Two delightful things

Pretty much what it says on the tin: two pieces of entertainment that made me happy.

First, Ms Marvel. I started watching this with an increasing sense of irritation, because I kept thinking “I’ve seen this before. OMG, who did they borrow this from?” before I <headslap> realized, duh, they borrowed it FROM THE GRAPHIC NOVEL by G. Willow Wilson, which I had read. Then I went back and really enjoyed it. I loved the young actress’s enthusiasm for the character. Marvel usually does really well with casting and this show wasn’t an exception. I loved her friend Nakia, trying to make herself heard in the mosque. I even mostly liked Bruno, minus his moping crush on Kamala. But that’s me. I hate that trope. It’s like why can’t they honestly be friends, instead of one oblivious and one pining. Urgh.

There were lots of plot moments, especially toward the end, where I was left scratching my head, going, wait… How/what/why/Huh? but really, it didn’t matter much. This was a show about Kamala finding her place in her family, in the world, and in history. And those elements were all perfect. I really enjoyed it. So far, out of the marvel series on D+, my favorites are WandaVision, Hawkeye, and Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel is pretty formulaic–following the typical disney AND marvel arc–but you know, that didn’t mean it wasn’t really fun to watch.

The second piece of entertainment that I absolutely adored was Emily Henry’s Book Lovers which is a contemporary romance. I can really only talk about it in superlative fragments. The dialogue! The characterization! The humor! The good nature of it all! It’s all the things I love about romance novels, with none of the things I hate about them. There are no forced misunderstandings. There are no moments where the characters lash out and hurt each other for no good reason.

It’s really a clever book, self-aware of all the romance tropes, highlighting them, and inverting them. Sometimes subtly–her sister is NOT her source of support and the one she goes to for advice; sometimes overtly–Nora, the heroine tells the reader straight off that if life were a hallmark movie, she is the obstacle to true love, not the person who deserves it. Readers who like Jennifer Crusie should adore this. And it is so funny! I had the hardest time not reading sections aloud to my roommate. Considering it was her book that I had stolen from her To-Be-Read pile, it seemed like the least I could do. But oh, it was hard. I kept putting it down after chapters and laughing to myself, stretching out the reading.

Just… delightful! Both of these are really recommended.

Vacation miscellany

So the weird thing about working a day job as well as working for yourself is that you can take a vacation from one or the other as well as both.  Having finished up a writing project (the draft of Ring of Stones is done!  Hoorah! and in the agent’s lap!  Hooray!  Not my problem for a little bit!) I decided I wanted a week off without coming home from the day job and sitting right back down in front of the computer.

Not writing in the evening is giving me a strange, luxurious feeling right now.  It won’t last.  I’ll get antsy and the scene notes I’m taking currently (that doesn’t count as work, right?) will demand to be made into actual scenes and chapters and so forth.  But for right now, I feel like I have all this free time!

I have watched the entirety of The Good Place, season 2!  I do love those characters.  I love how clever the show-writers are in making this premise continue to work for them. As a side note, I hate sitcoms, so the fact that I love this one should tell you they’re doing something quite different than the usual sitcom fare.

I have attempted to make stir-fried rice.  That… was not quite a failure, in that the end result was edible.  Just not good.  I need to figure out the heat issue better, find a more useful recipe (though a friend linked me to an NYT recipe that looks good), and use the good cast iron skillet.  The one I used is still pretty new and not as seasoned as it should be. The cast iron skillet that I took from my childhood home, on the other hand, is amazing.

I have read three books:

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine: seriously intense thriller.  I loved it.  Had to put it down a couple of times just to go breathe.  I think it’s that you know she has significant enemies, but like her, you just don’t know what direction they’re coming from. Recommended if you like thrillers. Or Kelley Armstrong’s Casey Duncan series.

Hazard by Devon Monk: Magical Hockey League.  Wizards and werewolves on the ice, oh my!  Not an unqualified success, but fun to read.

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett: I’m always seeing comedic mysteries compared to Stephanie Plum books, but this one kind of merits the comparison (in the good way!).  Dayna and her friends are funny, a little nuts, loyal, and moving through LA society in a very entertaining way.  That they’re trying to solve crime at the same time–a definite plus.

I’m embarking on City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett, both because it’s been in my TBR pile since it came out and as a consolation prize for being on a book budget at the moment and not buying Foundryside right away.  Later, Foundryside, I’m coming for you!  RJB is a writer I really admire, incorporating great characters–realistic, interesting, compelling–in a wonderful setting. You are definitely “there” when you read his works.

Happy Town

Here’s a Halloween Horror for you: the suspenseful, potentially supernatural mystery show that gets canceled before the mystery resolves. Or even before questions can be answered. Technically, they let you know who the bad guy is. But that’s a revelation that raises so many more questions!

The show?

Happy Town, released in 2010, canceled 6 episodes in, with 2 more available.

