Thursday, September 26, 2013

S.H.I.E.L.D.: First thoughts, without (many) spoilers.

I've just watched S.H.I.E.L.D. for the second time. I know a lot of people are worried about spoilers still, so I'll try to keep my commentary suitably vague.

Unlike with Dollhouse, I found myself comparing this first episode to the first episode of Buffy from, jeez, so many years ago now. Does that make me old? If so, can't imagine any better reason than being nostalgic over the original Buffy release. But for people going in and expecting something A. Kitsch, B. Cheap looking or C. Mildly setting up what is to come, they are going to find their expectations... outdone.

When Joss first made Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they were running out of one corridor for the entire set of a school, actual graveyards that the vampires were rising out of. He had not just made more than a million dollars on a hit movie in the same basic franchise. And, of course, while Buffy did have a message to share, largely it didn't take itself all that seriously, and that silliness was part of what made especially season one so great.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has a budget. Boy, does S.H.I.E.L.D. ave a budget! From the opening scene, you feel like you are watching a movie on a TV screen. This series is also not your mild mannered anything. It has a pacing that will knock you flat on your ass if you aren't watching. Like the forty minute fight sequence in The Avengers, it doesn't seem to drag. Joss' expected witticisms drive the story and the character interactions, from Agent Coulson's miraculous return all the way to the end credits.

Highlights for me:

- J. August Richards reprised his place as a recurring Joss actor and was fantastic.
- Cobie Smulders made a guest appearance at the same time as juggling her new season of How I Met Your Mother.
- Lola.
- Some people complained about the cop out that was Coulson's death in The Avengers only for him to be pulled back out for this series. I think they will find a competent explanation in this episode. I also don't think it will be the last we hear of it.
- The members of the new team are all striking and individual, though I will admit a certain bias to Sky already.

In conclusion, S.H.I.E.L.D. was well worth the wait. Now, in addition to each weeks' new episodes, we only have Thor: 2 to look forward to!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flash fiction: The Avengers (part 4)

Oh my god, is anyone else excited about tonight's premiere of S.H.I.E.L.D, because I am!!

This month's flash fiction works doubly well, as it acts as a precuser to a movie I'm also very excited about: Thor 2!!! (October 30 :D :D)

The Avengers Headcanons: Submission #297
There is much amazement that Thor is not the only Avenger to advocate leniency for Loki, hoping that he can change. All of them do. All of them have their reasons, after hearing his story from Thor.

 Bruce knows what it’s like to feel like a monster.

Tony knows how it feels to never measure up.

Steve knows the pain of losing your whole world.

Clint and Natasha both know the feeling of No Going Back.

All of them want to believe in redemption for Loki, because they want to believe that it’s not out of their reach either. 

Submitted by Mangaluva 

Thor gets away with sneaking out of Stark Towers to visit Loki in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s holding cells only three times. 

The first time, Thor decides that night time is the best time for covert actions. Sadly, not being completely acquainted with the layout of the building—or rather not allowing for Tony’s habit of leaving objects lying around like a child—Thor runs into some piece of foreign machinery and stubs his toe. It doesn’t hurt the god of thunder, but the surprise of impact plus the clattering sound of falling machinery brings Bruce out of the lab. 

His habitual mussed up hair is compounded by weary eyes as he first looks to Thor, then to the mess on the floor. 

“What are you… doing?” he asks. 

Thor’s first thought is to wonder how long Bruce has been down in the labs with Tony this time, as the slight man seems to have slipped back into being distinctly unused to human interactions. 

His second thought is, “…. Poptarts?” He clears his throat. “I was going to make a midnight snack. Do you wish to join me?”

Bruce blinks, then shakes his head. He moves forward and Thor steps aside from the machinery that Bruce is obviously going for.

“I should get this back to the labs,” he says, and Thor knows that he’s safe because his fellow Avenger’s mind has returned back to the research he and Tony do together.

The second time, Jane starts to wake up as he slips back into the bed they share. She’s only just gotten used to being in bed with him, and the dipping of the mattress is enough to pull her from her light sleep. 

“Thor?” she murmurs sleepily.

“Hush love,” he says as he pulls her close. “I am here now.”

Jane doesn’t resist his embrace, but her waking mind momentarily resists the comfort he offers. “I dreamed…” she started. “I dreamed that you went back to Asgard and never came back again.”

Thor doesn’t tell her that that will never happen, or not to worry about it. Instead, his lips lightly touch her forehead and he lies awake next to her for the next several hours. 

The third time, Thor goes to visiting his brother by light of day, thinking that hiding his plans in plain sight may be the better way to go. This is completely undone when he finds Bruce, Jane, Tony, Steve, Clint and Natasha waiting for him.

“I… um…” Thor looks away, ashamed to be found sneaking around to see his brother; ashamed to feel ashamed over seeing his brother.

