Kathleen
Next on my reading list was Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, a retelling of various fairytales (yes, I'm attempting to read my way through every retelling there is). And after quite a few dark and disappointing books, it was a complete delight.



Summary on the back: Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago. Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

My thoughts: While initially a sequel of sorts to Sleeping Beauty, Princess Of Thorns ends up being more a retelling of The Wild Swans, which was a pleasant surprise. It's a fusion that works quite well, and the fast pace and entertaining writing style hooked me from the beginning and never let go. Aurora and Niklaas spent much of the first part of the book as friends, and when the relationship turns romantic, it's much more believable than most YA fiction I've read. Aurora was also a refreshing protagonist, both courageous - she saves both her brother and Niklaas - and likeable. And Niklaas, although a bit selfish at first, grew on me throughout the book, making it easy to root for the two to get a happy ending. I loved their banter, and the "drunk" scene was hilarious. Also I adored how Niklaas doesn't overreact when he finds out she's a girl - and still has just as much, if not more admiration for her.

I loved the world-building, even though I wanted more of it - I needed more fairies and ogres! - and the lighter, more magical feel of the story. A lot of re-tellings aim for a much darker, complex world, so it was a joy to find a story stripped back to the fairytale roots, where magic simply is, and happily ever after is unquestionably on the last page. It was also a complete treat to read a book so utterly lacking in the common YA tropes of insta-love, love triangles, and annoyingly prickly heroines.

Overall, Princess of Thorns was a delight, a brisk and thoroughly entertaining story.
 
 
calliope tune: "Everyday"-Buddy Holly
feeling: chipper
 
 
 
 
Kathleen
My second venture into YA fiction was The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, and I admit the only reason I gave it a second look was the title and that gorgeous front cover. I was expecting a light, cheesy romance with a fairytale vibe. And while romance is certainly a part of it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover there was so much more to the tale.



summary on the back: Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, Twylla isn't exactly a member of the court. She's the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month, she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla's fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla's been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

My thoughts:
In many ways, this book contains all the elements I love in a story - first person narration, flawed characters, sibling feels, unapologetically evil royals who get their just desserts, suffocating court life contrasted against a free peasant life, a satisfying yet open ending, and a dollop of deliciously creepy incest on top. I've long held a fascination for Sin Eaters, and despite the narrow setting (with the vast majority of the book set within just a few rooms of the castle), the world-building was flawless, folding in folklore, original mythology, customs, religion, classes, and their very own fairytales (the most intriguing of which was a delightfully dark and gory blend of Sleeping Beauty and the Pied Piper), all so quietly and effortlessly it never felt like world-building at all, and more like some long forgotten time in history. Also, despite the slow plot, and complete lack of it for the first part of the story, I never felt bored, thanks to the lovely prose. I also appreciated the crossing of genres, with fantasy, mystery, romance, and courtroom thriller all getting tangled up in a series of twists, some of which I expected, others of which surprised me.

Despite her eye-rolling Mary Sueish name, Twylla never feels like a Mary Sue, or even anything like the dubiously *strong* assembly line heroines YA churns out, and more like a very average, mostly good-hearted teenage girl. She isn't athletic, or a fighter, she isn't good at hunting - is sickened by it, in fact - and she's deeply flawed, naive, occasionally petty, and somewhat selfish. Yet, despite all this, she's the most likeable YA protagonist I've come across so far, thanks to the fact that she realizes, acknowledges, and actually puts efforts into fixing many of her flaws, as well as the fact that, unlike most so called strong female characters, her triumph and journey's end isn't in either becoming a warrior or finding her true love, but rather finding her own place in the world, and making a life of her own choosing.

