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My Biased All Over The Place Year-End Review: 2013 in Selected Genre Lit and Movies

These things are pretty self-explanatory so...let's just jump right into it.

But just before that, a brief note: I'll include some genre works but it's going to be a mixed grab-bag of various titles. My sole criteria is, if it's a bit odd for me to be caught reading this, it's geeky enough for me. Also, it's really long. Yeah I kind of read a lot of stuff this year.

2013 in Movies: Theatrical Releases

Man of Steel: Yeah what can I say? I'd admire you if you disagree but this was a stinker no matter how you cut it. It was less a superhero movie and more a collage of every amateur film-making cliche I can think of.


Iron Man 3: It was decent, but...I didn't really think it was as great as the general public seems to think. I'd rate it equal with the second movie (which I actually liked better than what people seem to) and certainly worse than the first. I just thought it was too heavy on plot and dumb action cliches, lacking in plot, and the villain was just dumb. Plus, the idea of a bunch of ex-soldiers running around being cured of their disabilities only to turn into a bunch of terrorists is, what I'll quote TVTropes as, Unfortunate Implications.

I just want to make it clear that neither did I hate this movie nor did I think it was bad, just overhyped - and it wasn't even disappointing compared to the hype. I'll eagerly watch Iron Man 3 over and over again against Man of Steel any day.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Unlike IM3 this one seems to be underrated. Yes it had problems but I thought it was a pretty good movie and honestly far improved over the first movie. Like Iron Man 3, it at least managed to be fun and entertaining, which is all I really ask from a movie - but it also handled its characters well, if not in a flawed way. Maybe the third movie will be better appreciated.

Elysium: I'm just going to say what I tell everybody about this movie: if you haven't seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to do so.


Thor: The Dark World: Far and away the best superhero movie of the year and greatly improved over the first movie (which was really damn good in its own right) but slightly marred by a somewhat over-the-top final fight climax. Still, it was the only movie I saw in theaters where I actively wished the run time was much, much longer than what was actually advertised.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Yes I know this one's been beaten up pretty regularly. I know it has its defenders but I simply can't be one of them. ABC has an even poorer record for genre shows than FOX, especially if you sweep LOST out of the equation; No Ordinary Family, which had at least a decent episode or two, lasted only a single season why Once Upon a Time, while doing well in Nielsen ratings and finishing its third season with a certainty for another one, honestly isn't very good (especially this season: Peter Pan trying to take over Storybrook by taking over Henry's body and...ugh). Speaking of previous shows, as much as OUAT has taken on the uneven storytelling of LOST's later seasons (no surprise since they share much of the same creative staff), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. strikes me as being almost the same show as No Ordinary Family but with the Marvel label behind it (and I'd argue, even worse). The plot strikes me as very cut-and-paste procedural with little interest (or ability) to feel like an actual Marvel-based series and perhaps the people over at ABC, Marvel and Disney set themselves up for too much ambition for far too little budget.


2013 in DVD:

Mean Girls, Mean Girls 2, Easy A: Yeah I'm just going to lump these movies together. They were...surprisingly very clever. Even Mean Girls 2 was pretty decent, even if it seemed like a dumbed-down, made-for-Nickelodeon version of its predecessor. I think you'll be missing out on these movies if you don't think much to see them. Also, I swear there is akin to a teenage Patton Oswalt in Easy A and he freakin' owns his scenes (if you've seen the movie you know exactly who I'm talking about).


Young Adult: Yeah it's a blatant chick-flick with very little in the way of trappings to disguise it, and the YAL author gimmick honestly goes little distance, but Charlize Theron's character (and acting) really sells it. But not nearly as much as Patton Oswalt - he freakin' owns this movie.

Little Manhattan: You probably haven't heard of this movie, but if you ever feel like watching a "chick flick" that doesn't insult your intelligence and legitimately tugs at your heart strings, watch this movie. It's about the most adorable thing I've ever seen in my life. Also, it stars a 10 year old Josh Hutchinson which makes it close enough to a genre movie.


Dear Lemon Lima,: Another smaller, not-as-well-known movie that should be checked out. I'm not sure how to describe this one other than it's a slice-of-life high school film, though more than a little subversive towards that. I'm almost tempted to say it's the type of original screenplay someone like John Green or Matthew Quick would write.

16 Wishes: Yeah...when your movie's title is 16 Wishes (and a Disney Channel movie no less) and it turns out to be not terribad, it's going to be biggest surprise of the year almost by default (either that or Teen Beach Movie, which also turned out to be pretty clever). Also it's legitimately genre-themed, so there.


Fun Size:This Nickelodeon-produced movie starring both Victoria Justice and Jane Levy (who, admittedly, are both pretty cute) was still pretty terribad. Essentially it tried to be Superbad and failed. Swindleon Nickelodeon ended up being better (and still features the equally pretty cute Ariana Grande and Jennette McCurdy).

Also, what the hell am I watching all these chick flicks anyway? Man I so have to change that for the new year.


2013 in Books: New Releases

Scarlet: Besides Divergent this is probably the hottest still-publishing YA genre work around right now (though I could be mistaken). The second book in the Cinder series, it's a good deal improved over its predecessor and author Melissa Meyer (no relation to Stephanie - thank Gawd) seems to really be finding her voice in this one.


