February 23, 2014

Once Upon A Time is back on March 9

Once Upon a Time is back March 9! And, in true OUAT style, they're boldly fracturing fairy tales left and right and adding characters who shouldn't be in the same world together like it's nobodies business.
I thought I would die of anticipation between the mid-season finale and now, but March 9th is quickly approaching, and soon we'll learn why Hook turned up at Emma's apartment with a warning about her fairytale parents, whom, if you remember, she can't remember. So, let's see how Hook gets around that one! There may or may not be a bit of an outcry over the appearance of Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East from The Wizard of Oz, but come on guys, we've already been able to stomach Mulan and Dr. Frankenstein in one frame (Okay, I lie, I don't think Mulan has met Whale, who, by the way, seems to be in the modern world in this promo, not the fairytale world — weird right?) Sadly, both in this trailer and in Oz, the Great And Powerful, green face makeup looks cheesy and dated no matter how you do it. No one can Evanora like Margaret Hamilton (the original Wicked Witch of the East), not even Mila Kunis or Rebecca Mader (Lost alum!)

Let me know what you think! Can you handle it?

February 12, 2014

Casting Some Starlight on Indie Star Mark Wayne McGinnis [review time]

Scrapyard Ship by Mark Wayne McGinnis: 4.5/5 STARS (Get it on Amazon)

Lieutenant Commander Jason Reynolds has had a string of bad luck lately — evident by the uncomfortable house arrest bracelet strapped to his right ankle. Worse yet, he’s relegated to his grandfather’s old house and rambling scrapyard. To complicate things, the women in his life are pulling from every direction. But it’s through a bizarre turn of events that Jason is led to a dried up subterranean aquifer hundreds of feet below ground. Here he discovers an advanced alien spacecraft, one that will propel his life in a new direction.

Mark Wayne McGinnis is something of a surprise. His fun science fiction series has rocketed to the top of the Amazon charts, launching all the way to number 11 for Best Science Fiction in the Space Exploration and Alien Invasion categories, and number 12 in the category for Space Fleet fiction. His work is adventurous and captures the imaginations and hearts of readers. Scrapyard Ship was the first space adventure in the series, which was followed at the end of 2013 with HAB 12, the sequel. The Scrapyard Ship novels are written as a kind of web serial in that each one ends with a cliffhanger, but don't worry, book 3 is in the works, and isn't it fun to have something to look forward to anyways? (I'm just bitter there are no more Harry Potter or Wheel of Time books being written, what has become of my life?)

Here's what Amazon reviewers are saying about Scrapyard Ship:

The title is unusual, as are the characters, but they are well done and provided a lot of entertainment. Mr. McGinnis Is an interesting writer. He balanced the action with some 'down time' to develop the plot. He didn't seem to get too involved in prolonged descriptions, as some authors do, but educated me and then went on to get back into the fray. I'm headed back to the order page to get the next book, Hab 12."

"I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fun filled fight with impossible odds against an implacable alien foe!"

"Reads fast and makes for a great 'mental time out.' Aliens and Phase cannons, the 'Fate of the Earth' and some fun set ups keep ya turning the pages. I'm for the next book!"

HAB 12 by Mark Wayne McGinnis: 4/5 STARS (Get it on Amazon)

HAB 12 really takes off from Scrapyard Ship in one of those cases where the sequel manages to be even more compelling than the original. Scrapyard Ship introduces The Lilly and all of the ship's capabilities, but HAB 12 really runs wild with the possibilities of the multi-verse technology when it comes to weaponry, communications, security, space travel, etc. Believe it or not, this volume is even more complex with more twists and turns, while the characters remain endearing, and raw yet lovable. Another fantastic read. And brace yourselves for another doozy of an ending that will make you ready to die for the next in the series.

Here's what Amazon reviewers are saying about about HAB 12:

"Can't believe this is a new independent author."

"The second book is even better than the first - the characters continue to mature and the plot and imagination of this fast paced SciFi are thrilling. Highly recommend both books and I await eagerly the next book of this series!"

Tapped In by Mark Wayne McGinnis: 5/5 STARS (Get it on Amazon)

Tapped In is possibly the best of the McGinnis pack.

It's nice to see Mark Wayne McGinnis expand into new territory genre-wise, and as usual he does it with original writing, unique and lovable (as well as intentionally hate-able) characters, and a very different kind of story. The way Rob discovers tapping in and then makes use of its power to get through obstacles and out-smart his antagonists, even with the disadvantage of amnesia, is enjoyable, thrilling, and often-times really humorous. 

If you like Dean Koontz, this will be very much up your alley; some bits reminded me of Watchers. Another entertaining, fast-paced page turner to curl up with on the couch (and stay there until you finish). The only downside is that you'll be dying to find out what happens next, and you'll just have to wait for the next one.

More Amazon reviews:

"The good news is you survived a car crash. The bad news is you don't know who you are. The good news you've got a new sixth sense. The bad news . . .

"So it goes in an exciting new action series that touches on science fiction and espionage and lots of other genres. All that with a light touch of humor making a quick, entertaining read."

