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Time to look back at 2015!

2015 was the year I learned I'm terrible at exclusive reading challenges. I prefer inclusive but dangerously optimistic reading challenges that hike up the amount of media you jam into your eyeballs in a year but don't block you from reading wherever your whims take you. Reading 100 unique women in 2016 is absolutely something I should do! I've already peer-pressured a few people into this with me so it's going well so far. :D

I learned that I have a lot more feelings about Tony Stark and his worth as a character than I realized, that I don't enjoy "classic" SF, and that I don't actually like drama/wank all that much even when it's culturally relevant. I no longer feel bad about these things (and I felt bad about them for a Long Time).

I learned I will refuse to add books to my to-read list via Goodreads because I get anxious about people judging me for my reading choices. Then I create multiple unsorted private to-read lists that I later have to sort through (I am still not done, sorry Goodreads friends). This creates more anxiety because I then worry about flooding people's feeds. What this boils down to: never develop an anxiety disorder. MY LIFE LESSON FOR THE MASSES.

I learned that sometimes it's okay to be an asshole when it comes to my self-care, even in fandom, because fandom has changed drastically in the last five years (and not always for the better). It's a brave new world.

However, I'm still learning that I can stop obsessing about being good enough and enjoy that I'm pretty good at the things I try hardest at and that includes media criticism. Yes, maybe I don't understand a lot of things thoroughly because I was cheated out of quality secondary/college level education. But that's all right, because I'm willing to learn when necessary. And if I'm not good at it and my contributions aren't useful, it still makes me happy to do it. I'm not immediately wrong if someone disagrees with me. I'm not naive, or stupid, or clueless if my opinion differs from someone else's perspective. I'm not lesser if I'm not as smart or well-spoken as other critics. My media perspective doesn't have to be useful to be worthwhile. I don't have to be useful to be worthwhile.

This is officially Too Deep for a media review. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Favorite Moving Pictures That When Played in a Certain Order Left Me a Sentient Cloud of Human Emotion

The theme of 2015 in visual media for me was that I like women and also space, and especially love WOMEN IN SPACE.

Agent CarterAgents of SHIELDCamp TakotaInside OutJessica Jones

Agent Carter: The first season of this show was a brutal, call-out rich, adventurous badass women with opinions good time. It had excellent characters and a solid, self-contained plot, and laid good groundwork for the next season to be better at representation than the first season managed.

Agents of SHIELD: I'm so surprised that this show has grown to be one of my favorite TV moments each week. After the end of S2, they earned some points with me and I've enjoyed most episodes even while I was disagreeing wholeheartedly with their writing choices. Daisy and Mack. ♥

Camp Takota: This was a surprise to me because although I enjoy these women as individual comedians, I didn't know if that would translate to acting. It feels like a very homegrown, filmed-in-the-backyard, project-of-joy film, and that's exactly what it delivers. Friendships between ladies! Complicated relationships as people grow up and change! Fights and disagreements that feel like they could be real fights! It's a delight.

Inside Out: This film surprised me because I expected more of the little girl, Riley, because instead she shared the spotlight with Joy and Sadness, and the message of the film was so deftly handled and shared. It's not only a beautiful piece of animation, I love how it gives us the ability to talk about memories and emotions without treating some as better than others.

Jessica Jones: Dark, brutal, but never unhopeful, I loved Jessica Jones so much. I've never binged through a Netflix show before, but this time I took two days and was completely done, going back to watch key episodes and scenes after, too. The explicit way the show deals with sexual assault, abuse, and making women property is incisive. All the women has relationships with other women on this show! I do wish that some of the early choices they made had been different, but on the whole I thought this was a great effort.

Jupiter AscendingThe MartianMad Max: Fury RoadStar Wars: The Force AwakensWhite House Down

Jupiter Ascending: I love this film even more now than I did when I first watched it. So much text has been spilled over its worth/merit as a film (and I contributed) but I'm learning to be okay with finding value and happiness in media that Culture tells me is dumb and pointless. Plus, this film has gravity rollerblades, which puts it at 7 stars alone at least.

The Martian: I bounced off the book, but Matt Damon's charisma and the message of hope and human connection made this film a joy to watch. The tension paid off, over and over, without having to resort to lazy tricks, and showed how great it is when people work together to accomplish a goal. Awesome, smart characters were played by women! And I cried over potatoes. This film was wonderful.

Mad Max: Fury Road: When I watched the trailer for this film, I was dubious. I might have been outright dismissive. I expected a tale about an illusory world powered by what people think testosterone does to angry white dudes, and instead got a film that centers women and literally puts more than five women on screen at a time. They talk and they share their thoughts and feelings with each other and it's wonderful.


White House Down: Okay, so I went into the film suspicious, because the premise you have to buy to believe that this could actually happen is Extremely Large. Also, was this gonna be another "Muslims are bad!" roller coaster ride? Well, spoilers: all the bad guys are white dudes high on guns/power. Although the film makes you think Channing Tatum is the hero (it's easy to assume, since his muscles are the most oiled on the marketing material), but he's actually just the brawn to another character's brain and it's AMAZING. I loved this silly action movie that destroys the White House and lets Jamie Foxx be a super cool president so much. A+

Honorable Mentions: Wild (I love Reese Witherspoon in this), Ant-Man (I need more Michael Peña in everything and also MORE HOPE IN THE MCU PERIOD), Daredevil (why do bad things happen to good Foggies?).

Word Bombs in the Form of Books That Were Fired Into My Heart By Literary Cannon-Wielding Authors

One year I have hopes that I'll read enough to split this section into my dream categories: fiction, sequential art, and nonfiction. That day hasn't arrived yet but ONE DAY IT WILL.

cover of Ancillary Swordcover of Ancillary Mercycover of Attachmentscover of Bone Gapcover of Black Wolves

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: I read Ancillary Sword late for whatever reason (possibly due to a reread of the first book), but I was so happy with it. Sometimes with middle books in trilogies, it can feel like a side trip on the way to the larger conclusion in the last book. But here there's a very specific story that plays into the larger political implications of the colonialism that plagues Radch space that is self-contained while still making the point the first book worked hard to underline. It puts all too human faces on the problem of privilege and inequality and personhood and ends up being very touching. It was lovely.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie: If I had 500 hearts for Ancillary Sword, I have 10,000 for Ancillary Mercy, which closes the door on Breq's conflict, both political and personal, with one of the most pitch perfect narrative triple flips I have ever read. A realistic look on resolving an empire-wide problem on a personal scale, the realities of being someone who needs help to function and how even aggressive dictators can get it right, the realization that human connection is important and what exactly human means depending on the context, and some hilarious political comedy made this book one of my most favorite series resolutions in years. Cuddling! ♥ And I kind of ship Sphene/Zeiat and I'm not sorry.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: A few years ago Ana read this book, and although I had heard of it I was a bit put off by the premise, which seemed pretty creepy and wrong. The book never deals with the imbalance in the main romantic relationship, but honestly what really made me love this book was the strong core of friendship between the women whose emails are being read without their knowledge. Through their communication we see how much they care for each other, the rough edges of their relationship, and how they support one another. More than a romance, it's a book about finding yourself, enjoying the person you are, and loving the people you've chosen to surround yourself with or letting them move on if you can't. I did enjoy the resolution which manages to be fulfilling without excusing the way the romance began.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: This little book was such a surprise to me, because I'm fairly vocal about finding YA narratives very samey in a not-good way. (Different plots, same narrative voice!). 20 pages in I expected the same thing but then something happened; something about the way the characters were interacting made me change how I was reading the book, there's an odd twist, and I was invested. This is a hard book to describe without spoilers, but it deals with the mixed gender friendship, commodification of women, desirability, shaming girls for their sexuality while letting boys walk free of judgment, and what it means to love someone beyond the physical. It's a compact, fascinating fantasy story that I'm so glad [ profile] booksmugglers recced me.

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott: Someone joked that I should have opened my book section with Black Wolves represented 15 times, complete with images. I almost did it. I try not to play favorites within my top books of the year, because it's so hard to quantify how much I loved something, and I feel bad if I go "well, I loved X book more than Y" but I'm going to break the rule to say that if I was forced to choose a favorite title of the year it would be Black Wolves. It's an epic fantasy full of women that demand space in their own stories, shows that even if the most dire circumstances, women always have agency to make choices, and creates a multi-generational world of characters whose stories overlap and interweave with each other to build incredible tension. Black Wolves made me want to read more epic fantasy and most of all, made me want to write something (even if all I ended up writing was reviews about how great Black Wolves is). That's when I know a book has hit home with me—it fills me up with joy and happiness and creative energy. I adore this novel. ♥

cover of Carry Oncover of City of Stairscover of The Fifth Seasoncover of Karen Memorycover of The Kingdom of Gods

