I’ve gotten undeniably lax about writing my weekly roundups, which I don’t really consider okay because I had set a goal for myself that I’m not really meeting. Then again, I’m not sure anyone actually reads these and/or cares but… well, clearly I write this more for myself than anyone else. Anyway, as mentioned before I have been busy working on this novel, and some short stories, and some creative nonfiction that I generally read at Loganberry Books once a month. In strange, but I think understandable, fashion my nonfiction tends to be much less personal than my fiction.
Also, at the beginning of the month I got back from a trip to New York City with my good friend. We have pretty different traveling styles (read, I like to see as much as I can, which I have often detailed with great pains beforehand while he likes to wander) so I was sort of anxious about going. This trip though, I think, was a decent success. I’m not going to get into it, but I bring it up for two reasons; firstly, because traveling always messes up my routine (which I live by), and secondly, because I came back in some kind of ridiculous funk that I refuse to let transfer to the Depression Circle. I simply refuse.
Also, one of my regular families is moving to Colorado and I am obviously devastated. The problem with my job, babysitting, is that I get attached to kids that inevitably at some point I won’t see anymore. These little guys were some of my favorites and I was with them for a long time. Le sigh grande. Au revoir, mes amis. There will be no one to call me My Lindsay anymore. 😦
But there are still books, and super hero movies.
Watching: Avengers: Age of Ultron
It should be mentioned about now that I am a pretty big fan of Marvel. I read comics so I was pretty into it when Disney bought Marvel Studios and started up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yes, universe because world is too small, damn it), the series of connected movies and tv shows that all rely on each other for continued narrative.
At the beginning of May (I know, I meant the write this SO long ago) we got the newest installment since last August’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the second Avengers film, Age of Ultron. The film sees the heroes who banded together in The Avengers reunited and kicking some Hydra ass. Apparently, actually, we missed most of that fight because they’re towards the end of the clean up and hitting the last known base in an Eastern European country called Sokovia, where they plan to retrieve the scepter that Loki used to mind control everyone and open a space portal in the last film. Little do they know Baron von Strucker has been using it to experiment on people to give them enhanced powers. Still, they’re the Avengers and they manage to dispatch things easily enough. But then Tony Stark decides to build an artificial intelligence, which inevitably goes wrong and he, Ultron, tries to take over the world. End of synopsis, because no one wants to hear me get into the finer plot points.
Overall I was pleased with this movie. It wasn’t the strongest of the installations but it was a solid movie with a lot of humor and heart. Characters we don’t know as well, like Hawkeye, get flushed out a lot more and Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow, shares an adorable flirtation with Bruce Banner, who is basically the last person you’d expect her to pick but is so perfect because really, apart from his rage issues, he’s 100% adorable (there’s my predilection for nerds rearing it’s ugly head again). Sidekicks (I hate to say that about them but in the movies they just are) War Machine and Falcon appear a few times, and true to Whedon there’s plenty of witty banter and humor thrown in. My only wish was if they connected Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a little by showing a member of the team…. even in the background? Really we need May or Bobbie in the next one at the very least. I get that they want to keep them separate but I don’t understand why. Just throw a bone, not a whole steak.
