AEL: Jam, Aubrey/Maturin 3-5, AP 6-10, The Twilight Saga, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, RK Hokkaido, RK Musical, The Ship of the Dead, Sunshine, SU eps, Over Sea Under Stone

Geez, what happened to this. Tumblr addiction happened to this. OK, the shortest of short mentions (as pre-existing notes allow) for each item until I get caught the fuck up here.

Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw — I love this book. It’s a great disaster survival story with a lot of really funny bits. In the past I’ve complained about Travis being a character with very little character (which in this scenario, admittedly, Yahtzee had an excuse for since he’s the transparent Everyman in the disaster survival story), and other characters (well, mostly Don) even comment on this… but this time through I paid closer attention to him all the way through and managed to pick out some subtle character traits that actually made me actively like him.

Travis is kinda stupid, but he’s a nice guy. Not a Nice Guy, but a legitimately kind-hearted person. He considers offering X friendship despite the way she is, and he worries about Don despite the way he is. And his almost immediate personification of Mary demonstrates a serious loneliness and longing for closeness with someone.

However, this time through I also started seeing the book as a metaphor for the aspects of humanity that survive during a disaster, and that interested me a lot more than Travis’ rather washed-out traits as a literal character. Of course like any metaphor inflicted on a work that never asked for it, this one is imperfect and doesn’t cover all the parts of the story. But it’s hella fun to think about.

Frank represents the uselessness of what we consider, in the context of modern society, having your shit together. There’s a running theme of the usefulness of people in the story, and killing off one of the most useful right at the beginning was a telling move. Having your shit together doesn’t mean a damn thing in a disaster scenario.

Travis represents the kindness and compassion of humanity, and survives through to the end. Mary represents those that have a claim on us (responsibility), and also survives to the end. It’s interesting that even compassion finds responsibility troublesome eventually, yet they still both survive.

Angela represents scholarship, i.e. a desire to learn about and understand the world around us. This does not survive; eventually, in a disaster scenario, we have to let go even of this desire, stop seeking knowledge, and focus on survival.

Tim represents primal urges. He starts out with very rational-sounding thinking about long-term survival and the bigger picture, but you realize quickly that what he really wants is a return to a more primitive age. After not too long he starts craving control and eventually descends into violence. This can only get you so far through the disaster, however, and he too does not survive.

Yolanda represents arbitrary guidelines and the order we subject ourselves to in organized society. This obviously doesn’t have a chance when things start to fall apart, and she does not survive.

Don’s last name is Sunderland, which interestingly is a name Yahtzee has me associate with “spectacular neurosis.” Of course he was named earlier than this book in which this characteristic is displayed, but Yahtz may have been planning ahead. Anyway, Don represents frivolity and the human need to be entertained — which, cockroach-like, survives the jampocalypse.

I would really have liked to go into more detail and write these thoughts out more coherently here, but what even happened to my AEL’s. Anyway it’s a great book.

H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian — This whole series, though framed as adventure stories, is more soap opera and gossip than anything else, and I’m often left with a sense of “Oh, no, he didn’t!” more than one of high adventure.

In many of these books, the end of scenes/the transition between scenes is not clearly delineated. It makes for some slight confusion. And speaking of which, the naval battles are largely incomprehensible and therefore tedious.

The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters — The only note I have on this one is, “Disney princess effect re: Nefret,” which I think is accurate. If you’re going to have a semi-satirical series and introduce a Mary-Sue with red-gold hair a third of the way through, you’re going to get a certain level of Disney princess effect. Anyway, I didn’t even make a note about what’s my favorite moment in this installment. Sad day.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer — I have a lot of notes on this one, but first I have to mention that, while assigning a cover image to this book in my audiobook-readin’ app, I noticed for the first time that Stephenie Meyer is hot as hot.

