Sunday, August 14, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: August 7th to 13th

The premise: I make my tiny and beloved dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. He allows this with varying degrees of good will..

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: lots of X-Men. I've reached the point where UNCANNY X-MEN and X-MEN become permanent crossovers with one another, so I've added the shorter series to my rotation. I'm also reading as much X-MAN as Marvel Unlimited can give me because I grew unexpectedly fond of Nate during the Age of Apocalypse.

And I finally, finally finished REFLECTIONS by Diana Wynne Jones, which I started well over a year ago. Hurray! I've counted it as DWJ's final book for my bookish bingo card.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, appears in near profile with his ears perked. In front of him, at a slight angle to the camera, is a white Kobo with the cover of Whitehall Episode Ten on its screen. The cover features a ship sailing on a sepia-toned sea.

I couldn't resist diving into last week's episode of WHITEHALL first thing on Sunday morning, and it rewarded my impatience. Right away, writers Liz Duffy Adams and Delia Sherman deliver a climax to Eleanor's storyline with a scene both unexpected and completely in character for everyone involved.

"This is gonna be a great episode," I said. And I was right.

With Eleanor's storyline resolved, the writers turn to their attention to Barbara, Jenny, and Catherine, all of whom have major things going on. Barbara embraces her new faith and worries whether her relationship with Charles will endure, while Jenny's relationship with Mister Hammad leads her to a choice that could change her whole future. I can hazard a pretty good guess as to which side she'll come down on, and my heart hurts for her even as I'm pleased to imagine how far she'll climb.

I'm also desperately worried about Catherine, to the point where I'm tempted to comb through history in search of spoilers even though I promised myself I wouldn't do that. I know enough about this period to be sure she won't die of her poor health, but one can live with a great deal of heartache. I pray Catherine doesn't have to.

I managed not to read the next episode right away, but I imagine I'll have done so by the time y'all read this.

Murchie yawns wide, his little pink tongue curled at the end. He sits slightly behind a paperback copy of Sea of Sorrows. The book's gold-toned cover features two people in elaborate desert robes standing beside a fallen column. Wooden caravans are visible behind them.

I've been procrastinating on starting Michelle West's SEA OF SORROWS for almost a year. My library kindly accepted my purchase request for the Sun Sword series, but they couldn't get a copy of book five, THE RIVEN SHIELD, because it went out of print in paperback right after they placed their order. I read book three, THE SHINING COURT, but tried to hold off on SEA OF SORROWS until I could find a used copy of THE RIVEN SHIELD. Which hasn't happened, despite many, many trips to many, many thrift stores and used book sellers1.

And so my sad, Michelle-West-free state endured.

Until last week when I got the worst craving for intricate, involved epic fantasy and Michelle West struck me as the very best person to fill it. I promptly borrowed SEA OF SORROWS and started it as my in-between book. As I write this, I'm two hundred pages in and mostly very happy, if a bit bummed I've still got so much longer to wait before Jewel pops back onto the page. At least her den's present and accounted for.

Murchie stands on a concrete stoop, his head raised in majestic fashion. Beside him is a hardcover copy of This Savage Song. Its black and red cover features a violin that, upon closer inspection, proves to be made up a red-tinged city.

I dunno why, but I keep thinking Victoria Schwab's books are contemporary fantasy when they're decidedly not contemporary fantasy. In this case, I was convinced THIS SAVAGE SONG was about a monster girl at an elite, twenty-first-century prep school with a great music program, when it's actually a futuristic, post-apocalyptic fantasy about a girl who wants to rule her monster-ridden city and a monster boy who can eat people with his music.

They do attend an elite prep school, though?

Luckily for me, I rarely become so invested in my pre-read idea of a book that I can't enjoy the reality. THIS SAVAGE SONG is extremely readable and I had a great time with it, but I don't think it'll stick with me the way Schwab's Shades of London books have.


I'm working on a proper(ish) review of the next volume of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell's wonderful, woman-centric comic that reimagines the 80s phenomenon for a contemporary audience, so for now I'll just tell y'all I loved it and had a really hard time resisting the urge to write, "SOPHIE CAMPBELL MAKES THE BEST ART" over and over and over again and leave it at that.

