Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is recommended reads; I suppose there’s several different ways that you could interpret this prompt, so I’ll pick some books that friends and fellow bloggers have recommended to me–some on my TBR, some that I’ve already read.
My whole family consists of huge comic book fans, and that usually means that single issues circulate between us before coming to rest in bags and boards. My brother lent this one to me, after showing me a few panels and saying that they “looked like your Aurora Rising” books.
Needless to say:
My brother is an absolutely fantastic person in every sense of the word
I got a notification this morning, and apparently I’ve had this blog running for…5 years? WHOAAAAA, OKAY, I FORGOT ABOUT THAT
I didn’t start semi-seriously book blogging until about a year ago, but thank you to everybody who has supported me along the way! (And for those of you who had to witness what this blog was like when I was in middle school…I’m terribly sorry for the horrors you experienced.)
ANYWAY, I figured I should start doing writing-related posts more frequently, so here’s my first(ish?) stab at it.
Many members of the writing community use music in a number of ways in the process of creating their WIP, be it picking specific songs or albums to listen to while writing, or creating book or character playlists. Music is an integral part of my life, and I’ve managed to weave it into my writing life as well. I always listen to music when I write, so I thought that I would first share some songs, albums, and scores that I like the most to get me writing my WIPs.
I think there’s been several studies about how instrumental scores help with studying, but for a lot of people, music without lyrics is helpful to focus on their writing, and is less distracting than music with lyrics. I use a mix of music with and without lyrics in writing, but for those of you who are strictly instrumental, here are some of my favorite albums–mostly film scores, mind you–that I use when writing:
Hellboy II: The Golden Army original score–Danny Elfman
Yes, yes, I know I blab about this masterpiece quite a lot, but hey, it’s Danny Elfman doing the score–what’s not to like? The score ranges from whimsically spooky to action-packed to tear-jerking, so it’s perfect for writing scenes of all kinds.
Russo has such a wide range, composition-wise, and every single score I’ve come across by him is nothing short of stellar. Some of my favorites include his scores for Legion (FX), and The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), but he’s also scored everything from Cursed to Lucy in the Sky and Fargo (the TV show)
NON-INSTRUMENTAL SONGS AND ALBUMS
I cram loads of music onto my writing playlists, but there’s several particular songs and albums that get me more focused/motivated/immersed in my writing than others, so here goes nothing…
Besides the fact that one of my WIPs features a character who is obsessed with this album, the sheer range of emotion in this album is stunning. Though it’s chiefly electronic, I’ve used these songs from everything from battle scenes to a funeral scene.
Another very emotional album, this one’s always great for writing scenes associated with any form of love, whether it’s the promise of it, being in the throes of it, or being apart from it. Then again, you’re talking to somebody who has had zero (0) experience with any sort of relationships, so take this as you will.
Apparently they called this album “the American Kid A” when it came out, so…did I cheat and put Kid A on here twice? If so, I don’t regret it.
Ranging from punchy, classic rock songs and dreamlike, melancholic hazes of emotion, I highly recommend this album for scenes charged with emotion–doesn’t matter what emotion we’re talking about, because there’s easily a song or two on here for everything.
I saw a piece of advice the other day about making two writing playlists: listen to one of them while writing it, and a different one when you’re editing or making the second draft, so that you’re put into a different mindset while re-reading it.
For making the playlists themselves, I usually just dump several songs I like, and go through songs as I write. If there’s a song that takes me out of the writing or has been in circulation for a few times too many, I take it off and replace it.
Just for fun, here are snippets of mine:
(Or, alternatively, “the one that I accidentally dumped all the Weezer on” and “the one without any Weezer at all”)
I also like to cobble together playlists for each of my WIPs: here, I include songs with lyrics that relate to the story, or that just have the general vibe of the WIP. For some of them, I also create character playlists going off of the same rule. For my sci-fi book, there are six different perspectives (or, I’m going to make it that way once I get around to editing it), so I have a playlist for each of them. For my current WIP, however, there’s only one perspective, so I just keep it at the protagonist.
What do you think? What are your musical techniques for writing? What’s your favorite music to write to?
Since there’s a boatload of music in this post, consider the entire thing “today’s song.”
That’s it for this writing post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I hope you’re all having a lovely week, and that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.
