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Wrap-Up: September

  • The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter (★★★☆☆)
  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (★★★★☆)
  • Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker (★★★★☆)
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (★★★☆☆)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 4
YEARLY SO FAR: 60

Even though I only read four books, one of them was War and Peace, which counts for way more. I completed my Goodreads Challenge of 60 books with War and Peace, actually, which felt very fortuitous! The History of White People took me forever to read because I only read it when I was staffing the Reference Desk at work, and I finished it on September 1st.  Feels a little weird including it here, but oh well!

October should hopefully be a better reading month.  I’m currently reading Now I Rise by Kiersten White (the second book in that series), The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, and Before They Were Belly Dancers: European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760–1870 by Kathleen W. Fraser.

In terms of TBR, I need to read N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky, to conclude the trilogy, before I head to the Sirens Conference at the end of October (I’ll be sure to post about that! Anyone here going?) since Jemisin is the keynote speaker! I’m also aiming to read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and my book club is reading my suggested book, The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani, so I gotta get on that too! I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to read anything else; this is already a pretty full list!

Happy Autumn!

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Stage Corner: Cats

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Cats is known to be a rather divisive musical.  Some folks hate it, some folks love it.  When I won the lottery and did some research on it, I figured, well, there has to be something appealing about it considering how long it’s been running for! It’s so popular! Can it really be so successful on Broadway and yet have little to no appeal? As it turns out, the answer to that question is yes.

I’ll start with the little I appreciated.  The stage is quite cool, decorated in a really busy, cacophonous way, and the backdrop of the full moon is gorgeous.

That’s it.  And now the bad.

First of all, and this is probably more of a personal hangup, but I found it incredibly creepy watching humans crawling around and pretending to be cats. It felt like I was watching a demonic rave in hell.  Second, their costumes…I feel like there had to be a…less embarrassing and cringey way to convey that these folks are playing cats.

Third, I couldn’t follow anything that was happening. Was there anything happening? is there a plot? Who knows, not me.  I also didn’t like the music.

And finally: in general, when it comes to media I consume, I can forgive a lot of flaws, but one thing I can’t forgive is boredom.  If something bores me, that’s it, I’m done.  And Cats bored the hell out of me.  I had to work to convince myself not to leave at intermission.  I kept getting distracted, checking the Playbook to see how many songs were left until I could just get the hell out of there.

Cats could have been the silliest, most pointless, wackiest thing ever (and it was), and I wouldn’t have minded if it had kept me interested with good music or good storytelling. Since it had neither, I was basically suffering through a bunch of grown-ass adults dressed as cats running around singing random lyrics.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Fancasts

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday is Favorite Fancasts, an awesome topic!

Y’all don’t know how much I struggled with this! I tried to think as outside of the box as I could.  Here goes!

JASMINE CEPHAS-JONES AS NINA ZENIK

I know the ages don’t match, as Jasmine is almost thirty, but Rachel and I were literally just talking about how amazing it would be to see Six of Crows turned into an aged-up gritty Starz/HBO show with Cillian Murphy playing Kaz.  If that ever did happen, there’s no one I’d rather have play Nina, who is my favorite character in Six of Crows.  Known mostly for her roles as Peggy Schyler and Mariah Reynolds in the musical Hamilton, Jasmine has also has some bit parts in TV shows here and there. She’s freaking gorgeous and has that spark of fire needed to play Nina.

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY AS AGNIESZKA

Ever since I discovered Anya Taylor-Joy in the rather terrible film Split, she has been my Agnieszka.  I wasn’t feeling up to changing hair colors in Photoshop, which is why she’s blond here, but have her dye her hair dark brown and she’d be perfect. In the book, Agnieszka is described as plain, and while Anya is anything but, I think she is not traditionally pretty and has a haunting, striking quality that would be perfect for this creepy fairy tale.

ANNA POPPLEWELL AS LADA DRACUL

And speaking of not being traditionally pretty! Personally, I think Anna is absolutely gorgeous, but she’s definitely unique looking.  Lada, a gender-bent alternate universe version of Vlad the Impaler, is described as ugly and hard-looking. I think that were Anna to go without makeup she would actually pull off Lada spectacularly.  She’s also got those clear, depth-less eyes that are more than a little creepy.  I’ve always wanted to see her play someone evil or morally ambiguous, and I think Lada could be a great, meaty role for her.

