Wednesday, October 30, 2013

House of Hades

I've not written about the Percy Jackson books since my initial review of the series. However since then I've reread most of it, and of course dived into the sequel series. For the most part I like the sequel series better. I think it's more interesting, with more depth, and c'mon, the books are awesomely large! It's also been fun to get to know some more diverse characters in the demigod ranks, particularily Leo, Hazel and Frank. Piper and Jason are kind of awesome too, although their characters are still being fleshed out.

Character fleshing out is actually one of the biggest strengths of "House of Hades." Every single character has their 'big moment' of testing and trials that reveals new truths about them and helps them (literally, in one case) grow. Frank and Hazel especially reveal that they are forces to be reckoned with.

I remain in awe of Riorden's ability to include new Greek (and now Roman) myths in each installment. I can't imagine the time he must spend researching in addition to all that writing. Every inclusion so far has fit the story's needs perfectly. I was glad to see the return of Calypso, and surprised and delighted by the return of Titan Bob, a character almost forgotten but now back with a purpose.

But the best part is the humor woven expertly even through the darkest of times. It's never quite so over the top that you can't believe it. The cast of characters know the truth that there is nothing more powerful for defeating the darkness than laughter and love, and they use both weapons with gusto. Evil takes itself too seriously, but we grow stronger when we can see our own weaknesses and laugh at them while playing to our strengths.

Speaking of Love, the love god, Cupid, finally makes an appearance in a scene that is probably the most divisive in the fandom yet, as Nico di Angelo reveals his hidden love for Percy. I was a little surprised, but not shocked. We're in the realm of greek gods, after all, and their exploits contain quite a bit of this sort of thing. Not to mention that the whole series revolves around illegitimate children. Conservative families will perhaps be less than happy with this inclusion, but I do feel that it is keeping in line with the themes of Greek mythology expressed so far, and that Nico's suffering and chastity display the situation as Christian morality dictates... so it's actually one of those places where you find a good discussion starter. The sequel series has definitely been darker in tone and directed towards an older audience than the original books.

I wouldn't quite give this book five stars, but it comes close, doing just as well as the previous two books in telling a good tale and balancing (just barely!) the large cast of characters and introducing more and more levels of Greek mythology along the way.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

OUAT 3.5 - "Good Form"

Spoiler alert

Let's talk about the title.

Captain Hook is known for being a little obsessed about 'form.' Good form. Bad form. It indicates that, in the original play, at least, he came from a background where there was a code of honor. "Once Upon a Time" tries to pay homage to that, and gets it half right.

"Good Form" is the story of Killian Jones, an honest sailor from the land of the Enchanted Forest. For king and country he sails under the command of his brother to the second star to the right and arrives in Neverland. Only once there, they find that the king's command is not for honor, but deceit, and Killian loses his brother due to a certain Pan witholding some important information.

So what does Killian do? Why turn Pirate of course! "At least there is honor among thieves!" he declares.

And that's where OUAT fails. We all know the saying "No honor among thieves", and Killian's declaration would work had the story in any way taken the cliche theme and proved it to be untrue, thus explaining why his words are the opposite of the cliche. On the contrary, just last Thursday on their sister show (Once Upon a Time in Wonderland) the theme was that you are a thief if you steal for yourself, but if you do have honor and steal only to make a better life for others, you are not actually a thief. Still a problematic statement, but not as problematic as Killian's.

Which is a real shame because it was a really good backstory up until then, especially when bookended by an even better present-time storyline, with Hook indeed choosing good form by saving David.

But there's still a lack of logic. Killian is a "good man" with "good form" but he's also a 'bad pirate boy.' It's confusing. Is he good, or is he bad? Why turn pirate in the first place? Why not confront the king? Declare the truth to the people? Killian's decision to turn pirate is not at all good form, but rather the actions of a selfish coward... which is not, I think, what the writers are intending with this episode!

Well. Time will tell. Because Killian now has the choice whether to do the right thing and tell Emma that Neal is alive... or hide the truth and continue winning her for himself.

I liked this episode. I found Killian sympathetic, and I enjoyed the plot. It just doesn't hold up under scrutiny, which is a shame. Regina and Rumple were really well done villains with strong motivation... but it feels like the writers cant quite decide what they want to do with Killian Jones/alias Captain Hook.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

All hail the baby prince!

