What I Just Finished Reading

Clariel – Garth Nix
This is my second favorite Old Kingdom book after Sabriel. The worldbuilding and scene setting, especially in the early chapters, are phenomenal. Having said that, once the main character arrives in the capital city the book flits from one location, supporting cast, and setting to another, never really settling down into a single narrative. It's very slightly disappointing, like watching the pilots of multiple intriguing television series for which no future episodes were filmed. The narrative also falls into the “people traveling up and down the Ratterlin” trap that Nix has revisited in pretty much all of his YA novels since The Ragwitch. Overall, I enjoyed this one, but like the rest of the Old Kingdom offerings aside from Sabriel, I don't think I'll ever reread it.

A Conspiracy of Kings – Megan Whalen Turner
A wonderfully written book. I'm especially fond of the first third of the narrative, in which Sophos basically undergoes a Zen practice period. Like everything Turner writes, it's inventive, tightly plotted, and does not take the easy narrative way out. So good.

Thick as Thieves – Megan Whalen Turner
Page 2: Man, the Mede are an empire of snakes. I don't know how I feel about a book with them as main characters.
Page 15: What a brilliantly realistic psychological portrayal of a man in Kamet's position.
Page 16: MEGAN WHALEN TURNER, I SEE YOU AND I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE UP TO.

But here's the thing: having correctly identified the big reveal 266 pages before the characters are clued in in no way diminished the ride. And jesus, what a good ride it was. This is my favorite next to The Thief, hands down. Just. The characterisation. The plotting. The worldbuilding. The pleasure of watching these characters figure things out (and the terror of watching them run headlong into danger because they don't know). So good. So good. This is one of those novels that makes it hard to even consider reading something else once you've turned the last page. So good.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Castle of Llyr – Lloyd Alexander
These books were just so much bigger when I read them as a child, but coming back to them now I still maintain that sense of expansiveness and discovery and wonder.

The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot
I love this poem.

The Bedlam Stacks – Natasha Pulley
Page 19: This thing with the statue is wonderfully creepy.
Page 25: Really creepy.
Page 36: Okay, I need to stop reading this at night.
Page 75: Holy. Shit.
Page 85: NATASHA PULLEY, I SEE YOU AND I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE UP TO. The statue. Merrick's mother. Raphael's attitude. But I have a feeling that having figured this out will in no way diminish the ride. Consider me hooked.

The King of Attolia – Megan Whalen Turner
I seem to be reading the books in reverse chronological order now, just so I can enjoy them all again knowing even more about how things will unfold in the futue. And just, yeah. Costis.


What I'm Reading Next
Probably the rest of the Prydain Chronicles. The one-two punch of awesome that is Turner and Alexander is giving me a yen to revisit Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence.

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What I Just Finished Reading

The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander
Oh, they just do not write YA novels as good as this anymore.

Unmentionable – Therese Oneill
This has been on my TBR list since I read a WaPo review of it when it was first published. Oneill opens by chastising women who want to return to the glory days of the Regency and Victorian eras of balls, courtship, chivalry, and frothy dresses. This seemed like a bit of a strawman set-up to me: I imagine that plenty of fans of the era are aware that the reality was less rosy than a BBC Austen adaptation: that is the whole point of fantasy. The book improved considerably once Oneill got down to the business of describing the realities of the era. She writes with a very Bust magazine or Jezebel-esque snark that was hit-or-miss but left me guffawing more than once. Oneill is upfront about her decision to only examine the lives of middle-to-upper class women, but there's still quite a bit of cherry-picking going on in the examples she discusses. Which isn't to say that the attitudes and contentions they reflect weren't horrible, only that I doubt people accepted them whole cloth. (After all, present day material makes much of the necessity of a Brazilian for good female hygiene or the inferiority of various social, ethnic, and racial classes, but not everyone believes it). All that said, I think this review is making me sound less a fan of the book than I am: I read it in under a day, laughed a lot, and enjoyed Oneill's commentary even as I cringed at the historic material.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Castle of Llyr – Lloyd Alexander
I'm glad to see Eilonwy get a little more real estate in this volume, and I'd forgotten how much Rhudd irritated me back in the day.

The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot
Perhaps my favorite poem ever written; I like to read this one slowly.

