Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Guilty Pleasures

Some books I read entirely for pleasure – and yes, some I read for guilty pleasure (I went there). This here is a rather appropriate title, except it doesn’t really make me feel all that guilty.

er-guiltypleasuresGuilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Category: Books

Find it on: LibraryThing

What it is:
It’s the first novel in Hamilton’s most popular series: on Anita Blake, the vampire hunter (and, I figure, lover?). Anita (who for some unnecessary reason is also a necromancer) gets involved in an investigation of vampire murders even though she has been responsible for a few vampire deaths herself (hence the hunter part). Even though most vampires are repulsive, some she finds much more intriguing.

How I found it:
Honestly, Hamilton’s other series, about Meredith, the fairy princess, is one of my most consistent guilty pleasures (see fun fact for more details; and sure, you may judge me). Even though some of those books veer into overly erotic descriptions I – like true perverts also say, I’m sure – read them for the plot. I knew about Hamilton’s more popular series but didn’t find time for it before.

Summary judgment:
Well, it’s not a great book, but a sufficiently competent pleasurable read.

Best things about it:
It reads fast and really got me interested in the plot. I think it changes later but for now the erotic aspect doesn’t exist, instead leaving a lot of time for action-adventure and I got curious as to who the murderer was and also to the intricacies of Anita’s life. It does a good job of building a memorable heroine with her strength offset by past trauma.

Worst things about it:
If you read for ambitious reasons (do you, though?), steer clear. Other than that, I guess some details needed a bit more clarification to get more vivid but that might happen in later volumes.

Other pluses:
✤ I found Edward a pretty fascinating side character who didn’t become completely defined even by the end of the book.
✤ While it doesn’t add much to the vampire mythos, I appreciate how it also doesn’t add silly things to it (talking about sparkling, of course).
✤ Jean Claude, while a stock character so far, has potential for an interesting love interest.
✤ I enjoyed how the main villain was only a part of the danger Anita had to fight against.
✤ While the “urban” part of urban fantasy remains merely a sketch, I think the books might develop vampiric St. Louis into something interesting (they probably don’t, if the other series taught me anything).

Other minuses:
✤ We spend too much time on unimportant and unfascinating side characters, like the gullible friend (name forgotten) or the greedy boss.
✤ I could do without the party scenes. They felt like a setup for things that never happened.

How it enriched my life:
It made me exercise more willingly because I was curious what was going to happen.

Fun fact:
So I have an old model of Kindle with a text-to-speech function. And while I guess I understand their fiscal reasons for removing this feature, it remains my absolute favorite. About a half of the books I read, I don’t so much read as listen to while doing my morning exercises. Of course, this doesn’t work with more serious, subtle books which need focus and appreciation but allows me to read so much urban fantasy.

Follow-up:
I’m sure to hear the next volumes while working out.

Recommended for:
Fans of girly urban fantasy with a decent amount of action and potential for romance.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
(You remember I judge enjoyment not quality, right?)

Next time: Nights at the Circus, speaking of more serious books

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Legion

I’ve been waiting forever for X-Men to come to the TV, thus combining some of my favorite things. When X-themed shows started cropping up, they were not exactly what I expected (I basically wanted a mix of X-Men Evolution and Whedon’s comic with charismatic actors) but I took what I was offered and here’s my take on

er-legion1Legion (season 1)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: IMDb

What it is:
Created by Noah Hawley and starring Dan Stevens, the show focuses on, you guessed it, Legion, Xavier’s son with huge powers and huge mental problems. He believes he has schizophrenia and discovers during the show that the truth might be more complicated but not necessarily easier to bear. It sounds very commonplace but the show doesn’t resemble any other superhero fare you have ever seen, trust me.

How I found it:
As I said, I waited for the X-shows to appear. But after watching the first episode I decided to bingewatch all of it later because it really doesn’t lend itself to broken watching (you have no idea what’s going on, is what happens).

Summary judgment:
It’s an ambitious achievement that proves not everything has already been done with superheroes.

Best things about it:
Superhero stories might be considered a guilty pleasure unworthy of a serious thought – but definitely not this one. It is an ambitious project with a singular, strong vision. It is confusing, challenging, overpowering – and it looks amazing. Dan Stevens pulls off David as always on the verge of creepy and yet sympathetic and human (and I was sure it wouldn’t be possible). Rachel Keller, who plays the love interest Syd, starts off as a plot device only to become the focus and the agent in later episodes, which I found surprising and admirable. And have I mention how good everything looks?

Worst things about it:
This is such a cerebral show that it doesn’t necessarily engage emotions at all times. I found myself admiring rather than enjoying it.