Bruce is the first one to step forward, and clasp a hand on Thor’s shoulder. In the shorter man’s eyes, he sees that Bruce already understands how it is to feel like a monster.

As he looks at the rest of the Avengers, Thor realises one by one that none of them are there to judge or offer censure. They are here so that he knows she doesn’t need to sneak around anymore. 

Jane simply offers her support with a quick smile and her love shining from her eyes.
Tony gives the quick, manly nod of someone who knows what it’s like never to quite measure up.

Steve’s eyes have more sorrow in them as he identifies with the feeling of losing one’s whole world.

Both Clint and Natasha are there, sharing in the feeling of knowing there’s No Going Back.
Thor meets the eyes of each one of the Avengers—his fellow heroes—before passing them all and heading forward to see his brother.

Thor gets away with sneaking out of Stark Towers only three times. He knows what else went unsaid that day. If there can be redemption for Loki, they can believe that it’s not out of their reach either. 

After that, Thor doesn’t need to sneak around anymore.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Today, it is my birthday. Not just my birthday, but my 30th birthday. Apparently it is something special. Something monumental.

For me, it's just an age that most people have reached before me, and so I'm excited to finally catch up.

A lot of people have big parties for these 'monumental' birthdays. For my 18th, I had a surprise party thrown for me with about six of my friends. For my 21st, I escaped away on a weekend writer's retreat with my best friend and my boyfriend then came home for a family dinner with aforementioned best friend and boyfriend included as they were the most important people I wanted to see on that day.

For my 30th, I had all these great big plans of having a huge hall rented out, and enough people to fill it, family, friends, people I'd only met a couple of times... Finally, I thought to myself, I was ready to have a big, blow out party that would make up for the tiny occasions I'd had before.

Given the mental health issues I've dealt with over the last year, I decided I would give myself till June to make a decision. June seemed enough time to start making plans for such a big place, put a deposit down for a place I wanted to rent out for the night, give everyone notice and a RSVP time within which to reply.

June came and went by.

In July, a friend of mine had a birthday party dinner at a restaurant I really like. They have gluvine, which is a kind of German mulled wine that I am completely partial to. I decided then that I didn't want to have a big party after all. I was going to go back to that close people and 'chosen family' idea that worked so well for me on my 21st.

Of course, 'close people' in this case was narrowed down to 20 people.

Of those 20 people, about 5 of them said outright that they would not be able to make it for various reasons, regardless of the two months' notice. That was okay. I have a busy life and so do most of my friends. Not a big deal. I'd have fun with the people who could make it.

A week later, I made a connection between alcohol and again deteriorating mental health. Which meant drinking gluvine on my birthday was potentially out, unless I wanted to remember my 30th as the birthday where I cried on everyone and had to go home early.

I cancelled that event and decided that, if so many of my closest people couldn't come, I would just open up my house to many of my friends and whoever could make it would be there. Better still, if I had a dire need for time by myself suddenly, I could run and hide upstairs in my room and still be able to hear the sounds of my dear friends having fun and maybe not noticing my absence immediately. Fine plan there, Nikki. Not a flaw in sight.

Gifts from my nearest and dearest started trickling in about a month before my birthday. Before the 1st September, I had half a dozen gifts already. I'd begun a 'birthday box' to put them in (much to the amusement of many of my friends on Twitter) and started to wonder if I hadn't quite been public enough about when my birthday actually was.

2013-08-29 14.35.35.jpg
(What you're looking at: a book, a litre sized tea mug, a salt lamp and a gorgeously detailed sincher. Early b'day pressies.)

The idea of me not having been public about my birth date is ridiculous, of course. Anyone who knows me knows from about six months before my birthday when my birthday is actually coming up. As if the existence of a 'birthday box' didn't announce that fact already.

My birthday party came around, September 14th, two days after my actual 30th.

It was amazing.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"If you're upset, make art."

There's been a lot of upset about the results of the Australian election just past. As an Australian, I feel like I ought to weigh in on the conversations that are going back and forth, but "weighing in" makes me feel like just another grumpy person who is less informed than a lot of the people talking up and down about politics right now.

Also, I don't think anyone follows this blog, my Twitter or Goodreads to read about politics.

So instead, I've been burying myself in books and music and waiting for the initial rush of opinion to die away. Only then, tonight, there was this:

I've watched this through twice already, and each watching just makes me want to watch again. In this video are so many of the points all of my friends have themselves pointed out in their displeasure about the current Australian government, but with one major difference:

"If you're upset, make art."

Strangely enough, this isn't the first time I've heard such an idea. Even more strangely, the first time I heard it, it was Neil Gaiman who was speaking it in his Keynote Address 2012. I was similarly inspired back then.

"Make good art. 

I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art...

And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art."

It's little wonder they are perfect together. 

I've had an on and off again relationship with Amanda Palmer for years. I loved her during the Dresden Dolls. I didn't like Evelyn Evelyn so much. I've had friends as conflicted as I and yet, after this 'song', I think this signals the beginnings of another 'on' part of the relationship. 

