It’s that time again! Amazing how fast the time flies, but once more, it’s time for another Culture Consumption. As always, I’ll post a list of what I’ve read/watched over the past month, and in some cases, provide some commentary. If there’s anything you’re interested in or curious about, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments, and I’ll be happy to talk further!
May was a better month than April, when it comes to reading. Granted, it still sucks in comparison to my old productivity, but given all the stuff on my plate, I’ll take it. A head’s up: June will likely be filled with a lot of Hugo-nominated works, as the Hugo Voter’s Packet is now available and given how slowly I’m getting around to things lately, I’m gonna have to get some reading done. 🙂 But I’m happy enough for May’s results, especially on the television side of things, I finally finished watching Breaking Bad and True Detective, so let’s dig in!
CULTURE CONSUMPTION: May 2014
My goal for 2014 is essentially one book a week. I failed this goal in May, as I only got through three actual books, but because Goodreads counts stories/novelettes/novellas as books as well, I’m 7 ahead of schedule! I’ll take it. 🙂
16) Before & Afterlives by Christopher Barzak: I’ve very much enjoyed the novels I’ve read by Barzak, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this short fiction collection, which does not disappoint. While there is something to be said about being in the right emotional frame for reading these tales, most of them really hit home and hooked me right in the heart, all the while telling each tale with a beautiful, lyrical style. “Dead Letters” and “Map of Seventeen” really stood out as special to me, as did “The Language of Moths.” As always, I look forward to reading more from this author. (Short Fiction/Fantasy)
17) The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer: I’ve been wanting to read this ever since it was released, but for whatever reason, never got my hands on it. Paperback Swap finally delivered it into my waiting hands, so I was thrilled to start reading right away. The end result was mixed: while I still liked the premise, I found myself not as engaged as I wanted to be with the story, despite the story moving along at a solidly fast pace. It’s definitely a debut, and it’s promising at that in a lot of areas, but it just didn’t meet my expectations. That’s okay: I’ll be happy to read more from her in the future. (Horror)
18) Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire: as you’ll notice in the Short Fiction section, I went on a bit of a Seanan McGuire kick this month. Sparrow Hill Road was quite enjoyable, a collection of stories that firmly placed me into a new perspective of McGuire’s InCryptid series, grounding me to a character who was quite likable. All the various types of ghosts, the rules for what they could and could not do, and Rose’s personal struggles, even after death, were quite engaging. If I have any complaint it would be about some of the repetition that’s found from story to story in terms of setting and describing what things are and how the ghost roads work, but that being said, it’s symptomatic of how the stories were written originally. It’s a book that allows the reader to pick his/her own pace: you can read one story at a time and read other stuff to space those stories out, or you can binge on them, like I did. It’s a good read, and I’m looking forward to a sequel (there better be a sequel, damn it). (Urban/Dark Fantasy)
4) Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi: This is a solid story/prequel/introduction to Scalzi’s upcoming novel, Lock In. It’s the kind of story that can be read on its own, without the necessity of reading the book to get a sense of completion. It’s one of those stories that provides fascinating background and will likely make experience of reading the book richer for having it under your belt, but I haven’t read the book yet, obviously, so we’ll see. That said, the story definitely whet my appetite and has me looking forward to seeing the society that’s come out of this story, told in excerpts of interviews and the like. It’s a fast, engaging read, and it’s available for free on Tor.com. (Science Fiction)
5) Black as Blood by Seanan McGuire: I’ve had this waiting for ages, and I had the urge to clear some short fiction off of my Kindle, so I gave it go, and found myself utterly entertained. Told from the POV of Istas, who readers have met in the InCrytid series, I found myself tearing through this story of when Istas meets her boyfriend’s family and all the WTH-ery that comes with it. If you’re a fan of the Verity books and Istas in particular, you can download this tale off of McGuire’s website for free. It’s worth it. (Urban Fantasy)
6) Blocked by Seanan McGuire: And here’s another tale set in McGuire’s InCryptid universe, this time featuring Antimony Price, Verity’s and Alex’s little sister. And it rocked. I quite like how different a character Antimony is from Verity and Alex, and yet how easily she fit into that world. I know McGuire’s planning on a book or two featuring her, and after reading this, I’m quite looking forward to that. This tale available for free on McGuire’s website. (Urban Fantasy)
7) The Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Seanan McGuire: Last McGuire story, I promise! This InCryptid story brings me back to Verity, a tale that takes place concurrently with Half-Off Ragnarok, which came out earlier this year. Probably best to read this AFTER that book, but if you don’t, you’re not spoiling TOO much, but you will spoil yourself a little. It’s a great tale, one that introduced me to “Aunt Rose,” which prompted me to read Sparrow Hill Road right after. Again, if you’re a fan of the series, you don’t want to miss out. And once again, this story is available for free on McGuire’s website. (Urban Fantasy)
8) The Insects of Love by Genevieve Valentine: The art caught my eye here, I have to say. As did the promise of multiple realities, so I settled down to read it, and I found myself perplexed. It’s an interesting story, well-written, but it’s one that begs multiple readings to see how all of the pieces fit together. Fortunately, I can read it as often as I want, as it’s free on Tor.com. (Science Fantasy)
Graphic novels first:
3) Fables: Deluxe Edition: Book 7 by Bill Willingham: This has been in my TBR for ages, and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long, Regardless, I’m glad to have finally gotten around to it. There’s some great arcs here, and if you’ve been a fan of the series to date, this collection won’t steer you wrong. I just wish the hardcovers would come out faster so I’d be better caught up on the series!
