Archive for July 2010
Sick for three days and counting, I dusted off my collection of DVD movies and TV series. Anxious to meet my TBR challenge over my self-imposed toxic work sked, blogging backlog, and various family errands (and issues), my body gave out and demanded a break. I conceded by planting myself in front of the TV and turning into a zombie.
- Taking Chance – Made for HBO starring Keving Bacon. Based on true story. A marine now on desk duty volunteers to escort the body of a young Marine killed in Iraq. Very moving. A journey of healing. But I bet the stories from the other side would be as heart-wrenching, or more so.
- The Accidental Husband – A fireman (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) gets back at Radio Love guru (Uma Thurman) with a computer glitch. Colin Firth is the pastry-gobbling fiancé and publisher. Fun and fluffy.
- Twilight - Bella and Edward. Must be the best comedy film of the decade. The smelling scenes are truly priceless! Now if can just get my girly-girl me to stop interrupting my intellectual ruminations over the film…
- The Day the Earth Stood Still – According to the critics, much of the moral and story were changed, making this 2008 remake a dumbed-down version. But it has got Jennifer Connelly so how can it be totally bad?
- Drag me to Hell – A old gypsy woman curses pretty loans office with the Lamia, a demon who drags victims to hell after three days of torment. The girl learns to get some after the first day or so. But when she killed the kitty, I stopped sympathizing.
- The Thaw – The real horror from global warming is not the melting ice but what is frozen. Val Kilmer is like dry ice in this movie. Why bother making a movie if he’s too lazy to act?
- Star Trek: The Future Begins – I’ve forgotten much of the Star Trek mythos. But the Kirk in this prequel seems consistent with how the young Kirk would be: irreverent and a maverick. Seeing the young versions of the original Star Trek characters was also quite fun.
- Eden Log - A man wakes up with no memory of how he came to be in the bowels of an underground scientific facility. The roots of a giant tree seem to be eating people up. That’s it. I have no idea what this movie was about.
- Castle - Art meets real world. Mystery writer dogs NYPD cop for inspiration. In a fantastic tie-in, a novel which is the novel the Castle character is writing in TVworld is published in real world. Want proof?
- Battlestar Galactica season 4 – Frakking best SF-drama series ever! “The Cylons were created by man… And then the day came when The Cylons decided to kill their masters.” About 50,000 humans survived the nuclear holocaust. Will they find their way back to fabled Earth?
- Kyle XY season 2 – Curently watching. Family drama meets the SF dilemmas from cloning and creation of superhumans. The first season totally worked and was utterly charming. Will the second season live up to my expectations? Can’t tell yet.
Also in my box of discs are seasons 1 & 2 of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 1 & 2 of The Big Bang Theory, 2 & 3 of Kyle XY; and movies Inkheart, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Quantum of Solace, Race to Witch Mountain, Angel & Demons, and New Moon.
I also have 20 anime series in that box.
Do I have enough sick-time to watch all these? Ah, well, I still have a day and a half as a zombie before it’s back to the grind.
Amelia Peabody’s Egypt is in trouble with the theft of a famous pharaoh. Is John Smythe at his old tricks again? It’s up to Vicky Bliss, art historian and amateur sleuth, to clear his name.
Did Elizabeth Peters really write this? By herself? Did Vicky Bliss die and an alien plant became human to take over her life, imperfectly, insufficiently? For everything about this Vicky falls short of the character from Borrower of the Night to Night Train to Memphis. What happened to the charm, sharp wit, and diabolical intelligence? Lost to the technological marvels of the 21st century?
Did Elizabeth make a cameo appearance?
Transplanted from 1994 (when the last Vicky Bliss was published) to 2008, Vicky Bliss along with John Smythe (master thief, lover, and frequent adversary) and Herr Dr. Anton Schmidt (museum director, bossy boss) often sound disoriented and out-of-character, clumsy where once she sizzled with energy.
To someone who adored the series, this was appalling.
I don’t buy the author’s explanation about the writer’s prerogative to play with time, allowing for inconsistencies. Fine. But was it an excuse to be lazy? Character integrity suffered big time. Vicky and John are supposed to be brilliant, and at the top of their professions, so why is he such a grumpy user of computers and Vicky ignorant? While Schmidt acts like a child who have never used emails and cell phones and now eagerly extolling their virtues.
