A pair of pilots.

Over the weekend I watched two pilot episodes for genre shows from The CW. I already watch a few genre series made by The CW – Supernatural, Arrow, and The Tomorrow People. I did watch the first season of The Vampire Diaries and a few seasons of Smallville, though looking at the list of dramas both past and present I’ve never watched anything non- genre. I always look with interest at the list of new shows coming from The CW, both Star-Crossed and The 100 sounded like they might be my sort of shows. Having now watched both pilots I thought I’d talk about what I thought of them.

Here’s a bit about both shows:

Star-Crossed
StarCrossedSet in the near-future, the series follows a romance between a human girl and an alien boy when he and six others of his kind are integrated into a suburban high school.

The 100
The100The series is set 97 years after a devastating nuclear war. The only survivors were residents of several space stations that were orbiting the Earth at the onset of the war. These space stations banded together to form a massive one called “The Ark”. Resources are scarce and all crimes are punishable by death unless the one who committed the crime was under 18 years of age. Despite this, a hundred juvenile residents, convicted of what would have been relatively minor crimes and misdemeanors on pre-war Earth, are now considered “expendable” and are sent on a mission to test if Earth’s surface has become habitable again.

So when are they?
Both shows start with the inevitable exposition, letting us learn that both stories are set in the future, Star-Crossed in 2024 and The 100 an undefined 97 years after a nuclear war (so likely to be 2111 or later). I wasn’t entirely convinced by the near future setting of Star-Crossed but the much more futuristic time frame for The 100 worked pretty well.

Who hates who?
There is clear conflict established in both shows. Star-Crossed is giving us the Romeo and Juliet -esque “us and them” with the humans and aliens in direct opposition, whilst The 100 favors a more dystopian approach with shady seeming adults trying to worm their way into political control and the teens the potential victims of a generally poor situation.

And the love?
From the pilots Star-Crossed is definitely taking the lead romantically. Human girl Emery and alien boy Roman have a past, and it looks like they’re destined for one another. So of course that’s not going to go well.The 100 pilot is much lighter on the love side of things, we have a minor character trying to become a ladies man but our female lead Eliza isn’t too obviously keen on any of the boys she’s surrounded by.

Are they pretty?
It’s The CW. I think it’s written into their constitution that they have to cast pretty girls and pretty boys. The ensemble size means The 100 might just have the edge in this respect, but I did find there were just a couple too many boys with floppy dark hair and got confused about which one was which.

Any diversity going on?
Both shows actually have cast members with either a disability or major health issue, though my gut is telling me that at least one of these characters isn’t going to last very long. There are characters of colour in both shows but it’s not clear yet whether there are any non-straight characters.

Worth continuing with?
Of the two shows Star-Crossed has the edge for me so far, purely because it ticks a few more of the boxes on my “Things I love in TV series” boxes. Both pilots though did plenty to make me tune in again, The CW hasn’t always been particularly good at hooking me in with pilots so I’m hoping this is a good sign for what’s to come.

What about everyone else?
I asked Liz to have a little look at this post, I know she’s watched both pilots too. She made a couple of really interesting points she’s happy for me to share. Firstly she’s seen plenty of chatter about Star-Crossed on Tumblr but not much for The 100, once she pointed this out I realised my online experience was the same. Twice as many episodes of Star-Crossed have aired so far, this may have something to do with it – I get the idea The 100 bit be a slightly slower burner too.

She also commented on the different focus – Star-Crossed looks like it will have a smaller cast and focus on the teens whilst The 100 has a bigger ensemble and is focusing on the full age range of society. I think this is an interesting point, within a few episodes I think the two shows may well fall into very different camps and will appeal to quite different groups of viewers.

I’m looking forward to seeing how both shows unfold. I have a definite preference at the moment but I am interested to see how I’ll feel by the end of the season. Both have 13 episode runs, plenty of time for my feelings to change completely!

Looking forwards.

