Sunday, July 17, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: July 10th to 16th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by making my dog pose with everything I read.

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: heaps more UNCANNY X-MEN. I've reached the early 90s and finished Chris Claremont's run on this particular series as he transfers his talents to the newly-minted X-MEN title. I'll likely dip into X-MEN here and there going forward, but Marvel Unlimited doesn't have the full run so I'm reluctant to get attached. Hopefully they'll have added all the issues I need by the time I reach the point where the two series essentially become permanent crossovers of one another.

I crept ever further through THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, too. It'll be a main focus this week as I race towards the finale.

Finally, I caught up on WHITEHALL so I can start reading each new episode as it comes available. We'll talk about the latest installment below.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, rests his chin on a white Kobo with the cover of Bookburners Season Two Episode Four on its screen. The red cover features a speckled blue map of the Mediterranean. A thin, glowing figure emerges from Turkey and arcs towards Italy.

I was so eager for BOOKBURNERS S2E4 that I threw all my reading plans to the wind and hunkered down with it last Saturday instead of waiting a decent interval. (Serial Box kindly provided me with an advance copy via NetGalley.)

"Ghosts," written by Margaret Dunlap, was well worth shunting everything aside for. The team heads off to Turkey to investigate a string of suspicious happenings and discovers they're the work not of demons or rogue magic users, as per usual, but of ghosts.

Which is super exciting for me, ghost-hound that I am, but rather less so for some members of Team Three. Their discomfort makes for good reading (assuming you're that sort of reader, which I fear I am), and since the ghosts are a new addition to the series' mythology there's heaps of discovery potential for reader and characters alike.

"Ghosts" provides a similar thrill where Liam's backstory is concerned. He knows nothing concrete about the two years when he was possessed by a demon, but his involved encounter with these particular ghosts triggers a few memories and gives him some clues as to where he can search for more answers. Dunlap lays some good groundwork for Liam's future discoveries, along with hints as to Asanti's plans going forward. I can't wait to see where this all leads.

Murchie would like you to know, too, that this episode was as good a chin rest as it was a story.

A white iPod with The Regional Office Is Under Attack! on its screen appears very close to the camera, at an angle. A white and blue teacup is visible in the background. The audiobook's cover features the title in red against a pale teal background.

Andi tweeted lots of positive things about THE REGIONAL OFFICE IS UNDER ATTACK! by Manuel Gonzalez, so I requested it from the library, received a copy in due course, and returned it unread because this "read whatever the hell I want" schtick makes it tough to read to a schedule.

At least I'm helping my library keep their circulation numbers up?

Obviously I ended up listening to the audiobook instead, with many thanks to Scribd, and Andi was right. This book is so cool. It's about an organization with a stable of superpowered assassin girls who save the world on the regular--except there're about a million Dark Secrets lurking not too far beneath the surface.

Because of course there are.

There's a lot of Buffy in it, and a fair measure of X-Men. (Hello, Memory's Favourite Things!). It's essentially a commentary on all those stories where organizations recruit, train, and deploy empowered girls who must stand against the forces of darkness to protect people who'll never thank them because they either distrust them or don't know they exist in the first place. The commentary angle keeps this overplayed story fresh and interesting, as does Gonzales's colloquial style. Dude's clearly spent a lot of time thinking about what makes people tick, and his conclusions are both brutal and delightful.

I haven't quite finished it as I write this, but I hope it'll be off my iPod by the time y'all read this.

Murchie lies curled on a bronze comforter. His head is raised, but his ears are down. He looks sad. Two paperback volumes of Paradise Kiss form a right angle around him. One features a dark-haired Japanese girl in a bolero. The other features a blonde Japanese boy with a lot of facial piercings.

You may recall I read the beginning of Ai Yazakwa's PARADISE KISS and said, "Yes, good, I shall devour this whole thing."

Trouble was, it looked like somebody'd stolen my library's copies of volumes three and four.

This instigated much tooth-gnashing and Twitter-ranting re: inconsiderate people who steal from libraries.

