Thursday, 31 October 2013

S4x3 - The Walking Dead: Isolation

Aired 27/10/13 on AMC


Angst and anger, thy name is The Walking Dead. Jeez, this was not a cheery episode. Season 4 continues its journey of becoming more of a character based show than before, and this episode was full of dying sick people, temper tantrums and stone cold solutions, with only a sprinkle of action to top it off.

It started off at the crime scene from the end of the last episode with Tyreese, Rick, Daryl and Carol standing over the burned bodies of David and Tyreese’s lady friend (who is apparently called Karen. Who knew?). Tyreese was very confrontational with all of them and ended up cracking Rick across the jaw a few times after commanding the former sheriff to solve the case, but Rick wasn’t having any of that and proceeded to go a bit crazy and pound the living daylights out of Tyreese. That’s what you get.



Tyreese’s anger continued throughout the episode, and I’ve watched enough TV shows to know that when a character is in the anger stage of grief, they are either completely badass or completely irritating. Tyreese was the latter. He buried the bodies, huffing and puffing along the way and then decided he was going to stand guard over the quarantined sick people, which now included his sister Sasha. Eventually he realised that this wasn’t really helping and went with Daryl, Michonne and Bob to go and get meds. But when they encountered an army of Walkers who promptly swarmed the car, he just sat there for a bit while the others got away, before taking his anger out with a machete. Just when it looked like he was a goner he came bundling through the trees, looking a bit weary, but alive.

I get that when you’re angry your ability to make sensible decisions is a bit clouded, but when it happens to a TV character it bugs the hell out me. They spend an episode making stupid decisions, annoying the crap out of everyone, before finally having the life-saving epiphany at the end. Frustrating, but also a sneaky TV trick as it gets you more invested in what’s going on, as you desperately want it to go back to how it was. The Tyreese situation was no exception.

While he was busy being angry at the world, more and more people were coming down with the Walker-inducing sickness, and unfortunately this included Glenn. After some pretty heavy storylines last season, so far Glenn and Maggie haven’t had much going on, except the pregnancy scare in episode one. But Glenn has been there since the beginning and is one of the show’s most beloved characters, so if he dies there are going to be a lot of angry viewers. But that’s one of the beauties of The Walking Dead: just when you think someone is safe, they are either seriously injured, left behind or they die.

Perhaps the most developed character since the beginning is Carol, who went from being the meek wife to an abusive husband, to a possible love interest for Daryl, to the complete badass who will do whatever it takes to protect the ones she loves. That includes burning two people to stop the spread of the sickness. That’s right, Carol is not just someone who teaches children how to use knives, she’s also now a murderer, despite her good intentions. In this world, surviving is the number one priority over everything, including moral decisions. Did she do right, even if it didn’t work, or has she just turned into a cold blooded murderer? Either way, it made her a lot more interesting than she’s ever been so I’m good with it.

Carl is coming up to a close second on character development, as this episode showed that even though he’s regained some child-like qualities, he is more mature than the majority of adults in the real world. Stuck with the quarantined kids, he catches Hershel sneaking out and completely shatters any notions that he is still the little kid from season one as he berated Hershel and insisted that he go with him. Also, his break from using a gun has apparently worked as he didn’t needlessly shoot a Walker and walked away instead. He’s so grown up, bless him.

Although there wasn’t as much action as there usually is, Isolation was still pretty significant, if for nothing other than learning more about the characters. It was a necessary episode to set up future ones, with the majority of the prison dying in isolation, the med retrieving group stranded in the woods and Rick left to deal with the knowledge of what Carol did. All of these will inevitably lead to some good storylines.

I also want to mention the cinematography, as some of the shots were damn near beautiful, like Hershel and Glenn silhouetted on the prison walkway, or the camera slowly zooming into Beth’s face during her and Maggie’s talk through the wooden door. It made up for the lack of action and I will be very happy if these types of shots continue throughout.

Sarah

S1x5 - The Originals: Sinners and Saints

Aired 29/10/13 on The CW

So after last week's rather epic episode, this week's episode was quite average. As the season progresses, it's safe to say that overall things are improving, but I'm still waiting for the WOW factor. 'Girl in New Orleans' was pretty close, but 'Sinners and Saints' was a small step backwards - although it did fill us on a few important things, so I suppose that's a bonus.

First, we'll start with ELIJAH. Just the fact that he was actually in the episode made me happy. Thank goodness he's awake because I was starting to suffer from Elijah withdrawal. As usual, he was looking sharp and sexy in his slick, black suit - he may have been wearing it for a while in that coffin, but I didn't see a single speck of dust. Elijah and Davina had a good long talk and finally we were able to fill in a few blanks, like why Marcel and Davina are such good friends. Basically, we learned that Marcel isn't a completely evil douche, while the witches of New Orleans are actually evil kid killers - even Marcel and Klaus draw the line at killing kids so you know it's bad. Davina told Elijah how she was part of a ritual called the 'Harvest' and was tricked into believing that it was a great honour - except that her fellow young witches (including the daughter of Sophie's dead sister, Jane-Anne), were sacrificed and killed. Davina wasn't sacrificed because Marcel and his vamp crew swooped in and saved the day; Marcel recognised something of himself in the almost abused Davina and decided to hide her in the old church, where he has looked after her with brotherly affection ever since. 


Back to ELIJAH... From Davina's tragic tale, he deduced that Sophie and Jane-Anne didn't plan to bring Klaus to New Orleans to help tip the scales in the witches' war against Marcel's vampires, as was initially thought, but to in fact help them find Davina, so that they can kill her and thus complete the 'Harvest' - they want to complete it because they believe that this will bring Jane Anne's daughter back to life. Thinking about it now, I'm actually quite impressed with Sophie - I have wondered what her role was going to be as the show progressed. So far she's just been there not really doing much. Turns out that she actually is a much bigger threat and a great trickster - she'll do anything to get her niece back which makes her extremely dangerous. 