It's an ittle widdle prince! And isn't he a cutie? Already getting tons of personality that we can finally see in his official Christening pictures. Check out more of them here.

When given the choice, I would always rather link to and share official pictures released by the families themselves than anything taken by papparazzi (unless it's from a clearly designated media event, like the Royal Wedding or a press conference). So delighted that they are releasing these lovely photos.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What's YOUR Social Media?

I've been around on the internet for a long time. My first foray was onto hotmail, and I had an aol chat account, and got inducted into the land of "forums" back in 2005. Some of you will be going *gasp* "she's ancient!" and others will shake their heads and go "young whippersnapper."

Anyhow, the point is, I've seen a lot of social media come and go. I never got into MySpace because it just didn't appeal to me. However, I was in college when Facebook was just beginning and I was in love with it immediately. I liked how streamlined it was, how easy it was to find friends, how you could share pictures and updates and keep in touch with people across the country without sending everyone long detailed e-mails every week. Or, even, you know, short e-mails. There's a lot of people to keep in touch with! And photos still don't e-mail well.

I remember coming home from school and telling my friends "You guys. Facebook is awesome. It's going to be the next big thing. You've GOT to get it." Some of them were really funny and resisted and didn't get it until everyone and their grandmother had it... actually my grandmother got it before most other people's grandmothers got it. I guess being technologically ahead of the curve could be genetic for me... One time one of my cousins was in class and the prof asked "whose parents have facebook?" and everyone but my cousin raised their hand. Then the prof asked "whose grandparents have facebook?" and everyone's hand went down but my cousin's went up!

Facebook might tick us off with it's periodic changes and the every shifting privacy settings, but let's be honest. It's kind of been a brilliant thing. And if something works... why would I feel the need to go somewhere else? Which is why I never got into Google+. I do think Google+ has some features (like their hangouts) that are worthwhile, but I haven't needed them enough to add something else to my internet presence.

I did try twitter. I really did. But honestly hashtags weird me out. To this day I still can't figure out who is saying what and who is replying and to whom in a twitter post. I try, but usually I have to read it three times. And if it takes three tries to read 144 characters and understand who is speaking to whom... well it's not for me.

On the other hand, I absolutely adore tumblr. Okay the social justice warriors and the potty mouths get old, but it's one big happy fandom most of the time and it's been a really fun way to share and discuss and discover everything I love, from Doctor Who to Downton Abbey. The format was crazy to try and understand until I actually got an account and discovered... THE DASHBOARD. Which is like the best thing ever. Just saying.

I resisted Pinterest. I really did. But I finally caved and while I don't get over there every day as I do tumblr and facebook, It's fun to poke around and get inspiration on.

And then there is this blog. Guys, I love Blogger. I know some people love Wordpress, and that's cool, but I love having it tied into all of my Google stuff already. Because I sort of have a love affair with Google that dates back to my first gmail address in 2005, back when you still had to get invites for it.

I haven't gotten into Instagram. I don't really have a phone that's compatible with it yet, and I prefer to do my own photo editing anyhow.

Social Media is tied into everything we view nowadays, and I've deliberately disconnected it from my yahoo browsing because honestly Facebook doesn't need to know every article I decide to read. (I link to all the good ones myself). Yes, that's my dark secret. I'm one of those people keeping Yahoo alive. I don't use it to search, or even for e-mail nowadays... but it's somehow, weirdly, become my world news homepage. Shhh! Don't tell anyone!

So anyhow. That's me, as defined by social media choices. What does your picture look like?

Monday, October 21, 2013

OUAT 3.4 - "Nasty Habits"



Was it just me or was this episode a bit of a letdown? It seemed to just recover territory we've been over before... more than once. The actor who plays young Bae is quickly growing too old to pass as younger than the Bae who went through the portal, so hopefully this is the last time he'll appear in the Enchanted Forest (although I'm sure we'll get more Neverland Bae - hope so, at least!).

We know all about his relationship with his father, and this episode doesn't really give us anything new, other than *surprise* Peter Pan's history with Rumple and Bae goes back further than we guessed. And he's also the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Well. Actually that bit was the best part of the episode. It set up a nice backstory for Peter, and gave us a clue as to what is wrong with the magic of Neverland.

The other highlight of the episode was - briefly - seeing Neal and Rumple working together. It's nice seeing how competent Neal really is and definitely wonderful to see how determined he is to be a good father.

