This Is a Good Book Thursday, October 18, 2018

I haven’t read a damn thing all week, lots of stress, anesthetizing myself with reruns of The Mentalist, for what reason I do not know.  I started with The Closer which at least is a little more complex, but now it’s Simon Baker.  My internet has been spotty, which is chilling, and the mini-split is being snitty, which is even more chilling.  I think I need to go to bed with a space heater, an electric blanket, and a good book.

Got any ideas for a good book?

66 thoughts on “This Is a Good Book Thursday, October 18, 2018

  1. I have a question about creating characters. I listened to a podcast about Edith Wharton that said her male characters had been described as “women with moustaches” and her writing referred to as “masculine Henry James.”

    It got me thinking about what makes a male character “male,” and whether non-male writers have any worries about creating male leads.

    1. Not (yet) a fiction writer, but I think it’ll be your perception of men that animates your characters. In a romance, I think the ‘alien’ nature of each to the other – their mystery – is at the heart of the story.

      On the other hand, as a teenager I stopped reading male writers because their female characters were so unconvincing. I really hated their view of humanity (in which women were plot devices to serve the hero, or just so unreal they threw me out of the story. But this was in the sixties and seventies, and I was reading a lot of old books. I remember Stanley J. Weyman and a heroine who was determined to scrub floors for the hero, or something. Anyway, that was when I drew my line.)

      1. My Dad scrubbed every floor in my sister’s apartment before she brought her first kid home from the hospital. He was as gender-role bound as any male of his generation, but a first grandchild trumped everything. And, as my sister pointed out, the baby wouldn’t be able to crawl for several months.

      2. Jane, I’ve had the same disgust for stories, as you say, “in which women were plot devices to serve the hero.”

        Do you think using a woman as that kind of plot device is comparable to a male support character like Tonto? Specifically, around the hero are others who mirror some of his attributes (knowledge, bravery, loyalty), yet they can never be everything he is. Sometimes it seems that they would be equals if it weren’t for one thing: gender, race/ethnicity, background. In that list, a close male companion can easily be closer to the hero than a female love interest.

        1. I think it goes back to the idea that in traditional relationships (hetero), women were acquired as part of The Things A Successful Man Has, like a great car. A car, a wife, a house, some kids . . . .

    2. Interesting, Elizabeth. In my reading experience, I find writers are better at creating MCs of their own gender. And like Jane said, early on I found female leads by male writers not ringing quite true. Not just from a thinking perspective but from a broader view, women’s lives were depicted differently. I think the book Writing a Woman’s Life by Carolyn Heilbrun does a good job of delving into that issue.

      In my own books, my MC is female and any male characters are seen essentially by their actions or through her interpretation. Because even though I understand much about men I don’t think like one. Years ago, before it was in vogue, Phil Donahue did a TV special about how the male and female brains are actually different and how female brains have an extra bridge that allows more of a simultaneous back & forth thinking than the more linear male brain–not a case of one being better than the other, but simply a difference. I think things like that along with the gender-specific experience ingrained in each of us makes it tough to authentically portray the opposite gender. At least it does for me. I think secondary characters can be easier because the whole of the narrative isn’t in their voice, but for MCs it’s definitely tougher.

      But now you’ve got me curious about Edith Wharton, so I’ll be pulling my Wharton collection for a peek:)

      1. There was a writer in my MFA program who was terrific–terrific writer, great guy–who wrote this wonderful female character, warm and vulnerable and smart and real–and I loved the story until the end. That’s when she was with a cop watching a man in a rage shoot a house trailer full of holes while his ex screamed in terror inside, and the PoV character wondered what it would be like to be loved that much by a man.

        I had a melt-down in class. I was trying to point out that it was a character break, and instead I just started screaming about how no woman would see an asshole who was terrorizing a woman as a lover, that the writer had destroyed the female PoV character by making her think that being terrorized was something she’d want, that only a man would think rage and terror were acts of love . . . I really lost it. The guy who’d written it was a good man, he’d never do that, I’d watched him defuse any number of bar fights gently (big guy, he could do that), but just the thought that this great guy could think that . . . I still get mad when I think about it. (This was the 80s, by the way. Lotta bad thinking going on back then.)

        What really made me angry was that I’d so believed in his female character right up then, loved the story. It was such a betrayal.

        I see a lot of male writers writing female characters as things to acquire. They may be smart, brave, hardworking, etc, but their main value to the story is that they think the hero is great. Of course, a lot of male love interests in female-led stories end up as the same thing, but for the most part, male interests seem to be given full lives apart from the protagonist’s life, lots of agency, often more than the female protagonist who gets rescued a lot (perfectly good fantasy, but tends to displace the center of the story onto the male character). The worst example of that is a fun romantic comedy called How To Steal a Million, which technically belongs to Audrey Hepburn’s character–she’s the one with the problem, she hires Peter O’Toole to help her–and then about half? a third? of the way through becomes his story as she follows him around saying, “Brilliant!” I’ve always wanted to rewrite that one. Still fun to watch as long you don’t mind Audrey being an innocent ditz and O’Toole being a Master of the Universe.

        1. Forgot the most important part: that doesn’t mean male writers can’t write female PoVs or vice versa. I think the Wife of Bath is one of the most brilliant female characters ever written, and Chaucer was a guy.

        2. I still adore How to Steal a Million. Think what makes it work for me is that Audrey establishes herself at the beginning in the kitchen after he’s shot and she takes charge and calls him on being basically being a baby about it all (in a nice way). Plus, she is the one in charge again (at least in her mind) when she hires him and even sets the parameters for the plan and plays an active role herself, ultimately being the one to get the statue out of the museum in her maid’s pail. For me, this all felt like some push & pull teamwork, so I saw it as them going from perfectly fine as individuals with their own strengths but even better as a team. Within the historical context of gender roles, it was pretty good at feeling more equal than some other movies of the time. But it may also be a good example of how the main female and male characters do think and approach their logic differently. Have to rewatch again to check for that:)

          1. Oh forgot to add that it also still felt like her movie to me because she sets it all in motion to save her father and she succeeds which keeps her in the hero role–even if she does get help to accomplish her goal.

    3. I don’t do male leads, but I do male PoVs sometimes. Most of my male PoV characters are love interests, so some of that is great-guy wish fulfillment–there are enough realistic men in most readers’ lives already–but it probably helps that men who make flowery speeches fill me with deep suspicion, so I don’t go there. I’ll never do a male PoV in a love scene, mainly because when I was in grad school in an MFA program, I asked my best friend who was also a writer what he thought about during sex because I was trying to write a male PoV sex scene. (We were in the same program, and he’d run female PoV issues past me, too.) He told me. I will never put that in one of my books. I mean, good for him, but no.

      I solved the problem for three books by writing with Bob Mayer. I wrote the female PoVs and Bob wrote the male. It was a huge relief. Bob used to read my male PoVs from my solo books and I could tell it pained him greatly, in the we-don’t-think-like-that kind of way, but I figured there were many kinds of men in the world and there was a chance some of them did. And he wasn’t my audience anyway. It was interesting to see how differently he saw the male characters in our books. There were things that he wrote that made me wince, but unless it was something that would be a complete turn-off for a reader, I stayed out of his scenes. The big differences I noticed–this will not be a revelation–is that his male characters were always very focused on the physical instead of the emotional. I’d say, “You know, they’d talk about this,” and he’d say, “No, they would not.” So my character would get fed up with his character’s emotional unavailability, and he’d say, “Why is she so mad?” and I’d explain it, and he still wouldn’t get it.

      So based on my conversations with Michael and Bob, admittedly a small sample, I tend to write my heroes laconic and focused on the physical, not just bodies but physical action. Showing love and concern instead of saying it (that air conditioner in Agnes, for example). Being protective in spite of themselves. A lot of that is because of my preference in love interests, of course, but the old less-is-more always strikes me as the right approach to male characters for a lot of reasons, especially love interests, not in the least because it tends to lead to that to that oh-no-not-you crisis where he falls in spite of himself. I love a man with a plan who gets blindsided by love.

      1. Jenny, I think you didn’t have a problem to solve. While Shane in Agnes and the Hitman is terrific, your male love interests are always wonderful. They are solid; they face their own hurdles; they are part of the solution even while the female lead effects the win. Oh, and they’re sexy too. Yum.

        I wonder whether Edith Wharton’s male leads (I can only speak about Ethan Frome) were too passive for the time when they were written. Passivity may have been interpreted as feminine. Wharton’s female leads were sometimes passive, because they were unable to find a secure spot in a society which dictated/judged their every action.