Other pluses:
✤ The characters are complex and don’t turn into clichés (mostly). You don’t necessarily like them but you feel they have depth that many TV shows deny their characters. Jemaine Clement deserves a special mention for the impenetrable weirdness of Oliver.
✤ I like how out-of-time the show feels, with women’s clothes reminiscent of the 60s and technology mostly outdated. I’m still not sure when the show is supposed to take place but it looks good.
✤ If you read me at all, you know I don’t give, um, two figs about fight scenes and I’ve yet to see them better solved than on this show. They barely attract any attention at all, they remain stylized and focused on the results rather than any precise choreography. I know it won’t happen, but can we make it the standard way of showing fights from now on?

Other minuses:
I kept waiting for someone else to turn out to be David’s figment of imagination to have my mind blown like in Fight Club (I was young) but it didn’t happen. It’s not a fault, just my minor disappointment.

How it enriched my life:
It strengthens my faith that there is much more to be done with superheroes than all the Avengers have shown us. I also spent a few pleasant evenings with the show.

Fun fact:
It’s not “fun.” But when the show started I went to IMDb forums to see people’s opinions (I used to do that when the forums still existed, RIP) and I found a post by a father whose daughter had schizophrenia how he considered the show harmful for reinforcing illusions about special powers that mentally ill people might harbor. Of course, the show has to do this because it’s the whole point but I can imagine how problematic this show must feel to someone in his situation.

Follow-up:
I’m not sure where they can go with the second season, especially that I like how closed the first one is, but I will check it out.

Recommended for:
People who look for something different among superhero stories.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Landline (but we’ll switch for a post-a-week schedule for a while until I get my s* back together)

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Rotten Tomatoes

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Thor Ragnarok

After the refreshment course in the MCU I shared with you here, I finally got to see the newest Thor movie in a theater. And then I got to see it again. Let’s talk

er-thorragnarokThor: Ragnarok

Category: Movies

Find it: in theaters near you

What it is:
The latest MCU offering redefines the fledgling Thor series by changing its tone, its appearance and removing Jane Foster. It focuses on Thor, who has to fight his mightiest opponent yet: his own sister, Hela, bent on worlds domination. But first he needs to find allies, escape a gladiatorial arena and defeat the Hulk – in just the opposite order. A new addition to the bevy of MCU directors, Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows!) directs and he does it with style.

How I found it:
The trailers and the name of the director made it a must-see for me.

Summary judgment:
It’s quickly become one of my favorite MCU movies.

Best things about it:
As befits the director, the movie is very, very funny (which is, of course, an individual thing but it is certainly funny to me), with an improv charm and lightness. I was half-worried they won’t let Waititi do his thing but they clearly did. The movie’s got a strong visual character, particularly Sakaar, its entertainments and street parades. It continues the style that Guardians of the Galaxy introduced and as such joins my favorite part of the MCU franchise: the colorful, bold, humorous and visually rich space opera.

Worst things about it:
Asgard under Hela didn’t excite me too much and whenever there was a cut to it I wanted to see more Sakaar. I felt it was enough to establish Asgard’s plight fast and not necessarily return to it all the time. Oh, and the zombie warriors, how bland they were. I wish Hela only had Fenrir, that would be enough.
In fact, it proves how interestingly Sakaar was designed that Asgard paled in comparison.

Other pluses:
✤ Most actors prove their wonderful comic timing, Hemsworth most of all. Thor has never been more likeable but he’s not just funny, he also manages to show growth and self-assurance (and thank heavens they finally cut his hair). For the first time I understood all the love Thor has always received from the audience. And you know I was at best ambiguous about Loki in the past but I really like him here. I find Valkyrie somewhat overhyped but she’s at least a strong, independent female character (and to think that Thompson played that character in Veronica Mars I hated!). Grandmaster is even better than he had any business being. Korg has a few funny lines. Basically, everyone seems to be having a great time and the audience gets to share in that.
✤ My possibly favorite joke – the one about the snake – illustrates the improvisational nature of this comedy so well.
✤ The play about Loki’s life is such a fun little touch. And Anthony Hopkins (who really barely clocked it in in the previous Thors) is having a great time with his performance.
✤ The fights are not overwhelming as they often are in the MCU. In fact, except for the final confrontation in Asgard, they didn’t bother me at all and I could always tell what was happening – a clear sign I wasn’t tuning out as I tend to do. They didn’t seem to start just because 5 minutes of the movie had passed.

Other minuses:
✤ I’m not happy with Topaz. Does one of the really few female characters have to be so malicious and cruel for no reason?
✤ My feelings about Hela are at best mixed. No doubt Blanchett is a great actress and she looks amazing but I’m not sure she fits in with this campy, light movie. But maybe it’s just my general dislike for villains speaking.

How it enriched my life:
I had a great time both times I saw it and it helped me clarify what exactly it is I expect from a Marvel movie: This.

