Saturday, October 29, 2016

Just Finished Watching... Gran Hotel (Grand Hotel) on Netflix


Twice actually. That's right, I loved it so much, I immediately went back and watched it all for a second time. Be warned, this post will be essay-length and probably gushing.

Seriously, its been a loooong time since I've loved a TV show this much. Not for the first time, I am thanking all the fates and Gods that Netflix came into my life and provides such varied and popular content... in terms of TV shows. I've heard some people complain about the movie catalogue, especially the limited Australian version we get down here. But I'm not a movie buff, so it doesn't bother me.
For those of you who know absolutely nothing about this show (like me until a few weeks ago) here's the basics:

This is a Spanish TV series (so be prepared to read subtitles if you don't understand Spanish... I have to say, I've got a few basics of the language down now after spending so many hours listening to it being spoken and reading the translation, and I soon worked out that the subtitles didn't always represent exactly what was being said on screen). Some people have called this the "Spanish Downton Abbey," but is it so, SO much more than that. It's more like Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones -- less rich people with (historical) #firstworldproblems and more murder and mayhem. The actors on this show were amazing, and had great overall chemistry that doesn't come along very often... but when it does, then something wonderful happens.

The show starts off in 1905, when a young man, Julio, goes to the Gran Hotel in Cantaloa looking for his sister -- who was a maid there -- because he hasn't heard from her in a while and is worried. The hotel is owned by the Alarcon family.
The patriarch has recently passed away, and the scheming matriarch, Theresa, who knows almost everyone's secrets and will do anything to keep the hotel in the family is now in charge.

There's the son, Javier, who basically just spends the family money on being drunk and whoring. Then there's the oldest sister, Sophia, who married a Marquise, but seemingly gets overlooked all the time. And finally there's Alicia, the youngest of them, who is gorgeous both in looks and personality. Soon after arriving back from an extended trip, her mother convinces Alicia that she has to marry Diego, the hotel manager, because after her father died and left many debts, Diego was responsible for saving the hotel and family from ruin. Diego is an a-hole disguised as a gentleman.
And all that is introduced in the first ep.

Julio sees Alicia for the first time getting on the train to Cantaloa, and is immediately struck by her, though of course she doesn't notice him. Once they both arrive (separately) at the hotel, Alicia joins her family, while Julio goes around to the back entrance looking for answers about his sister. But there is no doubt Julio is more than a little interested in Alicia.

Julio soon figures out something weird is going on, as people claim his sister left, but no one has any information about when exactly or where she went. He meets Andres and their bromance begins right away. Julio pretends to be the new waiter (managing to get rid of the actual new waiter who turned up not long after him) and convinces Andres to help him find answers about his sister.

That night, there's a ball or some kind of party. Julio dresses up as a Man of Means to question a guest who apparently accused his sister of stealing, leading to her supposed dismissal. But its soon revealed this lady doesn't know what Julio is talking about -- the story was false -- and leaves more questions about his sister's fate.

Que Alicia entering the conversation. She's just become engaged to Diego, but there's no doubt she's charmed by Julio, probably despite herself. Later, when she goes out to the balcony, Julio follows her, offers her a cigarette even though she doesn't smoke, and dares her to try it.

And thus the most epic TV romance of all time begins. I never thought any couple would bump John and Aeryn from Farscape off the top of my fav couples of all times list, but Julio and Alicia managed to do it. In fact, they completely blew John and Aeryn out of the running.
Seriously, if this were an English speaking show, I swear it would have legions of obsessed fans shipping Julicia (totally called it) with gifs, graphics, youtube fan vids and fan fiction galore. But alas, few people outside of Spain know what they're missing out on.

But back to the story. It doesn't take Alicia long to figure out that Julio was not who he said (a gentleman) in the days following, and she eventually finds that he is in fact the new waiter. By now, Julio is convinced that his sister has probably been killed, and is determined to stay, pretending to be a waiter until he finds out who did it. When Alicia confronts him, he tells her everything, and she ends up agreeing to help him discover the truth, as long as he leaves when he's got his answers. Of course, things are not that straight forward, and finding answers proves to be more difficult and dangerous than either of them expects.

As they slowly discover clues, all the time spent working together brings them closer, and despite Alicia's engagement to Diego, she and Julio have chemistry and connect in a way neither of them can deny, despite the difference in class (which was obviously a big deal back then). Seriously, these two are so cute together, so many times I was like "omg the feels! I can't even take it!"
I won't spoil the answer to what happened with Julio's sister, but toward the end of season 1, once he has all the answers, he decides to leave, and tells Alicia to come with him.