I would feel remiss if I didn’t bring up these allegations of sexism that have been flying around the internet and apparently made Joss Whedon quit Twitter. I don’t agree. Now, I am the last person who would dismiss something I found sexist. And there are plenty of sexist things in comics (there will be a little more about that in a second), but I don’t think most of the complaints made were things that were accurate. There might be spoilers beyond here, but nothing too bad. The main issue seems to stem from Natasha’s comments about being a monster because she was sterilized as a “graduation” from the program she endured to become the assassin she was before she started working for S.H.I.E.L.D. She mentions this directly after Banner tries to scare her away by saying he can never have a normal life, like the one they’ve just witness their friend having, and can’t have children because, well, he turns into a big green rage monster. Natasha rejoins that she can’t either and gets wistful while recounting her sterilization. I didn’t think this was weird. My best friend commented that it seemed a little early in the relationship to be talking about kids, but I had to point out that, while true, they are not talking about a relationship that could ever be normal. And probably that is something you’d want to walk into with eyes open. I didn’t even consider that she was calling herself a monster because she wasn’t able to be a mother, I assumed it was for the same reasons she’s been concerned the whole freaking time we’ve known her, she used to kill people on command. I didn’t see her good relationship with her best friend’s children as very maternal, I saw it as she’s been there, they know her, she knew this secret about him that no one else did. And finally, while I did think it was problematic that only the beautiful woman could calm the Hulk back into Banner (they are going into life threatening situations, shouldn’t they have more than one backup plan?), I read it as more indicative of her recruiting him in the first movie. True, she cares for him, but she probably also feels responsible for him after dragging him out of his peaceful life in India and into the battlefield, when she knew from the beginning that he can’t always control himself and it’s something that tortures him. So, yes, I guess you can read it however you want, but I thought it was a stretch. I’m also familiar enough with Joss Whedon’s work (yes, I’m one of those weirdos who thinks he can do no wrong) to know that there is no way he was attempting to make her a weaker or more feminine character than what she is, because, frankly, Romanoff is tough as hell and Whedon is no sexist.
That, of course, does not excuse some of the insane merchandising and publicity errors that have been made in regards to her.
In whole, Age of Ultron often felt like it was riding the coattails of its much more put together sister, but I did really enjoy it in its own right. I’m not sure Ultron could stand alone, it begins abruptly, mid battle sequence, and the ending leaves us knowing there’s more to come. But that was okay with me because there is more to come. I’ve been hearing it described in terms of The Empire Strikes Back, and I think that is apt. It’s the middle of the story of this particular group, albeit with new villains and new allies, and that shows. It’s an installment, but that doesn’t in itself make it less entertaining.
Now, allow me a bit of a fangirling moment. With quiet a lengthy list of Marvel characters I’ve come to accept that my favorites are probably not going to end up on the screen all that often. I’m pretty attached to Kitty Pryde, for example, and I think Ellen Page played her pretty well (with what she was given in that piece of crap) in X-Men: Last Stand and again in Days of Future Past, but she wasn’t exactly a pivotal member of the group. I like Rogue too, and was okay with the version of her Anna Paquin played in the X-Men movies, though I can’t really describe that character as the same Rogue from the comics. You might notice that both these characters are mutants, and that’s basically because there is a long tradition of subpar female super heroes. Oh sure there are the Ms. Marvels and the Wasps and She-Hulks (I really hate it when they take male characters and just sort of make them female, it’s like… please express a little creativity here [though I will parenthesis again to say I am sort of excited about the prospect of Spider-Gwen, which I haven’t started yet]) and they’re good but they so often take a very back seat to the male members of the crew. So I have never expected too much. We got Black Widow, she’s rad, I’ll count my blessings. But then, then, they announced they’d be adding to the Avengers roster my, my, favorite character; Wanda Maximoff, or Scarlet Witch.
And, yeah, her brother Pietro (Quicksilver), who I like too but really cause he’s an extension of her and even though he’s sort of an asshole in the comics he’s usually pretty amusing. You can… sort of see him running by in that gif (also Aaron Taylor-Johnson is super hot). But anyway, I was already pretty excited about my girl showing up in the movies when they announced the casting of Elizabeth Olsen, who is pretty rad sauce in her own right. Plus… they gave her a pretty sweet costume. Something that has long bothered me about female super heroes is their inability to wear clothing that doesn’t resemble what a prostitute would wear while role playing some sort of super hero fantasy (oh, who am I kidding, I am aware who these books are drawn for and it ain’t for me). Basically I’ve always been of the mind that Scarlet Witch’s costume would fall of her body if she so much as raised an arm. And then there’s the scenes where she’s just hanging out in it. No one could possibly be comfortable in an outfit that tight.
