Orange Is the New Black: Season 4

I’d been planning to write my thoughts on the newest season of Orange Is the New Black since I finished watching a few days ago, but my emotions are overwhelming my ability to coherently describe them. So, warning for possible incoherence, albeit of the best sort: fangirl feels with a side of thinky-thoughts.

This is my favorite season of the show, although the season finales are such that, even though season 3 wasn’t the best, that ending with the frolicking at the lake gave me such a high I forgot about any gripes I had.

SPOILERS AHEAD

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Orange Is the New Black: Season 4

It’s Official: I’m Hate-Watching Pretty Little Liars

Last night, watching the season 7 premiere of Pretty Little Liars, I realized: this show now pisses me off more than it entertains me. This season is its last (the first half airs now, the second in the fall or winter), and in terms of mysteries and plot, it may be at least one season too much.

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Sadly, no.

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It’s Official: I’m Hate-Watching Pretty Little Liars

Penny Dreadful Season 3: Last First Impressions

As of this morning, post-season 3 finale, it’s still unclear if Penny Dreadful is coming back. The finale felt like a series finale, although the show could easily do an anthology-style continuation or spin off a character or two (Catriona Hartdegen anyone?). Just confirmed that the season finale was the apparently planned series finale: EW interview with John Logan and David Nevins from Showtime HERE.

I passionately loved this show and am baffled that it didn’t bring in more viewers, though it has a rabid fanbase. Penny Dreadful was horror with depth and heart, stunning imagery, and a fiercely talented cast. Eva Green, if you hadn’t noticed yet, is a goddess, absolutely fearless. I will miss it terribly.

Here are some thoughts on season 3, its last. (SPOILERS)

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Penny Dreadful Season 3: Last First Impressions

The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After

Review:

The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After - Soman Chainani

Rereading my previous reviews of the first two books in this YA fantasy trilogy, my issues remain unchanged in terms of execution: pacing, dramatic moments that don’t make a big enough impact, and murky worldbuilding. However, this book is my least favorite of the series because, unlike the first two, it doesn’t subvert fairytale tropes in as interesting a way. Although the final message–that one doesn’t need a love interest to be happy–is solid and probably still unique for such a story, I miss the play with gender and sexuality present in the first couple books. In the end, it’s also still unclear to me what this world’s view of Evil actually is.

 

Does it sound like I’m being too serious and picky for a YA novel? Really it’s just difficult to discuss a book that does question some major storytelling dichotomies without getting heavy. But there are also so many amazing YA novels and worlds out there that we know what the genre can do.

 

The book still surprised me, as they all have, and Agatha in particular is a complex heroine, with many admirable and relatable moments. She has an inner strength that it’s part of Sophie’s journey to discover in herself. However, I struggled with a key sequence where Sophie and Agatha feel very suddenly to have changed course. It was also a pain to read Agatha and Tedros’s parts in the beginning; they’re annoying as hell as they bicker. A lot of the comedy falls flat for me.

 

I see this book is highly rated on amazon, with many saying it’s their favorite of the trilogy. I can’t agree, but when the movie comes out, I’ll look forward to the adaptation as these books have felt more like movies from the start.

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The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After

The Conjuring 2

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Horror is not my favorite genre, but when I like a horror movie, I love the fuck out of it. I appreciate being taken out of my mind and into my body, and fear is one way to do that. Of course a great cast doesn’t hurt, and when The Conjuring came out three years ago, I watched it primarily for Vera Farmiga. Knowing she and Patrick Wilson would be in the sequel with the same director (James Wan) was enough to check it out, and I’m glad I did.

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The Conjuring 2

Breakfast with Dante’s Inferno

The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation - Robert Pinsky, Dante Alighieri

AT LAST.

I’ve attempted to read Dante’s Inferno at least twice before, years ago. I stopped not because I wasn’t interested but because I felt intimidated. Robert Pinsky’s translation has made all the difference; this was not a painful read at all–excluding the horrific and grotesque depictions of hell themselves. Pinsky’s translation was all the rage when it came out and through my years as an undergrad (at least in poetry circles), and I can see why. It’s lucid and captures something of the original terza rima in English: no easy feat.

I’m also smarter about how to read works with copious notes. I simply read a canto THEN flipped to the back and read the notes. The cantos are short enough where this makes sense, and I could understand the narrative for that period.

As for Dante’s work, it’s still awe-inspiring as a literary accomplishment and as a text that is inextricably a part of culture. It’s essential reading for poets and writers, or artists, period–the journey through hell is a common theme of artistic maturity in part because of Dante. It’s a portrait of mentorship, not just of hell. As a narrative it’s also compelling for its use of point of view–Dante the poet writing about his journey after the fact and Dante as pilgrim traveling hell with his guide, Virgil.

Much of the imagery in the Inferno is still shocking, though in a few places it’s also darkly comic. I read a canto each morning as I ate breakfast, which was not always the best idea! The tortures Dante invents are graphically depicted so that, like Dante, you can’t help but pity the sinners at times. Some figures come from history and mythology, while others, though real people, are not known unless one is familiar with Italian history specifically–naturally, the shades Dante wishes to talk to are those he knew or knew of.

As an atheist, I could only connect so much with the story, or only in the way I might when reading fantasy. The human elements are what matter to me, not the baffling construct of hell (baffling in which sins are considered worse than others and why) or the condemnation of those who simply happened to live before Christ, were not baptized, were homosexual, or were “heretics” (i.e. anyone not Christian) or “usurers” (typically code for Jewish).

What would the nine circles be and who would be in them if Dante were writing today?

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Breakfast with Dante’s Inferno

Bloodline Season 2

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Bloodline took me by surprise last season; I didn’t know what the show would be, just that it had an amazing cast. By the second episode, I was enthralled with the family drama-cum-thriller and its alternately beautiful and dark Florida Keys setting. This season has gotten mixed reviews, with some favoring this season and others the first. My reaction is mixed as well, but I’d be happy to have more, especially with that ending.

As with the first season, the performances are the best element. Last season, Ben Mendelsohn stole the show as misfit prodigal son, Danny, which is saying something given that his costars include Sissy Spacek, Kyle Chandler, and Linda Cardellini. This season, tensions have only risen, and watching these characters–Chandler’s John, the “responsible” oldest son and detective; Cardellini’s Meg, a lawyer; and Norbert Leo Butz’s irresponsible Kevin–barely keep it together after the events of last season is a nail-biting pleasure. My favorite scene involved John confirming his wife’s suspicions without saying a word; Chandler turns into a scared little boy right before your eyes, all the more impressive if, like me, you associate him most strongly with Friday Night Lights‘ Coach Eric Taylor.

Another amazing scene is when all three siblings confront one another, with Meg and Kevin teaming up against John. No one is willing to take full responsibility for their actions, and it showcases another effective element of the show, which is the way it steers your sympathies with different characters moment to moment. You’re never rooting for anyone long.

The weakest part of this season was the cavalcade of new characters, meant to keep some of the same tensions from last season while restricting the main characters’ choices. There was just one too many, and their storylines didn’t always pay off, or were shifted. I’m most interested in Evangeline and Nolan, as well as the obviously shady Roy Gilbert and his plans.

I would still recommend this show if you’re looking for something tense and well-acted.

Bloodline Season 2