Writer vs Reader Mode

I think I’ve said this before, but I’m the kind of person who has trouble being both a writer and a reader at the same time.  Usually, I switch between the two roles in a cycle.  For a few months I’m a writer, and I can’t concentrate enough to read ANYTHING because my brain is so full of my stories and characters and all I want to do for 20 hours of every day is sit at my computer and write.  And then, suddenly, I get total brain-block, and I can’t write a thing, and I start reading non-stop.

For the last couple months I’ve been pretty securely in writer-mode.  I got a decent amount of work done on two different WIPs, which makes me very happy, but I was really hoping I could keep it up right to the beginning of the Fall semester.  But for the past week and a half I haven’t been able to write much of anything.  Sometimes if I push and push and push, I could stay in writer-mode a little longer.  But I think writer-mode is now officially over.  Unfortunately.

So, I guess we’re on to reader-mode.  I read A Work In Progress in like a day and a half.  And now I’ve started Open Heart by Emlyn Chand (which I’d PLANNED to read and review near the beginning of the summer, but like I said, I was in WRITER-mode).  I guess it’s good to be in reader-mode since I’ll be doing so much reading for my Fall courses, although it’ll be frustrating that I won’t be reading all my fun stuff, but school-related stuff instead.  And, of course, I know from too much experience that I won’t be getting ANY writing done once the semester starts either.  But oh well.

Does anyone else do this?  Cycle through writer and reader modes?  Or is it just me?  Because it’s a little frustrating, and I’m more than a little jealous of people who can do both at the same time: write in the morning and read in the evening, etc.  I wish I could do that.  *sigh*

In other news, I’m playing with the idea of starting a Tumblr blog.  I had started to watch a lot of Tumblr blogs without having an account, and just collecting them in my browser bookmarks.  And over the last couple months I’ve started following even more, making it hard to keep track of them in bookmarks.  So I figured I might as well start a Tumblr account so that I could keep track of them all.  But now that I have the account, I’m thinking why not start a Tumblr blog?  It would be fun to have something where I can just post images or short comments and things like that, without worrying about making sure a post is long enough and well-written.  I’m playing around with Tumblr right now, trying to get a feel for how it works (it’s taking a little getting used to), but I’ll let you know if/when I get a Tumblr blog up and running.

Any opinions on Tumblr blogs?  Anyone have one?  Now that I have the account, I’m looking to add a ton to my Follow list!  They’re just so much fun!  😀

Okay, folks, that’s all for now.  I hope everyone has a good weekend, and I’ll see you all later!

Shake Things Up: A Work In Progress by Brad Cotton

Title: A Work In Progress

Author: Brad Cotton

Genre: Literary Fiction

Where I Got It: Free ebook copy in exchange for review

Score: 5 out of 5

So.  On Monday morning my internet stopped working.  Just DIED.  A technician came to fix it, and about three hours later was still flabbergasted as to why it wasn’t working.  He left.  I spent the night without internet (and those who know me know that that’s like  not breathing for twelve hours!).  The technician came back Tuesday, and it was two pm before he finally got the internet working again.  By then I had gone approximately thirty hours without internet, and I was definitely feeling the withdrawal symptoms.  The point of all this is, however, that this period of internetlessness left me with some free time.  During which I read all of A Work In Progress in two or three sittings.

And let me begin by saying: this is a good book.

A Work In Progress, by Brad Cotton, is about a writer named Danny Bayle.  Now, Danny Bayle’s life kind of sucks.  Four years ago he wrote a mediocre novel and hasn’t written much of anything since.  His girlfriend of five years, Carah, has left him and moved to France.  His grandfather, who was like a father to him, has died.  And he’s barely done anything in months but mope, and drink, and complain about his inability to write.

Then, one day, he decides its time to take control of his life, try new thing, meet new people, etc.  He starts a casual relationship with a woman.  Joins a support group for depression.  Makes friends with an artist named Katie.  And even decided to take drum lessons at one point.  Of course, none of this makes his life easier, exactly, especially when Carah starts calling from France out of the blue.  But it certainly makes his life a whole hell of a lot more interesting.

So, what I like about this novel… you know what, let’s start with what I didn’t like:

There are a couple summary exposition passages that feel a tad awkward and unnecessary to me, but this only happens a couple times, and doesn’t really hurt the story at all.  The other thing that bothers me is more of a problem, but still not enough to really hurt it:  I get the feeling that despite the fact that Carah dumped Danny and ran off to France we’re still supposed to like her, or at least sympathize with her to some extent.  One more than one occasion, in fact, Danny comment that the whole mess might have been his fault because he took her for granted.  But you never really get any sense for HOW Danny might have taken her for granted, whether this is a true assessment of their relationship, or why we the readers should have any sympathy for the woman who broke our “hero’s” heart.  We get some hints, and she seems nice enough in their phone conversations that its not completely out of the realm of possibility, but some more concrete evidence from their relationship would have helped me along here.

Now, on to what I liked:

Pretty much everything else.  The characters, all the characters including the many secondary characters, were well-written and well-rounded.  The best secondary characters: Casey – Danny’s best friend; Katie – the 19-year-old artist Danny befriends; and Mrs. Tierney – the owner of the sorta-kinda foster home where Katie lives.  These characters are interesting, fun, and eminently likable.

