Thursday, March 31, 2022

My March in Books

 March was a helluva month at la Casa Bryant. As I write this, on the last day of March, there are five men upstairs ripping out my carpet and installing beautiful new floors. All of March and part of February has been about getting ready for this moment--basically moving out of three rooms of our home without having any other rooms to move into because we still live here. 

No wonder I escaped into books as much as possible. And it was a good month for reading: 

I read ten books in March. 

I don't feel like rehashing the ones I didn't like, so I'll let you click over Goodreads via the links above if you want to know why I didn't like them. Let me gush a little about the good things. 

It was "women in horror" month, so a perfect moment to revisit Shirley Jackson, one of my favorite authors of all time, and Tananarive Due whose work I love more and more, the more of it I read. Both of these books were well worth the read. 

The Shirley Jackson collection wasn't all horror, but even when she's writing social commentary or domestic explorations with a literary bent, Shirley always sees through to the dark side of things. It had been years since I last read "The Lottery" and it was just as chilling as I remembered, but my favorite story in that collection is "Flower Garden" which captures what it's like to be an outsider in an insular community and how trapped even an insider can be by social pressure. 

Tananarive Due's book, similarly, did not at first seem like it was horror. A lot of the book feels like a domestic tale of a marriage on the rocks . . . but it gets steadily weirder. Jackson and Due pair well together, with their focus on domestic settings and the horror of seemingly ordinary moments. 

For full disclosure, the author of Amazing Grace is my publisher. That probably influenced my choice to read it, but I assure you that, when I read work by friends and colleagues, if I don't like it, I just don't comment at all. If I'm telling you about it here, then I liked it. In fact, I loved this one. I really enjoyed the main character Lila Grace, a middle-aged Southern woman with the ability to talk to ghosts. I liked the sparks of romance between her and the new sheriff and the way that what she knew about the community mattered as much as her abilities when it came to solving the central mystery. I hope John writes more with these characters. There's definite series potential. The poor man already writes several series though, so I might have to be patient to wait for him to get back to this one. 

I've read Sense and Sensibility more than once. Between reading it and watching the film with Kate

Winslet and Emma Thompson repeatedly, I was predisposed to loving this book. I'm not sure when I last read/watched it, but it was before I married my husband, so that's coming up on twenty years. In fact, I had completely forgotten that Elinor and Marianne had a younger sister (to be fair, she's really only in the beginning and end of the book).  It was just as good as I remembered, and remains my favorite of Jane Austen's work (yes, I set it higher than the acclaimed and beloved Pride and Prejudice). 
So those are the books I loved this March. I also quite liked: 

  • A Spindle Shattered by Alix E. Harrow (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a multiverse angle and a chronically ill main character)
  • The Boys Omnibus volume 1 by Garth Ennis (a darkly humorous, transgressive superhero series)
  • and Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (a girl-meets-magic world series set in Nigeria among Leopard people)
What did you read this month? Anything I should have on my TBR? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Too "CW" For Me


Stargirl seems like it ought to be a show for me. Female protagonist, cool superpowers, giant robot/suit, family drama, and a small town setting. So much to love. 

But I don't love the show. I'm not even sure I like it. 

And I think I've figured out why. It's the same reason I don't love The Flash or Arrow, even though those shows ought to have been right up my alley, too. Both had strong starts with interesting characters, but I eventually just lost interest. 

It's the "CW" effect. 

When a show is handed over to CW (or WB), it immediately changes, and not for the better in my point of view. They *look* good, with pretty people in great costumes and decent-for-the-budget special effects, but they don't hold up well to scrutiny. 

They're . . .shallow. 

So often the plot relies on people avoiding a conversation, often that conversation wouldn't even be that difficult to have. Or ignoring an obvious application of the powered person's skills. Or strange caprices. Character motivations shift from episode to episode, so it's hard to even know if someone is behaving "out of character" because there is no consistency about what is "in character." 

Superhero stories tend be a bit plot-driven…cool action scenes and creative fights are part of what fans come for, me included! But, the best ones also really understand their characters and lead to strong emotional payoffs. 

WB shows seem to be all about short-term payoff and cool moments, and I'm pulled out of the story again and again because I can't understand why characters are doing what they're doing. 

I watched Season 1 of Stargirl and enjoyed seeing the team of heroes come together. I liked the generational take, with young people taking over for older heroes. I had high hopes for Stripes-the-stepdad-with-a-secret-history. But I wasn't drawn in enough to watch it quickly. I think it took me two years to watch the whole season. 

The continual shifting of tones lost me. Was Stripes to be taken seriously as a mentor or laughed off as inept comic relief? Am I supposed to keep cheering for a girl who shows herself over and over again as more self-interested than anything else? 

I'm starting to wonder if we just hand the story over to a completely new team of writers every other episode and that no one reads the other team's work to build naturally from what came before. 

When we moved to the second season, I watched one episode and I'm not sure I'll be back for any more.
The adults in the show are not making any sense. Mom and Dad were THERE in the first season: they were part of the fight with the bad guys. The superhero stuff isn't a secret from them. But, they behave as if they have no understanding of all of what's going on. It's like they just forgot everything that happened and stepped back in time to the original conflict of trying to keep the kid protected versus letting her step into her role as a hero. 

Maybe I'm just too old for this, but it seems like cheap manipulation rather than honestly-built suspense. 

How about you? Do you like the WB/CW superhero shows? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Sticking the Landing

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the March 2 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, Pat Garcia, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence!
I'm trying to write the final book in my Menopausal Superhero series right now, and it's kicking my butt. It seems ridiculous, feeling frozen after four novels, 2 novellas, and a selection of shorts. 

Maybe it's the finality of it. 

This is the end, my chance to wrap it all up, and bring it together in a satisfying way, freeing myself to work on all the other projects that have been calling my name while I forced my focus down this one path to see it through to this moment. 

And now that I'm here, I'm suddenly full of doubt. 

What if I can't stick the landing? What if I took myself and my readers on this wild ride only to write that ending fails? 

It's silly really. My publisher wouldn't let that happen. If I turn in a draft that doesn't do the job, they'll help me with some development edits. But first I have to give them something to edit, and that's where I'm stuck. 

So my questions for the IWSG community today: 

1. If you've finished writing a series, how did you wrap up it up? Any advice to make sure it satisfies?
2. What series have you read where you either LOVED the ending or were frustrated by it? Why? What makes a good series ending? 

Or if you don't have any advice, sympathy is also appreciated! It's a good problem to have, I know, but I still need to solve it.