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Wrap-Up Post: April 2020

  • The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (★★★☆☆)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (★★★★★)
  • The Silence of Bones by June Hur (★★★★☆)
  • The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker (★★★☆☆)
  • Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore (★★☆☆☆)
  • The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson (★★★★★)
  • You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle (★★★★★)
  • Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (★★★★★)
  • The Swap by Robyn Harding  (★★★★☆)
  • The Vampire Memoirs by Traci Briery (★★☆☆☆)
  • If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (★★★★☆)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (★★★☆☆)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 12
YEARLY SO FAR: 47

So I’m still reading pretty well, obviously! A lot of folks have been saying they’re struggling to read during these coronatimes, but I’m finding that it’s having the opposite effect on me; I am consuming content like a fiend. I completely failed on my OWLS Readathon goals, though. Out of 8 books, I read 3, DNF’d 1, and decided to put one aside for later after starting it. I’ve become pretty liberal about DNFing (I think I DNF’d 3 books this month?), which I’m content with.

I got to a bit more ARCs this month, with mixed results. I was very disappointed with The Year of the Witching, which felt like standard YA fodder complete with the Inexplicable Heterosexual Romance that I so despite. On the bright side, I loved The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue; reading it was a breath of fresh air both for my reading as well as my writing output. In fact, reading Addie LaRue is what compelled me to turn my novella into a novel (more on that below). I also picked up The Bird King on a whim, because I was in the mood for historical fiction, and man oh man, how I loved it; it was such a powerful read featuring Islamic history and culture, and I really clicked with it.

I also really loved You Deserve Each Other, which ??? A romance??? Me??? This was especially surprising to me since I had just finished Bringing Down the Duke and to my utter disappointment, had a ton of issues with what is basically a misogynistic, gender essentialist screed masquerading as feminism. But You Deserve Each Other was just pure, good, wholesome content.

The most random book on here is The Vampire Memoirs, which is a book I read as vampire-obsessed teen. I remembered really enjoying it when I was younger, so I actually went out and bought a used copy, but…it did not hold up. Not because it’s about vampires – it’s just a terribly written book.

I am currently reading:

I’m enjoying all of these to varying degrees. Winter Be My Shield is a random fantasy novel that I started because someone I follow on Goodreads kept making these interesting updates about it; so far it’s pretty good. A History of God is a pretty dense tome all about the history of the Abrahamic religions, and it’s got a very philosophical bent. It’s very interesting, but I started it in mid-March and I’m only about 80 pages in because it just takes up a lot of my cognitive space, so I’m reading it slowly. All the Single Ladies is a much more readable non-fiction, but sadly isn’t as interesting; it feels a bit like I’m reading a really long Refinery29 article, which is fine, I guess. I’ll probably read it in short bursts over the month.

I have no TBR, really, and have resolved that now is the ultimate time for mood reading. I think I want to read more high fantasy and historical fiction than realistic fiction!


Television Update

unforgotten

Unforgotten

I didn’t think I would like this show so much, since it’s about cold cases, but I absolutely loved it. It’s gorgeously shot and brilliantly woven.The two lead detectives are relatively normal people, which I enjoy – I don’t like when detectives are overly flawed or overly saintly. In this case, both detectives are ordinary, likable, and sympathetic. In each season there is a strong focus on the side characters involved in the case being investigated; the show takes the time to humanize them as well. 

I liked that this show isn’t afraid to delve into thorny topics, but unlike another show that I will discuss below, it never feels exploitative, and in fact focuses heavily on the victims. The cases explore various issues and topics: racism, homophobia, child abuse, rape, mental illness, serial killers, but it never felt like any of these things weren’t given proper gravitas and respect.

***

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 2.15.52 AM

The Pale Horse

This is Sarah Phelps’ third adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel. I’ve not read the original novel, so I can only talk about the merits of the show (well, it’s only two 1-hour episodes, so it’s more of a film broken up into two parts). It centers around a man named Mark, who is astonishingly unlikable, driven by a toxic combination of selfishness, self-satisfaction, and an oily ability to escape consequences. He’s a serial cheater and a gaslighting asshole with his wife, too. The crux of the show is Mark’s efforts to figure out whether he has in fact been cursed by witches to die. The show plays heavily with whether this supernatural element is real or fictitious, as Mark grows more despicable the more desperate he becomes.

