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text that says Renay's Section

I expected to have a more robust original fiction year. That was derailed in April when I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and fell face first into the fandom. Turns out my days of investing wholeheartedly in the new shiny are not yet past. Sorry, original fiction!

Books


Original fiction-wise, I've read 28 books, and 10 pieces of short fiction. Favorites for the year so far:


Other good pieces: The Clockwork Soldier by Ken Liu, The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang, Zero Sum Game by SL Huang.

Looking back over my reading so far, I've had trouble getting excited about books I've been picking up. I don't know if it's because I'm in the blush of a new fandom or if I'm selecting the wrong things, but I've started and given up on way more books this year than ever before (and then I go read MCU fanfic for three hours). I'm not having a very exciting reading year and it's disappointing! I can't get fired up about original fiction. The last book I truly, truly couldn't put down and jammed into my face like it was the 80k canon-compliant Steve/Bucky fic of my dreams was The Goblin Emperor. I want that feeling again. :( Who wants to read The Goblin Emperor with me and come discuss it? *sparkles*

July 1st also marks my plan to undertake a challenge Liz set forth in Sleeps with Monsters last year: For six months, try to read as many new books by women published out of a mainstream SFF publisher (on either side of the Atlantic) as you can. We'll see how this goes, although given that my library has suddenly taken to ordering books for me when I ask, I'm hopeful!

TRUTHFULLY I have been jamming way more fanfic in my face the last few months than anything else. I have a recommendation tag a MILE LONG. I have so many words I want to share about things and how much I love them, but for now everyone can have a list of the ones that have things in my pinboard comments saying this like "WRITE A LOVE LETTER COMMENT TO THIS FIC" and "this story deserves eighteen medals" and also "CRYING FROM DELIGHT".

I need to start finding fully formed sentences for the fic I love for our bi-weekly fanwork recs, regardless of how long my section gets.

(I ALSO ACCEPT RECS FOR BOOKS/STORIES YOU'VE LOVED.)

Film


SURPRISE: my favorite film so far this year is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I went in ignorant of comics canon, I came out DESTROYED. bury me at sea from the Reef of Tears. Ana, if you have WW2 nonfiction recs you've been waiting to push on me, this is the time to strike. :P Pretty sure my nonfiction reading list exploded from the critical discussion of this film.

I saw and loved Veronica Mars, and feel so lucky that we finally got our film. It lived up to all my huge expectations. Maleficent had some great gender and consent commentary, plus neat subversions, but the story itself was a bit of a hot, disconnected mess. The Fault in Our Stars was appropriately weepy and well done, but predictably I thought the book had more emotional resonance re: Hazel and Gus, and found most of my emotional enjoyment of the film came from Hazel's interactions with her parents, instead. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was fantastic. I'm missing a lot of the new releases, but they'll have to wait for DVD (insert continuous crying over Snowpiercer here).

I caught up on some films I missed, such as Man of Steel, which confirmed for me I hate what DC is doing with their movies and was right to forgo theater prices since all they're going to do is pedal pedestrian grimdark (also guilty of this: Elysium). Silver Linings Playbook, which I watched because of Jodie's post about it, was pretty good, although somewhat forgettable after the fact, since all I remember is Jennifer Lawrence cutting her role to the bone. Bridesmaids was pretty good, Gravity was just all right (I think I bought into the hype too much), Thor: The Dark World only interested me when Jane was on screen, and Riddick was a steaming pile of nonsense. I want to look this writer up and shake him vigorously, because what a fucking waste of the talent that film had. He had Katee Sackhoff and that's what he used her for? Ugh. Even know I knew I would dislike it, I watched Ender's Game and was super sad at the jerky, emotionally empty narrative the film created trying to jam everything that was in that book into two running hours. So many regrets.

Stats


At the end of June, out of my 37 non-anthology items, 62% were by women, 54% were by men; I'm pretty sure I didn't read any non-binary authors. :( Unfortunately, I'm also in the "wave of white women" boat, because although my gender balance is where I want it, my everything-else balance is horrible; 81% for stories by white people! That's just silly because I have a huge stack of things to read by tons of authors physically present on my shelf. I'm a meatball.

