Sunday, December 18, 2016

Favorite New TV Shows of 2016

There is so much TV to keep track of nowadays, what with the influx of not only cable channels joining the fray, but also Netflix, Amazon, and so forth and ad nauseum. So, being one person with limited amounts of time, I haven’t been able to keep up on everything, and how could anyone unless that was their job? So, the below is just a list of the shows that I did manage to keep up with and enjoy enough to either watch them all at once, or managed to not build up a bunch on the DVR.

On to the shows!

Stranger Things
I mean, obviously this show tops the list. I don’t know how anyone who grew up in the ‘80s or at least has an appreciation of the ‘80s wouldn’t enjoy this series. It’s mysterious and fun and full of nostalgia at the same time. Not to mention the kids in it are great. We can only hope that season two can live up to the hype, because boy does this one have a lot to live up to now!

This Is Us
Yes, it’s sappy. Yes, it deliberately pulls on your heartstrings and can be very melodramatic. But there’s still something that draws you in, wanting to know what’s going to happen next to this family across the generations. Hopefully they give Kate more to do than just have it all be about her weight. Still, how the series weaves in and out of the different time periods is done very well, and makes us all wonder – what happened to Jack?

The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
I remember the OJ Simpson trial happening back in junior high, and talking about it in one of my classes. But I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember many of the details. This series dove down into the nitty gritty of everything that led to OJ being found not guilty, and it was some riveting stuff despite knowing the outcome, thanks to some great pacing and acting from the ensemble cast.

The Good Place
 The Good Place is goofy and strange, and features a lead character that, played by anyone other than Kristen Bell, would likely come off as so unlikable as to be impossible to watch and care about on a weekly basis. But somehow it all comes together to work really well! Ted Danson makes me laugh out loud at least once an episode, as well as the helper computer character Janet. Though it is odd and silly at times, it also has a good message at its core, and makes me want to come back each week. I just hope it makes it to season two! Start watching, people! 

Westworld
You know, I’m a little ambivalent about Westworld. I want to like it more than I actually do. Something about it leaves me feeling a bit cold, and I think it has to do with there being zero redeemable human characters. I know that’s sort of the point of the thing, that the hosts are more human than the humans themselves, but I don’t know. That said, it’s a very well-done show, and all of the acting was great as well, with a particular shout out to Thandie Newton who had to do so much of the show bare naked. The biggest question is – where does it go from here? Guess we’ll have quite a bit of time to think about that as it doesn’t come back until probably 2018!

Honorable Mention: The Shannara Chronicles (super goofy at times, but still engaging)

Still Unsure About: Timeless, Designated Survivor, Frequency

I Want to Like You, But…: Shadowhunters

Any new shows you loved that I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

My Favorite New Shows of 2015
My Favorite New Shows of 2014
My Favorite New Shows of 2013
My Favorite New Shows of 2012
My Favorite New Shows of 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

Looking back over the books I read this past year, one thing is clear – I liked a lot of them, but I didn’t love a lot of them. So, my list of favorites of the past year is perhaps a bit shorter than previous years. That said, I did read more books this year than I did last year, which is always good, but will never compare to the one year where I seemed to read a book a week! 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 


Synopsis: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Why it made the list: The sequel to Six of Crows had me just as enthralled, if not even more. I think it helps that I already knew the characters and didn’t have any trouble getting back into the world. If anything, I wanted a little more from certain characters, but it’s tough when she has to balance so many different perspectives. Which makes it all the more impressive how easy it is to follow given the number of perspectives. I also liked that it was a clear end to the story rather than making it into a trilogy as is the common thing to do. Duologies are the new thing!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys


Synopsis: World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Why it made the list: Wow. This one is powerful. I then went and read Between Shades of Gray shortly after this one, and it’s great as well. But, for some reason this one really knocked my socks off. Another book that features multiple perspectives that are distinct and interesting in their own ways. The fact that I knew absolutely zero about the real-life event this was based on made it all the more intriguing (and made me want to look it up to find out what had happened before finishing the book, but I stopped myself!). If you like historical fiction even a little bit, you’ll like this one.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh


Synopsis: Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Why it made the list: I wasn’t sure about this one at first, then it steadily drew me in just as Shazi drew in Khalid. I also read the sequel this year, but I don’t think it’s as strong as this debut. The two leads spend too much time apart in the sequel, though it does end in a very satisfying way. This book is very romantic while also building up a sense of mystery and intrigue and kept me hooked throughout.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith


Synopsis: When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible--and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on one of the suspects, Strike and Robin delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them..

Why it made the list: Yes, this is another in the Cormoran Strike series by JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith. However, I think this one may have been my favorite out of all of them so far. The other books focus more on Strike than Robin, whereas this one really brings Robin to the forefront, delving into her relationships and feelings for the two men in her life. Not to mention she’s basically being stalked by the killer. It ends on a note that makes you want the next one right now as well, which I think is always a good sign!

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!

My Favorite Books of 2015
My Favorite Books of 2014
My Favorite Books of 2013
My Favorite Books of 2012

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Supernatural 12x08 "LOTUS"

Was it just me, or did this episode feel super long for some reason? Well, it might be just me. I have a terrible cold right now! Like, I could hardly sleep last night because I had such a terrible sinus headache bad. So much fun!

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Misha Collins as Castiel, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 12x08 "LOTUS"As you may remember from the previous episode, Lucifer revealed he had... plans? Okay. Some sort of vague big plans. Which turn out to include possessing a big philanthropist followed by an archbishop. The boys, plus Castiel and Crowley, find this trail, but aren't sure who he could be heading to next, only that he's upping his game from regular joes to big-time people.

Enter President Jefferson Rooney aka David Chisum! Who, thankfully, is a much better actor than Rick Springfield. Lucifer must spin him some yarn about how he can help make the world a better place with him together, though I find it hard to believe that a true religious person as Jeff is made out to be would actually believe such things. Nonetheless, he accepts Lucifer and promptly kills one of his guards for butting in on a self-talk session.

That unnatural death is what ultimately leads the boys to figure out who he's possessing, thanks to a member of his team being on Crowley's soulroll (you know, payroll, but for souls. You get it.). Problem is, while they may know who Lucifer is possessing, that doesn't make it any easier to get close to him. You know, Secret Service and all kinds of other security and all. Still, Crowley heads off to recruit Rowena for backup in taking Lucifer down again.

Mark Sheppard as Crowley in Supernatural 12x08 "LOTUS"Lucifer has other ideas, though, as he tells his secret service that there are some fanatics on their way to assassinate him - you know, the Winchesters. The secret service tracks them down and they all get into some fisticuffs, but then wouldn't you know it, Mr. Catch shows up to save the day. You see, Sam tried calling up the British Men of Letters earlier on to possibly help with the Lucifer situation, but he never actually talked to anyone. That doesn't stop Mr. Catch from showing up. And guess what! He has some special device that can expel angels from their hosted bodies! What luck!

Meanwhile, Castiel hears a big hit on angel radio - a Nephilim has been conceived - you know, a child of an angel and a human. Turns out, President Jeff was getting it on with one of his aides, Kelly, and Lucifer decided he'd like to create a little somethin' somethin' with her. The boys are able to use this to their advantage, by being able to lure Lucifer to where they are by kidnapping Kelly.

He shows up, and the egg angel-expeller works! Well, with some apparent help from Rowena. Would it have worked on its own otherwise, who knows? Lucifer is expelled from the President's body, leaving him alive. Crowley and Rowena pop away, Castiel takes Kelly out a back entrance, but the boys remain with the President for who knows why, only to be arrested by the secret service for an attempted assassination.

