Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End of the Year Top Authors

Ok, so I know I said that I would do Top 5 books of the year, but the problem with that is that though I've took the time to read and review a lot on my blog (and get into the habit of posting on a regular basis), I've read books that sort of did double duty. I reviewed a lot on my blog that I used for my lesson plans and though they are good literary novels, I'm not sure I would rank it as one of my top books of this year.

As I reviewed my past posts, a few books, but most importantly, 2 authors caught my eye that I thought were very noteworthy and I'm so glad that I discovered them this year. In order to be genuine to this blog and most importantly, to myself, I thought I would discuss both of them instead of arbitrarily listing 5 books that I sort of liked.

2. Sherman Alexie

I discovered this author last year when my co-teacher assigned one of his books for her American Literature class. I've read 2 books by him, and I would like to read more when I get the chance. The first book I read by him is Reservation Blues, a book I acquired when a teacher retired at the end of June. I enjoy Alexie's voice and his style. He's a realist, with humor, depression, alcoholism and poverty all rolled into life on the Reservation. He shows the decline of the characters in the book with such gentleness, and also handles the plight of their circumstance due to systematic racism with the same sort of factual gentleness.

My husband has a copy of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and I read that one next. Even though he uses some of the same characters from Reservation in The Lone Ranger (or really, he uses characters from The Lone Ranger in Reservation), it's not overdone. They are familiar faces in much of the same circumstances. The Lone Ranger are a bunch of short stories about life on the Reservation, with folklore and mythology thrown in. It was his first book published, and I can't wait to read his other books next.

1. Octavia Butler

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed my last 3 months as an English teacher was because of this book. My husband taught this book to his 9th graders at the beginning of the year, and when I was struggling to rewrite my curriculum for the second half of the year, he suggested this book to me. Butler's writing is just phenomenal and Kindred, a stand alone book, is wonderful as it is horrifying. It allows a fresh take on the Antebellum South, as if it were if someone of color traveled back in time. This slave narrative really hits home for what actual slavery was like, and what our country was built from. Like Alexie, Butler also discusses racism but shows it through the lens of Kevin and Dana, an interracial couple in the 1970s.

I then read some of her other books, such as Parable of the Sower, Dawn and Adulthood Rites. I love her weird science fiction, and even more importantly, I love the diversity of her characters. The books that I've read so far have a majority of strong, female characters and they feel genuine because they are treated like people who make mistakes but ultimately power through.

However, unlike Alexie's books, Butler's books are finite. I look forward to reading them, but I dread the day when I read her last one.

These two authors really affected my literature and novel choices this year. Their gifts with words and their insight, whether it's folklore on the Spokane Reservation mixed in with realism and fiction or it's a science fiction story about the future of the world in the lens of a woman of color, has stayed with me.

What authors did you really enjoy this year? What authors did you discover? Comment below, or tweet me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Nerve-wrecking Thing About Choosing Your End of the Year Top Books...

I've never been the one to recount or accumulate yearly memories for the end of the year celebration. Maybe it's because it's easier, at least for me, to see the bad than the good, and I end up getting depressed on what went wrong for me, my friends and my family. Cynical and Negative? Absolutely. So I learned very quickly that there wasn't a major pay off and any sort of resolution I made for myself in the start of the New Year also bombed incredibly. Therefore, instead of waiting for the New Year to start thinking positive and doing better for myself, I just try to actively to do it during the year, with varying degrees of success.

Josh, however, does the opposite and does it in a more light hearted way. When he and I started dating, he posts his top 10s on facebook. Top 10 movies, top 10 albums, top 10 shows. I read what he wrote and he and I would talk about. He would ask me what my top 10s were, and I would... avoid the subject.

Choosing your top 10 seemed intimidating even though there aren't any stakes involved and no one will be hurt if you don't rank your favorite things in order from least favorite to most favorite. So, this year, I decided that I would rank my top 10 books and top 5 movie/show adaptations that I liked. I told my husband, who so very dearly wanted to talk with me about them... and promptly made me want to not do it.

It's not his fault at all. However, when he brings up individual episodes of shows that you and he both watched together as an adaptation (that you had no idea it was an adaptation or you haven't read the book/comic of that show yet) and you don't really remember watching the episode all that much, you feel intimidated. I found myself questioning where my memory has gone, where can I find it and how I can get it back, if he's so in tune to certain episodes and I barely remember what we watched last week.

Initially, I was going to avoid doing it at all. I'll start anew next year and then by the end of 2016, I'll be prepared. However, we all know how that goes. Why would this resolution turn out any differently?