Bella responds with condescension and disdain to almost everyone she meets; it’s most egregious when they’re being kind and helpful to her. I think the narration wants to pass this off as social anxiety, but it fails to do so believably. Interestingly, shy people are often perceived as being stuck-up by those around them; it’s funny to watch a character who’s narrating in first person come across as stuck-up while the book tries desperately to get you to believe she’s just shy

Also, Bella is super special because she ~reads~, and we all know how I feel about that. I counted, and in this book (and almost in the entire series) she reads for recreation literally twice, and falls asleep the second time. Admittedly there’s a plot that takes the focus away from her day-to-day activities, but if your character supposedly does a thing on a regular basis, you need to mention it more than twice.

Despite the terrible main characters, these books are never as bad as I expect. Yes, many aspects of them are utterly hilarious in how stupid they are, but a lot of it, from the beginning, is very engaging and interesting. The mystery of what the fuck Edward’s deal is, for example, is fascinating. I kinda wish I could have read the book without knowing what it was about beforehand so I could have drawn my own conclusions. People complain about the changes made to vampire lore (which I don’t mind in general, because vampire lore is so flexible, and new things are fun), and I think part of the reason those changes were made was so this mystery could work.

Jacob gets very girlfriend-zoney with Bella eventually, but in this case she actually did start out by encouraging him. Obviously this doesn’t excuse his behavior, but in this case she did really, truly, fake-flirt with him to get information, essentially starting out their closer acquaintance with the implication that it might go in a romantic direction.

Edward is such an asshole: gaslighting, deception, unkindness in nearly every word he says to her… it’s a shame that Edward and Bella can’t be excised because they are the story, because everything else around them is simply better than they are. Except for maybe the prose.

Uncle’s Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe — What a strange book this is. It feels like an AU of reality and/or well written Christian fanfiction. The prose is spectacular and the story is very enjoyable, but it’s so damn condescending about Black people, whom it supposedly aspires to defend and raise up. In this respect it’s actually kinda worse than Gone With the Wind.

Cassie has shades of Ulrica, which can’t fail to please me. At one point when I mentioned it to someone on my phone, Swype wanted to say “Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the Woods,” which made me laugh… but I did have a moment thinking about similar themes (the only thing necessary for evil to triumph…)

Rurouni Kenshin Hokkaido arc by the Worst — I read the chapters as they came out, if you want to know how far behind I am on AEL’s, and my opinion of them hardly matters now, but I’ll relate my notes, at least.

The first chapter was frontloaded with information about new characters I only vaguely cared about. The Shishio move with the sword he somehow inherited was a particularly cheap bid for shock/drama.

I like Saitou’s businessman shoes slightly better than the boots, but the boots look good too.

This manga always had a problem with not giving enough attention to the emotionality of important events. Like, Kaoru’s father might be alive, and we’re just going to gloss over that and focus on the physical events as if this has very little emotional impact on her? Really??

And actually it turns out I didn’t make any notes on the next two chapters. I didn’t think any of this was particularly good, and now it just doesn’t matter anymore. Whatevs.

The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters — An opening scene like this is, of course, used here for humor and irony after she specifically says she won’t be using any device of the kind. And though it is funny and ironic as such, it’s also boring. I can’t get interested in a scene like that — a scene I know is just intended to get the reader excited and is bound to cut off before any actual information is given, a scene we’ll work back up to in a more logical manner later in the book. I kinda despise this.

And speaking of things I despise, this book is the first in the series to subject the reader to serious Auto-Body Shopping -__- I’ve never been quite sure how much of this is satirical, but since it’s there regardless of the intention, it’s just as annoying as if it’s perfectly serious

Amelia and Abdullah bonding over finding Emerson is soOoOo sweet. Seriously I sob every time they call each other “daughter” and “father.”

Hey, it’s head-trauma amnesia again!

Rurouni Kenshin musical — This is how the world should be: all women. I MEAN HOLY FUCK THIS WOMAN PLAYING SAITOU. I could seriously live here.

