Sunday, November 20, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: November 13th to 19th

I make my fuzzy little dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. 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.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, lies with his head raised and his ears perked. His gaze is fixed on something outside the frame. Behind him is a white Kobo with the cover of One Hot December on its screen. The cover features a white guy with his white shirt open to expose his hairless chest.

ONE HOT DECEMBER is the last book in Tiffany Reisz's trio of holiday romances. Flash, a welder/artist, has a huuuuuge thing for her boss, Ian, but he blew her off after a single night together six months ago. Ugh. Ian regrets the incident just as much as Flash does, though, and when Flash gives her two weeks' notice right before the construction company breaks for the holidays they find an opportunity to try again.

This one's got a bit of a different tone to the first two; which is to say, it's not as funny. There are some jokes, yeah, but ONE HOT DECEMBER is much more concerned with issues like art and family. Flash is a talented metal artist, but she's still struggling to find her style and make her first big sale. She and Ian spend a lot of time talking about process and what a major sale would mean for her in terms of validation as well as her finances.

Flash's art also helps the two of them turn their attraction into a real connection when she makes Ian a menorah in his mother's honour. Ian's Jewish mother died when he was very young, and he's spent the last thirty-five years estranged from her family at his father's request. He's got a lot to work through in regards to his feelings for this important woman he's never actually met, and for the father he loves very much.

It's lovely, as I always expect from Reisz. There's lots of sex (D/s in this case), paired with plenty of illuminating conversations and a real attempt to nurture the relationship on both sides. I didn't love it quite as much as the first two books, but I still raced through to the end and teared up.

One thing: the author's note led me to believe this would be a full on Christmas & Hanukkah romance. In truth, there's very little Hanukkah in it. Ian's only just learned his mother's faith makes him Jewish, too (Judaism being matrilineal), and the things Flash does to help him connect with that side of his heritage comes secondhand from her Jewish BFF. From a spiritual perspective, I would've preferred it if Flash herself were Jewish, but I understand Reisz, as a Catholic, might not have felt she was the right person to tell a story like that.

Murchie curls up in a red blanket nest. At an angle in front of him is a trade paperback copy of Behind The Throne. Its cover features the legs and torso of a brown-skinned, green-haired woman clad in green fatigues and a sheer green drape that blows out behind her. She holds a silver gun and stands against a background of stars in a misty grey sky.

I get enormous SF cravings 'round this time of year. It's not all I want, but I always hope I'll read at least one awesome SF novel in November or early December.

BEHIND THE THRONE, K.B. Wagers's debut, scratched that itch very well indeed. It's intense, packed with machinations, and compulsively readable. Hail left her imperial roots behind when she set out to avenge her father's murder, and in the twenty years since then she's made a damned good name for herself as a gunrunner. That all changes when her sisters are assassinated, her mother falls ill, and Hail's gotta come home to assume the duties of Heir to the Indranan Empire.

I've got a total thing for runaway heirs, so I was on board right from the get-go. Hail proves to be an awesome protagonist: capable, savvy, and determined to do well even though this is basically the last situation she ever wanted to find herself in. The plot proceeds at a decent clip, too, and there's just enough worldbuilding to keep things interesting and hint at more to come in future volumes. The Indranan Empire's first settlers were Indian about twenty-five hundred years ago, and they've kept many aspects of their parent culture. (I think Wagers herself is Desi, but her author photo is very small and there are few others online.) There are also lots of cool tech details, like wetware PDAs and a popular social media platform, which feels like the sort of thing that could conceivably be going strong a couple thousand years in the future. (Pretend I wrote something pithy about obsolete tech in older SF, with an emphasis on the tapes in Joan D. Vinge's otherwise wonderful books.) And while this book focuses in on the empire's capital city, it's clear there's a whole wide universe out there.

I can't wait to see where this goes in the next book. Luckily, AFTER THE CROWN drops in less than a month, which means my library could have it through processing by early January.

A large-headed Funko Pop bobblehead of Rey from Star Wars stands beside a white iPod with the cover of Everything, Everything on its screen. The cover is mostly white, with the first word in sky blue and the second in white outlined by colourful creepy crawlies.

Jenny and I featured Nicola Yoon's EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING in one of our early Shiny New Books spotlights, but I'm sometimes veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery slow and I've only just gotten to it. Now I'm prepared to tell y'all it's as awesome as it sounds. I grinned! I laughed! I cried! I guessed lots of stuff because I'm the best guesser1!