And then there’s the main character, Danny Bayle.  This is a character that I think many people, especially fellow writers, can relate to.  I know I certainly did.  And that’s not to say that I’m a guy, or that I’ve published a novel (mediocre or otherwise), or that I’ve ever been in a relationship for anything close to five years, or that I’m a drinker or have ever had weed (Danny does a lot in this book, whereas I thankfully skipped that lesson in my high school and college education).  But, I could very easily relate to the writer who is trying so hard to write and not getting anywhere, who is lonely and completely dissatisfied with his life, and who desperately needs to change things, find new outlets, meet new people, and really shake things up.  I feel like that all the damn time.

I think at least one or two things about this character should appeal to most people.

As for the plot, well this is literary fiction, so of course its extremely character-driven.  In fact, it doesn’t feel so much like a plot with clearly defined beginning, middle, and end, as it does a momentary camera focus on a point in Danny’s life when a series of somewhat unrelated events and people all conspire to make Danny the person he was meant to be.  And this is a good thing.  Because real life is not like a well-planned clearly-defined plot.  It is, of course, verisimilitude and not fact, but this book does a very good job of mimicking real life.  It’s one of those stories that makes me want to ask how much of it is based on the author’s life, even though I know that from a craft perspective that’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to ask.  You’re supposed to take a story on its own merits, not as some kind of extension of the author’s biography. Still, a story that feels this real kind of makes it impossible not to ask.

In other words, folks, this is a very good book, that you should definitely check out.  I really really enjoyed reading it, and I think you will too.

Here’s a link to Brad Cotton’s website, and here’s where you can buy the book on Amazon: A Work In Progress.

Review of Dominant Race by Elisa Nuckle

Title: Dominant Race

Author: Elisa Nuckle

Genre: Fantasy/Scifi

Where I Got It: bought a Kindle copy

Score: 3 out of 5

Dominant Race is a novella by Elisa Nuckle, one of my blog and Twitter buddies and a fellow Houstonian.  It is the first in a series about a race of genetically modified humans who have been spliced with various animals.  Dominant Race focuses on Lilia, a wolf modified who leaves the safety of her family’s cabin hidden in the woods in order to help a modified militia that includes her love interest, Avari.  The modified militia faces enemies on two sides: the normal humans who fear and sometimes oppress the modified, and Sanders – a rogue modified who kills humans and modified alike in his crazed pursuit of war.

What I Liked:

The premise of this novella is intriguing and fun.  Genetic modification is a subject I find absolutely fascinating, and it can usually make for some cool stories and fun characters.  The dystopian setting was also interesting.  The way Elisa took American city names and deconstructed him (like Neyork, for instance), and also made mentions of “old” technologies and customs throughout the story was a nice touch.

The main character, Lilia, was likable and easy to relate to.  She’s feisty, stubborn, and intelligent.  I always like tough female characters, and Lilia fills the role nicely.  There is a point near the end where she behaves in a way that seems out of character to me, even given the extenuating circumstances of the scene, but for the most part she is a consistently-written and enjoyable character.  You’ll definitely be rooting for her.

What I Didn’t Like:

Okay, the basic idea of the plot works well for the most part, but I think it suffers from its length.  I really believe this story needed to be a full length novel rather than a novella.  There is too much going on too quickly, without enough exposition or description, and with too many character names floating around, attached to secondary characters that are sometimes fine and sometimes just don’t have enough description or importance attached to them for me to keep track of everyone.

I think the novella as a whole should definitely be decompressed, as it were, with a little more exposition and description here and there, a bit more space between events for the reader to sort through what’s happened and who’s been introduced and where its going next.  Still, the first two-thirds of the novella are manageable, and were certainly still interesting enough to keep me reading.  However, the last part of the novella, Chapter 14-18 to be exact, were very difficult for me to read.  I had to re-read a few sections several times to make sure I’d understood what had just happened.  And while SOME of that may simply have been my fault for reading too quickly or something, at least some of it could have been helped by slowing down the prose a bit.  Things sometimes jumped from one sentence to the next without enough concrete description.  And the appearance of at least two characters is so sudden and without any kind of foreshadowing that they felt a little too “dues ex machina” (or even non sequitur) for my taste.

As for the love sub-plot: it was… okay.  There was some effort to develop the relationship between Lilia and Avari in a natural way, rather than having them fall into instant lust.  But I don’t feel like I know enough about Avari and why Lilia would love him, for it to completely work for me.  He’s also out of the picture for a good chunk of the story, and their reunion is just a touch too easy to be entirely believable.  But, again, I think much of this is a problem of the length.

I know the “What I Don’t Like “ section is a quite a bit longer than the “What I Like” section is, but I really do think most of the problems with this story could have been solved by simply making it longer and more detailed.  With more time/space to develop the characters and relationships, to bring in more description and more transition from one plot element to the next, the interesting premise could have been a much stronger story.  However, I think the intriguing premise and the likable main character are able carry a lot of the weight of the problems.  Dominant Race is an admirable first effort, and the world-building is interesting enough that I will be back to read the next installment in the series.  I’m really looking forward to watching Elisa Nuckle grow.

Please check out Elisa Nuckles’ blog, and the page for Dominant Race, with all the options for buying.

A Work In Progress Blog Tour

*NOTE: My apologies!  I was supposed to post this blog tour post for Brad Cotton’s novel A Work In Progress yesterday, but I’ve been having some serious internet issues lately, and it didn’t happen.  I was also hoping to have finished the novel to write my own review of it some time this weekend, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen either.  I WILL review it.  It’s just taking me longer than expected.

For the moment, please take the time to read about this novel and its author, and check out the links! Thanks!