    4. I’ve seen so many men adore or empathise with Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s male characters that I’m pretty sure she’s getting something right.

      What’s really interesting are stories where gender becomes extremely fluid like Ann Leckie’s Radch empire (which doesn’t really have a concept of gender and exclusively uses feminine pronouns) or Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of empire series.

      1. Annamal, Bujold’s characters are also intriguing because they include male, female, gay, bi, and various dimensions of human, such as genetically altered.

        I suspect from time spent several years ago on Bujold’s listserv that some men are attracted by her stories’ speculations about future biological and technological developments.

  2. I read K. J. Charles’ latest this week and really enjoyed it: ‘Band Sinister’. Went in to reread her ‘Charm of Magpies’ series, but am having to skim chunks of it due to the violence. I love her characters, though; and this latest one has no violence at all. My only quibble was it took me more than a third of the book to get a handle on her cast of characters.

    I think it’d be a good story to cuddle up with.

    1. I read the same thing this week, Band Sinister. So good. Some of the dialogue felt a little more modern than its time period, but I needed the escapism and did not mind one bit. I’m still feeling the happy glow from how that whole big cast loved and supported each other, all without being saccharine or cringey. I think it was done as an homage to Georgette Heyer? I felt that vibe from the cast and the setting and how often I laughed. And the happy glow afterwards.

  3. I am obsessed with Joanna Bourne. She throws in totally implausible plot twists that are delightful and Shakespearean. The sense of history and place is incredible — she writes so that you’re trapped in the cold, dark cell with her characters. You can smell the rotting fish on the docks. Her heroines have to kick their skirts out of the way when they’re walking fast.

    She has some lines that are purely beautiful, balanced with humor and sarcasm. Here are some about Newgate… “They went through the huge iron gate that locked off the yard from the interior, iron bars thick as her thumb, suitable for stopping riot and invasion or leading to a deeper section of hell. Oh, she was feeling cheerful today.”… “Inside the stone walls, the quality of chill changed. The cold slithered like water under her clothing.”

    I’m actually reading the sex scenes, which I never read anymore, but these are worth reading. Oh, and I have a serious pet peeve about characters that are supposed to be brilliant but are simply not. Joanna Bourne’s brilliant characters actually are brilliant. My only problem with her is that she makes me want to not write anymore — I’m developing a serious inferiority complex. I’m going to have to read some terrible books to recover.

    1. I have the same problem with characters that are supposed to be funny (such as professional comedians) but are not at all, making the dumbest “jokes” and everyone laughing their heads off.

      1. I highly recommend anything she writes about how to write—and I’m not a fiction writer.
        I think her approach is very different from Jennie’s but they both take writing more seriously than anyone else I know.

    2. Based on a recommendation here, I read my first Joanna Bourne book last week – The Spymaster’s Lady. It was wonderful – smart, funny, sexy, and like you Sarah, I read the sex scenes for the first time in a long time.

      You all rock! Your recommendations have helped keep me sane the last couple of years.

  4. I’m rereading The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi because The Consuming Fire came out yesterday and I want to go into it remembering what happened. I love Scalzi, he has a wonderful sense of humor and he writes strong women. Also strong men, but plenty of people do that. If you like Sci Fi I think he’s worth reading.

    Maybe even if you don’t like SciFi.

    Also, Wil Wheaten narrates many of his books, he’s got a good voice for narration.

  5. Read the two available sequels to The Devil’s Intern. They were good. Lots of friendship to go around, but they’ve all ended on cliffhangers. Should have one book to go.
    Currently reading Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, about a teenage viking warrior girl.
    Gonna be taking a break from books after this one, though, because I’m going to spend my usual book-reading time slot making sewing pocket extensions on my pants. Freaking smartphones are just gigantic these days.

    I binged through 15 episodes of Killjoys, and highly enjoyed it. It’s “Firefly but even more space-corporatism,” centered around a team of bounty hunters. It’s the first show I’ve watched that has aired after PoI that hits that competence porn crew-family sweet spot. (Dark Matter and Legend of Tomorrow aren’t really competence porn, their being garbage crews is part of their appeal)
    Also, the undisputed protagonist and leader of the crew in Killjoys is an awesome lady.

