laceblade: Ashe from FF XII, looking at viewer over her shoulder. Text reads: "So you say you want a revolution?" (FFXII: You say you want a revolution)
I thought that my favorite part of the third volume of Essential X-Men (145-161) was when Emma Frost was inhabiting Storm's body and quoting King Lear while conjuring a thunderstorm...but that was before the issue in which the X-Men fought Dracula.
Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler are my favorites at this point in time. Still mournful for this age of US comics in which, while text-heavy, THE WRITERS EXPLAIN WHAT IS GOING ON.

Claudia Gray's Star Wars: Lost Stars has been my favorite tie-in option related to the new movie, The Force Awakens. The whole point of the book is to simply explain how that Star Destroyer ended up crashed on Jakku.
The YA book involves two kids who grew up together bonding over flying on their home planet, despite being from different classes. They attend the Imperial Academy together, and then one ends up as an Imperial Officer while the other joins the opposite side of the war.
Like lots of YA, this book grabs you and pulls you along through lots of intense emotions. I will put a content warning on this for suicidal ideation, for which I really wish I'd had warning.

I reread Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary because I really needed some comfort, and it delivered. I also took a recommendation from its pages, and have read Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages and intend to read the follow-up, Raising Demons. The books are essentially about her domestic life as a mother, but it hilarious. I laughed so hard, so many times, that I had to read passages aloud so that my partner knew what I was laughing about.

I'd read the bulk of Mansfield Park a few months ago, and finally finished it. I'm not sure how I feel about it, in the end. I still like Persuasion most.

William Anderson released a selection of letters by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the past few weeks. It's still really upsetting that the people who inherited the Ingalls house in De Smet just pitched a ton of stuff out the front window into a dumpster. SO MANY LETTERS I WOULD WANT TO READ AHHHHH!!! Still, there's a lot to unpack in here. Laura's creepy suspicion and loathing of FDR and the New Deal; letters to her daughter Rose as they collaborate heavily over the Little House books; letters to her relatives close & distant; basically an insight into a period not captured anywhere else: When she's living on the farm in Mansfield with Almanzo but they've given up doing farming full-time and she's already finished writing articles for the Missouri Ruralist, through Almanzo's death, a decade of solitude, and then her own death. It might be disturbing for readers who haven't separated Laura-the-character from Laura-the-writer/person.

I'm reading Sofia Samatar's The Winged Histories right now.

I've listened to and really enjoyed Awake, an audio drama over on Sparkler. It's about a colony ship having left Earth and being mid-journey to a new planet. To keep the ship running while everyone's in cryogenic sleep, 6 people are "awake" at any given time. These are people who couldn't afford the full fare, and are paying for it with years of their lives given in service to the ship. So they'll wake up in the future with some loved ones having aged, or not, depending on who did service and for how long. There's some really great voice-acting in here, and I loved it.

I'm currently making my way through The Cat Lover's Circumstances. Misaki Tanabe attends university in Japan, but has a really hard time socializing with people because of her psychic ability to read people's feelings. Sometimes poignant, this series is HILARIOUS and as with everything else I've spent time with on Sparkler, I feel like it was written especially for me.

My "try to watch one episode of anime per day" goal has allowed me to make some steady progress.

Much to [personal profile] littlebutfierce's delight, I watched the first season of Love! Live. Not my first idol anime, but possibly the first in which I really feel a deep affection for almost all of the 9-member idol group. ALSO I LOVE THE SONG "START DASH."

I'm about 3/4 through Seirei no Moribito, which I like quite a bit although I'd anticipated it having more action scenes than it does. It's complex enough that I'd like to try reading the books on which the series is based. Balsa is a badass, Chagum is endlessly interesting, I'm afraid of how it's going to end. Are there fan translations of the novels, which surely must continue past where the anime ends?!

After I finish Seirei no Moribito, the goal is to figure out my VCR, to see if I can finally watch the cheap subtitled VHS set I found of Record of Lodoss Wars years ago.