— Amanda

A Unique Lit Fiction Novel with Moving Dialogue!

A Work in Progress is a new literary fiction novel by author Brad Cotton. The book has received great reviews and is on sale from July 23rd to August 3rd! Download your copy here.

In addition, Brad is doing a big giveaway, including a $100 gift certificate to Amazon and signed copies of his book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tweet, like, follow, share, blog and grab a copy of his book to enter.

Get your copy of A Work in Progress today! On sale on Amazon only.

About A Work in Progress

Writer Danny Bayle’s life is in shambles. His true love has left him and his grandfather — the last and most important influence in his life — has just passed away. Danny has spent the last few months languishing, unable to write a single word, but at the urging of a friend ventures out into the world in an attempt to jumpstart a new life, befriending in the process an interesting assortment of characters including an author, a musician, an artist, and an elderly retired nurse. Garnering the attention of more than one woman, Danny sees his new friends unwittingly begin to shape what could just be the story of his life. But will he ever let go of the girl that got away?

About the author


Born and raised in Toronto, Brad Cotton has been writing professionally for over a decade. An average guitarist, a subpar painter, and a horrible juggler of anything larger than a tangerine, he is currently married to a woman, but does not have a cat, a drum set or any children. A Work in Progress is his first novel.

Learn more about the author and his work at: http://www.bradcotton.com/

Totally, Completely, and Ridiculously Obsessed With Sherlock, Pt 2

Totally, Completely, and RIDICULOUSLY OBSESSED with Sherlock, Pt 2: 

*drools*

Okay, where was I?  Oh yeah, raving about Sherlock like a lunatic.  That sounds about right.  Again, I want to remind you, if you have not watched Sherlock yet and intend to, DON’T read this.  There is absolutely no way to talk about this show without giving away too much, and these are MYSTERY stories after all.  It’s no nearly as much fun if you know what’s coming.  So, once again, if you haven’t seen this show yet, you can watch season 1 on Netflix streaming and season 2 on PBS.org (but PBS only has season 2 on their website for a limited amount of time, so you might want to get cracking).

As for me, I just caved and bought the DVDs on Amazon so I could watch the series again straight through, even if PBS gets rid of their videos.  Also, I want to show it to my mother and she doesn’t like watching things on the computer, so the DVDs will be useful.

And just to prove how obsessed I am, I also bought the Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows movie on Wednesday and watched it straight through twice.  And I’ve got a new hobby browsing through Sherlock fanart on DeviantArt.  Yeah, I’m pathetic, I know.  But that’s okay, I’m used to it by now.

So, let’s get down to business, shall we?

Next episode: “Hounds of Baskerville” –

Now, anyone who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes knows that The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most famous of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  It’s the third of the four novels Arthur Conan Doyle wrote along with the short stories about Sherlock Holmes.  Basic premise of the original novel: When Charles Baskerville, a baronet, is found dead on his estate of an apparent heart attack, his doctor James Mortimer fears that the only heir, Henry Baskerville might be the next to die.  It is revealed the Charles Baskerville believed in the legend of family curse that claimed a hellhound would kill all of the Baskerville family in retaliation for the death of a girl several generations ago.  Sherlock Holmes is called in to find out what really happened to Charles Baskerville, investigate the mysterious threatening letters Henry Baskerville has received, and decipher the truth behind the reports that a gigantic hound has been seen out on the moor.

In this modernized version of the story, Mark Gatiss has written something AWESOME. (Also, apparently Mark Gatiss the co-creator is the series is also the actor who plays Mycroft Holmes! Why didn’t I notice that before? WTF is wrong with me?)  In this incarnation, Henry Baskerville is a man who suffers from severe PTSD after seeing his father killed by a gigantic hound as a child twenty years ago.  He has been convinced by his therapist to return to the moor where his father was killed in order to jog his memories and prove to himself that he didn’t really see a monster.  However, when he goes he find enormous paw prints and is convinced that the monstrous hound is still there.  So he goes to Sherlock for help, who does not at first seem interested, until he learns that the moor is near Baskerville, a top-secret military facility where all kinds of scientific experiments are reported to take place.

Mark Gatiss takes a somewhat convoluted story about a pair of greedy people trying to literally scare a man to death in order to inherit his wealth, and turns it into a crazy awesome story about genetic experiments, the moralities of science, coming to terms with truth, AND greatest of all – Sherlock dealing with self-doubt and fear for practically the first time ever.

And Sherlock is definitely the highlight of this episodes (well, okay, all the episodes, but you know what I mean), because in one scene he is convinced that he has also seen the monstrous hound, even though he knows logically it cannot possibly exist.  He is actually afraid, and begins to doubt his senses, which practically never happens.  He takes it out on John more than a bit, which was part-sad, part-funny, but it was just so fascinating in terms of character development to witness Sherlock having to deal with doubt and fear even though he constantly claims to be in perfect control of his emotions.  The scene in the inn, when he’s sitting in front of the fireplace and freaking out (those of you who’ve seen it know the scene, I’m sure) was fantastic!

Of course, I felt REALLY bad for John in that scene too.  When John says that, as a friend, he’s worried about Sherlock, Sherlock shouts at him, tells him he has no friends, and to leave him alone.  It was SAD, damn it!  I just wanted to jump into the tv and hug Martin Freeman.  He’s just so damn adorable and likable!   Gah!