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: I admit immediately that I am a good audience for this book, being familiar both with Harry Potter fandom as well as Fangirl where the premise for this novel was born. I hoped for an adorable, happy story, and what I got was an adorable, happy story that used some of its space to engage with some longtime fan criticisms of Harry Potter, perhaps not at incisively as could have been done in a longer work of fiction or a nonfiction essay, but in a way that was interesting and metatextual. I also will never turn my nose up at a story with queer characters that ends without me an emotionally cratered mess. And maybe that's a spoiler, but OH WELL. It's a romance novel and if you don't know how romance novels end you should read more romance novels because they're great. Just like Carry On!

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: I fought with myself over this novel because on one hand I loved it to pieces and on the other I wanted to send the author a glitter bomb via the postal service, like, "THAT FEELING YOU'RE FEELING HAVING TO CLEAN ALL THAT GLITTER OUT OF YOUR EVERYTHING? YEAH THAT'S HOW MY HEART FEELS." But in the end I choose my favorite books because of feelings, and sometimes a book gives me so many feelings I end up liking it in spite of the flaws and that's pretty weird but the heart wants what it wants. I did not dislike this book. I disliked some aspects of this book, but mostly I was like a Care Bear, except instead of tummy symbols hearts were exploding from my eyes but the heart shapes were filled with the cover of this book. It really creeped everyone out. I loved the characters and their history and the choices they had to make and the ruthless world that still felt hopeful at the end. Ugh, I loved this book and it made me so mad. I still loved it, though. YOU WIN THIS ROUND, BOOK.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: To say I had expectations the size of the moon for this novel is understating the case. I knew Jemisin was going to do something incredible, intriguing, and subversive, and if I did actual ratings I would give this 1000 out of 10 because this novel wrecked me. I really enjoy layered novels that leave discoveries for you to pick up as you reach the middle and end of the stories. They're not like "gotcha!" reveals but instead quiet revelations that change how you see the narrative, story, and the people within those structures, and force you to come to grips with your assumptions. Plus it gets bonus points for all the great characters, deployed so well and with so much consideration for their perspectives and circumstances. So mesmerizing and great.

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear: I adored this sweet, adventurous romp of a book. Karen Memory is about a team of uber competent sex workers, filled with spies and badass ladies working with a US Marshall to solve murder mysteries and to foil plots by Evil Masterminds. This is a steampunk adventure story, and there's plenty of cool gadgets and shenanigans, but there's also a super cute lesbian romance and a load of excellent women who care for and boost each other up when things get hard. It's about support networks and friendship and women who look at the lay of the land and become their own heroes because like hell they're gonna put their backs to the ground and get run over. I said when I first wrote about this book that Karen is a superhero and looking back I really, really think she is. This is every boy's adventure story but instead it's a girl who is good at a lot of things, like working with horses and writing and having adorable crushes and wielding steampunk machinery like a pro. ALSO DID I MENTION THE ROMANCE WAS AMAZING? Almost a year later I still think of the romance and have to press my hands to my face in glee because it's so super cute. Anyway, yes, if you haven't read this yet you should totally read it.

The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin: I have been dragging my feet on finishing the trilogy, because I was so sad it was going to be over (although I have one novella left). I expected to love this book, because I loved its predecessors so much and so hard, but when I read the last page of this book I was in tears. Because wow, this book gave me all the complicated poly relationship drama I could have ever wanted with a delicious side of magic and fantasy and then a twisty knife of familial drama. It also, too, feels multi-generational, which makes the character dynamics incredibly tense and uncertain, and more than anything else it was these characters that tugged me through the politics and pain of this kingdom. It was both a bittersweet but superb conclusion.

cover of Lumberjanes Volume 1cover of Nemesis Gamescover of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 1cover of Uprootedcover of The Winter Long

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen: I could rec the whole of this comic through at least Issue #17 (the last that Stevenson wrote), but I'm sticking with the first volume because these issues are when I realized I was in the comic for the long haul. I read each issue as it comes out and this is the first time I'm considering buying the beautiful trade collection on top of the single issues, because I want to support and cheerlead this comic on forever. Lumberjanes is funny and thoughtful and this first volume is a great introduction to the characters and their summer-camp world. It's definitely my kind of humor, very wink-wink and nudge-nudge, with a bit of a in-joke feel for those acquainted with historical women. There are also puns. I love puns (I also love kittens). The art is bright and cheerful and it's all about friendships and adventure and I'm so happy it's here for me read. My inner little girl is overjoyed that this comic exists and I hope I get to keep reading it for another few years. ♥

