Sunday, August 7, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: July 31st to August 6th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I combine the two by making my dog pose with (almost) 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: a smidge more UNCANNY X-MEN, of course but I needed to break from my five-issues-per-day-or-bust schedule and take a breather after the wild ride that was Age of Apocalypse. Much as I love the X-Men, they really cut into my prose-reading time. We'll reconnect this week.

A pale ginger cat, Ollie, lies on some black tiles next to an upright white Kobo with Bookburners Episode 7's red cover on its screen. The cover features a dark demon rising up behind a stylized sculpture of Queen Victoria.

Ollie and I hung out again last weekend and he agreed to give Murchie a day off from posing in exchange for a few good belly rubs. It was a deal.

The moment I saw mention of the Manitoba fishing industry in the jacket copy for BOOKBURNERS S2E7, I knew I had to bump it to the top of my reading list. Alas, the episode is set in Ottawa, not on my home turf, but it's still emerged as my favourite to date.

While BOOKBURNERS has a diverse cast--three out of five Team Three members are POC, and only one is American--the S1 writers' room was decidedly white and American. That's changed this season with the introduction of Canadian WOC Amal El-Mohtar, who makes her debut with "Fire and Ice." You can tell how much fun she had crafting a magical mystery set in her home town and centred on the Library of Parliament. She packs the episode with references to distinctly Canadian things like last year's election, Winterlude, Wilfred Laurier, and the still-unsolved Parliament Hill fire of 2016, which plays an enormous role in the plot.

I practically bounced in my seat as I read.

Not content to simply throw lots of Canadian content into the mix, El-Mohtar also delivers a new take on magic (a definite theme this season) with its roots in nonwestern traditions. I won't spoil the details for you, but it's seriously good. And she pushes the characters in all sorts of different ways, elaborating on their friendships and their interests outside of work. I'm super glad the series is doubling down on Asanti's queerness, all through the lens of her academic preoccupations, and I'm always pleased to see Grace having fun. Let's have MOAR FUN GRACE in the back half of S2, please!

Also, I highly recommend El-Mohtar's episode notes for "Fire and Ice" even if you're not following BOOKBURNERS. She has a lot of important things to say about racism and xenophobia in Canada.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies slightly in front of a hardcover of Rise. The book's cover features the title in white against a background of a slightly darker grey than the dog.

RISE, Mira Grant's complete Newsflesh collection, doesn't weigh quite as much as Murchie, but it comes close.

Oh, hardcover chunksters. Y'all are my nemesis.

Since hardcover chunksters give me and my tiny-ass hands such grief, I put off starting RISE for longer than I should've and had to rush to finish it before it was due back. Luckily, it was so awesome that I didn't mind wallowing in it. The collection brings together all Grant's shorter Newsflesh fiction: one short story and seven novellas (some of which might actually be novelettes; I didn't exactly count the words). And it's great. Every single one of the stories either moved me to tears or made me want to rush out and learn stuff about whatever wider topic they tackled. Hurray!

The collection also reminded me I've gotta get myself in gear and finish Grant's Parasitology trilogy. I should try her as-McGuire urban fantasy again, too.

Murchie hovers behind a white iPod held quite close to the camera so it fills about half the frame. The iPod's screen features the cover of Hounded, on which is a red-haired white guy in modern dress drawing a sword from a sheath on his back.

Speaking of urban fantasy, I read Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles a couple summers back and enjoyed them so much that I wanted to give the author some royalties. I'd heard great things about the audios and a few of them showed up in Audible's Daily Deals, so I bought the first three.

Turns out, HOUNDED is even more fun on audio than it was in print. It's very much a series opener, meaning there's a lot of "here's an introduction to how this world works" going on, but it's all fun intro with great characters and some inventive action of both the kick-some-asses and trick-some-asses kind.

Murchie and I agree Oberon is the best, too. We're firmly Team Oberon.

(Hey! A wolfhound spent some time in my neighbourhood earlier this summer and I got a real kick out of watching her take walks with her person. Once, I even encountered her when I was on my walk, but I elected not to ask if I could pet her because she was surrounded by small children who thought she was just the greatest thing ever and I didn't wanna encroach on that.)

Murchie lies on a cow-shaped pillow. Propped up behind him is a trade paperback copy of Relish. Its cover features a drawing of a redhaired young woman eating an olive off a fork, her eyes closed in anticipation.

I devoured RELISH last week, bringing me up to date with Lucy Knisley's published comics. Thank goodness she's contracted for a whole passel more.

This one is all about one of my favourite things: food. Even better, Knisley takes a democratic approach to the subject as she writes and draws about all different kinds of consumables, from the fanciest of restaurant fare to the quick meals you buy from street vendors to her chef mom's home cooking to the processed crap you're not really supposed to eat but most of us eat (and enjoy) anyways. And she weaves personal stories and recipes throughout, highlighting not just what food is but also what it means to her.

It made me want to eat everything.

Murchie rests his chin atop a trade paperback copy of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet. The red cover is styled like a tie-closed moleskin notebook, with the title printed on it in white.

My library never bought THE SECRET DIARY OF LIZZIE BENNET by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick, so I was thrilled when I found it at the thrift shop. Then I sat on it for months upon months, until I needed to fill the Epistolary Novel square on my bookish bingo card.

