Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Eclectic Reader Challenge am signing up for the 2015 Eclectic Reader Challenge hosted by Book'd Out.  It's a challenge meant to push you out of your reading comfort zones and make sure you are experiencing all the diversity of books that are out there.  This year the Sport, Fiction for Foodies and Contemporary Romance categories have me worried but I'm actually pretty excited about the books I picked for those categories (mostly - I'm not entirely sure about the contemporary romance). 

I participated in 2014 and it was good fun but I'm going to end up falling just short of meeting those goals. I think my downfall was insufficient planning and I plan to fix that this year.  I am planning the dickens out of this thing.  I've got a spreadsheet and everything.  I am also trying to coordinate this so there is as much overlap as possible with other challenges I am doing.  Only the book I chose for Sport doesn't overlap with any other challenges.  Here are the categories and what I plan to read in each.  Some of them are maybe a stretch for their categories and I reserve the right to mix things up willy nilly at any time but for now, this is what I am going with.


1. A Retelling     
      Winter by Marissa Meyer
2. A Book Set in a Country Starting with the Letter S 
   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. PI Crime 
    Mr.Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
4. A novel published before you were born 
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
5. Contemporary Romance 
     Kiss An Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
6. Fiction for Foodies
    Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
7. Microhistory 
    Gulp by Mary Roach
8. Sci-Fi set in Space 
   The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
9. Sports (Fiction or Non-fiction) 
   Open by Andre Agassi, J.R. Moehringer
10. Featuring Diversity 
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
11. Epistolary Fiction 
     Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
12. Middle Grade/YA Adventure 
     The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

    Top Ten Tuesday - 2015 Literary (and other) Resolutions

    Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists.  It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

    The last couple TTT's have been about looking back and this one is about looking forward.  Let's do this!  Here are my bookish (and perhaps a couple non-bookish) resolutions for 2015!

    1) Read 100 Books -  I've been working towards this goal for a few years now, slowing adding to the number of books I read each year.  This year my goal was 90 and I think by the stroke of midnight on Wednesday I will have read 91 or 92 books.  I can do this.

    2) Read 25 books off my 100 Books Project list - I'll be entering year 3 of 5 in my 100 books project and the last couple years I've fallen short of the 20 book minimum per year I need to keep up.  Time to pick up the pace!

    3) Participate in and complete Book'd Out's Eclectic Reader Challenge and the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge -  I'm a mood reader so don't like to plan out my reading too much but both of these look interesting and I thinking there will be a lot of overlap between these and the 100 books project list.  I think with planning, I can complete all the challenges and have the challenge/project books be no more than a third of my reading. I hope.

    4) Track Diversity - I'd like to do a better job of tracking how much racial and ethnic diversity there is in my reading so that I can be more aware of my reading habits and be proactive about reading more diversely.

    5) Read the books I own -  Between my eReader and two full shelves of unread books, I have plenty to read right here in my cozy home.  However, like most book addicts I love to shop for books and the Library?  It's like book shopping with NO MONEY BEING SPENT.  I love my weekly trip to the library but I will make an effort to pick up more of the books I already have in my hot little hands. 

    6) MOUNT TBR, I will tackle thee! - This is somewhat related to number 5 and like number 5 I will be vague in my resolution and just resolve to pay attention to my TBR pile.  Blogging has definitely brought me closer into the world of reading the bright shiny new things as they are released but I still mostly read back list and am pretty good at not requesting too many ARCs.  This should be a cinch, right?  Riiiiiggghhtt. 

    7) Find some time for Re-reading -  I used to re-read like a champ all the time.  For some reason I have gotten out of the habit and that makes me sad.  There are a lot of books and series I'd like to revisit and I'm going to try to carve out a little reading time for them.  Some books on that list would include:  The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, The Belgariad by David Eddings, Harry Potter, all the Song of Ice and Fire Books (once the final book in the series has been released - that'll happen this year right?:), His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman.

    8) BALANCE, take two - This was actually my one life resolution from last year and it went surprisingly okay considering that this past year was probably a terrible year to try and achieve it. Truly, is there ever a really good time? It's still worth striving for and I will continue to keep it in the forefront of my mind.