Fun fact:
So apparently Chris Hemsworth hated playing Thor as he was before this incarnation and so they redefined the whole character: cut his hair, broke his hammer… And remembered that sometimes, at his best moments, he was really funny in the previous parts.

Follow-up:
I’m watching this again some time in the future. Also, maybe Infinity War won’t be awful? Maybe.

Recommended for:
Not only regular fans of MCU movies but also those who find most of them hard to bear – as long as what they’re missing is more humor.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: A book! Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Orphan Black (S5)

So this is how it ends. After devoted viewing through the entire show I’ve arrived at the last season and the grand finale of Orphan Black. (Spoilers, probably.)

er-orphanblack5Orphan Black (season 5)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
In the conclusion of the clone saga Sarah and her family need to face the last standing villains and then deal with the fallout as they embark on their normal lives again.

How I found it:
Naturally.

Summary judgment:
Endings are never as good as beginnings but this is as good as it gets.

Best things about it:
The story ends completely, without irritating hanging threads. Our beloved characters get a well-deserved send-off and, best of all, it’s mostly a happy ending. I love those.

Worst things about it:
I wasn’t such a big fan of the Moreau island. It didn’t interest me visually (though the Victorian mansion was a nice touch) nor dramatically and things picked up once everyone returned to the city.

Other pluses:
Till the very end Tatiana Maslany astounds. Just think about the childbirth scene or the motherly confessions.
✤ The episode with Felix’s art opening is brilliantly emotional, and not just because it prepares the viewer for S’s death. This show is always at its best when it contrasts the clones’ adventures with regular social gatherings. Remember Alison’s pot luck?
✤ I like how they show a different body type with Donnie and wish they did this with women, too.

✤ Even with the high stakes of the finale the show remembers to have fun.

Other minuses:
The villains remain unexciting.

How it enriched my life:
It’s time to speak of the show as a whole here: it definitely gave me hours of quality entertainment, deeply humanist storytelling and wonder. It’s one of better shows I’ve ever seen.

Fun fact:
I kept having to remind myself not to watch during breakfast because I always worried there might be a beheading of a swan coming or something unappetizing like that. But I really wanted to watch at breakfast!

Follow-up:
This story is such a complete work and I enjoy it so much that I’m sure to return to it once the details of the plot get blurrier in my memory. There are also comics and I might check them out though from what I’ve seen the art is not the kind I enjoy.

Recommended for:
Everyone who needs their clone story completed.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Thor Ragnarok – it’s high time

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Orphan Black (S4)

As I’ve decided to possibly see Thor: Ragnarok once more, the review will show up next week and before then let’s just finish the rest of Orphan Black, shall we? Season four gets good again, too.

er-orphanblack4Orphan Black (season 4)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
Sarah and her sisters face completely new villains (again) but at least we’re back to the scientific backbone of the story and no more forays into the military. We learn more about the background of Beth’s suicide and the stakes get raised yet again. Also, so many bugs.

How I found it:
Easily.

Summary judgment:
Orphan Black gets good again – so good, at least season two good or maybe better.

Best things about it:
It’s a welcome return to form with only one Castor left and the focus back on the ethics of science. I loved Beth’s flashbacks! They really fleshed out both the character and the whole story – and allowed for showing some of the old favorites who’ve left the show. And, within the same spirit, the episode showing Sarah in her old environments and her old self-destructive habits is also strong. This gives season four some of the intimacy of season one.

Worst things about it:
The villain-an-episode routine gets a bit old. So now it’s Evie, now it’s some boring cop, now it’s another spoiler… none of them interesting. I never care about villains too much but I’m beginning to miss Leekie after two seasons of random search for someone who would stick.

Other pluses:
Unlike previously, new characters add to the story and gel well with the rest of the cast. (Mostly.) MK is cool and so is Adele. I’m not a huge fan of Krystal but Tatiana Maslany must be having fun playing her.

Other minuses:
It continues being uncomfortable to watch at times for its graphic scenes, especially those including deformed babies. I imagine for people with any particular dislike to bugs this must be even harder to watch than for a casual viewer.

How it enriched my life:
I spent an exciting Sunday binge-watching the whole thing.

Fun fact:
When I choose an outfit now I wonder which clone’s style it would match the most – and it’s usually a mix of Beth and Cosima, with some Sarah thrown in. So it’s a thing now for me.

Follow-up:
I’m so excited for season 5, and sad that it will be the last one.

