Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July Wrap-Up

Now that July is behind us, I thought I'd do a bit of a wrap-up of the media I've consumed this month. There's something about July that makes fiction especially enjoyable for me. A book or show that would be enjoyable at any other time of year becomes an obsession if I discover it in July. There's just something about this time of year that makes me more likely to delve deeply into fictional worlds and characters, and I have a few new obsessions to share.

White Collar

 

This USA show has been on my radar for a long time. I figured I would like it, because I love stories about art thieves.  But when I watched the pilot on Netflix, it was more than just enjoyable. It was EVERYTHING I LOVE and it SPOKE TO MY SOUL. Neil is a delight--the charming, clever and snappily-dressed criminal who breezes through life on one scheme after another. His dynamic with Peter, the cop who worked for years to catch him and now has to solve mysteries with him, is fantastic. Plus, there are suits and fedoras involved, and everything has that breezy '60s spy-show feel that I love. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I love a show starring an intelligent thief, given my published fiction, but I fell FAST and HARD, and can't wait for more.

Star Wars: Rebels


This is an animated show that takes place about five years before Episode IV, and follows a crew of rebels fighting the Empire. I'm not a proper Star Wars fan--I just pick and choose things I like from the various bits of media--but this is an enjoyable cartoon with some really brilliant episodes among the children's show blandness. To my surprise, I became obsessed with the characters. My favorite is Hera (the green one in the picture), a pilot who serves as Team Mom, and I also like Kanan (holding blue lightsaber), a Jedi trying to survive on his own after the genocide of Episode III. They're the adults of the team, struggling with difficult issues and trying to keep the younger kids in line in very dangerous situations. I've only watched a few episodes so far, but think I'll put up with a lot of flaws in this show just so I can watch their relationship and their journey.

Mistborn


I've been taking Brandon Sanderson's writing advice for a long time; I love his podcast Writing Excuses, and have been watching several of his lectures on Youtube. Which made it slightly awkward that I hadn't really enjoyed the bits of his fiction that I'd read.

Mistborn has changed all that. I'm only about halfway through the first book, so I'm reluctant to gush too much, in case I wind up disappointed, but I'm really enjoying this book so far.  Epic fantasy is not usually my thing, but since he's spiced up the "overthrow the Evil Ruler" portion of the plot with a heist set-up, I've been drawn in.

More importantly, this book has great characters. Kelsier is basically Lord Peter Wimsey with superpowers and even more angst in his backstory, so I was bound to love him. Vin is damaged, yet caring and stubborn and strong, and she's a great viewpoint character. And Elend is my special little darling--he's like Henry Tilney decided to join the revolution in Les Mis.  (He goes to social gatherings and READS BOOKS. And also is charmingly obnoxious. He is my kind of man).

The book is long--about 650 pages--but the set-up is so well-constructed and the world so well-built that it doesn't seem too long or boring. I'm actually enjoying taking this at a somewhat slow pace, to linger in the story world for a while.

Other Fiction


Other fiction consumed in July might not have reached "obsession status", but has overall been enjoyable.

Lord Peter Views the Body- A collection of Peter Wimsey short stories that I've been reading for months and finally finished in July.  I like Lord Peter much better in novels. Some of the short stories were melodramatic and ridiculous, but several were quite good. My favorite was probably "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head". I want to see it as a Spielberg movie.  

Psmith, Journalist- The third of P.G. Wodehouse's Psmith books, and the last one I hadn't yet read.  Psmith, Journalist is very different from the other Psmith books and from most of Wodehouse's work. It takes place in New York, not London, and Psmith encounters gangsters and corruption and other dangers that are much more serious than the problems usually encountered in these books. The book dragged in the middle, but there were several laugh-out-loud moments, especially toward the end.

The Moonstone- I've been listening to this on audiobook during my commute for the past two and a half months or so, and I recently finished it. It's considered the first detective novel, but it's told from the POV of several witnesses, making it as much about the characters and their views of life as it is about the mystery. The characters are great, there are some very funny moments, and the mystery is interesting, even though it's one of the few mysteries I've managed to figure out before the end. It drags on much too long, but it was enjoyable.

The Three-Body Problem- This is a Chinese science fiction novel that recently won the Hugo award. I found it to have lots of interesting ideas, but couldn't connect to any of the characters, and found large portions of the book and its philosophy bleak and depressing. I enjoyed parts of it, but the overall sense of dread and despair has made me like it much less than it perhaps deserves.

Heartless- The first book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. This was an imaginative fairy tale fantasy with fun characters and witty writing. Eanrin is the best. I'll definitely check out later books in the series. 

Desk Set- A 1957 Katherine Hepburn movie, in which she plays a reference librarian who fears that her job is going to be replaced by a computer. It's too bad that the plot is about how her job is becoming outdated, because this movie made me want to change careers. (You get paid to be Google!). Overall, a surprisingly snappy little comedy.

So July, overall, was enjoyable. I have several books lined up for August, and plan to continue on several TV shows. What have you enjoyed during July, readers? Any recommendations?

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