She does, but just before they're about to leave, Julio gets news that the answers he had weren't the full truth, and he decides he has to stay, to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Alicia is devastated -- she'd made the choice to leave and start a new life with Julio, and didn't want to go back to the hotel, even temporarily.

But Julio won't be dissuaded, and he leaves her standing alone outside the train station. Upon returning to the hotel, Alicia feels she doesn't have a choice but to honor her engagement to Diego, even though both her sister, Sophia, and Julio tell her she doesn't have to, shouldn't go through with it. She pretty much tells Julio he had his chance and ruined it. At this point, I think a small part of Alicia simply married Diego because Julio had hurt her badly, and she wanted to hurt him in return. But also because Diego was very good a manipulating people, and had convinced both Alicia and her mother that marrying him was the only thing Alicia could do.

Into season 2, and Julio hasn't left the hotel, but decided to stay after Andres had a bad accident on Alicia's wedding day. Julio actually thinks someone tried to hurt Andres on purpose, so aside from helping to look after him, he's determined to find out who is behind it, because no one messes with his brotp and gets away with it.
Alicia and Diego return from their honeymoon, and Alicia is obviously surprised to find Julio still there, when she'd expected him to leave after she got married. Julio's feelings for her haven't changed, and he doesn't even bother trying to hide it.
Alicia tries to resist, pretends like she's over him and moved on, but the only person she's fooling is herself. When Julio tells her about his suspicions over Andres, she agrees to help him (only for Andres, not for him) and once again they are partners in crime.

Meanwhile, Diego is beginning to show his true colors, and as Alicia realizes the man she married might be a complete a-hole, if not outright monster, she and Julio grow closer again. It's not long before they give into their feelings, and Julio becomes her everything -- whenever she is upset or needs anything, he is always there. As their search for answers about Andres becomes more complicated, they discover clues that her own father may have been murdered, and then it becomes a matter of Julio helping Alicia discover the truth for a change.

In the meantime, Diego gets a clue that Alicia might be having an affair, and becomes increasingly possessive, jealous and an all around jerk.  
Toward the end of season 2, Alicia finally cracks under Diego's scrutiny and tells him she loves someone else, but won't say who. This spurs Diego into showing her the type of man he really is. Later, when Julio finds out what happened, it's enough to break him, and he goes after Diego.

In the end, circumstances luckily prevent Julio from following through on his revenge, but it becomes apparent that someone is out to destroy the Gran Hotel.
Into season 3, Julio and Alicia are more in love than ever, but she can't escape Diego, as back then, a wife was literally considered a man's property, but that doesn't stop them from trying. Alicia's friend, Maite, who is also a lawyer, comes along to help her get out of the marriage, but Diego swears he'll never let her go and is determined to find out who her lover is so he can kill him.
While all this is going on, someone is sabotaging the Gran Hotel, and all sorts of things are going on. It soon becomes apparent that this person wants revenge on Diego.
The entire season is spent with Julio and Alicia trying to find a way to be free, while discovering the truth of Diego's past. I won't tell you what happens in the end, but suffice to say, everyone gets exactly what they deserve. But most importantly of all, Julio and Alicia get their happy ending.
Phew!
Even just recounting it all makes me want to watch it a 3rd time. And I haven't even managed to get in all the other non-Julicia related stuff that went on -- Javier and his schemes which he sometimes got Julio mixed up in that were always hilarious. The depths of the Julio-Andres (Juldres?) bromance, which also has an easy spot in my list of all time favorite bromances.
Julio regularly going all Fight Club at the local inn to solve his problems. Detective Ayala and his dunce of a sidekick who had the unenviable job of investigating the goings on at the Gran Hotel while people tried desperately to keep their secrets. The other affairs (even one with a priest! Nothing was sacred). The baby stealing (yep, you heard that right). The serial killer. Illegitimate siblings. The many, many murders. The scheming and back-stabbing. The slapping. Oh my god, the slapping. I know hitting people isn't the answer to anyone's problems, but every time someone got
slapped (usually Javier) I was guilty and loving it (except for the couple of times Alicia slapped Julio, that just hurt!).

