“Doctor Who” Series Eight Recap: Reviews + Thank You + Lists + Analyses

12 and clara 2Good evening! Once again, I’m talking about Doctor Who‘s eighth series, but today it’s just me – no co-reviewers. Now that the series has (more or less) finished airing, I thought it would be neat to examine various aspects of the entire story.

(I say “more or less” because the 2014 Christmas special hasn’t aired yet, and I’m pretty sure that it counts as part of series eight. I want to talk about series eight now, though, while it’s still fresh in my mind and in yours.)

This is a loooooong post, so before you read this it’s probably a good idea to find a comfy chair to sit in, and some jelly babies to munch on. Enjoy!

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To my lovely co-reviewers: THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. You’re amazing. You really are. When I asked for people to review series eight with me I expected, oh, maybe three or four volunteers? I definitely didn’t expect to review any more than half the episodes with other bloggers.

But thanks to eleven amazing people, I was able to co-review all the episodes. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! It was SO much fun and I plan to make this a regular feature on Musings From Neville’s Navel whenever new episodes of Doctor Who are airing.

Before I list my contributors and their reviews, I’d like to say one more thing: I want to give an even bigger thank-you to the bloggers who agreed to switch review dates with one another due to scheduling conflicts. The schedule I ended up with wasn’t the one I originally thought I’d be following, but I was still able to post all the reviews in a timely manner. Thanks.

Without further ado, LET’S HAVE A BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR MY CO-REVIEWERS!

Again, thank you so much!

P.S. Artgirl @ Alien Cows, I know you wanted to review part of this series but were unable to. I’m still up for reviewing the Christmas special with you if you want! (Also, apologies for that spoiler thing last night. Oops…)

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And now, before I move on to the analyze-y section of this post, here’s a quick list of my favorite series eight episodes! #1 is my favorite, and so on and so forth.

  1. “Flatline”
  2. “Deep Breath”
  3. “In the Forest of the Night”
  4. “Time Heist”
  5. “Death in Heaven”
  6. “Into the Dalek”
  7. “Dark Water”
  8. “Robot of Sherwood”
  9. “Listen”
  10. “Mummy on the Orient Express”
  11. “Kill the Moon”
  12. “The Caretaker”

What were your favorite/least favorite episodes from this series?

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Time for fun analyses and stuff!

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

The-Doctor-Peter-Capaldi-and-the-Half-Face-Man-Peter-Ferdinando-in-DEEP-BREATH

The Doctor

Was Twelve everything I expected and hoped for? Yes… and no. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s complicated.

I loved seeing a darker, older, more sarcastic Doctor. He really reminded me of Nine in some ways, which was AWESOME because Nine is my favorite. Actually, he really combined aspects from multiple previous Doctors, didn’t he? His costume is a throwback to Three’s, and his personality is reminiscent of Nine’s.

And then there’s the physicality of Peter Capaldi’s acting. It’s hard to explain, but I think Capaldi is similar to Matt Smith in this regard – perhaps not as flail-y, but always messing with something or hopping from foot to foot when he’s bored or whatever. (Maybe these pictures will help to clarify what I’m talking about?)

I also loved Twelve’s friendship with Clara. I don’t mind a flirtier Doctor every now and then, but I’m glad that their relationship is strictly platonic – it was a nice change, and even Twelve says that he’s basically her “space dad.”

However, this was also my biggest problem with the new Doctor: Apparently the writers don’t know of any way for him to show that he doesn’t like her that way other than by making disparaging comments about her appearance or something. Ugh. Seriously, stop. Look, I know the Doctor isn’t always nice, but he shouldn’t say stuff like that to his companions.

So, what’s my final verdict on Twelve? I’m going to say I like him about as much as I like Ten, or maybe just a little less – so he’s a pretty cool guy, but not quite my favorite. And that opinion will probably change someday because he’s still so new right now and we’ve only seen one series with him so far. I look forward to seeing his character development in series nine!

Clara Oswald

[Noises of discomfort] Oh, Clara. You WERE better in series eight than in series seven, but I actually don’t think that says very much because YOUR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT HAD NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP.

I’m glad that Clara Oswald was treated as an actual character and not merely as a plot device, and she seemed to have more spunk. I LOVED her scenes in “Deep Breath,” “Robot of Sherwood,” and “Flatline.” And I loved her outfit in “Time Heist” like OH MY GOD how is she such a freaking CUTIE PIE?!

But I found her relationship with Danny (more on him below) frustratingly BORING, and she was incredibly wishy-washy about whether or not she wished to continue traveling with the Doctor. It became irritating very quickly.

Final verdict? Um. Hmmm. Probably still my least favorite character after Amy Pond. I mean, she really improved during this series, but in my opinion that doesn’t cancel out her blandless in series seven.

Gah, I’m so conflicted because I really did/do want to like her. For what it’s worth, she is absolutely AMAZING in some episodes… but less so in others.

Danny Pink

POOR SOLDIER DUDE, LET ME GIVE YOU A HUG. I THINK YOU NEED IT.

I was so excited when it was announced that there’d be a second companion in the TARDIS – because the more the merrier, you know? I was so excited to see Danny travel through time and space, but then he… didn’t.