Ahem… anyway… yes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were wonderful as always in this episode (I am more than little in love with both of them), and they had a chance to stretch their emotional ranges a lot, which was a joy to watch. This is especially true for Benedict Cumberbatch, obviously, since he had to show Sherlock afraid and shaken, but still arrogant and sharp-tongued as ever. But Martin Freeman has this fantastic scene inside the Baskerville labs, where he thinks the hound has gotten loose inside and he’s locked in with it.  I love the way he tries so hard to stay calm and in control, but eventually completely panics and calls Sherlock to help him.  His voice cracks because he’s freaking out so bad, and it’s so funny!  And then it turns out that Sherlock was doing it all as an experiment, while he watches it on a CC-TV, and that made it even more hilarious.

There’s also a little part when John gets to use his army training, and pulls rank on the military base as he and Sherlock are pretending to be inspectors.  We don’t get to see the soldier-y side of John very often, and it’s always a pleasure, because John is completely bad-ass in those moments.

And the plot of the episode was absolutely awesome.  I tip my hat to Mark Gatiss for making the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles into something new and exciting and clever.  It fit the times, it fit the characters, it kept enough elements of the original story to satisfy all of us old-school fans, and it was just plain COOL.

And now – drum roll please – we come to thing we’ve all been waiting for, the big season finale, the epic episode of epicness: “The Reichenbach Fall” – (THERE ARE SO MANY SPOILERS IN THIS YOU WILL PROBABLY WANT TO KILL YOURSELF IF YOU READ IT BEFORE YOU WATCH THE EPISODE)

“The Reichenbach Fall” is based off the Sherlock Holmes story “The Final Problem,” one of the most famous stories and the one of only two stories in which Moriarty makes an actual appearance.  As you may have noticed from some of the comments I made on Facebook and Twitter, this episode was MIND-BLOWING. Just… just… MIND-BLOWING.  I can’t even…! Gah!

Okay, okay… deep breaths.

It opens with Sherlock becoming a minor celebrity as he helps solves higher-profile crimes, with higher-profile clients, and with the media and paparazzi taking notice and following him around.  While the title of the episode comes from the Riechenbach Falls (the waterfalls from which Sherlock Holmes falls to his apparent death in the original stories), in the context of the episode it comes from the name of the famous Turner painting he helps to recover, after which the press call him “The Reichenbach Hero.”  His growing fame apparently irks Moriarty, however, who (in order to get his attention, among other things), breaks into The Bank of England, Pentonville Prison, and the case where the Crown Jewels are kept – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  Like I said, MIND-BLOWING.  The scene, as he dancing around in front of the Crown Jewels and pressing buttons on his cell phone to open the prison, is hilarious and fantastic.  And then he climbs into the case with the jewels, sits on the throne, puts the crown on his head, and just SITS THERE waiting for the police to show up.

I mean, MY GOD, the man is INSANE.

All of this leads up to the main point, though, which is that Moriarty is slowly and subtly poisoning everyone against Sherlock, so that one a couple children are kidnapped, all the evidence could be construed to point to Sherlock.  And Sherlock and John go on the run.

In an interview, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss claimed that they thought they’d actually gone one better than Doyle himself had, in their version of The Final Problem. This is, of course, the height of hubris and probably said at least partially in jest, but honestly – THEY’RE NOT WRONG.

Sherlock’s brilliance turned against him?  Sherlock made a fugitive?  Moriarty’s perfect revenge being the destruction of Sherlock’s legacy?  Totally and completely BRILLIANT.

It was nice to see Lestrade trying to stay on Sherlock’s side even though the rest of the police force has turned against him.  And, of course, John is the only who completely believes in him, and stays with him, and even goes on the run with him.  Would we have it any other way? Of course not.  It was also fascinating when John realized that Mycroft is the one who gave accidentally gave Moriarty all the ammo he needed against Sherlock, as Moriarty uses bits of truth and his abilities to fake records and change identities, to make it look as if Sherlock has fabricated Moriarty as a fall guy to cover up the fact that Sherlock is the real perpetrator of all the crimes he attributes to Moriarty.  And then he tells Sherlock to kill himself.  Or Moriarty will kill John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade.

BRILLIANT!  And, okay, I sound (and feel) a bit like Sherlock when he’s admiring a particularly clever crime rather than lamenting the evil of it, but SERIOUSLY.  BRILLIANT.

I mean, my God, Moriarty in the books is a genius, but all he’s really after his money.  In the movies, it’s the same thing.  He’s not crazy at all, just very greedy, very smart, and very willing to hurt people to get what he wants.  But in THIS series, Jim Moriarty is NUTS.  Seriously, seriously NUTS.  And it is AWESOME.  (I have thing for really crazy villains – The Joker and Knives from Trigun are the first two that come to mind – the whole chaotic evil alignment category.  I LOVE IT.)  Anyway, I was a bit unsure about Moriarty in “The Great Game,” but this episodes won me over completely.

And then there’s the ending. OMFG.  Now, I’ll admit, I have a hard time figuring out what to make of Sherlock’s little phone call “suicide note.”  Obviously, when he tells John that the accusations are true and he’s a fake, that’s the lie, but what about the fact that he’s getting choked up?  Is he really getting emotional, or is that part of the act for John’s sake?  And then again, even though he knows he has to “kill” himself to protect John and the others, why doesn’t he TELL John that’s the reason, rather than claiming that he really is a fraud?  I suppose it could be to spare John the thought that it’s John’s fault he’s dead, maybe?  And why demand that John watch him as he jumps?  (I am again assuming that everyone still reading this has seen the episode already, so don’t blame me if I’m ruining anything.)  My initial thought is that Sherlock wants John to be a witness, to be able to say definitively that yes, Sherlock did jump from that roof, yes, he saw it with his own eyes, yes he’s certain that Sherlock is dead – thus, insuring that Sherlock can fake his death in safety.  But it still seemed a little weird – and cruel, to make John watch it.