(Seriously, don't do this. People who steal from libraries are assholes who harm those members of the community who can't afford to buy every book they'd like to read.)

The story has a happy ending, though! The volumes weren't stolen! They actually were lost somewhere in the library! A staff member found them! I got to borrow them after all!


This series does some great things, y'all. It's very much about striking out on your own and figuring out what you want when you're used to living according to other peoples' plans for you. Yukari wrestles with parental expectations, pressure from her new boyfriend, and her own newfound interest in the world of fashion. It's beautifully done.

I also read the fifth and final volume this week, but it arrived after these two and I elected not to make Murchie pose with it. I'm mostly pleased with the ending, but the late-in-series revelation that Arashi raped Miwako during their first night together horrified me. Ditto the assertion that she's proved her love by staying with him.

No. Get the hell out of there, Miwako.

I also wanted to see the text interrogate the transphobia people direct at Isabella, instead of simply showing her powering on through. The series contains way too many casual mentions of how Isabella is "actually" a man, from her friends as well as her detractors.

A pale hand holds a paperback copy of An Age of License. Its cover features a drawing of a ginger white girl pulling a suitcase past some Scandinavian storefronts. Behind the book, Murchie stands on a concrete patio. He has one ear raised.

It's obvious Lucy Knisley learned a lot between FRENCH MILK and AN AGE OF LICENSE. Even though both travelogues were written and drawn mostly on the trips they describe, AN AGE OF LICENSE is a lot cleaner and more structured. Her trademark style still comes across clearly and concisely, but the overall presentation is heaps more reader-friendly.

I gulped it down in no time flat and now dearly wish I could meander through Europe for a month or two.

Murchie peeks out from around a paperback copy of Displacement. Its cover features a ginger white girl supporting a very old white woman in a small swimming pool while a very old white man looks on.

DISPLACEMENT differs somewhat from Knisley's other memoirs in that it seems to have been written and drawn mostly, if not entirely, after the fact. It chronicles a cruise she took with her nonagenarian grandparents, both of whom needed a lot of care and attention due to their various physical and mental ailments.

I recognized damned near everything in it. My grandpa, who died last December, behaved very much like Knisley's grandfather does. (My grandfather was less mobile than hers, though.) My grandma has dementia to the degree that she can pass assessments and assert her right to live alone, but not to the degree that she's able to successfully live alone.

Taking them to the bank or Giant Tiger was a miniaturized version of the things Knisley does with her grandparents on their cruise, complete with all the complicated feelings re: caring for beloved elders who used to be one's caregivers.

I read this comic the morning after my parents and I found my grandma on her living room floor. She'd fallen there late on Sunday night. We discovered her early on Tuesday evening after she failed to answer her phone.

So, DISPLACEMENT was pretty emotional for me.

A black and white photo of Murchie curled up alongside a white Kobo with the cover of Signs Preceding the End of the World on its cover. The side side of the photo cut out quite a bit of the cover as the Kobo is arrived diagonally across the shot, but the visible portion features cacti on a hill, with the book's title contained inside a white circle rising over the hill.

Partly because of all the stuff with my grandma and partly because I'm in one of those moods, I haven't wanted to sit down with novels lately. I'm after stuff I can read in one sitting or pick away at over a week or so. Serials or comics or short fiction, with the occasional audiobook.

I've also been keen to read more Mexican authors, so I asked Twitter to tell me their favourites. Jenny recced Yuri Herrera, with a particular shout-out to his SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD.

It's a novella, and it's on Scribd, so I jumped right on it.

Jenny was right. (Let us all pause to give Jenny time to revel in how she was right.) This is a stunningly beautiful piece of writing, elegantly and thoughtfully translated by Lisa Dillman. Every sentence crackles, and the text builds layers of images and observations into a rich metaphorical landscape. I'll keep an eye out for more by Herrera, and for Dillman's other translation work.

A white Kobo with Tell You What's cover appears close to the camera, at an angle. Murchie's face peeks out of the upper left hand corner. The book's cover features a river valley with the title superimposed over it in pale yellow.

