The Strain Trilogy: A Review

strainThis has been on my TBR list for a long time. I used to love reading vampire books. Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot and Robert McCammon’s They Thirst are my two favorite vampire tales ever. (Don’t judge me, but I like dark, gritty vampires, so I totally skipped the Twilight books!) I stopped reading for a while, simply because the overwhelming numbers of vampire stories out there put me off the genre for a bit.But the premise of this one sounded really interesting. And co-written by Guillermo del Toro? Who could resist?

I moved this up on my list because I found out that they are making this into a TV series on FX, scheduled for the summer of 2014. I wanted to read the books and give it time to settle before the series came out.

The Strain (Strain Trilogy): Five stars. I really enjoyed this novel. The characters were interesting to me. I loved the approach to vampirism as a virus and the CDC team involvement was a nice touch that really sold the story for me. The story was exciting and  fast paced and I found it hard to put down.

There were a couple of minor problems. There were a few typos. One was the repeated use of the word agonal. It is an unusual word to use repeatedly in a book. I also noted that sometimes the descriptions were a little stilted and didn’t flow. But since the story was so interesting, these were minor and I was really looking forward to the next book in the series.

The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy: 3.5 to 4 stars. I liked this book much less than the first. The authors spent way too much time rehashing material from the previous book. Much of the rest of it was spent in backstory. It  drug the pacing of the narrative down and made some parts extremely boring. And that repeated work use and stilted language I was saying was minor in the first book? There was a lot more in this one.

The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy): Three stars, tops, if I am being kind. By the last book, I was ready for this series to end. In fact, I think the only reason I finished this one was that I had invested all the time reading the first two books. But by the time I got to this last book,  I did not like who some of these characters had become. And, without giving anything away, I absolutely hated the ending.

The weakest parts of the books were the plot and the exposition. From a reader’s perspective, the overuse of words in the novels really bothered me.  Seriously, how many times can you use the word “agonal” in a series? It came up in each and every book. I found myself asking, “What was the editor of this series thinking?” Poorly written phrases. Typos. And here’s one for the bad writing textbooks: the author referred to the sky as “the troposphere over Manhattan.”  Technically correct, but… ugh. For a book from a major publisher (Harper Collins), the errors in this book were, IMHO, pretty amateur.

So, do I still want to watch the TV series based on these books? Yes, actually I do. I honestly think that the storyline for this would be much better suited for a movie or an ongoing TV series than it was for a book series. Done correctly and with the right casting, this could be a visually stunning post-apocalyptic TV show.

FX is hoping that fans’ recent interest in zombies will translate into viewers for The Strain. Here’s the teaser that ran during an episode of The Walking Dead:

Here’s a look at the trailer for the series:

Netflix nixes Qwikster

Netflix has evidently gotten the message that customers don’t want two websites, two accounts, two whatevers! The company has decided to leave the DVD and streaming services combined.

Netflix’s recent price hike and separation of streaming and DVD delivery services cost the company over a million subscribers and cause stock price to fall. The company announced the pricing change in July and the new price structure took effect September 1, 2011.

The company had already tried to placate upset customers. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote his famous “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation” email to subscribers to try to explain the company’s actions. In the email, Hastings announced the formation of Qwikster for the DVD portion of the business. Critics panned the move as poorly thought-out when it was discovered the Twitter account for the name was already taken.

This morning’s email from the company read:

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We’re constantly improving our streaming selection. We’ve recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.

Now, if only they would back down on not giving customers who want both services a price break….

And check out this from Saturday Night Live. Kinda says it all.

 

Criminal Minds Part 2: Time to Boycott CBS

19 October 2009 - Los Angeles, California - Thomas Gibson, Matthew Gray Gubler, Kirsten Vangsness, Joe Mantegna, Paget Brewster, Shemar Moore, A. J. Cook and Crew. The Cast and Crew of CRIMINAL MINDS celebrating their 100th Episode with a cake cutting. held At The Quixote Studios. Photo Credit: Kevan Brooks/AdMedia

(See my previous blog entry for the background on the Criminal Minds story)

In case you missed the news, CBS and Criminal Minds’ producers have decided that A.J. Cook is indeed staying fired.  She gets  two episodes to tie up her storyline.  Paget Brewster fared somewhat better; supposedly she is in 10 out of 13 episodes. Although it is a 22 episode season, so I don’t understand the math. Gee, too bad CBS also cancelled Numb3rs!  I could have used the help in figuring it out. [1.  More fuzzy CBS math: Season episodes reduced were to 16 so Miami Medical could air in its spot. Numb3rs was then cancelled.]