And back to ELIJAH again... after he finished his little talk with Davina he returned to the Mikaelson household where he was reunited with his family. Rebecca ran to him with open arms while some cheesy music started up in the background. But it wasn't the Mikaelson reunion that was the exciting part, it was the Hayley-Elijah reunion part. Hayley left the room and Elijah (obviously having gone through all of this reunion with the family part before because he is like a thousand years old), focussed all of his attention on her. He followed her, leaving behind a confused and bemused Rebecca and Klaus. For a while it looked like they were going to kiss, but then Hayley slapped the hell out of him. Ooouch. "Don't make promises you can't keep," she said in some mangled American accent. Ok, I've probably made it sound terrible, but the scene was actually kind-of awesome. It would have been cheesier had they kissed - believe it or not the slap was so much more intimate. Elijah *swoon* stood there with his hand to his cheek and looked as though he'd been touched by an angel, not bitch-slapped by a werewolf carrying evil hybrid spawn. 



I suppose I should mention something other than Elijah now, so I'll mention the other thing that I liked - Rebecca and Hayley are totes best buddies now. Anyone say, H2O: Just Add Water? The mermaid besties are now vampire and werewolf besties. Love it. Rebecca hasn't really had any decent friends and it appears that her romance with TVD's Matt Donovan has been shut down - the writers have obviously attempted to compel us into just forgetting about all that, but I've been on vervain since season one so they can't pull a fast one over me. 

Finally, the thing that I really didn't like were the flashbacks - ugh. They're just so lazy when it comes to explaining things - it's always flashbacks! It was cool to find out about Davina and Marcel's relationship, but we also found out who was behind Camille's brother's crazy-slaughter. We were only introduced to that storyline last week and I feel like the writer's couldn't really be bothered to do a proper job with it, so just shoved the explanation in with this week's flashback scenes. I am so over flashbacks - Lost did way too many flashbacks, flash sideways, flash forwards, whatevs, and look where that went. 

Overall, it was a decent episode in terms of what we learned - but I want some action now. I want some more Hayley/Elijah sparks, perhaps a slaughter that isn't seen in a flashback sequence, and perhaps more on this baby angle. We've had enough explaining - let's get moving with some exciting events. The plots appear to be set: Sophie is out for blood; Hayley's having an evil baby; Elijah and Hayley are gonna get it on; Klaus is going to get some revenge for the poor, compelled bartender; there's plenty of wood here to start the bonfire, I just hope that the writers have the guts to start it sooner rather than later.

Amber

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

S1x3 - The Tomorrow People: Girl, Interrupted

Aired 23/10/13 on The CW

For a show that airs on The CW, the cheesiest channel out there, ‘Girl, Interrupted’ was a pretty solid episode. It was a mix of flashbacks, plot advancements and more of Stephen as a double agent for the TP in Ultra.

The main focus of the episode was Cara, the Tomorrow Person who was the voice inside Stephen’s head in the pilot, as her powers go on the fritz causing her to get telepathic overload. Turns out that it was exactly five years since she discovered that she wasn’t human and it wasn’t exactly the happiest of events. When a boy approached her at a high school dance, first it was revealed that she used to be deaf, and then we realised that the guy was a giant douche who just wanted to take advantage of her awkward innocence. He drives her out to the off beaten path and tries to get it on with her but she is all ‘erm, no’ and legs it out of the car. When he gives chase and pins her down, she throws him back with her newly discovered telekinetic powers, and as an added bonus, gets her hearing. A not-so-added bonus was that she actually killed the guy when his head landed on a rock, resulting in her being carted off to jail, but her powers came to the rescue once again and she teleported away.

She ended up back at her house where she shared the news with her dad that she could hear, but he didn’t care as he said that there was no way anyone would believe it was self-defence because of the dead guy’s powerful dad. And although he kept saying it was so she could live her life, Cara overheard his thoughts that they would be better off without her, as he thrust a wad of cash in her hands and sent her away. Poor Cara left as the door was slammed in her face, with a quick mournful ‘bye’ to her little sister. Having powers seems awesome, but clearly there are bad sides to them.


One bad side effect, as a result of that unhappy memory, causes her to overload and hear everyone’s thoughts at once – something which happened in the middle of helping Stephen break into a restricted section of Ultra to plant a USB into the mainframe that tracks Breakouts, so the TP can get to them first. As his telepathic warning system overloaded, he nearly got caught by Jedikiah but managed to pass it off. Or maybe he didn’t, because they later found the USB. Although Jedikiah said he trusted Stephen’s word, he isn’t stupid and knows Stephen is a double agent, who is only kept around so that he can lead them to the TP. Well, duh.

The side plot of the episode tied in quite nicely with the main one too, as Stephen overheard his classmate Emily’s thoughts at a party about her impending death. She was the other school freak along with Stephen after having a tough time when an accident killed her little sister. It didn’t help that she was the one driving a car and not paying attention when a train came, and was suffering from some major survivor’s guilt.

Stephen asked John and Cara to help but they said that they don’t interfere with human life, something he couldn’t understand. On one hand, I get what they were saying; when do you draw the line at helping people? They could save this one girl which is good, but why not the next one? As Cara said, they’re not God, they don’t get to choose. Plus it could expose their powers. But I also get Stephen’s point of view, the old superhero cliché of ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ If they have the powers why not use them to help when they can? Stephen worked out that she was going to put herself in the path of a train and went to stop her, and Cara agreed to go as she felt that she owed him. She then identified with Emily by telling her about her own guilt and said that killing herself wouldn't resolve anything. It was done all neat and tidy, no flashy shows of power to save her, but just when we thought it went okay, Stephen’s friend Astrid showed up and watched him teleport away. Uh-oh.



