Farewell, 2017!

So, uh, it’s been a while… How are you? How’s your… local sports team? Actually, mine’s doing unexpectedly great this year, thanks for asking!

It’s finally been of reasonable weather quality in Northeast Florida, so I’ve been spending most of the last couple months outside enjoying nature. This has apparently led to a stress injury in my ankle, and one of my early New Year’s Resolutions is to stop compounding injuries by ignoring them, so I come to you from my couch on a perfectly beautiful day. At least I have lots of indoor activities I can enjoy! Speaking of, let’s talk about what I’ve been up to the past two months!

I’ve read quite a few things in the last couple months, but I’ll just do a couple highlights (one lowlight?) here.

A Lot Like ChristmasMy absolute favorite of the books I’ve read recently is A Lot Like Christmas, which is an updated collection of Connie Willis’s short stories set around Christmas. I legit loved every story in this collection, which is a feat unmatched, I think, and I found myself just a couple stories in taking a break to set up my (very tiny) Christmas tree so I could read by tree light. I’m not a super Christmas-y person — I have my traditions and I like those but everything else can go jump in a lake — but I really felt imbued with the Christmas spirit while reading this book. It might be a little late for you to read this, depending on your personal Christmas temperament, but you should definitely keep it in mind for next year.

Pride and Prejudice and MistletoeMy least favorite was the also Christmas-themed Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, which I was all over when I heard the sales pitch: a gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view. What? Yes! Give it! Unfortunately, the actual result is more like a remixed Pride and Prejudice — it hits most of the big beats of the original story but they’re changed enough that it’s not the same story at all and it’s not a good story and it also ends about six chapters later than it should after way too much introspection and it’s just… bad. It’s possible that if you’re not expecting Pride and Prejudice you’ll like this better, but I’m pretty sure it’s a hot mess either way.

My audiobook listening has slowed down a bit this fall as I’ve picked up a couple new podcasts. One is Call Your Girlfriend, a podcast that’s more or less a conversation between two long-distance best friends about whatever’s going on in the world at the time. The other is Waypoint Radio, a second video game podcast to complement the still-the-best What’s Good Games and to cause my video-game TB…P, I guess, list to grow ever larger.

GroceryHowever, I have enjoyed two great audiobooks since last we met. Grocery is a fantastic book for people like me (and the author’s father) who are obsessed with grocery stores and how they work and how food gets to them and how food trends have changed in general over the past while, and possibly also just people from Cleveland who love Heinen’s, a small chain which features prominently in the book. I love all of these things and I loved this book. I also loved The Nature Fix, which validated all my time spent outdoors and also encouraged me to do it more, so, uh, once this ankle’s all better it might be a while ’til I post here again.

S.H.I.E.L.D. finally came back and it is as weird and awesome as it is at its best. No spoilers, but it’s crazy and I’m looking forward to seeing how it resolves the very strange loop it’s put itself in. I’ve also seen a few excellent movies recently, including, unexpectedly, Thor: Ragnarok. I really hated the other Thor movies, but one should never doubt Taika Waititi and his ability to make things awesome. The best movie I’ve seen possibly all year is Coco, which had me ugly crying in the theater next to my sister-in-law, who was glad I was crying so she wouldn’t feel bad about crying. It’s adorable and wonderful but it is also VERY VERY SAD FOR GROWNUPS. You’ve been warned.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Rocket League lately, collecting snowflakes to open loot boxes because I want a pretty car, dang it! Also I really like playing soccer with cars. It is the best. I’ve also been spending some time with Super Mario Odyssey, which I bought kind of on a whim when it was on sale and am enjoying WAY more than I thought I was going to. I don’t think I’ve ever played more than a few minutes of a Mario adventure game (I’m more a Mario Kart and Mario Party girl), and clearly I have been missing out.

But the best is that I’m just after finishing Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which is a prequel to the super excellent Life is Strange and while of course I think the original is better, this one is differently good and is also very very sad for grownups, where “grownups” equals “people who played Life is Strange and can therefore see into the future”. I am quite interested to see what happens when the original company comes back with another round of the game next year.

