Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #3)

 

Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy #3)

By: Lauren DeStefano

(http://www.laurendestefano.com/)

Simon & Schuster February, 2013

A young adult dystopian review

 

 

Revived from Fever, Rhine needs to snatch at second chances-a second chance to be honest, a second quest to find Rowan, a second turn to find a situation she can live with before it’s her time to die.  With so much to do and so little hope, Rhine finds that her world is still filled with things that can break.

DeStefano’s lyrical prose draws you right back into the story where we left off, enhancing everything with its beauty.  The pacing moves differently than one would expect, but everywhere DeStefano took us was somewhere I felt we needed to be.  There were some plot points that were brushed past rather briskly, but the strength of Sever’s atmosphere and Rhine’s mentality held it together.  It worked for me because at the end of the day, The Chemical Garden Trilogy has never been about action.  It’s always focused on the human consequences-the coping, the confusion, the chaos.  I’ve seen several disappointed reviews about this book and I think it’s because DeStefano sticks so closely to her theme.  I think for many people this kind of dystopian work, at least at the end, is about wish fulfillment-we’d like to think we could fight and overcome even horribly depressing circumstances and overwhelming odds.  Alternatively, it’s about perspective-being wrenched into feeling that whatever life you’re living now is favorable in comparison.  Sever hits none of those usual notes.  The last of Rhine’s story is real and therefore, less than fully satisfying because we’re left with a lack of finality, tainted victories, and pure hope-not fulfilled and without the comfort of endings.

Unlike its predecessors, Sever has more of an ensemble cast than focusing solely on Rhine’s views.  This significantly altered the feel of the read and heightened this conclusion because there are now more people’s feelings to deal with and more overall to hope for.  DeStefano made bold decisions with this book and I believe she left me feeling exactly how she intended me to.  Sever brings this series around from sex and death to the realization that life takes every bit as much effort and anguish and courage.  Rules break, people change, and we live surrounded by things that Sever.  I’d say this book is well worth the time.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×10 (The Prince)

The finale is here and…I feel satisfied.  This show always excelled at season endings and this one is no exception.  It covered everything immediate and brought the characters to a place where I am alright leaving them, although I’d rather not.

 

SPOILERS:

Dear Machiavelli: The man is an oracle.  I dearly want a Machiavellian tarot deck now.  Think about what it would be-THINK OF IT.  All the Borgias would be present, of course.  The ordinarily peaceful cards would involve orgies.  The cups suit would be vials of poison.  Pretty much anything you do with it would bring the answer, “I shouldn’t have asked that, should I?”  It’d be a thing.

Dear Rodrigo: This-this-is why I love you.  Yes, Cesare needs to do the actual carving and fulfill his ambitions, but once you accept that he’s there, your planning and confidence blow even him out of the water.  This is the way I believe that it worked, with your twin ambitions and different abilities complementing, building, and scaring the hell out of everyone including each other.  This is it.

Dear Cesare: Ah, to be young and devious.  Francois Arnaud got to showcase the range of his talent here, from vulnerable and wishing his mother could fill in for his best friend to creepy tormenter to possessive lover.  There was everything in that.  You showed everyone just exactly how in charge and fearsome you could be, even though we don’t get to see you filling out that position, you let us already see and enjoy it.  Thank you for that.

Dear Michiletto: I understand.  Your affair not only ended in killing your lover, but in proving that you were not, in fact, the most trustworthy companion ever.  You let down your master, yourself, and your lover.  No matter what, your hometown will fall and your family have a good chance of dying.  You came back to ensure that your work was finished, because “loyalty was his only code.”  You are not dead, though-you are a ghost wiling away in the shadows.  You can go wherever you want, take whatever you want, and disappear whenever you want, and you deserve that.  In my head you wander until you meet up with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, tossing coins that turn up heads and arguing about everything.  You’ll take one as a lover, convince them it’s okay to be unsure of their names, and kill off the cast of Hamlet all by yourself.  It’ll be epic and haunting.

