Friday, March 24, 2017

Big Little Lies (HBO) Once Bitten

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This episode was a collage of images and we're left trying to sort out what was real and what was skewed. Jane is becoming increasingly stressed between her terror of encountering the man who hurt her, and the problems at school with Ziggy. Amabella was bitten by someone in her class, and of course Renata Klein assumes it was Jane's son. Jane is trying to hold it all together even as she feels events slipping out of her control. And Madeline is starting to wonder if Jane is out for revenge, especially when Nathan saw her at gun range. Madeline and Celeste were going to go with Jane to San Luis Obispo to confront the man they think may be her attacker, but after things come to a head Jane ends up going alone. 

Madeline struggles to come to grips with her affair and Perry and Celeste continue to abuse each other. Although it's really Perry doing the abusing and Celeste finding excuses to stay. Things get rough again (are they ever not?) and Celeste ends up going to see their counselor alone, while Perry is out of town. In an extended sequence we juxtapose the counselor's calm probing of what's really happening with Celeste's at times painful attempts to justify her relationship, even as she clearly wants help desperately. 

Madeline meanwhile tries to find some passion with Ed, even as her affair a year ago with Joseph comes back into focus. He wants to talk to her, exasperated that she won't acknowledge what he thinks they have, and they're in a freak car accident while in mid- conversation. Luckily no one is hurt seriously, but things are more complicated now- and it looks like Joseph's spouse suspects that something is happening. And Renata crashes Jane's meeting with the principal, who is clearly not prepared to referee that little soiree. 

This episode was chaotic at times with jarring transitions and sudden musical interludes. I think this was meant to cast doubt on the events, to give the impression that perceptions are skewed. Everyone is being overtaken by events, and we are reminded several times that trivia night is rapidly approaching. Everything seems to be heading for that fever pitch, and someone- or maybe several someones- are going to break soon. 

Random Thoughts

"There's more than one person I'd like to shoot in this town," says Madeline as she discusses Jane's target shooting with her.  

Why isn't Amabella talking? 

Chloe is the absolute best. "Watch your mouth, woman," she tells Madeline after hearing her mom call Nathan "a fuck." Nice, Mom.  

"Something's up with Ed MacKenzie," says one of the dads. I think he's right- it's just the little side looks he gives at times, like when he sees Abigail the night she comes home. Weird. 

What happened in SLO? Jane dropped her bag and a gun went off, she flees the scene and we end with her getting pulled over. But in the aftershow the writer mentions that Jane may be an unreliable narrator, as it were, in this one, and I think that's where the chaotic editing comes in. What really happened? 

Bookcover Spotlight #93

Distress Signals

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Winter Over

The Winter Over

I tried this one on a lark and I was pleasantly surprised. I always like a story set at the north or south pole, they're such harsh environments and great settings for mystery and mayhem. This one is no exception. It's set on Antarctica at a fictional research station where the long austral winter is about to begin, and the crew of the station are settling in for nine long months of darkness. Unfortunately a body is found on the ice just before the last plane leaves for the season, and that throws everything off. 

Cass is a woman with a past and she's come to Antarctica to start over and find herself. We're reminded over and over that she is fragile, and the base psychologist seems unsure of her, but we quickly see that she is smart and capable. She's a mechanic and takes care of all the snowmobiles and various machines, and even though she's flawed she's tough too, and quickly realizes something is not right at the base. She doesn't have a lot of friends she can confide in though, and she's kind of a loner, but she does have an outlet- she keeps up a clandestine radio contact with a friendly Russian guy at a base not far away. When things get really dicey she turns to him as the only person she can talk to. 

I could tell right off the bat there was some misdirection going on here, and that's the fun of it. Not only do we have Cass but we also get the occasional perspective of the station manager, the psychologist, and various other crew members. It's fun to read their thoughts and try to piece together who is lying and who isn't. As the long winter takes hold and it's eighty below zero outside, paranoia starts to set in as things happen and trust rapidly erodes among the forty- four people on the winter over. 

