The Martian gets halfway there

It’s taken forever, but I finally got around to reading The Martian, the first book from my “Your Next Great Read” list put together by an actual person from my local library. At first blush, I really liked it, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to see cracks that make it something I definitely enjoyed but not something I’ll buy or read again.


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2019 Media in Review: TV and Books

This was a weird year. In the past, TV and/or movies have dominated my media intake, but not only did I see comparatively few movies, I only finished one season of a non-current TV show (that I’d been slogging through for years), struggled mightily to keep up with my currently-airing shows, and didn’t finish reading any books. I guess I played a lot of Splatoon in between complicated apartment hunting and eventual moving.

Time to finish up the 2019 Media posts and look forward to a more robust 2020.

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Libraries are awesome

I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a couple years ago, and for as unhappy as I was when I arrived after being part of an entire department that was laid off at a job I loved, one thing that’s always stood out to me was how fantastic its public library system is. For the longest time, I didn’t really take advantage of it that much. I’d get the occasional movie, the even less frequent book, and pop in at a branch every now and again if I needed some cat-distraction-free time to apartment hunt or write stuff.

But since my annual goal is always to read more, I decided more frequent library use needed to be a key element. And that’s how I discovered Your Next Great Read, a service inspired by the Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia. This article from The Library Journal goes into a ton of detail, but basically you fill out an online survey about your favorite and least favorite books, what you liked/didn’t like about them, your favorite shows and movies and some other questions about what you’re into and an actual person gives it a look, thinks really hard about it and offers up other authors and books you might like. If your library doesn’t have a similar program, definitely share this one with them to see if it’s something do-able.

“Big deal! Isn’t that just like GoodReads?!”

I mean, sort of, I guess. I don’t know exactly how the algorithms work for suggestions, but I suspect it’s something like “Oh, you rated this book four stars? Here are other books that other people who also rated it four stars also rated highly!” And that’s helpful, but it doesn’t allow for why you like something. It doesn’t know about that book you REALLY SHOULD HAVE LOVED but just kind of hated because of X, Y or Z. (Redshirts, I am looking directly at you.) It doesn’t factor in what you just don’t want to read at this particular moment in time.

Your online rec list algorithm isn’t tailor-made by people who’s job it is to know books.

I filled out my survey a few weeks ago, and in the world of “Everything is instant, gimme gimme now!” the two week wait to get your recommendations may seem interminable, but it’s okay. Really. Go to a movie. Take a walk. Play a game. Two weeks is nothing. Especially when it’s two weeks well worth it.

I did have to give a little nudge on the 15th day, but my library person was very apologetic and immediately got my reading guide to me. It was six-pages that  started with authors I might want to check out, and as I was reading about them, I could really see the rationale that went into choosing them based on the answers I had provided.

I was recommended Daniel H. Wilson and John Wyndham, which most definitely came from my love of The Terminator franchise and Ray Bradbury, and Jasper Fforde and Matthew Quick, which seemed to take my preferences on writing style into account.

martianEach author rec came with a couple books to start with, but then there was an entirely separate category of other books by other people I might like. And really? I’m very excited for the 7/8 of them that I haven’t read. The rationale behind the picks feels just as solid and personalized as the author list, so much so that when the note for Andy Weir’s The Martian says “I know you said first-person narratives aren’t your favorite, but if you can look look past that, give this one a try…” I believe that I should 100 percent overlook my general dislike of first-person fiction for the “gripping tale” about survival and rescue attempts. (The Martian is one of those movies I always meant to see but haven’t. And I pretty much did always discount the book because first-person.)

I just moved again (just a new apartment, not a new job). Unpacking is taking longer than I expected, and I’ve got one book in progress that I want to finish, but I’m looking forward to diving into this list next month. I’m going to shoot for three before the year’s out, starting with:

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir
  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  3. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham OR You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney if I’m feeling in a nonfiction mood.

Wish me luck (on the unpacking and the reading, please)!

Leisure Time in on Twitter! Follow @theLTtweet for post updates and smaller thoughts.

State of Leisure: Let’s talk about stuff.

Hi, again! So, let’s be real. Marvel kind of broke my brain for a bit. I mean, I binged a lot.  I was going to be all “Oh, look, every word in that sentence is its own link, ah, there are so many!” but…there were so many. So, check out my Marvel tag for the Road To Infinity War series if you missed it real-time. I didn’t take it to the extreme like those people who spent 30+ hours at a theater watching every MCU movie before Infinity War, but I did watch every movie (except The Incredible Hulk) and I think I watched at least six movies in the last day and a half leading up IW.

Watched them. Wrote about them. Ranked them. And then lost the will to write anything else.  Until now! I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years where I’ll basically hiatus from about March to June  and then October to January, and even though every time I come back and am all “This time I’m not going to abandon the three of you who still read what I have to say!” … I kind of always do.

So, I’m going to try to be better about that. I’m aiming for two posts a weekish. One sometime during the weekend and one sometime during the week. We’ll see how that goes. If I get a good backlog of posts built up, or I get bitten by something amazingly timely, I might do more, who knows.

But here’s what’s in the pipeline right now:

2017-2018 TV season wrap-up. I just finished Supernatural, and now I’m caught up on everything I decided to stick with except for The Orville. I think I’m four episodes back on that still.

