Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Books I've Read Recently

It's a never-ending refrain with me that I'm permanently busy. Seriously, since exam season it's been basically non-stop, with graduation and house-hunting and job-hunting... then things got crazy stressful for a bit when my housing situation went wrong in the worst way and something Very Bad happened to someone I love within a space of a few days. But things have improved, more so than I could have hoped for actually, and hopefully I'll be able to give this blog a wee bit more love and attention. But then, I always say that, don't I?

Anyway. Here's another of those things where I talk about what I've been reading lately.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I'm a relatively recent Rainbow Rowell fan: I loved Fangirl and Eleanor and Park but I was sort of avoiding this one because it seems a bit rom-commy, and I am not a rom-com person. But I picked it up in the interest of broadening my horizons and it was actually really enjoyable- Rowell is so good at making me like and care about characters. Also it was funny and really 90s, and yeah, it was great.

His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle

(My copy was an ugly free ebook, so let's just look at Benedict Cumberbatch instead ;) )

I've been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan for years, and I'm finally getting around to reading the less famous books. This is the last book of short stories I hadn't read yet, boo. This is the last published collection and I sort of didn't expect it to be as good- there is a bit of a decline in quality with the stories towards the end I find- but I was pleasantly surprised. I especially liked "The Dying Detective" and "The Bruce-Partington Plans".

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

I've been trying to read more classic sci-fi since reading Jo Walton's Among Others, whose main character Mor is obsessed with the genre, and this is one of the books that gets mentioned quite a lot. It was weird, but I liked it. A man wakes up with no memory of who he is, and discovers he is one of many brothers fighting for the crown of a parallel world. This is a quick read that throws you right in at the deep end, and I'm sufficiently intrigued to want to read further in the series.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Set in a 1930s boarding school, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong investigate the death of their science teacher. This was a great little read- I have a thing for boarding school stories and the mystery was well plotted out. I definitely want to read more in the series.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

More of my branching out into romantic comedies- Dash and Lily pass a notebook of challenges to each other around New York, kindling a romance before they ever meet in person. This started out great, but it kind of lost me a bit when they actually did meet up and it all got a bit silly. Still, worth a read, and interesting for its exploration of the idea of expectation versus reality for relationships.

What I'm 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Doctor Who 50 Years 50 Stories Project: #4 The Power of the Daleks

Link to masterpost

#4 The Power of the Daleks
Second Doctor, Ben, Polly

Three things, first off:
1) This is the fourth consecutive Dalek story in the Top 50. People really, really like Daleks.
2) This story has the odd honour of being the only one in the Top 50 to be completely missing.
3) I’ve watched this story once before, a few months before I embarked on this project. I didn’t like it.

Funny how your opinion of something can change over even a short time, because I really liked it this time around. I think last time I was stressed from moving countries (actually away from the terrible almost-homeless-in-rural-France business) and wasn’t in the mood for six recons in a row. Plus I think I watched a set of recons with terrible sound last time- and when sound is pretty much all you have to go on, that can be catastrophic.

I just really wish this story existed. Okay, so I wish all the lost episodes would magically reappear, but occasionally I watch a story that really is fantastic and it really hits me how desperately sad it is that the original may be beyond recovery. I think this one in particular is going right up there in my mental list of stories I really, really want to be found above all others. Even one measly episode would be better than absolutely nothing. It’s not just that this is Patrick Troughton’s first story and very, very important in establishing not just his Doctor but the very fact that the Doctor can be a new person- though obviously there’s that. It’s that this story is also really, really good.

Firstly, let’s tackle the fact that the Doctor isn’t the Doctor anymore. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for viewers to deal with. I watched this a week and a half before Peter Capaldi’s debut Deep Breath broadcasted and the internet and my Doctor Who fan friends were all aflutter about Capaldi’s portrayal and whether they’ll like it or not and how that’ll affect their view of the show. And then here, William Hartnell becomes Patrick Troughton, One becomes Two, with really no explanation whatsoever. I seriously think whoever came up with the idea of regeneration in the first place was completely insane. Complete fucking genius, but completely insane.

There’s Ben and Polly acting confused and wary and wondering where their Doctor is, and it’s kind of reminiscent of Rose adapting to Ten, or Clara adapting to Twelve. It's quite lovely, the way some things have never changed.

Two is delightfully weird as well. Yeah, I’ll just casually walk over a mercury swamp, and let people think I’m the guy I just found dead, though I don’t really know why. I kind of love Ben’s exasperation about the recorder too. I love how it’s established so early on that this Doctor is different, not only in appearance, but just about everything else. You definitely couldn’t mistake this for simple recasting.