    1. So glad you’re having fun with “Killjoys” – watch out though, there is one season left, and it won’t come out til next year and that is feeling like a long time to wait…

      I’ve swapped out reading time for watching time, and am working my way through Person of Interest, having let it lie for a while. I could wish Reece and Harold had more … affect? when they talked? The intense monotone whisper wears after a while, but the women so far have been Amazing, and I do like people doing things well.

      1. One of the great things I’ve read about long-term acting (I think it was with regards to Parks and Rec) is that, after a while, the actors aren’t so much portraying their characters as deploying an imitation of their characters. There were so many facets to Reese in the early seasons that I think got washed out in the back half. Harold also dropped some of his more interesting traits, because he was just made a mouthpiece for some of the show’s themes and was serving as a foil to the other characters.

        I’m probably going to stop watching Killjoys after I finish S2, and then wait for the show to end before watching the rest of it. (S4 isn’t available to me yet anyways, since I’m waiting for the library to get the DVDs.)

        1. I thought PoI did interesting things with the Finch/Reese relationship in that they let it arc and achieve its endgame early, I think in “4C” where Reese came back after quitting. The “we have to break up the major relationship because that’s where the juice in the story is” stuff always annoys me. Finch and Reese were a bonded team that became the stout stake that anchored the crazy Shaw and Root arcs. Same with the great Reese/Fusco arc. (I love that they bookended Fusco with bodies in trunks. “Is that where he is, witness protection?” “No, Fusco, he’s in your trunk.”) I really thought they paced that series beautifully.

    2. I had never heard of Killjoys before and just checked it out. Thanks for the reference. I am not wired to binge watch – I can watch at most two episodes of anything per day, and that is a stretch – thus any new series lasts me a long time. (Just one more thing that drives my husband crazy.)

      1. That’s another reason I like Killjoys, honestly. I don’t like the new super-serialized model, I like shows that are more than a little episodic, and Killjoys does that pretty well.

        It’s why, besides Killjoys, I’ve mostly been watching anime these days.

  6. I received a birthday package from family in Australia and one of the items was Liane Moriarty’s latest book, Nine Perfect Strangers. Devoured it. Normally I’d find so many points of view confusing, but her characters were all so distinctive, and the plot engaging, that I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

  7. I’ve had a few weeks of leisure so this is a catch up Comment about my past 3 weeks of reading – so bear with me – and apologies!

    In the kitchen I’m reading Deb Perelman’s “Smitten Kitchen Every Day.” Fun! Recipes that don’t make me wish I had a chef! Bean Pizza anyone? (

    (I also keep comics collections in the kitchen. Favorite is “Zits,” about a teenage boy and his parents and friends. I give a copy of one of these collections to every friend who has teenagers. It’s a life saver.)

    In the living room, for evening relaxation, I’m still working my way through the book “Miss Fisher” mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. They are different from the TV series, which is/was excellent, so you get double the Miss Fisher. In the books Miss Fisher eventually adopts 3 children (and a dog and a cat, I think) and her romances do not include the divine TV version of Inspector Robinson. But the books are wonderful, and less dark than the TV series.

    Kerry G also writes charming and sexy seduction scenes for Miss Fisher, one of which is quite unlike anything I’ve read before. (Though maybe not you :). (That one is in Murder and Mendelssohn, where Miss Fisher is somewhat more matchmaker than seducer.) Pure delight, over the top fantasy adventure, with our fearless heroine.

    If you like to listen to audio books, look for the Miss Fisher mysteries read by Stephanie Daniels (I think that’s the narrator’s correct name). Daniels is fabulous and you know how a narrator can make or break an audio book.

    Those, and a Lisa Kleypas “Devil in Winter” by my bedside, are antidotes to the also excellent and completely worth reading Bob Woodward book “Fear” and Michael Lewis’s most recent “The Fifth Risk,” which is a quick read, but a veritable civics education in itself, not to mention terrifying in a Cassandra-ish sort of way.

    I’m not ignoring the looming climate collapse report, but decided instead to read first the “Last Policeman,” by Ben Winter. It’s a mystery wrapped in an end of the world by asteroid story (or vice versa). Not sure I’ll read Books 2 and 3. But this first one is terrific. Makes we wonder if people would react differently if the U.N. report said an asteroid was bearing down on us rather than the way most people are reacting (sort of) to the climate report.

