The Monster in the Middle of the Road is Me, by J.P. Romney

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Aside from having a name long enough to make my post-title formatting sensibilities cringe, this was a pretty good book. I had some other thoughts about it too, which I’ll address after the break, but at first blush it’s good fun: a young adult paranormal mystery set in Japan. I’m glad my friend gave it to me when I asked for something new to read.

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Moana, a new and improved Disney

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I saw a number of things at the theater when I went there on Wednesday: there was a trailer for a Beauty and the Beast remake (which looked about as uncomfortable and undesirable as possible), a trailer for Hidden Figures (which looks spectacular), and there was Moana.

Holy shit I really liked Moana. It somehow feels old (in a good way) despite the fact that I don’t think Disney has done anything like it anytime recently. In some ways, they’ve never done anything like it at all; a female main character who goes on a mythic quest and succeeds without being disempowered, sidelined, or told that she must be a man.

I also felt like the movie’s depictions of human beings was simply far better than many previous Disney movies’ had been. The characters felt believably human, honest to themselves and their own desires from the audience’s perspective (even if they weren’t really emotionally honest with themselves if you know what I mean). I have a hard time thinking of which other Disney movies are operating on the same level. If you like watching animated kids movies now, this one should be at the top of your list. If you have fond memories of animated kids movies but aren’t sure whether you’d still like them, watch this one. It’s worth it. Yeah, some of it seems like it’s an obvious product of modern sensibilities, but is that always so bad?

Speaking of which, why the hell are they remaking Beauty and the Beast? The trailer made it look like they were reprising basically everything from their 1991 version… but doing it in live action with huge heaps of CGI. Blatantly cashing in on nostalgia is hardly an admirable starting point, and doing that with a story that portrays creepy manipulative abusive behavior as not only normal but romantic without doing anything to comment on that is extremely objectionable. How about them modern sensibilities.

Oh, and as for Hidden Figures, it tells the story of three women of color working for NASA leading up to John Glenn’s orbit in 1962, with Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji Henson. Yes, that Janelle Monae. I’m very excited.

Hounded, by Kevin Hearne

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So I read Skin Game (that review is over here), and I blazed through it in my usual gluttonous fashion.  One of my friends knew I’d be wanting more books of a similar ilk to fill my gaping maw while I waited for the next entry in the Dresden Files, and so he recommended Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid series. It turns out that Hounded, the first book of the series, pretty perfectly satisfies my aforementioned appetite.  It’s not very long, and it’s not very complicated (except insofar as there are a number of different magical beings, most of whom do not get along with each other), but it’s certainly entertaining.  I would say it’s something like literary junk food, with a small helping of mythological nutrition.  Good for a light snack.

An important note for those who have felt burned by previous experience with the Dresden Files: I don’t think this book is particularly offensive, though I should leave any final judgement to the consideration of someone with a more sensitive palate.  Specifically, there are a number of female characters who don’t feel like they’re only set dressing (it turns out Celtic goddesses show up frequently in a high-mythology urban fantasy about an ancient druid, and the few mortal women you meet aren’t helpless damsels either), but there is a Hollywood-esque imbalance in favor of the pretty, and far more attention is lavished on the descriptions of attractive women than on the descriptions of attractive men.   I don’t really see a problem with that focus, given that the narrator appears to be a straight male, but if you’re not interested in stories about a straight man in an urban fantasy setting you should probably look elsewhere.  Like I said, this book scratches a similar itch to the Dresden Files, but with less Noir and all that that entails.

Right, so how about more details on the story and setting?

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