The wonderful weirdo himself.
I’m fairly new when it comes to the second Doctor- I’ve only seen a handful of his stories- and I think I’m starting to ‘get’ him at last. He seems much less serious and more relaxed than his predecessor, but I get the feeling he can be darker than he seems at first glance. The end of this story is a perfect example. It’s left ambiguous if the Doctor really did knowingly save the day or just struck lucky. It could equally be either one. Then there’s the way that he doesn’t seem especially bothered by the way bodies are piling up as he fiddles with the power supply. I feel like there’s a fine line he could cross over into being properly scary.

The plot’s interesting and kind of different for a Dalek story. The Daleks pretending to be harmless robots who just want to help the colony and no-one believing the Doctor that they are in fact deadly- it’s nice to see the Daleks doing something different and really showing the full scale of their evil.

I love Lesterson. Especially when he kind of slips off the edge and starts talking like a Dalek.

So, there we have it. I think this is definitely my favourite Troughton story that I’ve seen so far. Stone cold classic all around. If only it existed…

Next time: Yet more Daleks! Recons! Victorians! The Evil of the Daleks, coming soon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2015 (So far)

I'm aware this was actually last week's Top Ten Tuesday, but sssh. Things are crazy, as usual. 

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It's halfway through the year! Contrary to popular wisdom, I can actually believe it- it feels like it's been a loooong six months. Until I look at how many books I've actually read this year :P still, there's been some real gems in there.

Alphabetical order, because I lack the ability to rank things coherently.

Adam by Ariel Schrag

A teenage boy stays with his lesbian sister in New York for the summer. One thing leads to another, and he ends up dating a lesbian who is under the impression that he's a trans guy. And it only gets worse from there. I have a review of this in the works which will hopefully see the light of day- there's so much to say about it which is tying in with all sorts of stuff outside of the book. Suffice to say here that it's hilarious, sexy and totally unique.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Two childhood friends, Ifemelu and Obinze, leave Nigeria for the US and England respectively. This book spans their struggles and successes over thirteen years, before they come into contact again. I loved this book; it's so huge, encompassing issues of identity and race that I rarely thought of before. Even when I wasn't reading it, my mind was still ticking over the characters and their lives.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

I read Slaughterhouse-Five a while back and liked it, then I read Cat's Cradle and liked it a little more, but this is the first Vonnegut that I can say I really loved. I don't even know where to begin to try to explain the plot- there's a old, obscure science fiction writer called Kilgore Trout, and another man called Dwayne Hoover who believes every word he writes, and all sorts of crazy shit happens and there are doodles throughout the text. It's completely mad, but funny and weirdly compelling.

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein

This is a wonderfully messy part-essay part-memoir part-drama, which has really stuck with me for some reason. I've been reading and thinking a lot about gender and non-binary identity lately, and this really helped a lot. Also, Kate Bornstein seems delightful and I definitely want to check out some of hir other works.

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Based on true accounts of people who managed to escape, this book follows several different people from different rungs of society and their lives in the most secretive country in the world. I'm pretty fascinated/terrified by North Korea- isn't everyone? This was a good basic primer for North Korean history and the current situation (well, then current- Kim Jong-un hadn't taken over yet when this was published), as well as an interesting look at little things about everyday life and the power of propaganda.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Set in a post-apocolyptic world after various genetic engineering experiments gone horribly wrong, we follow Snowman and his flashbacks to the time before. Like any famous book, I approached this slightly nervously, but I was quickly swept up in it- the world is so well constructed and the flashbacks really created a sense of mystery and tension. I'll never doubt you again, Margaret Atwood.

Stir-Fry by Emma Donoghue

Maria (rhymes with Pariah) moves from her small town to Dublin for university, meets people and discovers things about herself. A classic lesbian coming of age story, but from early 90s Ireland which I found wonderfully unique and refreshing. Basically, I'm incapable of disliking anything Emma Donoghue writes.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Written in 1937, this book follows the life of Janie, an African-American woman, her ups and downs, and her relationships with various men. Another of those books that sort of intimidated me by being so highly regarded, but I loved it. Absorbing and fascinating.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

No surprises here- I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan. This is a collection of short stories (and some poetry), many of which are of a dark, scary tone. There's a great variety- a poem about dead saints, an Eleventh Doctor story, a few fairy tale retellings. It's all brilliant.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Last but definitely not least. Also the most recently finished of my top ten, but one of my very favourites. This is the 'biomythography' or memoir of Audre Lorde, talking about her childhood and life as a young woman growing up in the 30s-50s as a black woman, a lesbian, and a feminist. Lots of interesting stuff about intersectionality, but even the mundane details of her Catholic school and work in factories and relationships with women made for compelling reading on their own. Really loved this.