Those who’ve managed to stick around this blog for a while know how much I’ve loved The Honors trilogy. The world of YA sci-fi–particularly space opera–is a small one, and it’s hard to come by one that has the perfect mix of elements that make for a thrilling joyride through the universe. So you can imagine how excited I was to finally get my hands on the final book in the trilogy (and it wasn’t just because I could finally talk about it with my school librarian, who read it before I did 🤣). And I’m happy to announce that Honor Lost did not disappoint!
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the two previous books, Honor Among Thievesand Honor Bound, so tread lightly if you have not read them and intend to!
Anything that you can imagine in the universe, Zara Cole has likely fought against it. Be it human crime bosses, vengeful Leviathans, or gangs of power-hungry aliens, she, Nadim, Bea, and the rest of their ragtag crew have faced it down. But now, they may have gotten into a war that they can’t escape from.
Lifekiller, an interstellar entity bent on devouring all worlds that fall in its path, is on the hunt. And Zara and her crew are at the top of its Most Wanted list. Can her newfound family defeat this world-swallowing entity–or will they fall prey to it?
Finishing a series is always bittersweet. There’s a satisfaction of what happens to our beloved heroes, but it’s always followed by the lingering feeling like you’re saying goodbye to a friend. And now that the Honors trilogy has come to a close, I can say with certainty that it will always have a special place in my heart. Aguirre and Caine pull out all the stops to make a blazing firework of a final installment.
You all know how much of a sucker I am for the found family trope, and Honor Lost has made the sweetest, most tender, and lovable gang of space misfits! Besides the original crew of Zara, Nadim, and Bea, we also get to see more of Chao-Xing (absolutely iconic), Starcurrent (MY PRECIOUS CHILD), Xyll (objectively deserves better), Suncross and the rest of his crew (“Cheers, I’ll drink to that, bro”), and all the rest. They each had such distinct personalities and impeccable chemistry, making for a cast of characters that made me feel every feel in the universe.
Now, CAN WE TALK ABOUT ZARA AND BEA? At this point, I think they’re one of my favorite couples in YA sci-fi. Period. Not only do we have a sapphic, multiracial relationship, they bounce so well off of each other, and they have the most caring and beautiful relationship. I just…[happy queer tears]
Going off of that…this is one of the only aspects I wasn’t a fan of in the novel, but how Nadim factored into the relationship. Let me make myself clear–I’m 100% fine with polyamory, but what makes this kind of odd to me is the fact that one party is…well, y’know, a sentient alien spaceship. A spaceship. There’s obviously a connection between the three of them, but I felt like it could have worked just as well if Nadim’s role was purely platonic. Then again, you’re talking to someone who’s favorite movie is The Shape of Water (and yes, I did think that *the scene* was plenty weird, but it didn’t take away from the film for me), so take that as you will. Like the aforementioned film, though, this didn’t take away from my rating of the novel, mostly because I have a major soft spot for Nadim. Gotta love him.
Even though the Lifekiller is your standard, world-devouring, overpowered sci-fi villain, Aguirre and Caine made it work–he lurks more at the edges of the novel, not truly showing up in full until the climax. Add in some past grudges from Zara, and there’s plenty of heart-pounding conflict to carry the final installment. Through it all, there’s resonant and timely themes of acceptance, family, and individuality, making for a beautiful sendoff for an unforgettable trilogy.
Overall, a thrilling and heartstring-tugging end to a sci-fi trilogy that is not to be missed. 5 stars!
Honor Lost is the final book in the Honors trilogy, preceded by Honor Among Thieves (book 1) and Honor Bound (book 2). Both Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine have other works in several genres besides this trilogy.
ALL RISE FOR THE COTTAGECORE NATIONAL ANTHEM
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”
Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.
Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.
So why do I want to read this?
I usually cut out the blurbs and such from the Goodreads synopsis, but I figured I would share the one at the bottom of The Infinite Noise:
“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?”
-Vox, on The Bright Sessions
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand you had me at X-Men.
This one’s based off of a podcast, which I’ve never previously heard of, but I’m willing to go in completely blind. (I really don’t listen to podcasts much at all, for reasons I can’t place.)
That aside, this novel sounds so exciting! The Infinite Noise sounds like a superhero story with a unique, introspective twist. Not only do we have some great LGBTQ+ representation, I’m excited to see Caleb’s powers; there’s something that makes me so happy to see a male character with powers connected to his emotion. In a society that all too often belittles men for crying and feeling emotion, here we have a character who’s going through the all-too-human struggle of exploring his own emotions–and his superpowers. So that’s a wonderful step, and a necessary one in the pantheon of superpowered literature.
