's season of Community when it appears.  that ship may have sailed.

Bookswise, I'll be picking up a couple volumes from the library in the next day or so - The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp and Michael Faber's Under the Skin - and am looking forward to both of those.  In the meantime, I'm reading Mr. Mouse's copy of It's So Easy: and Other Lies by Duff McKagan, former Guns 'N Roses bassist.  Suffice it to say, Mr. McKagan has led a much more exciting life than I have.

And now the holidays are upon us.  Hopefully I'll be able to do some solid page turning and bring you some reviews.  Until then, may everything be merry, happy and healthy from the Mouse house to yours.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mini book review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

There is a monster loose in Detroit, a serial killer making twisted body art out of his victims; the first one found is little eleven year old Daveyton, cut in half with his torso fused to the hindquarters of a deer.  Detective Gabriella Versado running the case for the DPD homicide division, but none of them has ever seen anything like this.  Jonno Haim is a down-and-out journalist, recently arrived in Detroit, nursing a broken heart and trying desperately to reclaim his career by exploiting Detroit's ruin and rebuilding.  He finds his way into the underground Detroit art scene and, just by virtue of being in the right place at the time, starts following the serial killer story, ignoring traditional media and going straight to the internet for his audience.  Also enmeshed online: Layla Stirling-Versado, the detective's teen-aged daughter who, along with her best friend, has started up the hobby of trolling for and outing online predators.  And then there's TK, homeless and an advocate for the homeless, trying to make better lives for Detroit's destitute and displaced.

These four points of view race through Lauren Beukes's psycho-thriller Broken Monsters, at first circling around each other before finally becoming thoroughly intertwined.  For my part, I was thoroughly entertained, fascinated by the description of modern Detroit and caught up in the crime story.  Things fall apart slightly at the end of the novel, when the killer's psychosis bleeds into the other characters' reality; I don't mind supernatural elements in novels (see: almost everything I ever read) but up until then the supernatural stuff was only in the crazy person's head - having it manifest in the "real world" of the book was confusing.  That's a small quibble, however, because Broken Monsters is a fast-paced, entertaining and disturbing read, good enough that I'm going to look for Beukes's first novel, The Shining Girls, a time-travelling serial killer.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Walking Dead S5E8 "Coda" 11/30/14

Mid-season finale time!  Will they rescue Carol and Beth?  Someone's bound to die - who's it going to be?

Atlanta.  After head-butting Sasha, Lamson runs and runs, trying to get away from the walkers stalking him because his hands are still ziptied behind his back.  He's also running away from Rick, who is chasing him.  Rick jumps in a handy police car and gains on Lamson, using the car's PA system to tell him to stop.  Lamson doesn't stop, just runs and runs - until Rick hits him with the car, sending him flying and landing face first on the asphalt.  Rick is sick of this shit.  Lamson begs for him to help, panting that he thinks his back is broken.  Rick's like, all you had to do was stop.  Lamson asks to be taken back to the hospital.  Rick: "You can't go back, Bob."  And then he shoots him in the head.  "Shut up."

Church vicinity.  Where does Father Gabriel go after escaping the church?  Over to the school where Gareth and his cannibals had been camped out.  He looks at the detritus left behind, keeping an eye on the increasingly agitated walkers trapped in the school.  Then he looks at the campfire and realizes that it's a human leg (Bob's leg) sitting there, charred and chewed.  There are maggots squirming on the leg.  He freaks out - understandably - and then the walkers break free and come after him.  He runs back to the church, limping on his hurt foot.  Walkers surge out of the woods and he runs to the church's front doors, pounding on them and screaming to be let back in.  Carl and Michonne confirm that it is him and then they break open the doors they'd nailed shut, pulling him inside.  The doors are ruined now, however, and the walkers pour in.  Michonne makes with the slicing and dicing as they all retreat into the rectory.  One by one, the three of them (plus Judith in a backpack) sneak out through the hole Gabriel made in the floorboards earlier.  While the bulk of the walkers are inside the church, Carl and Michonne put down the few stragglers still outside and then nail the church doors shut again, trapping the walkers inside.

Atlanta.  Rick rejoins the group and they discuss how the plan may have been changed in light of Lamson's recent demise.  The cops say that the story they'll tell Dawn is that Lamson was killed by the rotters so that she doesn't have any reason to distrust Rick and his group.  They'll still attempt the trade.

At the hospital, Dawn keeps trying to raise Lamson and Shepard (the chick cop) on the radio and is frustrated when they don't respond.  She and Beth talk and, as much as I [now] like Beth, I don't care about this at all.  Dawn is not an interesting character, even as she's supposed to be a threat.  The writers haven't given her much by way of decent dialogue or character development.  I guess this scene is supposed to show Beth getting a little closer to her.

