Agave al Tramonto

Another request of a seascape, this time from a friend born in February. She wanted a sunset and my mind went wild with colors. Enjoy the early Valentine!

Agave al Tramonto

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Agave al Tramonto

Being Human

I have just watched Being Human, the American version of a Brit show, now airing on Syfy , and although the channel is in-famous for stellar titles like Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (I kid you not!), I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the acting and the plot. I haven’t seen the original show, so I can’t draw any comparison between the two, but the first episode of the American one delivers big time. Think about a television series about a nervous young doctor, a  handsome male nurse, and a good looking girl who is making plans to get married,  living in a big city, looking for a comfortable place to settle in, having to solve daily problems, dealing with relationships and family’s issues. What it comes to mind could be Friends 2011, right? Think again. Josh, the nervous young doctor is a werewolf; Aidan, the handsome male nurse is a vampire; Sally, the bride to be, never got to the altar, she is a ghost. They all strive to be normal, as normal as they can be.

Spoiler Alert, I am going to summarize the first episode, There Goes The Neighborhood: Part 1. Josh is an unhappy werewolf who doesn’t have a place to call home.  Aidan is trying hard not to kill humans, but has a bad night and relapses causing a coworker whom he is dating to die. He has to call for help cleaning his mess. They both work at the same hospital and Aidan suggest that they could join forces and live together. Josh agrees and after a month they find the perfect place. The only tiny problem with the apartment is that it comes with a ghost, Sally. She is new to the ghost life and she is still dealing with her status of being dead. Meanwhile Aidan is being helped by the Bishop to maintain his digression under control, but remorse about killing the innocent woman is taking its toll on him. And the Bishop seems to want Aidan to go back to his former life. Josh’s sister accidentally finds him at the hospital.  They haven’t talked in two years and she would like to have his best friend back. Josh tries his best to push her away, saying that she could never understand why he has left his family. While Sally is moping in the house and Aidan is having a good time at a vampire club with Bishop, Josh is left to face the worst fear for a reluctant werewolf: His sister follows him to the cellar Aidan has found for him to safely change when it comes that time of the month. And the door doesn’t open from the inside. Looking forward to watch the second episode.

Being Human

Beautiful Darkness

Veni, Vidi, Read it. As promised last week, here is my review for Beautiful Creatures’ next chapter, Beautiful Darkness by the talented duo, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The southern city of Gatlin is still hot and sleepy, but nothing is what it seems on the surface. Ethan and Lena are going through a rough patch after uncle Macom’s death. Ethan is completely unaware that Lena used the Book of Moons to bring him back from the dead and in the process Macom lost his life. Lena gradually slips into a morose state, and shuts Ethan off. While he still has vivid dreams, and visions, he can’t communicate with Lena anymore since she has stopped using Kelting, the mental communication they share against all odds. While Ethan gets separated from Lena, he gets closer to Macom through his visions, and he discovers, much to his surprise, that Lena’s uncle had been desperately in love with his mother, and that she loved him back. Despite Ethan has tried everything in his power to win back Lena, she has already decided that she is going Dark and starts hanging around with her Siren cousin Ridley, and a new guy, John Breed. John is an incubus with green eyes, a singular anomaly since  being a Dark creature his eyes should be gold, and he also has the ability of walking in plain daylight when he should be night bound. With Lena disappearing, Ethan is left to mend his broken heart with the help of the loyal Amma, and the ever present and equally loyal Link, who hasn’t gotten over Ridley. Joining the helpers’ rank is also Liv, a British teenager come to assist Mariam, Gatlin’s own Librarian for both Caster and human world. A multitude of minor characters spanning from Lucille, a siamese cat, to old aunts, and last but not least his mother’s presence, and Macom’s visions, all help Ethan along the road. As in the precedent post I’ll proceed now to reveal few key elements in the plot. So a SPOILER ALERT is on effect after the period. In this second novel Ethan gets intimately acquainted with Gatlin’ secret underground Caster tunnels while following Lena. The Caster tunnels defy every mundane rule about time and space and allow to travel miles in the span of mere minutes. Lena has left both Ethan and her family and accompanied by John and Ridley she uses the tunnels  searching for the Great Barrier, a mythical Caster utopia where she will be free to be whoever she chooses to be without having to pay the consequences. Ethan sees through vivid out of body experiences how Lena and John are getting closer, how they are planning to escape from everybody and everything to create a life for themselves. The realization that Lena doesn’t want him in her life anymore drives Ethan to consider Liv, who although is training under Mariam to become a Keeper, a neutral figure standing between worlds, is less complicated than Lena. Meanwhile Sarafine, Lena’s Dark Caster mother, helped by the most powerful Blood Incubus who ever lived, Abraham Ravenwood, summons Lena’s seventeenth Moon earlier to bind her to the Dark side once and for all.  Ethan embraces his role of Wayward, the one who knows the way, and overcome obstacle after obstacle to bring back the Lena he still loves. At the end Lena claim herself as neither good or evil, Dark or Light. She emerges from her ordeal with one green eye and one gold eye. She is Light and Dark at the same time. Lena, helped by Ethan, has defied the odds again, but another Moon is waiting for her around the corner. What I liked the most about this southern dark gothic is the absolute purity of the love story between two teenagers who are asked to decide about life and death, good and evil. Ethan and Lena are romantically involved without having the freedom of simply loving each other. The simple act of kissing gives Ethan a heart attack, anything else is going to kill him; and in fact it is exactly such an episode that pushes Lena over the edge convincing her that Ethan is better without her.  I particularly enjoyed the growth in the secondary characters as well. Ridley is a complex figure who goes from being a Dark Siren, who can force everybody to do her bids by simply licking on a lollipop, to be a mortal stripped by all her power. Link shows some backbone and fights Ridley back. Liv accepts to get involved in the fight between Dark and Light, humans and Casters, even if she knows that it is going to cost her chance to be a Keeper. Ethan’s mom, Lila, and Macom, tell their haunted love story through visions and apparitions, and although I already knew how it ended, I still hoped for something more between them. Amma and her ancestors also have a huge role in Beautiful Darkness, and she comes out lovely and scary at the same time. Ethan’s dad is finally recovering from a mourning that almost killed him. The city of Gatlin, with its bigot citizens, sweet teas sipped under porches, and southern cuisine and folklore, is the final character that ties everybody else together, and I ended loving it despite all its flaws. I am now left waiting for Lena’s eighteenth birthday. Who knows what it will happen?

Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Creatures

Lately I have been blessed with a never ending list of pleasant discoveries in the literature field. While reading Cassandra Clare’s blog  I stomped across Beautiful Creatures, debut novel for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. When I read the back cover the adjectives that jumped out were southern gothic and dark fantasy. I admit that they had me at that. I have come to truly appreciate southern settings spiced up with some dark element by the side. I was also intrigued from the start by the cooperation of two authors. Writing is such a personal endeavor that it always surprises me when I found successful examples  of co-authoring. It must be wonderful to find another person so attuned to one’s style and genre to make it possible to commit to a four hands project. Beautiful Creatures is a sparkling example that such literary unicorns exist. I was drawn inside the story from the beginning, when Ethan Wate, a sixteen year old high school student, explains his love for reading as a means to escape a stagnant reality. Ethan lives in a sleepy and seemingly uninteresting city, Gatlin, in South Carolina, where, according to his father, only the stupid and the stuck remains. Ethan is neither one. After his mother sudden death, and his father progressive detachment from reality, he feels that there is nothing left in Gatlin for him. He feels different from the rest of his classmates, who will go on in their lives happily reenacting, year after year, battlefields from the Civil war known in Gatlin as the War of Northern Aggression. Ethan, who marks in a map on the wall all the places he wants to go according to the book he is reading at the moment, is different and he has to hide it. If it weren’t for Amma, a Seer who is the closest thing to a mother for him, and Link, his loyal friend, Ethan would be completely alone. Everything changes when he meets Lena Duchannes, the new girl in town, who not only is the niece of Macom Ravenwood, the local scary pariah, but she is also the girl of his dreams. Literally.  Ethan has been having vivid nightmares about failed attempted rescues of Lena. And he can hear her in his mind. Soon enough Ethan must come to terms that Lena is no regular girl. Lena comes from a line of ancient Casters, beings with powers beyond human understanding. She will be claimed on her sixteenth birthday, and either go Light or Dark. There are no shades of gray in the Caster world; Lena will become either good, like her aunt Del, or evil , like her cousin Ridley, without having the right to decide her fate. Ethan and Lena, united by being different from the other teenagers in Gatlin, start falling in love while trying to understand how their connection goes deeper than simple attraction. Sharing visions they find that two of their ancestors, Ethan Carter Wate, a deserter whose name has been erased from the family tree, and Genevieve Duchannes, a young Caster woman ready to do the unthinkable to save the man she loves, have changed the future of their families with their actions. Ethan is prepared to fight an impossible battle to give Lena the right to decide who she wants to become. But an important figure from Lena’s past, her own mother, the Dark Caster Sarafine, tries to stop Ethan’s plan to rescue her. And that is when the plot thickens and I am going to announce a SPOILER ALLERT. Continue reading at your own risk and peril. The final part of Beautiful Creatures is what separated this exceptional novel from the merely good ones. It would have been just great if Ethan and Lena had to struggle to find a balance in their complicated love story. Their characters are strong enough to withstand plot platitude. The fact that a human and a Caster can’t have a physical relationship, Ethan almost dies of heart attack when kissing Lena, is harsh enough to keep the story going. But the authors come out with an interesting surprise at the very end. Lena, who is a Natural, being the daughter of another Natural who went Dark, can claim herself on her sixteenth birthday. She is the first Duchannes who has the power to decide who she wants to be. There is a catch though, of course. If she goes Light, all the Dark side of her family will die, including her beloved uncle Macom and her cousin Ridley. If she goes Dark, all the Light side of her family will die, including her grandmother, uncle, aunt, and cousins. To make things even more complicated Sarafine kills Ethan, forcing Lena to use the Book of Moons, which contains powerful and dangerous Dark Magic, to bring him back to life. The price Lena unknowingly pays for using the Book of Moons is to exchange one life for another. Ethan is alive, but Macom lies in his stead. Lena hasn’t claimed herself after all. Will Ethan’s and Lena’s love for each other be strong enough to overcome such tragedy? Off to go reading Beautiful Darkness to have the answer to this burning question. See you later.

