Tag Archives: urban

Review: Barbie Movies

Specifically, I am talking about what are referred to as Season 2 through 4 of Barbie movies on Wikipedia (I wasn’t born when Season 1 happened).

This may seem like something ridiculous for me to be watching as an adult, but believe it or not there are a lot of us who grew up with Barbie who enjoy watching the films if only to see what they’ve gone done did now. And to be honest, the evolution itself is pretty entertaining, and I like where it is going. For direct-to-home movies, the animation is never that bad for the time periods it is being produced in, and honestly I feel like while some of the story elements are goofy, the movies show how the brand is continuing to grow and try to not only appeal to girls, but help them find their voices and confidence.

The second “season” of films show their age the most–these films started coming out in 2001, when CGI animation was still figuring itself out. It did however set the tone as different from the prior two films by being in a different style. Most of these early movies, done from 2001-2009, were based either off of fairy tales or ballets, with a few originals thrown in that matched the theming of the mystical and fantasy elements. Even if the stories themselves are familiar, the writers didn’t approach them the same way and really worked to give the Barbie character agency rather than being the end goal like most fairy tale heroines are.

Examples include Rapunzel, where rather than always staying in the castle, she finds her way in and out of the tower on her own. One of the original stories, The Magic of Pegasus, has a princess go out to rescue her sister, herself, and other princesses. If anything the boy who comes along serves the role girls usually are relegated to–the practical one who only serves to help the hero. Even the rendition of The Three Musketeers works hard to show that these girls can be feminine and powerful at the same time. (Okay, I am a sucker for war fans, what can I say?)

The third season (2010-2015) is where they started reaching out to modern stories as well, almost entirely original with some being in fairy tale settings but with modern elements. This is where they really had fun with what they could come up with. While some sort of irked me for being rather shallow, such as A Fairy Secret, I did like this idea of there being a greater world that they were playing with in some of the films and others I thought really played around with traditional roles and made them fresher. The Pearl Princess was amusing with the fact that the main character used her love of dress up to find a good job that would suit her, and the traditional dork character was a hero in his own right.

There was also more variation in Barbie’s personality depending on the movie. She had definitive flaws, skills, and overall wasn’t nearly as grating as normal. For example, Kristen from The Pink Shoes was a talented dancer…she just couldn’t stick to the choreography, a flightiness to her personality rather than there being something necessarily wrong with other people’s opinions. While the end result is Kristen still getting to be a star ballerina, it isn’t for a traditional role with traditional choreography she would have to learn, but rather an original production that she would have a voice in. Similarly, Alexa in The Secret Door is shy and lacks confidence in herself. The movie is about helping her find out that she can do what her duties require of her as a princess, without calling her wrong for feeling shy sometimes.

The new fourth season (2016-Present) hasn’t had much going on so far, but it’s showing that they are going even farther out of their comfort zone (to my approval) and into some elements that really need more girl representation. It’s a fact that when it comes to things like space adventures, spy thrillers, and even video games, that male characters are usually the hero, and the girls are either the goal or they are the damsel in distress still. Even Bond Girls aren’t considered as good at their job as the male leads. But the Barbie movies are taking what they did with season two and applying them to these genres. In particular, I loved Starlight Adventures for what it was–middle-aged power hungry man had to get smacked down by a young woman who had this thing called environmental conscientiousness and morals. One of the upcoming movies is also centered around video games, which I am all for.

If you think Barbie movies are for little girls only, you are sadly mistaken. They aren’t too bad to watch on a lark on your own, nothing worse than a Disney movie, except these have the emphasis on girl-power where it belongs. The animation is increasing in quality as they go, and the stories are amusing. Give them a shot before you completely write them off, since there are plenty to choose from.

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Review: Age of Adaline

I remember being intrigued by the trailers for this movie but never getting around to seeing it theaters. Well, I’ve rectified that, and what do you know, a romance movie that doesn’t make me want to drill my brain out!

Due to an accident when she was twenty-nine years old (the first time), Adaline has stopped aging. Her daughter now has to pass as her grandmother. Her only friend who she has been able to keep through identities is only possible because she is blind. Adaline lives in fear of being discovered, but is she truly living? She starts to question that when she meets Ellis, who reminds her of what she once had. But there are complications with being immortal, and sometimes they come to catch up with you in the most unlikely of places.

The genre for this one is a little weird to nail down. Normally when you are dealing with immortals, some level of fantasy is involved. But this time, there’s an annoying little voice over guy who goes, “Noooo, there’s science involved!” Not real science, my sort of soft science that sounds technical and doesn’t rip me out of my movie experience by making me go, “Really?” and is from far enough in the future they may manage to avoid getting called out on it…maybe. (After self-tying shoes and hover boards happened on time, I can’t exactly argue against it.) So it’s sort of straddling the line between urban fantasy and soft sci fi with a heavy reliance on the butterfly effect.

