I keep by my bookshelf a pile of books I plan to sell at Powell’s. This time around, the victims include Lena Dunham’s memoir, Tillie Walden’s first graphic novel, a poorly-written account of a transgender teenager, and three YA romances I couldn’t finish.
This shouldn’t be a huge deal – I stop reading books all the time. I find it freeing to give up on something I’ve struggled to get through.
I watch someshows that aren’tthebest. It’s rare that I find a TV show that I like that’s actually good. For example, despite what nostalgia would have me believe, Digimon is terrible.
My friends love Marvel; I’m undecided. I didn’t start taking Marvel seriously until “The Avengers” came out, so call me a bandwaggoner or whatever else you want. I’m from Washington state, I’m used to it.
I had some…sources tell me “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was good, but I was hesitant to believe them. I had no intention of ever watching it until I got tired of “Pokemon” (just kidding–I could never get tired of “Pokemon”) and played the first episode.
And I could not. I couldn’t even.
Why do I love this show?
It has really good action scenes.
If you’re around me long enough, you’ll hear me bash on action movies, which might be unfair, and we can have a huge argument later, guys. But I appreciate good fight choreography. This show has plenty of explosions and hand-to-hand combat, and it’s awesome.
Phil Coulson is in it. I was really angry when Coulson was killed in “The Avengers.” There are some things you just don’t do: shooting puppies and killing Coulson fall under that category. When I heard about this show, I assumed it was a prequel, because COULSON DIED AND THAT’S HOW TIMELINES WORK. Turns out, not so much. Somehow he survived, and the mystery surrounding his death is a big part of the first season.
Iain de Caestecker is wonderful. de Caestecker plays Leopold Fitz, a geeky gadget-happy science freak who has trouble with the combat part of being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He has all the best lines and is so darn precious I ship him with everyone. About that…
The writers tease a lot of ships and I feel weird about it.
It would be more accurate to say I ship everyone with everyone. Coulson and May have some chemistry? Ship it. Skye has a crush on her Superior Officer? Ship it. Skye and Fitz have a moment alone together? Ship it. Ward rescues Simmons and holds her hand for a split second? Ship it. Ward and May share an intense glance? Like that’ll ever happen…
There are “strong” female characters.
Yeah yeah yeah. As a feminist, I’m not supposed to be okay with female characters who are “strong” and nothing else. Thankfully, the women on this show are more than that. The three mains–Skye, Simmons, and May–are all very different: Skye is a smart-alecky computer hacker with a mysterious past; Simmons is the team’s resident skeptic and scientific genius; May, AKA “The Cavalry,” kicks butt, shoots people, and acts as Coulson’s confidante and moral compass. I started off not liking any of them and now I couldn’t imagine the show without them. About THAT…
It keeps making me feel things.
This show is really good at tugging the heartstrings without being over the top. At times, it can get a little “rah rah America,” but for the most part the emotions I feel are genuine. The show keeps developing its characters, allowing them to have real emotions and make choices, sometimes with devastating consequences. I just finished Season 1 and so far I have watched Simmons jump out of a plane, Coulson beg for death, May go postal on the guy who shot her friend, and Fitz sob when bad guys take over his believed S.H.I.E.L.D. I can’t take it.
It continues to surprise me.
Last night I watched the last three episodes of season 1 late at night while my family was sleeping (a routine practice). Multiple times I had to muffle my exclamations/cheers/tears, and that’s something I’ve had to do from episode 1. Very rarely do I know what to expect with this show, and I like it that way–it’s nice not seeing everything coming for once.
If you’re skeptical of all the Marvel hype, give “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” a chance. It has all the ships your little heart could desire, plus some character development and complexity and other stuff that I guess is important to a good story. If you’re not busy, go watch it RIGHT NOW.
Warning: So many spoilers. If you’d like a summary, scroll to the bottom of the review.
Hey, Shadow and Bone. C’mere. I wanna talk to you.
Sit down, Shadow and Bone. How have you been? I’ve been hearing really great things about you.