Dear Lucrezia: Your arc has differed the most from what I expected and wished for your character.  I expected to see you growing in triumph, killing for the good of the family, and using your tie to your brother as leverage.  In spite of that…you have completely won me over.  This version walks a fine line between different tropes, but weaves them together seamlessly.  And Holliday Grainger sells the hell out of it.  I cannot not buy her emotions, her disillusions, her determination.  There is a part of me that really wants to be upset at how defeated she winds up here, how dependent, and yet….it was just too good not to love.

Dear Alfonso: I was so afraid they wouldn’t get around to killing you!  Thank you for being such a wonderful foil for everyone else.

Dear Vitelli: Well done, you!  You’ve got craft, foresight, initiative, and commonsense.  I foresee you going far.  I’m sorry I won’t get to see you setting yourself farther up from the pack by slyly setting them up and taking their castles until Cesare finally poisons you.  It’d have been fun.

Dear Caterina Sforza: You really ought to know all the weaknesses of your chosen fortress, milady.  That being said, in all fairness, you had only Rufio instead of Michiletto and one cannot badass everything themselves.  Although, the fact that someone was touching your wardrobe seemed an odd thing to show your claws at.  The defeat was exquisite.

Dear show: The camouflage cloaks rocked!  The music throughout the whole thing was just the right amount of suspenseful-enough buildup I was literally on edge, but not so much that it wore out over time.  The camerawork, particularly in the confessional scene with Pope Alexander VI and Lucrezia was just beautiful.  The bloody smudges on her at the end were perfect.  I know you had more to give.  You will be sorely missed.

 

Arrested Development 4×15, ‘Blockheads’

Attested Development: AnonymouSPOILERS

 

This is a finale masquerading as a show-opener.  It moves rather slowly, spending a lot of time reshowing old clips, which feel particularly long if you’re just holding your breath waiting for some great denouements and are counting the minutes the season has left.  It focuses on one issue more than the other episodes, making the watcher feel that this is a true branching-off point for the show where relationships will evolve and new territory lies unexplored.  “Blockheads” takes us right up to the edge of this bold, new world and then…abruptly punches us in the face.  Because that’s where it stops.  I would have been very happy if this had been the first episode of the series.  As just an episode of a great show, it’s adequate at first and then very exciting as you realize how it will change the tone.  As the finale of this particular, long-awaited season…all I can say is that I’d better get my denouement SOON, GODDAMMIT.

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

1. Really, Michael, a cactus?  Why is a cactus the present you’re bringing?

2. I really, really want this Rebel-off between the Bluth men to involve SOMEONE wearing a kilt.

3. The Gerard Depardieu jokes are great.

4. Gob is surprisingly resourceful about this whole house-filling venture.  I bet he could come up with some housing cons as good as George used to.

5. How does Lucille2 have so much money if she always supports the failing Bluth Company?  Austerity seems to make money from celebrities, but it’s not like her lifestyle is cheap, plus she’s got plenty of rehab bills for herself.

6. Now that Tom’s a sex-offender it makes his behaviour towards George Michael at the Bluth Christmas parties…different.

7. Guy Fawkes masks….the Richter quintuplets, maybe?

8. Who do you think is responsible for Lucille2’s vanishing act?

Once Upon a Time 2×24 finale “And Straight On Til Morning”

There’s no leaving the need for spoilers:

 

-Does anyone else find it highly suspect that the holy Tamara and the sacredness of her quest allow her to leave escape plans with the most selfish males she meets, aka August and then Hook?  ANYONE ELSE feel that’s pretty much a red flag around here?

-So, Snow White is now clearing the darkness in her heart AND proving her and her hubby’s leadership skills by…declaring that she wants to risk the lives of herself, her family, and all of her subjects for Regina’s because it’s the “hard path” and because she still feels guilty over killing her mom.  This is the most selfish, horrible leader thing ever.  Luckily, I love Regina and really need her to live, I just thought we were going to get there through Henry or even Emma’s that-is-wrong-FAMILY feelings rather than hearing one woman using her guilt to imperil her people being portrayed as Great-yay!  And then to top it all off, it is Therapist Approved!  Come on, Archie!

