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Wrap-Up: July 2018

  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (★★★★★)
  • Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange (★★★☆☆)
  • The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding (★★★☆☆)
  • Illusion by Paula Volsky (★★★★☆)
  • The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman (★★★★☆)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 5
YEARLY SO FAR: 59

When July started, I had two very specific reading goals:

  1. Do not read too much.
  2. Do not read YA.

My first goal came after I felt overwhelmed with reading these past few months. I felt like I was reading way too much, not giving myself enough time to savor books, and it was beginning to feel kind of like a job. I also was not giving myself time to explore my other interests, namely television or lying around listlessly (yes, that counts). So, for this month, I would only read when commuting and when I really, really wanted to, not when I felt like I had to. Giving myself that space to breathe was wonderful. (Then again, two of these books were over five hundred pages long, and one was nearly seven hundred, so…yeah.)

My second goal came on the heels of last month, where seven out of the ten books I read were YA. I was starting to feel really frustrated with the various tropes present in YA fantasy in particular, the same old recycled plots…they all just started to feel very stale. But YA fantasy is my comfort genre, and I never want to reach a point where I never reach for it at all! So I decided it might be a good idea to take a break until I start to miss it again. This will also give me a chance to explore more books in different genres, which I did this month!

I am currently reading:

Last weekend I read like…thirty more pages of Jane Eyre (*sobs*). I’m getting there! I’m going to force myself to finish in August because this is getting out of hand. I’ve been reading this book since March. Unbelievable. A Place For Us is not as good as I was expecting it to be – I don’t hate it, but I probably won’t finish it as quickly as I want to. Not That Bad is so far as fantastic as I knew it would be, and I’m having to slow myself down in reading it so I can savor it (and so I don’t get all the essays mixed up in my head!).

Mini Life Update: July was a happy month, mainly because I was the recipient of two scholarships that will help me pay for grad school! This is just…incredible because not only are the scholarships prestigious but they just lifted a huge financial burden off my shoulders. I will also get paid trips to Seattle, DC, and an as-of-yet unknown location!

Currently I’m super busy with my summer class, which is ridiculously fast-paced, and I’m putting the finishing touches on my Fulbright application, which is due September 7th. I’m also preparing to enter #DVpit in October! My manuscript is pretty much finished; it needs one more full revision and it’ll be good to go. I’ve written a query letter and am starting to work on Twitter pitches. I want to be done with all this stuff before September, because I’m going to be heading to Egypt for two weeks!

Mini TV Update: I caught up on second season of Daredevil and will probably watch either The Punisher or the second season of Jessica Jones next. I’m also looking forward to the second season of Harlots, which was one of my favorite shows last year; it’s airing on Hulu right now but I think I’m going to wait until it’s all aired so I can binge it like I did the first season. I also want to catch up on the latest seasons of iZombie (which is so far not great), Supernatural (which is pretty awful this season), Agents of Shield, and The Fosters (it’s the last season, unfortunately). I’m also watching The Bold Type, which is the perfect summer show.

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Episode Review: Supernatural 11×22 & 11×23

My beautiful, terrible, trash show. When will I be free of you?

These episodes continued to emphasize the dynamic of Lucifer and God as just a regular ol’ Pop and disgruntled teen. Ridiculous though it may have been, I can’t deny it was amusing to watch Sam and Dean try to work things out between the pair of them. Lucifer holing himself up in “his room” and blasting rock music was a hilarious scene.

Sadly, this episode introduced a super cool and interesting black witch, Clia, only to kill her off. Her conversation with Rowena (the first time this show has passed the Bechdel test in a long, long time) was one of the most engaging and well-written parts of the episode. It’s my own fault that I keep getting my hopes up for this show to actually step outside the box and engage with some diversity. That’s my bad. I need to lower my expectations.

Anyway, the introduction of Clia also confused me, with regards to just how this whole religions/Gods thing actually works. So, Clia is a Pagan, and we’ve seen Pagan Gods on this show before. Are all the Pagan Gods children of Chuck? Do they rule together? Do they share creation? How does any of this work?

In any case, these episodes weren’t terrible; they wrapped up the problem nicely, without requiring either of the Winchester boys to die yet again. There were some anti-climactic moments (God’s death that wasn’t a death, Dean making requests for his funeral and then not dying) but they worked well; generally, I’m not opposed to anti-climactic scenes as long as they fit within the narrative. I think this fit. It was never clear what Amara was going for in the first place, but I think this makes sense. Now that she’s found peace, hopefully we can put this whole thing behind us.

Now, however, I think the show’s canon has clearly established the Winchester boys as Beyond Human. I think now the show can feel free to portray them as demi-Gods, even – they’re on first name basis with God himself, as well as his sister. Dean got the family back together. He could probably ask anything of them and they would give it to him. Case in point: Amara bringing Dean’s mother back from the dead.