Fangirl/Eleanor and Park: I'm sure it's not the first time, but Rainbow Rowell (yes, that's actually her name) actually managed to write a novel about fangirls and fanfiction itself in Fangirl, and it was pretty decent. Eleanor and Park, about a high school couple in the late 1980s who also try to tackle the subject of family abuse, manages to be even better. Both stories aren't exactly entirely light-hearted, but have a lot of heart doing so.

Rose Under Fire: This historical fiction novel is the sequel to Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity, which is simultaneously made of unadulterated awesomeness and very sad. Rose Under Fire tries way, way too hard towards the latter with not much of an attempt at any other direction. I mean, it's about a girl who has to live through a Nazi concentration camp. Yeah. The author certainly is up on her stuff and it's an excellent book, no mistake, but the subject matter might be too heavy, especially for those hoping for a repeat of Code Name Verity.


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock: Matthew Quick (of Silver Linings Playbook fame)'s latest novel to date, the subject matter is equally heavy, about a boy who intends to kill his bully. Not to give anything away, but the ending is both maudlin and genius. Those expecting the usual clean and happy endings Quick is known for will certainly be in for a surprise in what may be his best book yet.

2013 in books: Other Reads

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing: A non-fiction read, this one was pretty interesting. The title pretty much says it all: delving into the psychology of what makes winners and losers, and (ideally) how to make a Winner out of You. I'm honestly not sure if the recommendations in this book are completely practical or useful, but eh, it's food for thought at least.


Every Day: I'm a pretty good fan of David Levithan's work (mostly known for LGBT-themed YAL), but this genre YAL novel of his really didn't resonate with me. The story of an incorporeal spirit who flits from body to body beyond his control (yes, think Quantum Leap-ish, which is what lead me to want to read this) it felt much more anvilicious than his other works. The bodies that the main character inhabits mostly feel like nothing more but empty shells to advance the plot along, and the character of Nathan has great potential to be shaped into a very memorable anti-villian - but instead ends up being a strawman caricature against Christian-y types. I can't even decide if the obsession the main character has is endearing or just a little creepy. This book had massive potential to explore the lives of people from a near-objective perspective and Levithan has more than the writing chops to pull it off but ultimately felt like a terrifically wasted premise.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: But this collaboration between John Green and David Levithan, on the other hand, is just awesome, and nothing but awesome. What I particularly like about this novel is that it makes the LGBT issue extremely relatable regardless of the reader's actual sexuality.


Dead End in Norvelt: This part-historical novel, part-memoir, part-murder mystery by Jack Gantos set during the Cuban Missile Crisis was a pretty fun read, as well as its sequel, From Norvelt to Nowhere. The murder mystery itself isn't particularly compelling (and the novel makes no pretenses that it is) but the history of the town of Norvelt and the author's/main character's connection to the town make for a breathy nostalgia for people who weren't even born for decades afterwards.

I Am The Messenger: From Markus Zuzack, author of The Book Thief which became that movie that they had a short while ago. The genre application isn't immediately obvious but it starts getting meta pretty quick. Much more lighthearted than The Book Thief (if that was a bit too heavy for your tastes), the book's conclusion is a bit...interesting and controversial in its execution, but it really worked for me.


The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June: By Robin Benway, this turned out to be pretty good and might serve as a good introduction to the urban fantasy genre for female readers, or at least for someone who's already read everything Meg Cabot's already put out.

Feed: M.T. Anderson's seminal work, it should be required reading (and in some places, it is).


Uglies: Scott Westerfeld's seminal series, it came a few years before Hunger Games or Divergent and completely blows those two series out of the water. The conflicts are more personal and the villains (or rather, anti-villains) are much more sympathetic. I really don't understand why this series never got the traction Hunger Games or Divergent did. Also check out Westerfeld's illustrated Leviathan series, which is WWI with flying whales and mecha. Yes, I'm completely serious.

The Fault in Our Stars: Yeah I just love gushing about this book. I'll just go ahead and admit I'm an unabashed John Green fanboy.


Geektastic: A "nerd" story anthology, this isn't a conventional genre work. It's a celebration of the fandom itself rather than science fiction or fantasy. Featuring stories by Green, Levithan, Westerfeld and Anderson (whose story is a "never meet your heroes" type applied to H.P. Lovecraft - and yes, it's as awesome as it sounds) it really is a loving tribute to the whole concept and idea of fandom itself. That said as with all anthologies there are stories that are better than others - my biggest problem is a story where the protagonist brings down the mean girl by plastering naked pictures of her all over town (I actually had an ex who had that happen to her and was consequently driven to alcoholism, so yeah that is kind of a sore spot...but I guess that's a personal story for another time...) but the stories from the authors I listed alone make it worth reading.


A Snicker of Magic: This novel by Natalie Lloyd is about a teen girl who is trying to restore magic to her hometown and...woah, you say it's not even out yet? Hmm, I wonder how I came across this one then?;) Certainly fluffy, but a fun read nonetheless and a great choice for your young avid reading daughter.

UDATE: Yes, because I actually read yet another book between the time I put this up and now: The Summer I Became a Nerd By Leah Rae Miller (a new release for what's still this year for a few hours) was a pretty decent read too, enough to make me want to mention it here.

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