Jan 01
2016

Thank you, Internet

The Internet is many things: a place where I spend a lot of time, a water cooler, a public square, the Wild West, a dystopia.  But what it has been for many of us is the place that spoil us on the movies, books and TV shows that we haven’t yet enjoyed. I have friends that go into lock-down two months before a large property is released so they can enjoy it with out knowing the “twist”. I avoid Twitter when my shows are on. Even with these precautions the twist revealed before someone gets a chance to see/read/listen to. Then we hear cries of “SPOILERS!” and “YOU RUINED IT!”

So it was with some trepidation that all of us approached Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We all looked at the Internet with suspicion, worried that we would be spoiled by a passing comment from a good friend or favourite website. We all heard the story of the guy who saw the movie on opening night and then spoiled it for a line full of movie goers. Turns out that was false, but it summed up what we were all feeling.

But something miraculous happened. The Internet bit its tongue. Spoilers were out there, but they were carefully hidden behind warnings, and did not appear in the mainline of stories. People published spoiler free reviews and discussions. Discussion groups were formed, but carefully hidden from casual eyes. There were even spoiler free guides for parents who wanted to know if they could take their kids to see this movie.  A week and a half passed before I saw something that revealed the BIG SPOILER of the movie.

It’s now two weeks on and the spoilers, while out there, aren’t in your face. It’s as if the Internet came to a mutual agreement to behave well. And it’s refreshing.

So I want to take a minute to thank the whole Internet for their good behaviour. You did good kid. I’m proud of you.

good-kid-2

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Dec 05
2015

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1) – A Review

JewelViolet used to live in the Marsh, the poorest area of the One City. But she possesses a genetic variation that allows her to manipulate the world around her using what is called the Auguries. This makes her perfect to be a surrogate, to carry the child of the royalty who can no longer give birth to healthy children do to inbreeding. Once this was revealed, Violet is taken from her family and put into a special school where she is trained to use the Auguries.

At 16, Violet is sold at auction to the Duchess of the Lake and stripped of her name. The Duchess has an ambitious plan to have Violet produce a daughter within three months to be betrothed to the new born Elector (the title of the One City’s ruler). Once this is done, Volet will be steralized and sent to live the rest of her life at a retirement facility. Meanwhile her best friend Raven, who is also a surrogate, is starting to behave strangely.  Violet begins to suspect that there might be more going on than she has been told. Can she take action to save herself and her friend?

This is a distopian YA novel that marries the Handmaid’s Tale to the Selection. It had the potential of eing BRILLIANT, but the author AMy Ewing threw in a romance for Violet.  While well written, it was unnecessary and detracted from the main story. It would have been much better if the story had just been focused on VIolet’s journey into the Jewel, her realization that something wrong is going on and then her beginning to fight back.  To have the revel hinge on the romance reduced Violent from a freedom fighter to the victim of a Victorian melodram.

Only for the rue YA distopian fan.

Posted in Book Review, Distopan Fiction | Leave a comment
Aug 15
2015

Hawkeye: My life as a weapon

How do you make something lame cool?

Hawkeye is lame. The world knows it. There are whole tropes about his lameness. No one should be surprised by this. Originally conceived as Marvel’s version of Green Arrow, poor Clint didn’t really have a chance.

Enter Matt Fraction and his take on Hawkeye. In this story, Clint is an experienced hero, a man struggling to find his place in a world where whe he is a second string hero on a team of superheroes. He lives in the poor section of town, in an attempt not to be recognized.

The first story of the collection sets up Clint as a man who, like the Green Arrow before him, looks out for the little guy. In his attempt to deal with a corrupt landlord, Clint ends up rescuing a dog and buying an apartment building. The next story show us how Clint knows he’s lame, with Kate Bishop ribbing Clint about trick arrows. This merges beautifully with a fight later on in the story.

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The third story focuses on Clint’s past as an operative. The final story is a Kate Bishop story from the Young Avengers book where Clint is a secondary character.

Fraction clearly knows his main character is perceived as lame and has injected his stories with a good dose of humour to deal with this. And for the most part, it works.

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Clint knows he’s a second tier hero and is doing his best with it. Stories are fast paced, full of fights, action sequences, quips and solid characterization. Through most of the book, Clint is a mentor to Kate and that lends a nice bit of back and forth between the two, growing both characters.

Solid outing. Enough to bring me back for more.

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Jul 20
2015

The Heir – A review

I loved the first installment of this series, The Selection.  I literally fell into the book and emerged excited and in love with a new author.  I followed America through the rest of the series, thrilled that author Cass found a way to look at a reality tv dating show in a way that made the women likeable.  The follow up books were good, but they were not to the same level as the first one.

