Sunday, October 11, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: October 4th to 10th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by posing my dog (or one of his able stand-ins) 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.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lays on a bright red blanket. His face is very close to the camera. He wears a blue and white striped t-shirt mostly obscured by the blanket, and is surrounded by three manga volumes. None of their covers are visible.

I began the week with three more volumes of FRUITS BASKET, and I'm not crying over Kyo Sohma, that's totally someone else.

Probably the someone else who keeps borrowing the next volumes and keeping them well past their due dates. Grrrr. I hope this terribly inconsiderate person returns them soon so I can continue, or maybe even finish, the series.

A small bobblehead of Thor dressed in grey armour and brandishing a warhammer stands beside a white iPod with The Living's cover on its screen. The cover features the title in large, white block letters against an oncoming wave. Much of it is obscured by the audio app's menu.

I swear I don't actually collect Funko Pops, but Giant Tiger was clearing out their Avengers merch and they had one Thor left and he had the littlest hammer and his head is at a very disapproving angle and he might just be the best $7 I ever spent on a random object.

Tiny Thor appears here alongside THE LIVING by Matt de la Peña, an audiobook I got during Sync this summer. It's a disaster novel to the max. You think yeah, okay, this is the main character's big challenge--but then another terrible thing happens, and another, and another, until the entire world is a total mess.

I enjoyed it very much, but I didn't realize it was the first book in a duology so I got to the end and said, "Seriously? That's it?" I'll have to keep an eye out for the second book so I can see how everything turns out for Shy et al.

Murchie nestles into a pile of red blankets with his face very close to the camera. His eyes are slits and his ears are askew. Behind him at an angle is a paperback copy of The Shining Court. Its cover features a young woman with pale brown skin and darker brown hair. She wears a blue sari and carries a plain white mask. People in demon and elephant masks flank her.

Y'all know how much I love Michelle West's books, but I do find them awfully slow going on account of their length and West's lovely but not-so-scannable syntax. Rather than let THE SHINING COURT languish on la TBR until I was prepared to spend a solid week with it, I decided to make it my in-between read. I'll tackle one hundred more pages every time I finish another, shorter, book, until I'm at a point where I feel like barging straight on through to the end.

It's been wonderful so far; all intricate and wallowsome and beautifully observed, with the weight of consequence behind every little thing that happens. I had a touch of trouble with the last hundred pages I read, since they were pretty actiony and I find West's imply-imply-imply style works better for me with character development and worldbuilding than with action, but I'm confident I'll be hard into it again during my next session.

Murchie lays on a lap clad in black sweatpants. His rear is closest to the camera and his head is twisted so his face is in profile with his ears perked. Beside him is a white Kobo with The Deaths of Tao's cover on its screen. It features a grid of twelve yellow silhouettes, most of them male-coded, brandishing weapons against a black background.

Y'all, I thought I was super in the mood for some science fiction about secretive alien factions who're trying to achieve dominance by manipulating the human hosts with whom they share an intense telepathic connection, but it turns out I was wrong. I read about 40% of THE DEATHS OF TAO, Wesley Chu's second novel, and decided to put it aside for the time being.

I'll try again in a couple years, immediately after I've read the first book (that'd be THE LIVES OF TAO) and with the third book (THE REBIRTHS OF TAO) on hand.

A fuzzy grey teddy bear sits propped against a black brocade cushion in a red chair, a white Kobo cradled between his paws. The Kobo's screen shows the cover of Altered Destiny, featuring a silhouetted woman standing against a forest sunset with a sword over her shoulder. Some indistinct framed pictures are also reflected in the screen.

I ended up needing three Murchie photos yesterday because I kind of suck at cornering him early in the week, and after photo #2 (see below) he let me know he was done, absolutely done. So I turned to Bailey, a terribly posh collectors' teddy bear I bought solely because he has Murchie's eyes.

Bailey is my most extravagant purchase ever. I encountered him on my one and only trip to England and decided to pass because he was £28--but then I regretted it because he's really fucking cute. When my parents returned to the UK for another vacation, I slipped my mum £30 and asked her to pick one up for me.

That ain't something my current self would do, but look at him.

Also? He's fully jointed with magnets in his forepaws and behind his eyes, so he can clasp his hands together or play peekaboo. Totally worth $60 as of the 2008 CAD-GBP exchange rate, right?

Moving on...

Shawna Thomas's ALTERED DESTINY was one of the first books I bought when I got a Kobo. It took me years upon years, but I've finally read it. Hurray!

It caused me quite a lot of grumpiness when I researched it pre-purchase, not for itself but because of how some of the reviews I read talked about it. One in particular got my ire up by calling it "fantasy, a subgenre of paranormal". Uh, no. Paranormal is a subgenre of fantasy, not the other way around, and it irks the hell out of me when I see paranormal fans dance around that because they don't want to admit they read fantasy.

