Trilogy of six?

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Still slowly working my way through the Cassandra Clare series. This one really isn’t the strongest. Although I enjoyed the love triangles that Simon was in, or is it a love square? Jace and Clary’s relationship is a little bit less interesting to me. It’s not that happy couples with contrived drama (secret evil possession I guess?) isn’t exciting but a stable couple with compelling plot drama is a little more interesting to me. But I will take it all because of the six minutes of Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood.

But I feel  like this series, which is marked as Book 4 really feels like the start of a second series with the same characters. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but something about this book is a little off. I got a weird sense that this was meant to be the first book in the series – lay the groundwork, introduce the characters and set up a long term plot.

Only, we already have that stuff, at least as long as you read the first three books. So there’s this weird kind of pacing to the first book, as it tries to lay the ground work for the future plot, establish new characters and keep the old characters interesting. It worked out fine, it’s a good, compelling story about characters the reader probably already knows and loves but I hope by the next book things settling a little and become  a little more plot or character driven.

Last movie I watched:

Apart of X-men Apocalypse. Not going to lie, it’s not that good.  Better than Last Stand but not good.

Last TV show I watched:

This Is Us. Sob.

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Just so, so, so good

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

I love, love, love this book. There is so much excellence I’m not sure where to start.

It is the story of Pen, short for Penelope, a queer first generation Canadian teenager. At the start of the book Pen is doing her best to slide by unnoticed. She avoids fighting with her parents when she can by hiding in the basement where her older brother lives. Her best friend Colby defends her against anyone who bullies her in exchange for her help picking up girls. But when Colby tries to pick up the girl Pen has a crush on, Pen makes a choice for herself. Soon after events in her life start to spiral out of her control, forcing to her to evaluate the decisions she’d made so far, their consequences and man up.

There’s a lot of really, really good things about this book. The tone is great, Pen’s voice is unique and strong and she’s a great character who’s relatable to anyone who’s every felt like an outsider (every single person ever obviously). It’s also a great story of LGBT+ story in a delightful, un-simplistic way. Pen is a lesbian, 100%. Blake, her girlfriend, has dated boys but also dates a woman, implying she’s bi or possibly pan. Pen is very masculine – she cuts her hair short, she dresses in her brother’s hand-me-downs, she loves TMNT and hates Barbies but she also is very sure she’s not transgender. She really recognizes her identity as a masculine woman. But most of this isn’t really stated, it just is. There are scenes that really touch on these issues – for example Pen tells Blake she wants to be touched like a boy – but they aren’t resolved either and as far as all the characters, or at least the sympathetic ones, are concerned, that’s okay. And I think that’s a really good thing. We don’t need every single person to fit into a box.

This book has a lot of really heavy content. Here there be spoilers. The struggles of first generation Canadians are woven throughout the story – Pen struggles with vastly different expectations she has for her own life versus her parents. Language gaps, extended family, food and cultural expectations are woven throughout the book as challenges and advantages for Pen and her brother.

Finally there is some sexual assault. Pen’s internal dialogue does an amazing job of describing her frozen fear, when Colby makes sexual advances on her. Although she clearly doesn’t want them and is not interested in them but she feels like she has no power in their relationship, she’s afraid to find herself without Colby’s friendship so she has to let it happen. It’s really upsetting to read.

There’s also some pretty serious violence, alcohol, drugs and an abortion, which is handled carefully and complexly but is obviously challenging for readers.

I recommend this book enormously,  for teens and adults. If younger readers would like to take a stab at it, I’d recommend that too but encourage an adult conversation about some of the content. Just read it, enjoy it and embrace the really satisfying but not completely happy ending.

Last movie I watched:

Thor: Ragnorak. Pretty excellent, I have to say.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Red Tent. I’m actually really enjoying it, although I’m sure the book is better.

The collision of past and future

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I just finished this book to write Battle of the Books questions for it. It’s also on the OLA’s White Pine list this year and I really recommend it, although it’s not exactly light, escapism if that’s what you’re into.

It takes place in a future when civilization has collapsed through a complicated series of negative events starting with extreme environmental devastation and climate change that triggered massive wars and the collapse of society. In this world, people have lost their ability to dream and it makes them violent and depressed. The solution was found in the bone marrow of Indigenous people. The book opens with Frenchie, a young Metis boy and his brother fleeing after their parents’ disappearances. The book follows Frenchie and his new found family’s journey through northern Ontario and eventually their decision to fight back.

There’s a lot to like about this book (but I’m not going to get into too much of it because spoilers!) but I’ll focus particularly on two things – Indigenous people in north America and the portrayal of LGBTQ people in the book.

This book, while maybe a little didactic, does a great job of drawing on the history of violence and colonialism in the collective Indigenous identity, as well as the generations of trauma that has effected both the individual people and the collective group of people. The dystopian future really draws on historical event and, while it’s extreme and alarming, also feels very real in the context of colonial oppression. No one wants to think about their government rounding up a minority in their own country and trapping them in schools. But it happened in history, and in this book it happens in our future as well. The idea of paying bounties on innocent civilians is distressing, but again, happened in our past and could happen again. Although the current political struggles are not touched on, it contextualizes them.

