Sunday, March 6, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: Catch-Up Edition, Part II

In the normal course of things, I photograph my dog (or one of my petsitting charges) with every book I read, but I don't always have easy access to animals. I recently took an eleven-day trip to British Columbia, and while I was able to convince one cat to pose for me on the mainland, I had to get creative when I moved along to Victoria. You'll find an assortment of iconic Victoria guest stars below, with descriptive alt tags and longwinded commentary attached.

Murchie Plus Books will resume its regular Murchie-filled service next week, with an Ollie-centric week after that so's the cat people among you can get your fix of feline adorability.

Jellaby's cover appears on a white Kobo's screen. It features a large and adorable purple monster curled up on a riverbank. A tiny, pale-skinned girl with short brown hair leans back against the monster's side side. Behind the Kobo, a green and gold signing reading 'Murchie's, since 1884' is visible through a plate glass window.

I discovered Kean Soo's JELLABY in the FLIGHT anthologies and was thrilled to learn there were also full length, all-ages editions. The first of these, THE LOST MONSTER, provided me with some super cute mainland reading, though I held off on photographing it until I was inside Vacation Special Guest Star #3: Murchie's!

Murchie's is, obviously, the place I named my dog after; or rather, the place my grandma named my dog after. (I wanted to give him a solid Russian name like Alexi or Vassily or Ilya.) Murchie is a teacup poodle, so she insisted he should be called either Tetley or Murchie. Murchie suited him better, so Murchie he became.

Murchie's is an old, old tea company with a storefront and cafe on Government Street. I highly recommend their Raspberry Temptation tea lattes, which come topped with white and dark chocolate shreds. Make sure you head to the very back of the retail store to see the creepy-ass Tea Grannys, too. This 120-year-old automaton was creepier1 when they kept it in working order, but I think you'll still be satisfied with the sheer terror that seizes your heart as you gaze upon the trio.

A pale hand holds a white Kobo up against a concrete path completely enclosed by the trees to either side of it. Sated's cover appears on the ereader's screen, and the reflection of the branches above overlays a picture of a man's brown-skinned chest, shirtless beneath an open grey hoodie.

I also tore through Rebekah Weatherspoon's SATED on the mainland but held off on photographing it until I could find a suitable guest star. In this case, I went with one of the treed walking trails along the waterfront edge of Beacon Hill Park. It seemed to fit well with this series' overall fitness theme.

Those of you who love BDSM romance really need to get your hands on this series. It's super sexy and super diverse, with a slew of POC protagonists, one amputee protagonist, and a variety of queer folks in the supporting cast. There's a huge emphasis on consent, too. You'll find the three novellas on Scribd if you're a member, or in your favourite ebook store if you're not. They're $1.20 each on Kobo Canada, so I assume they'll be $0.99 at American etailers; a great price for this much kinky, althetic fun.

Plus Keira, the heroine of SATED is a total chatterbox geek who's super into cosplay and fanfic and conventions. I loved her.

A white Kobo with the Scribd page for In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens on its open screen appears between a rum ball encrusted in chocolate curls and a foam-topped latte. All three items rest on a silver tea tray.

I lapsed into an odd reading mood once I arrived Victoria. I'm super go-go-go on vacations, and this is especially true when I'm in a good walking city. I stayed with a friend who lived quite close to a lot of cultural attractions, heritage neighbourhoods, and interesting trails, and I took full advantage of it.

I walked just under 60 miles (96 kilometres) in the eight days I spent on the island, and it'd have been more if I hadn't messed up my left foot.

This extensive walking regimen left me with only a teensy bit of reading time in the evenings and during occasional breaks on public benches, so I found it easier to read essays than novels. Alice Walker's IN SEARCH OF OUR MOTHERS' GARDENS was perfect. It's the sort of shut-up-and-listen reading everyone ought to do, deeply rooted in womanism and the black American experience. Walker writes about her own life and the lives of the women who've inspired her, with a hefty emphasis on the impact art of all kinds (but particularly writing) can have on the human spirit.

I've been reading anywhere from one to five essays per day, and you can bet I'll seek out the rest of Walker's nonfiction too.

The guest stars here are a Murchie's rum ball (delicious and enormous) and an Orchard Twist latte (apricot black tea with vanilla).

A white Kobo with The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder's green cover on its screen lies across a water bottle with an adorable grey herringbone fox cover. The fox has wide white eyes and a brown belly with beige polka dots. The book's cover features female silhouettes in darker green, with a magnifying glass, a cat, and a church worked into the border.