Beautiful Creatures

The Secret Garden

While devouring my usual dose of urban fantasy  and sci-fi, I have encountered so many mentions about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic tale that I felt I had to read it. I wanted to understand  what made The Secret Garden memorable. I downloaded it on my Kindle and read it between books, as a snack before and after meals. I started slowly; I normally need some time to get used to a different author’s pace and style. Especially if the novel was written more than one hundred years ago, when authors fancied to do all the talking, and narrate the story as if they were master puppeteers. The third person omniscient is hard to get used to, and Burnett gave thoughts even to the animals and the plants in her novel. Although I find that a thinking bud is a rather fascinating subject, and that given the right amount of persuasion even rocks can talk, switching between point of views, sentence after sentence, can result in a pounding headache for the modern reader. Knowing everything about everybody at any given moment feels like cheating. It is like leafing through the pages of a thriller and when you can’t stand it anymore, jumping to the last one to discover who is the murderer. Nonetheless there is something about the characters in this novel that made me keep going despite the narrator’s distinctive voice intruding in the flow. Miss Mary and Master Colin are selfish and unlikable kids. Both born rich and used to command an army of servants. Both neglected by their parents from birth. Mary is sent back to England  after her parents die of an outbreak of cholera in India. Archibald Craven, Colin’s father, a reclusive widow who is Mary’s uncle, becomes her guardian. He doesn’t care about her and forgets she even exists as soon as Mary set foot in England. After being left alone in India, Mary is left alone, again, in Misselthwaite Manor where she has only Martha, a young servant unimpressed by the sour kid, to help her. Martha teaches Mary the Yorkshire dialect, and the invaluable lesson of being able to fetch things for herself. Mary for once in her life is forced to find amusement without anybody attending on her. She soon discovers that Misselthwaite Manor has two big secrets. Among the gardens there is a walled space where nobody is allowed in by master’s orders. Mary, helped by a robin that has befriended her, finds the buried key to the secret garden. Soon after Martha’s brother, Dickon, starts helping her digging and planting in the garden. Following the first wondrous discovery, Mary meets Colin, the young master who never leaves his room for fear of being a cripple doomed to die soon. It is friendship at first sight between the two. Mary introduces Colin to Dickon, and with his help they start a journey of self-healing and physical and spiritual  growth. The three kids work in the secret garden and observe the miracle of life while nature awakes before their eyes. Mary and Colin are taught by Dickon’s actions that positive thinking leads to good things to happen. Even Colin’s father, visiting the Alps, is called back home by a supernatural calling. Archibald Craven can feel that miraculous changings are taking places at Misselthwaite Manor and that is finally time to be a father for Colin. Burnett was a follower of the Christian Science, and the garden, as a central theme of the novel, symbolize both death and life. Destruction and creation. The garden loved by Colin’s mother, and closed after her death by Colin’s father, reunites a family that is on a path of self-destruction. Although the concept of willing anything in life by just wanting it is rather naïve, I enjoyed the simplemindedness of the three kids. Colin decides to get on living, and Mary decides that the garden will grow, and they talk each other to it. Dickon’s character is pure light and goodness because he is one with nature and all its living creatures. He helps Mary and Colin, who have been living in bitterness, to achieve the same enlightenment. It is interesting that there is no villain in the novel, but Mary, Colin, and Mr. Craven, are their own enemies. The negative attitude the main characters have toward life is their own demise. Colin is bedridden because he thinks, like his father, that he is going to be a hunchback and die young. Mary, unwanted by her mother, doesn’t care for anybody, because nobody cared for her. They are what they think they are. Until they discover that they have the power to change what they don’t like. The Secret Garden is a motivational speech wrapped up in a novel, but despite the blatant religious message I ended up rooting for the kids, and the animals, and even the plants. Everybody and everything in the novel got my approval, but Archibald Craven. He remained a little bit of a douche until the end, I am afraid. I can’t find in my heart any sympathy for adult characters who act like spoiled children. It also didn’t help that, apart from a brief appearance in the middle of the story, he suddenly comes back when everything has already been said and done. But that’s just my opinion.  A final comment about the third person omniscient is due. It was all the rage back when the novel was written, so I can’t fault the author. And who knows, maybe it will come back like the eighties leg warmers.

The Secret Garden