    Too long a post, but leisure is bliss for bibliophiles.

  8. I assume you have already devoured The Invention of Wings? by Sue Monk Kidd. And if you aren’t full yet try Sing, Unburied Sing by Jasmyn Ward. And then of course there is a Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel. Start at the beginning. 🙂

    1. One doesn’t always have to start at beginning, but I always go back to the beginning novel of a series when I’ve enjoyed the random volume I happened to fall upon. Those 3 are excellent recommendations – thank you!

  9. I’m reading Jasper Fforde’s Song of the Quarkbeast — yes it’s a kids’ book but a good time. Every now and again he manages to sneak in snark about a populist ruler who is awful at his job and gives long offensive nonsensical speeches but is still cheered madly by his citizens.

  10. I have read two of Anne Bishop’s urban fantasy series about the Others. I started with the latest book, Lake Silence. Loved it, so I read the first book of the series, Written in Red. Loved it even more. It was actually a pleasant surprise, for I tried to read her more traditional fantasy and didn’t like it. I’m going to continue with this series: several more good books in my future. Oh, anticipation is sweet.
    I also reread a couple of Georgette Heyer’s romances. In one of them, Devil’s Cub, the characters travel through France. I remember reading another of her stories, utterly hilarious, where characters also travel through France, but I don’t remember the title of that novel. Could anyone remind me?

    1. I think it’s probably Sylvester – there’s several funny scenes when they’re in France – especially with Edmund the nephew.

      But Powder & Patch is also partially set in Paris – not one of my favorites so I don’t think it’s funny. (I forgive the funny Heyers a lot of sins).

    2. I love The Others books (and never got into her other series). I also enjoy the audiobooks read by Alexandra Harris. I have read/listened to the whole series multiple times.

  11. I just finished The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson. It’s dark historical mystery, with spectacular historical detail and lots of twist and turns. I loved it and have ordered the next book in the series.

    I’m so thankful for “word-of-mouth” — despite the changes in the publishing industry, I still find most of my favorite new authors through recommendations from others, here or on other blogs or on Goodreads.

  12. Right now I’m re-reading the first Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery and listening to the third volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s outstanding, comprehensive biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. I tried listening to it after finishing volume 2 but the third volume is narrated by someone other than the incomparable Kate Reading, and something about the change jarred me. I’m having a much better time this go-round, though it’s amazingly depressing reading about the xenophobia and punish-the-poor attitude of the right wing in the US.

    On the other hand, I grinned like a loon when it got to the part about people being horrified that Marion Anderson, a Black woman and brilliant artist, was going to be presented to King George and Queen Elizabeth. All I could think was of their great-granddaughter-in-law, a biracial American actress. I guess some things *do* change…

    1. *Love* Stephanie Barron! And I love her mysteries and spy thrillers written as Francine Mathews. They are so different from each other, it’s hard to believe the same person wrote them all. An ex-CIA analyst writing Austen…hmmm.

      I’ve been rereading paperbacks since my thumb surgery, so Heyer’s Frederica is almost done (still my fave Heyer). But today the splint got traded for a cast, so I’ve got a fat new hardcover Kate Morton just waiting for me to dive into. Yay!

    2. I loved the Stephanie Barron books, till she got to the horrible unexpected plot twist (not saying more for spoiler reasons). I found that really hard to take.

  13. I’ve been busy but powered through Darcy Burke’s Secrets and Scandals series.

    I’d read book one ages ago and it didn’t quite work for me, but upon an e-sale I decided to try the second and it was VERY entertaining. She doesn’t write all her heroines to be likeable or beautiful. She works at making her flawed characters real!

  14. I finished “Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone”. I also started on “The Chamber of Secrets” as a between-books-book, because well. It’s Harry Potter and it happens every year. Some I read in one go, others become between-books-books. (Also, don’t tell anyone – it’s probably blasphemy to say it aloud – but “Chamber of Secrets” is my least favourite part of the series. And I love those books, mind you.)

