January Reads

I’ve not been reading much lately (as I mentioned in my end of the year post) and I decided to change that. 

And here at the end of January, I’ve already beaten my 2020 numbers, and hope to do so every month of 2021. 

In addition, I got a new Kindle to replace my broken Nook. I’ve got entirely too many ebooks and this is helping me read them. 

So, what did I read in January 2021? 

The Writing Life – Anne Dillard

A book length essay about being a writer. Short, and wandering the way a writer’s life and mind are. There were pieces of wisdom and asides I could relate to all throughout. Short, but enjoyable. 

The Rib From Which I’ll Remake the World – Ed Kurtz

I had missed this the first time around, so when it was rereleased I made sure to grab it. 

Noir, horror, a traveling movie show comes to a small town and everything changes. Recommended. 

The Poetry Handbook – Mary Oliver

This is a tech lit type book, meaning that it is about definitions and structure, rather than a writing book that works to inspire or teaches you how to practice. A pleasant refresher for me, and a great starter for anyone looking.

High King’s Tomb – Kristin Britain

I started the Green Rider series a very long time ago, having gotten the second book when it came out. This is the third, and despite the time away, it was so easy to drift back into this world and remember why I loved these characters. 

I’ve got more on my shelf, and look forward to reading the rest. 

Collected Poems – Rita Dove (1/7)

This is a large collection of 7 books of poetry by Rita Dove. I don’t like to rush through a book of poems, especially one written by someone as masterful as Dove. So I am taking my 1/7th credit for the first book. 

And Dove, like Clifton and Tracy K. Smith, should be on your bookshelf. 

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

This was the first book I read in my new Kindle. I wanted to read something gothic, and well, I got something gothic.

I’d read Wild Sargasso Sea forever ago, not knowing it was a prequel to Jane Eyre, making me a biased. (I may have said “BURN IT DOWN” a few times during the read)

I got the copy from Standard Ebooks a great site for well formatted public domain books. 

The Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler

I’ve owned this one entirely too long for it to have been unread. Set in the near future (nearer now in more than just time), about a dystopian US and the formation of Earthseed. 

A difficult, beautiful read. 

The Path of Ice & Salt – Jose Luis Zurate

Translated from Spanish, this novella is about the boat ride from Europe to England in Dracula by a boat named Demeter. 

A dark tale full of thick prose, a quick but strong read.

Thunder and Lightning – Natalie Goldberg

I’ve read this once, at least once, before. It was a common one I’d pick up and read during moments at stores or breaks at work. Goldberg’s writing makes it easy to do so. A follow-on to Writing Down the Bones, a book I recommend so much, I keep giving away my copies. 

It’s essays about writing, but about introspection into writing, writers. Even a second or third time through it was a great read.

Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E.Harrow

Believe it or not I was about 30% into this book before realized the significance of the title. And January was the last book I read in January. 

And it was a great book! A family with secrets, an archeological society with secrets, books with secrets, door, so many doors!

Unfinished

Proensa – George Economou

A collection of Troubadour poetry translated into a more modern style than you’d expect. It is a fun, dense at times, reading with history and commentary as well. 

I got on a Troubadour kick this summer, and this was one of the titles I grabbed. A few more to read, or finish (like Songs of the Women Troubadours which I started in, uh, June?), this year. (And maybe two more purchased…)

Poetry and Poets – TS Eliot (1/2)

I’ve only read the first half of this book, the Poetry part, but I’m going to claim it here. This is not, as I had hoped, a book on poetics written by TS Eliot. It is, rather, a collection of professional lectures that Elliott had given over his life… and they read as such. 

They are interesting, once I understood they weren’t what I was looking for. But a bit on the dry side…

I’ll probably read the second half later, but this is a thick book. 

A Transformers movie that wasn’t

Furthermore.

I watched the third Transformers movie recently and it sucked. Ok, to be fair it was a very valiant attempt to remake the second Transformers movie with a coherent plot. And, in this respect, it succeeds in the sense that there is a mostly coherent plot. It combines the plot of a first season transformers cartoon episode with the idea that we found aliens on the moon.

And as an alien invasion movie, it wasn’t half bad. But that is the issue, isn’t it? That’s been the issue the whole time. They aren’t Transformer movies, they are alien invasion movies. Mikey Bay himself admitted that he had never seen any Transformers and thought the idea of making a movie about a toy was stupid UNTIL someone said “well think of it as an alien invasion movie.”

And he did. Now to be fair, the first movie almost gets it. While it is about an alien invasion, it still has, as its focus, at least one of the transformers: Bumblebee.

The second movie is the amazing adventures of Shia Laboof and his Air Force buddies with some fancy cars that show up at the end to fight something buried in the great pyramid.

By the third movie the fact that these large robots can transform is inconsequential to the plot as a whole. They are no longer Robots in Disguise, but Robots that are also their own transportation.

More importantly, they are not the main characters of the movie. I understand the desire to have a character that the audience identifies with, who in this movie is played by the LaBoof, but that should not overshadow the actual characters of the movie. You know, the ones the movie is named after.

Think of it this way. There is a movie coming out called BATMAN. And the previews all have a dude in a suit kicking some ass. But then you go see it and it is actually a police procedural with Gordon as a detective still hunting down a murderer in Gotham and sometimes this guy dressed up as a bat shows up and helps.* That isn’t a BATMAN movie. That’s a Detective Gordon movie with a cameo.

And these are not Transformer movies. Robot alien invasion movies with valiant humans fighting to keep their planet, yes. Movies about robots in disguise? not at all. And that is my real issue with them. Not the Bay-isms, the gratuitous ass shots, the exploding toaster ovens or even the off handed ‘humor’ that just sucks. It is that he didn’t even really try to make a Transformers movie.

So why bother? sure there is product recognition, sure there is a pre-existing audience, but they are all familiar with this world. And if there is anything to learn about nerdy fan boys is that we know our stuff. This is part of the fan-fiction discussion I made earlier. Even for Mikey Bay there are rules to this world of Robots in Disguise, and instead of making a great Transformers movie by living in them, he chose to make a mediocre movie about alien robots.

* BTW, i think this movie would kick ass. So if you are a DC guy with Batman pull and you like it, steal it, and make it.