Because I just really don’t get it. CBS and the producers seem totally determined to destroy a great show. Not sure where their minds are at.

I think that website twocents.com said it best:

And I can’t help but be angry at CBS. I still feel like they are sending a very bad message to their viewers, their female ones in particular. They cut three strong female characters from their fall line up (AJ off Criminal Minds, Liz Vassey from CSI, and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s show Ghost Whisperer got completely canceled), and reduced the role of another, then they decided to pay Charlie Sheen, who admittedly abused his wife, nearly 2 million dollars an episode for Two and a Half Men. They fire, reduce, and replace female presence on their network, then reward a man who abuses his wife? Not cool, CBS. Show women a little more respect, will you?

And Janeane Garofalo in talks for the spin off for Criminal Minds? Check the picture of Garofalo in the linked article. Can we say Garcia clone, boys and girls?  So much for any real creativity.

What else do we have to look forward to? Maybe the new female character on Criminal Minds will be played by Executive Producer Bernero’s daughter. After all, nepotism  has to be better than sexism, right?

So where do we go from here? One person suggested boycotting CBS but not Criminal Minds. However, it doesn’t seem fair to boycott shows like NCIS without boycotting the show that is actually the problem. Will CBS really get the point that it is their actions on Criminal Minds that we are upset about if we keep watching anyway?  I don’t think so.

In fact, I think CBS is counting on the fact the most people will grumble and complain, but ultimately continue to watch anyway. CBS never even bothered to address the fans’ concerns; they are that sure that people will continue to tune in.

But I won’t be one of them. Personally, I have had enough.  And I wrote them and told them so.

Over this last week, I have been practicing not watching CBS.  No more NCIS, the CSI  franchises, Medium, or even Entertainment Tonight.  No more nightly news from the CBS affiliate. And yeah, I am taking it to extremes: No more Criminal Minds reruns on A & E or Ion.  No more NCIS reruns on USA.  No more CSI  reruns on Spike.

Even the DVDs (and I own them all) are staying on the shelf, unwatched. And, I am looking into boycotting the CBS advertisers as well.

I urge everybody who cares about Criminal Minds (and getting quality programming in general) to boycott CBS as well.

And you know what? I am surviving just fine, with the aid of my Roku Player. And my Kindle.  And my computer. And my netbook. And Hulu.

Are you getting the picture, CBS?  It is a brave new world out there. I mean with that new-fangled Internet and all. People actually have choices about when and what they want to watch. And I have lots of toys to play with….

How about you? Are you a disgruntled Criminal Minds fan? Are you protesting the change? Or, have you ever had your favorite television show cancelled (or cannibalized)?  How did you react?

Help Save the Ladies of Criminal Minds

19 October 2009 - Los Angeles, California - Thomas Gibson, Kirsten Vangsness, A. J. Cook, Paget Brewster, Matthew Gray Gubler, Shemar Moore, Joe Mantegna. The Cast and Crew of CRIMINAL MINDS celebrating their 100th Episode with a cake cutting. held At The Quixote Studios. Photo Credit: Kevan Brooks/AdMedia

One of my favorite shows on television is CBS’ Criminal Minds. It is an outstanding drama with an outstanding cast that is going into its sixth year on the air.

This week, it was announced that Criminal Minds’ A.J. Cook was dropped from the show.  The number of episodes that castmate Paget Brewster is scheduled to appear in have been severely reduced.  

The initial press about this cited “financial reasons” for dropping Cook’s character of “JJ” from the poplar procedural drama. CBS has since since backpedaled and says that the changes were made for “creative reasons.”  On her Twitter account, Paget Brewster confirms the reasons are indeed financial, not creative.

And the fans, myself included, are livid. 

Criminal Minds has an incredible ensemble cast.  It is the chemistry of this group that really makes the show work. Having strong women showing that they can do a difficult and dangerous job not only offers great role models, but is more realistic in its portrayal of the “real” world.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: (L-R) Actresses Kirsten Vangsness, A. J. Cook and Paget Brewster attend the 100th episode celebration for the television show 'Criminal Minds' on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Cutting the characters of “JJ” and Prentiss would leave Garcia (played by Kirsten Vangsness) as the lone female regular.  And because Garcia’s character is technically a data analyst and not an active agent like JJ and Prentiss, it could be perceived that the remaining female character is in a more servile, less equal role compared to the men in the cast (none of whom are being cut).