And John’s face!

(both gifs from this Tumblr page – thank God for gifs!)

His expressions in that moment were pretty brutal.  But it was just as bad later on at the cemetery, when he asked Sherlock for one last miracle, to not be dead.  OMG! I nearly cried (it takes quite a lot of work to actually get me to cry, but my eyes did sting a little).  Martin Freeman does such an amazing job conveying powerful emotion without going overboard.  No screaming, no bursting into tears. He speaks quietly, just starts to get choked up, and then he does that soldierly stoic thing, suddenly straightens up and turns on his heel away from the grave as if he was in uniform, and walks away.  And my God, it was hard to watch!

So, now I get to wait probably a year or more for the next season to come out – which is RIDICULOUS, by the way! They aren’t even starting production until NEXT January.  WTH?  And I have so many questions!  I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how Sherlock faked his death.  We know he enlisted Molly’s help, who probably found a body in the morgue that could be a replacement for Sherlock.  But when did the switch take place?  Because as far as I can tell, Sherlock really was the one who fell from the roof.  It doesn’t LOOK like he threw a dead body off.  Though maybe they did something in that shot to trick us.  It’s hard to tell.  But they don’t just show that scene from John’s point of view on the ground, they show it from Sherlock’s, up on the roof, as he leans forward and lets himself fall.  It really does look like its actually Sherlock falling.  So then, okay, there’s a moment when John is trying to reach the body and he is hit by a man on a bicycle (which yes, I’m definitely assuming was planned) so he’s not the first one to the body.  So maybe the switch happened then?  But then we’d have to assume that Sherlock actually landed, in which case even he managed to survive he would be a mass of broken bones and there’s no way he could moved that quickly.  So I go back to the switched-before-the-fall thesis, though I’m not convinced that’s possible.

Then there’s the fact that in an interview, Moffat claims that “there is a clue everybody’s missed … So many people theorising about Sherlock’s death online – and they missed it!” (from this article).  So, I’m flummoxed. (Also, I have never used that word before in my life! Cool!)

Then, of course, we have to wonder HOW THE HELL Sherlock is going to clear his name.  AND what happened with Moriarty?  Is he really dead?  I’m guessing he is, but its not outside the realm of possibility for him to have faked his own death as well.  I’m also DYING to know how long Sherlock will be gone.  In the books his faked death lasts for THREE YEARS.  Honestly, if the writers do that to John I may break the tv (or my laptop, whichever), because that would be CRUEL!  Really REALLY cruel.

And now we’ve come to the end. This post is ridiculously long, and I should probably cut it in half again, but I’m not going to bother.  If you’ve stuck around through the whole thing, I’m impressed and grateful.  And if you haven’t actually watched the series yet and you read this, well, I pity you, because you just took half the fun out of the experience of first-time viewing.  But you should go watch the series anyway.  SERIOUSLY.  Now I’m going to shut up.  See you folks later!

I leave you with one last image of John, sitting with his therapist a month after Sherlock’s “death,” looking quietly, stoically heart-broken.  It’s about the same way I feel having to wait for a year or more until the new episodes appear (except I’m not stoic at all…).

Gorgeous, Intense, and Creepy: A Review of Prometheus

So, let’s talk about Prometheus (and then I’ll get back to my insane fan-girl raving about Sherlock, I promise).

For those who are unfamiliar with the background of Prometheus, it is a science fiction film produced and directed by Ridley Scott (director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, to name just a few) and is considered a prequel of sorts to the original Alien movie.  Prometheus (which is also the name of the spaceship the cast lives on) takes place in the year 2093 (Alien takes place in the year 2122), and follows a group of scientists who believe that aliens called Engineers seeded life on Earth, and who are in search of those aliens in deep space, on a moon called LV-223.  Of course, as anyone familiar with the Alien movies would expect, things do not go according to plan, as the scientists find nothing but death on the moon (and boy, it’s going to be hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away…).

Okay, so let’s start by talking about the direction and cinematography in this movie, because it was BRILLIANT.  The opening sequence is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in ages and ages.  The camera pans through images of wild, almost-but-not-quite barren landscape: rocks, mountains, snow, waterfalls, etc.  It’s like something out of the Planet Earth nature documentaries, in astounding high definition, with a powerful score building up around you.  And then it focuses in on what is clearly an alien – mostly human in shape but with musculature that no human could possibly have, and a slightly different shape in the nose and forehead.  The alien drinks something, and then starts to dissolve, his DNA literally breaking apart – one would assume, to seed the earth.  The image of the alien dissolving is pretty cringe-worthy, but so well-shot and so fascinating and creepy.  It was the perfect way to open the movie, that’s for sure.

Throughout the rest of the film, the cinematography is equally wonderful.  Ridley Scott, the screen-writers, the set designer, and the cinematographer all took tremendous care with the visuals of the story.  The visuals are highly important in this movie.  The attention to detail, the atmospheric nature, the grand scale and immensity of everything, not to mention how CREEPY a lot of it is.  And the camera captures all of it so beautifully.  Seriously, if nothing else, go see it for the visual interest – it’s like a moving piece of art.

