Sunday, July 12, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: July 5th to 11th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog beside every book I read, barring the digital comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: I forgot to mention I read HAWKEYE #21 the week before last. It gave me a lot of emotions. THE FUCKING [redacted] I CAN'T EVEN.

I finally finished CABLE & DEADPOOL, too! (Okay, that's a lie. I haven't finished it quite yet, but I'll have done so by the time you read this.) My interest waned for a few issues, but then it picked up again in a big way. I do like Deadpool, y'all. I mean, I'd never want to meet him, but he's entertaining and he shares my love of tacos so we're good.

On the Hugo front, I listened to all the nominated podcasts and crept further through the semiprozines with issues of ASIM and ABYSS & APEX. As I write this, I've also started BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lays in a small, fuzzy-sided dog bed. In front of him is a paperback copy of The Book of Three. Its cover features two white children--one dark-haired boy and one red-haired girl--fleeing through a forest in company with a pig. Behind them is a person wearing a horn-crowned skull over their face.

I was gonna start my Doctrine of Labyrinths reread last Sunday, but then I realized I missed Fflewddur Fflam more than I missed anyone else in the entire world. I had no choice but to pluck THE BOOK OF THREE off the shelf instead.

Do y'all know about Fflewddur Fflam? He's not the central character of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain (that would be Taran, the dude for whom the Pig Boy trope is named), but he's the best of the remarkable lot. In addition to having more Fs in his name than just about anyone, Fflewddur is a wandering sorta-bard who has a rocky relationship with the truth. He's big into self-aggrandizement, a habit he halfway keeps in check with the help of his magic harp, which snaps its strings whenever he tells a lie. He also tends to be gung ho about all Taran's stupid heroic ideas, because a Fflam is daring.

When Disney adapted THE BLACK CAULDRON, they turned Fflewddur into a doddery old guy and I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THEM FOR IT. Even though the Fflewddur-centric story in THE FOUNDLING seems to indicate Fflewddur actually is in his thirties or forties (still a fair bit younger than that animated monstrosity), I've always seen him as being in his early twenties. He's got enough years on Taran and Eilonwy that he can lord it over them a little bit, but not so many that he's actually justified in doing so.

...which means he's younger than me now. Crap. It's so hard when characters who used to be way older than you are suddenly younger than you. I had the same problem with Nynaeve when I reread the Wheel of Time.

But yes. On top of being a truth-averse sorta-bard who's suddenly younger than me, Fflewddur is a king--except he doesn't spend much time ruling because of the whole sorta-bard thing. One might think this would be hard on his subjects, but they're just as happy for Fflewddur to wander the width and breath of Prydain because things go quite a bit smoother when he's not around.

TL;DR: Fflewddur Fflam is fucking awesome. I will fight you over him. Don't test me on this. I literally fought someone over Clint Barton the Friday before last. When I say I'll fight you over a character, I mean it.

I won't necessarily fight you over THE BOOK OF THREE, though. It's wonderful if you first approach it when you're ten or so, but it's probably not ideal first-read material if you're very much older than that. This was my twelfth time through, so it's my old friend, but I dunno if it'll become yours if it isn't already.

Murchie sits on a sheep-shaped pillow, his neck stretched upwards and his head at a curious angle. He has a proud expression on his face. Behind him are two volumes of Fruits Basket. Each features a young Japanese person in a blue school uniform on its cover.

My quest for a new manga series continues, and I think I may have hit paydirt with Natsuki Takaya's FRUITS BASKET. It's so cute! There's this orphan girl, and she ends up finding a new family for herself, and everyone in her new family is possessed by a spirit from the Chinese Zodiac, and they all turn into animals whenever a member of the opposite sex hugs them, and it's awkward but also seriously cute because animals.

One wonders how this works with trans folks, though. Can the magic tell who a person is, or is it cissexist? And what if someone's nonbinary? Can they hug everyone or no one?

These pressing questions aside, I'm loving the relationships and the familial stuff and Tohru's relentless positivity. Bring on the rest of the series!

Murchie sprawls on a tapestried comforter, one ear raised as if in disdain. Before him is a white iPod with Half Wild's cover on its screen. It features swirls of green that suggest a howling wolf against a grey background.

You guys, I need to sit down and write about HALF BAD and HALF WILD because I HAVE A LOT OF EMOTIONS.

Like, okay, I feel a hell of a lot for Nathan, and he's had such a rough life that he latches on to pretty well anyone who's nice to him, and I am terrified that's gonna backfire big time. And there's all this stuff about family, and personal choice, and the nature of good and evil. And I'm so into Gabriel, y'all don't even know.