China – Kathy Flower
Still truckin'.

The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore – Cynthia Giles
This week's passage discussed the origins of the word “Tarot.” (Conclusion: no one really knows where it came from but there are a lot of spurious etymologies out there.)

Tarot: Beyond the Basics – Anthony Louis
Ah, yes, this is what I need from a Tarot book: none of this "intuitive" crap, I want systems for my bogus future-telling methods, and Louis provides them in spades. This week's passages dealt with attributing planets and zodiac signs to the various major and minor arcana, and the differences between classical, chaldean, and modern correspondences. Louis assumes a level of astrological knowledge that I don't have, but I'm enjoying reading it regardless.

Clariel – Garth Nix
Having been spoiled for the ending, I don't feel the sense of urgency I otherwise might as I approach the conclusion, but the writing is still descriptive and atmospheric, and I like the character of Clariel very much.

A Conspiracy of Kings – Megan Whalen Turner
Turner is such a good author, and has my deep respect and love for writing a new novel every time. I read The Thief in 2003, and have eagerly awaited each subsequent book...and while I've always liked them, it isn't until the second read that I come to love them, because there is that small part of me that just wants the newest volume to be a rehash of the old so that I miss the genius of what she's done until I revisit them.


What I'm Reading Next
Finally, FINALLY The Bedlam Stacks has arrived! And when that's done, Thick as Thieves. It's going to be a good week for reading.

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lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
( Aug. 5th, 2017 11:19 pm)
Many of you are probably aware of my deep and abiding love for Natasha Pulley's first novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. So you may be assured that when she announced the title of her second, I popped right over to Amazon to pre-order it so that I might read it as soon as it came out. And by "soon," I mean I wanted this thing waiting for me on my doorstep when I got back from work that day.

But lo, the release day came and went, and the book was nowhere to be seen. Nor was there a shipping notification from Amazon. Then, three days later, I received an email saying my "order has been canceled due to lack of availability."

"Wuh?" I said. "That makes no sense." So I logged into my account to see what was going on, only to discover that Amazon had not merely canceled the order, but purged every record of it from my account...including the "Canceled Orders" page. Had I not maintained their confirmation emails, there would no longer be any record of my having purchased it in the first place.

The cancellation email helpfully suggested that I try repurchasing the book, and helpfully provided a link. To the exact same book I'd ordered months ago, only at double the cost. So I emailed customer service to politely ask what was going on.

They responded that the item was back-ordered. I asked how it could be back-ordered when it was just published and they were selling it on their site right now.

The answer I got was more long-winded than this, but boiled down to: We reconsidered what we said we'd sell it to you for and if you want it, then pay the jacked-up price listed in the link we just sent you.

So I ordered it from Barnes and Noble instead, and while I was at it, transferred about half a grand of monthly utility and insurance payments from my Amazon card to a different card to further express my displeasure. At a 3-4 percent commission fee for each bill, that's a tidy little sum Amazon's just lost for not selling me the item I ordered at the price they initially quoted me.

But seriously, what the everloving fuck, Amazon?

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What I Just Finished Reading

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
What a well-written book.

NXT – Jon Robinson
Featuring unsurprisingly hagiographic language on Triple H and the McMahons; what does surprise is the book's total openness about how NXT and WWE are products, with all that entails. Robinson actually talks about the nuts and bolts here: how they recruit to fit certain physical, ethnic, national, and personality types dictated by storylines and market expansion plans; how recruits are taught to work to camera angles and promo shots; how characters are constructed; that matches are choreographed beforehand. What's even more interesting in the open acknowledgment of the intra-company tensions, with the old guard (read: Vince) digging its heels in for the same-old same-old, and the new guard advocating for changes (Bona fide storylines for women! A roster including more than 300 lb. ripped white dudes!) that were both long overdue and responsible for the current renaissance in audience interest. There are some topics the book doesn't touch (e.g., it makes much of social media buzz's persuasive power in bringing about these changes, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that HHH had his own ten cent army driving many of these posts), but it's a n interesting inside look at the industry all the same. And it's pretty fun to play spot the talent in the uncaptioned photographs (That's Bayley with her hair down! There's Nia Jax in civvies!), too.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander
Some of the plot developments in this book came as reaaaaal gut punches when I first read it as a kid, and the story still breathes for me today, for all that I can read it in 1/20th the time.

