Kriti's (kgodey) 2016 reads

Talk75 Books Challenge for 2016

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Kriti's (kgodey) 2016 reads

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Edited: Jan 1, 2017, 1:57 am

Hi, I'm Kriti. I'm a software engineer, working from home from the small college town of Oberlin in Ohio. This is my sixth year with the 75'ers. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, although I hope I will read more diversely this year.

I have a book review blog that I don't update as often as I should: Just a World Away.

Total books read: 87

Books by male authors: 43
Books by female authors: 43
Books by both male and female authors: 1

New books read: 66
Rereads: 20
Mix of new and reread: 1
Review copies read: 20

Unique male authors read: 20
Brandon Sanderson
Kazuo Ishiguro
Michel Faber
Ian Tregillis
Leo Tolstoy
Guy Gavriel Kay
Michael Ende
Robert Jackson Bennett
Wesley Chu
Michael Chabon
Greg Bear
Ramachandra Guha
Gerhard Weinberg
Jonathan Stroud
John W. Dower
Tatsuhiko Takimoto
Django Wexler
James Islington
William C. Tracy
Joe Halderman

Unique female authors read: 20
Ursula K. LeGuin
Lois McMaster Bujold
Seanan McGuire
Diana Wynne Jones
Catherynne M. Valente
Marie Brennan
Ada Palmer
Madeline Ashby
Mary Robinette Kowal
Jo Walton
Nicola Griffith
Sherwood Smith
Patricia C. Wrede
Caroline Stevermer
Tamora Pierce
Megan Whalen Turner
Suzanne Collins
Shona Patel
N.K. Jemisin
Carrie Vaughn

Edited: Feb 28, 2016, 3:56 pm


1. The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (Jan 3, review copy, 437 pages)
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Jan 8, 288 pages)
3. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Jan 11, review copy, 500 pages)
4. The Rising by Ian Tregillis (Jan 23, review copy, 443 pages)
5. Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin (Jan 26, 279 pages)
6. Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson (Jan 28, ebook, ~200 pages)

7. Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 2, reread, 596 pages)
8. Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 6, reread, 583 pages)
9. Miles, Mystery & Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 10, reread, 502 pages)
10. Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 11, reread, 311 pages, 2 novellas already read in previous two books)
11. Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 13, reread, 338 pages)
12. Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 14, reread, 392 pages)
13. Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 17, reread, 345 pages)
14. Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 21, reread, 862 pages)
15. Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 22, reread, 307 pages)
16. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 26, reread, 422 pages)
17. Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 27, reread, 339 pages)
18. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold (Feb 28, 340 pages)

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 4:59 pm


19. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (Mar 3, 421 pages)
20. Anna Karenin by Leo Tolstoy (Mar 12, 853 pages)
21. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014 edited by Deborah Blum (Mar 26, 305 pages)
22. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Mar 31, review copy, 169 pages)

23. Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Apr 4, review copy, reread, 290 pages)
24. The Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson (Apr 7, review copy, 340 pages)
25. The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson (Apr 9, review copy, 291 pages)
26. Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson (Apr 9, 292 pages)
27. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Apr 11, reread, 329 pages)
28. Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones (Apr 14, 383 pages)
29. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (Apr 17, 404 pages)
30. River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (Apr 24, 632 pages)
31. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (Apr 28, reread, 396 pages)
32. The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente (Apr 30, 308 pages)

Edited: Jun 26, 2016, 2:06 pm


33. City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett (May 3, review copy, 484 pages)
34. In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan (May 5, 350 pages)
35. Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (May 15, review copy, 432 pages)
36. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu (May 17, review copy, 380 pages)
37. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon (May 24, 204 pages)

38. War Dogs by Greg Bear (Jun 2, review copy, 291 pages)
39. Company Town by Madeline Ashby (Jun 11, review copy, 285 pages)
40. The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson (Jun 26, review copy, 284 pages)

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 5:03 pm


41. India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha (Jul 8, 771 pages)

42. A World at Arms by Gerhard Weinberg (Aug 21, 920 pages)
43. Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal (Aug 25, review copy, 299 pages)

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 5:16 pm


44. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Sep 10, 381 pages)
45. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower (Sep 22, 564 pages)
46. The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Sep 24, 424 pages)
47. The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud (Sep 25, 374 pages)
48. The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (Sep 27, 435 pages)

49. Welcome to the N.H.K. by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (Oct 2)
50. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 5, reread, 462 pages)
51. The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 8, reread, 570 pages)
52. Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 9, reread, 516 pages)
53. Necessity by Jo Walton (Oct 13, review copy, 331 pages)
54. The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 15, 398 pages)
55. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (Oct 19, 513 pages)
56. The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler (Oct 20, ebook, 21 pages)
57. The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler (Oct 20, ebook, 71 pages)
58. Hild by Nicola Griffith (Oct 23, 538 pages)
59. The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (Oct 26, 500 pages)
60. The Price of Valor by Django Wexler (Oct 27, 512 pages)
61. The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler (Oct 29, 480 pages)
62. Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Oct 29, ebook, 122 pages)

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 5:33 pm


63. Penric's Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold (~Nov 3, ebook, 145 pages)
64. Inda by Sherwood Smith (Nov 6, 568 pages)
65. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler (Nov 10, 373 pages)
66. Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson (Nov 13. review copy, 672 pages)
67. The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler (Nov 15, 333 pages)
68. Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Nov 19, 320 pages)
69. The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler (Nov 19. 358 pages)
70. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (Nov 22, 216 pages)
71. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (Nov 24, 219 pages)
72. The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Nov 26, 469 pages)
73. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Nov 26, reread, 374 pages)
74. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Nov 27, reread, 391 pages)
75. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Nov 28, reread, 390 pages)

76. The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington (Dec 3, review copy, 693 pages)
77. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (Dec 4, 209 pages)
78. Merchants and Maji by William C. Tracy (Dec 5, review copy, 160 pages)
79. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Dec 12, 213 pages)
80. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (Dec 13, 279 pages)
81. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (Dec 14. 385 pages)
82. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (Dec 15, 316 pages)
83. The Forever War by Joe Halderman (Dec 18, 278 pages)
84. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (Dec 22, 617 pages)
85. Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel (Dec 25, 396 pages)
86. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (Dec 29, review copy, 449 pages)
87. Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn (Dec 31, review copy, 287 pages)

Edited: Dec 22, 2015, 12:34 pm

Reserved for tracking any additional stats or challenges.

Dec 22, 2015, 7:32 pm

Welcome back!

Dec 23, 2015, 1:14 am

Kriti, it is nice to see you back.

Dec 23, 2015, 1:11 pm

>9 drneutron: Thanks Jim!

>10 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul! Nice to see you around :)

Dec 28, 2015, 5:01 pm

Happy new thread!

Dec 31, 2015, 2:47 pm

>12 foggidawn: Hi foggi! Thanks!

Edited: Dec 31, 2015, 2:57 pm

Happy New Year, Kriti!

Jan 1, 2016, 9:53 pm

Happy New Year!

Jan 2, 2016, 6:43 am

Got you starred, Kriti. :)

Jan 2, 2016, 11:14 am

Have a wonderful bookfilled 2016, Kriti.

Jan 3, 2016, 4:21 pm

>14 rosylibrarian: Thanks Marie!

>15 ronincats: Thanks Roni!

>16 Ape: Hi Stephen!

>17 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul! I hope that 2016 brings you some great books as well.


I've finished my first book of 2016!

#1: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson – I got an early review copy of this next Mistborn book, and I loved it! It expands the Mistborn world quite a bit, and it's another fun adventure.

Jan 3, 2016, 4:37 pm

Hey Kriti. I'm looking forward to seeing what you read this year. I've already got your first read on my kindle. :)

Jan 3, 2016, 8:33 pm

>18 kgodey: All right! I am looking forward to that one.

Jan 4, 2016, 6:54 am

Hi, Kriti!
I can't believe that I *still* haven't read any Sanderson. I need to fix that.

Jan 4, 2016, 11:12 am

>18 kgodey: Ooo, good to know. My husband is reading that series right now.

Jan 5, 2016, 8:57 am

>18 kgodey: Hi Kriti. You seem to be off to a good start. Good to know the new Mistborn books aren't a disappointment - as soon as my TBR stack is a little less scary, I'll have to grab that one!

Jan 5, 2016, 7:06 pm

Hi Kriti! Happy New Year!

Jan 5, 2016, 9:10 pm

I'm glad to hear that Bands of Mourning is good! I just finished Shadows of Self today and am looking forward to that one.

Edited: Jan 7, 2016, 12:19 pm

Wow, so many visitors!

>19 Kassilem: Hi Melissa! I've got you starred as well, I'm not sure if I commented on your thread or not. I hope you enjoy Bands of Mourning!

>20 foggidawn: Hi foggi! If you like the series so far, I'm sure you'll love it!

>21 scaifea: Hi Amber! Sanderson is one of my favourite authors, so I definitely think you should check him out!

>22 rosylibrarian: Hi Marie! It's a great series, I like watching the world evolve in technology from the first trilogy.

>23 archerygirl: Hi Kathy! I'm looking forward to see what you think of it.

>24 norabelle414: Hi Nora! Happy New Year to you too!

>25 _Zoe_: Hi Zoe! I couldn't wait to read this after Shadows of Self... that ending left me a little heartbroken. I'm glad that Bands of Mourning is being released so soon after.

Jan 9, 2016, 2:33 pm

#2: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I got this book for SantaThing this year, but it's been on my wishlist for a while. I don't quite know what to think of it – it's a moving portrayal of learning about life and humanity from a very sheltered viewpoint, and very well written, but the protagonist is one of the least proactive people I have ever read about, and she seems completely okay with her lack of agency. I still enjoyed it a lot though, and will be reading more Ishiguro in the future.

Jan 10, 2016, 6:52 pm

Hi, Kriti. Just stopping by to drop a star.

I really enjoyed reading Never Let Me Go last year. It was my first Ishiguro and then I read his latest book The Buried Giant when it came out. I enjoyed it as well, but not as much as Never Let Me Go. I also plan to read more Ishiguro, but somehow just haven't seemed to get around to it. I think I'll probably start with Remains of the Day

Jan 12, 2016, 8:59 am

Ahhhh! You've read Bands of Mourning!!!! *runs around flailing*

Jan 13, 2016, 7:31 pm

Happy Birthday, Kriti! Hope you are having a good one!

Jan 14, 2016, 7:59 pm

>28 rretzler: Hi Robin! I have The Buried Giant in my TBR pile, I'm definitely more interested in it now that I have an idea of Ishiguro's writing style. I'm excited to watch the movie version of Never Let Me Go too, but my husband hasn't been in the mood to watch it yet (we've been watching a movie a day).

>29 dk_phoenix: Faith! I was so excited when I got it in the mail! I may have flailed too.

>30 ronincats: Thank you, Roni! I had a quiet and lazy day, Joseph and I watched two movies and a short film, and we ate homemade curry out of the freezer with fresh rice. :)

Edited: Jan 14, 2016, 8:03 pm

#3: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – This was a haunting book about a pastor who goes to preach to humanity's first discovered aliens, and finds them extremely receptive. But while he's having this great spiritual experience, Earth is going through apocalyptic events, his beloved wife's life is falling apart, and their relationship starts to break down. I enjoyed it very much, and was saddened to read that the author's wife was dying as he wrote this book, and that this may be his last novel.

Jan 15, 2016, 10:28 am

Oh wow, I didn't know that about Faber and his wife. That puts a whole new spin on the book.

Jan 27, 2016, 11:47 am

>33 drneutron: Hi Jim! Yeah, knowing that definitely added a lot of emotional weight to the distance between Peter and Bea, but I enjoyed the book quite a bit even before I found that out.


I haven't been on my computer very much at all (aside from work) over the past few weeks, so I'm horribly behind on everyone's threads already. This has also been a slower January for me than previous years, reading-wise. probably because Joseph and I have been watching a movie a day (sometimes two or three) everyday since October. It's been a great way for us to spend time together though, so no complaints from me!

Would anybody be interested in short movie reviews if I posted them here?

I did finish two books:


#4: The Rising by Ian Tregillis – the sequel to The Mechanical, which I read last year and enjoyed. I like this world a lot, it's an alternate history where the 17th century Dutch astronomer Huygens invented clockwork robots, and the Dutch empire has since taken over the world. In The Rising, Jax, the robot that's managed to achieve free will, and Berenice, the disgraced ex-spymaster of New France are still working to remove the Dutch enslavement of mechanical, but they have very different ends in mind. This wasn't the usual second book that's just setup for the finale, and I enjoyed it more than the first.

#5: Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin – I loved this book. Lavinia, Aeneas's wife from the Aeneid, is the protagonist of the book, and we see the events of the Aeneid from her perspective. I had absolutely no familiarity with the Aeneid before I read this – that would have given me a better understanding of this book, but it's very enjoyable anyway. Lavinia is a lovely protagonist, she's very princess-like on the outside – quiet, maidenly, dutiful, but she's one of the most real people I've read about, even as she acknowledges that she is fictional.

Jan 27, 2016, 4:49 pm

Oh, new Tregillis - must go find it now!

Jan 28, 2016, 6:37 am

Yes, please, on the movie reviews!

Jan 28, 2016, 6:00 pm

I agree - I would love to see movie reviews. I just wish I had time to watch a movie every night - it would cut too much into my reading time, I fear!!

Jan 28, 2016, 10:15 pm

>35 drneutron: Have you read The Mechanical yet, Jim?

>36 scaifea: I'm glad you're interested, Amber! I was thinking of you when I read Lavinia, I'm sure you'd have gotten a lot more than me from it, even though I liked it a lot.

>37 rretzler: Hi Robin! It does cut into my reading time, but it's one of the main ways that Joseph and I spend together, so I'm not complaining. I'm glad you're interested!


Yesterday we watched two movies:

"The Birdcage" (1996) starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, and Dianne Wiest.

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane play a gay couple that own a cabaret. Their son announces that he's getting married to the daughter of a very conservative senator, and he wants his parents to pretend to be a normal family when his fiancee and her family come over for dinner. Of course, hijinks ensue.

I really enjoyed this movie, it had a lot of heart, and I liked the family dynamic. It's pretty silly sometimes – it's a comedy, but it's fun. I'd definitely recommend it.

"The Company Men" (2010) starring Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones.