I’m kind of surprised that she found out so early on in the series as usually this would be dragged out, resulting in a lot of annoyed shouting at the screen, but I’m interested to see where they are going to take it now. Stephen tried to play it off, but she watched him teleport; there’s really not much he can pass it off as. (Although he did tell her all about the TP in the pilot which she didn’t believe, and is now acting like she can’t remember that conversation… did I miss something or is this a plot hole?).


It was a pretty solid episode overall and a step up from the previous episodes. It’s still the kind of show you watch when you don’t want anything complicated, but it's definitely starting to look more promising. 

Sarah

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:


Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
Share the title & author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I'm currently reading a book called Shadows by Paula Weston. I have only read a few pages so far, but this quote really stuck with me. It's short and sweet. Enjoy!


"I know exactly who I am. It’s everyone else who seems to be having a problem."

Monday, 28 October 2013

Holly Black: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown



Cold Town was dangerous, Tana knew. A glamorous cage. A prison for the damned and anyone who wanted to party with them. 

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. It's an eternal party, shown on TV twenty-four hours a day - gorgeous, glamorous, deadly. 

The problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave. . . 



Holly Black is back and this time its with a sensational new novel about a world infected by vampirism. Now, before I go any further with the review, I would like to stress that this is NOT your typical modern vampire YA book; there are no good vampires hanging out in high schools, no sparkles, no daylight rings, no animal blood, no mainstream vampire clichés we've come to expect since Twilight struck lucky. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a mixture of the paranormal and the post-apocalyptic - think The Hunger Games only with vampires in the arena with the human tributes.  

The novel starts in medias res; the main character Tana wakes up in a bath tub after a boozy 'sundown party' and discovers that all of the other party-goers have been slaughtered - by vampires. Vampires aren't a secret in the world Black creates; after one vampire gets too carried away the world becomes 'infected' - one bite from a vampire turns a human 'cold'. A cold human starts to have an uncontrollable craving for human blood and, once they taste human blood, their transformation to vampire is irreversible. Black reverts to the most traditional vampire, reminiscent of the ones created by Bram Stoker or Anne Rice, and that is what I love about the novel; they can't walk in the sun or they'll burn to death; they'll only be sated by human/vampire blood; they have a strong dislike of holy water; a good old fashioned stake in the heart will kill them and, of course, they're dangerous killers themselves. However, she is very unconventional in her treatment of them too and uses the vampire to create a world more typical of a zombie novel. Instead of a zombie apocalypse, Black creates a vampire apocalypse - the world has been plunged into chaos and in an attempt to reorganise it, 'coldtowns' are created. Coldtowns are quarantined, filled with vampires, the infected and humans stupid enough to idolise and romanticise the whole thing. Once you enter a coldtown, there's no leaving. Good job that's where Tana ends up then. 

The novel is structured roughly into two parts: in the first part Tana, her infected ex-boyfriend, Aiden, and a crazy vampire called Gavriel travel to a coldtown. Aiden can't go home because he's infected, while Tana might be infected too. Although a coldtown is the last place they want to go to, it's the only place that will take them. Gavriel has his own reasons for travelling to the coldtown, out of which the novel's main plot evolves. The second part is set inside the coldtown where Tana constantly battles for her survival, hence the comparison to The Hunger Games. The coldtown has cameras inside and the live feed is streamed to the outside world, making it appear sexy, glamorous and alluring, but as Tana discovers, it is anything but. The similarities between this novel and The Hunger Games end there though, because no matter how hard Tana fights to live, she isn't getting out of this arena.  

Tana is a fantastic leading character and there wasn't anything about her that annoyed me. She wasn't perfect, she didn't always know who to trust, but she was tough and persevered, and she was smart too. If you're looking for a novel where the heroine is strong, but not strong enough that an attractive, broody hero has to swoop in and save her at the end, then you'll be disappointed. While Tana and Gavriel have a romantic relationship, he certainly isn't a hero and Tana fights her battles alone. Gavriel is unconventional, manic, romantic, blood-thirsty and at times hilarious, but he isn't a hero. He's a deranged killer and there's no forgetting it. The main and peripheral characters are quirky and likeable too, typical of the author's usual style - though perhaps Aiden did get a little annoying after a while. The main vampire antagonist, Lucien, wasn't as strong as I'd have liked him to be, but if this book is perhaps only part one of a larger series than I expect a better big, bad villain will appear somewhere down the pipeline. 

The only other slight weakness of the novel for me was the occasional break-up of the main third-person narrative that followed Tana. In a few other reviews I've noticed that some people felt that the book had no plot and was just full of explanation. I would have to disagree completely - the plot is Tana surviving in Coldtown in the same way that The Hunger Games is Katniss surviving in the arena. There is also an interesting plot that involves Gavriel and Lucien, so to claim that the novel has no plot is simply ridiculous. Occasionally, chapters would revert to something in Gavriel's past or Lucien's past and they did explain certain things, but they were also necessary to understand the character's motives. Yes, they did sometimes break up the main narrative flow, but they were still interesting and still aided in moving the plot forward. And besides, they weren't exactly long break-up chapters, only a few pages - perhaps the moaners are just lazy readers (maybe that's harsh but I liked this book and I'll defend it Tana-style!). The only break-up chapters I thought were unnecessary were the blogging ones from the perspective of the character, Midnight. They weren't long either nor were they frequent, but they basically repeated/summarised what we already knew, so I felt that perhaps they could have been cut. That was my only real qualm with the novel. 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown takes familiar YA motifs and transforms them into something unconventional and fresh. Holly Black has descriptive charm by the bucket-load, a wildly, beautiful imagination when it comes to world-building and I think that her writing is much stronger now than her early fairy novels, as is to be expected with her growing experience. Certainly, she has revamped the vampire and I hope she'll give us more - I'm definitely cold for more Coldtown.

