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The Greek Gods Book Tag

My friend Rachel @ Paceamorelibri tagged me in this meme, which was created by Zuky @ The Book Bum! I hardly know anyone on here, so I won’t be tagging anyone myself, but feel free to do this if you see it!

ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS – YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK

7821892The Sweep Series by Cate Tiernan: Choosing a single favorite book is really difficult for me. There’s so many different criteria one could go by! In the end, I decided to choose my comfort series, the one that I go to when I just want to sink into a world and not think. Obviously, that’s Harry Potter, but I didn’t want to go with Harry Poter, because, what a formulaic answer! So, I decided to go with my second favorite series: Sweep.

Sweep is a weirdly obscure YA series of fourteen very short books about a teenage girl coming into her powers and heritage as a Wiccan. This isn’t your every day Wicca, obviously – Tiernan really, really embellishes (our heroine shapeshifts at one point) but somehow maintains realism by including many factual elements of Wicca.

Why do I love this series so much? I’m not sure. It probably helps that I started reading it at twelve years old, at the height of my burgeoning obsession with magic and witches and all things supernatural. I mean, I’m still tangentially obsessed with Wicca to this day – I have two books on it on my bookshelf! So, clearly, the Wicca element was definitely a significant factor.

Otherwise…I’m not sure I can put it into words. The books are…cozy, in a way. Most of them take place in the small upstate New York town of Widow’s Vale and revolve around Morgan as she discovers her powers and heritage. There’s teen drama, instalove, a love triangle (of sorts), but there’s also some cool subversion of those tropes. There’s road trips and theological discussions and battles between good and evil…there’s a lot.  I’m not sure I’m doing a great job selling these books, and I don’t even know if I would love them as much if I read them today and not as a kid.  All I know is they’ve been sitting on my shelves for years, and I reach for them whenever I need to sink into something familiar.

HERA: QUEEN OF THE GODS – A BADASS FEMALE CHARACTER

11388429When the Sea is Rising Red & House of Sand and Secrets by Cat Hellisen: Felicita Pelim comes from wealth and privilege – but when her best friend commits suicide to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita decides to trade privilege for freedom. She takes to the streets, joins up with a gang, and gets caught up in a plot to destroy the city. In the first book, Felicita isn’t badass so much as resilient, but in the second book, after her marriage and move to another city, her prowess grows.  She is every bit a lady, with all the selfishness and pride and willfulness that comes with growing up privileged, but she’s also compassionate, sharp, and snarky as hell.  In a city where her family name means little, Felicita fights fiercely to bring justice to members of an oppressed caste who are being murdered and whose human rights are soon to be stripped.

JANUS: GOD OF BEGINNINGS – YOUR FAVOURITE DEBUT(S)

6437061The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: This was Jemisin’s debut as well as my introduction to her. I remember picking this book up at a time when I was just so, so tired of all the generic white male fantasy being recommended to me. I don’t recall how I stumbled upon Jemisin’s book, but I do remember reading that it was unusual in many ways for a fantasy novel, particularly a debut. I loved it completely – it was a totally original world, and the narrative style – though not everyone’s piece of cake – was fantastic. In this book Jemisin explored Gods and creation myths all though the first-person perspective of a young black woman, and it was mind-blowing.

ATHENA: GODDESS OF WISDOM – YOUR FAVOURITE NON-FICTION BOOK

6792458The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander: As a nerd who reads a ton of non-fiction, narrowing this down to one book was tough.  Eventually, though, it came down to The New Jim Crow.  Michelle Alexander’s book is incredible not only because it is written in accessible language and puts forth a resonant thesis, but also because of the sheer amount of eye-opening information it provides. If you think the United States justice system is at all fair to those who aren’t wealthy and white, read The New Jim Crow. This book will completely overturn any false narratives you hold about the United States as a champion of justice.

APHRODITE: GODDESS OF LOVE – A BOOK YOU ADORE AND RECOMMEND EVERYONE READ (OTHER THAN YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK!)

21414439Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: Okay, as a YA high fantasy, I don’t know if this book is necessarily for everyone, but I absolutely love it, so I’m including it on here.  Not only is Truthwitch is an absolute achievement in worldbuilding, it features two fully fleshed out female leads who love each other more than anything else in the world.  Their friendship is the thread that binds the plot together, even as they struggle against coups and political machinations.  The magic system is intricate and incredible, and Dennard can write action scenes like nobody’s business.