GOLSHIFTEH FARAHANI AS BARU CORMORANT

I don’t even remember what Baru looks like at this point, but I know I want Golshifteh to play her.  If you know me you know The Traitor Baru Cormorant is one of my favorite books, and it is one of the most heart-breaking things I’ve ever read.  Golshifteh always has this perpetually sad, pensive look to her that would make her excellent for Baru, an accountant turned rebel and spy fighting against the Empire that colonized her home.  I’ve always pictured Baru as somewhat serious and sharp-looking and I think Golshifteh embodies that aesthetic nicely.

GEORGIE HENLEY AS SAFIYA “SAFI” FON HASSTREL

Before anyone asks, I’ve actually never watched Narnia films, and it is by pure coincidence that Anna and Georgie both ended up on this list.  Anyway, when looking for someone to play Safi, I knew I wanted something different than the generically pretty blonde actresses I tend to see fancast as her.  Above all Safi is fiery, contrary, and mischievous, so I wanted an actress who could be very pretty but could also look just as comfortable plotting a heist.  For that I thought Georgie suited this role very well.

What are your thoughts on my choices? I loooove talking fancasts so please let me know in the comments!

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The One Lovely Blog Award, Take #2

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Thanks for tagging me for this Rachel! This couldn’t have come at a better time. I was supposed to do today’s Top 5 Tuesday but I got super lazy. Then I came close to doing a Tumblr meme I swiped but it turned oddly personal so I decided not to. I guess I can share some facts from that meme, though!

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15).
  • Include this set of rules.
  • Inform your nominees.

7 Facts About Me

1) I live in New York City, and I would give my left pinky toe to leave (okay, maybe not any of my actual extremities, but you get the idea).  I hate that’s it’s so ridiculously expensive to rent closet-sized apartments, I hate the noise and the crowds, I hate that there’s no nature, and I hate how dirty it is all the time.  Just this morning as I was walking to work holding my breath, I thought, “God, what would it be like to walk outside without having to inhale the scent of piss!” Anyway, it’s nothing personal against NYC in particular (which definitely has a ton of upsides!), I’m just not a city person.

2) I don’t really have a “bucket list” but one thing I really want to do before I die is see the Northern Lights in person. A few years ago I charted a trip to Abisko, Sweden and even found a lodge I could stay in and everything.

3) My fashion sense is very casual/cozy/comfy while still trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism.  Basically, I dress like Clara Oswald, so lots of dresses over tights/leggings with boots/booties.  I even have a leather jacket.  But yeah, comfort is my top priority.  I haven’t worn jeans in nearly a year.

4) I really want to get an MFA (Masters in Creative Writing) at some point soon in my life. I’ve looked up various programs that are fully funded and I’ve got a good idea of where I would like to go.  I’m not sure when I’ll do this, but I’ll probably start looking towards the ~next step~ in my life as soon as I get my MLS (Masters in Library Science), which I’m working on at the moment.

5) As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m a terribly messy, unorganized person. I really want to be organized and every now and then I’ll make an effort to be less of a mess of a person, but inevitably it all comes crashing down around me.  I’m a bit flaky and absentminded to go along with it, so I’m always misplacing things and forgetting things. I really admire people who are super organized and color coordinate everything and whatnot, but I never seem to be able to achieve that #aesthetic.

6) I am not musically inclined at all.  I really wish I could sing, but according to everyone in my family I have a horrible singing voice and can’t carry a tune to save my life.  I took that “Tone Deaf Test” and I’m not actually tone-deaf at all, but I’ve never had any musical training and I know exactly zero about music.  I wish I could play an instrument but only in that abstract way where I don’t have to put any effort into it.  Singing, though, I wouldn’t mind putting effort to become better at; I really admire people who can sing.

7) I’m a really nostalgic and obsessive person and I have trouble letting go of things.  It could be a website or a fandom or a place or even a mood; I have a tendency to find a comfort zone and want to stay there forever. Needless to say, I struggle with change.

