Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: D. Gray-man Hollow




What's it about?

Return to this alternate timeline where the world is a mixture of science and magic and exoricists hunt down mysterious weapons called Innocence to defeat the Millenum Earl.  Allen Walker, an exorcist, discovers secrets of his past and how he is truely tired to the Noah, the Millenium Earl and the 14th.

Thoughts:

Back when I'd originally started this series, I loved the characters but the series cut off with no real resolution thanks to a host of issues.  Sadly it left things unresolved and upon hearing that there was a continuation I was eager to jump back in.

I am a huge sucker for anime that focus on religion, mainly because it's so interesting to see how other cultures see something that I'm familiar with.  So anime that deal with exorcists and demons and the like are super interesting to me.  There's always something new about it and so much creativity they aren't afraid to explore.  In the course of a continuation I was excited there too, because the characters I'd been introduced to were very interesting and deserved more screen time.

Sadly this continuation didn't turn out as I'd hoped.  Unlike other projects out there that pick up old source material and continue it for a new audience, this anime drops the viewer right into the thick of it.  While this might work for some series, D.Gray-man it does not.  There are just far too many characters for one to keep track of, and this was in detriment to the series as a whole.

The original D.Gray-man series had a habit of introducing the audience to a daily monster, then defeating it and recruiting them to The Order of exorcists.  This style makes it easy to follow from day one, but jumping back in it means you're left with about 20 characters to juggle.  Add to that the newly introduced members of the Noah family (the bad guys), the Crows (exorcists in red), the Thirds (more exorcists), the scientists, the Bookmen and a couple more daily monsters and it will make your head spin. It almost made me want to take out a pen and paper to take notes - which is not a good thing.

Though, realistically I should have realized from the opening, as it basically shows all these characters as different groups and hints that there's a lot to keep track of.

Even setting the characters aside, the plot arc of the 14th is heavy, and a lot to swallow.  Without giving too much away it causes an upheaval in The Order and Allen is stuck right in the middle of it.  He's not so much an active character, but rather along with the right, trying to survive with everyone else.  This fast pace leaves the viewer wanting to take more notes.  It also made it feel like I was watching a long winded recap due to the speed, and I found myself really hoping that they would slow down and re-cover a few things, rather then handing characters so much exposition dialog.

Sadly, the final nail in the coffin was the ending of the season.  It's left wide open with no resolution, obviously hinting at them expecting to have more time.  Sadly, like the previous series, it was cut off after just one season with no resolution in sight.  I'll have to hunt down the manga for a resolution, which isn't horrible, but it would have been nice to see it in animated format before I do that.

While not all bad, there were some good points of the series.  For one, Kanda gets a well done arc that explains quite a bit of his back story and where he came from.  Though rushed, I did like learning about the 2nds and Alma.  The sad part is that like the rest of the series, this is left open ended and at the end of the season we are left seeing only the beginnings of his reactions to discovering the truth.  I would have loved to see this full story line all the way to the end with his reacting to what he learned, but no such luck.

The Noah family, also, enjoys a bit of a redesign for the better.  While more is learned about the Millennium Earl that completely destroys his ability to be threatening, other characters like Tyki Mikk are done beautifully.  For as a little as he shows up in this new series, him and Road are high points in the season and there's never enough of them, ever.

The animation is a bit of a sticking point as well.  While overall it looks stunning and beautiful, there are certain points where it misses the mark entirely.  Comical moments are paired with 1st season Naruto style animation that makes me want to wash my eyes out and high tension fight scenes are paired with oddly drawn eyes that make the characters look squished or cross-eyed and destroy the tension completely.  It's highly distracting and really detracted from the series as a whole, no matter how much I wanted to know what was coming next.

Final Thoughts?


While series like Black Butler and Full Metal Alchemist have made anime retreads and continuations all the rage, this is one you can skip.  The plot points are interesting and the characters are there, but it makes more sense to read a well edited Wikipedia article then try and keep track of everything over 12 episodes.  I wasn't impressed, it actually saddened me that I spent the time on it.

Oh well, time to hunt down some fanfic about Kanda and Alma and look into the manga series, hoping there's some closure and better explanation there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Witch



What's it about?

Set back in the 1600's, a family is banished from their colonial town to build their own farm and find their own way.  However, things don't go well on their own.  Within the first year they are set upon by an evil force, set on bringing them to ruin.

Thoughts

I'll say first off, that as a practicing witch, movies like this give me pause.  I often laugh off the way my kind are portrayed in movies and during the holidays because it's usually quite comical or so far off the mark.  However, there are some portrayals that really get under my skin, and that's usually when they're rooted in the fear people have of witches and the severe hatred that some people have based on religion.  It bothers me because their view of us is nothing like what we really are and when a lot of people hate, well, stupid and dangerous things happen.

That said, this movie got under my skin in a really good way, so much to the point that I actually turned it off halfway through and took a break before I could finish it.  There's a severe amount of religious self loathing and self hatred in this movie that I wasn't prepared for.  That plus the dated style of speaking really pulls you in to this family and what they are dealing with.  You feel for all of them, and when the shit starts to hit the fan, it's painful to watch, but it's also like a train wreck, because you want to see where it all ends up.

The other thing that got under my skin was the treatment of Thomasin.  A lot of how she was treated scared me, because the family was so quick to jump to hatred and fear and she's put in a really impossible place.  She has to deal with all of it and somehow survive.

My biggest gripe with the film is that in some cases they showed a little too much.  While I understand why they included the imagery they did, I wish there were two scenes where they didn't, because it kind of ruined the effect. But that's mostly minor and can be overlooked.

All in all, the movie is quite good, if you can get past some of those points.  It's not scary in a bloody way, really.  Instead I found this movie scary and effective because of how well it shows how quickly people will turn on each other when scared.  Especially considering the current world and how much people are emboldened to act on such emotions, this movie cut a bit closer then I was expecting.