2018-2019 TV season preview. New stuff’s coming! Old stuff’s returning! Let’s make the annual, sure to change before the season’s out calendar of far too much television for one person to consume.

2018 Leisure Time Movie Challenge. I need to go through my list of movies I’ve watched this year, see if any of them count against the challenge, and make posts for them. (Sidenote: My Media In Review post is going to be all kind of messed up this year. I got the the Marvel Experiment and just stopped tracking things. And months after it closed, I just now went back all “What did I see?  When did I see it? Why did I see it?)

Mission: POSSIBLE. I, uh, only sort of learned my lesson from the Road to Infinity War. In preparation for Mission Impossible: Fallout, I’m going to revisit the other six movies in the series before seeing it (but I’m totally not seeing it opening week). I’ve seen the original a bunch, M:Iii once when it came out, and I thought I’d seen the third one, but apparently not because I was very confused when I watched Ghost Protocol. Still haven’t seen Rogue Nation.

Other books. I read books this year! And there wasn’t a glorified comic strip or children’s book in sight! After hating Anger Is A Gift so much, I actually dusted off my GoodReads account to warn more people that it might not be the book they’re looking for, and I realized just how much stuff I’d put on my To Read shelf without ever actually reading it. I’m hoping some of them are available in my library’s ebook collection, and I’m going to try to get at least two more in before the year’s up. *Sigh* I remember the days when four books was like a two-week adventure or something.

So, that should keep me busy along with work, helping friends move and trying to make my own apartment look like something a human being lives in and not a cave troll. Yay!

Leisure Time is on Twitter! Follow @theLTtweet for post updates and smaller thoughts.

“Anger Is A Gift” will make you angry for all the wrong reasons

Anger Is A Gift tries to hold a mirror up the world to show you its ugliness. Racism, classism, hatefulness and good intentions gone awry are the cornerstones supporting the message that police brutality is real and awful. But the mirror is distorted and the message diluted in frequently sloppy writing, an unlikeable protagonist and the characters who exist solely to prop him up or draw his fire. The diversity of its cast is squandered, and while it might try to make you angry at an unjust world, one of the most infuriating things is how evident the potential was for this to be an all-around good book.

anger is a gift

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“IT” floats downhill

2017 it posterThe latest adaptation of Stephen King’s “IT” manages to do an interesting thing. It draws on different aspects of the novel than the miniseries that came before, making it seem like a more faithful adaptation that separates itself from its predecessor, but it also has notes of familiarity that fans of both the book and the miniseries can enjoy.

Unfortunately, it’s not a great movie. It’s not a bad movie, either! The story shuffles along from point A to B as Pennywise the Dancing Clown terrorizes and murders the children of Derry, Maine. Its scares are good and its humorous moments worth some laughs, and the the virtues of moving the setting from the 1950s to the ‘80s — and being an R-rated 2017 film rather than a prime time 1992 TV miniseries — add to the experience.

It’s just missing a lot of heart.

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Probably the only Magicians post I’ll ever make

I knew sometime last year that SyFy was creating The Magicians, a show based on the Lev Grossman book series of the same name, and told myself I’d talk about it when its premiere got a little closer.  As it got closer last month, and I said to myself “Hey, I should talk about that,” but I didn’t and now it’s several episodes into its 13-episode season (already renewed for a second).

Fortunately, I don’t have a lot to say.

Even though the previews made it look like it’s either focused mainly on the first part of the first book or like it will just be a wild departure from the book series, I won’t be watching it. Because there are not words for how much I hated that book. I couldn’t even finish it (and I finished goddamn Twilight), mostly because the lead character was a horrible person.

If we could edit tweets, I’d probably have amended that to say the worst parts of Holden and Jacob Black, but we can’t so whatever. The point remains that Quentin is an entitled, possessive, jealous, violent creep of a child pretending to be a man who is also, apparently, the hero of the story.

So, I’m not watching. I did, however, start to form a mental cast as I was reading 3/4 of the book, and I’m feeling a little validated by at least one of my choices.

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The Long Haul: The Star Wars EU

A few years ago, I started the Long Haul project. The goal was to watch a complete series and post about it on an episode-by-episode basis. I started with Journeyman, the short-lived 2007 NBC series about a reporter being thrown through time to fix people’s lives without screwing up his present. I love that show (sadly now unavailable everywhere but a UK DVD release) and wanted to share it with people. It was a rough start, because the line between summary and review can be a hard one to walk sometimes, but I got the hang of it.

I planned to follow it up with Eureka, the quirky USA series about a town of geniuses and weirdness. But I just couldn’t get into it. Not the show — the show seemed like it had a lot of potential — but I struggled mightily to write about it, and never watched past the pilot or published so much as a post about it. And then some of you might have briefly seen the announcement last year that I was going to revive Long Hauls with a rewatch/watch of Once Upon A Time. That came down almost as quickly as it went up, when I realized I just didn’t want to.

I think what it boils down to for me is that, in general, that’s not how I like to consume TV. I’m a fan of the binge watch, and stopping to write in between episodes when I know the next is just a click away kills my momentum and enthusiasm.

But last year I  was reminded of something else that I love: Star Wars.

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