 

HADES: GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD – AN EVIL BOOK YOU WISH DIDN’T EXIST

Hmm, I don’t think I have a particular book in mind for this! “Evil” is a strong word, and I tend to shy away from books I think I won’t like. I can’t recall anything I’ve read that had a terribly strong effect on me.  I will, however, give a shout out to The Continent and The Black Witch, both unpublished books, both coming out of HarperTeen, which perpetuate some really horrifically racist narratives.  I haven’t actually read either of them, but I’ve read other folks’ very, very detailed reviews (including a chapter-by-chapter readthrough), and that was definitely enough to convince me that I do not want these books anywhere near me.

POSEIDON: GOD OF THE SEA & EARTHQUAKES – A BEAUTIFUL & GROUND-BREAKING BOOK

23444482The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson: I’ve read some of Dickinson’s short stories, and he seems to be fascinated by the concept of extremely difficult choices.  A Sophie’s Choice, if you will.  This whole novel is one big Sophie’s Choice, but you don’t really find out until the very end, in one of the most shocking, heart-breaking twists I’ve ever come across in literature.  The main character, Baru, is an accountant who has had her home colonized by a brutal empire. She grows up with the goal of dismantling said empire and winning her home back, but the choices she has to make to achieve that goal may just break her.  This book is utterly devastating. It’s a truly horrifying portrait of the brutal effects imperialism and colonialism has on people.

APOLLO: GOD OF THE ARTS – A BEAUTIFUL BOOK COVER

11774295The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin: I read a lot of YA, Genre of the Beautiful Covers, so of course I come to you with…a non-YA book cover. It’s another Jemisin book (she’s my favorite author, of course she features twice), from her oft-ignored second series. Most people nowadays praise The Fifth Season (rightly so) or her debut, but her middle series tends to be forgotten, which is such a shame. The Shadowed Sun (and its prequel) feature some truly fantastic and hella creative worldbuilding based on North African myth and culture. As a North African myself, you can bet I loved that. But The Shadowed Sun also includes one of my favorite romances ever, because it is real and raw and unexpected.

HYPNOS: GOD OF SLEEP – A BOOK SO BORING YOU ALMOST FELL ASLEEP

18077769Authority by Jeff VanderMeer: I read the first book in this series and liked it well enough. I thought the second book would begin to answer some of the question posed in the first book. How wrong I was. Basically, Authority is a literary rendering of bureaucratic routine with some occasional weirdness thrown in.  Pretty much nothing happens throughout this book; there’s a lot of meandering and asking questions, but nothing is answered or revealed.  By the last third of the book I was truly struggling, and I began to skip significant chunks just to get to the end.

HERMES: MESSENGER OF THE GODS – A BOOK YOU SPED THROUGH

29276588Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia: I finished this book in a day and a half.  I remember very clearly that I did not sleep until nearly four am the day I started reading this book, and probably would not have slept if I didn’t have to get up for work in the morning.  This book is a murder mystery/thriller, told in alternating perspectives and using flashbacks.  It also features one of my favorite tropes, but I won’t say what that is so I don’t spoil the book!

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Joan Watson (Elementary)

Those of you familiar with Sherlock Holmes already recognize the name. Joan Watson is not only a gender-bent John Watson, but a race-bent one as well. In Elementary, John Watson is re-imagined as Joan Watson, a Chinese-American surgeon. Instead of a military career, Joan has instead accidentally killed a patient during surgery, which led to her abandoning the profession to become, at first, a sober companion. This is how she meets Sherlock Holmes.

Continue reading “Woman Crush Wednesday: Joan Watson (Elementary)”
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5 TV Shows I Felt Betrayed By

In the spirit of Goodreads’ Top 5 Wednesday Books You Felt Betrayed By, I figured I should also talk about the television shows that betrayed me.

Beware, this post will be full of spoilers! I always try to keep things vague and spoiler-free, but there is no way I can talk about these shows’ disappointing conclusions without spoiling said conclusions, so proceed at your own risk.