    9)  Real Food and maybe even Real Exercise  - Another life resolution and one that is over done, I know but I started trying to clean up my diet a couple of months ago and it is going somewhat well but needs continued refining.  And no worries, I will not be joining a gym!  However, I do need to figure out some alternative and more diverse exercising then endlessly walking my dogs.
    What is that, you say?  Walking us does not keep you at the peak of fitness? How is that possible?
    I'll wrap it up there and leave the tenth one open for any last minute resoluting that might need to happen:0)!  What are your goals for 2015?

    HAPPY almost NEW YEAR!!  

    Monday, December 29, 2014

    REVIEW: Sabriel by Garth Nix
    Original Publication Year: 1995
    Genre(s): YA, Fantasy
    Series: Abhorsen #1
    Awards: Aurealis Award for Fantasy Novel and Young Adult Novel
    Format: Audio and in print
    Narrated by: Tim Curry

    I’ve decided, based with an n=2*, that the most imaginative writers of young adult fiction are Australian.  They certainly make me the happiest and I love the way they see the world.   With Sabriel, Garth Nix has created a beautiful and vivid fictional world and placed within it a fast paced and exciting adventure story.  It is lovely and charming, and scary and suspenseful and romantic and pretty much everything you want in YA Fantasy.

    Sabriel Abhorsen is 18 and just finishing up her schooling in Ancelstierre when a messenger comes from her father bearing his sword and bandolier of bells.  As we learn very quickly, Sabriel is a powerful though inexperienced magician and necromancer who was born under unusual circumstances in The Old Kingdom.  Her father is also a powerful necromancer and in order to protect her he sent her away to the less dangerous (and less magical) Ancelstierre when she was five to attend school.  Unfortunately he now appears to be in very serious trouble and Sabriel sets off to find and help him despite her inexperience and woeful lack of knowledge of The Old Kingdom.  Her quest will see her chased by all manner of dead things, rescuing a prince who has been turned to wood, and sparring with a cantankerous cat who is really a magical and possibly dangerous creature that has been bound in Cat form. 

    The world that is created is complex, imaginative and easily pictured.  Ancelstierre is reminiscent of Georgian era England while the Old Kingdom seems more Rennaissance.  The two countries are separated by a wall and while there is some leakage around the edges, Ancelstierre is a country of science and technology while the Old Kingdom is governed by magic.  The Old Kingdom has also been falling into anarchy for 200 years and the denizens of Death have started to take over more and more of the kingdom.  As Sabriel learns, Abhorsen is an official title for a necromancer who serves as one of the protectors of the Old Kingdom and she is the heir apparent with her father missing.  The Abhorsen is meant to keep the world from being overrun by creatures escaping Death.  The Abhorsen keeps the dead at bay, by using a series of bells all with different properties.  It is seriously cool and very well used in the story.

    The characters were also pretty great and believable.  Sabriel is very recognizable as an exceptionally brave, but bewildered teen who recognizes her weaknesses but doesn’t lack confidence.  In fact she can be a little overconfident as teenagers are prone to be at times. She’s a good strong female character and her relationship with her father is pretty heartbreaking.   Mogget serves as her sidekick/mentor for much of the story and has a personality suitable for a talking cat and also presents many mysteries.  If I have any complaints, it is that most of the rest of the characters - Touchstone, Kerrigor–don’t get developed as much as I would’ve liked, mostly because the book covers a lot of ground and moves quickly.  It’s not until you sit down to write about the characters that you realize that Touchstone is good and likeable but a tad generic and Kerrigor is a little one dimensional. 

    There is a little romance as well which is nice. It’s a little abrupt but I appreciated that the narrative wasn’t overly focused on it and there was very little angst.   

    I listened to the first half of the book narrated by Tim Curry and he was as amazing as you would imagine.  He also had the perfect voice and tone for this type of story.  I was really bummed when I had to return the audio book to the library because it was requested.

