Sunday, October 18, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: October 11th to 17th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog with every book I read, barring the 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.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, nestles deep into someone's black-clad lap. Before him is a hardcover copy of Shadowshaper, featuring a Latina girl whose fro is dappled with splashes of brightly-coloured paint.

I wasn't wild about Daniel José Older's SHADOWSHAPER, and I'm not sure why.

If I describe the book to you, or to myself, it's awesome. There's this Latina girl, Sierra, who learns her family's all tangled up with magic that lets them tie spirits into their art. When Brooklyn's murals start fading--and their creators start disappearing--Sierra rallies her friends, including a cute Haitian artist who shares her abilities, and sets out in search of the mysterious Lucera, a spirit who could help rebuild the shadowshapers' fortunes.

Basically, it's got magic, family, ghosts, community, and a bone-deep awareness of Brooklyn as a diverse landscape, both physically and culturally. Few of the characters are white. Not all of them are hetero. I immediately liked Sierra, and her friends, and her Brooklyn--and yet, I just couldn't sink into the book.

It might have been a pacing thing. SHADOWSHAPER gets right down to it in terms of plot progression and how easily the characters accept their new magic. And I know this runs counter to, like, everything we're supposed to think or feel about writing, but sometimes fast-paced books shut me out. I want more time to wallow in the details, and I often struggle to connect to a novel that doesn't give me lots of space to play around in the world it paints.

Then again, it might just've been a weird mood thing. I've enjoyed Older's other books--his short story collection SALSA NOCTURNA, and his first adult UF, HALF-RESURRECTION BLUES--and I ain't about to write him off. Should there be a sequel to SHADOWSHAPER, I'll read it.

Murchie lays on a fuzzy white pillow against a black backdrop. He wears an orange t-shirt and has his tongue curled up to touch his nose. In front of him is a paperback copy of A Companion To Wolves. Its gold-toned cover features a large wolf next to a shirtless white man with the top of his head cropped off by the edge of the image.

Here's a conversation I have on a semi-regular basis:

ME: you should read A COMPANION TO WOLVES.
FRIEND: I really should, shouldn't I? Yes. I will do this.
ME: yay!
*months later*
FRIEND: Memory Memory Memory I read A COMPANION TO WOLVES and it was so good! Why didn't I listen to you sooner?
ME: that's a question for the ages, right there. Did you like the analingus scene?
FRIEND: ...maybe.
ME: and you're gonna read the sequel?
FRIEND: definitely.

Y'all should read A COMPANION TO WOLVES. It's Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear's take on animal companion fantasy, with ginormous psychic wolves and a more realistic exploration of how being so deeply connected to an animal would impact your day-to-day life. These wolves ain't like the ponies and dragons you've read about elsewhere, or like Nighteyes (who I feel compelled to tell you is still my favourite wolf in all of fantasy, even if he does get humanized). They're animals, albeit intelligent ones, with animal instincts.

Which is to say, there's a fair amount of social isolation outside the pack and some difficult sex within it.

But there's also a very nice analingus scene. Y'know, if you're into that.

And there's lots of excellent politicing, a great many well-observed interactions, and tons of gender stuff, even given the book's focus on male characters. You really should read it.

Murchie sprawls in a red blanket cave so only his face and the very top of his torso are exposed. Even his paws are tucked away. He wears his orange shirt. In front of him is a paperback copy of The Tempering of Men. Its cover features an inhuman creature attacking an armoured white man and a snarling brown wolf.

I should tell y'all A COMPANION TO WOLVES and its sequels, including THE TEMPERING OF MEN, were on my totally doable list of things I wanted to read in August. Thanks, massive reading slump!

I should also tell you I really liked, but didn't love, THE TEMPERING OF MEN after my first read. Now I'm not sure what the hell Past Memory was thinking, because this was awesome.

It's very much a What Happens After book. You've neutralized the threat you existed to fight, so what the hell do you do with the rest of your life? And how do you make a place for yourself alongside the people who saved your (if not the) world with you but maybe don't know what they're doing without an enemy to target?

I loved it very much and would probably say deep things about it if I weren't polishing this post seventeen hours into the Readathon (ie, if I weren't basically drunk on exhaustion).

Murchie lays on a fuzzy, sheep-shaped pillow with his paws crossed and dangling over the edge. Beside him is a thick CD case holding The Invasion of the Tearling. Its cover features a person standing silhouetted against a grey, cloud-filled sky with red along the horizon.

Yes, Murchie wore the same shirt all last week. It's comfy and it's not like he slops gravy down his front.

Although, certain family members have been known to get jam on him. Hell, I myself once liberally (and accidentally) coated Murchie in white cheddar powder. I thought it was mites, and the vet said the lab results didn't match any parasite she knew of, and it took me ages to realize he'd been sitting on my lap while I ate a rice cake.

I started using plates after that.

Anyways, I was initially disappointed to see Davina Porter had replaced Katherine Kellgren has narrator for Erika Johansen's second novel, THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING, but I needn't have worried. Porter does a lovely job, and I'm enjoying this so far. I'm hoping we hear more about Lily, who interests me just as much as she interests Kelsey.

Sidebar: Lily is one of those names that follows me around. Pretty well everything I like has someone named Lily in it.

Now, friends, I'll be straight with you: I photographed Murchie with a couple other books yesterday, but I'll save 'em for next week on account of this seventeen-hours-into-the-Readathon thing I've got going on. I'd like to have some hope of saying cogent things about the books in question (REPORT FROM PLANET MIDNIGHT by Nalo Hopkinson and the first volume of ANGELA: ASGARD'S ASSASSIN by Kieron Gillen and Phil Jimenez, plus probably another thing or two that trundled along after I scheduled this post). You know?

Next week: the abovementioned books. Some comics. AN APPRENTICE TO ELVES. A new in-between book. Maybe some other stuff.


  1. White cheddar powder is the best kind of mites--so easy to treat!

    1. And so delicious! Provided you get it off a rice cake or some popcorn or something, rather than off a dog.

  2. I wish I were as eloquent as you when exhausted, or when fully-rested, actually.

    Dying over Murchie's cheddar mites.

    1. I drafted most of this post when I was fully awake. If I'd done it when I was exhausted, I'd have been like, "Everyone, Mitzubishi is the world's cutest word." And there weren't even any Mitzubishis in these books.