Then there are the actors.  The casting for this movie was so well done.  Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist, who along with her partner/boyfriend Charlie Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green), are the scientists pretty much in charge of the mission on the Prometheus. Noomi Rapace is really making a name for herself.  She played Lisbeth Salander in the original film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and she was in the second Sherlock Holmes movie (and she only learned to speak English in time to film Sherlock Holmes!), and she is a very very good actress.  She does such an amazing job in this movie, with a character who is incredibly smart, more than a little naïve, sympathetic, and tough.

Then there’s Charlize Theron.  My GOD, she looks GOOD in this movie.  It’s just not fair.  And, as usual, she is phenomenal as the cold, calculating, self-serving corporate leader of the Prometheus mission, Meredith Vickers. This character walks that fine line between being emotionless and self-serving to the point of being almost-but-not-quite evil.  She’s CREEPY, and she’s not even really a bad guy.  Just kind of a bitch.  And Charlize Theron plays it so well.

Last, but certainly not least among the main characters, there is Michael Fassbender as David, the android (like Ash, from the original Alien movie, though in Prometheus, everyone already knows he’s an android).  This character was absolutely fascinating, a total enigma.  And Michael Fassbender was EXCELLENT.  Seriously excellent.  David is an odd character – childlike in ways, sometimes sympathetic, but also with this weird underlying… I don’t know, jealousy? bitterness? arrogance?, because of the way the humans treat him.

No one pays much attention to him or is even mildly polite to him except for Shaw – and, of course, we should all know by now that is a BAD idea to mistreat a robot who is WAY stronger and smarter than any human.  You get this weird sense that David wants people to acknowledge how smart he is, and feels superior to humans because of his strength and intelligence, but also wants to be human at the same time.  He does some pretty despicable things in this movie (I’m trying very hard not to give away too much!), but you can’t quite hate him and you can’t really blame him, because the humans do NOT treat him well.  And Michael Fassbender plays him with this kind of blankness, this vacancy in his face and movements, and yet with very subtle touches of expression, of tone, or movement, that hint at something lying just beneath the surface, as if David can feel more than he or anyone else imagines – despite the fact that androids purportedly have no emotions.  Michael Fassbender’s light touch is just so well done, so balanced and subtle.  It’s definitely impressive.

All of the other actors, including Idris Elba as the captain of the ship, do not get nearly as much screen time and are not nearly as important to the plot, but they still do a good job.  They give the whole film a sense of realism and immediacy, a sense of real people in real crisis situations, that would not be believable with a less talented cast.  All without overtaking the film, being too melodramatic, or stealing the scenes from the important characters (and Idris Elba’s interactions with Charlize Theron are pretty fun too).

As for the plot itself…  It’s complex and it keeps you guessing, keeps you on your toes, without every getting so convoluted that it risks bogging itself down – at least not to me, others might disagree (after all, where I found Inception totally lucid, though complex, some people complained that it made no sense whatsoever – of course, I worry about people like that, but that’s beside the point).  There is a LOT going on in this film.  The first half-hour or so is a little slow-moving.  It’s not a BAD thing to me, it’s not slow as in boring, more as in atmospheric. It’s like a slow crescendo at the beginning of symphony.  Just because the music isn’t fast or frenetic doesn’t mean it’s not full of power and interest.  And you know your patience will be well worth it anyway.  So, yes, the opening is slow in pace, but it WORKS, at least for me.  And then, once it picks up, OH BOY does it pick up.  The last forty minutes or so?  CRAZY INTENSE.

All of this is helped along quite liberally by a very well-written, beautiful, and intense score by Marc Streitenfeld.  The music fits the movie so well: atmospheric, creepy, with slow build-ups and intense explosions of power and sound.  I already mentioned how the score bolsters the opening sequence.  The whole movie is like that.  I’m definitely going to have buy the soundtrack later.  There are few things I love more than a really good movie score.

Last, but certainly not least, is the long list of connections to the original Alien movie.  Now, there is not a 1 for 1 correlation between things in this movie and things in Alien.  It doesn’t quite work like that.  But if you’re a fan of Alien and pay attention, it is a TON of fun to catch all the little references.  I had to have my brother’s help with that.  I love the first and second Alien movies, but I have trouble remembering as many of the little details as my brother does.  Still, here are justa couple things to keep in mind.

First, Prometheus takes place on the moon LV-223, whereas Alien takes place on the moon LV-426 – so the ships the Prometheus finds and all the details in this movie do NOT correlate with actual scenes from Alien.  The alien ship that the Nostromo finds in Alien is a DIFFERENT SHIP than the one that the crew of the Prometheus find.  However, it is the same KIND of ship.  And the Space Jockey from Alien?  Yeah, some kind of alien as the main aliens in Prometheus.

Second, because Prometheus focuses on the Engineers, the humanoid-looking aliens who seeded the Earth (and who are the same kind of alien as the Space Jockey) you are NOT going to see the traditional black-skinned long-faced alien or the face-huggers and chest-bursters from Alien.  However, because it is a prequel, it is easy to guess that the plot of Prometheus leads INTO the aliens from the Alien movies (and oh my god, I’m getting sick of typing the word “alien”).

For a more in-depth look into the connections between the movies, check out this explanation Screenrant: “Prometheus – Alien Connection Explained.”