I don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, it could be very, very cool, since Mary Winchester was a badass Hunter herself. On the other hand, I wouldn’t put it past this show to bring her back for a few episodes only to kill her off again for more Man Angst. Also, having Mary Winchester in the picture changes the dynamic of the show in a big way – it’s not the same kind of vibe when you’re road tripping with your mom. I just don’t know that the show needed to pull this huge stunt. With the introduction of the London chapter of the Men of Letters, they had enough meat to the plot without this.

As for Toni Bevell, well, I’ll keep my opinion to myself until I see how this develops. I doubt they’re setting her and her people up to be the Big Bad of Season 12; I’m sure they’ll only occupy a short episode arc, which will be fine. I’m not really all that enthusiastic about this, but like I said, I will refrain from passing judgement until I see how it plays out in full.

Finally, despite my complaints, this show’s comedy is still gold, and Crowley (oh how the mighty have fallen!) and Rowena are always brilliant together:

Rowena: “Oh God…”
Crowley: “Oh God.

Amazing.

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Episode Review: Supernatural 11×21

This episode tried to dig deep into a huge theological question.

Upon meeting God, Sam, ever the fanboy, rambles on and wonders whether his prayers “got lost in the spam.” Meanwhile, Dean broods in the corner, then confronts God about where the hell he’s been for the thousands of years humans have been suffering horribly. It’s the question all of us would want to ask of God, and the show chose to go with “over-parenting is enabling,” the answer that the Abrahamic religions have been touting for years.

It’s not a good look for God, and it’s certainly not a sympathetic answer for Chuck. Given the way he was presented throughout the rest of the episode, it makes me wonder what the writers are going for with regards to his characterization. He is normalized to the point of mockery, any cosmic greatness stripped from him as he sits in tube socks and boxers munching on unhealthy snacks. At that point, is he still the God of legend? When does God stop being “God”? Isn’t God’s greatness in his inscrutability? Shouldn’t he be untouchable? A being so great (not kind or good or beautiful, but great, awesome in his power) that humans can’t handle his presence?

Is that why the writers chose to go the Chuck route? If they were going to put God in the story (which I still think is a terrible idea, writing-wise, but I digress), did they realize there was no good way to incorporate him and maintain his greatness? Did they realize that humanizing him was the only way this plot wouldn’t completely implode?

And now “God” is just a regular person, with a weary walk and a dry wit and family problems (notice how touchy he was about Lucifer; his emotions are clouding his judgement), just like anyone else. I don’t know how to feel about this creative decision.

Anyway, moving on from the theological implications here, one of the things that distracted me in this episode was that, aside from Amara, there were no women. Literally not a single woman. The introduction of a new prophet was a great chance to include, say, a woman of color, but instead we got an old white dude. This is Supernatural’s problem again and again, and not just with casting, but with plot as well. They keep recycling tropes, plot lines, and characters. We’ve had the flustered old white man who provides silly comedic relief. How about a female black chemistry graduate student who reacts with dry disbelief? How about a queer Arab Muslim woman who is furious at God’s cavalier attitude and rashly gets in his face with no regard for her own well-being?

I know, I know, it’s futile to expect this kind of diversity from Supernatural, of all shows. But as a show that’s been on the air for eleven years, and that was just renewed for two seasons at once (an rare occurrence), it can afford to take those kinds of risks. It can step outside of the box, shake things up. Then again, why should I expect any of that from the white men who are running the show?

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

→ I will forever find it hilarious that Sam and Dean have the cell phone numbers of various supernatural beings. Like, just picture Dean exchanging phone numbers with Metatron for a second. How would that conversation even go? But I suppose it’s a necessary part of being a modern, present-day show about supernatural beings.

→ Speaking Metatron, like Dean, I wouldn’t have expected him to sacrifice himself. I don’t think he really believed that warding spell would actually work, as he didn’t seem too surprised when Amara stayed put.

→ Kevin! It was great to see him, but if we were going to go down that route, where the hell was Charlie?

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Episode Review: Supernatural 11×20

You know how the cardinal rule of writing is “Don’t put God in the story”? You know, literal deus ex machina and all that jazz? Because once you put God in the story, everything kind of becomes redundant. If God could just fix everything, why doesn’t he? What is the point of anything if there is a God?

I’m going to need some more material before I come to a conclusion about how I feel about Supernatural literally putting a face to God. My preliminary feeling is that they’ve done it as well as they could have, if they absolutely had to do it. I mean, if you’re going to put God in your story, you may as well make him a deist.

Because that’s what this is, right? An affirmation of deism? Not to get too theological here, but it looks like Chuck (I’m gonna call him Chuck) created the world, then took a step back and let things progress on their own, from nature to nacho cheese. It’s a stark contradiction of what religions like Christianity and Islam preach, which is that God created everything and is behind everything.

So. To get to the heart of the matter. Chuck is God. Well. Haven’t fans been predicting that since, what, season five? I never believed it; I always thought it was too easy. Then again, I never actually thought the writers would have God show up. I assumed he would continue to be MIA, a reflection of reality in a show that otherwise channels the supernatural on every level. But I suppose with the inclusion of Amara, God’s sister (!), there was no way to keep that up.

