Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2017

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, including discussing books read that month, challenge progress, and a summary of all posts for the month.

Last month I read a total of fifteen books: Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence, How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Miynowski,
Life and Death by Stephanie Meyer, Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard, Drakenfeld (Drakenfeld #1) by Mark Charan Newton, The Named (Guardians of Time #1) by Marianne Curley, The Dark (Guardians of Time #2) by Marianne Curley, The Key (Guardians of Time #3) by Marianne Curley, The Strain (The Strain #1) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick, A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar, Bastard Prince by Beverley A. Murphy,
Magus of Stonewylde (Stonewylde #1) by Kit Berry and The Still Point by Amy Sackville.

March was an odd month for reading. Before I moved, I wanted to read a load of books from my pile of ‘read then donate’ books – these are ones that I’ve probably bought second-hand and don’t reckon I’ll love enough to keep. I was definitely right, and found myself with quite a few disappointing reads. However, this did mean that I got quite a lot of reading done, and managed to squeeze fifteen books into the month!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve now moved and started a new job. This is one of my first posts in two weeks or so, and posts might be slow for a bit, just while I’m getting used to everything. However I’ve got some recently read review copies, so hopefully I’ll be sharing my thoughts on those soon. 🙂

Challenge progress:

  • I have currently read 44 books towards my Goodreads goal of 52. Still unsure whether to raise this when I hit it, or not…

 

Currently reading:

How was March for you?

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2014: Blogger Panel #4 – Favourite Alien

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2014, an event hosted by myself and Oh, the Books!. You can keep up to date by following @SciFiMonth on Twitter, or the official hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Welcome to the final blogger panel for Sci-Fi Month! This is where we ask a group of bloggers a question relating to science fiction, and they are free to answer it in any way they wish. There has been four over the course of the event, alternating between my blog and Oh, the Books!. Today’s participants include myself, my co-hosts, and Cecily, who came up with our question! Today’s question is:

Who or what is your favourite alien, and why?

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Asti @ Oh, the Books!

Asti

I have to admit, I don’t have a great knowledge of aliens to pull from. The only book I’ve actually ever read is The Host by Stephenie Meyer, and while it was okay I wouldn’t say the aliens were my favorite. No, I think I’m going to have to turn outside of books for this one.

I’ve loved my fair share of movies with aliens – Star Wars, E.T., District 9, Mars Attacks!, The Fifth Element, Transformers, Men in Black, Superman, etc. etc. (seriously, I could go on and on) – but there’s one that will always hold a special place in my heart. And I must warn you, it’s probably a bit unexpected, especially as it comes from a movie that’s a Rated R cult classic released in 1975.

My favorite aliens are the transvestites from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. Now, if you haven’t seen Rocky Horror Picture Show that may sound incredibly weird – and it is. That whole movie is weird! But it’s the most entertaining and memorable musical comedy horror film I’ve ever watched!

Why do I love these aliens so much? Because they’re so outlandish and have such simple desires! They’re not after world domination or anything like that. No, they just want to dress up, party, love, sing, and, in Dr. Frank N. Furter’s case, make themselves a man! Seriously, if these aliens were to show up at my door step I would not hesitate for a second to invite them in. I would have to keep Dave in my sight at all time sot ensure he doesn’t get up to any trouble, and I’m sure his parents would freak the heck out, but the mere thought of doing the Time Warp with them just excites me to no end.

So yes, my less-than-conventional answer is the aliens from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you haven’t seen it, you won’t quite get it and I’m not sure it’s a film I’d recommend to everyone. But I watched this film regularly with my friends as a teen and learned all the callbacks and saw it performed in theatre and just YES! There’s no other choice for me.

Asti blogs at Oh, the Books! with Kelley and Leanne, having previously blogged at A Bookish Heart before joining up with the other two to make a superblog! She is the awesome creator of the Bookish Games, and the Sci-Fi Month Social Media Maestro.

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Kelley @ Oh, the Books!

Kelley

It’s actually harder than I thought it would be, to choose a favorite alien! Naturally, I tend to ponder all of the various aliens from Star Trek, but since so many of them are humanoid it somehow doesn’t feel completely fair. Strangely, though, I don’t seem to be able to think of many alternatives! So… I think I’m going to say that my favorite alien is Odo from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. To me, his character is one with a lot of depth and introspection, and I think his arc was very well done. He’s a changeling, which means he can take the shape of anyone or anything he desires, but he’s spent most of his life trying to figure out who — and what — he is. He struggles with a lifelong identity crisis, trying so hard to fit in, find where he belongs, and just to DO GOOD in the universe. And even when he found out what he was and where his people came from, he didn’t forsake everything he’d grown to be up until that point, and I loved that too. 🙂

Kelley blogs at Oh, the Books! with Asti & Leanne, having previously blogged at A Novel Read before joining up with the other two to make a super blog! She also has a super adorable three-legged cat.