Now I've read the book, I'm a little more sympathetic to that reviewer's position. This particular fantasy is about a young woman who gets tangled up with a dude who's basically a vampire, except he's fine with sunlight. And while it initially appears to be secondary world, there are strong hints that it's actually post-apocalyptic, with both the Wastes that dot the landscape and the Svistra (sorta-vampires) having been created by radiation poisoning.

So it's possible to consider ALTERED DESTINY as a fantasy that's sprung from both the recent(ish) paranormal trend and the longstanding tradition of SF that takes place so far in the future that everyone's reverted to medievalesque behavior patterns (which, as you'll recall, is something I'm currently interested in).

I enjoyed it very much, but it probably won't stay with me for long.

Murchie lays curled on a sheep-shaped pillow. His face is blurred but the rest of him is clear. In front of him is a white iPod with Echoes of an Angel's indistinct, turquoise-toned cover on its screen.

Somebody refused to keep his head still while I photographed him with ECHOES OF AN ANGEL by Aquanetta Gordon. Come on, Murchie. I thought we were past this.

This's another of the audiobooks I got during Sync. It's Gordon's memoir, centred on how she raised her son, Ben Underwood, a boy who navigated the world with echolocation after he lost both his eyes to cancer.

It's also super Christian, which made me leery of it at first. I'm nervous around memoir to begin with lest I have to tell y'all someone's life bored me, and I've always avoided Christian nonfiction because evangelism and I have a poor relationship that I don't wanna get into.

I'm about halfway through, though, and so far Gordon has testified rather than preached. God is a huge part of her life, and I'm sure she'd rejoice to learn the same is true of her readers, but she's more concerned with sharing how she gained her relationship with God than in convincing anyone else to develop one of their own. (Unless that part comes later, and except insofar as leading my example is a thing.) And while I'm not Christian, her experiences have led me to spend some time considering the role religion plays in my own life, with a particular emphasis on how it jives with and diverges from the Christian model.

Murchie lays in his customary blanket nest with only his head and one paw poking out. His right ear is flipped over. In front of him is a paperback copy of The Fall of the Towers. Its cover features two brown-skinned people, one old and bald and the other young with flowing white hair, standing before a towered city that appears to be underwater.

Two or three Diversiverses ago, I read Samuel R. Delany's first novel, THE JEWELS OF APTOR.

I hated it.

Delany is such a genre powerhouse, though, that I figured I owed him another chance. Yesterday I hunkered down and read seventy-five pages of OUT OF THE DEAD CITY, the first book in THE FALL OF THE TOWERS, and was... not as engaged as I wanted to be. It was better than THE JEWELS OF APTOR (based on what I can remember of that earlier work; I've blocked most of it on account of how much I hated it), but it still ain't what I hope for from my science fiction.

I intended to push on through to the end of this first volume since it's only a hundred and forty-seven pages, but everyone kept monologing at everyone else and I didn't care about anything and finally I was like, "I'm a slow-ass reader with a long-ass TBR list and life is too fucking short."

And I bailed.

What do y'all think of Delany? Did I chose the two worst places to start, or are THE JEWELS OF APTOR and OUT OF THE DEAD CITY representative of his output? Should I try again or concede defeat? Should I maybe even pick OUT OF THE DEAD CITY back up because it gets amazing on page 80? Please weigh in.

Next week: more books by POC, plus some books by white people because I've stripped la TBR of everything else (and I'm still super behind on review copies). Also, the Readathon!


  1. I enjoyed The Lives of Tao, but for some reason, stopped in the middle of the second one and haven't gotten to the third yet. I think I wanted to like them more than I did, although I'm not sure why and can't quite put a finger on it.

    I like your sentiment: "I'm a slow-ass reader with a long-ass TBR list and life is too fucking short." Amen. I only wish other readers/bloggers felt the same way. Why read something you're not liking?

    1. Exactly. I abandon so many more books now than I ever used to.

  2. Thus far I have never read a thing by Samuel Delany, and no blogger has ever yet said "BUT YOU MUST READ X BY HIM," so until that happens I will probably stay Delany-free. This is my situation with most of the classic dude sci-fi writers.

    ALSO: I read about a third of The Lives of Tao and didn't care for it at all. I am not sure why. Just wasn't doing it for me. I checked out Wesley Chu's newest book, Time Salvager, and am hoping to have better luck with that one. Time Salvager, right? SALVAGING TIME. It should be right up my alley, right?

    1. Eva told me she wasn't wild about her foray into Delany either (she tried NOVA), but no one's come forward to tell me the two books I tried are par for the course with him, so I'm sure I'll try again. It's like my new project. Find a Delany novel I like.

      I'm also excited at the thought of SALVAGING TIME. This is the sort of thing I'm generally into.