Or that low cut. And can we talk about pink and red together for a minute? I’ve always approved costume changes in movies because frankly what works in comics really can’t always work in life. I was interested to see what Wanda would be wearing in Avengers, and I was a fan of the look. So she’s a little gothed out, it seems appropriate. And the visualization of her “hexes” was pretty on point, with the glowing hands and eyes and all. Basically, I approve, I approve it all. Welcome to the team Ms. Maximoff.
Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
There were a few points in this book where I was uncertain about how I felt about it. In a lot of ways it defies description. It’s undoubtedly well written, with language that often impresses. The book is almost completely character driven, though there are a few uncommon events that set the plot in motion. Georgia, Charlie, and Alice are all well realized characters that feel complete and real, though not completely likable. Often there were segments that I didn’t even really understand why they were part of the story for quite some time, but in the end I always felt like they were necessary.
Georgia, Charlie, and Alice are all friends at Harvard, connected by circumstances and Georgia’s laid back charisma. But when Professor Rufus Storrow, who is inexplicably connected to each of them, is accused of murdering their classmate, Julie Patel, events are set in motion that will radiate through each of their lives. Pretty Georgia, who’s well known at school for the nude pictures her photographer father took of her as a child, starts an affair with the intriguing but pompous professor, blue collar Charlie is in constant quest to join the ranks of the bluebloods he sees around and looks on Storrow as a potential mentor, and damaged Alice, so steeped in personal tragedy that she’s almost completely unaware of the pain she inflects on others.
I did like these characters, even if they have issues, because they were all intensely real. Something that tends to be important in character driven novels. It was somehow the character of Storrow, however, that held the piece together. He wasn’t an altogether pleasant character, something I’m not sure an accused murdered could be, but he was sort of fascinating. Clearly a product of his environment, his pomposity was pretty astounding. He was often ingenuine and clearly held himself above his peers with very little to back it up besides pedigree. In other words, he was a throwback from another era that no one misses but him. Which is what made him repellent and fascinating at the same time.
Alice, also, was notably interesting, but again, nearly deplorable. Clearly, she was not always in the right frame of mind to make the decisions she did, but often she went full ahead steam with no care to the consequences. Still, she was a very intriguing character. From her Serbian roots to the mess she made of her chic life in New York.
Overall, I thought this book was immensely readable, though I can’t promise that the experience will be a pleasant one.
The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw
First off, boarding school books are like my crack. I can’t get enough of those claustrophobic ivy covered walls. But, I wasn’t initially sure how I felt about this book. The writing is great, the setting extremely well drawn, and there are a series of complex characters that don’t always make the right choices but you can kind of see why. However, through a lot of it it seemed like pretty language and a beautiful setting was basically all the book had going for it. However, in the end I felt like everything gelled pretty well and I found myself thinking about it endlessly when I wasn’t physically reading it so I suppose it was very effective.
Charlie Garrett is straight out of Harvard when he gets a job at the Abbott School in rural Massachusetts and begins his fascination with May Bankhead, the youngest child of Preston Bankhead, the school’s chaplain. Many years later, when she returns from college, they begin a tentative romance. But when a shocking secret derails Charlie’s life and plans he leaves May and never explains why. Brokenhearted she leaves town. A further decade passes and Charlie’s charming half brother, Nick, gets a job at Abbott, just as May comes back to town. Hoping to bring happiness to both of them Charlie pushes the two together, but can have no idea what will happen when true selves start to be uncovered.
My main issue with it was golden boy, Nick. I really didn’t see his appeal. Though his appeal seemed to drive a major part of the book. He certainly had experiences, but the charisma we are constantly told he has wasn’t something that translated to the page for me. I get that we’re seeing this through the eyes of his half brother, who apparently thinks old Nick can do nothing wrong, but I needed to understand more. He was completely blah to me and so I basically did not care about him at all. The tragic romance between Charlie and May was really the draw for here. One of the few times where “I refuse to tell in order to protect the other” made a little bit of sense.