High Summer Read-a-thon Wrap-up

I was and am still behind on my reading for July, but I did get some quality reading in for the High Summer Read-a-Thon (#HSreadathon) last week. This is a read-a-thon coordinated over at Seasons of Reading, and they also have a Facebook group for discussion.

The first books I finished were ones that I had already started. 2016 Fourth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest is a collection of finalist and honorable mention poems from the local library’s contest. (My entry is on page 14.) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is something like what you might get if you were to ask John le Carré to reboot Groundhog Day. Big Magic is a refreshing take on the “just do it” genre of self-help books for creatives and makes me want to read something else by Gilbert.

Later in the week I started Promises, Promises by L-J Baker and Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges. I have yet to finish either one. I’m not really in the right frame of mind for Baker’s screwball sense of humor right now, and reading Hedges during this election season, while a smart thing to do, is a scary and depressing thing to do. I really should find some middle literary ground right now. Maybe a nice cozy mystery or a fun steampunk adventure.

Review: Timebound

Timebound by Rysa Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #31 for 2014

I was tempted to give this book 5 stars because so much attention to detail was evident without being obtrusive, and Walker seems to have given some serious thought to working out the intricacies of her time-travel plot. I am also very intrigued and heartened by the whole Rand angle. It seems to have a lot to do with Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and the direction Walker is headed makes me want to read more in this series.

However, there are aspects that lose the book a star. For starters, the young heroine, Kate, is so incredibly trusting and naive that it is a miracle she has survived to see her teen years, let alone the events of this story. Then the weird love triangle is…well, it’s weird. And yes, I realize this is a teen romance book and some hormone-induced gushing is to be expected, and yes, I am grateful that this was not on the order of the gushing in Twilight, but seriously? It was still quite annoying and elicited from me many eyerolls. I have to remind myself, though, that I am not the intended audience for this book, and I still managed to enjoy this book quite a bit.

I think a lot of adults would not have the patience for this book’s more teen-oriented characteristics, but I would recommend this to any teen with an interest in history and/or time travel. I also suspect the series might be good reading for any misguided teen in danger of becoming an Ayn Rand fan.

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Star Trek Into Darkness (and the Era of Reboots)

I finally made it to a showing of the new Star Trek flick this past weekend. It was not without its eyeroll moments, but even then, JJ Abrams was obviously having so much fun with his reboot of the Trek universe that it would have seemed mean-spirited to complain.

I suppose I should explain that I have a certain fondness for Chris Pine’s Kirk that I never had for Shatner’s. No, I am not a Chris Pine fangirl. Besides the whole issue of crushing on somebody with the same first name and the fact that he is far too young for me, he just doesn’t appeal to me in that way. But when I was much, much younger, I had a college friend whose favorite Trek character was Kirk. He was also an actor, and he had just the right looks and attitude that I always thought he should head to Hollywood to see if he could get cast as the bastard son of Kirk and some alien chick. So when Chris Pine turned up on the screen in 2009, looking and acting so eerily like my old friend, I knew Abrams was heading the right direction, no matter what all those stick-in-the-mud purists had to say.

And now I suppose I have to make a confession that will probably lose me what little geek cred I may have had. Confessions, actually. 1. I’ve watched only a handful of TOS episodes. I’m pretty sure “Space Seed” was not one of them. 2. I’ve never seen more than snippets of the first three Star Trek movies. So the whole Khan/Marcus storyline was lost on me. But I decided to read up on those plot lines, and now that I know just what Abrams was messing about with, I have to say I like his take on Trek all the better. He took known elements from the canon, he brought them together at a very different point in the larger story arc, and he toyed with how things would happen in his Trek world, which is so deliciously not canon. 

Piece of cake, right? Heh. I wish. I realized that my current project is, at its core, a reboot of Mark Twain. Sheesh. I’m resurrecting Sam’s dead older brother as his treasured baby sister. And she’s worried that she might be a zombie. If JJ Abrams is taking heat for time travel in Star Trek, what am I letting myself in for? Maybe I’ll find myself wishing for blessed obscurity when I finally get my work out there.

So what does make or break a reboot? There are so many now! If you don’t like how RDJ portrays Sherlock Holmes, wait five minutes, and you can give Benedict Cumberbatch’s version a whirl. I happen to like both. I firmly believe, especially after reading some Baring-Gould and watching Doyle’s own Bohemia/Reichenbach mashup, that Doyle had rather a cavalier attitude towards Holmes and his world. Which is good, considering the sheer numbers of Holmes pastiches that have been unleashed on the world. But where some of the recent superhero reboots have been deemed huge successes (e.g., Iron Man), others are considered but pale green imitations. And now they’ve started rebooting the reboots to the point that I just don’t think I can be bothered to care about the new Spiderman, Superman, and Batman offerings.

So as I embark on my steampunkification of Samuel L Clemens (and the zombification of one of his siblings), I ask you to tell me what you love and hate in a reboot. What can I do to win you over to my vision of the 19th century on the Missouri River?

Film Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

I watched this quirky sf rom-com last night, and my sleep suffered for it. I cannot simply take it at face value as so many reviewers seem to be doing. Am I really the only viewer whose brain kept going around in circles, pondering the time travel concepts? Maybe that’s what I get for being married to an amateur theoretical physicist all those years. But I know from my own writing that there is a ton of stuff — research, back story, tangents, spin-offs, subplots, etc — that never makes it onto the page. Surely it’s the same with movies. How much of this story never made it onto the cutting-room floor, let alone the screen? There is so much going on there that is just hinted at in this movie that I have to suspect there is much, much more to this story than is readily apparent on the first viewing.

Yes, I am going to have to buy the DVD when it’s released and analyze the bejeebies out of this film. I have lots of pet theories, but I think I need to watch this at least once more before sharing any of them. But let me just ask this: Did the Kenneth in this film seem to have time-travelled before?

Setting aside the intricacies of the space-time continuum for a few moments, I have to say I adored this film. It was sweetly funny without being cloying or insipid, and its balance of geeky physics and human connections was perfect. All of the characters were interesting, each giving some unique insight into loss and regret. And if the writing was well done, the direction and performances were exceptional. This was the realest-feeling movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I mean that in the best sense.

I know this film has limited distribution, but please go see it if you have the opportunity. Then come here and discuss it with me. Tell me if I’m as crazy as Kenneth. Or crazier.