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An Ember in the Ashes: A Review

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LAIA IS A SLAVE. ELIAS IS A SOLDIER. NEITHER IS FREE.

Anyone who tells you dystopian fantasy is done for has not yet read an Ember in the Ashes. With such mixed reviews, I almost gave up on this gem before I even began, but I'm so glad I read it.

Laia lives under the brutal dictatorship of the Martial Empire, a brutal Spartan-like regime. After her brother is arrested and her grandparents killed, she seeks help from the Resistance to get her brother back. They agree, but only if she'll act as a spy in the Commandant's household. As it happens, the Commandant's son is Elias, the academy's finest recent graduate and unwilling soldier.

This book hits a lot of the normal YA tropes, but they are done perfectly, without the silly contrivances that so often mar other books. Laia is a normal teenage girl who rises to greatness because of her extraordinary circumstances, not because she's a "badass." There are no ninety-pound little girls beating up grown me…

Good Omens is Good for a Laugh... and that's it

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Michael Sheen and David Tennant are fantastic in everything they do. Literally everything. Including Prime's Good Omens. When I saw the preview for this show, I immediately put it on my list. Based on the novella by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens tells the hilarious (and exceedingly British) story of an angel and a demon who team up to stop the apocalypse.

Crowley is the demon who appeared in the garden as a snake to tempt Eve. He is the reason for man's expulsion from paradise. Aziraphale is an angel, one with such a tender heart that he gave his flaming sword to Adam on his way out of Eden. There are lions out there, you see. Over thousands of years, the angel and demon cross paths many times, often conspiring with each other to get out of work (performing miracles for the angel, tempting good men to evil for the demon). Finally, they are both tasked with helping bring about the apocalypse, specifically trying to influence the young antichrist.

The problem? The…

The Boys: Amazon's Aptly-Named Meditation on White Men

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"White men are nice... until they're not."

I have no idea where the quote above comes from. Perhaps it doesn't come from any particular place at all. It's just a sentence that feels like a quote because it's so damn true.

The Boys is a new series on Amazon Prime based on a graphic novel of the same name. And whether it was intended to be, the show is a full-blown meditation on the modern western male, specifically the white variety. It does this with a powerful contrast between the two leads, Hughie Campbell and Billy Butcher.

Hughie is the typical white millennial male who we can assume is of Irish derivation. He's passive, indecisive, almost willfully unsuccessful, though funny and kind. He knows he is capable of more, but mustering up the courage to ask his perfectly reasonable boss for a well-deserved raise is just too hard. Certainly moving out of his dad's apartment is way out of his league, even though his lovely girlfriend/fiance is encouragi…

Why Are Modern Films Rooting for The Destruction of Humanity?

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There are many things to dislike about Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The writing is worse than a made-for-tv monster movie (despite the best efforts of the award-winning cast), the effects are lazy in places, and the science... they didn't even try. And it's not even Neil Degrasse Tyson-level stuff. It's having a B2 going at Mach speeds (it can't) and having humans just chilling near multiple atomic explosions and not melting into radiation-induced pustules. But these are minor details. No one expects Godzilla movies to be Shakespeare.

My issue came with the plot, such as it was. I hate to spoil any surprises here, but the main conflict in the plot is that scientist Dr. Emma Russell, played by the lovely Vera Farminga, is working with a band of violent eco-terrorists to intentionally awaken all of "the titans," so they might destroy the earth, or at least a good portion of it. Why, you ask? Because in the last movie, when Godzilla wrecked great portions of…

Maximum Harm: The Toxic Maternal Instinct of Therapists in Daredevil and The Punisher

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I have a particular interest in feminine aggression and how women's ways of destruction differ from the masculine baseline of beatings, gunfights, and demolition of infrastructure. The Netflix Marvel shows have been universally strong in depicting women as realistic, complicated, and aggressive in uniquely feminine ways.

Of course, the heroines like super-powered Jessica Jones and driven Karen Page exemplify these qualities, but so too do the female villains--the ones who know they are villains... and those who think they're on the side of the angels.

Daredevil Season 3 and The Punisher Season 2 have an important connection that struck me (other than being Marvel shows on Netflix): They both feature a female psychologist whose overabundance of care for her psychopathic patient results in great harm being wrought on the populace. I don't think it's a coincidence that there is a fair bit of overlap in the writers for these two shows (all 12 writers for Punisher also were …

Review of the Demon Cycle Series: When Ideology Ruins a Good Story

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A world once modern and learned condemned to repeat the dark ages after demons rise from the earth's core every night to feast on humans.

Peter V. Brett starts off the Demon Cycle series in a single small town and grows to world-size proportions. Frankly, it's a master class in high fantasy world-building. It's never explicitly said in the books, but I think the Demon Cycle series takes place in our own distant future—after all our technology failed us in the face of demons. It's that subtlety of world building and the intricacy of plot that makes the Demon Cycle books so outstanding... at least the first three.

Because I love this world and these characters so much, I became truly angry with the direction the series took and my perception of why the author made these choices. As with all my reviews, there will be spoilers, but nothing that should prevent you from reading these books. Your life will be better for it, even with its flaws.

The Warded Man: The Warded Man …

On Psychopaths - Part 2 of my Daredevil Review

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I will start this review with a mandatory disclosure: I love me some Vinnie D. That's Vincent D'Onofrio to you normal folks. I love him in everything he has ever done. I loved him as the sweet yet prideful young man in Mystic Pizza, I loved him in his small role as "Thor" in Adventures of Babysitting, I loved him when he wore an Edgar suit in Men in Black, and I loved him the mostest in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. So while I'll be telling you the strengths and weaknesses of the show, don't be concerned when I seem to love the villain more than the hero.

Though Kingpin AKA Wilson Fisk had a small cameo in the Defenders, Season 3 of Daredevil marked his triumphant return to the status of Big Bad. And make no mistake, Wilson Fisk is as Big and Bad as they come. Obey him or he will kill you. Though he might kill you even if you do obey him. Hypothetically, he might savagely crush your head in if you are simply the bearer of bad news. Hypothetically.

Though…