He spent barely any time on the TARDIS, and spent most of his time there being belittled by the Doctor, and the rest of his screentime was devoted to an incredibly dull romantic relationship with Clara. He’s a great guy, but I feel that we didn’t see him often enough. Blergh. I loved seeing his interactions with kids, and I loved that subplot about being a soldier once upon a time, but there just weren’t enough scenes like that and it makes me grumpy.

Missy

From the beginning of the series, I thought she was most likely either the Master or River Song – but because I asked my co-writers for their theories, I heard a lot of interesting ideas and so didn’t settle upon ONE theory. Also, Missy = Mistress = Master seemed way too obvious!

But as it turns out, she is the Master, and a fine one at that. Michelle Gomez plays that clever/evil/hammy combination perfectly.

I’m really really happy to see that the Master is messing around with gender; it’s an idea that was established a while ago but had never actually affected any of the main characters. Maybe this will result in a lady Doctor someday?

Supporting Characters

New characters

Journey Blue (“Into the Dalek”) was pretty cool.

I would ABSOLUTELY ADORE a follow-up episode with Psi and Saibra from “Time Heist.” They’re my favorite minor characters from this new series. And speaking of that episode, Madame Karabraxos was pretty cool too. (And I love her name!) Oh, and one more thing – I loved the Teller!

I would’ve liked to see more interactions between the Doctor and Courtney… I think she would be an interesting companion.

RIGSY WAS COOL TOO. Loved his interactions with the Doctor. I enjoyed the Boneless as brand-new villains, too.

I have a soft spot for the episodes with children, so I loved Maebh in “In the Forest of the Night.”

Returning characters

I loved Vastra, Jenny, and Strax in “Deep Breath,” and considering their popularity with a large chunk of the fandom, I’m really surprised they appeared in only one episode. They acclimated us to the new Doctor wonderfully.

I liked the references to Classic Who and the Brigadier in “Death in Heaven,” but Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (his daughter) played such a small role in that episode that there’s just not much for me to say about her…

…but I do have stuff to say about Osgood, her assistant! I loved her! I’ll miss her! And I’ve also realized that if I want to dress as a Doctor Who character for Halloween, she is the perfect choice because she’s the only character I resemble even remotely.

Music

Alas, alas, I don’t think series eight’s score will be released for another few months, making it a little difficult for me to accurately critique the music. When the time comes, I’ll probably end up writing another post about any pieces that I particularly love.

For now, I’ll just talk about the arrangements that some oh-so-helpful Whovians have (probably illegally) uploaded onto YouTube.

The new intro music is awesome – and better yet, the opening sequence was designed by a fan!

I LOVE the new Doctor’s theme – it’s always epic, but can switch between sadness and happiness and anger. Pretty cool. (It actually reminds me of this series six piece in terms of style.) Here’s another version that I love.

I love this suite from “Mummy on the Orient Express.”

Unless I wasn’t paying attention, we didn’t hear Clara’s theme very much during this series, which is a shame because it’s so beautiful.

This Clara-and-Danny theme from “Dark Water” is gorgeous.

This suite for Missy and the Cybermen is great – and it includes echoes of the previous Master’s theme, which totally made me have a film-score-fangirl moment.

What pieces/leitmotifs did you notice and enjoy? Send me the links if you want; I’d love them!

deep breath1Diversity

Race

I’m white, so this was something that didn’t even cross my mind when reading/watching/writing stories a few years ago. But thanks to some awesome blogs about diversity in fiction, I’ve started to notice more of that stuff.

For example, I’ve noticed that prior to this series there hadn’t been a single non-white companion since Martha Jones back in series three. Like, it’s weird when you watch a show and every single freaking person on it is white. (It’s weird that every single regeneration of a certain alien has been white.)

Now there’s Danny. I’m kind of iffy about calling him a companion, but he was a fairly major character, so that has to count for something, right? Other than that, I can’t think of any other major examples – just Courtney and Saibra, but they’re minor characters.

LGBTQ+

Well, the diversity here depends on what you do and don’t count. I’m iffy about how Missy’s gender thing was dealt with, but if you count that then approximately seventeen percent of episodes were LGBTQ+ inclusive. If you count only “Deep Breath,” it drops to about eight percent.

Either way, that’s a failing grade…

Bechdel Test

(Many thanks to Alex, Miriam, and Artgirl for their assistance with this section!)

You’ve probably heard of this before; it’s a checklist for all types of stories and is used to determine whether a story’s female characters are treated well. Basically, are they characters in their own right? Or do they exist just to be rescued, or to be plot devices, or to be eye candy?

To pass the test, a story has to meet all of the following criteria:

  1. It has to have at least two named women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

It’s really not that difficult to pass, or at least it shouldn’t be. How did Doctor Who‘s eighth series fare with the Bechdel Test?

NOT WELL. Only five episodes, or about forty-two percent, passed the test. The ones that passed are “Deep Breath,” “Into the Dalek,” “Time Heist,” “In the Forest of the Night,” and “Dark Water.” (And the last one only passes because in one scene Missy talks about Osgood about how she’s going to kill her. Yay for positive female relationships!) One episode, “Listen,” didn’t even have more than one female character; it featured only Clara.

I’ll sum up the results in classic Engie fashion: Blergh.