     I have in the past read and really enjoyed Garth Nix’s short fiction and his middle-grade series The Keys to the Kingdom so the Abhorsen series has been pretty prominent on my TBR for a while.  I am so glad I finally started it and that it did not disappoint in any way! 

    Final Verdict:  A fast paced YA adventure story with unique and imaginative world building.  I think it’s safe to say Garth Nix has a distinctive style and I am definitely a fan. 

    *The second Australian young adult author I encountered this year was D.M. Cornish and his Monster Blood Tattoo series was super imaginative and a favorite.

    Sunday, December 28, 2014

    Sundays through the Stargate - The 'Ship Addendum

    Sundays through the Stargate is a weekly series that I am doing on Stargate SG1 which you can learn more about in The Beginning post. It is mostly for my own dorky edification but if there are any other fans out there I'd love to hear your thoughts!
    The season long Stargate posts get very long and I know not everyone is obsessed with Sam and Jack's love life as I am.  In order to spare any readers, I am creating this addendum post to Season 8 to talk exclusively about my feels about the 'ship.  Hopefully it doesn't get out of hand.
    One thing to say off the bat is all this relationship stuff happens very below the radar and in the background for the most part.  A post like this may make it seem like its a huge part of the show, and while it is crucial to making this a show I love rather than just like, it takes up very little screen time.
    To recap, here is how I think the trajectory of Sam and Jack's relationship followed across the whole show.  

    SEASON 1 - Some immediate attraction but Sam is too worried about proving herself and impressing Jack as her commanding officer to really get too caught up in feelings and Jack is still dealing with the break-up of his marriage.  The Military regulations against fraternization are enough to keep either from indulging any deeper relationship thoughts and things stay pretty formal between them until they are trapped in Antarctica together and the experience bonds them.
    SEASON 2 -  Somewhere along the line in this season Jack realizes he's fallen for Sam.  A lot of people point to Episode 2, In the Line of Duty when Sam is taken over by Jolinar and almost dies.  I'm not sure that I agree that this is the episode but it may at least serve as a trigger for the Colonel's feelings and by the end of season 2 he's pretty smitten though hiding it (mostly) well.  See the last episode of Season 2 and episode 1 of Season 3 for evidence of his smittenness.  Sam also seems to have relaxed a little around him and conspicuously finds all his jokes hilarious.  I think she's fighting/denying her feelings harder than Jack though because falling for her CO is not something she would be happy with herself about.
    SEASON 3 -  The first two overtly shippy episodes occur.  Jack explores what it might be like to be with Sam by smooching the  AU Doctor Carter which gives our Sam a lot of food for thought. Also to Kawalsky, Jack does not deny an interest in being with our Sam but just holds up the regulations as a barrier.  In A Hundred Days, Sam has her cathartic moment where she finally realizes or at least gives in to the idea that she, in fact, has fallen for her CO.  The stage is set for...
    SEASON 4 -  A week of hanging out casually while being stranded after the season 3 finale serves to relax Sam and Jack around each other enough that they are now openly flirty.  Their feelings are very close to the surface and they are only just keeping them tamped down.  Numerous situations during the season force those feelings to bubble to the surface and they actually admit there feelings, in a vague sort of way, to one another for the first time (under duress).  It's a revelation for both of them as clearly they both thought the feelings were one-sided.  A devastating incident towards the end of the season causes another shift in how they interact.  By far the 'shippiest season.
    SEASON 5 - Nothing. Nada. Zip.  The 'ship is essentially non-existent in this season but its very non-existence is actually a thing.  Jack is pretty traumatized by his belief that his feelings for Sam put her, and in fact the SGC and the world in danger from an alien entity and that in order to correct the situation he had to essentially shoot and kill Sam.  As a result their relationship is nothing but professional in season 5 as he buries his feelings and establishes distance.  Sam follows his lead.  
    SEASON 6 -  Jack seems to have found some balance in his relationship with Sam and coupled with Daniel going away, things are a good bit warmer and relaxed between them.  Jack scrupulously keeps it on this footing but Sam starts to reach out a little bit more.  Jack is lost a couple times during the season which drives Sam's feelings back to the surface and she is probably unsure at this point if Jack even still has feelings for her after he has so effectively pulled away.  Towards the end of the season she starts to prod him a little bit to see where he if he still has feelings for her. He does his best to stay neutral though he doesn't always succeed especially when she is in distress.
    SEASON 7 - This season seems to be all about Sam struggling with her feelings for Jack and with her life as a whole.  Grace is at the center of this and we get to see where her inner thoughts on things.  She is at a point where she would be willing to quit the Air Force if she was certain of his feelings but she suspects she is the only one with feelings anymore and that she is hanging on to them because it is safer.  This spurs her to put herself out there and she starts dating Stalker Pete.  Despite her apparent feelings for Pete it does not stop her obvious need for Jack and she even appears to be trying to tell him of her feelings in The Lost City eps. 
    SEASON 8 - The 'ship is mostly under wraps this season until Threads.  There are definitely some moments before this but nothing substantial.  Threads is meant to "wrap up" the Sam and Jack storyline and it is hinted VERY vaguely that they will be addressing their feelings and making arrangements so that they can be together.  We see none of this and instead get a coy scene of them fishing (with Daniel and Teal'c) which can be taken as symbolic.  If you want. 