They concocted a good little starting story to establish not only the usual history, but some details of character.

As usual, the group numbers are better than the solos as harmony hides vocal flaws. The songs are not terribly catchy, but not bad. Kaoru’s love song is probably the best-written and best-performed song in the show.

I may care more about just about everyone besides Kenshin’s stories, but I still always love it when Kenshin makes that speech about Kaoru’s play-talk and wanting to see it become reality.

Aight, if I thought the “that I do” mode of translation from the anime subtitles and the “this one” translation from the western release of the manga (and I use the word ‘translation’ loosely in both cases) were awkward separately, they are intolerably aggravating in combination.

We continue to insist on putting Kenshin in a color that clashes dreadfully with his hair. I’ve never quite understood this.

Stage overacting ahoy! Also, does Sano really need to be such a dork? Why does every adaptation of him boil him down to stupidity and comic relief? Though, yes, I did make a desktop wallpaper out of that moment when Sano leans on Saitou’s shoulder; why do you ask?

I appreciate the shit out of having Megumi on a quest not merely to save herself but to recover the distributed opium. It’s a small change, but, wow, does it make a difference to her presentation and the representation of women in this story.

OK, actually, Kaoru’s duet with Kano is the best song, but, though I liked the scene OK, I thought it was too similar (and yet not similar enough in terms of Kaoru being a true badass) to the Jin’e scene in canon.

Man, there’s almost some Saitou & Megumi moments in this thing.

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer — How pathetically teenage is it to worry about this kind of shit? Being eighteen? Being older than your boyfriend was when he died?? BTW, I’ve always kinda thought Edward is trapped in a 17-year-old mindset eternally, no matter what the narrative wants me to believe. I mean, considering what we learn about immortal children later…

Also, why the fuck would you want to repeat HIGH SCHOOL indefinitely??? What kind of lunatic would you have to be? You really can’t give it a couple of years, Bella, just to get into a solid college age range??

Edward’s just as much an asshole than before, and it’s disappointing — but not surprising — to see his entire family getting in on completely denying Bella’s agency. Nevertheless, Carlisle is an interesting, likable, and admirable character. He mentions God, and that brings me to a point I might as well bring up here as anywhere else: these books don’t actually feel “Mormon” to me. I grew up LDS, and still live with an LDS family… but I have never gotten a “Mormon” vibe from these books. Sorry.

I have to defend the blank pages. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but it’s an effective gimmick. What words could have described the nothingness her life became more effectively than that?

This story is really diffuse, and kinda has Empire Strikes Back syndrome.

Some aspects of fantastic stories sound really stupid in summary (like the baseball in the first book) but in context really do make fine sense. Still, I can’t help chortling every time I think that, after contemplating a number of more elaborate plans, Edward’s scheme to get himself killed is to take his shirt off

Aro is an awesome character.

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian — I wasn’t very far into this book when I started driving to Kansas City, so I got through almost the entire thing when I couldn’t take notes. Not that there aren’t a lot of entries on this list about which I didn’t take many or any notes…

I wish it had been clearer about what, exactly, Jack expected from marriage that he didn’t get.

Stephen’s mounting depression is sad and worrisome to watch. In this book I kinda shipped (heh) him with Clonfert, and the outcome of that story was sad too.

Still feels like an episode of an ongoing soap opera.

The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters — This one I also got through most of whilst driving and unable to take notes. Ramses, Nefret, and David are such an adorable trio.

Favorite moment in this installment: Evelyn’s crowning moment of badass.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer — OK, guys. Guys. OK, listen. Near the beginning of this book, ’round about the third-ever instance of Bella reading recreationally, the following exchange takes place regarding Cathy and Heathcliff:

“I think it’s something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart—not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end.…”

His face was thoughtful as he considered my words. After a moment he smiled a teasing smile. “I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality.”

“I think that may be the point,” I disagreed. “Their love is their only redeeming quality.”