Observations About Series Eight Overall

Honestly, my thoughts about series eight are similar to those about Clara: There was nowhere to go but up. Yes, I enjoyed series eight more than series seven, but that’s nothing to be ecstatic about because series seven is one of my least favorites.

This series was rumored to be darker than those previous, and I think it more or less succeeded in that regard. Also, I liked the mix of settings – outer space versus Earth. I kind of wish there’d been more episodes set in the past, though.

If I had to rate this episode, I would give it three-point-five stars out of five total.

Thoughts About Series Nine

I think that if there was going to be a new Doctor in the next series, the writers would’ve announced it already, right? I mean, surely they would’ve said something about an upcoming regeneration in this year’s Christmas special, and they wouldn’t have Twelve regenerate in series nine’s first episode because that’s just weird timing.

So I think Peter Capaldi is staying for at least another series!

Jenna Coleman, on the other hand, is rumored to be leaving the show after the Christmas special. If this is true, then I AM EXCITED FOR A NEW COMPANION.

Finally, Michelle Gomez seems to have let slip that she’s returning for series nine, sooooo… I think we’ll see Missy at least one more time. But this is just a guess.

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Do you agree with my observations? What was your opinion of series eight (and its characters!) as a whole? I’d love to know!

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The Seven Deadly Bookish Sins

I found this tag on The Book Chewers and it looked like fun! Enjoy!

Greed
What’s your most inexpensive book? What’s your most expensive book?

Well, at the library’s spring book sale, some of the discarded books that were in particularly poor condition sold for only twenty-five cents! I don’t really mind whether or not my second-hand books have dog-eared pages or are missing their dust jackets (if they’re hardcover books, that is), so I acquired Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods and Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.

As for my most expensive book, I think (but am not sure) that I bought the final two Harry Potter novels for about thirty or forty dollars each!

dramaramaWrath
What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Rick Riordan, I think. His modern retellings of ancient myths are outstanding but sometimes his sense of humor feels awkward. Stilted. Sometimes he understands teenagers well and sometimes he makes me shake my head and go, “That is not something we would ever say!”

(I think this depends on the book/series, too. His Kane Chronicles irritated me far more in this respect than Percy Jackson or Heroes of Olympus did.)

Gluttony
What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

I love E. Lockhart’s Dramarama to bits and have read it so many times that I’ve lost count! It’s a fast-paced, unusual story that is both funny and sad, and YOU SHOULD ALL READ IT TOO. (Multiple times, hopefully.)

Sloth
What book have you neglected due to laziness?400px-Gatsby_1925_jacket

I keep meaning to read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo – but it’s sooooo long! I could read loads of other (shorter!) books from my uber-long to-read list in the time it takes me to finish Les Misérablesso… while I intended to read it this year, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I’ll read it eventually, but not any time soon.

Pride
What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, definitely. I really do love it, old sport, but I also talk about it a lot because it makes me sound like Miss Smarty Pants.

Sometimes I pretend I am Faramir in that picture.

Sometimes I pretend I am Faramir in that picture.

Lust
What attributes do you find attractive in female characters?

Oh gosh, that’s a difficult question. Hmmm, I guess I like female characters who are independent and slightly rebellious (without being too moody). I like fictional girls who have a good sense of humor. And if they have awesome action/fight scenes, that’s cool too!

So basically, Johanna Mason. Or Linh Cinder. Or Tanith Low. Or Éowyn. I’m not picky.

Envy
What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

When the fourth and final Raven Cycle book comes out and they make a boxed set edition of the series, I would absolutely love to receive one. THOSE BOOKS ARE MY PRECIOUSES.

Feel free to answer these questions on your own blog!

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Movie Review: Mockingjay Part 1

mockingjay posterOH MY GOSH, YOU GUYS, MOCKINGJAY. IT IS GLORIOUS.

Mockingjay Part 1 premieres today, but due to a ridiculous theater schedule I was able to see it last evening. (Seriously, since when are 8 PM screenings a thing? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of midnight premieres? Oh, well.) AND IT WAS SO GOOD.

Because I like lists, I’ve decided to write this review in list format.

Oh! I almost forgot to say: This review is not spoilery. I’m not going to tell you where the two films have been split or anything like that. (But I will say that my mental prediction for that was right, yay!)

NOTE: I can’t guarantee a spoiler-free comment section, though, so consider yourself warned!

Enjoy!

1. The Games’ psychological effects on Katniss were realistically explored

She has PTSD. She snaps at people quite often. She spends a lot of the movie crying. (Ditto Finnick.) It’s not very pleasant, but what do you expect? She’s just been through two Hunger Games and now her country is in the midst of a rebellion – so cut her some slack!

It seems as if almost everyone but me hated Mockingjay. I actually liked the third book because it brought the readers into unknown territory. Instead of telling about another Games, it told how events of the previous books had hurt Katniss. It’s very different from The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – slower-paced, basically – but I loved it because it shows a very different side of war. Two-thirds of the trilogy are about victory; the final installment is about the cost of that victory.

2. Prim is growing up and IT’S SO ADORABLE

I’ll admit it: I used to dislike Prim. And then I realized that was silly of me! I mean, she’s twelve when the trilogy begins – of course she’s going to spend the first few books crying and not doing much, because she’s still a little girl.