Tagging:

She Reads at Past Midnight
Paperback & Flick Chick
Perspective of a Writer

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TV Corner: Peaky Blinders, Fridging, and Men Who Can’t Write Women

Peaky Blinders - Saison 3 (4-6)

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Before starting Peaky Blinders, I had heard many great things about it, mostly through cultural osmosis.  I didn’t know too much about what it was actually about – in fact the only aspect of it that drew me was that Cillian Murphy stars in it.  I was hesitant about watching a show about a crime gang, because I suspected it would revolve entirely around men and convoluted illegal activities that would surely bore me to death.  But I do adore Cillian Murphy, so on a whim I decided to start Peaky Blinders, and I immediately loved it.

First of all, Cillian Murphy is fantastic as Tommy Shelby, kind of like a grown-up AU Kaz Brekker without the cane and aversion to touch.  The first season also assuaged my fears of not being able to follow along; the plot was fairly straightforward and engaging.  I hadn’t expected to see women in leading roles, but we had two (or three, depending on how you look at it) who were all pretty cool. I had some criticisms, of course (I always do), but overall, I was really enjoying the show.  Then seasons two and three happened and everything went downhill.

I do have some general issues with plot and characterization.  The plot became too convoluted and expansive, moving from small-town crime gang stuff to being blackmailed by Winston Churchill, which made me lose interest.  One of the antagonists literally turned into a mustache twirling villain of ridiculous proportions and then was killed.  But I’m going to focus this post on my main problem with this show, mainly, the treatment of the three main female characters: Polly Shelby, Ada Shelby, and Grace Burgess.

Before I get into their character arcs separately, I want to start by saying that every one of these female characters have been sexually assaulted on the show.  Every. One.  Polly was forced into sex with the aforementioned mustache-twirling douche in exchange for freeing her son from prison, Ada was nearly gang-raped, and Grace was nearly raped.  There’s also Lizzie, a minor character, prostitute-turned-secretary, who was assaulted and raped.  Just putting that out there.

 

POLLY SHELBY

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Things start out promisingly with Polly, played by the fabulous Helen McCrory.  She’s the boys’ aunt, the Peaky Blinders’ treasurer, and Tommy, trusts her more than anyone else. She’s shown to be competent, blunt, and no-nonsense.  Soon enough she shows vulnerability when she reveals to Ada that she had an abortion in her youth, for practical reasons.  Fine, fine – then came season two.

Suddenly, Polly, smart, competent, wise Polly, is going to charlatan fortune-tellers to try to find out what happened to her children, who were taken from her by the police when they were toddlers.  She’s emotional and erratic all the time.  Her entire plotline revolves around finding her children.  Finally, Tommy discovers that her daughter had died of an illness, but her son Michael is still alive.  Michael joins the Peaky Blinders and the show seems to be grooming him to be the next Tommy.

Like, how boring, to be honest.  First of all, Polly’s character is sacrificed to build up Michael, who’s your standard run-of-the-mill angsty teen.  Second, what a missed opportunity for an interesting female character! Imagine if it had been Polly’s daughter who had survived, and she had wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps within the Peaky Blinders? Trying to assert her authority as a woman in a male-dominated field?

When Michael is arrested, Polly is humiliated and forced into sex in order to free him. When he is released and realizes what she did, he shows zero gratitude and acts like an entitled ass.  Polly then tries to get him to leave town for his safety.  Then she shoots the dude who raped her.  Like, okay, first off, I’m really damn sick of this idea that it’s totally fine to have your female character be sexually assaulted in the worst way as long as she gets revenge after.  Like. No. Stop.  Rape isn’t the only trauma a woman can suffer and it is not the only way to make her interesting or show that she’s strong.

ADA SHELBY

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Ada Shelby is Tommy’s younger sister. In the first season, her story mostly revolves around her love interest, Freddie, a communist who used to be Tommy’s best friend. Tommy is against their relationship but when Ada is pregnant, Freddie marries her.

Ada is actually a pretty cool gal, which you would expect from someone who has grown up with a street gang.  She’s tough and and stubborn and takes no shit. One of her most defining moments comes in the season one finale, when the Peaky Blinders are about to face off against another gang in a shoot-out.  Ada walks right in the middle of this impending disaster with her baby in his stroller and basically shouts the men into standing down, thereby preventing a total bloodbath.  It’s incredible.