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Cecily @ Manic Pixie Dream Worlds

Cecily

I have two (three, really) favorite aliens from my reading this year, and I think both are illustrative of the different ways that science fiction can be used to delineate the human condition.

The first are the two alien civilizations in Mary Doria Russell’s theological science fiction novel The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God. What’s really poignant about these alien cultures is how sapient species would have developed if they were, rather than one omnivore species like humans, two that lived in uneasy harmony: one carnivore and one herbivore. Russell explores the conflicts between the individualistic and pluralistic, the competitive and cooperative, if they were taken to their extremes in two separate species rather than internally in one. The author builds these two civilizations’ cultures into their linguistic systems — the language and culture inform each other in a recursive sense — and the resultant gaps in understanding are what drives much of the story’s conflict between the human explorers and the two species. The author’s background as an anthropologist shows.

The second I love for the opposite reason, which is how very realistic and unremarkable the aliens are. Solaris Rising 3, an anthology edited by Ian Whates, has several stories about aliens, the most refreshing and interesting of which is Alex Dally MacFarlane’s Popular Images From the First Manned Mission to Enceladus. The aliens in this story — discovered on one of Saturn’s tiny water-covered moons, and realistically ones that could be discovered within my lifetime — are microsopically tiny… and unlike in any other story I’ve read dealing with tiny aliens, they aren’t a virus or dangerous bacteria or erstwhile plague. They just are; the conflict of the story is derived from the discovery of the aliens rather than from the aliens themselves: from the tensions between science and business interests; from the harsh environment the scientists are exploring. This story, narrated via descriptions of space exploration propaganda posters as signposts, is the only one about aliens I’ve ever read where the protagonists say — paraphrased with great liberties, as this story is engagingly lyrical — “Holy shit, y’all: multicellular organisms!” Which is, you know, exactly how us nerds would react!

Cecily blogs at Manic Pixie Dream Worlds.

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Rinn @ Rinn Reads

Rinn

My answer to this question comes not from books, but from video games (although was that really a surprise??). There’s no question about it – my absolute favourite alien is Garrus Vakarian from the Mass Effect series. Whenever I play the game, he is always my love interest (when available…), and the conversations between him and Commander Shepard are wonderful. He’s motivated, driven, intelligent and not afraid to stand up for a cause he believes in. He rebels and protects the people, deviating completely from his Citadel security job to look after the hungry masses. To be honest, the entire Mass Effect series is a wonderful example of a range of humanoid and non-humanoid alien species, like the Elcor or Hanar, Asari or Turian. It’s full of a LOT of loveable aliens.

Oh, and Garrus’ one flaw? He’s always busy doing those damn calibrations…

Rinn blogs at… well, um, this blog you’re looking at right now, funnily enough. She created Sci-Fi Month in 2013 and desperately wanted to run it again this year, although she’s not been *quite* as good at it as she’d hoped. Thank goodness for the ladies from OTB!

Who or what is YOUR favourite alien?

Misc.

Horror October: Representations of Vampires

vampire (noun), pronunciation: /ˈvampʌɪə/
(in European folklore) a corpse supposed to leave its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth. — from the Oxford English Dictionary.

As part of today’s Horror October post, I plan on discussing the different representations of vampires in media. Vampires throughout history share many common features and habits, but some books, films or TV shows portray them in slightly different ways. I’d love to hear your views, or input on any other representations of vampires.
 
The very first vampire of literature appeared in eighteenth century poetry, and was soon followed by various works of gothic fiction, such as The Vampyre by John William Polidori  (1819), Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872) and of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).
 
Whilst vampire literature has always been a popular genre, it has gone through a bit of boom recently with series like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novels and the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer – not to mention the countless films, TV shows and video games.
 
I’ve picked out five different books/series that feature vampires in various ways – of course this is not a definitive list, and some have been chosen purely because they go against the norm.

