Saturday, September 10, 2016

Books Finished on Vacation

When I travel, I like to read books related to travel. And, I finally did use my ereader on vacation---after I finished reading the two physical books I brought.

40. Better Than Fiction 2

This is a collection of nonfiction stories by celebrity writers. I found it an interesting read, but nothing was a huge standout. One story has nuns chasing Italian boys away from American girls.

41. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It

I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it, and I found it in the store right before I left for my trip. It's a collection of stories about people inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. Now, before reading Eat Pray Love, I would have thought this was hokey, but now, I can sympathize with the "bathroom floor club," as one writer here puts it. These are more like vignettes, about the moment that changed everything, which at first was disappointing, since each story is only a few pages, but, I realized that each story packs more punch in that smaller serving. Recommended to fellow members of the bathroom floor club.

42. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

I had this on my ereader for quite a while, and finally read it. At first, it reminded me of Elizabeth Bear's writing, the way she drops you into a heavily detailed world with no context. Hurley was a little better about quickly developing the context and the story wasn't quite as convoluted as some of Bear's, but otherwise, I think the comparison mostly bears out. This is one or more highly developed fantasy worlds, at least two of which are "mirrors" of each other, that is, they have people that are the 'same' in different life situations--everyone seems to have the same parents and family line in general, but the history of which groups are in charge is different. And, of course, one world is trying to take over the other. Recommended to fans of "deep" fantasy (those that really want to take the disorientation plunge).

43. Cress by Marissa Meyer

44. Winter by Marissa Meyer

I loved Cinder, and found the Lunar chronicles so addictive that I downloaded the last two on my ereader. However, I may have rushed through them a little too quickly, since I didn't feel like I appreciated the later books quite as much. Of the final two, Cress was my favorite. Meyer did a brilliant job of translating Rapunzel into scifi, and I loved that she explicitly and tacitly acknowledged the darker aspects of that fairy tale. Cress and Captain Throne are also my favorite couple from the series. That said, while most of Winter's arc wasn't related to the Snow White story, when it does come up, Meyer has a clever twist on that too. The "scifi-a-fairy-tale" is a theme I find especially compelling. Lunar Chronicles highly recommended for a fun can't-stop-reading whirl.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Top Ten Fantasy and Scifi TV Shows

I watch so many fantasy and scifi shows--any other fans out there? What shows have I missed?


1. Star Trek

I'm a fan of all the iterations of Star Trek, although most recently we re-watched the first couple seasons of Enterprise (which contained most of my favorite episodes from that show so I'm not sure if I want to continue). I really love S2 E5 "A Night in Sickbay," which features Captain Archer's beagle, Porthos.

2. The X-Files

I didn't watch this in real time, but so far, we're somewhere in, I think? I love Mulder and Scully, especially the one-offs (but, you know, also the continuing stuff). S3E4, when they encounter a real psychic, is one of my favorites, but there are so many to choose from.

3. Babylon Five

I watched individual episodes while this was airing, but I never watched in sequence or really got the overarching plot. If this were airing right now, I guarantee it would be one of the most popular shows on television. Some sharp commentary on government and media and humanity in general, and extremely quirky main characters that nevertheless gel as a cast.

Currently on TV

4.  Game of Thrones

Go Tyrion. Team Sansa. 'Nuff said.

5. The 100

We literally watched this in order to laugh at a whiny teen drama. And, ok, it starts out, and occasionally slips into that. But the moral ambiguity of this show, the ethical dilemmas...there is nothing like it. No one ups the ante like The 100 and I love that there are so many strong female leaders in this show, from Clarke to Lexa to Raven to Indra. And you have to love John "the things I do to survive" Murphy. My favorite show on TV right now.

6. Agents of Shield

This is a fun show, and I love how they play with tropes, and each season gets grittier. Plus, FitzSimmons for life.

7. The Shannara Chronicles

So, I read The Elfstones of Shannara about 16 years ago, and I remember the story pretty well (the ending is hard to forget), but I thought it was straight up high fantasy. Apparently, it's set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have divided into humans, gnomes, and trolls, and Elves, who apparently were hidden all along, have come out of hiding to rule (and protect everyone from gnarly demons)? Whether this was just made up for the show or not, it makes for a fascinating cultural backdrop, and despite legit whiny teen drama (this is from MTV), it's well worth watching for a fantasy fix. Second season has been confirmed; interested to see if they will continue this story or use another book from the series.