But she’s grown up since we last saw her. Now she’s going to be a doctor and she’s wise beyond her years and oh my gosh I’m so proud of her. (I get waaaaay too attached to fictional characters.) YAY FOR PRIM.

3. Effie has this thing called character development

And it’s great. Watching her slow transition from over-the-top Capitol fashion and attitudes has been very interesting. She’s much kinder now, too.

4. Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat” was an amazing end credits song

I love the credits song of book-to-film adaptations but seriously, my reactions to all the Hunger Games movie songs are so weird. I always go through a period of “this doesn’t sound right for this movie” and then I listen some more and go “OH MY GOD THE LYRICS MAKE SO MUCH SENSE.”

Oh my god, this song’s lyrics make so much sense.

5. The District 12 scenes made me sadder than I expected to be

And I think I know why: I don’t imagine violent/gruesome scenes in much detail. I get easily grossed out by that stuff! So when I read the book I just pictured smoldering ruins… not bodies.

6. District 13 looked much more futuristic than I expected it to be

Why did this surprise me so much? This story is set in the future, for heaven’s sake! And District 13 is incredibly advanced compared to the others, especially compared to backwards District 12.

Anyway, I guess I was expecting their rooms to be little caves blasted out of the rock… but they weren’t. There was lots of metal and machinery and stuff everywhere. VERY COOL. In an apocalyptic way.

mockingjay - cressida and castor7. Cressida (as played by Natalie Dormer) is just so freaking gorgeous

After watching Mockingjay Part 1, I arrived at two conclusions:

  • This movie is filled with lots of pretty ladies and, happily, none of them died yet
  • I have a crush on Natalie Dormer in basically every movie/TV show that I’ve seen that had her in it (and there are quite a few that I would like to see just because she played a role in them)

And I know she played a tiny role in this movie (and in the next one) but OH MY GOSH SHE’S SO PRETTY JUST LOOK AT HER. (Gosh, I’m overusing caps lock in this post, aren’t I? Wow.) Sure, she’s played much bigger roles before, but on the other hand her hair is awesome in this movie. And so is her face. And I seem to have spiraled down the path of pointless fangirling, but I’m not going to apologize that because I was really excited to see her in this movie.

(Also, apparently she’s been telling interviewers that she was in “Hunger Game of Thrones” and if that’s not adorable, then I don’t know what is.)

8. I LOVED the propos scenes

Jennifer Lawrence pretending to Katniss pretending to be someone who can actually act? YES, PLEASE. It was sooooo amusing because, as Haymitch pointed out, when Katniss does scripted things she’s super awkward and not a convincing rebel leader at all.

9. I appreciate Buttercup

Prim’s cat kind of stole the show, didn’t it? I mean, the first two movies were by no means a barrel of laughs but Mockingjay Part 1 is REALLY DARK and to be honest, most of its very sparse humor came from that ridiculous cat. This movie really made my emotions go up and down – one minute I was crying and the next minute I was giggling as Katniss played the classic “can the kitty catch the flashlight beam?” game with Buttercup.

10. Their rendition of “The Hanging Tree” is SUPERB

I am so so so so glad the filmmakers hired James Newton Howard as composer again; he worked on the first two movies and wrote some really amazing stuff. Mockingjay Part 1‘s film score hasn’t been released in full yet and I thought about not reviewing this movie until I’d heard all of it, but… I really wanted to give you my opinions of the movie TODAY so I’m just going to write about the one song that has been released.

Because it’s awesome.

If you’ve read the books, you probably remember that scene where Katniss sings “The Hanging Tree” during a propo. Well, Jennifer Lawrence sings her bit quite well – it’s very simple and understated – but then there’s a choir. A CHOIR. While reading the book I didn’t pay very much attention to the song, but Newton Howard evidently has a better sense of rhythm and diction than I do, and turned it into a beautiful yet haunting piece of music. The choir really showcases and mirrors the powerful effect Katniss has on the other Districts.

(“The Hanging Tree” plays during the attack on the dam in District 5, but if you stay for the credits there’s a reprise after “Yellow Flicker Beat.”)

11. Johanna has SO MUCH ATTITUDE

I love Johanna. I love her attitude. She doesn’t even have very many scenes in this movie, but when she is onscreen she’s just so done with everyone else and it’s great.

12. I knew Peeta would look horrible, but I still wasn’t fully prepared for that

Probably because of that not-interested-in-imagining-violence thing I mentioned above. Peeta’s always been so, I don’t know, youthful and strong and handsome and confident, and then he’s… not. YOU POOR THING. (Someone needs to give Josh Hutcherson an Oscar for that performance.)

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So, what’s my final verdict on Mockingjay Part 1? Overall, I was really pleased. I won’t say that the film is problem-free, because that wouldn’t be true. HOWEVER, I think those problems were unavoidable and that the filmmakers did the best they could. I mean, it’s (roughly) half a story – of course it’s going to feel a little awkward! The movie begins in the middle of a story and ends in the middle of a story.

But was it accurate to the book? Did it have beautiful cinematography and music? Was the acting believable? Yes, yes, and yes. I loved the books and I love this film series as well; spotting the subtle differences between each new movie has been very interesting. Mockingjay Part 1 is emotionally powerful, introspective, darker, and more grown-up than its predecessors and is definitely worth watching.

