Monday, December 11, 2017

Favorite Books of 2017

It's that time of year, my fellow readers. Time for a list! Now I will say my usual caveat about my favorite books - they will tend toward the young adult novel variety, as those are just the types of books I tend to enjoy the most. I enjoy fantasy, but often the high fantasy is just too stuffy or bizarre for me to really like it (and also a gazillion pages long), and conversely I also like science fiction, but adult scifi tends to be a little too science-y. Though seriously, if you like some books in those genres that you think I would like, I am fully into trying them out.

Anyway, on to the list!


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


Synopsis: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Why it made the list: Laini Taylor has such a way with words, everything is so beautiful and creative and interesting, and her new book was no exception. Rather than focusing on one main character, she focused on two, jumping back and forth between their two stories. And just like her previous series, she creates a whole new world for the reader to get drawn in to. I also tend to really like books where I figure certain things out before the characters, as it always lends a certain sense of satisfaction, and that was something I had with this book! 

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth


Synopsis: In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift. Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s current gift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows. Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost. Then Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Why it made the list: Another book taking place in a whole new world! This one kind of combines both fantasy and scifi, so I guess you could call it my catnip. It also features two lead characters that author Veronica Roth switches back and forth between. I found the story very engaging, and the main characters and their powers interesting. I really hope that the rest of the series lives up to this one, because I'm looking forward to it for sure.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus


Synopsis: Pay close attention and you might solve this. On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Why it made the list: This book is basically like Clue meets The Breakfast Club. No, nothing fantastical in this one, just a straight up mystery focusing on a group of high school kids caught up in a murder, where you aren't sure who could have done it between them, though with the revelations that slowly happen, it seems like one of them has to be involved somehow. Very fun and quick read.

Lockwood & Co. Series by Jonathan Stroud


Synopsis: When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in... For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive. Set in a city stalked by spectres, the Lockwood & Co. series is full of suspense, humor and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again...

Why it made the list: Now, to be perfectly honest, I read the first book in this series last year. However, I didn't get super in to the rest of it until this year, so I'm just giving the whole thing a shoutout now. As he did in the Bartimaeus series, Jonathan Stroud does a great job of setting up a world that is just slightly different from our own, all while mixing in a good dose of humor. The series starts out seeming like it will just kind of be a case-by-case series, but eventually things start to come together into a bigger story that all comes to a head in the last book. Quick, creepy, funny, and fun, and nice to have a female lead character in Lucy.

Other books I enjoyed this year, but wouldn't call my favorites: Warcross by Marie Lu, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Falling Kingdoms and Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

You can check out all of the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page, but let me know if you’ve had any favorites from this year that I should check out!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Supernatural 13x09 "The Bad Place"

As I expected, in tonight's mid-season finale we got to see what Jack has been up to while off on his own. He's tracked down a dreamwalker to try to find apocalypse world. Look, I'm just going to cut to the chase here, they try to make us think that Jack is doing something bad and trying to find Lucifer, but really he's just trying to help the Winchesters find their mom. The angels are trying to find Jack, so they kill the dreamwalker Jack uses in the opening scene in order to find out where he's going next.

Alexander Calvert as Jack and Yadira Guevara-Prip as Kaia Nieves in Supernatural 13x09 "The Bad Place"The Winchesters finally catch wind of where Jack might be after they get a call from Jody telling them of the dead dreamwalker with the girlfriend who saw Jack talking to him earlier. They find evidence that Jack will be heading to another dreamwalker named Kaia, and wouldn't you know it, that's exactly where Jack is heading!

The brothers manage to catch up to them right as Jack is breaking Kaia out of some kind of rehab center, as she has been using drugs to keep herself from dreaming, because apparently the only place she dreamwalks to is some awful bad place with monsters who hurt her in real life if she gets hurt by them in the dream world. ANYway, Kaia manages to get away when there was some confusion about Jack's intentions, but once Sam, but mostly Dean, hears about Jack's true intentions of finding Mary, they're all on board to help him.

Of course, the angels have also managed to track down Kaia, and want to use her to lure Jack to them, as they want him to, like, save them or something. Team Free Will, minus Castiel who is still off with Lucifer or something, track them down and with Jack's help are able to defeat one of the angels, but the other gets away. Kaia doesn't really want to help her wouldbe saviors, but Dean gets all intense and points a gun at her, demanding that she help them find their mom. Oh Dean.