Recommended for:
Fans of the show who didn’t drop it during season three (and those who did should also try returning) and don’t have entomophobia. Not for new parents, I think.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: The grand finale

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Orphan Black (S3)

In my recent re-watch of Orphan Black I have arrived at the last season I’d already seen, and definitely my least favorite so far. Let’s talk season three (find one and two here).

er-orphanblack3Orphan Black (season 3)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
We deal with the fallout of the last season… Oh, there will be spoilers, maybe more than usual. You’ve been warned. So Helena is kidnapped by the creepy military, Sarah tries to rescue her and the obnoxious male clones run rampant. Meantime Alison and Cosima are having their own crises, loosely related to the rest of the story.

How I found it:
Not really a question since I was already invested after the first two seasons.

Summary judgment:
As I said, it’s my least favorite so far – but still better than so much TV.

Best things about it:
The story continues and it’s never boring. In fact, it takes you along on a pretty crazy ride. Tatiana Maslany gets even more challenging things to do, as if she hadn’t already proven she’s superhuman, and there’s no more doubt that Helena is awesome.

Worst things about it:
Well, this season is a bit of a mess. I hate the military base: it’s visually boring, full of unnecessary violence and, maybe worst of all, makes the show go artsy, what with all the visions and hallucinations. No, actually, worst of all, they kill Paul, having established him as a positive hero once and for all, and I’ll never forgive them.
And I hate the male clones. Honestly, this is such a redundant idea and I’m sure the actor who plays them is as talented as he is sculpted but it only shows that what Maslany is doing is not a casual acting feat. The writers try to make it easier on the actor by making most of the male clones the same but the over-the-top insane woman-abuser act remains cringeworthy. I’m glad Castors seem on the way out at the end of the season.

Other pluses:
✤ Some new characters, while it’s debatable if necessary at all, are certainly well cast.
✤ I like the simple use of different color filters to differentiate between the locations.
✤ I like the more subtle character storylines, like Delphine’s arc. I mean, that bug was a definition of subtle, huh.

Other minuses:
 The first part of the season resembles a slasher movie with characters constantly sneaking up on one another and hurting each other in gruesome ways. There’s so much visual violence (sometimes as actual violence, sometimes as medical procedures but all of them very graphic) as if the creators wanted to make the show uncomfortable to watch.
✤ Too many new characters that bring little to the story but steal screen time away from the actual stars.
✤ Alison’s story runs separately from the rest of them, like a lost script for Desperate Housewives, and while it’s not a bad storyline by itself, it clashes a little with the rest. I also don’t like the conclusion with Helena single-handedly destroying the Portuguese mob (which, what?) like a Valkyrie-ex-machina. To be clear, I don’t mind the mob gone.

How it enriched my life:
I didn’t remember most of this season so it was actually very interesting to watch and I went through it within two days or so.

Fun fact:
I love Helena’s way of speaking. Almost makes me want to speak so badly if it comes with so much sass.

Follow-up:
Season 4. Season 5.

Recommended for:
People who want to know the story. People who thought the previous seasons didn’t show enough blood and wounds.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: We press on – or else I’ll manage to squeeze in the new Thor

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Thor The Dark World

So unfortunately the re-watch of Thor-starring movies includes this one. Let’s spend a short while talking about

er-thorthedarkworldThor: The Dark World

Category: Movies

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
The second part of the Thor trilogy. Thor is back in Asgard, Jane is in London but strange things are beginning to happen: the convergence is approaching and Dark Elves are stirring. They will be thwarted though and all will end well (spoiler).

How I found it:
I was aware of it as the second Thor movie and quite happy to check it out.

Summary judgment:
It’s not awful in any way. It’s just not particularly good either.

Best things about it:
You know, it’s in its way a competent movie. There’s nothing particularly terrible about it. Asgard looks good. Thor looks good. Loki has finally something likeable to do. Jane… is there too.

Worst things about it:
It’s such an unnecessary movie. It barely moves the general plot forward. All it does is freeing Loki and placing him in Odin’s position but I can’t help feeling this could’ve been done with one of those post-credit sequences in another movie.
And Thor! What happened to his goofiness? Who’s this bland, muscled giant? Luckily, they will find a sort of happy medium in the next Avengers because this Thor is almost obnoxious.

Other pluses:
I like Jane’s date from the beginning. But that guy is better off without her.

Other minuses:
Many elements in the story – particularly the appearance of the plot, um, I mean space holes feels too convenient and only motivated by the necessity of moving the story forward.

How it enriched my life:
It honestly didn’t, except in how watching a movie is more restful than, say, scrubbing the floor. But then again, scrubbing the floor gives you muscle.

Fun fact:
The convergence must be one of the most run-of-the-mill plot devices. And I’m saying this as someone who used it in a comic I was once writing – well, trying to write.

Follow-up:
Ultron and then finally the last Thor.

Recommended for:
Completionists who want to see the whole story. Fans of Hiddleston or, I guess, Natalie Portman?

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Next time: Age of Ultron

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