I saw "The Boy and the Beast" in the theater last Saturday. I liked it, but don't think I have much to say about it. It's always nice when something makes it to a theater here.
laceblade: Photo of Almanzo Wilder, flashes to text: "Almanzo Wilder was a stud." (Almanzo)
Pioneer Girl - I had to keep reminding myself that this was a novel, & not a memoir, which is a credit to the writing.
In These Happy Golden Years, Almanzo Wilder gives Laura Ingalls a golden pin with a house on it. In the 1960s in Vietnam, Lee's grandfather encounters a customer in his restaurant named Rose. Rose leaves behind a gold pin with a house on it. It's unclear whether she forgot it, or intended it as a gift for their many conversations.
Decades later, Lee has graduated from UW-Madison with a PhD in English Literature, but cannot find a post-doc anywhere, so she's temporarily living with her distant mother & grandfather again. She starts investigating whether the Rose her grandfather met could be Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was in Vietnam in the sixties, three years before she died, covering the war for Time magazine.
In ways, this book reminded me of Hiromi Goto's The Kappa Child, how the Little House series is used as a touchstone for the children of Asian immigrants to North America. In this novel, the Manifest Destiny tug that Laura, her Pa, & her daughter Rose all feel is compared to Lee & her brother's desire to escape their mother's way of life, constantly opening Asian buffets in strip malls in different Midwest cities.
Lee's reading of the Little House books felt really familiar to me. The title is named after the first version Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her childhood - a single-volume autobiography called Pioneer Girl. Her story was broken up into multiple books, and reshaped (or ghost-written?) by her daughter Rose through a lot of epistolary editing.
The above is a little fragmented, but I really loved this book. I think I finished it in less than a day.

Buffy s10, #2 - I felt like this was a more solid intro to the season than #1 was. I often feel bad about shipping Buffy/Spike, but it just never goes away.
Nicholas Brendan is going to be authoring at least one issue focusing on Xander (and Dracula), & James Masters is going to be authoring a mini-arc on Spike that takes place during season 7. I'm...not really excited about either? Xander only became more atrocious to me in season 9 of Buffy, & I already didn't care for him on the show.
I was pleased by the appearance of [spoiler].

Kaze Hikaru, volumes 20 & 21 - It was nice to see Sei use her femininity as a tool in this little arc. I think volume 21 has been my favorite so far. I really liked the fleshing out of Sei's past, & the choices she makes. I find her love for Okita Souji much more compelling than Okita himself. I'm now caught up with Viz's release of this series in the US. To read more, I'll need to turn to fan-translations...

One Piece, volumes 1-3 - This is one of the most popular series in Japan, & I've never read it! Monkey D. Luffy wants to be a pirate so badly that he stabs himself in the face to impress the other pirates. Unfortunately, he can't swim & can never learn how, so the pirates are uninterested in making him part of the crew. So, Luffy decides to become THE BEST PIRATE IN THE WORLD. To do so, by the end of this omnibus, he's acquired THE BEST SWORDSMAN IN THE WORLD and THE BEST THIEF/NAVIGATOR as the beginnings of his tiny crew.
This is a fun series, & so far Nami, the thief/navigator who hates pirates, is my favorite.

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand - Kitty and Ben go to Vegas. I didn't care for this one too much? But it ended up being setup for the next book, Kitty Raises Hell, which I liked A LOT. I like Kitty & her pack & her radio show & Ben & her family. I wanna see what happens when Cormac rejoins them in Denver, tho. I WISH KITTY WERE REAL AND WE COULD BE FRIENDS.
laceblade: Photo of Almanzo Wilder, flashes to text: "Almanzo Wilder was a stud." (Almanzo)
I've been following Wendy McClure's fake Laura Ingalls Wilder Twitter account, HalfPintIngalls, for a few months now. It's hilarious on its own, and it's even more funny if you've read the books.
A few favorite tweets include:
"Anyone know how to pry loose a hoopskirt stuck in a privy doorway?! Asking for a friend."

"Remember when the whitewashed sod walls made me crazy & I started screaming in Norwegian? Oh wait, that was someone else. #wrongnovel"

"Poor @Carrie_Ingalls looks peaked and thin. Has the Long Winter has been taking its toll? Or is she sneaking cigs behind the lean-to again?"

I think she's also tweeted at a fake Mary Ingalls account in fake Braille, idk.

Anyway, McClure has written a part-memoir, and sort of a pilgrimage, about the Little House books. Basically, McClure grew up loving the Little House books, rereads them after growing up, read a lot of academic (and a lot of fluff) about them, and then sets out to visit the sites of the locations in the books.

She writes frankly about Ma's racism, Rose's inexplicable claim that everything in the books are true (when even Laura gave interviews explaining why she changed some things), and the people she meets at the Laura sites - including some intense Christians who are into self-sufficiency in a hardcore way (due to the End Times, of course).

McClure gets her boyfriend to read the books and accompany her on some of the trips. She churns butter in her Chicago apartment. She reconciles with Farmer Boy.