They start to head off to some special place that will help make the dreamwalking more powerful, but get stopped by the angel turning up again, only this time she has some back up. They run off into this junkyard, which happens to have a handy huge rotting ship they can hide out in. Sam spray paints some anti-angel symbols, but the angels gather together and start slowly breaking the symbols.

Alexander Calvert as Jack, Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 13x09 "The Bad Place"Kaia finally agrees to help them try to escape to another world. At first, she can only see her bad place, but Jack manages to get her to find the apocalypse world. They track down Mary again there, but then Kaia starts jumping back to her bad place, and keeps popping back and forth between the two. Eventually it leads to her and Jack opening up a new rift, which also manages to kill all of the angels downstairs. BUT it also sends everyone to different places. It seems like Kaia is still in our world, Jack manages to get to Mary, but Sam and Dean are sent off to the bad place, where there are apparently huge lizard monsters?

And also, meanwhile, side story time here. Patience Turner, who we met a few episodes back, is struggling to keep it together in her real life, eventually revealing to her dad that her visions haven't stopped, and she has to help people with them. With that, she heads off to Jody's place.

Random Thoughts:

- A LOT of expository dialogue in this episode. Sheesh. Oh Kaia you're here after overdosing and blah blah. Oh Kaia we angels did all kinds of stuff to find you blah blah.

- They're also doing a lot of this close up shot in focus with the back person in focus as well, trying to be all fancy.

- Has the show jumped the shark with giant lizard monsters? When I saw the boys walking in a huge footprint I was like what the heck are we in Sliders now?

- Of course now we must wonder how they will all get back home, but shouldn't there be a rift doorway in each one somewhere? Thought those had to be purposefully closed, and the one in our world is still open, so...

- One thinks that perhaps some of these otherworld monsters might be coming into our world, no?

Quotes:

Kaia: That door was triple locked.
Jack: Was it?

Jack: You. Castiel. You're my family.
Dean: Yes we are.

Kaia: I'm not white, rich, blonde. No one's going to fight for me.

Previous Episode

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Supernatural 13x08 "The Scorpion and the Frog"

After last week's guest star fest, this week it's back to a tried and true Winchester-focused episode. It was a bit of a filler episode, not really accomplishing much of anything, but when you've got to fill in at least 22 episodes of show a season, I guess that happens from time to time. Will anyone remember this episode by the end of the season? Unlikely, but oh well.

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 13x08 "The Scorpion and the Frog"The Winchesters are still at a loss as to how to find Jack, but wouldn't you know it, they get a call from a demon named Bart who has something that will help them find the missing nephilim - a tracking spell. Of course, considering this Bart is the new head crossroads demon, you know he's not just going to hand over the spell for nothing. He gives them half the spell up front, and promises to give them the other half if they do him just a little favor.

What's this favor, one wonders? Well, he wants to steal something from some guy. Why can't he just till it himself, the brothers themselves wonder. Why, because there are anti-demon cloaking spells and such blocking him. But why does he need the Winchesters when he could get someone else to help? Turns out the only way to get access to whatever it is he wants to get requires blood from someone who has been to Hell and back. Ah, okay then.

The brothers agree, but with a secret caveat that they'll kill Bart once they've got the spell. Because these secret pacts always end up going so well for them, but sure. Bart has a couple other helpers for the job, a girl named Alice aka Smash, and a demon named Grab. Well, he's not really named Grab, but you get the joke here. Sam heads in to the estate claiming he's got something supernatural to sell to this reclusive dude Luther with whatever the thing is Bart wants.

While Sam distracts the guy, Dean and the others work to find the secret place where the loot is hidden. Grab does some spell to make Dean's blood pull him toward the thing, and off they go. It eventually leads them to the secret place, but at this point Luther isn't really fooled by Sam's selling tactics. Sam tries to stab him with the demon-killing knife, but it turns out that the guy can't be killed on his own property. I'm not sure if it was established that the guy was or wasn't a demon, but it turns out he's not, I think? I don't know how he's stayed alive so long, but do we really care? Not really.

David Cubitt as Barthamus and Christie Burke as Alice "Smash" in Supernatural 13x08 "The Scorpion and the Frog"ANYwayz, Grab ends up getting killed and Alice runs off in the melee, but Sam and Dean manage to knock out Luther and use him to get to the secret vault with an old safe. Alice shows back up to help out at this point, but really she's only doing it because she made a deal with Bart and he agrees not to take her soul if she continues working for him. They grab a big chest from the safe and head out, but Luther has escaped from his bonds and is, for some reason, waiting for them down the street in a car, outside of his property. People be so stupid sometimes.