Over all, after making it to the end, I really liked it.  I admire where this film went and how the story played out.  Though hard to watch, it's a very well done folktale.

How I saw it

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness



It's hard to describe this book and really do it justice. 

I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend on Facebook, and do not regret it for a second.

The book tells, in manga form, the story of a young woman who has never viewed herself highly and how that has effected her view of herself and the world, and held her back from living. 

This is an intensely personal story from the author. In a simple and crude style she gives us a view into the personal and crushing parts of her life. She doesn't expect us to understand everything and doesn't give excuses, but is rather very up front and blunt with the turns her life has taken and why and where it has taken her. 

While some of her experiences were totally foreign to me, several hit far too close to home. Several times I found myself looking away from the book and pausing as I remembered parts of my life growing up. This is not just for queer teenagers, but also speaks to eating disorders, issues with belonging and the need to be accepted but also be alone, just to name a few. It is an emotional book to read and grasp, however the rough manga style makes it very easy to read and light to take in, to contrast the heavy material.

But with all of that it's also worth it. No deep answers are given, no fixes suggested, just honesty. The type of honesty I wish I'd had when I was experiencing the worst of this in my teenage years. The author doesn't claim to be an expert, or even fixed. She just exists and is still learning how to be herself and deal with who she is, if she even knows. 

In that I found the book to be refreshing and needed. Having someone present this much emotion and personal info while not claiming to be an expert is so sincere. This book's simplest message is that 'you're not alone' no matter how alone you feel, and that is something so important.  It's even more important then being fixed or able to cope with life, because sometimes just having someone understand is enough.

Every once in the great while I come across a book that I have feel a deep need to buy multiple copies of and give them to friends. This is one of those books. I highly recommend giving this book a read and a chance. It doesn't offer any answers or fixes, but sometimes just knowing that someone else gets it means just as much.  Seriously, go get yourself a copy. 

BTW: This was soooooo me in high school.  I should have known:



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Netflix Death Note - The Story that Could Have Been

There's a problem you run into when becoming a published author, that I hadn't anticipated.  Me, always an avid reader, has found it really hard to read as many books as I used it.  It's not just about the time investment or the work to find stories I'm interested in with all the novels out there - it's the intimate knowledge of the process of getting published.  I know all the work that goes into getting out there and all the blood, sweat and tears that come from those before they hit this point and all those who haven't made it yet.

So when crap comes across my plate, it tastes even worse then I could imagine.


So with that in mind, let's talk about the Death Note movie from Netflix.  This is not a review, but it does contain spoilers so if you have a desire to see this movie after all of the horrendous reviews you've scrolled past on your social media feed, you might not want to read this.  Or do.  Maybe.  Whatever.

Beyond all the issues with whitewashing and the watering down of the story - which trust me, I could write pages about.  But both of those have been tackled in several other reviews, so I'm going to aim a little differently.

See, along with the being able to taste the infinite details of the crap set before me, I also find myself graspoing at plot threads that could have worked.  In some cases this makes me like certain movies that others might have hated.  With the Netflix Death Note there is a specific thread that my creative side latched onto.  In other words, lets talk Mia Sutton.


In the movie, Mia Sutton initially reaks of 'edgier then you Bella Swan.' However, as the movie goes on, she's obsessed with finally having power on her own terms that isn't filted through a stereotypical glass.  (AKA: To be a popular girl, one must be a cheerleader.  To be noticed in high school, one must fit in a specific archetype.  But to be a god, she can kill whoever she wants.)  Mia becomes more 'Kira' then this protrayl of Light ever is, and she also becomes a villian in the film.  There in lies the thread of a plot that would be interesting.  Give her a different Death God/Shinigami and have this girl be smart enough to not make herself the figure head and instead manipulate a fuckboy into killing for her and keeping her hands clean.

That, right there, is the makings of plot gold and a story that we don't often see told.  Yes, she is a female caught in a storyline about sex, as many women are, but this is sex on her own terms and used as a weapon.  In a world where the sultry badgirl is so common, why not take the moment to flesh her out and give her a little more then expected.  You can have a smart woman and then write a really engaging story about her downfall. That is a story I would devour that and happily hunt down surrounding media for like fanart and fanfic.

Sadly the Netflix version of Death Note doesn't hold up to this premise which it offers.  It chooses to focus squarely on Light, and while he has some doubts about Mia, they're easily passed off in the lackluster finale in a very YA fashion.  Instead of a showdown like they deserved, Mia makes her last fatal move and unceremoniously dies in a bed of flowers, along with any dream that she might have been a more interesting character.  I wish they'd delved a bit more into her story, give us a reason why she likes to kill so much and why she feels she needs this power, heck, show her planning and plotting more with Ryuk, because I'm sure he's intelligent enough to leave her clues... after all others can see his eaten apples.

All in all the movie presented us with a very different take on Misa Misa and didn't follow through, much to my dismay. That's not to say that the original Misa Misa was perfect, she was however very interesting and much more fleshed out then this version.

If you take anything away from this movie, whether you watch it or not, I hope you look at your own works and take a step back.  If, at any point, any of your characters can be replaced by a 2 dimensional cardboard cutout then you have not done your job as a writer and story crafter.  It is up to you as a creator to show us all sides of a character you create - not to hand us an archetype and expect us to fill in the details.  We, the audience, came to watch your movie... not play MadLibs with the plot points from the last handful of things we've watched.

I think, to a degree, a lot of movies of late are getting sloppy.  Well written character moments are traded in for flashy montages and chase scene climaxes that are a dime a dozen.  Be bold, take a chance.  Flesh out a character for the audience and give us a reason to love and/or hate them.  Let us see their path and convince us with your writing that this is the path they chose, where ever it may lead.  Because therein lies the stories we want to read and see.  Therein lies the best kind of storytelling.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: Paper Terminal by Tyrine Carver

Fall is right around the corner in Minnesota and the weather is cooling down - the perfect time to curl up with an open window, a blanket and a book.  So perhaps add this one to your shelf?


Paper Terminal is the first illustrated novel adventure of Riley.  She's rescued by and then dragged into the magical wake of two people who are constantly getting involved with Sirens, Dragons and a mysterious entity who is trying to kill her.  Or maybe they're trying to kill her dead brother.

And remember how I said illustrated novel?  Not only is this Riley's story, but it's punctuated with beautiful art by MuseTap Studios, of whom Tyrine is a member.  I've already started to fall in love with the characters through her art and can't wait to read their adventures.

You can pick up the book at this link!

Check it out, and don't forget to leave a review if you do!




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Review: Jessica Jones Season 1

What's it about?

On the Netflix side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe there's a little apartment turned into an office with an often broken window in the door.  This is Alias Investigations and - if you can convince her to help you - Jessica Jones is one great PI.  However, at the moment she's out of the office, trying to track down the man who ruined her life. 

Thoughts?

There's a lot of really good things about Jessica Jones.  First and foremost it's a super hero show with women in the forefront - front and center.  Yes, I said women: plural.

The show does an amazing job of showing us a variety of female characters (good and bad) that have been severely lacking for sooooo many years. We have super hero females, best friends, lovers, assholes and innocent victims.  Men are barely present in this series, which is a refreshing change, but they are present in some very integral parts.  The downside is that this really highlights the lack of such care in the Cinematic Universe as a whole and makes me glare at the movies for not offering us more.  (I love Scarlet Witch, I do, but come on, give us more main females then just her and Black Widow!)

The down side is this show also made me realize something else about the Cinematic Universe and I find it super troubling.  There are no female characters in the Marvel Universe who do not come from a place of sexual trauma or abuse.  And if you think they don't, it's because we haven't heard all the details from their backstory yet.  This is a serious problem with female characters and probably deserves a huge rant in and of itself.  However I'm gonna stop myself, cuz this is a review.

Back to the good stuff, one of the things this series does amazingly well is side characters.  Aside from being fully fleshed out with a lot of really diverse bits, they are given an important part that makes the series as a whole work.  While the character of Jessica Jones is trying her best to hunt down Kilgrave and stop him, he's leaving a pile of bodies around her.  Jessica Jones doesn't have time to mourn all these bodies (though she really wants to), so these side characters do it for her and give the audience that much needed release.  There isn't a stack of nameless faces around her like a slasher movie, nope these are actual people and the series goes through episode after episode to show us that and remind us.  It has a very sobering and real effect that I don't think could have been portrayed in a better way.

Kilgrave himself was a really interesting villain and one who kept me guessing.  Aside from being written incredibly well, David Tennant did an amazing job portraying him.  At every turn he was more and more devious and untrustworthy.  This isn't just a man you fear.  He's a man you hate and avoid because you don't dare give him an inch.  There were several times in the story where it seemed like they were trying to give him some motivation for how he was - but then it came to light that he was lying again, manipulating with every fiber of his being power or not.  It's truly scary to see someone who can do nothing but manipulate everyone around him.  And he's really really good at it even without his power.  Seriously, this kind of character and writing gives me nightmares and inspires me to create at the same time - I love it.

Final thoughts?

Overall I'm quite happy with the series even with it's flaws.  I'm looking forward to jumping into the rest of this world and what comes from it.  Hopefully the amazing female characters cross over into the other series, because there's a few I would love to see again, aside from Jessica herself.

Where'd I get it?

Steaming on Netflix of course!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Back Seat Gamer: Persona 5

Intro

I'm just going to buy the game, she says, but we won't play it until after conventions settle down.
I'm just going to watch the opening, she says, but we're not starting it yet.
Maybe just one battle, to see how the mechanics work, honest.

I know it's a lie, of course.  This is how Persona games get you.  3 had a great opening, 4 had nearly 2 hours of cut scenes before the first save point.  And Persona 5?  Well, it drops you in the middle of the story as a thief in a flashing casino escaping the police.  That's how Persona gets you, so it's just best to give in and go.  You'll enjoy the ride.

Summary

As the main character, you're on parole from a recent court hearing and are sent to a large city to attend school and hopefully not get into any trouble.  You are supposed to keep your head down and be good, and especially not form a group of Phantom Thieves who spend nights in another world battling to change the hearts of the rotten adults of the world.  Something like that is way over the head of a normal teenager, such as yourself.

The Persona series are JRPG games where teenagers deal with deep issues and summon a part of themselves (their persona) as a physical way to fight and survive in the world around them.  Powers are leveled up by making friends and connections in the normal world and at night you battle the supernatural forces lurking in the world to your heart's content. Honestly, it's hard to explain if you haven't played one, but they are some of the best RPG games I have ever seen.

Thoughts?

Since seeing that first Gamestop video - was that a teenager shooting himself in the head to summon a monster?? - the curiosity hooked us.  Persona is one of the most unique JRPG series I've ever heard of and each installment catches you in it's clutches with masterful story telling, engaging characters and heart-wrenching reveals.  You can jump in anywhere, but the games don't forget about the previous installment, so there's still enough call backs to make your little fangirl heart swell up with nostalgia as you meet the new main characters and explore their world.

Persona 4, without getting into too many spoilers, was phenomenal and easily held it's place as one of the best stories I've seen in a video game.  Not to mention one of the best treatments I've seen of teenagers dealing with queer identity. Persona 5 takes that amazing storytelling to another level with several plot points that left us yelling at the screen or just staring dumbfounded as the truth revealed itself.  While this new set of characters doesn't have the same queer-centric story lines that made me love Persona 4, I wasn't left with a shortage of things to love in it's place.

For one, the main character.  While most JRPGs are full of faceless and nondescript leads so that the player can easily insert themselves, this main character had the most personality I've ever seen. He doesn't talk much and you choose most of his dialog, but this is combined with subtle things like smirks and flair that give you a very clear idea who he is.  As Ryugi so finely puts it in the game "I'm already pegged as a trouble maker, so why not live up to the part?" The main character seems to have taken this quote to heart and is keeping his head low like he's supposed to, but he can't resist the urge to do what he can.  He's mischievous and the game communicates this very well with the limits it has on a character you play and great dialog choices.  I am generally not a fan of main characters in franchises, usually it's the side characters that get me.  But, believe me, this game is written so well that I love the main character the most and that is impressive!


The story line of Persona 5 deals with some very adult issues - ones that many teenagers will relate to.  Rotten adults are everywhere in this world and some are so rotten they've crossed the line.  However where movies and TV series will water down these issues or over-sexualize them, Persona 5 does a good job of walking the line.  The villains are not exaggerated cardboard cut outs and have just as much care in their crafting as the main characters.  A teacher who abuses his students - for example - isn't just shown as a rapist, but as a failed hero figure that took his Olympic status too far.  You can easily see how a simple desire of his went too far, got corrupted and now must be stopped.  Most stories out there would just make him a rapist and be done with it, but here the sexual aspect is toned down because he's abusing multiple students in multiple ways and not all of them are so obvious.  But all of it needs to be stopped so that is where the focus is placed.

Your teammates step outside of the mold as well.  Ryugi, the clown thug, is allowed to remain this and still be lovable in his dumb moments rather then being forced to grow more intelligent by the end.  Similarly Ann is allowed to be unapologetic about herself and isn't squished into the form of the 'sexy girl' trope.  All of the characters step outside their standard mold with well written story lines and reveals.  Most of the things I love about them are spoilers, so I won't go into them here, but let me just say that if you max out all of their social links, you'll find that these characters are much more complex then the marketing material might suggest.

A moment of attention must also be paid to the adults in this story.  While the majority of the story lines deal with shitty corrupted adults, the game doesn't let that be the only option.  You will meet responsible adults in the game who haven't become corrupted and who are actually still attempting to deal with the world as a whole.  And when things get rough, you will find adults who actually listen to the teenagers, again providing an under used story option to explore that most ignore.

There is also the fact that this story, aside from the masterful writing, gets seriously political and feels far too close to the current reality in the US.  It's scary how well it's written and I don't want to give it away.  But this is the game I really needed to play this year and I have all sorts of complicated feelings with it.

What I'm trying to say is that the story telling in this game is some of the best out there and it's hard for me to convey without a lot of arm flapping and pointing, but just trust me.  If you love good stories, you will love this game.

The game mechanics of Persona are familiar with the rest of the series.  Once again you, as the main character, have the ability to collect several powerful creatures like Pokemon and evolve and arrange them to give yourself more powers.  A newly added mechanic from other Shin Megami Tensei games is that you can now negotiate with the creatures you fight and ultimately collect.  Should you negotiate correctly they can give you money, give you items or join you without much of a fight. The mechanic makes sure that level grinding doesn't become tedious and repetitive, because there's always something new.

I also highly recommend the soundtrack for this game as it does a masterful job of sweeping you up into the moment so you feel even more accomplished when you beat that boss.  Level grinding has never been this catchy!

How Much I Played

I did not play this game.  The Persona series has me firmly in the passenger seat due to the mechanics for collecting and combining the persona you collect.  I love the variety of creatures, but there's no way I could keep track of all of that, plus all the other characters.  That and the fact that my wifey loves playing these games, I wouldn't take it away from her.  So I watched the whole game and helped her pick dialog and yes... I'm already planning cosplay.



Final thoughts?

I am not kidding, I can not think of a thing I didn't like about this game. We're on New Game plus, playing it a second time to unlock all we missed and I'm still invested.  We even went and hunted down the anime prequel episode The DayBreakers to get more content and it's still not enough.  I need more of this game, more of these characters and more everything.  Not because the story is unfinished, but because it's that good.  I'm even praying for an anime adaptation just to see a couple more scenes, because I can't wait to relive it all again.  This is what fandom looks like. 

Where'd I get it?

We bought Persona 5 for the PS4 at Gamestop and watched Persona 5: The DayBreakers on Crunchyroll.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Black Butler Book of the Atlantic (OVA)



What's it about?

Against his better wishes, Ciel Phantomhive has been asked by the Queen to investigate the Aurora society and their dealings behind closed doors.  Their next meeting happens to be at sea, so it's time to board the ship - which is certainly not the Titanic - and deal with the cargo below - which certainly isn't zombies. 

Thoughts?

Black Butler is one of my absolute favorite anime series and I've been chomping at the bit for this arc to be animated.  I was quite happy when they did Book of Circus and now with Book of Murder out and this one, I really hope they continue to animate each of the arcs in this way.  I know I'm not the only one looking forward to the "Not Hogwarts" arc that comes next!

The format of an OVA works well for this arc, as it is quite short.  I'll admit when I started watching it I was quite worried because there are some moments of horrible CGI that sticks out like a sore thumb and a couple shots of the boat which are very disorienting to look at.  However when it came to the very important scenes of the anime, that was where the animation took it's time and looked incredibly fluid - so it was worth it.  They obviously wanted to stretch the budget and focus on the scenes that deserved it, which was perfect. 

We got to see this movie dubbed in the theater thanks to a lucky local showing and the dub does not disappoint.  Just like all the other seasons the voice work is amazing and the chemistry between Ciel and Sebastian is perfect.  Brina Palencia and J Michael Tatum are always a joy to listen to!

This arc does not deviate from the manga in any ways I can tell, so you're going to get a very accurate retelling.  In fact, there's a couple shots that I recognized right out of the manga, which happened to be a nice touch.  That said most of the parts I absolutely loved are semi spoilers so I'll leave them out and be a bit vague.  I loved all the returning characters and the plot points that were revealed in this arc and seeing them animated was icing on the cake!

That said, this is not a stand alone movie.  There are several references to previous arcs (very notably Book of Murder) that will be lost if you haven't seen them.  The dub does try to make up for this by adding in small comments about the Shinigami/Reapers and other plot points, but I can see someone who is behind getting quite lost.  Still it doesn't affect the main plot too much, so I think any confusion may just urge them to catch up, rather then ruin the whole movie.  

Final thoughts?

Yep, totally NOT the Titanic (but it is) and totally doesn't reference that movie at all (but it does).  And I love it. I already have a list of friends I plan to share this blu-ray with as soon as it's out. 

Where'd I get it?

We saw this movie in the theater due to a limited showing by Funimation Films.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Where To Find Us This Weekend: Convergence in Minnesota!



It's that time for Convergence in Minnesota and we have quite the busy schedule!

At Convergence we don't have a regular selling table.  Instead we have specific signing and reading times, and that's when we can sell stuff, so make sure you stop by to pick up any books and prints you don't have yet.  Plus we have one of the Pixel Quilts up in the Art Show!


See you there!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where To Find Us This Weekend: Washington DC!


Back to conventions!  This weekend we'll be in Washington D.C. for blerDCon!

We're excited to be guests at this first year convention and hope to see a lot of new, awesome faces!

We'll have a table, as always, and a couple panels too.   Check out Frankensteining Patterns, Diversity in Writing and the Body Positivity panels!

Come by and say hi and don't forget, we'll have the magical girls as prints and preorders, plus our other books.  And even, NEW COSPLAY!


See you there!



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: Bright City by dc edwards

Time to showcase another book released by a friend of mine that you should check out. 

I met this author through my wifey's old job and I'm currently reading this book between my sewing and conventions and it's quite good!  Check it out!






Abigail Drexler is set to inherit the Drexton Kingdom.

Until she is expelled for treason and watches helplessly as her best friend is murdered, she finds herself abandoned to The Outlands.  Captured by an Outlander clan leader, Abigail's journey through the post-apocalyptic landscape of a world ravaged by plagues and devastating climate changes, she becomes determined to find her way back home and avenge the murder of her best friend.

But the best-laid plans are always upended.

When Abigail is kidnapped by a fiery redhead, her life shifts to the Bright City. The beautiful information-driven society thrives on intrigue and manipulation. Thrust into this treacherous new world, Abigail is wrapped in a conspiracy that pushes her to the edge of sanity and deeper into the corruption of the Bright City

In this new world of information as power; information as currency, will Abigail find the clues to her exile and the keys to her freedom. 


Follow dc edwards:

Instagram: @dcedwardswrites
Twitter: @dcedwardswrites
Facebook: Facebook.com/dcedwardswrites
Goodreads: Goodreads.com/dcedwardwrites
Website: dcedwardswrites.com

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: The Exorcist (season 1)

What's it about?

We all know the infamous movie, about a young possessed girl and the two exorcists who tried to dispel the demon inside her.  This isn't quite the same story, but it's very similar.

Thoughts?

Back when I was in high school, a friend and I decided to buy a bunch of old VHS tapes from a local garage sale.  While this is not one of those horror stories, one of those tapes happened to be The Exorcist and we decided to pop it in and watch it, without really knowing what we were getting into.  At the time I was NOT PREPARED for that movie and it's stuck with me since then.

Now, well out of high school and into my 30's, the potential of a TV series around the same story sounded to me like a great idea.  That and by now you probably know I'm a huge sucker for anything that deals with any religion in a respectful and creative manner.

The nice thing about this series is that since they had so many episodes, they were able to stretch things out and give plenty of twists and turns.  We got to see each of the characters fleshed out and it becomes really easy to care about each of them and want to see them beat the demons present around them. While the series is called The Exorcist, the two exorcists are not the main characters.  Angela and her family are just as important and it gives the series a real weight to it that I wasn't expecting (as most tv shows tend to fail, at least a little, in this area).

The demons - yes, plural - are also handled amazingly well.  Rather then shadowy CGI effects or something equally cheesy, this series has grasped the recent trend of making them look human, with one slightly off characteristic.  It makes for a much more suspenseful story (because they could be anyone) without the need for a lot of budget being dropped into cheesy effects.  It also reminds me of one of my favorite book series: Morgan Kingsley by Jenna Black.  In that series she's an exorcist by trade who ends up with a demon prince inside her.  While that doesn't happen here, the way the demons are treated in regard to their intelligence, society and interaction with the human race is very similar.

The religion aspect is also handled nicely.  One would think that a series about exorcists and exorcisms might be nothing but that and a bunch of heavy handed Catholic imagry.  Happily this series treats the church as a set piece that figures into the plot rather then soemthing that needs to be shoved down the audience's throat.  Several times thoughout the series there are chances to over show this element and almost every time the series steps away from that and almost takes a Supernatural approach.  In that they assume the audience knows what an exorcism is, so they don't need to teach us.  This is very welcome, as sequences like that could have easily turned me off to the show or made me bored.

Now with all those good things, there is one glaring bad thing that I noticed and it's a teenie bit spoilery, but I'll do my best to keep it vague.  Many times throughout the series, as much as I liked the two priests, I found them acting very stupid in putting some of the larger pieces together.  A fairly obvious plot point was missed by them for about 2/3rds of the movie to the point that it was quite annoying.