Now, Meyer had gotten feedback on at least one book in the series at this point, if not two (I have no idea when New Moon was published in relation to her starting to write Eclipse), and would have to know by now what a lot of people thought of terrible Edward and Bella and their terrible relationship… so was this self-aware dialogue? Was this the author admitting, “These two dreadful people are going to be together no matter what; please forgive them because they love each other?”

In any case it made me laugh out loud.

Edward, by the way, is SUCH A PIECE OF SHIT. It’s difficult to reconcile my enjoyment of this adventure story (my favorite installment in the series) with the Cullen family at their worst.

I noticed in this book something I think has been present all series: that E & B talk about identifying/sympathizing with literary characters, and it’s always a character that matches the gender of each; this says something disturbing about the author’s view of the world, I think.

I had a lot of thoughts while reading this series, and this book in particular, about how to write Native Americans and properly integrating aspects of their culture without Othering them (something Meyer never managed), but I don’t have time to recall all those thoughts or do them justice now.

With the way everyone denies Bella’s autonomy, it’s no surprise Jacob turned out be be just as much an asshole as the rest of them. When he pulls the classic abuser move of threatening suicide to control his victim, I just sigh.

Bella’s low self-esteem comes across a bit better in the later books, but all that does is make her more insufferable.

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan — He really only knows how to write one story, but I never want it to end. Especially when I realized this was the last book in this series, which nobody had bothered to tell me and which therefore took me completely by surprise.

Anyway Riordan did what he does best with the flyting. I cried and cried as Magnus praised his friends instead of insulting his enemy, even if some of the praise seemed a little… unearned.

ANYWAY ALEX AND MAGNUS.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley — Geez, I’ve read a lot of vampire books lately. Anyway. I liked this best of all the McKinley I’ve read, though that’s not saying much since she’s consistently at the bottom of my “good authors I like” list.

The main character is actually slightly different this time from that one main character McKinley aggressively always writes, though she’s not the bitch she claims to be.

The world is really interesting. People need to stop writing vampire books in an awesomely set up real world with fantasy elements and then just moving on (or dying) without writing anything more in that setting.

McKinley’s fucking surrealism, man. That’s always where I stop enjoying her shit. Aargh, just have real things happen already.

OK, at this point, not only am I out of notes on things, after not too much longer I stopped even listing what I’d experienced. But in the name of getting Caught The Fuck Up, I’m going to muscle through this.

Seeing a Large Cat by Elizabeth Peters — Dolly Bellingham: what a character. I’d like her to come back later. I love to see Ramses maturing, too. This is one of my favorite installments in the series.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer — Srsly I can’t believe I don’t have any notes on this. I don’t enjoy this book as much as Eclipse, I think, but it’s a good end to a series I really do like in spite of its many, many, many deficiencies. The setup of the story — with the history of the immortal children and Renesmee (LOL) and the mistaken impression that gives the Volturi the excuse they’ve been waiting for and the gathering of witnesses and all that shit — is really good and interesting, and the tension is solid.

I love the werewolf drama. I love that Charlie and Sue are involved by the end. The imprinting thing isn’t nearly as creepy as people make it out to be. Edward and Bella lay off their terribleness just a tiny bit in this book, and it’s absolutely hilarious when Bella’s like, “How do we ever stop having sex ever?” LOL. I like these books for reals, not just to make fun of them. Though I like that too.

Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian — This was my favorite in this series so far. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I really appreciate the way Mr. O’Brian included fleshed-out female characters in a series of books that could easily have been 110% about men. Like, he really seemed to make an effort to include women even when that was difficult to pull off. Anyway, the story of this one was the most interesting, and there weren’t any protracted naval battles to make my eyes glaze over, and Stephen got a little less depressed, and that was all cool.

The Ape Who Guards the Balance by Elizabeth Peters — Bertha and everyone related to her is an awesome villain. This book is emotional as shit. Sir Edward is adorable.