Luther has a whole sob story about Bart using the fine print in a deal to only temporarily save the life of his sick son, so Luther ended up finding Bart's bones and hid them, and that's how he's stayed alive all these years? It's unclear why he didn't just burn them himself at this point... but okay. Bart shows up and kills Luther. He wants to finish the deal with the Winchesters, but they aren't into it now that they see they can kill Bart if they burn his bones. Bart uses Alice as a human shield of sorts, threatening to kill her if they kill him, so they agree to exchange the bones for her.

Of course, Dean has a trick up his sleeve, and has placed his lighter in the box of bones, and gives Alice a clue about it - so she ends up being the one who burns up his bones. Alas, the rest of the Jack-finding spell burns up with him, because that would be too easy. The brothers bid farewell to Alice, and go back to where they were at the beginning of the episode, pretty much. Ba dum bum.

Random Thoughts:

- Why do they act like Dean is the only one of them who has been to Hell, and thus the only one they can use the blood of for this spell thingy? Sam's technically been there too, he was just in the cage. Am I wrong?

- Hard to tell if they're trying to set up Alice to be a recurring character or not. Technically they never really said why she sold her soul or anything, and typically they would have had a character like that explain it if they were to never be seen again, so it seems likely she may be back. That said, they seem like they kind of want her to be a more emo standoffish version of Charlie, and no thanks, I would've preferred Charlie.

- Next week is the midseason finale, which means we're probably going to find out what's been going on with Jack the last couple episodes.

Quotes:

Bart: Natural destructors. We have that in common, you and I.
Dean: Oh yeah, we're twinsies.

Dean: What is this, a heist? Hold up, is this a heist?

Dean: Hey Winona, '90s called they'd like their shoes back.

Dean: Hey Alice, stay weird.

Dean: We just keep working, 'cause that's what we do.
Sam: Feels really good to hear you talk like that again.
Dean: I'll drink to that.

Previous Episode -- Next Episode

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Supernatural 13x07 "War of the Worlds"

Have they ever played an episode on an actual holiday before? I'll be honest, I thought we were going to get a break tonight, but apparently not. So, Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it; I''m grateful for all of you who actually read this here blog, and especially grateful to anyone who leaves comments.

Jeffrey Vincent Parise as Asmodeus in Supernatural 13x07 "War of the Worlds"Well, as you may recall, in the last episode, Jack decided to take off after feeling all guilty about hurting people and such. The Winchesters and Cas have been trying to find him, but there is a mysterious lack of a trail. Which doesn't seem to be their fault, as Asmodeus has also been trying to find him, and also can't seem to find any sort of trail. Where could young Jack be? If you think you're going to find out this episode, think again.

Rather, let's head back to apocalypse world, where Michael is torturing Lucifer for... well just because, but also because he wants to know how to get back to the other Earth, since it's not quite so apocalypse-y as this one. Turns out, he's already been working on it, as the Kevin on this world is still alive, and still a prophet, and apparently there's some spell in one of the tablet booklet things or whatever the heck they're called that opens the rift, so long as it has a little angel grace to soup it up. Michael takes some of Lucifer's grace to get the job done. And hey, it does work, but the only one who manages to get through if Lucifer himself. ... Okay!

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 13x07 "War of the Worlds"Meanwhile, Cas heads off to chat with some other angels to see if they know where Jack is, so the Winchesters decide to check out a case since they can't do anything else. They think that witches are doing the killing, but soon find out that it's actually witches that are being killed, by someone who looks just like... Mr. Ketch! Oh good, because we were all hoping Ketch would come back! ... Wait. Who was hoping for that? Okay then. They manage to catch this Ketch, who claims to be the twin brother of the BMOL Ketch. The Winchesters aren't so keen to believe him, but there is a paper trail indicating that it could be true. Hmm....

Cas meets up with his angel contacts, but they don't know where Jack is, and apparently if they do find him they want to put him to work rather than kill him. I'll be honest, I was only half paying attention to this scene. Before the angels can do anything nefarious, Lucifer shows up and they scurry away when he flashes his red eyes at them. Lucky for him, they don't know that's about all he can do at the moment, with his other powers not working at the moment. He has a chat with Cas, saying he wants to team up and Jack and him as the alt-Michael is going to eventually make his way over to this world and they need to be able to defeat him.