I didn't learn anything new about Laura Ingalls Wilder from these books, aside from a few non-fiction titles I haven't heard of yet, as well as a few short story titles by Laura's daughter Rose, but reading this book was a genuine pleasure for me because I felt like Wendy and I came from the same headspace. Most of the books she referenced were the same ones I'd read, or ones I haven't read yet but have read so much about that I get the general gist of their arguments.

McClure is honest about the absurdity of the TV show, as well as how ridiculous the fans are - including herself. But there's an earnestness running throughout the books, too. I the reader am a bit startled that Wendy is exactly the same kind of fan as I am (one who assumes that nobody could love the books as well), and she is shocked at first to find other fans just as into it as she is - and then more accepting, like they're all in the same club.

To give an example of her humor, here are two of my favorite quotes:

The fact that Nellie wasn't any one person but rather a composite of three of the real Laura's antagonists' worst traits makes her even more terrifying, some kind of blond Frankenstein assembled from assorted bitch parts.

The guide pointed to a short set of crumbling flagstone steps leading down from the driveway. "Almanzo built those steps," she told us, as if she was trying to convince us.

Since I'm so familiar with the source material, it's hard for me to say how much you'd enjoy the book if you haven't read them. She does take the time to explain the source books, whenever appropriate.

If you've read the series, you definitely need not have read any of the non-fiction - she summarizes whatever she needs to, when appropriate.

Anyway. I loved this book, and it was exactly what I needed this weekend.
laceblade: Photo of Almanzo Wilder, flashes to text: "Almanzo Wilder was a stud." (Almanzo)
Old Home Town is a collection of short stories set in the same town (Mansfield, Missouri).

Like Free Land and Let the Hurricane Roar, the main characters in this book are thinly-veiled doppelgangers from Rose's real life. The stories are told in first-person through the viewpoint of Ernestine Blake, who is the pseudo!Rose.
Her parents are clearly characitures of her real parents, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder.

The first story, "Old Home Town," is the most irritating. It's a all a description of the town and lifestyle in which the rest of the stories take place. I Found this rambling and hard to get through.

After the first story, the subsequent ones center on stereotypes for women ("Old Maid," "Hired Girl," "Immoral Woman," "Thankless Child") and semi-break them down. In each tale, someone is doing something to get the entire town to gossip about them, usually by breaking with societal expectations.

Because Ernestine is still very much under the watchful eye of her mother, it's hard to tell if she sympathizes with the scandalous characters in each short story, or if she judges them for going against the rigid rules she's been raised to believe in.
But at the end of two of the stories, Ernestine/Rose breaks the fourth wall a bit, to come down decidedly on the accused. With the "Immoral Woman," for example, story almost ends with the woman leaving Mansfield in shame. But after she's grown up, Ernestine runs into her in New York City, Budapest, and the Louvre. Both are single women (a fate that would have shocked/dismayed the teenage Ernestine) who make mention to the feminist movement.

Overall, I enjoyed the stories very much as an extension of the Little House books - we see Laura struggling to be a good mother; we also see society changing quite a bit. Laura is still stubborn, and Almanzo seems to be a crabby man who's upset that he can't control his wife/daughter.
I also found the stories a little eyeroll-y, especially as a set, because they are so dramatic and unbelievable.

One example is a Hired Girl who lived in town with a family. After the wife dies, the Hired Girl continues to live with the husband and children, doing the cleaning, etc. The town is scandalized that an unmarried man and woman would live together, so the man marries the Hired Girl to shut them up. The Hired Girl realizes that her new husband is in love with a different woman in town, and always has been. This woman's husband conveniently dies, but now that the Hired Girl's Husband has married her, he is heartbroken and stuck. The Hired Girl drowns herself in a well. Ernestine/Rose and her mother/Laura find the Hired Girl's wedding ring and a stack of bills in the center of her bed; they hide them so that nobody else will know that she committed suicide and the Hired Girl's widowed husband can get married to the woman he really loves and live happily ever after.

So after a while, it gets a little...OMF, really?!

Lastly, it was a bit eerie to read some of these short stories, as Roger Lea MacBride totally cribbed some of them into his latter 'Rose Years' fictionalizations. I guess it was his right to do so, as he was 'heir' to the Little House franchise after Rose's death, and seems to have been responsible for things like the TV show and the many, many children's books based around the various women in Laura's family.
But it certainly explains why New Dawn on Rocky Ridge seemed so out of left-field for me, in comparison to the previous books in the Rose stories.

As with Rose Wilder Lane: Her Story, these stories are much better written than MacBride's/the ones based off of MacBride's notes after his death.


Nov. 20th, 2010 07:43 am
laceblade: Photo of Almanzo Wilder, flashes to text: "Almanzo Wilder was a stud." (Almanzo)
I fail at keeping up with media reviews; here are the things I find worthy of commentary.