This movie was set during the recent economic downturn, and follows three long-time "company men" as they lose their jobs. It was a pretty standard drama, but I like all the actors in it, and I enjoyed it. It was a little bit flat, though – I can't see it being memorable in a few months.

Jan 29, 2016, 6:50 am

>38 kgodey: Yeah, I generally shy away from modern treatments of my beloved classics unless I have it on several good authorities that it would irritate me. I've read a couple of LeGuin's works and in general I like her, but the last book of that one series (can't think of the name... has that lovely Ged character in it...) made me extremely irked at her and I'm afraid she'd pull the same sort of trick with a character like Lavinia. So, I'll just be happy from afar that you liked it. Ha!
Also, I *love* The Birdcage! Williams and Lane are amazing in those roles!

Jan 29, 2016, 12:16 pm

>39 scaifea: That makes sense, I sometimes get irritated when people read something I love and interpret it differently from me. I think you're talking about Tehanu from the Earthsea Cycle, I didn't like that one as much either.

One book and two more movies to report:

#6: Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson – a surprise e-book only novella released to coincide with Bands of Mourning. It's set during the original Mistborn trilogy and features some very welcome familiar faces. I enjoyed it, although I'm beginning to be somewhat irritated by some of the quips his main characters make in situations. That's not unique to this book, though.

We watched two movies yesterday too.

"The Sixth Sense" (1999)

Neither Joseph nor I had seen this movie, but both of us knew the twists because they're so famous. I quickly gave up on trying to pretend that I didn't know what they were, but it was a very good movie regardless. It's amazing how anxious it made me without actually ever showing anything scary. And I liked Bruce Willis's relationship with the kid – I think Bruce Willis is particularly good when he's acting with kids, I liked him a lot in the movie "North" (which was critically panned but I enjoyed).

"Career Opportunities" (1991)

A really silly movie starring Frank Whaley and Jennifer Connelly. It was written by John Hughes and has elements of The Breakfast Club (kids from very different social circles stuck together) and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (the ridiculous hijinks, a young person comes to terms with their independence from their father). It isn't as good as either of those, but it was fun and short and kind of cute.

Jan 29, 2016, 12:18 pm

>40 kgodey: I don't know how Brandon Sanderson always manages to surprise by writing more than expected!

Jan 30, 2016, 12:38 am

Hi there, we have very similar reading tastes :) Starring!

Jan 30, 2016, 9:05 am

I downloaded Mistborn: Secret History as soon as he made the announcement! You were super quick to read it, wow! Hope to get to it this week. I've put Lavinia on the TBR list, though these kinds of books are hit or miss for me, I find. But it really does sound fascinating.

Jan 30, 2016, 3:04 pm

>41 _Zoe_: I don't know how he does it either, but I'm so glad he does! He said he's been working on this particular novella for ten years.

>42 kgriffith: Hi Kirsten! Glad to have you here :)

>43 dk_phoenix: I pre-ordered it as soon as it was up for pre-order – there was a note about it in the copy of Bands of Mourning that I had, so I knew about it. I'm looking forward to see what you think of it!

I hope you like Lavinia. Stories that adapt other stories are definitely more of a risk, but I think this one was very well done.


One movie from yesterday:

"The Age of Adaline" (2015)

Blake Lively stars as Adaline, a woman who does not age after a freak accident in the 1930's. She lives a lonely and isolated life because she's always on the run so that people don't discover her secret, but then she meets a guy that she starts to fall for.

I had a bunch of problems with this movie. I didn't think that the romance between Adaline and Ellis was plausible, there didn't seem to be any chemistry, and I couldn't figure out why she liked him in the first place. (I might be influenced by the fact that at one point Ellis threatens to have a book burning unless Adaline goes out with him – I really didn't like or trust him, I found some of his other behavior a bit stalker-y too). Also, the movie does almost nothing with its really cool premise except have some overly melodramatic scenes where Adaline is reminiscing about the past, and show that she knows a few more things than other people. Also Harrison Ford is in this movie (yay!) but I found the whole story with him implausible and weird too. It's hard to like a movie when you don't buy the character arc.

Jan 30, 2016, 7:21 pm

>38 kgodey: nope, both are now on my wish list!

Edited: Jan 31, 2016, 5:27 pm

>45 drneutron: I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of them! I haven't read any other Tregillis, but I do have a copy of Something More Than Night that I hope to get to soon.


On the book front, I've started a reread of the Vorkosigan Saga because I realized that my preorder of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen arrives on Tuesday! I'm currently reading Shards of Honor, I'm not sure yet whether I'll read the whole series, and whether I'll read them in published or chronological order.

On the movie front, two new movies:

"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2012)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the story a Pakistani finance analyst turned professor who's suspected to be involved with a terrorist group I'm a big fan of Mira Nair, so I was excited to watch this movie. It was well written, well made, and well acted, but it's nowhere near my favourite of her movies. I found it a bit heavy handed with the whole "people aren't what you expect them to be" thing, and I think she's better when she's telling the story of individual people rather than trying to make a point about society.

"Salt" (2010)

Yesterday was "Liev Schreiber involved in foreign politics" night, apparently. This was a re-watch for me, but Joseph had never seen it. Angelina Jolie is a Bond/Jack Ryan-esque character that's framed as being a Russian spy – or she might actually be one. The plot and writing aren't that great, but I really like this movie because of Angelina Jolie's character, who is matter-of-factly incredible without really ever being sexualized (unlike most female spies in movies). This is probably because the role was originally written for Tom Cruise.

Jan 31, 2016, 5:41 pm

I would say that rereading Shards and Barrayar would be sufficient grounding for the new book in particular!

Feb 2, 2016, 11:09 am

>47 ronincats: Good to know, Roni! I'm not sure that I can stop myself from doing a full reread now that I've started, though.


It's February already!

#7: Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold – This book is an omnibus edition of Shards of Honor and Barrayar, and it was a reread. The Vorkisigan Saga was one of my favourite series' ever when I first read it two years ago, and it seems to hold up impeccably to rereads.


"Shallow Hal" (2001)

A silly romantic comedy starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow. Hal is a very shallow person who only judges women by their appearance, but then he's hypnotized by Tony Robbins into seeing people's "inner beauty". He falls in love with Rosemary, who's 300 lb and not very conventionally attractive, but he actually sees her as Gwyneth Paltrow. It had a surprising amount of heart, and I enjoyed it.

"Boyz n the Hood" (1991)

This movie follows the coming of age of three young black men from a L.A. "hood". It was very good, although somewhat depressing at the end. I especially liked the wide range of three-dimensional characters, and the look at a culture which I'm not that familiar with.

Feb 4, 2016, 8:55 am

I really loved Shallow Hal when it came out. It does have a lot of heart, and the part where he figures out he's in the burn unit... oh man. It still hits me years later. I should re-watch it.

Feb 4, 2016, 3:25 pm

>40 kgodey: I enjoyed The Sixth Sense as well. I really like Bruce Willis as an actor - my husband claims that Die Hard is my favorite movie. It's not, but I do like it. I've never seen North, but I've always wanted to because it looked like it would interest me. I really like "art house" type movies and North seemed like it might be like that, which probably is why it wasn't well received in the theaters.

Feb 10, 2016, 9:43 am

>40 kgodey: I hadn't heard of the new ebook. I'm planning to reread the first Mistborn trilogy soon(ish) so will slot Mistborn: The Secret History in at the same time.

I liked The Sixth Sense and think it's a film that works just as real on a rewatch. The first time I watched it I had no idea about the plot twist.

>48 kgodey: I also enjoyed Shallow Hal more than I thought I would and agree with your description of a surprising amount of heart.

Feb 11, 2016, 10:59 am

>49 rosylibrarian: I really wasn't expecting very much from Shallow Hal, but it surprised me.

>50 rretzler: I love Bruce Willis too, he's so reassuring. And Die Hard is great! I hope you get to see North sometime... it's definitely weird in some ways, it reminds me in some ways of Roald Dahl books.

>51 souloftherose: Hi Heather! It adds a lot of context to the original Mistborn trilogy, so that would be a great time to read it.

I'm already looking forward to re-watching The Sixth Sense at some point.

Edited: Feb 11, 2016, 11:15 am

I really should update more often.

Two books (well, actually four, but I'm counting them as two since they are two physical books) to report. I'm still continuing the Vorkosigan reread. I've decided that this is my favourite series of all time, I suspected that when I first read it but I didn't want to declare that until I'd had a chance to reread. It holds up very well.


#8: Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold – an omnibus edition of The Warrior's Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning (novella) and The Vor Game. I didn't get to read these in chronological order the first time, so it's nice to get introduced to Miles "officially" – the way he grows over books is even more apparent. I was a little sad to leave Cordelia but I love Miles, so that's okay.

#9: Miles, Mystery & Mayhem by Lois McMaster Bujold – an omnibus edition of Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and Labyrinth (novella) – Cetaganda was the first Miles book I read, so I have a soft spot for it, and it's also the first book where we see a lot of Ivan (and who doesn't love Ivan). I was thinking about skipping Ethan of Athos because I'm eager to get to Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen as soon as possible, but I'm glad I didn't, it's a great story. I love Sgt. Taura, and it was nice to get back to Miles, so Labyrinth was the perfect ending.


Movie update coming soon, I've watched ten movies since I last updated.

Feb 13, 2016, 2:08 pm

Movie update, part 1

Feb 2: "Blood Diamond" (2006)

This is a story about the blood diamond trade in Africa – enslaved labor mining diamonds to be used for war. I hadn't seen this movie since I saw it in theaters when it came out. At the time, I thought it was one of the best movies I'd ever seen (I didn't watch a lot of movies, though). It's still a very good movie, but not the masterpiece I remember it being. I do like Djimon Honsou and Leonardo DiCaprio a lot, though.

Feb 3: "McFarland, USA" (2015)

We've been on a Kevin Costner kick lately, and I like sports movies (even though I don't follow any sports), so I was pretty excited to see this movie featuring Costner as the coach of a primarily Latino cross country team in one of the poorest cities in America. I expected it to be pretty good, but it was even better than I thought it would be. It follows familiar beats, but the characterizations are well done, and Kevin Costner is as reassuring as ever.

Feb 4: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008)

I've been wanting to watch this one for a long time - Brad Pitt playing someone that ages backwards. I was disappointed, though – it wasn't a bad movie by any means, it was well-acted and well-made, but I found the things they chose to focus on very boring. It reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump, especially with the romantic elements, but I think Forrest's life was more interesting. After this and The Age of Adaline, I think I'm going to be wary of romantic fantasy.

Feb 5: "For Love of the Game" (1999)

Another Kevin Costner movie, where he plays an aging pitcher reflecting on his tumultuous relationship during a baseball game. I didn't like this movie so much, I found the baseball parts fun (the tension was well-done), but I didn't care for the romantic drama aspects – for one, their relationship didn't seem very healthy. I do like good romances, but this wasn't one.

Feb 6: "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" (2004)

I'm reviewing these movies together since they tell a single story. I watched Kill Bill a long time ago, before I knew much about Quentin Tarantino, but I'm a big fan of him now, so I was excited to re-watch it. It's a great stylized action movie, and it definitely holds up. I don't like it as much as the other movies of his that I've watched – Pulp Fiction (genius!), Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, and Inglourious Basterds, just because Kill Bill is so pulpy that the characters aren't as fleshed out.

Feb 7: "12 Angry Men" (1957)

This is probably going to be one of my favourite movies of all-time, but I'm a sucker for justice and freedom and due process and those sorts of things. It's probably famous enough that I don't need to talk about what it's about, but it's about a jury deliberating, and the case turns out to be not quite as cut and dry as it first seems. The movie was excellently made, I was right up there with all the doubters in the beginning, and convinced that the evidence being debated couldn't possibly be flawed, and as I began to be convinced, I never felt like it was beyond creduility at any point.

Feb 8: "Truth" (2015)

A political drama based on the Killian documents controversy, where documents critical of George W. Bush's conduct when he was in the National Guard were aired on CBS, and then turned out to be unauthenticated. Robert Redford plays Dan Rather, and Cate Blanchett plays his producer Mary Mapes. I wasn't familiar with this scandal and the work of Rather and Mapes before this, but I always find political and media dramas interesting. It was a pretty good movie, I found it a little melodramatic at times, but I'd recommend it.

Feb 13, 2016, 2:23 pm

Book update: still rereading the Vorkosigan Saga


#10: Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold – I'm cheating by calling this a book, since I'd read two of the three novellas in the previous books already, but I don't mind because I've been counting omnibuses as single books. So the only new thing is the novella "Borders of Infinity" and the (very short) framing story. I do like "Borders of Infinity", though, it's nice to see what Miles gets up to between books, and it was a good lead up to "Brothers in Arms".

#11: Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold – Yay, we finally get to Mark! And Galeni! And Earth! I don't really have anything else to say.

Some of the most memorable characters in the series for me (the Koudelka sisters, older Drou and Kou, Alys Vorpatril, Byerly, Dono) have had barely any page time so far. I guess Miles has spent most of his time away from Barrayar, though. I have a lot to look forward to.

Feb 15, 2016, 8:46 am

>54 kgodey: McFarland, USA was a good, feel-good movie. I really enjoyed it.

Feb 17, 2016, 2:42 pm

>53 kgodey: I'm really going to have to get around to reading the Vorkosigan saga. I keep hearing such good things about it and have had it on my TBR pile forever.

>54 kgodey: I LOVE 12 Angry Men!! I would also have to say it is on my top movie list of all times. I have watched it several times and I always love it. I think my husband and I may have to introduce it to our sons soon as I think they're probably old enough to appreciate it now.

Feb 19, 2016, 3:44 pm

>54 kgodey: I first read 12 Angry Men in high school, and loved it. I recently listened to an audio production that was really well done, too.

Feb 27, 2016, 2:13 pm

Hi Kriti - I've caught up with you at last! I must get further into the Vorksagian series soon - it seems to be so universally loved here on LT.

I LOVE that you are doing movie reviews! I've toyed with the idea in the past but never actually done it, but now I might. My husband is a huge movie nut and is always complaining that we don't watch enough movies, so maybe that would be the motivation I need to oblige him! You seem to watch quite a wide variety of stuff - how do you select these movies?
We get ours through an online rental place that sends you films in the post, which is good because it has a huge variety to choose from, but bad because they tend to send you depressing Romanian arthouse dramas when all you want is some undemanding fun. Just one quick movie geek fact from me before I go - the Birdcage is actually a remake of a French film called "La Cage Aux Folles". I haven't seen it myself, but the husband claims it's very good, mainly because the actor playing the Robin Williams character gives a great performance.