My book review balance is okay, too: six women, three men; this is skewed radically when I add in The Other Half of the Sky, but in the right direction because the anthology is dominated by women (FOLLOW UP ANTHOLOGY COMING SOON). I'm still finding my way with writing responses to books (as I constantly worry about being wrong, wrong, wrong), so hopefully the second half of the year will result in more reviews. :D




text that says Ana's Section

Books


I'm really grateful for all the amazing books I've so far read this year. Here are, in no particular order except for the first item, my favourites:

Other books I really liked: Emily of New Moon trilogy by L.M. Montgomery, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

Book I couldn't stop thinking about for ages: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay.

Instant favourite authors of the year: Kristin Cashore and Erin Bow.

As for non-fiction, I haven't read anywhere near as much of it as I'd have liked, but How to Suppress Women's Writing was great, and I bet I'll say the same about Rebecca Jordan-Young's Brainstorm when I finally move past the introduction.

Film


I continue to suck at keeping up with movie releases (or even at watching older ones of late), so all I have to report is that I watched and loved the Veronica Mars movie; watched Gravity and had mixed feelings; and watched Her, didn't hate it, but couldn't stop thinking about the elephant in the room (as in, what could have been an interesting movie failed to have any emotional resonance for me because it glossed over the fact that it set up a scenario where humans buy and sell other sentient beings).

Television


I may have ruined TV for myself for the rest of the year by starting 2014 with two series that blew my mind and destroyed me emotionally: My Mad Fat Diary and Friday Night Lights. What could possibly live up to that?

Since then I've kept up with ongoing favourite series like Parks and Recreation, Call the Midwife and Orphan Black, and am very much looking forward to doing the same with The Legend of Korra in the second half of the year. I also watched Bunheads and it was complicated. Unfortunately I've had quite a few false starts in the past few months and have failed to find a new series to settle on. I'm currently thinking of giving Orange is the New Black a try — I shall report back.

Music


I continue to listen to a lot of music by men. My big music obsessions of the year are Sun Kil Moon's Benji and Owen Pallett's In Conflict. I also followed Neutral Milk Hotel around the UK for a week (no regrets), plus I went to see The Twilight Sad play the whole of their first album and it almost made my heart burst.

Much to my shame, I haven't yet made time for the new Tori Amos, Sharon Van Etten or First Aid Kit. I'm very much into St Vincent's self-titled album, though, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her live this summer. My beloved Allo Darlin also have a new album coming out this year, and I'll also get to see them later this summer.

Stats


As of July 1st, I'd read 85 books in 2014; 71% of these were by women, 20% by men, and 9% were collaborations (I'm including mixed gender writer and illustrator collaborations under this category). I haven't, to my knowledge, read any works by non-binary authors. I'm doing better than last year when it comes to reading women, but I don't feel so great about my stats because only 15% of what I read was by authors of colour, and the percentage of works by lgbtq authors is even lower (5%). I hope to do better in the second half of 2014.




text that says Jodie's Section

Books


Ana from The Book Smugglers said it perfectly in her mid-year review — 'I might have read fewer books than I hoped but I am really happy with the overall quality of what I’ve read'. So far, 2014 has been a fantastic reading year for me, bringing me book after book that has hooked its claws into my heart and made me look at the world anew. And my resolution to wrap up the many series or trilogies I'd already started is bringing me back into contact with my favourite authors, reminding me why I love reading so much.

In no particular order, my favourites so far are:


Huh, look how many of those I haven't written a word about yet. Well that needs to change.

2014 has also seen one book related development I'd like to mention quickly — I making a push to read more short fiction. The two pieces I've started with ("If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love" and "Selkie Stories Are For Losers") have been wonderful. They've probably set the bar unreasonably high for future stories :P I'm currently working my way through the "Scheheredaze's Facade" collection and am looking forward to finding more interesting stories to discuss.

Film


As usual, I have seen a lot of bad films. Am I the only one out there with a serious affection for B-movies and slightly sloppy productions? Sometimes seeing a film with a lot of heart trying hard despite it limitations can be something special. My deliberately bad viewing so far has consisted of "Pompeii", "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (exactly the kind of terrible-awesome I wanted from my favourite superhero franchise), "Divergent", "Maleficent" (I wanted the whole film to be more like the second half) and "The Love Punch". Only five — I've been very restrained so far.

My favourite film of 2014 has been the "Veronica Mars" movie. 2014, all your crimes are forgiven just for bringing me this film and my particular cinema experience. It was so good to be able to watch it in a theatre and hear fellow fans clap for the pure existence of this film. I'm still working on my review because I got distracted by all the Veronica/Logan gifs that are out there, but expect there to be a huge, splurging post about it before the end of 2014.

Topping the list of other new releases that I've enjoyed is "Belle" — a wonderful period piece which twins the personal with the political. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" was very pretty and gave me a new appreciation for Ralph Fiennes' broad skill set. And "Thor: The Dark World" was a cute follow up containing romance, science and family pain. Loki and his mother :(

I also saved a couple of other releases until they went to DVD because I wasn't sure I could handle seeing them in a cinema. Sometimes I need tools like a pause button to help me appreciate films, so I watched "Twelve Years A Slave" after everybody else. Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor were as great as expected. And I will never forget the hanging scene as long as I live. Then I watched "Gravity" and frankly was glad I hadn't paid for it. It's an astounding technical achievement, but its particular merits just weren't enough for me. I like a bit more heart and interaction in my stories.

Biggest disappointment of the year — "The Book Thief". The actors were very good, but applying such a standard treatment to this novel made the adaptation a little flat and uninspiring. I think this was one of the most hotly anticipated films of the book blogging calendar and yet I heard so little chatter after its release.

Television


I generally spend a lot of my TV time watching lesser known British programs. "Call the Midwife", "The Paradise", "Mr Selfridge" and "The Crimson Fields" were all regular comfort fixtures in my schedule. "The Musketeers" also broke through my initial boredom and turned out to be a very cute 'bros' show with some rocking ladies who should have had way more screen time.

My biggest Brit TV recs are reserved for two shows — "Happy Valley" and "Peaky Blinders". "Happy Valley" is the latest creation from Sally Wainwright, producer of female focused buddy cop show "Scott and Bailey". "Happy Valley" is also a police drama about a female officer, but it's less procedural than Scott and Bailey and places more emphasis on family, career frustrations and romance than on friendship.

Right out of the gate, "Happy Valley" is just as dark as series three of "Scott and Bailey"; there's a lot of violence against women, so I appreciate it's not for everyone. However, if you can handle visual violence I think it has a lot of other content to recommend it. I fell for Sarah Lancashire's character, her family issues and dedication to justice after two episodes (ignore the first one — it's kind of terrible). And I'm particularly fond of the close relationship she has with her sister. "Happy Valley" is also a one off series so it's not a huge time investment. [personal profile] chaila, I hope you understand that I'm aiming this rec right at you.

On to my second rec — "Peaky Blinders". This new historical drama/crime show is set in the West Midlands so there's a personal connection for me, but for anyone who doesn't care about the underrepresentation of our region it's got Cillian Murphy, crime baron brothers, a female spy, twists and WWI feels! Fair warning — Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley are booked for the second series, which means the internet is going to be so on it. Make sure you don't get left behind.

Moving away from British drama, I watched series two of "Orphan Black". Sometimes just knowing I had those episodes to come home to made my day a little better. This show is special. And although I think there was maybe a bit too much going on this series, I actually can't tell you what I'd have cut because I loved everything. Sometimes shows are best a little messy. I also watched series two of "The Legend of Korra" which Ana and I talked about at length. It's been so great being able to throw myself under a pile of quality, female focused TV this year. SO. GREAT.

Other programs: I've been watching "Person of Interest" with Amy and I have unrestrainable shipper feels about Reese/Finch. If you don't get the ship there are also a lot of great female characters who start to emerge more as the show goes on. I love Carter, although I wish she were less tangled up in the boys biz later on, and Kara, Zoe and Root are just fantastic.

And, of course, I fangirled all over the probably doomed "Dracula". I really am the queen of cancellation.

Finally, (if we ignore some misfires and some terrible police/thriller dramas I don't really want to talk about) we come to "Prisoners of War", which I've been deeply mired in again this year. If you haven't heard about it, "Prisoners of War" is the Israeli drama "Homeland" was loosely based on. I love both shows in their own way, but "Prisoners of War" often makes better choices for its characters than "Homeland" does. And while it is missing a Carrie Matheson character, it contains some important and wonderfully characterised female characters (Amy, I think you would really like Talia — she's very Alison like).

The problem with reccing "Prisoners of War" is that it's a lot more claustrophobic and violent than Homeland, so it's not going to be accessible to everyone. Still, if anyone tries it then please let me know how you get on (and whether you want to talk about messed up ships).

Music


Earlier this year, Clare asked me what songs I was really into and not a lot has changed since then. I entered into an unending contract with Bastille's "Bad Blood" and became pathetically attached to "Counting Stars" by One Republic, because of circumstances. You can also find me listening to this cover of "Cry Me a River" quite a lot. The only new development is that I re-discovered Sheryl Crow's self-titled album on my mp3 player and I am really into Sheryl Crow again now. "Redemption Day" — woah.

Otherwise, a lot of the songs I found this year were used on fanvids. A quick recs list for songs from videos I watched this year:



I find I get stuck in music ruts so easily — any artists I should be listening to in the second half of 2014?

Stats


I've read 24 books so far this year. I thought this was a big drop off from last year, but when I look at my numbers from 2013 I'd actually read 26 books by July. I suddenly feel a lot better about my number this year.

Out of these 24 books, 18 were written by women and 6 were written by men. I haven't, as far as I know, read any books by non-binary writers. All books were written by one author except for two Hawkeye comic collections co-authored by David Aja and Matt Fraction.

18 of these books were written by white authors and 6 were written by chromatic authors. All of the books I've read by chromatic authors were by female chromatic authors. That's a low total for chromatic authors overall and I'd like to get this number to more closely match the number of books I've read by white authors, particularly as I've bought a lot of books by chromatic authors this year to give myself lots of readily available reading options. These books are in my house — it doesn't get any easier.

Looking at genre, 17 of the 24 books were SFF. SFF pretty much reigns supreme in my reading order right now. If I look at gender and race totals for those 17 books, just 2 were by a male author (unless I count the "Hawkeye" comics as SFF which changes the totals). However, only 4 of the SFF novels I read were by chromatic female authors. Again, that needs to change.

Date: 2014-07-12 03:53 am (UTC)
myfriendamy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] myfriendamy
What were your false television starts, Ana? I enjoyed the first season of Orange is the New Black and I'd be interested in your thoughts. I haven't gotten around to the second season yet, partly bc I had some issues with the way the first season ended and partly because I don't really feel like watching much of anything lately.

I did force myself through Her recently (lol I just have no concentration these days for some reason) and was actually more into the main character's grief/some of the ideas expressed than anything else, but I do get what you're saying in your tumblr post. That crossed my mind as I watched and made the whole thing slightly less believable for me.

Love the post and these kinds of posts! Wish I had more to add! Oh and re: OB I wouldn't have cut anything but I might have put the brakes on a few things and let them take more time. Oh and you said something about this a long time ago, Jodie, and I never answered...I have really mixed feelings about the Donnie development, but it was definitely funny and charming, I just think it was a bit too easy, if that makes any sense.

Date: 2014-07-12 07:31 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
First there was Nashville, which makes me really sad. Then The Village, a WW1 series Jodie rec'ed. I watched about half of it and thought it was really well done, but it was sadder than I can handle right now, so it's one to go back to when I'm in a better place. And I could swear there was something else, but can't for the life of me remember what.

I think I know what you mean about Her - there was something there that tugged at me, which is why I was so let down that they glossed over the power dynamics angle. It had the potential to be something I could really like, but it fell short.

Oooh, Donnie thoughts! Please come chat when we do our S2 post.

Date: 2014-07-13 05:15 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yeah it let me off the hook way easily - 'I had no idea you were probing my wife'. Also, I still think it's creepy (never mind unethical) to say 'sure, I'll report back to you on my wife for a sociological experiment' even if you don't know they're examining her in her sleep. I think I was into the romance element of murderers in love more than the fact that it was playing out between these two characters. Although I'm also in favour of Alison getting whatever she wants... All to say - yes come chat when we do our S2 post.

I still hate Paul though - that's a given.

Date: 2014-07-12 10:35 am (UTC)
goodbyebird: Arrested Development: Arthur and Buster sitting on the floor, "Wow, we're just blowing through naptime, aren't we?" (AD blowing straight through naptime)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
If any of you are looking for a gothic horror/crossover show, featuring actual sexual fluidity and sporting an excellent cast, give Penny Dreadful a go! Eva Green will blow. your. mind.

And I don't get why I keep forgetting to catch up on Peaky Blinders. I do need to be getting on that.

Date: 2014-07-12 07:32 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I've seen you talk about it on Twitter and I'm definitely curious. I'll let you know if I do watch it!

Date: 2014-07-13 10:50 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I want Penny Dreaful so much but I don't have the channel it's on here *sulks*. It would have been such a great addition to the Living line up but ended up on stupid premium package Atlantic.

I love lists!

Date: 2014-07-12 10:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So... I clearly really, really need to get around to reading The Goblin Emperor! I don't think I've seen a single film in the cinema this year and am feeling a bit behind the curve on my viewing on TV as well! Also. Pompeii is one of my favouritest songs and I pretty much have it on loop when I need a boost so I have made a resolution to get Bad Blood asap!

Thanks for the lists, ladies. I am off to make a list based on your lists!

Peta

Re: I love lists!

Date: 2014-07-12 07:32 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
The Goblin Emperor is so, so great.

Date: 2014-07-12 04:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
I'm sure I had other comments to make, but OMG! Tome Hardy is going to be in Peaky Blinders???!!! I'd better watch it so, recorded the series but haven't watched even a second of it yet.

Date: 2014-07-13 10:52 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yes he is (I knew this was the way to get people in to it)! They haven't confirmed his role (opponent or friend of Cillian Murphy) just that he'll be a boss of some kind. Also I think the guy who is Ned Stark in Game of Thrones is joining too?

Date: 2014-07-13 01:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
The guy that played Ned Stark!? Do you mean Sharpe!! aka Sean Bean, in which case it certainly must be watched in my house. Sean Bean = always watch. Even when the show/film is rubbish.

Date: 2014-07-13 05:12 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Turns out I had the totally wrong GoT family - it's some guy called Noah Taylor. But OMG looking into this brought me to the exciting news that Sophie Rundle (Happy Valley, Episodes, The Bltchley Circle) will be joining the cast too.

Date: 2014-07-14 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
No Sean :( Now I am disappointed!

Not really, Tom Hardy is enough for anyone.

Date: 2014-07-12 05:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
Renay, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is so, so worth it, though! I'm a lurker, born and bred, but oh my GOSH all the meta and commentary that's coming out of that fandom is astonishing.

Ana, oh, man, I need to get on Sorrow's Knot! I feel like I've been meaning to pick it up since last fall. And I also need to get jumping on Legend of Korra, because I cannot just watch Sailor Moon all day.

Jodie, no, you're not! The higher the budget and shoddier the production, the happier I am. X-Men: Days of Future Past was perfect in this regard, for that half that was actually the sequel to First Class, which never took itself too seriously even as it took its characters very seriously.

Also, Sheryl Crow is the bomb. "Strong Enough" is a great song. I've fallen in love with Vaudeville Smash (they're the ones who did "Zinedine Zidane (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrOLGifnMJk)") and MS MR recently—I think you'd prefer MS MR out of the two. Check out their "Think of You (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47iXIEkNYvM)." Warning: the video is well trippy.

(Oh, I just had a "oh, no she's hot" moment finding that music video. What amazing hair!)

Date: 2014-07-12 07:34 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
You totally do. If I get my act together again re: reviewing it's definitely one I want to write about, because it hit me right in the heart.

PS: I read Kingfisher's Club! The only reason why it's not on this list is because it was already July, but OH MAN. You were right (as per usual) and I'm in love.

Date: 2014-07-12 08:58 pm (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
LURKERS ARE IMPORTANT. ;) But you won't escape beta reading this story when I finish it. I WILL MEASURE ITS SUCCESS BY YOUR TEARS.

Date: 2014-07-13 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.pip.verisignlabs.com
Ah, sounds like y'all have had as excellent a reading year as I have. I'm a teeeeeeny bit of a slump at the moment, but I feel like I can't complain about it because I've had such a great bunch of books so far in the year.

Date: 2014-07-15 05:24 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
I find summer brings slumps. Lots of things don't quite fit with sunshine.

Date: 2014-07-14 11:02 pm (UTC)
chaila: Diana SWORDFIGHTING in a BALLGOWN. (scott & bailey - bffs)
From: [personal profile] chaila
I fell for Sarah Lancashire's character, her family issues and dedication to justice after two episodes (ignore the first one — it's kind of terrible). And I'm particularly fond of the close relationship she has with her sister. "Happy Valley" is also a one off series so it's not a huge time investment.

I really hadn't heard anything about this show at all, but: 1) lead lady dedicated to justice: 2) close sister relationship; 3) short season. WELL. You certainly know how to tailor a rec! :D Going to find it right now!

Which is especially good timing, because I have been drifting away from all the SFF TV I've been trying the past few months, and think I may just need to take a break from plotty stuff. Which left me with a very short to-watch list over the summer.

Date: 2014-07-15 05:24 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yay! I rec it with a lot of caveats for violence and that first ep but also sisters!! And hilariously exhausted but patient monologues about drugs - aww. Also, I'm not surprised you hadn't heard about it because a lot of people wrote it off after the first ep which had a weird script and kind of treated kidnapping and rape farcically.

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