The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden
After a year-long hold at the library failed to produce results, I folded and bought my own copy. Ten percent of the way in the writing is good, but the plot so far (tragic death of the protagonist's mother, tee-up of a Mists of Avalon-style old religion/new religion conflict) haven't lived up to the crazy buzz. And, I learn, it's not a standalone volume but the first book in one of my genre bêtes noires: The Trilogy. That said, it's still early days, so I maintain my high hopes.

Kushiel's Dart – Jacqueline Carey
Pretty much everyone I knew was gaga over this book when it came out 15 years ago, but I remember thinking when hearing them describe it that X-Files and Vampire Chronicles fandom were putting out stuff twice as edgy, and just never got around to reading it. A few chapters in, I think this initial judgment will probably hold, but the writing moves along at a fast clip. We'll see to what extent it manages to draw me in.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Still truckin'.

China – Kathy Flower
Still truckin'.

The English Magic Tarot – Andy Letcher
I've only read the early chapters, but so far they're pretty run-of-the-mill new age-y fluff, while I'd been hoping for more Dee and Newton. We'll see how things turn out once we get to the cards proper.

Clariel – Garth Nix
So the other day the book fell open to the acknowledgments, in which Nix spoils the big reveal in the first freaking sentence. Je suis triste. That said, it's a pretty gutsy thing to do to your main character, one most genre authors would certainly avoid, so kudos to him for that.

The Perfect Dictatorship – Stein Ringen
This guy writes some of the most convoluted, difficult to follow sentences I've encountered.


What I'm Reading Next
WHERE IS MUH COPY OF The Bedlam Stacks, AMAZON?


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...and enjoyed it tremendously, which I was not expecting. It is a consistently entertaining movie. Peter Parker is amusing without being smarmy and the script wisely chooses to develop an antagonist versus a villain. One scene in particular took me by complete surprise and was nail-bitingly tense in the best of ways. Also, Donald Glover.

But really, they had me in an early scene when Peter is heading into high school to Spoon's "The Underdog," and I kept waiting for the chorus to kick in and it never did. Such a wonderful little wink to the audience.

Ironically for a movie about a spandex-clad high school student who shoots webs out of his arms and fights crime, it was the arrival of the "DC Metro Police" during a scene at the Washington Monument that catapulted me right out of the movie: No! Wrong! US Park Police have jurisdiction downtown! MPD can't do anything there!

The other was the movie's set-up, in which Tony Stark uses his power and influence to take control of post-Avengers alien invasion clean up from an earnest, blue collar, everyman Joe via a horde of wooden bureaucratic proxies. Just, no. That's not how government contracting works. If someone like Toomes got the job, that means it was probably a small business set aside, and not even a corporation with Stark's power and influence could ever hope to wrest that away from them.

That grousing aside, though, it was still a damn good movie.

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What I Just Finished Reading

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
It's been almost 30 years since I first read this and it's only got better with age as I notice things I did not pick up on then. Alexander is one of the best, and everyone should read the Prydain Chronicles.

Preacher – All Hell's A-Coming – Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
This volume also entertains, after nearly 20 years. That said, Preacher's is an at times uncomfortable brand of humor—you laugh at Ennis' panache while feeling guilty that you're laughing in the first place, and I lose some steam on the final issue, because I don't find anything objectionable about eating horsemeat.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet – Charlie Holmberg
I hate to say it, but this book failed to live up to its potential. Characters and plot elements I thought were going to be expanded in delicious ways went in entirely different directions (or no direction at all) and while the plot is ambitious the book meanders for far too long before it even hints at what that plot is, so readers are likely to begin drawing their own conclusions and not end up with anything like the book they thought they were reading. That said, it's by no means a bad book, and compared to many current fantasy offerings it does not stick to established tropes.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Still truckin'.

China – Kathy Flower
Truckin.'

Clariel – Garth Nix
In this week's chapters, we have intimations that all was not right in the past, and continues to go poorly in the present. Clariel is beginning to cotton on to the fact that all is not as it seems in the capital.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik
I'm beginning to remember why I burned out a bit during the arc set in the capital city. It's very well written, but such an abrupt change from the preceeding narrative that it disrupts the meditative flow of the read.