As much as I like Belle, her vision scenes are another redundancy. We've seen these conversations before. I know they're trying to keep her in the show because she's such a fan favorite character, but fans are going to get bored fast with her saying a variation on the same lines every time we see her onscreen.

Hook is growing on me, and I'm looking forwards to getting more about his backstory next week. Not so excited to see Henry falling under Pan's spell... the last scene was incredibly creepy.

Like many other fans, I don't believe "undoing" necessarily means "death" and really was hoping that Neal would point this out. There's also plenty of ways that someone other than Henry could be "the boy" in question. It could very well also be Peter.

Not nearly enough Emma in this episode. *sigh* her one decent scene was great though. Same goes for Regina. She only got about two lines, but they were real zingers.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flowers, Words and the Internet

I'm feeling a little less stressed about wedding stuff today. My mom and I visited a florist on Thursday and contrary to our expectations, she gave us very reasonable pricing. Which is a huge relief because if the quote had been any higher we would have had to go the route of buying flowers in bulk and making our own arrangements, which would have been doable but added a lot of stress to the wedding week. And we're all about keeping stress down, because of how much it impacts my health.

I also think I have the centerpieces figured out! They will be some work, but I can start them any time and they'll be very elegant and economical. What are they? You'll have to wait for the wedding pictures to see... (I promise I'll share some).

We're also in the process of figuring out our photographer and cupcake maker. Hopefully none of that gets too complicated...!!!

Meanwhile today, being Friday, is another writing day for me. "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" is currently at just under 35,000 words... lets see how many I can write today! I had a bit of a drive from my doctor's over to the coffee shop where my writing trio is meeting this week and had plenty of time to think about different characters in this book. My main girl is one of those people who is an extremely good person - so writing her to fit this image but still be realistic, relateable and interesting is a challenge... but a really good challenge that is growing me as a writer.

I'm so thankful for the internet. Being able to look things up on the internet like the average temperature of Paris in February, or a map of the Louvre is invaluable. Okay, to get a map of the Louvre in English I had to turn to my sister who was there two years ago, but otherwise the internet is quite helpful. I've also found "Stuff Parisians Like" to be a good (but very tongue in cheek!) peek into what contemporary Parisian life is like and what cultural expectations might be different from American ones, or even the rest of France.

I've been pinning some (spoiler free) inspirational images and helpful links over at my M&U Pinterest Board. If you're curious to see what this book holds besides mermaids, nuns and a unicorn, you might want to check it out!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

OUAT 3.3 - "Quite a Common Fairy"

Hi. Let's talk Tinker Bell. Or rather, the fairy called Tinker Bell that appeared in this episode, but didn't have a whole lot other than looks in common with Disney's iconic pixie.

Spoilers Ahoy.

Don't misunderstand me, I really liked this episode (which I'll discuss at further length below). I'm just continuing to be annoyed by the show's decision to portray every single Neverland resident completely opposite to their canon selves. Pan is evil, Hook is selfish but sexy and working with the good guys, Tinker Bell is non-sassy looking for the best and genuinely wanting to help bring true love...

It's like we went through a looking glass to a reverse world. All I can say is, they had better have a really good explanation for why our world has such a different concept of what these characters are like, otherwise I'm going to remain extremely ticked. (I'll still be slightly annoyed, but at least it'll make sense, rather than just seeming like willy-nilly writing, since all of the Enchanted Forest characters are reasonably close in personality to the characters we've all grown up with).

But what are the good points of this episode? Some really wonderful Regina stuff. Her backstory never fails to bring some new riches, and in addition to seeing once again my favorite of her dresses, we also got to see her make another move towards redemption. She acknowledged that she made the wrong choice so many years ago, and her words of wisdom to Tink seem less like manipulation and more like truth than we've heard from Regina in a long time.

We also know that there is a true love waiting for her, if they ever end up in the same world again... who would have guessed it was Robin Hood? (well other than seeing his familiar haircut in the tavern and knowing right away). Unusual, but full of potential!

And can we gush over how adorable Roland was? I love that they're giving Robin a chance to be a father (although alas, Marian!!!), and I have a lot of hope for future adventures with his Merry Men and Mulan! Even though it's at the cost of Mulan's heart breaking. Hopefully at some point we'll get to see Aurora and Phillip return with their baby in tow.

Right now, however, I am most interested in seeing the reunion between Emma, Neal and Henry, plus of course more Rumplestiltskin scenes, and a look at what is going on back in Storybrooke!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Keeping up, Numbers, and DISHES

Life just doesn't get any less busy.

