Posts Tagged ‘watching’

March/April Media

01
May
2018

Collage of covers of books described in blog post

[Image shows clipped covers of books listed below]

I neglected to post at the end of March (I was a little distracted by my NEW BOOK DEAL) but here is some of the media I consumed in the past two months.

BOOKS
The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso (Adult Fantasy, trade paperback)
I actually read an earlier draft of this last year, but it just came out at the end of April and I know the final version is even better than what I read (which was, already full of adventure and magic and cool outfits and witchlords and friendship and my favorite new character) so I am including it here. I loved it so much I gave myself a TDH inspired manicure, pictured in the image above. Sadly my skills with freehand nail art as not as good as Melissa’s writing! But if you read the first in this series, do check out book 2. And if you haven’t read book 1, give that a go if you like fantasy adventure with a dollop of political intrigue,

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (Adult SFF Novella, ebook)
Last (that I know of) in a series of novellas full of wild and imaginative speculative elements, like space ships that are giant fish with lungs full of plants to create oxygen, and deadly jellyfish aliens, and a super cool protagonist whose journey has finally come full circle. Also math!

Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers (Adult Mystery, ebook)
I really like Harriet Vane and I was intrigued by the mystery (about a body that she finds along a deserted English shore, only to have it be washed out to see before anyone can properly investigate), but I was disappointed in the pervasive use of ethnic slurs. It is, perhaps, a product of its times (published in 1932) but that doesn’t make it more tolerable. I still may read the next in the series (Gaudy Nights) because I bought it already and I know it is a favorite of fans of the series, but right now I am not in a rush.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (Adult Romance, ebook)
An adorable and wonderful romance featuring a scientist main character who is romanced by an incognito African prince. I read this when I was in the mood for something fast and warm and sweet and funny and it was all those things and more.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA Fantasy, ebook)
Secondary world fantasy inspired by West African history/legend. I loved this and read it super-fast because I JUST HAD TO KNOW what would happen. I love the intense emotion, the visuals, the complicated character interactions, and the fascinating magic system. But augh, what a cliffhanger of an ending! Still, I highly recommend. This one definitely lives up to the hype for me. It’s also especially fun to read it knowing the author is an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan and see some of the echoes of that here.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (YA Fantasy, ebook)
Luscious and grotesque all at once, and rich with atmosphere. I found this a little challenging to get into but once I was in I sank deep. There is so much going on here, so many interesting questions here, and an interrogation of our society’s relationship with beauty and identity. I think this book may be both the most beautiful and the ugliest (in terms of what people do to each other and the twisted nature of the world portrayed) that I’ve read lately.

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman (YAish Graphic Novel)
A religious girl who also happens to be black and not straight (but also not out) goes to a Christian outdoors camp and grapples with her place there, her faith, and her identity. I was drawn to this mostly due to the sweet, engaging artwork, but the story inside kept me reading. I am still not entirely sure I understand the ending of this volume (there are more on the way, I think?) though!

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta (MG Fantasy, ebook)
A wonderfully funny and delightful middle grade fantasy featuring a contemporary girl from New Jersey discovering her connection to a fantastical realm inspired by Hindu mythology. I loved the main character Kiranmala! Such a great voice, and she felt really honest and true. I can imagine fans of Percy Jackson would love this.

I also read the drafts of two different fantasy novels for writer-friends that won’t be out until next year so I am not going to comment on them here, except to say I am lucky lucky lucky and have incredibly talented friends!

MOVIES
Pacific Rim Uprising
I enjoyed the spectacle and getting to see John Boyega do this thing as a Jaeger pilot, and the crop of new younger teen pilots in training, but I was sorely disappointed by how they handled Mako’s plotline. I am so curious whether it was because of limitations on the actresses’ time, or whether they seriously thought it was a good idea.

A Quiet Place
I loved this movie about a family surviving in the aftermath of what appears to be an alien invasion by monsters that are blind and hunt by sound. Amazing acting, incredible tension, gripping story. I did have to look away/cover my eyes a couple times because I couldn’t bear the suspense but it was worth it.