Last month, I got through a giant pile of comics, which meant in May, I let another pile build up, which means I’ll likely be playing catch-up in June. I really need to consider cutting some titles out, I swear. However, there’s stuff to drool over: Saga is back and Chapter 19 ended in a way that had me shouting. Batman Eternal is starting to get a wee bit unwieldy, but it’s still interesting, so that’s continuing. Lazarus remains awesome and compelling, and The Walking Dead started a new chapter, one that’s promising so far.
American Vampire: Second Cycle #3
Batgirl Annual #2
Batman Eternal #4
Batman Eternal #5
Batman Eternal #6
Batman Eternal #7
Harley Quinn #5
Saga: Chapter Nineteen
Star Wars Legacy #13
Star Wars Legacy #14
The Manhattan Projects #20
The Massive #22
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #2
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #3
The Unwritten: Apocalypse #4
The Wake #8
The Walking Dead #127
Wonder Woman #30
The Amazing Spider-Man 2: I really enjoyed it as I watched it: it didn’t feel nearly as stuffed to the gills that the trailer promised it would be, and I’m still charmed by Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker. But the movie wasn’t perfect: I think Electro could’ve been written in a more compelling manner (though I liked Jamie Foxx in the role), and I wish they’d been braver regarding Gwen Stacey and her role in the story. Emma Watson did a fantastic job though, so there is that.
Godzilla: I’ve not seen any of the movies that came before, and this was enjoyable enough. I’m not really a monster-movie-loving girl, though there’s movies that the franchise has clearly influenced (Jurassic Park, Pacific Rim) that I enjoyed far more (probably because there was a stronger story in those latter movies). This Godzilla had some great things to offer: Bryan Cranston, the HALO jump, and Godzilla swimming, and a few moments between Godzilla and our hero Ford. But I grumbled quite a bit too, namely because I felt stupid things were happening in order to serve the plot, and that’s always frustrating. Still, it was a fun way to wile away an afternoon.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: so let’s be clear here: my experience with this franchise begins and ends with the movies (the good, the bad, and the ugly). I’ve never read the comics, nor have I really wanted to: it’s such a decades-long spanning franchise that’s spawned multiple series and spin-offs that I wouldn’t know where to start and frankly, I want to keep it with the movies, you know? I was glad that Bryan Singer was back, glad to see a tale that connected the movies I knew and loved (before Singer left movie #3 in the hands Brett Ratner, and I still won’t forgive Singer for that) with the X-Men: First Class, which was a lot of fun and brought its own boatload of talent. And this movie is enjoyable. It’s just…. problematic upon reflection. Mystique’s the only girl that’s got any TRUE screen time in the past (which makes up the crux and the majority of the movie), and while I didn’t wholly mind the story hinging on her and her decisions, I did mind the way the focus was all on the dudes and what they could do to handle her. That there wasn’t a single female mutant other than Mystique in the past is just frustrating, even though I like all the characters we got. Quicksilver? Fucking awesome, but under-utilized (how much shorter would this movie have been if they’d used him to handle everything? Seriously!). I even liked the very end and what it means for the past movies as well as the stories going forward. Sure, there’s some head-scratching continuity involved, but I’m down with it so long as the writers don’t squander the opportunity. I just want the women to be more in the forefront, and stop making the focus all about the dudes, no matter how lovable those dudes are to the fandom.