I can see where some may get a little bored in the early going- there's not a lot of action and lots of dialogue, but for me this was a page turner. I enjoyed the dialogue because you're always looking to see who has answers and if you can spot the lies- it becomes obvious that something is going on at the base but it's unclear if the station manager and/ or senior staff are aware of it or are victims themselves. I think the atmosphere of isolation is captured quite well, and add to that lonely ice tunnels dating back to earlier settlements and some people who clearly are not psychologically suited to be there, and you have a recipe for bad stuff. 

So all in all this was a winner. I loved the howling winds, the paranoia, the sense of creeping doom- the only thing I didn't care for was the explanation. While it made sense to a certain extent, it also didn't go far enough for me- I was looking forward to more weird stuff, I like a touch of the paranormal or SF with my thrillers and didn't get that here- but if this sounds good to you I'd give it a shot. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Game of Thrones- Let's Talk About The Kingsguard

Something his father had told him once when he was little came back to him suddenly. He had asked Lord Eddard if the Kingsguard were truly the finest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. "No longer," he answered, "but once they were a marvel, a shining lesson to the world." 

The Kingsguard- seven knights who forswear all lands, take no wife, leave noble families behind. They serve the king alone and protect him with their life. The Kingsguard are a storied brotherhood, the best of the best. Or were. Alas, in the time of A Song of Ice and Fire, the once proud Kingsguard have fallen from grace. No longer the best, no longer a shining example of virtue and righteousness. Lesser men have filled the places once occupied by the greatest knights of their generation. Does anyone in the current Kingsguard deserve the honor? Hoe about Jaime Lannister- the current Lord Commander?

This post was inspired by a discussion over at Chuckles Book Cave. I got to thinking about the knights via a vis Jaime and his honor- or lack thereof. Jaime is of course known as the Kingslayer, for his act of treachery in killing the Mad King Aerys. He is despised and scorned but as we get to see his story in the books we realize that there is more to it than treachery. For this discussion I focus on this storied brotherhood and what we learn about them through Jaime's eyes. This post will have extensive spoilers for the book series.

Jaime (along with Barristan Selmy) is probably the only one alive who knew the big names- Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower, Prince Lewyn Martell- from the perspective of serving with them. Imagine a young knight of promising ability joining a brotherhood of the greatest knights in the land. And he clearly admired them.

That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead.

What should we think about Arthur Dayne? Here's what Ned Stark told his son Bran.

The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed. 

Jaime becomes Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in A Storm of Swords and quickly realizes that the White Swords are not who they used to be.

He wondered what Ser Arthur Dayne would have to say of this lot. "How is it that the Kingsguard have fallen so low," most like. "It was my doing," I would have to answer. "I opened the door, and did nothing when the vermin began to crawl inside."

Jaime takes the measure of his fellow White Swords and is not pleased with what he discovers.

"I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking a piss with the right."

And Jaime himself? Does he deserve to be considered one of the greats of the Kingsguard? Here's what Brienne of Tarth had to say after fighting him in a weakened condition (and she's no slouch).

He was weak from imprisonment, and chained at the wrists. No knight in the Seven Kingdoms could have stood against him at his full strength, with no chains to hamper him. Jaime had done many wicked things, but the man could fight! His maiming had been monstrously cruel. It was one thing to slay a lion, another to hack his paw off and leave him broken and bewildered.  

But of course fighting ability is not the measure of greatness. What kind of a man is Jaime? Well a complex one to be sure, arrogant and confident but also a man who wanted to live up to the ideal of a Ser Arthur Dayne. At the same time a man who let a boy fall to his apparent death and killed others without compunction. Jaime's a work in progress, but in one of my favorite quotes from the series we get a look at what Jaime is thinking... now.

Ser Gerold Hightower had begun his history, and Ser Barristan Selmy had continued it, but the rest Jaime Lannister would need to write for himself. He could write whatever he chose, henceforth. Whatever he chose...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Books I Read In One Sitting


 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new Top Ten list will be posted. Everyone is welcome to join. Link back to The Broke and the Bookish so everyone can check out other bloggers' lists. It's a fun way to get to know fellow bloggers.

