Sunday, October 30, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: October 23rd to 29th

I make my tiny and adorable dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. He's mostly really good about it, especially since I've caved and let him do most of his poses lying down.

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 more NEW X-MEN, plus a couple of X-related miniseries. I'm trying to branch out a bit since I hit my monthly UNCANNY reading goal last weekend and I've got a wee buffer.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, lies on a red blanket. Three volumes of Avatar the Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow are arranged in a fan in front of him. The closest book's cover features a bald boy of Asian descent in a martial arts stance. Behind him are a dark-haired boy and girl, also of Asian descent and prepared to fight, the boy with his fists and the girl with throwing knives.

I started last weekend's Readathon with SMOKE AND SHADOW, the latest completed AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER comics continuation from Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru. This one focuses on Zuko and Mai. Zuko deals with welcoming his mother and her new family into his life while he faces a major threat to his rule. Mai copes with her own family's separation and the role her cult leader father continues to play in her choices. Their stories complement one another very well indeed.

It's good, action-packed stuff and I laughed aloud more than once because even at its most dire, ATLA brings the jokes. I also appreciate how Zuko isn't an instantly wonderful Fire Lord. Despite all he's learned, he's still prone to making the same sorts of mistakes, and the comic gives him a chance to recognize this and check himself in the future. I didn't love it quite as much as the previous comics arcs, though; possibly because of how tired I was when I read it, or perhaps because it is a bit repetitive on the Zuko-makes-mistakes front. (Is it weird that I appreciate his mistakes because they're realistic but also wish he'd quit making similar ones over and over?) Mai gets a new romance that's hard to invest in, too, since the reader can't help but assume she and Zuko will get back together eventually.

I'll see how I feel when I reread it in a few months.

Murchie, dressed in an orange t-shirt, sprawls on his red blanket. His back feet are tucked up between his extended front legs. In front of him, at an angle, is a paperback copy of Kiss of the Rose Princess Volume 1. Its cover shows a pink-haired Japanese girl with her hand on a leash of thorns wrapped around a Japanese boy's neck.

I read the first volume of Aya Shouoto's KISS OF THE ROSE PRINCESS during the latter half of the Readathon, and it was a manga. Yep. Definitely a manga.

Other than that, I got nothin'. It bored me while I read it and I can't muster up the desire to form, let alone share, a more cogent opinion on it.

But hey, isn't Murchie just the cutest little sprawler in his wee t-shirt?

The corner of a white Kobo takes up most of the shot. Its screen holds the tiny cover of Shadow and Bone, featuring the black and red silhouette of an onion domed palace. Stylized antlers snake up either side of the cover. Murchie appears behind the Kobo, slightly blurred, with his gaze focused on something off the left side of the screen.

I need you to get a load of this opening line:

The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.

I read that and said, "Holy crap. Is this gonna be Book Nine1?"

Spoiler: it wasn't.

But it could've been. Holy hell, could it ever have been.

To backtrack slightly, I reached the final hours of last week's Readathon and decided to start SHADOW AND BONE because it was a) set to expire on Monday evening and b) nonrenewable as someone else had requested the ebook.

"Okay," I said. "I'll read as much as I can before I fall asleep, then power through it tomorrow, then finish it well before 6pm on Monday."

I did read a fair chunk of it during the Readathon and on Sunday morning, and I absolutely adored what I read. Trouble was, my love wasn't enough to keep me awake after a long 'thon capped off with very little sleep. I crashed so early on Sunday night that I hadn't a hope of finishing SHADOW AND BONE before the Monday deadline. Hell, all my efforts hadn't even put me at the 40% mark. There was nothing for it but to trek to a far library on Monday afternoon and borrow a hardcopy.

I got there, found the book, and flipped through to my stopping place. It proved to be well past the halfway point, despite what Overdrive told me.

And from there I... lost interest.

Almost completely.

Oh, hell. "Almost" is me trying to be polite.

I've been struggling to figure out why, and I think it was largely a matter of perspective. I loved the book when I thought I was still near the very beginning of an intricate story set to delve deep into a variety of issues. When I realized I was much further in than the ebook's percentage bar led me to believe, what I'd viewed as groundwork leading into something bigger became more or less the whole story. And I didn't find it nearly as entrancing as Story as I had when I thought it was Buildup.