When I talked to my friends, they suggested starting somewhere a bit less overwhelming, like a top 5 book, or as my friend Ashley suggested, and she does know me very well, books that I disliked this year. I think it's good practice for my future "Top 10s" posts.

Stay tuned for which books I thought were noteworthy!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The All-Different, All-New Avengers # 1 by Waid, Kurbert and Omack

The Avengers are incredibly famous now since the movies. I was wondering what they were going to do with them since they are rebooting all of their new number 1's. I was pleasantly surprised with the familiar superheros they kept and then added a few new ones to the mix.

It opens up to Sam Wilson saving someone, and no matter what he does, cannot catch a break. Tony Stark arrives and provides a needed distraction while they separate from the masses who want Captain America to buy some girl scout cookies.

Tony Stark is poor now? I'm not sure what the deal was, but he sold Stark tower to... someone that looks evil, who discovered Warbringer hiding in one of the boxes they were moving. He technically teleported, but hiding sounds funnier. Spider-man (Oh, Spider-man), was eyesdropping, but since I know that he pays Hobie Brown to be his stand in, I wonder if it's him? Anyway, he's caught by the random evil guy and Warbringer, and tosses him out the window. Tony's car is turned into an Iron-man, and Captain America save Spider-man and help save the day.

The comic then cuts to a girl who is in the midst of an argument with her teenage friends. A side note here, I love the awareness of diversity in the new comic books. It's such a simple thing to have a friend who wears a hijab in a comic book, but with all the anti-muslim rhetoric, anything that can be used to show that muslims are people too is beneficial.

Anyway, Ms. Marvel is a teenage girl who witnesses a large beast in her neighborhood and Nova battling it. She goes and change, and of course, Nova is smitten at first by the citizen, then by the changing Ms. Marvel. I don't know a lot about her, but I already think she's rad. The pair of them bicker as they take down the beast, and Nova reveals who he is in desperate attempt to get her to like him.

It does not go over well.

There are 2 more characters that haven't been introduced that will be introduced next issue: Thor and The Vision. We knew The Vision from the movie, but we'll see how they interpret him. I'm interested in reading his comic, The Visions. Finally, they changed the gender of Thor. I'm not sure how or why, but I think there is also another all knew comic about the change.

I'm excited to read the second issue of the The Avengers with the spin on it.

Also, side note, I'm excited that the new Hulk is Asian. That's pretty cool, right?

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Machine by E.C Jarvis

This is a unique review for me, because normally on my blog I review well known books from well known publishers. However, The Machine is a book that was published by my friend's new publishing company, Rambunctious Ramblings Publishing Incorporated.  What is even more unique about this book and this review is that had I actually briefly worked with RRPI over the summer when I had off from work.  I had the opportunity to read, edit and offer comments on the first 10 chapters of her book.

Here is my full disclosure.  I received the book for free to read and review. All of my opinions are my own. I am not a professional editor and finally.... I do not like reading Steampunk.

Why is that a disclosure, you ask? I think Steampunk is incredibly overrated, and majority of the fans have ruined the punk form for me. I like some of the fashion, but when it comes to written materials, I cringe. When I heard about RRPI's first book was going to be Steampunk, I visibly rolled my eyes. It's some people's jam, but it's not my own.

Now, I read the first 10 chapters of the book, and gave some suggestions on the relationship between Larissa and The Professor. When there was much more insight given on the whirlwind romance between the two, and how Larissa continually kicked herself throughout the book for being a silly girl for her infatuation, I related to her. We've all done it; fall head over heels for someone who is glamorous and attractive, without taking a moment to see the full picture.

However, I didn't read the entire book until now. A part of me wished I did. As media, literature and entertainment progresses over the years, I find it unacceptable and disappointing when there is a movie or a book that actively ignores diversity. It's not OK in 2015 to write stories where there are less women than men when there is no need for it. It's not OK in stories to have a lack of different ethnicities and races when there is no need for it. It's one thing if it's a historical drama of the Zulu Nation, where obviously, there would be not many, if any, white people. It's understandable if there were no women in a civil war drama on Andersonville POW camp. The story doesn't call for it.

The Machine has 2 women in it. Or well, 3 if you counted Larissa's mother, who died a few years before the book took place and is practically painted as a harlot who abandoned her daughter in her time of need. There are 10+ men in it. Larissa starts out as a lowly retail worker and ends up being a captain of a ship. I am all for characters discovering their weight in salt, and in fact, many books are much more compelling for following this character arc, but it's another thing that not only does she not have a female friend in the book or even a female ally, her actions and progression of character building is built around men. She is constantly validated by men and it's only at the end of the book that she decides that she can't go back to her quiet life as a retail worker. However, I'm not sure if Larissa would have come to this conclusion if it wasn't for the men in her new life constantly telling her she has potential and that she's smarter than she gives herself credit for. Larissa is unsure of herself and falters, like a human being does, but at one point, shouldn't she accept that she settled for most of her life and what she's doing now is much better, or even just more exciting? Shouldn't she have recognized that way before her beloved Professor dies so soon after she rescued him?

