Friday, August 28, 2015

Back to Blogging — Things I've Read

A follow-up to my last post where I talked about what I had been watching, here are the comics and books, I've read in the past few months.

  1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I caved. I finally read Saga, and I now see why everybody only has the best things to say about it. The plot is a star-crossed lovers space opera, but while it does contain elements that I've seen before, it combines them in a way that's still unique and interesting. Fiona Staples' art makes every page simply incredible (even when the contents are graphic or super far out there), and I can't wait to see what she and Brian K. Vaughan have in store for the story.
  2. The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. The Wicked + The Divine is a series that I love, but I feel like I'm constantly five steps behind. When I think I've caught up, it always ends up throwing me for a loop. I'm interested in the ways it continues to delve into fan culture and reactions to celebrity and fame, and I love how it combines deities from a wide range of mythologies.
  3. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. One of the things that really interested me as an English major was different narration styles, and what really stood out to be through this graphic novel was the oral history feel of it. It wasn't so much an "encyclopedia" as we know it, in neat columns and arranged alphabetically, but a passing on of an oral tradition, the tradition of storytelling that composes a living encyclopedia of a culture. Overall, it was a great read!
  4.  Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Oh, man, who doesn't love Noelle Stevenson? I love her writing for Lumberjanes and I've been following her artwork on Tumblr for awhile, so I definitely had to pick up Nimona. I loved everything about it. It gave me feels. That's it. That's all I have to say. Go read it.
  5. Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I started Seconds as soon as I put down Nimona, and I really enjoyed it as well. The plot and crux of the story were extremely relatable, including the twists and turns along the way. Bryan Lee O'Malley's art style is extremely adorable
  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Ready Player One is one of those super hyped books I heard about on BookTube but just finally got around to reading. Overall, I am happy I read the book, if only to see what all the hype was about. One of the strong points that many people praise is Cline's references to 80s nerd culture, but, even as a lover of some of the things mentioned, some parts of the narrative seemed way too "I'm going to name drop all these references just so you know how much of a nerd I actually am." There were also so many parts that seemed way too contrived and deus ex machina-y for my liking. Wade's growth as a character was extremely limited, and so much of his victory seemed like it was handed to him.
  2. Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour. I absolutely adored Everything Leads to You. So much of YA LGBTQ books I've read center around a character coming out, and, while those stories are definitely helpful and important, it's nice to see a story where a the sexuality of a LGBTQ character isn't questioned but is taken as an absolute fact. Furthermore, I love how it's a story of friendship and of solving a mystery, at its heart. It makes the romance plotline feel more realistic and natural, love blossoming among day-to-day life, not some all-consuming magical insta-love that sometimes seems to take over the plot of most contemporary YA books.
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I had really high hopes for this book because I am an absolute sucker for anything Beauty and the Beast related. For me, the pacing in this was a bit slow and weird. There was a lot of exposition that seemed really forced, and Freya really got to me at times. This was a really slow read for me, even when the action was picking up with the plot. I'll probably read the next book in the series, since the setup of the exposition seems interesting, but I'm not sure I'll be running to get it as soon as it comes out.
  4. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han. I'm a big fan of Jenny Han's contemporary books, but this one feel a little short for me. I enjoyed most of the book, but my final disappointment mainly stemmed from the fact that I thought Lara Jean should have chosen the other guy.
  5. The Jewel by Amy Ewing. When I heard that The Jewel was a YA version of The Handmaid's Tale, I was super intrigued. While it doesn't exactly live up to The Handmaid's Tale, it was still a pretty decent story, and I liked the fantasy elements that were introduced. However, the book seemed like it ended right just as the action was starting to pick up, which was really disappointing. I'll continue to read the series because I'm interested, but it was a bit frustrating to be dropped out of the story when things were really beginning to happen.
  6. The Martian by Andy Weir. So here's the thing: I love science fiction, but I rarely ever read it. I don't know why, it's just not something I really grab for even though I want to read more. Anyway, I loved The Martian. How surprising. Mark's narration was amazing, and I really enjoyed the glimpses into NASA and JPL. I'm looking forward to the movie now — I absolutely love space movies!
These weren't all the books I've read in the last few months, but they're the ones that stood out to me the most. I'm particularly fond of the short review format, so I think I'm going to continue short monthly wrap-ups, probably starting next month, but from now on, I'm hoping to update this blog at least once a week!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Back to Blogging — Things I've Watched

It's been a while since my last blog post, mainly because there have been a lot of changes on my side. While I haven't been reading quite as much as I want to, I've still come across some pretty awesome things that I've been excited about recently. I've arranged them all by media specific category because of course I did.

  1. Age of Ultron. Marvel fangirl that I am, I, of course, had to go see the second Avengers movie. To be honest, the first Avengers is probably one of my least favorite MCU films because I get just a little annoyed when a team movie focuses primarily on one character instead of the team as a whole (also, Cap's characterization just isn't there for me). I enjoyed Age of Ultron better, but I still felt it was too Tony-centric. I did really like the dynamics of the team, even if I thought the focus on Tony should have been shifted to other characters. To me, though, Age of Ultron seemed more like a transition — a hint at what's to come in Civil War and Ragnarok as well as Black Panther and the Infinity Wars. I'm so happy with the new Avengers line-up, and I really can't wait to see them in action!
  2. Mad Max. Mad Max was  a complete surprise for me. It wasn't even on my radar until first reviews came out, praising its feminist undertones. Because of this, I had to check it out. The film is, unsurprisingly, very over the top with it's portrayal of violence and does get quite graphic, but what really impressed me was the female narrative and how, even though the abuse directed at women was certainly implied, it wasn't explicitly shown. I loved how Max was there to help Furiosa in her quest, but didn't take the spotlight away from her or twist it to his own ends. The scenes were visually stunning and so impressive, and I could hardly care that the cars didn't exactly make sense.
  3. Ant-Man. Oh man, where do I start with Ant-Man? Originally, I wasn't too excited about it. All the development issues and conflicts with Edgar Wright (I'm a big fan of Edgar Wright, by the way) left me a bit shakey about it. Also, I just couldn't believe they were going to focus on Scott Lang instead of Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne. You know, founding Avenger who actually gave the group its name, Janet van Dyne, the Wasp? But I went to see it because, hey, it's Marvel, and I am a person with very little will power. Also because I heard whisperings of rumors that my favorite, Captain America related characters were going to be in it (and, oh man, that after credits scene). Overall, I loved Ant-Man. On top of cameos from some of my favorite MCU characters like Peggy and Sam, the writing was excellent, and I absolutely adored how they basically turned a heist movie into an origin story. I'm so looking forward to Hope taking up her mother's title (and super relieved that while there was a romance element to the characters, it didn't come to the forefront of the script), and I'm super excited to see what else will come from these characters as they get more immersed into the world of the Avengers.
  4. Inside Out. I'm pretty sure I cried the majority of the time I was watching Inside Out, which is kind of a feat considering I was at a dine-in movie theater and trying to eat dinner. Inside Out was such a wonderful movie, balancing happy moments with sad (which I suppose was one of the main takeaways from it). I'm really glad to see the improved quality of discourse around mental health and depression that has come out of people going to see it, and I love how it continues to show that animated films targeted to children can successfully tackle and really breakdown super complex ideas.
  1. Call the Midwife. Call the Midwife is a show that's been on my Netflix queue for awhile now, but it took two of my friends rounding up people to cosplay as midwifes at Dragon Con for me to actually sit down and watch it. I can't believe it took me this long. I'm a big fan of 1950s settings and of dynamic female friendship, and this show exhibits both exceptionally well. It's a roller coaster of a show, and I can hardly get through most episodes without crying, but the way it's framed heavily implies hope amid the heartbreak.
  1. Kill la Kill. I think the best way how to explain why I watched Kill la Kill is that my boyfriend recommended it. I was a bit hesitant about it because a few aspects of the first couple episodes rubbed me the wrong way. I did get through the series, though, and ended up liking it quite a bit, especially as the plot continued ramping up. Some of it was pretty out there in terms of violence and the jiggle physics didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I suppose that's a bit par for the course. In any case, I really enjoyed the development of the characters (especially of Mako) and how internally consistent the whole mess of crazy actually was.
I've realized that I might have gone a bit overboard in my wrap-up, so I'm going to recap the comics and books I've been reading in another post soon.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dewey's Readathon TBR

It's been a hot minute since I've been able to really sit down and read and since I've been a bit negligent of my goal to become more active with the book blogging community, I thought participating in Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon would be a good way to get back in the groove of things.

I'm not entirely sure how well this readathon will go for me (especially since I'm not exactly in the habit of waking up at 8am, which is when the readathon starts for my time zone), but I have a whole list of comics (both trades and floppies) that have been piling up for some time now. Here's what I'm hoping to get through:
  1. Ex Machina, Volumes 9-10
  2. The Walking Dead, Issues 139-140
  3. Lumberjanes, Issues 12-13
  4. Ms Marvel, Issues 13-14
  5. Captain Marvel, Issues 13-14
  6. Thor, Issues 2-7
  7. Deadly Class, Issues 7-12
  8. The Fade Out, Issues 1-5
  9. ODY-C, Issues 2-4
  10. Rocket Raccoon, Issues 4-10
  11. The Wicked + The Divine, Issues 7-9
  12. Satellite Sam, Issues 1-13
  13. Saga, Issues 1-27
It's a pretty long list of titles, so I totally don't expect to get through everything, but I really want to either catch-up with or start some of these series, so I figure now is as good as time as any! Good luck to everyone else participating in the readathon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

T5W: Books That Made You Think

Oh man, I studied English in university, so choosing books for this week’s topic was both incredibly easy but also insanely hard. Thinking about books is kind of what I do. A lot of these are repeats, from my last Top 5 Wednesday post actually, so sorry about that, but these books have really made me think about literature in a way I hadn’t beforehand.

  1. Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach edited by Michael McKeon.  I really loved this book, because it has so many excerpts from all kinds of literary theorists. It’s the text that really introduced me to literary theory as a whole and that, in itself, completely changed the way how I thought about and interacted with other books. This anthology contained some of the most complex things I’ve ever read and it really helped me step up my pretentious English major game.
  2. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide by Lois Tyson. Okay, fine. This is another theory book, but unlike Theory of the Novel, this one was more of a Sparknotes primer on theory, rather than a collection of actual theatrical works. It was a really nice breakdown and foundation for a lot of theatrical schools of thought like Marxism and structuralism and deconstructionism and feminist theory and LGBTQ theory, and while the ideas behind the words were complex and thought-provoking, the words themselves were actually incredibly easy to understand.
  3. The Good Solider by Ford Madox Ford. I also talked about this in my last post, but oh goodness, The Good Soldier is such a short book, but it really packed a punch for me. I’m super drawn in my Ford’s style, and the multiple perspectives and the the unreliability of narration were absolutely my favorite focal aspects when writing papers. I did an insane amount of research for my paper on this book, and still think about it a whole bunch.
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I actually didn’t read The Catcher in the Rye until pretty late (my last semester at university), but I really wished I had read it earlier (or, at least, taken the class I read it for earlier). I read it alongside Critical Theory Today and other theoretical texts and was instructed to analyze it through various ideological lenses. Doing so many close readings of the same text was something I had never done before then, and it really helped me really puzzle things together and think about them more fully.
  5. Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Even though I had taken a comics class at university and was pushed super hard to think about them (theory was a big component in that class too), Sandman was one of the first comic series that I read outside of that academic setting (aka, it was one of the first comics I read that I wasn’t assigned). We had read some pretty out there stuff for my comics class (a lot of that reading list could also be included here easily), but Sandman was the series that really cemented my love for comics and how I wanted to continue reading and thinking about them outside of a class setting.
I feel like this is a list where I can go on and on forever about basically every book I’ve ever read, and I definitely don’t think I’m the only one. What are some of the books that really stuck with you and made you think?

