The Color Purple

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The Novel Ideas roulette wheel landed on a classic this month, so we’re back with The Color Purple by Alice Walker. In this episode we discuss racism, injustice, abuse, and other upsetting things. We also talk about the cold open, black comedy, down home cookin’, and laughably ineffective missionaries.

The music bump is Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington’s band performing “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” based on our unresearched speculation regarding how this book became a musical.

102 – The Color Purple – Coming of (Old) Age

Our ratings:

Ben: Purple/10. Which is the best rating, I think. I don’t really understand that part of the rating system. But I would definitely recommend this one.

Gabs: 9/10 for literary value. Also worth reading for the purpose of making yourself less shitty.

Shadowshaper

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The new year brings a new episode here at Novel Ideas world headquarters. This month we discussed Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, a recent YA urban fantasy novel. In this episode you hear a punchy and tired Novel Ideas crew talk about YA character archetypes, the nature of trust, race and racism, and authentic teenage dialogue. You can also hear us decide which parts of New York City count as parts of New York City, obligatory love interests, latin metal, and art battles.

There is about ten minutes of weirdness in the audio around the forty minute mark, caused by I don’t know what. Our apologies to those listening in stereo sound, one channel cuts in and out for a while.

The music bump is “Fundamental” by Puya, and yes, they are in fact a latin metal band.

101 – Shadowshaper – Chekhov’s Dragon Situation

Our ratings and recommendations: A quick and easy read with an interesting premise and all too rare diverse cast.

Ben: 7/10. Enjoyable, but what happened to that dragon?

Gabs: 7/10. Not sure how memorable these characters will be in a few weeks.

Twilight

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Novel Ideas ends the year with our 100th episode, a pseudo-special that we’ve talked about doing since the early days. We recorded ourselves discussing Twilight by Stephanie Meyer in the form of a drinking game. There were official rules, but the real rule was to invent rules as the discussion developed. It’s pretty fun and we’re not that much less coherent than usual. In this episode we talk about: literary tourism, free will, stalker-ish behavior, and hear a pretty surprising take on Bella v. Katniss as strong characters. We also get into Edward’s middle name, whether the northwest US has thunderstorms, the amazing untold stories happening in the background, and (of course) #feminism. And in this longer than average episode, we also discuss aspects of vampires: lore, stalking, hipster tendencies, racism, and baseball. Expect a few broken brains and misunderstandings of how biology works.

The music bump is “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse, because Stephanie Meyer loves her some Muse.

100 – Twilight – The Drinking Game

We’re going to omit our ratings for this episode as we read this before Gabs left for grad school, but didn’t record it for a year. And now it’s been several months since the recording, so our rating wouldn’t be that fair. Also, everybody already knows what Twilight is and aren’t likely to decide to read it or not based on our silly rating. However, here is the link to “Growing Up Cullen” that Ben read as a refresher instead of reading the book a second time.

The Fifth Season

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This month Novel Ideas discusses The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. This is a recently published fantasy novel, released this summer, so those of you who are inclined to worry about spoilers: There will be spoilers. In this episode we talk about interesting narrative structure, justifiable anger, cast diversity, and slavery parallels. We also mention that Atlantis is not a thing, pirates with ambiguous sexuality, systematic oppression (and why it is bad), and why one shouldn’t ignore a floating amethyst Washington Monument outside of their window.

The music bump is “Lava Lands” by Jeff Lorber, created by his brain, but not violent enough to sunder a continent. Kinda funky though.

99 – The Fifth Season – Brain Volcanoes

Our rating: We were in agreement that this might be the best thing we’ve read this year and not just limiting that to books read for the podcast.

Ben: 10/10. Great world building with deep and complex characters. Not to mention a heavy dose of badass.

Gabs: 9/10 Rings. Lots of unanswered mysteries, but cast diversity is greatly appreciated.

Girl in the Road

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Novel Ideas is back for another month of sibling book-related antics. This time with The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. We chose this book as part of our ongoing campaign to read more fiction about and/or by non-white, non-male authors. In this episode we discuss women in science fiction, elements of good world building, travel narratives, and feminism. We also talk about partially digested (probably not) snakes, how not to share your Golden Meaning, give advice on whether to murder (hint: no), and strange personal belief systems.

The music bump is “The Road” by Tenacious D.

98 – Girl in the Road – Classic Cotagonists

Our rating:

A different spin on the travel narrative with an ending full of “wat.”

Ben: 7/10. Not knowing what was going on for at least half of the story did not prevent me from enjoying it.

Gabs: 7/10. Points for the concept, but deductions for the confusion.

Sherlock Holmes

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This week’s episode of Novel Ideas is about three short stories from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon, discussing “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” “Scandal in Bohemia,” and “The Final Solution.” We discuss the light characterization, feminism, various adaptations, and Victorian writing style. We also talk about Sherlock Holmes as a prank show, Holmes’s dickery, whether its secretly a monster of the week show, and badass Irene Adler spin offs.

A couple of administrative notes: This episode was recorded in the spring, so some of the information is out of date. I think most of the inaccuracies are self evident. For example, it is no longer May and we already posted our episode on Andy Weir’s The Martian. There are some minor technical issues, but hopefully nothing too distracting. I erased a long stretch of Gabs’s voice skipping like a scratched CD, but left in some our comments afterward because they amused me. Also, the Novel Ideas e-mail is no longer in service. Oh yeah, and we didn’t plug Minerva! We’re part of the Minerva Mag Podcast Network! Check it out!

The music bump is “Discombobulate” by Hans Zimmer, the theme from the 2009 Guy Ritchie film adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes – Victorian Gentleman Bro

Our ratings:

It’s been quite a while, so no numerical ratings. We’d have to split them across three different stories anyway. We both thought “The Final Problem” was pretty uninteresting, but the other two stories were pretty good. If you haven’t ever read any Holmes, check out “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which is probably the most representative of the overall Holmes canon.

Go Set A Watchman

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Novel Ideas returns with a rare venture into the topical, reading Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, the very hyped “sequel” to To Kill A Mockingbird. In this episode, we discuss why the word “sequel” might by appropriately contained within quotation marks, the murky ethics of this book’s publication, racism, and (of course) feminism. We also talk about whether this story takes place in a closely parallel alternate universe, shoddy research standards, how to get someone’s attention without backhanding them, and Ben’s utter lack of interest in Hank. And for a special bonus, we get at least two good Gabs rampages.

The sound quality is a little odd this week as I tried to use a more sensitive recording set up, but forgot to kill the fan in the background. Our voices are clearly audible, but the background is white noise city. My apologies. -Ben

The music bump this week is “I Wanna Go Back to Dixie” by Tom Lehrer, a satirical take on songs that glorify the south and things commonly associated with the south.

96 – Go Set A Watchman – Everyone Is People

Our Ratings:

Ben: 5/10. The flaws in the writing and Atticus’s heel turn bother me less than the fact that if TKAM didn’t exist, this book wouldn’t stand up for ten seconds under its own merit.

Gabs: 4/10. Didn’t hate it, but it was too unpolished. Also annoyed that a book dealing with racial issues only had black people in one scene.