Rating: ****

Amber

Sunday, 27 October 2013

S1x5 - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Girl in the Flower Dress

Aired on 22/10/13 on The CW

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is into its fifth episode and has just started to pass the stage where the stories are contained to one per episode. Now a story arc for the whole season is slowly being introduced. Plus, as an added bonus, the characters were a lot more bearable this week. Progress, is that you?

The spine of the story was based on a Japanese street performer, who had the ability to produce fire in his hands. He got taken by some hazmat suits to a place where a seriously manipulative woman gave him his own superhero name and talked him into being a lab rat, all under the guise of helping ‘Scorch’ become more powerful. Turns out that it was the mysterious company, Centipede, who were still trying to perfect the serum from the pilot that caused Gunn (yeah I said it) to go a bit crazy. Because of the nature of Scorch’s powers, his platelets were fire resistant – something which would stop making the serum go boom! They let him play with fire for a bit, but it wasn’t long before Scorch was strapped down to extract the platelets from his blood.



S.H.I.E.L.D. got wind of it as Scorch was already in their Index (a list of people and objects with power under watch), so they set out to rescue him. But really, it was just a base to shine a light on Skye. The episode made me flip flop between trusting Skye as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and thinking that she was working from the inside for The Rising Tide, but it did manage to make me like her a bit more. She wasn’t as in-your-face as she was previously, and the game of Battleship between her and Ward was a cute little friendship moment, even if it was meant to be a hint for an upcoming romantic relationship.



It was revealed that the Centipede agents got Scorch’s information when someone hacked into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s databases and they all immediately suspected Skye. She defended herself by pointing out that she’d been on the plane with them all, but she offered to use her hacking skills to find out who did it (does no one else know how to hack? They all act like computers are the work of the devil. What did they do before Skye got there?). This led her to fellow hacker and previous mentor Miles, who was then forced to use his super hacker skills to evade Coulson, but he couldn’t avoid Skye who was waiting in his hotel room. But instead of taking him down, she angrily called him out for almost ruining her chances of infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. from the inside, then leaped into his arms and engaged in a bit of sexytime.

However, they were caught by May, handcuffed and taken to stew in the cell on the plane. Miles, who ended up being the most annoying person ever with his endless preaching about freedom of information etc., started to question Skye’s motives of being there. Was she really there to take it down from the inside? Or had she crossed over to S.H.I.E.L.D’s ideals? It honestly wasn’t too clear as she was very convincing to both sides, but at the end of the episode when she was taken to the Principal’s Office to talk to Coulson, she pulled out a sim card she kept in her bra that contained all the information she had on herself. Turned out not to be that much, but it did reveal that she was adopted and her adoption papers had been blanked out by order of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now we know why she’s really there and it provided a little intrigue over her past for us to ponder on.

The rest of the episode went down how you would expect, except that when May and Coulson continued with their mission to rescue Scorch, he’d gotten a bit too used to the taste of power and went slightly homicidal on everyone. I felt bad for Coulson as he kept getting hit after hit throughout the episode; first Skye let him down – he’d taken a chance to trust her even after she broke into S.H.I.E.L.D., then Scorch turned all murderous and exploded himself before Coulson could help. The poor guy just wanted to help everyone but, as May pointed out, you can’t account for the crazy factor.

We were left with a couple of new players as the mysterious, manipulative woman visited an equally mysterious man in jail and told him that the serum was going to plan and they were closer to creating the perfect soldiers. She said to contact the Clairvoyant, something which he seemed hesitant to do, but she just smiled that evil smile and waltzed out of there. Who are they, who are Centipede and who is the Clairvoyant? Who knows, but it seemed like it could be a season long thing.

Overall progression was made, both in story and characters. FitzSimmons didn’t have much to do which was probably why they were bearable and Ward just did his usual super soldier thing. It’s slowly improving, but it needs to pick up the pace a bit more before it gets too slow that no one bothers to keep up.


Sarah

Saturday, 26 October 2013

S5x4 - The Vampire Diaries: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Aired 24/10/13 on The CW

During the review for last week's episode of TVD I complained about the flashback scenes slowing down the show's narrative pacing - not much was created in terms of plot and it basically became forty minutes of explaining things for later. This week's episode didn't create much in terms of plot either and was yet another trip down memory lane, but not in the annoying flashback-style we're used to. The theme of the ep was remembrance and although there wasn't much forward momentum, for once I was actually okay with that. 

Damon and Elena spent the episode trying to help Stefan regain his memories. This included Stefan reading his old diaries - the tragic elements of which were mocked during a bit of affectionate brotherly-bonding in a fast car. When this failed to ignite any spark of remembrance it was Elena's turn, who foolishly decided that it would be a great idea to recreate how they first met. They re-enacted some classic season one moments that included Stefan and Elena bumping into each other as she came out of the men's bathroom, and visited the Wickery Bridge - the place where Elena first lost her parents and then her human-self. Delena shippers were probably unhappy for a while as Elena told Stefan how he helped her through all of the tough times (and there has been a LOT of them), and did everything he could to make her happy - including saving Matt instead of her back in season three. I was definitely feeling nostalgic for the Stelena days! The same song that was used when the pair had their first kiss back in season one was playing as it looked like they were about to kiss again - but of course because Elena is SUCH A TEASE, she backed out and then casually mentioned that she was actually dating Damon. Stefan realised that they'd broken up because she had fallen in love with his brother AND HE ACTUALLY GOT MAD AND WENT A BIT PSYCHO.


