Happy Halloween!

This past weekend was my kid’s first Trick-or-Treat!  Here is Wicket the Ewok with Leia (though it’s the wrong Leia costume for Endor haha).  I got the official Wicket costume from the Disney store, and it was ridiculously cute.  I mean ridiculously.

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You can check out some other Star Wars Halloween costumes and decorations at starwars.com’s Halloween Shopping Guide.  My personal favorite is the Hanna Andersson pajamas with sugar skull stormtroopers that look like my last coloring book picture. And they glow in the dark!

sw pjs halloween

Review: The Near Witch

Nothing like a spooky read to get into the Halloween mood!

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The Near Witch was actually VE Schwab’s first published novel, now republished in a new edition containing a companion short story, “The Ash-Born Boy.”  While it is not as strong as her later fantasy novels that I have read and enjoyed, The Near Witch had a wonderful atmosphere as well as some good characters and themes that were reminiscent of classic YA dark fantasy tales.

The story begins when a stranger comes to the village of Near, a place where there are no strangers, and soon children begin to be called away to the moors in the middle of the night.  The main character Lexi must hurry to find the children and keep her sister safe, but to do that she must first unravel the mystery of the stranger and the local legend of the Near Witch.

There were many things I liked about the story, including the setting and the fantasy elements.  The magic has a vague, fairy-tale-like quality. Lexi had some really good moments, and the villain is at once creepy and relatable.  I really liked the theme of how fear of the unknown can hurt rather than help. Overall, the story brought to mind elements of The Hunger Games, CLAMP’s manga Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, the movies of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and the stories of Diana Wynne Jones.

However, the book is not as epic or sophisticated as her later novels.  I thought the plot meandered a bit, moving in fits and starts, and sometimes was a bit frustrating and repetitive.  And while the romantic elements were sweet, it definitely is a case of insta-love.

I enjoyed the short story at the end as much if not more; it reveals the backstory of one of the novel’s characters.  It has a slightly different feel but was a good addition.

So, if you’re looky for a spooky read this October, The Near Witch definitely fits the bill, but I wouldn’t call it a must-read unless you are a really big fan of VE Schwab.

The Frankenstein Chronicles

If you guys are looking for something spooky to watch this Halloween, check out The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix.

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Sean Bean stars as John Marlott, a London investigator tracking down the origin of a disturbing creation: a corpse that is actually an amalgamation of multiple children.  Does it have something to do with the Anatomy Act that the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, is trying to pass?  Or with Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and theories of galvanism?  The show has wonderful atmosphere and suspense.  I really liked the twists in the first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in the second season, which is now available.

The science of the show is pretty hand-wavey, but that’s forgivable given the show’s strengths.  It does incorporate several real historical figures and events, including Peel, Shelley, and William Blake.  It is set about ten years after the publication of Frankenstein, which was a great choice because not only can we see the impact of the novel on society, but it also gives the show a more steampunk vibes, being closer to the Victorian era than the Regency.

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The show is clearly inspired by Frankenstein itself, and I think this interpretation is preferable to another straight adaptation of the novel.  It gives a great perspective on the monster!  When Marlott reads the novel in the show, it inspired me to finally read the classic story, which is very different than the popular conception of it.

Here are some Frankenstein Facts:

  1. This year is the 200th anniversary of its publication.
  2. Mary Shelley was only 18 when she conceived of the idea for the novel, after a suggestion by the poet Byron that he, Mary, and her future husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley each write a ghost story as a kind of party game.
  3. It is an epistolary novel, written as a series of letters and journal entries.
  4. Its subtitle is “The Modern Prometheus,” after the Titan that helped create man, then gave them fire in defiance of Zeus (only to be sentenced to an eternity of solitary torment).
  5. It was ranked #43 on the Great American Read list.
  6. Popular conception of the story comes from the Universal Pictures 1930s series of movies starring Boris Karloff as the monster, as well as the later Hammer Films series of movies starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
  7. It is considered one of the progenitors of the science fiction genre.

As a novel, I found Frankenstein mildly underwhelming.  I’m not sold on the framing narrative involving an Arctic explorer writing letters home to his sister, and the prose lacks the wit of my Regency favorite Jane Austen.  However, as a forerunner to modern sci-fi, its importance cannot be overstated.  At its heart, science fiction is not about spaceships and plagues, but about society.  Frankenstein deals with scientific inquiry, or more specifically how far it should go.  Just because we are capable of doing something, should it be done?  Is it ever okay to “play God?”

In this way, the story is similar to another sci-fi favorite, Jurassic Park (#52 on the GAR list).  Holly at Nut Free Nerd has a great comparison of the two stories as part of her Classic Couples series.

 

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What are you reading and watching for Halloween?

 

Celebrating Fall with Nature, Books, and K-pop

Trilobed redFall is not my favorite season; I don’t look forward to colder weather.  But it is unquestionably Ohio’s best season, and every fall I look forward to the seasonal hallmarks of leaves changing and neighborhood kids Trick-or-Treating.

I love taking hikes to see the beautiful leaf color and identify all the trees.  If you live in the Midwest or Northeast, you can use these two posts to help you identify some leaves you’ll see changing right now, including oaks, maples, sassafras (at right), hickory, and others.

Fall leaf identification

How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Short Way Away (Fall leaf ID part 2)

I also love curling up with a good book; in my Seasonal Reads series I discussed two great books that I love to re-read at this time of year: one a classic eerie tale, and one a funny and thrilling modern urban fantasy.

Seasonal Reads: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Seasonal Reads: Dead Beat

And if you want some background music for while you are reading, you can check out these K-pop music videos will a plethora of clowns, zombies, and crazy costumes.

K-pop MVs (Halloween Special): Block B’s “Jackpot”

What helps you get into the fall season?

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Sailor Eppendorf and Falcon Tube (me!) in the lab