Just one, because television was where my time was at:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: delightful and surprisingly funny in parts. There’s not a bad moment in this movie, and it’s acted so well. Cinematically beautiful, and a definite feel-good film.
And here we go! Pretty much all of my fall/spring shows finished wrapping up in May, and that gave us time to start streaming shows we wanted to catch up on. Please note: any article I link to will likely have spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t click.
Here we go, in alphabetical order:
The Big Bang Theory, season 7: I enjoy this show. Lots of people don’t, and that’s fine. I find it a fun way to wile away 30 minutes and I adore Bernadette, so any chance to see what kind of mischief she’ll get up to is time well-spent. It’s been a good season, one that provided some serious growth for all the characters except Howard and Bernadette, which I’ll forgive because those two, especially Howard, have been growing like gang-busters over the past few seasons. But Sheldon took not just one, but two MAJOR and SERIOUS steps, which was exciting to watch, and Leonard and Penny are taking steps that are long overdue. The show’s been renewed for two more seasons, and at this point, I feel like that may one season too many, but I’m still on board. Like I said, I enjoy the show.
Breaking Bad, seasons 4 & 5: freaking phenomenal. Sure, there may have been a few points during the entire run of the series that weren’t up to par, but this show, on the whole, is the most consistently well-done show I’ve ever seen. It’s a fascinating character study, utterly compelling even in its most quiet moments, and not a single character is perfect. It was hard, towards the end, to know what I really wanted out of the show, but what I got wasn’t disappointing. If you haven’t watched this show yet and if you have Netflix streaming, make it happen. It’s fantastic.
Continuum, season 2: I saw the first episode of this season last year before we cut the chord, so I was glad to finally get back to it on Netflix. While I had a little trouble remembering what had happened in the previous season (and the season two premiere), once I got caught up, I was engaged. This near-future SF drama explores quite a few compelling questions, and Rachel Nichols, who I’ve loved since her days on Alias, is a great heroine who’s strong when she has to be but still vulnerable. Sometimes the writers don’t write as subtly as they should, but it’s a rocking show, and I look forward to the day when season three is available on Netflix.
Hannibal, season 2: Fucking hell, THIS SHOW. If you put a gun to my head or a knife to my gut and said of all the shows I watched in the 2013-2014 season, I could only watch ONE, I would pick Hannibal hands down. It’s artistic. It’s well-acted. It’s creepy and compelling and thrilling and fascinating. It ended with such a bang that if the show hadn’t been renewed for season three, I’d still be curled up in a fetal position crying my eyes out, the finale was THAT amazing and jaw-dropping and, well, there’s a reason people who write the recaps are telling themselves and others to just breathe.
What’s even more fascinating about this show is the comparisons that can be made to True Detective, HBO’s break-out hit. I read Hannibal’s Feminist Take on Horror before I saw True Detective (and before Hannibal engaged in some rather problematic story lines for its female characters), and I think the article still stands in the way each show presents horror and what’s allowed to STAND as horror. There are, of course, all kinds of horror in this world, but I couldn’t help but watch the pilot of True Detective and think that at least somebody on that team is a Fannibal. But whatever comparisons you want to make (good, bad, and ugly), I think it’s fair to say that if you loved True Detective, you should get your hands on season one of Hannibal and see what it has to offer. They’re very different shows with similar DNA, and to make a comparison to another critically acclaimed and well-loved show, there’s a reason why Alex Brown at Tor.com said that “Season 2 was a remarkable feat of television. Save a few minor missteps, the season was easily some of the best television of 2013-2014. Verily, it is the Breaking Bad of NBC.”
Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 1: This is a show I was really looking forward to before it aired, that ended up being mostly a dud until Captain America: Winter Soldier aired and allowed the story to be told properly. There’s been a lot of discussion and criticism about this show, and pretty much all of it is spot-on. Coulson was the only thing holding this show together from the start, and it took a long time for the cast to gel in such a way that I really cared about the whole group and not just certain individuals as certain times. Most of the show’s villain-of-the-week format kept it from being must-watch television, and the way Lorelei was utilized in “Yes Men” was horribly frustrating, and that was on top of bad writing (sending a team after Lorelei that has men on it? STUPID). The Mary Sue has what would’ve been a fantastic fix for the problematic elements of that episode that you can read here, and I’m going to move on. After Winter Soldier, things got interesting, and in some cases, great. The finale was a lot of fun and raised questions that made me want to tune for season two. I also ended up really loving the way our female characters ended up being portrayed by time the show was over (mostly, not always), and I hope the show continues its way to self-improvement. It has so much potential. And please, keep Trip.