Now, I've read a lot of reviews from people saying how stupid this whole moment was - but to be totally honest I was pleased he'd finally shown a normal-person reaction to the whole thing. I'm not going to say this because I prefer Stefan and Elena together (I'd have had the same thoughts if it had been the other way around), but when Elena broke up with Stefan she ran off to Damon STRAIGHT AWAY AND HAD SEX WITH HIM. I'm sorry but in the real world, if your boyfriend dumped you and then had sex with your sister, YOU WOULD BE PISSED. Back in season four, Stefan just let it go and then came up with some whacky sire bond excuse. Pfft. He went a bit overboard with the psycho thing this time and did try to eat Caroline's new college friend, but she talked him round. Finally, he ended up burning all of his old diaries, literally burning all of his ties to the past and then dumped Elena and Damon. It was a good moment and I was proud of him. YOU DON'T NEED HER! And then he went and hung out with Caroline - the only person whom he could trust. Awww. 

Meanwhile, Jeremy was starting to combust under the pressure of being the only person who knew that my not-so-favourite witch was dead. I've never really warmed to Bonnie - she's just had this whiny way about her ever since the early TVD days. So, I was a little surprised to find myself shed a tear at her memorial. I'm adamant that the tears came because of the way in which Elena and Caroline were crying their hearts out, and the way Jeremy took control of the ceremony and relayed a message from Bonnie to her best friends. I was crying less for Bonnie and more for the other characters - I mean even MATT WAS CRYING. *blub* And of course, the other big moment during the little memorial was the return of TYLER. Caroline ran to him and it was so beautiful - even though I've been annoyed at the guy for making her upset over the summer. Their reunion was so touching and seeing all of the former high-schoolers together again, older and mostly wiser, was another tug on my heart strings as it brought back memories from the early days. Basically, the memorial wasn't about Bonnie but about how awesome everyone else was. Sorry witch. 



The only other major thing that happened was in the final scene of the ep, which featured Caroline's college friend, Jesse, and the college professor. The writers have planted a couple of seeds - rather scattered seeds - over the past few episodes about a new bad, secret organisation at the college. Jesse was worried because he couldn't remember what had happened to him and the college professor realised that the guy had vampire blood in his veins (from Caroline's quick healing technique after the whole Psycho Stefan situation). Of course, because there's something dodgy about the professor, Jesse ended up being dead. Dead in the TVD sense meaning that he'll come back as a vampire. I'm not particularly interested in the college professor plot yet, but I'm willing to be open-minded. 

At the moment the college-plot feels like another Buffy storyline and I'm starting to get some major Whedon-vibes again. In The Originals we have a magically conceived vampire/hybrid baby which is soooo Angel, we've had Stefan locked in a safe and thrown in a quarry which is again soooo Angel, and now we've got a secret organisation at the college which brings to mind The Initiative in Buffy season four. I won't be surprised if soon we start seeing commando guys running around the campus - perhaps Elena will meet a Riley Finnesque undercover guy, (which doesn't bode well because Riley was mostly awful). I understand using Whedon as a source of inspiration because he is one seriously awesome guy, but I'm starting to think that TVD is relying too much on things we've already seen in other shows. The college thing hasn't had enough time to play out yet, so hopefully it will be something different and good, but for the moment I'm a little bit wary. 

For the most part I enjoyed the episode and the feeling of nostalgia that the writers created - while I was reminded heavily of season one, the differences between then and now were emphasised all the more. Stefan is moving on. Elena is in love with Damon. Caroline is so awesome. Jeremy has grown up. Bonnie is dead. Matt might have a storyline. I'm curious and optimistic for what's to come - just no more stealing from Joss Whedon! 

Amber

Friday, 25 October 2013

S1x2 - Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: Trust Me

Aired 17/10/13 on ABC

If I learned anything from this episode, it’s that Wonderland is a place where secrets and trust don’t exist. There were more deceptions and betrayals in episode two than in a poker game between a bunch of criminals out for revenge.

Alice and Knave continued on their journey to find Cyrus by following Alice’s plan to find his bottle (which they buried) and rub it so he appears to them. Sounds super simple - but of course it wasn’t. As Alice kept saying very loudly, it was buried under the Tum Tum Tree in Mimsy Meadows, something which caused Knave to say that of course no one would find it there because it would only be visited by Carebears.

Side note – I seriously love Knave. It’s like the writers realised that nearly everything in Wonderland is ridiculous, so they wrote his character to say everything the audience is thinking. His sarcastic quip that the clothes horse was where she magically got her new clothes from both neatly explained it without hassle and, demonstrated the show’s awareness of its slightly bizarre self.

After ditching the White Rabbit, they hacked their way through trees and then found out that there was a gigantic lake in their way. No problem, they could just clap their hands and a ferry would appear. Except she didn’t say ferry, she said fairy, one which happened to have a grudge towards Knave for leaving her, after what sounded like a Wonderland one night stand, without saying goodbye.

After handing out a few disguised digs towards Knave, she agreed to take them to the Tum Tum Tree, only to then drop him in the middle of the lake with a big smile on her face. Alice went after him as he had already confessed to not being able to swim and they ended up clambering onto a conveniently placed rock. Except it wasn't a rock, but a giant Turtle who Alice forced to take them where they want to go. Job done.

When they finally got there, they found that Jafaar had beaten them to it after learning the location from the Red Queen, who of course learned it from the eavesdropping White Rabbit. Knave thought it was all over - but Alice soon revealed that she lied and just wanted to see who she was up against, then she took him to the real burial site of the bottle. But low and behold it wasn't there, because the White Rabbit told the Red Queen that he had seen Alice and Cyrus bury it there originally. So now the Red Queen has the bottle and is going to keep it to get power over Jafaar, who had Cyrus, in order to keep some leverage in the power struggle, and Alice is left at square one. Get all that? Good.