This week is a Read In One Sitting Theme but the specifics are almost like a free one. So I'm going with books that are hard to stop once I start. These are all books that take over my life when I read them. :) 

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

The combination of relatively short chapters and fantastic characters makes this an obvious choice.  

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)

My favorite SF book in a long time. 

Big Little Lies

Compulsively readable. 

Planet of Exile

One of my favorite books- and very short

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)

The third book of A Song of Ice and Fire- and perhaps the best? So much happens here- not least the redemption arc of Jaime Lannister. 

Lost Girls

This one kept me reading. 

The Blue

I had to know what happened... 

The Girls in the Garden

Same here. 

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan, #1)


The Girl from the Sea

I kinda blew through this one. 

Tuesday Tagline #31

Avenged (Ruined, #2)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Humans S2 E2

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The thing I like about these abbreviated seasons of shows like Humans is the lack of filler. At eight episodes the showrunners have to keep the narrative moving, and they do that here in the second outing of series two. Everything moves ahead a little- Niska turns herself in for the murder she committed last series, the free synths continue to debate the way forward, and Athena Morrow is up to something as she tries to figure out the newly awakened synths. I didn't think this one had quite the panache of last week's opener, but it was still a nice forty five minutes of thought provoking TV.

Niska turns herself in but wants to be accorded the rights of a person, and wants Laura Hawkins to represent her. Laura declines but by the end she's onboard- and Joe's decision to back her up helps rebuild trust between he and Laura as well. We also get the return of Pete and Karen, and they seem to be in a happier place. She wants to return to the force and he still seems a little unsure of himself- he's in a relationship with a synth, after all- but he's not nearly as annoying as he was last time. Also we are reminded that Mattie Hawkins is a force to be reckoned with- she gets an obsolete D- series synth model at a scrap yard and brings it home to reprogram it. She knows that the consciousness program was uploaded, and wants to use the D- model to investigate.

I'm wondering where Pete and Karen are going to fit in this. Her return to the police may embroil her in the coming struggle, and the free synths here learn that someone is harvesting the newly awakened synths and taking them somewhere called the "silo." Sounds suitably ominous. How they find this out is a bit disturbing- Hester basically tortures it out of the captive they're keeping in the barn. Speaking of which, Leo and Max are rapidly coming to odds over the way forward. Leo wants to protect the awakened synths- that seems to be his goal- while Max wants to eschew violence and just live. Mia seems to be closer to that way of thinking, whereas Hester is basically a killing force at the moment. As we see at the end when she kills the prisoner.

What is Athena doing? Well she tries to load her sentient program V into a synth body, and that doesn't go well. Then she tells Milo she needs to go to England to talk to some people- so we're getting everyone in the same place. And Mia is preoccupied with her employer Ed, to the point where she commits fraud to help him. He realizes there's something wrong with her and freaks out, and Mia has to leave. You gotta feel bad for Mia.

So... Mattie is going to embroil herself in the synth drama, like she did last time, and things are going to come together when the free synths come into conflict with Athena and Milo. Athena has her own agenda though so that will be curious to watch.

"They are together. Is that enough for happiness?" asks V to Athena. She's talking about people she has created in her own little dream world. Great question - is being together enough?

Random Thoughts

Last time I questioned whether Niska really cared for Astrid. I think we get the answer here, as several times when she's about to take a big step she doodles with the bracelet Astrid gave her. It's like her memory of Astrid is a source of strength.  

"If a thing can be free, it should be free. If it can think, it should think. If it can feel, it should feel," says Niska to Laura when they are about to take Niska in. 

I thought it was effective when Max and Hester are debating, and she tells him that in the factory when a synth malfunctioned the workers would hit it with rods and even splash it with acid. He tells her they just thought a synth was unfeeling, but she points out they didn't treat other machines that way. Is it because the synths look like humans? 


