Monthly Archives: December 2021

Reading Stats 2021

Finished

Books: 47
That’s down from 2020 and probably because I shucked off the notion of reading to a blogging/reviewing schedule. I read fewer ARCs, fewer comics, and more nonfiction than in 2020.

Short Stories: 108
I didn’t keep stats last year! 51 of those short stories are from the Deal Me In Challenge. (I still have Week 52’s story left.) A full 50% I would categorize as “horror.” This does not include short stories from anthologies/collections that I read entirely.

Favorite Books

Average Rating: 3.4
My ratings for 2020 and 2019 were around 3.4 average as well. If anything, I am consistent in my grumpy rating scheme. Below are the books I rated with four stars or above.

Fiction

Two rereads, two new works by favorite authors, no surprises. I didn’t make it through my Dune read-through, stopping after Heretics of Dune, but I reconfirmed to myself that the first two books are quite good. P. Djèlí Clark’s first novel-length work set in the Dead Djinn Universe is probably my favorite of these four, only because Glen Hirshberg’s anthology included a couple works I’d already read.

Nonfiction

I read more “writing” books this years (I’d consider The Letters of Shirley Jackson as one of those) and fewer magic-related books. Only one reread here, but again no surprises considering the subjects and authors.

Other Metrics

Male Authors: 70%
Female Authors: 30%
The ratio for short story authors was 47% Male / 53% Female. I plan to add a non-binary category in 2022.

Fiction: 60%
Nonfiction: 40%
My goal was 30% nonfiction. I don’t plan on setting a goal for 2022, but I have a lot of nonfiction library books earmarked.

Owned: 62%
From Libraries: 30%
The rest were ARCs.
In the land of “shelf maintenance,” I acquired 16 books (bought, downloaded freebies/ARCs) and read 10 of those. I spent $52.69 (most of that was two books). I plan on concentrating on books I currently own in 2022. (Despite what I just said about library books above.) Honestly, I don’t know why I count eARCs since I do not keep them. That will probably change in 2022 mainly because I don’t intend to read/review ARCs unless an author I know contacts me.

Ebooks: 55%
Physical Books: 34%
Audio Books: 11%
Nearly all of the 108 “loose” short stories I read were online or in ebook form.

Reading Notes, 12/27/21

Finished Reading

Cover David Copperfield's History of Magic

David Copperfield’s History of Magic by David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, David Britland & Homer Liwag (photographer)

Magician David Copperfield has been putting together a private museum of magic history for years now. This big, beautiful coffee table book highlights certain pieces in his collections in order to tell a short history of stage magic, from Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin’s mystery clocks through Copperfield’s own Death Saw illusion. Each chapter is only a half dozen pages long; these are biographical sketches, not anything too in-depth. If you’re newly interested in magic, this is a great primer, but don’t expect any techniques to be outlined. (Or, if you’re interested in magic history, but don’t want the secrets spoiled, worry not: this book is mostly spoiler free.) The true value for someone who already knows some of the history is in the photography. Seeing some of these items, like one of Adelaide Herrmann’s dresses, in full color is really great. It’s easy to think of history in black and white or sepia tones. Or, with magic, in the garish colors of posters. The true colors of things make them ever more real.

Wrapped deck of cards in front of some holiday decorations.

In related news, I won a pack of cards related to the book. I will be using them as my Deal Me In deck for 2022.

Currently Reading

Me: “I’m going to finish the two books I have in progress and start new ones on Jan. 1st.”
Also Me: *starts reading several more books*

Monday Miscellanea, 12/20/21

Old EverQuest 2 Frostfell Tree

Hermit-ing

I’m in the relaxation phase of the holiday season. We’re staying home for Christmas/New Year. We’re vaccinated and boosted, but things are unsettled and, socially, I’m pretty worn out. Cards and gifts are mailed. All the things are checked off the to-do list. I’m quietly turning my sight toward the New Year!

Reading

Listened to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided while playing Minecraft over the weekend. Interesting book, plays into some discussions Eric and I have had about the balance between positive and negative feedback in parenting (not that we’re parents). Personally, I probably err on the side of pessimism, but that probably keeps me out of trouble.

I should finish The Magic Square by John Gaspard and David Copperfield’s History of Magic by the end of the year. I’m debating Bout of Books, but it starts Jan. 3rd and I’m not sure if I’ll be ready for that level of online socialization.

Cinema Saturday, 12/18/21

Tenet

Year: 2020
Runtime: 2h 30m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Christopher Nolan

Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki

Initial: Christopher Nolan is kind of hit or miss for me. I appreciate the ambition of his projects, but (hot take) I don’t think he’s actually a very good director, especially of action. Hence, I like Memento (2000) and The Prestige (2006) and think Inception (2010) is half of a good movie, but I’m not at all a fan of the Batman movies. Which means, my initial thoughts about this movie were mixed.

Production Notes: I’m kind of sad that this movie got hosed by the pandemic. Much of the narrative around the film’s release was more about the film being released in theaters in the summer of 2020 (which was hilariously optimistic) than the film’s actual quality. And it would have been a much bigger film, I think, with a pre-pandemic release. I was planning on seeing more movies in theaters in 2020, pre-pandemic; Tenet would have been one of them.