Avengers Infinity War
No spoilers: I enjoyed it quite a lot, particularly seeing the interactions between characters who had never met before. I was impressed by how they kept the story flowing even with that many different elements. Because of (spoilery) things that happened, though, I feel like until I see next years conclusion, I really can’t tell if I will ultimately love, hate, or something-in-between it. I suspect a certain thing will happen in next year’s movie, and if it does, I will be happy, but if it doesn’t (or is done in the wrong way) I may be very unhappy. That said, I am really excited to see Captain Marvel finally make her appearance in the universe!

GAMING
No full games completed, lately! My brother and I are thisclose to finishing Borderlands in coop mode, but not quite… Otherwise I’m still just wallowing in my love of Dragon Age Inquisition by continuing my replay. I did do the Descent DLC for the first time. I loved some of the imagery and a few of the side quests (Nug King!!!!) and the lore you learn and questions that are raised regarding the titans. But otherwise it was mostly just running around in tunnels and fighting a lot, which isn’t my favorite. I’ve moved on to the Jaws of Hakkon DLC and trying to trigger the Adoribull romance, before I finish the final encounter of the main campaign and Trespasser. After that I will start something new! (Unless I start a Mass Effect 1-3 replay, oops).

February Media

03
March
2018

[Image showing covers for the books/games/tv shows listed below]

I didn’t read or play as much in February as I would have liked, mostly because I got distracted planning our big 2018 vacation. We’re going to the UK at the end of July/beginning of August, spending time in Bath and the Cotswolds and finishing with a day in London dedicated primarily to seeing Hamilton (eee!).

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (MG contemporary, ebook)
First in a series of novels about kids who are on a competitive middle school track team. Really amazing voice, and I was impressed by how so much stuff was woven so seamlessly into a relatively short (but powerful) novel.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Adult SF, ebook)
Third and final book in the intricate and nuanced Imperial Radch series. This story has more of the amazing world building and characterization, along with a surprising amount of humor and an unsurprising (given the previous books) amount of thoughtful discussion of humanity.

The Runaways (TV, Hulu)
I really loved this series about a band of teens with various skills and abilities who discover their parents are supervillains. There are some significant changes from the original comic (which I also read and enjoyed) but for the most part I think the changes strengthened this version (in particular, the deeper focus on the parents, and the addition of Nico’s sister). There were a couple of times I wanted to shake certain characters, and I’m not entirely happy with some of the portrayals, but overall I really enjoyed this and am excited to see where they will go in Season 2.

The Good Place Season 2 (TV, Hulu)
Weird, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, ridiculous (in a good way), I don’t think there’s any way I can do this show justice in a short blurb. Also, spoilers! But if you enjoyed the first season I think it is likely you will love the second as much or more.

Queer Eye (TV, Netflix)
Heartwarming, emotional and fun. It follows a similar premise to the original show: five gay men who specialize in different areas (grooming, food, etc) who provide a sort of lifestyle makeover to someone else nominated by friends and family to be on the show. I love how how the five seem to really, truly care about their clients and want the best for them.

Dragon Age: Awakening (Videogame, PS3)
I am not entirely sure why I skipped playing this DLC when I first played Dragon Age Origins. I actually had no idea how substantial it was– a full game in its own, practically! I’m so glad my friend Chris encouraged me to try it because I did truly enjoy returning to this world, even though it took me a couple hours to remember how to use the controls. I did find it a bit buggy and the slowness (compared to more recent games) got to me, but overall I had fun and am glad to have filled in this gap in my Dragon Age experience. Though it did make me even more sad about what they did with Anders in DA2!

