Let’s Chat About Serials

I may be the last person out there who hasn’t finished listening to NPR’s Serial (I know, I know), but I have also discovered a new kind of serial – book serials!  

I may have made it clear before that I’m basically obsessed with all of Seanan McGuire’s books so far – if I haven’t I’ll go on the record and admit that I love everything that I’ve read.  Currently I’m addicted to her amazon kindle serial Reflections (Indexing #2).  This brings a new chapter onto my kindle every 2 weeks.  I read the first 4 chapters in one serious binge and now it’s like I get a little present on my kindle every other week.  I also was able to beta read this way for the amazing Christina June and it was so fun!  I actually really like being able to only read so far at a given time.  That way I can’t keep myself up too late like I did last week finishing the Lake House (amazing!)  

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McGuire’s Indexing was the first serial book I read – twisted fairy tales at their finest.  We have a world where a Sleeping Beauty’s curse could put an entire city to sleep and a Pied Piper’s music could lead to mass suicide.  Things only get stranger based on the fairy tale in question.  Thankfully we have Henrietta Marchen and her team at the ATI Management Bureau who try to keep a handle on all the stories.  In Reflections the team is back and things are even scarier right now!  I’m loving the perspective of an Evil Stepsister and I cannot wait for my afternoon commute to read my next chapter.  This is a lot of entertainment for just $2.00!

Are there any other amazing serial books I’m missing?  Do you like reading this way?   Am I really the last person to finish listening to Serial?

Two Books Called Feed

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In M.T. Anderson’s Feed, the future is a place where 73% of Americans have “feeds” embedded into their brains, which allow personalized advertisements and entertainment to reach directly into the brain. School™ is run by corporations and primarily teaches kids how to use their feeds. Titus, our narrator and main character, doesn’t read or do a lot of thinking for himself.

They had built a pretty nice stucco mall there, so Loga and Quendy said we should go in and buy some cool stuff to go out in. That seemed good to us. I wanted to buy some things but I didn’t know what they were.

In Mira Grant’s Feed, the world is twenty-some years past the start of the Rising – in which a medical advance gone wrong means that everyone on earth has the potential to become a zombie, either through contact with a zombie or via the virus that lies dormant in everyone. On the plus side, cancer has been cured, so the cigarette companies are back on top. Georgia, our narrator and main character, is a blogger following the 2040 presidential campaign.

I’ve encountered his type before, usually at political protests. They’re the sort who would rather we paved the world and shot the sick, instead of risking life being unpredictable and potentially risky. In another time, they were anti-Semitic, antiblack, antiwomen’s liberation, anti-gay, or all of the above. Now, they’re antizombie in the most extreme way possible, and they use their extremity to claim that the rest of us are somehow supporting the “undead agenda.”

In Anderson’s Feed, the world – as experienced by Titus – is reduced to unchecked, all-encompassing consumerism.

It smelled like the country. It was a filet mignon farm, all of it, and the tissue spread for miles around the paths where we were walking. It was like these huge hedges of red all around us, with these beautiful marble patterns running through them. They had these tubes, they were bring the tissue blood, and we could see the blood running around, up and down. It was really interesting. I like to see how things are made, and to understand where they come from.

In Grant’s Feed, the world – as described by Georgia – is reduced to living in constant fear. While (non-implanted) internet feeds are still full of “porn, music download, and movie tie-in sites,” Georgia and her readers rely on her words.

My material rarely depends on graphics. I don’t need to concern myself with camera angles, lighting, or whether the footage I use gets my point across. At the same time, they say a pictures is worth a thousand words, and in today’s era of instant gratification and high-speed answers, sometimes people aren’t willing to deal with all those hard words when a few pictures supposedly do the job just as well. It’s harder to sell people on a report that’s just news without pictures or movies to soften the blow. I have to find the heart of every subject as fast as I can, pin it down on the page, and then cut it wide open for the audience to see.

These two futures are both terrifying – and Anderson and Grant both include just enough details that you could almost see either of them playing out. I don’t want to live in either of these futures, but if I had to choose, I’d probably opt for the zombies and maintaining control of my brain.

Grant’s Feed is book one of a triology, and you better believe that I’ll be reading two and three soon. Unless the zombies get me first.

Anderson’s Feed is all the more remarkable when you realize it was published in 2002. So basically, M.T. Anderson invented Facebook, eh? Also, perhaps my favorite moment in this book is when the kids start showing up in Riot Gear, as a fashion statement: “it’s retro. It’s beat up to look like one of the big twentieth-century riots. It’s been big since earlier this week.” This includes, I kid you not, one of the girls asking another, “Kent State collection, right?” It’s like Anderson predicted this infamous clothing item from 2014.

Resist the feed.

 

 

GoT Update…Still Reading, Sort-of

Here’s a continuation of our ongoing GoT discussion!

We last left the conversation off here.

Holly’s review of Game of Thrones can be found here.

Amanda: I think I hate this book – in part because of the hype. I thought I’d love it right away.

Holly: Do you just think everyone is the worst? Because they sort of are.