    Aaanyway, I have sort of binge-read the first 3 parts of the “The Sisters Grimm”-series by Michael Buckley (“The Fairy-Tale Detectives, “The Unusual Suspects” and “The Problem Child”). I stumbled over one of the parts by accident on Goodreads while… looking for quotes, I think, and discovered book 1 was on my TBR-list and decided to give it a shot. I was a bit unsure where to place the series at first – childrens? YA? What? – but the more I read, the more I find it doesn’t really fit in the children’s category, even though the main characters are very young (7 and 11, respectively). I had a bit of problem with connecting with the one sister, Sabrina, at first, until I figured her odd behaviour, mistrust and anger was born out of being traumatized by foster homes, which made me see her from another perspective and attach more. The little one, Daphne, is lovely. Though the series is full of fairytale characters, it’s not as sugary and fluffy and sweet as one would expect from the titles. It’s not gory, but it’s no Sunday walk in the park either. I like it. I hope the remaining 6 books (I don’t know if the 9th is the very last or if there’ll come more) are as good as the first three.

    I’ve also read “Helping Hooves – Training Miniature Horses as Guiding Animals for the Blind” by Jane Burleson. For me as a horse-lover, and one day possibly a guide-dog/animal-handler, it was an interesting read about how Mrs Burleson discovered her love for horses, how the guide-horse-training-business started, how the horses are trained, how people reacted to those small ponies in restaurants, casinos, airplanes and so on. Unfortunately there are no guide-horses in either Sweden or The Netherlands, but you never know 😉 perhaps one day…

  15. At the suggestion of somebody here I picked up A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole. It was a thoroughly enjoyable diversion, especially since I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland. So I took out the previous book in the series, A Princess in Theory. The small kingdom in Africa sounds a lot like a certain recent movie, but it is, so far, fun to see how a couple from the second book got together.

    I haven’t finished that book because I have barely started the book I need to finish for book club on Monday. It is 639 pages long with acres of footnotes. It is going very slowly because I do a lot of my reading on public transportation and I keep losing my place. It is called Ida: A Sword Among Lions . Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching by Paula J. Giddings. It looks like it will be very interesting, but I wish I had a bit more time to process this much book.

  16. Eight Lady Jill recommended that I read *Tsumiko and the Enslaved Fox*, and it was pretty good. Even more interesting, though, is the meta. Forthright (the author) says she is a fan ficcer, and it’s interesting to speculate on how that affected her writing. She does leave out a bunch of backstory and crap (because when you write fic, I think, everyone knows a lot of the quirks and the whole backstory). So, it makes the story well-paced. She tends to linger on sensual details and setting a scene, which I think is a result of translating manga into prose — at least, the details she chooses are very visual and remind me of Japanese comics. Little stuff, like when Tsumiko sits on a chair, she has to push herself up with her toes (because she’s so short) — oh, it’s really hard to explain!

    I think the plot loses its way and the story turns into an origin story (ie: the backstory as it happens) about 2/3rds of the way through. However, there are a lot of really neat tricks in the writing, and I’ll probably read it at least one more time for that.

    Also, this week: I binged Barry in three sittings. OMG. I laughed, I cried, I did all the cliché things, and enjoyed it tremendously. WOW. Since Jenny mentioned The Mentalist, I thought I’d bring this up. Barry has apparently been renewed for another season. However, the show is right on the edge of my darkness threshold. There’s been some murders, there’s been a lot of angst . . . and the first season ended in a place where I can be satisfied that This Is The End. I’m scared about what they’ll do next season.

    I ran into a similar dilemma with The Mentalist. At the end of the second or third season, the bad guy was killed in a shopping mall. Things had been progressively getting bloodier and bloodier, and so I was relieved when I came to the end of that season. I love Simon Baker, and I wanted more, but I just knew the next season would be a bloodbath, and I thought it best to stop. Subsequent reports suggested that I made the right decision.

    Oh, well, I can only enjoy Barry via DVD through internet shopping, so it’ll be a long time before I have to make a decision. But I do recommend the first season!

    1. Yeah, I’m getting into the weeds of The Mentalist now; I’m on season 4 or 5. Wonder if they changed showrunners about then because the series became darker, my favorite character developed a drug problem, they had a secondary couple who were kept apart by ridiculous plot turns, and that damn serial killer line just went on too long. It’s interesting to watch it pancake even though the two leads remain fun to watch. There’s a not-romance that was teased over seven years that never got above a simmer–nice simmer but no real heat–that they wrapped up in ridiculously lame fashion. Seven years was probably too much.