Similarly flawed are the two male protagonists, and despite it technically being a love triangle, the romance is presented in a way that makes it far less annoying than usual. Neither is perfect, neither jumps out as the right choice, with Lief's lies and flashes of darkness and Merek's haughtiness and borderline obsession with Twylla. Despite my preference for Lief, due to his rebellious streak and lower station, I did warm to Merek by the ending. It's also an note to the writer's talent that she could make me both love and feel emotion for a character who never appears in the story: Twylla's waifish little sister, left behind when Twylla was taken to the castle. Their relationship was the backbone of Twylla's character in many ways, and was, oddly enough, the most believable and endearing of all the relationships to me, above either romance. The only undeveloped character is the vile Queen, and it's actually a treat for once to not have a layered or even redeemable villain, just a old-fashioned baddie with no other motive than power.

Overall, I found The Sin Eater's Daughter both a delight and a breath of fresh air in an extremely worn genre, and am looking forward to starting the sequel.
 
 
calliope tune: "Bow Down"-Burl Ives
feeling: melancholy
 
 
 
Kathleen
Summer tv has started and I've been finding some new series to fill the gap left by all the cancelled ones. The first is The Whispers, which I figured I'd like since I love Ray Bradbury and Zero Hour was one of the first stories I read by him. It's not quite what I expected - less creepy for one - but I enjoy the '90s sci-fi feel, the premise, and the characters, especially Sean. I'm hoping the writers are borrowing a bit from Ray Bradbury's other stories, too, like Sean's tattoos. The children, especially Henry, are adorable, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the plot will go.

Also new is Humans and it's amazing although complicated so far. I love how many storylines it has going - Niska's and Leo's are my favorites, I adore the relationships - especially Leo and Max, and fascinating characters, as well as the incredible world building and realism.

Dominion has begun season two, which was an incredible surprise since it just barely got renewed. Because of that I'm viewing every episode as a bonus gift, just because I love this show so very much. It's amazing so far, even more impressive than last season. The shift in characters has streamlined the show nicely, and having Alex spending most of his screentime with Noma instead of Claire - I'm starting to ship them since I never did like Alex/Claire - is a welcome and refreshing change. There's also the interesting addition of Pete, an 8ball Alex turns back into a human. He gets some hilarious lines, and he seems like a sweetheart so far. Michael, much to my relief, hasn't changed completely, even if he seems lost and anchorless without Alex and Vega. I am a little worried about the weird cult he's been sucked into, though, and I don't trust Laurel at all. But once it moves past that, there's some amazing new characters, including the evil and demented Julian who makes Gabriel look safe by comparison, and Gates, who is so fabulous he makes the tedious second storyline in Vega interesting. I adore the flashbacks this season, including little Alex with Michael, and the twins, all of which make me emotional. Gabriel and Michael finally get some screentime together and it's beautiful. Best of all, Gabriel gets some layers and explanation for his hatred of humanity with a compelling and heart-breaking series of flashbacks showing him with little David - an absolutely adorable child with those wild curls!. Carl Beukes's acting has improved so much this season, and he's pulling off the mix of emotional, caring past Gabriel and hopeless, lost current day Gabriel beautifully. The writers continue to amaze me by making me learn to love characters I hated last season, mainly Gabriel who seems so broken I just want to protect him, as well as fleshing out characters I was lukewarm on before - Noma, William, and the General, and introducing new, instantly fascinating characters including Gates. Claire's trajectory toward evil might surprisingly turn out for the best as her character has been the weakest and most dismally dull since the beginning, and a dark side could give her the interesting edge she lacks. "House of Sacrifice" was a poignant episode all around with Noma still struggling over the loss of her wings - I'm grateful her relationship with Alex seems in tact at least - Michael playing cards for his life, Vega on the edge of collapse, Clementine killed again, and even David, spiraled into madness, rejected by his son, and awaiting execution, tugged on my emotions. Most heart-breaking was Gates's death. I loved him, and hoped he'd become one of the main characters, but I'm glad he got a hero's death and a final goodbye with Claire at least. Gabriel, taken over by the darkness, has me worried.