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey: I give this series so much crap so often, especially picking on Leviathan Wakes and the avatar male character, that sometimes people give me the Cobb-squint and ask me if I'm reccing it or warning them away. But I really do love it, flaws and all. Nemesis Games is my favorite in the series since the second book, Caliban's War, and it's like the authors opened my head Locke & Key style, went "Yep, she loves all these things." and then the wrote the book I've been dying for since after reading Abaddon's Gate. This is team fic! This is a crew spread across the solar system away from each other and wanting to go home! This is backstory and history and how you can only go forward into your future. I finished this book knowing that I was going to go back and reread the whole series for the full impact of this entry on the overall story. It's a cool story and it keeps getting cooler. I'm pretty much locked in for however many books there are thanks to Nemesis Games.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson: I can safely say that Doreen Green is my new favorite superhero. I laughed out loud so many times reading this first volume of Doreen's adventures. I loved her relationship with Nancy, and Iron Man, and her in your face confidence in herself and her abilities. The art is perfect for the tone the writing has and Doreen's personality. I can't get enough of it. I immediately added this to my pull list, please let them keeping writing this comic until the end of time, Marvel.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik: This novel has definitely been one that's been a love it/hate it among my corner of the internet. I came down on the love-it side, because I gobbled it up like I would a 100k fanfic and still wanted more (sequel about Kasia, yes?). It feels a lot like of remix of epic fantasy, fairy tale, and psychological thriller. It's epic because it covers so much ground and time but it's all compact, one individual book instead of three or more. I loved the pacing, the shifting tension, and the rising stakes as everything finally layered together to form a picture of what was happening. And most of all I love that there is a female friendship that's complicated, understated but always present, and that instead of a man and love interest taking up the role of protector, it's the best friend, the lifelong partner, because they were both changed irrevocably by growing up but it doesn't change that relationship. I loved it. It was like biting into a piece of fruit that's riper than expected; a sweet surprise.

The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire: I can share no details about why I loved this book so much, but I was told I was going to be thrown for a loop and that I would love the ride. I was dubious but they were all right, every single one. The storytelling and the layering was done so carefully, yet it still feels seamless. I love all these characters so much and certainly see why so many of my friends have talked this series up to me so often the last few years. YOU WIN, FRIENDS. I am a convert and utterly invested in the outcome of this story.

Honorable mentions:
Listen, I read a lot books this year making the above choices was hard so have another, shorter list.

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard, Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch, The End of All Things by John Scalzi, Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu, Saga Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire, Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

In the past few years, I've looked at my reading numbers more closely and been public about them. Some fun numbers:
  • Short Non/Fiction: 25
  • Books/Fiction: 44
  • Books/Nonfiction: 5
  • Graphic Novels: 24
  • Manga: 34
  • Individual Comics: 58

My gender parity continues to be in favor of white women and my racial party continues to be the pits, which makes me really sad considering all the great options I have available to me. There's a lot of value in tracking this data, but this year I've decided to go easy and not publicly shame myself over not doing as well as I wanted to. I had a tough year! Self-care is hard. I have the numbers and I'll definitely use them in the new year to guide me, but I'm okay with where my reading ended up this year. I met my reading goal, I stayed on target with gender parity, and I read more nonfiction than in 2014. Considering all the other work I was doing, that's pretty great!

I have big reading dreams for 2016. I've set a new reading goal, I hope to clear some of my personal backlog (especially ebooks), give audiobooks another try, and have a good time finding new stories. :D

Miscellany I Have Loved

This year I didn't spend enough time with fanwork to have a full list of favorites across multiple mediums (this will, of course, change next year with Civil War ha ha ha sob). But I sampled a lot of excellent media, so here are some highlights of things that really stuck with me.

Mystery Show: This quirky podcast was a smile factory for me this year. It made me laugh and cry (happy tears) and generally made the world seem like a brighter place while I was listening. I still re-listen to Belt Buckle and Source Code when I want a pick-me-up.

Undisclosed: In the exact opposite direction, Undisclosed sent me reeling into fury every time I listened to a new episode. My tweet sums it up. After Serial, though, it was great to get commentary from three lawyers to contextualize the details and fill in the blanks, and I was riveted.