I think part of the reason I loved this show so much (apart from the forbidden romance that was handled so well... I'm a huge sucker for forbidden romance) was the fact that I could never guess what was going to happen next. The twists were just brilliant. Usually in a TV show or movie, it's hard to surprise me, because my story-telling author brain will correctly guess the plot, usually before whatever I'm watching is even half over. But every time I thought I knew what was going to happen on this show, something would come out of left field, leaving me surprised and loving every second of it.
If you've got Netflix and you haven't discovered this show yet, then you're missing out on some seriously good television.

There is only one bad thing I can say about this TV show, and that is I couldn't find it available on DVD with English subtitles in my region (Damn you Australia, you have thwarted me again!). I would buy this is a second if it I could get it, but while it's available in the US with English subtitles, and I could buy it, the region limits mean it wouldn't work on my DVD player... Unless I brought a US DVD player at well... seriously, I love this show so much, I would almost consider doing that!

In the meantime, I am impatiently waiting, as I discovered many of the people behind this show are making a new show for Netflix called Cable Girls, apparently based on the phone operators in the early 1900's, and the actor that plays Julio has a role in it (hopefully a main one, he's a brilliant actor!). I'm assuming Netflix will release it world wide like they usually do, so will be hanging off my subscription into 2017 until its released... and then I'll probably binge watch it in a matter of days if it's anything like Gran Hotel.
Do yourselves a favor, people, and get into Gran Hotel right now!






Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sci Fi Romance at a Steal!

Looking for some sci fi romance to read? Then look no further! From today (25th October) to the 8th of November, iBooks have a selection of sci fi romance on sale. Some of the biggest names in sci fi romance at the best prices!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/collection/science-fiction-romance/id27823?fcId=1163390978&ls=1&mt=11&app=itunes
(Please note, the link on the above image will only work on an iPad or iPhone device, as it launches iBooks)

Atrophy will be 99c, so if you haven't grabbed yourself a copy yet, now is a good time! I know the TBR list on my iPad is about to increase by quite a few titles!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just Finished Reading... The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling.

Actually, I finished this one a few weeks ago, and while I put this review up on Goodreads, I hadn't got around to posting it on my blog yet. But here it is! And two posts in two weeks, maybe things will get back on track around here!

This book was an easy read for me - I read it in a day and it was the kind of story I didn't need to think about too much, which was exactly what I was in the mood for. 
The romance between Seren and Dom was one of those insta things, and while it kind of seemed like they both got way too invested in each other way too quick, in the context of the story, it was believable for me. 
This story did remind me a little of the Across The Universe series, but stood on its own merits with significant differences. I probably would have enjoyed it more and given it 5 stars if there'd been more story devoted to what was really happening on board the ship (the secrets that the adults were clearly keeping, etc) and maybe a little less time with Seren getting completely lost in her feelings for Dom (which at the 75%-ish mark slid toward Bella from Twilight type obsessing and almost lost me) but I'm glad I read to the ending, even though I guessed pretty early on where it was all heading. I just hope that there is a sequel and many of the unanswered questions end up getting resolved.
Oh, and I just have to say, I really love this book cover!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Still Here!!

Honestly, I was going to title this post "Still Here Bitches!" because I was channeling Pretty Little Liars or something. That was closely followed by my second choice of "Still Here Suckers!" but as you can see I went with the boring old "STILL HERE" which is pretty much the theme of this post.

So, what I have I been doing, you may ask? 
Well, a lot is the answer! Not that I have much to show for it at this point in time. However, I can tell you that I've got lots of books in the pipeline (with the next being Diffraction in Jan 2017), I'm talking A LOT people. Like, got myself all plotted up the wazoo until 2020. 

I had intended to get back into blogging, but I'm feeling like its soooo 2004 or something. That being said, I'm not ready to give up, its just that with all the various media platforms I'm on (I spend way too much time on Tumblr, but there's so many pretties!) plus Instagram, facebook, twitter -- like many people these days, I'm all over the place -- and then the whole writing and editing thing I'm meant to be doing, well, blogging just didn't rate that high.


However, I do have some interesting ideas in the works to engage with my wonderful Atrophy fans who are so excited about Rian and whatever latest crazy he's putting everyone in, plus that whole shipping issue he has with Ella (I'm talking like unresolved sexual tension ship, not actual shipping like he's going to pack her in a box and send her somewhere) plus I'm going to be revamping my website in the new year with some exciting new features and goodies for my fans. Though I'd like to promise there will be regular blog posts happening over here, and I am considering content (but these days I'm a little more visual and waste time playing around with graphics like the one below), it might be a little while before things really get moving again.
But I am around, and you can always find me hanging out at all the usual social media haunts. In the meantime, I have background stuff to get back to.