Feb 28, 2016, 4:15 pm

>56 rosylibrarian: I'm glad you liked that too, Marie!

>57 rretzler: I highly recommend the Vorkosigan saga, like I said, it's probably my favorite series. The characters really feel like my friends.

>58 kgriffith: I didn't realize 12 Angry Men was a play first, I'll have to find a copy.

>59 HanGerg: Hi Hannah, nice to see you here! The Vorkosigan saga is really, really good, I hope you get to read more of it!

My husband is a huge movie nut too, that's why this is our default way to spend time together. I'm glad that you're interested in the reviews, and I'd love to read any reviews that you do as well. Our process for picking the movies is pretty complicated – we have a huge list of movies that we've heard about and have access to (we get our movies online), and every day, I make a shortlist of 10-15 movies from the bigger list and then vote on them separately. There's usually a movie or two that we agree on and that's what we pick. We end up naturally varying genres and time periods, since we don't like to watch too much of the same.

Edited: Feb 28, 2016, 4:43 pm

I'm finally done with the Vorkosigan saga! I haven't been posting here too much because I've been doing nothing but reading in my spare time (other than watching movies with my husband, which doesn't count as spare time) – I've been wanting to get to Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen as soon as possible, but also do a thorough reread of the earlier books, so it's taken me longer than I thought it would.


#12: Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold – Mark's coming of age story. It's unpleasant to read the details (makes sense, given Mark's history) but it's good to see him come into his own and get to know his family.

#13: Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold – Miles' second coming of age story, and still my favorite Vorkosigan book. Miles' trajectory over the previous books was clearly not sustainable, so it's good to see him finally get to a stable place. Plus, even though the Dendarii are fun, I like Barrayar more.

#14: Miles in Love by Lois McMaster Bujold – A compilation of Komarr, A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts, and a continuation of seeing Miles settle down. A Civil Campaign is also among my favorite Vorkosigan books, as Miles meets a problem that he can't out-maneuver, and Barrayar runs into some very wrinkly legal issues. And Ekaterin is great, although I'm still not really sure how she can stand being around Miles so much.

#15: Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold – The Vorkosigan saga gets back to fun adventures and political intrigue. I like this one a lot.

#16: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold – IVAN! I wish there were more Ivan books. I love Ivan.

#17: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold – Another Miles action-adventure, except for the last few pages. Miles seems old in this book and Jin and Roic get most of the action, but it's still fun.

#18: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold – This wasn't a re-read and I'm still processing it. The book threw me (and Miles!) for a loop with revelations about Cordelia and Aral. It's hard to say anything without spoilers for the previous books, but this is a somewhat different kind of Vorkosigan book – there's no enemy or plot to foil (unless you count societal expectations as an enemy), but it's a pretty typical Vorkosigan book in the sense that the characters are constantly growing and learning and changing. And since that's what I love about the series, I did enjoy it quite a bit, but I'm still processing the change in view. I guess Miles doesn't see everything...


Movie reviews should resume shortly, I plan to go back and review all the ones I haven't yet.

Feb 28, 2016, 5:23 pm

Congrats on making it all the way through the Vorkosigan series! Yes, that last book took a bit of processing. I read the eArc this fall and just finished reading the hardback when I got it earlier this month. Much more comfortable with it this time through...

Mar 1, 2016, 4:00 pm

>61 kgodey: Adding my congratulations on the Vorkosigan reread! I agree about your comment re Gentleman Jole: 'the characters are constantly growing and learning and changing. And .... that's what I love about the series'.

Mar 2, 2016, 12:07 am

Kriti: Have you read Hyperion? Or anything by Dan Simmons? I've been enjoying getting back into sci-fi and that series looks interesting...

Mar 23, 2016, 4:18 pm

Kriti, Kriti....Hello, anyone there! Just checking in to make sure all is okay. We have missed you.

Edited: Mar 25, 2016, 11:08 am

>62 ronincats: Thanks Roni! I'll have to reread it at some point to fully process it too.

>63 souloftherose: Thanks Heather!

>64 andrewreads: Sorry it took me so long to reply, Andrew. I haven't read Hyperion or anything else by Simmons, it's been on my wishlist for a while, though. Did you end up reading it, and what did you think of it?

>65 rretzler: Hi Robin! Thanks for the message! Everything is okay with me, I just haven't been reading or at my computer very much.


Book update: I've read Calamity by Brandon Sanderson and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy since I last posted and I've been slowly working my way through The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014.

Mar 25, 2016, 11:26 am

Have a great Easter holiday, Kriti.

Mar 27, 2016, 9:25 pm

>67 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul!

Edited: Apr 1, 2016, 11:27 am

I haven't been reading very much, but I have a lot of movies to review. Continuing from my last post:

Feb 9: "Rocket Science" (2007)

A smart but socially awkward kid with a stutter is coaxed into joining the school debate team by the star debater (who happens to be a pretty girl), but things don't go well at all. This is one of those "protagonist doesn't actually get anything that he wants" coming of age movies, and reminded me a lot of Rushmore, but less Wes Anderson-y. I enjoyed it.

Feb 10: "Red Eye" (2005)

I remember seeing parts of this on TV when I was in India and for some reason, developing a little bit of a crush on Cillian Murphy (he plays the villain, but he manages to be charming even when he's being utterly menacing.) Anyway, this is a thriller starring Rachel McAdams as a hotel manager whose seatmate threatens to kill her father unless she helps them with an assassination plot. It was a pretty standard thriller but I liked the actors and found it fun.

Feb 10: "The Great Debaters" (2007)

Based on a true story about an all-black debate team from Texas who beat the reigning college national debate team in an era of segregation. Denzel Washington directed this movie, and he also stars as the professor that coaches the team. I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I'm so glad for how far we've come in less than a century – the juxtaposition of debate vs. things like lynch mobs was particularly horrifying. The only thing I didn't like was that the content of the debates themselves seemed very much based in emotional arguments and oratory rather than facts.

Feb 11: "Moscow on the Hudson" (1984)

This was one of the most memorable movies I've watched over the last few months. It stars Robin Williams as a Soviet immigrant (or defector, since the USSR didn't really encourage immigration) adjusting to his new life in the U.S. I thought this was going to be a comedy, but it was actually a really poignant story (and very relatable to me, I have my US citizenship interview next month!). It also features a bunch of other immigrants and their stories – from the Cuban lawyer to the other Soviet and European immigrants, and the ways they deal with this strange new country that's so much better in many ways but really alienating in others. I highly recommend it.

Feb 12: "No Strings Attached" (2011)

Silly romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher as two people that have a "no strings attached" sexual relationship but end up falling in love. Romantic comedies aren't my favourite genre, especially the ones where the women are nuts, and Natalie Portman's character is definitely a bit nuts in this one. We watched this one because Ivan Reitman made it though, and as far as the genre goes, though, it wasn't too bad, it had a bit of heart.

Feb 12: "Unbreakable" (2000)

M. Night Shyamalan's next movie after The Sixth Sense, also starring Bruce Willis. This is basically a superhero origin story, but more realistic than comics and kind of noir. Bruce Willis is really great at characters like this, and he even gets to have a bond with a kid again (his son). Samuel L. Jackson plays against type as a comics-obsessed man with medical issues who is convinced that superpowers exist and helps Willis' character come to terms with his. I've seen Watchmen and Kick-Ass, which are also more "realistic" superhero stories, but I'd never heard of Unbreakable and I think it's better than both of those.

Feb 13: "The Bone Collector" (1999)

A thriller/mystery starring Denzel Washington as a recently paralyzed forensic investigator and Angelina Jolie as the patrol cop that's drafted into being his helper to solve the mystery of a serial killer that's leaving clues to his next murder as he kills people. I found this movie really weird: they don't actually end up saving anybody (except one little girl that they're able to revive and feels like emotional manipulation), the identity and motivation of the killer comes totally out of left field, and there's a really strange implied romance between Jolie and Washington's characters at the end, which also seems to come out of left field.. It wasn't the worst movie ever, but I'm unlikely to want to watch it again.

Feb 14: "Quiz Show" (1994)

A Robert Redford directed movie about the scandal surrounding "Twenty One", a quiz show in the late 1950s which was revealed to be rigged to keep the more "marketable" contestant on the show. This was a pretty good movie, the story was told in a very matter of fact way without too much melodrama, but all of the characters are very sympathetic. I don't think it would've worked quite so well without Ralph Fiennes playing Charles Van Doren, the incredibly likeable contestant who keeps winning – it doesn't matter what he's doing, we like him a lot too and don't want to see him hurt. Definitely recommended.

Feb 14: "Never Let Me Go" (2010)

I was pretty excited to see this because I really enjoyed the book but I was very disappointed. The book is just about three friends, the world is interesting and possibly a dystopia, but that's really not the focus. The movie seems like it's priorities are to be (1) a romance, (2) a sci-fi dystopia. Ruth's character is pretty much non-existent, she's just a barrier between Kathy and Tommy. I tried to look at this as just a movie instead of being related to the book, but I think that just makes it forgettable. It's too bad too, because Carey Mulligan plays a really good Kathy, pretty much exactly as I'd imagined her (apparently she's a fan of the book and really wanted to be in the movie).

Feb 15: "The Upside of Anger" (2005)

Another movie on our Kevin Costner binge. This stars Joan Allen as a suburban housewife whose husband unexpectedly disappears. She deals with it by a lot of self-loathing, sleeping with her loser ex-baseball player neighbour, and being utterly horrible to her four daughters. Despite her behaviour being really unpleasant to watch, I enjoyed the movie, she does grow somewhat, and her daughters and Kevin Costner make up for her horribleness. The ending appalled me though, it turns out that her husband is dead in a ditch and he hasn't run away to Scandinavia with his secretary like she thought. What kind of person assumes that and never follows up, especially when her kids want to talk to their dad?!.

Feb 16: "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993)

This was us continuing our Denzel Washington kick, he plays Don Pedro in this version of Much Ado About Nothing. I hadn't ever read the play, so I didn't know much about it. I really enjoyed the movie, though, who doesn't love the bantering couple who can't help but fall in love? I found Hero and Claudio's story iffier (Claudio seems like a jerk, shaming Hero in public like that based on very circumstantial evidence), but I guess that's just the times. I enjoyed the adaptation, too – the actors were great, and even Keanu (who I don't think of as a great actor) is fine as the villainous prince. Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh deliver their pithy lines very well.

Feb 17: "Maid in Manhattan" (2002)

We primarily watched this because of Ralph Fiennes (or I did anyway) – it's a silly mistaken identity romantic comedy where Ralph Fiennes is a senatorial candidate who falls in love with a hotel maid at a fancy hotel that he believes to be a hotel guest. It was all right, I don't think it was quite as bad as the reviews indicate, but it wasn't great either.

Feb 18: "Mr. Brooks" (2007)

Kevin Costner plays very much against type in the movie – he's Earl Brooks, a successful businessman hiding a secret – he's the famous Thumbprint Killer, and his murderous alter ego / imaginary friend is pushing him to kill again after two years. He becomes careless and is seen by a wannabe serial killer who blackmails him into teaching him how to be a serial killer. In parallel, Demi Moore plays a police detective that is obsessed with catching the Thumbprint Killer but has several problems of her own – a messy divorce, another violent criminal determined to kill her, etc. The two threads come together pretty neatly towards the end.

I'm not sure what to think of this movie, it's very morally ambiguous. Kevin Costner is the protagonist and we root for him because he seems smart and in-control, but he's not a great person either. It's definitely fun to watch him out-think everyone, though. So I guess I did enjoy it.

Feb 18: "A Bug's Life" (1998)

We've decided to go through all the Pixar movies because I haven't seen all of them, this is the first one we watched. It was fun but pretty formulaic, I don't think it was as good as Pixar's later movies though. Kevin Spacey does a great job as the antagonist Hopper.

Feb 19: "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2011)

Several British retirees move to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India, which promises a luxurious experience and a cheap cost of living. When they get there, the reality is actually that it's a pretty rundown facility run by an idealistic young man with dreams (and not much else). However, they soon find that the place has other charms – they find friendship, occupation, and peace of mind (and in one case, conviction about the situation not being right). The cast is great – Maggie Smith plays a curmudgeon that you can't help but like, Judi Dench plays a determined but scared woman who hasn't ever been independent, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton play a constantly bickering couple with very different interests, Tom Wilkinson plays a man who once lived in India and has some unfinished business, plus a few more. Much more poignant than I thought it would be.

Feb 19: "The Taking of Pelham 123" (2009)

Another Denzel Washington/Tony Scott movie – I've liked pretty much all of their frequent collaborations. Terrorists hijack a subway train, and the lead terrorist (John Travolta) takes a particular fancy to the train dispatcher played by Denzel Washington and will deal only with him. It's pretty typical of the genre, but Tony Scott's direction and the actors make it better than average, I think.

Feb 20: "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (1997)

A city reporter (John Cusack) arrives in Savannah, GA to cover one of antique dealer Jim Williams' famous Christmas parties. He's already fascinated by Savannah's culture and the town's eccentric cast of characters, but things get even more interesting when there's a murder in the middle of the party, so he stays on to cover the trial. This isn't a murder mystery, though – it's a drama based on a real life story, and the real focus is on the unique residents – the drag queen Lady Chablis, an old man who threatens to poison the town's water supply every day and has flies attached to his clothes, a man who walks an imaginary dog every day, a famous bulldog, and a voodoo practitioner that's seems to be as essential to winning the murder trial as a good lawyer. And there's Kevin Spacey's Jim Williams, who has to keep his sexuality under wraps because even in this town where being incredibly weird is accepted, being gay isn't. I'm not sure how to describe this movie exactly, but it's very good.

Feb 20: "Air Force One" (1997)

Harrison Ford plays the president whose plane is hijacked by terrorists (led by Gary Oldman) seeking a political prisoner's freedom. This is a very formulaic action movie, but Harrison Ford is great to watch as the president and Gary Oldman is always deliciously evil, so I enjoyed it. I'll just leave it at "Get off my plane!"


I still have a lot more to catch up on, obviously, so more coming soon(ish).

