Sunday, September 11, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: September 4th to 10th

The premise: I make my dog pose beside every book I read. Sometimes he allows this and sometimes he refuses to keep his fuzzy little head still.

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 smidgen more UNCANNY X-MEN. I've slowed right down with it, but I'm not too concerned because I've also decided to extend my Marvel Unlimited subscription for another year. My new goal: read all the X-Men comics, not just UNCANNY. It's gonna be intense.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, hovers very close to a Kobo with The Real Score's cover on its screen. The cover features an indistinct painting of a boy kneeling near a girl seated on some stairs at the edge of a stage illuminated in blue and purple.

After a brief misstep with a novella that didn't grab me, I continued my exploration of Filipino romance with THE REAL SCORE by Kesh Tanglao [Scribd | Amazon | Kobo Freebie]. It's a sweet, tear-inducing story about a young woman who becomes BFFs with a wildly popular boy band member. The two of them weather all the expected trials when their friendship becomes public, including intense speculation as to whether they're secretly in looooooooove. I'm a total sucker for stories where a famous person and a regular person have any sort of relationship whatsoever, so I ate it all up and cried my way through the more fraught bits--especially when I couldn't recall whether Scribd actually had tagged this as romance. Could I expect an HEA or a "we're better as friends" resolution? I resisted the urge to double check.

Tanglao, like Chrissie Peria, frequently shifts from past tense to present within the same sentence, and since she uses fewer contractions I'm fairly sure my theory from last week is bogus. I find these inconsistent tenses distracting, but I'm unwilling to simply wrinkle my nose at them because I'm still not sure if they're a cultural thing that runs counter to my Canadian sensibilities but is just fine in the Philippines.

Tenses aside, the book was great. I'm looking forward to the sorta-sequel, which follows the heroine's best female friend and another member of the hero's band.

Murchie hovers over a Kobo with the cover of Cover Story Girl on its screen. The cover features a Filipino guy and a Korean girl seated back to back on a small island made of a muffin.

Chris Mariano's COVER (STORY) GIRL [Scribd | Amazon] reads like a sweet Korean drama in print. He's a dedicated curator who runs a small museum on a resort island. She's a truth-averse Korean tourist. Will they fall in love???

This one's definitely a romance, so duh.

Mariano is so, so good at establishing bonds between reader and character, and nurturing connections between hero and heroine. Gio and Min Hee smoothly transition from maybe-adversaries to friends to romantic partners, and despite Min Hee's wild stories, all the obstacles they face feel realistic and earned. So do the solutions to their problems. It's awesome from start to finish.

Mariano almost never slips into present tense, so I'm still flailing around in search of answers on that front.

A large-headed Funko Pop bobblehead of Rose Tyler from Doctor Who lies beside a Kobo with Skip Beat Volume 37's cover on its screen. The cover features a red-haired Japanese girl acting startled as dark-haired Japanese man pushes some of her hair back.

I was so overcome by SKIP BEAT! VOL 37 [Amazon], which I read at lunchtime on release day, that I forgot to photograph it until Saturday. By that point, I felt bad about rousting Murchie out and decided it'd be best if I photographed the book with Tiny Rose instead.

Tiny Rose is a big fan of shojo manga, y'know.

But yeah, I knew I was gonna buy this comic the very day it was out, so I left my comfort zone and preordered it. Then I devoured it as soon as ever I could, and made a lot of weird noises, and sobbed wretchedly. Because that's what I do when presented with Kyoko and Ren doing their thing (ie, being complicated people with a lot of baggage).

I sort of wish I hadn't gulped it down so quickly because it ends in a totally cruel place and I now face a six-month wait before Vol 38. D'you think I could learn Japanese in six months so I can pay for each chapter as it's published instead of waiting for translated volumes?

Murchie lies alongside a hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Its dark yellow cover features a small boy curled up inside a winged snitch made of sticks instead of the traditional gold.

Here's the thing: I'm currently disgusted with J.K. Rowling for failing to acknowledge, let alone act on, the recent failures POC have brought to her attention re: Magic In North America and her other Pottermore writings. She's a rich white woman with an enormous platform, and she's rolled over a ton of people who have serious concerns with the way she's mined their cultural heritage. I knew going in that the new play was also flawed on this level, and while J.K. Rowling didn't script the story I think it's safe to say she held veto over pretty well every decision.