I went back to Aberystwyth today. I needed to look at the stack of dissertations they keep as reference documents – I’m nearly halfway through my first draft and had some questions about layout that I knew I could only answer properly by looking at examples. It was a long way to go for a couple of hours in the library, but luckily my parents will take any excuse for a day by the sea.

I was last in Aberystwyth in June, I had to go and sit my final exam for this course. (I’d love to think it was my last ever exam but I’m sure at some point I’ll be doing more studying). It was another brief stay, I was there for less than 24 hours. I found it a little weird to be back after a year away, today it was weirder still.

So much has changed since last June. Departments have changed buildings and even campuses. The little library I spent so many hours in both studying and working is now home to the law library amongst others. With the huge collection of books has come a new computer room, new desks and even a mini branch of the student union shop. The desk I used to sit behind whilst at work doesn’t exist any more, the very fact I was able to go in on a Sunday is as a result of this progress. To my utter shame the photocopiers have all been upgraded and were entirely beyond me, another student had to take pity on me and show me how to get my printing!

The changes didn’t end there. Once I was finished with the dissertations, and my parents had been and seen how the seafront was faring after the huge storms earlier this year, we called in to the restaurant attached to my former halls of residence for a cuppa before we got back on the road. Ta Med Da has also had a face lift; warm terracotta walls have given way to trendy blues, the old comfy leather seating has been replaced by slightly less comfy seating covered in bold stripy fabric and are now partnered with brightly coloured plastic chairs. Even the food has changed, they now have a “cake of the day” – we all spotted the fact that today’s was gluten free carrot cake and remarked about how far they’ve come.

For two years Aberystwyth was my home. I moved there to start my new life, the fresh start that I desperately needed for so many reasons. I had happy times there, I had hard times there, but regardless I began the process of working out who I was going to be there. Like all best made plans mine changed, distance learning was never meant to be part of mine. Whilst I’m glad for the perspective it has given me, a part of me has found it hard to let go of the idea of how things might have panned out if I’d been able to complete my third year in Aberystwyth.

Today was a great reminder that this time is now firmly in my past. It was nice to go and visit, but it no longer feels comfortable and familiar. Aberystwyth has changed, and so have I. It’s time to look to the future and new pastures rather than continuing to wonder what might have been.

March Reads.

It’s been a few months since I decided to stop reviewing books, and if I’m entirely honest I’m not missing it much at all. The one aspect I am missing is the talking about books, I think though that the reduced amount of reading I’m doing contributes to this too. I’m pretty sure I won’t go back to reviewing books on my blog any time soon, but I can’t not talk about books so thought I’d try a monthly round up of my reads.

March was the busiest reading month I’ve had so far this year, though I still only read 5 books which by my usual standards is pretty quiet. In order of reading, my March reads were:

  • The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
  • Trouble by Non Pratt
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
  • Pea’s Book of Big Dreams by Susie Day

I enjoyed all of the books, and whilst Pea’s Book of Big Dreams came very close, nothing could topple Trouble from being my favourite book of the month. There are not enough words for me to begin to do Trouble justice, it’s a fantastic contemporary read and I’ve been raving about it to anyone who’ll listen. I intend to draw up a best of 2014 list at the end of the year and there’s absolutely no way this book won’t be on it. Highly recommended.

Completed Cross Stitches.

I’m really behind on blogging about the crafty things I’ve finished. Rather than doing one massive post I’m going to split it into a few and spread them out over the next few weeks. Today I thought I’d blog about a few presents that I’ve made over the last few months. (Apologies in advance for the less than perfect photos, I really need to start taking better pictures of my crafts.)

First up was this sampler, made for Gemma’s birthday.
image
Gemma is my oldest friend, I think we’ve both reached the stage where we don’t think about just how many years we’ve known each other. I wanted to make her something that reflected some of the things she loved, and wanted to find a balance between something traditional and more modern.

Next up was this Edwardian Lady, sewn for my Granny’s birthday.
image
I had seen that World of Cross Stitching magazine had a Gorjuss pattern in their new issue, I’ve been working on a Gorjuss piece for myself on and off for a couple of years (I only pick it up when I haven’t got something else on the go) and thought I’d buy the magazine so I had a new design. One of the free gifts was the chart for this and as soon as I saw it I knew it would make a perfect present.