I could probably go on and on if I really wanted to, but I think this covers all the big stuff, except for the ending.  Without giving too much away, I will say that the ending is a bit cliff-hangery and you are left with WAY more questions than you had the beginning of the film, but I think this is intentional.  My brother and I have been debating how many of the holes and questions are intentional for the purposes of leading into a sequel and how many are accidental due to holes in the writing itself.  The only way to find out, of course, is to wait for a sequel, which we’re both PRETTY sure is in the offing.

The main thing you should get out of all of this is: if you haven’t seen Prometheus yet, YOU NEED TO.  GO NOW.  It is absolutely phenomenal.  The intensity, the attention to detail, the beautiful cinematography, the excellent cast, the fun references to Alien… it all equals a movie that is WELL worth the money and the time.  In fact, I recommend seeing it more than once.  I’m hoping to go again soon and see how many small details I may have missed the first time.

Seriously, just go see it.  You can thank me later.

Also, you should check out Andrew Kincaid’s rundown of the biology behind the film over on his blog.

AND, here’s the trailer again, too, just to cover all my bases:

Totally, Completely, and Ridiculously Obsessed with Sherlock, Pt 1

(Note: I’d originally planned to talk about all three episodes of Sherlock Season 2 in one post, but by the time I’d finished raving about “Scandal in Belgravia” I’d already reached 1600 words, and so I figured it might possibly be a better idea to break them up.)

I TOLD you this would happen.  I warned you, and I warned myself, and still I was knocked over backward by how quickly and vehemently I have become obsessed with Sherlock.  Seriously.  I’m a total mess now.  You should see the tweets and facebook posts from last night when I watched episodes 2 and 3 of season 2 (which I stayed up til 3am to do).  In fact, in case you missed them, here:

From Facebook:

First – “I knew this was going to happen! I waited and waited and waited to watch Sherlock because I KNEW this was going happen. By now I’m so obsessed I feel like the show has sucked my brains out through my eyeballs. I’ll be quoting it wholesale by the end of the week. And in the meantime, ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ episode has me so wired I probably won’t sleep for hours.

Maybe I should say screw it to trying to make it last and just watch the last episode now…”

Followed by – “Yeah, I just said ‘screw it’ and watched the last episode. AND OH MY FUCKING GOD! *headdesk*”

And – “…it’s by Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis. But you still DEFINITELY need to watch it. EVERYONE needs to watch it. WATCH IT! (can you tell I haven’t slept much…? I feeling a little manic…).”

From Twitter:

First – “Oh God, by now I’m so obsessed with Sherlock I feel like my brains have been sucked up through my eyeballs. *drools & returns to watching*”

Then – “Screw waiting til tomorrow, I’m watching the last ep of Sherlock right now. Who needs sleep anyway?”

And – “First 10 mins of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ : O.M.F.G. #Sherlock”

Finally – “Oh God. I’m going to be a mess for days after that. #Sherlock #ReichenbachFall”

Plus, in response to a comment – “@miriamjoywrites lol, see, I’d waited & waited to watch Sherlock b/c I KNEW I’d end up ridiculously obsessed. I get so addicted to things.”

Did I mention I’m a mess?  I’m a mess.

So yeah, prepare for manic raving.  Also, this is COVERED in spoilers, because there is no way to avoid them when talking about how awesome this show is, so if you haven’t seen the show yet…

DO NOT READ THIS POST. DO NOT STOP AT GO.  DO NOT COLLECT $200. GO DIRECTLY TO NETFLIX TO WATCH SEASON 1 AND THEN GO TO PBS.ORG AND WATCH SEASON 2 (which will be disappearing off their site soon, so be quick about it!) And THEN you can come back and read my rant and see if it meshes with your thoughts.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO SPOIL THE MYSTERIES IN THESE EPISODES. DO NOT READ THESE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Now, moving on, let’s go through the three episodes of season 2 in order.

First: “Scandal in Belgravia,” ie, the Irene Adler episode.  Okay, so this episode opens directly from the cliffhanger at the end of season 1 – Sherlock and John with sniper rifles trained on them while Moriarty stands by, and Sherlock threatens to shoot a bomb and blow them all up.  Honestly, I was kinda hoping for some big huge explosion that both Sherlock and John barely escape from.  What can I say?  I like the pyrotechnics.  But the way this scene was resolved was, instead, pretty hilarious, because Moriarty is distracted a by a phone call and changes his mind about killing Sherlock and John (again), and simply walks off.  So funny!  The scenes after that show Sherlock and John solving a whole slew of little problems, with Sherlock interviewing possible clients with his usual and completely HILARIOUS lack of tact, patience (or sanity, really).

But the real fun is when Irene Adler shows up.  I LOVE this incarnation of Irene Adler. She’s a dominatrix who caters to a very high-end clientele.  She’s sexy and fierce and smart and really really wicked.  In the original story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” she’s more than a little sympathetic, nice even.  But wicked Irene is so much COOLER.  Some critics think this portrayal is too sexist, but I disagree.  She’s powerful, she knows what she wants, and while she is certainly unscrupulous, she is not portrayed in some kind of simplistic whore/angel dichotomy.  She’s WAY more complicated than that.  And the way she plays off Sherlock is fantastic.  Seriously, when she walks into the room where Sherlock is pretending to be a priest, and she’s completely naked, I just about DIED laughing.  His FACE!  And then John walks in, and HIS face! OMG!  I had to pause and laugh for a few minutes.