8. Stranger Things

It's classified as "horror" as well as scifi, which I usually shy away from, but this schlocky '80s style scifi is perfect for nostalgic '80s and '90s nerds. Can't wait to see what Season 2 cooks up (I hope a certain number will be back).

Just Started/Considering Watching

9. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

One of my favorite books of all time. I knew the BBC was doing a series, but it just showed up on Netflix! I wasn't that impressed with the first episode, but we're a few episodes in and I'm liking it better. Let's be honest, Jonathan Strange is way more fun than Mr. Norrell, although Mr. Norrell's library and study are objects of my deepest envy. The show did a marvelous job of nailing the aesthetic of the time period (an alternate 19th century England).

10. The Magicians

I read the first book in the series, but stopped because it crushed my childhood too much (made deep dark cynical parody of Narnia and Harry Potter). However, I think I might be willing to give the show a whirl. It can't possibly be as bleak as the book. Thoughts?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top Ten Books I Read in School

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Most of these are from college or graduate school, since a lot of the books I read in grade school I had read on my own before we read them in school.

1. Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston

2. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum by Aemilia Lanyer

3. The Tragedy of Mariam by Elizabeth Cary

4. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

5. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

6. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox

7. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

8. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

1. After North and South, I've gone straight on to another Elizabeth Gaskell novel that's been on my TBR shelf, Mary Barton. Unfortunately, my puppy got to it before I did, but despite that, I've been enjoying it so far. It was the first written of the novels of hers I've read, and it feels like the most honest and--I think--the best.

2. I'm listening to the audiobook The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory. It's about Henry VIII's sixth wife, Katherine Parr, the one who survived. However, I realized that the title makes it sound quite more salacious than it is, and I wonder what people passing by, who see the case on the seat in my car, think. So far, I'm enjoying it, but I dislike that Gregory credits Parr with giving Elizabeth the "woman with the heart and stomach of a king" line.

3. Also, it is hard to read historical fiction in a time period you've studied--so far, in Taming of the Queen, there's an inaccuracy when Parr talks about how she can't publish under her own name as a woman, but would proudly do so as a man--without getting too far into it, it wasn't seemly for a gentleman to publish either, and Parr did eventually publish religious texts under her own name, the main kind of text it was socially acceptable for anyone genteel to publish.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf Before I Started Blogging That I STILL Haven't Read Yet

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Since I've been blogging for eight years, I'm happy to report that most of the unread books on my shelf since then are gone. I read some, and the rest probably left with my KonMari book purge of almost a year ago. There are only two still left, one of which I'm currently reading.

1. The Templars by Piers Paul Read

I know I bought this (at Borders, RIP), after my first trip to Israel, and I'm finally reading it after my third trip. It's not a hard read, but it is nonfiction, and until recently, I've had a vast preference for fiction (still do, it's just not SO vast). To be fair, this isn't the first time I've started it, but will hopefully be the time I finish!

2. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Also one I've started before, but never finished. No plans to get to it anytime soon. It's been on loan from my uncle for probably some 15 years at least. He said I could keep storing it for him.

Conclusion: Give me another eight years, and I'll have completed (or donated) everything on my current TBR shelf!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Books Finished in July

37. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

A less sparking, more thoughtful Pride and Prejudice. I've discussed more of my thoughts here. For those who wish Jane Austen was more political.

38. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

The third installment in this character-driven detective series finally focuses purely on the detective, Cormoran Strike, and his assistant and would-be co-detective, Robin Ellacott. The novel gets into some interesting disability politics, and of course many shades of evil, and will thoroughly break the hearts of Strike/Robin shippers.

39. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (audiobook)

I'm glad I read this, because I was familiar with Gloria Steinem's name linked with the feminist movement, but not much else. Now, I feel like an expert! Her memoirs about all the places she's been cover her childhood, and many of the momentous occasions of her adulthood. I feel like I have a much better idea of what an activist actually does, and it was very exciting to listen to her travels, especially during my commute! I also thought the vocal actor, Debra Winger, did an excellent job. And it was hard to tell her voice from Steinem's (Steinem narrates the introduction herself).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Top Ten Books Set in the 19th Century

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Some of my lesser known (but still, let's be honest, pretty well known) favorites set in the nineteenth century. Some are contemporary, but some were written more recently.

1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

2. Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston

3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

4. Persuasion by Jane Austen

5. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

6. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy

7. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

10. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott