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Showing posts from December, 2013

2013, A Year in Reading: Best and Worst Books of the Year

I read 47 books in 2013, a marked improvement on last year's dismal showing but still far from where I'd like to be.  I still find myself in periods where reading just doesn't appeal, but happily these are interspersed with others when it's the only thing I'm interested in doing, and hopefully the latter will grow more common in 2014.  And, as in 2012, what my reading lacked in quantity it made up for in quality--despite the title, there are no "worst" books this year, nothing that I'm genuinely angry about having read (or even the fact of its being published), and as regular readers of this blog may notice this year's list of best books and honorable mentions is quite a bit longer than previous years' (and might have been longer still if it hadn't been for some culling--I may yet wake up next week and realize that one of the half-dozen books that were bubbling just under this list actually deserved to be on it).

Probably the biggest readi…

Recent Reading Roundup 35

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One last edition of recent reading roundup for 2013, before the obligatory summary of the year's reading (coming on December 31st and not a moment sooner, she said, glaring darkly at certain people and publications who list their favorite reads of the year in November, for pity's sake).  This one comes with a particular slant--a few weeks ago, I received a care package from NYRB Classics, that delightful purveyor of rediscovered, unjustly forgotten works in beautiful packaging.  Since I already had a few of their books in my TBR stack, it seemed appropriate to end the year with an NYRB Classics binge (plus one other book).  Not all of these books are ones I would have selected for myself, but the result has been to shine a light on some corners of literature (much of it in translation) that I might not otherwise have explored, and it reminds me once again just how valuable this imprint is.
Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks - Since Banks's tragic death earlier this…

Recent Movie Roundup 18

Wow, it's been a while since we did one of these.  Usually fall and early winter are a dead season for movies, with the summer's blockbusters having died down and the winter's prestige films not having arrived yet, but this year there's been a deluge of genre and genre-adjacent work.  I've written about some of these films--Gravity and Catching Fire--at greater length, and some others, like Frozen or About Time, will have to wait until I catch up with them out of the movie theater.  Here, however, are some shorter thoughts on recent releases.
The Congress - Ari Folman's follow-up to Waltz With Bashir, an (apparently, very loose) adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress, stars Robin Wright as a version of herself, who is offered the chance to jump-start a moribund career by allowing herself to be scanned and turned into a digital, eternally young actress.  Twenty years later, Wright travels to the titular congress to see what changes scanning …

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Over at Strange Horizons, I review Catching Fire, the second film in the Hunger Games series.  I was quite excited going into the movie, since while I'd read the first book before seeing the film based on it, and have picked up the major events of the third book, Mockingjay, by fannish osmosis, I went into Catching Fire "clean," knowing nothing about it.  In hindsight, I probably should have wondered about that, since Catching Fire turns out to have little reason to exist as a story in its own right, and in that absence ends up drawing attention to the Hunger Games series's core flaws.  A lot of the complaints I raise against the film are therefore probably problems with the book, but where The Hunger Games managed to address a lot of the weaknesses of its source material, Catching Fire hasn't done so--or perhaps the problem is that, not having read the book, I'm less aware of how the film alleviates its problems, and thus less inclined to excuse its flaws.