The only other woman in the book, Serenia, is an assassin, and not only is she a one dimensional character, she is brutally murdered for doing what mercenaries for hire do. I wouldn't have a problem with this if there were more female characters, but there isn't. It would have probably been written the same way if the mercenary was a male... but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Why did the only other female character in the book have to be tortured to death? Reading the scene leading up to her death, I was hoping that the book would surprise me with Larissa saving Serenia, leading her to become that female ally that the protagonist do desperately needed. Nevertheless, no. The scene ended in the way that was expected and the only other woman, who also could have taught Larissa a thing or two, or could have been a recurring characters in the later novels, died in pain and alone.

Finally, I have issues with the character of Holt and the relationship between Holt and Larissa. Holt is the stereotypical mysterious man who teaches her how to fight and they fuck on the Captain's table before they go rescue The Professor, the man that Larissa supposedly likes as well. I'm not slut shaming Larissa, who deserved a bit of something before risking her life and almost dying for a guy that used her. However... haven't we read this before? Hasn't this trope, and the tropes of the protagonist and the dangerous man been done over and over? Hasn't this love triangle in various forms been done over and over?

I would have loved to have Holt be female. Larissa could have been bisexual, or the pair would have become friends (or allies), and Larissa could not have been with anyone, or just hoped that her relationship with The Professor worked out. If the character of Holt had to be male and there is a budding romance between the two, couldn't either Cid or The Friar be female? A kick ass nun instead of a priest or an older female engineer that cares about Larissa like the daughter she never had? I know a lot of School Sisters of Notre Dame that would have fit easily as the Friar.

Now, you may ask yourself, or ask me, 'But Jordan, the author is a woman.' Yes, yes she is. This was something I discussed with my husband, who has a degree in English and admittedly, is a much better writer than me. E.C Jarvis, like many authors, seems to writes within the confines of the patriarchy. Women are only validated through the viewpoint of men. Larissa, though a captain of the airship by the end of the novel, is only a captain because men truly believed in her. Her shipmates, all men, all chose to believe in her along with Cid and Holt. Which on it's own, it's not a big deal. Men should believe in women, and vice versa. People should support people in the same cause. However, a captain of a ship isn't equal. It's the exception. She's practically placed on a pedestal as the captain of a ship she didn't earn. It would have made sense to make Holt the Captain and Larissa the first mate. At least Holt knew what he was doing. He is military trained.

I reviewed the book through the feminist lens and I made suggestions throughout the review to make the story different by changing the dynamics of certain characters in hopes that their gender would change some of the plot. But if I'm being completely honest with myself, I've read this type of book before. Now it's just dressed up in steampunk with airships. It could have 10 women in it, and it could still be a lackluster book with a boring plot. It's just that the lack of women is much more noticeable and outrageous than a plot about an unambitious woman stepping out of her boring life to go rescue a man that she at least is lusting after.

There is a sequel to the book, The Machine, titled The Pirate. After this negative review, I am sure I won't get a free copy of the book to review. However, I hope that E.C Jarvis takes a few moments to consider how characters relate to each other, and raise her awareness, or lack thereof, of diversity in her books. It would help her make the leap from an amateur author to a professional one. Her writing has such potential, and whereas there are some books I cannot finished, I actually finished this one in a few days. If one is going to use Steampunk as the basis for their worldbuilding, the story should be compelling and engaging not because of it, but in spite of it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Which is Better? Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Alright, I've started, and re-started, and re-re-started the post for this blog, and I can't even begin to introduce this monstrosity of a story that managed to be published as a book, and then turned into a film adaptation. I'm just at a lost for words. They all needed a good thing to remain a good thing with Silence of the Lambs.

So, the sequel of this movie does not have the original director, original main lead or the original script writer. This bodes well. Anthony Hopkins came back as Hannibal Lector cause man gotta eat! I'm also sure that playing someone like Hannibal is really fun, even though I still think he's a Gary Stu.

They took out a few characters, like Margot and Jack Crawford. They weren't really needed in the film, as they just added flavor to the book. Jack Crawford's story in the book is pretty sad, and I loved how they interpreted his character for the show. Margot... I thought she was a poorly written character to begin with, so I was relieved that that they didn't include her in the movie, because I can only imagine how they would interpret her.