And that happened several times throughout the episode.  That’s one thing you can always count on with Steven Moffat.  Even in a serious drama, even in a crime drama, he inserts just the right amount and kind of humor, and it is so totally worth it.  OH! GOD! That reminds me, I almost forgot one of the best parts: when Mycroft first brings Sherlock in on the Irene Adler case, Sherlock goes to Buckingham Palace wearing NOTHING BUT A SHEET, and then Mycroft nearly pulls it right off him!  Oh, how I (and every other fangirl ever) wishes he had.  *drools*  Ahem, yeah…

This, right here, best lines of the episode:

Mycroft Holmes: Just once, can you two behave like grown-ups?

John Watson: We solve crimes. I blog about it, and he forgets his pants. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope.

Or maybe these are the best lines?

Sherlock Holmes: ‎Please don’t feel obliged to tell me that was remarkable or amazing, John’s expressed that in every possible variant available to the English language.

Irene Adler: I would have you, right here, on this desk, until you begged for mercy twice.

[A long silence in which Sherlock and Irene maintain eye contact]

Sherlock Holmes: …John, please can you check those flight schedules, see if I’m right?

John Watson[Looking stunned]…I’m on it, yeah.

Sherlock Holmes: …I’ve never begged for mercy in my life.

Irene AdlerTwice.

Honestly, there is so much to love about this episode.  When Mycroft shouts at Mrs. Hudson to shut up and both Sherlock and John exclaim: “Mycroft!” with the most furious, shocked, disapproving you have ever seen.  When Mrs. Hudson is attacked and Sherlock gets SERIOUSLY pissed, breaks the guy’s nose, and throws him out a second story window.  And when John suggest Mrs. Hudson go spend some time at her sister’s house and Sherlock says: “Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall!”  I love Sherlock’s relationship with Mrs. Hudson in this version.  In the movies he is extremely dismissive and rude with her.  In the Granada tv show he’s mainly polite the show writers mostly seemed to forget she was even around.  In this one, she is counted among one of Sherlock’s few real friends, and it’s ADORABLE (yes, I just called Sherlock Holmes adorable, he’ll get over it).

But, okay, back to the main point of the episode: Irene Adler.  The layers and complexities of the plot in this episode were absolutely fantastic.  It was quite a ride.  And the Irene Adler character was so devious and seductive that it just made it extra awesome.  Also, it was really fascinating to watch Sherlock falter just a bit and make a big mistake when he trusts Irene just a bit too much, and then catch himself just in time to shock Irene and fix it.

HOWEVER, I have one complaint, not so much with the episode as with the way most of the fandom portrays the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.

I know plenty of people are going to disagree with me (as it evidenced by the way Irene is portrayed in the movies, and in Sherlock, and in most fanfiction and in comments from fans, etc), but Irene Adler is NOT some great love of Sherlock Holmes’ life.  Folks, she is in exactly ONE Sherlock Holmes short story, and mentioned a couple times after that.  Now, I am not denying for a second that Sherlock Holmes admired her, respected her, thought that she was perhaps the only really intelligent woman he’d ever met.  He might even be accused of being somewhat attracted to her.  But one adventure in which he goes up against her and is outwitted, and is perhaps attracted, does not mean he’s in love with her.  Or even that she’s in love with him.  They have an interesting relationship, sure, but let’s not over-do it, okay?  Okay.

(I would, at this juncture, also point out that Moriarty is, ironically, only in TWO of the Sherlock Holmes stories (with mentions in 5 others): “The Final Problem,” which is the story in which Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes go over the Reichenbach Falls, and The Valley of Fear, which was written AFTER “The Final Problem” but is intended to take place before it.  This is because Doyle had intended to kill Holmes off in “The Final Problem” and then a few years later brought him back to life.  The point being that even though Moriarty is cast as Holmes’ great rival, Doyle did not originally intend him to be a recurring character.  So, even though I LOVE the character of Moriarty and how he is portrayed in the recent reincarnations of Sherlock Holmes, I still find it rather amusing how much cult status he gained so quickly, though Doyle does at least expressly state that Moriarty IS Sherlock Holmes’ great rival and intellectual equal – so that makes more sense that claiming that Holmes is “in love with” Irene Adler.)

I did think, however, that in this episode Moffat and Gatiss (I never spell his name right, I’ve noticed), keep a pretty good balance.  Sherlock is definitely intrigued by Irene, and possibly a little attracted to her, and there’s some definite tension, and he obviously admires her, but it never falls into Sherlock outright drooling over her or mooning over her (though he does seem to get depressed for awhile when he thinks she might be dead – however, SEEMED is as far as you can ever say with Sherlock, ’cause God only knows when he’s faking and when he’s not).  Moffat and Gatiss also continue to carefully tread that line where the jokes about Sherlock and John being a couple isn’t quite JUST a joke, but isn’t the literal truth either.  They are trying very hard not to come out (so to speak) on one side or the other about Sherlock’s sexuality, which I appreciate.  Because, as I’ve mentioned before, based purely on the original stories I have always believed (and quite a few critics, fans, and Holmesian “experts” would agree with me – though, obviously, not all) that Sherlock Holmes is either completely asexual or he’s gay.

Back to the episode at hand: the ending, when Mycroft and John are worried about how Sherlock will handle finding out that Irene has been killed was really sweet.  But the very very end, when we watch Sherlock actually saving Irene from the death Mycroft and John think she’s suffered: awesome.

All in all, this episode was fantastic, and hilarious, and sexy, and cool.  And yet, the next one, “Hounds of Baskerville” was WAY BETTER.  But I’ll get to that one next time.  BYE!