This movie is a loving ode to San Francisco. The setting just breathes life and is almost a character in and of itself. They really took the time to find all these little historical nuggets of information and to portray them in such a way that we the audience could see why they were so loved by Ellis and Adaline. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but I love a movie that acknowledges the past and the touches it leaves behind for all of us to discover. Plus they wove it into to Adaline’s history, and her own personal struggles, that you just felt like this movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else and been the same.

The characters are quirky and I love them. Adaline never stops learning, and she is so much fun to watch her use that knowledge to beat the ever loving tar out of the boys. I love how she holds on to her routes back in time but isn’t living in the dark ages of technology either. (I made a comment to Ginny about pluses of being a vampire, you hold on to your stuff until it becomes vintage and in and then you just have to refurbish/adjust it.) And Ellis doesn’t try to change her, he doesn’t want her to be anything less than who she is. And he can stand on his own too, as proven by his date choice, and he’s just as stubborn as she is which is probably a good thing. Even William hit you close to home because he was trying to grapple with this thing he thought he had dealt with and now it’s coming back at the absolute worst possible time.

I am a known hater of most modern romance movies, but this one is a smart one. There is definite humor, but it’s smart humor, not people being gross or overly sexual or idiotic. It’s little things like Adaline making the joke that she was reading Norwegian in Braille just to screw with Ellis, or really the entire Trivial Pursuit game, that was priceless. And what this allowed you to do was really focus on the emotionally moving parts of the movie. About Adaline still trying to mother her daughter, only to get the tables flipped. About the past, and how there are several great loves in a person’s life. Just…ugh. I could gush forever about this story. Is some of it really annoyingly vague, like what Flemming is supposedly doing in her life or has done in her life, and who the men who came for Adaline at one point were working for? Yeah, but at the same time, it kept its focus on what it wanted. On conquering fears and remembering the past without being afraid of it, to truly live.

As someone who has held on to parts of her past and struggled with healing, this movie really spoke to me on a personal level. I’m not surprised how hard it was for Adaline to stop running because I’ve been there myself. And she got a happy ending, which puts this movie about a couple of others I can think about that do similar things but go all tragic at the end. If you haven’t seen Age of Adaline and you like some smart, gentle romance, I highly recommend it.


Review: Charming

I always was more of a Prince Adam girl rather than Prince Charming, which ironically is perfect for this book, Charming by Elliot James. It takes the conventional role of Prince Charming (this time referring to just a general prince-hero type in fairy tales, rather than the Disney reference), and tries to throw a spin on them. Is it all that original? Not really, but A for effort.

The novel follows John Charming, who is the black sheep of the family…or should I be punny and say the wolf of the family? But everything has gone to hell, so he’s living under a false identity, tending bar in a small town. Or at least, he is…until a valkyrie and a vampire walk into the bar. John is being dragged back into the world he thought he’d left behind. The question is, will he make it back out again unchanged?

I think I’ll start with world building this time. I actually thought there were some things to it that were really well done…and others that came across misogynistic…and then a couple that could have used some fleshing out. For example, the Knights Templar and the idea of the Pax Arcana I thought worked well. The Knights weren’t made into this blanket of sameness that covered the whole world, the geas made it clear that there were going to be Knights whether they wanted to be or not, and the other elements just flowed together well. There were degrees and layers to it. Similarly, it touched on other orders founded by different cultures where the idea of feudalism hadn’t taken root yet, which helped give dimension.

But for our particular Knight, I find his existence as the only one of his kind to ever exist really illogical. The odds just don’t seem right to me. Rare, sure, but I feel like there should be history there. Similarly, even though a ghost ended up being kind of a big deal for subplots and others for red herrings, they really weren’t touched on beyond Sig’s “I see dead people” shtick and what little she mentions. John should know at least enough about this, and the book has enough info dumps in it, one more really couldn’t have hurt. (More on this later.) Without the explanation, it left the ghost elements feeling like an after-thought to try and make Sig work in the story and be vital to it.

Similarly, I have some issues with how he decided to interpret the Valkyrie myth. Obviously, I’ve done my own dabbling in this, so I’m a little biased. I think I’m capable of keeping my distance and respecting other people’s vision…but this one just irks me. I know someone out there is going, “As long as she doesn’t have a kid, it’s fine, right? You’re over-reacting.” And maybe I am. But for a Valkyrie to lose their immortality, and if I inferred correctly a good chunk of their power, just by having a daughter seems like a really messed up weakness, and a way of removing agency from this particular kind of creature. You don’t see gender or physical sex factoring into other creatures’ weaknesses. I understand how it can seem like I’m splitting hairs–my swan maidens are vulnerable by their swan skins being stolen, which are taken by human men to capture them for wives. But I make it clear that this is an assault in all meanings of the word, no matter how “nice” the man is. This has the overtones of it being a choice and responsibility of the woman, when it isn’t.