Without further preamble, here are the shows that betrayed and disappointed me.

Lost

I started watching Lost a year after it aired, delivered weekly to me by MBC, a subscription cable channel available in Egypt. I distinctly remember watching the second half of the pilot with my mother (I missed the first half), since we both love disaster shows, and being utterly and completely hooked. The first season continued to intrigue as the mystery of the sinister island intensified.

I’m not sure if this is an unpopular opinion, but personally I think the show started to unravel as early as season two. Frankly, I really don’t think the writers expected the first season to be such a smashing success. They had written themselves into a corner and had no idea how to escape. It was clear they had no idea what the island was – or rather, what they wanted it to be.

As the show continued, this indecisiveness ran clear throughout every narrative. The writers continued to introduce various mysteries and bizarre storylines, many of which were never properly concluded. The final season went off the rails completely, escalating what I originally interpreted to be a psychological thriller into a grand old conflict between the very essence of good and evil – I think. I was never terribly clear on that.

To be sure, the finale was an emotional roller-coaster: I admit I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when Jack died in the same place he had woken up when he first crashed. The scenes of the afterlife were similarly emotional. The writers surely wanted to establish a kind of full-circle narrative with these poignant moments, but the attempt ultimately fell short as various details were retconned or pushed aside. Rewatching the show for the character arcs only serves to highlight the what a mess so much of it really was.

Lost was always the kind of show that should have been plotted from beginning to end before it even began. At the very least, the writers should have had some sense of what they wanted the island to be, and who the main antagonist was. So, ultimately, while Lost will always be one of my favorite shows (and introduced me to one of my all time favorite characters, Juliet Burke), one that I watch over and over again, it will also forever remain a source of frustration due to its missed potential.

Merlin

Speaking of missed potential. Have you ever seen a show literally center its entire finale on missed potential? It’s like the writers knew they had screwed up and thought that by somehow lampshading the problem it would go away. No such luck.

For those of you who may not know, Merlin was a very popular BBC show that first aired way back in 2008. It was a fresh, clever re-imagining of the wizard Merlin, along with Arthur, Morgan Le Fay, Guinevere, and the Knights of the Round Table. In this version, though Arthur is still royalty, Gwen and Merlin are both servants, and Morgana is Uther’s ward. In this world, magic has been outlawed, and the timeline of the show is fresh of a Purge of the kingdom’s sorcerers.

Merlin started off fantastically, promising to be a show that balanced comedic elements with traditional medieval storytelling, walking a fine line between several thoroughly unconnected genres. Morgana, the main antagonist in the legends, is seen as a righteous defender of justice, and is good friends with the main heroes. Beginning in season three, however, things take a turn, and it begins with Morgana.

The thing about Morgana is that clearly, the writers always intended for her story line to take a dark turn to reflect the reality of the legends. Unfortunately, their execution of this was abysmal. I know not everyone feels this way about Morgana “going evil”, but I feel that it was essentially a personality transplant, and worse, one that happened largely off-screen! It was lazy writing, period. The new Morgana retains only hints of her original character, and her arc continued to stumble along clumsily until it ended in her ultimately anti-climactic death.

The writers missed so many opportunities with Morgana. Her discovery of her magic was messy at best, and Merlin’s insistence on keeping Morgana in the dark made no sense. Morgana’s close friendship with her handmaiden Gwen devolved into nothing, when it should have in fact been the one thing keeping Morgana on the edge of sanity (imagine if Morgana had confided in Gwen!). In the hands of a better writing team, she could have come out of this a brilliant character for the ages. Instead she became a caricature.

But even this failure is nothing compared to the abysmal failure of the series finale. The entire point of Merlin, the one thing they had been harping on about constantly, from the very first episode, was that this was a show about the legacy of Arthur. He would be a king who would transform the world with Merlin by his side. He would bring justice to sorcerers and do great things, and be remembered in history for thousands of years.

Instead he died. Without accomplishing any of that.