-It is amazing to me that, in spite of being all moonish and anguished over Milah’s image, Hook never seems to think of Bae as Milah’s son, just Rumple’s.  In his private references to him it’s always the Dark One’s son or the kid the shadow’s looking for, only after Bae brings up Milah does Hook use her as a tool to persuade Bae into staying aboard.  This bugs me-just one more way in which Hook’s lovesick story is inconsistent.

-Technically, Cinderella’s baby was also born here, so Henry would have had it for company.

-I am gratified Granny was finally called in as babysitter, though.  Greg and Tamara wouldn’t get past her shotgun at Henry.

-There was a pathetic lack of Ruby.

-Emma’s magic powers are extremely convenient at all times, I must say.

-Was anyone else expecting Belle to wake up, remember all the bad things Gold let himself do at Lacey’s urging, and be all upset at him?  At least a little bit?  Make SOME comment about her Laciness?  After the town was saved, at any rate.

-I loooooove everything Regina in this episode!  On point, focused, and without even any really long speeches or claims.  That is the best media dying ever and no one ever, ever does it!

-Does everyone just assume if the diamond got sent to another land it would just not do anything, as opposed to simply exploding somewhere else?  Cause the random missile plan is truly not heroic.

-We’ve been over this-it took him forever, but Gold has magical security on his shop now!  Did Lacey let the dwarves in?  Also, we’ve been digging up memory-reviving fairy dust for weeks now and Sneezy STILL NEVER GOT HIS IDENTITY BACK???  THE HELL, SHOW?

-You’d think Ruby could survive as a wolf, right?  I mean, her wolf self did get born again in Storybrooke, so it was technically born there, sortof.

-I do finally buy a storyarc of Hook’s in this episode, though.  The reaching of his wearing-down point and willingness to try new tactics was believable and touching.

-These Lost Boys…first, do you suppose the confiscated shadows are then sold to the coachman in Pinnochio to be his creepy shadow workers on Pleasure Island?  Second, why are they dressed like Robin Hood?  Three, if they’ve just been looking for Henry all this time, as opposed to even a small short-list of desirable boys to kidnap, life in Neverland just got reeeeally boring.  I do not find this as Neverland version as intriguing or dangerous as others seem to, because….how frustrating and tedious is that?  Fourth, we saw a lot of scenes there at night.  Shouldn’t we have heard this creepy crying for parents Wendy spoke of?  Five, if there’s a picture of the boy the shadow wants, can’t he see whether he’s got the right one or not?  Geez.

-Please let Tamara and Greg be quickly dispatched and replaced by more interesting higher ups in the next episode.

-Someone could explain how Phillip got revived, perhaps?

-Perhaps we can finally get some Pirates of the Caribbean references?

-Also, Tiger Lily!  Get on it!

And that’s Season 2!

“The Big Bang Theory”=”The Little Mermaid”

You know, I just rewatched “The Big Bang Theory” season 5 finale and…from the moment it occurred to me, Bernadette just looked more and more like Ursula from The Little Mermaid as “Vanessa” marrying Prince Eric.  Something about the way she side-eyes everyone or how she looks so smug-although she’s happy for very different reasons here.  In short, “The Big Bang Theory” is now officially a world where Prince Eric marries Ursula, Ariel is perfectly content in her transformation to a “higher plane” and everyone is happy.

Thus, it follows:

Ariel is clearly Amy in this version.  Amy’s vast character development and altered self-image from her introduction to now would be akin, I’m sure in her mind, to emerging from waters where she felt misunderstood and left out to the upper world where things she’s dreamed of happen to her, like sleepovers and being a maid of honor.  Even with Amy’s yen for Sheldon, she clearly values her new self-image as a cool girl in a clique more than him.  Although, her pursuit of Sheldon does mirror Ariel’s determination to snare Eric, making the characters of Amy and Ariel more similar-so, Ariel does want a man, just not the prince.  To cap it off, Amy utters the words, “Please, allow me to continue being part of your world” to Penny in the episode about the chair.

The man this Ariel wants is clearly Grimsby.  Grimsby and Sheldon are both tall, full of advice, talkative, insistent on their personal social rules, and lacking in certain kinds of social grace.  Also, pale and sickly.  Now I’m imagining Ariel chasing Grimsby and him being flustered in a highly Sheldonite way…

Raj is Flounder-the longtime friend full of joy, playfulness (gaming!), loyalty, and innocence.  Only in this version…Flounder is friends with Eric.  Also, his jacket is blue and yellow.

Yes, Howard gets to be the prince.  Let’s face it-Eric is ridiculous!  His only human friends are Grimsby and this washed-up-girl-who-can’t-talk, he’s easily susceptible to suggestion, he clearly likes the rowdy like of a cowboy even though it’s nothing like what he should be up to-just as Howard likes to go out and act the player, when that’s clearly shouldn’t be his thing.  Howard also is incredibly susceptible to any suggestion involving girls, he lives in his own world much of the time, aka the internet, and he does get a lot of social pressure about his different social standing, although in his case it’s his lack of a doctorate and therefore lowered level instead of elevated.   Howard’s magic can be attune to Eric’s flute playing as a random creative hobby.  Eric’s permanent residence in his blood and family inherited castle mirrors Howard’s living at home and depending on his mother.  The Eric part just works for me here, though yes you could argue with ‘prince’.

Penny is clearly the Scuttle of this universe.  The crazy bird (wordplay!) from far-off parts with a more open, wild outlook on life who dazzles others.  Both claim to know about style and romance but obviously make bad choices (remember Scuttle’s attempt at romantic music in the lagoon?).  Both can get very flustered.  But both have big hearts in the right place and will go the distance for a friend.

This leaves Leonard as Sebastian.  This, amazingly, also works well for me!  The worried guy, it is!  That guy who’s obsessed with approval from authority figures (Triton/Leonard’s mom, big diff), who’s constantly trying to check himself to see how he’s doing, who only has one area of expertise (science and music are actually in related fields, guys!), and whose capacity for being emotionally swayed leads them into all KINDS of odd and awkward situations.  Yep, he’s the lobster.

 

As the audience, we are Eric’s dog Max-the only one who always knows what is going on.

This leaves us with: Ariel and Grimsby!  Scuttle and Sebastian! Grimsby facing off against Sebastian and putting him down, but counting on him to side with him against others like Eric and Ursula.  I can see that.  I’m sure there’s more.  But still, the main point is: The Little Mermaid and “The Big Bang Theory”-same folks, happier endings.

The Borgia Bulletin (The Confession) Finale spoilers!

*claps hands in glee*  I am incredibly satisfied right now.

 

On Cardinal Sforza: Every time they let this guy act I like him more.  I know my Rome and Papal family well enough to know where to search, thank you.  I will just pick up that slack.  Good on him!

 

On Savonarola: New question: why bother with the rack when clearly his biggest horror is being caressed by a sodomite?  I’m sure someone somewhere could be paid enough money to sodomize him, especially since the threat alone might suffice.  Or, you know, there are artificial ways of doing it that might not be as morally horrifying, but could have helped perhaps.  I know it might be a tad awkward to explain to Cesare, but the man is often busy elsewhere-Micheletto could do it on his own power, at least the artificial kind.  Nevertheless, didn’t matter in the end so long as Machiavelli’s there to point out the obvious, wasn’t the pose of the people with burning torches picturesque, and isn’t it wonderful to get such a huge weight off Micheletto’s ass?  Yes, yes it is.  I was a trifle disappointed the Pope’s offer of clemency wasn’t phrased in the form of, “Just say this…and all is forgiven.”  Then the audience would’ve known that Savonarola had no chance in any case, so no matter what he did from that point on there would have been a least a smidgeon of doubt as to whether he would have ultimately given in or not.