Okay, moving on. Plot. It actually wasn’t that bad. It definitely lagged at places and could have used some tightening up. I get that there was some play going on with the full moon, and that’s why he had the number of days leading up to everything, but it was a bit too much, meaning there was a lot of dead space. And when writers have dead space…they info dump. I do it, other writers do it. It’s a fact. And sometimes editors let us get away with it. In this case some of the information was helpful. In others…not so much. I could have done without it, or done with some more information on the parts that were left gaping (see ghosts and such). I did like the fake out before the big confrontation in the white room of pain. Weaknesses was the relative doppelganger (really, really lame), and the romance as a whole.

Which brings me to characters. John on his own was a strong voice. Not a unique voice, but a strong one. His sudden glee over his soul felt like it came out of nowhere. I mean, I get that he was raised to believe that he was a monster, but I guess there just wasn’t enough of this worry conveyed before his revelation. Side characters were about as strong as I expect from side characters. The priest in particular had a wonderful freshness to her that I wish John had, it would have helped him stand out more among the crowd of werewolf (or almost werewolf) male protagonists out there. There was a distinct lack of a villain voice. The antagonist feelings were split between a member of the group and hunting for an enemy vampire…who we didn’t really see until the end. We learned about her, never actually saw her. The plot survived, but it left us lacking a secondary strong voice to combat with John and bring balance to the book.

I think James realized he needed a second strong voice, which is why the romance subplot got introduced and Sig got pushed more to the front. It was a strong-arm attempt, and it was an awkward situation to read. I like Sig, I just don’t know if this was the best way to write her into John’s life. Heck, I’m not sure I even like her and John as a thing. Was there chemistry there? Yes. But even with how drawn out the timeline was, it felt rushed. Surprisingly, I wish she had been pushed back a little bit more until a later book, and let things progress more naturally.

For all my nitpicking, I actually loved this book. Ginny wasn’t sure enough of where it was going for sequels, which I can understand, so I might try the second and see how it goes on my own. But even if you are just reading the first as a stand alone, I recommend it. Yay for starting the New Year off on a good foot! Hopefully the rest of 2016 goes just as well.


Review: Dresden Files 15–Skin Game

Sorry this is a day late. I had a bit too much good news yesterday, and the excitement wore me out. So. The final Dresden File book! At least until Peace Talks comes out. 😛 BTW, a friend and I have official reached the level of, “Okay, we’re going to make this crack fanfic verse out of FRUSTRATION!” And because I’m a King Arthur story nut. Anyway.

Skin Game starts off with Harry running around the prison doing…Parkour. Yeah, you read that right. But it doesn’t last long. Mab needs him to step up as Winter Knight to work with Nicodemus. And to insure it, she has leverage over Harry. If he doesn’t, he will die from the parasite living in his head that helped save his life during his attempted suicide. So he has to struggle to keep his white hat on straight. In the meantime, he worries over the effect the mantle is taking on him and how it is going to change him. Will he become a monster, or is he just too much in his head? (Though he’s obviously not that either!)

So, to begin. Butcher gets huge props for this book. Seriously. Okay, the tone starts off a little weird and disjointed from the rest. But it gets better, and I mean lots. It was exciting, constant surprises and conflict. And the ending was perfect. I knew something was going on, this time, but Harry was suitably quiet about it. Did it sometimes irk the tar out of me that Butcher used the same turn of phrase the entire book? Yes. I wanted to whack him if he mentioned keeping something close to the chest one more time. But I didn’t suspect what the twist was, and yet it didn’t feel out of left field. He finally found a balance to the suspense and mystery aspect.

Character wise, the little girls stole the show. Maggie, obviously, and the parasite. (Yeah, I’ll spoil you on that one.) Maggie seemed a little too young at times (she’s supposed to be ten, Butcher, not seven), but her personality was great. She was very much her own character, and I worried she’d be too much like Ivy. A concern I no longer need to have. I like how she was this source of conflict for Harry and the worries he now has as a father. Though speaking of being a father.. The parasite, we didn’t get to see much of her, but the entire concept of it was hysterical. I just hope Butcher gives her an actual name in the next book. (I’ve been calling her Suli, an epithet for Minerva. It seems appropriate.) I have to wonder where he’s going with this creation. Was she just a loose end? Is she a part of something much bigger? I don’t know.

Shout out, because I am also a Greek myth nerd. I loved Hades. Absolutely loved. And this makes how many of us now who subscribe to the theory that Persephone willingly married Hades…?

World building wise, I thought that this actually did some good things. Once again, he brought in one new element, worked on some others, and that works well for him. It seems like as long as he doesn’t devote the whole book to a new aspect, he does better about keeping the information from being completely overwhelming. However, as much as I love Hades… I don’t know how I feel about the Greek myths being brought into the Dresden verse. It was already horribly complicated, and now adding yet another layer to the Nevernever and the power of belief just… It just might be more than even a series this long can handle. We’ll see.