The power struggle between the Red Queen and Jafaar was an on-going battle, as he needed her to get the bottle from Alice. He trusted that she would obey after he showed off his ability to decimate people into ashes, except she wouldn't admit defeat and double crossed him at the end, using the bottle as insurance for her life. He clearly has more power than her, but she sees herself as the rightful ruler of the land and won’t take anything lying down. Although, I’ll be honest, in one of their scenes I wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying as I was too busy studying her hair. How does she even do that? Does she get up super early in the morning just so her servants can spend hours on it as well as scrubbing her feet? It’s one of the show’s unsolved mysteries.

And is it just me, or is this show a lot more sexual than the original? The Red Queen dresses fairly provocatively and wanted to make sure that he was satisfied and all his needs were met. Regina wore similarly sexy costumes in OUAT but I don’t think she ever had dialogue that clearly alluded to sexytime. Plus all the ‘swordplay’ between Alice and Cyrus in the flashbacks, which by the way clearly worked as Alice got a kiss from her man and started the relationship. Maybe it’s just where my mind went, but I can’t be the only one… right!?

Although it was an enjoyable episode, not much happened in the advancement of the story as Alice and Cyrus are pretty much still in the same situation. They did manage to send messages to each other as Cyrus had some magical paper he kept in the lining of his waistcoat, so they knew each other was alive. Alice now has a good idea who has him, so I guess that’s something. Honestly, it didn’t really matter that the story didn't move much further forward as it allowed us to get more of an idea of each character while leaving us wanting more. It’s when we don’t want more that we have to worry, but so far, the show is on the right track.

Sarah

Thursday, 24 October 2013

S1x4 - The Originals: Girl in New Orleans

Aired 22/10/13 on The CW

At the end of last week's review for The Originals I requested several things: more badass Rebecca, some good old Mikaelson family banter, the return of Elijah and some revelations about Davina or Hayley's mystical baby. After this week's episode I finally feel that I can praise the writers because they definitely came through with the goods!

Davina is no longer going to be referred to as 'weirdo girl' or 'creepy Davina'. Now she will be known as totally awesome Davina - she's a combination of tragedy and innocence along with a huge side order of absolute kick-ass magic mojo. She is one powerful kid and I'm pleased that the episode devoted a lot of its time to her, because I was desperate to suss her out. We learned how she'd been kept prisoner in the attic of an abandoned Church - the previous site of a terrible massacre involving Cami's twin brother. Davina begged Marcel to let her attend a music festival and he was set against it - until she made his blood boil WITH HER MIND. I was impressed with her nerve, but also confused as she has all this power but remains under the control of others. I'm curious to see how her relationship to Marcel is explained in later episodes. Marcel got bartender Cami to look after his little witch without realising that Klaus had already recruited her first using his powers of compulsion. Unfortunately for Marcel, Cami 'lost' Davina and let her run off to meet an old friend. Evil Davina - as she seemed to be portrayed in the first few episodes - was actually just another rebellious, young teenager in love with a musician.




Klaus spent the episode running around with a plan to convince Davina to betray Marcel and align herself with him instead. He deliberately pushed Tim the fiddle player from a balcony and then blackmailed Davina. He would save her poor love's life by feeding him his blood if she joined him - and of course she did. Klaus never loses when it comes to manipulating other people's feelings - it's this quality that made him so enjoyable to watch in TVD. The casual way in which he threw Tim over the balcony railing was typical, old-school Klaus - he even threw the lad's violin over too. The scene was comical and made me feel the way I used to feel about him; he's much better when he's having evil fun than when he's moping around and wondering why people always leave him.

The episode also saw the return of another of my favourites: ELIJAH! Ok, he was asleep for most of it but he did use his powers to communicate to Rebecca in some weird dream vortex. He had a plan and made his sister swear to protect Hayley and the baby no matter what - when Rebecca revealed this to Hayley later on she had a little smile playing on her lips - I'm definitely feeling some early romantic tension between Hayley and the good Original - AND HE'S BEEN IN A COFFIN. Elijah is just that awesome. Anyway, although he'd been asleep he awoke at the end to face Davina. It was an enjoyable cliffhanger and I'm glad he'll be up and about in the next episode. Hayley will be pleased! 

Now on to Hayley's role in the ep; she's definitely growing on me. In the back-door pilot I thought that she would spend the season annoying me Bella Swan style. But actually, I'm not ashamed to admit that I was wrong about her. I enjoyed her showing off her wolfy ninja moves when she escaped from people trying to kill her. The witch, Agnes, took her to see a doctor as she still hadn't had a standard pregnancy medical check-up. Agnes' intentions weren't as good as we thought though - instead she led Hayley into a trap and arranged for her to be killed. She fought off her attackers but was then shot with an arrow. She turned up later, a bit battered but okay. Turns out her extra-hybrid baby shared its healing powers with her - a pretty nifty trick to have in this world! 

Finally, we learned a bit more about Cami, whose twin brother massacred a group of kids in a church. Cami's reason for being in New Orleans was to find out what happened to him and the story also showed us why she was so interested in psychology.With no explanation he just snapped - but through Klaus she deduced that he might have been compelled and was hell bent on finding out who was responsible. However, Klaus compelled her to forget - it was a sad moment as she begged him not to let her forget. He comforted her as he compelled her and promised to find out who was really responsible. It was a touching and defining moment in their new relationship and provided a great deal of material to use in future story lines. 



Overall, the episode was a huge improvement. It contained pretty much everything that I asked for and it ended in a way that made me want to tune in again next week. The writers kept a good balance of providing us with enough information to keep us satisfied, but didn't reveal too much too quickly. 

Next week... BRING ON ELIJAH! 

Amber

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
Share the title & author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!




This week's teaser is from John Green's Paper Towns. Enjoy!


"The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle. Like, I will probably never be struck by lightening, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust. But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us. I could have seen it rain frogs. I could have stepped foot on Mars. I could have been eaten by a whale. I could have married the Queen of England or survived months at sea. But my miracle was different. My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman."

Monday, 21 October 2013

S4x2 - The Walking Dead: Infected

Aired October 20th on AMC

This week’s episode started straight after adorkable Patrick had died in the shower block and turned into a Walker. It was like something straight out of your classic thriller movie, as Tyreese sang the highly relevant song ‘I got you under my skin,’ to his lady friend (I never did learn her name, not that it matters now) before she left to go back to her cell. It was a genuinely creepy sequence as she walked down the low lit hallway with a flickering torch and entered the showers where we knew Walker Patrick was hungry for human flesh. After a few will-she won’t-she see him moments, she left, only to be followed out. Luckily for her he was distracted by a cough and instead went into another cell to rip some guy’s throat out. Guess it wasn’t so lucky for him.

The cell block turned into a Walker breeding ground as the newly turned Walkers feasted on the people just waking up to begin their days. The close quarters meant that the body count was high as people tried in vain to escape the slaughter. The bigger problem came after as they worked out that it was some type of fast acting flu virus that started it and, unfortunately, they had all been exposed. New guy Dr S explained that the pressure in the body had reached high levels and, like when you shake up a can of coke, the blood needed to be released, so it exploded out of various orifices, drowning the victims in their own blood. Lovely.

They figured it was probably spread by Farmer Rick’s pigs and that everyone in the cell block was probably infected, so quarantine was effectively set up. Farmer Rick was up in odds as the situation had forced him to go back to his Walker killing ways, despite his want to help in a more passive way. He didn’t have much time to dwell on this fact however, as the Walkers congregating at the fence pushed a little too hard and it started to give way.


The survivors eventually realised that someone had been feeding them rats, hence why they were all in one place, but they were a little preoccupied with trying hard not to die. Farmer Rick saved the day by killing two birds (or pigs as the case may be) with one stone and lured them away with his infected pigs. He genuinely looked sad as he watched the Walkers feast on them, maybe because it represented the end of his recovery from crazy town, but I didn’t care that much because it meant the return of badass Rick.

Michonne continued on her journey of becoming a normal human with actual emotions, as Beth bandaged her foot up and wondered what you might call a person who’d lost their kids. When Judith spit up on her, she all but forced a reluctant Michonne to take her while she changed. Despite her reluctance, Michonne broke down in tears as she hugged Judith to her, maybe hinting that there was a child at some point in her highly mysterious past. Or maybe I’m just looking into things too much. Either way, Michonne is still the best!

Carl was still acting like the new mature version we saw in the first episode. He saved Michonne from a Walker by shooting it in the head with a shotgun and then apologised to Rick for doing so. It seemed that he did regret killing the boy last season and learned his lesson from his dad. He even asked Rick about when he was getting his gun back instead of just taking it. Now that’s progress people. Although Carol asked him again not to tell his dad about the knife lesson he witnessed in the library, he went ahead and told him anyway. This is perhaps proof most of all that the relationship between father and son has been fixed. The trust in his dad not to tell anyone was there, something which definitely wasn’t before. Rick agreed, and then gave him back the gun while strapping on his own, signalling that Farmer Rick was done. Hallelujah!



It wasn’t revealed who was feeding the Walkers, but a suspect was introduced in one of the kids – a creepy girl named Lizzie who couldn’t kill her dad when he turned and was upset that the Walker they’d named Nick was killed outside the fence. When Carol brutally told her that she was weak, her little sister said she wasn’t – she was just seriously messed up (who wouldn’t be in this show, right?). Was she messed up enough to feed the Walker she had bonded with in some twisted innocent way? Or does someone else in the Prison have their own agenda to feed the Walkers?

There might be evidence that it is the latter, as when Tyreese went to check on his quarantined lady friend, he discovered a bloody trail leading from her cell. Unfortunately, it ended with the burned body of her and another infected person. Gutted. While it wasn’t too clear, it looked like she was killed by a person and not by the virus, and then had the body burned to stop the spread of the infection. I’m pretty sure this won’t go down well with Tyreese or the council. Unless the council had something to do with it, but I can’t see Hershel condoning this. We’ll just have to wait and see.


The introduction of the virus works for the show; there’s only so many times you can watch humans vs zombies, or humans vs humans in a zombie ridden land before the concept becomes tired and loses the scare factor. This new threat is both a fresh new take and completely terrifying. It only took one night for Patrick to succumb to the virus, and with a prison chock full of people in close quarters, who knows how many were infected. I can only imagine what the paranoia is going to do to the group dynamic… should be fun!

Sarah

Morgan Matson: Second Chance Summer


Taylor Edwards has made leaving things behind into an art form. When things get tough, she gets going. Then her Dad gets some terrible news and the whole family decide to spend the summer at their old lake house, where Taylor is forced to confront her past. She hasn't been to the lake for years and isn't keen to go back, but then she starts to reconnect with the people she thought she'd left behind - including Henry, her first crush, who's even cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve...

With fireworks, fireflies and midnight swims, the summer feels full of possibility and, for the the first time, Taylor wants to hold on to the moment but is one summer really enough to have a second chance - with family, friends and love?

Morgan Matson first appeared on my radar with her debut novel Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour back in 2011. It was a great coming-of-age book about two teens on an epic journey of self-discovery, complete with novelty postcards and roadmaps. I didn’t think Matson could top Epic Detour but her second novel is a beautiful surprise.