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Humans is back. I discovered this show from AMC and Channel 4 last year and loved the smart writing and the premise. It's a near future show about synths (synthetic people) who become conscious and what that means for a society in general and one family in particular. The Hawkins family acquire a synth named Mia and she turns out to be part of a small group of synths that have gained consciousness. The show explores themes of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human but it does so in a subdued, thoughtful way.

So we left off with the conscious synths going into hiding while the Hawkins family tries to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Mia, unlike the others, doesn't want to hide but wants to mingle with humanity, wants to learn and see who she can become. Niska, who is sort of the rogue one, has the code that could make all synths conscious, and as we start season two she is debating with herself whether to upload it. Doing so would potentially make every synth conscious. Max and Leo are hiding and the Hawkins have moved into a new home, trying to start again.

This one starts in Berlin as we catch up with Niska going to a nightclub. She likes to go there and watch the people dance, and she attracts the attention of Astrid who manages to break through her tough exterior. Astrid of course has no idea she's a synth and they spend the night together, and we can see that Niska has questions for Astrid. Is she creating new life by uploading the code? And should she do so? She can't come right out and ask this, of course, but it's her conversations with Astrid that help her decide. She uploads the code.

Weeks pass and synths all over the world are becoming conscious- but only a few. Hester is one and she escapes from a factory and meets up with Max and Leo, who take her in. She's tracked though and the company comes to retrieve her, leading to a confrontation that ends with another dead synth. Mia has been working in a cafe and comes back when she realizes what's happening, and her and Leo disagree about how to proceed. Meanwhile we are introduced to Athena Morrow, a top synth specialist, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, who it turns out is developing sentient neural networks but is trying to keep it secret. She finds herself recruited by some tech bigwig who has been collecting the newly- conscious synths, and wants her to figure out what's going on.

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No one but Niska and her fellow synths of course know about the uploaded code, so Athena has no clue why synths all over are becoming conscious. She's going to find out though. She asks her new patron if has more than than one, and he says yes.

"Good. Because I'm going to need to take it apart." Nice.

This first episode of season two flows nicely and picks up right after the events of last year. Carrie- Anne Moss is a fabulous add.  A very well done start to the season and I think this one is going to be more compelling than last time.

Random Thoughts

At one point the Hawkins' are seeing a synth therapist for their marital issues (Joe slept with Mia last season while drunk) and the therapist asks them if she should remodulate her tone, so they're more comfortable. "The Edinburgh dialect is a popular choice,"  she says as she slips into that dialect effortlessly. 

After weeks of being together Astrid asks Niska to see her "scar", which Niska keeps bandaged (it's really her port which would give her away) and Niska refuses. Astrid naturally feels hurt and when Niska realizes that synths are waking up, she tells Astrid she has to go. Poor Astrid- I can't help but think that Niska used her to learn about intimacy and then just leaves when it's time. Does she care about Astid? Hard to say. 

"Not what I was made for, but who I might become," says Mia when discussing the way ahead with Leo. Alone of all the conscious synths we've met so far, she is clearly the most interesting, and I would even say the most human?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sunday Post #186

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It's the weekend! It's been cold all week and I want March back. We even got a bit of snow early in the week. What madness is this? Kind of a busy week too although I got some reading done- I finished Starfall by Melissa Landers and am now reading The Wanderers (finally). Next up is the new School for Unusual Girls book Refuge for Masterminds- thanks to Kathleen Baldwin for the ARC! Oh and today is St. Patrick's Day (as I write this) Did you do anything green?  

This week I discussed urban fantasy and what creatures I'd like to see more of, so stop by and share your thoughts if you want. Are there underrepresented  critters you'd like to see? And I saw the movie Arrival this week and thought it was the best movie I've seen in a while. 

Last week I reviewed The Rains and this week will be The Winter Over.  Reviews for Starfall and maybe Queens of Geek are on the way. 

The Rains (Rains, #1)The Winter OverRefuge for Masterminds (Stranje House, #3)

Song of the week



Starfall (Starflight, #2)Queens of Geek


One of the better scenes from last weeks Big Little Lies.  

Here's a clip from Humans. 


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As the moon comes up many fall asleep. Not me, I dance around in the glorious moonlight until day comes.: