Saturday, February 25, 2017

Parks and Recreation Review: 1x01 and 1x02

Graphic Novel Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part 3 by Gene Luen Yang

ISBN: 1616551844
Published: October 30th, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Received: purchased
Read February 16th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Fate of the Fire Lord!
Avatar Aang travels to the spirit world to parlay with an ancient power, bringing Fire Lord Zuko ever closer to discovering the truth about his mother's fate—and his own past. Yet Zuko's sister Azula is becoming increasingly dangerous, threatening to ruin everything that Zuko, Aang, Katara, and Sokka have struggled to achieve on their search!
Review:

Note: You might notice that I didn't review Part 2. I read all three parts so quickly that I decided it would be better to wait until after reading Part 3 and review the entire thing.

The story of The Search drew me in much more than The Promise. Maybe that was because it explored a longtime mystery of the Avatar fandom or maybe it had something to do with the writing. I'm really not sure which was the bigger factor. All I know is that I was more eager to pick this one back up each time I set it down because I wanted to know what happened next, and that was in spite of figuring out each plot twist before it happened. I still wanted to see it unfold.

That being said, there were elements of The Search that bothered me. I'm annoyed by how many of the characters treat Azula. I'm not saying they should have trusted her, clearly that's not the case, but there is something very visibly wrong with her, and none of them seem to acknowledge that. She's been in a mental hospital, but all of the characters talk as if she's rational and just evil.

Spoilers for the ending follow:

How things end between Azula and Ursa in this story also left me feeling unsatisfied. Maybe the story was meant to be about Zuko and Ursa more than Ursa and Azula (or even Zuko and Azula), but then why would Azula come along with them in the first place? Azula and Ursa never actually have a conversation. They exchange a handful of words with each other at most before Azula runs off. I would have felt better if they had actually spoken with each other. I'm not saying that all of their problems needed to be solved by the end, but what we got felt like a complete avoidance of anything as far as Ursa and Azula are concerned. That was disappointing.

This story also made me dislike Ursa as a character when I hadn't before. I did wonder in the beginning why Ursa wouldn't have come to see Zuko if she knew he'd become Fire Lord, so I figure that a story had to be developed that would explain that. Seeing Ursa give up her memories of her children still annoyed me. Maybe she was trying to give herself peace of mind, but she left those kids with Ozai after he was about to kill Zuko. She couldn't have possibly believed that they were safe (Zuko especially), and to erase all of her memories of them... It really made me lose respect for her, which is why I'm glad that the "I wish I had loved you more" line was in the story because I think Ursa was exactly right when she said that.

Zuko also seems to accept what Ursa did far too well, and I would have really enjoyed seeing more with Ursa and Zuko that provided more resolution for Zuko. He didn't really seemed bothered by her actions at all, which made no sense to me. I think this story would have benefited from being longer and allowing time for Ursa to actually have a conversation with Zuko and Azula at the end.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Naruto Shippuden Review: Episodes 376-380

Those episodes with the robot Naruto were...strange. There's no other way of putting it. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed those episodes, and I was glad to get passed them and get back to the fight with Obito.

This is another set of episodes where the review is going to be very brief. I enjoyed episodes 378-380, but I don't feel like I have much to comment on right now because it doesn't feel like a ton of stuff happens that lends itself to discussion. A lot of it was 'cool', yes, but I can't talk about it at length.

Mostly, I think I'm just looking forward to continue watching and seeing what happens next.

Graphic Novel Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang

ISBN: 1616550546
Published: March 20th, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Received: purchased
Read February 15th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
For years, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have burned with one question—what happened to Fire Lord Zuko's mother? Finding a clue at last, Zuko enlists the aid of Team Avatar—and the most unlikely ally of all—to help uncover the biggest secret of his life.
Review:

It took me years to finally read this. That's pretty ridiculous considering how much I wanted to know what happened in it. However, The Promise wasn't my favorite, which did soften my enthusiasm when I picked this one up.

However, The Search had a better start than The Promise. It's probably helped by the fact that it centers around Ursa's fate, which is a question the fandom had for years before this graphic novel came out (and that I didn't get answered for myself until now because I somehow managed to avoid those spoilers). I've wanted to know what happened to Ursa as much as everyone else did, so the story already had me interested in it for that reason.

One aspect of The Search that I enjoyed in Part 1 was Zuko reflecting on family. Immediately, I was looking forward to seeing how that carried out through the rest of the stories and seeing what happened between him and Azula.

Speaking of Azula, I would have liked to see that they were doing something to help her and not just keeping her locked up. We never really get evidence that they're doing anything at all, and that bothered me.

Still, Part 1 was a promising start, if a little predictable at times. It made me want to keep reading and see how the story would play out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Life Post: Baking a Cake

I meant to create a post for this video last week, but here we are. At least I'm finally doing it. I baked a cake last week from scratch. It was the first time I'd done that, though I'd made cupcakes before.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Shadowhunters Review: 2x07 "How Are Thou Fallen"

Writing this review might be a little difficult. You see, I enjoyed most of this episode a lot, but the last Malec scene left me feeling a little iffy. At first, I hoped that they'd do something at the beginning of the next episode, but one of the showrunners discussed it on Twitter, and that's not happening.

But, before I go into that, let's talk about the earlier events of this episode.

Clary deciding to run off with Cleophas frustrated me (I really need Clary to start listening to Luke and actually talking to him because she'd be a lot better off at this point.), but I really like what they've done with Cleophas as a character. I can't wait to see what happens with her over the coming episodes.

As soon as we saw the angel, I suspected he was an angel. I told myself I was probably wrong though because I figured we wouldn't see an angel for quite a while in the series. Considering how the appearance of angels is described in the book, I was interested to see how they'd make them look in the show. Valentine mentioned that the angel wasn't in his true form, and I'm going to assume that he still wasn't in his true form once his wings appeared. I wonder if we'll see an angel in "true form" anytime soon.

I still don't feel all that great about the Izzy yin fen storyline, but I don't feel like I have much more to say about it after this episode.

Simon and Maia continued to be adorable in this episode. I love their dynamics so much, and I can't wait to see them continue to get to know each other. Also, who else was surprised that Magnus and Maia know each other? I was, but looking back on it, I feel like I shouldn't have been. I'm crossing my fingers for more with the two of them in the future.

This episode was also the first time in a while that we've seen Simon and Jace interact at length. I'm very amused by how Jace, despite supposedly being annoyed by Simon, took so much time to talk to him about the "right" way to talk to girls.

Magnus and Alec were adorable for most of this episode. My heart could hardly handle Alec giving Magnus that present or what Magnus told Maia at the bar. Those were by far my favorite scenes of the episode.

That being said, I am bothered by the last scene with the two of them. I don't like that Alec didn't really stop to listen to what Magnus was telling him. It cuts off, so we don't know what they say to each other after that. However, what you show on screen and what happens off screen are important decisions, and I don't like this one. It created a hazy consent situation that makes me very uncomfortable, and the contrast between the Malec scene and the earlier scene with Jace and the fairy only makes it worse.

That's an even bigger shame because of how great the rest of Magnus and Alec's scenes together were and how great they've been so far this season. I don't want them (meaning those making the show) to screw it up now. I'm crossing my fingers for the next episode.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Shadowhunters Review: 2x06 "Iron Sisters"

It was exciting to see the Iron Sisters in this episode after their appearance had been hinted at. I'm also excited about the change of Sister Cleophas being Luke's sister. After Jocelyn's comment earlier in the season, I think most of the fandom figured we would see her in this episode. However, I had assumed that Luke's Iron Sister sister would replace Amatis (or be Amatis), so I was a little surprised when Cleophas mentioned her as well. Now I'm going to excitedly wait for Amatis to appear on the show as well.