Because lemme tell you, her art is adorable and evocative and just so great. I'm in love with her character designs and the way she visually depicts music. Excellent work, Sophie Campbell!

The moment I saw Emily Lloyd-Jones's ILLUSIVE recced as "X-Men meets Oceans Eleven," I headed to my library's website and borrowed their digital copy. I currently suck at reading prose in a timely fashion, though, so when Scribd made it one of their August Audio Select titles I returned the library copy and committed to the audiobook instead.

It's been slightly slow going due to a certain amount of busyness, but I'm a little more than halfway through as I write this and I'm having a great time with it. The comps are accurate, with an extra dose of "Oliver Twist on crack" (my fave!) and the added bonus of girl/boy friendships that really are friendships instead of preludes to romance. (Unless that's coming up.) Lloyd-Jones is one of those rare, glorious writers who uses present tense without overloading their prose with "had," too. Y'all know how much I hate the word "had."

Murchie lies on his cow-shaped pillow. He side-eyes a white Kobo propped up next to him. The Kobo's screen holds the red-tinged cover of Bookburners Season Two, Episode 8, featuring an illustration of a woman in a yellow jacket wrestling a winged snake.

It had to happen someday: I've found a BOOKBURNERS episode I didn't quite click with. At least part of that was my mood, which paired poorly with Brian Slattery's deliberately disjointed approach to S2E8. "Present Infinity" sees Team Three make great strides with the Orb (largely thanks to Frances's efforts; yay, Frances!), which they then proceed to use as a time-displacement device in a few scenes reminiscent of the all-history-at-once parts of THE TIME MACHINE. It's a fascinating conceit that gives the team a bunch of new hurdles to overcome in terms of how they interpret and interact with the world around them, and I'm sure Slattery pulls it off well if you read it when you're not dog tired and kind of muddled.

I now know not to use BOOKBURNERS as my reward for a day of manual labour.

This episode also delivers lots of answers that breed even more questions; my favourite. Even though I didn't sink into it to my usual extent, I'm excited to see where things head from here.

Murchie lies curled up on a bronze comforter, all his paws tucked under his extremely fluffy chin. Behind him is a trade paperback copy of the first Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus, positioned so the illustration on the spine shows. This illustration is of a brown-haired Japanese girl dressed in a frilly pink costume.

CARDCAPTOR SAKURA has been on my radar for years, but I somehow figured I wouldn't get much out of it without having played any collectible card games. Turns out, it reads just fine for us non-collectible-card-player types. In fact, it's really cute. Sakura is a pre-teen whose magical powers allow her to track down a host of spirits who've broken free from their deck of cards and are causing lots of trouble in her town. She's aided by the cards' winged guardian, who's somewhat down on his luck at the mo, and her BFF, who insists on designing Sakura's fighting costumes and filming all of her adventures. There's lots of action, some humour, and plenty of interesting interpersonal stuff between Sakura and her various friends and family members.

Also? I've only finished the first omnibus, but either a large chunk of the cast is super gay or CLAMP's doing some damned intense queer-baiting. If it's the former, I applaud them for putting so many gay people into an all-ages manga.

On a cultural level, though, I'm disturbed by Sakura's classmate who's in a relationship with their teacher. He's gotta be in his twenties at the very least, while she's ten or eleven. I get that a lot of Japanese pop culture sets up student/teacher romances as the pinnacle of steamy, forbidden love, but she's way too young and that teacher needs to get the hell away from her.

A pale hand holds a paperback copy of A Silent Voice Volume 2 against a rainy backdrop. The book's cover features two Japanese students standing slightly apart on a narrow street lined with cherry blossoms. The boy holds a notebook and looks miserable. The girl seems friendly.

Friends, I've had such trials with A SILENT VOICE by Yoshitoki Oima. I fell in love with volume one, requested the rest of the series lickety-split, and had to return the lot unread because volume two was missing, presumed stolen.

Thankfully, it turned up this week and made its way into my hands. I requested volumes five and six as well, and since volumes three and four were on the shelf at my local library branch I kept my fingers crossed I could snag them before anyone else did.

But of course, someone borrowed volume three right before I got there.

Sigh. I should've put holds on both subsequent volumes but I didn't feel it'd be fair to make a librarian pull them for me when I was gonna be at that branch anyways. Now I've gotta hope whoever borrowed volume three returns it quickly so I won't have to return the rest of the series unread. Again.

Thankfully, this sort of thing doesn't happen too often. It's just poor luck that the library only has one copy of each volume in this series, and that I'm reading it at the same time as a couple other people.

Anyways, I borrowed as much of the series as I could, then headed outside and discovered it was raining too hard for me to walk home. I parked myself on the nearest (conveniently covered) bench and read about half the comic while I waited for the opportunity to leave.

This volume was even better than the opening act. A SILENT VOICE is explicitly about bullying, but it's also very much concerned with the factors that lead people to behave as they do within a variety of social frameworks. Oima examines the circumstances that trigger bullying; the effect bullying has on the victims, their families, and their abusers; the price of restitution; the ways people form and maintain friendships; the social cues that communicate sincerity or deceit; the ways families come together or drift apart.

It's excellent. I really, really hope I get to read volume three soon.

Murchie lies on his cow-shaped pillow with a trade paperback copy of The Fifth Season propped up in front of him so only the title and the author's name is visible.

I'd planned to read N.K. Jemisin's Dreamblood Duology before I started The Broken Earth, but the second book in the series comes out on Monday so I decided to leap into THE FIFTH SEASON ahead of schedule.

I'm a little less than halfway in as I write this, and I haven't quite decided how I feel about it. The worldbuilding is great. It's set on a semi-modern continent plagued by seismic disruptions, many of which can be controlled by magic users--who are enslaved by the state. Jemisin illuminates how horrific this is as she takes us through the many ways people live within, fight against, and justify this system. It's excellent and deeply considered.

Y'all know I'm always thrilled to find non-medievalesque worlds, too. The people of the Stillness (as they've ironically named their continent) have conveniences like electric lights, asphalt, and telegraphs; all things that'd come in handy in an earthquake-prone zone. They don't have propulsion engines or gunpowder, both of which could be extremely difficult, if not outright dangerous, to handle in a world like this one. Three cheers for technology informed by setting!

I also appreciate Jemisin's choice to use present tense. It's the perfect approach for a story about the end of the world, since it places us right there with the characters as they endure trials they won't necessarily survive. Jemisin uses "had" sparringly, too, and y'all know that's my #1 requirement for present tense narration. DOWN WITH HAD. Simply putting something in past tense does the same job far more smoothly.

So, like I said, I'm loving the worldbuilding and the deeper considerations behind both the society and the narrative itself, but I haven't quite clicked with the story. The same thing happened to me the first time I tried to read Dreamblood, so I'm inclined to think Jemisin may be one of those authors I always enjoy but only adore in first person.

I've still got half the book to go, though, so perhaps I'll fall in love with it yet.

Oh, and I've formed a theory2 that's got me reading a little bit faster than I might otherwise do because I want to see if I'm right.

Next week: Jo Walton. Hopefully something from the ginorous stack of ebooks I've let pile up, too. Definitely some comics.

  1. I know y'all mean well, but please don't suggest I buy it from an online retailer. I've looked, and they charge so much to ship to Canada that they aren't a viable option for me. I'll probably end up buying the ebook edition, even though $8.99 is usually more than I'm willing to pay for something I can't share with anyone else.


    The timelines in the three points of view don't match up, so I suspect Essun, Damaya, and Syenite are the same person at different points in her life. Don't tell me if I'm right or wrong. I wanna discover it for myself.


  1. Yeah, you see books on Amazon used for a penny but they cost so much to ship there is no real savings!

    1. The cheapest copies of this one are $1.25 with $6.50 shipping, and they don't sound like they're in very good condition. Boo.

  2. Pretty sure I say this on every Murchie + Books post I've commented on, but Murchie is so precious. LOOK AT THAT FACE.

    1. His cheeks are SO FLUFFY right now. I can hardly stand it.