muccamukk: Woman sleeping in bed, surrounded by books. (Books: Ballycumbers)
What I Just Finished Reading
From when I was doing [ profile] hlh_shortcuts:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson
Highly enjoyable and incredibly funny. I think Catherine is one of Austen's most relatable heroines, and enjoyed Henry very much. It is perhaps somewhat depressing how little things have changed since 1803, given that the Thropes felt entirely contemporary, especially John Thorpe's treatment of women.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, narrated by Karen Cass
Whew, so that was a bit of a long haul, even on audiobook. I didn't mind the endless descriptions of scenery and feelings, but could have lived without the poetry. (We finally switched to Blanche's PoV, and I was like, Huzzah! Emily's gone! No more poetry! but of course Blanche also writes poetry, gdi.) The scenery was at least mostly descriptions of areas I've been to, and was pleasantly nostalgic. The funniest part was what an 18th-century writer thought 16th-century French culture was like.

That aside, I unironically enjoyed most of this story. It was a melodramatic soap opera, but the story certainly kept me interested, and I liked Emily trying to find fortitude in the face of all the awful things that kept happening to her. I know a lot of people feel like Emily spent too much time fainting and crying, but she really was a shy young woman who'd been orphaned and then terrorised for months. Poor pet.

It was a bit disappointing that only a third of the book took place at the title castle, and didn't even get there for ten hours of audiobook, but it was fittingly creepy, and they had more creepy buildings later.

I was interested in the general commentary about what to do if the object of your affection has rejected you, which solution seemed to be to shut up about it and leave the poor woman alone. Other behaviours were explored and condemned. Murdering the existing spouse is right out! But so is hanging around being a creep. I could, on the other hand, used far less "City people, especially women, bad; country people especially peasants, good."

Apparently someone abridged it to take out all the scenery and poetry, and it was less than half the length.

The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story by Horace Walpole
Struggling with what to rate this. It wasn't what you would call good, and it certainly wasn't scary, but it was unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) hilarious.

Basically the author is a bored rich dude who wrote this for lolz, and it kind of shows, because it's everything and the kitchen sink, usually all at once; there's whole chapters of people just chasing each other around the countryside; everyone turns out to have a secret relative, be a secret relative, or both, and it ends with both a wedding AND a funeral. Nothing is foreshadowed.

Taken in the spirit meant, it's pretty entertaining.

The Old English Baron: a Gothic Story by Clara Reeve
This is supposedly a rewrite of Castle of Otranto, aimed at making it more plausible, but it doesn't really work as a rewrite, and on its own, it's a little dull.

Basically, Reeve looked at the chaotic lunacy that is Otranto, and said, "you know what bothers me, the peasant boy turning out to be of noble birth. I'm going to write a whole book about how that would work." Possibly unfair, as other elements are mixed in, including the unexplained magic armour, and various family dynamics, but the remix lost the fun of the original, and most of the women too.

And since last time I posted this (I wrote 20k of fic, and read few books):
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, narrated by Simon Vance
It's always so interesting to actually read something you've only run into via osmosis. The science of the aliens part was absolutely fascinating, and it holds up as solid SF now, even if we know rather more about Mars. The plot not so much, and I could have lived without the racism.

Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin
The language was beautiful of course, and I liked that setting felt somewhere real, not sort of vague Ye Olde Scotlande, but an actual farming community in the hill country.

I didn't really have a lot to hold onto in terms of plot or character. The plot is basically a series of terrible things happening because the farming community is terrible, and the main character trying to work out an ethical way through until he eventually stumbles on an out. I guess it's more than happened in The Telling, but none of it really grabbed me.

I gather each of the books in this series has a different but connected setting and character, so I may try the next, but I'm not rushing out.

The Saga of the Mary Celeste by Stanley T. Spicer
Informative but extremely short. I would have liked to know a lot more details.