The fifth and final season of Hell On Wheels has first half and starts by breaking my heart with Cullen's daydream of his still missing wife and son. But after that it kicks up the pace by moving onto my favorite part of railroad history: the Chinese workers. The new characters are fascinating so far, especially Mei whose odd friendship with Cullen is already my favorite, and I love the change of scenery and focus on the Central Pacific. I was so happy to see Naomi and the baby again, even if only for a few seconds, at the end, and hope, if nothing else, that Cullen finally gets a happy ending with them.

Teen Wolf season five has started and despite how much I miss Derek, I'm loving the plot and how suspenseful and spooky it is, especially with the steampunk doctors and everything being told in flashbacks, even if it makes me very worried for most of the characters. Malia remains adorable; she and Stiles are quite cute together, Kira is awesome with her added powers this season, and Liam, not one of my favorites last season, has grown on me a lot. It also is giving me a new ship in Liam/Hayden, who are adorable and precious. I was a bit disappointed that I guessed wrong on what Parrish was, but excited by hellhound over phoenix which I'd doubted from the beginning.

I've started watching the new series Zoo and I'm enjoying it so far. It's quite different from the usual "end of the world as we know it" storylines most shows are doing, and the characters, especially Jackson, are likeable.

I've finished the fourth and final season of Nikita and it was a delight to see the show return to the feel of the first two seasons. I loved seeing all the sides of Nikita, from fugitive to dark assassin to happily married and freed. Michael and her scenes were beautiful as always, and I was so happy to see them grow close again. As much as I wanted to see their wedding, eloping seemed more their style, and I'm just glad they finally ended up alive and together at last. Birkhoff was as precious as usual, and it was nice to learn his backstory, as well as see a couple lovely moments with Nikita and he. Owen's story arc was beautiful, and I was so happy how he tried to become better again, even if I'll forever miss who he used to be. I was surprisingly okay with him being paired up with Alex in the end, because even if I don't ship it I just wanted him alive and happy which I got. Ryan wasn't one of my favorites but I teared up when Nikita called him family - I do so love their makeshift, thrown-together family - and the final scene of him, as a vision in Nikita's mind, was poignant.

Since I miss the show so much now that it's over I gave a try to the original show, La Femme Nikita, and while it took me a bit to transition to the differences in cast and characterizations, I was suprised how quickly I fell in love with it. Michael is delightfully French, Nikita has an Aussie accent, and Birkhoff is nothing like Birkhoff, and it's wonderful, mostly due to Michael and Nikita's relationship. I adored them from the start in Nikita but they're even better here, since I get to see them from their first meeting.

I discovered the short lived but fabulous show Moonlight and completely fell in love with it. I have a soft spot for "good" vampires and Mick is a sweetheart. My favorite part of the show is his relationship with Beth, though, and their backstory - with Mick saving Beth when she was a small child and then watching over her like a guardian angel as she grows up - instantly made me ship them. The mythology of the vampires is fairly unique, especially regarding how they can be harmed, which keeps it intriguing, and it has almost a retro, late'80s/early'90s feel which I love.

Since I loved Alex O'Loughlin in that show, I gave a try to his medical drama Three Rivers and quite enjoyed it, definitely enough to add it to my list for future watching. His doctor is sweet and appealing, I loved the guest characters, and it's an enjoyable show with a nice blend of touching and poignant.

I finally managed to find Odysseus with English subtitles and I've completely fallen in love with it. It's delightfully French in the best ways, and simply gorgeous and haunting. I love it's unique, poignant take on the characters, and especially how quickly and deeply it makes me grow to care about it's characters: Helen reduced to me to tears in only three short scenes, and Orion fascinates me. The character growth is excellent, too, especially Télémaque who comes so far in just a few episodes. On a shallow note, the scenery, especially the seascapes and beautiful palace, is stunning.

I've fallen in love with Ghost Whisperer. It's poignant hauntings and easy to love characters are right up my alley and all the different ghosts keep the plot fresh. The best thing about it is Jim and Melinda's relationship. I adore them both, and how they support each other, and I love that the show starts right out with them married, avoiding the tangled love triangles that usually doom a show.