Mar 28, 2016, 11:12 am

>69 kgodey: An MB for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I think I've had that on my watchlist on either Amazon or Netflix, but never actually gotten around to it. Sounds like something I would really enjoy. I'm also putting Unbreakable on the list - I'm a big Bruce Willis fan. Not much of a Kevin Costner fan though - to me it seems that he plays pretty much the same character in all his movies and they always seem kind of flat, but maybe I've just seen some bad movies of his which turned me off at first and didn't really give him a chance.

It's too bad about Never Let Me Go. I really loved the book, but I guess that's just par for the course. Usually when I've loved the book, the movie seems to be a big disappointment. The only movies from books I love that stand out to me are the Lord of the Rings series, the Harry Potter series and also, I guess the Hunger Games series was not bad.

Speaking of Denzel Washington - have either of you ever seen any of the TV series St. Elsewhere? It was on in the 80s and many of the younger cast went on to greater fame - Denzel, Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel, David Morse, plus a bunch of other really great actors. It was one of my favorite shows and it had a small, loyal following. It was on for 6 or 7 years and the critics loved it but was never one of those mainstream hits. I highly recommend it if you can find it and feel like watching a great series some day.

Mar 29, 2016, 9:17 pm

>69 kgodey: My brother had me watch Unbreakable years ago and it's EXCELLENT! (I don't watch a lot of movies and the ones that I do that aren't based on books or superheroes, my brother made me watch) Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing is one of my mom's favorite movies, and I found it pretty fun too.

Edited: Apr 8, 2016, 9:07 pm

>70 rretzler: I hope you like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Robin! The sequel wasn't as good, unfortunately, but hopefully I'll get to that review soon. I think you'll definitely like Unbreakable. Kevin Costner does tend to play the same character in all his movies but I find that character somewhat reassuring. :) I'd seen him in a few movies before I felt this way, I'm not sure what made me really like him.

I can't think of any books that became good movies except for the Lord of the Rings and the Hunger Games series either. I haven't watched the Harry Potter series recently enough to have an opinion.

I've heard of St. Elsewhere but I've never been able to find it. Maybe we can find a used DVD set online. It sounds great!

>71 bell7: I'm glad you enjoyed both of those movies too!


I've barely been on my computer over the past few weeks, so that's why I haven't posted very much. I have some book updates!


#22: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – A novella about a school for children who've been ejected from the fantasy world they found their way to and are now trying to come to terms with being in the mundane real world again. I liked the worldbuilding a lot, and I liked the first half of the book where the new student arrives and settles in and meets all the crazy people from crazy worlds. But then it turned into a murder mystery, and I felt like it was trying to do way too much for a novella. Still recommended, though.

#23: Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson – Tor sent me copies of the new illustrated editions of this series (the ones that are out, anyway), and they look great. I read this one a long time ago but wasn't in the mood for middle-grade snarkiness at the time, so I never read the rest of the series. I liked it better this time though, I'm in the mood for a light read and Brandon Sanderson has his usual cool magic system and bad metaphors and fun adventure. The asides on writing are also pretty fun.

#24: The Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson – The sequel to Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. More of the same, just as fun.

Apr 10, 2016, 3:24 pm

Movie catch up update: Feb 21-29

I've started posting these on my blog too, so this is pasted from there.


Feb 21: "The Kingdom" (2007)

This movie follows a squad of FBI agents (played by Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, and Jason Bateman) investigating a bombing of the American compound in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia. Political action thrillers are one of my favourite genres, especially when they're set in other countries. I enjoyed the cultural clashes and the evolving relationship between the Saudi native guide and the FBI team. It was also nice to see Jason Bateman play a little bit against type.

Feb 22: "The Butler" (2013)

I'd heard a lot about this movie – Forest Whitaker playing a White House butler that serves decades worth of presidents. Forest Whitaker's a great actor, and the movie had a really compelling premise, but I didn't enjoy it very much. The movie ended up being pretty much entirely focused on civil rights, which was fine, but pretty much everything that happened was incredibly melodramatic and about as subtle as a hammer. I liked seeing the glimpses of various presidents (Robin Williams plays Eisenhower, Alan Rickman plays Reagan) but overall, not recommended.

Feb 23: "Almost Famous" (2000)

A high school boy is hired by Rolling Stone magazine (they don't know he's in high school) to accompany a rock band on tour to write a story about them. I absolutely love coming of age movies, and this is one of the best I've seen. Patrick Fugit does a really great job as the precocious kid who's way out of his depth but still manages to keep his head on his shoulders. Everyone in this movie seems completely real, and they make a lifestyle pretty much completely alien to me (drugs, groupies, etc.) seem very relatable. In particular, Kate Hudson as a groupie desperately seeking validation, Frances McDormand as the mom that's really trying to be supportive but is worried sick, and Billy Crudup as the entitled but conflicted lead singer are great. And there's a bunch of other actors I like too, like Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Lee, and Zooey Deschanel.

Apparently this is based on writer/director Cameron Crowe's real life experiences touring with bands and writing for Rolling Stone when he was the same age, so it's no wonder that it's so good.

Feb 24: "Resident Evil" (2002)

An elite unit is sent to deal with a research facility controlled by an insane AI where all the scientists have mutated into zombies. I'm not a big fan of horror (any sort of suspense drives me crazy) but I enjoyed this movie. It's based on the popular Resident Evil video game series, and is apparently much less scary than the games (from what Joseph tells me). The action was fun, the world was interesting, and I only had to hide under my blanket a couple of times.

Feb 24: "Dil Dhadkane Do" (2015)

Unhappily married couple Kamal and Neelam Mehra go on a cruise with their family and friends for their 30th anniversary, and the careful lies that have been keeping their family intact fall apart. Joseph and I are both fans of writer and director Zoya Akhtar – her movies are usually a sharp look at society and expectations and the mess it leaves individuals in, without too much melodrama, and this movie did not disappoint. Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shetty do a great job as the disenchanted couple whose only focus is maintaining their image in society. I found a lot of the characters readily identifiable.The only thing I didn't enjoy was the ending. I felt like things resolved themselves and people changed for the better far too quickly. But it's a Hindi movie; I suppose audiences expect a happy ending.

Feb 25: "Million Dollar Arm" (2014)

Jon Hamm plays a down on his luck sports agent who starts a reality show in India to find cricket players and train them to be baseball players in the US, but runs into much bigger challenges than he anticipates. This movie is based on a true story. I enjoyed the movie, it was a little predictable, but sports movies are reassuring in their own way. I wish the story had focused a little less on Jon Hamm's personal story, though.


Feb 26: "Valkyrie" (2008)

Also based on true story, Valkyrie tells the story of the 20 July assassination/political coup against Hitler and his government by dissenting German officers. Tom Cruise plays the protagonist Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the ringleaders and the one chosen to assassinate Hitler. I really enjoyed this movie – the cast was great (Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, among others) and it was well paced and tense despite knowing the ultimate outcome.

Feb 26: "Do The Right Thing" (1989)

It's a really hot Sunday in the primarily African-American neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, and what starts out as life as usual slowly boils into violence as everyone's frustration feeds off of each other. I'm not really sure how to describe this movie, but it's really, really well done. I've never understood how mobs are formed, but this movie does a great job of showing how usually reasonable people can go insane under the right circumstances. It's not dark and depressing though, for most of the movie, it's just a slice of life movie that's also really good. The actors are excellent too – writer and director Spike Lee plays one of the main characters. Just watch it!

Feb 27: "Grosse Pointe Blank" (1997)

John Cusack plays a neurotic assassin-for-hire whose next target happens to coincide with his 10th high school reunion. He's got several problems: the girl he's never gotten over, two federal agents on his tail, an assassin that wants him to join a union, and a newly developed conscience. This is a rather odd movie – I was expecting more of a straight up action comedy, but this is a quirky movie that focuses a lot more on how John Cusack's character feels than I thought it would. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I liked Dan Aykroyd especially.

Feb 27: "The Fisher King" (1991)

A former radio "shock jock" (Jeff Bridges) who is extremely depressed because he accidentally goaded a listener into a shooting massacre befriends a homeless man (Robin Williams) whose wife was a victim of that massacre and has become mentally ill because of it. This is a Terry Gilliam movie, so it's weird and uncomfortable in the way his movies usually are, but it was also very well done. Robin Williams is excellent as Parry, you can't help but be charmed by him, and when he's terrified, you're terrified for him. Jeff Bridges does a great job as well.

Feb 28: "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" (1984)

We've decided to go through all the Studio Ghibli movies in order. This one is technically not Studio Ghibli, it was made before it was formed, but we're counting it as the first one.

Nausicaä is the princess of the Valley of the Wind, a small kingdom in a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly forest is slowly taking over the planet. Two of the bigger nations are engaged in a war, and the Valley of the Wind is caught in the middle. As with many Ghibli movies, there aren't really "good" or "evil" characters and the worldbuilding is fantastic. Nausicaä is a great protagonist, she's both strong and emotional, compassionate and determined.

Feb 29: "Little Women" (1994)

I really loved the book Little Women when growing up, so I was pretty excited about this movie. We follow the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they grow up during and after the American Civil War in Concord, MA. They're a pretty close family, and they stay close no matter what happens. I mostly liked the movie, my main complaints were that I didn't buy Winona Ryder as Jo – she didn't seem tomboyish enough, and that Laurie's character arc seemed a bit rushed. Everything else was great, though, and I especially liked seeing Christian Bale in a somewhat goofy role as Laurie (he tends to play very serious types these days.)

Apr 10, 2016, 4:03 pm

Hi Kriti, you've been watching up a storm I see! Some really interesting movies here; I've seen about half of them. I like the sound of the Indian film. I've enjoyed what Indian cinema I've seen. I saw a great Indian film recently called "The Lunchbox". Have you seen that one? I recommend it if you haven't.

Apr 11, 2016, 6:50 am

Oooh, loveloveLOVE Grosse Pointe Blank! Haven't watched it in ages, though. You've nudged me into pulling it out of the stack for a re-view...

Apr 11, 2016, 11:13 am

>74 HanGerg: Hi Hannah! Yeah, I'm getting through a lot because of the "one movie a day" thing, especially because on weekends we often end up watching two. I'm despairing of ever catching up on reviews, I still have 45 movies to review for March.

"The Lunchbox" is on our list of movies to watch, but I haven't seen it yet. Thanks for the recommendation!

>75 scaifea: Hi Amber! Yeah, it was a lot of fun and not what I expected it would be at all.

Apr 12, 2016, 6:34 am

>76 kgodey: And the soundtrack is amazing, too, which does wonders for a movie, I think.

Apr 12, 2016, 1:52 pm

>73 kgodey: Ohmygosh, how did I not know that Laurie was played by Christian Bale? I loved that movie as a young teen but it's been several years since I've seen it now. Makes me cry every time when Beth dies. (probably not needed for a classic, but you know, just in case...)

Apr 16, 2016, 6:02 pm

>66 kgodey: I did read it! And then the second one, too. (I'm also planning on reading the last two in the series.) I liked both of them a lot; especially Hyperion.

Edited: Apr 18, 2016, 4:06 am

>78 bell7: Yeah, I was really not looking forward to Beth dying either, I always dreaded it when I read the book too.. Christian Bale is great as Laurie though!

>79 andrewreads: I'm glad you liked them! I'll have to read them too.


Book update


(a couple of the pictures above aren't loading for some reason)

#25: The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson, the third book in the Alcatraz series. Pretty fun, more of the same, I like that the books get a little less black and white in terms of good vs. evil.

#26: Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson, the fourth book in the Alcatraz series. The new edition of this one is not out yet, but I have an older copy so I ended up reading it instead. The world gets even more complicated and Alcatraz faces hard choices. Still as fun as the rest though. The final book was never published as Scholastic dropped the series, but it's coming out in September!

#27: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – a reread, somewhat inspired by the fact that we've been watching Ghibli movies, particularly Castle in the Sky. I like this book a lot, Sophie and Howl are both so irritating but perfect for each other.

#28: Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones – I'd never read either of the two sequels to Howl's Moving Castle, and I'd gotten this one for SantaThing. I enjoyed this almost more than Howl's Moving Castle, the
Arabian Nights inspired world meeting Sophie and Howl was a lot of fun. Abdullah is a nice protagonist too.

#29: House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones – The final book set in the world of Howl. I didn't enjoy this one as much, I found the protagonist, Charmain to be a bit of an insufferable know it all, which is fine for the beginning of the book, but she doesn't seem to grow very much by the end. Still, it's great seeing Sophie and Howl again.

Edited: May 1, 2016, 5:58 pm

Book update


#30: River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay – Historical-type fiction set in an alternate version of ~11th century China, this follows Ren Daiyan, a bandit turned army officer, and Lin Shan, a female poet in an era where women don't write poems, as an inevitable war comes to their their homeland. As usual with Kay, the writing is really good and the setting transports you to another world. I didn't enjoy this one as much as The Lions of Al-Rassan though because the characters weren't as real, and at times, the writing seemed pompous instead of poetic.

#31: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende – We recently watched the movie, so I was inspired to reread the book. I still like it, it's a good story with plenty of adventure, but also plenty of character growth.

#32: The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente – The final book in the Fairyland/September series. I really like this series, Valente's writing is beautiful, and her version of Fairyland is charming and scary and so imaginative. It's a good end to the series, although I'll be sad not to see September and Saturday and A-through-L anymore, they're in a good place narratively and I hope they get to enjoy it for once.

Edited: May 1, 2016, 6:18 pm

Movie update

I've been posting movie reviews on my blog lately, and I'm finally caught up to yesterday! I don't want to cross-post them all here because it's going to result in a huge wall of text that will be hard to read. So instead I'm just going to link to each post with a list of movies reviewed.

I do plan to start cross posting here from next weekend, though, so that you won't have to click through to another website to read them.

