The Latest Doings & Goings-on

Reading:

Court of___________ series. Sarah J Maas. Three books & a novella with more on the way. I gobbled them all up like potato chips and have moved on to the author’s other series, the name of which I have misplaced.  Good, solid European/Celtic-based fantasy but with some quirks that may or may not rub a reader wrong.  (1) There’s a definite romance feel to the relationship developments and the physical descriptions, and although the books are published by YA Bloomsbury, um…there are full-on sex scenes too. Which I like but was not expecting. (2) The characters refer to people as males and females…that one starts to grate after a while. I know, the rationale is that there are Fae and fairies and arguments are made about man/woman only applying to humans, but…I respectfully disagree and dislike the reductiveness of it nonetheless. (3) There’s a subtext of “marriage & family is everything,” with romantic love complications being the only driving motivation for nearly every character’s development.

Me, I didn’t mind them, and the books are wildly popular, but…still. These are things I notice.

Viewing:

Avengers: Infinity War. (Sorta spoilers?) I enjoyed it right up to the end, which wasn’t an end OR a cliffhanger and has left me with…mixed feelings.  It’s worse than if I’d gotten to the last page of The Two Towers and was told I couldn’t read Return Of the King for a year, because reading even the most visual of books is not as visceral and immediate as viewing a movie. The choice of a total downer endpoint (and the painfully problematic nature of some choices leading to that point) pulled me out of the story, and that was disappointing. I wanted to be excited about anticipating the next part. Now I’m merely hoping it isn’t a huge letdown. Oh, well.

Winchester. A delicious old-fashioned haunted house story, complete with a cast of flawed protagonists, loads of  mysterious supporting characters, family failures and secrets, and tons of jump scares. The historical elements—including the magnificent sets & costumes—made for wonderful atmospherics. It’s beautifully produced, crisply modern, and yet it sets a retro 70’s horror movie ambiance in the best way.

Baking:

I have discovered that if I add an extra 1/2 c of greek yogurt and extra sugar to my cherry drop scone recipe, they taste a lot like cherry cheesecake. Next experiment: sub in some almond flour to see how it affects the texture.

And I’ve perfected the recipe I call “why buy teeny boxes of Boursin when I have goat cheese and yogurt plus herbs & spices from my kitchen & garden?”  It’s delicious on lots of things, and so easy I can make it in a bowl with a fork. Yum.

Yarding:

Spring has finally sprung. We’re still at half the average growing degree days for this point in the year, but with the summery days, we’re catching up fast.  I got the shrubs in need of shaping cut back just in time, before they leafed out practically overnight. And since Spouseman has enough energy back to join in the yard fun & games again this year (YAY!) the bindweed & dandelions in the beds are getting properly annihilated.

Most of the things I planted last year came back. I’ve added a few new perennials and moved around some that have been propagating.  On the annuals side, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are in, serendipity seeds have been scattered. Still to come: basil, more rosemary & lavender plants for pots and beds (maybe I can keep the pots alive this year…) and some geraniums for color.

And I need to buy more dirt. (Just writing those words makes me giggle—buy dirt?!—but it’s true. I harvest enough from the beds each year that I need to replace biomass. Because SCIENCE!)

And since you’ve made it this far, Writing:

My last post had the mopey details. The happy big thing is, I have met some fantastic folk at a sorta-local reading series. Gumbo Fiction Salon happens on second Thursdays at the Galway Arms in Chicago. There are a couple of featured readers every month and open mic. Genre-friendly to the max, but not restricted to science-fiction/fantasy, or even to prose. Supportive, audience of other writers 7 writing adjacent folk.  Good food, good company, good times. What’s not to love?

It’s only sorta-local because I’m near Chicago, not in Chicago. Near-ish. Like, it takes an hour to get there.) ANYway. It’s well worth the public transit adventure.

I’ll be there again tonight, reading from Rough Passages if I get a mic slot. I’ll definitely be reading in July, I’m a featured reader that month.

 

 

 

A Host of Things Viewed

This post is made of movie & TV reviews. NO, NOT AVENGERS. all the same, ahoy, maties, SPOILERY WATER AHEAD.

Shape of Water: Yes, it won umpteen awards, and I can see why.  The movie is an phenomenally cohesive, polished work of cinematic craftsmanship from start to finish,  from the acting and directing right through soundtrack, cinematography and costuming.

It’s also still Creature from the Black Lagoon Falls In Love, so despite the amazing ambiance of the scenery, the moody music, and the adept acting of the cast, it…didn’t wow me.  I guess I like my creature love stories with a lot less messaging about Othernesss meaning people aren’t whole, a LOT fewer of the Obvious Evil style of baddies,  and happy endings that involve a inclusion WITHIN society rather heroes than having to flee into isolation to be their true selves.

I over-think things, perhaps. Doesn’t make me wrong.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Yes, yes, I watched a documentary. GO, ME.  Depressing as hell, about a brilliant, beautiful woman whose brilliance was dismissed–even declared impossible–because she was also beautiful, a woman whose government and bosses cheated her, a woman whose reputation was blackened and misrepresented by a media machine more interested in headlines than truth. A woman who ended up broke and broken by the system.

Outrageous. Me being me, of course I went out and did a bunch of booky research to fact-check and bias-check the film’s claims. Result: turns out the movie bent over backwards to give the impression that no malice was ever meant when in reality, there is plenty of evidence to suggest jealousy, bigotry and misogyny played large roles in her defeats.

The careful approach the creators took makes sense. Any appearance of outrage would have gotten it ignored as weak girly shrieking about unfairness.

Because that tactic still works, doesn’t it? The events in the documentary took place decades before the long-running campaign to tarnish and diminish Hilary Rodham Clinton’s reputation ever began.  I wasn’t expecting to see resonances. But there they were, BIG AS LIFE.

Anyhow. That was my takeaway.

Darkest Hour. Ah. Hm. Maybe I was not in the right mood for Oscar-nominated/winning movies? Because this was 2+ hours of brilliant acting, fabulous costuming and cinematography, but at the end it left me wondering WHY WAS THIS MADE?  The plot covers a momentous month in Britain’s history, (NOT, its darkest hour by the way, only the time leading up to the “FINEST Hour” speech being given) but it wasn’t not exactly a month that lends itself to storytelling drama in London.  Dunkirk? That got its own movie. Ditto all the other places major action and sacrifice were taking place.

So despite a whole lot of fictional dialogue and dramatic elements being added, it felt like a long parade of “Golly, Churchill, wotta character, eh?” moments. To me.

The YMMV principle applies to all my reviews.

One more! The new Lost In Space. TV series, season 1. Did I gush about this one already? I don’t care. Among my social circle this show  seems to be a polarizing topic. People either love it or hate it.  I  love it with a passion equal or greater than my loathing for the 1990’s era movie, and I LOATHED that movie.

Why do I love this one?

Scientists winning with science instead of science being Dangerous and Not To Be Trusted. Characters who are true to the campy originals without being the campy originals (because traits that were acceptable in the mid-60s do not always translate well to today’s mores.)   A plot that keeps an optimistic, we-can-fix-it feel without falling into perky positivity.  Is it perfect? Oh, hell no. Plot devices and coincidences abound, the dialogue is sometimes painfully stilted and the surprises were, with one exception, telegraphed well ahead of their reveals. So there’s room for season 2 to get better or for the whole thing to crash and burn. I’ll watch it and see.

That’s it for now. I also watched Into The Borderlands and the latest Avengers movie, but I’ll hold off on reviewing either one until I’m done with them.

Which for the Avengers won’t be until next May.  Until then…

I write books.  They’re quite excellent, or so people tell me. You can buy them all. & judge for yourself on Amazon or anywhere books are sold. Choose from paperbacks, ebooks, and even audios.  Click the BOOKS link on this site to get a free peek.

Or, you know, not. Your choice. Until next blog.