The production values are astonishingly good; the show is delightfully eerie and Gothic and just, well, witchy, with doses of good old folk horror in the form of bizarre pagan parades in the countryside. Then there’s the plastic sheen of the 1960s; the shots of Mark’s young wife, Hermia, in impeccable dress, heels, and nails as she cooks dinner are so emblematic of the era that they almost seem satirical (and probably are). The show culminates in a satisfying reveal that ties up all loose ends up but leaves us with the tantalizing taste of comeuppance for those who deserve it.

***

dci banks

DCI Banks: Season 1

I really hate this show. But such is my obsession with British crime dramas that I’m probably going to keep watching anyway.

On its face, this is exactly the kind of drama I would go for. It’s a British police procedural with very dark cases (the first episode alone features a serial killer and rapist who engages in torture and ritual strangulation, and really, where can you go from there?). But there’s something about it that makes my skin crawl. It’s just dark in a way that’s far too sordid, I think, almost gratuitous. I also really, really hate the character archetype of the Good White Cop who is just such a Good Man and is tormented by the young blonde virginal girls he was unable to save (the man literally has visions of dead blonde girls playing to sad music). And there’s even a scene where Banks slaps a suspect for saying something racist to his colleague, only to reveal that the suspect isn’t racist at all, but deliberately trying to provoke them – in other words, a scene included only to hammer in just how much of a good person Banks is.

It’s so on the nose, so extra. Twice now DCI Banks has used spirited and melodramatic speeches to get people to confess to something, which is is terrible mainly because impassioned speeches are usually just embarrassing, but also because DCI Banks is a charisma vacuum, so I don’t get why he’s compelling to anyone. Usually British crime shows feel a bit more elevated than American ones, but this one feels like Law and Order SVU’s British cousin. Why is it that the one time I find a British crime drama with more than eight episodes (there’s 32!), I can’t stand it?


Film Update

I’m so pleased to have finally watched this trio of films! They all came out around the same time and there was so much hype surrounding them. I finally made myself sit down and watch them all.

+ Parasite: This was SUBLIME. It’s at once a heist film, a dark comedy, a scathing critique of capitalism, and a dark thriller. It’s brilliant and tragic and hilarious and sad and I’m so happy it won Best Picture.

+ Ready or Not: I mean, this was just straight-up pulp, and I love pulp. It was gory and bloody and a little bit ridiculous but in a good way, and the ending was absolutely explosive.

+ Knives Out: Ohhh, the subversiveness. It’s hard to talk about Knives Out without spoiling some of the major twists, but suffice it to say I loved this film’s critique of capitalism and whiteness. Chris Evans playing against type was a delight, as was Daniel Craig playing a Southern inspector with a delectably thick Southern accent.


Miscellaneous

+ Last year, I finished a novella that came up to around 27K words in its first draft. This month, it decided it wanted to turn into a novel. A bizarrely structured novel, but a novel nonetheless. It’s a tiny bit inspired by Melmoth the Wanderer, only without the Faustian deal, which means that I’m writing a novel taking place over a significant period of time: about 1500 years, to be exact. This has meant conducting an astonishing amount of historical research, but it’s actually been super fun! I was a history major after all; I love reading about history! I’ve learned so many interesting tidbits about various eras. The writing is slow going, because the project is ambitious and mentally taxing, but it’s going.

+ I discovered a fantasy content creator on YouTube: Daniel Greene. He’s apparently very famous and I am, as usual, very late to the game. I really enjoy that he talks almost exclusively about adult fantasy, as I find that most Booktubers who talk fantasy tend to lean heavily towards YA, which I am slowly shifting away from. Unfortunately, though, his tastes tend to lean towards the big, white, male franchises that aren’t really great with their representation of women, but the way Greene discusses the epic nature of these stories is encouraging me to at least try them out, at least to get a taste of the worldbuilding.

+ I’ve officially come off the keto diet. Mainly, it was a practical thing; NYC is coming up on its second month of quarantine, and…grocery stores aren’t exactly fully stocked. Not to mention that it’s not feasible to be going out every day to be buying fresh vegetables. It’s just far more pragmatic to eat whatever is easiest to acquire and make. I am definitely feeling the pain of the switch, though. I was on keto for about seven months, and, man, do I miss how good I felt on it! Ever since I went off, every single day I have heartburn, indigestion, and bloating. It’s a nightmare. 

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