The Dark Divine is about a pastor’s daughter, Grace, as she deals with a family that was torn apart by a traumatic event years ago when family friend, Daniel Kalbi and her brother, Jude, had a falling out that left Jude covered in blood and Daniel missing.
Mother wouldn’t talk about it, and Father kept busy with private research in his study. What was Grace to do when Daniel showed up in her art class after being away for years? This wouldn’t be a young adult urban fantasy if Grace didn’t fall madly in love with Daniel, but love is never that simple, especially when the boy she is sweet on again has a mysterious lupine secret.
The first strength of this book was the characters, especially Grace Divine. As a heroine, she was plucky enough to get herself into trouble and then get herself out of it, but her vulnerable nature—born of doubts and insecurities from an unresolved past—made her feel like a grounded person, not pathetic. Although Grace was often rescued during pivotal scenes by Daniel, I didn’t find her helpless as much as simply in over her head. This may be because the scenes were more about revealing Daniel’s secret than about rescuing a damsel in distress. Grace drove events forward with her curiosity. Obviously, this put herself in harm’s way, but it also moved all the relationships forward as well.
The dynamic between the family members, especially regarding Daniel, felt real to me, especially the triangle formed by Grace, her father, and Daniel. There was unresolved pain and fear, compassion, and love. The two characters that felt flattest to me were Jude and their mother. Jude was simply grumpy all the time, an unfortunate situation because the explanation would have spoiled his secret. In addition, the mother was a caricature of a mentally unstable person. She felt the least real of all.
Fortunately, the main story action was around Daniel and Grace. Their dialog was often delightful and clever, bringing a smile to my face while they danced around their budding relationship without admitting weakness to each other. Grace had just enough sarcastic wit to be snarky when called for, but never so mean as to lose my sympathy.
The mystery of the story was paced well without feeling held back artificially (except in the case of Jude), the background story didn’t bog things down in exposition, and the setting was filled with good, concrete details that helped paint a picture without being distracting. The action was balanced with the romance as well, which makes this a book that should appeal to both men & women.
However, the greatest strength of The Dark Divine was the underlying theme of redemption which served as an invisible current that directed events throughout the story. If you are a fan of the young adult urban fantasy genre, give this debut novel a read.
Release Date: December 22, 2009 (USA)
ISBNs: 1606840576 (9781606840573)
Publisher: Egmont USA
Alcohol/Drugs: 3 (drug abuse, drug dealing, underaged drinking)
Language: 3 (s-words, d-words, and h-words aplenty)
Sexuality: 1 (sexual tension and flirting)
Violence: 3 (people get bloody, people die, not gory but definitely violent)
Thena, the protagonist, is woken by one of her father’s goons in the middle of the night as he tries to attack her. She escapes him only to find all of them chasing after her. Desperate to get away, she escapes via a lifepod and steers it toward the powertrees, giant biological constructs which produced powerpods which were used by humanity to power everything, in hopes of getting one of the harvesters to help her.
Instead, she is picked up by a darkship thief, one of a group rumored to be the remnants of bioengineered outcasts from human society. As Thena learns more about them, she also learns more about herself, including revelations about things she never guessed existed. The ride on which Hoyt takes the reader is full of interesting twists, turns, double-backs, and more. Darkship Thieves is gripping all the way through, and reminds me of some of the classic science fiction adventures from the Golden Age (not surprising, since Hoyt credits Heinlein as one of her influences).
I don’t usually like books told in first-person present tense, but the style used by Hoyt quickly drew me into the story. Thena is a very interesting protagonist, and hearing her thoughts and opinions on everything enhanced my enjoyment. I really liked seeing her reason out the situations into which she was placed, especially when those situations contradicted everything she thought she knew. Hoyt did a very good job helping me to care about Thena and Kit, her co-star. I wanted to learn more about them.
There were a couple spots where Hoyt appeared to be getting onto her soapbox and preaching about current politics, but those instances were thankfully few and far between, and didn’t last very long, either. I don’t necessarily mind authors expressing various opinions through their characters and the situations found in the book, but I also like them to be a bit more subtle than the instances found here. This didn’t detract terribly from the main story, however.
For much of the book, I wondered why Thena seemed almost too capable, but Hoyt resolved that well at the end. In fact, almost everything that seemed to niggle at me as I read the book was handled masterfully by Hoyt. I was very satisfied with the ending, and I am looking forward to reading the other two books in the series. Darkship Thieves is a solid read and worth your time.