I still tried to read novels in and around the abovementioned essay collection, but I fear I didn't do right by them. Rachel McMillan's BACHELOR GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER is a fun historical mystery set in 1910 Toronto, and I drifted right away from it despite the engaging premise (two young women become consulting detectives in a climate ruled by Morality Squads, while an Italian-Canadian reporter aids them in solving the murder none of them can quit) and some delightfully cinematic prose rife with footnotes to explain the characters' antecedents and the historical backdrop.

My library's ordered it (hurray for libraries!), so I'll try again in a couple of months, when I'm in the right mood to enjoy this sort of mystery (and when I'm not out spraining my feet).

The Special Guest Star you see above is my brand new hot water bottle, purchased on a whim on the last morning of my trip. I wandered into a design store in Market Square purely to look around, but the moment I saw the water bottles I knew I needed to splurge.

This wee fox's name is either Sophie, Pigeon, or Roxy. I haven't decided yet.

A pale hand holds a white-bordered iPod with Where'd You Go, Bernadette's turquoise cover on the screen. Behind it is a grassy, tree-shaded cemetery with a headstone close by and concrete borders around additional graves in the distance. The cover features an illustration of a dark-haired white woman wearing enormous black glasses with Where'd You Go written on them in white.

I had much better luck with audiobooks, and powered through Maria Semple's WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE in two (eight- and ten-mile) days.

Friends, it was fabulous! Narrator Kathleen Wilhoite does a tremendous job of capturing everyone's personality throughout this epistolary novel made up of found documents that shed light on the disappearance of one Bernadette Fox, genius architect and shut-in. The story is deeply concerned with mental health, and with perception versus reality, and with the many ways in which people can surprise you. I can't recommend it highly enough.

A white Kobo with Stray Bullets's red cover on its screen sits immediately behind a large white bowl filled with chicken Pad Thai.

I meant to read soooooooooo many comics on my trip, but I only got through five trades and a few single issues of UNCANNY X-MEN. Sigh.

At least I'm a little closer to getting through all the digital comics I've purchased through Humble Bundles and Kickstarters, yes? David Lapham's STRAY BULLETS is one of the comics I got with the 2015 Humble Bundle and let languish unread for far too long. This first volume is a series of interconnected short stories, all very bleak, rendered in stark black and white. I appreciated it very much, but I'm not sure if I liked it.

Still, I'll read the rest of the series if it falls into my lap.

The special guest star of the hour, on the other hand, was unreservedly wonderful. I ordered this bowl of Pad Thai at Foo Asian Street Food on my ten-mile day in the expectation it'd be a small cardboard takeaway container. Instead, I got a bowl as large as my head. There was no way in hell I could finish it all, so that was my next day's lunch sorted.

A pale hand holds a white-bordered red iPod with Sister Mine's blue-toned cover on its screen. Behind it is a small stone bridge with a metal rail, plus a riot of greenery.

I started Nalo Hopkinson's SISTER MINE on a fabulous walk through Beacon Hill Park and quickly fell in love with it. It's all familial and magical and Canadian, with a hefty dose of music for good measure.

The next day, though, I started going to museums and galleries, and that effectively quashed my listening time. I like to listen to everything one can listen to and read all the plaques, and I can't do that with earbuds in. I'm hoping to make more solid progress through the book now I'm back home.

A pale hand holds a white Kobo with Archivist Wasp's red and green cover on its screen. The cover features a long-haired person in silhouette at the top of a twisting path that leads towards some jagged red mountains. Behind the Kobo is a taxidermied woolly mammoth in a faux-arctic environment. It has impressive tusks.

Speaking of museums, THIS IS MY MAMMOTH.

Okay. Mammoth story! When I was four years old, my aunt and uncle moved to Vancouver Island and my parents and I went to see their new place in Sooke. While we were there, we visited the Royal British Columbia Museum and I got totally attached to the mammoth they had in an enormous glass case.

Because mammoth. Come on.

(It took me close on thirty years to realize I probably loved the mammoth so much because he reminded me of Mr. Snuffleupagus.)

When I was thirteen, we went back to BC as part of a massive Spring Break trip with another aunt and uncle and some cousins, and I told everyone how much I was looking forward to seeing the mammoth again.

They all scoffed at me. There was no such thing as a stuffed mammoth, and Victoria sure didn't have one. I was either making things up or I'd hallucinated this mammoth when I was a little kid.

But then we made it to Victoria, and we went to the museum, and there the mammoth was.


So, yes. I'm attached to this mammoth, and I make a point of visiting him every time I go to Victoria because he's very special to me.

