Sunday, April 24, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: April 17th to 23rd

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog (or one of his stand-ins) with every book I read, barring the comics I get as single issues.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: more UNCANNY X-MEN, of course. I'm at the start of Chris Claremont's run now, and things are starting to look a hell of a lot more familiar.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, peeks out from around a hardcover copy of The Queen of the Night set upright on a concrete stoop. The book's cover features a sepia portrait of a frizzy-haired white woman wearing a massive white gown and a black domino mask. She props one fist on her hip and raises her other hand to her lips.

It's finally warm enough to spend more than thirty seconds outside at a stretch! Murchie's a total outdoorsdog come summertime, so y'all can expect lots more outdoor photos of him in the near future (unless the Weather Gods turn against us again).

Last week we spent some time on the back stoop, THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT in hand. It kept pretending it was right on the cusp of being an awesome, amazing, can't-put-it-down-oh-gods-oh-gods novel, but it never made good on that promise. I gave it 260 pages, convinced something with heaps of word of mouth-fueled hype behind it had to be worth the effort, but I never transitioned from mildly interested to actively engaged. Most of the time, I was flat out bored.

I'm bored even thinking about it, to be perfectly frank, so that's all I'm gonna say about that.

A Funko bobblehead of Rey from Star Wars stands next to a white iPod with Redefining Realness's pink cover on its screen. the iPod leans up against a shelf full of Robin Hobb novels.

Janet Mock's REDEFINING REALNESS, now, was wonderful. Mock shares her experiences as a trans girl of colour, struggling to balance her identity with her family life and the world around her. She's thoughtful, intersectional, and keen to emphasize that this is her story rather than a template for trans youth. There's no one right way to be anything, and she encourages listeners and readers to acknowledge this as they consider the ways their own experiences and privileges influence how they move through the world.

Be forewarned, she speaks frankly about how her stepbrother molested her when she was small, and about some of the difficult dates she went on when she was a sex worker. These chapters may be triggering for some readers.

A Funko bobblehead of Finn from Star Wars stands next to a white iPod with Cracks In the Kingdom's cover on its screen, The cover features a white girl wearing a red cloak as she stands in a blue-tinged, rain-drenched open space. An orange umbrella blows away far above her. The iPod leans against the same set of books as in the above photo.

And now, back to fiction!

I loved A CORNER OF WHITE by Jaclyn Moriarty so much that I threw my listening plans out the window and grabbed the sequel, CRACKS IN THE KINGDOM, right away. These books are delightful, y'all. There's some heavy stuff in them, like vanished fathers and dead uncles and mothers with brain tumors, but there's also a glorious measure of absurdity. The Kingdom of Cello is a technologically advanced secondary world where people still take many of their social cues from the way magic impacts their lives--meaning, in essence, that most people are really fucking weird. I love it awfully much.

The characters are great, too. Like, I'd probably fight someone over the Princess Ko. She's pithy and driven and extremely fifteen years old.

I'd also like to direct your attention to Tiny Finn's painfully adorable eyebrows in the above picture. I can't even with them.

Murchie curls up on a bronze comforter. He wears an orange t-shirt with brown trim. Beside him is a white Kobo with Half Lost's cover on its screen. The cover features a tree of golden flame against a light grey background. The whole photo is gold-toned.


Right after Sally Green's HALF LOST came out, I saw a possible spoiler on Twitter. A big one. The tweet didn't name the book or the characters involved, but the situation was so specific to this series that I easily pinned the comment to HALF LOST--which, as you may recall, was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016.

Part of me wanted to seek confirmation that the spoiler did, indeed, apply to this book, but I decided to remain willfully ignorant for as long as possible so I could continue to hope for another resolution.

I avoid spoilers in general because hope is an enormous part of my reading process. I want to be able to hope certain things will or won't happen. I'm damned good at the whole guess-along schtick so I can usually spot "twists" coming, but there's a big difference between reaching a conclusion as you read and knowing something for sure before you've even started. When I know something for sure, I lose out on what is, for me, one of the most enjoyable things about reading or watching fiction.

Spoilers also make it difficult for me to focus on anything but the spoiler in question. They colour the way I react to the whole text. If I'm less engaged with a story, it can be fun to spot foreshadowing and whatnot. If I have an emotional stake in things, I'll save all my foreshadow-spotting for rereads, thanks.

But yeah. I saw the spoiler and I tried to pretend it was about something else, but I knew what I was in for and it influenced not only the way I read this book but also the way I reread the two books before it. It bummed me out on multiple levels.

On the sorta-plus side, when I hear a spoiler like this one I automatically fixate on the absolute worst way it could go down, and since I'm extremely good at tragedy the reality is never as bad as whatever I dreamed up. Like, when I reached HALF LOST's 88% mark, I was fucking terrified a certain thing would happen, and it didn't, and I was so relieved I had to pause and give Murchie a good, strong cuddle before I could read any more.