Rating: 4/5

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Review: Like No Other

like no otherFate brought them together. Will life tear them apart?

Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing. Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters).

They’ve spent their entire lives in Brooklyn, on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed . . . until one day, they did. When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection.

Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up?

I am REALLY PICKY about love stories, especially YA love stories. So far, most of what I’ve read was weird/bland/average/boring/unhealthy/all of the above.

I just have so many issues with the genre – YA contemporaries whose plot is solely based upon romance – that it’s amazing that I picked up this book at all. But I’m glad I did – Like No Other is, well, um… like no other.

(I’m sorry. I had to make that joke.)

One of my biggest issues with YA romance is the cliched “forbidden love” thing. That kind of love is interesting to read about if written well, but the problem is that most YA forbidden love stories aren’t!

I think part of the problem lies with the sexual orientations of the characters-in-love. Most of the satisfying forbidden love stories I’ve read have had girl/girl or guy/guy couples, and there are a whole bunch of factors that make their relationship realistically forbidden in one way or another.

The boy/girl romances, on the other hand, usually go something like this: “OMG! He’s so cute! … but I can’t date him because he already has a girlfriend.” Um. That’s not really forbidden love. (Especially since such relationships often conveniently break up at just the right time to allow the main character to hook up with their crush. I have a really hard time believing that someone is off-limits to another character if their current relationship with someone else is already in shambles.) It’s not like society is telling them they can’t be together.

That said, there are ways to write forbidden straight relationships – I just don’t see them in stories very often! I haven’t found many YA stories that deal with romantic relationships (or friendships, for that matter) that are strained due to differences of race or social class or religion.

And that’s unfortunate.

Want to kill two birds with one stone? Write a relationship between two characters who are not of the same race/class/religion/et cetera, and BOOM. You have diversity AND a believable forbidden love story.

Why don’t more authors do this? I really wish they did.

At least Una LaMarche gets it. Like No Other left me turning page after page and staying up long past midnight (which I hardly ever do… I am a pathetic excuse for a teenager, I know) in order to see what happened next. I loved the chemistry between Jaxon and Devorah. I loved learning little details about their oh-so-different lives. (I can literally count the number of books I’ve read that had Jewish protagonists on one hand.) I LOVED the tension, especially in Devorah’s life, because she had to keep sooooooo many things hidden.

Really, the only quibble I have with Like No Other is that its protagonists suffer a strong case of Insta-Love. I prefer stories in which the characters actually know one other fairly well before falling in love – otherwise it’s just infatuation, isn’t it? – but even so I didn’t mind it too much once the tension and the will-they-won’t-they? stuff began.

Like No Other is not only one of the best YA love stories I’ve read this year (or in a long time) – it’s also one of the best books I’ve read this year, period. It doesn’t seem to have gained much attention on Goodreads or the book-blogosphere or anywhere like that, which is really unfortunate because it’s WONDERFUL and UNIQUE and EVERYONE SHOULD TRY IT.

Thanks, Una LaMarche. At first I didn’t think I needed this book, but: I NEEDED THIS BOOK. Thanks for writing it.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Reading The Rainbow: Drama

reading the rainbowReading The Rainbow is an original regular feature at Musings From Neville’s Navel. I’m a queer bookworm who loves to geek out about books and LGBTQ+ topics, so why not talk about both subjects at once?! Basically, I review books with queer characters and/or themes, discuss the pros and cons of each, and tell you which stories are worth your time!

drama

Title: Drama

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Genre: Middle grade, graphic novel, contemporary, romance

Length: 233 pages

Published by: GRAPHIX

Date of publication: 2012

Source: Library

PLACES, EVERYONE!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage and offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Previous Reading The Rainbow posts may be found here.

Back in August I asked for, among other things, recommendations for graphic novels with LGBTQ+ characters/themes… so thanks for your suggestions, everyone! I received recommendations for a few different books, but the majority suggested that I read Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

So I did.

In under half an hour.

That’s one of the lovely things about this book – it’s such a quick read. I mean, it’s A) a graphic novel that is B) barely two hundred pages and C) tells a very simple story that is D) narrated by only one person. If you’re the sort of person who likes to read while they eat (I do!), you could probably read this in the time it takes you to eat lunch.

(I love quick reads, in case you couldn’t tell.)

The art was, well… cutesy? I wasn’t such a big fan of the cartoonish drawing style – I prefer something more realistic and beautiful – but I DID like the vibrant colors.

The plot was fairly basic – girl is a drama geek, girl helps with the school play, girl meets various cute boys. It’s not a very deep or complicated story, but it entertained me. For half an hour.

Now, what about the LGBTQ+ representation?

Um. Hmmm. Like the plot, it wasn’t very deep. It was basically just like “OMG I’m a boy who thinks other boys are cute and wow I have a crush on the lead actor.”

On the other hand, that’s not really a bad thing. Sometimes I don’t want a deep (or dark) LGBTQ+ story; sometimes I just want something fluffy and light-hearted where the characters are giggly about their crushes.

And I also can’t ignore the importance of LGBTQ+ stories for littler kids (versus YA audiences). Plotwise, Drama was a bit underwhelming/average, but we really do need more middle-grade and children’s LGBTQ+ books. So far, this is the only middle-grade LGBTQ+ book I’ve ever read or heard of, and that’s rather pathetic.