Essentially, you have a show that has built up this great, big thing, promising this magnificent, satisfying payoff and then…there’s no payoff. Arthur dies in Merlin’s arms after having finally, after six goddamn seasons of ludicrous secrecy, finding out Merlin has magic. To add insult to injury, the final scene of the show is actually a shot in modern times, showing an elderly, bearded Merlin narrowly avoiding being run over by a truck. This unnecessary, tacky addition took away from any sort of “epicness” the show had hoped to maintain. At the very least, if they were going to kill Arthur, they should have ended on that magnificent shot of his now wife Gwen on the throne, with the court shouting, “Long Live the Queen!”

How I Met Your Mother

Since we’re already on the topic of narratives that swerve in another direction at the very last minute, I’m going to segue into How I Met Your Mother. A long-running comedy show about five white people living in New York City, HIMYM was rife with problems: from the rampant misogyny displayed by its main characters, to its stunning whiteness, to the various inconsistencies in its characters. However, it was a funny enough show, and, as the title conveys, is all about the main character, Ted, telling his kids the story of how he met their mother.

So, in the final season, we finally meet The Mother, a charming woman named Tracy. She and Ted fall in love, have kids, all the hints from the previous seasons make so much sense, it’s a great, fulfilling ending.

If only the writers had left it at that.

Instead, what they decided to do was kill off Tracy, so that Ted can get back together with his ex-girlfriend Robin. Now, the main reason Ted and Robin had broken up in the first place was because they wanted different things. Robin wanted independence and a great career, and Ted wanted children. So, to me, it was incredibly gross for the writers to bring on Tracy, have her pop out Ted’s kids, and then kill her off and leave Ted free to run off the Robin once he’d gotten what he wanted from Tracy.

I know most people absolutely hated this finale, so I won’t talk too much more about it, but suffice it to say I have never before seen a show completely demolish its own narrative so spectacularly.

True Blood

I know I just said HIMYM takes the cake when it comes to demolishing its own narratives, but True Blood is a close second when it comes to completely destroying its characters.

As a vampire fanatic since age eleven who was also fascinated by the rural Deep South, I absolutely loved True Blood. It started off promising, and though there was a noticeable dip in quality as the seasons went on, it was still generally a good show. Things made sense. Characters were true to themselves. The narrative was understandable. That is, until the second half of the season six finale, which features a six-month time jump. That was bad enough, but then season seven came along, and it was literally like I was watching an entirely different show.

There is an explanation for this – True Blood’s final season had a different writing team than the previous six. This isn’t totally unusual for long-running television shows, as far as I know, but what was unusual in this case was that the new team had no understanding of the characters whatsoever. They charged in and made up their own narrative and characters, plastering them onto the faces of the people we already knew. Bizarre new plotlines were introduced, random minor characters highlighted, and our heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is subjected to a strange plotline that has her wallowing in self-hatred.

It was, in short, a complete and total clusterfuck, and a terrible legacy to leave behind for a show that will surely go on to become a cult classic.

Battlestar Galactica

My main gripe about the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica is that it turned out to be a creation story. I thought I was watching a space opera, and all the signs pointed to that, but then suddenly it turned into a weirdly spiritual show with hints of God and angels and whatnot being thrown around. I’m going to quote George R.R. Martin here:

“Battlestar Galactica ends with ‘God Did It.’ Looks like somebody skipped Writing 101, when you learn that a deus ex machina is a crappy way to end a story… Yeah, yeah, sometimes the journey is its own reward. I certainly enjoyed much of the journey with BSG… But damn it, doesn’t anybody know how to write an ending any more? Writing 101, kids. Adam and Eve, God Did It, It Was All a Dream? I’ve seen Clarion students left stunned and bleeding for turning in stories with those endings.”

I mean, yeah, pretty much! Battlestar Galactica ends with a lieral deus ex machina! This smacks of writers who had no idea how to explain their shit, so they just wrapped it all up neatly in the easiest way possible, thinking that this also satisfied Kara’s storyline. It did not – you can’t just pull this kind of weird, proto-religious, pseudo-spiritual crap on a show that for three seasons has been grounded in sci-fi realism. It was completely jarring and a total disappointment to an otherwise fantastic show.

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Top 5 Wednesday: SFF Books on my TBR

To say writing this post was difficult would be a ludicrous understatement. 95% of what I read consists of SFF, both adult and YA, so my TBR for these genres is gargantuan. Narrowing it down to just five books felt like an impossibility, but I managed to do it (sort of – I’ve got two honorable mentions). However, I definitely did not go through each of the literal hundreds of books on my TBR, so these books simply represent the ones that stood out to me for whatever reason, not necessarily the books I think will be the best or that I will like the most.  (Which I guess makes perfect sense for the prompt!)