January Media

01
February
2018

[Image showing covers for several of the books/games/tv shows listed below]

I’m trying to stay more on top of tracking and sharing what I read/play/watch each month, so here’s a quick summary of what I finished in January.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson (Comic)
The continued adventures of Ms. Marvel, the teenaged Muslim Pakistani-American superhero. I absolutely adore Kamala Khan, and I especially love how this volume delves into what exactly that heroism means when not everyone likes what you are doing. I highly recommend this series.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (YA Historical, ebook)
Detailed and riveting historical fiction about a Chinese-American girl in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. I loved Mercy’s guts, compassion and gumption, and I had a really hard time putting this one down once the quake started.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (Adult Fantasy, audiobook)
I found this very compelling, particularly the world-building, with a set of four different linked worlds and the handful of people who can pass between them. And I particularly loved Lila, the thief who wants to be a pirate and yearns to be free. Also, even though this is the first in a trilogy, it was entirely satisfying as a single volume.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (Adult Speculative, ebook)
Octavia Butler is a luminary in speculative fiction and I’ve long wanted to read more of her work. Kindred is one of her most famous, though the only speculative element here is time-travel: a black woman from the 70s slips back in time to the pre-Civil War South. It’s brutal and very challenging to read in places, but really thought-provoking.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (Memoir, ebook)
The memoir of a year or so in the life of the author, as she’s dealing with debilitating illness, and takes solace in observing the small snail that is living in a pot of violets given to her by a friend. I really enjoyed learning more about snails, and also appreciated the meditations on chronic illness.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (YA Nonfiction, audiobook)
I found this absolutely riveting and impossible to put down in places. I had forgotten (or never learned) so much about the Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers and Watergate: this book truly made history come alive and felt sadly topical to the current political situation. I’m especially glad I read it just before watching the movie The Post which covers some of the same events.

Old Man’s Journey (Android Game)
A lovely and wistful game with a fairly simple mechanic (you have to move elements of the environment around to allow the titular Old Man to complete his journey) and a bittersweet story. I think what made me buy this in the first place was the gorgeous art. The game didn’t hold my attention quite as strongly as I’d have hoped, but I’m glad I played it.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PS4 Game)
This was one of the most visceral (figuratively and literally, ew) games I’ve played. Harrowing and brutal, but also beautiful and expansive (especially the finale). The premise is that you are Senua, a young Celtic warrior woman with depression/psychosis who is seeking to save the soul of her lover from the Norse Hell after he was slaughtered by Norsemen. I have never played a game that made me so tense, and even on easy mode I found the fighting grueling. I actually almost gave up on the game after about the first third because it was so relentlessly dark and the fights were so frustrating, but I’m very glad I kept going. I felt very strongly for the character of Senua by the end, and the puzzle elements of the game were clever and the atmosphere was incredible.

Travelers Season 2 (TV series)
I’m continuing to enjoy this series about time-travelers who get their minds sent back to inhabit the bodies of contemporary people who were about to die. While some elements don’t work for me (the plot this season was kind of… odd and I am still not convinced it made sense) I love the characters and their relationships.

Killjoys Season 2 (TV series)
As above, I’m watching this series more for the characters and world-building than the plot. This blog post pretty much sums up everything I would say about it so I will point you there for more: http://www.thebooksmugglers.com/2017/12/reasons-love-killjoys-arent-spoilers.html

July Diversions

03
August
2016

Here’s what I was up to in July…

READING

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, Sydney Smith [Picture Book]
A lovely picture book inspired by one of my favorite bits of actual history: the Irish monk who wrote a poem about his cat, comparing the cat’s hunting to his own scholarly work.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas [YA Fantasy]
More adventure, more magic, more romance. I started reading this series because they’re so tremendously popular and I wanted to study what they were doing right, but the deeper I get the more I’m just enjoying the story. On the other hand, one particular plot point in this book left me very unhappy and uncomfortable in terms of the treatment of characters of color, even though it made sense storywise. I’m going to keep reading because I love a lot of the other elements of the series, but I want to make that comment here as a caveat to other readers.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston [YA Contemporary]
An incredibly compelling (I could not stop reading) and ultimately uplifting book about a very painful topic. But I don’t want to label this as an “issues” book because it’s so much more than that. It made me care about cheerleading, It made me love these characters, and root for them living their lives, not just surviving a harrowing experience. I loved how it so thoughtfully and deftly explored aspects of personal choice, friendship, gender roles and expectations, and dealing with trauma.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon [YA Graphic Novel]
This series continues to be so delightful and rich and wonderful. I especially love how Kamala is having to balance all the different parts of her life; so often we see a character struggling with a bunch of responsibilities that they *don’t* want, and ultimately the message is about not wasting time on things that aren’t important to you. It was refreshing to see Kamala confronting the fact that she actually loves all her responsibilities and *wants* to say yes to everything, especially since that’s more true to my own experience (both as a teen, and an adult). And bonus points for the wonderful way the series is handling Kamala’s relationship with her long-time best friend who she loves but just can’t be in a relationship with due to her superheroing. I love that we see him in a new relationship with an awesome, smart new girlfriend who isn’t portrayed as the villain just because she’s a sort of “rival”, and see Kamala navigating that challenge and making mistakes and learning from them.