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


In honor of International Women's Day, I decided to write a letter to my younger self inspired by the #DearMe initiative on YouTube. Of course, it ended up a lot longer than I expected, but thanks for reading. Happy International Women's Day!

Dear Teenage Amanda,

I want you to know something: life isn't perfect.

You haven’t moved to New York (I know you’ve been wanting that for a long time). You don’t work in publishing. You still don’t understand how to relationship. Your parents end up getting divorced (you actually handled this pretty well, all things considered). You’ve lost a lot of things: from trivial things, like bobby pins and pens (so many pens), to more substantial ones, like best friends and relatives.

But here’s the thing: you’re in a good place right now.

I don’t necessarily mean that physically — you still spend a lot of time dreaming about New York life and you’re hoping to start moving towards that dream soon — but mentally. You’ll still have stumbling points; your base level of anxiety never seems to leave you, and you’ve perfected your self-depreciating sense of humor, but you have a pretty okay handle on things. You’re pretty okay.

You'll go off to college thinking that you’ll meet new people who’ll replace your high school friends (the ones you, I’m very ashamed to say, sort of abandoned your senior year in order to hang out with another group, who only accepted you on the surface). But while you’ll meet some pretty awesome people (who you still keep in touch with), you’ll come to realize how special your home friend group is during breaks from school and especially after you graduate from college. They sort of become your cornerstone; you don’t have to pretend to be something that you aren’t with them. They'll accept that you’re still changing and will continue to change. They accept you. It's pretty cool.

Speaking of friends, you’ll also get caught up in this crazy thing called fandom. While it’s kind of exhausting at times (and you’ll encounter jerks who want to put a damper on your excitement just because you’re a girl), you’ll also end up with some pretty awesome friends from all over. Embrace them — they’re good people.

You end up changing a lot in college. You prefer skirts and dresses and tights and cardigans now (even though you still nerd it up with a fandom tee). You paint your nails and wear makeup. You have a slightly worrying obsession with red lipsticks. You like wearing shoes with high heels. You took the plunge and got bangs (it was a good look for you!), but you’ll come to realize you like a short, above your shoulders style best (this is a recent development, who knows what your next style will be). You’re still toying with the idea of getting a tattoo.

You’ll change a lot on the inside, too. You still love reading, but you’ll come to prefer comics more (you’ll also develop an insane affinity for Captain America). You mainly read books digitally — it’s totally all right. Social media will become very important to you. Your love for bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Killers stays as strong as ever,  but you’ll also grow to be more accepting in your musical tastes and end up loving Taylor Swift and Beyoncé too. I know it’s kind of crazy to think about now, but your love for Doctor Who and Joss Whedon will end up waning, but don’t worry, you’ll find new things to grow to love, and you’ll always have Gilmore Girls. You’ll also finally learn how to crochet and knit and sew (and you’ll stockpile patterns and fabric and yarn like crazy and you have a little side business making cute things for people). You drink your coffee black with sugar but take your tea with sugar and soy milk. You’ve discovered tons of new and tasty foods. You enjoy baking (cookies, mostly), and you’re really into soccer. Your favorite painting is Edvard Munch's The Scream.

You still cry at books and movies and holiday-themed commercials. You’re still absolutely confounded by guys and flirting. You still stay up way too late sometimes, just for the hell of it. Your sweet tooth never lessens. You have your good days and your off days. You’ve come to accept that there is no such thing as a perfect person.

This realization isn’t as depressing as you think it’ll be. There’s not a pinnacle point of perfection, so you can always aim to become better. You’ll find this intangibility comforting. You’re a constant work-in-progress. You’re still working out how to be a better friend, daughter, sister — a better person. You’ll still make mistakes, and that's okay — own up to them, and accept the fact that, sometimes, the blame really does lie on you. Apologizing isn’t the same as backing down — it doesn’t mean you’re being walked over — it doesn’t mean you’re weak. There so many interpretations, and you’ll learn how to piece them together to help you gain a larger perspective about the the world.

Despite your insistence that you won’t ever take theory-heavy English classes, you’ll end up taking two near the relative end of your time at university (by the way, you graduate a semester late — it’s fine; don’t worry about it). These classes end up being two of your favorites. The first one will expand your thoughts about literature in so many mind-bendingly cool ways, and the second one will open your eyes in so many other important ways. It’ll introduce you to deconstructionist theory and feminist theory and LGBTQ theory and intersectionality, and I can’t stress to you how important you will find all these things to be.

You’ll learn the importance of female friendships. The importance of building other women up, instead of making everything into a weird sort of competition, where the only winner is a society that treats all women poorly. If there’s anything you could have learned earlier, I wish it were this. Value your female friends; value your femininity; value your voice and your agency as a female. Seek out good representations of women in the media. Don’t shame other women. You don't have to tear other women down in order to build yourself up. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground, especially with guys and especially with your guy friends. You’re always going to have to work on this, but please please please, don’t back down.

You still have a lot of things you would like to improve about yourself and about the world. That’s fine. Embrace change, but don’t get yourself down when things aren’t progressing as fast as you would like them to. Keep up with your friends. Don’t stress yourself out too much. Sometimes, all you’ll need to do is cool down for a bit and unwind with a cup of tea and a book or something to watch.

Most importantly: keep doing you. You've already been doing a pretty amazing job.

Best wishes,

Amanda, aged 23

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

T5W: Books You'd Save in a Fire

This week’s topic was really interesting for me because I mostly read books digitally and I’m currently in the process of slimming down my physical bookshelf because, even though I do have some pretty nice signed editions and some really gorgeous covers, I'm not overly attached to my physical book collection. As a result, this week’s list is composed of primarily school books, which are jammed pack with sticky notes and (sometimes indecipherable) marginalia.
  1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I read Mrs. Dalloway three times throughout university, each time with a focus on something different. I used the same edition for all my classes, so you can see some pretty distinct changes in how my analysis of the text evolved from my freshman year through my senior year (one of the most notable changes is that I stopped using highlighters). It’s a pretty neat process to track.
  2. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. The Good Soldier was one of the last books I wrote a paper about at university, and I did so much extra research that the pages are absolutely overwhelmed with sticky notes and flags, underlined passages, and notes. I ended up being super proud of this paper, and it’s pretty nice to have a tangible object to show how much work I put into it.
  3. The Norton Shakespeare edited by Stephen Greenblatt. I originally received this anthology as a birthday present from one of my friends who knew about my love for Shakespeare. I haven’t talked to him much since we’ve gone off to university, but he wrote a very nice note to me in the cover, and I’ve used this anthology in almost every Shakespeare class I took (the one exception being the semester I studied abroad).
  4. Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach edited by Michael McKeon. Wow. Okay, this is a bit of a pretentious pick, but my history of the theory of the novel class turned out to be one of my favorites, and it really helped me expand my way of viewing and interpreting literature. We didn’t end up reading everything from the book in that class, but the passages we did read are heavily underlined and annotated and are ones that I often think about.
  5. Harry Potter series. This one is a major cheat because not only do I mean my original copies of the seven books, I also mean the UK editions of the series that my grandmother bought me and the UK and Italian editions I have of Beedle the Bard. But it’s Harry Potter, okay? You’re allowed to cheat for Harry Potter.
I feel like so many book bloggers and booktubers focus a lot about their physical collection (at least considerably more than I do), so what are the five books would you save in a fire?

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

T5W: Best Character Arcs

My choices for this week's topic were really difficult to narrow down. As a reader, I definitely tend to focus more on characters more than plot, so there are so many character arcs that have captivated me across all sorts of genres. I really tried to get a good mix of differing moralities when I complied this list because, honestly, sometimes morally grey characters do have the most room to grow and develop into something more. These characters might not be my favorite characters, but they're ones that have really stayed with me.
  1. Aaron Warner from the Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi. Oh man, my feelings toward Warner did an absolute 180 over the course of this trilogy. I really enjoyed seeing his transformation from a bad guy to a very tragic and flawed character on the side of the protagonist (I don’t want to spoil the series too much). It was a development that I started out thinking I wouldn’t like at all, but boy was I wrong.
  2. Amy Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. My love for unreliable narrators is so strong, and Amy’s character arc was a wild ride from beginning to end. I knew how the plot unfolded in the book before reading it, but I was still absolutely enthralled by the story because of Amy's allure. Her actions are completely out there, but her character arc is so captivating it’s hard not to get drawn in.
  3. Lirael from the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. It’s been a while since I read this series (and I really need to go back and read it since Clariel came out last year), but there’s just something about her growth throughout the series that has really stuck with me even though I can’t pull specifics out of my mind right now.
  4. Frankenstein’s creature from Frankenstein by Mary Shelly. I focused a lot on characterization and narration when I was in college, and I think a big part of that was because Frankenstein was such a formative part of my career as an English major. The creature is rooted in so much hope for humanity and it’s so painful to witness the tragic turn of his narrative caused by the cold and cruel skewed perception of humanity of his creator.
  5. Peggy Carter from Marvel's Agent Carter. I apparently can’t not have a comics-related character on my Wednesday lists, but in the case of Peggy, I’m not even sorry. I love everything about the way Peggy’s story unfolded in the MCU — she’s not a love interest, she’s not a two-dimensional “strong female character,” she’s given so much agency in her own narrative, and it’s such a wonderful thing to see on television and especially in a genre that bulldozes over realistic female characters so much of the time.
I'm a big believer that you don't have to like a character in order to like his or her development, but, while I really tried to settle on a mix of characters for this list, they all have qualities that I do admire to a certain extent. What are some of your favorite character arcs? I studied a lot of heroic type arcs in college, so I would love to hear some recommendations for really stellar tragic or villainous arcs!

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

T5W: Friend Groups I Would Like to Join

Really supportive/fun friendships are sort of my thing, so coming up with a list for this week’s topic was a lot of fun! For four out of five of these friend groups, I would probably need to develop superpowers, so ummm, I’ll try to work on that. Here are the friend groups I would absolutely love to join:
  1. Team America. I know I’m cheating here because I’m definitely referring the MCU iterations of Steve, Sam, Natasha, and (eventually, I'm hoping) Bucky. I’m really hoping we’ll get to see more of Steve and Natasha’s friendship in Age of Ultron, and I can’t wait to have Sam back in Civil War and the support he provides his friends. I’m also excited to see how Bucky will fit with them in the MCU. I just really love them all, okay?
  2. The Guardians of the Galaxy. Okay, this is less cheating because I’m specifically thinking about the Abnett and Lanning run of Guardians of the Galaxy. They get off to a super rough start as a team, but how much they come to trust each other and work together is really amazing. Peter is such a big cementing factor to the team, and it’s great to see so many different types of characters (with completely different motivations) come together and save the universe!
  3. The Sailor Scouts. Absolutely. Who doesn’t love the Sailor Scouts? That was a rhetorical question. Next.
  4. The Weasley Twin friend group. I feel like a lot of people have mentioned the Golden Trio from Harry Potter, but I always thought that being friends with George, Fred, Lee, Angelina, Katie, and Alicia would be a lot of fun (and, most likely, occasionally infuriating because of Fred and George’s constant stream of pranks).
  5. Princess Diaries. Mia's friend group in the Princess Diaries reminds me a lot of my friends (you know, except that none of my friends are princesses and with a lot less of the drama that comes with that). They’re nerds. My friends are nerds. It’s a great match.
What friend groups would you like to join? I'd love to hear about them!

