Tag Archives: contemporary

Millions

Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

My rating: 3.5 of 5

We all have our own ideas about what we’d do with a huge cash windfall, but it’s not often that someone actually gets to see how they’d really react. Of course, Damian’s probably not your typical individual in any case. Ever since his mother’s death, he’s been trying especially hard to be good–no, to be excellent–learning about the saints of old and doing his best to imitate their ways. So when a huge bag of pounds falls from the sky near a train track only a few days before the switch over to euros, Damian’s sure it’s a gift directly from God. His big brother Anthony (the more worldly and financially interested sibling) isn’t so sure, but he’s more than willing to help Damian spend the cash. Only, how much can a kid actually do with a bag full of cash, really? Soon inflation floods their school as they pay large amounts for trinkets and small favors. And they can’t make truly large purchases without a grownup, it seems. Even charitable donations online (Damian’s idea) require a credit card. So all in all, an interesting experience, but not nearly as satisfying as they’d hoped. And when other people begin to get suspicious of the brother’s good fortune, it seems their windfall may be far more trouble than it’s worth.

I’ve said many times over, and I’m sticking with it, that I love Frank Cottrell Boyce’s writing. Having said that, Millions–while certainly enjoyable–was not nearly as enjoyable as his other books. I think part of this is just that it’s his first book and things are still kind of coming together. Part of it was just the characters; I didn’t personally connect to them as much as to some of his other characters. And yeah, a big part of it is the weird, metaphysical aspect of Damian’s obsession with saints, to the point of having visions and people thinking he’s nuts at times. The way it’s presented, I would almost consider the genre to be magical realism . . . only, it’s not magic, it’s more supernatural . . . ? So I’m not quite sure what to even consider that, but it’s kind of weird, and the weirdness of it flavors the whole story. I enjoy the author’s books much more when they tend to the extreme tall tale and exude huge amounts of geekiness, on the whole. Still, the basic writing style was definitely Boyce’s, and thus, was quite enjoyable to read–in that regard, if you like his other books, you’ll probably like this one. Also cool was the historical perspective on the changeover from the pound to the euro in England and all the hubbub and excitement that entailed . . . or so I would say if England had actually made that change, but since it still uses that pound to my knowledge, that’s just kind of weird, too. Still, a good perspective on what this sort of change might entail and probably did involve in other countries. I do also appreciated the differing perspectives on finances and the value of wealth, including the realization that money is honestly kind of empty in the end, even if it can buy lots of cool stuff. So yeah, Millions was definitely an interesting and enjoyable read, even if not quite on par with the author’s other works. Still recommended as a solid middle-grade story, for sure.

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What the Mind Forgets (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: Revhead

FanFiction ID: 12459300

Status: Complete (33 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience/21+ for significant slash & trigger warnings for rape/non-con/heavy whump

Spoiler Alert: may contain spoilers through season 11/AU after this point

Sometimes, it seems like the Winchesters just can’t catch a break. After only four months of wedded bliss, Dean goes missing, leaving a frantic Cas and Sam behind searching for him, with no success. Seven months later, Dean turns up on the side of a road, half-dead and with no memory–not of who he is, of hunting, or even of the people who mean the most to him. Heartbroken, but determined to do what’s best for Dean, Cas agrees to stay away from him and allow him the chance at a normal life, one not filled with monsters and a broken past laden with regrets. But what Sam and Cas don’t realize is that the one thing Dean doesn’t need right now is to be left alone.

I have to admit, I’ve been rather hesitant to review this story. Because really, it’s extremely intense and graphic at points, and yeah, there’s a lot of sex. But at the same time, What the Mind Forgets was an extremely well-written story, one that was thoughtful and moving and captured the characters well. So here’s the review, but read the story only with that in mind. Also do know that, as the author points out, there is a valid happy-ending stop point at chapter 22, so if you stop there, you have a few loose ends, but you miss the worst of the ick and violence–although there’s still a lot of sex up to that point. This is primarily a slow-burn romance story about two guys who are married, after all. Which is a really interesting starting point, in my mind, starting AU at the end of season 11 and instead of the whole BMOL and having Mary back, giving us a fully-human Castiel and a bit of downtime for him and Dean to have some happiness together. It’s sweet, and it makes the ache of Dean’s amnesia that much more intense. Now normally I hate the amnesia trope, because that’s usually exactly what it is–an overused and poorly handled plot device that messes with an otherwise decent story. Not so here; the author highlights all the emotional and psychological issues of Dean’s amnesia both from his perspective and from Cas’s in a well-thought-out manner. The loss, the confusion, the pain of seeing someone you know only they’re not really the same person at all inside. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s also really sweet, seeing a new relationship developing between Dean and Cas, seeing Dean trying so hard, seeing the gradual transformation in Castiel. I really loved that–enough to make it well worth the reading in spite of the above warnings, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