I started and abandoned both Dust Tracks on the Road by Zora Neale Hurston and The Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist by Sunil Yapa, the former for not grabbing me, and the latter for being unbearably pretentious.

What I'm Reading Now
Listening to A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, which has too many astronauts, and not enough mission control. Reading, in fits and starts, Rising Sun, Tumbling Bear about the Russo-Japanese war, interesting, but a lot of troop movements and not enough cultural background or bios of people involved.

What I'm Reading Next
Probably Apollo: Race to the Moon, which I've been promised has more ground people. Might go back to the Tesla bio on audiobook. Library books.
muccamukk: Text: Let me just go in the next room and crochet, while you have cigars and brandy and talk about beheadings. (HL: Men's Business)
Title: An' to the Greenwood She Is Gane
Author: [personal profile] muccamukk
Fandom: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen/Highlander (Catherine, Mrs. Allen, Rebecca, Amanda, et cetera)
Rating: Teen
Word Count: 7,000
Notes: written for [personal profile] hafital for [ profile] hlh_shortcuts. Thank you to Valtyr for advice and support, and Nenya for beta reading.
Summary: I assure you that my forthcoming (and longer) letter will be completely factual on every point, devoid of speculation, and possessing only the barest descriptions and no poetry of any kind. Yours,—Catherine Tilney
muccamukk: Juli on a ladder shelving library books, sunbeams giving him wings. (Heart of Thomas: Wings)
What I Just Finished Reading
Gate of Ivrel (Chronicles of Morgaine, #1) by C.J. Cherryh
It's difficult to describe the emotional intensity of this book. It's like when Tolkien talks about Elves in the Silm: Everyone we meet is The Most Renowned Swordsman/Bowman/Singer/Bottlewasher/Etc. Everyone in this book is having The Worst Week Ever. The backstory is neatly summarised in the prologue in two competing documents (the SF perspective of events, and the Fantasy perspective), and then we're off to the races. The characters have already had every totally awful thing that's possible to happen happen to them by the time they meet. They're both desperate and at their worst, and within about half a page they're both pretty well in denial about how co-dependant they now are. Terrible things continue to happen at an average of 1.6 times a chapter.

So it's pretty dramatic, is what I'm saying, but I really liked how the characters handled it. Morgaine has been doing this for like a thousand years, everyone she knows is dead, she's probably going to fail, possibly causing the End Of All Things. She is the most stoic brave little toaster ever. Vanye has been living in exile, and just wants a hug, and his honour to be restored. He's very interested in honour, which is an unfortunate habit in what is basically a designated woobie.

The world building is very interesting. One of the best SF from a Fantasy perspective books I've read, with the iron-age PoV character making as decent sense of things as he can, while still letting the reader in on the SF elements. There is a lot about court politics, especially the morality of leadership and abuse of power (something the last '70s fantasy novel I read was also very interested in), and family obligations.

Definitely reading the rest of the series, though possibly after a break.

Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael A. Hiltzik
This book felt really scattered to me. It wanted to focus on Lawrence, but it also wanted to talk about Big Science, but it also wanted to talk about the military, and yes all three were intertwined, but the author kept rabbiting off after different threads, and it just didn't really come together for me. The later chapters especially dragged on, spent way too much time on who was on what committee, and didn't draw a very clear picture of the military and non-military use of various projects.

The pre-WWII stuff was interesting, as I hadn't read much about that, and had the attention to scientific detail that the rest of the book more or less dropped.

American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White Jr., narrated by Arthur Morey
So this was unapologetically and ragingly partisan, which was pretty charming on the whole. I've heard enough outlines and other sides on Grant to patch in the details, and it's explicitly meant to stand in opposition to anti-Grant books.

In any case, I like Grant, and am happy to read all about him, and the book is detailed and interesting. I hadn't heard much about his later life, and even the war stuff which everyone knows pretty well had some fresh takes, while mostly avoiding getting bogged in details. I think my favourite sections were the presidential campaigns, which were so bananapants back then.

