AEL: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, 3 Oz books, 2 Howl books, The Letter of Marque, Superman: The Animated Series, Hogwarts Mystery, Mystery of the Batwoman, the first half of War and Peace

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez — I enjoyed this book despite how painful it was. Julia goes through remarkable and very believable character growth. At first she’s an insufferable teenager (though in a very understandable way that makes me extremely sorry for her), but by the end she’s grown up some and is slightly less insufferable. I never really like her (she’s different because she ~*reads*~), but I’m deeply invested in her progression and growth and well-being, and truly want the best for her.

I watch her struggle and I feel a maternal instinct toward her. I want to help her with her issues, and I want to reassure her that there are people that can understand her and what she’s going through. At the same time, having to deal with the insufferable teenager phase is one of the reasons I don’t want children. But the maternal instinct combined with the fact that I’m inherently pretty childish makes me extra specially upset at her mother for mothering so poorly.

I kinda felt like a racist piece of shit rebelling along with Julia against her parents, because I felt like we were both rejecting her Mexican heritage and fully embracing a completely Americanized life. I was hoping somewhat desperately that Julia would reconnect with aspects of her heritage that she could continue to value and I could share in her experience. I think she did, too, to some extent, during her trip to Mexico.

The big mystery over Olga and her secrets was well set up. For the longest time I was wondering whether Julia wouldn’t just find out that there was no secret, that she was longing for something that didn’t exist because of her own problems. That might have worked in story terms, but I liked better what actually happened. I think Julia having some aspect of her parents’ happiness in her hands — a choice she can make, a responsibility — will be good for her, even if it’s a heavy load to carry. It’ll make her feel her independence more. Also, I think she learned that there’s simply no such thing as the “perfect Mexican daughter.”

I also think there was a subtle differentiation between Mexican and Mexican-American. Because Julia is the latter while her parents are the former, and that’s a big part of the disconnect between them, exemplified by their relatives constantly telling her parents that America is ruining her. They had to sort of bridge that gap before they could start to get along better.

Interesting lack of climax to the story; a very gentle ending in which things flowed naturally toward the end without any big moments of revolution. I was satisfied.

The Woggle-Bug Book by L. Frank Baum — It’s, uh, really clear why this brief Oz installment has faded into obscurity. It’s based entirely on more of that “dipshits from Oz do stupid shit that’s supposed to be funny” premise that gets so tiresome throughout the series, and then random encounters, which is not enough to make it worth plowing through all the racial stereotypes. I was glad this story was so short, because I didn’t enjoy really anything about it.

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum — This has always been one of my favorite books in the series. Its story is very well constructed, with points that come together and progress logically, and is mostly free of random encounters.

I remember having vivid and somewhat harrowing dreams about being in the Nome King’s palace trying to rescue enchanted people. Also, lunch box tree???? THAT IS THE LITERAL BEST. And the princess with all her heads? This book just has all the best stuff.

What’s with all the slavery in this series, though? I wondered this in the previous book too. Things come to life, and it’s expected — and accepted by those things! — that their purpose is to follow every command of whoever happens to be around. It’s really quite distressing at times.

P.S. DOROTHY AND OZMA OTP FOREVAAAAAAAR

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones — I think I enjoyed this book better this time than any previous time I’ve read it. I’ve never disliked it, just considered it weak compared to its predecessor, but I had less of that sense this time.

I don’t mind Abdulla and Flower being together, but it’s super silly (and kindof obnoxious) when he’s all like, OH YES HE LOVED HER INDEED HE COULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT HER when he’s literally known her for TWO HOURS. Yeah, people are like that, but… well, it’s annoying in reality too.

The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian — It’s been a while since the last incomprehensible naval maneuvering battle, and for that I’m grateful. I wonder if the author shifted focus because people were having a hard time understanding those scenes, or for some other reason. Will more of those scenes appear eventually?

Anyway, for an incredibly intelligent guy (pun intended), Stephen is remarkably clueless about some things. I have no guesses as to how this business with Diana will turn out, and I’m not sure how I want it to turn out. She’s hurt him so much, but the current problem is based entirely on misunderstanding and delayed communication.

The subplot with the laudanum was so engaging that I related it to ZG and every family member that lives with me. It’s absolutely horrible, but at the same time kinda hilarious. Really clever stuff.

It’s dreadful to think of poor Stephen suffering depression and anxiety in a time period when there was absolutely no treatment and barely even any diagnosis of such conditions.

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum — So I got this Oz Collection audiobook from Audible, and it’s this 90-hour behemoth with all 14 Baum Oz books, and a couple of extras like The Woggle-Bug Book, back-to-back with no indication of where one ends and the next one starts (and incidentally not all in their correct order).

And Audible, in their ongoing crusade against people that prefer the more portable, universal, and convenient .mp3’s to a stupid proprietary format that only works in a limited number of programs, have made some change recently whereby the program I previously used to convert .aax files to .mp3 no longer works. So I’m back to the old method of burning the audiobook to CD in iTunes (fucking iTunes) and then ripping those CD’s to .mp3. Which means I used up almost an entire spindle of CD’s, and, like, three weekends in a row getting this immense collection burned and ripped. But I did eventually get it all done, and the books in their proper order, so I’m satisfied with that at last.

