Saturday, 31 January 2015

TV recap: The 100 season two, episode four - Many Happy Returns

Last time on The 100, Clarke and Anya escaped from Mount Weather, and then Anya knocked Clarke out. Finn murdered a Grounder during his search for information about the whereabouts of Clarke and the other members of The 100, and Kane headed off on a quest to make peace with the Grounders.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Comic book review: Captain America - The Chosen by David Morrell andMitch Breitweiser

If you know me, even a little bit, you probably know that I am a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, I'm a full-on MCU fangirl.

But I've still never read a Marvel comic book, until now. I randomly picked a few Marvel comic books at the library, choosing based on title, look and plot, and the first one I delved into was Captain America - The Chosen.

Captain America lies dying in a bunker in Washington D.C. while in Afghanistan a young soldier, Corporal James Newman, is bone tired, missing his wife and baby, and ready to give up. When his convoy gets involved in a battle in an Afghan village, Newman is helped by Captain America. Or is he?

As a first comic book, I think this was a pretty good one. The first thing I noticed (obviously) were Mitch Breitweiser's gorgeous illustrations, and the colouring of the whole series. Set primarily in battle-scarred Afghanistan, there's a real sense of the way the colour is leached out of Newman's world in every panel. Everyone and everything is brown and yellow, covered in dust; even the American flag in the first panels of the first chapter is seen through a haze of sand.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Book review: All Involved by Ryan Gattis

Ryan Gattis couldn't have known that his second novel, All Involved, would be coming out at a time when America was once again in the midst of an explosive discourse about race relations, but maybe he suspected the circumstances for that discourse would materialise sooner rather than later, if his character Antonio Delgado is anything to go by.

In All Involved, Gattis' fictionalisation of six days during the 1992 riots in LA, Delgado, while high (he's always high) and on a joyride, reflects on LA's past history, realising that riots about race come round every 20 to 30 years. Delgado says the city is due another riot in 2022 or "before, I dunno". And while the epicentre wasn't LA and while the city-wide rioting of 1992 has mostly been replaced by angry protests, America is in uproar again following a series of cases of white police officers shooting dead black men, and not facing appropriate consequences for their actions.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

TV recap: The 100 season two, episode three - Reapercussions

Last time on The 100, Clarke became ever more suspicious of the Mountain Men, and discovered they were using Grounders' blood to treat their wounded - and in doing so found Anya. Meanwhile, Finn broke Bellamy and Murphy out of Camp Jaha's jail, and along with Sterling and Monroe, they set out to find their friends.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

TV recap: The 100 season two, episode two - Inclement Weather

Last time on The 100, Clarke was suspicious of the Mountain Men, despite the clean clothes and chocolate cake they provide. In the forest, poison running through Octavia's blood led Lincoln to leave her to go find an antidote, while Bellamy attempted to rescue Finn from the Grounders and succeeded in getting himself captured. Luckily, Kane came to the rescue, but arrested Bellamy and took him back to Camp Jaha, where the adult survivors of The Ark have settled. And the real Jaha, resigned to being alone until his death on The Ark, heard a baby crying.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Book review: Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

It's not difficult to find a decent crime novel, but I've found it hard to find crime novels that stay true to the genre but also manage to add something different. Eva Dolan's Long Way Home is one of those rare crime novels that is definitely crime, but is also so much more.

When detectives Zigic and Ferreira, of Peterborough's hate crime squad, are called to the case of a man found burnt to death in a shed, they quickly realise that the case is more complicated than it first looks. As they investigate further, they discover communities full of prejudice, and a city still coming to terms with the fact that its make up has completely changed.

At its centre, Long Way Home is a murder mystery, but it's far from a straightforward one. Dolan fills her novel with twists and turns, and from the terror-filled beginning keeps her reader guessing as to what's going to happen next, and how everything is linked. The novel is intricately plotted, and sprawling without ever feeling out of control. Part of its charm is its well formed, flawed characters, who are always believable and who therefore make the novel believable. Both Zigic and Ferreira, as well as their colleagues, are great additions to the detective genre and I look forward to seeing them in further novels (I hope).