You know, I really liked you at first. I mean, really liked you. Your first 90 or so pages had some of the tightest writing I’ve read in a while. I just tried to read A Court of Thorns and Roses and had to put it down after 50 uninspiring pages. With you, I was hooked immediately. You established a world populated by Grisha, this universe’s version of benders. You introduced me to your main character, Alina Starkov, tricked me into caring about her by giving her a shady past and an unrequited crush on her best friend, and didn’t skimp on action. You told me everything I needed to know in a manner of pages: the country of Ravka (AKA Fantasy Russia) is at war with its many neighboring countries and travel anywhere in the country is complicated by the existence of the Shadow Fold.
What is the Shadow Fold, you ask? Well, that’s ridiculous, Shadow and Bone, you should know, but I’ll remind you: the Shadow Fold is a region in the middle of the country completely covered by darkness and populated by terrifying monsters called the volcra. Travel across it is dangerous – characters are counted lucky if they die quickly.
Barely 30 pages in, Alina and her friend Mal are attacked on the Shadow Fold. Alina saves Mal by unleashing a hidden power and driving away the volcra. Turns out not only is she a Grisha, she’s a Sun Summoner, the only one of her kind.
Alina is introduced to the Darkling, the leader of the Grisha with “great powers.” All I’m really clear on is he can create darkness and cut men in half. I am clear on how hot he sounded. Thank the internet for fanart.
Shadow and Bone, you had me where you wanted me. You gave me great action, an interesting protagonist, and the promise of hot romance.
So, what I want to ask is this:
I have three big problems with your story.
1. You turned an interesting story into high school politics
I’ve read books before, Shadow and Bone. This is not the first time I’ve read a story where the protagonist learns new skills at a prestigious academy and faces difficulty and social rejection. Heck, there’s a pretty well-known novel about a boy wizard who goes through the same things!
I loved Harry Potter and The Lioness Quartet. I’m not saying you can’t make this the plot of your YA fantasy novel.
My problem is that magic wizard school ISN’T WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. You spent 90 pages throwing me scary monsters and quasi-Scandinavian assassins, and you followed that up with Alina’s struggles with homework. FOR 100 PAGES.
2. I was promised “heady” and “poignant” romance and you didn’t deliver
As I mentioned before, the Darkling was pretty hot. He and Alina had some chemistry, which I was interested in seeing develop.
Instead, the Darkling disappears.
When he does speak to Alina, it’s to pass on exposition. Your Exposition Fairy, hard at work. Their relationship didn’t so much develop as…happen. Out of nowhere.
One minute, it’s all exposition about a magical stag that could help them destroy the Shadow Fold. Then this happens:
He looked down at me. The cold air had put a flush in his cheeks, and the lamplight shone in his gray eyes. “Alina, if I tell you that I believe we can find the stag, would you think I’m mad?”
“Why would you care what I think?”
He looked genuinely baffled. “I don’t know,” he said. “But I do.”
And then he kissed me.
Not 20 pages later, he and Alina almost have sex against a wall during a raucous party. WHAT IS HAPPENING? It’s Octavia and Lincoln all over again!
What really peeved me was how you brought Mal back in. For the BULK OF THE NOVEL, Mal sleeps with other women, expects Alina to be his wingwoman, and generally doesn’t care as much about her as she does about him.
I’ve been in this kind of friendship. I know how this feels. There’s no point in hanging on to an uneven relationship. Alina realizes that though she has made Mal a priority her entire life, he doesn’t care about her. I thought her letting go of this friendship was a good step toward character development.
Then you brought Mal back.
Up to this point, you had done nothing to make Mal remotely likeable. To remedy this, you have Mal slutshame Alina for being into the Darkling. Later, while helping her find the stag, he picks fights and is nothing but rude to her the entire time.
SUDDENLY, he’s declaring his love for her. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina,” he says. “But I see you now.”
BOOOOO! BOOOOOO! BOOOOO! After “graciously” forgiving Alina for considering sleeping with the Darkling ONE TIME, Mal says, “We found our way back to each other, Alina. That’s all that matters.”