In the second season, for some inexplicable reason, Freddie has died of some illness. I’m not sure why their relationship was such a huge part of season one only to kill Freddie off-screen, but okay.  In this season, Ada is mostly used as leverage against Tommy by rival gangs. In one harrowing episode, as Tommy is beaten nearly to death, Ada is kidnapped by a group of men and nearly gang-raped, only to be rescued at the last minute by Peaky Blinders.  She’s tough about it and it doesn’t seem to affect her much, but like, why? Why was this necessary? We had just witnessed this gang literally carve Tommy’s tooth out of his mouth, did we really need this to show how ~vicious~ they are?

Though Ada does not feature as much as I would like her to, she is shown to be a budding communist with ties to the Soviets and some pretty interesting views on civil society. Honestly, I’d watch a spin-off with her as the main character. She is ten times more interesting than Arthur and John (her brothers, who feature ten times as much), and I’m frustrated that the show doesn’t know how to use her.

GRACE BURGESS

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Oh, Grace. Rarely have I seen a female character done such a disservice.

Things started off well – they started off fantastic, in fact! In the first season, Grace is first introduced as a young Irish immigrant seeking employment as a barmaid.  Soon enough, though, she is revealed to be a spy, working to infiltrate the Peaky Blinders and seeking revenge for her father’s murder. She’s kind of like the female Tommy; their similar personalities are uncanny and probably why they are immediately drawn to each other. They are both stoic, reserved, and tightly-wound, on the verge of exploding, which we see them both do.  She is unfortunately nearly raped by a gross gang boss because of a situation Tommy places her in, but he ends up rescuing her from the very mess he created.

Predictably, Grace ends up switching sides after falling in love with Tommy, though she does fulfill her mission.  She exits the season in a pretty  badass way, though, boarding a train to London after shooting the mustache-twirling villain as he tried to shoot her (for turning down his marriage proposal and sleeping with Tommy).

In the second season, Grace shows up in one or two episodes  She’s married to a banker from Poughkeepsie and they are having infertility problems. She has sex with Tommy and lo and behold, she’s pregnant.  Aside from how insulting it is that this is her only plotline this season, this is awful, rushed writing. Next, Grace has a weird territorial conversation with another woman Tommy is sleeping with that is frankly demeaning to both women’s intelligence. That’s it for Grace in season two.

And then the coup de grace: in the season three premiere, Grace and Tommy get married. Grace suddenly transforms from competent spy to worried, nagging, clingy, insecure wife. Then, in the second episode, she’s shot with a bullet meant for Tommy and dies.

I didn’t believe it at first.  When she was shot I rolled by eyes and thought, “Here we go, she’s gonna spend the next couple of episodes in a bed while Tommy sits next to her and weeps tears of manpain.” But then the next episode opened with the aftermath of her funeral and I had to pause the episode and simply sit there utterly flabbergasted.

First of all, what a complete waste of a brilliant character! Grace is smart and ruthless; she would have been incredible as Tommy’s wife and business partner. Second, I cannot believe that in this day and age a showrunner would bring back a female character only to fridge her for a male character’s manpain. Like, there was no reason for her to die except to create drama for Tommy. They didn’t even have the decency to have someone important kill her; she’s murdered by some two-bit rival gang that gets taken care of in the next episode.

What the hell happened? I’m angry and frustrated, but I’m mostly just tired.  I’m exhausted by how often I get my hopes up only to be let down by writers who clearly have no idea how to write women.  The writers of Peaky Blinders are basically telling us that they cannot fathom a woman whose life doesn’t revolve around either a man or her children and they have no interest in learning, seeing as there aren’t any female writers on the team.  I’m tired.  This is boring and amateur and I’m so exhausted by shows that do the bare minimum with female characters getting massive praise heaped on them.

I’ve put Peaky Blinders on pause for now.  I’m only on the third episode of the third season, but I highly doubt I’m going to pick it up again.

Has anyone watched Peaky Blinders? What are your thoughts?

