Posted in Entertainment, Television

THINGS THAT BRING ME JOY: “Elite” Season Three

My friend Shane started watching “Elite” and has been sending me Marco Polo messages about it.

This is cause for celebration.

Continue reading “THINGS THAT BRING ME JOY: “Elite” Season Three”

Posted in Books, Real Life

I Hate Romance

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.

Quitting on romances, however, is new…and it bothers me. Continue reading “I Hate Romance”

Posted in Entertainment, Television

Why I love “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

I watch some shows that aren’t the best. 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.

Matt
Except you. You’re great.

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.

Seahawks

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…
  4. 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…

    Wait…what do you mean, that’s canon?
  5. 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…
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Posted in Books

BOOK REVIEW: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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:
WHAT HAPPENED?

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!

Who doesn’t remember this book?

I loved Harry Potter and The Lioness QuartetI’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!

…how?

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 should have known he was the opposite of how he was portrayed! How could I have been so stupid?

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.