NOT TRUE! Call me crazy, but I think sleeping with every other girl ever and being a terrible friend still matters!
3. You didn’t foreshadow your big twist
Come on, Shadow and Bone. I JUST POSTED about obvious foreshadowing yesterday. You went to the opposite extreme with no foreshadowing at all.
As I said yesterday, when I come to a twist ending, I want to be surprised, but I also want to feel like I should have seen it coming. When I reread a story or rewatch a movie, I want to see all the little clues I missed that lead up to the big reveal.
There were no such clues with you, Shadow and Bone.
Page 236, the wise old mentor reveals that the Darkling…is eeeeeviiiiil!
And Alina feels so foolish, because she should have known!
Because he killed a guy by cutting him in half? He’s an immortal being with intense power. That guy was trying to kill his Sun Summoner. Still on the Darkling’s side.
Because he can create darkness?
Because he wears black on the time? Seriously, where were your clues, Shadow and Bone?
You gave me no reason to hate the supposed villain! It’s not a good twist if it came out of nowhere!
I wanted to love you, Shadow and Bone. I gushed about you to my little brother, telling him “this is how you write a fantasy novel.”
Shadow and Bone, you made me look like a fool.
Want to know my final verdict, Shadow and Bone?
Excellent first 1/3. Disappointing latter half. Don’t read it for the romance. Worth a read…as long as you get it from your local library.
I was not a Thorne fan when I started reading. It had something to do with his bravado, self-appointed title of captain, and sensitivity to prison soap. Kai puts it perfectly in Scarlet.
[Thorne’s] prison photo showed him flippantly winking at the camera. Kai hated him immediately.
Thorne grew on me, though. He has a roguish charm and enough street smarts and survival skills to last a few days in the Sahara. He’s funny, too, finding time for sarcastic repartee during battle.
Much as I love Kai, I ship Cinder and Thorne because while he drives her crazy, he always has her back. It’s hard to find guys willing to unfasten your control panel and reboot your system these days. No, that isn’t a euphemism.
Thorne provides a good bit of comic relief as the series gets more intense. Still, his more cinematic moments make me roll my eyes, and his relationship with Cress is one of the series’ weaker aspects. I’ll take my men with more savvy and less swagger, thank you.
You don’t woo women by being sassy (*ahem* Thorne). You listen to them, buy them thoughtful presents, and invite them to balls. In these ways, Kai has the jump on his fellow love interests. Kai is young, angsty, inexperienced, and honestly kind of dumb, but he tries. Out of all the girls vying for his attention, he pursues Cinder. He’s not put off by her manly hobbies, her sarcasm, her alleged lack of femininity, or her status. He finds out she’s both Lunar and a cyborg and is only upset she didn’t tell him sooner.
Plus, he keeps the cyborg foot Cinder leaves behind at the ball. That’s precious.
Cinder kidnaps him on his wedding day and it is perfect. They are perfect. I lied about shipping Cinder and Thorne; Kai and Cinder are wonderful.
Wolf (AKA Ze’ev Kesley)
Freaking Wolf. He’s basically Kai, minus the sassiness and quintuple the angst. Throw in some murder, tattoos, animal instincts, intriguing scars, and physical perfection.
I’m a sucker for antiheroes and characters who strive to be better. Wolf does messed-up stuff, but he wants to change.
All that I love about Wolf is evident in the way he treats Scarlet. I love how he goes out of his way to protect her. It’s sweet…and kind of really hot. Of all the ships in the series, the Scarlet/Wolf romance made me swoon the most (so far). Palpable sexual tension, much more so than witty banter, is my favorite thing.
My favorite part in Scarlet is when Wolf nearly drops Scarlet off a train and freaks out, thinking he might have hurt her. All Scarlet wants is a hug, and this is the moment he finally allows himself to give her one. When I read that part, I cheered through my tears (I get really emotional about Lunar Chronicles, okay?)