Now I've finished the book, I'm of two minds about the conclusion. I can love this book, and this series, for all the emotions it churned up; for the ways it hurt me in the "this is painful because it matters" sense, and the ways it made my heart sing. I can appreciate how the ending fits with who Nathan is and the series' overall trajectory, and I can appreciate the follow-through. And at the same time, I can be bitterly disappointed with how the resolution bolsters certain tropes I'd really, really like to see leave the literary canon until such time as they carry less cultural weight.

And I can maybe decide to headcanon some stuff, since the spoiler happens close enough to the end that one can twist things if one wishes.

I can also decide the spoiler-tweeter and I interpreted one part of the resolution in very different ways, and I can focus on how my own interpretation doesn't totally destroy my ability to hope.

Because that's perhaps the nicest thing about series enders. You have to say goodbye to the author's vision of the characters, but you can still imagine them striving for a decent future somewhere down the line. Even if it's not necessarily the future you wish they could have.

Murchie nestles into a red and white blanket so only his sunlit face peeks out. Directly in front of him is a hardcover copy of Wandering Son Volume One. Its cover features two short-haired Japanese children in masculine clothes.

Ana recced Shimura Takaka's WANDERING SON during a recent conversation on WOC comics creators, and I wasted no time in requesting it. It's a contemporary manga about two ten-year-old trans kids who become friends and start to figure themselves out. This first volume is very much a series opener that introduces us to the kids, their families, and the steps they take as they pursue their true selves. I've already requested Volume Two and hope it'll arrive before my next library visit.

A trade paperback copy of Shattered Empire rests on a bronze comforter. Its cover features a painting of the Star Wars cast: Chewie, Lando, Wicket, Han, Leia, Luke, Artoo, and Threepio. A Funko bobblehead of Poe Dameron in his orange flight suit and black helmet rests across the book.

SHATTERED EMPIRE is a four-issue Star Wars miniseries that follows A-wing pilot Shara Bey through the first few weeks after RETURN OF THE JEDI as circumstances continually push her together with the core characters from the movies. It's more a series of one-shots with a unifying character than it is a true miniseries, and I wanted a bit more than it gave me. Still, I liked Shara very much and was thrilled to see a talented, badass WOC take a journey through an assortment of familiar settings and situations. Plus, the magic trees from to the sky without wings play a role.

Speaking of which: Shara is Poe Dameron's mother, which is why I gave Murchie a break in Tiny Poe's favour.

A trade paperback copy of Batgirl: Family Business rests atop a box of Batman cereal so the Batman logo on the box is visible. The book's yellow cover features a red-tinged Batgirl in the crosshairs of a person in a mechanized black Batman suit.

Friends, this is a VERY SPECIAL Special Guest Star: Batgirl cereal! I mean, yeah, it's marketed as Batman cereal, but it tastes like a magical girl rather than unadulterated vengeance, so it's a much better fit for Babs than for Bruce. Yes?

(I don't think I've ever called Batman Bruce before, but it felt weird to call him Batman when I wasn't calling Babs Batgirl, and it felt weird to call Babs Batgirl, so... yeah. Actually, it feels weird to call her Babs, too; like I oughta go with Barbara because we're not super well acquainted.)

(I'm writing this during Hour 16 of the Readathon, so I maybe ain't as lucid as I could be.)

Batgirl/man cereal is chocolate-strawberry deliciousness SHAPED LIKE TINY BATS, and it's really cheap right now because the marketing leviathan that was BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN has now died down. See if your local grocery store has it for $1.94 (unless you're gluten-intolerant; then, steer clear lest you make yourself sick). They may have Supergirl/man cereal, too; it's caramel and as far as I can tell it's not shaped like tiny bats, so it's clearly inferior but hey, maybe caramel cereals not shaped like bats are your jam. I dunno what you like in your trashy breakfast foods.


As planned, I skipped right over the fifth volume of Gail Simone's BATGIRL in favour of BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE, the first volume of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr's run. Excellent choice on my part. The art's fresh and fun, while the scripts owe a refreshing amount to contemporary culture.

I read volume two, FAMILY BUSINESS, during the Readathon and was equally pleased with it. There are lots of plot-important queer people and POC (and QPOC!), too, and it made me so happy. I'll look forward to volume three.

Murchie lays on his sheep-shaped pillow with his head raised. He wears a blue hoodie with white trim. Beside him is a white Kobo with So Sweet's yellow cover on its screen. The cover features a large lollipop in red, yellow, pink, and green swirls.

Having read one yellow-covered book about an awesome girl, I was naturally like, "BARKEEP! ANOTHER!" And there was SO SWEET, just waiting for me to dig in.

We've discussed Rebekah Weatherspoon before, yes? And you're all keen to read her because you're totally into diverse romances in which the characters have great chemistry with their love interests, and everyone's really big on consent, and there's DRAMA of the, "hey, this new thing kind of scares me, but maybe I could be into it if I gave it a shot?" variety. I know this about you for true and certain.