It didn't help that I made the transition from barely-started ebook to mostly-finished paper book right at the point where we learn the Darkling is a villain. This moment should've been heavy as fuck, but because the Darkling is on pretty well everyone's favourite villains lists the revelation fell flat. I knew it was coming, so I couldn't freak out over it as the text clearly wanted me to.

This is why I don't like spoilers. They rob me of these moments.

(Though I would have guessed he was a villain even if it wasn't plastered all over the internet because I'm a suspicious reader who trusts nothing and no one. Guessing and knowing provide two different experiences, and I'm a much bigger fan of the former.)

But yes. I pushed on through and finished the book because of how much I loved it in the beginning, and I'll at least try SIEGE AND STORM (which I was able to renew through Overdrive), but I'm disappointed. I thought I was gonna love the hell out of this, and yet I struggled throughout the whole denouement.

Murchie's face appears close to the camera, slightly in front of a white Kobo in an orange and grey case. Looking For Group's cover appears on its screen. The cover features two white boys seated back to back, attention focused on their laptops. Spectral female figures rise out of the laptops to hover above them.

I've been trying really hard to tackle my Wall of Shame (ie, the inside back cover of my planner, which is covered in sticky tabs with review copies written on them) and wallow in contemporary romance, so LOOKING FOR GROUP by Alexis Hall was the obvious choice for my next read. It's about two gamers who meet through their MMO and start dating, and it's very sweet. I should have a full review for you the week after next, if not sooner, so I'll resist the urge to get verbose about it right now.

A large-headed Funko Pop bobblehead of Marvel's Thor stands next to a white iPod propped up against a stack of green vintage hardcovers. The iPod has the cover of Riding Freedom on its screen. It shows a young white person hugging a chestnut horse's head.

I needed a Pam Muñoz Ryan novel in the worst possible way, so I spent my final Hoopla credit of October on RIDING FREEDOM. It's one of Ryan's shorter novels, and it's probably my least favourite to date--but even my least favourite Ryan is still pretty damned special. The story follows Charlie, a young orphan who runs away when the head of her orphanage bars her from working in the stables. She disguises herself as a boy, gets a job with a stagecoach company, and proceeds to carve out a durned good life for herself.

Thing is, though, Charlie's an actual historical figure, commonly cited as the first American woman to cast a vote long before such things were legal. Ryan talks a little more about this in her author's note, where she also states Charlie never lived as a woman and was regarded as a respected, male member of the community until after death. With this in mind, I've gotta wonder if Charlie was a woman disguised as a man or a trans guy. History's littered with stories like this, very few of which seem to be primary sources in the person's own words, and I never like to ignore the possibility they belong specifically to trans history as well as to the wider narrative.

Next week: THE PURLOINED POODLE, which I actually finished yesterday and couldn't make Murchie pose with. Hopefully some awesome YA, too.

  1. In all my life, there've only been eight books I loved straight from the first line to the last. Not felt optimistic about; not really liked. Loved, fully and completely and immediately. They are:

    • THE BLACK TULIP by Alexandre Dumas
    • SWORDSPOINT by Ellen Kushner
    • THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch
    • A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS by Eva Ibbotson
    • FOOL'S ERRAND by Robin Hobb
    • SANTA OLIVA by Jacqueline Carey
    • THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater


  1. Replies
    1. I'm bummed. It began so beautifully, then took such a boring turn. :(

  2. It hardly seems fair that I DO love spoilers, and yet I have no memory of seeing Darkling's name on even a single "Best Villains" list in my entire life.

    Looking for Groooooup yay I am glad you're liking it! Alexis Hall is becoming one of my very most favorite romance novels for untangling complicated feelings knots in all his books. <3

    1. He showed up on a loooooooooooooooot of favourite villains lists during a recent Top 10 Tuesday (along with a bunch of people I wouldn't consider villains, like Wolverine). I also recall seeing a ton of Darkling-related stuff on Tumblr back in the day.

      Hurray for Alexis Hall!