The Ozark Trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin
Responsible of Brightwater lives in a different world, where the kingdoms are mostly named after the states that made up the Ozarks. I found 'the land of Marktwain' to be a bit eye-roll-y.
The population comprising Marktwain arrived in this other world because they were fed up with pollution/etc. of Earth, and they wanted to move somewhere more sensible.

One thing I found mind-boggling is that the author states point-blank that everyone in Marktwain is white. WTF, what happened to all of the people of color?? Did they just decide not to move with everyone else? Were they not allowed to? What the hell? I found this pretty distracting, as it is never explained.

Each kingdom has at least one granny, a matriarchal figure who is capable of performing certain types of magic/spells. Grannies are also highly skilled in the ability of delivering epic tongue-lashings, especially to headstrong men in their kingdoms. The books are almost worth reading just for these epic monologues alone.

I liked the protagonist and her sister. I liked the twist at the end. Overall, this was a fun little trilogy, and I like Elgin's writing style. I think that the first book, Twelve Fair Kingdoms, wasn't really necessary, as it was just an exercise in "Tell instead of nauseum."

Free Land by Rose Wilder Lane
Written by Rose before she/her mother started publishing the Little House books.
This story is basically an AU fanfiction about her parents, in which they never marry (lol Rose had mother issues). In some ways, this book addresses the scary/adult issues of living on the prairie a little more directly than the Little House books ever did (going after a claim jumper to string him up), and in some ways it's less so (the Long Winter was a happy time of closeness and warmth!).

My main issue with the book relates to the ending and Rose Wilder Lane's political beliefs. Just in case anyone doesn't want to be spoiled, spoilers are under the cut. )

Kuroshitsuji, aka Black Butler, vol. 1 by Yana Toboso
This series is ridiculously popular, and I found the first volume pretty boring. Does anybody know if it gets better?

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
Read for December's [community profile] beer_marmalade. I liked the dystopian future-ness of this book; I liked the protagonist; I liked the use of Catholicism/becoming your own saint/etc. Something about this fell a little flat for me, though. Maybe I just found the boxing boring.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
I really...didn't like this? I feel like I should, because lots of people cite it as a favorite. The exposition irritated the fuck out of me. And in the end, what happened in this book? Really, nothing, except that Sunshine did a lot of laundry, took a lot of baths, and baked a lot of pastry-type things.
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
My relationship with Roger Lea MacBride's Rose books is almost as old as my relationship with Laura's books about herself. They started coming out in the early 90's, and out of all of the books about Laura's family written for children, I would probably give these the most credit for being accurate.

Roger Lea MacBride actually knew Laura's daughter Rose Wilder Lane quite well. He was her "adopted grandson," and he heard all kinds of stories about her life straight from her mouth. She also apparently groomed him into be a Libertarian candidate for president. The author Roger MacBride has his own Wikipedia page.

Of course, Rose does, too. If you're interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder and have never read about the doings of her daughter Rose, the Wikipedia page is pretty comprehensive.

Of course, when I did my previous write-up of the little books by William T. Anderson, I forgot to mention that I own a fourth one called Laura's Rose. While reading it, I was delighted to learn that so much of MacBride's description of Rose's childhood in his fictionalized books were actually accurate, down to the name of her stubborn donkey, Spookendyke. Additionally, it's my goal to read some of the books written by Rose, and to see if I can't find some of the newspaper articles she wrote. As an old lady, she even covered the War in Viet Nam in the field!

Rose had a 10,000-volume library! Somebody has owned more books than me!

As I've since figured out, a lot of these books borrow on other source material. The first book, Little House on Rocky Ridge, takes nearly all of Laura's observations from On the Way Home and fictionalizes them to be from Rose's point of view.

Throughout the books, Rose grows up in Missouri, where she's a little bit haughty, because she likes to read and regularly quits school because she thinks her teachers are stupid (I wanted to do that so many times in my school career!). She has different kinds of friends to show different aspects of Missouri: a rich girl named Blanche who lives in town, a Catholic girl whose family speaks French, a boy who originally steals eggs from her family's farm and ends up showing her about all the rural traditions and tall tales.

Roger Lea MacBride died before finishing writing these books, so his notes were used to fill in the last three or four.

On the Banks of the Bayou details the year Rose spent living with her aunt, Eliza Jane Wilder, in Louisiana. Despite having promised herself to her childhood friend Paul Cooley (whose family journeyed with Rose's from De Smet, South Dakota), Rose has no problems going out with another dude throughout this novel - he takes her riding and out for food, and apparently this is okay with Rose, although she must know something's not cool with it, as she never mentions it to Paul or her parents.