      I was wondering why TV series often feel too long while books usually don’t, and then I remember that in America, TV series used to go 22 episodes or more. Now some Netflix series feel too long at six episodes. I think stories have a natural span intrinsic to that story, and if they’re stretched out too far for their narrative needs, people just get tired of waiting for the payoff.

      1. TV and film also forces you to consume at their pace (Though apparently some people do watch things on fast forward now), you can read text at your own speed.

        I once binged my way through a 20-something episode Kdrama in a day because it was streaming video, I could read the subtitles faster than they would deliver the lines, so I kept clicking forward in the stream as I finished reading the captions. I was finishing hour-long episodes in like 20 minutes.

        I think the Netflix shows sag because there’s no ad breaks, so the writers have no obligation to put in act breaks. Instead, they treat whole episodes as one act. Bleugh. Not only does that result in stories with an untenable 6-or-more acts, but then you’re slogging through an hour that might not have a payoff.
        Really, they should be restricting things to 2-3 episode arcs, which maybe goes to 4 episodes for the big storylines.

        It was interesting to me to see the writing evolve on the Justice League cartoon. In the first few seasons, they would have stories that regularly ran through 3 half-hour episodes. In the last few seasons, they were more restricted to single episode stories, and introducing way more new characters every episode. And yet, the pacing dragged in early seasons. The extended action sequences couldn’t hold my attention. The later episodic seasons necessarily had to cut the fat every week, leading to a distilled experience.
        John Rogers noted that they could pack an entire movie or more’s worth of heisting into each Leverage episode by using the same techniques he had learned from his sitcom days. Comedy is very plot-dense! So you can have Glavant and The Good Place doing just as much, if not more, material than hour-long shows, and never wearing out their welcome in each installment. (See also how Moffat packed in the plot in Doctor Who episodes, also having that sitcom background. We’ll see how much Chibnall decompresses things.)

        1. Galavant was basically doing Broadway musicals once a week. I’m still astounded by the music in that. “Maybe You Won’t Die Alone” is still the funniest musical comedy song I’ve ever heard.

          Don’t be too needy or bring up your ex
          Don’t say the words: “Herpes Simplex”
          Don’t ever mention you’ve never had sex
          Trust me, I promise, she knows

          1. I have a hard time picking which Galavant number is my favourite. I keep thinking “That one!” and then I hear the next one on my play list and go “Ooh, no! That one’s my favourite!”, and that just keeps going.

  17. This has been my fantasy week. I had not read Megan Lindholm, who also writes as Robin Hobb, who I read and enjoy a lot. And the only thing my library had for Kindle was The Inheritance and Other Stories. Rarely do I read short stories. Wow. I would not have missed a single story they were so good. And I am going to have to start reading Megan Lindholm now. The voice is different than Robin Hobb but it flows differently.

    Another set of short stories is Charles de Lint’s Dreams Underfoot, although it’s almost a stretch to call this a set of short stories since they are so intertwined. It is very readable and I like it much better than most of his recent novels where there are so many characters’ POV and they each get their own chapter. I took to skipping those chapters where I wasn’t that invested in a character to get to the ones I wanted to know about, which makes for a fractured story line.

  18. I have been adding books to my TBR at a much faster pace than I am reading them. Did some reading the first 10 days of Oct but since then I am back to writing again. And can’t, unfortunately, read and write at the same time. 🙂

  19. I wasn’t feeling too hot this week so re-read a comfort read (Jill Mansell’s Take a Chance on Me) then binged The Haunting of Hill House series on Netflix. I’m not much for the horror genre, but Shirley Jackson is in a class of her own and I was curious to see the adaptation.

    The first episode is a hot mess – weird pacing, a not-that-good introduction to the characters, a lack of a consistent POV – but I was hooked just enough to want to see where it would go. I’m glad I watched it, but not sure how much I actually liked it even with letting go of “well, that’s not like the book” thoughts. I was super impressed with how Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton really made you feel like you were watching one person at different stages of life, so there was that.

    Another thing Hill House accomplished was making me a touch impatient for Halloween to get here so I can follow a sort of tradition of re-watching Donnie Darko (another work that’s kind of in a class of its own).

    Have noted some suggestions from here to help pass the time ‘til Halloween, so thanks everyone!

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