Right before I started SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD, I went on a quick hunt for WHERE THE RÄ’KOHU BONE SINGS by Tina Makereti. Both my library and Scribd came up empty, unfortunately, but Scribd did kick up a couple of essay collections containing Makereti's nonfiction. I added the topmost of these to my collections and decided to check it out when I'd finished the novella.

Next thing I knew, I'd fallen in love with TELL YOU WHAT: GREAT NEW ZEALAND NONFICTION 2016, edited by Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood. Andrew and Gracewood's taste is a perfect match to my own, and so far I've loved every single one of the pieces they've brought together for this yearly retrospective on kiwi life.

You can bet I'll be reading the 2015 edition.

Murchie sits beside a white Kobo with Whitehall Episode Six's cover on its screen. The edge of the photo cuts off the top of Murchie's face, just as the edge of the cover cuts off the top of the model's face. The rest of the cover features the lower face and torso of a blonde woman twisted to look over her shoulder. Below her is an elaborate golden palace with grey roofs.

Murchie agreed to try the eyeless girl pose so common to historical covers, and I think he pulled it off pretty durned well considering the angle at which I took the photo. Good work, Murchie!

Friends, I love WHITEHALL so muuuuuuuch. In case you missed my gushing last week, it's a serial set shortly after the Restoration of the English monarchy. Catherine of Braganza arrives to marry Charles II as part of a deal that gives England funds and Portugal military support. Tensions abound as Catherine is both Catholic and foreign, while Charles is very much involved with his mistress, Barbara Palmer, who is desperate to keep this new marriage from eroding her influence at court.

The whole series is packed with schemes, and this latest episode ("Divine Passion," written by Mary Robinette Kowal) is no exception. Last episode, we learned one of Catherine's ladies is a spy intent on proving Catherine's marriage is illegal so Charles will be free to marry a good Protestant girl (and also so Charles will pay for executing her father. Drama!). This time around, said spy digs for dirt and lights upon some important information. Meanwhile, Catherine continues to navigate the complexities of her new court, including the language barrier, her desire for a happy marriage, and the frustrating need to associate with her husband's mistress every day.

I know very little about this period, so I greedily devour each episode to see how things play out for Catherine. She's so eager to be a good queen and solidify her marriage, and I'm eager to watch her surmount each new challenge to her position. I hope she triumphs.

(She has to triumph, right? Or I wouldn't be reading a serial about her? Please don't tell me anything. I'm normally not bothered by spoilers for history, but in this case I'm having such a good time with each installment that I've avoided poking around.)

I appreciate how the nobles aren't the serial's sole focus, too. This episode gives a lot of page time to Jenny, a maid who attaches herself to the queen in the hopes of bettering her own station. Jenny and her sorta-maybe-boyfriend, Mister Hammad, are both in a similar position to Catherine: even though they're English, they each have one immigrant parent and it shows in their features. Jenny in particular faces a lot of prejudice for being half Spanish, and her storyline feels horridly relevant in the wake of Brexit.

I'm probably gonna cheat and read Episode Seven a bit early, too. That's the benefit of advance copies, yes?

Next week: more serials! Probably some short stories or another essay collection. Maybe an epistolary novel, or a gay romance. I dunno. Maybe I want litfic right now. I'm mercurial these days.



    1. The latter is soooooo fun, and also kinda heartbreaking.

  2. Jenny in your book will probably die or have to become a prostitute. I am just basing this on other characters called Jenny in stories I have read in the past. JUST MY PREDICTION.

    I am, however, transcendently joyous to hear that I was right, and that you loved Signs Preceding the End of the World. Isn't the writing amazing? I read it while I was on vacation earlier in the year, and I regret that I didn't review it at the time. I want to reread and probably review it this time around. The people gotta know.

    1. Noooo, Jenny. This Jenny will lead a happy and productive life where she gets an awesome job and also many opportunities to snag Mr Hammad. I will acknowledge no other outcome.

      Yes, all the people must know about Yuri Herrera.