Final thoughts?

Best season so far.  I can't wait to see the next.

Where'd I get it?

Streaming on Netflix, which is why I'm a season behind.  I have to wait for it to come to Netflix each time.







Friday, June 2, 2017

Where to Find Us This Weekend: Minnesota

Wow, it's been a busy week.  I meant to post this back on Wednesday to give some people some warning, but with everything going on I didn't get a chance.  So here's two events you can find us at this weekend!


Saturday morning you'll find us at Dreamers Vault for their Wonder Woman event.  We'll have a table with many of our normal items and the wifey will be sporting her Wonder Woman dress in honor of the movie!  We should be at the Minneapolis location from morning until around noon, so be sure to stop by!


Sunday, we'll be special guests at a book event in St Paul at Big V's Saloon!  Come hang out for live music, book readings and check out local works!  We'll be there around 2 pm and will, of course, have our stuff to sell.  

As always, feel free to come by and buy stuff or just chat and hang out!  We love to see everyone, especially locally in our home area.  And if there's an event near you that you want to see us at, feel free to let us or the organizers know!

See you there!


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Event This Weekend: MantiCon 2017 in Minnesota



This is a little something new for us.  Unfortunately we won't be at the con as a whole, but we will be present in one of the room parties on Friday night to do two book readings and you should join us!  We'll, of course, have prints and books to sell and be up for chatting while we're there!

Here's the room party information:


May 26th - 9:00pm and 9:30pm
Hilton -  Minneapolis St Paul Airport
3800 American Blvd E, Bloomington Minnesota 55425

Stop by to hear some magical girls, some urban fantasy and chat! See you there!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: When the Man Comes Around by Xero Reynolds

I've got a lot of friends who are releasing books lately and I'm super excited about a lot of these projects, so I thought I'd showcase a few of them for others who follow my blog to check out.

First up! Xero is a good friend we had the pleasure of meeting one year at Anime Iowa.  He's a constant source of quick wit and inspiration online for me and it's been a lot of fun reading his little teases as this novel was coming together. 


Revelation:
(revəˈlāSH(ə)n)
noun

1. The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world as it truly is.

2. The reason Malcom Coddaire is about to have a very bad week.

Mal really enjoys the life he's made for himself in Houston. He runs a flower shop, plays guitar in a local band, and has a great appreciation for the city's night life; night life that includes creatures of the supernatural realm. It's hardly surprising. He's a Demon, after all. Try not to hold that against him.

It's a real pity for Mal though, as an old friend, a dogged police investigation, and even Death himself pop in to completely upend his happy lifestyle. The week that follows will prove to be a clash of Heaven, Hell, and Heavy Metal as the city of Houston begins groaning under the weight of something terrible approaching, and Mal is given only two options:

Fix the problem, or have his last trip to Earth cut fatally short.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Event Tomorrow: Books and Beer Pop-up Bookstore



While there are no cons this month, that doesn't mean we aren't up to no good!

Tomorrow you can find us at the Books and Beer Pop-up Bookstore with our books and prints and ready to talk about some magical girls and other crazy things!


Location: Lake Monster Brewing
550 Vandalia St, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114
Check out the Facebook page link for directions and further information on how to get there!





Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What Scared Me



The idea behind this blog entry was inspired by Chris Stuckman's video about his own childhood trauma's and the images that he grew up with that stuck with him.  After listening to it I thought it might be fun to do one of my own, especially since I'm working on my own horror anthology to be released later this year.

(Plus no cons for a month, so it's back to interesting journal entries!)

Before I go into this I'll give a little history.  As a kid I did not like horror and I had a very vivid imagination.  That paired with my need for glasses and being cross-eyed made for some interesting experiences when the lights went out and I swore I saw shadows move.  I got older but still stayed away from horror movies, though I would have one of my best friends tell me the summary of every single one that sounded interesting - because he'd seen them all (Shameless plug he writes movie reviews now!).  As I grew older, I was still quite scared of specific things until some time after college where I decided to just binge whatever I could find on Netflix and get rid of those fears once and for all.  It mostly worked, but there's still some images as a kid that unnerve me to this day and I really can't forget.

Gmork: The Neverending Story
As a child I loved fantasy movies, specifically ones involving a normal kid going to a far away land.  I can't even count how many times I saw this movie and I always loved it - but always hated the creepy wolf in the cave.  I hated the way the animatronic's eyes were too wide and how it moved and talked like a human - to the point of numerous reoccurring nightmares as I grew up.  To this day I have a fear of wolves and even dogs that look a little too wolf like with intelligent eyes.


99 Fear Street: The House of Evil - The First Horror
I loved books as a kid and devoured them like you wouldn't believe.  Fantasy was again my drug of choice (sensing a pattern) and I would just fly through them.  I was also interested in horror, but far too scared to read any of it myself.  So I settled for reading the back summaries of these books over and over again.  The stories written by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike intrigued me to no endand they were everywhere while I was growing up.  Eventually I really couldn't resist anymore and I finally broke down and read one.  Not a good idea.  This haunted house story made me hate wallpaper and creepy houses and really really made me hate garbage disposals.



Xenomorphs - Alien Franchise
Once, when I was younger, my parents took me to a museum that had a huge movie display, complete with props and models from a whole host of movies.  One in particular was of Ripley in the giant power-loader facing off with the Xenomorph Queen from the second movie.  I remember the thing was so real looking that the glossy lights in the museum actually made it seem slimy.  For years I was convinced that creepy alien creature could somehow inhabit the small space between my door and the back wall while it was open and if I closed it all the way, then it would get completely into my room and eat me in the darkness.  I now thing the alien is amazing looking and I love H.R. Giger's art style - but I'd be lying if sometimes it still didn't unnerve me in complete darkness.


Boogeyman - Stephen King
My mom is a book worm like me and always had a shelf full of her favorites that she didn't lend out to others.  Two popular names on that shelf were Stephen King and Dean Koontz and I also thought about reading them.  Like the R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, I'd read the backs over and over again, but these were grown up books, so I wasn't supposed to read them.  Once, while my parents were traveling for business, I was in the house alone with my little brother and I snuck up to sleep in the guest bedroom where that bookshelf was.  I picked up one of the books - Nightshift, by Steven King and looked through the list of stories.  Stupidly I chose the one called Boogeyman and read it.  The short story didn't say much, but I can remember it to this day and it still creeps me out.  I always hated closets and this didn't help.  To the point that I actually threw the book in the trash - because the very idea of it actually being in the same house as me was just too much.




So with all of this why am I writing horror?  Somewhere around high school and college I conquered my fear of horror and slowly started watching and reading it.  I read Stephen King, watched some of the movies and scared myself even more with amateur ghost hunting at my college campus.  Eventually I just dove in head first and devoured horror just like I had fantasy in the past, especially Asian horror.  I love the idea of something scary being a force of nature that can not be stopped, no matter what you do.  It's so much more haunting then the American idea of 'unfinished business' where things can be solved. And even more, I took all the things from those countless movies and books and stories and wound the things that scared me into stories that might scare others.

And they don't scare me anymore.  (Except wolves and mirrors, still hate those.)

So come the end of this year, those who pick up my book get to be my guinea pigs.  I wonder, will what scared the hell out of me for so many years scare you?  I suppose we'll see ^__^

Thursday, April 20, 2017

No Brand Con This Weekend - WI


Convention season is picking up and we have another con this weekend and next weekend too!  

If you're in the Dells in Wisconsin this weekend, be sure to stop by and see us at No Brand Con!  We're guests and in the Vendor Hall, plus doing panels.  Don't forget to check out our new magical girl prints and new buttons and - as always - if you can't make it to the con, you can always order from our etsy store too!  Listings for the new prints and buttons should be up next week!

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Anime Detour this Weekend: April 7th - 9th (Minnesota)


Thanks to the wifey for the awesome image to share!  
We'll be at Anime Detour this weekend and you can find us in Artist Alley and at the many panels above!

Plus a NEW print will be available thanks to Berry Blitz Studios so be sure to stop by and pick up yours!

If you can't make it to the con, don't fret!

See you there!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: Power Rangers



The original Power Rangers holds a special place in my childhood.  It came out right a little too late for my age group, but with perfect timing for my younger brother's, and it was a show we both watched and fell into hard.  Thanks to my brother's love for it and my own love of previous shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it caught me when it probably shouldn't have.  I watched each episode as they came out, played with the action figures and even wrote some horrible fanfiction - which thankfully never made it onto the internet.

To this day I love the show, though I can scarcely watch it now.  The effects do not hold up, especially when you're an adult who pays a bit more attention and notices the now very obvious inconsistencies between the US and Japanese footage.  Still, my love for many of the characters, specifically the first Green Ranger, endures and I'll happily admit that my signed VHS clamshell of the first movie is one of the most awesome things in my geek collection.

With the movie coming out, there's a lot of feelings for me to get through.  The child in me loves the idea that there's new Power Rangers and maybe my love of the cheesiness will be able to combine with my need for updated and good looking graphics into something awesome.  But the adult fan in me is really wary of other remakes out there (such as Transformers and GI Joe) where the action overtook the entire movie and the results were less then stellar.  There's also the side of me who saw that fan trailer for a much darker Power Rangers take and loved every second of it - so I dare to hope for something that isn't so kid friendly and is a little bit deeper then most of Hollywood would dare to go.

There's also the whole controversy with what happened to David Yost, the original Blue Ranger, and how he was bullied on the set for being gay, to the point that he nearly committed suicide.  As a queer woman myself I can't ignore the dark history of the show in that respect and that same part of me hopes that the movie will - at the very least - take a step in the right direction to make up for the wrongs.  Especially now that it's been announced that one of the new rangers is LGBT and another is on the autistic spectrum.

So yeah, there's a lot to unpack there and a lot of mixed feelings coming with me into the movie theater, whether I like it or not.

What's it about?

We all know the tale.  A group of teenagers stumble across magical coins and an alien space ship, only to find out that they're they chosen ones who will become the Power Rangers.  But first, even before they can consider taking down the horrible threat that is Rita Repulsa, they must train and awaken their powers.

Thoughts?

To save myself a lot of disappointment, I went into the movie with the lowest expectations I could. As I mentioned above, I was wary, but still really excited to jump on this ride. And the verdict? Go see this movie!

This part is spoiler free and I'll add spoilers below a picture for those who are interested, but over all, I loved the movie.  From start to end it was a fantastic ride and even the morning after I could probably sit you down and go on and on - but it's really hard to tell a lot of what I liked without spoilers, but I'll do my best.

First things first, while I'm telling you to go see this movie, don't misunderstand.  Go in with low expectations and just enjoy the ride.  There really is nothing hugely deep or groundbreaking in this reboot.  Yes, some character stories have been changed, yes many details have been added, but at the core we all know the familiar pattern that is coming.  If you've watched any of the original Power Rangers episodes, you know how this goes and the movie is the same. But this predictability does not take away from the experience.  Instead it enhances it for the fan, because you're getting what you came for in probably one of the best ways: it's a lot of fun.

Where the movie really excelled was actually where reboots should: characters.  Most of us are familiar with Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack and Trini from our childhoods.  The versions in this film are all them at the core, but where the original TV series had these characters fit very standard and one note molds, this movie fleshes them out into fully 3 dimensional characters.  No one here is a cardboard cut out, everyone has good features and flaws and some of them really suck.  All of these characters are actual teenagers - stuck at that point in their life where you have the potential to make some really horrible life altering choices and you have to live with them.  In this the movie knows it's audience and demographic and doesn't shy away from it.  Arguably the 'darker and grittier' tone portrayed in the film and trailer is a perfect fit, for how important that part of a person's life can be and how the choices can ripple through the rest of your life and beyond.