I didn’t have as much bad to say about this book, but now I’m going to talk about the series as a whole. Maybe it’s because I never really got into huge series outside of the Saddle Club, The Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew, but it seems to me that this is all a really big project that honestly, without a devoted fanbase, would have fallen apart books ago. It’s very hit or miss as far as whether the plot is going to work or the world building elements will be overwhelming or not. I think Butcher is doing the same thing I’m currently doing, where I throw things at the wall and see what sticks. And I think kind of learned what not to do from him, as far as how much new stuff can be handled, how many times can you really almost end the world in three days… I think Butcher really needs a reader who reads a book and knows what they are doing so they can tell him honestly what they think about it. Not an agent or his publisher, but a beta reader. I know without mine, I’d be lost.

Alright, next week I’ll be back with some sort of RPG or writing thing, and then I have a new YA book to read and review. I’ll review Peace Talks as soon as it comes out though, and keep making it a regular occurrence when it happens. See you Thursday!


Review: Dresden Files 14–Cold Days

At last! Family is out of my house, and I’ve had a chance to read Cold Days. Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, I got a cold, so this post might be short. Now let’s see what trouble Harry has gotten himself into now…

Physical therapy has never been exciting until you’ve had the fae version, or so we start out with. Harry has to recover from his brush with death, which is not easy to do when you are also in training as the new Winter Knight. Mab has no mercy…and for good reason. Her first task for Harry borders on the impossible. To make matters worse, he has to try and find balance with finding his place in the normal world again, despite no longer clearly being on the good side. And what on earth is going on with Demonreach? Oh, only the potential end of the world. And a lot of trouble for Harry even if he does manage to save things again. Nothing major.

A lot of this book was me sitting here, on my couch. Swearing. Loudly. My friend (who has read all of these) laughing at me. Yeah. But…there were a few hiccups, like what I’m coming to realize is always going to be the case with this series. Usually where there was the bad, there was some good though, so it was managed to balance out better than it usually did.

To begin with, there was some issues balancing out the world building. On one hand, we were dealing a lot more in depth with the fae than we ever have before. (And I might regret saying that, but from where I’m sitting… yes, more than ever before.) So that’s a lot of information. But we’ve got Demonreach’s secret going on, we’ve got more information about what happened when Harry “died,” we’ve got Outsiders and Gatekeeper and just… Too much going on, man. And to make it worse, the first fourth or so of the book sets up for basically fae adventures only…and then we’re back in Chicago and it’s total whiplash. And it’s a weird pace compared to the rest of the book. Overall, kind of a clunky transition. I get why he did it, and I like the details it gives us. But it just creates a clear dividing line in the book between sections.

Plot wise, it takes a bit for him to get going. I blame the last book being such a plot-spinner book. It didn’t give him quite as neat of a jumping off point as he normally has. So he had to actually deal with some mess he left behind, and that just takes time. But then once he gets going… the plot is more than a little amusing. I repeat, I was swearing. Not the, “Oh lord, I want to throw this book at the WALL,” swearing, but the, “This is too cool for proper words!” kind. It starts to get clunky at the end, but I’ve about decided that Butcher just doesn’t know how to handle loose ends. He wants to throw all these things together, but he struggles with weaving everything together until he starts knocking out parts so he can focus on two or three.

Character wise… I have mixed feelings. Some of my favorites get little to no screen time in these recent books. I mean, Thomas at least has his moments, but… I miss Ramirez. I miss Michael. I miss all these characters that helped us remember Harry’s humanity. I think we really need to see more of them, or all that nerfing we just did of Harry’s character is going to be lost. I’m also REALLY getting annoyed over how many female characters keep dying. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have issues with character death period. It’s usually done for shock value rather than anything else. But the proportions of main character deaths between the girls and the boys is feeling off to me.

Overall, Cold Days was a fun read. I enjoyed the excitement of it once it got going, and there were some character moments that shone through. But I think it is possibly the worst book for a first time reader to pick up, making it incapable of existing outside of the series, which I think is a problem. And then on top of that, even for a long time reader, there was some serious clunkiness and issues with the world building.

I would say more, but… Cold. Headache. I have work in the morning. I’m interesting in hearing other opinions though. Any highlights (or lowlights) from this one catch your eye? Comment and let me know!


Review: The Dresden Files–Side Jobs

Since I still haven’t gotten my hands on Cold Days, I thought I would read the short story anthology, since it was published before hand anyway. A collection of various short stories, most were written under the theme of a different anthology that Butcher participated in. Most were through the traditional point of view of Harry, but some strayed into some welcome new POVs, including Thomas and Murphy.