And, even though Kelly knows that her child is the son of the devil, she doesn't want to have the pregnancy terminated, so she escapes from Castiel all too easily. Castiel, come on.

Well, that's it for awhile - the show doesn't return until January 26. So, until then, wish this terrible cold adieu!

Random Thoughts:

- I honestly can't even think straight enough right now to come up with random thoughts. Hit the comments with your own, if you have some!

Quotes:

Lucifer: It's almost like I've never done that before.

Sam: Can we get the info without all the drama?
Crowley: Can I get you without the flannel? No, and still I endure.

Rowena: That is the sweetest thing you've ever done for me.

Dean: Lucifer? I didn't know he was dating.

Kelly: Oh, God.
Castiel: Actually, he left.

Previous Episode

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Supernatural 12x07 "Rock Never Dies"

Vince Vincente, we hardly knew ye. Not that I cared so much, because to be perfectly honest, I'm already over this Lucifer storyline. How many times do the Winchesters have to deal with Lucifer before he's gone already? We've been dealing with angels and demons since season four now, when is enough enough? At least we aren't having to watch angel politics again. ...yet?! Please no!

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester and Jared Padalecki as Dean Winchester in Supernatural 12x07 "Rock Never Dies"Anyway! Let's get on to this week in particular. While Dean plays Words with Friends with his mom, Sam is researching the British Men of Letters. But they aren't the focus on this episode, oh no! Because Lucifer has found his way back from the oceanic depths and is able to give his faded rocker body another lease on life thanks to a fossilized feather of his. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, and yes, it's true. He decides he wants to get Vince's band back together to gain new followers. Okay?

When they hear of this reemergence of Ladyheart, said faded rocker band, the brothers plus Crowley and Castiel team up and head to Los Angeles to find out if Vince is still possessed, etc. The answer? Yes. Duh. They do all have some difficulties in getting anyone to divulge where a secret show is going to be taking place, though. Because everyone in LA is narcissistic and only cares about fame and money, apparently, no matter how it comes to them.

Misha Collins as Castiel and Rick Springfield as Lucifer in Supernatural 12x07 "Rock Never Dies"We have to endure quite a few scenes of Lucifer being "menacing" and making fans carve his name into their flesh and kill the head of his record label and members of his band, so on and so on. It's not clear what his point is - and that's kind of the point, apparently. Once the team manages to confront him, he basically whines a lot about God leaving and now he's not sure what to do. He doesn't have a grand plan. So... okay? Blah?

He burns through this body before he's able to do any more bodily harm to anyone else, though Sam argues that though Dean might count saving all of the concert-goers as a win, he doesn't because the real Vince still died, and now they don't know what Lucifer is going to do next, only that it's "big" or something.

Yup. That's about it. Next week - the midseason finale.

Random Thoughts:

- When Dean looked at the box of pizza only to find it was empty and was all subtly disappointed? Ha, too funny.

- No but seriously, do any of you care about this Lucifer storyline? It's also quite clear they're going to have to eventually work with the British Men of Letters to take him down or something. It only seems logical since they are so ineffectual at doing anything to him on their own. Seriously, why do they ever bother when it's so obvious they're just going to get tossed around a bunch?

- All of the shots of LA were kind of disconcerting, especially when combined with that 90210-type music. Especially since they clearly never actually shot in LA at all.

Quotes:

Dean: Still living out an '80s buddy comedy with Crowley?
Cas: Unfortunately.

Crowley: We team up to save the world and them bupkis. You don't call, you don't write.
Dean: We don't care.

Dean: I like history. Gladiators. Outlaws. Pirates. Hell, we're driving a piece of history right here.

Sam: He could be an agent.
Dean: Yeah, a third tier agent.
Cas: At least I don't look like a lumberjack.

Crowley: This is LA, I know a lot of people.

Crowley: Well, together again.
Cas: Yay.

Sam: We're not winning. We're losing slow.