Modern Family, season 5: While sometimes episodes of this show feel like they can be mixed and matched in any of its seasons, Season 5 did seem some interesting growth and progress for the characters. Particularly Haley, who’s starting to grow up and actually has a semblance of a plan for her future and currently has the most interesting potential love story on the show. I also loved how getting married affected Cam and Mitchell, though I wish that storyline had been in the forefront a wee bit more during the season, though the two-part finale was just lovely for the way it wrapped that up. Modern Family is a great show for the way it combines so many different kinds of humor, and it’s still a joy for me to watch.
New Girl, season 3: it’s a fun comedy, though I have to say, it’s not my favorite. The strongest element of the show is when the entire cast gets to showcase their own special brand of crazy, which is an improvement from the original episodes of the show, when it was just Jess showcasing her special brand of crazy. It’s fun, and we saw some growth in some of the characters and a welcome return of Coach, who appeared in the pilot and left the series due to another show. The Nick/Jess storyline is still perplexing me, but I’m not so invested in it that I care which way it goes. The best part of the season was Ferguson, who needed to show up far more often than he did.
Once Upon a Time, season 3: It was an oddly structured season. A good one, to be sure: the first half was self-contained, and the second half was self-contained, but the stories were so unrelated to each other (save for the setting and characters, of course), that I felt I saw two seasons instead of just one. The first half was focused on Neverland and the search for Henry. I wasn’t a big fan of this storyline, not because of the stuff we got, which was good — Emma’s growth and understanding of who she really is, the discovery of what’s REALLY going on with Rumple’s father, and of course, HOOK — but the setting itself. I didn’t care for it nor the whole Lost Boys, which weren’t utilized as well as they could be. However, the first half the season brought me Ariel, whom I adored. Yay, Ariel!
The second half of the season was all about a new villain: the Wicked Witch of the West, played with delightfully wicked glee by Rebecca Mader, who some fans may recognize from Lost. I liked a lot about this, especially some revelations about Regina’s and Snow’s histories, but I groaned every time the writers saw fit to have Mader use the word “wicked” like it was some subtle wink to the Broadway show or something. It wasn’t subtle, but then, what is on this show? This second half was more compelling than the first for lots of reasons, but going into them would be spoilerific and I won’t do that to you. Suffice to say, BIG THINGS HAPPENED and it moved the show along quite nicely. The parting shot was pretty awesome as well: I can’t wait to see how this new character will change things for Storybrooke, though I have to say I’m more interested in Regina’s arc: I really, really hope the events of the finale don’t undo all the work that’s been done on her character. That would be so disappointing.
True Detective, season 1: after finishing Breaking Bad, the hubby and I binged on this show over the weekend, and it was as compelling and dark and as twisted as promised. Utterly well acted, written, shot: it’s gonna be awards-bait when nominations are announced. The two heroes are utterly flawed and fascinating for those flaws and how those flaws manifest in the case they’re struggling to solve. At eight episodes, this is a show that’s easy to get through, though depending on your tolerance, you may need a breather between episodes. It’s heavy, dark, philosophical stuff.
Vikings, season 2: this show is one of those shows you don’t realize how good it really is. And it’s good, really good. The parting shot in the finale was just wonderfully breathtaking, promising all kinds of epic adventure for season three. Some people call this show Game of Thrones-lite, which I think is doing the show a horrible disservice: it knows when nudity is necessary (which, head’s up, it isn’t), but it’s just as bloody and political as GoT. No, there’s no fantasy elements, but the way the Vikings refer and interact in their faith is done in such a way that it lends a surreal, fantastic quality to a show that’s otherwise very grounded in reality. It’s got great characters, great female characters (I want to be Lagertha for Halloween. She. Is. AWESOME.), and it’s just compelling.
That’s it from me! Also, feel free to share whatever 2014 stats you’ve got! How many books? How many movies? What were your favorites? Lay them on me!