In any case, the reveal was kind of (a lot) anti-climactic. Dramatic irony was not the writers’ friend here. That said, the conversation between Chuck and Metatron then played out beautifully, in a give-and-take that makes God seem like a pretty ordinary guy – a reflection of his creations.

The best scene of the episode was, of course, the final one. Metatron extols the virtues of humanity, including that they never give up, just as we cut to Dean doing just that – not giving up on his brother. As the scene plays out to Chuck’s lovely rendition of “Fare Thee Well,” the fog fades, the dead are back to life, all is well, and Chuck appears to Sam and Dean – God appears to be finally showing his hand.

Miscellaneous Observations:

→ Even if spoilers hadn’t already let the cat out of the bag about Chuck being God, the gigantic “World’s Greatest Dad” mug sitting beside Chuck would have probably let me in on the secret before they revealed it. Nice one.

→ So, judging by Chuck’s song and everything he said about being sick of witnessing Amara destroy his creation, I would tentatively wager that he plans to sacrifice himself to get rid of Amara, leaving the universe truly God-less. It would make the most sense – if he’s the light to her dark and they’re two halves of a whole and all that, I doubt one can exist without the other. The other option is to seal Amara back up again, this time with the help of Sam, Dean, and Cas, but I just can’t see Supernatural continuing normally with God just existing in the background. Frankly, I’m not sure how it’s going to continue anyway, now that Sam and Dean have met freaking God. Man, I miss the days when this show was just monsters on the road.

→ It’s interesting that, though this series is generally very big on Judeo-Christian mythology, the creation story they’re going for here contradicts that. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I was raised Muslim, so I could be wrong), but there is no “darkness” in Christianity or Judaism nor does God have a sister.

→ It’s a testament to how much I dislike and distrust Metatron that my first thought upon seeing him with a dog was, “Don’t kill the dog! Please don’t kill the dog!”

→ That scene with Sam getting that baby girl out of the car was super adorable! I know Dean is the one who got to play father and who is usually shown good with kids, but I think we should fix that. More scenes with Sam being fatherly, please.

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Episode Review: Supernatural 11×19

This episode was a Creature of the Week, which is my favorite kind, and when Supernatural is at its best, in my opinion (I’ll get into how much I hate The Darkness plot in another review, I’m sure).

The episode begins with two young boys, who we quickly discover are a pair of brothers. Jessy, the younger brother is gay, and is warned by his older brother Matty not to make this known to the townspeople. The brothers share a heartwarming moment, reminiscent of Sam and Dean’s youth (which was likely the intent), and Matty promises Jessy that as soon as he turns eighteen, he’ll whisk them out of their conservative Colorado town.

I guess I should have known it wasn’t going to end well.

It’s Matty who is whisked off, and not by anyone with his best interests in mind, but by a monstrous, humanoid creature with glowing green eyes.

Flashforward to Sam and Dean in the Bunker, doing their usual “We’re Nowhere With This Season’s Main Villain So Let’s Go Hunt” routine. The boys go to small-town Colorado to investigate the strange disappearances that, as explained to them by Sheriff Tyson (Battlestar Galactica’s Kandyse McClure! I got very excited! But I wish she’d had a bigger role!), happen every twenty-seven years.

When Sam and Dean go exploring and run into “The Chitters” (so-called for the rattling noise they make), they are rescued by another pair of Hunters. It’s little Jessy, now a nearly forty-year old man, and his partner/husband, Cesar.

Maybe it’s because Supernatural has lowered my expectations to nothing but straight white men all the time, but I was very surprised (and happy!) to see an interracial gay couple on Supernatural! That’s a first for this show, isn’t it? Of course, then I spent the entire episode being terrified that either Jessy or Cesar would die, given what happened to Jenna at the start of this season, but they both survived, hallelujah! Not only that, they decided to ride off into the sunset to New Mexico to live peaceful, monster-free lives. Is this because Supernatural is learning from its mistakes and The 100’s mess, or because Jessy and Cesar are men? (Does the Kill Your Gays trope apply only to women?)

If I’m being honest, in the past two seasons Supernatural has been expanding its horizons in terms of diversity. Sure, this expansion has been slight and incremental, but hey, it’s something. Although, for Supernatural, becoming more diverse just means meeting the absolute bare minimum. I’ll take it for now, but you you gotta keep upping your game, Supernatural.

Altogether this was a decent episode, a lot less high stakes than usual, which was fine! The boys and Jessy and Cesar find the Chitters’ nest and Matty’s corpse. The nest is destroyed and Matty is given a Hunter’s funeral and all is well. Not much prolonged fighting either, which is always great.

The Creatures of the Week, the “Chitters”, were appropriately creepy and even bordered on disturbing. The sight of that nest, with the gestating women, to be discarded after being used as incubators, was utterly nightmarish. The idea of being taken over by a parasite to be a host for its young is terrifying. The guest actors were great, except for adult!Jessy, whose actor played the role strangely stiff and awkward.

And the final scene, with Sam and Dean driving away, a vista of green mountains in their wake? Road trips and weird creatures and small-town Americana, isn’t that what Supernatural is all about? (One of these days I’ll write a very convincing manifesto about this.)