What I'm Reading Next
Black and DiTerlizzi's Lucinda's Secret, Alexander's The Black Cauldron, and either Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings or Gaiman's Norse Gods.

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...and so they are here. I wrote a big tl:dr post outlining the decade of WWE storylines that culimated in Tuesday's squee, but realising that that was a little much to inflict on the unsuspecting, here are the Cliff's Notes. )

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What I Just Finished Reading

The Seeing Stone – Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
This book is much better as a full volume than divided into two as Goblins Attack and Troll Trouble, mainly because the fey we meet in the second half are far more engaging than anything we encounter in the first.

The Hacking of the American Mind – Robert Lustig
Lustig is genuinely dedicated to improving health outcomes, but his argument suffers for his devolving everything down to sugar intake. I agree with him that global sugar consumption is far too high and that dopamine reward systems are at the root of this problem. But I'd argue that how corporations use psychology to drive people's behavior, marketing to inflame their insecurities, and data analytics to customize approaches to drive individuals to consume more is a problem that extends far beyond sugar, and that any volume called “The Hacking of the American Mind” needs to delve into these issues to merit the title.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
The best novels make it hard to pick up another book when you've finished reading because you just want this story with these characters to continue. The Essex Serpent is very well written and I enjoyed the ride, but it failed to grab hold of me the way the best novels do. I think some of this is to do with the fact that Perry devoted less of the narrative to the characters who intrigued me most. But the ending was satisfying indeed, and I adore how Perry avoided the pat and predictable outcome every. Single. Time. I'll be reading more by her.

India – Becky Stephens
This book was a good, albeit superficial introduction to the country, although it did try at times to put too much of a good spin on its major social ills.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
When I read this as a kid, Gurgi and Eilonwy drove me nuts. They both still do, but all these decades later I have such affection for them it makes for an easier read.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Still truckin.' I still find it hard to believe Avery's opinions on the social order could have remained so retrograde after all his time in India and Afghanistan, but this somehow irritates me less this time through.

Preacher: All Hell's A-Coming – Garth Ennis
Herr Starr is such a glorious villain. And jesus christ, I'd forgotten how horrible Cassidy is, and how groundbreaking it was for Ennis to portray this stuff way back in '98 and '99.

The Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore – Cynthia Giles
Hands down, still one of the best volumes on the cards out there. Why it isn't at the top of recent lists on the subject perplexes.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet – Charlie Holmberg
With an additional fifth of the book under my belt, I'm less certain I've figured out the big reveal. The writing continues to sparkle, and Holmberg continues to write some of the freshest riffs on YA fantasy out there.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

Clariel – Garth Nix
Finally, rainstorms, and I could read more of this book. This week's chapters featured a ripping battle with a Free Magic spirit, and for personal reasons, Nix's portrayal of Clariel's affectionate but clueless and spineless father hurt. Also, it looks like everyone has an angle, and it is glorious.

Captive Prince vol.2 - CS Pacat
For reasons.

What I'm Reading Next
I'm about 1/7 of the way through my read-these-first shortlist, and will continue to pick volumes off in the coming week. Black and DiTerlizzi's Lucinda's Secret is currently at the top of the list.

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...the first 13 minutes of last night's Raw.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I have been waiting almost half a decade for this story arc and I did not think it would ever happen and it did. And it not only did it happen, but it happened as if ficcers had scripted it.

Oh my god. My little fangirl heart. It may not be able to take this.

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What I Just Finished Reading

10% Happier – Dan Harris
My opinion hasn't been changed by a second read-through: this is an excellent book that does a damn good job of introducing Buddhist concepts without resorting to anodyne BS.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
This book is ultimately good as a reference for learning what sorts of systems and symbolism might be incorporated into any given deck; I was frustrated by how superficial most of the descriptions for any given element were. Perhaps I'm being unfair given that the book is titled Tarot 101, but I also feel there are other authors (e.g., Giles, Kaplan) that do a better job of actually providing basic introductions to said elements, versus saying “these elements exist” and never moving beyond that statement.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
God. God. Alexander isn't using big words, or complex sentences, or pages of descriptive text. So how is this book so good? Whenever I reread him (or Katherine Paterson or Scott O'Dell or Jean Craighead George) I realise how much utter shit is out there, and how high my tolerance for it as grown.

