Friday, March 10, 2017

Hero is a Four Letter Word by J.M. Frey

 This collection of three short stories is entertaining and funny. One tells of the return of King Arthur, one focuses on a washed-out supervillain confronting his past, and the other... well, I don't want to spoil the twist, so I'll just say it's not all it appears to be.
Sometimes, it's easy to become over-focused on thrilling sagas and tense epics and forget that fantasy can be fun. These stories are quick, light-hearted reads for those times you just need something different.
I received a free ebook from Story Cartel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We're Not Invincible: AOS 4.15

I know I'm not real. I'm all phantom limbs. But that doesn't make the pain less real. You don't have to feel pain. You say you don't anymore. But that pain, that regret... that's what made you a person ... a person I love.
--LMD May

Of all the weeks to miss an episode, it would have been last week.  I mean, I picked up online that some of the agents had been replaced with LMDS, but I had no clue which ones or how many or.... agh!
And the emotional heartache--AGH! Those terrifying, tense moments when Fitzsimmons suspect each other of being LMDs, so Fitz cuts himself (side note, good job both of you at the blood test, but surely there's somewhere less dangerous than wrists that could also expose circuitry). And for a moment, you think it's going to be okay, but then---eeep. I'm very glad I hadn't seen the trailers,  or I would have gone crazy.  My poor Jemma, having to take out that LMD....
And then Skye and the bouquet room (yes, because a bunch of daisies is a bouquet, and I'm still calling her Skye), just EEP room full of crazy. Then she has to fight everybody and... convincing Simmons that she's herself with Quake powers...they needed that hug, and they're going to need a lot more of them.
Just, the whole concept of the base being infiltrated like that, of being hunted down and killed by people you thought you could trust with your lives....Aida may have copied their mannerisms and memories, but she got the whole idea so wrong. The way she saves everyone just eliminates their lives, their choices, their freedom.
And LMD May standing up to LMD Coulson and making her own choice. That is so meta-inducing on its own, the difference between a fraud and a self-aware LMD, when it turns out that she can make her own choices.
Then into the Framework.
But not until April.
oops wrong director.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Oswiu: King of Kings

Oswiu: King of Kings is the conclusion of the Nothumbrian Thrones novels by Edoardo Albert. Oswiu's brother Oswald was recently killed by Penda, king of Mercia, But rumors have spread that the site of Oswald's death has miraculous qualities, healing the sick and injured. His mother Acha urges Oswiu to recover his brother's body, but the new king has few men and little support; wouldn't it be a death mission?
Since this book concludes a trilogy, it is best read after the previous two books, Edwin: High King of Britain , and the sequel  Oswald: Return of the King. Together, the three books provide an intriguing look at British history in the early- and mid-600s, as well as the interaction of paganism and Christianity. The unfamiliar names of tribes and individuals may make this confusing for some people, but the author has thoughtfully provided a list of main characters in the front of the book.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction of the Middle Ages, as well as epic fantasy fans.  The author is careful to distinguish between fact and fictional invention in his afterward, as well as citing some of his historical sources.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Day and a Life

A Day and a Life by Penelope Wilcock is the ninth and final volume of her Hawk and Dover books. The series has followed the daily life and  is set in a 14th-century Yorkshire abbey, from events significant (the arrival of a new abbot) and mundane (the cook really isn't very good). After coming to know and love so many characters,  I picked up this book with a mixture of eagerness and regret. I was excited to read more, but this was it. There wouldn't be any more stories.
Unlike the short-story format of the first two books, or the slow development in Remember Me, A Day and a Life covers a single day at St. Alcuin's. Featuring most of the characters we've come to know and love--and introducing some new ones as well-- the book is a wonderful example of character-driven storytelling.
As with all the books in this series, I would recommend it for many readers, not just historical fiction fans. It's not a high-stakes, adrenaline-filled story, but the characters are well-written, and the stories wrestle honestly with the messiness of faith in everyday life.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Found families should stay found

Agents of Shield 4x03: Uprising

Honestly, that was just mean. (Okay, I am clearly incapable of rational plot analysis, preferring to bemoan the terrible fate of my fictional friends.) Like, once again, Jemma is not a medical doctor and should not be the one doing all the emergency medical treatment, especially now that they have access to legitimate trauma centers. I get the personal touch thing, but I don't think it's fair to her to make her go through all this. Especially with what they had to do--and like, that seriously could have gone wrong, and the guilt she would have had...

And Yoyo--so her life continues to get worse, poor thing.

And Skye--(Because she's not Daisy, sorry, ignoring that)--getting told to leave again, someone 'confirming' her worst fears about herself, oh honey baby,  Lincoln wasn't your fault, it was his choice, and you are a heroine, you are trying to do the right thing, and you're literally breaking down under the pressure...go back home. May misses you, Coulson misses you, and Fitz has it exactly right--they're all willing to help you get through this, you don't have to go it alone, hurting hero, heroic self depreciation, martyr without a cause, ---go home, you don't need to be a lone wolf. No one's a pollyanna, everyone knows what people can do, but they still have hope, they can still smile....