I also started Twisted, an offbeat but intriguing mystery series, and while it has it's flaws - Danny is a bit too nice and well-adjusted for a boy who lost his childhood in prison - I can overlook it because it's so unique, and enjoyable. I'm both fond and slightly unnerved by Danny - I still think he's innocent despite the way it's being set up - and I like Jo and her relationship with Danny.

I gave a try to Baby Daddy and despite not being a big fan of comedy I loved it and laughed through most of it. Ben is precious with baby Emma, and I love the quirky other characters.

Also new to me is Haven. I'd been meaning to try it for ages and I loved it instantly. The theme and old style intro, as well as the intriguing "Troubles" grabbed me, and I adore how sweet Nathan is even if he makes my heart hurt and I want to give him a hug. I also ship Nathan/Audrey hard, and love how she's the only one he can feel.

Extant is back with season two, and a bittersweet mix of good and bad ideas. As much as I love seeing Ethan again, much of the character growth and slow-building suspense from season one has been replaced with action and convenient plot twists, as well as a disturbingly alerted cast, leaving the show not even feeling like the same series. First of all I may be one of the few people who actually shipped John/Molly. I liked the glimmer of hope at the season finale that the two were growing closer and working out their problems. And John was such a sweetheart, trying to keep his family together against all odds. For reasons unknown the writers decided to throw a not even hinted at affair into the works - with Julie, the one character the show would have greatly benefited from to kill off - and then turned Julie evil; as if she wasn't grating enough already. Then, in the show's greatest tragedy, after a fight, the loss of Ethan, and Molly refusing to answer his call to hear his final apology, John gets violently and horribly killed off, and not even the show runner's vague comments about whether or not he's truly dead can make me feel better. In other character changes, Sean, who I liked, is inexplicably dead for seemingly no reason, and half of the other characters are not even mentioned. And I'm probably against him from the start since I dislike the actor, but I don't like the new guy at all, even if he becomes more tolerable after episode one. However, there are a few good points left. Ethan remains as precious as always, and the details, such as the self-driving cars and police tape, are as delightful as last season, while the ethical dilemmas regarding the humanoids become more troubling. I'm most intrigued by Molly's strange new powers, though, and how she'll use them. The finale was stunning, bringing out the best in all the characters and folding everything up enough that whether or not it continues, I'm content. I grew to love JD across the season, and even enjoy him with Molly, quite a surprise considering how much I hated him at the start, and I was relieved that he survived his wound, and loved Molly saving him. Charlie who I enjoyed last season and came to adore this one, turned out to be quite the hero, and I loved that he and Julie survived and seem to have found each other. Ethan was precious as usual, and I was so happy John's firewall saved him. Lucy's change of heart was a poignant surprise, as was the kindness of JD's ex-wife. Most intriguing was the "TAALOR" figure at the end who, from the back at least, strongly resembles John.

I started watching and love The Wonder Years, a show I've meant to check out for a while. The nostalgic '60s setting and realistic characters sucked me in instantly, and I adore Kevin's often hilarious and relatable narration.

I also started Rookie Blue and it's fantastic so far, very much like the '70s police dramas I grew up with and love. The characters are very likeable, especially Dov, and I can relate quite a bit to Andy. I've also found an otp in Sam/Andy. I adore Sam, and the way they met, with her tackling him and arresting him while he's undercover, was right up my shipping alley. I teared up when he's shot and she's trying to keep him alive in the ambulance, especially with the forehead kiss - my ultimate shipping weakness. And I love Boo. It's definitely a show I want to watch from start to finish at some point.

I gave a try to Da Vinci's Demons and was quite impressed. It's a gorgeously filmed series with just enough fantasy to enhance the already interesting history, and the actors seem well cast, with intriguing characters and fantastic world building and details.

The new season of Dragons: Race To The Edge is on and happily it seems to be set before the second movie, so Stoick is still alive. As usual the kids antics are my favorites and I adore the twins (with their pet chicken now!), and Fishlegs's episodes best, while Toothless remains adorable. The new dragons are a lot of fun, and I like the new islands, especially the one the kids have claimed as their own.

