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Each month, we look back over the media we loved in the previous month, from books to film to video games and more.


Poster for Master of NoneCover of Down Among the Sticks and BonesCover of Heroine Worship

Master of None - August is often a time when we catch up on television that we've missed, and this year's selection was Master of None, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's Netflix comedy about Dev Shah, a thirtysomething Indian guy navigating the complexities of career, romance, and everyday life in New York City. A few features that raise this show above your average sitcom: a racially diverse cast and writers' room (I just listened to an interview with Alan Yang, and he said that during part of the second season, there was only one white dude on the writing staff), experimental episode structures (no two episodes of the show feel exactly alike), and many intergenerational stories, with frequent shifts in focus to Dev's parents (who are played by Aziz Ansari's own mom and dad) and the parents of his friends. No word yet on whether there will be a third season, but I hope they find a story to tell.

The Incredible Jessica James - Between this movie, Master of None, and The Defenders (which had its high and low points; I may have more to say later), this was a big month for me and Netflix original content. This film is a cute romantic comedy starring Jessica Williams (formerly the best-ever correspondent on The Daily Show) as a playwright and acting teacher; on the rebound from a long-term relationship, she gets involved in a friendship/romance/"it's complicated" relationship with a recently divorced guy, and hijinks ensue. Jessica's character also has a great female best friend, and her relationship with the kids she teachers is given equal weight with the romance. I wish Hollywood still made fun, well-written and acted romantic comedies like this one. See also: The Big Sick, which I saw in theaters and enjoyed quite a lot.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire - This novella is a prequel to the much-lauded Every Heart a Doorway, and it did not disappoint. It tells the story of the twins, Jack and Jill: their childhood, how they stumbled across their secret world, the many things that befell them there. The minute I finished, I immediately set to re-reading Every Heart a Doorway, to remind myself of how their story played out. Taken together, these novellas tell a satisfying dark fairy tale, a cautionary story about forcing children to play the roles you've imagined for them.

Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn - Another sequel, this one to Heroine Complex, last year's superhero BFF romp. The heroine this time is Aveda Jupiter, and I really enjoyed being in her point of view, as she learns to be more considerate of her friends and co-workers. Just as in the previous book, I enjoyed the heck out of the romance, too -- Sarah Kuhn writes the best slow-burn romance I've read in awhile, and great sex scenes too.


Cover of Monstress Volume 2Cover of DC Comics Bombshell Volume 3Cover of Saga Volume 1

Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana TakedaMonstress is easily one of the best looking, and most original, comics out there right now. Sana Takeda's work is beautifully detailed, and so exciting to look at. And the world these two creators have built is just ridiculously original. My favourite parts of this volume were the relationship between Maika and Seizi (tiger pirate captain guardian), the quest to the Isle of Bone, and Maika's continued insistence on being hard like her mother despite having painful memories of her own childhood. In fact, Maika's relationship with her mother reminds me a lot of Nassun and Essun in N. K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate.

Bombshells, Vol. 3: Uprising by Margueritte Bennett, Mirka Adolfo and Laura Braga — Each volume of Bombshells gets better and better! This is exactly the kind of female focused, inclusive, political, experience I want from big brand comics. Bombshells packs its pages with all kinds of superwomen (although the count of chromatic women could be higher), includes multiple lesbian and bisexual relationships, and examines political issues from fascism to feminism. Plus, its WWII setting makes it the perfect antidote to Marvel's recent Hydra nonsense. I especially love that the creators are invested in making the historical setting an integral part of the comic rather than just slapping in some Nazis because they make good, easy villains.

Bombshells trades always feel a little busy, and this volume is no exception as it is jam packed with individual stories and recurring characters. Selina is back, Lois Lane makes her first appearance, The Huntress shows up… There is a lot going on. In this trade, the Batgirls defend Gotham from a Trump-esque Harvey Dent, Mera finally comes into her own as she deals with losing her powers, Kate Kane meets the resistance, and Zatanna and John Constantine evade the Joker's daughter. Diana, Steve and Supergirl are absent from this volume but Harley and Ivy reappear. Oh, by the way, they're an item now (yay). All the storylines eventually converge in a very satisfying way as Mera battles for Atlantis and the resistance stages their rebellion. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Saga, Vols. 1 & 2 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples — I know, I know - I'm so late to this party. Everyone who has ever praised Saga in my hearing was right and I should have listened to them a long time ago because, despite not really digging Vaughan's Papergirls, I am all over Saga. I think what makes it stand out is that it's such a fantastical fantasy (characters with TVs for heads, giant spider assassins) and yet so grounded in emotional, and physical, reality. That physical reality is especially important when it comes to Alana. Female character so rarely get to be realistically physical but from the first page of Vol. 1 Alana's body is represented doing real, sometimes unpleasant, things. And at no point is she textually judged for having a physical presence which takes up time and space. It's just one small political point in a comic full of smart, originally expressed ideas.


Cover of Ancillary JusticeCover of Spectred Isle

Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie — I know I'm late to this party, but I mainlined the entire trilogy in one week (I wish I was joking but I'm really not; I read Ancillary Mercy in one six-hour binge.) and I'd like to join the chorus about how good it is. It does an amazing thing of the focus of the trilogy narrowing as it goes along, but the repercussions spreading out to affect more of the universe in pretty much expect proportions to it. I love the character work – Breq's relationships with her crews and other AIs, Seivarden trying desperately to become a better person, Tisarwat's entire arc, and all of the AIs... *dreamy sigh* And the way that the story dissects colonialism and the abuse that comes with "civilising" others is really well done, and I am absolutely here for it.

Spectred Isle by K. J. Charles — This might actually be my favourite KJ Charles book (Q: But how many – A: All of them, okay, I've read all of them); it is a gay romance set in a 1920s with magic, and it's great. Saul Lazenby is an archaeologist in disgrace, Randolph Glyde is an arcanist trying to hold everything together now after the death of his family, and watching the two of them fumble towards happiness warmed my heart. Plus, it's a 1920s mystery with magic! This is possibly the most me thing that I have read, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Date: 2017-11-17 11:10 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Loved, loved, loved this series of Master of None (especially Thanksgiving and that one where they go to the sculpture museum).


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