Bookworming

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Hide Me Among the Graves

Sometimes my book finds are so random that for a while I don’t even know what I’m reading.

er-hidemeamongthegravesHide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers

Category: Books

Find it on: LibraryThing

What it is:
A vampiric gothic story taking place in Victorian London. Vampires (known as Nephilim here) are prehistoric creatures trying to demolish London with the help of the Rossetti siblings, of all people, and some lesser known poets. This is also a second part in a series, which I didn’t know until later (but it didn’t seem to matter a lot).

How I found it:
Actually, I had it on my to-read list but forgot what kind of book it was and got it mixed up with something more serious. So while reading the prologue I was all set to reading Serious Literature (and actually the writing didn’t set me straight for a while, so good for Powers, I guess) and it was only later that I realized “Wait a minute, it’s vampires in Victorian London, not Big Issues.”

Summary judgment:
For the genre it’s impressively ambitious, if not exactly exciting to read.

Best things about it:
It paints the period quite well and focuses on building the gothic atmosphere, rather than on simple horrorific scares or fantasy adventures. The characters are written carefully, with a lot of attention given to their motivations and dilemmas and the vampires do not turn out to be your usual dark, broody gentlemen.

Worst things about it:
For all its pluses, it remains a bit heavy with all the attention paid to descriptions. It takes quite a lot of reader’s concentration but doesn’t necessarily pay off with such an intricate story that would explain the plethora of details.

Other pluses:
✤ The (literal) underworld of London is memorable and carefully imagined.
✤ If you’re like me, you might enjoy the facts taken from actual history, like the exhumation of Rossetti’s wife and how it becomes a part of the plot.

Other minuses:
✤ At times it becomes repetitive, adding to the great length of the book. Of course, the length is relative to its contents: I read longer books without feeling their wordiness but here I had the sense that the novel would gain much from shortening.
✤ It kept me wondering about the morality of using real people (even if long dead) for this kind of story. Neither Rossetti nor Swinburne are drawn in a very flattering way and while they had their faults, consorting with vampires probably didn’t count among them.

How it enriched my life:
Despite its slowness I enjoyed the book well enough.

Fun fact:
There was a time when I loved Rossetti’s paintings (and I still find them very pleasing) from the moment when I saw a picture in my high school literature book.

Follow-up:
I might give Powers another chance because while this book didn’t necessarily charm me (despite all the ingredients for something to delight me specifically), I appreciate his strengths as a writer, particularly the vividness of his imagination.

Recommended for:
People who enjoy their fantasy slow and historical, with romances and shootouts replaced with character studies and literary references.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: The Tick (Also, if you’re confused about the current scheduling – are you though? – for now we’re down to a weekly review, with Saturday posts on hiatus.)

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Stranger Things (S2)

When we finished the first season of Stranger Things, with all the sleep it cost us we decided to take a break before starting the second one. But it just wouldn’t do. As soon as we could, we plunged right back in into Hawkins.

er-strangerthings2Stranger Things (season 2)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Netflix

What it is:
The second part of the instant classic focuses more on the characters we got to know and loved in the first season. Mike is getting rebellious, Eleven is missing and new kids come to town, while pumpkins all over the town are rotting – and it’s almost Halloween.

How I found it:
You just couldn’t miss it with the whole internet waiting for the second season. And even though we watched it relatively soon after it was released, people still threatened to spoil it for us.

Summary judgment:
I liked it even more than the first season.

Best things about it:
People said it didn’t reach season one’s heights but I disagree with you, people. It focuses more on characters, capitalizing on the audience’s attachment to them. It gives them more sweet moments and space to change. It holds the action off till the last episodes, which I imagine might be a problem to some viewers but it only added to my enjoyment.

Worst things about it:
I appreciated that the fighty part was much limited but still the climax had too many ferocious monsters for my taste.

Other pluses:
✤ I loved Hopper and Eleven. You might’ve inferred that already but Hopper is my favorite character and I liked seeing him in this new role.
✤ The conspiracy journalist worked for me, particularly when lampshading Nancy and Jonathan’s relationship.
✤ I loved doctor Owens. I kept waiting for him to turn out evil but was glad when he didn’t.

Other minuses:
✤ I don’t feel that the new Californian characters, Max and the douche, add much to the story. Her, maybe, but so far he didn’t justify his appearance.
✤ The Chicago adventure didn’t feel exactly like the same show. But I would watch it as a spin-off.

How it enriched my life:
We spent another couple of evenings watching exciting adventures – but then we lost so much sleep again.

Follow-up:
I’m not losing sleep, waiting impatiently for the next season but I will watch it gladly.

Recommended for:
Everyone who fell in love with the characters and the setting during the first season.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: Holiday break. I need to recharge. I might be back already after Christmas but the new year sounds good, too.

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Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Stranger Things (S1)

I’m a bit late to the bandwagon but I’ve finally watched

er-strangerthings1Stranger Things (season 1)

Category: TV shows

Find it on: Netflix

What it is:
An adventure story rife with monsters, conspiracies and friends for life. It takes place in 1983 in a small town called Hawkins where children bike and play DnD while the government runs illicit experiments. The first season lasts eight episodes and tells the story of a child who disappears and all those who will fight to get him back, facing both human and supernatural monsters.

How I found it:
I’ve been aware of everyone watching this show for a while and I promised myself to catch up some time but there was always something else to watch. But then my student wanted to do a project on the show and I felt obliged to watch it in the end.

Summary judgment:
Surprisingly, it’s not overhyped.

Best things about it:
It’s a charming, expertly done period piece, which adeptly juggles recognizable motifs and allusions. It uses my by-far favorite character archetype: the protective brute in the character of Hopper (it’s also the archetype of the best versions of Wolverine, so there). And it succeeds at the almost impossible: utilizing well child actors, who are neither obnoxious nor unrealistic. All the romances and friendships are drawn with delicate, sweet lines and to me matter more than the monsters and scares.

Worst things about it:
It’s not an objective fault, just a big one to me specifically: I hate horrors and so everything that recalls horror aesthetics, like a shaky camera and jump scares is a big turn-off for me. I could do without any of that but I see why these things were used on the show.

Other pluses:
✤ Winona Ryder’s character (I didn’t even recognize Winona until I read the cast list) marries vulnerability and strength.
✤ Have I mentioned that child actors are believable? That’s an achievement by itself.
✤ The interiors look great and so does everyone’s hair: it’s the picturesque kind of 1980s. But it’s the exteriors and the one-storey buildings that I find particularly memorable.

Other minuses:
Like everyone else on the internet I wish Barb had more scenes to shine in.

How it enriched my life:
We spent a few pleasant evenings and I got a few character ideas and some sleep deprivation.

Fun fact:
So the design project was for students to present a known story in four black and white icons and the student who wanted to do Stranger Things did a smart work dividing her design into black and white areas, with Will and Eleven placed on fields cut in halves, the boys on a white space and the demigorgon on a black square. But she was kind enough not to spoil the show for me so I only fully appreciated her design after I watched it.

Follow-up:
The next season.

Recommended for:
Everyone who grew up in the 1980s in small town America or wishes they did but with more adventures. Everyone who likes the movies about 1980s small town America with adventures.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: A sentimental journey to the world of True Blood

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