I also wasn't expecting Cleophas to be a member of the Circle (especially not still a member of the Circle), and I'm wondering how that plot twist will play out. (It also has me thinking about Amatis and if her backstory will be the same if we see her.)

Izzy's storyline with the yen fin has, in fact, become a drug addiction storyline. I still don't get the purpose of this or where they're going with it, and I'm not sure that I like it. It was probably my biggest problem with the episode. That being said, maybe once it plays out I'll come to a different opinion.

So many other aspects of this episode were fantastic.

Maia and Simon's friendship was something I've been wanting to see in the show for ages, and this episode definitely gave us that. Their dynamics are spot on, and I can't wait to see them become even closer friends (as well as Maia meeting the other main characters). She seems to be starting to develop feelings for Simon, which I don't really have feelings for either way at this point (as long as that love triangle doesn't play out the way it does in the books), but I can't wait for them to have more scenes together. And for more of Maia in general.

Both of them searching for Luke and discussing what Luke meant to them was also heart-warming. I loved it. (Though I'm still frustrated that Luke was only in the last episode for several seconds.)

We've been waiting for Magnus and Alec's first date for ages, and it did not disappoint. I love the dynamics of their relationship so far. It's also wonderful that on their first date they confront the very conflict that led to their breakup in the books. I feel confident that that won't be the case on the show, which is awesome. They were adorable.

Also, I have to say how happy I am that the show explicitly discussed Alec's lack of experience with relationships and how, while it was initially surprising to Magnus, Alec wasn't ridiculed for it. I feel like that never happens in TV shows, books, movies, etc., so that was nice to see. And, of course, it was great that Alec was able to accept Magnus' past experiences without it driving a wedge between them. The two of them having respective experiences and being able to accept each other was so, so important.

When Jace interrupted them, I laughed out loud. I wasn't expecting Jace to show up at Magnus' house and ask to stay in this episode, though it does happen at one point in the books. I'm very excited to see this play out as Jace and Magnus' dynamics can bring a lot of humor to the show. It should be fun for however long it lasts.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Shadowhunters Review: 2x05 "Dust and Shadows"

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this episode. So mixed that I've stalled writing this review for as long as I can. I just don't know what I want to say. I didn't hate this episode, but it's not what I had hoped to see following the previous week's episode. On top of that, it didn't manage to draw me in. I'd say that this was my least favorite episode so far this season.

While I get that Clary is in mourning and desperate, I don't like how the story of trying to raise her mom from the dead was handled. Clary bringing up the possibility and arguing for it was fine. I get it. My main frustration is how the show decided to play it out.

If I try to think of what I would have preferred to see, it would be entirely different. Perhaps Clary could have brought up the topic of bringing her mom back but this could have led to an episode that focused on the other characters supporting her (Luke in particular) instead of her seeking out a warlock to raise her mother from the dead.

Luke is lagely absent in this episode, which was by far my least favorite part. We could have had an entire episode focused on Luke, Clary, and even Simon and Jace and how they're all grieving. Doing something like that while incorporating Clary's desire to bring her mother back (without her actually going through with it) would have been a much better approach in my opinion.

On top of all of that, I'm not a huge fan of the near rape scene when it felt unnecessary, though I appreciate that Clary saved herself instead of being saved by Jace.

As soon as Aldertree handed Izzy the ointment it seemed like they were going for a drug addiction storyline, and I was confused as to why. What purpose is it serving? Aside from the problematic aspects of it, I don't understand it from a story-telling standpoint either.

The only reason for it that I can fathom is that, if Aldertree is Sebastian as some fans have speculated he is, getting Izzy addicted to drugs is a good way to show he's bad news, but there are a million other ways that could have been better.