Previous Episode -- Next Episode

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Supernatural 12x06 "Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox"

Supernatural has rarely delved into the network of hunters that exist outside of the ones that come into contact with the Winchesters, so tonight was a nice look into some of the others that are also out there. And a nice little nod to the show being filmed in Canada with these hunters being based up in the north. Just how do we meet all of these new hunters?

Well, one of them dies, of course.
Kim Rhodes as Jody Mills and Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester in Supernatural 12x06 "Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox"
The one in question is Asa Fox, who we learn in a little flashback was a young boy saved from a werewolf by Mary back when she was supposed to have given up hunting. Once he knows about this other world, he takes it upon himself to also become a hunter, and we get a montage of his life growing up and killing things and bedding girls, you know, the hunter's way. All of that comes to an end when he gets strung up a tree, dead.

Turns out, Jody knew him, and she happens to find out about his death right when the Winchester are passing through town. They all head up to pay their respects, and learn that all of the other hunters know who the Winchesters are, with some of them being a little too fanboy gushy. They're all telling stories about Asa when Mary shows up, much to everyone's surprise. But she has been trying to find people she knew all those years ago, and found out about Asa, etc. etc.

It's not long before death visits the hunters again, though, when they discover that another of their own has been killed - and right in the very house the wake is taking place in, aka right under their noses. One of the hunters surmises that the one doing it must be a crossroads demon named JL, I think, who had it out for Asa. They try to head out to find said demon, but discover the house has been warded. They can't get out! Except for Dean, who is already outside lamenting his mommy issues.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester in Supernatuarl 12x06 "Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox"
Dean gets back in with the help of the reaper Billie, who was there taking dead hunter Randy's soul. The demon hops into one pour lout after another until it rests inside Jody, who of course no one wants to kill, except maybe Mary, since she doesn't understand the import of one Sheriff Jody Mills. There is much tossing about of people around the house and JL spouting off people's secrets - like two of the young ones were actually Asa's kids, and that Jody secretly wanted a relationship with him.

Oh, and that his best buddy actually killed him. Dun dun dun! Yes, it turns out that hunter Bucky accidentally killed Asa and decided to make it look as if JL had done it. He confesses to the whole thing after they manage to do a group exorcism. What do they do with Bucky? Basically ostracize him, which is better than killing him, I suppose.


Mary is still struggling with being back in the living world, though. She hasn't really accepted the hunter life, though it seems like she's on her way there. But then Billie shows back up. And I'll tell you what, I was going to be pissed if she left so quickly. Thankfully, it turns out that a reaper can't just take a soul without the person being dead, and seeing as no one is planning on killing Mary, that will just have to wait. Mary still isn't quite ready to head back to the bunker with the boys, but she at least lets them buy her breakfast.

Random Thoughts:

- I have to say, I enjoyed this episode a lot. I think it might be my favorite of the season so far. Do I like every episode that Jody is in? Hmm. I think maybe I do!

- These hunters were introduced in a more natural way than they've done in the past, and I wouldn't mind seeing some of them again, even those young twins who seem ripe for another Supernatural trial at a spin off, what with being the kids of a hunter and a witch. They did say their mom was a witch, right? I think so.

- Did you all hear that Supernatural will be moving to 8pm come mid-season? While the show has been on virtually every night of the week over its many years, it has never been on at any time other than 9pm. I'm not sure what to think about that. Isn't the 8pm hour supposed to be more tame? Hmm.

- I love that Mary has the one piece of hair that's longer than the rest. I don't know why, but I do.

Quotes:

Jody: Wow, you look terrible, what's wrong.
Dean: Sure, we'd love to come in.

Sam: Did you know people tell stories about us?
Dean: Yeah, we're like, legendary.

Billie: Between us, it's always nice to see a Winchester who can't get what he wants.

Dean: Can we buy you breakfast at least?
Mary: Bacon?
Dean: All the bacon.
Mary: I would love that.

Previous Episode -- Next Episode