Movies Watched: Mar 1 – Mar 20, 2016
"Le Chef" (2012)
"Great Expectations" (1998)
"Amistad" (1997)
"Emma" (1996)
"The Fifth Element" (1997)
"Gosford Park" (2001)
"Fly Away Home" (1996)
"Mr. Holland's Opus" (1995)
"RED" (2010)
"Shakespeare in Love" (1998)
"The Big Short" (2015)
“Mumford” (1999)
“Burnt” (2015)
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015)
“The Virgin Suicides” (1999)
“Friday” (1995)

Movies Watched: Mar 11 – Mar 20, 2016
“The Horse Whisperer” (1998)
“The Hateful Eight” (2015)
“Our Brand is Crisis” (2015)
“Marie Antoinette” (2006)
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)
“Enemy of the State” (1998)
“Jack Reacher” (2012)
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (2011)
“50/50” (2011)
“A River Runs Through It” (1992)
“The Good Shepherd” (2006)
“Focus” (2015)
“Primal Fear” (1996)
“Dr. No” (1962)
“The 33” (2015)
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008)

Movies Watched: Mar 21 – Mar 31, 2016
“The Bodyguard” (1992)
“eXistenZ” (1999)
“The Guardian” (2006)
“A Knight’s Tale” (2001)
“Straight Outta Compton” (2015)
“The Postman” (1997)
“Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994)
“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000)
“The Pelican Brief” (1993)
“Conspiracy Theory” (1997)
“Hanna” (2011)
“Spotlight” (2015)
“Magic Mike” (2012)
“Cry Freedom” (1987)

Movies Watched: Apr 1 – Apr 10, 2016
“Swimming with Sharks” (1994)
“From Russia with Love” (1963)
“Spanglish” (2004)
“Tango & Cash” (1989)
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
“Seven Years in Tibet” (1997)
“The Truman Show” (1998)
“Ronin” (1998)
“The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996)
“Space Cowboys” (2000)
“Four Brothers” (2005)
“The Patriot” (2000)
“The Quiet American” (2002)
“Hook” (1991)
“Everything Must Go” (2010)
“Big Trouble in Little China” (1986)
“Days of Thunder” (1990)

Movies Watched: Apr 11 – Apr 23, 2016
“Castle in the Sky” (1986)
“Menace II Society” (1993)
“Wing Commander” (1999)
“Sideways” (2004)
“Tombstone” (1993)
“Traffic” (2000)
“American Hustle” (2013)
“The Color of Money” (1986)
“Message in a Bottle” (1999)
“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988)
“The Sting” (1973)
“Rounders” (1998)
“The NeverEnding Story” (1984)

Movies Watched: Apr 24 – Apr 30, 2016
“Sliding Doors” (1998)
“United 93” (2006)
“Adaptation.” (2002)
“Lost in Translation” (2003)
“Taps” (1981)
“Just Like Heaven” (2005)
“21” (2008)

May 8, 2016, 4:22 am

Movie Update


May 1: "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012)

Based on the true story of the US hunt for Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We follow CIA analyst Maya on her search for bin Laden, through several years misinformation and false leads, until she finally thinks she's found him. This movie is pretty relentless, it's by the same writer and director team as The Hurt Locker, another very intense movie about the recent war on terror. Jessica Chastain does a really good job as Maya, from her beginnings as a rookie to her determination to find bin Laden despite a lot of opposition. I found the amount of torture depicted a little scary though, especially because it so often provides accurate results (which I've always heard is not the case with torture.) I also wish the movie hadn't taken quite as many liberties with the facts of what happened, it seemed like they always went for the more traditionally dramatic plot points.

May 2: "Moneyball" (2011)

Another "based on a true story" movie about Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane's adoption of a new statistical approach to hiring players in order to successfully compete against teams with much bigger budgets. I don't know anything about baseball, but I enjoyed this movie a lot – it reminded me of the movie Draft Day, which is also about the behind-the-scenes aspect of a sport. Brad Pitt is always pleasant to watch, and he does a good job as Billy Beane. Jonah Hill is usually known for his comedic roles, but he's great as the Oakland Athletics' assistant GM/statistical whiz. Plus it was nice to see Chris Pratt before he got super famous. Moneyball is well paced, it's well shot, and it was feel good without being too unrealistic.

May 3: "Bad Boys" (1995)

When a whole lot of heroin is stolen from the police station, officers Marcus Bennett (Martin Lawrence), a long-suffering family man, and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), a smooth talking unrepentant womanizer, are put on the case. They've got more than just a clever thief to deal with though – there's a scared murder witness to protect, an internal affairs cop after them, and an accidental identity switch that they have to keep going until the case is over. This is a pretty silly movie, but Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have great comic timing, so it's pretty fun. It's made by Michael Bay, so as usual with him, it's not very subtle and there are a lot of explosions. Tchéky Karyo does a great job as the charismatic villain, and Téa Leoni plays a very convincing borderline-insane woman (she does that really well in Spanglish too.)

May 4: "Rush Hour" (1998)

When the Chinese Consul's young daughter is kidnapped, he brings in an Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan), a trusted detective from Hong Kong to help solve the case. Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) is assigned to be Lee's guide and keep him out of the hair of the American authorities already working on the case. The two form an unlikely partnership and decide to solve the case themselves, though. Rush Hour is definitely a comedy, but it also has a lot of heart, especially around Inspector Lee and his relationship with the kidnapped girl. Chris Tucker is his usual obnoxiously loud self, and usually I find people like that annoying, but I really like him (possibly because he played such a great character in The Fifth Element.) Jackie Chan is simultaneously adorable and deadly and really funny. Definitely one of the best buddy cop action comedies I've seen.

May 5: "Rush Hour 2" (2001)

We enjoyed Rush Hour so much that we watched Rush Hour 2 the very next day. Inspector Lee and Detective Carter are vacationing in Hong Kong after the events of the first movie, but Lee just can't stop working and they're soon pulled deep into a case involving counterfeit American dollars. This movie seemed less well-rounded than the first, there's a lot more action and fewer quiet moments. It doesn't really get going until halfway through the movie, a lot of the beginning felt like Lee and Carter just stumbling into stuff randomly, and not finding much except comedy material. Chris Tucker also seemed a little bit more obnoxious in this movie. But it's still fun to watch, there seems to be genuine affection between Lee and Carter, and that makes up for a lot of things.

May 6: "The Abyss" (1989)

Workers in an underwater oil rig are asked to help in search and rescue operations to find a sunken US nuclear submarine. They end up encountering some very strange things underwater, though. There are two versions of this movie – I watched the shorter theatrical version, and the ending is pretty different from the special edition. The Abyss is written and directed by James Cameron and it has all the hallmarks of his movies – a very well-realized world and great atmosphere, a bunch of action, some romance, sci-fi. I really enjoyed Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's character Lindsey, the extremely stubborn oil-rig designer who's the heart of the movie. Ed Harris is also great as the leader of the oil rig workers (and Lindsey's estranged husband.) I kind of wished that there had been less action and more discovery, but it's still a great movie.

May 6: "Chef" (2014)

Carl Casper is a restaurant chef who's just plain unhappy but refuses to acknowledge it – he's cooking boring food, he's recently divorced, and he never has time for his kid. When a bad review from a critic results in a blow up that goes viral, he's fired and forced to reevaluate his life. Jon Favreau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the movie – I tend to like movies that are made with a singular vision because they're usually good, and this one is not an exception. It's one of the most heartwarming movies I've seen in a long time. All the characters are really nice and reasonable people, even when they're not on the side of the protagonist. Emjay Anthony, the actor who plays Carl's son, is amazingly earnest, and he really carries the movie. Plus, even minor characters are played by terrific actors like Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Downey Jr. Highly recommended.

May 7: "Captain America: Civil War" (2016)

We're both big fans of Captain America (the Marvel Cinematic Universe version; I haven't read any of the comics), and we actually went to the movie theater to see this movie. The world is starting to fear the loss of life and destruction caused by superhero fights, so the United Nations pushes to regulate the Avengers through an oversight panel. The Avengers disagree about whether this is a good idea, and split into two factions led by Captain America and Iron Man. I enjoyed the movie, it's fun, it's got a lot of great action, and it actually sticks to its premise all the way through. It's definitely got the Marvel tone to it, there's plenty of quips, and it doesn't get too dark, but that's to be expected. There are a lot of superheroes – it seems a lot like an Avengers movie (only Thor and the Hulk are missing) without the bombastic threat, which is nice in one way, but I wanted more Captain America.

May 7: "Little Buddha" (1993)

Lama Norbu, a Tibetian monk, goes to Seattle to meet Jesse, a nine year old boy whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his master, Lama Dorje. As Jesse learns about Buddhism, we see the story of the Buddha from his birth as Prince Siddhartha through his journey to enlightenment. Along the way, we're also introduced to two other candidates for the reincarnation of Lama Dorje. This movie was very interesting, the premise sounded a little ridiculous to me in the beginning, but it's played absolutely straight and the boy that played Jesse does a really good job. It seemed like the filmmakers were trying to be as authentic as possible, many of the Tibetian monks are played by real monks, and the set design is beautiful. Siddhartha is played by Keanu Reeves, which is a little weird, especially when he tries to do an Indian accent, but once I was able to suspend disbelief, he actually did a fairly good job. An odd movie, but recommended.

Edited: May 8, 2016, 7:06 am

Rush Hour was/is my dad's favorite movie ever, he'd watch it every time he saw it on TV, and it was played on the movie channels a lot, so I must have seen it a million times growing up. I actually own a copy, but haven't watched it since I was a teenager. Also, I knew there were sequels, but I've never seen any of them.

Edited: May 8, 2016, 2:12 pm

>84 Ape: Hi Stephen! Rush Hour is great, I can see myself rewatching it a few times.


Book Update


Two sequels I've been looking forward to!

#33: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – The follow up to City of Stairs, I'm not sure I'd call it a sequel because it seems fairly standalone. Mulaghesh was my favorite character in City of Stairs, so I was thrilled to have her be the protagonist of this book. I liked City of Blades even more than the first book, the characters seemed more compelling, and it helped that I was already familiar with the world. Plus I know I already mentioned it, but Mulaghesh is great. The only thing that I would have wanted improved is that I think the stereotype of the crazed military leader who wants war no matter what is a little overused, so I wished Lalith Biswal's story had taken a different path.

#34: In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan - I should have pre-ordered this book, I assumed Tor would send it to me like they sent all the others. I bought myself a copy though, so I've finally read it. I love this series, I love the world, I love Isabella. As usual, this book is a perfect mixture of adventure, scientific discovery and awe, and quiet moments of reflection. I thought the end felt a little rushed, though. Also, I didn't know women could get peerages! I feel dumb for asking Marie Brennan who Lord Trent was in my interview with her on my blog.

May 8, 2016, 2:06 pm

>85 kgodey: Those are two of my favorite new releases for 2016! Yes, I was taken by surprise as well as to how Isabella became Lady Trent--but it was a very pleasant surprise.

May 9, 2016, 8:40 am

I'm about halfway through City of Blades and yeah, it's better than the first! I'm not touching that spoiler yet, though... :)

May 10, 2016, 2:42 pm

>82 kgodey: Movies that I need to put on my list to rewatch - and possibly introduce the boys to (thanks for the reminder!)

The Fifth Element
Shakespeare in Love
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The Truman Show
Sideways (definitely not this one for the boys)

Some others I think I need to check out!!

May 15, 2016, 3:45 am

>86 ronincats: They're both very good! I went back to your thread and read your reviews of them too, it seems like we agree on everything about them!

>87 drneutron: I see from your thread that you've finished it. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Your spoiler was the same sentiment as my spoiler.

>88 rretzler: Those are all great movies. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Sideways.

May 15, 2016, 3:53 am

Book update

I haven't finished any books this week, I've been working through Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer, which is 25th century political science fiction, and it's pretty good.

Movie update


May 8: "Lord of War" (2005)

Nicolas Cage plays Yuri Orlov, an arms dealer with origins in Little Odessa in New York City. It's very biographical – we see the evolution of his career (of course), his relationship with his troubled younger brother Vitaly (Jared Leto), his courtship of his childhood crush (Bridget Moynahan), his relentless Interpol pursuer Jack Valentine (played by Ethan Hawke; what a name!) and much more. I've watched and loved this movie before, and re-watching it didn't change that at all. Andrew Niccol, who wrote and directed this, also wrote The Truman Show and wrote/directed Gattaca – he's a smart guy. It doesn't glamourise the life of an arms dealer in any way, and it shows plenty of bad things happening, but it's also not moralistic or melodramatic. This is one of my favorite Nicolas Cage performances – sure, he's in a lot of dumb action movies, but he's also a really good actor in dramatic roles. Plus the opening titles sequence showing the life of a bullet is one of the most memorable I can think of.

May 9: "Notting Hill" (1999)

An unassuming travel bookshop owner, William Thacker (Hugh Grant) meets the world's most famous actress, Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), and they fall in love. Being in a relationship with a famous actress comes with a whole additional set of pitfalls, though. Notting Hill is written by the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral and it has a lot of the same tropes – a bunch of friends that all have their own side stories (mostly involving finding love), Hugh Grant being awkward and falling in love with a confident but temperamental American woman. I liked it better, though, Julia Roberts does a pretty good job as the love interest. I didn't like that the movie ended with a climactic romantic declaration, it was pretty down to earth until then. I guess the main problem I have with romantic comedies is that I don't usually think the characters know each other that well, and so I'm not really that invested in them getting together, and that was the case for this movie too – but I think that's more a reflection on me than the movie.

May 10: "Three Kings" (1999)

The Gulf War has just ended, and four U.S. soldiers in Iraq are determined to steal a huge cache of Kuwaiti gold in the confusion. Things don't go according to plan though, as they meet a bunch of Iraqi civilians who are convinced they are heroes come to save them from Saddam. I think this was one of the first few movies that Joseph and I watched when we started dating, I didn't remember much from it. It's a pretty heartwarming movie, there aren't a lot of movies that go from cynical to heroic so well. The four soldiers are played by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze, and they are all very good. The atmosphere also seemed pretty realistic, the sets, the attitude of the military, the Iraqi refugees. One of the Iraqis is played by a real life Iraqi that was tortured by Saddam's forces. I haven't seen a David O. Russell movie yet that I haven't enjoyed.

May 11: "Super 8" (2011)

While filming an amateur movie, a group of kids witness one of their teachers deliberately crashing an Air Force train, and then inexplicable events start happening in their small town. Super 8 is pretty much a modern 80's kids adventure movie, it seems pretty personal to writer/director J.J. Abrams, who also grew up making movies in the Super 8 format. It's evocative of E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goonies, etc. (and it's also produced by Steven Spielberg.) It's pretty fun, the tension stays constant throughout the movie, and the kid who plays the main character, Joe (Joel Courtney) does a really good job, he's cute, he's determined, and he's really sympathetic. There's also a lot of families mending fences and getting closer to each other, which makes for good character arc. My only complaint was that I wished that there was more sci-fi and less thriller.