The narrator did a good job, but there a lot of small either reading or copy errors, with the wrong word in places.

I'd be interested in an bio of Stanton next.

Child of a Hidden Sea (Hidden Sea Tales, #1) by A.M. Dellamonica
This was really fun. Marine videographer and professional student bamphs into a portal world and immediately decides to science the shit out of it. The secondary world is fascinating, for its similarities and differences with our own, and I loved all the different islands and cultures. Plus most of it is set on a boat, which makes me happy.

I thought the protagonist was going to be a little self-inserty (sometimes a problem with portal books), but she worked out to having enough good qualities and flaws to spend a book with, and her relationship with her family was fun. Looking forward to the next one.

A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales, #2) by A.M. Dellamonica
I enjoyed this one even more than the first one. It really dug into the characters and worldbuilding, and I couldn't put it down. The action sequences were gripping as well, more so than the first book, especially the two battle scenes.

I'm really enjoying exploring the world with Sophie as she tries to find her place in it, and learning more about Stormwreck and what and where it is. The politics were very well drawn, and I'm looking forward to the next one to find out what happens next.

The Nature of a Pirate (Hidden Sea Tales, #3) by A.M. Dellamonica
Great conclusion to the series. I enjoyed how it wrapped up most of the major questions, but didn't make it all too neat. I could imagine more books in this series, but don't need to have more to feel the story is complete, which is a nice balance.

I found the action climax a little weaker than the second book, but the political and family drama pulled the rest along nicely. Would have liked more with Sophie's birth parents.

When She Came Home by Drusilla Campbell, narrated by Jane Jacobs
By the numbers story of a female marine with PTSD, which managed to be so predictable that I found it extremely calming. I liked the main character and was invested in things working out for her, which of course I knew they would. The book could probably have used about 80% less explaining what everyone was feeling and why, but somehow I didn't mind.

What I'm Reading Now
The War of the Worlds on audiobook, which I'd never read, and genocidal racism in the opening aside, it's been pretty good. It's one of those books where it's interesting to see how much I picked up via osmosis, and how much is new to me.

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston from the library, which I've just started. So far my favourite part is Mara Angelou's deeply ambivalent introduction (more or less to the tune of: "It's good for black people to tell their own stories, and this is... certainly a story told by a black person. I guess.")

What I'm Reading Next
Maybe Their Eyes Were Watching God, if I don't bail out on Hurston. I have a bio of Tesla. Some litfic library book I don't remember ordering.
muccamukk: Woman sleeping in bed, surrounded by books. (Books: Ballycumbers)
What I Just Finished Reading
Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master #3) by Patricia A. McKillip, narrated by Simon Prebble
Possibly not the strongest conclusion to such a fantastic series, but still very good. I really liked a lot of the discussions around the ethical uses of power, which really was the core of the series. The world building continued excellent, and I still love all the layers of history and magic.

Unfortunately, a lot of the characters I liked from the first one were more or less sidelined, and there were some long road trip sections that dragged.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Total soap opera, but well written and totally addictive. I enjoyed the alternate history of the Royal family, though I feel like after all that, they could have ended up with something a bit more of an AU than present day. The characters were likeable and fun, even if the plot had an element of OMG, NOW WHAT? to it.

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon, narrated by Tara Sands
I enjoyed this so much! It was, granted, aimed pretty young, but it packed a hell of an emotional punch, and aside from being fun and creative and full of turning things into dragons, it had some really good discussions of abusive relationships and the ethics of good, evil, and slightly wicked.

It was ticking a long nicely, and then the evil Sorceress showed up, and I spent the rest of the book going, Oh! My heart! I am very fond of characters who are Resigned to Their Fate to the point where they don't even hope for better.

Also they kept turning things into dragons. It was great.

What I'm Reading Now
Audiobook bio of U.S. Grant, which I've just started (due to relistening to my favourite angsty bits of Hangnail five times in a row), the author led with a character glossary, which must be very helpful in a paper book, but is not riveting listening. On the bright side, I have heard of most of these people, which is always an encouraging feeling when one has read several books on the same period.