I also get ridiculously excited when mammoths show up in books and movies and TV shows. Give me all the mammoths, please.

I knew I wanted the mammoth2 to be one of my Special Guest Stars, so I captured him with Nicole Kornher-Stace's much-lauded ARCHIVIST WASP. Which, yes, is a novel, and I know I just said I tried to shy away from those once I started the exhaustive walking regimen, but I love fiction and I'm weak and it appeared on Scribd right when I was like, "Yeah, I abandoned that charming mystery for no good reason, but perhaps another novel might stick."

I probably should've waited, since I think I'd have loved the hell out of this if I'd read it at a decent pace. (It took me about five days.) As things stood, I still enjoyed the bulk of it very much and loved the ending enough that I'm considering it a four-star read overall. It's weird and brutal and glorious, and it falls into that post-apocalyptic fantasy genre I'm always harping on about. I recommend you seek it out, especially if you're currently doing the Weirdathon.

An enormously fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, flops on a red tapestry comforter. His beard is a wonder to behold: thick and wild and determined to pull him under. Beside him is a white Kobo with COWL Volume One's cover on its screen. It features the silhouette of a person wearing goggles and a bowler hat, with the Chicago skyline in grey along the bottom.

Murchie's back! Hi, Murchie!

I finished ARCHIVIST WASP on the plane home--while I sat next to a little dog named Jasper--and spent the rest of the flight on essays and comics, including the first volume of C.O.W.L. It's yet another book I snapped up as part of the 2015 Image Humble Bundle and took nine hundred years (translation: one year and a couple weeks) to read because that's how I roll.

Intellectually, I found this fascinating. It's about a superhero union active in 1960s Chicago and consisting of a mix of superpowered folks, scientific geniuses, and regular people with valuable skill sets. On the one hand, it's a clear commentary on superhero teams and the history of superhero comics; on the other, it's a very real story about politics and crime, and the crimes people let slide in the name of politics. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I was emotionally engaged enough that I'll make a strong effort to read the rest of the series.

Next week: we return to regular, at-home reading with some awesome novels, some DC comics, and a fuzzy wee dog.

  1. Midway through the cycle, the Tea Grannys start acknowledging you're watching them. They point at you and whisper things behind their hands. I can understand why Murchie's decided not to let people turn the automaton on anymore, but I'll always be sorry I can't watch those creepy-ass ladies in motion one more time.
  2. My mammoth is officially named Woolly, and I think it's made of actual mammoth skin recovered from a glacier. The museum doesn't have any signs up to say, "Hey, we made this mammoth out of actual mammoth tusks and some other fur we found on non-extinct animals," and one assumes they'd put up a notice if Woolly was fake. Then again, one also assumes they'd have a whole info stand about it if they'd found Woolly in a glacier because that's really fucking cool.

    (Ugh; now I'm thinking of that horrible DOCTOR WHO episode where the "scientist" found a humanoid figure in a glacier and decided it must be a mammoth. And it only got worse from there. I'll never stop being mad at that episode for being the point at which I officially tapped out of DOCTOR WHO. I kept watching for a while longer, just in case, but I could no longer pretend the show might once again become something I could enjoy.)


  1. I love these posts - they always make me smile so much :-)

  2. Bah, my library does not have any Rebekah Weatherspoon books and that is annoying because I lovelovelove geeky heroines. Maybe I can get them to order a few.

    Archivist Wasp is on my ereader right now! I am hoping to love it, but we'll see. Brutal and glorious things are good things for me.

    1. This novella series was self-published, and I'm not sure if there are any print editions. :( Hopefully they can license them for their e-reserve.

      Yay! I, too, hope you love it.

  3. Hooray, hooray, Bernadette! I loved that one. I was always curious how an epistolary book like that would translate to audio.

    It sounds like you had a lovely trip! I'm sorry to hear about your foot, but you still must have calves of steel.

    1. My calves are the only part of my body completely devoid of fat. They don't jiggle even a little bit, and I've got stretch marks because my muscles expanded pretty quickly when I started walking everywhere a few years back.

  4. Adding SATED to my wish list...

    That rum ball looks huge! And the latte sounds amazing. If I ever make it out your way, I'm definitely paying Murchie a visit (both of them, I hope).

    I finished up Nalo Hopkinson's collection of short stories just recently. It sounds like I'm going to have to give her novels a go soon.

    1. You'd love Murchie's! They have a fabulous selection of teas both in their cafe and for purchase, plus lots of tasty snacks and sandwiches and things. Plus, Victoria is a wonderful, wonderful city full of interesting things to do.