Steven Universe episodes — We’re back to this after-important-events-let’s-see-what-inconsequential-shit-is-going-on-in-Beach-City stuff they usually hit us with, but this time it feels skewed by just how important the preceding events were. That gives me a feeling of impending ending. I never want this series to end, but I like stories that tell an actual story, and I’m looking forward to how this will all be wrapped up. BTW Lapis leaving broke my heart.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper — I already mentioned that certain way children act during a certain period of British literature, right? Yeah, that still applies. Anyway, this book (and series) is a lot of fun. Also it’s hilarious how deep it gets after this one; this book is almost a bait-and-switch with its simplicity.

So the books I read are on an actual list, to which I can refer if I need to look back on what I’ve read recently. But other than that, noting my thoughts on art I experience depends entirely on my noting what art I’ve experienced and my damn thoughts on it. So if I’ve watched or listened to anything lately, or essentially experienced anything besides the books I’ve mentioned here, I don’t remember what it was or how it affected me >_<

(OK, well, there have been numerous STTOS episodes, but I’m not doing episode-by-episode reactions here and it’s not time yet for another impression-of-the-series-as-a-whole moment. I am typing up some very stream-of-consciousness tumblr posts as I watch, if you really want to know what I think of each episode as I watch it.)

Anyway, I think I’ll leave the book I’m currently reading for the next AEL and see if, though I’m 80% of the way through it already, I can’t manage some more leisurely thoughts on the subject in a proper log the way I used to write them XD Congratulate me on being officially caught up with this shit! IT IS STILL IMPORTANT TO ME I PROMISE.

3 thoughts on “AEL: Jam, Aubrey/Maturin 3-5, AP 6-10, The Twilight Saga, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, RK Hokkaido, RK Musical, The Ship of the Dead, Sunshine, SU eps, Over Sea Under Stone

  1. I had to stay hella quiet on tumblr because I was so /not/ about the new manga chapters…to the point where I just stopped going into the main tag. Like I was happy that so many other people were happy, but I literally give no fucks about Kenshin being with Kaoru. And then everyone was flippin shit because they thought they saw Eiji, which totally means Saito was happily fathering him and I had to physically leave my laptop in disgust. Anyway, it’s over. I made the mistake of going into the rk tag the other night and found a literal watsuki apologist there. I have never blocked someone so fast in my LIFE.

    1. Even though I didn’t make any notes on the second chapter, I do remember thinking, when the new villain squad showed up and we got a flashy little introduction moment to each one of them, *sigh* We’re just going through the RK motions here, aren’t we? It really made me wonder why the jerk was writing new chapters at all if they were just going to be pale imitations of old ones.

      And some of it could absolutely have been my own self-centered bitterness in response to the ridiculously fanatical response of Kaoru & Kenshin fans losing their fucking minds over indicators that their pairing of choice — which was already married with a child at the end of the previous story — was still, in fact, married with a child. As you say, happy they’re happy and all that, but at one point I was like, I swear to Poe, you guys, if I see one more fucking reblog of that frame that mentioned ‘a married couple’s bedroom’ and you absolutely blasting your brain into space over it because it’s proof they sleep together, I will destroy the entire world. Kaoru & Kenshin used to be my most common background pairing in Saitou & Sano stuff, but now I think it’s Kaoru & Megumi because they’re soOoOo much more interesting. Kenshin can… well, I don’t really care.

      OK, sorry, that got a little off-topic. I may actually be somewhat relieved the Hokkaido arc is done for, because I don’t know that I actually wanted to find out what dipshit was planning on doing to Sano. I mean, seriously, Megumi & Sano rank #2 on my list of Least Interesting RK Couples Or Potential Couples, and if dumbass thought Aoshi and Misao (#1 on that list) would eventually get married, I tremble at the thought of characters returning from afar in the Hokkaido arc and what that might mean for my favorites. Good riddance.

      Also, fuck apologia. The End.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s