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

T5W: Books That Take Place in Your Country/Region/or Area

Since I usually tend to read books set in places where I want to live (New York, London, etc.) as opposed to where I actually do live (the suburbs of Atlanta, GA), this week's topic was a bit difficult for me to come up with answers for. But, though minor cheating, I've come up with somewhat of a list!

  1. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman. I swear I don’t aim to put at least one comic on these lists every week, but the early volumes of The Walking Dead are set in or around Atlanta, and I think that’s pretty cool. Unlike the comics, the TV show still takes place in Georgia, and it’s an absolutely harrowing thing to drive by a street in Atlanta and go, “oh, hey, that place was completely overrun with zombies last week” or to see a decrepit UGA bus on a series poster and go, “oh, hey, I totally went to that school."
  2. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. I actually heard about Jackson’s books because she’s a fellow alumna of UGA and spoke to the English department when I was still a student there. Because of this it really shouldn’t have surprised me so much that Sisters Red was set in Atlanta. I’ve not read many urban fantasy series, but I think knowing the general vibe of Atlanta really grounded the story and helped me define the characters more (there’s a rather big difference, in my mind at least, between a “Northern” character and a “Southern” one).
  3. ttyl by Lauren Myracle. I read this ages ago, but Goodreads has informed me that the characters lived in Atlanta (or Georgia, at least), so who am I to argue with that? What I do remember is that the exact setting didn’t really matter much to the overall crux of the book since all of it took place over chatroom messages. I remember that I really liked how different the format of it was and that it was a super fast read.
  4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This one is probably super cheating because maps of Panem are all over the place, but, you know what? The Atlanta area is totally in Area 10, and they totally filmed bits of Catching Fire and Mockingjay in Atlanta, so I’m totally going to count it. Fun fact: the elevator where Katniss meets Johanna is in the Marriott Marquis where Dragon Con is, and I’ve totally ridden in that elevator up to the same floor (the 10th floor) where Katniss and Peeta go.
  5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve never actually read Gone with the Wind (or seen the movie, for that matter), but, chances are, if you bring up you’re from Georgia, Gone with the Wind is probably going to be the thing most people think of (don't lie — you were probably waiting for me to mention it on this list). Maybe one day, I’ll read or watch it?
What are some of your favorite books set in you're region? I really like to read books that focus on different parts, so I would love to have some suggestions on where to explore next!

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

T5W: Futuristic Books

A few years back, I had the opportunity to take a science fiction class at university. It was amazing because a) the professor soon became one of my favorite professors and b) it introduced me to a genre I really wanted to explore but had no clue where to start. Since futuristic speculation and extrapolation are really prevalent themes in science fiction, it’s hardly a surprise that the entirety of my list this week comes from the required reading list for that class.

  1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. First off, I feel like whenever anyone mentions this book, they always preface it with “it’s the book that inspired Blade Runner.” While that is absolutely true, they completely feel like two different texts. I won’t talk much about Blade Runner here but it’s very dark, gritty, cramped cyberpunk feel is so different from the abandoned desolate feel in Androids. Despite its setting in the future (which, for the most part, has been relocated off-planet) and the presence of androids, Androids seems a bit like a film noir version of the future — when I read it, I tend to imagine everything in sepia. Still, it’s an interesting scenario, a look at a future where, for the most part, Earth has been abandoned as mankind has reached for the stars and never turned back.
  2. Neuromancer by William Gibson. An absolute contrast to Androids and falling perfectly into line with Blade Runner, Neuromancer is a crazy look into the chaos of the Cyberpunk genre. Cramped metropolises, abandoned rural sites, physical cybernetic implants, cyberspace, massive evil corporations, violence, hacking, sexy times, more violence — it’s a pretty wild ride. Gibson’s writing, not to mention all the hacker lingo, makes for a really convoluted read, but as we put more of our lives online and give corporations more and more power, it’s a really interesting look into our relationship both with technology and with capitalism.
  3. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delany. Before I read Neuromancer, I thought it was the most difficult and weirdest book I had ever read, probably less than 20 pages into Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and that notion was completely erased. I’m not going to lie: Stars in My Pocket is a super difficult book to read. But, oh man, even though it gets absolutely crazy at times, the discourse it presents on so many topics, from gender studies to queer studies to postmodern lit theory to race and ethnic studies, is on another level. Just like Neuromancer, this is a novel I’m looking forward to digging back into and really grappling with again.
  4. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. Parable of the Sower is one of those books that really hit you hard because, even though it’s set in the future, it’s a not-so-distant future that is so easily extrapolated from the current realities and tensions of today. The environmental and economic crises that have laid the government to waste and how the communities and people react to that dissolution of government seem so real and, quite frankly, terrifying. Butler’s prose is simple, but what she covers can sometimes be very hard to digest, though the protagonist weaves her story with glimmers of hope. Honestly, the vibe of it reminds me of early issues of The Walking Dead, sans zombies.
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood. The Hanmaid’s Tale is another book that completely hits you hard. In this speculative fiction, the patriarchy has been ramped up to the extreme. What makes it incredibly haunting is the ending, which alludes to the events taking place in the future and the absolute isolation and disparity of the United States as it has been cut off from the rest of the world, that has seemingly been running fine, during that time.
  6. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, art by Valentine De Landro. And now for an honorable mention because what would my lists be if they didn’t mention a comic. Much like The Handmaid’s Tale, Bitch Planet takes place in a not-so-distant future where the patriarchy has been ramped up a few notches. Against the word of men, who have the final say, women can be deemed “non-compliant” and are sent to an off-world prison, the titular "Bitch Planet.” The book has just started (issue 2 came out last week), but it has amazing promise, and I’m eagerly looking forward to watch DeConnick has in store for the series.
What are some of your favorite futuristic books? I'm always meaning to delve more into science fiction, so let me know what I should definitely put at the top of my reading list!