All summaries in italics are from Goodreads!

7564251Secrets of the Sands by Leona Wisoker: Cafad Scratha, a powerful desert lord with a persecution complex, believes everyone is lying to him. When his obsession collides with the king’s efforts to rebuild the shattered realm, the orphaned street-thief Idisio and the king’s emissary Alyea become pawns in their multilayered game. The secret world into which Idisio and Alyea are drawn will not only change their lives: it will change them.

I’ve had this on my TBR list forever, but I’ve struggled in finding it, so it’s remained unread for now. As sick and tired as I am of white people co-opting Middle Eastern cultures for their stories, the setting is so beloved to me that I seek it out anyway. With a mad ruler and a young noblewoman caught up in political intrigue, it seems to have everything I need for an enjoyable read. It’s also got that classic epic fantasy feel, which I love.

55399Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erickson: The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting, and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze. But it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand….

When we talk about the greats of epic fantasy, it’s impossible not to hear Steven Erickson’s name. The Malazan series is typical classic fantasy, with a huge cast of characters, but it is also an in-depth look at how reality works; that is, Erickson doesn’t shy away from the details of things like how an army gets fed or how trade in a small village works. His work also comes highly recommended by Daniel Jose Older, which is a plus. I’ve been putting it off because it’s a gargantuan series; reading this book is truly a commitment that I’m just not ready for yet, but soon I will be!

18952341The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu: Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

I’ve been hesitating to read The Grace of Kings because reviews have told me that the female characters in this novel are lacking in both quantity and quality. Normally, a book like that gets an automatic NO from me, but I’ve read and enjoyed Liu’s other work, and this book has received heaps of praise in fantasy circles. Liu has been credited with creating the genre of “silkpunk” and I’m curious to see just what that is!

26114337Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley: Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, makes a living repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside one another. The white Feldish command the nation’s higher echelons of society; the native Mahweni are divided between city life and the savannah. And then there’s Ang, part of the Lani community who immigrated there generations ago and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm’s edges. When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice, Berrit, she finds him dead. That same night the Beacon, an invaluable historical icon, is stolen. The Beacon’s theft commands the headlines, yet no one seems to care about Berrit’s murder—except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician. When he offers Ang a job investigating the death, she plunges headlong into new and unexpected dangers. Meanwhile, crowds gather in protests over the city’s mounting troubles. Rumors surrounding the Beacon’s theft grow. More suspicious deaths occur. With no one to help Ang except Josiah’s haughty younger sister, a savvy newspaper girl, and a kindhearted herder, Ang must rely on her intellect and strength to resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city descends into chaos.

I haven’t heard much about this book, but what I have heard tells me that this book is diverse, creative, and different. It seems to be an intriguing combination of steampunk, fantasy, and science fiction, with a fantastic female protagonist. I look forward to exploring the worldbuilding here!

448873The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner:  The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

This is quite an old book compared to the others on this list, having been published in 2005, but it’s one of those classics that you hear about in YA circles. At a recent writing retreat I heard many good things about Turner’s characterization and worldbuilding, and it was suggested to me as an example to emulate. Plus, as I understand it this series is simply one of the “greats” of YA.

Honorable (unpublished) Mentions:

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser: (from goodreads) Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will. Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

In many ways this sounds like a very generic YA fantasy novel, but it comes highly recommended by one of my favorite reviewers. Plus I love any stories that have to do with the sea, sea voyages, or gods.

When We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor May Mejia: (from goodreads) This debut novel is at the Medio School for Girls, where young women are trained to become one of two wives assigned to high society men. With revolution brewing in the streets, star student Dani Vargas fights to protect a destructive secret, sending her into the arms of the most dangerous person possible – the second wife of her husband-to-be.

A promising debut from a promising debut author whose insight on Twitter I value very much, When We Set the Dark on Fire looks to be an intriguing story with two female protagonists who fall in love (I’m guessing). Plus, give me a magical boarding school and I’m already sold.