They also left alone Hannibal's surgeries... only to disguise him with big... hats. That's right. The most wanted man in the world remained uncaught because he wore big hats and sunglasses in the movie.

There are other similarities and differences between the book and the movie. The stuff in Italy is mostly the same, with the rescue of Hannibal by Starling after she is put on administrative leave. There isn't mention of Mischa, the sister that was cannibalized by Nazi deserters when he was a young child.

However, what I really want to discuss is the ending of the book, and the ending of the movie. I'm relieved, as I think everyone involved in the movie that Harris agreed to allow the movie script to be completely rewritten. The ending... absolutely blew in the book, as I reviewed. Even though I think the story is crappy, the ending of the movie was a heck of a lot better than the book. So in the movie, Hannibal rescues her after she is wounded after rescuing Hannibal from the Verger Farm.

They run off and Hannibal, a licensed medical doctor, treats Starling's wounds. At one point, she awakes to find an evening dress and invited down to dinner. She does... to find Knedler there. She watches horrified as Hannibal feeds Knedler's brain to him. She tries to attack him and he overpowers her. They kiss, and Clarice manages to put handcuffs on them so he won't get away. The police are on their way to the residence, and Hannibal wields a meat cleaver to cut off his hand.

Clarice still remains true to her character by still desiring to catch the bad guy and not completely give into Hannibal's sociopathic charms. At least Clarice didn't do a 180 character turn where she decides that Hannibal is her end all be all, and HEY, LET'S HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH A CANNIBAL. Like, Clarice, he defo is on the run from the law and broke out of a mental institution. Maybe you should, idk, get away from him?

There isn't much else to say about this, except Silence of the Lambs is my favorite book and movie out of the entire series. I wished, like I think everyone else wished, that the book was better and that the movie had better material to go off of.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Marvel Mondays: Captain America #1 by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna

OK... Chris Evans as Steve Rogers who is Captain America is hot. There, I said it. He's gorgeous and he has a heart of gold. Sure, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers is not really in the comics but I enjoy him all the same. I haven't read the other comic books with Steve Rogers, but when my husband informed me that he does give the mantel up, I was devastated.... but Sam Wilson is a pretty good follow up. I loved how Anthony Mackle played him in the movies, so I'm glad that his character stepped up to be Captain America.

Whereas Spider-man had me eye rolling so bad that I thought my eyes were going to fall out of my skull, I really liked the new direction Captain America is heading. It opens up to Sam Wilson getting on a commercial airline, and is wedged between two bros, who discover that Sam Wilson, the new Captain America, is sitting between them! They ask why he is sitting in coach, and Wilson, almost kind of breaking the fourth wall, goes into how he got the mantel, and why he was sitting in coach.

At a time in America where there is social upheaval, outraged voices and the presidential primaries looms near, it makes sense that Marvel has an outlet to address these issues. Young people are either angry, confused, aloof, or a combination of all three, and there needs to be something that makes sense of all of what is going on, and someone that they can relate too.

Steve Rogers has always maintained an air "above it all," concentrating on being Americans, and coming together to support each other, no matter the disagreements. He keeps his political beliefs close to his chest, choosing to endorse liberty and freedom, believing the constitution and government should protect all, no matter their beliefs.

Sam Wilson, on the other hand, realizes who he is. A man of color who has been given the most notable shield in the entire world. He recognized that he couldn't just remain a symbol, but rather become a voice for those whose voices get lost in the protests, or dismissed because of a few violent outbursts. However... he is punished by the big wigs, and he decides to go on his own, to varying results.

It's a great first read, and I'm relieved that this comic is much better than Spider-man. Spider-man felt juvenile, like instead of paying attention to real issues, they just wanted to write about a poor man's "get rich" story... who happens to be Spider-man. Which, I'm not knocking silly stories... but in terms of silly stories that work, Spider-man isn't it.

I also love the inclusion of other lesser known characters. Misty Knight seems awesome, with her bad ass nature and afro, I really want to read more about her. Dennis Dunphy is also another character that I've never read about before. He's a ginger man with a beard... I definitely do have a type.

I'm excited to read issue 2 and 3! Stay tuned for next week!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Oh man.... oh man, oh man, oh man....I felt like I was forced to climb Mount Everest.

My husband warned me that this would be a rough book, but I didn't realize just how rough it was. Now, I'm sure my view of the book is distorted because I've seen the movie and watched the show before ever touching the book, so like my review of Red Dragon, I feel like at this point, I'm over it.