Note: You can find What the Mind Forgets at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12459300/1/What-the-Mind-Forgets.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride (manga)

Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki/Translator: Adrienne Beck

Status: Ongoing (7 volumes currently)

My rating: 5 of 5

For her entire life, Chise Hatori has been able to see fey and spirits, beings that no one around her was even aware of. You can imagine the troubles she’s had because of it. Now she finds herself orphaned and sold at auction to a strange magus with a rather horrifying skull-like visage. But surprisingly, Elias (the magus) doesn’t want to just use her for her powers–although it turns out she has some rather rare and significant powers indeed. Rather, he invites her to live with him in his home in England and apprentice under him. And gradually, Chise blossoms, going from a sad old woman convinced she brings misfortune to everyone around her to the youthful girl she should be, capable of loving and caring for those around her with a smile. And she’s not the only one who’s changing because of her presence there.

Apologies for the cruddy summary; this has to be one of the weirdest and most difficult to summarize stories I’ve come across to date. One of the reasons I’ve not read this before–most of the summaries I’d read sounded pretty awful. The trouble is that The Ancient Magus’ Bride is different from basically any manga I’ve read before, although there are certainly elements that remind me of other stories. It has a good bit of back story that develops gradually, for one thing. Also, a great deal of the story is a gradually developing drama that reads almost like a slice-of-life story–just with magic, lots and lots of magic. I really love the flavor of the magic that’s used here; it’s heavily tinged with older English folklore, enough so that it’s easy to forget sometimes that this is actually set in contemporary England. I would say that the story’s flavor is equal parts Fullmetal Alchemist (which is totally weird, I know), xxxHOLiC, and English folklore–it sounds crazy, but it’s a really beautiful combination in practice, kind of a josei/seinen magical slice-of-life story. I absolutely love the way the characters grow and develop over the course of the story, as well as the ways their relationships change over time. It’s both heartwarming and dynamic. The art goes along with this well, being unique and attractive in a clean, seinen sort of way. I would highly recommend The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and I look forward to what the mangaka will bring with the remaining volumes.

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A Christmas Prince (2017 Movie)

Netflix & Motion Picture Corporation of America

My rating: 3 of 5

In the search for her first big scoop, fledgling reporter Amber Moore (and does anyone else find it hilarious that her last name is still Moore here?!) travels to the small European kingdom of Aldovia to cover the coronation of Prince Richard. Or his abdication.  The prince does have a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and nobody’s really sure if he’ll step up and fill his late father’s shoes or not. Through an unexpected mix-up, Amber finds herself mistaken for Princess Emily’s new tutor, giving her unprecedented access to the royal family up close and personal. And what she finds is not at all what the rest of the press had led her to expect.

First off, I can’t believe I actually watched this; it’s exactly the sort of Hallmark-y film that I usually avoid like the plague. . . . But Rose McIver is kind of irresistible, and moreover, she actually manages to make the movie palatable.  It is very much your expected cheesy Christmas romantic drama, with loads of improbability, predictability, and sentimentality. Even the music and the camera filters used scream “classic Christmas film”–as in old, maudlin film. Yet surprisingly, I found myself liking the characters. McIver does a great job (the one thing that’s not surprising) portraying her character, drawing out the uncertainty, clumsiness, awkward curiosity, and compassion of Amber quite effectively. Ben Lamb’s portrayal of Prince Richard is more expected but still well done, and I quite enjoyed Honor Kneafsey’s work as young Princess Emily and her growing friendship with Amber. Other than that, there’s not much I can say–I enjoyed A Christmas Prince, which is more than I can say for most films of this sort, but I also found it to be pretty typical of the sentimental Christmas movie genre on the whole, for what that’s worth.