Monday, 12 January 2015

Book review: Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

Good young adult fiction not only contains a great plot, relatable characters and is well written, it can also sometimes help young people come to terms with difficult or traumatic experiences.

Sarah Crossan's Apple and Rain, about a young girl called Apple whose mum abandoned her when she was younger, is one of those books that I think can help young people understand life-changing experiences. And it does that while telling a great story very well, without being preachy.

Apple lives with her grandmother, who is very, very protective. The young girl chafes at the bit at having to be collected from school, at not being able to go out with her friends, and at her gran's reluctance to talk about Apple's mum. So when Apple's mum returns, determined to have fun with her daughter, Apple jumps at the chance to leave her grandmother behind. It's only when Apple discovers she has a younger sister called Rain that she begins to realise her dreams of her mother's return might not all come true.

I've only ever read dystopian novels by Crossan before (Breathe and Resist), but she's adept at recreating the real world in print as she is at creating a whole new world. Apple and Rain feels hooked in reality, from its scenes at Apple's school to her interactions with friends and enemies, to the way Apple's emotions are conveyed. Crossan presents an Apple who, despite her young age, is complex and whose feelings are always treated by Crossan as legitimate. We never frown upon Apple for her reactions because they feel so realistic and so natural.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

TV: I love Arrow, but I think its women could be treated a lot better

I'm a late comer to Arrow, which is good because it means I got to binge-watch the first two series in time to begin the third as it aired its mid-season finale. That should clue you in to the fact that I love Arrow, which I feel needs stating before I move on to my next confession - I also am really annoyed by Arrow a lot, because it's got a HUGE woman problem.

"What?" I hear you cry. Yes, Arrow has many fantastic women. Laurel, for all that she's really grating, is a successful lawyer who in the first series stands up for the little guy, and who continues to fight for the greater good after moving jobs. Felicity is super clever, and could wipe the floor with all the men on the show, whose combined brain power doesn't rival hers. Moira, even though she does some awful things, is both a strong mother and a strong, savvy businesswoman. Sara is of course a killer and a hero. And there are more examples where those come from.

But that's what makes Arrow's woman problem even more frustrating, the fact that it gives with one hand and taketh away with the other (and that it's sister programme The Flash actually has brilliantly drawn female characters). Perhaps it's because I binge-watched that Arrow's woman problem was so evident to me. Here are just a few of the ways in which I think Arrow sometimes fails its female characters, and its female viewers.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

TV recap: The 100 season two, episode one - The 48

Welcome back, The 100. I've missed you, your kick-arse feminist characters, your depressing amount of bloodshed and your politics. Last time I saw you, everything had gone wrong - Clarke and Monty were imprisoned in white cells, Bellamy and Finn were probably (not) dead, and Octavia and Raven were both badly wounded. So what's new?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Book review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Ugh, what on earth is the matter with me that I waited so long before reading Kate Atkinson's Life After Life? I'd like to go back and shake some sense into the me that said I wouldn't read this until the hype had died down, because this book surpasses all the hype.

Ursula Todd is born in a snowstorm in England in 1910, and dies before she's taken her first breath. Then she is born again, and lives a little longer. And so on, Ursula getting chance after chance to live her life, to improve on the last life, to spend more time with her family, to learn from her mistakes, and perhaps even to save the world.

Life After Life is an expansive, sweeping work, clocking in at more than 600 pages, covering the 20th century's biggest conflicts, and tackling the concept of time and reincarnation. Yet for all that, it's a wonderfully intimate read, one that draws the reader into its world fully - I felt like I was living alongside Ursula as she grew up. Atkinson is so clever in this book, changing one thing to slightly make all the difference to each of Ursula's lifetimes. Sometimes that one change is huge, sometimes it's tiny. 


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