I found a few more Sechs auf einen Streich with subtitles and I've been working my way though them. They're all lovely, even the slower ones, and one of my favorites so far is Sechse Kommen Durch Die Ganze Welt, a fairytale I'm not familiar with. It was adorable and very entertaining, though, and I've loved the characters, their relationships with each other, and how they managed to constantly fool the king and win in the end. My absolute favorite, though, is Die Kleine Meerjungfrau, which manages to make an unusually happy ending for everyone without changing much of the original story. I loved the Prince, and even Anneline was an uniquely sympathetic character for a change. I also loved Jorinde und Joringel, a sweet love story with likeable characters, and adored the final twist when Joringel gave up his youth for Jorinde, and then she, giving up her's, made them both young again. Next was the lovely Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse. I adored the clever take on the fairytale, and the characters, especially the Prince, were adorable. Next was Die Zertanzten Schuhe, a flawless adaptation of my very favorite fairytale. I adored the main character and his quiet attempts to make the Princess love him, and the magic world was depicted exactly as I'd imagined. I also loved that the other sisters got their princes and happiness in the end, too. Next was Vom Fischer Und Seiner Frau, based on one of my favorite fairytales, and I adored it, so much so it might be my new favorite of the series. I loved how kind Hein remained, and how through it all he only wanted his wife and old life back. The happier than the original tale ending was delightful, too. Next was Dornröschen. I loved Fynn - possibly the most adorable prince of any version - and was intrigued by the story making him the third in a line that had tried and failed to rescue the princess.

I've also gotten to see a couple more of the Märchenperlen series, including their version of Aschenputtel, and it was both lovely and very unique. As taken aback as I originally was by the fact that Marie's father not only doesn't die but participates in the way she's treated, it ultimately made the story more poignant, and added a new explanation as to why she fell for the prince so quickly, as he would have been the first person who'd showed her kindness since her mother died. I loved how much the film had them interacting before the ball, Leonhard's friendship with Peter and his cousins, and how he wasn't a wealthy, powerful prince like most versions. I also adored the scene where he saves Marie from the fire and carries her off on his horse, and having her family become servants was the most fitting ending I've seen yet. My favorite so far, though, is the gorgeous Die Schöne Und Das Biest, a beautiful and unusual version of the story. I love watching the Beast change - his song with Elsa is lovely - and Elsa is a likeable Beauty, escaping the more annoying aspects of the way the character is portrayed. The dialogue is stunning, including a poignant scene where the Beast and Elsa talk about her mother, and the scene where the Beast turns into the Prince. I loved the servants, too, and stripping away the more magical elements while changing the rose into a whole bush of roses enhanced the story greatly.

In other fairytale films, I saw the stunning miniseries La Bella e la Bestia, the oddest and most beautiful version of the story I've seen. Leon, despite being fully human, was the most Beast-like of any character I've seen, a tormented and deeply troubled man with a flicker of goodness still inside. The backstory of his wife, and the new character of his scheming cousin were fascinating additions, and I loved the side characters, especially the kindly Armand, and the servants. Next was Descendants and despite my early reservations about the somewhat silly premise, it was completely delightful and creative. I loved the main four - their personalities and costumes were spot on - as well as the "good" characters, and their parents were hilariously over the top and fabulous. I didn't even mind the singing and loved a couple of the songs, and the conclusion was adorable. I also saw the Asylum's Sleeping Beauty - as corny as their films are their unusual, strange takes on stories give me so many plotbunnies - and I loved so many of the ideas of it, from the zombies guarding the castle to the Phillip being a brave whipping boy instead of the prince, a cowardly prince siding with Maleficent, his kiss waking her after others fail because they weren't pure of heart, and Aurora kissing him back to life after Maleficent kills him.