What are you guys finishing out your year with?

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley

I Am Half-Sick of ShadowsAlan Bradley is just messing with me now, isn’t he? I was so excited in the last Flavia novel that the mystery managed to get off the ground within the first sixth of the book, but here he is back to his second-novel ways waiting until nearly halfway through for someone to kick the bucket! I spent the better part of three weeks just getting there.

But once there was death and intrigue, I was hooked, and I finished the rest in a couple hours. Bradley certainly knows how to write a thrilling story when he wants to.

Anyway, in this installment Papa de Luce, who has been generally hard up for cash through the series, has invited a movie crew to film on the de Luce estate, which is pretty cool. Even cooler, to most people, is that Fancy Pants Actress Phyllis Wyvern (think Marilyn Monroe, maybe?) is the star. Flavia spends some time getting in good with her, to the consternation of her sister, who actually wants to be BFFs with Phyllis but keeps making a fool out of herself instead.

That’s basically the first half of the novel, and it manages to be pretty interesting if not engrossing — Wyvern is awesome like a star but also haughty and entitled like a star, and she crosses that line deftly, and Flavia’s interactions with her are very telling of Flavia’s outlook on life and relationships in general.

Then someone gets all strangled and stuff and the investigation happens slowly enough for me to be like, who done it?, but fast enough that it doesn’t get bogged down in red herrings, of which there are a few.

I think I would be into a collection of “Flavia solves a mystery!” short stories and also a collection of “Flavia interacts with humans!” short stories, but I’m falling out of love with the combination of the two. And really, Flavia can only Jessica Fletcher it up so many more times before she’s just going to have to have been an 11-year-old serial killer the whole time.

Recommendation: I do love me some Flavia, but I might suggest that you stick with original Flavia unless the series gets drastically better in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Musing Mondays (17 August)

Today’s Musing Mondays is… “How do you react to movies made of your favourite books (or even not-so-favourite books)? Do you look forward to seeing them, or avoid them? Do you like to have read the book before seeing the movie?”

This is appropriate, as I’m still sort of avoiding seeing The Time Traveler’s Wife (a review of which will be up tomorrow), since I loved the book so much both times I’ve read it and the clips I’ve seen on the NYT website looked rather unlike the scenes they were meant to represent from the book. You know.

Generally, I don’t much care for movie adaptations of books, though I do tend to read books that get made into movies. In the optimal case, I’ll see the movie first and then read the book, because the book is almost always better (unless it’s just different, which is also a good thing) and I’d rather have that be my second impression of a story.

But then you have things like the Harry Potter series, which I loved and adored and so I saw the movies, and they were sort of okay at first and then they got increasingly terrible after the third one (my favorite because it’s just different, as above). And that discourages me, so I try not to pay good money to see film versions of books I adore and rather wait until I can just rent or borrow them. Then I can just turn them off if I get too frustrated.

Things I Did Today

I saw the new Harry Potter movie today, really only because my dear spoon dragged me to see it, and it was okay. Better than the fifth one, certainly (not hard to do!), but still not terribly good. This is probably not helped by the fact that I haven’t read the book since it came out what, four year ago? and as such I have little to no recollection of most of the book. I spent most of the movie trying my hardest to remember the things that happened in between the movie’s scenes so that I’d have any idea what was going on, but it was mostly futile. So. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and plan to, you should maybe go read the book first.

I was already going to rectify this “not having read a Harry Potter book since 2007” thing with the Summer Lovin’ Challenge, but now I feel it is imperative, if only to get the bad taste of the movie out of my mouth (brain? whatever). So, starting whenever I finish my current book, I’m going to dive back into the world of Potter. I’ll try to read one or two of the books every week, but, you know, I might get distracted by other things, so no promises.

The last thing I did today was finish logging all of my books in LibraryThing, because I am that big of a nerd. If you’re on there as well, stop by and say hello!