In short: I’m here for a timely, progressive, and romantic superhero story. GIMME ALL THEM X-MEN VIBES!
That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
First and foremost, I hit 200 followers this week! (I’m currently at about 207, I think.) But I’d just like to give each and every one of you a big thank you for your endless love and support.
I’ve definitely had a nice week. I spent a few days in Vail with my family, and we did lots of walking amongst flowers and eating too much sugar, so that was a lovely reprieve from the monotony of 2020 life. (Also, writing in a bunk bed is on another level of good vibes.) As far as writing goes, I’ve finally decided to resume writing my paranormal fantasy WIP, and that’s been fun to get back into the groove. All I’ll tell you so far is that it draws a lot of inspiration from Hellboy/B.P.R.D. and Guillermo del Toro, and there’s quite a lot of sarcasm, amphibious creatures, and questionable magic afoot.
As far as reading goes, the 4-5 star high capped off last week, and I’ve had almost entirely 3 star reads this week. I got another library haul yesterday, so hopefully that’ll help pick things back up again, but only time will tell.
Other than that, I’ve started catching up on season 2 of The Umbrella Academy, started watching Devs ([loud screaming]), and I’ve been rewatching What We Do in the Shadows with my family so that we can get my brother into it. (We’ve already blown through the whole first season) I also watched I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, which was lovely.
I’ve been wanting to do another TBR cleaning session, because, as always, the number of books on my TBR is multiplying like rabbits. I’ve been picking the shelves to trim with a random number generator, and today, it landed right in the middle. Let’s see how this goes…
1. Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf
2. Order on ascending date added.
3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
Two teens go on a life-changing sailing trip as they deal with the grief of losing their best friend in this heartwrenching, hopeful novel from the author of Something Like Normal and In a Perfect World.
Willa and Taylor were supposed to spend the summer after high school sailing from Ohio to Key West with their best friend, Finley. But Finley died before graduation, leaving them with a twenty-five-foot sailboat, a list of clues leading them to destinations along the way, and a friendship that’s hanging by a thread.
Now, Willa and Taylor have two months and two thousand miles to discover how life works without Finley—and to decide if their own friendship is worth saving.
Besides how much the cover annoys me, this one doesn’t sound terribly original.
Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading–and the end of the world may be at hand.
For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.
Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.
1833. After young Lord James Ellerby witnesses a near-fatal carriage accident on the outskirts of his estate, he doesn’t think twice about bringing the young woman injured in the wreck to his family’s manor to recuperate. But then she finally regains consciousness only to find that she has no memory of who she is or where she belongs.
Beth, as she takes to calling herself, is an enigma even to herself. She has the rough hands of a servant, but the bearing and apparent education of a lady. Her only clue to her identity is a gruesome recurring nightmare about a hummingbird dripping blood from its steel beak.
With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind her identity and the sinister circumstances that brought her to their door. But the dangerous secrets they discover in doing so could have deadly ramifications reaching the highest tiers of London society.
I don’t read much mystery–much less historical mystery–but I’m willing to go along for the ride on this one. Plus, I love the title and the cover.
For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.
But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.
The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.
With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?
Despite the punny title, this sounds like a wonderfully dark and twisty Peter Pan retelling!
Smart and unflinching, this #OwnVoices debut contemporary novel stars an ambitious college student who refuses to be defined by her central auditory processing disorder.
Edie Kits has a learning disability. Well, not a learning disability exactly, but a disability that impacts her learning. It isn’t visible, it isn’t obvious, and it isn’t something she likes to advertise.
And for three semesters of college, her hard work and perseverance have carried her through. Edie thinks she has her disability under control until she meets her match with a French 102 course and a professor unwilling to help her out.
Edie finds herself caught between getting the help she needs and convincing her professor that she isn’t looking for an easy out. Luckily for Edie, she has an amazing best friend, Serena, who is willing to stitch together a plan to ensure Edie’s success. And then there’s Hudson, the badly dressed but undoubtedly adorable TA in her French class who finds himself pulled into her orbit…
I’m always eager to try and find more #OwnVoices novels, and this sounds like one I’d love!
In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history.
Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?