Amanda: Yeah I think I hate everyone except Bran and Jon Snow. Maybe Ned. I don’t hate Ned.

Holly: Oh, Ned.

Amanda: Also, why is this mf’er so LONG?

Holly: It doesn’t get any shorter.

Amanda: Catelyn just called out Tyrion. This might have just gotten more interesting.

<interlude for more reading>

Amanda: I hate this book because nearly no one except Neddie and the kids (so far) is who they’re supposed to be.  It’s getting tiresome.  Maybe Dany, but she’s so minor right now I just don’t know if I care – 45% in.

Holly: I think that’s true, but it’s not necessarily a problem for me. The whole story is really about the Starks: Starks v. Lannisters, and Starks v. the whole f’ed up kingdom. I hated that the men were complex characters while the women and girls were all one dimensional…but that seems to change. Or else I am developing immunity.

from http://glockgal.tumblr.com/image/19440986541

How awesome is this picture? from http://glockgal.tumblr.com/image/19440986541

Amanda: Hmmmm.

Holly: Hmmm like I am profound?

<interlude while Amanda considers my profundity. Or continues to hate-read.>

Amanda: Yes, Holly I always find you to be profound!

I admit I’ve given up at this point.  I will go back because I am afraid of you.  Just a little.  Since that one time you punched me.  Or I’m mostly just afraid that if I don’t finish you won’t read anything else I might try to make you read.  And since your life will not be complete if you don’t read Quintana of Charyn, I’ll finish this monstrosity.

But I’ve realized a new issue that I have due to all the hype around this book – Rape Anxiety.  I just don’t want to read about it. And due to all the facebook posts and tweets about the show and the books, I know it’s coming and I just could do without reading about rape.

I know I’m a total nut for Seanan McGuire, but she wrote a great blog piece about why sexual violence doesn’t have to happen in her books and I love her even more for it.  I think we hear enough about situations in real life in which women have their power taken away from them due to sexual violence. and I don’t need it in my fiction too. I’m not saying I don’t read books where rape happens or that I put down books because of it, because I don’t. But when its an issue enough that people who don’t read the books or watch the show Game of Thrones are talking all about the rapes, I think it crosses a line for me.

Holly: Don’t worry sister! As I was waxing poetic about the library , I searched to see if they had Quintana yet, and they do. So, that should be waiting for me to pick up soon.

However, now I sort of feel between a rock and a hard place – because I do want you to read GoT, but I also can’t really defend against the rape aspect. Obviously, I wrote a whole post about how I felt George R.R. Martin hates women, and at least 45% of the statements that come out of my mouth can be directly linked to a feminist-worldview, and well, the other 55% are probably less than 6 degrees away.

So I get it. And I shall respond very very carefully. 

What bothers me in GoT, and in any book, is when rape is used as a characterization – like, we are supposed to understand something about the Dothraki culture based on the preponderance of rape among Dothrakis. And among the wildings. And even among the brothers of the Night’s Watch, which is an escape outlet for rapers.

Not cool, George.

On the other hand, sometimes terrible things happen to the people in the GoT world, rape included. Daenerys’s sexual experiences are integral to the story, and to her development as a character. And the way her story is written seems…realistic, for lack of a better word, for a 13 year old married to a warrior several times her age. For a non-GoT example, think about Lisbeth Salander in the Millenium Trilogy – there is a really really awful rape scene in that book, which plays a pivotal role in Lisbeth’s life. Fun to read? No, obviously. But I don’t think that negates the rest of the story. And, I’ll add that it is possible to write about rape in a way that neither normalizes or excuses it – see Froi of the Exiles…which you demanded I read, no?

For what it’s worth, the storylines in the books really run the gamut in the s-e-x department: consensual sex, sex with prostitutes, young love & young lust, (unexpected) protection against rape, and women using their sexuality as a weapon.

And well, if all else fails, just take your tips from this brilliant piece of satire. You know, turn off that feminist consciousness for a minute, kick back, and read: http://www.theonion.com/articles/woman-takes-short-halfhour-break-from-being-femini,35026/

Also, oh dear. Did you just tell the internet that I punched you one time? For the record, I think I was 6. I have since learned healthier ways to deal with anger. I swear!

Amanda:  You are the funniest person I know over the age of 3.  Back to reading I go.  Heavy sigh.

Series I need to reread (like, yesterday)

I have a love/ overwhelmed relationship with books that come in series. As a kid, I could not get enough – The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley Twins (and the more risqué Sweet Valley High pinched from Amanda), and, my favorite, The Boxcar Children. I loved polishing off one and heading right into the next, and it seemed like there was always another book waiting for me in one of those seemingly never-ending series.

Sidenote: suddenly, I must know how never-ending these books really were. Hold on while I google… 132 in the regular series of the Babysitter’s Club (plus specials), 118 Sweet Valley Twins (plus specials), and 135 Boxcar Children (of course, plus specials).