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The End of the Year Book Tag

Saw this on Rachel‘s blog!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Well…not this year, but there is a book that I started one or two (or three) years ago that I still need to finish.  It’s The World Since 1945 by T.E. Vadney and it’s a really, really good historical overview of world events with a focus on the Third World.  I read like half of it and really enjoyed it but it’s also straight-up history so it does get a little dry.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

I don’t usually do this seasonal reading thing, but this year I thought I might read Rebecca for the month of October! Since it’s supposed to be ~atmospheric~ and all. But I also need to read The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin before the end of October because I’m going to the Sirens Conference in Colorado and she’s the keynote speaker! Not that I think she’ll spoil her book, but I’m sure there will be people in attendance keen to discuss it.  All  this, of course, is if I finish reading War and Peace, Little and Lion, and The Library of Fates by the end of September.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

What am I not waiting for, honestly? There are so many great books coming out. I’m especially looking forward to Madeline Miller’s Circe, Fonda Lee’s Jade City, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, and Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns.  There’s way, way more, but those are the ones that stick out.  (A couple of these come out next year, but alas.)

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

So I mentioned Rebecca, there’s that.  Oddly enough, I also really want to read Wuthering Heights.  Maybe that can be one of my November books.  I’ve also heard great things about Amanda Foody’s Daughter of the Burning City so I want to get my hands on that.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

I have read so many great books this year, from Saints and Misfits to The City of Brass that I think it will be difficult for another book to top them, but we’ll see!

Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

Nope! I don’t really plan out my reading schedule far in advance.  At most I have a sense of the next 3-4 books I want to read, but otherwise I just generally go by my mood.  The only thing I know is that I want to continue expanding my horizons.  Reading War and Peace was something I never thought I would do in my lifetime, and yet here I am, 60% of the way through and on my way to finishing! It was certainly not as daunting as I thought.  So I want to read more classic literature, mainly by women.  There are also some authors I keep seeing that I hope to get into, like Aliette de Bodard and Kate Elliot.

Go for this, y’all! Pingback to me if you do this.

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Stage Corner: War Paint

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Yesterday I entered the War Paint lottery on a whim, since I was entering a bunch of other lotteries, and I didn’t really expect to win. I didn’t even know what the show was about when I put my name in. I think I had some vague notions of an actual war, but that is not what this show is about at all.  It is in fact using “war paint” as a euphemism for makeup to tell the story of rivals Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.

Historically speaking, this was an intriguing story.  I had no idea Arden had had any kind of rivalry with anyone, and I’d never even heard of Rubinstein (apparently what was left of her company ended up being owned by L’Oreal).  According to the Playbill, the show tried to be as historically accurate as possible, with the exception of a condensed timeline, and so it was fascinating to witness the rise and fall of these two giants of industry.

What was not fascinating was the musical itself.  The music carried certain hints and flavors of 40s tunes that I like, but otherwise it was forgettable and uninspired.  I don’t think there’s a single song that has stuck with me (I mean, maybe Fire and Ice?).  Staging was quite basic as well.

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden did fine, though she didn’t wow me.  I did very much enjoy Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein, however.  She was given most of the comedic lines, which she delivered fantastically.  I actually found myself much more invested in the spoken dialogue than in any of the music.  John Dossett and Douglas Sills as Tommy Lewis and Harry Fleming were practically indistinguishable, though perhaps that was intentional.  The rest of this small cast didn’t have very much to do, so there were no particular standouts.

And, not to go into some heavy discourse here, but the hodgepodge mix of varying feminisms was somewhat jarring.  Makeup was praised “war paint” and talked about as if it was the one thing that could raise a woman up.  “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones,” Helena Rubinstein famously said.  In the show Rubinstein also muses on her own unusual beauty: her dark hair, her Slavic nose, and insists this is what makes her unique. In one touching moment, she reads a letter from a girl who wonders why she is still ugly after using makeup.  Arden and Rubinstein also frequently muse on their roles as women in a man’s world.  Through it all runs the thread of makeup as empowering and improving lives.

Then, at the very end of the show, when Arden and Rubinstein finally talk to each other, Arden wonders, “Did we free [women] or enslave them?” Yet this throwaway line, sung somewhat abruptly in the final song, feels like an afterthought, tossed in just to satisfy those who might raise issue with the portrayal of makeup.  It is certainly never given appropriate weight, or even appropriate time.  One the one hand I understand this decision given that the story is, after all, about two women who pioneered the makeup industry.  On the other hand, if that line about enslaving women was going to be included, I would have liked to have seen some more foreshadowing of it throughout the rest of the show.

Overall, I didn’t love this, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I certainly enjoyed the show as a learning experience and Patti Lupone is a master at delivering comedic beats.  But would I recommend it? Not really.