(I realize that Rick Riordan included a queer character in his middle-grade Heroes of Olympus series but… while I appreciate that, Nico di Angelo wasn’t really a main character. It was an important step, but it was also a baby step and I feel like Drama‘s queer characters have a bigger impact on the plot.)

Most non-adult LGBTQ+ books are written for YA audiences, and they shouldn’t be: Little kids can be queer too, and I would’ve appreciated this book when I was that age. Drama‘s writing style is very readable and I think an upper-elementary-school student could definitely handle this story.

Additionally, Drama wins points from me for having multiple queer characters – yay! And they’re brothers, actually, which is cool. (Being queer is genetic, so that actually makes a lot of sense.) Finally, one of the brothers labels himself gay, but the other isn’t sure. He could be gay, bi, queer, questioning – it’s never really stated, and that’s OK. That’s more than OK. I liked that this novel essentially said, “Some young people are already very sure who they are, and some haven’t figured it out yet, and either one is fine.”

I would recommend this book to…

  • Middle-grade readers
  • Graphic novel enthusiasts
  • Young queer guys
  • Those who are looking for light-hearted, fast-paced stories
  • Fans of Raina Telgemeier
  • Anyone who’s looking for a different kind of LGBTQ+ book – something other than the usual YA prose story

My final verdict on Drama by Raina Telgemeier is… well, the plot definitely suffered from a case of “meh” and this really shouldn’t be the first book you pick up if you’re new to the LGBTQ+ genre – BUT it’s also one of the few (possibly the only?) LGBTQ+ middle-grade books out there.

And that kind of diversity is important to me. So. That causes me to give Drama a slightly higher rating than I otherwise would, than I would based on plot alone. For what it’s worth, if you’re interested you might as well try it – even if it’s not quite your cup of tea, you won’t have spent much time reading it.

Now, before I conclude this review, there are just two more things I’d like to say. First of all, I’ll try to read your other recommendations (such as the Runaways and Young Avengers comics, and assorted online comics) soon. Secondly… hmmm, my first two Reading The Rainbow reviews were not that enthusiastic. I’ll try to review something that I really like next in order to mix things up!

Rating: 3/5

Posted in Books and Reading!, LGBTQ+, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

DOCTOR WHO Series Eight Review: “Death In Heaven” (Co-written With Sabrina Wolfheart @ Books And Bark)

Today I’m reviewing last weekend’s Doctor Who episode, “Death in Heaven,” AKA part two of the finale. Once again, my co-reviewer is Sabrina from Books and Bark! I’m excited to be co-writing with her but at the same time, I’m kind of mopey. I really enjoyed writing these collaborative reviews with other Whovians and I’ll definitely miss posting a new one each week!

P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s eighth series here.

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Sabrina is a book-obsessed hermit who rarely ventures out of her cave. When she does, it is usually to get food – contrary to popular belief, an apple a day does not keep the Doctor away – or, very rarely, to experience “social interaction.” On the weekdays, Sabrina must attend school, which is rather fun, but detracts from her fangirling time. When she is not reading or studying, Sabrina spends her days cuddling her dog too much and trying to figure out crafty ways to get her family to get her more books. She has been told that she is almost as sarcastic and complains just as much as Donna Noble. She blogs at Books and Bark.

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Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!

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As usual, Sabrina’s thoughts are in italics! Enjoy!

“What did you think about the Doctor in this episode?”

gallifreyan selfiesHe was a powerful character in “Death in Heaven.” He was so in-line with everything we’ve known about him, and he just felt so right in this episode. My favorite, favorite scene was when he saw Gallifrey, or rather, didn’t see it. When Twelve smashed the TARDIS’ console it reminded me of Ten – it was the same “I deserve more!” dynamic, and it really really made me appreciate his character and his incarnation so much more.

I FELT SO SORRY FOR HIM DURING THAT SCENE. Mostly, I liked Twelve’s interactions with Missy. Frenemies.

Also, I know this is a tiny thing, but on Facebook I joked that the photo on the right was a selfie. And it was! So I’m not always as ridiculous as I seem! #gallifreyan #nofilter

“And what did you think about Clara?”

Ha! I knew that she’d be leaving soon, so I was happy about that and didn’t really pay attention to her because there were so many other, more interesting characters and things. Clara definitely wasn’t as annoying as she was in, say, series seven, but basically I, um, didn’t watch her scenes with that much interest.

From the small snippets I’ve seen online, Clara’s departure was very controversial. On one hand there’s the “ugh, girls in Doctor Who always are forced to leave” opinion, and on the other hand there’s the “that was actually a respectable ending” perspective. I’m personally in between the two. I mean, come on, nothing can beat Martha’s ending.

MARTHA JONES HAD A FANTASTIC FINALE AND IS SO SO SO SO MUCH BRAVER THAN CLARA.

While I thought Clara did not have the best ending in the Whoniverse, I thought she made a reasonable choice. Although she seemed to have nobody left in the universe, she lied to the Doctor and told him she was happy because she wanted to let him feel happy too.

Hmmm, good points, but I actually think Clara hasn’t left the show quite yet! (Gosh, she keeps changing her mind about leaving! Eugh.) She appeared in the BBC’s “Children in Need” trailer for the Christmas special, so I think that’s her ending.