Time travel is a trope that’s frighteningly easy to screw up, but this sounds absolutely fascinating. Definitely on board!
Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.
In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.
Hmm…I think I’ve seen/read a few too many books that have this kind of plot, so I think I’ll try and find more original fantasy.
A Fire Destroys . . . A Treasure Appears . . . A Crime Unfolds . . .
When Saba Khan’s apartment burns in a mysterious fire, possibly a hate crime, her Chicago high school rallies around her. Her family moves rent-free into a luxury apartment, Saba’s Facebook page explodes, and she starts (secretly) dating a popular boy. Then a quirky piece of art donated to a school fund-raising effort for the Khans is revealed to be an unknown work by a famous artist, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Saba’s life turns upside down again. Should Saba’s family have all that money? Or should it go to the students who found the art? Or to the school? And just what caused that fire? Greed, jealousy, and suspicion create an increasingly tangled web as students and teachers alike debate who should get the money and begin to point fingers and make accusations. The true story of the fire that sets events in motion and what happens afterward gradually comes together in an innovative narrative made up of journal entries, interviews, articles, letters, text messages, and other documents.
Sounds timely, but I’m not sure if I’m invested in the plot.
The Line Tender is the story of Lucy, the daughter of a marine biologist and a rescue diver, and the summer that changes her life. If she ever wants to lift the cloud of grief over her family and community, she must complete the research her late mother began. She must follow the sharks.
Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, preparing to swim with a Great White, when she died suddenly. Lucy was eight. Since then Lucy and her father have done OK—thanks in large part to her best friend, Fred, and a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a Great White—and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was “meaningful” but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother’s unfinished research. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she’ll finally be able to look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s left to be discovered.
[loud gasp] PRETTY WHALES ON THE COVER, I REPEAT, PRETTY WHALES ON THE CO–
…eh, I’m really not sure if I’m invested in this one, either. Reminds me a bit of “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” but I don’t think I’m interested (even though I loved that movie).
VERDICT: LET GO
LET GO: 6
Rejoice! My most successful Down the TBR Hole to date! This is the first time the number of books I’ve let go surpasses the ones I’ve kept, which I’ll take as a good sign. I’ve found several books that I no longer want to read, and I’ve found a few that I’d forgotten about and still want to read. Now, excuse me while I check if my library has copies of those books that I kept…
I know I’ve been focusing a lot of my reviews and memes on fantasy in the past few weeks, but I promise that I’ll put in some sci-fi and other genres soon(ish). But the novel I’m reviewing today is vastly underrated, so I thought I’d spread the word.
I was browsing Edelweiss for eARCs to request the other day, and I stumbled upon a new book by Alexandra Christo. I’d liked To Kill a Kingdom before, and I figured that I’d give her another try. As it turns out, the book that I found was a sequel, and that book 1, Into the Crooked Place, was available at my library. To my surprise, I liked it even more than TKaK–a thrilling fantasy with a lovable cast of characters!
In a city as filled with crime as it is with magic, four unlikely criminals must join forces to halt an unstoppable evil.
Tavia makes a living as a busker, hawking magic to whoever wants it. Wesley is a feared crime lord, and the right-hand man of a gangster who has the city of Creije tightly clenched in his fist. Saxony is an undercover agent of the resistance, working to take down the crime empire that rules over her city. Karam watches over the worst of the worst, while building her reputation as a formidable fighter.
The four are drawn together after Tavia makes a critical mistake, and a vial of dark magic falls in the wrong hands. What seems like one misstep soon turns into a web of conspiracy and the threat of a magical war.
For such a low rating on Goodreads (3.43), I enjoyed nearly every page of Into the Crooked Place! At this point, comparing it to To Kill a Kingdom is like comparing apples and oranges–they’re both fantasies, but they’re very different novels. Either way, I enjoyed this one even more. Boasting a cast of characters with impeccable chemistry, magic, political intrigue, LGBTQ+ representation, and no shortage of witty banter, this novel is a must-read.
Into the Crooked Place is definitely a very character-driven novel, which worked well for the plot. Save for Wesley, who…okay, not gonna lie, was evident that Christo was trying far too hard to make Kaz Brekker 2: Electric Boogaloo, I adored all of the main characters. Tavia had no shortage of hilarious lines and antics, and I loved watching her character develop. Saxony was wonderful as well, but I think Karam is my favorite of the four. She reminded me a lot of a girl version of Kal from Aurora Rising, and she just warmed my heart. She and Saxony had the sweetest relationship, and they’re just [happiness noises] SO CUTE TOGETHER. So props to Christo for not only having a casual wlw relationship, but making it ADORABLE.