I seriously meant to keep up with blogging about all of the shows this year - and I still will do a lot of reviews, but I just have to accept with so much good TV around, I may not be able to write about every single episode of every show I love.

I have been putting a lot more time into my business, with my new desk and commission process making it a lot easier to stay on top of things. I also have a new assistant that I've been training in.

Then there has been writing happening - I've been trying to get about 2000 words a week, and it is working so far. Got to get "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" into your hands ASAP!

I love our dishes! So does Nathan!
And of course there's also the wedding. I've been getting back RSVP cards which has been really fun... I keep track of everything in a spreadsheet which has made life a lot easier. We even got something more momentous this week... our first wedding gifts! Plates and bowls (Pier 1 Imports) that we had a lot of fun unwrapping. We both are really happy with the pattern we picked. Italian country is my favorite kitchen/dining room design, and I feel that these plates really fall into that aesthetic.

We're also hunting down a photographer, and this week my mother and I meet with the florist. Then I'm trying to find the right shade of guava lace to add to the bridesmaid dresses... fun and intense all at once.

94 days seems so long when I think of how badly I just want to be married. But it seems pretty short when I consider how much there is still to do to prepare for the wedding!!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Agents of SHIELD - 1.3

Well, it got better.

Actually, it got a lot better. Most of my concerns from last were answered. Though the show still has some work to do, it drastically improved on all counts - character, plot, dialogue, humor, and Marvel-tie in.

Spoilers to follow.

I found Skye intriguing this time around. I actually liked Ward. Fitz and Simmons made me laugh. The opening sequence was pretty epic. The moral question was - well, a moral question that we can all consider even in a non-superhuman world. And Dr. Franklin Hall had the type of origin story I like best - conscientious person tries to do something great that turns disastrous... and although I had to learn this later on tumblr, Graviton is a comic canon villain, so we are finally getting some more solid tie-ins with the familiar Marvel Universe.

And Malta. I love Malta! They went to Malta!

"It used to be muscle memory." I'm pretty sure Coulson is a robot now. I liked that theory back when the fans were throwing it around as a way Coulson could be saved, and I love it now that the show seems to be backing up. Of course it could be a big switcheroo, but either way it should be interesting.

And who is Skye really working for? This episode had solid evidence for both sides...

Friday, October 4, 2013


I sometimes feel like I'm not getting enough done. Not sewing enough. Not writing fast enough. Not doing enough blog posts. Not spending enough time with friends. Not getting the photographer for the wedding and the centerpieces and the programs and the music and -

And then I stop and think - wow, I've got a lot of balls up in the air. And you know what? I'm keeping them afloat. Maybe not as high and fast as I'd like, but I'd rather have all the balls than give one up. And being able to juggle even one ball successfully was a major feat for me two years ago. To be able to manage a business, a book, a family, a fiance and a wedding now and not go insane and not be sick all the time is the most insane blessing and testament of God's blessings.

I'm able to do more of the sewing for my business now and not delegate so much. I just got "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" up to 100 pages/31,000 words. The invitations are out, and the appointment with the florist is on the calendar. I may not get to see as many of my friends as often as I'd like, but I try. Right now I'm prioritizing family and fiance, knowing that it will be easier to have time for friends after Nathan and I are not living 30 minutes apart and sacrificing all that driving time just to be able to see each other. (I'm not complaining, just explaining).

So I tell myself not to stress. God has never let me fall without catching me. Everything I've been through has built me into who I am and every trial that comes will be further refining fire.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not sold on this show yet. So if you absolutely adored it... you may want to skip this blog post altogether. Maybe check back next week and see if I've given it a higher rating yet...

I mean if it wasn't for Coulson I don't even know if I'd keep watching. but Coulson is so wonderfully wonderful - he's just awesome. I have to get my Coulson fix.

The other characters? They're... far more meh than anything I've come to expect from the mind of Whedon, which makes me wonder just how much he's really involved with this show. Fitz and Simmons are one dimensional squabbling comedy right now, Agent Ward is stiff and boring, Skye is cocky and annoying, and Agent May... okay Agent May is pretty cool. Not Coulson cool but close. I want to know more about her.