“What did you think of Danny?”

I think Danny is an awesome character – but as I said last week, I’m not a fan of the whole Clara/Danny thing. I think they’re awesome on their own and I can buy them as really good friends, but they seem forced together as boyfriend/girlfriend and I’m not sensing the love between them. Which was my main problem with this episode! The whole finale was resting on whether we buy Clara’s and Danny’s “true love” for each other. Well, Moffat, I didn’t.

Honestly, I think Danny’s best moment came after his death. He was a soldier before he was a teacher, and then he became a Cyberman – the ultimate soldier. So that was cool.

Basically, I TOTALLY agree with you, Sabrina. I think he’s cool on his own, but we don’t get enough Danny-on-his-own scenes! Clara kept hugging and hugging Cyberman!Danny and I just sat there rolling my eyes and thinking, “You two would really work as good friends, but I’m not seeing the ROMANTIC chemistry between you guys! I don’t feel at all sad that your love story is ending!”

“What’s your opinion of Missy?”

Missy was fantastic! I loved loved LOVED the scene when Missy gave the Doctor an army of Cybermen: “Armies are for people who think they’re right. And nobody thinks they’re righter than you!”

Oh my god, she was so pleased with herself for thinking of that present. The Master’s a dork.

I really saw a lot of John Simm’s Master [from series three/four] in her, but she’s also cool in her own way.

I thought her actress (Michelle Gomez, apparently – never heard of her before!) was amazing in the previous episode, “Dark Water,” but SHE WAS EVEN BETTER IN THIS EPISODE. She absolutely nails that performance. I mean, the Master is evil and scheming and not quite sane, but they also have an element of… ridiculousness? Hammy acting? She played that very, very well.)

Other than Simm’s Master, I’ve only seen a little bit of the Classic Who Masters – actually, just a few scenes with the original actor, Roger Delgado. I thought Gomez’ portrayal was similar to that of Simm’s, but I wasn’t sure where she fit in with the older versions. Well, I talked to some of my blogging friends who DO know stuff about Classic Who, and… some of them thought she played the Master more accurately than John Simm!

(So, I know this is supposed to be a review with Sabrina, but I couldn’t resist throwing in another friend’s two cents. wondrousadventurer @ Wanderer on the Sands of Time says: “The classic Doctor/Master dynamic is Pertwee/Delgado and Capaldi/Gomez reminds me of that, which is rad. She has a classier undertone than Simm.”

One more thing: What happened to Missy? Will she be back?

I think she will definitely return. It seems like a lot of viewers thought she died, but… I’m not convinced of that at all. When she vaporized others, the resulting explosion-thingy was orange – but when she teletransported earlier in this episode, the explosion was blue. I’m pretty sure she’s alive and hiding somewhere!

“What were your thoughts on the Cybermen?”

Well, they weren’t my favorite part of this episode. I really liked the choice in this episode – should Danny become a Cyberman, or remain in pain? – but I didn’t like the outcome. Danny’s love keeping him from converting is so not in line with the show. It completely undermines the point of “The Rise of Steel” in which the Cyberwoman is “crying” for her husband when her inhibitor breaks. If “love” keeps one from transforming into a Cyberman, then why was she one? Shouldn’t it have been the other way round, and they Cyberman have upgraded to transform even those in love? I don’t know. I really wasn’t buying it.

Hmmm, I didn’t even notice that. My main quibble with the Cybermen was, well… OK, the idea for converting them was cool, but then they didn’t do much! Sure, humans were converted to Cybermen in a rather zombie-ish way (converting those who were already dead, because as Missy said, “the greatest weakness of the human race is that the dead outnumber the living”) but then they just stood around looking threatening.

I guess Danny was really the only threatening one, and he wasn’t threatening many people – just himself, really (because once he converted he wouldn’t be human/himself any longer) and possibly Clara if he accidentally killed her or something.

(Wait, I just noticed a thing. Humans are CONVERTED into Cybermen, and series eight has had religious symbolism/undertones from the very beginning. I see what you did there, writers.)

“Do you have any favorite quotes from this episode?”

Yes, I do!

MISSY: “I need you to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back…”

OH MY GOSH, that quote. I love it too! My favorite was…

TWELVE: “I had a friend once. We ran together when I was little and I thought we were the same. When we grew up, we weren’t. And now she’s trying to tear the world apart and I can’t run fast enough to hold it together.”

“What did you think about UNIT?”

The Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart subplot was possibly my favorite part of the entire episode.

I wouldn’t say it was my FAVORITE part, but I did appreciate the reference to Classic Who. I quite liked the Brigadier in older episodes, so I think it’s cool that the show still mentions him even after the actor who played him died. 

On another note, I was so sad when Osgood died. She was everything I was looking for in a potential companion. (Minus a weird obsession with the Doctor, of course.)

I get waaaaaay too attached to the minor characters in, like, every story – definitely not just in Doctor Who – and WOW I REALLY MISS OSGOOD ALREADY. (I keep calling her Oswald, though. As in Clara.) I don’t know. I just really, really liked her. She’s science-y and brilliant and basically the epitome of geeky cuteness. I wish she’d been in more than two episodes!

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Engie here, again. Time for the conclusion, and for our thoughts on this episode overall!

