The Subtle Knife

Novel Ideas returns with the first episode of year three, or Season 3, if you prefer. This week we are discussing Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, sequel to The Golden Compass, second book in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. In this episode we talk about trust, power, corruption, and moral ambiguity. We also touch on trilogy naming conventions, Sir Charles’s creepy vibe, trope subversion, and references to other things we have read and/or podcasted.

This week’s music bump is “Under the Knife” by Kansas because “Mack the Knife” seemed too obvious.

The Subtle Knife – EVIDENTLY

Recommendations:

This book contains excellent world building and interesting characters, as well as adding to the universe of the story rather than rehashing what was popular the first time around. Read it. But first read The Golden Compass.

Gabs: 9/10 I love this damn book.

Ben: 9/10 All of those things.

2013-2014 Year in Review

We’re capping year two of Novel Ideas with our Year in Review episode. In this episode we list our Top and Bottom 5 books of the year, as well as handing out various awards for books we read this year. Subjects include the typical, such as: classics, YA, science fiction, bestsellers, characters, and social issues. We also get into some of our usual silliness like the importance of staying alive versus finding a boyfriend, weird sex, Gabs ships, and terrible ad copy. For those of you playing at home, see if you can guess which twenty minutes were punched in after the fact.

The music bump is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

2013 – 2014 Year in Review

At the end of this episode, we will tell you that our next episode will be a “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, but I think it will actually be The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman.

Old Man’s War

We’re back with what is becoming something of a modern science fiction classic, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. This is a book where humanity is defended by soldiers over the age of seventy-five and under the age of ten. Listen to the episode to hear us discuss universe building, characterization, imperialism, and bioethics. We also talk about the fuuuuture, quip machines, strange alien religions, and, of course, boobs.

Also, next week will be our year in review episode. If you have any last minute comments or questions about anything we’ve covered in the last year, get them in ASAP! If you’re not sure what we’ve covered since last March, go to the Episodes page and look at the titles in “Season Two.”

The music bump this week is a Carl Reike march called “Old Comrades,” performed by a tuba quartet because who doesn’t love that?

Old Man’s War – Six Year Old Adults

Recommendations:

Gabs: 6/10. Easy to read, but probably best recommended to science fiction fans.

Ben: 8/10. Solid writing and an interesting universe, plus it made me laugh a couple of times.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

We apologize for the lengthy interregnum, it was so long that we had to look up a new word just to describe it. Or possibly we just have trouble getting our act together sometimes. At any rate, Novel Ideas is back with Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a story of a woman’s personal journey to self-realization. Listen to the episode to hear our conversation about dialect, ambition, feminism, and race. We also talk about white history professors, bees, how rabies works, and kickass deathbed scenes.

Quick scheduling note: We’re trying to post an episode for John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War next week, followed by our year in review episode for “Season 2″ of Novel Ideas. There is likely to be a couple more missed weeks after that as Gabs gets married and goes on her honeymoon. Or maybe Ben will post something highly self-indulgent while we’re waiting. We’ll have to see.

If you have any comments or questions about anything we’ve talked about in the past year, please let us know! Also, if there’s anything you were hoping we might talk about outside those books, also let us know. We’d like to find some interesting and slightly different content for the end of the year episode if we can.

The music bump this week is “Janie Runaway” by Steely Dan, after our plucky protagonist.

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Too Dignified for a Mule Funeral

Recommendations:

A 20th century classic that is commonly assigned in school with a lot of conversation worthy content. A little tough to read due mainly to the use of dialect, but also rather short.

Gabs: 7/10 for literary value, 5/10 for ease of reading.

Ben: 5.5/10 because I liked it more than I didn’t, but just barely. This one felt kind of like assigned reading.

The Neverending Story

This week on Novel Ideas, we discuss The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, a fantasy/YA classic that many people remember fondly from their childhood. Of course, we never read it as children. Listen to the episode to hear us talk about classic v. modern YA, Mary Sue characters, fate and luck and how they effect problem solving, and world building. And possibly feminism. We also discuss generic hero boys, Fantastican revisionism, unannoying Tom Bombadil, and the power of love.

The music bump is Frank Mantooth’s version of “Imagination,” a tune that I used for a previous episode but didn’t remember until it was too late. If you never listen again, I won’t blame you.

The Neverending Story – Three Dub

Recommendations:

A story full of ideas and imagination that isn’t fully developed and ultimately goes nowhere.

Gabs: 6/10 for the first half, 3/10 for the second half.

Ben: 3/10 for going 200 pages past the point where I cared.

