Friday, March 31, 2017

Iron Fist

Iron Fist is such a disappointment, I'll just get that out there right at the outset. And I wanted to like this one. Iron Fist was always one of my favorite characters growing up, so when I heard they were making a Netflix series I was over the moon. Alas, the deluge of bad reviews are not wrong. Iron Fist is pretty much a mess- way too long, bad story and the casting is not great either. This is clearly the weakest of the Marvel Netflix series to date, and it's a real shame too as it leads into The Defenders, the summer crossover where all the Marvel Netflix characters get together. This review will have spoilers for Iron Fist on Netflix.

First the casting. I was skeptical about Finn Jones being cast as Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) from the outset and unfortunately my qualms were borne out. Finn Jones just does not have the physicality or the charisma for this role. In fact there is no charisma. He comes across as petulant, whiny, out of control (despite supposedly beiong trained by warrior monks for 15 years) and just not convincing in the slightest. Jennifer Henwick (also from Game of Thrones, like Jones) is better as Colleen Wing, but again looks nothing like the source material character (and I know not everybody has issues with that, but I do). She at least has a martial arts background of sorts and is thus more convincing in her fighting.

The rest of the cast isn't bad, I liked Jessica Stroup as Joy Meachum and Ward Meachum grew on me (especially with his dark comedic take at times). David Wenham as Harold Meachum just got on my nerves so much and every time he was on the screen I got bored. The plot here is that Danny Rand returns from a place called K'un-Lun after being gone for 15 years- his family died in a plane crash and he was the sole survivor. The monks of K'un-Lun took him and trained him to be a warrior, and now he has returned to New York City to find his destiny... or something.

And that's part of the problem. At no point during the series do we get any sense of who Danny is and what he wants. In the comics Danny's father was killed by his friend Harold Meachum while trekking in the Himalayas, and Danny's mother dies as a result. Danny is rescued by monks and returns after ten years in K-un-Lun to confront his father's killer. But at the moment of truth he finds he cannot kill Harold Meachum, and turns away- only to have a mystery person kill Meachum anyway. Joy Meachum then walks in and finds Danny next to her father and blames Danny for it.

The show should have went that way. Kill Harold just like in the comic, have Danny get blamed for it and go from there- creating conflict with Joy Meachum in the process. Instead in the show they have a plane crash and Danny doesn't find out until the last episode that Harold Meachum was behind it. And throughout the show he naively assumes Harold has his best interests at heart when it should be obvious he doesn't. That's another problem- not only is Danny miscast, but his character is incredibly naive and at times stupid.

The story is a mess, with Joy and Ward Meachum starting out as basically villains but redeeming themselves over the course of time, although Ward's story arc was confusing and contradictory. Joy Meachum on the other hand was a breath of fresh air and one of the better parts of the show. When I first saw the casting for this I thought Jessica Stroup would be a great Colleen Wing, but she delivered as Joy. The villain of the piece is Madame Gao of the Hand, the ninja organization we've seen from previous Marvel Netflix shows, but about halfway through she is neutered (after being built up as some kind of badass inscrutable mastermind) and replaced by Bakuto, some fringe character who takes center stage. Around this time the show fell apart for me, although it's never very good.

Bakuto apparently runs a different group within the Hand and it's pretty lame. We never really get hooded ninjas like we should have, Bakuto's group are basically kids he's brainwashing and even Gao's people are just generic martial artists. There is none of the evil ninja dread and foreboding that we saw in earlier shows. The Hand is supposed to be fearsome and here they mostly made me yawn. And Gao disappears for several episodes before showing up in the last one. She is still a strong point, and the last episode redeems itself slightly with the Harold/ Danny confrontation, but it's too late.

The fight scenes are pretty weak and again this show suffers from bad casting (with some exceptions), a muddled story and no real sense of who Danny is- or should be. And it's way too long- Netflix should really scale back the number of episodes of these shows. Just like Luke Cage and to an extent Jessica Jones, things get stale and drawn out in the middle and it's really not necessary. Shave three episodes off maybe and tighten up the storytelling.

Bookcover Spotlight #94

The Daydreamer Detective Opens A Tea Shop

This is just a nice cover. I like the building in the background, the trees and just the whole framing of it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Distress Signals

Distress Signals

Distress Signals is a chilling mystery about a woman who goes missing from a cruise ship and her boyfriend's quest to find out what happened. Sarah was supposed to go to Barcelona on business but when she doesn't return Adam starts to realize something was wrong. Their relationship might not have been where he thought it was. Instead of coming home she boarded a cruise ship and supposedly disembarked in France- but there's no sign of her. Adam eventually boards the cruise ship himself, after retracing her steps, but things just get more complicated from there. 

Cruise ship plus missing person pretty much had me at the premise. Add that atmospheric cover and I was sold. Unfortunately this was hit or miss for me. There are two stories here- one is Adam and Sarah's story, which I liked, and the other is from a different perspective, which I did not like. For spoilery reasons I don't want to say too much about the other POV, other than to say it brought the book down.  I couldn't get into it and at the end I had to wonder if it was even necessary. The main plot point is the disappearance of Sarah, but there are other things happening here and by the end they are somewhat connected. I say somewhat because I didn't think the secondary storyline was necessary. 

If you just stick with Adam and Sarah though, I liked the story a lot. It's tense and has several twists towards the end that really raise the stakes. Adam is forced to question everything he knew about his relationship with Sarah and is forced to confront some truths about himself that maybe he didn't want to see. And he's pretty realistic- he freaks out at times, and the author really sold the devastation he feels when he realizes he may never be with her again. 

Adam is determined though and even though he may be self- absorbed he does love Sarah. I liked the glimpse of her we get before she leaves, and would have loved to see more from her POV. The story touches on maritime law and the fact that there is not a lot of accountability, generally speaking, for crimes committed at sea. That alone could make one want to reconsider their next cruise! The locations range from Ireland to France and while the action picks u towards the end, I wasn't really buying the ultimate why of this. The payoff didn't seem very plausible to me. The twist though is nice and I thought was unexpected. 

I thought this might be in the same vein as The Woman in Cabin 10, and to some degree it might be, if you swap out the Norwegian setting of that one for the French Riviera in this one. I think this is a fine mystery, and a very thought provoking read about what someone might do if a person they love goes on a trip but doesn't come back. There's also a theme of a good person pushed past their limits- that I thought was done well- but again this would have been a winner for me if not for that secondary storyline. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Big Little Lies (HBO) Burning Love

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Two weeks to go until trivia night. And you can see the wheels turning as we get closer and closer to the central mystery of the show- who dies on that fateful night? I thought this episode was a mixed bag- it does some things very well and there are a few missteps but all in all it moves the story forward and gives us more insights into these hilariously flawed people. Last week we saw Jane's ill- advised trip to San Luis Obispo to see if the guy that Madeline found was her attacker. He was not, and Jane got pulled over on her way back. Luckily she got off with a ticket. 

Madeline is definitely worried about Jane at this point. The fact that Jane went and took a gun- she's starting to realize that her getting into everyone's business has a downside. Meanwhile Celeste is getting serious about leaving Perry, even taking her counselor's advice and getting an apartment in case she has to leave. Which clearly she does. Can Perry go five minutes on this show without hurting her? And Jane has a moment with Renata, after an unfortunate altercation at school where Renata gets poked in the eye or something as they scuffle. Parents behaving badly. 

One of my favorite moments actually is when Jane went to Renata's house and they found common ground. I thought Shailene Woodley and Laura dern really sold that. And Harper (who we haven't seen much of) got out ahead of herself by starting a petition to have Ziggy suspended from school, only to have that blow up in her face when Jane called her on it and Renata... laughed. Who has Harper's back, asked Jane? Good question. Meanwhile Ed and Madeline are preparing for (and dreading) dinner with Nathan and Bonnie. Yeah that's going to go well. 

Ed and Madeline confront some truths about their own relationship even as Abigail takes center stage with her "secret project." Which is- auctioning off her virginity online to raise money for Amnesty International. Yes you read that right. Nathan blows a gasket, and when he tells Ed and Madeline about it at their dinner, sparks fly. Although I think Madeline's throwing up might have been a bit much. Especially since Bonnie was the target! 

And... I did not expect a broken urethra. You see Celeste missed the play because Perry wanted a little... action. And he got some. He picked the wrong moment and Celeste fought back, and... yeah. Sounds painful. But Celeste is definitely on her way and just in time. I would take that seaside apartment by the way- not a bad view! And the show ended on a powerful note, with Madeline confronting Abigail about her project. Abigail is predictably defiant and Madeline lets it all out, admitting she cheated on Ed. "I know about fucking up," she tells her daughter, and when she tells Abigail that she risked the two things most important to her- her marriage and her kids- it was a powerful moment. Nice job Reese. 

Random Thoughts

"There's more than one person in this town that would like to deck Renata Klein. Yours truly included," says Madeline to Jane.  

Tori (Joseph's wife) confronted Madeline at the play about whether she slept with Joseph. 

Remember Juliette? I didn't, since we haven't seen her since episode one, but she answered the door when Jane went to Renata's. Are they doing that subplot? 

Nathan looked like he was sleeping through the play. Nice little touches. 

"I can't believe you're eating that shit," says Bonnie to Nathan as he pours more Cocoa Puffs into his bowl after the blowup with Abigail. Hey at least he's using organic milk. 

Sade's Cherish The Day was playing during the dinner. Nice. 

 "I've heard that Abigail is a little slutty." And more commentary from the parents. It should be a wild night when trivia night happens. 

I Am Addicted To All The Internet Things

Let's talk about the Internet. Specifically, my dependence on it. My Internet service went down on March 18th and was down for three days roughly. That's not too bad, right? When I called it in they told me a tech would need to come out and the soonest was March 22nd. That 's a wee bit longer- about five days. Luckily I didn't have to wait five days. That's like an eternity in blogging. Even that little bit of time being down though clarified for me how dependent I am on the Internet.

First of all it happened on a weekend. I had just posted my Sunday Post (it was scheduled) and so I was completely unable to participate in that until I stopped by the library to link up and visit a few blogs. I had not scheduled my Monday post so that was missed, although I had my Tuesday and Wednesday posts teed up. But I was looking at being almost completely AWOL for five days, and without the library there would be no visiting. And that was driving me nuts. How could I not connect for- gulp- five days?? How did my life become so centered on the Internet? Should I be concerned? I mean I talk to some bloggers now more than I do most of my real life friends! Granted that's partly because we all live so far away, but still...

Not only that, but I use online streaming for most of my TV watching. Before I started blogging I never watched TV- like, literally never. Maybe an occasional game or something. But now I watch a ton of shows and often review them as well. Because of course. But no Internet = no Netflix, no Amazon streaming, no HBO Now. In other words, I missed Big Little Lies on Sunday, no Walking Dead, no Humans (I don't have cable so it all comes over the Internet). To make matters worse, no Twitter so I have no idea what's happening lol- no Goodreads (just when I was starting to use it more). So what do you think I did?

I read. A lot. Yes I did real life things- I went places, talked to family and friends, but all the stuff I do for fun - blogging, visiting blogs, watching- was gone. And it felt weird. And that makes me wonder- what did I do before blogging? Do I need to visit so many blogs on the Sunday Post? Do I have my priorities straight? Am I too dependent on the Internet? Yeah I probably am. And the sad part is- I don't really mind. I like blogging, I like talking books, I like talking to bookish friends. Now that I'm back on (I wrote this the day it came up) I'll probably fall back into my old ways. Have I learned anything? I think I have- I've learned that the Internet better not go down again lol.

Seriously though I did self- reflect and I know that three days wasn't really that bad. But in the meanwhile- it's good to be back.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top Ten Authors I've Met/ Would Like To meet


 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 fun topic- authors we've met or would like to meet. I think I've only met three authors in an actual face-to-face, book signing type setting, but I've run into others in a more informal way at like conventions or whatever. So I'll start with the ones I have met or brushed elbows with, and then finish with authors I'd LIKE to meet.  

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

I met George at his signing in Ann Arbor. 

The Sword of Shannara (The Original Shannara Trilogy #1)

I met Terry Brooks at a signing in college and he was a super nice guy. 

Letters from Skye

Jessica Brockmole did a signing just as I was starting blogging and I kept seeing good reviews for this, so I went. A good book and my first author interview.  

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R.A. Salvatore has been at GenCon many times and I used to go every year, so I've seen him there.  

These are the writers I'd like to meet

Big Little Lies

Liane Moriarty just because I love this book so much. 

Replica (Replica, #1)
Lauren Oliver just because I like how everything she writes is so different. 

Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird, #2)
Claudia Gray (who I only know through her two Star Wars novels- and I never read Star Wars books). 

The Girls in the Garden

Just based on the strength of this one. 


Rainbow Rowell seems so down to earth and I love her writing.  

The Hobbit

Of course JRR Tolkien if he were with us. 

Tuesday Tagline #32

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan, #1)

Monday, March 27, 2017

The 100 Gimme Shelter

This episode had a killer twist and took a darkly comedic turn even as it explored the usual themes- you know, how do you live with decisions where some must die that others may live? That's a familiar beat here on The 100, and we're faced with it again- twice. First Abby (and by extension Clarke) need to decide if testing their new cure on someone- a test which may kill the test subject- is worth it if it will save everyone else.  And Bellamy- who can't catch a break- has to make a similar decision, risking his life to save some stranded Ark'ers.

We start with Octavia going off on her own after last week, and Ilian is following her. She's not too happy about that but when the black rain comes she gives him a ride. Go Helios! They find a nice cave to shelter in but black rain burns so they lickety split undress so they can splash themselves down- because every cave on The 100 has a nice pool in it. So Octavia and Ilian are largely undressed and alone in a cave. We'll return to this curious turn of events.

Meanwhile the black rain is also at Arkadia just as Bellamy returns, and everyone has to rush inside. Except wait! Someone stumbles and is trampled after clutching at Harper (yes Harper is back!) and starts to burn after being left behind- because no one bothered to help the guy- and Bell and Kane have to go get him. He's fucked though. And Harper is feeling bad she didn't go back for him. By the way did anyone else laugh when the whole Ark population seemed to be undressing en masse and splashing water all over themselves? I'm sure it was unintentional but it was actually hilariously bad...and we of course get a gratuitous shot of Harper stripping down to her civvies. Although I have to say... nice abs Chels.

Let's just talk black rain for a minute. Okay weeks ago we saw some kind of radiation wave sweeping through. We keep getting estimates of how long they have until the radiation hits Arkadia. But in the meantime "black rain" is here- and it burns. So do we just have periodic "black rain" storms now- you know, until the really bad radiation gets here? I mean they're playing so fast and loose with this stuff. Where were we? Oh yeah so even as chaos reigns (!) at Arkadia, Clarke has arrived at the lab and is reunited with Abby. They're discussing how Abby has a possible solution- inject Luna's bone marrow into people to make them Nightbloods and therefore immune to the radiation- you know the usual pseudoscience bullshit- but the test procedure is likely to be fatal, since the test subject has to be exposed to radiation. Emori (where's she been?) overhears this and immediately assumes she's expendable.

Later Emori and Clarke go to the big house where Murphy is jammin to this...

and he can cook! Who knew. See he could be a sandwich artist! Anyway Clarke is just settling down for a nice nap after a shower when someone breaks in- someone Emori apparently knows from not-so-better days? Some dude named Baylis who did her wrong once upon a time. She is not happy with him and wants to kill him, which Clarke tries to talk her out of. After all (since Emori's gonna snuff him anyway)- what if his death could serve a larger purpose? Remember that radiation test earlier? Yeah. 