There is also a fantastic LGTBQ character in this book, and what I loved most about this character is that his sexual orientation was just one part of his overall character. His entire existence is informed by the lose of his husband, but this is treated exactly the same as any other lose in the book, and there are many. The fact that he’s a gay man isn’t even mentioned, its just understood. Also, there’s some serious trope inversion here (Spoiler: Kill All Your Gays) is thwarted in the last few pages in a way that truly warmed my heart.

I think this reads like a first novel (it is) and I’m sure everything Dimaline writes from will improve on what she learned from this great book. It feels a bit like Cormac McCarthey’s The Road  mixed with a curriculum accompaniment (for high school students – there’s violence, including sexual violence and some pg-13 sexuality) but I really enjoyed it and believe it’s a great piece for high school students across Canada to be reading this year.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I first read it, I didn’t mind Harry’s … lack of emotional regulation. Then it started to bug me, I think as I stopped being a teenager. But now I don’t mind it so much again because I think he’s got PTSD for most of this book and with that reading, his anger makes a lot of sense.

Last TV episode:

Death Comes to Pemberly although I am literally 5 minutes into the first episode and therefore have no opinion at this time.

The Return of Alcatraz

Alcatraz #5: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

As usual, I loved, loved, love this book. I just find the writing style, the commentary on writing, the delightful internal dialogue and just the straight wackiness of it. And so, so many librarian jokes.

I was really disappointed in the ending though because it didn’t really end. It was just over and the narrator insisted this was the end of the series and I believed it because I’d heard there was only supposed to be 5 books. It just totally failed to wrap up the story and it made me really sad.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was okay. This abrupt, unhappy ending actually kind of worked with the genre bending, commentary on language and tropes. To have such a surprising, unpredictable ending like that, kind of genius and plays into the whole story really well, even if it didn’t make me happy.

Only then I found out there’s going to be a sixth book. So I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it all ends.

Anyway, I still love and recommend the series completely, even if they’re a little abstract for younger readers.

Last movie I watched:

The Santa Clause? I think. It’s a good one I feel.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. This episode isn’t that great, but we’ll see how it goes.

How not to end a love triangle

Infernal Devices: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Here there be spoilers.

This is the last in the series, and resolves both the story and the love triangle. There were a few really, really big twists that were all pretty good and definitely squee worthy.

I would like to address the love triangle though, because that was a pretty good  and big part of the story that was kind of a cop out. The love triangle has to end of course because the book is over. And it was  a really good love triangle because Tessa loved both Will and Jem for real reasons that make sense for her. Both bring something into her life that makes her feel special and beautiful and brings love to her heart.

So how does the author get out of these two excellent character being equally deserving of the love of the heroine?

Well she kills one of them. But it’s a trick kill – they aren’t really dead. And then as it turns out, two of them are immortal. So naturally, Tessa stays with one of them until he dies of old age and then eventually catches up with the immortal one when chance allow.s

This was a very satisfying ending because I liked both potential lovers but it was also not, I don’t know – emotional I guess? It felt like 2.75 novels building up to Tessa having to make a terrible choice but then she lucks out, circumstance just takes her decision away from her and she just gets to have both. And something about that just made her seem like a victim of circumstance, not her own heart. That was a little disappointing, that’s all.

Last Movie I watched:

Nope. No clue.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. I’m getting through it.

The triangle continues to grow. As does my love for Magnus Bane

Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This book continues the love triangle/Shadowhunter history started in Clockwork Angel. I’m not sure why, if it’s because I read it a while ago or if its a reflection on the book itself, but I don’t remember it as clearly as I remember the first and third book. I’m sure some details are revealed, at least one character dies, and there are a few good “gasp! No!” moments but overall it was really just a great bridge between a good setup in the first book and a great payoff in the third.

I did really enjoy this series though. Strongly recommend.

Last movie I watched:

Who knows?

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural.

TV shows and graphic novels

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale by Joss and Zach Whedon

So a lot of my favourite TV shows had ended. Often because they just needed to. Charmed, Buffy, for example. Both of  which wrapped up nicely. They got graphic novel series. I’m pretty sure so did Star Trek and Doctor Who, which had to end or change to stay you know, good. And they’re usually kind of popular but usually quite a departure from the show and even when they’re considered cannon, sometimes kind ignored.

But then there’s Firefly. Unlike those other examples, Firefly clearly ended too soon and for no good reason and without any kind of resolution and seriously why would they do that?

Never mind.

So naturally there were some graphic novels to make up for this travesty. They didn’t.

I liked this graphic novel quite a bit. It told a story that probably wouldn’t have translated well to screen anyway, and certainly Book is one of the most interesting characters in the show. His backstory, as it turns out, is beautiful, traumatic and explains a lot about the mysterious character. While I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who didn’t know and love the show (plus had seen the movie because spoilers!) for anyone like me, who is still bitter almost fifteen years later, I say go for it!

Last movie I watched:

I’m really not sure.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. I need to stop waiting 18 months between seasons. I can’t remember who half these people are.