2015 was the year I formally discovered [ profile] copperbadge. I hadn't really read any of his work contextualized as a body, but I finally did and it was great. He wrote several things that made me super happy in really hard times, and I owe several stories hella comments/kudos even now, but I really feel like an overall rec is appropriate at this point. I really loved The Most Amazing Things (Some Terrible Lie), Toasted Buns (co-written with [ profile] scifigrl47), and Soul Bomb.

Some other fics I love and went back to multiple times: Die Hard (But Only If No Other Options Are Readily Available) by [ profile] JenTheSweetie, Escalation by [ profile] thingswithwings, Exact Measurements Required by [ profile] trilliath, Not Quite Lost (Not Quite Found) by [ profile] alocalband.

And that's all from me for last year. Goodbye, 2015!

Date: 2016-01-03 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I feel like you've mentioned so much awesome stuff here that I'm going to forget half of what I want to echo :) So first off Black Wolves!! such awesome. So great.

I didn't really enjoy Ant-man all that much, but Mad Max was great, and I loved SW:tfa.

TV-wise I haven't quite gotten around to finishing off Jessica Jones yet, but it's great. Daredevil was wonderful too. Agents of Shield I stopped watching back at the start of season 2 when the autorecord missed a few episodes and I just wasn't bothered enough to go find them online.
And I have all of Agent Carter recorded, but as of yet none watched :(
I did adore Fargo season 2 this year though, have you seen any of that?

Date: 2016-01-05 07:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I'm not sure who aired it originally. I watched it on Channel 4, and I don't think it is on Netflix.

Yes I must get started on Agent Carter, the whole premise sounds prefect for me plus everyone says it is great

Date: 2016-01-03 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Not to go all Hugos but choosing your slate for graphic novels is gonna be hard this year right?

Looks like you had a good reading year. Yay, I'm so excited that you read the final volume of the Inheritance trilogy AND The Fifth Kingdom. I really want to reread Stone Hunger now I've read that (and kind of the whole trilogy and The Shadowed Sun - year of rereading is on).

Date: 2016-01-04 10:56 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I stumbled on your blog looking for book review sites an I'm so pleased that I did! Our year ends have some great overlap (of the Rowell/Lumberjanes variety) and I loved the overall sum-up of your media in general. I'm curious- have you read Nimona by Stevenson? It seems to be right up your alley. I have a bunch of things I want to check out based on this post- thank you!


Date: 2016-01-04 01:35 pm (UTC)
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
From: [personal profile] transcendancing
What a huge year of all the things! Yay for meeting your reading goal and yay for stats that tell you how things looked this year and can guide you in future years. Once I finish studying that following year I suspect my goal will be: read 0 non-fiction because it will be the first time since 2008 I think? I can only imagine how many fiction books I could then read! :D

Date: 2016-01-05 05:10 am (UTC)
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
From: [personal profile] transcendancing
True - but it would probably be more fun again after taking a year off :P

Date: 2016-01-06 10:08 pm (UTC)
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
From: [personal profile] transcendancing
SO MUCH FICTION! I've read 3 books already this year - need to work out what to read next from my stash.

Date: 2016-01-06 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
TRUMPET FANFARE I will bring you racial parity in my contemporary literature starter pack so NEVER YOU MIND ABOUT THAT.

I keep thinking I might reread Attachments, but whenever I speak to my mum about it she assures me that I would still not like it. It's because I am very very very very private myself (though better about it than I used to be!) and I simply cannot recover from that creepy-ass premise.

Date: 2016-01-06 04:33 pm (UTC)
splash_the_cat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] splash_the_cat
Jupiter Ascending was my watershed moment of utterly no more fucks to give about other people's opinions (especially dudes) of what kind of media I love.

Getting a movie so completely tailored to me and my id was just an astounding moment of "So this is what it's like to get stories centering things I love told in ways that hit my buttons and center my desires!" and now that I've gotten a taste of it, fuck anyone who dares deride my joy.
Edited Date: 2016-01-06 04:34 pm (UTC)

Happy 2016

Date: 2016-01-06 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I very much enjoyed reading this and we shared a few favorites, plus I have some of these on my tbr already but you make a very strong case for me to read and see sooner than later. Wishing you a wonderful year of media imbibing/critiquing/creating. 😊


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