Most recently, I tried something new and designed a piece specifically to be mounted in a hoop.
image
I knew I wanted to mark the publication of Liz de Jager’s book Banished. I decided to choose a quote to stitch, I drew up a shortlist of five or six and in the end chose this one. It was great fun to stitch, and now I’ve learnt this mounting technique I’ll be using it many more times.

The Lion King flies.

I love musicals and I love Disney, so I’ve seen and loved the stage versions of both The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. I heard about this video of some of the Australian cast of The Lion King’s a cappella performance on a plane yesterday but have only just got round to watching it.

It’s made me so happy that I wanted to share it here. As I’m writing this I’m remembering so many things that all make me smile; performing songs from The Lion King at our school pyramid concert, the various a cappella performances I’ve been involved in – both planned and spontaneous, and the day I saw the show in the West End. My only sadness is that I’ve never been on a flight with such a cool thing happening – can’t this become a regular feature?

Starting #PaperVsPixels

I haven’t been reading very much recently. The current uni workload I have is zapping a lot of my time and energy – even when I’m not sat at my desk studying I’m thinking about it. This doesn’t make for particularly good reading conditions (or blogging conditions as you may have noticed from the lack of recent posts). When I saw Hot Key Books launch Laure Eve’s #PaperVsPixels challenge for April I thought I’d get involved in the hope of getting back into the reading flow a little more.

The challenge is simple. Inspired by Laure’s book Fearsome Dreamer, which features two technologically opposing cultures, you’re being asked to choose just one reading format for April. In Laure’s own words:

The challenge: read in only one format for the whole month of April. If you’re a digital type, read physical. If you’ve never tried audio – try nothing but audio. For one month. Record your experiences on #papervspixels and share them with us on tumblr, twitter, YouTube or your blog – and let me know how you’re doing @LaureEve too!

I love both physical and eBooks, I think both have very valid places in my reading life. I looked at my 2014 reads spreadsheet (yes, I have a spreadsheet and it is a thing of beauty) and worked out that I’d read far more physical books than eBooks, if it hadn’t been for a pair of long train journeys I’d have read even fewer. So for April I’m picking Pixels.

papervspixels-graphic-pixels

I have a good couple of hundred books waiting for me to read them, over half are eBooks. I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with some of the books I’ve downloaded and proceeded to ignore. I have no idea how many books I’ll manage to read, the last three months have seen me only read 3 – 5 books, hopefully I’ll manage to increase this count a little.

Banished is in the wild.

On Thursday I travelled down to London to attend the launch for my lovely friend Liz de Jager’s debut novel Banished. It is the first in a young adult urban fantasy trilogy published by Tor in the UK.

The blurb:
imageSworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

The very first interaction I had with Liz was on Twitter. There was a discussion going on about writing (a far from unusual occurrence amongst many of the people I hang around with on Twitter) and she told me to get my butt in the chair and write – solid advice I am still heeding a few years on. We chatted plenty more online before getting to meet in person at the Thoughtbubble comics convention in 2011, I spent the day with her and her equally lovely husband Mark – we geeked out about the many things we saw, about our mutual interests and of course about writing.

It was as we sat eating lunch that Liz told me about her current project (that was to become Banished), it sounded hugely exciting and part of me knew instantly then that it was going to work out for her. It was a real thrill therefore when some time later she asked me if I’d be prepared to read for her and give feedback – I’ve been doing so every since and it has felt like a real privilege to tag along for her journey to publication.

I’m glad I’m having a break from reviewing, I couldn’t begin to review Banished – it’s a book I care far too much about to begin to work out how to approach talking about it in an impartial way. I’ve been so excited to see so many great reviews for it already, it certainly deserves all of the praise it has been getting.