 

Is it a staycation if you’re only staying home because someone is ill?

This is Night 2 of “Spending the weekend as a couch potato because Spouseman has the stomach flu.” I’d planned to get some work done, but I am not great at splitting my concentration between creativity & caregiving.

So instead of writing fiction, we’re both hanging out in the living room with Scooter McNursecat, listening to the epic rainstorms outside, and watching TV. Spouseman has Vitamin Waters and saltines. I have plenty of Unhealthy Snax I picked up while getting his meds and Vitamin Waters. Life is pretty good, when it comes right down to it.

Yesterday I watched most of the series Into the Badlands. Spouseman was there, but he was feeling so ill I doubt it made much of an impression on him.  We wrapped up season 2 today. I have feelings about it,  mixed and murky ones that are very much tied up in my twtichy dislike of messy post-apocalyptic futures.  I don’t mean the gritty aspect of violence. I mean the part where the creators give no thought to systems needed to support the societies they design.  And this show, like SO MANY others, just doesn’t add up. And the dialogue was often so clunky it made me wince.

ANYway. End rantlet.

Brain-free TV for tonight and tomorrow: Lost in Space 2018. 40 minutes into episode 1, I’d already seen more character development & better science (not perfect, but TRYING) than in the whole 1990’s movie. It’s more serious than the original but still very family-friendly. And the family tensions feel authentic, not the Typical Space Show batch of walking tropes at all.

Fab worldbuilding & reveals, fine acting, plus relationships and dialogue that all ring true. My favorites so far: teen girls who talk like teens, and the chicken.

There. Is. A. Chicken.

This show is a keeper.

It was an eventful week, so I’m not going to beat myself up over a couple of extra rest days. Nope. Going to enjoy TV.

What events? I’m so glad you asked.

First, it was National Library Week, and since I’m on the NLW planning committee at work (at a library, for those just now joining the show) I spent most of one shift being a perky greeter and letting kids & adults spin the library wheel for prizes (like fines-forgiveness, mini-slinkies, and ice cream coupons. Also pencils and other loot) and another shift helping pass out popcorn at the trivia contest night.

The contest was the culmination of many meetings’ worth of discussion over questions, potential problems, presentation, snacks, prizes and coordination with other committees.

It was over in an hour. Worth all the planning. Everyone had a grand time.

I ate too much popcorn and have a page of notes to make next year’s event even better.  It was fun but still exhausting. Wednesday I made progress on various work things and also got to take a walk in short sleeves & sandals & lie in the sun.

That recharged me enough to face The Big Adventure Day. Thursday I went downtown by train and El, and thereby learned a whole new section of Chicago By Transit. I can navigate to & from Lincoln Park now, adding that to the short list of Loop, Museum campus & McCormick Place.

The point of the exercise was getting to the Galway Arms to meet Tina Jens for dinner and later attending my first Gumbo Fiction Salon. It’s a monthy reading series I hope to make a regular part of my schedule because it’s a great group and tremendous fun.

How fun? OMG OMG OMG fun. Yet also phenomenally scary. (I talked to a whole lot of strangers in a conversational setting AND SURVIVED)  DInner with Tina was fantastic because I love getting to know friends better. Later I read from Rough Passages and people laughed in the right places and clapped at the end. I listened to a lot of great fiction, some genre, some poetry, some memoir, and I even made it out in time to catch the 11:30 Metra straight home instead of needing a pickup at the Rosemont Blue line.

I am energized to really dig into some writing projects. Friday was to be a chores & shopping day, then  write on into the weekend.

Yeah. Well. Best laid plans.

Hanging out is good, tho. Snax all day & chili for supper (I made a huge batch. It freezes well, and it’s a good hot meal when the weather is cold & yucky like today)  cuddles with cat and snuggles with sleepy, sleepy healing Spouseman.  Words are patient. I will get to them. Maybe even tomorrow.

Why the cat picture? Because “cozy kitty” is how I feel night now. Ta!