It was great, y'all. The book is a companion to the YouTube series, which is itself an adaptation of Jane Austen's PRIDE & PREJUDICE. So it's a book based on a show based on a book. One of those.

THE SECRET DIARY is more than just a retelling of the show, though. It covers a lot of stuff the show couldn't, given its commitment to the overall premise (which: Lizzie's letting viewers in on specific parts of her life, with the acknowledgement that she can't legally or morally mention certain things). There are more personal details about the Bennets' lives, including scenes that highlight Lydia's wild child antics, Jane's relationship with Bing, and their parents' financial woes. Lizzie spends a lot more time talking about the mechanics of her degree, too, which leads to really interesting musings on the changing face of communication, the business side of presenting a webseries, and the pressures and joys of academia.

This's the kind of thing I gulp down under pretty well any conditions, and reading it as part of a story I'm already fond of made it all the better.

One sorta-downside: Su and Rorick treat the diary format as a simple conceit rather than a commitment. Many of the entries read like chapters in a novel, complete with punchy openings and cliffhanger endings; a much more obviously structured approach than I hope for in my diary-style epistolary novels, but one we can perhaps chalk up to Lizzie being a communications student intent on controlling the narrative even in this private venue. On the whole, I enjoyed the book so much that I was willing to overlook it.

A large-headed Funko Pop bobblehead of Finn from Star Wars stands beside a white iPod with Sputnik Sweetheart's cover on its screen. The cover features a naked Japanese woman submerged to the waist with her back to the viewer. The space around her is pitch black, with the title illuminated in red.

Poor Murchie's all tuckered out, so please accept Tiny Finn in his place.

Soon after I started Haruki Murakami's SPUTNIK SWEETHEART, I realized I was either gonna love it deep in my soul or spend months snarling about it. I'm now two thirds of the way through and I'm still not sure what side I'll come down on. The book centres on a young Japanese woman, Sumire, who falls in love with a married woman seventeen years her senior. It's narrated by Sumire's never-named male BFF.

The writing is gorgeous; the plot, dreamlike yet grounded. The characters possess and appreciate clarity of vision. On that note, though, the narrator ensures there's a large dose of male gaze in the mix, and so far it feels more like unquestioned male gaze than an attempt to interrogate the way men view women. Plus, the narrative weaves through two stories I'm horribly tired of: the hetero person who falls for their different-gender queer friend, and the queer person who falls for their hetero friend.

(Except as of where I'm at, it's starting to look like Miu, the married woman, is asexual instead.)

So it's all up in the air. I hope to finish it today or tomorrow and make my final judgement.

A large-headed Funko Pop of Rose from Doctor Who lies next to a white Kobo with Whitell Episode Nine's cover on its screen. The cover depicts two silhouetted faces, one hovering above the other. They look set to kiss upside down.

Last week got weirdly hectic, reading-wise, so I wasn't able to settle in with WHITEHALL Episode 9 until yesterday afternoon. It was worth waiting for. This serial remains gloriously immersive, with the perfect blend of historically important action and personal reflection. As always, I loved the smaller moments between the characters the best. Catherine and Charles connect over her health and their shared desire for a child, Barbara experiences a reluctant spiritual revelation, and Jenny moves to block a choice bit of espionage even though acting could endanger her place. Everybody's got something going on on top of the events that affect them on a national level.

There's so much glorious historical detail, too. The characters read contemporary (to them) literature. They take the waters at seventeenth century health spas like Tunbridge Wells and Bath. Everyone reflects on where the country was before they restored the monarchy, and where they'd like it to go from here. I love it all.

I'm gonna be so sad when WHITEHALL ends. I rely on it for my weekly dose of historicality.

Which I suppose means I ought to prioritize some more historical fiction in the near future...

Next week: hopefully Victoria Schwab, N.K. Jemisin, Jo Walton, and Michelle West. Probably some comics, too. Definitely some serials.


  1. Nice of Ollie to stand in for Murchie for a bit. :-) With Rise out, now maybe I can read Mira Grant's Newsflesh series. I have heard such good things about it. I will have to look for Hounded on Audible. It sounds like a lot of fun.

    I hope you enjoy your week, Memory!

    1. I really think you're gonna like HOUNDED. The world's great, and Oberon really is the best.

  2. Legal Sister wants nothing in this life as much as she wants a pet wolfhound. Someday she will have the wolfhound she craves (I hope!).

    Tiny Finn continues to be the cutest. I look forward to the day that you will love Hera Syndulla, awesome space pilot from Star Wars Rebels. I'm not saying you'll definitely want a Funko Pop of her, cause you might want one of the wondrous Sabine or Ezra Bridger (my babies), but I feel like probably you will. I'm not trying to pressure you or anything.

    1. Jenny Jenny Jenny, I CHECKED and my library has S1 of Rebels AT MY LOCAL BRANCH, so if it's still there on Thursday I'm gonna borrow it. Then we'll see how many people I want Funko Pops of.

      (Probably all of them. Funko Pops are so frickin' cute, with the eyes and the adorably moulded accessories.)

  3. That is so exciting about Bookburners being set in a familiar landscape. Too bad I am not finished Season 1... lol

    1. You'll get there eventually! The Ottawa ep is probably my favourite across both seasons.