The launch itself was a wonderful evening. The room it was held in was jam packed with so many well-wishers all wanting to celebrate Liz’s achievement. She’s a popular lady, her time running My Favourite Books has earned her the respect of a huge number of people involved in publishing in the UK – authors, publishers, booksellers and reviewers alike. Liz spent a huge amount of the launch sat behind a table signing copies of her book – at one point it was very hard to work out where exactly the end of the snaking queue was, everyone wanted their copy signed.

I had such a lovely time. I got to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a very long time – living so far from London is a real hindrance at times. I also got to meet people I’d chatted with online but not had the chance to meet before. By the time I got back to the youth hostel I was staying in I was exhausted in the best possible way – it had been a great evening for the very best of reasons.

I Am Noah.

I’ve talked many times before about my involvement with Scouting as an Assistant Beaver Scout Leader so when I saw this video I knew I needed to share it. It’s been made by a Beaver Scout and is an attempt to recruit more adults into Scouting so that more young people can join in and share the fun.

What I’ve learned from Chicks Dig Time Lords

I’ve been sitting on this blogpost for a very long time. Months and months in fact. Which in itself is pretty relevant to the subject matter of it.

imageWhen I first heard about the book Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It I have to admit I was puzzled by it. The title seemed to sum me up, I am after all a female fan of Doctor Who, but I didn’t really understand why the book was necessary. I don’t watch and enjoy Doctor Who or any of the other geeky or sporty things I like differently because I’m female, so why was it necessary to have a book about being a female fan?

It was released and I heard positive things about the book but remained bemused. Then the nominations for the 2011 Hugo Awards were announced and Chicks Dig Time Lords was nominated in the Best Related Work category, and went on to win it. I decided I probably needed to give the book a go to see if I could work out why it was so highly regarded, bought a copy of it and put it on my bookshelf.

Roll on spring 2013, my understanding of a lot of things had changed and my eyes had become opened to many new things (the internet is a wonderful educator). For reasons I absolutely do not remember I picked up my copy of Chicks Dig Time Lords and started to read the first essay. I read a handful of essays on my first sitting, and then over the next few months read the whole book an essay or two at a time – wanting to spread them out and give myself time to think about what they’d had to say.

I was so very wrong in my first assessment of the book. I completely misinterpreted what the book was about and why it existed. The book isn’t a collection of essays about being a female Whovian, it’s a collection of essays by and about Whovians who happen to be females. And that is such an important distinction, one I needed time and learning to be able to spot, let alone understand.

For all manner of geeky things there are a range of publications both print and digital that give fans a voice. I’m aware that whilst these publications exist women’s contributions are generally less common than men’s. That is what this book has done – it’s given a safe space for women to share their thoughts and opinions. I do think the balance has started to shift a little since the book was published in 2009, but there’s still such a very long way to go.

As a female geek and sports fan I have always known that my voice is a quiet, frequently unheard and sometimes unwelcome one. My presence in both arenas has not been without its difficulties, my gender has time and again gone against me – from dismissive comments assuming the nature of my interest (apparently it’s all about the hot men) to suggestions that my knowledge needed to be tested to ensure I did genuinely belong there. My stories are sadly common amongst female fans, and I count myself lucky (and isn’t that in itself a sad state of affairs) that my experiences whilst irritating, patronising and downright unreasonable are firmly at the very mild end of the scale of the abuse experienced by other women.

I have plenty of thoughts and opinions on the things I am passionate about. I shy away from sharing them publicly, particularly on my blog. There have been odd posts over the years, but far too many times there have been little voices telling me I don’t know enough, don’t have the background, don’t belong, shouldn’t be writing about that particular topic. And so I haven’t.

(As an aside, the one post I did write that always comes to mind is the one I wrote on my old blog about The Sarah Jane Adventures. Someone whose opinion I really respect read it, and misinterpreted a really ambiguous sentence I’d written. They commented about it, and it still makes me cringe to remember years after. A lesson learnt.)

This is the year I’m going to make a change. I have this space all of my own and I’m going to use it to be me. I’m going to write posts about things I love and care about, and actually hit the publish button. I’m going to write more posts about the random thoughts that often fill my brain, things that leave me pondering but I convince myself no one else could possibly care about.

