4.23.2017

Movies: La La Land

I wasn't as transported by this film as so many others seem to have been. I'll tell you what I did like:

  1. The music.
  2. Ryan Gosling.
  3. All the bright colors.

Now here's what I didn't like:

  1. The entire first hour, which is the story of Seb and Mia falling in love.
  2. Mia in general.

Fundamentally, I have a problem with movies where the female character is this perfect little ball of cute and sweet and she's struggling in a world of not cute and not sweet. This gives the character nowhere to go. I mean, the character fights for what she wants, but she doesn't actually grow in any way as a person because she's already perfect. And then she ends up having the perfect life: happy family, big career.

Meh.

Also, why is it okay for a woman to be obnoxious—because somehow that's "cute" and funny—but if a man were to do the same thing, he'd be an asshole?

Why does the woman have to be the one that got away, or the great unattainable object?

Something about this movie—or a lot of little somethings—just doesn't sit right with me, and while I understand I'm probably working too hard here, I walked away with a sense of nagging unease rather than elation or regret or whatever else the filmmaker was going for.

Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind, I don't know. I see the merit in this movie, but I feel like I can only see it from a distance; there's too much between me and it for me to embrace it.

4.20.2017

Show Brynnde some cover love!

My novel Brynnde is up for another cover award. I'd much appreciate your vote! You do have to register on the site to vote, but it's free and I promise they don't spam you. And once you're registered, you can vote on gorgeous new covers every week if you want. Click here to go to the site.

As a reminder, my book looks like this:


And don't forget you can read this pretty little thing for FREE via Kindle Unlimited, too!

4.19.2017

Television: Broadchurch 3.8

And so it ends, again with a lot of misleads, though I had the gist of a lot of it correct. (SPOILERS FOLLOW)

1. I did suspect that the porn videos were playing into the rape, and they were to an extent.
2. I thought more than one person was involved, and that was true.
3. I had Leo pegged as the mastermind, and he was.

It is, of course, a shame that Michael ended up roped in. There is a definite thread of "be careful who your friends are" throughout this series.

I won't spoil the ending (any more than I already have) by going into details. Let's just say it was satisfying enough, and that I'll miss the show. Part of me really wanted Hardy to go to the pub with Miller, but I know that to have it be so would have undermined the character and the relationship between Hardy and Miller that had been so carefully constructed over the three series (seasons). Miller will always be looking for ways into Hardy's life, and he'll always be fending her off.

I don't know that I would say the third series was as compelling as the first or second—though definitely more difficult to watch—but I'm gratified with how story lines were wrapped up as much as they could be and still give the sense that life goes on. I'm not entirely sure why they felt the need to have Paul or Maggie around since they didn't really get much in terms of plot, but I suppose if they'd been absent things would have felt strange. Better to have a little something than a vacuum.

All in all, Broadchurch remains some of the best dramatic television I've seen in recent years, due largely to its fabulous writing and acting, the consistency of the characters while still giving them compelling arcs, and the beauty of the cinematography. Lovely work all around. We need more television like this.

4.17.2017

Brynnde Begins Her Blog Tour

And YOU can win a $15 Amazon gift card by following along! Every Monday between now and June 5, Brynnde and I will be making a stop or two. Today you can find an interview on Christine Young's site and a guest post on Long and Short Reviews. I hope you'll swing by and visit!

4.16.2017

Television: Broadchurch 3.7

In the penultimate episode, the net begins to close not around Ed but Jim.

But first things first, Mark Latimer is pulled from the water suffering hypothermia. Beth tells him to live in the present instead of the past, and Chloe asks him why they aren't enough for him. Sometimes I do think there's a subtle sexism going on here—that Mark is fixated on the loss of his son in a way he might not have been if it had been his daughter?

Speaking of daughters, Hardy's wants to leave town after being really embarrassed by some digital photos of her that got passed around the school. Miller tells Hardy to tear up her train ticket, and he eventually dresses down the boys who started the whole thing and does as Miller suggested. "I've been too nice," Hardy tells Miller, and her expression at that is priceless. Olivia Colman has the best reactions.

Anyway, they're unable to keep Ed in custody due to lack of hard evidence (though I would have thought a dirty suit with blue twine in the pocket would be enough?), so he's released on bail and told not to contact Trish or her family either directly or indirectly. Ed slouches off home to drink and his daughter comes around to lash him a bit, too. Later, while moving pallets at the store, Ed finds a bag of blue twine, shows it to Harford, who examines it and notes there are blood stains on it.

Ian comes into the station and tells Hardy and Miller that he had put spyware on Trish's computer. They drill him down and he is forced to admit he didn't put the spyware on, but he's not ready to tell who did. They give him until that night to cough up the name, and he does eventually call in and let them know it was Leo.

Leo is oddly contrite during his police interview. After everything we've seen of him, it doesn't feel honest that he would behave in such a way. He admits to doing it, says Ian was a teacher who helped him a lot, finally admits he was at the party for a little bit...

Meanwhile, Cath's spidey sense begins to tingle and she finds a box of condoms in Jim's car, complete with timed and dated receipt. Guess when they were bought? The afternoon of her party, natch.

Jim gets pulled in, and it's confirmed that he towed one of the other victims' cars, and Cath also confirms that she was away the two dates of the other two attacks. Uh-oh, Jim.

BUT. In the midst of all this the cab driver's wife discovers his porn on his computer and then discovers Trish's keychain in a locked drawer in Lucas' workshop. Of course Lucas drives up just in time to see her finding the evidence. Uh-oh indeed.

4.11.2017

Television: Broadchurch 3.6

Known as: "The one where Ed gets arrested."

AKA: "The one where Harford gets in big trouble."

So in the previous episode, Ed went and beat Jim up. Turns out this was less about defending Cath as it was about Ed having a crush on Trish. A terrible, awkward, stalkery crush that (we discover) includes taking lots of pictures of her, though at least he only seemed to do that when she was out in public?

No big surprise that Ed is the one who sent Trish the anonymous flowers. Miller finds the exact same kinds of cards in Ed's desk. (I'm not sure if the UK has the same rules as we in the U.S. do in terms of things having to be in plain sight or else you needing a warrant? Maybe it was okay to look in the desk because Ed admitted to beating up Jim? But then the cards were not directly related to the offense Ed was being arrested for . . . It's a little muddy to me.) Anyway, then Miller also notices the blue twine Ed uses on the vegetables in his store. And when they ask Ed to show him what he wore to the party the night Trish was attacked? Yeah, blue twine in the jacket pocket.

Looks bad for Ed. Which probably means he didn't do it, but you never know.

Meanwhile, Harford only now thinks to mention Ed is her father. Way to compromise the case, Little Miss! She's immediately booted from the investigation, of course, but the damage is [potentially] done. If the case were to go to trial, this bit of info would make for a veritable media circus.

Ian steals the laptop and tries to get Leo to clean it for him, but Leo won't touch it because things are getting too hot for his liking. Cath and Jim talk about leaving everything behind and starting fresh elsewhere. Beth has no luck trying to convince Nira—another rape victim who had been attacked some time before all this—to come forward and help the investigation. And Mark, who had tracked down Joe, finally confronts him . . . but can't bring himself to act on his anger. Instead he has Joe tell him everything that happened, and Joe tells Mark there's nothing he [Mark] could have done to stop it. By the time Mark had returned to the car park, Danny was already dead. So . . . Mark calls Chloe and says a kind of goodbye, takes the boat out, and tosses himself into the water.

Only a couple episodes left! (Well, only one if you're up to date; I'm a week behind.) The gyre is narrowing . . .

4.09.2017

Four Kinds of Incense

Okay, so I burn incense in my home office while I'm writing. This is a fairly new thing for me. I used to burn scented candles, but the soot was discoloring the ceiling. I tried the little wax thingies but don't enjoy them as much.

I don't know why I want happy smells while I work, but that's beside the point. Now I have both a cone incense burner (it's a cool dragon that blows smoke out of its nostrils) and a fairly standard stick burner. I've been trying lots of different kinds of stick incense, buying groups of them from Amazon, and here's how they shake out—in my opinion and personal experience, anyway.

I have four different brands of stick incense at the moment: HEM, Satya, Aromatika, and Divine.