Bellamy meanwhile tries to save some Ark'ers who are stranded out in the storm, and one of the guys is in rough shape- not going to make it without immediate help. Unfortunately Bellamy gets stuck en route and can do nothing. Bellamy's been through so much and to not be able to help is wrenching. I thought that whole exchange was so well done. Bellamy- like Clarke- just can't seem to get a break. 

Remember Octavia and Ilian? Half naked in a cave- you can kind of see this coming. Octavia is just so lost, at one point she tries to walk out into the rain, and Ilian stops her, but she's so desperate to feel something. I can imagine the howling that went up at this turn of events- after all it hasn't been that long since Lincoln- but under the circumstances maybe she needed this, and it doesn't mean she didn't love Linc. Now as to whether Octilian is going to be a thing- she does decide to give him a ride on Helios the wonder horse at the end-remains to be seen, but this will definitely be a topic in the weeks ahead. 

Random Thoughts

When the black rain hit and Kane's yelling "everyone inside" I was like oh for reals this time??? 

Jaha and Monty are in Sector 5 with 200 people. Is that like Sector 5 of Arkadia or are they somewhere else? It appears they were elsewhere but it's a little unclear. 

"Yeah he's a real catch" Clarke replies after Murphy makes some smartass comment about all the good guys being taken. The look on her face when she said it was priceless. I mean yeah we all love Murph but everyone- especially Clarke- knows he's an asshole. 

"Why don't you light a fire? You're good at that," Octavia tells Ilian when they first get to the cave. 

There's a little throw away line about how the lab has 5 levels. Will that play a role?  

"Why don't you stay out of it and let her have this Clarke?" says Murphy as Emori is beating the shit out of Baylis. Or, you know, whoever he is. Between Murphy being quite okay with that, and his admiration for her when it's revealed the guy was... some rando...those two make a scary ass couple. 

The Wanderers

The Wanderers (The Wanderers, #1)

The Wanderers is a book that's been on my TBR for a long time. I finally got to reading it and it turned out to be quite good. It's the story of a girl named Flo who can shift into a horse, and she's part of a circus comprised entirely of shifters. They go from location to location, barely scraping by, always on the lookout for hunters- covert agents who are aware of them and will kill or capture them on sight. I liked the idea of a circus of shifters, and this is the first book I've read with so many different animals- there are elephants, bears, cheetahs- and no paranormal creatures like werewolves. That was kind of a refreshing change, and so is the idea that shifters are so widespread- there are rogue packs out there that are often found and neutralized, and members come and go from the circus. There are also three elders that run the circus- all three of them lions- and they have secrets as well. 

Flo is mostly likable and I thought her depiction was pretty realistic. She's only sixteen so it's realistic that she would be afraid, or uncertain, and every time I thought geez Flo get it together, I had to remember she's so young. And she's going up against experienced hunters who know what they're doing and are well- armed, including with special items that are anathema to shifters. Not only that but most of the other performers are young as well, so you have kids going up against adults. 

I didn't think this had a lot of action, but it didn't feel slow. In fact the short punchy chapters kept the story flowing and I wanted to learn more about this world. Other reviews have said the action doesn't get going until the second half, and that's somewhat true, but it kept me turning the pages. I thought it needed more action in the front end but it wasn't a dealbreaker for me. And whenever I thought Flo a little whiny or indecisive, I had to remember- she's sixteen. And it made it feel more real that she's not a killing machine even though I wanted her to kick a little more ass. 

In fact the whole group- we're talking bears, big cats, elephants for crying out loud- could have been a little more fearsome, more effective, but again these are teens going through a traumatic experience. They're not natural killers. And they've been trained to suppress their animal selves, so when the time comes that their animal instincts would be useful, they're not accustomed to doing that. I like that that conflict was explored a bit. 

The other thing I really liked was the idea of the packs. This particular one hid in plain sight as a circus, but it's mentioned that that there are other packs, hiding away or occasionally even preying on humans. A lot of it has to do with how they address their animal selves. I look forward to learning more about this in the next one, and also seeing where the shifters go next. So again, this is a nice shifter read, it could have used more action and I wish the shifters had been more formidable, but I had a lot of fun and if the premise appeals to you I would definitely give it a shot.