And that's what's sad. We're two episodes in and we know almost nothing about anyone. When you consider how much we knew about everyone in the first episode of Firefly - or even by episode two of Dollhouse... it's sad. Last night's episode was so action heavy, they didn't leave time for character. It wasn't just not Whedon quality, it wasn't even well-written/plotted/characterized television.

But no one is talking about this because they're in love with the cameo at the end. And it was an awesome cameo.


I mean. Nick Fury saves everything. His 45 second appearance may be all that gets the show good ratings next week, because if it wasn't there, I think a lot of viewers would not be intrigued enough to continue on. The only interesting things at this point are "what REALLY happened to Coulson", and "What is Agent' May's backstory." Skye's apparent infiltration motive would be more interesting if we actually loved or hated her at this point... and while some people do, she's honestly not that well developed at all. And she should be. For a show of this profile with everything it has behind it... it's sad. And this week's mysterious object was a not-even-glorified MacGuffin. For a show whose selling point is their connection to the Marvel Universe, they're going to have to actually do something awesome with the sci-fi stuff (and NOT just more cool gadgets) if they can't get the characters up to par, or this show is going to be dead in the water.

"Once Upon a Time" (for comparison) may not have had a perfect first season, but they had an intriguing plot and I, at least, cared about every character shown on screen in the first episode and continued to do so (except for when Snow and Charming just got stupid but whatever). 

I'm not giving up. I said I'd give it six episodes before passing judgement and I'll keep watching. But this was a pretty disappointing episode apart from the ALL HAIL THE GLORIOUS CAMEO. Hopefully next week will be less action intense and more plot and character heavy and make me care about somebody besides Coulson and May.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

OUAT 3.1 - "the Heart of the Truest Believer"

Hello folks. I seem to be on a "have a headache every Sunday" schedule, so if my reviews are a little late while we get those under control, please excuse me!

Spoiler alert!

Well. Here we are again. After a long summer of anticipation, we pick up right where we left off... a pirate, a prince, a villian, a queen, a princess and a mother forming an unlikely alliance as the Jolly Roger sails into a portal... while Henry is delivered to the Shadow and Neal is discovered by some old friends.

We get one single flashback in this episode, which isn't a bad thing as the episode is already jumping between three - no, four - plotlines. And the solitary flashback is a good one - the moment of Henry's birth (with some ominous magical light flickering). The look on Emma's face when she resolutely kept her eyes trained away from Henry... heartbreaking.

And then forwards into the future, where Emma has embraced her role as mother wholeheartedly, even if (as Rumple points out) she isn't ready to be 'the truest believer.' She does however place her trust in her family's love for her by diving into the ocean to quell a storm. She knows that her parents will not hesitate to save her, and this is, for her, the biggest leap of faith we've seen her take yet. Mostly good scenes (getting Neal's Sword! Regina being sassy! Snow punching Regina! Mermaids!) although the whole sailing-over-the-wave montage was... laughably over the top.

Meanwhile Greg and Tamara meet quick ends on the Island of Neverland, which is having more and more in common with a certain island in another show inhabited by a shadowy monster... I'm not 100% certain that Greg is out of the picture, however. His body is dead but his shadow spirit might still come into play.

Henry is all of the awesome in this episode, making friends with a friendly lost boy... who looks just a little too much like Peter Pan... suspicions that are proved right when he reveals his true identity at the end. But what does he want with Henry? Why is he so evil? And what are we going to do with the hordes of newly awakened fangirls?

We only get a handful of scenes with Rumplestiltskin, but he is utterly brilliant in them. Turns out, he's been to Neverland before, and there's painful memories waiting for him there.

Meanwhile over in the Enchanted Forest, Neal wakes up to find Mulan, Aurora, and the mysteriously rescued/aliveagainbutnotazombieasfarasweknow Prince Phillip. Aurora tries to contact Snow via the dreamworld but has no luck, whereas Mulan takes Neal to his father's abandoned castle where they find magical aid and a plucky new outlaw friend. Who is enjoying the Neal/Mulan bromance? Yes, that's right, "Bro"mance. I refuse to accept a romantic pairing there yet. I'm 100% Neal/Emma all the way. Loving the new casting and slight writing change to Robin Hood. Looks like he's going to be a properly fun character, which we desperately need as we begin this obviously darker season.

Speaking of darker... I'm really not sure what to think of this Neverland. It's not at all the land I've adored since childhood, and I'm curious to see whether it was once the happy place of a celebration of imagination, or if it has always been this dark.