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

T5W: Favorite Anti-Heroes

Completely missed last week because I was working on my website, but I can't miss the opportunity to talk a bit about my favorite anti-heroes. I have a particular fondness for anti-heroes and surprise, surprise, most of these are from comics, so without further ado:
  1. Deadpool. Absolutely Deadpool. I think a lot of anti-heroes have a reputation of being way too serious, but Deadpool is anything but.  He’s absolutely crass, constantly toeing the line between offense and humor. I also love how his humor breaks through the fourth wall. He’s absolutely insane, definitely morally gray, but still weirdly relatable.
  2. V. I feel like V falls in the more serious side of anti-hero characterization (although he does have a certain gritty humor to him). You’re really called to question if he’s fighting for his cause in an ends justify the means sort of way or if he’s just insane.
  3. Curtis. Oh man, Snowpiercer was one of my favorite films from last year and perhaps one of my favorite things about it was seeing Chris Evans playing someone who is such a contrast to Steve Rogers. Everything about Curtis is grim from his current situation to the backstory that brought him to that position, and at the climax of the film, when his trust and morals have shattered once more, you really don't know what he's going to choose.
  4. Grendel. This one really doesn’t make sense if you haven’t read Grendel by John Gardner, which adds an insane amount of characterization to the monster that terrorized Beowulf. The humanization he undergoes, while it completely doesn’t justify his actions, leads a sympathy to his situation that seems really key to anti-heroes.
  5. Don Quijote. I feel like I’ve gone super dark with this list, so I’m going to end it on a lighter note. Don Quijote is absolutely not your typical hero, and although he’s not morally gray, his sense of reality (or lack thereof) propels him into the anti-hero territory and a parody of the traditional hero in chivalric romances.
When making this list, I was really dismayed not to have many female characters come to mind. I feel like we more readily cast female characters into good vs. evil categories without allowing them the possibility to be morally gray, but then again, I could also be missing some really obvious ones (I suppose from some angles characters like Katniss and Tris can be seen as anti-heroes). Who are some of your favorite anti-heroes? Since the definition of anti-hero varies so much, I always love to hear arguments that allow me to see characters in completely different lights.

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

T5W: Series You Want to Start This Year

I’m absolutely horrible about finishing novels in a series, so I was stuck on the topic of this week’s Top 5 Wednesday for awhile. Luckily, being relatively new to the whole comics thing, there are so many series (some old, some new) I’m really hoping to get to this year. So here we go!

  1. Ex Machina, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Tony Harris. One of my favorite professors in college (who happened to teach the comics class I was lucky enough to take one semester) recommended this series quite a few times, but I still haven’t picked it up. I should probably fix that.
  2. Rat Queens, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe, art by Tess Fowler. I’ve heard this series has some amazing female characters and I’m completely here for more (and better written) females in comics.
  3. Lumberjanes, written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, art by Brooke Allen. Another series with what seems to be really dynamic female characters. I also love the art for this series so much; it seems a lot of fun!
  4. The Fade Out, written by Ed Brubaker, art by Sean Philips. I absolutely love the covers of this series, and I’m really looking forward to the Hollywood film noir premise of it. I’ve also enjoyed previous Brubaker/Philips collaborations, so I’m hoping I’ll like this as well.
  5. Satellite Sam, written by Matt Fraction, art by Howard Chaykin. I’ve enjoyed all the titles I’ve picked up by Fraction, so far, which makes me really interested in reading more of his work. This seems quite a bit darker from Hawkeye and Sex Criminals, but darker can be good too.

Do you have any comic series that you want to start this year? I'm sure knowledge of awesome titles is spotty at best, so I'm always looking for more!

The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Agent Carter: The Hero We Deserve

I’m not going to lie: I’ve been over the moon about Agent Carter since it was officially announced by Marvel. The Captain America films are my favorite MCU installments, so I was eager to see a continuation of the story with Peggy at the helm. The premise promised three things I love: the Captain America universe, early Cold War era spies, and a female narrative.

I was not let down at all. Not in the slightest.

There’s a lot that I loved about the first two episodes of Agent Carter, but one of my favorite things, by far, was the fact that it addressed the sexism of the 1940s without falling into the common trap of actually becoming sexist.

A lot of this is because we’re experiencing the story told through Peggy, which shifts the focus through a female-centered lens as opposed to the typical male-centric one. This shift allows Peggy to take control of her agency as a character. She’s not a perky sidekick to a male protagonist; she’s not a forlorn love interest; she’s not another in a long line of two-dimensional “strong female characters.”

From the beginning of the first episode, it’s clear that Peggy isn’t out to prove herself to her male coworkers (as as well intentioned Sousa is, she doesn’t need male coworkers championing her cause, which would undermine her further). She’s irked by their misogynistic comments (and has subtle digs on the tip of her tongue), but she’s fine letting her coworkers underestimate her and her femininity as long as that means she’s free to operate and complete missions on her own terms, away from an overbearing male presence.

Unlike other female narratives in man-dominated fields, Peggy doesn’t need sacrifice her femininity in order to succeed; instead, she embraces it as an asset, simply another tool in her spy arsenal. She seamlessly incorporates traditionally feminine items and situations into her spy work: she uses the excuse of making coffee to get herself into a meeting, disguises herself with a blonde wig and a low cut dress, knocks a guy out with her lipstick (while also making a premature ejaculation joke), pretends she’s looking at Steve’s old file for sentimental reasons while also grabbing another item to use out the box, uses an outfit from one of Howard Stark’s sex fantasies as another disguise, picks a lock with her brooch, uses her stove as an extra weapon in a fight, and (my favorite) diffuses a bomb with household cleaning supplies and a perfume bottle. Even better, she doesn’t back down from her femininity for the sake of making men comfortable (for instance, when she uses “ladies’ things” to be excused from work).

Underneath all of Peggy’s femininity, though, is a very finely concealed anger that is poised to break through at any instance (we see this in the first Captain America movie when Peggy decks Hodge and also when she fires a gun at Steve). Her fighting style isn’t the graceful and acrobatic agility of Natasha Romanoff or Melinda May, who both use the momentum of their opponents against them. Peggy is absolutely brutal in comparison. She bulldozes in, barreling into her opponent full-stop and using every and an item in her reach: guns, knives, stove burners, briefcases, staplers. She’s absolutely unapologetic, and it’s definitely a sight to behold, especially in her quieter moments of rage like threatening a guy in the diner with a fork because of his misogynistic behavior towards Angie.

Even though Peggy is one of few women who has a secure job in man-dominated field, she doesn’t lord her specific set of privileges above other women; she welcomes the companionship (even when her job forces her to push them away). Peggy and Colleen’s relationship echoes, in a way, Steve and Natasha’s friendship in the first part of The Winter Soldier — Colleen chiding Peggy about dating and Peggy giving orders. She and Rose, the telephone operator who is in direct contact with the SSR office, seem to be on a friendly basis with each other (I would actually love to see this explored more in a later episode). I really enjoyed the protectiveness and playfulness of Peggy’s friendship with Angie, and I can’t wait to see Peggy interact not only with her new neighbors, as well as her landlady, in the upcoming episodes.

The most notable relationship that Peggy develops throughout the course of the show is her working relationship turned friendship with Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis.

First off, Jarvis himself is a wonderful character. He isn’t traditionally masculine, but he also isn’t coded as gay (his major concerns besides butting his way into aiding Peggy are making soufflés and washing the linens for his wife). He wants to help Peggy (and is very insistent in offering his help), but he doesn’t want her job or claim that he can do it better than she can. He’s there to challenge and support Peggy, not as a rival or a love interest, but as a friend (side note: I love how much of Peggy’s interaction with men isn’t laced with romantic undertones, with the possible exception of Sousa, who might develop into a love interest?).

This friendship, cemented in the scene at the end of episode two where Jarvis is giving Peggy a pep talk very similar to the one Peggy gave Steve before he decided to do something more with his Captain America persona, is such a positive one as we see Peggy begin to transform into her own version of the Captain America legend (albeit on a deeply personal, very private level). Jarvis gives Peggy a very safe outlet to discuss her private life that she can’t disclose with her coworkers or her other friends. From the earliest moments of the show, it’s clear that Peggy’s grief and her past relationships don't define her, but, in her moments with Jarvis, they don't become cast aside or minimized; they become shared.

Perhaps my favorite scene across both episodes was one of Peggy’s fight scenes which brilliantly paralleled a fictional fight during the Captain America Adventure Hour, the in-universe radio show. Bookended by her fictional counterpart’s entreaties of “If only Captain America were here to rescue me!” and “Captain America, what would I ever do without you?”, it really sunk in: Peggy Carter can do everything Captain America did, except backwards and in high heels.

Overall, the first two episodes of Agent Carter were everything that I could have hoped for and so much more! I feel neglectful in my analysis that I didn’t discuss the actors, but Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy are wonderful and I can’t wait to see more of them as well as Enver Gjokaj and Lyndsy Fonseca in future episodes (also woah Chad Michael Murray). I also really appreciate that so many people who worked on the Captain America films are also writing/directing episodes. I really really loved the premiere, and I can’t wait to see how Peggy’s story unfolds!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Better late than never?

I initially wasn’t going to make a list of New Year’s resolutions because, by the end of the year (or the end of the month), something has always gone by the wayside. But I like making lists; it’s sort of my thing, so I’m going to make one anyway. Here are some things I’m hoping to accomplish this year; I have 5 goals that are reading related and then a few that have to do with crafting.
  1. Create and regularly update a blog. Well, I’ve already halfway checked the box in making this blog, but actually maintaining it will be a challenge. I’m hoping to keep up with the Top 5 Wednesday topics every week, along with book, comic, television, and movie reviews every so often.
  2. Read 75 books. This was my Goodreads goal last year, and I ended up reading 139 books (plus a few audiobooks I forgot to track). While I almost doubled my book goal last year, I want to keep the same goal number this year because I’m hoping for a few changes in my personal life later on in the year that might affect how much I’m able to read.
  3. Catch up on Marvel NOW! titles. Ever since I subscribed to Marvel Unlimited last year, this has been a background goal of mine. I’m caught up on a few titles: Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and Young Avengers, but I really want to gain a better understanding of other current Marvel titles. I’m reading them as they came out as opposed to reading straight through specific titles. Currently, I’m on the April 2013 issues.
  4. Finish Fables. Fables, right now, is about 3 issues away from being finished, so this year is the year I really want to focus on finishing the series. I’m 25 issues in, so we’ll see how this goes, especially paired with my heavy Marvel reading.
  5. Go through my physical book collection and donate the ones I don’t want. Besides select comics and graphic novels, I do the majority of my reading digitally now. Most of my books are actually in boxes right now between a house move and college), so I want to go through them and really minimize my physical collection.
  6. Design teddy bear and plushie patterns. I received a sewing machine as a Christmas gift, so I really want to put it to use making adorable plushies for my Etsy store.
  7. Have a table at a local con or craft fair. I’m hoping to have a table at 221B Con, an Atlanta-based Sherlock Holmes convention this April (I started my Etsy store last year crocheting BBC Sherlock inspired dolls), but even if I don’t get a table there, I want to look into having a table at the Marietta Square craft fairs this spring.
  8. Make Peggy Carter cosplays for Dragon Con. I’ve done so many cosplays over the last few years, but I haven’t constructed a costume from scratch. I’m hoping to make two Peggy outfits to wear at Dragon Con this September.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