I've been working my way through Charlie Chaplin's filmography so far, finding some treasures along the way such as the hilarious and creative One A. M.. I couldn't stop laughing through the bed scene, but there were so many funny moments packed into such a short show. It's also been interesting to watch his character of the Little Tramp slowly evolve from the start when he was a more violent, mean-spirited character to growing into a kinder, gentler, and usually heart-broken hobo. My favorite so far is the adorable The Vagabond, a unique story in which he plays violin, falls in love with a girl, and unusually actually gets her and a happy ending. I loved every minute, especially it's blend of comedy and sadness.

In other new films I watched The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and loved it. I adore this goofy set of movies so much, and this was my favorite so far, a perfect blend of humor and zany adventure like they used to make and I've missed so much. I enjoyed the new cast a lot, even the bad guys, and the steampunk and science instead of so much supernatural was delightful. I'm slowly trying to watch more '80s movies and tonight was The Terminator which I surprisingly loved. The premise was both fun and poignant, and the bittersweetness of Kyle and Sarah's relationship broke my heart, as much as loved the twist of Kyle being John's father. The special effects were quite impressive, and I loved Kyle, such a sad yet sweet character, and wished he'd gotten to live. Next was the beautiful Charlie St. Cloud which I cried through most of, but adored completely. Charlie was a loveable character, and his ability to see ghosts as well as his striving to find the reason for his survival was poignant. I loved the bittersweet conclusion. Next was Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse, my favorite film of the series so far. I loved Gareth and Drago, especially his snark, and their scenes together were adorable, especially when Drago teaches him to jump in and out of shadows. I liked the happier ending of this film, with the dragon living, better, too. Next was the surprisingly excellent Outlander. I adored the reimagining of Beowolf using my ultimate weakness: a mingling of historical fiction and sci-fi with a sympathetic alien protagonist. I loved the characters, the Viking world, and the fascinating glimpses of the other worlds in space. The ending was beautiful and perfect. Next was The Jacket, a haunting, sometimes difficult to watch, and yet strangely beautiful movie. Jack and his relationship with Jackie broke my heart, and I loved the strange twists and turns of their meetings, as well as the somewhat cryptic ending (I like to think Jack survived in that time and stayed with her). That he was able to truly strange time was a fascinating, rare twist for a time travel film, and I loved the fitting theme at the end.

In new animated films I saw Minions and I loved every minute of it. The Minions are some of my favorite characters to emerge from recent animation, and the trio, especially dear little Bob and his teddy bear, were precious. Scarlet Overkill and her boyfriend were over the top and hilarious, and the opening sequence was flawless. I loved how the ending tied everything together with little Gru meeting the Minions.

I stumbled across the lovely miniseries The 10th Kingdom and fell in love with it's combination of zany twists on fairytales and cheesy, adorable romance. I miss that silliness and light-hearted touch shows had up until the past decade or so, and it's always a treat to revisit that era through something I've never seen. Wolf was flawless - the actor outdid himself - and I could relate a great deal to Virginia, even if I wanted to shake her a few times. But I loved their romance and how they ended up finding their own happily ever after. I also loved the non-traditional but beautiful portrayal of Snow White, and the fantastic world-building.

I also saw the miniseries Tut and while it didn't quite measure up to my expectations, I still loved it and I'm just so thrilled to finally have a drama about one of my favorite historical loves. Avan Jogia was perfect as Tut, slowly growing into the role and getting better by each part. His growth from sheltered boy to flawed king was fascinating to watch, and I grew very attached to him, so much so that even though I knew it was coming, I still teared up at the ending. The General and Ay were complex villains, Ka was deeply tragic - it was nice to see Peter Gadiot's pretty face again - and I was saddened by how the film destroyed the relationship between Tut and Ankhe in favor of more drama, but I loved their reconciliation at the ending. I seem to be in the minority on Suhad, though, who found her character overwhelmingly naive to the point of annoying, and couldn't see what Tut saw in her. But the filming was gorgeous, and several scenes deeply poignant, especially the haunting ending.
 
 
feeling: devious
calliope tune: "Even The Nights Are Better"-Air Supply