The Seeing Stone – Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
Early days for this one, but I'm enjoying the artwork.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Only read a few chapters this week.

Preacher – All Hell's A-Coming – Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
Some of the humor is quite dated; I doubt as many people today would find “men had gay sex!” or “feminists exist!” to be guffaw-inducing punchlines as did in the late nineties. But the serious plot elements that pivot on gender roles are touching and pretty damn transgressive given how old this series is.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

The Hacking of the American Mind – Robert Lustig
Lustig is an entertaining writer, which is good, because he has a hobbyhorse—sugar—that he is flogging to death. That said, the science he uses to back up his concerns seems sound, and he does a better job than most pop science authors of explaining complicated phenomena in layman's terms. That said, I find myself wishing I'd retained more of all that stuff I learned in undergrad, because it would help me to evaluate his claims. I sense the thesis is going to be that corporations have used sugar (and possibly electronics) to addict people to consumerism-driven quick hits of pleasure at the expense of deeper, yet less exciting contentment, but I haven't made it far enough into the volume yet to be sure.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
I'm still enjoying the book, but several major plot developments are being telegraphed from miles away, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the climax is going to be little more than “here is what happened to this group of characters over the course of a year.” Which isn't to say it's a bad or unentertaining book by any means, just that I though it would be something more, or else. I'm not exactly sure how to put it into words.

India – Becky Stephen
A quick easy read, but there's quite a lot of putting lipstick on pigs when it comes to issues of caste and treatment of women.


What I'm Reading Next
Because ongoing reading has gotten a bit out of hand, I have instituted a “complete this first” list that includes the seven “reading now” books above, plus Black and DiTerlizzi's Lucinda's Secret, Naomi Novik's Uprooted, and Alexander's The Black Cauldron. I also have The Strangler Vine and Midnight Riot going on audiobook, because why not?

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So I'm in my kitchen making a pot of mattar paneer. I can cook this recipe in my sleep. I say this with complete confidence because, on more than one occasion, I have dreamed about making it step by step. I've got the peas going on the stove and turn away for a second to mix a teaspoon of cornstarch into the yogurt, because I'm out of arrowroot, and then back to the peas.

When I turn back to the yogurt I'm surprised to find it spilling over the lip of the measuring cup. Oh, god, I think, is this because they put pectin in the yogurt? I hate it when they put pectin in the yogurt. I should have just paid more for the real stuff. I carefully carry the measuring cup across the kitchen and begin folding the yogurt into the sauce.

Which begins to boil. Now I'm cursing myself for not having let it cool down enough before adding the yogurt. (I have never actually boiled yogurt before.) Hoping I haven't just ruined dinner, I set it to cool and start to wash the dishes. I happen to lick the spoon before I dump it in the sink. It tastes oddly salty.

Which is when I realise I haven't used cornstarch at all, but baking soda. For what it's worth, it lends a slightly salty-bitter taste to the dish, and seems to have dissolved most of the paneer on contact, but otherwise it's wholly edible.

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What I Just Finished Reading

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
The last chapters of this volume are simultaneously some of the most interesting and most horrible to read. Carpenter first traveled to Korea in the late 19th century and met some of the final Joseon kings while they were still on the throne. His descriptions of the yangban's treatment of the peasantry, and men's treatment of women, and the overall state of human development put lie to the notion that things were just hunky dory for everyone before the Japanese occupation. That said, Koreans rank even below the Japanese on Carpenter's sliding scale of racism, and some of the statements he makes are breathtakingly abhorrent. (Buddhist nuns, he tells us, “made me think of the idiots I have seen in some of our state asylums.”) There's a snarling viciousness to modern day racists, for whom trolling is as integral a part of their identity as are their odious beliefs. But Carpenter is all benevolence. After all, he just thinks he's stating objective facts.

Transmetropolitan: Tales of Human Waste – Warren Ellis et al.
This series entertained me when I first read it 20 years ago; it's probably best I had no idea back then that Ellis was actually foretelling the future. Should you wish to know precisely how frighteningly prescient he was, you don't even need to read Transmetropolitan proper. (Although you should.) Just get your hands on a copy of this book.