Sidenote to my sidenote: I keep railing to my sister lately about how all the YA series that the kids (uh, and the adults) are reading these days include special “novellas” that tell the stories between the story. Usually, my reaction is, that if it wasn’t good enough for your main book, I don’t want to read the leftovers (I generally feel the same way about deleted scenes as “bonus material.”) Anyway, apparently I forgot that all my favorite series (serieses?) did include special extras – though, I maintain that at least those had the decency to be the same size (or bigger!) than the regular books.

Oh dear. Where was I? Yes, as an adult, I get overwhelmed by the idea of taking on a new series. Deciding to read one book – fine; deciding to read seven…well, that takes more dedication. Or, more threats, as Amanda might disown me if I don’t read everything by Mira Grant/ Seanan McGuire, pronto.

Anyway, adding to my clearly self-inflicted reading drama, is the further “problem” of wanting to find time to reread some of the series(es?) that I really really loved. Sigh. How am I ever going to find time to read all the new books that Amanda demands of me, plus all the well-loved favorites that are beckoning?

Here’s what I want to get back to:

Harry Potter – I read all the HPs pretty sporadically, picking them up here and there, and sometimes re-reading, sometimes not. I was the same way with the movies, until J-the-Completest wanted to watch them all in sequence (over several weeks, mind you). And then he found the complete set on blu-ray for cheap, so we went through and watched them all again, recently. Between the JK Rowling statement about Harry and Hermione, and Amanda and I’s love for Rowling’s newest character, Comoran Strike, I really need to do a HP re-read!

The Hunger Games – The HG trilogy was the first purchase I made when I get my Kindle a few years ago, and I sort of devoured the whole thing quickly. I liked it – and then I really liked the first movie – and then I really really liked the second movie. So, I’d like to reread the books sometime before the next movie comes out (though I think splitting the third book into two movies is extremely silly).

The Millennium Trilogy – I’ve been talking about YA books throughout this post, and these books are decidedly not! That said, if you haven’t read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, you are missing out. I have the first one and the third one sitting on my bookshelf. I really need to buy the second (I had borrowed it from a friend to read), and then re-read them all. My incomplete collection probably gives J the heebie-jeebies.

Anyway, I’ll get right on these…after I catch up in Game of Thrones…and finish the Lumatere Chronicles

What’s your favorite series to revisit?

Review: Half Off Ragnarok

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid #3), Seanan McGuire

Reviewed by Amanda

Published by DAW, March 4, 2014

Paperback 368 pages

Source: Amazon

17667009From Goodreads…

When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn’t expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.

Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone…

The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.
Of course, so do the talking mice.

I think I would like to spend just a few hours in Seanan McGuire’s head while she’s writing or thinking about her writing projects.  She goes from the book series I still can’t shut up about, Newsflesh, to her new Parasite series, to the October Daye series, to Incryptid and still more I haven’t read yet.  She lists her writing projects on her blog and I just don’t know how she can keep it all straight!  So more than a few hours in her head would be way too exhausting for me-but I feel it would be amazing.

McGuire jumps you in with both feet to her InCryptid world, but she gives you a comfortable landing place.  She doesn’t infodump, but fills you in all along so you’re comfortable in the world of the Price family.   I don’t think you necessarily have to have read books 1 and 2 of this series to follow Half Off Ragnarok, but they are also really fun. The Price family are all pretty much nuts which is why the series is so enjoyable.  They take their work and family relationships seriously, but nothing else.  Again, the books are just fun, and while there’s action, thus far they haven’t broken my heart like October Daye (that pie still kills me) or the Newsflesh trilogy.   This series makes me laugh, but keeps me thinking too.

I like that McGuire writes kick ass female protagonists like Verity Price, but her male leads like Alex are great too.  I really enjoyed his science nerd outlook and I’m looking forward to his next book.  Half Off Ragnarok gives us some of the characters who were in Verity’s world which I really enjoyed, but also introduces some awesome new species as well.  And there’s actually a very helpful lexicon included in the books so you can keep track of all the Cryptids.

And really, how can you not love a series with talking, worshipful mice?  Though that could be my one complaint, they weren’t in this book enough!   I want my own colony of Aeslin mice very badly.  I wonder how they’d do with a labrador?

I’m thankful that Seanan McGuire writes so much of everything because she has a ton of Price family short stories on her blog.  I need to sit down and read all of these to get my fix before 2015 and the next InCryptid.  Though I admit-I’m already reading Half Off Ragnarok again.

5 stars!  Read all her books!
Holly I might have to put these on your assigned reading shelf!

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday

Amanda

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

My pick  is Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire.  As I’ve said already I’m obsessed with Feed, written by McGuire’s alter ego Mira Grant.  I think the InCryptid series might be among the most bizarre books I’ve read, but I loved the first two.  This series follows a family of cryptozoologists.  Right-what?  There are dragons, there are talking mice, there is just a ton of bizarre beasts and ghouls in these books.  But as always McGuire’s protagonists include amazing women who are brave, loyal and have kick-ass attitudes.   Half-Off Ragnarok follows a brother of the Price clan so I’m looking forward to one of McGuire’s books from the male perspective.  In the meantime there are a ton of short stories that she’s published from this series so I need to start reading to keep myself busy!  Go check them out!