Under the Dome

Novel Ideas returns, still a tad off schedule, with Under the Dome by Stephen King. Yes we’re a week late. Yes we’ve switched up our order. But we made it. And we’re hoping to get back on track for a few weeks before our schedule mid-March disruption. But more on that later. Listen to the episode for our discussions on antagonists, black and white characters, feminism, and difficult thematic questions. We also talk about Stephen King-isms, people who don’t swear, functional bullshit detectors, and bursting a rage bubble.

The music bump is “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, chosen for possible thematic relevance.

Under the Dome – Worst Comedy Ever

Recommendations:

Gabs: 8/10. A fun and compelling read, where you don’t stop to ask questions until after you’ve finished.

Ben: 8/10. A very entertaining book, assuming you aren’t scared of its sheer mass.

Codename Verity

Novel Ideas returns with Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This episode was recorded several months ago to buy us some breathing room if we ever needed it. As it turns out, my time issues effect editing more than reading and recording, so I believe having this episode available has prevented zero missed podcast weeks. Good intentions and all, right? At any rate, listen to the episode to hear us talk about World War 2 tropes, friendship, homosexual undertones, and torture. We also discuss improv skills, Handsy McHandsfuck, shipper distractions, and experience our own brief distraction.

The music bump is “Beautiful Friendship” as performed by the Hanna-Fontana band. It has nothing to do with the thing the name sounds very similar to…

Codename Verity – What Do You Call A Female Bromance

Recommendations:

It has been several months since we read this one, so we’re forgoing numerical ratings this week, but I can sum things up thusly:

Gabs: Thought it was good. Actually features several strong female characters in a setting where women usually aren’t featured.

Ben: If it’s about spies, I like it; if it’s about friendship, I don’t like it. Except I might like it anyway.

Fledgling

After a lengthy, mostly unplanned, holiday hiatus, Novel Ideas returns with Fledgling by Octavia Butler. This is a book about vampires that offers a slightly different spin on what has arguably become its own genre. Not to mention a science fiction/fantasy book not written by a neckbearded white man. In the episode, we discuss various subgenres at play, direct writing styles, what is at the core of a person, and racism. Lots of racism. We also talk about vatigue, podcasting as a visual medium, trope subversion, and Canada.

The music bump is “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mostly because Ben has an abhorrent sense of humor.

Fledgling – Chemically Bonded Group Marriage

Recommendations:

Ben: 8/10 Excellent world building and interesting relationship building. Definitely read it.

Gabs: 6.5/10 An interesting new approach to vampires, but not really my thing.

The Awakening

Novel Ideas returns at a strange interval with The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Our apologies for our odd posting schedule as of late, Ben’s day job leads to a rather turbulent schedule between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so editing and posting episodes tends to get pushed back. We’re hoping to at least be able to post on Mondays through the start of the new year. I guess we’ll see. At any rate, check out this week’s episode where we discuss marriage, feminism, the rejection of societal norms, and the adult readability of classics. We also talk about space penises, Victorian titillation, the romantic death trope, and why children are boring.

The music bump this week is Frederic Chopin’s Nocture opus 15, number 3 in G Minor, also subtitled “Solitude” for its possibly awakening Edna’s…. awakening, I guess.

The Awakening – Who Gives a Hell About Kissing

Recommendations:

Ben: 6/10 I liked it more than not and provides some food for thought, though I didn’t find it especially compelling.

Gabs: 8/10 Minus two for the ending.

Catching Fire

Novel Ideas returns with Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Not to mention the second movie, which you may have heard, was released recently. We apologize for missing last week, illness and a new work schedule have been conspiring against us. In this episode, we discuss masculine and feminine character traits, PTSD, overly silent conspiracies, and inaction in the face of evil. We also talk about classic dick moves, Peeta as a potential creeper, whether President Snow is a vampire, and many, many prequel possibilities.

Ben’s holiday work schedule is fairly likely to result in more delays with editing and posting episodes, so the schedule may look a little jagged through the end of the year. Posts are most likely to occur on Mondays rather than Tuesdays for the duration. We’ll try not to miss any more weeks without putting it on the schedule in advance, but bear with us.

The music bump this week is “Fire in the Hole” by Steely Dan.

Catching Fire – Scalene Love Triangle

Recommendations:

A very good read, as long as it isn’t the first book you ever read, with markedly more sophistication than the first book.

Gabs: 8.5/10 with the extra half point awarded for going beyond typical YA fare.

Ben: 9/10 I think I may have liked this one better than the first one, mainly due to the added political elements.

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