Also, sidebar... was Thomas Harris going through something when he wrote this book? I feel like he had a rough marriage, or going through a divorce, or realized he had some kinks going on... because there is some weird shit in here. Maybe he played a joke on us? "What can I get readers to buy?" Because again, there is some weird shit in here.

He writes about topics that didn't fit in with 2001 mentality of "normal" with such a fetish that I squirmed during some parts of the book. It was as if he wrote to just shock people, and instead of just shocking them, left them to question if Harris needs to read a few books or see a few people.

His idea of a "villain" is Mason Verger, who praises Jesus but, gasp! still verbally abuses children. He's rich! He abused his sister, Margot! He wants revenge! He's a pig farmer who bribes politicians to vote against bills that promote animal safety and well being! The other villain in the book, Krendler, is laughably sexist and evil that of course you are rooting for Hannibal to eat him, or Clarice to just flat out kill him.

The character of Margot in the book is... definitely written by someone who didn't bother to do any research, and really just fetishizes the idea of a woman who "wants to be a man" and thought, hey, if I was a woman, I would still want to be a man, so let's just write it like that. Also, what could possibly be the reason that anyone would want to be a lesbian or even want to be something other than the gender they are born it? ABUSE. ALSO WALNUTS.

I was pleasantly surprised with a few scenes between Barney and Margot... until we got to read from Margot's perspective. Turns out, she's just as manipulative as her brother! I had dreams of a funny buddy comedy between the two of them... until she fires him because he didn't want to be an accomplice to a murder. There is also another scene at the end of the book just so Barney can keep his life. ugh, Margot. Maybe you should have died as well? The eel turned on you?

Also, who else thinks that Hannibal Lector is the most uninteresting character ever in Hannibal? I'm not talking show Hannibal, which I think they did a good job of using source material and letting Mads Mikkelson do whatever the hell he wanted, but the character in the book is the biggest Gary Stu. Not only is he not the antagonist, but he's actually portrayed as the hero! Instead of preying on innocent people to eat, he only eats the "rude" and kill people that are after him. See? He's practically doing a service to society! He's refined! He's cultured! Oh, there's mention of his sister being cannibalized, so naturally, you should just feel sorry for him!

Now, finally, the relationship between Clarice and Hannibal. Harris, Silence of the Lambs was great. Why did you have to ruin it? How did Clarice take a 180? Did you read some fanfiction and decided, 'wow, that's a great idea, let's put Clarice and Hannibal together!' Because it wasn't.

Seriously, I wonder how many other authors and books were passed up in order for this one to be printed. Who's the agent for Thomas Harris? That person should be fired. Someone either didn't tell Harris No, or someone got the bright idea to make Hannibal into a main character. Not only that, Harris didn't bother to do any sort of research whatsoever in what makes a sociopath, a sociopath and what makes a cannibal into a cannibal. He legit made it all up. This is bad and you should feel bad.

Wish me luck on the final installment of Hannibal Rising.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Marvel Mondays: The Amazing Spider-Man #2 by Dan Slott

I'm not sure why I was surprised, or even a bit disappointed. It was much of the same as Spider-Man 001. Peter Parker is still a poor-man's Tony Stark, a quip that other characters joke about in the comic books. Even though it's meant to be meta, funny and lighten the mood, I just found myself rolling my eyes some more. There are just other characters that are rich and smart, why does he have to be?

Anyway, the board of director's at Peter's company are confused and upset that the Zodiac is after them and is perplexed that Peter gave the Webware to the enemy. In the next few pages, Peter and Hobie Brown go on a mission to recover the Webware. Peter is super cocky and states that it's encrypted and there is no way that they'll be able to hack it by the time Peter and company get there.

Side note. I had no idea who the fuck Hobie Brown was. I asked my husband and we had a 20 minute conversation about D-list Marvel characters that are getting a huge push in the comics because Marvel are putting characters they have rights to in future movies. Oh right.... because in the beginning, before Marvel became a movie studio, they sold some of their rights of some characters to other movie studios. Okay then. So now I have to read about Hobie Brown. Spider-man's "body guard."

How did he get suckered--oh yeah... money. Peter Parker has money now and paid Hobie Brown to dress up as Spider-Man every once in a while. I mean, I guess I'm glad that Hobie Brown, a man of color, is getting a push to appear in things more. Unfortunately he's collateral.

Alright, so Spider-man and the Prowler find the Zodiac base to get back the piece of tech Peter gave up. You guys, this is the hammiest, cheesiest villain writing ever. I love a good hammy villain, but the Zodiac is literally a team of people who call themselves by different astrological signs and say things like, 'hey, I'm a Pisces. I'm a born leader' and 'Calling this Aquarius Base makes no sense.' There are also more jokes about how Spider-Man appeared and how one of the lackeys wished they stayed in Hydra.