Madeline has severe combined immunodeficiency--aka, bubble baby disease--so she hasn't left her house in seventeen years. She's fairly happy with her everyday routine until a boy named Ollie moves in next door and asks her to be friends. Suddenly, Maddie's looking forward to IM sessions with Ollie, plotting ways the two of them could meet in person, and wondering whether her world really would end if she stepped outside.

IT'S SO AWESOME I LOVED IT SO MUCH YOU NEED TO READ IT. The audio is great, too, if that's easier for you to squeeze into your busy reading schedule (as it was for me).

Murchie, eyes droopy, lies with his head almost down against a red blanket. Propped up behind him is a hardcover copy of The Promise of Canada. Its white cover features the title in red, with tiny rectangular images of prominent Canadians and advertising posters below it.

I requested THE PROMISE OF CANADA by Charlotte Gray because Kelly was excited about it, and this proved an excellent decision. You've gotta love a book that a) celebrates interesting people from your country's history and b) encourages you to argue with it.

Which I've been doing. Nonfiction takes me forever to read because I spend a lot of time asking myself what biases are in play, and who this narrative excludes, and whether or not I'd agree with the writer's conclusions, and how this whole thing relates to my own experience.

In this case, Gray's given me both a refresher course on Canadian history and a chance to delve deeper into some of the stuff my high school classes just glossed over. It's also given me a fair bit to argue with as it focuses mainly on white Canadians; something Gray acknowledges, but doesn't always spend as much time on as I'd like. In the chapter on Sam Steele, for example, she writes about how the early RCMP protected Indigenous Canadians right alongside white settlers, and I furrowed my brow and said, "Please prove this with multiple examples, because that's a tough one to believe otherwise." And in the chapter on Emily Carr, she notes that a Haida/Tsimshian critic has called Carr's work out as cultural appropriation, then cites a refutation by a white critic which not only feels out of place next to an actual community member's statement but to my mind contradicts her own earlier analysis. (Gray writes about how Carr documented British Columbia's Indigenous peoples under the assumption they were a dying race; a conclusion she arrived at because she didn't often interact with her subjects.)

She also uses the term "nationalist" on a regular basis. I assume she means "patriotic", but it doesn't read that way in November 2016.

So it's not a book to take at face value (what nonfiction is?), but it's a fascinating text nonetheless. I've been reading a chapter a day, and it's got me keen to read more Canadian social history (and a crapload of CanLit) in the near future.

Murchie hangs his chin over a paperback copy of A Silent Voice Volume 7. The book's cover features two Japanese teenagers turned to face the viewer. The boy has his hands in his pockets, while the girl is waving. They appear to be standing in a school hallway.

Y'all, my library originally bought all of Yoshitoki Oima's A SILENT VOICE except for volume seven. Gasp! Luckily, they accepted my purchase request for the finale and the volume made it through processing last week.

I wish I could've read this immediately after Volume 6. As it stands, it took me a little while to regain my momentum with the story. Once I sank in, though, it was wonderful. A SILENT VOICE has absolutely earned its place on my list of comics I recommend far and wide--with a hefty trigger warning in this case, since the series more than touches on bullying and attempted suicide. Oima uses this framework to examine how a group of teenagers confronts their own prejudices, comes to understand one another as best they're able, and actively works to be better people.

It's all kinds of affecting. I cried when all the X-marks started falling off everyone's faces.

Next week: GEMINA, which I'm halfway through but couldn't get Murchie to pose with. (This is his new modus operandi for Saturdays.) Maybe a holiday romance. Probably some queer stuff.

  1. My guessing skills only apply to fiction. Friends always come at me like, "Guess what I'm reading/doing/going to see tonight!" And I'm like, "I dunno know. Just tell me."


  1. I kept wondering how very different The Promise of Canada would have been if written by a man... Or a person of colour... Or even someone that was born and raised in Canada...

    1. I've used it as a jumping off point to add a ton of other books to my library list.

  2. You ARE a good guesser. In this one case, I believe that I have successfully guessed The Thing, just cause, I mean, what else could The Thing be, if there was going to be A Thing?

    (I still haven't read Everything Everything, so you are faster than me, still!)

    1. I'm gonna guess you've correctly guessed The Thing.

      You've read soooooooo many of the other books we've picked for Shiny, though. Soooooooo many.