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral by Kelly Thompson, Emma Vieceli, Corin Howell, Amy Mebberson, Maria Victoria Robado [YA Graphic Novel]
Delightful, rich and wonderful are good words for this volume too. My favorite bits are the Stormer-Kimber romance and the effervescent joy of the colorful art and seeing all these cool different female characters interacting with each other.

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda [Adult Graphic Novel]
I actually read this as individual issues but the collected Volume One is now available so I’m listing it here since it is an amazing work of art. A complex and multi-layered world and characters, swinging from pure beauty to harsh, gruesome horror. Unlike anything else I’m reading.

Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples [Adult Graphic Novel]
Still wonderful! Everything else I can say is a spoiler!

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson [Adult Science Fiction]
I am a sucker for disaster movies, and this book is basically one big long disaster movie (or at least, the first two thirds are– the last third takes place 5000 years after the event) with a lot of bonus scientific digressions on orbital mechanics and space-station architecture. Which made is an excellent book for my tastes, though I suspect some readers may want to skim a bunch. It’s also a tremendously thought-provoking book, and also one of the most harrowing books I’ve read recently. I rarely get nightmares from books but the overwhelming dread of the basic premise here really struck me hard: all life, all human civilization on the surface of the earth is going to be wiped out in the aftermath of the breakup of the moon. Humanity will survive in the form of a few thousand people sent into space who must then persist for 5000 years, at which point they’ll need to reseed the Earth with life and recolonize it. This was a book that left me thinking, left me wanting to talk to other readers about the choices the characters made, the shape of the societies that endured, and so much else.

WATCHING

Stranger Things
This Netflix original series was even better than the talk online led me to expect: amazing story, perfect pacing, excellent acting, detailed, pitch-perfect 80s-era costumes/sets/music. We watched all eight episodes in three days, and I still wish there were more RIGHT NOW. I am so glad to hear there is a second season coming!

Editing to add: There was one element of the show that did bother me, which was the treatment of one particular female character, Barb (one of my favorites, possibly because she reminded me of myself) . I just had a friend share the link to this article that really pinpointed why Barb’s story was problematic, and also explored some other critical commentary I found really interesting. Again, I did love the show and recommend it, but I would love it even more if it addresses the issues laid out in that article in Season 2!

Ghostbusters
I loved the new Ghostbusters! It had all the joy and humor and excitement I remember from the original, and I adore the new cast.

February Diversions

19
March
2016

What I was up to last month:

READING
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan [MG Fantasy]
I quite enjoyed this. It was exactly what I was in the mood for when I read it: a humorous middle-grade adventure that made me laugh and kept me turning pages.
How I found it: I was in the mood for a middle-grade adventure and it was available via the library ebook lending program, and then the first chapter hooked me!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas [YA Fantasy]
I will admit I was dubious about this, especially as I was reading the first several chapters. And I am sure there are other readers who find the main character unlikable, particularly at the start. But that’s actually one of the reasons I enjoyed this and am already on the library wait-list for book 2. I kind of love that Celaena is unapologetically selfish and vain and proud (she’s also loyal and kind and brave in turns). In any case, this was, for me, a fun and fast read.
How I found it: It’s a hugely popular YA fantasy series…

Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood [Adult Mystery]
I continue to enjoy the Miss Fisher novels very much! I am taking a break so I don’t inhale them all at once, which I might otherwise be tempted to do.
How I found it: Ongoing series…

WRITING
I got back some really helpful feedback from my amazing and generous critique partners, then dove into a revision that consumed most of my spare energy this month (thus the comparatively small size of my reading list for February — and the fact that they were all read at the beginning of the month).

I tend to find revision more mentally all-consuming than drafting (except in the end-stages of drafting when I want to just write all the time to get the book finished). When drafting I will usually do my work for the day and stop and feel satisfied, whereas with revision I generally feel twitchy and guilty if I am not working on the revision ALL THE TIME. But now it’s done, and off, and I’m dedicating a good chunk of time to reading and gaming and letting myself brainstorm and muse and mull and research for new projects!

GAMING
Lara Croft GO: I played this on my tablet and found it both visually beautiful and addictive. The puzzles were just hard enough to make my brain twist, but rewarding enough to keep me coming back.

Monument Valley: Another tablet game! This one was also amazingly beautiful. It has a sort of mystical, surreal quality that I love; I think if you (like me) are a fan of the aesthetics of the game JOURNEY you might enjoy Monument Valley purely for the visuals. The puzzle aspect was also engaging, though not brain-twistingly challenging. But I think my favorite part of this game is that it gave me the feeling that I was walking around in an M. C. Escher painting.

Here’s the trailer, which gives a good overview of the amazing art:

WATCHING
UnREAL: I have never been interested in watching any of the “dating” reality shows (I prefer Project Runway, Face Off and The Great British Baking Show. And my late, lamented The Quest!). But this isn’t an actual reality show. It’s a drama about the people producing and competing in a fictional reality show. I found it incredibly compelling (and also kind of horrifying). The characters do terrible, terrible, hurtful, and outright evil things, and yet I understood why they did them, and the show manages to confront and examine so many interesting and important issues, particularly those related to the experiences of women working in a male-dominated industry. I’m eager for season 2, especially having heard that they’re going to be having a black bachelor on the show-within-the-show (something that the actual real-world Bachelor has never done in 20 seasons).

The Fall: I will admit I started watching this for pretty much one reason: Gillian Anderson. And it’s worth watching for her portrayal of a cool, capable Irish detective with a seemingly-endless supply of beautiful silk blouses, who is tracking a serial killer. But it’s also got a compelling story, and an intriguing setup in which we start off the very first episode knowing who the killer is; the tension is in watching his story and the detective’s story weave back and forth, closer and closer. If you are looking for a more eloquent review that delves into some of the feminist aspects of the show, you can also read this article over at the Atlantic.

November Diversions

06
December
2015

What I’ve been up to in the last month:

READING
Serpentine by Cindy Pon [YA Fantasy]
Lushly detailed, immersive, and romantic! I especially loved the main character’s struggles with identity and agency, and the complicated and rich female friendship. There’s a bit of a cliff-hanger in the end, so I am eager for book 2!

How I found it: I’ve known Cindy since we both had our first novels debut the same year (back in 2009). She’s amazing and super hard-working and multi-talented, and I loved her first duology, full of epic action, fierce ladies, delicious foods, and cute boys.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu [YA Fantasy]
I am a sucker for super-hero stories, and this one has the added benefit of being set in a fantasy version of Venice!

How I found it: I was a fan of Lu’s first trilogy, starting with LEGEND, and loved the notion of a story about a girl “villain” inspired by Darth Vader.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han [YA Contemp]
I loved this — it had a bit of the feel of some of my favorite comfort reads, with the strongly rendered and complicated family at the center of the story. I loved all the little details of Lara Jean’s life, her relationships with her older and younger sisters.

How I found it: I’d been peripherally aware of it for a while, as it’s popped up on various blogs and such that I follow, and the premise was compelling (girl writes secret love letters to every boy she falls in love with, and then one day they all get accidentally mailed). I made the leap to actually reading it when I saw my library had an e-copy available.

Jem and the Holograms: Showtime by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell [YA Graphic Novel]
This was indeed truly, truly outrageous, in a good way. I grew up watching the original Jem cartoon and I love how this new comic interpretation takes the best elements of the source material– the female friendships, the secret identity hijinx, the rival girl bands, the awesomely colorful clothing– and reinterprets it, with an added helping of diversity.

