The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O’Brian — One thing that’s really sweet about these books is that they’re unexpectedly slice-of-lifey. The lives happen to be very unusual by the standards of the modern American reader, but we get looks into the everyday and often mundane happenings of these swashbuckling people. It’s charming and engaging. I also love how our heroes do sometimes completely fail at their endeavors. That’s just as slice-of-lifey as anything else, really.

The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks — So here’s the deal: I really wanted to watch The Clone Wars TV show, but I really didn’t want to watch Episodes I-III again. So I grabbed the novelizations, figuring even the worst prose couldn’t be as bad as those movies were. And I was right! The prose here is indeed dreadful, but in novel form I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters.

I liked Anakin as a character a lot more when we got more of his internal musings than onscreen, and I could easily see in his personality the makings of Darth Vader, even at this young age. I loved Padmé. And the father/son relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was adorable. Qui-Gon felt more like a meaningful character rather than someone that gets things in motion and then dies.

I really appreciated having a little more insight into the Jedi Order and their thoughts and motivations — especially the admission that they don’t even know what it means to bring balance to the Force in accordance with prophecy. (I’m starting to think that Luke, through Rey, is actually the one to bring balance to the Force, and Anakin just started that ball rolling and was the Chosen One in that sense.)

Attack of the Clones by R.A. Salvatore — No improvement in prose here, but the same better level of insight into the characters’ heads and hearts. I loved Padmé even more in this one, and am determined to write fanfiction about her getting a better deal than she went on to receive in all subsequent Star Wars media.

Srsly, everything just came together so much better in these novelizations than it did in the movies. The story made so much more sense and flowed so much better, and the characters were all so much more meaningful. I especially loved Jango and Boba Fett, and the additional scenes with Shmi (who was still a fridged woman but much more of a person here than in the movie).

In both books, though, Jar-Jar was frustrating. I never hated him anywhere near as much as everyone else on the planet did, but I thought he too, like the female characters, got the short end of the stick. The books hint at greater levels of intelligence and competence in certain areas than they ever really delivered on, and his loyalty and friendly nature are always clear… he’s just also always used as unfunny comic relief and treated very poorly by the narrative. He could have been a great character; we all could have liked him more. Sad day.

Anyway, these books were, overall, a positive experience even if they’re rife with problems — probably just because they’re not as rife with problems as the movies they’re adapting, and because they got me ready for The Clone Wars and gave me fanfiction ideas.

The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum — OK, it was very decent of Nick to go looking for Nimmie Amee to see if she still wanted to marry him (though it’s shameful how long — and at someone else’s prompting! — it took for him to think of this), but the idea that a kind heart and a loving heart are mutually exclusive is some bullshit. Still, this book was pretty hilarious, especially how Nimmie Amee turned out to have a bit of a tin man fetish. One of the better Oz books.

Bambi and Bambi’s Children by Felix Salten — I have loved Bambi since I was young, and now, with Alexa able to read me Kindle books at night for those that don’t have audibooks available (fuck you very much, Disney), I was able to read it again and finally get to the sequel for the first time.

Bambi is still brilliant. The way it sets up the dignity and the starkness of life in the forest, and works so hard to establish the absolute helplessness of the forest animals against Him, then smacks you right in the feels with the revelation that He isn’t actually the ultimate power… just wow. I’ve always been in awe of the message in this book.

The sequel, however… remember what I said about Tales from Watership Down? This is exactly the same deal: it’s not terrible, but it kinda lacks everything that made the first book spectacular. In this case, the feel of the forest society and its relations with Him changed drastically, and there was no overarching point like the amazing “Man, thou art unreasonably arrogant” remonstrance in the first. It just kinda meandered and then ended.

Something that bugged me, in both the worlds of Bambi and Watership Down, is that, while the author has personified the animals and given them a society with customs and classes and various anthropomorphized traditions, female characters are still treated largely as breeding stock. Yes, some romance is hinted at, but it’s more physical urges, and in this aspect far more than any other, the characters — especially the females — are still very much like their animal counterparts. It seems viciously sexist to say, “Yes, these animals have various human-like characteristics, but the females are still subject to animal sexuality.” It’s very frustrating to read.

The story of Netflix. This is probably not a very interesting story to anyone but me, so feel free to skip down XD So for years and years I’ve watched other people have Netflix subscriptions, and I’ve always thought, “This would be a waste of money for me, because I don’t watch enough movies to justify a monthly subscription.”