 

  • Dracula is very much the ‘traditional’ vampire – although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he created the ‘modern’ vampire that we know today.
  • The book was published in 1897 and is mostly set in England, particularly around Whitby (in Yorkshire) and London.
  • Count Dracula was inspired by Vlad the Impaler, a fifteenth century prince of Wallachia. He was known as Vlad Dracula, or ‘Vlad, son of Dracul’. However, Stoker was inspired more by his name than his nature.
  • Dracula is a nocturnal creature, with an insatiable thirst for blood. He preys on innocents, particularly young women. He cannot go out in the daylight, and has a weakness for garlic – he can also be killed by being staked in the heart and beheaded. Dracula is able to turn into a dog, which is how he sneaks aboard the boat bound for Whitby.
  • Female vampires are featured in the book, referred to as ‘the sisters’ (or Brides of Dracula) and are shown as very seductive creatures.
  • It has since inspired a whole genre – the vampire novel. Some favourites of mine inspired by Dracula include Incarnation by Emma Cornwall and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
  • As well as books, Dracula has inspired many a film adaptation – some of the most famous being the 1958 version featuring Christopher Lee, the 1992 version featuring Gary Oldman and many, many Hammer horror films.
  • And don’t forget the TV shows – like Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

  • A lesser known vampire story, Carmilla was actually published in 1872, twenty-five years before Dracula.
  • It is about a young woman who finds herself attracted to a female vampire named Carmilla. Although the text never specifically refers to the sexual attraction between the young woman, Laura, and Carmilla – as you would expect in a book of that period – it is obvious to the modern reader.
  • Carmilla only selects female victims, and whilst mostly nocturnal can actually go out in daylight, unlike Dracula. Like Dracula, however, she can change her shape and chooses the appearance of a black cat.
  • There have been many adaptations of Carmilla, including a 1964 version featuring Christopher Lee (again!). It is also supposedly the influence for Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.
  • True Blood references Carmilla – the vampire hotel in Dallas where Sookie and co stay is called Hotel Carmilla. The main antagonist in the 2009 film Lesbian Vampire Killers, starring Mat Horne and James Corden, is named Carmilla.

  • The Sookie Stackhouse Novels are a series of novels set in a fictional town in Louisiana, and featuring vampires, werewolves and a whole host of other supernatural beings. I wrote a guide to the series as part of Horror October two weeks ago.
  • The vampires in the books are very traditional: they can’t enter a house without an invitation from the owner, they have a thirst for blood, daylight burns them, they sleep in holes in the ground/dark spaces/coffins.
  • However, none of the vampires can transform into other creatures. Some do have extra powers e.g. Eric Northman can fly.
  • With the invention of synthetic blood by Japanese scientists, vampires ‘came out of the coffin’ – meaning they could live alongside humans and drink the synthetic blood, instead of feeding off of humans. However, some still do – mostly with the human’s consent.
  • The whole idea of the vampire in this series is very sexual – vampires themselves seem to have an insatiable sexual appetite, plus biting during sex heightens the pleasure for both vampires and humans.
  • Some see the series as a commentary on gay rights: vampires are denied many of the rights that humans have. A commonly used slogan by the anti-vampire Christian groups is ‘God hates fangs’, a play on the derogatory term for a homosexual person.

  • A huge teen hit sensation, The Twilight Saga tells the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire.
  • The vampires in Twilight are a rather radical change from the more ‘traditional’ vampires. They can go out in sunlight, but have to avoid direct sunlight because their skin sparkles. This means that some have integrated into society, but they have to choose more temperate climates in which to live, and must also move on from these places when it is obvious that they are not aging.
  • The vampires that have chosen to live within human society try to avoid feeding off of humans, and instead feed from animals. Vampires that eat humans have red eyes, whilst ‘vegetarian’ vampires have bronze eyes.
  • The series is responsible for a recent boom in the paranormal romance market, particularly series featuring vampires and werewolves. The books have also been adapted into films, starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

  • I Am Legend is a post-apocalyptic novel written by Richard Matheson, about a virus that affects the human race. It causes symptoms that look like vampirism, and follows Robert Neville, the last man left unaffected in Los Angeles.
  • The ‘vampires’ are created by a disease, for which there is no cure – but Neville is immune. He keeps himself alive by barricading himself in his house at night, and uses garlic, crucifixes and mirrors – but it is never shown whether these have any effect on the vampires, or whether Neville is just playing along with the legends.
  • The vampires can be killed by a stake to the heart, by exposure to direct sunlight or inflicting deep wounds on their bodies – the bacteria become parasites and consume the vampires.
  • Whilst the infected show many vampiric tendencies, it could be argued that they are zombies.
  • The book has been adapted four times, the most recent being the 2007 film I Am Legend, featuring Will Smith as Robert Neville.
  • Another novel that plays on this idea is The Passage by Justin Cronin, where vampirism is also spread by a virus.

Of course I don’t have the time or space to discuss every series or book I can think of – are there any that really stood out to you with their portrayal of vampires?