"This author certainly knows how to put one in suspense! A great novelette, but really a taster and nothing more. Rather annoying really. The basis of the yarn is a sort of ex-CIA operative involved in an accident which leaves him with amnesia. But it also affects his mind, having him become both a mind reader and manipulator, but only with the help of high voltage electrical input every 24 hours."

I hope you enjoyed this month's Indie Star Author. I don't know about you, but I don't read nearly enough independently published fiction, so every month or so I hope to review an indie novel for some supportive and honest promotion (the best kind, if you ask me.) 

To indie writers: While I have a fair supply of books to get me started, I am in the market for review copies of independently published fiction, with a preference for science fiction and fantasy. It won't be the first time I've accepted a book as payment for labor. I will feature your book on Musings by Starlight, first come first serve, and post the review to Amazon (and wherever else you please). While I can't promise five stars, I can promise a promotion that is thought out, fair and honest.

February 4, 2014

Predictable, Sherlock: 5 Things You Should Have Called in The Empty Hearse [review time]

Notice: This is not a safe space. If you haven't seen The Empty Hearse yet, this is a criticism that may contain spoilers. I assume you came here to do more than look at pretty pictures, so if you really wanted to go into The Empty Hearse without knowing a thing about the episode, maybe you should stop Googling reviews and just go watch it already :D

Now, I am not the queen of calling things. I'm not the first person to correctly identify how the plot twists will turn out, and, perhaps particularly as a creator of fiction myself, I'm usually the last person to label something as "predictable." The word itself feels like a shot in my gut whenever it gets used on one of my favorite books, TV shows or movies. I hate it.

As an example, I completely fell in love with the trailer for Now You See Me, a modern "fantasy" (or something) that came out last year to really mixed reviews. Everyone I talked to who had seen it said it was okay, not great, and fell short of expectations. In particular, it was predictable. They all saw the plot twist a mile away and a good half hour before the reveal. And so I didn't go see it in theatres, but waited until way after the DVD release, afraid to be let down.

However, I didn't call the twist in Now You See Me. I thought it was a ton of fun. (Sounds like maybe I should stop talking about it on my Sherlock critique and write it its own damn review!)

So now that I've put enough text between the spoiler alert and the spoilers, read on to see where I called Sherlock predictable.

1. They just wouldn't tell us how he did it.

I'm not going to call it a cop out, but gosh darnit, I knew they weren't going to explain how Sherlock is still alive. Instead, they did something even more brilliant. Those damn writer/creators dramatized a number of different scenarios to explain Sherlock's survival, finding a way to make you believe each one of them and fall for the same trick over and over again while you think you're finally going to hear the truth. But you never do, do you?

It's brilliant, but it's also strategic. You'll notice that each time a plausible scenario was pitched, the audience, whoever it was, whether they believed it initially or not, immediately began to poke holes in the story. The writers of Sherlock haven't given us the chance to poke holes in the "real" story, and maybe they don't even know for sure how Sherlock could have done it, but they've given us just enough material to satisfy us that it is, after all, possible, even if we don't know how.

2. Sherlock found a disturbingly insensitive way to break it to Watson that he lived.

Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. Sherlock's stupid, insensitive reveal lent a comedic tone to what could have otherwise been a really melodramatic scene. It was pretty clever to cast Sherlock trying to make light of the whole thing in his signature alien and anti-social way and Watson interrupting with multiple slapstick routines. Classic. Also predictable.

3. I'm not sure if it counts, but what was with the subway scene?

There's an off switch. There's always an off switch.
It's hard to call it predictable when the show suggests the "twist" to you ahead of time, but come on. Watson pointed out that Sherlock probably already knew how to stop the bomb, and given that you assume the two detectives aren't going to die here, you're inclined to agree with him. Sorry to put words in your mouth. And then, ta-da! There's an off switch. Way too easy.

4. Let's not forget the Serbian prisoner "twist."

It's minor and it's revealed early on, but on the theme of hello, obvious, the long hair didn't have me fooled for a second. How about you?

5. The Empty Hearse was predictably awesome.

There's no need to flatter actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman any more than I already have, but it's their chemistry that pulls the whole show together, and the same plot and writing just wouldn't be the same with another pair in the lead. No way, Jose. The story took a back seat in The Empty Hearse, even if I was scared they would blow up parliament on Guy Fox Day (I wasn't too worried, just made me want to watch V For Vendetta) while Sherlock's relationship with Watson was front and centre. No, I don't mean that they're gay; two straight friends do have a relationship.

I never thought I would like Molly Hooper, but that girl is growing on me the more she grows some spine. I have, however, always loved DI Lestrade, played by Rupert Graves, who was Dominic in V for Vendetta. I wonder if he had bomb-on-the-underground-heading-for-parliament-deja-vu too.

Well, did you get five for five? Are you the master of "calling it" and did you see it all coming? Maybe I'm being too harsh. Somebody should probably put me in my place — that's what the comment board is for!