AEL: The Madonnas of Echo Park, three Oz books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Truelove, the Greensky Trilogy, Peter Pan, The Midwife’s Apprentice, The Spirit Lens

Of course I’m no stranger to long-delayed AEL’s, even if the reason is usually laziness or whatever rather than all-consuming obsession with something else XD So this’ll be the usual thing: quick reports trying to catch up, at first based on what notes I managed to take at the time and then just on memory. Admittedly lately I’ve read fewer books than normal since I read my own, like, five times in a row before I declared it truly finished. Anyway, here we go.

The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse — This book portrays the day-to-day struggle of being a member of an oppressed group better than any other I’ve ever read. Other books have specific instances of racism, but this one portrays living with that racism from one moment to the next better than anything.

I loved this book, but I always struggle with POC identity stories because I’m white. I feel it happening, but I also get the sense that there’s a lot going right over my head. I wish I could get that nuance, because I’m sure it makes the book even better.

So is the collection-of-short-stories format a reflection of some aspect of Mexican storytelling culture? ‘Cause this is the fourth book in a row I’ve read about Mexican-American characters that uses that format.

These stories are so interconnected, I was tempted to read the book a second time to make sure I got all the threads. Absolutely brilliant.

The prologue was so sad and touching, but I’m a little uncomfortable at the idea of this being basically RPF written as an apology to its subject. As fiction, though, it’s beyond excellent.

The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum — Overt romance at last, and of course it’s disappointing. I’m so so so so so sick of the bullshit “falling in love” that people do in a lot of fiction that involves an entirely superficial interaction that is no proper basis for a long-term relationship. And of course these books are never particularly detailed or nuanced when it comes to emotional interaction or relationship development, but still. It fits right in to a long and troubling history.

Because Trot and Cap’n Bill hail originally from non-Oz books, this one had a slightly different feel to it. It turned into pretty standard Oz fare pretty quickly, though XD

As Cinema Sins would say, The Scarecrow of Oz took a really long time to Scarecrow.

I love that Ozma previously was like, “Look, guys, this isn’t a haven for every freaking lost mortal that wanders into an adventure,” and now here we’ve got two more.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo — What I love about this super sad book, besides such an early portrayal of an abusive man as a clearly evil villain, is the juxtaposition between Quasimodo and Frollo. Each has been disappointed by the world and betrayed by everything he values, but while Frollo in response becomes a consummate asshole, Quasimodo is kind and respectful.

The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian — I’m making a “fucking dumbass American publishers” tag as of this entry, because the original title of this book made 100% more sense logistically and artistically. Clarissa was a great character, and her involvement in the story was super interesting and I loved it. I approved (and appreciated!) her history and her approach to sexuality, and the lack of slut-shaming by anyone that mattered in response. Great book.

Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum — This was an interesting one. It was a fun book that I enjoyed, but it wasn’t a very good Oz book. As Cinema Sins would say, this Oz book took a really long time to Oz. Oh, well. Almost done with this series.

The Greensky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder — As a young teenager, I was obsessed with Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and this trilogy in particular captivated me. So I was interested to reread it twenty-some years later and see what I thought of it.

And I definitely enjoyed it again. The world-building is especially fun, and the story is great. It’s fascinating to see a post-apocalyptic world that is, more or less, a secret dystopia. All these fucking drug-addled hippies have no idea how screwed up their society is, and it’s great. The overall theme of finding balance between two ways of life, two ways of thinking, worked really well.

However, I was constantly rubbed the wrong way by the implication that every single damn person in this post-apocalyptic world was white. This was written in the 70’s, and she should have known better.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie — I don’t have a lot of thoughts about this book that I want to put down, because I’ve long had a comic in mind based on the book and these thoughts. I think it’s a marvelous idea, but I need someone to draw it for me, and I haven’t been looking very hard. Anyway, I love this book to pieces.

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman — This book was enjoyable, but more or less fluff. The “do your best and don’t give up” moral it tried to push at the end was a little weaker than the subtler coming-of-age messages that didn’t seem entirely developed, but I liked it pretty well.

Batman Beyond including Return of the Joker — Of course I was disappointed that the series ended without a real resolution. It’s always so sad when series go on with episodic storytelling until they’re cancelled rather than having a proper ending. Still, the movie was good; I liked the story, and I liked tying Dee Dee to Harley at the end. I loves me some Harley, as long as she hooks up with Ivy rather than the Joker.

So then I went back and rewatched the Batman Beyond-related episode of Justice League Unlimited, and that meant a lot more to me having seen the entire BB series and movie than it did previously. And it kinda felt like the proper ending I wanted, so I was satisfied. It also wrapped up the DCAU story of Batman himself, so that was a great bonus — especially since, as I mentioned before, Batman Beyond, while always a wonderful show, didn’t feel as Batman as I could have wished.

All right, I’m missing a book on my list here, and I’m not sure what it was. The next one I have listed is The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum, and I know there must have been at least one more between Oz books. Besides Greensky, which Alexa read out loud to me and therefore isn’t part of the standard rotation.

Well, the lost princess book was just OK. It was kinda fun to find the connection between all the lost items, and I liked having a different format from the “some moron gets embroiled in a random-encounter-filled adventure and ends up in Oz, usually by Dorothy-ex-machina.” But it didn’t make much of an impression on me.

The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg — Boy, do I ever have mixed feelings about this trilogy. This is my second time through (so obviously I enjoy it enough to reread it), and the impression I had from my last read holds: that the characterization is good and the plot is excellent, but the prose is SO FUCKING IRRITATING. The author tries to affect an old-fashioned sound, using terms and turns of phrase at times incorrectly and always jarringly. It’s so stilted and obnoxious, I can’t even. It stands out especially against the other elements of the books that are so well done. It’s the reason I’ve never picked up anything else by this author.

All right, I’m tired of playing catch-up for today. I’ve got seven books, one movie, four TV series, and who knows what-all else left, but they’ll have to wait two weeks. Of course then there’ll be more, but at least I’m working on it again XD

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