    As you can probably tell I am not thrilled at how they attempted to wrap everything up.  I understand that Sam and Jack's relationship has always been in the background  - it was very rarely a major plot point and most of the feelings have been conveyed in short cryptic scenes or meaningful glances.  I LOVE this and quite frankly probably would not be as obsessed with the 'ship or the show if it had been a more overt component.

    I love shows, books, movies, basically any story that has an element of romance but I am actually  pretty specific about how I like it.  While I will happily, when I am in the mood, devour a romance novel, or romantic comedy film, my favorite TV shows keep the romance as a long simmering backdrop for the rest of the action.  I don’t want or need the romance front and center but I like for it to be there, simmering, revealing itself in subtle acting choices and expressions and then perhaps occasionally bubbling to the top every fifth or tenth episode for fleeting moments before retreating back into suppression.  I love the understated angst and I love analyzing the bejesus out of these relationships.   

    At this point though I have something I want to say to all those TV writers and creators that either embrace or get unwillingingly saddled with a ‘ship.  There is one key thing to writing a good love story and that is the moment it all finally comes together.  The climax if you will (hee, hee).  I’m not talking about the wild monkey sex here, I am talking about the moment when the characters in question finally acquiesce to their, in many cases long-suppressed, feelings and bring it out into the open to each other and share a first kiss.  It is an absolutely key moment and there will be no satisfaction without it.  It's like a mystery story without the solution.  Screw up this ending and it kind of makes the whole thing not work. 

    The timing is tricky of course.  You play that card too early and it can be difficult to maintain the interest and excitement level but the card must be played at some point for the story of these two people’s relationship to have even remotely had a point.  This is why The X Files was so darn frustrating.  With Scully and Mulder we at least get the satisfaction of knowing they do in fact enter into a romantic relationship. We even get some smooches which is nice.  I guess.  However, we have no idea, at all when all this begins.  All the sudden Mulder and Scully are just at a point where they are smooching and it’s not the first time and it could be the 700th time for all we know.  So even though we at least get the satisfaction of knowing that these two lovebirds do find each other, the story of their relationship still remains largely unsatisfying. 

    Now, SG-1 deserves a special place in the ‘shipper hell.  SG-1 actually does a really great job of plotting the trajectory of Sam and Jack’s relationship (see above).  I have no idea if they planned it out from the beginning but regardless it follows a very believable trajectory. It drags things out for 8 years which in most ‘ship situations would be stretching credulity but here it makes perfect sense.  Also with RDA/Jack essentially leaving the show after season 8, coming back for a couple small cameos afterwards, it actually has a very clear end point, the perfect placeholder for when things need to come together.  