 

On Lucrezia: Her game has been amped again!  This time she chose the more traditional route of posing as an underling.  I don’t believe for a moment that she did it purposely to gage Alfonso’s true feelings for her as opposed to her status and wealth, but it worked out anyway.  Besides, making quick decisions and acting well enough to stick it out are both excellent qualities for anyone in power, particularly a Borgia to be in accordance with their reputation.  I did rather wish that Alfonso recovered better after Lucrezia’s grand reveal, but if fits her reasoning about his goodness/sweetness.  Her reasoning works for her character and I think Holliday Grainger did a good job of portraying this as both natural progression and a Borgia girl’s assertion of will.  Also, the way the costumer gave them highly complementary costumes that were close to matching but avoided matchy-matchy was marvelous.  Also, cute.  There is one thing that could have made that whole thing better, though…PANTHER.  I miss panther.  Hopefully we will find out what happened to it next season.

 

On Giulia Farnese: That is dedication.  Pretty sure not many mistresses would agree to a midnight jaunt to all the off-brand corpse spots.  Of course, Giulia’s found the position she wants to be in and she is going the distance to stay there.  This scene also made me go ‘aww’ though-she so clearly didn’t want to be there, but was still clearly both willing and caring for Alexander VI.

 

On Cesare: Look at you!  I love derobed Cesare.  It was your turn to step up and take charge and you went for it like a panther for its first decent meal off-ship.  Your mistake about Lucrezia asking you to marry her and offering to run away and live simply was adorable.  You play the blurring of that incest line for all it’s worth wonderfully well, don’t you?  Your exchanges with your father held up to Jeremy Irons-always a feat, but even more so in this episode.  Kudos to you.  Hopefully you’ll soon get non-clerical garb that fits in at parties like Lucrezia’s engagement now.

 

On Vanozza: Calm, sensible, and fiery truth-caller.  Really, how did it get this far without me realizing how much I like you?

 

On Antonello: Good.  Now that you’ve done your job this plot can boast real movement!  Also, perhaps Colm Feore will get to actually do something again third season.

 

On Pope Alexander VI: Oh, Jeremy Irons, how are you this compelling?  From clinging to hope to undergoing all levels of disillusionment and betrayal, you were perfection.  The scene with you picking up Juan and seeing him as your precious little boy wrung my heart.  I did wonder for a moment that no one was set to guard you between your chambers and the lawn as it seems like something Cesare or Cardinal Sforza would do even if that wasn’t the norm, which it would be, but then we wouldn’t have got to see you burying your favorite child.  That scene, Jeremy Irons, is priceless.  You wept, you dug, you finally began your hardest journey: saying goodbye to something that truly matters to you.  I bow down.  My favorite scenes were the confrontations with Cesare, Lucrezia, and Vanozza, but damn if you didn’t pull me into this one so it’s hard to stop imagining it, too.

 

The music in this episode was spot on.  I loved the part with just Cesare walking through the Pope’s suite of rooms so for the first time it really demonstrated just how small those rooms are.  The ensemble cast pretty much all got their chance to play in this episode, which I love.  The confrontations between family members struck such delicious chords that I’m still vibrating and happy.  And Jeremy Irons…you were better than all PANTHERS tonight.  I will miss my show.

 

 

 

 

“Fire and Blood” 1×10 finale

Why do I feel like things are just getting started?  Perhaps if the show had begun later and just had flashbacks?  Anyhow, first season is over, just as I feel things are picking up.  Good thing I’m so late that second season’s already over, eh?  Onward!  (Spoilers, ahoy!)

 

1. Arya’s going to the wall?  Hm.  I have no particular objection to that, but it does mess with my plan of Jon Snow and Bran at the wall, being the main things.

2. Speaking of Bran, I am pleased he is growing closer to the lady, like I told him to.  Also, he shares dreams with Rikkon!  That makes it MORE awesome!  In my head, anyway.  Again, not sure how it’s going to go if Arya’s also there.