Release Date: November 30, 2010 (USA)
ISBNs: 1439133980 (9781439133989)
Publisher: Baen Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (mention of effects of alcohol, nefarious use of knock-out drugs)
Language: 2 (some occasional expletives)
Nudity: 1 (cover art is rather risque)
Sexuality: 1 (some discussion of sexual topics, some innuendo)
Violence: 2 (some graphic descriptions of death, fisticuffs, torture)
Doctor Who Christmas episodes are a mixed grab bag of pleasure and folly. They are usually high in hijinks and low on plot, offering fans a lark more than a serious episode. As such, they can get rather silly. When “The Time of the Doctor” began with the Doctor running around with a cyberman head as his new companion while Clara struggled with a Christmas turkey, I figured we were in for more all around silliness. The fact that the Doctor was naked but wearing holographic clothes was just more entertaining wackiness. It certainly made for some fun lines.
The chemistry between Smith and Jenna Coleman made this episode fun from the beginning to the end, and touching during the saddest bits. Soon after the initial silliness of the opening scenes, the Doctor was heading back to the mystery planet we began the episode at. Something has been calling all the major Doctor Who baddies to assemble in orbit. And wait. What does the message mean? Fortunately, the Doctor wants to find out. After attending the Church of the Papal Mainframe naked and flirting with a new character who has history with him, the Doctor and Clara are off to solve the mystery in a town called Christmas.
If you are a fan of the Doctor, you will likely enjoy this last hurrah for Smith. We see him combat enemies with his usual vaudevillian charm and we watch him age some more. It seems Doctor Twelve is the doctor who ages—an extra 700 years or so by my calculations.
Although the episode was mostly enjoyable, there were a few plot points that irked me. Let’s start with Mother Superious, the sexy leader of the Church of the Papal Mainframe with the hots for the doctor. For an episode featuring the last appearances of Clara and the Doctor in this incarnation, I felt the Doctor’s flirtatious dalliance with the Mother Superious relegated Clara to the kid table while taking time away from resolving their relationship. It wasn’t realistic to me to have Clara watch from the sidelines with a knowing smirk as the Doctor snogged the Mother, especially since Clara admits in this episode that she fancies him.
In addition, Clara meets the Silence as well as the Weeping Angels, but without incident. Neither race proved meaningful additions to the plot, so they became nothing more than Christmas ornaments on an overfull tree. In fact, they seemed to serve no purpose other than to create the illusion of tension. I found it manipulative and wasteful, but other fans may cheer for the cameos.
Those are slight criticisms, however. I was most disappointed by the deus ex machina ending. I don’t want to spoil things for those who haven’t seen the show yet, and I do know the writers needed to solve the problem of the end of Doctor Who’s regenerations, but using Gallifrey the way they did felt like a missed opportunity. If they had less cameos with the Doctor’s menagerie of villains and removed the hotty priestess, there may have been more time to have an episode with some depth. But that sure was one cool regeneration, huh?
As with most Christmas episodes, this one had a stocking full of flaws, but it was an entertaining romp with a Doctor that fans will sorely miss. The chemistry of the characters and the sheer manic joy Smith brings to the role will more than entertain you despite niggly li’l details here and there.
Release Date: December 25, 2013 (Worldwide)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-PG
Nudity: 1 (creative blocking of nekid Doctor, plus they’re naked with holographic clothes)
Sexuality: 1 (flirting, unrequited love, bed/altar scene)
Violence: 2 (scenes of war)
“The Day of the Doctor” begins with the cute chemistry between Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith as Clara and the Doctor. Soon we are introduced to UNIT, then quickly to a very cool 3D Gallifreyan oil painting—out of place and out of time—a key plot point. It seems that England has been keeping several 3D paintings safe in an underground gallery for centuries, but something has broken out of them. It’s up to the Doctor to discover exactly what is attacking England this time, and his journey takes him from modern day England to 1560 AD where we meet his wife, Queen Elizabeth I, then off to Gallifrey for the last day of the Time War with the Daleks. Along the way, we are reunited with the tenth doctor, played by David Tennant, introduced to the 8½th doctor played by John Hurt—the doctor who pulled the trigger and ended the Time War by destroying billions of lives—and entertained with Billy Piper, who plays the sentient galaxy eater with the unfortunate make-up job.