They all had wonderful chemistry, and it made for a wonderful execution of the found family trope.
Like I said, it’s definitely a more character-driven novel. Though the plot was a little bit weak, it almost fully made up for it in the explorations of the individual characters. Want to get to know them? Just put them all in a near-death experience and throw them on a train and see what happens. A good third of the book occurs in a single train car, and Christo managed to make me enjoy every second of it.
The world-building left a little to be desired, but what it lacked in structure, it made up for with the individual, original elements. All the little quirks of the magic system made for an interesting read, especially…BATS. I LOVED THE LITTLE MESSENGER BATS! What can go wrong with that?
Overall, an exciting and character-driven fantasy that wasn’t without its flaws, but a fun ride all the way. 4 stars!
Into the Crooked Place is the first in a duology, ending with City of Spells, which comes out next March.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I don’t do many reviews of movies and TV shows here, but I figured that I would pour out some thoughts for this one. After reading Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller’s Cursed back in April (and loving it), I figured that I would give the Netflix adaptation a try, since I didn’t have much else to watch save for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which I’m steadily binging at the moment). I finished the show in about a week, and overall, I liked it–for the most part, a faithful adaptation, but at times, a forgettable one. I don’t regret watching it, but it’s nowhere near my favorite show.
In summary: Cursed is a 10-episode adaptation of Wheeler and Miller’s 2019 novel, a retelling of Arthurian legend before King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone. It follows Nimue (Katherine Langford), a Fey girl whose home has just been burned down by the Red Paladins, an army of monks bent on purging the Fey from Europe. Her mother’s dying wish was for her to deliver the Sword of Power to Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård), and Nimue, fueled by anger at the slaughter of her family and people, sets off to find the famed wizard. Joining forces with Arthur (Devon Terrell), she goes in search of Merlin, only to discover that the sword that she wields may have a darker power than she could have ever imagined.
Alright, folks…below, I’ll break down what I liked and didn’t like, so be prepared for quite a bit of rambling! This review/breakdown may contain some spoilers, so be warned.
The opening title sequence and transitions: Absolutely GORGEOUS. The watercolor style was so detailed and beautiful, and it meshed so well with the general mood of the show.
The instrumental score: I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: Jeff Russo can do no wrong. Though this score isn’t as notable as the ones he did for TV shows like FX’s Legion or Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, it was certainly a masterfully composed score, especially in the opening theme and some of the songs from the final two episodes.
The sets/filming locations: Every single location that Cursed was filmed in was such a joy to take in. The forest setting made for countless beautiful shots, and even the more fabricated ones, especially in the Fey refugee camp of Nemos, did volumes in immersing the viewer into the story.
Cast diversity: Kudos to Netflix for casting a variety of actors from all different backgrounds, from the protagonists to the side characters, for the show! There’s quite a few POC characters both at the forefront (ex. Arthur and Morgana) and in the background, so that was always good to see. There was some LGBTQ+ representation as well, which I’ve been going back and forth about. Morgana, one of the protagonists, is in a sapphic relationship with Celia, but in the first few episodes, Celia is killed when their nunnery burns down. She appears in later episodes, but as an…undead puppet of a spider demon. It’s dangerously close to the horrific “bury your gays” trope, but…yeah, I don’t know. On one hand, it’s set in Medieval Europe, and in a nunnery, no less, so the relationship likely wouldn’t have ended well even if it hadn’t burned down. On the other, Celia didn’t have to be killed off/resurrected for Morgana to have character development–Celia could have run off with her, and there still could have been tension there if she had joined her, Nimue, Arthur, and the rest. I’m still unsure about it, but at least they…tried. And I think there were a few LGBTQ+ couples present in the Fey camp in the background.
Faithfulness to the source material: For the most part, the Netflix adaptation followed the book closely, which was great to see! There’s a few tweaked details, but they didn’t bother me much at all.
Now, some of the characters/performances that I liked:
Arthur and Morgana: As brother and sister, they didn’t have the best chemistry, but individually, both their performances were good! Arthur was simultaneously bumbling and steadfast, just like I imagined him in the book. Morgana was similarly endearing, and they way that the show ended, I’m interested in seeing how they *might* continue her arc.