Paper I'm still plodding through Big Science. I'm up to depressing purges and loyalty oaths. I should just sit down and finish this thing off.

What I'm Reading Next
The Grant thing is 27 hours long, so that for a while. Physical reading, not sure. Go back the Cherryh, and then start that A.M. Dellamonica portal fantasy. Which reminds me, that's the bid item in today's auction.
muccamukk: River looking out of the frame, half turned away. (DW: River)
Haven't done one of these in a while. I'm leaving off a bunch of research reading for stuff with anon periods. Also, hi! Back now, I think.

What did you finish reading?
The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher, narrated by Kaylin Heath
Well that was... horrifying. I mean, I guess I should have been warned by Vernon's YA author name, but jeeze. There is a lot of body horror in this book, though not happening to the heroine, and a lot of a teenage girl in terrifying situations. I was reading this to get away from my gothic run, and did not realise it was a Bluebeard retelling, and was therefore way more gothic than anything else I'd read.

All that aside, I quite liked it. The language was modern and chatty, and it was a clear case of made up fantasy land, which may or may not be set in a post-apoca future, or just on a slightly secondary world. The capitol is never named, people know about South American fauna, magic makes the hollyhocks plaid.

The main character and the various living wives we meet are coping with an extremely dire situation in a variety of messed up ways, and they were quite well drawn, if perhaps a little one-note. I did like how our heroine interacted with them, and how she was an essentially kind person who just got stuck in this awful abusive situation, and I liked that the blame was placed squarely where it belonged, by her at least. Clockwife was my favourite.

Should read some of the stuff meant for a gentler audience at some point.

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto
I keep trying Scalzi, and I keep not liking his writing. I think it's time to admit are differences and go separate ways. Probably still read his blog.

I'm fine with the high concept set up, sure, whatever, but if something like that existed, there is no way literally everyone on earth wouldn't know all the graphic details, because holy shit people coming back form the dead! So having the main character explaining to everyone, including a cop? Super awkward, especially when he seemed to know all the legal implications and the cop hadn't even heard of them. The cop seemed pretty bad at her job and unaware of what was going on, so the mc had to do basically everything.

I figure out who did it and why miles before the protagonist did, as well, which didn't help. And while it had black and latino leads, it failed the Bachdel test. I'm not sure why the entire Dispatcher profession was male, either.

At least this one was free. Two stars because I like ZQ's voice, and the poor man was trying so hard.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, narrated by Josh Hurley
I enjoyed this much more on audiobook than I would have as a paper book, I think. I suspect I would have gotten bored and wandered off pretty early in, and spent far too much time looking things up in the dictionary. As it stands, I enjoyed (for the most part) listening to the overly-elaborate language flow over me, and enjoyed the story when it happened to occur.

It was not a fast-paced book, but I enjoyed the setting, and the religious conflict that the narrator inadvertently ended up in the middle of was interesting, if slightly depressing. I found the ghost character almost entirely unsympathetic, which was fine, she didn't have to be likeable, but the narrator mooning over her half the book was a bit much given how horrible she was to everyone, by her own admission. On the other hand, the narrator was at end-of-Gulliver's-Travels levels of detached from reality at that point.

The frequent tangents into local mythology/folk lore/poetry were better than such thing often are, although the whole story did sound very samey, instead of a plethora of voices as one would expect from that. King James translation of what was actually going on, maybe; the narrator never could resist a ten-cent word. Having different narrators, or even one for the story sections would have helped.

Not sure if I'll read the next one. It took me long enough to get through this.

The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master #1) by Patricia A. McKillip, narrated by Simon Prebble
Fabulous book. I miss high fantasy that dgaf about how magic worked, or what the rules were, and just fell into mythology like a watercolour painting of fog. The characters are drawn so clearly and beautifully, and it's impossible not to feel with Morgon as he's wrenched away from the life he wants and given one impossible choice after another. It's also a middle ages(ish) secondary world fantasy that is full of women in just about every role.