3. Catelyn rubbed me the wrong way in her talk with Robb in the beginning.  The sword is ruined, making him stop now won’t help that.  He wants to grieve violently, he’s doing it safely, so leave him alone.  It just seemed like Cat’s only reason for stopping Robb was because she wanted someone to make her feel better, by grieving with her!  Just didn’t seem right.

4. Here is the episode where Joffrey falls, to me.  Previously, his reasons seemed fairly sound, or at least understandable for a boy in his situation.  Now he’s just devolved into the boring, cliche villain people always assumed he would be.  Sad.  I was on board with killing Ned, there were political reasons, but torturing minstrels is just petty and, frankly, uninteresting.  Moreover, his exchange with Sansa is not only clearly over the line as things that involve domestic violence are always wrong, but is the opposite of helping his cause.  Sending Sansa a message so he can live married life in peace is one thing-rubbing it into her face is both cruel and not going to help him.  As already shown, this added aggravation makes Sansa more likely to strike back and make his life hell, or you know to try to kill him.  *throws hands in air*  Why does Martin have this thing against boys who are the product of incest?  Girls seem to get a chance.  How unimaginative.

5. At least the Hound gets more depth.  That’s something.

6. Ned Stark’s head on a pike seems to have a larger nose.  Perhaps it grew because of his lying at the end?  (Pinocchio jokes are hard to ignore.)

7. I could totally support Robb as a king at this point.  On the other hand, I worry about economics.  I’m not sure what the trade is between the North and the other kingdoms, but I have a feeling there’s a lot that can’t be grown or gotten in the North all by itself.

8. Oh Theon, even at this moment you have to have your ass moment, don’t you?  Sure, I’ll support you as king-so long as I get to be the king’s brother!  Man, just stick to the moment.  You’ve got all the time in the world to bitch at him about your rights and bonds as his pseudo-brother.

9. Cersei, you’ve got a harem!  Continue to be Circe, my queen.  That is all.

10. I’m annoyed at Tywin for the first time for saying it was folly to kill Ned Stark.  Sure, he’d be useful now, but at the time he was killed everyone thought Robb would be easy to run over and really wanted him dead.  You can’t just go off using hindsight and blaming people for things that seemed good at the time.  On the other hand, sending Tyrion to rule as Hand seems like excellent TV.

11. Did we have to go into twisted babies?  I mean, the witch is clearly creepy enough at this point and, again, it feels like a cliche.

12. Jon Snow is such an angstbucket, he’d be perfect as the lead singer of a boy band.  And lookit, he’s got a group of boys who like to do things in unison and finish each other’s sentences right there.  Bingo!

13. So, as I understand it, Baelish’s biggest problem in ambition is what to do with Varys.  Baelish doesn’t trust Varys, and frankly doesn’t need him due to having his own spy network.  On the otherhand, it’s super hard to sneak up on a spymaster.  What to do?

14. Robert’s bastard is going to the wall, too?  Look, I cannot have everyone converge at the wall-it’s the least interesting and aesthetic set!  Stop that!  I’m curious, though.  Did the blacksmith have a notion of who the boy was, or at least that he was important, judging by the visits of past Hand’s, and therefore decided to get him out of the picture to protect himself now there’s a stern king?  Did he seriously just need more money?  Was it more specifically about his neighbors/customers being able to tell people that the boy was somehow connected to the traitor who just got killed?  It seems like there’s drama in that the show glossed over, which is not what I expect.  Of course, it could be that the kid just didn’t get it, but then who’s going to care about him?  Best case scenario: bastard does know what went down but knows better than to talk about it, and yon drama will come out later.  Good luck with that though, still, seeing as it’s the end of the season.

15. I do like the symmetry of “Winter is coming.”

16. Baby dragons are ALWAYS fun!  I can see why Drogo had to die off-can’t have a khal with his woman holding more power over him in her tiny shoulder-pet than he’s got in his whole following!  In any case, I look forward to interesting development next season!

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