Thor: Siege Aftermath – Kieron Gillen et al.
In addition to the Siege epilogue issues, this volume has been padded out with three golden-age Thor comics that, to me at least, always feel like more of an obligation read than anything. Luckily, Gillen's contributions focus on the Dìsir, whom I unapologetically love. I want them to have their own title.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Does Carter even realise she's writing shmoop? Because these novels contain so many schmoop tropes from the dawn of online fandom it's unreal, and I think that is why I like them as much as I do.

The Fool's Pilgrimage – Stephan A. Hoeller
To the library patron who stole the accompanying CD and marked up all of the diagrams in thick, blue pen: I hope you get what's coming to you.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet – Charlie Holmberg
I have been enjoying this one, even though it was surprisingly dark for Holmberg. But then, 19 percent of the way in I realised what was going on (I am pretty sure) and o. m. G.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
I've got about 80 pages left to go, which is appropriate, because this book has turned out to be 80 percent filler, 20 percent content.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

Tarot Beyond the Basics – Anthony Louis
I got this book under the impression that it was an explication of the Golden Dawn interpretations for people who don't want to wade through Crowley or Regardie (which sometimes I just don't). But lo and behold, here's Louis saying in the prologue that he's going to ignore the Golden Dawn stuff in favor of astrology. Oh, well. At least it looks like he's going to discuss some sort of systematic interpretation versus the “intuitive” Tarot nonsense that seems to be the thing these days.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
I'm really enjoying this one, which strikes just the right tone of Victorian-weird for me, although it's set a little bit later in the era than I favor. That said, while Michaels or Pulley can make me forget where I am, thus far with The Essex Serpent I'm always conscious that I'm reading a novel.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
Still truckin'.


What I'm Reading Next
The scene: I've walked to the library because I'm bored. I'm idly scanning eye-level spines in the fiction section. The name Susann Cokal jumps out at me. “That's an odd spelling and an unusual last name,” I think. “Just like the odd spelling and unusual last name of the Susann Cokal who wrote Mirabilis...

Wait...

Is this the Susann Cokal who wrote Mirabilis!?"

It is.

I now have the book.


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Aaaand I go out with a fizzle, posting the final two songs almost a week behind schedule.

29 - a song you remember from your childhood
  Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
  In aggregate, I've probably listened to this song more than any other in my life. This is the album version, but the four minute music video is also well worth watching.

30 - a song that reminds you of yourself
  Poe - Control

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Thank you for writing a Queen's Thief story for me! I can't wait to read your fic. I love all the books and am excited about reading anything set anywhere before, during, or after any of them: I'm very much a go-in-blind reader, so if you have fic ideas already, please jump right in with those. My short list of DNWs, longer list of kinks, and some possible prompts for each request are behind the cut tags.

Read more... )

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What I Just Finished Reading

Goblins Attack – Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
I very much enjoyed the first Spiderwick Chronicles volume, in which Black was at her creepy best describing the fey, but this one feels like that fanfic an author bangs out in 20 minutes and posts to AO3.

Arkham Asylum – Grant Morrison & Dave McKean
The 10th anniversary edition concludes with Morrison's annotated script, which made me like the comic proper less and neatly illustrates the gamble inherent in publishing scripts. By all means, write an ambitious story full of symbolism, recurrent motifs, and psychological and occult references, but if you need nearly 70 pages of single-spaced text to explain all of these elements because readers can't pick up on them from the story itself, you haven't done your job. (To say nothing of the fact that there's nothing particularly subtle or nuanced about Morrison's use of these elements.) The annotations also remove any question as to whether Morrison sees the rape and murder of women as anything other than an amanuensis for his male (read, real) characters' internal development. The answer, in case you were wondering, is no.

Dave McKean's art is gorgeous, though.

Deathless – Catheryne Valente
Overall, I enjoyed this, although it was a little uneven. The quasi-fairytale form works well with two characters but once you throw in a third you really need to switch to a more realistic style of narration or stick to the short story format, because it's hard to sympathise with characters whose motivations never extend beyond 'because this is what they do in their preordained fairytale roles.' That said, the language is still gorgeous and the interweaving of folktale and Russian history quite well done indeed.