Dean calls up Cas to check in (or is it the other way around? Who cares.), and figures something is up with the way Cas is being somewhat cagey. They track his phone down, leaving Ketch back at the bunker, but when they arrive at the place, all they find are demons. That's because earlier, Asmodeus and some lackeys showed up and took Lucifer and Castiel back to the hell bunker, since he apparently knows he's more powerful than Lucifer. Anyway, Sam and Dean fight some demons, ultimately getting help from Ketch, who escaped from the bunker after they left and stole a motorcycle to come help. After Dean calls him out on his fighting moves being too Arthur-y, he finally admits that he had the same spell on him that Rowena had, so he was brought back to life. He tries to play it off like he's a changed man, but they aren't buying it. Blah blah blah, he gets away.

Turns out, he's working for Asmodeus, or something. Oh good.

Random Thoughts:

- Recycling actors that are semi-known is not the best idea. Hi there, Erica Cerra, we've seen you here before in a completely different featured role, but okay Supernatural.

- Where was Mary in the alt world?

- I don't mind them bringing back Kevin in this way, because at least it's in another world and not just bringing back dead people all the time.

- But oh look, in the same episode, they bring back a dead a person! Sheesh. I'm sorry but I wasn't clamoring to have Ketch back on the show, especially after he's barely been gone at all. Was there some contingent that wanted him back or something?

- How many episodes will it be before we get one that just focuses on what Jack has been up to in the interim? Three? Guess we'll see soon enough. Probably the one before the mid-season break.

Quotes:

Alt-Kevin: Michael's taking me with him to paradise world, where I can meet hot women.

Castiel: You would seem to be the weak link on this team.
Lucifer: Ok that hurt; that was unnecessary.

Lucifer (to Cas): Smooth was never your strong suit.

Previous Episode -- Next Episode

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Supernatural 13x06 "Tombstone"

Well, Cas is back. Whether you wanted him to be or not, he's back. And things pick up pretty much where they left off last week, with him giving the lowdown of what happened to Sam and Dean, then shortly thereafter being reunited with Jack. Pseudo father figure #3 at your service, Jack-ie boy!

Recap/review of Supernatural 13x06 "Tombstone" by freshfromthe.com.Jack has also found what he thinks is a case, some grave robberies or something that they all agree to check out even though it seems like it might not necessarily be 100% supernatural. Mostly because Dean hears that it's in Dodge City, which is some famous old west town or something. Once they get there, they do find out that there's been a murder, so hey that's something. While Dean and Cas talk to the local sergeant on the case, Jack and Sam head off to chat with the local undertaker and check out the graveyard, where they discover some gnawed on bones in said grave.

Thus, we have a ghoul on our hands, who basically eats dead things and can assume their shape. After some more detective work from Jack, they figure out that the ghoul in question has taken on the form of some outlaw old west cowboy, who also happens to be dating the undertaker from earlier. Said undertaker gets a letter that she's gotten into makeup school, so the ghoul decides to help pay for that schooling, he's going to rob the local bank.

Recap/review of Supernatural 13x06 "Tombstone" by freshfromthe.com.The gang tracks him down at the bank, a shootout ensues, and Jack tries to step in and use his powers to stop him, only to accidentally also use his powers on the security guard from the bank, killing him. Jack is pretty torn up about this, so Sam and Cas take him back to the bunker. They try to tell him that they've all done bad things and that it will be okay, but he doesn't want to hear it.

Meanwhile, Dean goes off to take care of the ghoul, and with the help of the sergeant from earlier, does just that. Nothing to write home about here, let's be honest. When he gets back to the bunker, he also tries to reason with Jack, saying that even though he though Jack was purely evil, he's since grown to think that's not the case, but Jack is all emo and like I'll just bring pain, blah blah, and hits them with a blast of his power before teleporting out of there.

That's going to end well, I'm sure.

Random Thoughts:

- They made it seem like Dean has always been a huge cowboy fan, but to be honest I don't remember that really being a thing throughout the series, other than they traveled back in time to the old west that once.

- This was kind of a fluff episode, apart from the little bits with Jack. I noticed that he was listed in with the regulars rather than as a guest star, which would lead me to believe he'll be around for most of the season at least. You know eventually he's going to have to face Lucifer, which seems a ways off yet, so yeah.

- For some reason I thought Sam was going to have a flirtation with that undertaker, but I guess not.

- Dean's sudden turnaround in his feelings toward Jack seemed, well, just that, sudden. Is it just because Cas is back so he got his win? Whatevs.

Quotes:

Dean: Oh yes, stirrup hangers. Nice.

Sam: Still can't believe you brought your own hat.
Dean: Can't believe you didn't.

Cas: I told you, he's an angry sleeper. Like a bear.

Dean: I'm getting so tired of fighting things that look like other things.

Previous Episode -- Next Episode