AEL: Still Water Saints, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Static Shock, Batman Beyond, Dracula, Incredibles 2, The Nutmeg of Consolation

Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza — This book was very engaging. I loved the format — all these people only distantly connected each having their own stories while Perla’s narrative ran throughout — and thought each story was well constructed in that it had an actual beginning, middle, and end and some emotional resolution (good or bad). I don’t know that I’m entirely satisfied with Perla’s emotional resolution (how she feels about herself and the work she does), but even her story had an arc and was therefore satisfying in a way.

The narrative is very sympathetic to its subjects, and I think that’s what I liked best about the book. There are a lot of sad situations, but they’re handled with such respect (and often optimism) by the narration and the events of the stories that you come out of the experience uplifted rather than depressed. A very enjoyable read.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank BaumFinally a female character not as boring (and delicate and beautiful) as all previous; she’s pretty funny and likable, and she’s allowed to be a goofball. So refreshing.

However, the question of slavery is not resolved to my satisfaction. I mentioned before how disturbing it is when characters come to life in this series and are automatically slave or servant to whoever brought them to life. In this case Scraps was designed specifically to be a slave, so at least the assumption that she will be makes some sense… but that anyone goes along with the idea when she’s self-aware — an independent person — is just gross. And then she essentially has to earn her freedom, prove herself worthy of not being a slave… Side-eyeing you so hard right now, Baum.

Along those same lines, you CAN’T JUST TAKE SOMEONE’S BRAINS OUT AND REPLACE THEM WITH DIFFERENT BRAINS BECAUSE YOU FIND THAT PERSON ANNOYING Baum what is wrong with you

Still, it was an enjoyable Oz book. I grind my teeth to this day about the continuity issues — What happened to the magic belt? Why do we have to go on a quest to put together some dumbass potion to rescue the stone people at all? — but the story was good. Thoughts about the Scarecrow and Scraps will come later.

Static Shock and Batman Beyond — Yeah, so, I was trying to do thoughts on individual episodes I watch, but that’s obviously not happening. I’ll just do it in future when I feel like it, and give general show thoughts as needed.

It seems I neglected to mention Static Shock entirely whilst I was watching it. This more obscure end of the DC Animated Universe is really good, but Amazon Video only has the first season available. Virgil is a cute, sweet, and engaging character, and his struggle to be a superhero is so much fun to watch. When I saw the description, “Virgil Hawkins and his classmates confront real problems and issues faced by today’s teens,” I was like *groan* but I’m glad I watched it anyway. Because that’s absolutely true — the episodes about racism and Virgil’s late mother were particularly well handled — but the series is subtle and real and never didactic. It seems to be a forgotten gem that doesn’t even get the dignity of having its complete run available to watch on Amazon. Give me the rest of the seasons, you guys!

So then Batman Beyond. Terry is not as compelling a character as Virgil, but I still like him. They go out of their way to show his kindness, and that’s sweet. I also like how he actually kinda sucks as Batman a lot of the time — he gets his ass handed to him constantly, he makes poor decisions, and he ignores important information. He’s learning, and it’s fun to watch that process.

I have to admit, though, that, for all I’m really enjoying this series, it doesn’t feel like a Batman show. It’s great to have Bruce around, and to spend so much time in the Batcave, and Barbara is such a badass, but the Batman feel just isn’t there. Which is fine, because it’s got its own feel that I like too… but I often find myself craving Batman while actually watching a Batman series. Plus Bruce is such a lonely old man! Where’s Clark??

Dracula by Bram Stoker — This book (and the character of Dracula) is so iconic it steals its own thunder. At the beginning, there’s supposed to be a slow-growing feeling of unease and morbid curiosity. Instead it seems almost absurd — like actually laughable — when, for example, Jonathan receives that note from Dracula. It’s sad. I can sometimes imagine what it would be like to read something for the first time without knowing anything about where it was going… but I can’t get into that mindset here. The very word “Dracula” is so deeply ingrained into my consciousness, I can’t treat it as an unknown idea and get properly into the mystery of what’s going on in this story.

Dracula is not sexy. Dracula is not sexy. Where did sexy vampires come from DRACULA IS NOT SEXY.

Well, obviously, sexy lady vampires came from this book. Geez, this book is so sexist. I kinda get the feeling the author was trying really hard to be very respectful of women, and for the time period I suppose he succeeded fairly well… but this book is so damn sexist. It’s such a weird blend of misogyny and a seemingly heartfelt attempt at making Mina a fully realized and effective character.

The epistolary style is so funny. They’re constantly having to find excuses to write journal entries or letters or whatever, and it’s positively absurd after not very long at all. I feel like the characters meet up and do shit, and then someone shouts, “Break!” and they all run off to their rooms to write in their diaries.

Chapter divisions are even more pointless and unnecessary in the epistolary style. Why break up a letter or a journal entry with a chapter end and beginning? Just let the entries stand on their own.

The climax is still a bit anticlimactic, and I think the epistolary style is largely to blame for this. A lot of exciting things happen, but they feel very distant. Every time I read this book, I toy with the idea of rewriting it in third person, excising the sexism, and making the ending as exciting as it deserves to be.

Incredibles 2 — This movie was fairly enjoyable, though nowhere even close to the first one, and kindof a mess. Several emotional story threads were introduced that were never resolved — or at best weakly, awkwardly, or imperfectly resolved. The villain was so painfully predictable and mostly directionless, and the movie couldn’t decide on a message. Also, it’s really nerve-wracking to watch a baby fighting a raccoon. I’m so desperately concerned about each of them. Movie was a bit of a waste, really.

The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O’Brian — I find I often have very little to say about these books. I love them, I love the prose, I love the characters and the author’s understanding of human nature… just… I’m tempted to call fluff maybe?

Gotta admit, though, I was charmed and delighted with the two little girls — the scene where they needed to use the bathroom was hilarious and beyond adorable — and I really hope they become a constant part of the series.

Lately I keep listening to my TLY book in between all this other stuff I’m reading, so I’m moving through my reading list kinda slowly at the moment. This AEL is almost perfectly current, in fact. Go figure.

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