So,  for most fans, the network’s actions in cutting just the female cast members are being seen as pretty sexist.  Especially as Entertainment President Nina Tassler has been quoted as saying about the renewal of Charlie Sheen’s lucrative contract,  “I think we value our stars and our actors.”

CBS has also announced plans for a spin off from Criminal Minds.  The pilot, that aired as an episode of the show and included the regular cast, was viewed by many fans as lacking the chemistry of the original.  Some fans are concerned that the costs saved by salaries for Cook and Brewster will go to the new, lesser quality spin off instead.

If finances are a problem, CBS could definitely earn additional income by making episodes of the show available for streaming, download and purchase.  Fans of the show have long complained that, unlike many of CBS’ shows, Criminal Minds episodes could not be viewed on CBS.com or sites like Hulu (and thus earning advertising revenue).  Nor were  episodes available for purchase.  They have only recently become available for iTunes and are still not available on Amazon’s Video On Demand service.  (Amazon is my preferred provider because I can purchase and watch on my large screen HD TV via my Roku Player.  Much better than the iPod screen, LOL!)

Just like the reaction when CBS cancelled the sci-fi drama Jericho, the fans have quickly gathered together to try to save these two beloved characters. 

  • There is now a Save the CM Ladies blog at Tumblr.  There is also a petition on the site that fans can sign.  The site also has contact info for CBS so you can join the protest.
  • The fans’ reactions are making the news at sites like TV Guide.  Check out the number of comments on some of these stories.  Simply amazing!
  • Fans of the show who are on Twitter can follow @SavetheCMLadies and participate in “Tweetflashes,” where everyone tweets at the same time with the same hashtag (a keyword or phrase preceded by a # sign). The goal is to get #SavetheCMLadies hashtag to “trend” and become one of the top topics on Twitter.
  • There is even a plan to mimic the Save Jericho campaign of sending peanuts to CBS, this time by sending lipstick to CBS’ Nina Tassler.
  • There is a group page for the effort called Save the Girls, Save the Team, Save the Show – Criminal Minds Campaign  at Facebook which plans to send decorated manila folders.

And if there seems to be an impassioned rush to the Save the CM Ladies Campaign, it is with good reason.  Filming on the show is scheduled to begin within the next two weeks.  Fans are afraid that if the show resumes production without A.J. Cook and Paget Brewster, there will be no chance of saving the characters.

Any and all support is appreciated, but it needs to be done quickly.  You can find more info at any of the sites listed above.

Zombieland

Zombieland
Zombieland

Okay, I’ll confess: I love zombie movies. Heck, I love zombies, period.  Wait until I get around to posting the reviews on the last few zombie books I read.  You’ll see.

So I was really excited this week when Zombieland finally came out on DVD because I had missed it when it was out in the theaters. Now, I know that it is supposed to be more comedy than horror,  but still.  We are talking zombies here (see above, paragraph one). My husband (who does not do horror films) was even willing to watch this one with me for movie night on Saturday.

Nearly twenty-four hours later, I am still trying to figure out how to describe this movie. It started out really funny – laugh out loud funny. The ending was so-so.  The middle was totally blah.  Even Shaun of the Dead was better than this. The character development and the acting were just about as uneven.

And the zombies? I don’t even know what to say about them.  Nowadays, you have to distinguish between traditional, slow-moving zombies (Romero), fast-moving zombies (28 Days Later ) and everything in between.  These zombies were incredibly inconsistent,  making it hard for the average zombie afficiando (moi) to figure out what’s going on. This one was so poorly explained, I am not sure these zombies were actually dead (or dead dead, if you know what I mean).

One of the special features said that this idea was originally conceived as a one hour pilot for a TV series. This definitely explains why the beginiing was the best part of the movie.  Ironic isn’t it –  if they’d left it as a TV series, it might have actually been a good one!

Update 2/10/2010: Just heard that there are plans for Zombieland 2…Why!?!?

Currently Watching: Leverage S1

Leverage Season 1


 

I missed this the first time around because it airs at the same time as one of my favorites, Criminal Minds.

I enjoy crime shows and mysteries, but especially enjoy shows that are both extremely well written andfunny.  This show does both really well. Just a few episodes in, I know already that this is going to be one of my new favorites.