There is a page where Spider-man remembers another superhero sacrificing herself so that Spider-man could get away in another mission, prompted him to save two of the lackeys when the base self-destructs. The comic ends with Spider-man and company revealing that it was all part of the plan that Zodiac sent the webware files to all the bases across the world so that S.H.I.E.L.D could track them.

My husband did not purchase the next issue and I'm glad. I found myself rolling my eyes, despite the desperate attempt to save a crappy idea by throwing in meta jokes. If I wanted to read about a rich superhero, I would have gone with Iron man. This is a comic that I won't revisit. Man, I hope all the reboots aren't this bad.

What did you all think of the Marvel reboots? Any particular favorites you want to suggest? Do you have a different opinion on Spider-Man?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Which is Better? The Man in the High Castle Part 2

Since there was a lot to say about this show, I broke the post down into two weekly segments. Huzzah! Let's get into it.

Ed McCarthy - what a thankless role even up until the very end. However, DJ Quall just sells it, and he's turning into a good supporting actor in his age. However, if Frank was my friend, I would tell him to turn Juliana loose and just get on the bus to get out of the Pacific states. I mean, really.... I wouldn't even mess with him anymore after he locked me in the bathroom when he went to go kill the Crown Prince. Maybe I'm just not that good of a friend to take the gun from the guy and attempt to melt it down in the very place the Japanese are looking for it? Frank had some redeeming qualities at the end, but surely it didn't have to take the entire series to figure out that Ed meant more to him that Juliana did.

Mr. Tagomi - I really liked what they did with his character in the show. In the books, he did have a moment of clarity where he sees into "our" world, the world where the Axis didn't win the war, but couldn't handle it, and retreats back into his own world. It is literally interpreted in the show but the exciting scene in the book where the SD/Nazis try to kill Baynes and company is not there, so we don't get to see Mr. Tagomi fire off a replica gun from the American Old West. The actor that plays him is also just brilliant; he's able to take the Japanese stoicism and put a kind sheen to it, making him sympathetic but also still a mystery. What is his motivation? I hope we find out in season 2.

Mr. Childan - Here is a character that I really didn't care too much about in the book until he is invited into the home of Paul and Betty Kasoura. I thought his groveling and his desire to be Japanese (or really, just to be part of the powerful class) a bit boring, but as other characters do, they sneak up on you and all of the sudden you care about what happens to them. I guess it's the mark of a good writer. So, in the book, he stands up to the Japanese when they suggest that the jewelry that Ed and Frank make could be reproduced for the poorer countries because it has "Wu." Childan, enraged that he was used and then insulted, broke free of his desire to be accepted and refused to sell the jewelry that Ed and Frank made. Now, in the show, I think they used him just enough. He's the embodiment of a person who turned his back on his country and culture in order to make a life among his conquerors. You see his hopes dashed when he's invited to dinner with the Kasouras and it's revealed that they only viewed him as a novelty. They are disappointed and Childan realizes that no matter what, he will never be one of them. He aids Frank and Frank helps him with pulling one over the Japanese. His character was used just enough in the show.

The Marshall - Completely a show creation, I thought the Marshall was tacky and a bit cheesy. The actor that played him, is a notable British actor, and he takes the idea of The Marshall, an outlaw bounty hunter, and makes him AN OUTLAW AMERICAN HUNTER WHO WEARS A COWBOY HAT AND LEATHER DUSTER AND HAS A RIFLE. He even has a toothpick? He's supposed to be terrifying, but he comes off as a cartoon character. I thought he propelled the story and got Juliana and Joe out of Cannon City, but... meh.

Lem Washington - Another character they added into the story, and much needed as well. My husband and I were worried that they would kill him off, because usually that's what happens to the Noble Black Man troupe, but thankfully they didn't. He's one of the leaders of the resistance, but his characters get muddied over the course of the show. To be honest, I remember what Juliana and Joe did, but not quite sure about Lem. He even had a family at Cannon City and there he was in San Francisco? Or was it New York? I don't even remember!

Paul and Betty Kasoura - The notable Japanese couple that treat American history and culture as novelty and kitsch, but do not really want to have American friends. They use Childan and are not interested in anything other than superficial American ideas.