May 12: "Joy" (2015)

Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy, an overworked young mother who invents a revolutionary mop and her journey to starting her own business despite running into a lot of obstacles. This is another David O. Russell movie (like Three Kings above and American Hustle, which I've reviewed previously) and as usual, I enjoyed it. The pacing could have been better, it had a bit of a slow start, and the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly. But I didn't mind because I found the story compelling, and Jennifer Lawrence is a joy to watch (no pun intended.) There aren't a lot of movies about really smart women succeeding by just being who they are relentlessly, and I really liked that. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with her ex-husband, it's not often that a movie depicts really good relationships and really dysfunctional ones (the ones with other members of her family) in the same context, it felt pretty realistic.

May 13: "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979)

When Ted Kramer's wife Joanna leaves him and their young son Billy, he has a hard time dealing with it at first, but he soon figures out how to be a great father. But then Joanna reappears and wants custody of Billy, and they have to fight it out in court. Kramer vs. Kramer won the Best Picture Oscar, and I can see why, it's a really, really good movie. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep do an excellent job as the Kramers, and Justin Henry (who was the youngest Oscar nominee ever) does a really great job as Billy. Ted goes from being a stereotypical "married to the job" kind of guy to a devoted father without much fuss at all, and the growing bond between him and Billy is a joy to watch. I think this movie could be remade today without changing much of the dialogue or characters at all, it doesn't feel over thirty five years old.

May 13: "Gattaca" (1997)

In the future, genetic engineering has become common and created a new underclass – the genetically inferior. Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) dreams of traveling to space, but knows that he's too genetically flawed to be allowed to do so, so he assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), a disabled but genetically gifted man. He's been pretty careful, but just as he's about to go to Titan, there's a murder at his workplace, and his secret might just come out. I've seen Gattaca before, and it's one of my favorite science fiction movies. It's really atmospheric, it gives you a real sense of the planned and clinical world that it has created, but it's also somewhat noir (Writer/director Andrew Niccol is good at this) The trope of the individual pushing against his limitations (both internal and external) never gets old, and Ethan Hawke is a compelling protagonist (he has a great earnest/serious face.) Also I absolutely love Jude Law in this movie. The world that it portrays is a lot better than ours in many ways – humans go to space all the time, people are healthier and live for longer, but that doesn't extend to all individuals, and I can't think of many sci-fi movies that are as smart and add such complexity to their worlds.

May 14: "Outbreak" (1995)

A deadly new virus decimates an African village in the Motaba River Valley in the Congo, and is believed to be contained, but eventually gets introduced into the U.S. by a smuggled African monkey. Army doctor Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman), his ex-wife and CDC employee Robby Keough (Rene Russo) and their teams work frantically to contain the outbreak, but that's not the only agenda in play. This was another dimly remembered rewatch for me, I remembered it as being similar to Contagion, the recent Matt Damon movie, but that was a drama, Outbreak is more of an action-thriller. It's a pretty standard movie, although it's got a really great cast – Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey – they're underused, but still entertaining to watch. The plot is black and white, and fairly predictable, especially the relationship between Sam and Robby.

May 17, 2016, 11:43 pm

I just read a review of Too Like the Lightning a few minutes ago on, the first I'd heard of it, and was intrigued. I'll be waiting to read your full review!

May 21, 2016, 9:57 pm

>91 ronincats: It's a great book, I'm sure you'd like it.


Book update


#35: Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer – One of the coolest books I've read recently. It's political science fiction set in a future utopian-ish Earth where nations are based on individual membership rather than geographical location, fast flying cars have made every part of the world easily accessible, and scarcity isn't an issue anymore. The worldbuilding drew me in a way that hasn't happened for a while, I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. It's thoughtful and smart and fascinating. Full review:

#36: Time Salvager by Wesley Chu – I hadn't read anything by Wesley Chu, but I've heard good things about him so I was excited to read this book about future humans going back in time to salvage materials to rebuild civilization. Unfortunately it was pretty bad – the writing was clunky, the characters are cardboard cutouts, and the plot is a cliched mess. Full review:

May 21, 2016, 10:10 pm

>92 kgodey: The library has 5 copies coming in, and I've got the 3rd hold on it, so I'll let you know when their order comes in.

May 22, 2016, 1:10 am

Stopping by to wish you a splendid weekend, Kriti.

May 22, 2016, 2:30 pm

>93 ronincats: That sounds good, Roni! I'm looking forward to your review.

>94 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul! I hope you have a terrific weekend as well.


Movie update:


May 15: "Exodus: Gods and Kings" (2014)

Exodus: Gods and Kings is based on the Biblical story of Moses leading the Israelite slaves out of ancient Egypt to their promised land. It's made by Ridley Scott, and it's got a pretty good cast – Christian Bale plays Moses, and it also has Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, John Turturro, etc. Unfortunately, it wasn't very good. It felt kind of like a rehash of Gladiator (also made by Ridley Scott) – old king favors the protagonist over his own incompetent son, incompetent son is jealous and exiles the protagonist, he gets his comeuppance. The ancient Egyptian setting is interesting but never really explored that much, the characters seem pretty one-dimensional, the (admittedly short) original story is expanded with a bunch of clichés. Also, I thought God was severely miscast. The special effects are well-done, though.

May 16: "Stargate" (1994)

After watching Exodus: Gods and Kings, I really wanted to re-watch Stargate because it actually does interesting things with ancient Egypt. The premise is that the military is testing a device known as a Stargate that allows instant travel to another planet through a wormhole, but what they don't expect to find there are humans transported from Earth long ago, worshiping a real god that strongly resembles Egyptian myths. I've watched more than nine seasons combined of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, so I definitely have a soft spot for this universe – I hadn't seen the original movie for years, though. This is a Roland Emmerich movie, so it's not complicated – lots of running and fighting, but it's a lot of fun. The world it sets up is really interesting – aliens involved in shaping our ancient civilization. The movie does a good job of selling the world, I especially love that the humans from the other planet don't speak any English, and it's all subtitled (when they finally manage to communicate, which doesn't come easily either!) Also, this movie stars James Spader and Kurt Russell, both of whom I like quite a bit, and they do a great job, especially James Spader playing a total dork.

May 17: "True Romance" (1993)

Clarence Worley (Christian Slater), a comic store worker and call girl Alabama Whiteman (Patricia Arquette) marry after a whirlwind romance. But when Clarence decides to handle Alabama's pimp Drexl (so that they can be left alone in peace), they end up with a whole bunch of cocaine and some very angry mobsters after them. This was a really interesting movie, it's written by Quentin Tarantino and has a lot of the elements of his movies – the type of violence is instantly recognizable, as well as the black comedy, and the unlikely heroes that are in over their head but manage to deal with it in style. But it's also directed by Tony Scott, and that influences it a lot too – for one, the storytelling is linear. Most of the minor characters in this movie are really memorable – Gary Oldman plays the psychotic dreadlocked pimp to perfection, Christopher Walken as a mob enforcer is priceless (and so is Dennis Hopper as Clarence's dad, especially in the scene they have together), Val Kilmer is mysterious but pivotal as Elvis, and Brad Pitt is hilarious as the stoner roommate – and there are lots more too. The style of the movie took a bit of getting used to, but I recommend it highly.

May 18: "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012)

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is just out from a eight month stay at a mental institution. He's obsessed with getting back together with his estranged wife Nikki, but things get more complicated when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a recent widow with problems of her own. This is another David O. Russell (Three Kings, American Hustle, Joy) movie starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro — unfortunately the last one I hadn't seen, and it's great. It's a little bit different from his other movies, it's more of a straight up drama. I enjoyed seeing a movie about people that just have manageable mental illnesses, it didn't stint on how bad it can be (Pat waking his parents up in the middle of the night to complain about Hemingway, for example), but it also didn't make it something exotic – it showed how everyone's crazy in some way. Both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are amazing in it, they play complex characters with ease. I loved seeing Chris Tucker, he hasn't been in a non-Rush Hour movie since 1997.

May 19: "Revenge" (1990)

I was looking forward to this movie because it's by Tony Scott, which I usually enjoy, and it stars Kevin Costner, who I also usually enjoy. I didn't like it very much, though. Jay Cochran has just left the Navy and doesn't quite know what to do with himself. He goes down to Mexico to visit his friend Tiburon Mendez, and falls in love with his wife Miryea. Tiburon is a powerful and jealous man, though, and he doesn't take betrayal lightly. This movie is based on a novella written by the same guy who wrote Legends of the Fall, and it's melodramatic in the same way – brooding protagonist not confined by the bounds of propriety, family drama, a woman caught between multiple men, tragedy striking, codes of honor. Kevin Costner does a fine job, but I felt like the role didn't take advantage of him, the protagonist is generic enough that anyone could have played him. I liked that the movie was set mainly in Mexico, and it manages to be atmospheric but also doesn't make a big deal out of the setting. Nothing was badly done, I just didn't care for the melodramatic storyline.

May 20: "Babel" (2006)

>Babel is four interlocking stories all connected loosely by a single event. A married couple is on vacation in Morocco when the wife is suddenly shot, a family of Moroccan herders buys a new rifle to keep their animals safe from jackals, the two kids of the married couple and their nanny travel to Mexico for a wedding, and a lonely deaf-mute teenager in Japan finds it hard to come to terms with grief and her sexuality. The movie is directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who recently won two back to back Best Director Oscars for Birdman and The Revenant. Apparently it's the third movie in a conceptual "Death" trilogy, but I haven't seen any of the other two. Morocco, Mexico, and Japan all feel really authentic, and it's really cool to see a movie that can meld all those very different places together in a single story. Babel shows incredible skill in both the directing and acting but it also left me feeling depressed, which makes sense given that the tagline of the movie is "Tragedy is universal." – all the characters are in pain of some sort. There were some flaws, I didn't buy the actions of the characters in a few instances, but overall I'd recommend it.

May 20: "Spider-Man" (2002)

I've never actually seen Spider-Man, even though I've seen the sequels multiple times. They keep constantly rebooting the franchise, but this is the original movie that made Spider-Man a popular film character, starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Superhero movies have evolved a lot since 2002, I guess it started with the Dark Knight franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I like this franchise and all the actors in it, but the movie seemed a little dated – there were a lot of plotholes and character motivations and acting seemed really simplistic (but I don't think the superhero genre was taken very seriously when it was made, so I don't think it's a bad thing, just a style decision). For instance, Willem Dafoe really hams it up as the Green Goblin, which makes it hard to take him seriously as a threat. The action scenes were a little anticlimactic, especially the fight at the very end, which seemed similar to every other fight in the movie and ends rather suddenly. It was still a fun watch, though.

May 21: "Green Zone" (2010)

I love political thrillers and Matt Damon, and I've really enjoyed both Paul Greengrass movies I've seen (United 93 and Captain Phillips) so I was pretty sure I'd love this movie. Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is the leader of a unit that is tasked to hunt weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq right after the US invasion in 2003. He goes rogue after missions repeatedly end with casualties but no evidence of WMD, and his higher ups insist that their intelligence is impeccable. Paul Greengrass is excellent at creating atmosphere, and Green Zone feels overwhelmingly realistic – the noise, the confusion, the people mobbing the Americans, the disparity outside of the Green Zone. Roy Miller's story is not based on truth, but it skillfully weaves into the real story of how we didn't find WMD in Iraq, and the policies enacted by the provisional government (like disbanding the Iraqi army.) It's kind of like an Assassin's Creed game in that way, adding a new "behind the scenes" protagonist to existing historical facts. As far as political thrillers go, this is more on the action end of the spectrum, but that's well-executed too. Definitely recommended.

May 29, 2016, 11:34 pm

Movie update


May 22: "Cocktail" (1988)

Tom Cruise plays Brian Flanagan, a money-obsessed young ex-soldier who dreams of making it in the corporate world, but can't without a college degree. He gets a part-time job as a bartender to pay for college, but it turns out that he's really good at it. But when he meets a girl he really likes, he has to figure out what his priorities really are. I'm not really sure if this was a good movie, but it was definitely fun. Tom Cruise is charming as always, and Bryan Brown (who I don't remember seeing in anything) really steals the scenes he's in as the mentor/friend Doug Coughlin. The overall storyline is pretty predictable, but the characters seem three-dimensional, and I notably liked the dialogue. The last few minutes of the movie frustrated me, though, it seems like they wanted a dramatic climax, although the rest of the movie had a pretty relaxed tone, so it ended up being pretty jarring and seemed out of character.

May 23: "Bad Boys II" (2003)

The sequel to Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as constantly bickering narcotics cops Mike and Marcus, this time investigating the source behind a bunch of Ecstasy that's making its way to Miami. Things get complicated because Mike is secretly dating Marcus' sister Syd, who also happens to be an undercover DEA agent investigating the same drug kingpin. I didn't like this one as much as Bad Boys, it really ramped up the action, which means there wasn't as much character development, and the comedy seemed more basic. Michael Bay being Michael Bay, the action scenes are pretty cool, and there are a lot of explosions. Jordi Mollà really hams it up as the villain Johnny Tapia, and that's both bad and good. Also, the relationship between Mike and Marcus didn't seem as interesting as it was in the first movie, they seemed simultaneously colder to each other but also more familiar, and there wasn't much tension despite it being implied.

May 24: "Cloverfield" (2008)

Cloverfield is a found footage film that follows a bunch of twenty-something New Yorkers during a huge monster's rampage throughout the city. I don't usually like monster/thriller type movies that much (unless they're amazing like Alien and Aliens), but Cloverfield was incredibly well made. I don't think I've ever seen a found footage film before, I thought it would be gimmicky, but it works really well – the actors don't seem like they're acting, they seem like real people that just happened to be filmed, down to some pretty awkward moments. The first act of the movie is set during a surprise farewell party, and has sort of a romantic drama tone, and it was so compelling that I was actually disappointed when the monster showed up. My disappointment didn't last long, though. I also thought the glimpses of the tape that was being recorded over was a cool touch, it helped give background to the main characters without taking us out of the story.