Just thought I'd make this my very short platform on the subject. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rachel Bach's upcoming: 'Fortune's Pawn'.

I've been thinking, after my post on Orson Scott Card, that I need to get into some new science fiction. Different science fiction. Science fiction written by people I very much enjoy talking to.

For a little while now, I've been aware of yet another upcoming book that I'm not able to read yet. This one comes out in November and, with this review, the book has jumped up several spaces on my 'Priority Reads for 2013 TM'.

I am sure the author had in mind a crazy-action-fulled love story.  Yes, I said it. This is in part (at least 33.33%) a love story.  It at first took me by surprise. 

Here was a main character I loved.  Devi is smart, feisty, forthright and skilled.  She is basically a female child of Boba Fett and Han Solo.  At least.  She is great to read and choice to write in first-person made this all the better. (read more)

Sci-fi with interesting characters, you say? With a romantic plot line? With a focus on something other than cool weird science gadgets that I am not quite geek enough to be able to imagine? What is this amazing venture?

œF  $¿Æ‘$8 Òò¤»däå  ¸R8BIIt is none other than Rachel Aaron's (writing as Rachel Bach) new novel Fortune's Pawn.

From what I understand, the upcoming Fortune's Pawn tells the story of Devi, a mercenary, who gets a job on a particularly troublesome trade ship. Things go wrong. The ship itself seems to be the cause, or the reason, or... But Devi has a Plan (yes, with a capital 'P'), and this particular ship seems to be our heroine's way of getting onto Step 2 of this Plan.

Okay, okay, I'm really no good with summarising or describing science fiction novels. Did I not already mention that I'm not particularly well read in this genre?

No matter; Fortune's Pawn has grabbed my interest as potentially being something other than the standard sci-fi novel and, for that alone, I am looking forward to my chance at picking this one up.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 2013 Reading List

I've felt really bad this month, aware that I'm writing some of these blog posts and then promoting them on Twitter while I have hardly had time to write anything else on Twitter. But these are the trials of building a new business. I'm sure my friends still remember me.... vaguely.

Paper Towns.
Paper Towns
3/5 - Disappointing, especially after being floored by The Fault in Our Stars.
After reading (and being a little bit traumatised by) The Fault in Our Stars, I decided almost immediately that I would be reading more from this author. I had a dream that I got to tell him exactly how much his writing had moved me. This is how much I think about this guy's writing. This title goes straight into the book trolley.

The Emperor-Mage.
The Emperor Mage (The Immortals, #3)
4/5 - Different to how I remembered, but only a little. Still loads of fun.
I find it really odd re-reading titles in this blog. I think it's because I already know the book is good. That's why I'm re-reading it. But it also means I don't get to write a first impression here, and most of this blog is about initial impressions. Still, I read the book before this last month, and it made me want to grab for the next one. Nostalgia reads for the win.

Magic Bites.

3/5 - An interesting beginning. Will decide if I'm in after the next book in the series, I think.
People have been telling me I need to read this book for about a year and then I suddenly found it in an op shop for like $1. Paranormal fiction with shape shifters running around the place. Score! Another one for the book trolley.

The Iron Wyrm Affair.

DNF - There's one in every month.
I was going to read Clockwork Princess this month as my token Steampunk read, but then I finished all my titles early and couldn't resist pulling it off the shelf early. (AND IT WAS AMAZING!!) So I guess this read from new-to-me author Lilith Saintcrow will have to do ;) Also, would you look at this cover art? Isn't it just completely amazing!

One Day.

4/5 - Very different story telling style, not how I imagined it, but good. 
I've read the beginning of this book before and had to put it down because at the time I was working in a book shop, not supposed to be reading in a bookshop. But it had an intriguing enough start to stay in my mind for the last couple of years, so I'm happy for the opportunity to pick it up again. Also, now there's a movie, which also looks to be right down my alley!

Written in Red.
Written in Red (The Others, #1)
4/5 - Amazing, I loved this, I love this author!
I have long since been a fan of Anne Bishop. I initially wanted to wait a while until a few more of the books in this series were released in case one just wasn't enough. Then, when a friend passed me a copy of this book last night, what was a girl to do? Start reading it to a small group of people at the party to many laughs, is the answer, and now of course I'm hooked.

Summer Knight.
Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)
4/5 - A lot of fun, this is where the series has started picking up for me.

This is a bit new for me. The reason why you don't see this book in the pile above is because I'll be listening to this on audio book. This is the first time I've done that on this blog. I dunno, I guess there was just a part of me that said that I had to make some inroads on a series that I hadn't read for a while. James Masters will be reading it in my ear. Nothing wrong with that!


As always, feel free to follow my reading via my account on Goodreads. Added bonus: The posts from this blog show up there and people even tend to have discussions around them. O.o