Sunday, June 14, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: June 7th to 13th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by asking my dog to pose beside every book I read, barring the digital comics I get through Marvel Unlimited and, apparently, the bulk of what I'm reading for the Hugo Awards.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with additional commentary.

Not pictured: I reread some Carol Danvers-focused comics to fact-check a post I wrote for Lady Business's forthcoming Women In Authority theme week. She and I totally need to be BFFs (alongside Jessica Drew, of course).

The two arcs of MIGHTY AVENGERS I read got me really interested in the Sentry, too. I want to know what his deal is.

I also finished reading the Hugo-nominated fanwriters and now I feel terrible about the entire world. Plus, I will never, ever watch A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (which might not be its proper title; I'll also never google it). I haven't had the intestinal fortitude to travel any further through the nominees. This ain't nearly as much fun as last year.

The kind folks at Image let me have a DRC of THE FAR-REACHING TENTACLES OF N'RYGOTH, so I reread SASS AND SORCERY in preparation. It was even better the second time through. I wrote about it in some detail here, if you're interested in a more thorough opinion.

I thought I'd just fire off a mini-review for Volume Two, but it looks like I've got a semi-substantial amount to say about it. The rest of this week's commentary got kind of long, so I'll save my RAT QUEENS thoughts for a separate post.

Murchie lays atop a pink blanket nestled into a small, fuzzy-sided dog bed. His paws are crossed in front of him. Five volumes of Ouran High School Host Club are propped around the bed's sides to form high walls. Each cover features two different Japanese boys in casual clothing.

First, a terrible truth: mere moments after I took this photo, two of these books toppled off the edge of Murchie's dog bed and bonked him on the head. I felt awful. I still feel awful, even though Murchie has plainly forgiven me for this indignity.

Second, an embarrassing truth: before I started Bisco Hatori's OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB, I totally thought a host club was an exchange student thing. Apparently it's actually an escort thing. As in, people flirting with and entertaining one another without (a guarantee of) sex.

Oh. Oops.

Anyways, I chose the series because it keeps cropping up, most recently on The Mary Sue, and hey! The first five volumes were on the shelf at my local branch! I figured it could maybe-possibly help fill the SKIP BEAT-shaped hole in my heart.

Or... not. Listen, please don't kill me, but I've been reading Volume Two for about a million days and I don't think I care about this manga. I just can't sink into it.

I feel I have failed as a lover of cute things. Perhaps I've even brought shame upon my family.

I'll give it a bit longer, just in case it's a late bloomer. I mean, I didn't love SKIP BEAT until Volume Two! That's a thing that happened! And look at me now, losing sleep because I can't stop contemplating Kyoko Mogami's limitless perfection or the spectre of Ren's DARK PAST.

*pause to shed Kyoko-related tears, and to hope those two kids manage to work through their fears and connect romantically*

Murchie lays diagonally across a fuzzy, cream-coloured pillow. His paws stretch straight out before him, laid side by side so they blend together. To one side, close to the viewer, is a red-bordered white iPod with Fool's Assassin's cover on its screen. It features a dark-haired man in medieval dress walking through a snow storm. An enormous pair of antlers rises behind him, largely obscured by the snow.

I wanted to revisit FOOL'S ASSASSIN before I dove into FOOL'S QUEST, the forthcoming sequel (which Del Rey Spectra kindly sent me for review1), but my reading schedule is kinda full right now2. Scribd has the audio edition, though, which made it convenient to fit it in around my regular, in-print reading. Plus, I figured it'd be fun to reread it in that format.

For values of "fun" that equal "extraordinarily painful, especially once I get to THE LAST 10% OMG." Y'all know what I mean.

I'll resist the urge to say much about the book itself because I wrote about it in some (garbled) detail last August, but I do want to mention a couple of things about the performance.

I launched my Robin Hobb reread/catch-up last February with the audio edition of ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE. It was great, but the narrator threw me off at first because his voice was so posh. I suppose that makes sense, given that Fitz grows up in a palace and is trained to move amongst all different social classes, but it still wasn't anything like I'd have imagined3.

FOOL'S ASSASSIN employs a different narrator, and he's much more in line with the Fitz inside my head. He varies his delivery depending on the character in question, too. For example, Fitz sounds like he could conceivably be a commoner, while Dutiful is super posh and the epigraphs at the start of each chapter are decidedly scholarly. Sometimes, it's tough to believe the same person has narrated the whole book. Good job, new narrator.

He also pronounces Chade with a Sh instead of a Ch sound, though, which is a bit distracting. And he says Burrich with a hard -ch, like Burrick, which is how I'd always said it until I listened to ASSASSIN'S APPRENTICE and the always-posh dude said it exactly as it's spelled.

So now I don't know how to pronounce anything.

Murchie lays in a dog bed with pink and tan striped edges. His paws are on the rim of the bed and his chin just barely rests on it. His eyelids droop. Behind him, outside the bed, is a hardcover copy of Towers of Midnight. Its cover features three white men standing before a silver stone tower.

Okay, so here's the thing: THE GATHERING STORM kind of blew my mind4? And I wasn't expecting that at all? And I could not fucking wait to dive straight into TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT and wallow in it for hours on end?

Except then stuff came up, as stuff is wont to do. I finished the Carol Danvers piece and said, "Self, you must fact-check this to ensure the Carol in your head matches the Carol on the page." (She does.) And I suddenly had a ton of stuff to write. And Murchie needed me to get up and feed him every five minutes.

That last is a good thing--Murchie is anorexic, so I'm happy for him to eat as much as he wants whenever he's willing to do so--but it did cut into my uninterrupted, sustained, silent reading time5.

I'd intended to get some solid reading done yesterday, but alas, stuff came up yet again. (Bloody stuff.) I hope I can finally make it happen today. Do not worry for my hands--I'm only using this library hardcover to track my progress through my ebook omnibus. I don't actually have to haul the damned thing around in defiance of my vow to never again read the Wheel of Time in hardcover6.

Murchie lays on a black couch. Beside him is a white Kobo with Ody-C's cover on its screen. It features a burst of colour, yellow at the centre, pink as it expands, and a mix of blue andgreen around the edges.

And now we come to the first volume of ODY-C, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward's reimagining of THE ODYSSEY in space.

I admired it very much, but I fear I didn't enjoy it; and, much to my surprise, I feel the urge to write about why at some length.

I know, I know; I want to write about a book at some length? Shocker. Except I usually don't write negative reviews because I'd much rather celebrate why I loved a text. This one has proven an exception because it wasn't for me in a really specific way, and I suspect it may appeal to others far more than it did to me. I want to unpack all that.

So I've got an outline I'll turn into a draft in the next few days, all ready for your consumption.

Next week: A MEMORY OF LIGHT, finally, after all these years. (Unless TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT takes me a solid week, which it very well might at my current pace. Sigh.) Some more comics. I really must reread and catch up on MS MARVEL.

  1. I say "which they kindly sent me for review" like I didn't have an extremely strong emotional reaction to that e-mail.

  2. Plus, I still haven't bought my own copy because I'm waiting for the e-book to go down to paperback-equivalent price. I found a $4 hardcover copy at a book sale a few months back, but my long-ago experience with reading the Wheel of Time in hardcover effectively cured me of any desire to own epic fantasy in that format. Ain't no point in getting a deal on a book if you're never, ever going to read that particular edition again.

    ...says the girl who once bought a hardcover copy of THE WAY OF KINGS by Brandon Sanderson solely so she could look at the pretty, coloured endpapers. That was only $1.74, though. It was a super good bargain.

  3. Not that I actually know what Fitz would sound like. I'm not one of those readers who imagines an array of voices in her head as she reads. I know more or less how I'd perform the role, but that basically means everyone sounds like some version of me. And the sounds-like-me version of Fitz isn't trashy, by any means, but neither is he super-duper posh.

    As a point of interest, there are a handful of characters whose voices are distinct and un-me-like in my head. Jamie Fraser is one; so is Istvan from Kathe Koja's excellent UNDER THE POPPY; and Gurgi from Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain is perhaps the most memorable of the lot. The guy who narrates the Prydain audios (and, point of interest, also narrates the Tawny Man trilogy) threw me off big time because his Gurgi sounded nothing like the Gurgi I grew up with, and also because his Fflewddur sounded exactly like a cat.

    And it's not consistent or anything, but whenever I pause to consider what the Seanchan might sound like throughout the Wheel of Time, they end up sounding exactly like Scarlett from NASHVILLE. All of them. Every last one. Because you say "drawl" to me and I think "Mississippi."

    (The woman who plays Scarlett is actually from Australia, so perhaps her Mississippi accent is not the most authentic thing ever. I don't know much about Mississippi. A Southern friend once told me my own Southern accent is distinctly Charleston, but I imagine it's mutated over the years thanks to an array of conflicting influences.)

  4. I say "kind of blew my mind," as if I didn't gasp and clasp my hand over my mouth and screech profanities (FUCKING [NAME REDACTED BECAUSE SPOILERS]) and actually care about Rand (which I didn't think was gonna be possible ever again). It was a 5-star read. I feel weird about it, given that the series is super uneven, but this particular installment affected me so deeply that I've just gotta roll right on over its flaws. I'm sure they're there. I'm sure I could even point to them if I really wanted to. I don't want to.

    That's how I know something was a 5-star read instead of a 4.5-er, in case you were wondering.

    This book, y'all. At first, I thought it was like I was twelve again, reading the series for the first time, but I think it more closely took me back to my first reread, when I was seventeen. Twelve-year-old me borrowed the books from her Language Arts teacher and read them at a fairly sedate pace. Seventeen-year-old me owned the lot and binge read them all because she couldn't tear herself away. Reading THE GATHERING STORM was very much like that.

  5. We called it USSR when I was in elementary school. These days, my reading time is rarely silent. I've almost always got some music on. Right now, it's probably P!nk's FUNHOUSE. I bought the album on a whim during a recent 50% off event at my local thrift store and have set out to learn every single note because it's bloody fantastic.

  6. I assume people do still read and reread the Wheel of Time in hardcover, but I don't understand their life choices. I mean, yeah, I did own most of the series in hardcover at one point in time, but I didn't read them. I just looked at them and waited for the day when the series was complete and in paperback. Or e-book, which remains seventeen times easier on my hands.

    I sold the hardcovers en masse to a boy who was quite pleased to have them. I often wonder if he actually reads them or if he just lets them sit on his shelf while he revisits his portable paperback copies.


  1. The Ouran Host Club manga lost me early on, but I really enjoyed the anime. There's an episode that caused a lot of consternation because of the consent issues it handled poorly (not sure if it's also in the manga since I didn't get that far), but overall it's great, really funny.

    1. I finally finished Volume Two last night, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to return the other volumes unread. Sigh. Maybe I'll give the anime a go instead; it's on Netflix Canada, so I've got easy access to it.