Review (Non-Fiction): In Sheep’s Clothing

BookDepository.com - In Sheep's Clothing by George K Simon

Kinda wierd reason for reading this book – in various lockdown impulse buys I’d picked up a few books about manipulation and many of them referenced this book, so I figured one last read on the topic!

In my opinion, In Sheep’s Clothing started off kinda poorly with a little too much focus on categorization of personality disorders, which can be important but mostly just creating too many confusing categories that ultimately did not add anything to the later 2/3 of the book.

That said the following sections which included case studies, specific examples and a conclusion with useful advice for responding to and managing manipulation – was really useful and insightful. What I particularly appreciated was not a focus on winning or beating other people but actually managing challenges in a respectful self-protective way.

Being a relatively short book – it is actually an overall pretty useful read in terms of insights, and possible story ideas if looking for character inspiration too?

Review: Midnight Library

The Midnight Library by Haig, Matt (9781786892737) | BrownsBfS

I jumped into Midnight Library as a book club recommendation with zero expectations – and I must say I really was quite happy with the experience of reading this book.

At first I confess the opening pages did not seem as uplifting as promised, however needn’t have worried! The story is challenging, and at times deeply sad, but ultimately will not destroy anyone’s sanity (I hope)

What I think I like best about Midnight Library is the premise is presented as somewhat fantasical, and could very easily fall off the rails of believability, yet somehow Haig manages to pen quite a grounded story around a far out idea. It’s often the hallmark of brilliant writing when you pick up a book and immediately feel you are where the character(s) are.

MILD SPOILERS

I did have a couple of wierd thoughts about the story the book. As Nora explores parrallell universes I couldn’t help but recall some psychology studies that show that people do tend to be specific in their regrets, in that after an adverse event we’ll often ruminate on tiny changes close to the event that could have changed it, we often don’t ‘go wide’ e.g. after a fender-bender we fantasize about tapping the breaks a little earlier, not something like leaving home earlier that day which would have definitely avoided the accident. But the point is the story of Midnight Library kind of catches that thinking as Nora explores further and further into different lives.

Another odd thought is I was reminded a litte of Rick and Morty which is obviously not grounded, but I did have a moment where I wondered if Nora woudl stumble on a more bizzaro parrellel universe.

One final thought – and this is very much a commentary NOT a criticism, but I did find that I am probably a key audience member of Midnight library being the same age as Nora and finding her at times gloomy/nihilisitc thinking relatable. But I did consider that there is an element of entitlement or priviledge to the story of Midnight Library. I couldn’t help but imagine a similar tale but for someone more disadvantaged or whose struggles were more inflicted upon them rather than having a book of regrets. As said I don’t say this as criticism, and obviously the story is specifically about the nature of regret not a literal journey through parrallel universes, it was just a thought I had while reading.

All in all, Midnight Library is a great read – bit of a mid-life crisis type book which is OK. 5 stars

Quick Reivew: Dota – Dragon’s Blood

Of all the adaptions about these days Dota could have been the most confusing, and yet somehow the creators have crafted something with standalone strength while still being satisfying to players (well at least this one)

For those unfamilar, Dota 2 is a MOBA, debatably one of the originals in fact. Its a style of game which doesn’t exactly lend itself to story plot (or does it?) basically ten players choose a character, and two teams of five duke it out until someones ancient is destroyed. The main source of story, if any, is from character’s brief lore which can range from undeniably dark to borderline comical, but usally just deals with their origin rather than any ongoing development.

But in a strange way this openness makes for good adaptation. Having so much of the plot open means its difficult to really annoy anyone with creative choices, and I suspect even if elements of Dragon’s Blood isn’t suitable people will be more comfortable with it just being an adaption.

Anywho – I was surprisingly satisfied with the series, I was a little put off at first with the tone which seemed light-hearted, although very quickly went bloody and dark. I also couldn’t help but be ‘that’ sort of viewer who sat there eagerly awaiting everything Dota character showing up but also being disapointed when they didn’t. A present ecosia Search reveales that there are 120 heroes in this game so I think keeping the cast to a handful in season 1 is sensible.

WandaVison: A Review

Where to start?

New Theory Suggests Scarlet Witch Will Be The MCU's Next Big Bad Villain

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

WandaVision is the first of the MCUs ambitious new TV Series. I know that technically Agents of Shield are part of the MCU and the ‘street level’ series (Daredevil etc) are ‘Marvel’ (AFAIK not technically in the MCU?? I could be corrected though)..

But WandaVision is the first series produced explicitly not merely tied into the MCU, but explicitly starring movie characters and continuing on storylines of the Movies.

Its worth taking a moment to consider just how mad this really is. It’s no new thing to have lengthy movie sequels and/or television series explanding on a franchise however in my experience these are typically diminishing returns money grabs with little craft in the link between materials (e.g. Transformers) or somewhat sloppy (e.g. X-men). The fact that the MCU can produce in excess of 20 movies that are set within a single ‘universe’ develop multiple characters and have a satisfying overall story arc and THEN produce multiple TV series of different genres that do the same is pretty wild.

Anyway, gushing over, its worth touching on how WandaVision sits within all of this. At one potenital ‘flaw’ WandaVision probably is one of the few MCU properties that I believe relies on prior watching – some might call me crazy for this assertion, but I belive one of the strengths of the MCU that despite all the clever cross-plotting each movie was crafted correctly to be enjoyable in its own right, obviously EndGame kinda requires at least Infinity War to inform it, but you don’t absolutley have to know prior movies to understand most MCU movies.

For multiple reasons, both factual and emotional WandaVision is best view after seeing the MCU movies with the both of them (Age of Ultron, Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame). The first issue is that WandaVision’s mysterious and quirky premise does rely on you having the momentum of knowing the characters and situation to enjoy and work through the plot (I honestly can’t fanthom how a naive viewer would manage WandaVision). Following on from this much of the emotions of the show rely on you having some connections to the characters, don’t get me wrong its brilliantly acted and portrayed but its a hard sell that Wanda loves a synthoid without having experienced the backstory.

All that covered I do find it incredibly interesting and hilarious that Disney chose to lead with this series. Its a crazy gamble (that appears to be paying off). For the unusual individual who is reading this reivew without already seeing the series, the quirky premise of Wanda and Vision living through decades of sitcoms while we try and work out what the heck is going on is truly unique.

I have to admit at first I was unsure if I liked the series. The sitcom shows were a little funny, but didn’t seem enough to sustain the show, but the writers perfectly incorporated ‘real life’ intruding into the shows to explain the situation. What the writers did an amazing job of, is balancing the mystery, silly fun and reveals. They didn’t overdo the mysteries, they didn’t reveal them that quickly, and they balanced the different aspects of the show.

It does make it hard to explain what sort of series it is, part comedy/satire part horror part action. (SPOILERS AGAIN) Ultimately its a superpower origin story for Wanda that creates a much more morally ambiguous story than ever seen before in the MCU (sure MCU movies dived briefly into moral territory but was still basically good guys versus bad guys 99% of the time).

So in conclusion WandaVision is a strange hybrid of a series, which combines and extremely emotional core for Wanda and Vision, still has any number of easter eggs and teasers for future series and movies but somehow still experiments with the style to ridiculous lengths. By rights this series could have been a huge flop, trying to incorporate sitcom satire, magic, and the relationship between a witch and a synothoid – instead its potentialy the most popular TV series since streaming began.

If anything is in doubt its a huge win for the MCU and upcoming series, I am hugely interested to see what is done with the rest of the upcoming series and future MCU movies.

What were your thoughts on WandaVision?