Often the longer series go one, the worse they get.  This is especially true when an author decides to come back to a finishesed series and add a new book or 1000.  (Piers Anthony, I am looking at you.)  So it was with mixed feelings that I picked up The Heir by Kiera Cass from my local book pusher a.k.a. The Library.

So when I saw The Heir, I got excited but I also thought about how series can be a tale of diminishing returns.  Well two days after I picked this book up, I am done.  Cass has done the next to impossible, made the fourth book of a series as good as a first.

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This book tells the story of Eadlyn, the eldest child of America and Maxom and, by seven minutes, the heir to the thone of Ileya. She has been raised to be queen and is a strong, compentent young woman. Eadlyn has also been raised on the stories of her parents’ romance and knows she doesn’t ever want that.  Instead, she has held herself alook from her peers and is seen is quite reserved.

But though her parents have desolved the caste system of old, there is disillusionment as the youth of the country find it difficult to get jobs and move ahead, because caste prejudices are ingrained.  There are riots and attacks.  America and Maxom feel that the population need a distraction while they figure out a way to help their people. They approach Eadlyn with the idea of to have a Selection to choose a husband.

Initially Eadlyn is intially horrified with this idea. Her parents have promised to never to marry her off to a foriegn prince, how was this different? But she agrees to do it under certain conditions, which includes that she doesn’t have to marry the winner if she doesn’t want to.  Eadlyn sees this as a win-win situation where she can help her parents and gain her freedom at the same time.  She has every intention of chasing away the boys as fast as possible and not investing herself in the process.

But, as she moves through the process, she discovers several things. One, she is not beloved by her people as she believes. They are angry and the monarchy might not survive the death of her parents.  Two, that her parents’ romance isn’t as storied as she was lead to believe. They never told her details about Maxon’s father’s attempts to control the process, nor about America’s fight with Celeste.   Three, and most important, Eadlyn learns that she can’t control the Selection process.  The men will not be puppets, as they apparently have hopes, dreams and agendas of their own. Worse, she is developing feelings towards some of the men, something she never dreamed possible.

Eadlyn is a a strong, often headstrong, lead to this story. She has been raised her whole life to be queen.  Her morning mantra is “You are Eadlyn Schreave. You are the next person in line to run this country, and you will be the first girl to do it on your own.  No one is as powerful as you.” Eadlyn is difficult and, at times, her own worst enemy. She makes painful mistakes, and comes off rude and self-centered.  Yet at the same time, she is portrayed as an atractive young woman that is desirable beyond her crown. Yes, some of the men in the Selection are there because they are attracted to the wealth and titles they would get by marrying Eadlyn, but others find her beautiful and are attracted to her strength and intelligence.

To have a romantic lead in a teen romance be a woman with all the power is AMAZING (she can have people killed) and Cass handles that remarkably well in her writing. For that reason alone, you should read this book, but the book is also full of characters that entice you and pull you in.  Cass has also written the book in the first person, a technique that tends to pull me in faster.  The books ends on a cliffhanger, so there is at least another book featuring Eadlyn in the future, something I am thrilled about.

Go get this.

Posted in Book Review, Distopan Fiction, What to Read After Harry | Leave a comment
Jul 13
2015

The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard

The Selection is a distopian YA series about a young woman named America Singer who is chosen to be one of the candidates to marry the Crown Prince of Illea.  The whole process is televsed to distract the populace from the two seperate nsurrections that are gong on. Thnk The Bachelor meets Cnderella meets the Hunger Games.

Selection Prince and Guard

This is a collection of two short stories, The Prince and The Guard, which retell select sections from The Selection series. The book also includes the family trees of our three main characters and a Q&A wth author Kiera Cass.

The Prince

This short story shows us Prince Maxon’s thougths at the beginnng of the process.  It was nice to see his insecurity and his attracton to America’s independent nature.  We also get to see his thought process for cutting certain women the first night and their reaction.  There is, of course, more confimation at that King Clarkson is abusive and controlling and that Queen Amberly is passive.

Not bad, but I would have liked more of Maxon’s journey, whch is neat given he is as tapped by the process as the women.

The Guard

This short story looks at the revelaton of Marlee and Carter’s romance and the subsequent caning that follows, all from Aspen’s eyes.  We see his  desperation to hold on to America in the face of the Selection.  We get to see the palace staff’s reaction to America’s attempt to intervene in the caning and their growng admiration of her.

While I valued that last part, we did get to see some of that with America’s maids in the book.  What I would have liked is the story of Aspen and Lucy’s romance. How does Aspen go from being in love with the fiery, strong America to marrying the shy, damaged Lucy.  What did he see in her that he needed?

The Rest

The interview was nice, and the families trees provided context. Illera is not that old a nation, leading to its instability.  Also, I learned that America is half-Jewish, something that is never touched on in the series.  What a missed opportunity to see how relgion was or was not co-opted by the regime.

Overall, this book is for the fans of the series, not the casual reader.

2.5 out of 5 Revolutions

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Jun 29
2015

Black Canary #1

I did something for the first time this week, I went to the local comic book shop (convieniently called The Comic Shoppe) and picked up a comic to which I have subscribed.

I felt like a member of the other half.

And what was that comic that made me plunk down a deposit, you ask?

That's my girl!

That’s my girl!

Yup, the first issue of the new Black Canary series. This series sees Canary as the lead singer of a rock band.  The famous fishnets?  Are part of her onstage outfit, as are the kit boots.  There is even a scene where she switches from her daily combat boots to the black heels.

I am going to stop here and say SPOILERS.  Because I will be discussing the issue.  So stop now if you want to read the issue before you read my thoughts about it.

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Black Canary is the name of the band.  Our heroine is known as “DD”, so it appears that writer Benden Fletcher is calling back to the Dinah Drake name of Black Canary I.  The discription on the DC website calls DD, Dinah Lance and there appears to be a link for the Dinah of the new 52, the spy and vigilante. So maybe DD has taken on the Drake name to hide.  Within the comic, there are references a marriage and the Justice League, but the real tip off to DD’s back story are the repeated attack by badguys, from gun-totting musicians to ninjas.  The band is having trouble getting paid given that their venues keep getting trashed.

It all comes to a head one night when DD spotes some strange things in the audience, which turn out to be aliences.  Using her mike as a weapon, she takes them out. As the leader of the alliens fades away, it indicates that they were not here for DD, but for the band’s teenage guitarist, Ditto.  Who doesn’t speak, but appears to be able to manipulate sound. There is a heated discussion about keeping the band together, and when her bandmates refuse to abandon Ditto and DD to fate, DD announces that hand to hand training will commence in the morning.

And that ends the first issue. Some interesting set-up.  DC has rated this title as teen, seemingly going after the same market as Miss Marvel.  Which is wierd, because by seemingly linking DD to the New 52 history, she is not a teen.  We’ll see if that holds.  Maybe the focus will become Ditto.  Art by Anni Wu is what I call messy modern, which fits the story/setting of this comic.  I will definately be picking up the next issue.  Heck, it’s Canary, I will be in for the whole thing.

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Feb 07
2015

Boy/Girl Kinder Eggs

Jenna Bush over at Legion of Leia posted the following photo on Facebook

Avengers Kindereggs

And rightly pointed out that there were no female superheroes in the selection.  And she is right.  Black Widow and Captain Marvel are nowhere to be found.  Looks like another case of gender steretyping in toys.

A quick Google search brought me to the Grocery Gems blog from England that had this photo:

Kinder Eggs Disney Fairies Marvel Avengers

It appears that the braintrusts and Kinder and Disney have decided to release boys and girls versions of this toy.  The girls are supposed to want the Fairies toys, the boys the Avengers. Which is sad, because there are boy characters in the fairies series.  Even if only girls are fans, they actually might want to play with the boy characters.  There might even be boy fans.   But like with the Avengers, the assumprion is that these are single gender toys.

This is further evidence of the rampant gender stereotyping that takes place in our toy ailses. From colour choices to situations, toy manufacturers are dividing our boys and girls worlds into two relms that never cross.

Which is sad. We know gender is not binary, but instead a spectrum.  Why do we insist that our toys be binary?  And don’t tell me it boils down to economics. There are plenty of young women out there who love comics and have money to spend on merch. Give them the opportunity.  Same goes for boys who love princesses and fairies.

It’s 2015, it’s time for us to walk away from the Victorian gender roles.

Posted in Come see the sexism inherent in the system, Pinkwashing | 1 Comment
Jan 05
2015

The Elite – A Long Winded Review

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Imagine a distopian future world where North America where your birth determined your job.  It is a society divided into clases, with each class only allowed to do certain jobs.  Over all of them sit the Ones, the royal family that rules the land.  And every generation, the next Queen is chosen from the people through a process known as “The Selection”, a televised competition where one representative is chosen from each province to compete for the Crown Prince’s hand.  Did we mention that not everyone is happy about the situation and that rebels routinely attack the palace while this whole thing is goin on?

Sounds like The Bachelor meets Cinderella meets The Hunger Games, doesn’t it?

Enter into this world America Singer, a lowley Five from a family of artisits.  At te end of the first book, The Selection,  she has somehow made it past the initial 35 candidates to the Elite stage to be one of the final six competitors for the Prince’s hand.  She entered the competition on a dare and stayed only because her family gets a payment for every week she is in the competition.  America, or Mer, as she’s known to her friends, came into the competition in love with another boy, a Six named Aspen, but she finds herself drawn to Prince Maxon with each passing day.  Can she make a choice?