    So what went horribly wrong?  They never give us the scene, the coming together.  The scene where all the angst and story of the last many seasons of television is brought to a satisfying conclusion.  They instead leave us with coy, vague scenes that could be interpreted in many ways both romantic or not and little easter eggs of hints that maybe something has happened between Sam and Jack.  We don’t get the scene, the one that makes the story have a point and worse than that we never even get straightforward confirmation that at the very least, things have been resolved off screen.  WHY?  What was the point of all the ‘ship development over the years?  Was it just so dorks like me would write lengthy posts about it?  If so, shame on them.  As storytellers they should not have been happy leaving their story incomplete.  But Stephanie, you say, many great novels and films etc… don’t end with things tied up in a neat bow?  True enough but how many romances end that way?  And while SG1 is a great show it has no pretensions to high art or philosophical discovery.  

    And just to rub the salt in the wound and add to the annoyance is the fact is that we get more overt relationship stuff and confirmation in this universe between Daniel and Vala and between McKay and Doctor Kaylee (Jennifer Keller) on Stargate Atlantis.  Seriously?? Mckay??  Who gives a crap about McKay’s love life??  He’s a great character but is a horrible annoying person – I don’t need or want to see him being romantic.   So how come TPTB have no trouble pulling the trigger with these couples but not Jack and Sam?? 

    Enough with the excessive questions marks of frustration.  Lets try and address why TPTB did things the way they did them.  It seems clear to me that TPTB wanted to honor the story and give the 'shippers an ending they had been waiting for through 8 years of angst.  At least half of Threads is about Sam and Jack though they steer clear of anything concrete and instead try to further appease 'shippers by having alternate versions of Sam and Jack make out in Moebius.   So why didn't they just pull the trigger in Threads?  One reason may be that the show really tried to honor the U.S. Air Force and be as true to the realities of the military as possible.  Having Sam and Jack have an overt scene of feelings being bared and smooches would have gone against this policy.  To which I say P-shaw.  At the very least if they really didn't feel like they could give it here, they could have at the very least given straight forward evidence of their relationships in Seasons 9 and 10, or SG Atlantis or Continuum.  All we get are more coy hints. 

    Another reason may have been a strong dichotomy in the fan base between Shippers and Anti-shippers.  This show, I think, had/has a pretty divisive fan base, perhaps more so than other shows and TPTB may not have wanted to alienate the Anti-shippers?  To which I also say P-shaw.  It's one flippin' episode, one flippin' scene for goodness sake.  

    Some other reasons that flit through my mind?  The other stuff going on in the episode made it feel like not the right time (Sam's Dad dying, Daniel lost, Sam still being with Pete for the majority of episode etc...), a vague feeling like they wanted to deal with it later, they thought it would be better to leave the details up to the imagination of the viewer, they didn't feel they could do it properly in the time they had.  I say P-shaw to all of them as well :0).

    To wrap up, I'll end on a positive note.  I do enjoy the scenes in Threads and watching them with my 'ship glasses firmly in place I think it is clear that what goes down in the episode represents a shift will be happening in Sam and Jack's relationship.  I also have to admire how cleverly the scene's can be interpreted either way as two friends being friendly or two long-suppressed lovers finally saying screw it, let's make this thing happen, Earth and duty be damned.  The actors do a good job of conveying what needs to be conveyed.  And even if it is two alternative versions of themselves Moebius is a lot of fun.  I like the thought that if Sam and Jack had met without the restrictions, Jack would have started their relationship pretty quickly by just bluntly telling Sam she's hot.  Because, I am betting that is how it would've gone down.  And Sam, being flummoxed but strangely attracted to this man who on the surface she seems to have nothing in common with.  

    Anyway, hopefully they are somewhere in northern Minnesota right now ice fishing and laughing without a care in the world.

    So what are your thoughts on how things ended? Are you happy with it or would you have like a more concrete resolution to their story?  Why do you think that is not what we got and why it was continually left vague even in future season, shows and follow up movies?  So MANY questions that I'd love to hear your thoughts on.

    Thanks so much to anyone who managed to get all the way through this post, lol!  You're troopers and I appreciate you reading my rambling and venting.