Written by Nathan Atkins/Directed by Alex Zamm/Produced by Amy Krell/Music by Zack Ryan/Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb,  Honor Kneafsey, Tom Knight, Sarah Douglas, Daniel Fathers, Alice Krige, & Tahirah Sharif

 

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A Different Path (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: angel-castiel-rules-the-world

FanFiction ID: 11478940

Status: Ongoing (currently 127 chapters)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Rated T/Mild Slash & Spoilers through end of Season 10 (AU from end of this season)

In the wake of Dean’s plan with Death to save the world (again), Castiel finds himself suddenly bereft of both his best friend Dean and of Sam–both of whom are basically his family at this point. But he’s not alone. A certain King of Hell makes a point to come around the bunker and pester him in his research regularly. And research Castiel certainly does. Not content to let things end this way, the angel desperately searches for a way to bring back his friends–searches for years without result, until one day he finds a book on the bunker’s bookshelves that wasn’t there. And this book promises a way to turn back time, to see influential turning points, and to make different choices. So taking along Crowley (to maintain the balance, as directed in the book), Castiel travels back to the first time Dean (nearly) died, determined to change the Winchesters’ lives for the better. He’s not going to lose them again, no matter what.

A Different Path is a really interesting Supernatural fanfic that starts with an AU ending for Season 10 but quickly jumps back to be an AU from the beginning of Season 2 and on. We get a picture of events occurring with Cas and Crowley in the picture, Cas with his own experiential knowledge of certain events as well as the Winchesters’ stories to go from, Crowley with a much greater knowledge of events (having read the books)–not that he’s volunteering information readily. For added interest/complication, Cas refuses to tell the boys that he’s from their future, and he tries his best to keep Crowley a secret. You can imagine how well that works, with the king of snark hanging around! I really have enjoyed what the author has done with this story and the way the AU element unfolded. The characters are captured well, and I love the way the altered events and relationships play into the way their characters develop. Likewise, the adaptations to the episodes’ plots are both fitting and interesting, showing a good understanding of the characters and the storyline while still being original. This fanfic is  very much a slow-burn Destiel fic, and I enjoyed the way the author developed that; it seems to fit their characters and situation so much better than a lot of the Destiel stuff I’ve seen. But for those who aren’t big into slash, it’s all pretty mild and there’s a lot of other aspects of this story besides that (although it’s still a pretty significant focus in this fic). I will note that there are some typographical/grammatical issues (mostly wrong words, lacking capitalization, and occasionally lacking punctuation) which can make this story more complicated to read, but they’re mostly the sort of thing a good editor could quickly correct, and the underlying writing style and flow is still quite readable and enjoyable. Enough so that I intend to stick with this story for as long as the author continues to write it–which could be a while, considering that we’re still in Season 2 at 127 chapters with no specified ending point so far. I’m looking forward to where this story goes!

Note: You can find A Different Path at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11478940/1/A-Different-Path.

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Orphan Black (2013 TV Series)

Temple Street Productions, BBC America, and Bell Media’s Space

Status: Complete (5 seasons/50 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Accomplished grifter Sarah Manning walks into the train station and witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like Sarah herself. Both curious and ready to take advantage of the situation, Sarah assumes the identity of the woman, Beth Childs, with the help of her foster-brother Felix. What follows is a whirlwind of monumental proportions as Sarah discovers that she is but one of many clones. Meeting her newfound “sisters” is just the beginning as they face their own dark past, those in the present who would destroy or manipulate them, a defect built into their own DNA that is slowly killing them, not to mention being completely unsure who to trust. But at the same time, they discover a new family and a strength in each other to help them face the maelstrom with defiance as they choose their own ways to live.