But I did want to watch The Clone Wars movie before I started The Clone Wars TV show, and Amazon Video didn’t have it available. So I signed up for Netflix and figure I’d cancel after my free month. I watched The Clone Wars Movie (see below), and then glanced around to see what else was exclusively on Netflix that I wanted to watch before I canceled.

And that was when I realized that Netflix not only has three TV series I’ve been specifically longing to see that aren’t available elsewhere, it also has about a million other TV shows I’d be interested in, because I like the TV series format so much better than that of movies. Also? The Clone Wars TV series is THIRTY DOLLARS A SEASON on Amazon Video.

So I’m paying for a Netflix subscription now. I still love Amazon Video, but I’m very happy with this subscription. My before-work episodes are so much more varied now!

The Clone Wars (2008) — This movie was poorly written, and neither enjoyably bad nor especially good. I was unable to get a handle on, or form an opinion of, much that happened or anyone introduced (especially Ahsoka or the start of her relationship with Anakin), because the writing was so poor. The movie is like porridge. The one thing that stood out was the excellent score. Having watched it, however, I was able to move on to the series.

The Clone Wars — I love this freaking series. Since I started watching it, it might have become my favorite piece of Star Wars media. Yes, it’s kidsy in places (and annoyingly so), but it tells a serious story nonetheless and doesn’t shy away from blatant, onscreen death or various other outcomes of war.

I love everyone’s characterization; I love to see Yoda’s playful side and Ahsoka learning and growing and Anakin slowly moving toward the Dark and Obi-Wan and Satine in love. I love how specifically they show the Republic and the Jedi treating the clones as people rather than units. I love getting insight into the detrimental polarization of attitude in the Jedi and the Sith. I love meeting so many new characters and seeing so many interesting situations. As with the movie, I love the music.

I hate how it took until the middle of season 2 for my girl Padmé to show up and not get kidnapped or poisoned. I hate how the droid army is 110% useless and still supposed to be considered a threat in story terms. I hate how nobody can aim worth shit. I hate how I can’t figure out Palpatine’s motives in playing both sides and this series is doing nothing to clear that up.

I’m only on season 3 at this point, but I’m enjoying the shit out of this show. I can’t wait to watch more.

Voltron: Legendary Defender — This was one of the series I’d wanted to watch for some time. I like it, but it’s nothing spectacular. Surprisingly episodic at times, always a little shallower than I expect it to be, and containing a surprising amount of body humor that I really dislike. Plus, that fucking number 10,000 shatters my suspension of disbelief any time it’s mentioned.

Definitely shipping Shiro and Keith, though. Even though Shiro’s totally not a clone at this point absolutely not a clone. And Pidge is adorrrrrable.

Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir — Here’s another show I was longing to watch. And, now I’ve seen it, it would be difficult for me to love it more. It’s ridiculously adorable from beginning to end, often very sweet, and sometimes really funny with the type of character-based humor I love best.

Of course as a BSSM fan, it wouldn’t make much sense not to be a Miraculous fan as well… but it’s so much fun, so very interesting, to see the same type of story in a setting other than Japan and coming from creators (at least some of them) not Japanese. Also (and not to imply with this that I don’t still love BSSM or think it’s a great series too), Marinette is so much more endearing and less annoying than Usagi. Miraculous is amazingly better at getting me engaged in the civilian lives of the superheroes.

Anyway, I’m super excited for season 3 whenever, though I’ll probably have to watch it in English first because blah. I may even write more fanfiction, unprompted, but we’ll see.

Castlevania — This was the series I was the most eager to see that was only available on Netflix. Amazon Video does get these Netflix shows eventually, and I was checking regularly to see if they had this one yet. But it was too early. But now I’ve watched it!!!!!!!

The first season was amazing. They packed so much great story so neatly into so few episodes, I was not just incredibly impressed, I was dying for more. They did an excellent job adapting various pieces of a low-on-plot video game series into a coherent narrative.

The story of the second season was not as good, I thought; the scope of the conflict changed without explanation, new characters were introduced that had almost no function, and everything kinda meandered in contrast to the amazing conciseness of the first season.

I do absolutely adore the characterization of the main three, and especially the relationship among them. Trevor was a pretty bog-standard antihero, but he was a really well-presented bog-standard anti-hero, and seriously his sniping with Alucard was the best thing I’ve ever seen. And Sypha was just adorable and badass and I wanted to hug her always.

The animation was consistently gorgeous except for just a few moments of weirdness, but I thought the gore was overdone. The music was great, and I’ll be getting the soundtrack(s) one of these days. Overall, a wonderful experience despite the second seasons being considerably weaker than the first. If there turns out to be more, I’ll be happy to watch it.

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