Most of the time I'm like, "I disapprove of love triangles unless they end in polygamy, preferably of the polyandry variety." But then you throw a bisexual love triangle my way and I'm like, "BISEXUAL LOVE TRIANGLE OMG."

It's killing me how HALF LOST isn't out until next March. I finished HALF WILD on Thursday and I already miss Nathan and Gabriel so much. Maybe a kindly publishing person will give me an ARC once they're available, if I ask very nicely?

I'm almost as excited for HALF LOST as I am for THE RAVEN KING, and that's saying something.

A white Kobo with The Secret Countess's cover on its screen lays at an angle to a bottle of beer. The cover features a close-in photograph of a young white woman with brown hair. The beer's label has a goose on it.

Friends, I chased Murchie around the entire yard on Friday night, Kobo and camera in hand. Every time it looked like I was gonna get a halfway decent shot of him with A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS (aka THE SECRET COUNTESS) by Eva Ibbotson, he moved his head or turned his back or stood in a patch of sun that rendered my Kobo's screen unreadable.

Eventually I was like, "Fine. I'll take a picture of it with my beer instead."

And that's what I did.

To backtrack: I was going to start MELUSINE right after THE BOOK OF THREE, but then I remembered A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS exists and contains the Honourable Olive, over whom I will fight you (see above).

So I got right down to it.

A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS is the most perfect book, friends. I mean, I recognize it's not actually perfect because of how everyone reacts to Sebastien groping the maids, but it also has glorious prose and characters you fall in love with immediately and the most beautiful imagery and oh my gods it is perfect I love it so frickin' much and I actually had to take a break from it at one point so my tear ducts could recover. I'm not joking. That actually happened.

On a scale from one to five, I give it seven.

A four-inch tall bobblehead of Hawkeye stands next to a red-bordered iPod with Red Rising's cover on its screen. The bobblehead wears a purple and black jacket over black pants and strappy black boots. He carries a black bow. The book's cover features a red wing against a black background.

Murchie loves nothing more than a chance to sunbathe, and he absolutely refused to retire to a shady spot so I could photograph him with my latest audiobook. Rather than wait until he was willing to come in, I positioned Tiny Hawkguy next to my iPod so Murchie could have a little bit more of a break.

Fear not. Murchie will return next week.

You may recall I bounced off Pierce Brown's RED RISING in print because--early-in-the-book spoiler coming up--the main character's wife dies so she can inspire him, and I was like, "You're gonna feed me this tripe a-fuckin'-gain???"

People do love this book, though, and the audio sample seemed promising, so when gave me a free credit I was like, "Let's see if I have better luck with it in this format."

The narrator is great so far, and the book does, indeed, get a lot more interesting once we forge on past that horrible motivation. Parts of it are like My Fair Lady on crack, and I am ever so fond of My Fair Lady on crack stories. (Oliver Twist on crack stories are also most welcome.)

We'll see how I feel about it once I've finished.

Next week: MELUSINE, for real this time because it's the only possible follow-up to A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS. Maybe a Hugo novel, too, if I can manage to take a break before I start THE VIRTU. I'm sure there'll also be some comics and perhaps a new audiobook, if I keep to my current pace with RED RISING. has a 2x speed, so I'm making good progress there.


  1. Murchie looks especially adorable in the Fruit Basket picture :D

    Now I want to read an Eva Ibbotson. Like seriously, how is she so wonderful?

    1. I'm so happy with his expression in the Fruits Basket picture. I caught him right as he noticed a dog walking past outside. :)

      Eva Ibbotson's wonderfulness astounds me whenever I pause to consider it. SHE IS SO GOOD.

  2. Lloyd Alexander was one of those authors my big sister super loved and I couldn't be bothered with (except for TIME CAT), which I'll never know if it had to do with my actual taste in reading or more with trying to differentiate myself from her.

    I am going to wait until all three of the Sally Green books are out, and THEN read them all in one go. I believe this will maximize my chances of loving them.

    1. Ten-year-old me would've told you Lloyd Alexander was her VERY FAVOURITEST author, but for some reason I couldn't be bothered with any of his books that weren't about Prydain. I think I only read one other Lloyd Alexander book when I was actually a kid, and I don't remember it clearly now.

      I've read a few more of his books as an adult (including TIME CAT! I loved TIME CAT!) and it's made me wish I read him more often when I was a kid. Like, I actively avoided the Westmark Trilogy because it's got guns in it and Past Memory believed firearms had no place in fantasy, but I think I'd have loved it so hard when I was eleven or thereabouts.

      This sounds like a good strategy with the Sally Green books. Part of me wishes I'd waited because now I'm so very, very eager for more and THERE IS NONE, but most of me is glad I read them now because I love discovering awesome new characters. They've brightened my July, which I guess is weird because they're pretty brutal.