Sunday, December 25, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: December 18th to 24th

Merry Christmas to everyone who's celebrating today, and Happy Hanukkah to everyone who's still got seven nights left in their celebration! Murchie and I had tacos last night and will be digging into turkey and Nigella Lawson's Christmas cupcakes tonight (or I will, at any rate; Murchie can't have chocolate), and we hope you've got similarly wonderful meals in your near future.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies in profile in front of a white Kobo with the cover of Mortal Fire on it. The cover features a brown girl lit from below so red light bathes her face. Bees swirl through her long, dark hair.

Last week I needed something historical that'd remind me of I CAPTURE THE CASTLE without actually being anything like I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, so naturally I turned to MORTAL FIRE by Elizabeth Knox [Amazon | Scribd]. As per usual, it took me a couple of days to actually sit down and wallow in it, but once I did it was wonderful.

The book takes place in the same world as Knox's Dreamhunter Duet, but it's set more than fifty years later so you don't have to read the early books to enjoy this one. (Be prepared to know how the Dreamhunting industry's going as of the late '50s, though.) Sixteen-year-old Canny is dismayed when her parents send her to spend the summer in a rural valley with her stepbrother, who's gathering firsthand accounts of a mining accident that changed the face of industry thirty years before. Her attitude changes when she discovers the valley's reclusive residents share a magic she's always been aware of but has never managed to properly direct. She throws herself into a full-on study of the form, with help from a mysterious prisoner tucked away in a house no one is supposed to be able to see, and her efforts lead to far more personal revelations than she could ever have imagined.

It hits sooooooo many of my sweet spots. Knox's prose is as gorgeous as always. There's a huge emphasis on How Stuff Works, both where Canny's magical studies are concerned and as her brother, Sholto, talks to the miners. There're a bunch of complicated families and a strong sense of place. The magic is beautiful and organic and difficult in unexpected ways. It reminded me a little of Frances Hardinge (who I always say reminds me of Elizabeth Knox) and a little of Lucy Maud Montgomery, less because of what happens than because of the way the relationships feel.

Now I want to reread the Dreamhunter books in early 2017. I dearly hope there'll be more Southland novels, too. It certainly seems like there's space for them.

One note: I'm not well equipped to recognize autistic characters, or to spot problematic portrayals, but I feel like it's possible to read Canny as neuroatypical. You may wish to read some proper reviews to gauge how well the book's liable to work for you on that level.

Murchie wears a red Santa Hat. The ereader with Mortal Fire on it is barely visible in the background.

And here's a bonus photo of Murchie getting his Santa on. A lot of the local kids wear Santa hats instead of toques during the week before Christmas, so I dug his out and tried to get him to wear it in front of the book. It didn't go particularly well because Santa hats are surprisingly tall when they're too small to properly flop over.

Clothing is hard when you're a tiny dog.

Murchie lies with his chin flat against a red blanket, one paw tucked underneath him. His eyes are closed. Behind him is a stack of eight or more volumes of Twin Spica, a perfectbound manga.

At long last, I've begun creeping my way through my big ol' stack of Kou Yaginuma's TWIN SPICA [Amazon]. This series is so lovely, y'all. It's about a teenage girl who's determined to become an astronaut, even though she's got a personal connection to the Japanese space program's most devastating crash. She goes to a competitive space school, and hobnobs with the ghost of an astronaut who died in the crash, and forges lots of quietly intense relationships with everyone around her.

I'm hoping I can keep to my volume-a-day pace over the next week. Yaginuma's interested in the space between emotions and the smaller moments that define peoples' lives, so each book reads up quick but feels like it's lasted for months. It's a great experience.

Murchie's head rests up against a white iPod with the cover of The Killing Moon on it. The cover features an enormous orange moon hovering above a vaguely Egyptian city.

Here's the thing: I started THE KILLING MOON by N.K. Jemisin [Amazon | Scribd Audio] a couple years back and, um, bounced off it. Not super hard or anything, but hard enough that I wasn't in a hurry to try again.

I had an amazing time revisiting (and finishing) Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy earlier this year, though, and her two most recent books rocked my socks, so I figured I'd go back to THE KILLING MOON on audio. Give it a chance to wow me in a different medium.

And, well, it's too early to say if it will. I can tell you I'm disappointed with the performance so far, but I recognize that's because I'm coming off of two Star Wars novels and one TREMONTAINE episode with performances that went above and beyond. This one feels like a simple reading in comparison; not necessarily a bad thing, but something I'll have to adjust to.

I'll report back next week.

Murchie lies on a cow-shaped pillow. He wears a pink hoodie with white trim. Behind him is a white Kobo with the cover of The Confessions on it. The cover features a blonde white man in profile, one hand raised to his chin.

Then I was like, "I wanna read some religious fiction," so I dove into THE CONFESSIONS by Tiffany Reisz [Amazon | Scribd], which I've been saving for aaaaaaaaages. It collects two shorter works--Søren's confession from right after he met Nora and Nora's confession from near the end of the series--and an interview with Reisz; a perfect gift to longtime readers, but definitely not the best place to start with the Original Sinners series. If you're a newbie, get yourself a copy of THE SIREN and start there.

I had a blast with it. Søren's confessor, Father Stuart Ballard, is awesome, and I very much enjoyed the religious conversations. There's plenty of serious material herein, but Reisz seeds these deep discussions with her trademark humour. I'm still giggling over Nora calling the narthex the lobby (partly because I can never remember the right word for the narthex).

The world's angriest Christmas ornament stands next to a white Kobo with the cover of Death By Silver on it. The cover features two white men in Victorian dress. The ornament is a fat reindeer with a red bow and two silver bells around his neck. His mouth is severely downturned and his eyebrows arch high onto his forehead above very round eyes. He looks like he's never been impressed with anything in his entire life.

I want y'all to meet my new favourite: Angry Deer, the world's best (and angriest) Christmas ornament. I bought him last week during my local thrift store's 50% off sale on holiday merchandise and I wish I'd had him for longer so I could've documented all his December adventures.

Next year, friends. Next year.

Angry Deer appears beside Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold's DEATH BY SILVER [Amazon | Scribd], an alternate historical fantasy mystery Anastasia recced to me months ago and I'm just getting to because I'm bad about stuff like that. As I write this, I'm two chapters in and I can't wait to wallow in it because it's delightful. The characters are great! The writing sparkles! The world feels fully realized and lived in! There's a romantic bend to it all, too, but it seems like the focus is gonna rest on the mystery and on the intricacies of this alternate England, where magic is very much a part of everyday life.

I've gotten a particular kick out of the characters' inner responses to societal expectations, which often demand they temper their responses to deeply unpleasant people. How terribly Victorian.