Unlike many big Doctor Who specials in the past, the 50th anniversary was wonderfully balanced with clever dialog, fast paced action, pathos, strong plot, and the actors just having fun with the roles. Aside from a silly scene where the TARDIS goes Dalek bowling, the special effects were top notch and the acting was entertainingly melodramatic as Doctor Who acting usually is. After all, how dull would the show be if they saved the Universe over and over again without theatrics?
Fans will enjoy the interaction of the three Doctors, like bickering siblings, while a delighted Clara watches from the sidelines. One particular highlight was the scene where Tennant and Smith spoke in unison while kicking their feet up simultaneously and crossing their arms, a reminder that the Doctor may look different, but he is essentially the same person after a regeneration. The other favorite scene for me was when the three Doctors made their dramatic entrance into UNIT’s secret TARDIS-proof bunker. The episode was filled with touches like this where the actors played the scene cool, but the characters used self-deprecating humor to keep the scenes grounded.
There was also an effort to utilize time and space as a tool to solve their problems with earlier solutions and mysteries providing the answers they needed to resolve things later on. This science fiction aspect is often lost in episodes of Doctor Who. What with all the running around space and dodging space monsters, there is often very little actual science being used. The Doctor is a time lord after all; It is nice to see these three sharp minds remembering that little tidbit.
I won’t spoil the ending or other major plot points, but I highly recommend “The Day of the Doctor” for fans of scifi television. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of Doctor Who, there is much in this episode to entertain you.
Release Date: November 23, 2013 (Worldwide)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: PG
Sexuality: 1 (kissing, mild innuendo)
Violence: 2 (scenes of war)
The Spirit Is Willing is a movie I first saw around the summer of 1988, so about 21 years after it was originally released. I just happened to catch it on some cable channel or other, and then I could never find it again until it was recently released on Blu-ray. It’s about time.
The movie opens in 1898, with Ebeneezer Twitchell being coerced into marrying the almost-spinster Felicity, with the promise from her father that he will inherit a fleet of ships and the beautiful house overlooking the harbor. On their wedding night, Ebeneezer is tempted by the flirtatious maid, Jenny, and they are both killed by Felicity (though not before Ebeneezer kills Felicity in revenge). Thereafter, the three ghosts haunt the seaside house and drive away any prospective buyers or renters, often before they even move in.
Cut to the modern day (1967 at the time of the film’s release). The Powell family (Ben, Kate, and their 15 year old son Steve) have rented the seaside house for their summer vacation. Steve is being the stereotypical teenage boy: feeling rebellious and oppressed by his somewhat overbearing parents.
As Steve wanders around the house, he is suddenly pushed through a second story window where he hangs on by his fingers and screams for his parents. His parents think it’s just a ploy for attention, so Steve stomps off toward his room off the kitchen and dishes start flying and crashing around the room without help from Steve. Blamed for this incident, too, Steve sulks in his room when the ghost of Jenny appears and starts flirting with him.
The story is pretty basic and contains no real surprises. My favorite characters in the film are played by Jill Townsend in her film debut. She does an excellent job playing Jenny the ghost as well as her descendants, sisters Priscilla and Carol. I will admit to having a bit of a crush on Jill Townsend back when I first saw this film. Jenny is just too cute!
Sid Caesar and Vera Miles do a decent job as Steve’s parents, and Barry Gordon is a touch melodramatic as Steve. My favorite characters (other than Jenny) are John McGiver as the eccentric Uncle George and John Astin (of The Addams Family fame) as Dr. Frieden. They bring a goofiness to the film which keeps it from getting too scary, which is fine by me.
Other than the theme song and one cute little song used in various spots throughout the film, the music is mostly forgettable. The special effects are nothing special (which isn’t surprising given the state of special effects in 1967), though the animations during the opening credits are fun and creative. I especially liked how the design of the “For Sale” sign outside the house changed to match the periods.
While The Spirit Is Willing is not at the top of my favorite film list, it’s not at the bottom either. It’s a fun little film and doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. If you enjoy campy comedy horror films, I recommend watching this one. It’s worth 100 minutes of your time.
Release Date: July 1967 (USA)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (some social drinking, multiple bar scenes)
Sexuality: 1 (some passionate kissing, implied hanky-panky)
Violence: 2 (murder (off screen), poltergeist action, fighting with furniture)