Wolf gets a little annoying in Cress when he’s rendered nearly catatonic after Scarlet is kidnapped. Even so, I like how Meyer addresses it. I know how wrecked I would be if my significant other was in danger and I couldn’t help them–that’s some traumatic stuff. Wolf consoles himself by sleeping in Scarlet’s bed because it smells like her–ADORABLE. Even while mired in anguish, Wolf helps his friends when they need him.
And, even though it’s just a bunch of numbers, Wolf has a tattoo. Win.
Oh, Jacin Clay.
Jacin’s big problem is he’s mean. Really mean. And snarky. He’s angsty and bitter and does questionable things in order to survive. Marissa Meyer made a comment about readers not liking him. Despite everything I just mentioned, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t. I mean, come on:
He’s super brawny.
He has “beautiful eyes and the rising sun in his smile.”
He manages to be my favorite while having a blonde ponytail. That’s some good writing right there.
Part of it might be the forbidden love angle (I have a thing about bodyguards who crush on their charges.) Though he claims not to be, Jacin is SUPER into Princess Winter. Rereading Cress with this in mind made for much squealing.
Also, how can you not love this quote?
“I serve my princess. No one else.”
This is why I can’t read Lunar Chronicles in public.
WARNING: Major spoilers for Season 1 of “The 100” ahead
I know people who dislike romance, especially when it distracts from more important plot elements.
In my view, there’s no such thing as too much romance.
Okay, that’s not true. I get how frustrating it can be when a subpar romance takes over a great story.
The show started EARLY, setting up couples that both drew my ire and inspired my sympathy.
THE ROMANCE Good:
So they didn’t go the direction I was hoping and make Clarke and Wells a thing.
Nothing else interesting romance-wise happened for the first few episodes. Finn was around, but you know how I feel about him. Octavia kept hooking up with random dudes (boring), and the writers sexed up Bellamy so you knew he was the villain.
I started to like Bellamy in “Day Trip” when he was plagued by visions of the people he killed. He acknowledged that he deserved whatever punishment was coming, which was a step toward humility. Then he and Clarke had a nice conversation about guilt and redemption, which was a positive change in their relationship and…wait a minute…
This is a ship. The writers are shipping these two! I’m…I’m not even mad!
What I love about Clarke and Bellamy: it’s not love at first sight (I HATE YOU, FINN). It’s gradual. It feels natural. No one is talking about intense feelings or true love or soulmates. This is a relationship I can get behind.
The other relationship I really liked was Octavia and Lincoln’s.
There was the forbidden love element, the ethical dilemma of torturing for information, multiple rescues, Olivia as Lincoln’s caretaker–basically everything I’m ashamed to admit I love when it comes to romance played out between these two.
When Lincoln kissed Octavia out of nowhere, I thought it was a little fast–not to mention kind of gross, since he was still bloody from the torture–but otherwise fine. Surely their relationship would continue to develop as the season went on.
Bad: The very next episode I asked myself why Octavia and Lincoln were having sex when they barely knew each other. Silly me.
I realize Ricky Whittle and Marie Avgeropoulos are beautiful people. That’s no excuse to skip relationship development in favor of fanservice. Hope you liked the two episodes of sexual tension; the rest of the season is the two of them “in love” because that’s how love works.
BORING, BORING, BORING.
My other romance pet peeve, of course, involved Finn.
I hate Finn. I HATE Finn.
My problem, as I’ve said before, is that the writers want me to buy into this Finn-Clarke pairing. They’re asking me to ignore
the fact that Finn has a girlfriend
the fact that Finn cheated on said girlfriend
the fact that Finn won’t dump said girlfriend
I have no reason support this relationship. Finn is not a tortured, confused, all-in-all good guy. His relationship with Clarke is boring and cliché, based on a “chemistry” that the writers haven’t show me. Finn is the writers going, “Look, a bad boy! Everyone swoon!” after they’ve already shown they can do better.
This is the last of my rants until Netflix puts out season 2. I’ve heard a few things about the second season (“Look, girls kissing! Everyone swoon!”) but am otherwise in the dark. Can’t wait to see what other twists the writers have prepared. All hail Bellamy and Clarke!