The stories were wildly different from each other. Some were rather humorous, such as Harry struggling with all the petty concerns of his day off which ended up being a normal day. Others were very serious, such as the novella about Murphy handling the loss of Dresden. And some hit my nerves, such as the Night of the Living Brews. But it was quite a collection, and there some good parts to it and some bad to it.

When it comes to plots, some were better and more complete than others. You could tell where Butcher was just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, and when he had something actually planned out. Really, of all of them, I only liked two for their plots. One was the one that hit my nerve, the Night of the Living Brews, surprisingly. While I didn’t like Harry making light of what was going to happen to the kidnapped bride, I did think structurally, it was well thought out and equally well executed. It also did what an anthology short story was supposed to do, which is give us glimpses of the characters and world going on behind the scenes, rather than throwing a ton of information at us. My other favorite was actually the one that Butcher wrote for our shared teacher, Professor Deborah Chester. It was also very well structured and I loved the message that was in it. And oh my gee, bet cop Murphy!

The rest were sort of eh. Some I felt like were beating dead horses, such as the one centered around Michael. Others were just far too busy for my tastes, with just too much going on. I get that he was trying to do that to poor Harry and Anastasia, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while Aftermath was great… It was too much. I could tell it was a novella, not a short story, and combined with the short blips, it just… It felt too long and too clunky. I thought it had a good point to it, I thought it was fairly well written. I just don’t think it belonged in this anthology. I think it needed either published separately or expanded upon or something. It was just awkward.

I love the depth these short stories helped add to characters. From grown Will and Georgia, to Thomas, to Murphy, to even Uriel. All of them really got a chance to shine in these books. Even Harry got a different take, since we got to see him how Thomas and Murphy saw him rather than just how he sees himself. Considering how important she becomes, I’m surprised we don’t get anything from Molly, or hell, even something from Mouse. (God, Mouse’s point of view, that would be humor.) As I said, I had a few of my old issues with female character portrayals again, but whether because he didn’t have the length or he realized it, it wasn’t so bad that I threw the book.

Some elements in the stories were very obviously from previous books. Things such as the vampire Courts, the Valkyries, even the crime scene in Chicago. He merely expanded upon them, which is awesome to see. I love all the little bits that never make it into books but the author does think about. But all that being said, I think there were issues when he was introducing new things. I don’t remember the Oblivion Wars even being mentioned, and while seeing Thomas do things on his own was cool, I just had issues connecting because I’m going, “What the heck were these and why can’t I remember them? Irony!” It eventually came up again (sort of) with the psychic link via beer goddess, but it was still clunky in my head. But that’s my opinion.

Overall, I liked these a lot. I loved the little glimpses into the relationships between characters that they offered, and how easy they were to read and track through. Butcher didn’t get tangled up in his own ideas nearly as much, and for me, it made a drastic improvement. Some spots were a little prickly, and I feel like the tone gave whiplash with the way the stories were arranged, but that can easily be placed on when they were published in the writing process and just not thinking about how one story will ready after having followed another. I kinda hope he does some more of these!


Review: The Dresden Files 13–Ghost Story

Sorry for my flakiness. I had some personal stuff going on, and when that happens, sadly the blog must take a backseat. However, I did have a very productive Thanksgiving vacation from work. I’ll talk more about it on Thursday. For now, onwards with the Dresden!

Ghost Story picks up right where Changes let off… Sort of. Harry is now dead, but he isn’t at the gates of St. Peter or about to take Dante’s tour of Hell in a more permanent nature. Instead, he’s being sent back to clean up a few messes lingering after his demise. But there is more at stake than even Harry knows, as more than his ghost returns with him and a few old enemies linger in unexpected places.

So, things that went really well in this book. Characters! It was nice to see Harry knocked down to near-Muggle levels. He needed the wake-up and we as readers needed to see him as at least moderately equal to us rather than so greater than life like he has been the last couple of books. (Didn’t someone call death the great equalizer?) It also broke up the formula of the series in the way he dealt with his problems. For once, at least on his end of things, magic wasn’t the answer.

It was also interesting to see how the other characters dealt with his death. Thomas and Harry handle loss the same way–they wallow. Though I wished we had seen more of him than this little blurp towards the end. The same for Maggie, who was practically unseen. And really, it didn’t take too long for Harry to find out where she was despite him claiming not to want to know. Hello, logic fail. However, it was Murphy and Molly who had the biggest changes. Murphy really tried to fill in the gap Harry left behind in the magical community, but you could see it and her grief were wearing on her. In a rare moment, I felt like Butcher handled Murphy exactly like how I think she should have been as a character.