Even Zordon and Rita are given fully fleshed out roles.  While Rita is very different from the one we might remember, it's an improvement.  Gone in the annoyingly loud witch with her stupid mascot minions and in her place is a legitimate threat that you can easily believe is there to destroy everything.  She doesn't need long monologues to do it, she will just kill you and your friends if you stand in her way and she will not hesitate - she is not someone to disregard.  Even Zordon moves past the boring floating head who doles out advice - and I don't want to ruin it, but I very much love the direction they took his character in.

The setting, the characters and the story have all been expanded upon in ways I didn't realize until now I wanted from the original series.  If I'd seen this movie as a teenager, I know I would have latched on with all my fannish heart and never let go.  As an adult I'm reacting in exactly the same way, with a little bit of nostalgia mixed in and a heavy dose of respect for where things were taken and expanded on.

Yes there are flaws, but they are nitpicky at most and honestly they didn't really detract from the movie at all and are hardly worth mentioning.

Final Thoughts? (For those who don't want spoilers)

I loved this movie.  From beginning to end it was a thrill ride that took my nostalgic heart to cloud 9 and even brought my critical author mind with.  Yes there are flaws and no, the movie is not a deep masterpiece. However this movie is exactly what it needs to be: a fun thrill ride that reminds you of your childhood and still tells a new story that anyone can enjoy.  With all the franchise burnout out there now, it's a welcome sight to see a movie that took the first installment seriously enough to give us a complete film that we could enjoy without worrying about setup for something more.  The set up is there at the end, but it's organic and not shoehorned in by a studio eager to rush forward to the next buck.  I came out caring about these characters and wanting to see more of their story - which is exactly how first movies should begin.

Oh and this time?  I actually liked all of the Power Rangers, not just one or two with a tolerance of the others.  I loved them all... but I loved Billy the best.

Which brings me to spoilers....



As I said above, my two major concerns in this movie centered around the portrayal of Billy, especially considering how the original actor was treated.  Throughout this movie, there is quite a bit of importance placed on Billy.  One could actually argue that he's the main character, even though a good portion of the movie is seen through Jason's eyes.  This attention to Billy doesn't hurt the film in anyway, but it did leave me with a very distinct feeling.

This movie, more then anything, felt like a honest to goodness, heartfelt apology.  And to say that I have to give quite a bit of explanation that could, actually, ruin a good portion of the movie - thus the spoiler tag. Billy is portrayed as the misfit in the group of misfits - not because he's worse, but because he's different in a different way.  He is the one in the group that gets honest to goodness bullied for just being himself and the only one. As the story progresses, Billy is given an importance that the other characters don't get, and attention that would usually be afforded to only the main character.  He is the one who sets several things in motion and it wouldn't be a hard fight to say that they never would have been Power Rangers if it weren't for him.  He is repeatedly shown as an important member of the team and not just the comic relief or the cliche nerd.  Even more amazing is that at no time is Billy ashamed of who he is - even though the other characters have moments of self doubt, Billy is a rock for them all to hold on to and provides an amazing amount of stability not often found in characters, much less in characters on the spectrum.

In all of this Billy is important in ways that a nerd almost never is.  That an autistic character never is and in a way that the original Billy was never allowed to be. This is why this struck me as an apology in the best way.  A conscious choice was made to give Billy all these parts and make him stand out while still giving him a character who we could all love and cheer for, and that the story very much needed.  By placing Billy in the role of the 'everyman' character more so then the others, we all get to identify with him.  In Billy I saw aspects of myself and in him I also saw many of my now friends who stand out as amazing individuals with a degree of self love and acceptance that most fight all their lives to obtain.  As a queer person familiar with the past of the show I was only hopeful that they would make him a whole character and instead I received a character with a degree of writing and wholeness that even the best written movies struggle to reach. This is the Billy we wanted and sincerely needed and the movie is so much better because of it.

And as for Trini being the first LGBT superhero?  This news was a bit overblown.  Trini has two lines in a single scene that bring it up, but are not concrete.  She does not state that she is gay, she does not state that she isn't.  Instead she's firmly in the area of questioning and still discovering what she's willing to admit to herself, much less those around her.  Oddly, though, I'm not upset by this and am quite happy with the portrayal.  As much as I loved Billy and the role the movie gave him, I identified most with Trini.  As a teenager growing up I remember more times then not how different I felt and how I struggled to put those feelings to words - to others and to myself.  Trini's unsure character and unwillingness to conform to a specific label was a small but important moment that I could have really used as a teen and still super appreciate to this day.  It's small and subtle, but just as important as all the other characters and in a way will make the movie stick with me at a heartfelt level.

Final final thoughts?

I guess, overall, maybe that's what should be taken away from this movie.  Not only was it a fun action ride, but it's a movie that portrays teenagers as just that.  There's no stereotypical disdain and stupid undercurrent of millennial hatred laced through the narrative, it's instead a story of self discovery.  In the end they don't have to learn to listen to the older parents, they learn to listen to themselves and become something more then those same people expected.  These Power Rangers don't just fulfill expectations, they move beyond them and create a power that even their mentors and parents didn't expect.  Whether that power is used for good or evil in the future remains to be seen, but the promise of greatness is there - which is exactly how teenagers should be portrayed: with the respect that any other aged character would ever be afforded and not the disdain that the previous generation usually clings to.

So yes, go see this movie.  I know I'll be eagerly awaiting that preorder option and I might possibly be in line to buy tickets to another showing.