Minus Clara and Danny’s supposed love story and discontinuity of the Cybermen, “Death in Heaven” was a great episode! I still think my favorite part of this episode was the salute. Never mind the plot holes and discontinuity – the salute gave us a raw and powerful Doctor, able to see himself clearly for the first time in this regernation. I think that’s what made episodes such as “The Waters of Mars” so powerful. (Oh, and on the topic of parallels – I loved them. So very very much.)

“Death in Heaven” wasn’t my favorite episode of the series, and yet it exceeded my expectations. I mean, one of my biggest problems with Moffat is that he has all these cool plot ideas that usually go nowhere. That man certainly knows how to write intriguing series premieres, but finales aren’t usually his strong suit. However, this time I have to admit that this ending was mostly a success!

Thanks for reviewing this episode with me, Sabrina! It was so much fun!

P.S. I can’t wait for the Christmas special! I plan to co-review that one too, but I’m not sure yet who I’m going to ask.

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What is YOUR opinion on “Death in Heaven?” I’d love to know!

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Science Musings: Dabbling + I Really Admire Scientists + Women And STEM

Here is something you may not know about me: I really like science.

Here is another thing you may not know: I am not very good at science.

At least, not at normal science. School science. Hand me a textbook and I’ll be asleep in, like, two seconds. This is because A) I don’t like most textbooks and B) because I’m not that into science.

I like dabbling in science.

Last week I read What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. (You may know him as the author of the online comic xkcd.) I don’t read much nonfiction, but I gave this book a rating of four out of five stars because, well, it’s brilliant.

It’s hilarious and informative and ILLUSTRATED. With STICK FIGURES. In What If?, Munroe answers questions as mundane as, “What would happen if the moon went away?” and as weird as, “From what height would you need to drop a steak to ensure it was cooked by the time it reached the ground?”

(And my personal favorite: “If you saved a whole life’s worth of kissing and used all that suction power on one single kiss, how much suction force would that single kiss have?” YOU COULD PROBABLY SUCK SOMEONE’S FACE OFF IS THAT NOT THE COOLEST THING EVER?!)

This is pretty typical of my science adventures (as I’ve suddenly decided to call them). I try something here, then another thing there, and so on and so forth. I love science non-textbooks – I enjoyed flipping through The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss and Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science series is on my to-read list. I love science museums. I love watching Cosmos (either version) even if I do make fun of Carl Sagan’s hair. I wanted to be either an astronaut or a paleontologist when I was a little girl. SCIENCE IS COOL.

But I’m not hardcore about it or anything. I don’t want to be a scientist when I grow up. It’s not something I intend to devote my entire life to. It’s just a side interest. I can be quite enthusiastic about it – for heaven’s sake, I was part of a girls’ STEM organization back in middle school (and got to meet an astronaut as a result!) – but though it’s a thing I like, it’s not my THING. If you know what I mean.

I dabble in it. I find weird books about it. I like to approach it from a historical perspective – this makes a lot of sense, considering that history is one of my favorite subjects. (It’s a story! Literally! HiSTORY.) I love biographies and whatnot about scientists.

And while I think this is partially due to, well, cool science stuff, but I also like historical science factoids because I really admire those people. As I said above, I’m not that great at science. (Biology and even a bit of chemistry are fun, but physics? Pffft. Forget it. It’s the only class I’ve ever gotten a C in.) So, somewhere along the line, this turned into “gosh I really admire scientists because I think this stuff is cool and I’m not that good at it but THEY ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND THIS STUFF OMG WOW.”

That doesn’t really surprise me. I may be a very creative, artsy type of person but half my family (my mom and brother) are MEGA SCIENCE/MATH NERDS. Mom has, like, twenty math and science books. They fill an entire bookshelf. So it’s not all that surprising that I ended up impressed by scientists, because my “thing” is writing and I need like fifteen minutes to do the kind of physics problem that my mom (or Quentin) can do in one or two.

Sometimes I feel kind of guilty about this, though. I mean, I LOVE LOVE LOVE doing experiments and some of my biggest role models are scientists (Galileo, Charles Darwin, Sally Ride). But science just isn’t something I want a CAREER in – the closest I ever want to get to science in my future jobs involves writing YA science fiction.

And there’s a big movement to get more girls and women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mentoring) careers. I’m hyper-aware of this because A) as mentioned above, I used to be in a girls’ STEM club, B) my mom cares a lot about this issue and thinks lady scientists such as Rosalind Franklin are underappreciated, and C) I’m a feminist, so equality in various career fields is important to me.

And here I am, the girl who is like WHOA DINOSAURS and OOH WHAT’S THE REAL-LIFE SCIENCE BEHIND THAT SCIENCE-FICTION FILM and OMG THIS SCIENCE BOOK IS ILLUSTRATED WITH CARTOONS… but my interest is limited and I don’t want to be a scientist. And sometimes that makes me feel weird. But it’s just not something in which I want to invest my future; I’d rather write and become a photojournalist and stuff. So I continue to dabble in science.

P.S. This post was meant to be the introduction for an essay-thingy about some scientists I admire. However, by the time I felt I’d made my point well, it was already over eight hundred words. So I’m just publishing this on its own instead. Keep an eye out for the follow-up post; I hope to write it sometime later this month!

Posted in Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments