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.