With similar themes to Epic Detour, love, death and grief are again prominent in Second Chance Summer. The author doesn’t delay the revelation and makes it quite obvious from the start that Taylor’s father is cancer-stricken and only has a few months left to live. I thought that this was the best way to face the novel’s premise – the structure of the plot echoes Taylor’s emotional journey. Like Taylor we are burdened with the knowledge that Robin Edwards will die and then as the novel develops we begin to love him as though he were our own father.  With Taylor we suffer a horrible sense of foreboding and it becomes harder and harder to stand the thought that he will die at the conclusion. And when it does finally happen the impact is stronger – we have learned to know and love this man. The inevitability hurts the most and you will need a tissue to dry your eyes. Matson’s approach to this difficult situation is tactful and highly emotive.

The subplot is unfortunately where you will find the novel at its weakest. At first it started off very well and a mysterious aura surrounded the history between Taylor, the childhood sweetheart, Henry, and the former best friend, Lucy. What did happen five years before? Why was Taylor so ashamed of her past? Why was Henry, the cute boy with the hazel-green eyes, so hostile? I was intrigued at first but as the occasional flashbacks to five years before revealed more and more, my desire to find out dissipated. After so much build up I felt let down by the author – it was not nearly as damaging and dramatic as I thought. Looking back I actually think that the hostility, particularly from Lucy, was quite harsh. The secret was really nothing more than a bit of miscommunication and a playground quarrel.

The strongest point for me was the growing relationship between Taylor, her father and the rest of the family. While the romantic subplot between Taylor and Henry has a lot of focus, the dialogue between Taylor and her father is what makes this novel special. Usually with the YA genre it is the romantic entanglements that are in the foreground, and I’m not saying that as a negative, but it was refreshing to see in this novel that the romance didn’t overshadow the main plot. The book centres more on the family as a whole – the parents are important characters and haven’t been brushed aside, so the protagonist is not allowed to wander off freely as she pleases. The family behaves like a real family – the kids do chores, get in trouble, tease each other and the parents are there to support, listen and occasionally scold. Matson captures family life in a plausible way and makes you want to be part of the family – by the end you are part of the family.

Second Chance Summer isn’t just a light summer read. It’s thought-provoking and emotional and will make you appreciate family, friends, love and life. Matson draws you in then simultaneously breaks your heart and pieces it back together again. It must be added to your TBR list.

Rating: ****

Amber

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Sunday, 20 October 2013

S1x2 - The Tomorrow People: In Too Deep

Aired 16/10/13 on The CW

The Tomorrow People is this season’s new show about attractive people with powers fighting to survive in a world where other people are trying to kill them. There really is nothing special about it. It’s kind of like the powers from Heroes, meets the attractive twenty-somethings playing high schoolers from One Tree Hill, meets every other high school show about teenage angst and not fitting in. The acting is average, the script borders on unintentional comedy in parts, but despite the obvious badness of it, it still appeals to me. After watching episode two, I think I’ve worked it out: it’s so simple and formulaic that I don’t have to think about anything, just passively watch a simple show. And sometimes, that’s just what I need.



It follows Stephen as he discovers that he is actually one of The Tomorrow People, a new species of human evolution who have powers such as teleportation and telekinesis. They are being hunted by Ultra, a company who wants to eradicate their species that they deem a threat to mankind.

The pilot episode is the ‘origin story’, as Stephen found out who he really was and discovered other people like him. However, he was captured by the leader of Ultra, Jedikiah Price, and although he eventually escaped with the help of new friends John, Cara and Russell, it turns out that Jedikiah was in actual fact his uncle. He ends up working for Ultra, the obvious bad guys, so he can find his absent father, a guy who the TP consider some kind of saviour for the species. Using Ultra’s resources and the fact that he seems to be more powerful than the average Tomorrow Person, Stephen thought that everything would be fine working for the people who hunt and kill his kind, as he just wanted to find his dad and get on with living a normal life. Obviously, he was wrong.

Stephen is really naïve, bordering on stupid. When he goes out on a mission to find a new ‘Breakout’, a boy named Kurt who had taken to robbing banks with his newly discovered powers, he willingly helps his partner find the teenager, but then becomes horrified when a SWAT team arrives and starts shooting the place up. Er, duh!? What did you think was going to happen Stephen? That they’d all go off and settle their differences over tea? You’re working for a guy who had no problem shooting someone point blank in the head last episode.

Of course, Stephen goes rogue and asks for Cara’s help in rescuing the boy from Ultra so he can go to the TP’s safe haven, and throughout the episode he was trying to convince John that it was a good thing that he was working for Ultra. But John, who had worked there before, pretty much spoke for the audience when he was like ‘um, no it’s not.’

But just when Stephen finally works out that he’s in over his head, John realises that it is in fact the perfect opportunity to stand up and fight now that there is someone on the inside. So far, Stephen has managed to survive the telepathic interrogations and not given up the fact he’s still in contact with the TP, but as his uncle said, he’s too powerful for them to let go; they’re going to keep a sharp eye on him and not let him go for anything. He’s stuck in the position he naively put himself into, with the lives of the TP on his shoulders if he gets discovered, something which was hammered home when he saw his partners dead body after being shot for Stephen’s insubordination.

It’s actually kind of interesting that the show has gone here. If you had asked me what I thought would happen before, I would have said that he would be in the underground tube station with the TP, fighting the evil high tech company intent on killing them, with generic stories and narrow escapes each episode. Instead, Stephen is now responsible for many lives if he messes up and it has raised the stakes on a familiar premise. Of course, it’s still cheesy as hell, and you can see the storylines a mile away, but it’s watchable. If it could only stop with the voiceovers; it’s so hard to get them right, and this show definitely hasn’t.

Sarah