What Did I Think:
I liked Tenet, probably more than I like Inception.

Many of the things that got criticism are things I actually liked. I really dug John David Washington’s character being “the Protagonist.” I mean, I’m a Doctor Who fan so I’m good with heroes with no names. I’m also fine with a lot of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. Yes, the characters wear a lot of masks that make them (very occasionally) difficult to understand; that’s how the characters have to be sometimes. I’m also good with the escalating grandeur of set pieces. Many reviews went down the road of “Well, if you can do X, why not Z instead of Y?” but that’s kind of like arguing with any plot. The plot Nolan gives us is just fine.

Also, I really wouldn’t be mad if John David Washington were the next 007. Just saying.

Favorite Movies of 2021

I’ve been watching more movies during the pandemic. I haven’t done a complete breakdown by genre, but since I’ve done four different horror movie A–Zs during 2020 and 2021, I’m going to guess a fair amount of the increase is in the horror genre. Why horror? Definitely no cathartic reason. No, not at all. I just like horror.

Number of movies watched per year according to my Letterboxd account:

  • 2018: 74
  • 2019: 112
  • 2020: 159
  • 2021: 161 (thus far)

But the real question here is, “What were my favorite movies that I watched for the first time in 2021?” Links to my previous thoughts are provided.

The Big Movies

I’ll be honest, I do love a big movie.

  • Ford v Ferrari (2019)
  • Tenet (2020) – I’ll have more to say about Tenet in the near future.
  • Dune (2021) – The most unabashedly “movie” movie on this list. I know it isn’t how Denis Villeneuve wanted me to see Dune, but I was very grateful that it streamed day & date on HBO Max. Trust me, Mr. Villeneuve, I really wanted to see it in a theater, but I’m just not there yet. I hope when part two comes out I’ll be able to catch a double feature.

The Ones that I Thought About Later

  • Chinatown (1974) – I didn’t blog about Chinatown. I watched it for an online class that I was taking and I never quite got my thoughts together about it outside of class. Not surprisingly, there is a reason this is a noir classic.
  • Falling (2020)

The Horror Movies

The Documentaries

  • Surfing with the Enemy (2011) – Lance Henriksen shows up on this list twice because of course he does.
  • Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019) – Wait, I never blogged about Scream, Queen? There is an adage that you should only write a memoir or a biography if you have a unique story to tell. The same goes for documentaries and Mark Patton definitely has a unique story. It’s also an interesting discussion on text, sub-text, and added text.

There you go: ten movies, in no particular order. I blogged about Surfing with the Enemy and Gretel & Hansel in the same January 16th blog post and that feels like forever ago. Here’s hoping 2022 brings more good movies my way.

Monday Miscellanea, 12/13/21

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Ultimate: Playing & Partying

Friday was our “Wednesday” Lunchtime Disc (WLDisc) annual party. It went off mostly without a hitch. Unfortunately, it rained quite a bit on Thursday night, leaving our ultimate field pretty soggy. We had enough room for a four-on-four field; I think everyone got a good amount of playing in before we adjourned for lunch. One of our long-time regular players lives next to the field and kindly grilled burgers for us and again donated the use of his backyard.

Saturday was fall league finals. Our team, Code Blue, made it to semi-finals, which meant we played two games. I was feeling peppy and I played pretty well. After that, I ate burgers, drank beer, and socialized during the finals game. Considering that it was after sundown and a bit chilly at that point, being a spectator was probably preferable to being a player.

In both cases, I was around a lot of people, but it was pretty much entirely outdoors. Plus, the ultimate frisbee crowd has a pretty high vaccination rate.

Reading & Blogging

I’m still happily reading without any TBRs or schedule. Well, more or less. I’m trying to work through a short story daily from Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown. I’m not going to worry about challenges for a while (aside from Deal Me In if Jay announces it) and concentrate on whittling down my “owned but unread” number. I’d like to get it down to 530 (from 551) by this time next year.

I plan on going back to a blogging schedule and will have some Favorites of 2021 posts in the near future.

Cinema Saturday, 12/11/21

What have I been watching lately? Here’s a rundown:

Pig (2021)
Directed by Michael Sarnoski
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin

  • Weird, quiet, stylish film. I liked it.
  • Face blindness means you can watch Hereditary (2018) five times and not recognize Alex Wolff.
  • We now have a contender for “cute truffle pig” if they ever make a Chef Maurice movie.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh

  • I’m late to this party and was in the mood for a good rom-com. I was not disappointed.
  • With so many themes of class and manners, it had strong Jane Austen vibes.
  • Someone should arrest Awkwafina because she stole this movie.

Bad Education (2019)
Directed by Cory Finley
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan

  • How did Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney not win more awards for this?
  • Finley and cinematographer Lyle Vincent make some weird shot selection decisions. There are reasons, I’m sure; I haven’t parsed them.
  • Recognized Alex Wolff this time (but I was expecting him).

Blue Ruin (2013)
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Eve Plumb

  • Saulnier also wrote and directed Green Room (2015), one of my favorites.
  • I appreciate plots that unwind to conclusions that aren’t necessarily good for their characters.
  • Overall well-made and well-acted though it didn’t entirely hit with me.