One of my concerns about writing about these things is that I won’t be any good at it – but as I tell my Beaver Scouts the only way to get better at something is to practice. I think it’s about time I took my own advice. I’m going to ignore the voice in my head that comes up with all the reasons why I shouldn’t, I’m going to stop caring about the fact I’m a girl, stop caring about the fact I might get something a bit wrong, and I’m going to take the leap and just get on with it.

My blog, my thoughts, and there’s no one who can tell me what I can and can’t do.

Dead Ends by Erin Lange.

I know I said no more reviews for a while, but I wrote this one towards the end of last year before I’d decided to take a reviewing break so I thought I would share it today – publication day for Dead Ends. After all, what’s the point of making rules that can’t be bent a little?

imageDane Washington and Billy D. couldn’t be more different. Dane is clever and popular, but he’s also a violent rebel. Billy D. has Down’s syndrome, plays by the rules and hangs out with teachers in his lunch break.

But Dane and Billy have more in common than they think – both their fathers are missing.

They’re going to have to suck up their differences and get on with helping each other. There are answers to be found.

Powerful, funny, moving – the ultimate coming-of-age novel.

This book is really deceptive. You start reading it expecting it to be about two boys working together on a treasure hunt, and the fact that one of the boys has Down Syndrome leads you to expect this will inevitably play some part in the story. You’re right of course, but you also get so much more that you’re not expecting and it leaves you thinking about it after you’ve stopped reading, and wondering how on earth you’re going to convey your thoughts about the book in a coherent manner. Or that was my reading experience in any case.

The book is narrated by Dane. He’s a wonderfully grey character, he has anger management issues and a very specific way of seeing the world but then at the same time is a good student with clear goals and future plans. In an early chapter he explains how he is getting increasingly close to being excluded from school and sent to the other school in the area which is tantamount to a dumping ground – he’s desperate for this not to happen, but he’s very aware that his temper is likely to overrule his desire to stay in school.

We see Billy D, the other main character of the book, solely through Dane’s eyes. This doesn’t stop Billy D from seizing his rightful share of the narrative, he’s a well written character and based on my experiences a decent portrayal of a teen with Down Syndrome – including the fact that he too is a grey character, whilst he’s hugely likeable he also has some less appealing character traits.

The major plotline is the focus on Billy’s mission to find his father, he has an atlas with clues to oddly named towns across America and believes he’ll find his father by solving the clues. He involves Dane in the solving and following of this trail, offering in turn to help Dane to find his absent father though this is something Dane does not want to do. I liked the clue solving aspect of the plot, and the focus on unusual place names appealed to my word loving brain. This story twists and turns, some of the reveals along the way are real jolts – each adding another layer of depth to the story.

Throughout the book Billy D challenges Dane; the way he acts, the language he uses, the very way he sees the world. There is always a danger when you have a character becoming friends with a character with a disability that the latter becomes relegated to purely being in the story in order for the main character to go on some sort of redemptive personal journey. There are of course elements of this at play in this book, but whilst yes Dane does develop as a result of his friendship with Billy D, Billy also develops as a result of his friendship with Dane. The author tries her absolute best to avoid falling into the cliches often seen in books featuring characters with disabilities and the book is a really positive read as a result. There is some occasional use of ableist language, but this both feels true to the narrative and really jars with the reader – I think this will leave readers thinking about their own views and attitudes and those of the people around them.

One of the facets I liked best about this book was that this story reinforces the fact that actions have consequences. Both of the boys in this story make bad choices, often for good reasons but poor decisions all the same, and they have to bear the consequences of these choices. This results in the book having a realistic, believable and satisfying conclusion rather than a fairytale style neat ending.

This book is an excellent read, there’s so much to take from it, and I think every reader will find something to identify with. I know I’m going to be pressing my copy into the hands of other readers, I want everyone to spend time with Dane and Billy D.

Dead Ends is published by Faber Children’s. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all opinions expressed are my own.