How I found it: I think I first heard about the new comic via The Mary Sue.

WATCHING

How To Get Away With Murder
It only took one episode of this to completely hook both my husband and me. I’m still not entirely sure if I actually *like* any of the characters, but they are certainly engaging and compelling! I was slightly dissatisfied by the resolution of the overarching mystery, but I am still eager to continue with season 2.

The Crimson Field
One of my favorite of the recent batch of British period dramas, depicting the lives of nurses serving at a hospital camp in France during WWI. I’m very sad it wasn’t renewed! There was so much great material to work with, and fantastic acting. At least the final episode left things in a reasonable spot, and I can invent my own endings for the various characters.

Dark Matter
I loved this! And am very glad to hear that it was renewed. It combines a fantastic premise (six people wake from stasis on a starship with no memories and have to figure out who they are, what they were doing, and how they will define themselves now) with a fairly diverse cast and fun, scifi action. I think I was especially partial to it as it reminded me so strongly of Mass Effect, aesthetically.

CRAFTING
Late fall seemed like the perfect time to break out some colorful, glittery yarn and start a new hat:

WRITING
I’m drafting away on a new project. Unfortunately, I hit a block in the middle of the month, just after hitting 45K, and sunk into a small pit of despair. Fortunately, I started keeping a writing journal last year, and in the midst of my misery I thought to look back and see how I was doing while working on the first draft of my last book. I discovered I hit a terrible block on that one too… just after hitting 45K. It didn’t necessarily help me figure out the block (that took a lot of banging of head against outline and some backtracking) but it did make me less angstful. So much about writing is just learning to recognize your own creative patterns and processes!

BLOOMING
Both my African Violets are blooming, and (for the first time in at least 15 years!) so is my Purple Passion Plant (the fuzzy orange blobs in the background of the below photo). I’d like to think the PPP blooms are a good omen, but they kind of smell like something rotting, so maybe I should actually be worried? :-)

October Diversions

07
November
2015

What I’ve been up to in the last month:

READING
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older [YA Fantasy]
This was such a vivid book, with a compelling protag, amazing voice, and a very cool magical element. Lots of little powerful moments that explored character, choice, and pushed at important questions of identity and family and race and history.

How I found it: I saw the cover on an “Upcoming Releases” post somewhere online and was immediately drawn to it: the colors and her amazing hair and her expression… After reading some positive reviews, I gave the first chapter a shot and was hooked by the amazing voice.

Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples [Adult Comic]
I continue to love how this series pushes further, challenges its characters more, and continues to surprise me.

How I found it: Ongoing series I’ve been reading!

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson [Adult Fantasy]
One of my favorite reads of the year so far: the world-building, the amazing characters, the choices, the questions it raised… And who knew economics could be so compelling? I also appreciated that in spite of the fact that the main character goes to a very dark place, it wasn’t the sort of book that left me feeling bad. Just really eager for the rest of the story! I will note, however, that this book has divided readers in how it handles the issues of queer characters in the narrative — see the link below for some discussion of this and links to other reviews on that topic.

How I found it: I saw a reference to the title in passing and was instantly interested. The description intrigued me, as did the cover and the references to it as a book about someone who is basically becoming a villain and doing terrible things for a “good” purpose. Then I read Amal el-Motar’s review for NPR (and her commentary on queer responses to the book) and made a point to actually read a sample and was hooked.

The Martian by Andy Weir [Adult Speculative]
I saw the movie first, but I was glad to also have the chance to read the book that inspired it. It covers pretty much the same story (as the movie was, IMO, a faithful adaptation) but I enjoyed the extra details and insights, and some additional challenges that were not in the movie. And SCIENCE!

How I found it: I saw the movie and loved it and wanted even more…!

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam [Adult Nonfiction]
Heartbreaking and thought-provoking. I wish everyone would read this. One of the bits that sticks with me most is the recognition that the vast majority (95% per the authors citation) of Americans believe that “everyone in America should have equal opportunity to get ahead.” But that with the growing class segregation in America, those on the upper class side have less and less empathy for or understanding of the situation for poor kids, and the growing number challenges they face. The author himself admits that he, having worked hard to climb the socio-economic ladder in his own youth, assumed that kids today could do the same. But what his research reveals is how much harder it is, now, to do so, for a whole swath of reasons that the book lays out much better than I could here.