Oh, also, in addition to being out of order in the collection, this book has its title misread by the narrator. Weird.

Anyway. About the actual book. We’re back to random encounters like in the first installment, but in this case the goal — to escape back to the surface of the earth — is, though perhaps more important to the characters, less interesting than the goals in the first book. So the overall story is not the best, but some individual elements — the plant people, the dragonettes — are very interesting to encounter

Back in Oz, we reinforce that everyone here is an asshole. I kinda cringe every time any character besides Dorothy meets another character for the first time, because they’re sure to be assholes to each other at least at first. It’s like macho posturing and muscle-flexing, but it’s almost never a gendered thing… just this totally unnecessary struggle for dominance at first acquaintance. I hate it so much.

Eureka is an asshole all the way through, though. Her “trial” is so frustrating.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones — I enjoyed this one more this time than I did on previous reads, just like the previous book. It’s fun to see Sophie et al again, but this still isn’t a very good sequel. I think I might have liked it better if it were a stand-alone story instead.

And again we have this somewhat tiresome scene at the end where it’s like, It was all connected!!! Here’s how every little stupid thing fits in with everything else!! I’m kinda glad there was never a fourth book in this world, because I really can’t handle another scene like that.

Superman: The Animated Series — I love Superman now, whereas before I didn’t have much of an opinion about him at all (and if I did, it was that he had become irrelevant and needed to be retired). I love Superman’s earnestness and goodness and humanity. I love Lois Lane and her snark and pluck. I love this series. I made some notes on some individual episodes, so here we go.

Last Son of Krypton Part 1 – Very good tension. Even knowing exactly what was going to happen (through the cultural osmosis by which everyone knows Superman’s backstory), I was very engaged in the leadup to it. Some unnatural dialogue, and definitely some stupid costume design, but I still thought this was a great episode.

Last Son of Krypton Part 2 – Not as good. Lots of unnatural dialogue, and the cheapness of the animation is really showing here. Still, decent story.

Last Son of Krypton Part 3 – I know it’s not the first use of the “‘S’ sounds like ‘ass'” joke (and I was later to find that it wasn’t the last even within this series), but it was a good one. The awkward animation is particularly bad in a superhero story, but interestingly, I’m still really engaged despite some of the production cheapness (including annoyingly repetitive music). I’ll be interested to see whether Supes continues to be so unsubtle later on. Good story. Pleasantly ominous ending.

Fun and Games – It’s good to be introduced to Superman’s enemies. They appear in the JL shows, so I’ve met them before, but a first look is nice too. I’ve noticed the DCAU is pretty good about not bogging things down with too much origin story, though. I appreciate that. Also, enjoying the relationship between Lois and Clark so far. One thing I really appreciate about Superman is that he’s so strait-laced he hardly ever does one-liners the way every other superhero and their dog seems inclined to do. Wow! What a great story! I loved this episode! Toyman is great!

A Little Piece of Home – So in addition to being kinda sloppy, the animation (and the art direction) is often very kidsy: exaggerated reactions and gestures from characters and unnecessary silliness of a tiresome kind. The writing continues to be good, but some of the other aspects of the show are grating.

Feeding Time – There seem to be a lot of supervillains whose motivation is largely, “I had no power before but now I have power so I’ll do shit.” It’s extremely boring. Toyman was great because he had an interesting story; Parasite is just boring. Also, to present a character that can weaken Superman to this extent in the episode after the introduction of kryptonite seems poorly timed.

The Way of All Flesh – And now I’m starting to get all origin-story’d out again. Why do we have to have Toyman, then kryptonite, then Parasite, then Metallo all in a row like this? Surely there were stories to be told about existing problems that could have spaced these episodes out a bit?

Stolen Memories – Having watched JLU and seen what an obsessed wreck Luthor becomes regarding Braniac, it’s a big, shivery moment when they first meet.

The Main Man – It’s impressive that despite Lobo’s badbutt language and apparent disinterest in killing despite his being the most ruthless bounty hunter in the galaxy, they managed to make a really good story out of this. I was especially impressed by the characterization of Lobo himself — those things I just mentioned aside — because he really did come across as a sociopath.

My Girl – OK, I freaking love how Lana’s known all along and never said anything, and now when she first meets Superman she’s just immediately like, Yeah, I know your secret; no biggie. She’s a great character.

Superman is the one character I can think of that has an excuse to wear little to nothing, yet he’s covered from head to toe. Why doesn’t this show explain about his outfit? It’s clearly indestructible (my dad suggested it was made by Edna Mode), but that’s never mentioned.

Tools of the Trade – some of these villain intros are interesting only because I’ve watch JL and JLU and know what comes of it later. This episode was kinda boring.

Two’s a Crowd – Now, this episode was interesting. You know how a lot of the time the second movie in a franchise is the best? In my opinion it’s because all the introduction and laying of groundwork and boring exposition is over with, so the writers are free just to work with established characters and develop them further, but haven’t run out of ideas or fallen to too much executive meddling yet (as invariably happens in the third installment).