After all that negativity, I'll throw out some of the things I did like:
  • Magnus opening up to Clary and Simon about his mom. I like this for several reasons: We got to learn more about Magnus's past, and it shows that he has placed trust in Clary and Simon, as I don't believe those were details of his life that he would have shared with just anyone.
  • Alec and that warlock child were adorable. Him complimenting her gills was such a sweet little moment.
  • Alec's face when Iris referred to him as Clary's boyfriend.
  • I mentioned in an earlier review that I hoped to see Simon tell his mother that he's a vampire.
Overall, despite the tone of this post, I wouldn't say this was an episode I hated. It was, however, one I wasn't thrilled about, and my problems with it outweigh what I loved about it. 

Fingers crossed we get more of Luke in the next episode.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Book Review: Legend of Korra Book 1: Air: The Art of the Animated Series by Mike Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Dave Marshall

ISBN: 1616551682
Published: July 17th, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Received: Christmas/bought
Read from January 23rd to 27th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Return to the world of Avatar!
This handsome hardcover contains hundreds of pieces of never-before-seen artwork created during the development of Season 1 of The Legend of Korra. With captions from Mike and Bryan throughout, this is an intimate look inside the creative process that brought the mystical world of bending and a new generation of heroes to life!
* Captions by creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko!
* Follow-up to smash hit animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender!
* Never-before-seen artwork! 
Review:

I loved this book as much as I loved the Avatar one. I love that, with Korra, they did one book for each season. That allows them to focus more on each episode instead of having to broadly encompass the entire show within one book.

While I love the art in The Last Airbender, the art in Korra is a whole new level, and it's some of my favorite art ever. When watching Korra I've always focused way too much on the background paintings, so I love having so many of those paintings in this book. They're gorgeous.

This is another book that I would highly recommend to Avatar fans. Not only is it great for learning about the process of creating the first season of Korra, but it's just pretty to look at.

Which Deathly Hallow Would You Choose?

If the Deathly Hallows were real and you had the opportunity to own just one of them, which would you choose?

For me, it would be the Cloak hands down. I feel like that's the most "acceptable" answer though, so I feel the need to argue that it really is what I would choose for myself and not something I'm just saying.

The wand is extremely violent, and all of its past owners have ended up dead. Maybe I could keep my possession of the wand quiet, but I'd rather not be involved in that mess at all. I'd be good with my own 'normal' wand. I'm sure it would work just fine. There's nothing I'd want to do that would require the Elder Wand.

As for the Stone, I don't think I have any desire to bring back the dead. In fact, it sounds rather terrifying. The story of the brother hanging himself over it scares me off, but even without it, I don't think I'd go for it. Maybe I'd feel differently if I'd interacted with ghosts in the wizarding world, but I doubt it. The Stone feels different than that.

The Cloak is appealing. It would be neat to become invisible every now and then, and it doesn't seem to have any negative consequences unless you get yourself into something you shouldn't while invisible. Since I don't plan on doing anything particularly dangerous with the Cloak, I think I'd be safe. While I'd be sure to be careful with it, I think it would be a lot of fun. Far more fun than the other two Deathly Hallows at any rate.

Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose and why?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Shadowhunters Review: 2x03 "Parabatai Lost"

Book Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series by Mike Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko

ISBN: 1595825045
Published: June 1st, 2010
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Received: Christmas/bought
Read from January 20th to 22nd, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A stunning masterpiece of animated storytelling. 
Avatar: The Last Airbender has been syndicated to more than 120 countries around the world, inspiring millions of fans and industry professionals alike and garnering numerous industry honors--including wins at the prestigious Annie, Peabody, and Primetime Emmy awards.
Join series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino for an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at hundreds of pieces of concept, design, and production art--most of which Nickelodeon has never before released to the public--as they take you on a guided tour through the development of this smash-hit television series. Learn how Avatar: The Last Airbender took shape, from the very first sketch to the series finale, and beyond!

Review:

I'd been looking forward to reading this book since it came out. (Yes, that long.) It didn't disappoint either. This book was an excellent look at the process of making Avatar.

Avatar has been my favorite TV show since 2005, so needless to say, I love getting a look into the process of its creation. Also, I love the art in Avatar. I always have, and I loved getting to flip through the book and look at it all. It's amazing to see the progression through all three seasons as you read the book.