I always figured this show was a casualty of being too early for its niche. It seems like it would fit right in with some of today’s shows. But back then, maybe it was just too weird. Or maybe some of the middle episodes dragged (which they did!), or maybe I’m the only person in the world who was intrigued by it. It’s a vague precursor to things like True Detective or Fargo. It probably had its own genesis in Twin Peaks. A small town, a detective in over his head, a lot of people playing manipulation games, and of course, lots and lots of secrets.

But I want to tell you all about it, so you can share in my suffering.

The cast was great: all of them believable as who they were, all of them familiar SF actors.

Geoff Stults (from The Finder, also canceled too soon) as the easy-going deputy who just happens to be the Sheriff’s son, promoted beyond his competence level, when a freakish tragedy strikes his father down.

Lauren German (from Lucifer) as the mysterious woman with a mysterious agenda.

Frances Conroy (American Horror Story) as Peggy Haplin, the town’s matriarch, who runs things ruthlessly and effectively.

And of course, no supernaturally tinged story would be complete without Sam Neill chewing at the scenery (delightfully) as the ominous shop owner who knows more than he’s saying.

Also, Amy Acker’s in it.

The premise is that Haplin, the town, is a small, isolated town that seems deeply peaceful, except for that little matter of The Magic Man—a serial killer who snatched one person a year for seven years, out of the middle of crowds, never to be seen again. The Magic Man vanished, but his victims were never found.

Then, someone commits a violent murder of the local pervert and… everything goes to hell. The Sheriff starts losing his mind, and all he can say is that now that blood has been spilled, the Magic Man will return.

At the same time, the Mysterious Stranger ™ in the person of Henley Boone comes to town. She’s got an agenda—to find a specific item and use it against Peggy Haplin, who has somehow wronged her mother.

And once the Magic Man is rumored to be back, so come the hunters: Dan Farmer, the state policeman; Merrit Grieves, there to avenge his stolen son.

Plus, strange birds, dead birds, a random polypterus fish swimming through a dead body, and mystical movies of some significant import (never to be deciphered, damn it), and criminal junkyard brothers, and hallucinations, and kidnappings and truth serum and and… they just keep piling it on.

Which is actually part of the problem. The pacing is rapid-fire for the first three episodes. Then it suddenly slows, content to deepen and add mysteries, but not to move the plot forward. Or even give you small answers. So, I’m not really surprised it got canceled. Only sad, because the pace picks up dramatically again around episode 6, and continues to be quick until the truncated end.

So much is left unexplored. So much is left unexplained.

Is the Magic Man supernatural or not? And either way, what the hell was their motive for their actions? There really aren’t that many options. And what role does Henley’s mother play in all this? That stays opaque. In fact, if you consider Tommy Conroy (Stults) and Henley Boone (German) the two protagonists, they don’t actually meet up until episode 7, which is … probably another reason the show got canceled.

That said, it’s still a source of despair. I really wanted the answers. I really loved the atmosphere and the build-up and the is it/isn’t it taste of the supernatural. At the very least, thankfully the show-writers gave us the identity of the Magic Man, which allows us to chew over motives, rather than a fruitless hunt for his identity. Because trust me, the answer comes out of the blue.

Either way, if you have six hours or so to kill, and you like murder mysteries laced with bizarre and supernaturally-tinged elements, you could do worse than Happy Town. If you watch it, come and tell me what you think.

Catching up on the small screen

So I finally got around to watching Orphan Black.  Or at least season 1 of it.  And all of you praising it to the skies are right.  It is an awesome show.  I don’t particularly like any of the characters, but it’s sure fascinating to watch them make the decisions they do.

I’ve also realized again how face blind I really am.  I tend to recognize people by hairstyles, so I keep stumbling over the moments where the show gives us yet another Tatiana Maslany, because as far as I can tell, new hairstyle, new actress….  This also explains a lot about why I can never find Matt Damon on the screen.  He has an everyman hair cut in a basic color.  I kind of knew this already because I have a friend who patiently had to reintroduce herself to me every year because she kept changing her hair style and color!

Anyway, all my nonsense aside, Orphan Black is an excellent excellent example of character actions driving the plot in an organic way, and in complicating the character lives in ways that also feel organic.  I may have to rewatch it and take notes.

Beyond that, I was surprised at how domestic this clone thriller conspiracy story really is.  I kind of love that.  It’s definitely a different style than the genre usually gives us.  I’m pretty convinced that if they’d started with male clones, it would have been a lot less oh crap I need a babysitter, and why is my Sig Other such a jerk, and more shoot-outs and high-level conspiracy talk right away.  Instead this is definitely a boil-the-frog kind of story.  The clones are presented so matter-of-factly that it’s easy to forget that this is SF.  I am assuming there are superpowers involved at some point–accelerated healing at least–because I can’t see any other way that Helena survives.

I’m looking forward to season 2.