At this point, I think the only reason Skye would go back to SHIELD is if someone needed her. No, she wouldn't admit to needing help at any cost, but if Phil was captured (if she'd known May was dying), if there was some way to help the team that only she could do, she'd do it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday fiction update

TV shows by airdate:
Monday: </Scorpion>  season premiere on NBC. It's not really one of my favorites, but it's okay and my mom likes it. Honestly, I just keep thinking of Gabe as Not-Coulson, because that's basically his job with the team. It was an okay episode, nothing special.

Also Timeless on NBC, which is a new time-travel crime show.  I wasn't terribly impressed with the pilot episode. The main characters have nothing to distinguish them; it's female-historian, black Marine, and white dude who invented the machine. Okay, they did lay out why that team was chosen, but the lady seems way too comfortable with letting people die because it's in the past.
Now, that's not to say I don't understand the whole fixed-points argument, or that I don't like time travel shows (dude, I'm a Whovian), but since it's a blank-slate start (as opposed to Legends of Tomorrow or Doctor Who), there's no immediate hook. (Subnote, yes, I started watching LoT because of Arthur Darvill, but the team was witty and he had to stop something that had already happened for him).
The bigger problem is that time travel (into the past, at least, there's more leeway with the future) that risks changing things (and if time can't be changed at all, there's a different story) should eventually result in an alternate history, but most tv shows/film can't afford the time and setting development that would reflect the butterfly effect. So, yeah, a character was retgone at the end of the episode, but the world went as it had.

Tuesday: No Agents of Shield (Aggh) because of the VP debate. Quite disappointing. Still sulking over the new director. Sure, people can be blinded because of personal feelings, but those same feelings can also be used to help the team function better.  The whole idea that Coulson is too close to May and Skye to help them is bull. It's the exact opposite. Coulson has worked with May, he knows how she reacts, and he is the closest to family Skye's got.  As he told Sif in s2, taking her away from people who care about her doesn't help the situation.

The Flash season 3 premiere: Okay, so I have not seen s2 yet (waiting on the dvd at the library), but all I really needed to know was that Barry changed time so that neither of his parents died. It was disappointing that it got reversed at the end of the episode, but....okay, still mulling this one over.

Film/Audio/TV on dvd
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tv series (from the 80s). Apart from the weirdness of watching a show that was adapted from a radio series with mostly the same cast (like bad dubbing, but in reverse), it was pretty funny, and the production values just made it funnier. But the 'meet the meat' scene was creepy as all get out. They didn't even attempt to make it look like a cow--just an actor in a costume that looks like slices of clay or fat.  Quite obviously a human in a costume, which is worse in some ways. And then it turned out to be Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor. Eep!

Protect and Survive: A Big Finish Doctor Who audio featuring Hex, Ace, and Seven. Hex and Ace stumble out of the TARDIS into rural 1980s England just as nuclear war breaks out. Fortunately, an elderly couple allows the two travelers to hide in their fallout shelter. But this never happened...right? I've heard this one before, but it's still quite tense, especially when you can't just skip to the next installment.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Fifth Column

Another day, another air raid. For Detective Inspector John Jago,  there's nothing unusual when two men report a body at one of the air raid sites.  However, the initial investigation reveals that the body wasn't at the site the previous night, and no bombs had fallen in the area since. Could it be foul play? Supplies have gone missing from the classified office where the young woman worked; her sister seems indifferent, and not all stories match up.  As Jago investigates the case, it seems everyone has something to hide....

The Fifth Column by Mike Hollow is the first novel in a new series, The Blitz Detective. As the title suggests, the novel focuses on a British detective during WWII.  The historical setting provides both atmosphere and motivation for several plot elements without becoming too dense for causal reading.

Mysteries aren't my usual reading fare, but I'm familiar with the basic genre conventions.  Two writing elements stood out for me in this book. First, the number of characters and perspectives. I'm not sure how common this  tactic is in mysteries (historical or otherwise), but there were at least half a dozen characters/perspectives in the book. While they did overlap to a certain extent, it made it tricky to judge which information would be relevant to the murder. It's not the same as red herrings or false leads, but I'm not quite used to it.

The second aspect I noticed (related if one likes to try solving mysteries ahead of the book) is that some of the motivations would have been inexplicable if they had not been spelled out by characters. For example, 1940s methods of dying hair have a certain relevance, but I didn't even think about it until one of the female characters brings it up to Jago.  It's not the sort of thing a single man would know, but it still seemed ....lecturish?

I would probably still recommend this book, but I doubt I'll reread it,

I was given a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.