Loved the narrator. Hell of a cliffhanger ending though.

Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master #2) by Patricia A. McKillip, narrated by Fiona Walsh
Even better than the first one, with a tighter plot and a second look at a lot of minor characters from the first story. I love that it was the adventure of the off-page fiancée from the first book, one of the warrior princesses, and the previous main character's little sister. The book again had a fabulous voice, though slightly different from the first, and taking a different perspective on the same characters we'd already met. I still love the sort of water colour tarot deck feeling of the mythology, where a character can turn into a crow basically because he does that, and the armies of the dead are bargained with over a fire.

I also loved the very Taran Wanderer for grown ups feeling of trying to find ones self, and honing magic and skill to service your existing identity, rather than letting them control who you are. I loved how the story was about our heroine finding herself, but also about her finding the old hero of the last book, and bringing him back, through sea and fire.

The narrator of this book was also good, but I wish she and the last guy had put their heads together, as they pronounced most of the proper nouns slightly differently (calling the land of Hed Head or Heed, for example). I wish I'd found this series sooner.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Very interesting, and certainly better than Rise of the Rocket Girls, both in terms of prose and organisation. I liked how it incorporated the politics of the Space Age and the Civil Rights Era with the women's lives. It made a good choice of picking four women and sticking with them through a relatively brief period (WWII up through the Mercury Program, basically), rather than trying to cover dozens over decades. It adds some wonderful depth to other Space Age books, and I hope to see these women mentioned more often from now on.

The language was perhaps a bit overwrought in places, and I could have used slightly less context and slightly more science, but that's spoken from someone who's read a lot of Space Race books. There were also some small editing errors.

What are you reading now?
I'm about half way through Harpist in the Wind, the conclusion of the Riddle-Master trilogy. I'm picking away at Big Science again, having gotten it back from the library, and binge reading Royal We.

What are you reading next?
Probably go back to Cherryh and finish the Morgaine books. Audiobooks, idk, maybe Updraft by Fran Welsh.
muccamukk: Darcy sitting at a table drinking coffee, flowers on her right. (Thor: Breakfast Table)
What did you finish reading?
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
I'm reading Blazing World next partly to tell what I think of this book, which honestly felt very much like the author's notes at the end: She read a bunch of Virginia Woolf and then wrote a novel about Margaret Cavendish.

I appreciated all the historical detail, and the research the author put in, and it was certainly literary and attempting to show warts and all, but I don't think I came out with a hold of what was driven Cavendish to write, or at very least what was driving her to publish. The prose is dreamy and disconnected, with occasional vivid moments, and the end impression of Cavendish is the same. Which doesn't marry with what I've read of her writing.

I am left perplexed.

The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World by Margaret Cavendish the Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent Princesse, the Duchess of Newcastle.
So this book is very much of its time, which is interesting in an of itself because the form of the novel hadn't really hit England, let alone been codified, and the author has this huge amount of space to do whatever she wants.

Granted, whatever she wants is more or less long sections of complaining about the Royal Society (a Tradition Swift would pick up and run with), and attempting cosmology, which was theoretically interesting, but did tend to drag on. Also there are very few full stops, fewer paragraph breaks, no dialogue punctuation and the spelling is eccentric.

However, it also allowed her to write a secondary world sff story where in someone from a made up world traveled to yet another world, became its empress, and started talking to people from our own world on the astral plane. Which was pretty nifty, but then the empress starts hanging out, on the astral plane, with the author of the book in a way that is described in the text as "Platonic" but which I would called "Slashy as all get out" and I really can't tell if this is basically self-insert self-cest or what, but it's fascinating.

AND THEN! The Empress decides to invade and conquer her original world, and there is an earnest discussion of the efficacy of a zombie army, but they eventually go with submarine warfare and aerial fire bombing. And then the book ends. Which in and of itself, upgrade the book to four stars.