Merlin: A lot of the criticism that the book got was about Merlin, specifically about how they had massacred his character, making him a more arrogant man, and more than a bit of a drunkard. But even though I love Arthurian legend as much as the next person, I understood the change–Cursed is supposed to be a prequel to the events of these legends, and it would make sense for Merlin to be a younger, more disillusioned character, before he became the wise mentor figure that we know and love. Skarsgård’s performance was well-translated from the book, and I liked following his character.
Uther Pendragon: He’s exactly the kind of character that you love to hate. Pendragon was the perfect, whiny and overtly arrogant and hotheaded king to contrast with the other characters.
The Red Paladins: Though Sister Iris was a bit underused, the Red Paladins are just as chilling as they appear in the novel.
…Nimue: I liked her character in the book, but Langford’s acting just felt…so flat, so lacking in emotion. I wanted to root for her, but there was such a lack of heart in the character that I could barely muster up any emotion.
The romance: They had this in the book as well, but I wasn’t as much of a fan of it there, either. It felt like it was needlessly shoehorned in to appease the Teen™️ audience.
The gratuitous violence: Again, I suppose this means that it was faithful to the books, because the book was very violent, but it was definitely a bit much. Some of it felt like it was only added in for the shock value, and could have been cut out in the long run. Also, the effect of the blood splattering onto the camera lens works well in present day/more futuristic media, but it took away from the Medieval European setting.
The subplots: At least they got tied up at the end (somewhat), but they didn’t contribute to the story. Pym’s whole arc with the Red Spear felt wholly unnecessary, and just fan service that assumed that everyone would appreciate that they kept their comic relief character alive and giving her a romantic arc. Most of the Red Spear characters bugged me as well (especially the captain). The subplot with Morgana, Celia, and the spider demon was a little bit better, but it didn’t do much to the story, other than giving the allusion that Morgana might become more powerful than Nimue herself.
That awful song at the end of episode 9: OH GOD. OHHHH GOD. NOPE. Aside from being blatantly manufactured to be put in the show, it again took me out of the setting. I mean, it’s not like a medieval sea shanty would have worked any better for the scene, but I found myself rolling my eyes sky-high.
The acting: Even though I listed some of the good performances above, most of them were…good, but forgettable. Other than the characters listed, nobody quite stood out for me (save for Sister Iris). Decent, but nothing that blew me away.
Overall, Cursed wasn’t spectacular, but I don’t regret watching it. The filming locations, score, and transitions were gorgeous, and it mostly stayed true to the source material, but it was dragged down by a few unnecessary subplots and forgettable acting. I’d give it a solid 3/5.
Would I recommend it? I suppose I would. For all you fantasy lovers and fans of the original novel who don’t have much else to watch, I’d encourage you to give it a watch. As long as you have the stomach for quite a lot of violence, though.
Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.
This one has been on my TBR for quite a while (a good three years, to be exact), and while I’m by no means expecting perfection, this one sounds like a fascinating read! Only time will tell, I suppose…
Let’s begin, shall we?
GOODREADS MONDAY (8/3/20)–THE NAMED by Marianne Curley
Ethan lives a secret life as a Guardian of the Named. Under the guidance of Arkarian, his mentor, and with the help of Isabel, his unlikely but highly capable apprentice, Ethan has become a valued member of this other-worldly corps. As the only defense against the evil Order of Chaos, the Named travel through time to prevent the Order from altering history and thereby gaining power in the present and the future.
As the threat from the Order intensifies, secrets of the past are revealed and villains and heroes are exposed. This gripping fantasy is set in modern times, but is infused with intrigue from the past, super-natural characters and surprising plot twists.
So why do I want to read this?
Looking back, I’m a little bit hesitant, but only because of the fact that it’s Marianne Curley–I read another book of hers (Hidden) a few years back and I wasn’t a fan. But I’m willing to see if that was a fluke, and that her other works are better than that. Again–I have no memory of it, but I just remember it being startlingly mediocre.
That aside, the premise sounds fascinating! I’m excited to see how Curley handles time travel. Altering history is a common trope in all sorts of time travel novels, so it makes sense that there’d be a task force of sorts to make sure that it doesn’t happen in the first place. I don’t read a whole lot of time travel literature, so if everything’s executed nicely, it should be a fun and fascinating read!
That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!