HEM is the one that comes in the hexagonal box. I generally like it—it burns for a fair amount of time and the scent lasts—but in some scents I've noticed an underlying charcoal or chemical smell. I have yet to figure out what makes the difference, so it feels very hit-or-miss. I can say the Dragon's Blood and Goddess are probably my two favorites in this brand.

I bought a huge variety pack of Satya incense, and I really like this brand, but I've found it the most likely brand to give me a headache. In particular, their Romance and Jasmine scents are really strong to the point of almost overpowering. However, they do great with things like Nag Champa, Sandalwood, and I really like Sunrise, Celestial, Midnight, and others of that ilk. These sticks burn for a moderate amount of time and the scent does linger; if I close my office up for the night, I can still sometimes smell it the next day.

Aromatika sticks don't burn as long as HEM or Satya, but the scent is, for lack of a better way to say it, purer? Less "burny"? Their Frankincense & Myrrh blend is my favorite of theirs, but they make a nice Sandalwood and also a good Patchouli.

Of all four, the Divine sticks burn up the fastest. They are so fragile that even just taking one out of the box can cause it to crumble a bit. These have light scents that feel very natural (though this may be because I have only the floral scents). I like all their scents—no headaches here— and do particularly enjoy their Rose and Lavender sticks. However, as I mentioned, these burn fast and the scent does not linger.

Do you burn incense? If so, what kind(s)? Anything I should especially try?

4.05.2017

Books: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

This is the second in Mantel's historical fiction series about Thomas Cromwell. The first was Wolf Hall, which I resisted for some time before finding it at Half-Price Books and deciding what the hell. Two long flights from coast to coast gave me ample time to sink into that story, and once I had waded past the first few pages, I found myself fully immersed.

The same holds true of this book, which is also much shorter than the first. If you consider that Wolf Hall begins with Cromwell in his youth and his climb through the service of Cardinal Wolsey to the ascension of Anne Boleyn as Henry VIII's second wife, it makes sense. That's a lot of ground to cover. Bring Up the Bodies takes the story from Henry's waning interest in Anne and growing interest in Jane Seymour through the former's execution and the latter's marriage to Henry. All from Cromwell's point of view as he works to keep the king happy—and if the king's wishes are in some accord with Cromwell's desire for revenge against those who brought Wolsey down, that is just an added bonus, yes?

Again, I struggled with the first few pages, even though I'd loved Wolf Hall in the end and was sure this book would be just as good. I don't know why I have such a hard time getting into them, but if you're like me, do try to stick it out for a bit. Don't give up too soon.

Mantel's characterization of Cromwell is very rich; he feels real here, almost everyone does. I did find it distracting that, because of the point of view from which the book is written, Mantel was forced to often use 'him, Cromwell' and 'he, Cromwell' in order to make clear from whence the action or words issue. There is no way around it that I can see short of changing the POV, and that would be a crime. Still, it was something very obvious, something I noticed every single time it occurred.

If you know your history—or are inclined toward Wikipedia, I suppose—you can see where this is all leading. I know my fair share of Henry and his wives, but I'll admit my knowledge of Cromwell is limited. I'm avoiding the Wiki entry now because I'd rather read Mantel's books and be surprised, at least by the details. (I do have a sense of what eventually happens.) No spoilers, please! Yet even if you do know the details, these books have plenty to offer. If you love rich historical fiction with depth of character, these books are for you.

IWSG Reminder

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4.04.2017

Television: Elementary, "Dead Man's Tale"

It's about pirates. Kind of.

It's about a pirate known as Black Peter who left a book that showed where treasure and/or a wreck was, I think? I dunno for sure because I lost interest pretty quickly. Anyway, it was clear the minute the murderer appeared on screen that he was the one, so I mostly waited for them to come around to the same conclusion.

I guess what happened was, a guy found the Black Peter book and tried to find someone to go with him to the wreckage and salvage the treasure, but then someone else killed the guy because he wanted the treasure to not be there because there was some investment scheme. Wait . . . Then why not just let the guy with the book go get the treasure anyway? Oh, wait, because there was a thing about a professor who wanted all that stuff to go to a museum . . . I dunno. It wasn't all that interesting.