If I were to read it again, I'd read up to where she starts talking about philosophy, then skip to where the Duchess of Newcastle shows up and read through to the end of the war, then skip the five pages of describing lutes and read the epilogue.

(I saw a couple reviewers saying Cavendish invented the submarine, which is incorrect. There were working(ish) submarines in England in the 1620s, which were witnessed by Constantijn Huygens, who was in Cavendish's circle. It might be the first novel portaying submarine warfare though?)

What are you reading now?
Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh, which is pretty fab. Also rereading Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch.

What are you reading next?
Presumably Well of Shiuan, and also some library books once I get back home.
muccamukk: Creedy and Quinn reenacting a lightsaber battle. Text: "Bedtime Stories" (Reign of Fire: Stories)
[This is copied from the Imzy comm Cherryh Blossoms]

Planned format: I will post every 3-4 chapters, include a little summary of events, and then people can comment as they like. I know a couple other people haven't read it before, so if you're doing a reread please included spoiler warnings for future events from the same series.

I'm also totally flexible, so do let me know if you think something else would work better!

Summary: Spoilers )
muccamukk: A heart drawn in beach sand, ocean in the background. (Lights: Beach Heart)
What did you finish reading?
Icon (Persona #2) by Genevieve Valentine
This really is the other half of Persona, to the point where there's no recap of any kind, and if you haven't read the previous book since it came out, well, hope you remember who everyone was. I mostly managed to catch up, but it felt less like a story of its own and more as picking up the threads of the first book and carrying on with them.

It continues with Valentine's classic trapped characters trying to make a rigged system work for them, while slowly being corrupted by the system. Which is pretty bleak for YA, I must admit, as it tends more to grim compromise and the bitterest sweet rather than happiness for anyone.

I liked the characters and the writing a lot. It felt very hyper-vigilant and detail focused, with every bit of body language recorded and searched for meaning, and all the characters watching and working out all angles, and any real emotions repressed and only showing through the cracks.

I enjoyed the hell out if it, and out of the plotting and politics, but it's probably not everyone's style. Definitely read them both at one time.

Breath of Earth (Breath of Earth #1) by Beth Cato
I really liked the main character and found her plot compelling, trying to find answers about herself and solve a more specific mystery, while a war she may or may not be complicit in rages all around. It was well done, and a difficult book to put down. Again it was a bit short on women, basically having the heroine and two antagonists, but they were all well played. Romance may have been slightly pasted on, but I liked that she was into the DLI primarily because he was decent to her.

For the most part, I liked the world building, especially the incorporation of Hidden Ones from various cultures, in a way that felt respectful, and was interesting and something that I hadn't seen before. Excellent use of various shapeshifters. I admit having wished for more of an explanation than "We've always had magic, but history and culture is almost exactly the same, save the last 100 years." It didn't really work for me, but I was willing to handwave it, as that was clearly all we were going to get.

Looking forward to the next one.

Engraved on the Eye: Short Fantasy and Science Fiction by Saladin Ahmed
Short collection, but very enjoyable. Two of the stories were set in the same secondary world as Throne of the Crescent Moon (including a bit of backstory that I'd read somewhere before), and the rest were a mix of SF and F short stories in a variety of worlds.

I think that "Where Virtue Lives" the backstory for how Raseed ban Raseed met Doctor Adoulla Makhslood was my favourite of the bunch, even if I'd read it already, but the dark supervillain comedy "Doctor Diablo Goes Through the Motions" and the dystopic SF mystery "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" were also excellent. The only story that didn't really work for me was the closing one, which fell a bit D&D campaign.

Very much enjoyed over all, looking forward to more.

What are you reading now?
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton, a very short novel about Margaret Cavendish, a writer in Restoration England. Very short.