If someone is in the mood for something that dove into an alternative timeline and wanted to be simply entertained, than the show is for you. The book deals with the philosophy of what it means to be an American, and what would happened to America if it never won the war. However, the show is designed to do a few seasons, and I'm really looking forward to how they deal with Russia, Africa and other parts of the world. I liked the book, but the show is much more my speed. I found myself not quite caring whether Ed and Frank got their jewelry business off the ground, and more interested in the drainage of the Mediterranean Sea by the Nazis. I read interviews by PKD who mentioned he wanted to do a sequel to The Man in the High Castle, but never managed to get it off the ground. The show has a chance to do this.

My husband commented that the show slowed down after the 3rd episode, but after reading the book, I felt the pacing was good. I'm also relieved that Juliana figured out who Joe was and that Frank and Juliana were separated by the end of the first season. Here's to hoping there is a season 2!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Marvel Mondays: The Amazing Spider-Man #1

This idea was given to me by my husband, who does a sketch comedy show in Baltimore parodying his beloved comic books. I have reviewed some comic books before (mostly She-Hulk) but since they are coming out with new number 1s of all the issues, why not review them? He also buys them, so it's mostly him spending the money for me to read.

I randomly picked out the Amazing Spider-Man #1. There are so many movies about this character that it's hard to not know who Peter Parker is by this point. He's a high school kid who's down on his luck, lives in the poorer part of New York and has unspeakable tragedy. He has a tough time with girls but despite of that, he's a witty, snarky guy. My husband and I have had many conversations about Spider-Man and how there is a comic about Miles Morales, which would be a better match for Spider-Man. What frustrates us the most is that there isn't really much diversity in comic books. Don't get me wrong, they are trying and doing a better job of expanding diversity when it comes to some reboot of some characters, but... well, they failed when it came to the reboot of Spider-Man.

Peter Parker is a new age industrialist with branches all over the world. The series opens with Spider-Man and Agent Morse, or Mockingbird, fighting a few bad guys from the Zodiac. Spider-Man is snarky, like he usually is, but... there is something off about Peter Parker. It goes flashbacks to him learning how to drive and learning Chinese at the same time. There is some important bits about S.H.I.E.L.D, but I don't really notice because I'm perplexed to why I dislike Peter Parker so much. Finally, the chase scene ends with them capturing this dude with a lion mask on, who works for Zodiac, who is important... but for the life of me I can't remember why. All I'm concentrating on is why Peter Parker is like Tony Stark, with his gadgets and technological know how. I mean, wasn't he a photographer?

The next scene shows Peter Parker in a suit, discussing the future of his company, and the start of the Uncle Ben foundation. I guess he's using Parker Industries to help the world? Fair wages and raising the quality of life for every person that he employs in the countries his company resides in? Then Slott and company really hit the nail on the head with a reporter calling Peter Parker a "poor man's Tony Stark." Peter leans heavily into it, by patting himself on the back and stating that he's wages are that of middle management and that he couldn't feasibly give himself a pay raise above his junior executives.


Look, I get what Slott and company were trying to do. In a way, I appreciate it. It's providing commentary for greedy CEOs and Wall Street and the 1%. However... why Peter Parker? Why Spiderman? I feel like they were going to do this with Tony Stark, and at the last minute, decided to go with Spiderman. I'm not very well versed with super hero legend, or the continuity of Marvel.... but it just doesn't fit. There is already a few heroes in Marvel that own their own companies and do what Parker is trying to do (or unabashingly doesn't do it) but Parker doesn't feel like one that needs to do something like that. Isn't the appeal of Spider-Man is that he's a regular Joe that just happens to have superpowers? Wasn't that the reason those movies were so popular and one of the first that Marvel put out, because he was so relatable?

There is a smart bit of Hobie Brown also being Spider-Man to keep Peter Parker's cover intact. However, I don't know Hobie Brown from Adam, and it sort of falls flat. Oh, and there is a gay wedding thrown in there, which I also don't know from Adam. I see that Hubbie also bought the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man, so I hope it really picks up. But the verdict? Peter Parker is another rich white dude who's trying to use his money for good, which isn't a bad thing, but this trope would look better on Tony Stark.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Which is Better? The Man in the High Castle Part 1

So after watching AKA Jessica Jones, I was excited to finally finish watching The Man in the High Castle by Amazon. I watched the first two episodes before I read the book, and I'm not sure if that tainted my experience reading the book because even though the book and the show are in the same vein, so to speak, they are very different in their approaches. What I found frustrating with the book is that even though PKD does a good job of using sci-fi to explore philosophical ponderings, there isn't a whole lot of action, and the journey means much more than the ending. I also found the book frustrating because all I wanted to do was explore the world where the Nazis and the Japanese won.