This is a book I would recommend to any die-hard Avatar fan who wants a closer look at how the show was created and animated. It has a lot of great art that makes it fun to flip through and look at.

Incorporated Review: 1x08 "Operational Realignment"

I've been staring at the screen for trying to figure out how to start this review because the first thing I want to talk about is Theo, but I don't know what I want to say. I just upset with that storyline, and I don't think I have anything else to say about it as of right now. It's hard to put what I'm thinking into words.

Watching Ben lead Spiga directly to the evidence that proves he's the killer also made this episode a frustrating one, though in a very different way. It was one of those situations where I wanted to explain to the characters (or just Ben in this case) what's going on. I liked the way he blackmailed Hendrick because he knew that he might not bring him back. I also liked seeing how conflicted Hendrick was as he wants to protect his daughter.

(Also, did I miss something about Hendrick's wife? Because there wasn't a wife in this episode, but considering how strict Spiga is about reproduction, it feels like there should be. Is there a story there, something I forgot from an earlier episode, or is she just not a concern for him like his daughter is?)

Laura's storyline was the highlight of the episode for me. I like the fact that she seems to be finding herself over the course of this season, which isn't what any of the other characters' storylines really revolve around.

I also wasn't expecting her new "boss" to have a connection to Julian, and I'm wondering how that will come into play in the future. There's no way that it won't somehow.

As for future episodes, at this point I'm hoping for a turn around with Theo's story, but I'm worried there won't be one. I think that's my biggest concern at the moment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Incorporated Review: 1x07 "Executables"

Warning: There is discussion of rape in this video.



Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

ISBN: 0553535919
Published: September 20th, 2016
Publisher: Random House BFYR
Received: Blogging for Books
Read from January 4th to 13th, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:

I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?

Review:

(I just noticed that Henrietta refers to herself in the synopsis as the "first female sorcerer", which confuses me since she knows from the beginning of the book that she isn't. She's just supposed to be the first since Joan of Arc, not the first ever... Oh, well. Moving on.)

A Shadow Bright and Burning has me conflicted. There were certain aspects I liked and others I very much didn't like. I'm going to briefly go through some of those things, trying to keep it brief since I also filmed a video review for this book where I touched on most of this already.

I did like the plot for the most part. I found it intriguing, and I particularly enjoyed that it's set in an alternative Victorian England where everyone knows about magic and the sorcerers have to be acknowledged by Queen Victoria or lose their powers. Henrietta, the main character, has to confront a lot of sexism as a female sorcerer, and I enjoyed seeing how she confronted said sexism throughout the book

That being said, I do wish there had been more female characters. Aside from Henrietta, there are less than a handful of female characters who play important roles, and only one of them has more than two or three scenes. As I greatly enjoyed each of those characters, that was disappointing. I did enjoy most of the male characters as well, but I would appreciate a greater female presence, especially when so much of the book involves Henrietta confronting obstacles she faces being a woman.

Speaking of the male characters, I liked most of the "good guys", but I couldn't stand Magnus. Since he's the first of the boys that Henrietta befriends when she comes to London, this really impeded my enjoyment of the book. Henrietta spends more time with Magnus than anyone else, which annoyed me when I was far more interested in all of the other characters more than I was Magnus. I wish she had spent more time with the other boys, especially the two who she spends so little time with that I can't recall their names but who I loved as characters. To me, Magnus was to conceited and all around obnoxious. I thought so from the first scene he was in, and he never managed to win me over. (What's particularly ironic is Henrietta starts off having a negative impression of Blackwood that's much like my impression of Magnus, but I never disliked Blackwood.)

After reading the first book, I want to read the second, but I'm not so sure how I'll feel about it. It's a situation where I think it's up in the air whether I'll like the series or not. A lot hinges on where the second book takes the story and if I like the path it takes. For right now though, there's enough that has me intrigued to keep going.



I received this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.