Friday, September 30, 2016

Books Read in August

45. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is the third of Gaskell's novels that I've read, and my favorite. Interestingly, it's earlier work than the other two. It seems to me that she was more honest and raw here in her opinions about class divisions. North and South and Cranford also both address divisions between mill workers and mill owners, but North and South is more nuanced, while Cranford is almost a farce. Mary Barton is more radical. Mary and her family (and their friends and neighbors) suffer extreme loss, and the consequences that follow are appropriately drastic. Highly recommended, and unfortunately, very relevant in the present day.

46. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

Finally, after holding onto the final two books for a few years, I finished the Wicked Years series. A Lion Among Men jumpstarts the story again after the possible ending in Son of a Witch. We backtrack to events that took place during Elphaba's life, and the book focuses on two peripheral characters, the titular lion, named Brrr (also the Cowardly Lion), and Mother Yackle, a soothsayer-turned-nun who hung mysteriously around the edges of the first two books. To be honest, it took me a while to care about these two characters as much as I cared about Elphaba and Liir, but by the end, I was sucked into their importance to Oz and to Elphaba's family. I was excited when Brrr figures again in the final book, Out of Oz, which I finished in September, so that will be in a later post!

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?