The show does that expertly. Amazon spent a whole lot of money to make it look realistic and beautiful, and they did exactly that. I also loved the interpretation of the book and the familiarity of the characters, but some breathed new life into them. I think the best way to review the show and then finally answer the question of which was better is to go by character, which I did in Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned Which is Better? review. As well, I am going to split my "Which is Better?" post into 2, to reduce the length. I am going to cover some of the main characters such as Juliana, Frank, Joe Blake, John Smith and Rudolph Wegener.

However, before I go into the characters, I would like to say that I thought it was very clever that the book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy was turned into films. I think it would be more comprehensive and attainable for viewers to grasp than a book. However, what I also liked about the change is that they expanded the alternative universes, and even suggested it was used by Hitler to win the war. The provides a lot of questions and if there is a season 2, a lot of material to work from. However, I wonder if they'll go into the alternative timeline that was depicted in the book, where the UK is essentially the USSR and the cold war happens between the two.

Juliana Crain - In the book, Juliana and Frank are divorced, and Juliana lives in Cannon City, in the neutral territory. She's beautiful and a wanderer, and for the first part of the book, is seen through the lens of men. When PKD reveals her inner monologue, she is indecisive and searching, which gets her in trouble with Joe Cinnadella, who is revealed to be a Nazi assassin tasked to kill the man There is some sort of friction between Frank and Juliana in the book, but they never meet up. In the movie however, they are boyfriend and girlfriend, and leaves him in the dust when her sister is killed. She takes up her half-sister's mantle, and goes on a mission to deliver the film. Motivated by her sister's sacrifice, she leaves a path of destruction in her wake, which drives Frank's story. Which lead's me too...

Frank Frink - His grandfather is a Jew, which is a source of anxiety for Frank in both the book and in the movie. However, instead of opening up a jewelry store with Ed and gets in trouble for it, his story is motivated by Juliana's actions. When she leaves to deliver the film, Frank is taken into custody and is grilled by the Kempeitai about Juliana's whereabouts. They bring in Frank's sister and his niece and nephew. Motivated by the man in the cell next to him, Randall, Frank realizes that he's going to die anyway, regardless of whether he tells them. His sister and his niece and nephew is killed, but he is released after they find someone else with the film. I feel like both the book and the show Frank are just both... wet blankets. I felt like in the show the writers made the most boring decisions for him. He doesn't get on the bus, he goes and saves Joe Blake and almost too late, he runs in to save his friend Ed when he is pinned for assassinating the prince of Japan.

Juliana and Frank - After her decisions to carry out her sister's destiny, Frank's life is absolutely destroyed. I'm not quite sure why they remained together until the end. It's almost painful for them to remain together, and despite Juliana's actions directly impacting Frank negatively, he still sticks around. I wish they had done something different, or at least broke them up like they did in the book.

Joe Blake - Joe Cinnadella is a secondary character who is killed by Juliana towards the end of the book. I like how they broadened his character and made his journey much more enjoyable to watch. He's a spy for the Nazis, and is tasked with obtaining films for Hitler. Even by the end of the show, I haven't be able to see whether he's truly changed, or whether he's just that good of a spy. He managed to complete his tasks, though he does disobey a direct order from Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith: he doesn't kill Juliana. I'm so over Juliana and Frank. My OTP is Joe and Juliana. I hope they see each other again if they do a season 2.

John Smith - He is not a character in the book, but someone that fills the hole that is left when Joe Cinnadella becomes Joe Blake. However, I loved how they turned John Smith into an actual human being and not just a Villain! I loved the episode where the viewer glimpses into Smith's home life, but his loyalty to the idea enables him to turn over his friend Rudolph Wegener. However, the viewer sees him wrestling with his son's illness, which the state mandates that he exterminates him.

Mr. Baynes/Rudolph Wegener - In the book he is an undercover agent, who is a high ranking Nazi who wants to stop the start of WWIII between the Nazis and the Japanese. He enlists the help of Mr. Tagomi and Baynes uses Mr. Tagomi as a cover to meet with a high ranking Tokyo General. In the show, the character of Mr. Yatabe is wrapped into Mr. Tagomi, who plans with Mr. Baynes to prevent the war between Japan and Germany. They predict the power vacuum when Adolf Hitler dies or resigns, and realizes that Japanese is falling behind technologically compared to the Third Reich. I like where they went with Rudolph and the writers took what was implied in the book and drew it out. I also liked the friendship with John Smith and Rudolph, and though Smith feels a bond with his friend, his loyalty to the Reich, and to Hitler, wins out.

What did you all think of The Man in the High Castle? Have any of you read the book? Stay tuned for next week as I continue to dissect the show and compare it to the book, and decide, 'Which is Better?'