Molly was her own kind of mess. Without spoiling too much, I did like how Butcher showed her fractured psyche, and some of the doppelganger shenanigans were awesome and weren’t predictable. She really came into her own in this book, I think, even if no one, even herself, was ready for it. She stopped being a child, at least to us non-wizarding types. I have to wonder how this will affect her standing with the White Council. Admittedly, they are on kinda shaky ground with Harry gone the way he is, but I can’t see them leaving her be either. So maybe the mundane world is going to have to meet the wizarding world in a rather interesting clash.

I thought the world-building down as far as the ghost-world and the afterlife was interesting. I loved the angel we met, and how he reacted to some of his underlings (who were also awesome, so happy to see them!). The ghosts were well explored, not only in what lingered but also what they were in the relation to the afterlife…and how this made Harry different. They had some memorable characters, some for bad reasons and some for awesome ones. And seeing inside of Bob’s skull, oh goodness! The villain was also passable, and logical at least. It wasn’t something I had thought about, but with the way Butcher set up his after life, well, it does make the most sense.

When it comes to the plot, I think structurally, it worked. It flowed well, there were clear cause and effects. The villain, again was passable and logical. I thought it was all dramatic and yet adorable. If I was looking at it alone, if it was set up to be a stand alone, I think it could have worked really well. So for once, it could have worked that way instead of being so hardset as a series book…if he had written it that way. Sadly, it was very dependent on being part of this series, bringing up previous events without explaining them clear enough that a newbie reader would understand them. And as a series book?

Well, to coin a weird phrase, this was a wheel-spinner book. And what I mean is, for all the awesome things that happened that I loved… I feel like this entire book could have been skipped. Or it could have been parceled out as subplots, because… Nothing really advanced. Yeah, some stuff happened, but it easily could have happened while Harry was off being the Winter Knight. We’ve established that time flows weird in the Nevernever! Dying nerfed him for a little while, which again, I liked. But he’s going to go right back to normal, ain’t he? Some side characters advanced, but they could have done that in other books. The villain wasn’t even a concern on most readers’ minds! So I’m waiting to be sold on the necessity of this book.


Review: The Dresden Files 12-Changes

Weee! Good times this week. I’m finally getting settled in a schedule, including getting back to writing. It’s exciting!

Changes starts off with a bang. Susan is back in Harry’s life, with news that shacks the foundations of his world. He has a daughter. Named for his mother, born from the woman he still loves, raised with no knowledge of who her parents are. Only she’s been kidnapped by the Red Court. Specifically by the Duchess Arianna, the wife of the Duke that Harry killed previously in a wizard’s duel. She might have bigger plans in place, though, as Harry discovers that the Red Court has its fingers in all sorts of pies. Secrets from the past are going to come to light and change the future forever. And for Harry? The most important thing of all is saving the daughter he’s never met. Even if that means making a bad decision or two. (Or several. It IS Harry Dresden, after all.)

Holy wow. Okay, so let’s break this down so I can approach this somewhat sensibly. Let’s go… Plot, characters, and world building/placement in a long series. I think that should work…

So plot. On one hand, it was possible the best and tightest book yet. Harry starts with one set goal, and stays with that one goal. Other bits and pieces might appear, but they all end up interweaving with his goal so you don’t feel scatter-shot like you normally do with a Dresden book. Even the introduction of new characters, or side characters we hadn’t seen much of, felt natural, like actors coming on and off stage at just the right moment. It was almost…elegant. But then he wrecks it completely. The ending got messy as he tried to bring in too many players for the final battle. I definitely get that this was supposed to be some great turning point for Harry, just completely bringing everything from the beginning of the series together. But the end result started to get a little clunky.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse… That ending. That wasn’t an ending. That was… That was a cheap marketing ploy to insure the next book would get bought (and I’ll get to that next week). I have never approved of those sorts of endings. I didn’t with Garth Nix and The Seventh Tower series, and that was back before I was even writing myself! It’s just rude to your readers not to give them just a smidge of satisfaction. Which is particular cruel, since Butcher actually was managing the prefect balance of satisfaction for the end of the book and yet wanting to see more. He could have cut off with Harry on the Water Beetle and been FINE. But nooo….

Character-wise, there were good points and there were bad points. Good points, oh my good gosh golly, Harry the overprotective Daddy was amazing. It really made the book for him. I just loved how he was struggling to be calm and collected, to be the detective to figure things out and to keep his powers under control. But at the same time, he was struggling because this was his daughter, his precious blood family, and she was in danger and he wanted to rage against the machine. I also felt like Murphy was particularly well done in this book, especially when she took up the sword of justice. It was a perfect touch.

On the other side…Susan and her little minion, Martin. Ugh. I don’t know if he even started with a real solid idea for Susan or if he’s just changing her with each book as he sees fit, but… No, I know what it is. She was so bland when he started, that it’s impossible to say anything is out of character for her, or at least that’s the idea. It never actually works that way. Instead, I have nothing about her that I like and so many things about her that I hate. And Martin… Martin doesn’t even have that to cling to. Realize, I like the cold characters. I like the serious bad-asses. But he didn’t have anything for me to grab on to until right at the end, and that’s just too late in the game. I also felt like the Red King was completely 180 from what we had picked up from previous books, which makes no sense unless Butcher forgot to make notes or didn’t convey clearly his image in the earlier books so we (or at least me) was led astray in the wrong way.