Oh, but then the Shinwell stuff. Groan. Holmes confronts him about having murdered his friend/fellow gang member, and of course Watson is all of two minds about the whole thing, and then the episode ends with Shinwell attacking and threatening Holmes, telling him not to get in his way while he takes the gang down.

Okay. There is a kernel of something good in here that has been wildly mis-sown. The idea of Holmes training someone only to have them flip and become evil? That's fantastic. Love that. But Shinwell is not a compelling character, not as a good guy and not any more so as a bad one. What a missed opportunity.

Six more episodes, I believe? Elementary was not on CBS' early list of renewals, though it has not been officially cancelled either. It, along with a handful of others, hangs in the balance.

4.01.2017

Movies: Doctor Strange

Never send a Brit to do an American's job.

I guess they figured since it worked (kind of) with Christian Bale? But at least Batman had a reason to disguise his voice; his hoarseness had purpose. Here it just sounds perpetually like Strange needs to cough something up.

Other problems included the weak attempts at defining character (that music thing, I guess?), the unconvincing arc of Strange's asshole-to-hero story, and Cumberbatch's utter inability to sell a joke. Which became a joke in and of itself, but hanging a lampshade on it does not excuse it.

The plot, meanwhile, had all the usual earmarks. A "regular guy" (by which we mean, of course, a rich jerk, in this case a neurosurgeon) goes through a terrible ordeal (car crash caused by his own assholery) and in the course of recovering discovers amazing abilities that allow him to transform into a superhero. His mentor (the much decried Tilda Swinton) turns out to have a fatal flaw and of course dies and leaves the hero to take on the heavy burden of continuing the goal/quest/whatever.

Oh, and the goal/quest/whatever in this case is to fight someone the mentor trained who then defected, and beyond that to fight the "dark side" or something, and then to continue the job of defending against that dark magic or . . . something . . . that we're never really made to care very much about.

They also shoehorned a romantic subplot into all this that was pointless and held no chemistry.

I suspect what they might ultimately have been going for was: "What if Sherlock—arrogant know-it-all that he is—gotten taken down a few notches and then became magical?" Why else get Cumberbatch, whose high note as an actor is: insufferable? Seriously, half the time Strange simply comes off as a facet of Sherlock anyway.

Also, Cape of Levitation? Really? No, I get that a lot of this comes from the comics, but when the CGI cape is funnier than you are, there are problems.

And just because you learned some magic, you did not suddenly learn martial arts. Those aren't the same thing. That's a different skill set.

There are some nice visual effects here, but they can't make up for the blandness of every other part of this movie. So. Pedantic. So. Rote. Just no charm to it at all.

Television: Broadchurch 3.4 & 3.5

I have the definite feeling that what we're dealing with is an underground porn ring where they attack women and film the attack. Like, the light that Trish saw? Camera light from someone filming?

Just a theory.

But I'm pretty sure the boys watching porn and the computer stuff (remote viewing spyware so Ian can watch Trish is my guess) is all related to the attack(s). I use the plural because two more potential victims turn up in the course of these episodes, one from as long ago as two years before. She never reported it because she assumed that, because she was done up for a night at the pub, she'd be considered as "asking for it." Or earn a reputation as a slut.

Look, this is a difficult season to watch. Painful even. But it's doing a very nice job of delicately prying apart the layers of rape culture. I commend it for that. (Still, if it were any other show but Broadchurch, I probably wouldn't be able to stomach it.)

Meanwhile, Mark has gone off to find Joe after getting info on his whereabouts from a private investigator. We find out the man Trish slept with the morning of Cath's party was Cath's husband Jim—no relationship ties, just both feeling sex starved. Still, after the police get to the truth of it, Trish feels like she must tell Cath before Cath finds out some other way, and that goes about as well as can be expected. Ed weighs in, too, by beating Jim up.

Still can't entirely figure Ed out. At first I thought maybe he was sweet on Trish, but then he also seems protective of Cath? Or did he beat Jim up because Jim slept with Trish, not because Jim betrayed Cath? SMH. Who knows!

We're halfway through—more than halfway—so things should begin to tighten. Dare I say the net, the rope? I still feel like Leo is the lynchpin in all this . . .