And it’s that second-movie feeling episodes like this have. We know who Parasite is and don’t have to bother with getting to know him; we can just use him in an interesting situation wherein his specific powers come interestingly into play. I loved it.

Blasts From the Past – This was heart-wrenching. The idea that Superman isn’t actually the last Kryptonian (and the very briefly touched-upon idea that he could actually perpetuate the species), but the only others are megalomaniac criminals is so freaking sad. And I think these episodes focused too much on the physical conflict and not enough on that tragedy. I think Supes should be a little more cut up about this. I know I was.

The Promethean – This was a fantastic episode. The story made sense from beginning to end, and there was some surprisingly good use of music (for once) and especially juxtaposed silence to create some amazing tension during the final showdown. Really nice work, guys.

Speed Demons – I’ve seen bits of this episode before, so that was a sort of weird nostalgia. Pretty good episode, too, but I do have a couple of questions. First, if the energy generated by Superman and the Flash during the race was powering the weather machine, did Mardon just have enough to be getting on with after a while? Because Supes destroyed the armbands and that aspect of the story never came up again.

Second, why do the villains continually target Metropolis? It’s true that Superman tries to take care of the whole Earth, so it’s likely he’d get after you no matter what city you targeted. But is it really wise to be targeting his apparent hometown?

I’ve watched all the other episodes of this series, and loved nearly all of them (and in fact been so inspired that I’m writing fanfiction), but that’s where I stopped taking notes, apparently. Sad day.

Hogwarts Mystery — I was excited for this. It looks nice, and we’ve all wanted all along to be able to wander around Hogwarts and do shit. But it’s nothing more than a big disappointment.

From the beginning, watching the story unfold, I was wondering about the replayability of this game, since it seemed like the same thing would happen every time no matter which house you went into… but as the energy gimmick became more and more tiresome, I was more and more sure I had my answer based on that alone rather than the story XD

As a matter of fact, I have no idea how anyone could get through this game even once, let alone want or attempt to play it a second time. I gave up about a quarter of the way through my first year, having learned essentially nothing about the eponymous mystery (though I wasn’t entirely uninterested in its solution) and unlocked essentially nothing. It’s about the poorest game design I’ve ever seen.

P.S. Why is what appears to be the only natural couple of Black hairstyles not available until level 17? Penalizing people for having natural hair again, are we?

Mystery of the Batwoman — Yes, I’m watching this DCAU stuff completely out of order. Too bad. So I enjoyed this movie, but I thought it was very much like a decent set of episodes from the series: nothing particularly stood out to make it feel like it had a reason to be a movie rather than just that. I prefer the older BtAS character designs to the later ones used for this film (though StAS kinda won me over to the later look), but that didn’t really bother me.

I loved the silver Batwoman outfit. I enjoyed how three women showed up early on with the right body type and circumstances to be Batwoman, so the viewer was like, “Which one will it turn out to be???” and then it was all of them. Rocky was pretty adorable, and I was shipping her with either of the other two pretty hard before the obligatory heterosexual angle got thrown in. Of course I prefer the later, gayer Batwoman to this composite version.

I thought the music was good, especially in the short film after the end credits. And that’s about all I have to say about it.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy — This book should really be called Mostly Peace But Also Sometimes War When We Really Can’t Avoid Talking About It But Seriously Drawing-Room Drama Is So Much More Interesting Amirite? (And, yes, he is right.) Or possibly The Supreme Incompetence of the Russian Army, which is all I really get out of the “War” sections XD I should mention that I’m only halfway through at this point, though. I divided the book into four segments and put other books between them so I wouldn’t get burned out, because this thing is damn long and I have ADHD.

I love it, though. Love love love this book. All the characters and situations are so extremely interesting, and the prose is very engaging and sometimes charmingly funny. Very glad I started reading this.

I don’t exactly like Pierre, but I feel for him and I definitely see in him the potential to be a good person. So I was really unhappy when he was pushed into marrying dreadful Vasily’s daughter that turned out to be plenty dreadful in her own right. In the parallel scenes where Vasily was trying to hook up his stupid son with the wonderful Maria, whom I love, I rejoiced when she managed to elude that awful fate. I may be secretly shipping Pierre and Maria, though I don’t see yet how that can happen.

The one problem with shipping Maria with Pierre, though, is that I feel like Pierre needs someone strong-willed to help him take charge of his affairs, to help him in the admirable goals he sets of being a better person and doing some good in the world that he can never stick to because of his own vacillating personality… and Maria definitely isn’t that person. Incidentally, all the men in this book seem vacillating, and it’s extremely frustrating. (I think Pierre is actually bi-polar, so in him it doesn’t bother me as much ’cause he seems to have a reasonable excuse.)

I’m right in the middle of Natasha’s drama with Anatole right now, and really just on the edge of my seat about how that will turn out. Natasha is somewhat annoying, but it’s the forgivable annoyingness of a teenager from whom this behavior is expected and natural (in a society where girls get married shamefully young). I want her to be OK. I want someone to quietly assassinate Vasily’s entire family.

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