World building/series placement wise, I could definitely feel all the bits and pieces of his world building being pulled together for this one. And he actually did handle them well, keeping me from feeling completely overwhelmed with the information as it stacked together (until the clunking ending, of course). Plot wise, he was doing the same thing, and in the earlier parts of the book, it worked. All these happenings from earlier books weren’t a necessary part of the plot, but they helped add layers to it. But then he completely lost it in the last third and it started relying on you reading the previous books to know who was who and what did what. I get that in something this long, it’s hard to keep a book stand-alone-strong without linking to your earlier works. Really, just incentive for me to keep breaking up my worlds into smaller series so I can keep my focus. But since he came so close on this one, I wish he had made it to the end with a strong, mid-point book.


Review: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

Happy Halloween! And with that, a special post just for the holidays. (Or at least, one of my favorite ones and the kick start to the fall/winter festivities.)

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (which has a much fancier Japanese title that I will not insult anybody by trying to write myself) is a Japanese anime that is a combination of murder mystery, horror, slice of life comedy, and romance. It follows a high school paranormal club with the president being a ghost herself! Yuko Kanoe has no memories of her life or how she died, and she has haunted the school for years, leading to many ghost stories to develop. But then Teiichi Niiya sees her (and her remains) and the two team up to try and discover Yuko’s past. But there is a kernel of truth to all the old stories, and there is more to Yuko’s memory loss than they could ever have guessed…

Despite the wildly different genres this story travels between, it actually balances them really well. I never felt mood-whip-lash as I went from horror to something romantic to something mysterious, etc. It all flowed very well together. I thought the fan service was a little too strong with Yuko, but then, I’m not big on fan service in the best of moods, so… The romance was cute and dramatic and full of squee (all good points). But the end game is weird for me. I like my romances to end with a solid base for the future, so I can easily imagine where it is going to go next. But… Half of this couple is a ghost. A teenage ghost at that. What are they going to do as he grows older? What if he ever wants kids? It just sits weird for me. Don’t get me wrong, I bawled like a baby there at the end, but… I sorta wish he’d ended up with the great-niece instead.

The characters weren’t simple constructs, not easy to show in such a short medium. The main three (or who I saw as the main three) had several different dimensions to them. Yuko’s past and her way of dealing with it was heart-wrenching in its self-destruction. Teiichi had to struggle with how far he was willing to go for his feelings or if it was better to just go with the flow. Kirie has to struggle not only with who she thinks Yuko is, but also with who she is and how that affects her life. The rest of the characters were pretty flat, but that only let the focus stay on the main three and bring their issues to the light. And it was awesome.

The story was this quirky mix of everyday little mysteries and some of them stacking together with the longer running series, only in sneaky unexpected ways. The villain was actually something internal, which is also something that really vibes well with me. In something short like this, you don’t have time to play with both internal conflict and external conflicts seriously. You can dabble with one, but it has to resolve itself within the episode because through the series, it will get tangled and possibly get forgotten. They did the right thing and focused on the internal conflict within the group and within the main title character. Sometimes I still wanted to throw a shoe at the TV as it dealt with the day-to-day stuff, but I put up with it because it made the ending all the more bittersweet.

The horror aspects were not as bad as I was afraid they were going to be. This was not Hansel and Gretel all over again. No nightmares (actually, Agents of SHIELD has given more nightmares after season 1), and it actually handled the scary elements well and in ways that made sense. I thought the school was horribly contrived as was the illness from the memories, but it wasn’t something that completely broke my suspension of disbelief. It was just a bit of a push, even for a ghost story. The entire setting was that way, really. It was such a push to make it work, to keep it isolated like they wanted it. I don’t entirely see the purpose of it, unless things in Japan are really quite that different. Really, I think the fanservice though is going to remain the worst part of the whole series.

Overall, I think the series was well done and well written. I mean, even the introduction and closing sequences were well thought out with what happened in the story that particular episode (which was really creepy a couple times). It was a perfect way of doing a short series. It had a resolved ending, it focused on what it wanted to bring out, and it didn’t waste time with everything else. I wish other animes would learn from it. (Like Magical Warfare. Dear GOD, do not get me started on the last few episodes of this first season…)


Review: The Dresden Files 11 – Turn Coat

Well, thank God I made a buffer. I had the flu the first week, and then last week I was busy making up for the fact I got the flu. *eyeroll* I got the part of Abbess Guinevere, btw. I’m excited. 😀 On a sadder note, we’ve caught up to my once-a-week schedule, and with fair starting and me being crazy busy for at least a couple of months, I’m going to go back down to once a week blog posts until the new year. I’m very, very hopeful that after the holidays if not sooner, I can start guaranteeing twice-a-week posts permanently, but I need time to finish getting stuff around here beaten into shape.