The other point this book makes that surprised me was that it equalizing per-student spending on education via schools does not make as much of a difference as one would hope. It’s not as straightforward as that, nor as “easy”. As the author says, this problem has developed gradually over the last several decades and the solution is not going to be quick or simple. But there are some strategies outlined in the last chapters of the book that gave me some hope.

How I found it: I think I first heard about this via a friend who recommended it on Facebook. I had recently listened to an outstanding This American Life episode on education and segregation and this book seemed like a way to explore that further.

LISTENING
I (like a large portion of the internet) recently discovered the Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop historical musical Hamilton.

If you haven’t already joined the obsession, and are curious what the fuss is about, you can listen to the entire soundtrack free via Spotify. Or you can watch various clips available via YouTube (Edited: I switched my link from the White House performance to a longer news item that has more clips from the stage version)

The more I listen to the entire album, the more impressed I am by the intricacy of the rhymes and word-play, the layers of meaning, and the repeated themes. I still cry every time I listen to Stay Alive (Reprise). And at any given moment there is a very good chance I have My Shot, You’ll Be Back, Helpless, Satisfied, The Room Where It Happens, or Alexander Hamilton going through my head.

Some of my favorite things about the soundtrack: The way hip-hop, Jazz, rap, and R&B are used for the revolution, while King George sings pop. The fact that something like Cabinet Battle #1 can get me so excited about the founding of the treasury. The way the elements in My Shot (and the iconic image on the album cover) are reinterpreted in The World Was Wide Enough, and in particular all the double-meanings of “my shot” — Hamilton’s shot at glory and fame, and the final gun shot he choses not to take, by aiming at the sky. And I will stop there because I could write another whole post about all the clever and heart-wrenching details. Basically Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius!

Speaking of which, if you’re already obsessed, and have not yet done so, I highly recommend spending some time reading the annotations on the soundtrack over at genius.com.

WATCHING
Person of Interest Season 3
I’ve been enjoying this show from the very start, but I’ve particularly loved how this season is really amping up the science-fictional elements (artificial intelligence) and taking things in a new direction. While I was sad to see Taraji P. Henson leave, I’ve loved the increased presence of Sarah Shahi’s Sameen Shaw, and also Amy Acker’s Root. And Bear. It’s hard for me not to give a show extra points if there’s a recurring dog character.

The Great British Baking Show Season 1
(For reasons I don’t understand, this is titled The Great British Bake Off over in the UK, and what’s airing in the US as Season 1 is actually Series 5)
This may be the most adorable reality show I’ve ever watched. It’s a very kind show, with contestants who cheer each other on, judges and hosts who seem genuinely concerned about the contestants, and lots of footage of pretty gardens and gamboling sheep and glorious pastries. The only downside is the very real danger that it will make you either go running out to the nearest bakery to stuff your face, or come home from your next grocery shopping laden with butter and flour and cream and sugar.

Of all the delicious things on the show so far, I think the one I am most interested in sampling is the princessetarta. Sponge cake, pastry cream, jam, whipped cream, all under a layer of pale green marzipan!

The Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries Season 3
If you love smart, feminist, brave ladies and elegant costumes and settings and a touch of murder and mystery, you really should be watching these! I didn’t find this third season quite as consistent as the first two, but it was still delightful.

OTHER STUFF
I always go into the fall season wanting to try to make the most of it, full of dreams of autumn picnics and apple-picking and walks in the woods and Halloween decorations. I never actually accomplish it all, but it’s fun to try!

This year was a little tougher as my ongoing back injury has been making some activities more challenging, but I did manage to go to a cider-pressing party at my apple CSA’s farm, visit a pumpkin festival, take several gorgeous hikes with my husband and my dog, and carve my first pumpkin in several years:

Picture of my dog Charlie laying down beside a jack-o-lantern