Sunday, December 6, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: November 29th to December 5th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my grumpy little 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, with descriptive alt tags and additional thoughts.

Not pictured: having finished PLANETARY, I got back to Douglas Mann's GREAT POWER AND GREAT RESPONSIBILITY: THE PHILOSOPHICAL POLITICS OF COMICS. It remains interesting, but the segment where he addresses the charges against SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE left a bad taste in my mouth. Mann makes little attempt to be intersectional as he questions whether or not SHEENA is racist (he says it isn't; I remain unconvinced), and his own biases come through when he refers to African idols as "absurd" and indirectly cites Christianity as "a more rational approach to religion."

On a much happier note, I also listened to the latest episode of TREMONTAINE, in which lots of queer people, some of them brown, do interesting things with strong ties to both food and mathematics. So that was nice.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, lays curled on a fuzzy, cream-coloured pillow. His head is raised, and below his chin is a white iPod with Memory's cover on its screen. A blue hand stretches its fingers against a blue and green background while white circuits overlay the image.

I've decided to power on through the next few Vorkosigan novels for availability reasons (long, boring story), and I'm pleased to report I had an awesome time with MEMORY. I loved it very nearly as much as MIRROR DANCE, and that's saying something.

What I really love about these sorta-later Vorkosigan novels is how Bujold keeps putting Miles in terrible, unexpected positions. Last time (not counting CETAGANDA, which is set earlier in the timeline), he did something rather shocking, and this time, he's thrust into a position I didn't expect him to assume for a long, long time yet. Except this is the eleventh book in the series, so this particular life change didn't come up quite as quickly as Miles's youth makes it seem like it did.

On top of this, he's gotta deal with the aftereffects of the rather shocking event, and it's about as messy as you'd expect. Hurray for messy books!

This one's also got lots of glorious character interaction, and some social maneuvering, and Miles being totally clueless about something super obvious because sometimes even military geniuses miss the signals their families throw at them. I also think he takes too long to peg the culprit (who I figured out right away, thank you very much, and kept trying to point out to Miles, who ignored me in typical fictional character fashion), but I guess it's a good thing he's not perfect.

I'm a bit disappointed in his final decision, though. Not what he does with the bribe--that's a good move--but in general. And this one spoilery thing he says near the end kind of broke my heart.


Oh! Before we go any further, I should note I'm counting every non-comic I read in December towards Shaina's Twelve Books of Christmas (Or Whichever December Holiday You Prefer) Challenge. Most comics do technically count, since I rarely read anything under the cutoff of one hundred pages, but I also finish them so quickly that including them would make it too easy. I will count audiobooks, though, since even at 1.5x they usually take me longer to listen to than they would to read with my eyeballs.

Murchie lays tucked mostly beneath a red blanket. His head rests on his outstretched paws, and his right ear is flipped back. In front of him is a hardcover copy of Between the World and Me. The cover is pale, with the author's name and title in black block letters.

Everyone and their dog read BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME this year, so Murchie and I got ourselves on the library requests list and patiently waited our turn. Ta-Nehisi Coates's book-length letter to his son is important reading that explores the violence young black men live with in America today and the ways in which blackness shifts from generation to generation. I highly recommend it to anyone who's been trying to shut up and listen to black voices.

It's also intense, difficult stuff, as you can imagine. It's a short book, but I read it in sections instead of powering through.

Murchie lays on his side with a white Kobo next to him. The Kobo's screen shows the cover of Status Update, which features two white men on a couch. One hugs the other while simultaneously patting a black and tan dog sprawled in his partner's lap.

It's been far too long since I hunkered down with some contemporary romance, and I couldn't have chosen a better drought-breaker than Annabeth Albert's STATUS UPDATE. I'll have a full review for you on Tuesday, fates willing, but the main thing you need to know is that it's an awesome queer romance packed with stuff about consent and connection and video games, and both the protagonists have dogs.

Everything's better with a dog.

Also, one of the dogs is named Pixel, which is absolutely the best small dog name ever. I'm gonna start calling Murchie Pixel as a nickname.

Murchie lays in a red blanket nest. His eyes are closed and his mouth is stretched open in a yawn, his tongue extended. He wears a pink hoodie with white trim. In front of him is a trade paperback copy of Devices and Desires. It's grey-toned cover features a large, vaguely heart-shaped iron lock with a simple key laid across it.

Lo, this is truly the season of Murchie curled up in bed with a book in front of him. This is partly because

I'd planned to read K.J. Parker's DEVICES AND DESIRES as my in-between book, given my reaction to the Scavenger Trilogy, but this followup series opener seems to head back into Seriously Interesting And Crammed With Politics territory so I'm gonna make it my primary unless something changes. It's terribly moreish so far. I probably gulped down a few more chapters yesterday evening.

I also looked at the acknowledgments while I was checking the number of pages, and I'm possibly too amused that Parker thanks himself for his expertise.

Murchie's face is an open-mawed blur as he tries to dig his way around a Union Jack pillow. A white iPod with Komarr's cover on its screen wobbles against the pillow. It depicts a domed space city with a woman's face floating in the upper left hand corner.

Further to my binge-listen-to-the-Vorkosigan-novels plan, I downloaded KOMARR and got right down to it. When I asked Murchie to pose alongside the book, he threw a small fit and attempted to kill the pillow I'd propped it up against. That feat accomplished, he went on to attack two more pillows as documented in this video. Note the triumphant pose he strikes at the end, before he gets bored and tries to jump off the couch.

By the look of things, I'm destined to fall into a one awesome, one really good pattern with these books. I loved the hell out of MIRROR DANCE, really liked CETAGANDA, loved the hell out of MEMORY, and am really liking KOMARR. It's focused on Ekaterin, who I've been waiting to meet for ages, with a parallel plot involving a big investigation Miles undertakes on and above Komarr.

Which has two Rs on the end! I've been mentally spelling it with one R, because I suck at fictional planets' names. And fictional characters' names, for that matter. Apparently Dubh Galeni is actually Duv Galeni. Who knew?

(Everyone who read the books with their eyeballs or with a screen reader that fills them in on spelling. Also, audiobook listeners who resisted the urge to make things unnecessarily complicated.)

As I write this, I'm about halfway through. I expect I listened to another chunk while I cleaned my bathroom and baked an apple loaf last night. You wish your Saturdays were as exciting as mine.

Next week: more Vorkosigans, unless I run out of listening time and stall on KOMARR. More stuff from la TBR. More of Murchie curled into a tiny ball to escape the brutal, brutal cold.

Twelve Books of Christmas Tally: MEMORY by Lois McMaster Bujold; BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates; STATUS UPDATE by Annabeth Albert.


  1. Yeah, I liked Devices and Desires et seq. more than I ever liked the Scavenger trilogy. In fact now that I am thinking about it, I may not have ever finished the Scavenger trilogy. But the Devices and Desires books were excellent and devastating, and I also quite liked the ones about bows? I can't remember what they are all called? Belly of the Bow, Colours in the Steel, something like that?

    1. That would be the Fencer Trilogy. I'm saving it until I can manage to find the third book. It's slow going, since my library doesn't have it, I never see used copies, and new copies are like $20 per mass market paperback. Sadness. Meanwhile, I've had the first two sitting here for upwards of three years, waiting for their time to come.

  2. Murchie plus books always brightens my Instagram feeeeed!

    I haven't read Between the World and Me yet. I'm alone on the planet.

    1. Aw, thanks!

      I'm sure there must be someone else, somewhere out there, who hasn't gotten their hands on it yet.