This is the second book in the Selection series, and while the first one was a hard to put own, this installment is mostly just America feeling closer to Maxon, but then something happens that distances them from each other. Usually it’s Maxon going on a date with another Elite, or America feeling a pull towards her former love, Aspen, who is convieniently a guard at the palace.  There is also the problem of suspending your disbelief long enough to believe that the all powerful King Clarkson, who can have anyone killed at a whim, is weak enough to allow for repeated (and I mean repeated) attacks on the palace.

Still, author Kiera Cass has created a solid teen romance that appeals to the YA crowd. If you look on line, you will see Team Maxon and Team Aspen camps with members  fiercly loyal to each camp.  So she has succeded in keeping her audience happy, although this feels like a filler book because YA series need to at least be trilogies now a days.

3 out of 5 Revolutions.

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Oct 04
2014

Whining About Saturday Mornings Gone By

I have seen a lot in the last 24 hours about the end of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Block. Many of my Gen X friends are wringing their hands at the loss of three to four hours of cartoon goodness.

And I find myself wondering what the fuss is all about.

I am the mother of a six year-old boy. I know exactly how many cartoons are available to my son. There are the 24 hour cartoon channels plus the specialty kids’ channels. There are the educational cartoons via PBS and TVO. On-demand services provide my son with even more choice and our DVD collection is full of current hits and retro goodies.

Add the Internet to that mix, and my child has more animation at his fingertips than I ever had when I sat down to watch cartoons on a Saturday morning as a child. He is living in the promised land.

So why is a certain group comparing the loss of the Saturday Morning blcok to the end of days?

Nostalgia. Plain and simple.

Gen X is its 40s now, and like the Baby Boomers before them, they yearn for the simplicity of their childhood. There is a longing for the days when they and all their friends watched the same things at the same time. They look at the multi-channel universe and bemoan what the “kids today” are missing.

But here’s the thing, they aren’t missing it. My son and his friends all watch the same shows. Oh sure, my son may be watching Word Girl at 5 while his bestest bud saw the same episode at 3, but they still gather to dicuss and roleplay. Want further proof? The Wild Kratts have three (3!) live shows in my town later in the fall. All three have been sold out for months. It’s the hottest ticket in town. Fisher Price has started making toys for Mike the Knight and the Octonaughts. My son has PJs made from Phineas and Ferb fabric.

Do you know what my friends and me would have done for G-Force PJs? Things not legal in Utah.

My fellow Gen-X nerds, stop your whining. Yes, the big four networks have stopped producing a Saturday morning cartoon block. But that’s because the kids can find better, cooler shows through other mediums. And believe me, they are watching them. The big three have failed to keep pace and have moved on to other things.

Now if you excuse me, the boy and I have some Penguins of Madigascar to watch.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Oct 15
2012

How to Stop Bullying

A little off topic today, but relevant.

<Drags out soapbox. Steps up.>

If we truly want bullying to stop, we need to stop looking to children to change their behaviour. We need to start looking to adults to change theirs.

Children learn by watching and then emulating what we do. Look around you. How often do you hear put downs? How often do you dismiss someone based on their skin colour, religion, background, gender, orientation,

education, political affiliation or socio-economic status?When you watch TV, how often is bullying going on? (Hint: Sitcoms would not exist without it. And reality shows like Big Brother? Don’t get me started.) What about in your children’s shows? What video games do you or your children play where taking advantage of the weak is part of the game? (Grand Theft Auto I *am* looking at you.) What about the movies you watch as a family?Take a look at the real world. How often is the news filled with politicians engaged in name calling and rumour spreading? How often do we see witch hunts against whistle blowers and civil servants when they refuse to be partisan in favour of the ruling party and actually try to follow the rules and guidelines? Look out for the public interest as it were? (Sadly, my own Primeminister is a master at the last one.) I won’t ask you about pundits, because they really are the worst of the bunch.

So if you want to stop tragedies like the one that happened this week, your posts, petitions and private member’s bills, while well intentioned, really won’t change a thing. Instead, you need to look at your behaviour and change. Be more accepting. Be less judgmental. Model the behaviour you want to see in our children. Drop things from your life that promote bullying. Even if you love them. And then challenge the other adults in your life to do the same. Start with your circle and then reach out further. Politicians. Entertainment icons. The World.

Is it easy? No. I struggle every day to be a better person, someone worthy of my son’s admiration. Of my student’s. Of my former cadets. And I am nowhere near where I want to be. But I keep trying. I slip and stumble, but I stand up and keep going.

We all have to do this because *we* are the adults here. That means that we need to behave like it. And we have to stop expecting children to be more mature than we are.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi.

<Steps down. Puts soapbox away.>

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