Church.  The walkers begin to break out of the church.  Michonne, Carl and Gabriel are at a bit of a loss as what to do next.  Fortunately, they don't have to do anything: Abraham et als. drives up in the firetruck, smashing through the church's front steps and blocking the doors.  After hugs for Michonne, Glen tells her that Eugene lied.  She takes it in stride, telling Maggie that they learned that Beth is alive and that the others went to get her back.  Maggie gets all teary - WHICH IS HILARIOUS BECAUSE ALL SEASON SHE'S NEVER MENTIONED BETH AT ALL - and they saddle up to go to Atlanta to help.

Hospital.  More Beth and Dawn bonding by the open elevator shaft where Beth has gone for some alone time.  Blah blah blah they are interrupted by yet another of Dawn's asshole cops.  He has snuck up on them and heard Dawn call Beth a cop-killer.  He threatens to tell the others unless she steps down.  Dawn pulls her gun on him blah blah blah and then they tussle, beating this shit out of each other.  Dawn gives almost as good as she's getting, but he's a little bigger than she is.  Beth tries to help and while the other cop is distracted, Dawn hits him in the throat.  Choking, he staggers backwards towards the open elevator shaft.  Dawn screams Beth's name and Beth jumps up and shoves the cop into the elevator shaft.  Dawn, quietly: "Thank you."  Afterwards, Dawn finds Beth hanging out in Carol's room.  More blah blah blah.  And on the bed, behind Dawn, Carol stirs, waking up.

Outside the hospital.  Rick and crew has arranged for a meeting.  While the others cover him with rifles from the surrounding rooftops, Rick walks out onto the top floor of a parking garage.  Two of Dawn's cops drive up.  They draw their guns; Rick puts his down on the ground.  Rick proposes the trade.  One of the cops asks, "Where are your people?"  In answer, Darryl (or Sasha) sniper-shoots a walker that was coming up behind the cops.  Rick: "They're close."  Heh.  The cops are surprised but agreeable to Rick's proposal.

Hospital.  Rick's group walks in, cops Shepard and Lecari still handcuffed, the other two cops accompanying them.  Beth and Carol change back into their own clothes and Beth sneakily stuffs a pair of scissors into the case on her right wrist.  The exchange/stand-off takes place in a hospital corridor.  Dawn and her remaining three cops stand in front of Carol (in a wheelchair), Beth and Dr. Whatsisname.  Everyone holsters their weapons.  It's tense but people seem reasonable.  There's a one-for-one exchange first: Carol for Lecari.  Then Beth for Shepard.  Rick's group gets ready to go when Dawn speaks up: "Now I just need Noah.  And then you can leave."  Rick's all, that wasn't part of the deal.  Dawn is insistent, even as Shepard asks her to back off.  Noah comes up and says he'll stay with Dawn, sacrificing his freedom so Beth and her friends can get away.  Beth runs up to him and hugs him.

As Noah walks down the hallway, Dawn murmurs smugly, "I knew you'd be back."  Beth can't stand that, can't stand listening to Dawn any longer.  Beth walks up to her, standing close: "I get it now." And then Beth rams those scissors into Dawn's shoulder.  In an immediate reaction, Dawn fires her gun RIGHT THROUGH BETH'S HEAD.  [Holy shit.  I did NOT see that coming.  I had to rewind it and watch it again right away.]  Dawn looks shocked.  Everything goes into slow motion, everyone's stunned and horrified reactions.  Darryl steps up and puts a bullet right through Dawn's forehead as her lips form the words, "No - I didn't mean to."  And then everyone is pointing all the guns at everyone else.  Shepard spreads her arms wide and shouts, "Hold your fire!  It's over!  It was just about her.  Stand down!"  Amazingly, everyone does, although Carol has to take a whimpering Darryl's gun from him.  Rick's group is shocked, stunned, ragged with grief.

Outside, the firetruck pulls up in front of the hospital.  They all (except Eugene, who seems to be alive, if not really with it) get out and approach the hospital, weapons out.  They're there to see Rick's group come out, to see Darryl carrying Beth's body, tears streaming down his face.  Maggie screams and falls to her knees, reaching out to clutch at her dead sister's limp hand.

It ends there, but there's a tag scene: Morgan has been tracking the group, carving symbols into the trees.  He finds the school and delivers a coup de grace to an immobile walker.  Then he finds the church and after a moment of prayer, he finds the map Abraham left for Rick, showing him the route to D.C.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mini movie review: Snow White and the Huntsman

WTF was the point of Snow White and the Huntsman?  I mean, that was AWFUL.  I continue to believe that Kristen Stewart cannot act her way out of a paper bag.  She basically didn't speak a line until the halfway point of the movie and then, even after that, barely spoke.  Which was fine, actually.  Plotwise, it seemed like huge chunks were removed from the movie:  take William (Sam Claflin), for example.  Why was the William character even there?  Not as the love interest (his kiss wasn't what woke Snow White up), nor the mentor, nor anything else.  He was completely unnecessary.  And the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) was scarcely a developed character either - why put him in the title?  Charlize Theron did her best to chew up all the scenery she could as the evil Queen, which was at least entertaining, and she looked spectacular.  But - most egregious of all - who the hell thought the haircut on the Queen's brother was a good idea? No no no no no no no.

If you haven't seen Snow White and the Huntsman yet, don't bother.