A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer
Overall, this was a decent read that avoided becoming an egotistical vanity project. It's not phenomenal—there's a fair amount of bloat and Grazer frequently contorts himself arguing that every trait on earth ultimately boils down to curiousity by another name. The book could have done without the 20-odd pages listing every single person Grazer's interviewed over the last decades, but since we're on the subject: I counted and Grazer's interviewed 77 women to 480-odd men, so I'm curious to know if Grazer's that much less curious about women.


What I Am Currently Reading

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
Man, this book. Carpenter visited so many of the places (and few of them are tourist hot spots) where nearly a century later I lived, or sheltered from typhoons, or took long walks in the middle of the night. Sometimes I identify the streets from the pictures, or the temple from the description of the neighborhood, and it just makes me want to go back.

The Infidel Stain – MJ Carter
Boy I did not care for this one the first time I read it. It just was not plausible to me that Avery could maintain such naivety and unquestioning acceptance of society and its mores after the events of The Strangler Vine and five years in Afghanistan. I still think it's implausible, but post-Devil's Feast I'm much calmer about it, because I am more than happy to follow that glorious character development across multiple volumes.

Tarot 101 – Kim Huggens
There's quite a bit of padding, and some blunders (as when it becomes painfully clear that Huggens has not read some of the books she lists in her "recommended reading" sections). But she compensates with an interesting schema for grouping the major arcana and some really insightful observations on the meanings of specific cards.

The Souls of China – Ian Johnson
Still truckin'.

Clariel – Garth Nix
I'm only reading this one during rainstorms, which means its slow going in this droughty summer, but this is the best Old Kingdom book since Sabriel, and it deserves to be read with the proper atmosphere.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
Still in early days with this one. Perry tends toward wordiness, but every few pages I'll come across a sentence that is just stunningly beautiful in its construction. I get the sense she's somewhat self-consciously setting up a pair of not traditionally likeable main characters, but we shall see how things progress from here.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
Still truckin'.

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew – Daniel Pool
Pool alternates between long, listlessly written chapters on topics that could could have been interesting (e.g. card games) and engaging descriptions of the minutiae governing everything from arranging to visit acquaintances or how the various rooms of a house were utilized during social occasions. There's just enough information here tht I haven't encountered in other volumes on the period to keep me reading, but it's by no means the best offering on the topic.

What I'm Reading Next
As ever, I really should finish some of the dozen or so books I've got going now before I add any new ones to the list.

これで以上です。
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I was doing so well remembering to post these daily, until I wasn't.


27 - a song that breaks your heart
  Perfume Genius – No Tear
  This song is a minute fifty-two seconds long. I can make it about 48 in without crying.

28 - a song by an artist with a voice you love
    Marriages - Love, Texas
  I love Emma's lyrics and her guitar too. But her voice. And that outro. That outro. That outro. That outro.


これで以上です。
Tags:
26 - a song that makes you want to fall in love
  Peter Gabriel – I Have the Touch
  Yes, yes, technically a song about extroversion, but the mixture of enthusiasm, optimism, and restless anticipation and dissatisfaction in these lyrics comes closer to my experience of falling in love than anything.

これで以上です。
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lebateleur: Sweet Woodruff (Default)
( Jun. 25th, 2017 08:38 am)
25 - a song by an artist no longer living
  Joy Division – These Days
  This is perhaps my favorite Joy Division song. The interplay between Ian Curtis' voice, the guitars, the base, the drum track...perfection in under 3 minutes.

これで以上です。
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Hahah, so behind on everything I mean to post...

23 - a song you think everybody should listen to
  Rasputina – Indian Weed
  Rasputina's live presentations are not to be missed and this video demonstrates why. This track just sears.

24 - a song by a band you wish were still together
  Prick – Communique
  Kevin McMahon has been my future husband ever since the days of Lucky Pierre. Listen to this track and understand why.

これで以上です。
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22 - a song that moves you forward
  The Thermals – Pillar of Salt
  I don't know what "a song that moves you forward" is, but I love this track and it doesn't matter where I am, I cannot sit still when I listen to it.

これで以上です。
Tags:
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