Bachelor Girl is the last book in the series. I later discovered that this book was lifted entirely from a book that Rose had already written....I'm not sure why they didn't re-publish that instead, because it was much better written.

As Rose grows up, she develops an increasing disgust for farm life, quite unlike her parents. She wants to be by more educated people, and desires a fast-paced life. Still, considering her disastrous marriage with Gillette Lane, it's pretty creepy for Bachelor Girl to end with Rose gushing about how much she likes him and how great her life will be. MERP-MERRRR.

These books, especially in the later volumes, become increasingly preachy. And they do include passages with overtones of "white people conquering the untamed lands of the west" that never appeared so outright in Laura's Little House books.

For example, from the end of the last book:

She was happy to be going somewhere new, and she couldn't help thinking that she was following a family tradition. How often she had heard Mama and Papa and Eliza Jane talk about the settling of Dakota Territory when they were all young.

Man's thirst for fertile land was eternal, Rose thought. It was in the blood, and especially in the blood of her family. They had settled the prairie all those years before, seeking a dream of self-reliance and prosperity. Now it was Rose's turn.

I couldn't believe the way Rose lived her life in Bachelor Girl, and found her relationship with Gillette Lane (who became her husband after this book ends) pretty much awful - he sounded like a swindling jack-ass to me. When I read the book that Rose herself wrote, that Bachelor Girl is based on, I found it much-better written, but still despised him throughout. But I'll write more extensively about that when I write about Rose's book!

If you're interested in the titles of these books, there are 8 of them, and they are listed here. I liked the early ones well enough as a kid, but they don't hold up as well to re-reading as the original Little House books.

I think probably my favorite part in the entire series takes place in New Dawn on Rocky Ridge. Most of the book details Rose acting like a spoiled brat. The narrative is literally interrupted when Rose's mother, Laura, receives a letter telling her that her Pa is dying, and to come home quickly to De Smet. I think that one of the things I find most sad about Laura's life is that she only saw her entire family once more after moving to Missouri with Almanzo. She clearly loved her family very much, so I found it pretty depressing.

The story about Laura taking the train home to visit her dying Pa takes up two entire chapters, and is told from Laura's perspective. She even reflects on Rose's actions that had happened just previously in the book. She describes the weeks spent in De Smet, and I think perhaps I took a liking to it just because it was refreshing to read about familiar characters (Mary, Carrie) after most of the book (New Dawn on Rocky Ridge) had been spent describing Rose acting like a brat with a spoiled town girl.

I keep finding these Laura/Rose-related books. I have already read three more that I have not yet blogged about, but I'll do my best to not write about all of them in the same week.
laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)
This slim 100-page volume details the journey of the Wilder family from De Smet, South Dakota [where the last few Little House books take place] to Mansfield, Missouri: the place where Almanzo and Laura bought a farm and mostly stayed there until they died.

The majority of the book is a minimalist journal kept by Laura during their trip. Her notes mostly include details about the weather, what the crops are like, and camping conditions.

The Wilders made the trip with the Cooleys, a family with two boys who are about Rose's age, who are pretty frequent characters in Roger Lea MacBride's Rose books.

There are a few light-hearted notes, such as this one:
Mrs. Cooley and I went to a house to buy milk. It was swarming with children and pigs; they looked a great deal alike.

Speaking of Roger Lea MacBride, On the Way Home basically serves as an outline for his first book in the Rose series, Little House on Rocky Ridge. I was surprised by how many events in his fictionalized book were taken from On the Way Home, even down to the Wilders' finding of a dog and naming it Fido.

Rose adds in a few footnotes for clarity, but her main contribution is framing the journal by describing the events that led up to it, and what happened once her family reached Mansfield, Missouri.

The books also includes many pictures of the places traveled in this book, Rocky Ridge Farm, and Laura and Almanzo themselves.

Essentially, this book gets the Wilders from South Dakota to Missouri, with not much description, aside from Rose's narrative book-ends. To find out what happens next, one must resort to MacBride's Rose books [or those very slim Anderson books I read].

Speaking of Roger Lea MacBride....while I'm pretty skeptical to read other books about the Little House family, I do have a healthy amount of respect for his account, and he was essentially Rose's "adopted grandson," knew her quite well, and became the executor of her estate (and therefore Laura's).


laceblade: Kumiko and Reina from Hibike! Euphonium anime, Reina holding Kumiko's face w/one hand, faces close enough to almost touch. (Default)

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