May 25: "Clerks" (1994)

Clerks follows convenience store clerk Dante and his friend and next door video store clerk Randal through a day at work. This was director Kevin Smith's first movie, and it's extremely low budget and filmed in black and white, but I can see why it made him famous. I'm not really sure how to describe this movie; it kind of reminded me of Friday in that it's just two guys hanging out, and stuff happens occasionally. It's not slow though, it's entertaining and well paced. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the rude/crass characters, although I'm pretty sure that was just me getting used to the tone of the movie. I had seen the scene where Dante and Randal discuss the morality of the rebels blowing up the second Death Star (in Return of the Jedi) when it was still in construction before, I think it's pretty famous. I wonder if making Finn a toilet installer in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a homage to that. I also think it's cool that many of Kevin Smith's movies are set in the same universe, I'm looking forward to seeing more.

May 26: "Heavy Metal" (1981)

Heavy Metal is an animated science fiction anthology film made for adults, based on serials from the science fiction/fantasy comics magazine of the same name. I'm not familiar with the magazine, but apparently it's well known for dark and erotic themes. I don't think I've ever seen anything animated that was explicitly meant for adults, and I found it pretty weird. Each of the stories in the anthology was animated by a different team, and so they all look somewhat different. The framing story featuring the evil Loc-Nar is pretty tenuous, but it's good to have something to tie everything together. The quality of the stories varied, my favorite was probably the classic good vs. evil story Taarna. One of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy movies, The Fifth Element, was clearly inspired by Heavy Metal, definitely by the Harry Canyon story (New York cabbie, pretty redhead needing help gets into his car, etc.) and the Great Evil seemed similar to the Loc-Nar. Both Den and Harry Canyon have some pretty pulpy sexual content, which was interesting. I didn't like Captain Stern and B-17 as much. I found the movie as a whole very weird, but I'm glad to have seen it.

May 27: "The Bourne Identity" (2002)

After all the non-standard movies of the past few days, I really wanted to watch a normal movie, so we ended up watching The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who discovers that he has the skills of an super-assassin, and that people are out to kill him for reasons unknown. I've seen this movie before, but it was a long time ago, and I didn't remember much. It's a really good movie though, and not just because I have a weakness for action/spy movies. It does a great job at building tension, and it also isn't dominated by the action scenes, there are a lot of nice character moments. I liked Franka Potente as Marie, she does a good job of being scared of Bourne but also being intrigued and attracted to him. I believe this was Matt Damon's first action role, I read that he spent a lot of effort building his muscles and he did a lot of his own stunts, which is pretty cool because his character does a lot of dangerous things. I'm looking forward to seeing the other two movies in the trilogy.

May 28: "21 Grams" (2003)

21 Grams follows three people all connected by a tragic accident – Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a suburban housewife with two young daughters, Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-convict who has pulled his life together through his newfound Christian faith, and Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a man dying of heart failure and dealing with a rocky marriage. This is the second movie in Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Death" themed trilogy. I reviewed the third movie, Babel, last week, and just like Babel, this movie is pretty depressing too. The most notable thing about 21 Grams is that it's told through a series of scenes from the main characters' lives, all in seemingly random order. We don't follow a character or a chronology for any more than a couple of minutes. That makes for a confusing experience to start with, but events become clear as the movie progresses, and it coalesces into one cohesive story. All the actors do a really good job, I was especially sympathetic to Benicio Del Toro's tortured character. Recommended, but just be aware that it will make you really sad.

May 31, 2016, 2:03 am

>92 kgodey: Hi Kriti, That's too bad that Time Salvager wasn't up to snuff. I've read his Tao books and really enjoyed them.

But Too Like the Lightning sound really interesting. I'll have to add it to my list.

Edited: Jun 7, 2016, 2:17 am

>97 mahsdad: I still want to check out the Tao books, although they're lower on my priority list now. Too Like The Lightning is terrific though, I hope you're able to get around to it soon.


Movie update

I'm just going to link to my blog for movie reviews from now on so that they don't take over my thread.

Movies Watched: May 29 - Jun 4, 2016
Signs (2002), The Karate Kid (1984), The Town (2010), Toy Story (1995), Doom (2005), Zootopia (2016), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Book update


#37: Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon – I added this to my wishlist based on Jeff's recommendation, and my friend recently bought it for me! I enjoyed it, it's a swashbuckling tale set in a period of history I'm not very familiar with. It's written very well. Also, it's illustrated, and those are great too.

#38: War Dogs by Greg Bear – Military science fiction, mostly. Aliens known as "Gurus" have been feeding us technology provided we fight their enemies on Mars. Mars holds a few deep secrets, though, and Master Sergeant Michael Venn and some of his buddies stumble onto some of them during a tour on Mars. I liked the world, I wanted to know more, but glimpses seemed few and far between, it instead tells a story of survival against odds. It got to the point where Venn almost died so many times that it was hard to be invested anymore. It's not a bad book though, just not my style. I'll probably read the sequel, but I'm not very excited about it.

Jun 9, 2016, 1:55 am

#37 - I am honored that you would base anything on my ramblings. Glad you liked it. Not my favorite, but its Chabon. His worst is better than other's best. IMHO.

Edited: Jun 28, 2016, 3:24 pm

>99 mahsdad: Your reviews are great, Jeff! It wasn't my favorite either, but it was still great.


My reading has slowed down a bunch, only two more books to report.

I've been pretty busy at work, and I haven't felt like reading much sci-fi/fantasy lately (I know, that's crazy considering that's all I've been reading for years and years). I'm on vacation for the next week though, so I finally feel a bit more relaxed.


#39: Company Town by Madeline Ashby – A near-future-ish sci-fi novel following Hwa, a bodyguard to a rich kid in a "company town" who becomes embroiled in a series of interconnected murders. I thought it was okay, Hwa was an interesting protagonist, but many of the other characters were just stereotypes, including the love interest, and the ending was confusing and I didn't quite understand it. Also, it sometimes came off as being diverse just for the sake of being diverse, which took me out of the story (i.e. there wasn't a lot of worldbuilding, but a significant portion of it focused on issues that seemed clearly inspired by current identity politics issues.)

#40: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson – The final volume in Sanderson's middle-grade Alcatraz series. I don't want to say too much about this since it doesn't come out until September, but it seemed like a mostly fitting end. Alcatraz has been warning us about the ending of the fifth book since the very first, and sadly, he wasn't lying. Sanderson has said on Twitter that some secret things weren't printed in the ARC, though, so I'm looking forward to reading the final version.


I started Judenstaat by Simone Zelitch, an alternate history novel about a Jewish state being set up in Germany after World War II, which is pretty interesting so far.

The main book I'm currently reading is India After Gandhi, which is a recent history of India, I've had it for about eight years now without reading it and I'm glad I'm finally reading it, it's fascinating. I'm going to try and read more history and non-fiction, I think.

Jul 9, 2016, 4:25 pm

#41: India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha - I've finally finished this massive history of post-independence India, which I really didn't know much about despite being from India because our history books pretty much end at independence, and also tend to be really partisan anyway. It took me over two weeks to read this book, but I learned a lot. It's a pretty well balanced history, the author's opinions become apparent every once in a while, but it doesn't seem too biased. He does tend of gloss over the more negative aspects of Indian politics, though – India's failures are not described in as much detail as India's successes. Still a really great book.

Edited: Jul 24, 2016, 3:10 pm

A quick update: I still haven't been in the mood for fiction, so I'm reading a huge history of World War II called A World At Arms. It's even more academic than the previous book I read, and it's longer, so my progress has been fairly slow.

I had previously started A People's History of the United States, but I decided to stop because I don't know enough American history, so reading an alternative interpretation of events I don't know much about in the first place doesn't make sense right now.

Edited: Aug 27, 2016, 7:13 pm


#42: A World At Arms by Gerhard Weinberg – this took me about six weeks to read, it's a ~1000-page general history of World War II (from a political/economic point of view rather than military, although it does cover the major battles). I learned a massive amount, and the book seemed well researched and well balanced. The thoroughness and lack of a major bias/narrative made it a little dry, but it was well worth it.

As an aside, I was watching the HBO series "Band of Brothers" while reading this, and it provided a nice on-the-ground parallel to the book (especially because the book does mention the 101st Airborne a couple of times.)

#43: Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal – a quick palate cleanser before jumping back into my next history book. This is an alternate history book set in World War I, where Britain had a "spirit corps" taking reports from ghosts of dead soldiers, and plucky American heiress Ginger Stuyvesant has to foil a German plot to attack the spirit corps. It was pretty fun and light, similar to Mary Robinette Kowal's other alternate history, the Glamourist Histories. I'd read more books in the series.

Aug 28, 2016, 7:56 pm

>92 kgodey: Okay, Kriti, so Too Like the Lightning doesn't end on a cliffhanger. That's only because it's the first half of a unified story and it's INCOMPLETE! I just finished it a few hours ago, having renewed it twice and finally getting into it just a few days before its final due date, and then keeping it for 8 days after that date because I couldn't imagine not finishing the story (and couldn't blaze through it because of the complexity) and then--I couldn't finish it anyhow because it's NOT FINISHED!!! Bad Kriti for not making that clear. I could have waited. But now I am in pain.

Aug 29, 2016, 8:30 pm

>104 ronincats: I'm sorry that my recommendation caused you pain, Roni :(. I didn't see it as unfinished, I thought there were enough revelations and the story built up to a good enough climax that it satisfied me as its own work, and it just left me feeling excited to see where it would go next.

Edited: Aug 29, 2016, 10:00 pm

You are forgiven-it's the YMMV variable--but it really only seemed like the first half of the story to me. You know I was joking, right?

ETA joking about it being in any way your fault. I'm glad you brought this book onto my horizon, frustrating as it is.

Aug 30, 2016, 2:40 am

>106 ronincats: Yeah I figured you were joking, but I'm still sorry for the frustration!

Sep 26, 2016, 1:12 am


#44: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud – I liked Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy in high school, and a friend asked me to read and review this on my blog. It's an interesting world; I'm not usually a big fan of horror but Stroud makes the adventure entertaining enough for it to be fun (and it's middle grade, so it's not as scary as it could be.) I like the characters too. Full review:

#45: Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower – This is a Pulitzer winning non-fiction/history book about the American occupation of Japan and how it affected Japanese culture. It was well written, but I felt like the scope was too narrow – it focused mostly on Tokyo and the elite/intelligentsia. The author also has a clear bias. I'm glad I read it, though, I learned quite a bit.

#46: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud – The sequel to The Screaming Staircase above. More fun and creepy adventures, a little more focus on George this time, which I enjoyed.

#47: The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud – Book 3 of Lockwood and Co. This one focuses a little more on character growth; the protagonist Lucy is placed in a situation where her flaws become very apparent and she has to learn from the experience or risk killing her partners. I enjoyed it more than the previous books.

Sep 27, 2016, 12:06 am

I read and enjoyed the first Lockwood book. I really should pick up the sequels.

Edited: Nov 19, 2016, 11:04 pm

Sorry, it's been a while since I posted here. I've had a lot of additional responsibilities at work lately and I've been working late a lot. Since I work on my computer all day, I just haven't wanted to be on my computer when I'm not working.

However, I have read 21 books since I last posted, and I can't review them all easily, so I'll just post the titles.

48. The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (Sep 27, 435 pages)
49. Welcome to the N.H.K. by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (Oct 2)
50. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 5, reread, 462 pages)
51. The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 8, reread, 570 pages)
52. Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 9, reread, 516 pages)
53. Necessity by Jo Walton (Oct 13, review copy, 331 pages)
54. The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (Oct 15, 398 pages)
55. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (Oct 19, 513 pages)
56. The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler (Oct 20, ebook, 21 pages)
57. The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler (Oct 20, ebook, 71 pages)
58. Hild by Nicola Griffith (Oct 23, 538 pages)
59. The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (Oct 26, 500 pages)
60. The Price of Valor by Django Wexler (Oct 27, 512 pages)
61. The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler (Oct 29, 480 pages)
62. Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Oct 29, 122 pages)
63. Inda by Sherwood Smith (Nov 6, 568 pages)
64. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler (Nov 10, 373 pages)
65. Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson (Nov 13. review copy, 672 pages)
66. The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler (Nov 15, 333 pages)
67. Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Nov 19, 320 pages)
68. The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler (Nov 19. 358 pages)


Some highlights:
  • Django Wexler's Shadow Campaigns series is great. It's a good solid military fantasy with an interesting world. I've also been reading his middle grade series (The Forbidden Library) which is pretty fun. Both of them have their last book coming out next year, which I'm excited for.
  • I reread the Bartimaeus series by Jonathan Stroud (and read the prequel for the first time), unlike some stuff I liked as a teenager, it still holds up very well.
  • I finished Jo Walton's Thessaly series with Necessity, it's just as good as The Just City and The Philosopher Kings.
  • Hild by Nicola Griffith is a meticulously researched and fascinating look at the real 7th century St. Hilda of Whitby. I think it's more historical fiction than fantasy, but it's very very good, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Arcanum Unbounded, the first short fiction collection set in his shared universe is great. I've read most of the stories already, but the Stormlight Archive novella which hasn't been published anywhere before is well worth having this for.
  • I dipped my toes into Patricia C. Wrede, who I've heard so much about with Sorcery and Cecelia today. I've ordered a couple more of her books because I loved it.


I'll try and keep up here better, but I can't make any guarantees. I did sign up for SantaThing today, I'm excited about that.

Nov 20, 2016, 8:59 pm

>110 kgodey: I know the feeling, about being on the computer all day and not wanting to look at a computer after work.

Nov 21, 2016, 9:07 pm

I'm giving away two copies of Brandon Sanderson's latest book on my blog:

Nov 22, 2016, 10:29 am

>110 kgodey: I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the Django Wexler series - that's on my list of series to try soon.

On Arcanum Unbounded, I'm probably going to wait to read it until I've read The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance in case there are spoilers.

Nov 24, 2016, 7:48 pm

Edited: Dec 11, 2016, 6:05 pm

>113 souloftherose: Yeah, I think it's best to wait on Arcanum Unbounded until you've read the existing Stormlight Archive books, Heather. You could probably read most of the stories, but the never before published novella, Edgedancer, is set after Words of Radiance.

>114 ronincats: a very belated thanks, Roni!


I've read a few more books since my last update, but have still been really busy at work so I haven't had a chance to update my thread much. Here they are – I've grouped by series rather than reading order.


69. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
76. In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

I started the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce – I've read the first two books. I like them fine, but I'm sure I would have liked them a lot more if I'd read them as a kid. They're very simple stories, and they're told in a very didactic way, which doesn't leave room for a lot of subtlety.

71. The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

This is the sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia; I didn't find it anywhere as good as the first book. I found it hard to tell the characters apart (especially the husbands), and that's always a bad sign.

72. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
73. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
74. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I reread The Hunger Games series because we were rewatching the movies. I think it's still a really good example of the YA dystopia genre, but it does seem more cliched now that there's a whole genre of books just like it.


70. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

I really liked this book, but I'm not sure how to describe it except "unique". It's a first person fantasy novel narrated by a thief on a magical quest, but the style of writing is not like most fantasy – it's much more matter of fact. It's funny, it's got great characters (despite not even really knowing some of their names), and a satisfying ending.

75. The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

I loved this book! It's classic fantasy inspired by the Wheel of Time and by Brandon Sanderson's work – an ancient evil returning, young heroes discovering their own power, etc. It's familiar enough to feel really comfortable but original enough not to be boring. I can't wait for the next book.

77. Merchants and Maji by William C. Tracy

This is a compilation of two space fantasy novellas set in the same world. I liked it pretty well, it felt a little pulpy, but the world and characters were intriguing.

Dec 9, 2016, 11:40 pm

Are you going to read the rest of the series of The Thief? They are all good and there's a new one coming out next year.

Edited: Dec 10, 2016, 12:13 am

>116 ronincats: Yes, I am; I already bought them! I'll probably read them fairly soon. I wanted a little break from fantasy, I'm currently reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin.

Dec 10, 2016, 9:59 am

Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, The Thief series!! One of my all-time favorites!

Dec 10, 2016, 7:44 pm

What Roni and Amber said. ;-)

Dec 10, 2016, 9:42 pm

>118 scaifea: >119 foggidawn: I didn't realize The Thief series was so beloved! I'll bump the rest of the series up in my queue.

Dec 11, 2016, 11:27 am

I keep looking at them longingly on my shelves - I really need to take time for a re-read.

Edited: Dec 11, 2016, 2:40 pm

>115 kgodey: I'm almost halfway through The Way of Kings so I think I have a good chance of reading Words of Radiance next year and then Arcanum Unbounded before book #3 is released.

Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief series has been on my list of series to try for a while (glad to see lots of positive comments >116 ronincats: & >118 scaifea::-) ). I've also added The Shadow of What Was Lost to my list.

Dec 11, 2016, 6:07 pm

>122 souloftherose: The Stormlight Archive is probably my favorite of Sanderson's works, I wish I could read it for the first time again!

The good thing about The Shadow of What Was Lost is that the second book is already at the publisher, I think they're targeting a June 2017 release so it shouldn't be too long of a wait.

Dec 12, 2016, 9:33 am

>115 kgodey: I had the same thoughts about The Grand Tour. It wasn't unenjoyable but all the characters kind of merged together.

Dec 12, 2016, 10:01 pm

>124 norabelle414: I was a little confused by the drop in quality. Sorcery and Cecelia was so good! I have the third book too, but I'm not sure when I'll get around to reading it.


78. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Genly Ai is an envoy from a benevolent league of spacefaring worlds sent to make first contact with Gethen, a planet of humans with a unique physiology. Gethenians are androgynous and mostly asexual except for a few days each month where they turn into a man or a woman depending on environmental factors, and Genly (a regular human from Earth) has to figure out how they work for his mission to succeed.

This is a really, really good book, and I'm not surprised that it won both the Hugo and the Nebula when it came out. It's wonderful and heartbreaking and it filled me with awe at a few different points. It really explores the societal implications of the physiology and the harsh environment, but it doesn't jump to any conclusions – it just tells a story.

I don't think I've read any of Le Guin's sci-fi before; I've only read her fantasy. I'll definitely be reading more.

Dec 15, 2016, 3:51 am


79. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
80. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

I went back to The Queen's Thief series after all the comments here, and I've been really enjoying them. I'm glad that the series switched to third person after The Thief; I liked being inside Gen's head okay, but I really like getting to know some of the other characters and seeing things from different perspectives. The characters in these books are lovely, they feel like old friends already.

I hope Gen is able to catch a break at some point though; he's been through a lot in these two books.

Edited: Dec 15, 2016, 7:09 pm

Oh, also, I made 75 books finally this month! It's been my slowest reading year in a couple of years, I checked my older threads and I read 100+ books in 2014 and 2015.

Dec 15, 2016, 8:18 am

*happy sigh*
I love that you're loving the Gen books. He's one of my all-time favorite characters. But you're right - the poor guy definitely needs a break!

Dec 15, 2016, 6:13 pm

Ha! With all your jumping around with your numbers, I completely missed that you had blown past 75 books. Congratulations!!

Dec 16, 2016, 9:36 am

Congrats on 75!

So funny that you just read The Left Hand of Darkness. I put that on my nightstand last night to start reading next.

Dec 17, 2016, 1:21 pm

>128 scaifea: I think he's one of my all-time favorite characters now too.

>129 ronincats: Thanks, Roni!

>130 rosylibrarian: Thanks, Marie! I think you'll really like The Left Hand of Darkness.


81. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

This series has skyrocketed to one of my favorites now. It was nice to hear from Sophos again; he's certainly grown a lot since we saw him in The Thief. Gen continues to grow, even if we don't see it from such a close perspective anymore. The three kingdoms are pretty irrevocably changed by the end, and I can't wait to see what happens next. Unfortunately I have to wait until May, but at least I'm reading the series when I know there's going to be a new book soon.

I was thinking about Gen because I thought he reminded me of another fictional character, and I finally made the connection yesterday – Miles Vorkosigan! They are in entirely different kinds of stories, but I think they share a sort of feverish genius and an inability to stop exasperating everyone else around them.


I haven't started a new book yet because I have a Gen-hangover; this always happens to me after I read really good books. I'm thinking about reading The Forever War next, though.

Dec 17, 2016, 9:17 pm

>131 kgodey: And they both have good taste in women! ;- )

Dec 19, 2016, 12:08 am

>132 ronincats: Very true.


82. The Forever War by Joe Halderman

This is a classic I've been meaning to read for a long time, and it's very good. The protagonist, William Mandella, is a soldier in a interstellar war where each battlefield is hundreds of years away on the earth calendar (due to the effects of time dialation.) In only a few years of his life, he lives through more than a millennium of Earth history, and every time he finishes a mission, society and culture has changed around him. I think it's a great exploration of the idea. Some of the ideas seem a little dated (Mandella's discomfort with homosexuality, for example), but I think that's okay because the book is exploring the idea of accelerated societal change amplifying the generational divide.

Dec 19, 2016, 8:37 am

Just spotted that you have passed 75 as usual, Kriti. Congratulations!

Dec 19, 2016, 9:21 am

>131 kgodey: YES! I'm so glad you loved the series! Gen is adorable, isn't he? Okay, so I have to ask the question: How old do you think he is?

Dec 22, 2016, 6:17 pm

>134 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul!

>135 scaifea: Unfortunately I'll have to cheat on Gen's age – I went online to look for more information about the next book after I'd completed the series, and I ended up on the Eugenides Wiki. I knew he was young, but I was shocked to find out exactly how young. It does explain some of the way he acts though.

Dec 22, 2016, 6:20 pm

My 2017 thread is up: I won't be posting there much until 2017, but I wanted to get it all set up.

I'm currently reading The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. I'm never sure if I should count omnibuses as one book or several, but I think I'll end up counting it as one book since it's one physical book. I've finished reading Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons and now I'm on Talking to Dragons.

Edited: Dec 22, 2016, 10:51 pm

83. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede – This is an omnibus of a series of books set in a world where fairytale tropes are common, and the people of the world live their life accordingly. Cimorene is a princess who is tired of being told what is and isn't proper to do – she wants to learn things, not just look pretty and marry a prince. So she runs away to work for a dragon. Three books follow her adventures (although each one is from a different viewpoint) and the last one follows her son Daystar's adventures.

These books are pretty light reading. I enjoyed them but they reminded me of the Belgariad, the characters are pretty much just archetypes, there's more humor than character growth, and the conflict never feels like it has any stakes. They didn't have the warmth and coziness of a Diana Wynne Jones book, although the genre seems similar.

Dec 23, 2016, 11:04 pm

Wouldn't it be nice if 2017 was a year of peace and goodwill.
A year where people set aside their religious and racial differences.
A year where intolerance is given short shrift.
A year where hatred is replaced by, at the very least, respect.
A year where those in need are not looked upon as a burden but as a blessing.
A year where the commonality of man and woman rises up against those who would seek to subvert and divide.
A year without bombs, or shootings, or beheadings, or rape, or abuse, or spite.


Festive Greetings and a few wishes from Malaysia!

Dec 24, 2016, 3:19 am

>139 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul! Happy holidays to you and your family as well.

Edited: Dec 24, 2016, 7:56 pm

I haven't read anything else yet, but I need to talk about all the excellent books I've gotten recently. I got my 75'ers Christmas Swap books (from my fantastic Secret Santa Roni!) a week or so ago, and I got my SantaThing books yesterday! Here's a list:

75'ers Christmas Swap
Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Hammered by Elizabeth Bear
Impossible Things by Connie Willis
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

7 books!!! And so many of them from authors I've already read and liked. Roni is definitely the best Secret Santa ever.

Dauntless by Jack Campbell
Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
The Very Best of Charles de Lint by Charles de Lint
Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

I believe this are all from my wishlist (my wishlist is so long that I have lost track of it). I'm very pleased with these selections too, they're all pretty different from each other but look like good reading.

I also received the tenth anniversary leather edition of Mistborn today that I bought for myself. I also have the tenth anniversary leather edition of Elantris from last year, and these books are gorgeous! They're very well bound, have a number of full color illustrations from book covers around the world, maps, and magic system tables. Here are pictures that someone else took of their copy of Mistborn:

Book books are also signed, personalized, and numbered! Brandon Sanderson's team even managed to give me the same number for Mistborn as Elantris. I hope they keep releasing these books every year, they're expensive, but I don't spend much money on books otherwise, so I'm happy to keep getting them.

Dec 24, 2016, 11:43 pm

This is the Christmas tree at the end of the Pacific Beach Pier here in San Diego, a Christmas tradition.

To all my friends here at Library Thing, I want you to know how much I value you and how much I wish you a very happy holiday, whatever one you celebrate, and the very best of New Years!

Edited: Dec 25, 2016, 6:22 pm

>142 ronincats: Thanks Roni!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I finished a SantaThing book today:

84. Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

I had this book on my wishlist because I was looking for Indian historical fiction at some point and added a bunch of books to my wishlist. I don't think I would have bought it for myself because I'm just so used to reading SFF all the time, but I was excited to get it for SantaThing.

The book tells the story of Biren, a boy from a small Indian village in the 1870s, who grows up to be a Cambridge educated lawyer crusading for women's rights in India. I enjoyed how atmospheric it was, it really drew you into the sights, sounds, and smells of rural India. The book took the same poetic tone towards descriptions of people, though, and I didn't like that so much, it was a little bit too romantic for me. Biren was a good character, but he didn't seem to have any flaws. Some of the secondary characters didn't feel very fleshed out, either. Also, some of the events that happened later in the book regarding Biren's daughter didn't seem to fit with Biren's character at all, so I found that frustrating.

In general though, reading this book made me realize that I would like to read more non-SFF fiction than I currently do, but I'm not really sure where to start. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Edited: Dec 25, 2016, 9:17 pm

Dec 27, 2016, 1:59 am

>144 Kassilem: Thanks Melissa!

Dec 30, 2016, 12:54 am

85. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I had read two of Jemisin's Inheritance series a few years ago – I liked them okay but I wasn't blown away, so I was in no hurry to read more of her work. However, when I received The Killing Moon from Roni this year for the Christmas Swap, I remembered that I had a review copy of The Fifth Season on my shelf, and it also won the Hugo this year, so I figured I should read it. I'm glad I did, because it's fantastic!

The Fifth Season is set on a world where people are used to dealing with apocalypses – they happen every century or two. A new one has just started, though, and it seems like it will be the worst one yet. In the present day, we mainly follow Essun, an orogene (born with the feared earth magic) whose husband has murdered her young son for being an orogene as well. As she tracks him and her missing daughter, we see the world starting to fall apart around her.

I loved this book – the characters, the worldbuilding full of little details, the mix of science and magic. I wasn't sure how Jemisin would write a post apocalyptic high fantasy book (since I think of both those genres as very separate), but everything just falls into place! Highly recommended, and I can't wait to read The Obelisk Gate.

Dec 30, 2016, 7:57 am

>146 kgodey: If you liked The Fifth Season, you're going to love The Obelisk Gate. These were two of my favourite reads this year!

Dec 31, 2016, 6:59 am

Looking forward to your continued company in 2017.
Happy New Year, Kriti

Dec 31, 2016, 3:46 pm

>147 archerygirl: I'm definitely looking forward to The Obelisk Gate, I think I'll read that sometime in January.

>148 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul! Happy New Year to you too!

I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the activity that invariably comes up at this time of year, everyone has two active threads! I'm not going to make my Best of 2016 list or round up any stats until 2016 is officially over, so expect those tomorrow.

I have one more book to report – probably my last for the year unless I'm able to squeeze in one more tonight.

86. Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

I don't think this is officially coming out until 2017, but I got a review copy on Tuesday. I like Carrie Vaughn's work – it's light reading, and usually explores some interesting ideas. Martians Abroad is a coming of age story starring Polly, a Martian being sent to Earth for the first time to attend a fancy boarding school. She has her brother Charles to keep her company, but she doesn't understand him very well, and she hates the idea of leaving her beloved home.

Novels set at schools are always a little more fun just because of the setting, and this one was too. Polly is a pretty cool protagonist, she's a typical teenager – confused, stubborn, convinced that she knows how everything works, but when it comes down to it, she does the right thing effortlessly and is confused when people find that something to remark on. She's good a good growth arc, too. Also, I think Vaughn did a great job of conveying how alien Earth would be to someone who grew up on Mars.

I'd say the biggest flaw with this book was the plot – I just can't believe the antagonist would get away with the things they did so easily. I also think the book ended too soon, I'd like to follow up with what happens to Polly and Charles. I hope there will be a sequel, although I can't find anything about it on the internet.