Harry Potter was the series that taught me middle grade fiction could hold value for my adult self, though, so I still wanted to read HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD [Amazon]. I put my name on the library list, proceeded with caution when it arrived, and ended up enjoying it far more than I expected to. It's flawed in all the ways my spoiler-averse perusal of the criticism led me to expect, but it's also a time travel narrative with serious repercussions and multiple meditations on how families work. That's the sort of thing I eat straight from the jar. I had a great time imagining how I'd stage it, too, and I hope I can someday see what director John Tiffany and his crew came up with.

I'm disappointed with all the issues Krupa Gohil brought up, though, and I'm annoyed that both the fan response that seeped into my online spheres and the script itself led me to believe this was a queer story. As if Scorpius would rather date Rose than Albus. I mean, the whole fucking play leads up to him wanting to be friends with Rose and boyfriends with Albus.

Maybe it comes across differently on stage than on page.

Also, until I read Katy Armstrong's review in STRANGE HORIZONS, I was unaware what "My Immortal" was actually about or how this play was likely to read to an audience familiar with it. I've since been trying not to feel ashamed that my favourite bit, the time travel, is terrible if you are conversant with the fic.

Murchie lies with his face nestled into a red blanket, very close to the camera. Behind him is a trade paperback copy of the second Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus. The cover is indistinct, but the outline of a girl in an elaborate yellow dress is visible..

I finally made time for the second CARDCAPTOR SAKURA omnibus [Amazon] right before it was due back, and I'd also very much like CLAMP to transform their subtext into text. It's pretty obvious Toya is in love with Yukito and Tomoya is in love with Sakura, but hot on the heels of Scorpius's whole, "I asked Rose out!" thing I'm disinclined to trust anything that's not absolutely on the page.

At least Li-kun's talks openly about his feelings for Yukito.

Otherwise, Sakura's magical missions are fun, she and her friends are cute, and I'm still creeped out by the multiple student/teacher romances. I've requested the next two omnibus volumes.

It felt appropriate to give Murchie another stab at the Eyeless Person pose alongside a book that features a Headless Person on its cover. Y'know?

I plunked down a Scribd credit for THE HEART OF THE ARTICHOKE [Scribd | Amazon] after Leslie told me I had to try Elena Poniatowska. She was right. Poniatowska's writing is gorgeous, and these stories push their characters to extremes that often make the outcomes feel fantastical even though they're rooted in the everyday world. I'll certainly seek out more of her work.

Murchie, now short-haired and dressed in a red t-shirt with green trim, hovers over a Kobo with the cover of Bookburners Season 2 Episode 12 on it. The cover features two people silhouetted against a glowing copy machine with other office supplies floating around it.


"Coming Home," penned by Margaret Dunlap [Serial Box | Amazon] is the penultimate episode in Season Two. (Did that come on really fast, or is it just me?) I'm reluctant to go into specifics about its contents because it brings so many things to a head and paves the way for even more drama in the finale. Instead, I've found myself ruminating on how this serial is constructed; an appropriate theme, given that screenwriter Margaret Dunlap is in charge of making sure the story reads like a TV show.

She does an admirable job of it. Each individual episode of BOOKBURNERS is really good to great, and when you put 'em all together you get the sort of complex, layered storytelling I gulp down and think about for ages afterwards.

Y'all know I love BOOKBURNERS in large part because it's an interesting take on the whole Death of Magic thing. The characters work for a branch of the Vatican that views magic as an evil, dangerous force that must be wiped out. Other groups and individuals, including the team's own archivist, Asanti, believe magic is instead a neutral tool that's been improperly handled. There's a ton of interplay between these two viewpoints, and the ongoing debate both fuels the plot and causes conflict within the team itself.

And, as I said, I also love BOOKBURNERS because it juggles a slew of ideas at once, building on themes and motifs that tie together across both seasons. On the most obvious level, S1 hinged on something major that happened to Sal while S2 hinges on something major that happened to Liam, a trend I'd love to see continued in S3. (Grace's big thing would be perfect season-long-conflict fodder.) Drilling down from there, magically constructed spaces tie into Liam's past and crop up across the whole season, weaving into the notion of unity; unity of purpose, unity of opinion, and unity of spoilerific things.