Orphan Black is one of those shows that, as incredible as it sounds at first, delivers so much more than it initially promises. It’s really quite amazing. Well, Tatiana Maslany is amazing, that’s for sure. She manages to pull off multiple clones with distinct styles, mannerisms, personalities, etc. and keep them all unique–sometimes with multiples of them in the same room conversing and even physically interacting with each other. Her grasp of each of the characters is incredible–to the point where you can even tell where one sister is pretending to be another sister by super-tiny but well-realized tells. Maslany’s acting in this series truly blows me away! Not to mention the sheer cinematography required to pull off some of the scenes; it’s seamless and beautiful. The characters are great as well–thoroughly developed with uncertainties and flaws and emotional subtlety and moral ambiguity and all the complexities that make people truly human. You’ve got a ton of diversity, even just among the clones, too. And the other characters are brilliantly cast and played as well. Felix is quite possibly my favorite character in the whole show; he’s the heart and the artist, the home-like softer side of things, which is kind of hilarious since he tries so hard to be defiant and brash. I love him, though. And Siobhan, Sarah and Felix’s foster-mother–all the mystery and protectiveness in her character is fabulous! As for the plot, well, again it’s so much more than we are initially promised at the beginning. I mean, you start out with a girl taking over the life of a cop who looks like her, encountering a couple other girls who claim to be her clones, dealing with trying to be a mom to her daughter–intense stuff for sure, but fairly contained and small-scale. But by the end of it, you’ve got decades-long, multinational plots and huge, interconnected organizations and hundreds of clones and major life-or-death situations. It’s all pretty overwhelming and hard to keep track of, to be honest–the main reason I can’t give this a full 5 of 5 rating, actually. Still, it all ties up better than I expected by the end, and the conclusion was enough to make me cry but also be quite satisfying. This show is definitely not for the faint of heart and is only for a mature, adult audience, but I would still highly recommend Orphan Black for many, many reasons. It’s a great show that I will enjoy re-watching many times over.

Created by Graeme Manson & John Fawcett/Executive Production by Ivan Schneeberg, David Fortier, Graeme Manson, & John Fawcett/Produced by Russ Cochrane, Alex Levine, Claire Welland, Tatiana Maslany, & Aubrey Nealon/Cinematography by Aaron Morton/Music by Trevor Yuile/Starring Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Évelyne Brochu, Ari Millen, Kristian Bruun, & Josh Vokey

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Homecoming (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: M1ssUnd3rst4nd1ng

FanFiction ID: 12511761

Status: Ongoing (2 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Arthur can think of about a million things he’d rather be doing than wandering through some dusty museum looking at boring old paintings. But if it makes his girlfriend Gwen happy and means he gets to spend time with her . . . so be it. Surprisingly, when they arrive at the painting she so wants to show him, Arthur finds himself strangely moved–both because the emotion of the moment bleeds through so vividly and because the couple depicted in this picture could easily be Gwen and Arthur themselves. So, being the spoiled, rich prat that he is, Arthur begins a search for the owner of the painting in the hopes of purchasing it as a gift for his girlfriend, only to have a most unusual encounter with the owner of the Balinor estate, a crotchety old man who seems quite taken aback by Arthur’s unexpected arrival at his doorstep.

I’ve probably said this before, but I have a special place in my affections for Merlin reincarnation stories, which is exactly what Homecoming is. The ending of the series broke me, and I find that reincarnation fics do a lot to fix that brokenness. This particular story is done rather differently from most I’ve read, and I really loved the way the author approached the whole situation. It is, in fact, poignant–a term highlighted in the story, but which applies to the fic itself just as well. It was touching and made me cry happy, moved tears. I really loved the sweet Arwen (Arthur and Gwen) dynamic to the story; the modern-day relationship was credible and fit the characters well. And I loved that all three characters (yes, Merlin too, obviously) are true to themselves. Merlin’s reactions to Arthur are great; that whole reunion was quite amusing. (Of course, old Merlin is just fabulous, wherever he shows up!) And the author’s choice to not have Arthur just remember created an interesting tension and, again, poignancy to the whole situation that I appreciated, even if it didn’t bring the thorough resolution that I may have initially expected. Also interesting was the author’s development of how Merlin spent his time in the interim between Arthur’s death and their reunion; it’s always fascinating to see what different people think about that. I found Homecoming to be a touching, but also funny, reincarnation story, and while I honestly wanted more, I think that where the author chose to leave the story is also valid and appealingly open-ended–which is not to say that I wouldn’t be thrilled if more chapters were to be released at a later date! Definitely recommended to Merlin fans, especially those broken by Camlann (and let’s face it, that’s all of us, right?).

Note: You can find Homecoming at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12511761/1/Homecoming.

Update 09/19/2017: Upon PMing with the author, I was informed that this story is NOT in fact complete yet, and more chapters are on the way. Yay!

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