So, Kayla's a bisexual black girl who's been laid off and is this close to broke. Her roomie, who's similarly jobless, suggests they sign up for a dating website that pairs hot young things with sugar daddies. Kayla really isn't sure about this, but at the meet-and-greet event she runs into the (extremely hot) guy who owns the website and who totally gets her reservations because he's not entirely sure about dating without an emotional connection either. (He doesn't mind paying for it. He just wants to feel something while he does so.)

Three guesses what happens next.

And it should be creepy, but it isn't. It totally works, because that's the magic of Rebekah Weatherspoon. Her books are all about consent and people who respect each others' boundaries as they walk the scary new road that'll eventually lead them to excellent, emotion-laden sex with people with whom they can build a future.

You can bet I'll be reading the sequel.

Murchie stands very close to the camera, in front of a trade paperback copy of Midnighter Volume 1. Its blue-tinted cover features a white man in a black half-mask with glowing eye holes. He's bloodsplattered and grinning.

Then, naturally, I wanted more fiction about queer people, and hey! I picked up the first volume of MIDNIGHTER on Thursday!

I requested this one because it gets a lot of great press on Panels, and while the visual syntax gave me some trouble I ultimately enjoyed it very much. One of the blurbs on the back says Midnighter is like Batman with a sense of humour (and without an awesome breakfast cereal1), and that's an excellent description. He's not so dour about beating up the bad guys because hey, wailing on evildoers is lots of fun when you're superheroically enhanced and smarter than everyone in the room. Right?

The whole smartest-person-in-the-room angle doesn't necessarily help him with his dating life, though. VAGUE SPOILER: dude needs watch a bit more CW so he'll be aware of certain extremely important rules re: protagonist/love interest interactions.

Murchie stares out from behind a white Kobo propped at an angle in front of him. The Kobo's has the cover of The Lie Tree on its screen, featuring an apply partially peeled in one long strip. The apple hangs from a lone branch against a black background. The picture is grainy and a glare softens but doesn't obscure part of the cover.

Then I decided I should read THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge because my DRC expires very, very soon and it's already been archived on NetGalley.

Murchie didn't want to get off my lap, so I hope you'll forgive the grainy, awkward picture.

This one's a review copy, as you've no doubt guessed, so I'll spare you another long diatribe on a related topic (like spoilers! or breakfast cereals! or CW lessons!) and save it for my eventual review.

Next week: whatever I read after midnight during the Readathon. Probably some Maggie Stiefvater stuff, too, because I'm having TERRIBLE Ronan Lynch feels and I don't think my reread can wait until I have THE RAVEN KING in hand, as was my original plan. This's my I'll Read Whatever The Fuck I Want year, remember? If I've gotta deal with a gap between BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE and THE RAVEN KING, that's what I'll do.

More likely, I'll cave and pay an exorbitant price for the ebook through Kobo, or get it through Kindle with the rest of my affiliate earnings. I'd rather keep all the books on the same platform, but we desperate people whose preferred platforms are super expensive can't be as picky as all that.

  1. The blurb doesn't say that. I'm saying that. Poor Midnighter, wandering around the DC Universe without a breakfast cereal to his name.


  1. Looks like you had a great reading week!

    1. It was pretty excellent once I ditched THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT.

  2. I think I maybe just don't like Alexander Chee. I read his first book that everyone loved so much and it was about a topic that interests me and I still couldn't get into it. ALAS.

    Your description of how knowing spoilers colors your reading experience is so interesting. For me it's just the opposite -- knowing a spoiler like that one (or like knowing if Gansey lives or dies at the end of The Raven King) sets me free to NOT worry about the events that are going to happen, and lets me focus on the things I love more, which are the characters and the unfolding structure of the plot.

    Memory, honestly, you should have seen how outraged I was in the Barnes & Noble when I read the end of Half Lost. I saw that, er, a certain character had had a funeral and I screamed ARE YOU KIDDING ME and my mum had to come check that I was okay. GRUMBLE. GRUMBLE GRUMBLE. I was furious on your behalf, FURIOUS. And I admit that 2016 was a particularly bad year for me to encounter this trope, AGAIN, on an unexpected front, and I know I reacted extra badly because of that. :/

    1. I'd never even heard of Alexander Chee until Twitter was like, "OMG HE HAS A NEW BOOK OUT," so that shows you how in the loop I am. I can kinda keep up with SFF and YA, but adult general fiction always takes me by surprise.

      Thank you for your fury on my behalf, friend. Let us hope this trope plagues us no more.

  3. Boo boo boo about The Queen of the Night. I've only heard excellent things about it, and I hate when I can't join in on what's got the bookosphere throwing confetti. Ah well, we're all different, right?

    Also, I would very much like chocolate-strawberry cereal in the shape of tiny bats.

    1. I was so excited, because here was this book about an opera singer in 1860s France, with spying and Dark Secrets and other stuff I loooooove, and everyone was raving about it on Twitter, and it bored me. What a betrayal.

      In happier news, I got my grocery store's very last box of Batgirl/man cereal, so I can have it for breakfast for at least two more weeks.