Before I read Laughter I texted a fellow Vicky Bliss fan, asking how I can manage not having a Vicky Bliss Mystery to go home to anymore. I was sure I would suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
I should not have worried. I ended up cured. In fairness, I did enjoy the fencing match and riotous rescue near the end of the book.
Fooled! Vicky Bliss is more serious and vulnerable than she lets on in previous books. Her recent brushes with death have apparently left a deep mark, one she had been wrestling with through nightmares and fear of enclosed spaces. This really startled me, used as I am to Vicky’s nonchalance and sharp wit that have frequently and promptly put villains and danger in their places in the past.
In her latest adventure, a cruise down the Nile to Egypt’s Pyramids and royal necropolis, the historian-slash-sleuth gets the shock of her life when on-and-off lover John Smythe turns up with a wife. More shockers are in store as scorned Vicky takes off her kid gloves to unmask her greatest rival before he robs the Cairo Museum.
Country-Western Music meets Egyptian Antiquities – a most unlikely match. But it works.
The suspense here is in top form, and the danger more potent from the least likely sources. So much is happening on every page outside the apprehension of Vicky but which we can get hints of if we read carefully enough.
For a series labeled as cozy mystery, mostly characterized by ironic wit, it contains some of the most passionately romantic scenes I have ever encountered, the kind that snatches your breath away and leaves you wondering what just happened. Peters likes to keep her pen disciplined with these moments, though–stopping just when John steps out of the snowy whiteness to climb through Vicky’s window; or immediately shifting gears when he tracks Vicky out on the ship deck to deal her one of his cruelest hands.
Vicky’s boss, Herr Dr. Schmidt is also at his best here, combining comic sentimentality with clever plots to keep an eye on his favorite employee.
I’ve become really attached to Vicky Bliss and company. Rarely are there highly educated heroines in fiction these days who are also fun. With Night Train to Memphis, an era ended that A Laughter of Dead Kings is a poor attempt at a revival.
Should I lower my standards if a book is labeled paranormal romance? If the story builds on urban fantasy grit, murder mystery storyline, and romance dynamics, I expect an intelligent crossover not a dumbed-down hodgepodge composed of silly dialogue from caricatures.
If this were a movie casting I’ll bawl out the person with the bright idea of pulling a grandfather from a family sitcom to stand in as elite tactical team commander. I’d also ask for a consultant on mystery solving procedures so characters don’t stumble around pretending to be looking for clues.
I think I’d also make sure the cast of werewolves has a good supply of cold medication. Imagine, a werewolf who can’t smell the enemy just a few meters away! How embarrassing.
For me, the only saving grace of this book is the idea for the setting–a post apocalyptic future where werewolves and vampires are genetically engineered soldiers, now unwanted remnants of the last war. The government strictly controls the movement of humans across borders; unregistered individuals are treated as criminals and hunted by military units, of which the lead character, Gina Santiago, is a dutiful member… until she realizes a secret about herself.
Ah, well. Goodbye, dead world. Gladly, I shut the lid on your coffin.
Love, love Kate and Curran, but rather confused at how easily defeated the antagonist was–almost as if the being had a death wish. I know there was this extremely violent confrontation but the antagonist did not live up to the legend, just a powerful brat too impatient to strategize. I can’t puzzle it out further for fear of giving spoilers.
Mad as a hatter after all these thousands of years. I’m sure s/he used to be more fearsome.
The latest in Illona Andrews is still awesome, though. The setting beguiles me with a thousand thousand stories untold, from an Atlanta going through magic pangs, where creatures from myths and legends are finally able to breathe and wreak havoc. The characters are well-fleshed out, with Kate as the softie but whose mercenary-turned-government detective lifestyle forces her to mouth off and stand tough for survival’s sake and Curran as the beast lord-shapeshifter who has chosen Kate to be his mate despite her reluctance–and habit of attracting trouble.
In this world, vampires are ugly, emaciated creatures controlled by human necromancers. Shapeshifters are either crazy, cannibalistic loners or disciplined members of a paramilitary pack. And the enemies are the monsters humans once worshipped now reasserting control.
That Kate is probably one of these monsters adds the killer edge to an already sharply plotted series. And, that here and there, the rather tense situations as if paused for a split second by some irreverence from Kate’s inner musings cracks me up.
In this volume, Kate and Curran finally trust one another to open up their secrets. Further intimacy ensues. *Insert big smile here* Sigh, I want book 5. Now..