Turn Coat brings back an old friend…sorta. More like enemy, but when someone is begging to be hidden, it’s really hard to quibble over the details. While Morgan has been around, now he’s turning to Harry for help. Ironic, no? But things are never as easy as they appear. Morgan is being accused of killing one of the Senior Council members. To make matters worse, trouble is brewing in the direction of the White Court, and something truly horrendous has been summoned straight out of Native American folklore (errr, I’ll get to this). Add to the fact that Harry can’t seem to leave any of his house guests alone for longer than a few minutes, not counting Mouse who tries to keep things calm, and well, is it all that surprising that everything goes straight to Hell?

So, what went right in this book? To begin with, the naaglosshii was actually scary. It was honestly a villain I dreaded seeing, and not just because Butcher did something sexist and fed into rape culture. It was terrifying before he made it intelligent, that was really just the icing on the cake. I can say the same really about Demon Reach. Maybe that’s just because both sort of tagged on nightmares I had as a kid that have stuck with me as an adult. Either way, job really well done on this book with the horror/monster characterizations and descriptions. Even some of the previously flat characters who we are supposed to just completely hate got some fleshing out that didn’t necessarily make me hate them less, but it made them more real so I could enjoy hating them more. (Such a weird thing to type.)

I also have to give him some props. I didn’t peg the traitor as the traitor, I didn’t see Morgan’s confession at the end coming, and while I think the explanation of Anastasia makes complete sense and I saw bits and pieces of that stacking up in hindsight, it was also a welcome little shock-not-shock as well. (Translation: Becca wasn’t extremely surprised by the Stacia part, but didn’t at least completely see it coming.) Butcher is finally getting a handle on the mystery part of the series, so while we get bits and pieces of the whole thing, we aren’t so completely behind Dresden that we are annoyed and we aren’t so far ahead of him that we get impatient.

And believe it or not dear readers, I am not going to give him crap about what happened with Anastasia. Because this time, it was written in a way that I actually felt like was closer to trying to push a friendship into a relationship at the advice of somebody else…and then realizing that that somebody else was an idiot and trying to return back to the friendship. That advice was probably really, really strong, but there was a certain level of choice to it that I felt was missing in the earlier book between Murphy and Lord Raith (and really, more than a couple members of the White Court). I doubt she got pushed to sleep with Harry, for instance. And in some ways, she was still very much herself in some of it. So congrats, Jim. I am not going to rip into you over this.

But speaking of the White Court… THOMAS! My baby! I can’t talk about it, it’s too spoilery. But… THOMAS!

When it comes to the world building and monsters part of it though… I gotta admit, I’ve got some issues with the way that Butcher is portraying the Natives and their legends. I’ve taken some Native studies-themed courses, and while I am far from an expert, I’ve gotten to where I can tell when someone is relying too heavily on stereotypes in movies. And Butcher is walking that line far too much. I would honestly be surprised if one of my old professors reads the Dresden Files because of Injun Joe and the way he and his culture have been showcased in the book. Maybe I am wrong and Butcher consulted with some Native writers before he added that element, and if so and he actually listened to them, I withdraw my complaints. But as it stands now…I repeat, I doubt it. I really, really doubt it.

There were some really weird character inconsistencies with Molly in this book. I don’t understand why she went mind probing, not after all the trouble we went through in the last book establishing that she finally learned the boundaries. I mean, I understand that some serious time has passed since then. But it still seemed really out of left field for her to go down that road. Was it setup for later in the series? If so, it’s contradictory to the previous way she’s been shown, so why bother trying to redeem her in the earlier books? Was it to help soften up Morgan there at the end? No, because now we’ve given this idea to her that it’s okay to break the rules as long as you aren’t caught. Which again, is so radically contradictory to everything we’ve spent a couple of books establishing now, that I got a little frustrated.

The ending did not help matters. Not at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He wraps up all his necessary threads, has the series ones still going, a few small steps taken in resolving them… But there is no high note. And while in a mid-series book, you can have mostly downward spirals on your characters’ lives, in my opinion, any ending is just completely unsatisfying if there isn’t a high note of happiness somewhere. But all I saw at every turn in this one was more sadness, more future trouble being hinted at, more relationships coming to an end, more threats looming over the horizon. As a result, the book didn’t really feel finished to me.

Rather than press on to Changes, however, I’m going to take a slight break and review an anime I mentioned in an earlier review. I think I need to refresh my brain a little, since I need to be looking at the books as both a series and as a whole, and I’ve been forewarned that that starts to get tricky from here on out. So see you next Thursday!