MenchĂș and Asanti's conflict springs from their decided lack of unity. It informs the team's decisions, dictates how they interact with one another, and serves as a major focal point for the wider plot. The Network's efforts to unify the world through magical technology mesh with the sorts of issues the team has dealt with amongst themselves and provide multiple metaphors for modern life. And those are just the most obvious points with the least spoiler potential. Everything in this whole season is rich and interconnected and very, very wallowsome, just as a good season of TV (or a chunkster-length novel) should be.

I plan to read the season finale today (Sunday), and you'll likely find my quick take on Instagram before the day is through.

Natalie Baszile's QUEEN SUGAR [Scribd | Amazon] came to my attention when Ava Duvernay's TV adaptation debuted last week. Then Hoopla was like, "Hey, here's the audiobook, all Featured and attractive." I bit.

And it's great. The book follows a California woman who comes to Louisiana to run the sugar cane farm her father left her in his will. The farm is entailed, so she can either work the land herself or donate it to charity; no quick sales or transfer of ownership allowed. Meanwhile, her older brother rolls into town with a beloved son, a drug habit, and a mountain of resentment trailing behind him.

It's the perfect recipe for an enthralling look at family, racism, and sexism, all filtered through the cane farming process. I'm a sucker for How Stuff Works books, especially when they come complete with a focus on family and some damned gorgeous prose. I'm eating it up, and I should finish it today.

Be aware there's quite a lot of religion herein; maybe even enough to qualify this as a Christian novel. Are Christian novels allowed to have drug use and unrepented premarital sex in them? Either way, the characters often quote the Bible and consider God, but I don't feel like the text is especially evangelical.

Murchie, ears back, sits beside a white Kobo with Rag and Bone's cover on it. The cover features a black man with close-shaved black hair and a white man with dirty blonde hair. They both wear vaguely Victorian dress.

Murchie got super annoyed when I stopped cuddling him and shoved my Kobo in his face for yet another picture. Poor little soul.

I finished out the week with RAG AND BONE by KJ Charles [Scribd | Amazon], a Charm of Magpies novel I really should've read six or seven months ago. I plan to have a full review for you next week, so for now I'll tell you I loved it and leave it at that.

Next week: hopefully some more stuff from Scribd and another review copy or two. My big goal for September was to get my NetGalley profile to 90%, and I accomplished that yesterday. It'd be mighty nice to hit 95% by mid-October or so; something that won't happen unless I hunker down and read this stuff.

Also, you'll have noticed I added Scribd and affiliate links to each entry above. This is partly because I want y'all to have easy access to more information about any titles that strike your fancy and partly because I get a teensy bit of money if you buy something on Amazon after you follow one of these links. (Scribd gives me squat, but I love 'em anyways and I know many of you use them.) I'm gonna try to do this on a weekly basis.


  1. I added the KJ Charles to my wish list. I just need to finish the Jennifer Estep so I can start something new!

    1. KJ Charles is great. I want everyone to read her!

  2. "Maybe it comes across differently on stage than on page."

    It doesn't.


    I was really upset that they did that, and also that the scene where Scorpius' feelings for Rose are revealed is such a blatant example of boys treating a "no" has a start to negotiations rather than as an answer to respect. It's so spectacularly insensitive my jaw dropped.

    I had issues in general with how the story sidelined its female characters, but one thing that did work for me was the play's examination of how Harry's history of abuse affects his ability to be an emotionally available father, and is a cause of lifelong trauma he has to work through. It was important to me to see that represented. And the scene at the end, where we return to James and Lily's death, could have felt cheap but didn't for me. I think mostly because the emphasis was on Harry allowing people to be there for him as he dealt with that. It moved me.

    1. Ugh, yes. Let's serve our queerbaiting with a side of no-means-yes, because that's fun.

      I'm with you on Harry's trauma, though.

  3. I am so SO frustrated with JK Rowling's failure to address the appropriation of native American cultures in her whole American Magic thing. Since she responded quite quickly to the recent fuss over the werewolf/HIV thing, I've felt even more annoyed -- like, she clearly knows that people have registered these complaints, and she's still not saying anything? Nothing, not one thing? When there have been so many good and eloquent critiques by American Indian fans of the Harry Potter world? Blah. It bums me out no end.

    1. AND she pushed ahead with the North American school's House names even after the criticism about her initial Magic in North America materials. No, J.K. Rowling. No.