T5W: Anticipated 2015 Releases

In order to get into the habit of regularly updating a blog, I've decided to keep up with Top 5 Wednesdays. The Goodreads group for T5W (as well as the topics and the book bloggers and booktubers who participate) can be found here. Today's topic is my top 5 anticipated 2015 releases, so without further ado, here they are:

  1. Operation S.I.N. by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis. The first issue of this title comes out today (there will be 5 issues total), but I’m so excited for it, I’m going to include it on my list anyway. Cold War spy stories are some of my favorite and with the amazing Peggy Carter as the lead, I’m completely sold. I was completely blown away from the first episode of Agent Carter yesterday, so I’m more than pumped to start reading this (while this does follow Peggy recovering Howard Stark’s stolen tech, I believe it’s quite separate from its MCU counterpart). The story is written by Kathryn Immonen, who wrote one of my favorite Captain America one-shot issues Captain America and the First Thirteen, and the sneak peaks of Rich Ellis’s art for this title look so incredible.
  2. Royal Wedding: Princess Diaries Volume XI by Meg Cabot. I (re)read my way through all of the Princess Diaries series last year in anticipation for this book. The Princess Diaries was one of the stories that prompted my first forays into fandom (as strange as that may seem) and was a super important series to me when I was in middle and high school. I can’t wait to read the series conclusion (I’m assuming?) and see what Mia’s been up to. And, of course, who could resist the lure of Michael Moscovitz?
  3. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. I read The Diviners last year around Halloween, and while I was totally late to that party, I’m actually super happy I waited that long to read it because it means less of a wait for this book. I’m usually not too big on supernaturally, paranormal type books, but the cast of characters in The Diviners completely had me hooked, and I eager to learn more about them (especially the ones that were more in the background of the first book). I also loved how real the 1920s aesthetic made everything feel, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to contribute to the believability factor of the story.
  4. Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger. I’ve enjoyed all of Kody Keplinger’s young adult books that I’ve read, so when she announced that she was coming out with a new book, set in the same universe, I immediately added it to my mental list. Based off the premise, I assume it’s going to deal quite a bit with online vs. offline identities, and I’m so down for that, especially combined with Kody Keplinger’s fun writing style.
  5. Fairest and Winter by Marissa Meyer. I actually haven’t finished reading Cress yet (despite starting it in the first half of last year), but I love the world-building and the whole cast of characters, so I’m looking forward to see how both are furthered in the prequel as well as the conclusion to the series.
What books are you most looking forward to this year? Are they based heavily on favorite past reads (like mine are)? Or are you looking to branch out with debut authors?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Then how should I begin

As I write these words, I'm perfectly aware of the cliché of the twenty-something blogger. And because I like to one-up clichés, I start my (new) blog New Year's Day. How delightful.

But if there's one thing I learned in the year I've graduated college (with an English degree, of course), it's that I really do miss the writing. I miss the discussion. I miss the unraveling, the decompacting of ideology. Sometimes, I even miss the almost ironic levels of pretension that echo through analysis and argument. Language as the cornerstone of performance. Performance as identity.

This past year, with a permanent break from school and no long-term obligations (and the echoing refrains of "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" in my head), was supposed to be a year for me to reflect and find my center. In actuality, it's felt more like a lost year. A year of knowing what I want to do, where I want to live, but not having the means to do that yet. A string of open-ended objectives with no set schedule, sitting stagnant as close friends pass GO and collect their $200 (and their associated benefits!), wondering when my time to cross, to begin, will finally come.

I've never been particularly good at starting things, or, rather, I've never been particularly good with dealing with the pomp and circumstance that surrounds something brand-new. Not when it's directed at myself. Not when it's something only for me. I like being behind-the-scenes, moving the pieces, involved but not in the spotlight. My second degree is in public relations, but while I have no problems developing and talking about the objectives and tactics of others, when it comes to my own, I stumble. I lose myself.

Myself. My identity.

I am an amalgamation of my family, my friends, the people I meet, the stories I consume. I am an amalgamation of ideology. I am problematic. I am working at becoming better.

My inner reality is in a constant state of flux.

I think about this a lot. The conflict between inner and outer realities. How we view ourselves versus how others perceive us. Variable versus static. The lenses never really match up. Intentions are missed and misconstrued. And so we cling to the traits that we feel define us in the eyes of others, perfectly aware that "In a minute there is time/
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse" (pretentious English major that I am, the words of Prufrock reverberate through me).

This has always been the crux of my hesitancy in starting and regularly updating a blog (it's the crux of my hesitancy to ever speak up about myself). With every word I type, every word I say, I begin to collapse the void between my inner and outer selves just a little bit more. My words spiral out, creating and compounding new meanings over which I have no control. Sharing my inner realities publicly (even through the faux safety of an impersonal digital screen) and having them conflict with the outer reality others have already constructed for me, terrifies me. I'm not as great as you think. I'm not as good. I'm not as smart, as clever, as whatever. I am entirely too pretentious.

I've probably gotten far too extisentially self-analytical for an introductory post on a blog that was mainly going to be about books, but, as I mentioned, the stories I consume are innately tied to my construction of myself, both internally and externally. I can't promise I'll wax philosophical in all of my posts (you'd probably prefer if I didn't), but, hey, thanks for reading the ramblings of yet another twenty-something. Welcome to my blog.