What are you reading next?
Shall I continue my alphabetical wanderings through my e-reader? Shall I choose at random? Who can tell?
muccamukk: Joan Watson highlighted in purple and black. (Elementary: Joan)
What I Just Finished Reading
The Food of a Younger Land: The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America edited by Mark Kurlansky
The editor found a stash of unpublished WPA files about food culture, and put them together as a shorter book. I read the North East Eats section, and then sort of skimmed the rest. The South part was pretty damn racist, which we were warned for, but there was also a wall-to-wall sketchy treatment of Native Americans, as so many traditions were casually looped back to early America, and well... Anyway, interesting as it went, and some good recipes and history, with the occasional humour bits, but probably better read a bit at a time rather than straight through.

"The Year of the Crocodile" (Cyclone #2.5) by Courtney Milan
(I'm puzzled by the numbering as #2 isn't out yet). Short story about Blake and Tina's parents meeting for Lunar New Years. This was hilarious, and exactly what I needed to read on a down night.

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War by Helen Thorpe, narrated by Donna Postel
Detailed and insightful look into the lives of three non-combat soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq during the recent wars. I liked how the book covered how they integrated into the military, their service and what happened to them after the got home. Lots of things to think about.

Status Update (#gaymers #1) by Annabeth Albert
Made of 100% fluff, and very enjoyable for it. Manic Pixel Dream Boy rescues archaeology professor from the closet. It was cute and often funny. The ending dragged on far too long, and could have used fewer dogs.

Midnighter Vol. 1: Out by Steve Orlando
Midnighter is almost as good a go to for wanton violence and gore as Ares, though also more gay, which is nice. This had a pleasing amount of carnage in it and at one point the Midnighter kidnapped Dick Grayson to go on a coffee date and then they ended up handcuffed together, which was not the least slashy thing I've ever read.

The plot was pretty nonsensical, but I'm not super invested in that. As a long term Authority fan, I've got to say "The Midnighter Dumps Apollo in Order to Find Himself" is a little played out, especially since we never seem to get an Apollo book out of all that.

Do Shut Up, Mister Simms by Rachael Acks
Absolutely charming novella about the dashing steampunk captain's stalwart right hand man, and the adventures he really doesn't want to be having, especially not with his captain's love interest (entirely incidentally, the captain and the love interest are both women). Very funny and enjoyable. Unfortunately it's the last in a series and while it reads fine on its own, I can't seem to find the rest of the series anywhere. I gather the publisher went under. (I e-mailed the author, and she said that she was waiting on a new publisher. So I've subscribed to her mailing list and will hopefully pick them up when they're out.)

Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from a Bootlegger's Manuall by Matthew Rowley
I could have used more text and fewer pictures of illegible pages from history, as the actual content was probably about fifty pages, but this was still a fun, light and often interesting read. It probably wasn't news to people who know a lot about the Prohibition in the US, but I learned a lot about the technical side of bootlegging.

I appreciated that the author didn't just lean on his found manual, but pulled recipes and techniques from other period books, and tried to translate how they worked (or didn't!) into modern terms and explained what the originals actually meant. I'm not invested enough in cocktails to start making ingredients, but still enjoyed it.

Lady of Devices (Magnificent Devices #1) by Shelley Adina
Steampunk novel about the daughter of a Marquises who doesn't want to be a proper lady, but wants to go build steam engines. I lasted twenty pages, and failed to care. I think I got it for like a dollar though, so oh well.

What I'm Reading Now

Just started Icon (Persona #2) by Genevieve Valentine, which I'm enjoying so far, though it's been so long since I read the first one that I've forgotten a lot of the politics.

Still listening to an audiobook of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, which almost everyone I know didn't like (except [personal profile] likeadeuce?), but I'm really enjoying. I think it does better on audiobook, where you can just let it flow by all lyrical and stuff, and not worry that plot is occurring at and exceptionally slow rate, if at all. I'm also enjoying all the religious conflicts and plotting.

What I'm Reading Next
I'll be in town, so something off my e-reader? Probably finally getting to the new Martha Wells book (which I've been saving), and maybe continue my alphabetical by author treck through the contents. Saladin Ahmed next, at least.
muccamukk: Steve standing with his arms folded, looking disapproving. (Avengers: Judgy Arms)
What I Just Finished Reading
Missed last week, but it's been a bit dire all over anyway. Finest in popular fantasy I either didn't enjoy or flat out didn't finish.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, narrated by Priya Ayyar
I really dislike this book, and almost half is more than enough of a chance. The hero is a controlling asshole who hides information from the heroine who is 100% under his power (he more or less kidnapped her). The heroine keeps trying to set boundaries only to have them stomped on. There are no other women. The writing is overdone and not very good. I can't actually tell what the world building is like because everything's a flowery metaphor. South Asian mythology angle was nice. Did not finish.

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie
Won't rate this as I'm so very far from the target audience, which is apparently very small children who live in London. It was quite sweet, and interesting to see the early version of Peter Pan, but dragged on a bit. I did like the scenes with Peter interacting with human children, which is I guess what we're going with for the next book.

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
I liked some of this. Peter was effectively quite creepy, which was enjoyable, and a lot of the descriptions and whimsy were nice. However it was really difficult to get past how profoundly racist it was, and the sexism didn't help. I know, I know, 1911, but I really can't picture presenting this to an actual child.

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
Read about 140 pages and decided that life was too short for this shit.

I don't believe in the world, and I don't like the characters. The author has basically said that if you take 21st century Britain and America, took away their technology, they'd turn into boilerplate 1980s fantasy novel "Middle Ages Europe," complete with 99% white people, women not getting to do anything, feudalism and the Catholic church as the only religion. Which, lol, where to start?

So the protagonist is a princess who was raised away from the court and basically knows nothing except history and botany, and shows up and starts judging everyone, from the street walkers to the courtiers ("The prostitutes need to get better jobs!" "Wait why is the palace spending this much on servants?" Pick one!). You can tall the bad guys because they're all ugly rapist slave owners. The only other women are a dead mother, an absent guardian, an evil queen, and the maid. The only black people are a sex slave and a minstrel/bandit.

Never has a book made me wish I were reading The Goblin Emperor, and I didn't even especially like that one either.

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
My mom really liked this, but I found it actively annoying and bailed three walks in.

What I'm Reading Now
Library: The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food from the Lost WPA Files edited and illustrated by Mark Kurlansky, collection of essays about food culture in Depression-era US, divided by region. Varies from history, to humour to recipes, very interesting, but slow going.

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War by Helen Thorpe, breaking my ban on books with "girl" in the title already, about three National Guard soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, a bit chatty, but very interesting.

What I'm Reading Next
Louise Erdrich maybe? I really need to read something well written soon.

Library, I think the first volume of Midnighter by Steve Orlando needs to go back soonish.
muccamukk: Dot and Phryne looking at each other and smiling, pretty hats. (MFMM: Companions)
What I Just Finished Reading
After The Ending (The Ending #1) by Lindsey Pogue and Lindsey Fairleigh
I read about a hundred pages of this and then gave up in disgust. I liked the centre of the story being friendship between two women, but I didn't actually like either of the women. I'm fine with unlikable heroines, but I think I was supposed to like them? They were both selfish, judgemental and cruel, and... why would I want to read 400+ pages about them?

Also the only person of colour was immediately slut shamed, and the heroine didn't understand why the group of survivors wanted to stop and look for their own families, instead of going straight to hers. Yay!

On the bright side, the book was free.

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) by N.K. Jemisin
I didn't love this one as much as the first, but I'm still enjoying this series immensely. Watching Jemisin put all the worldbuilding and character bricks in place as the story continues is breathtaking. I'm absolutely dying to find out what happens next, and what twists will hit along the way. Could live with a bit less mass murder.

Also, my e-reader just kicked it, so I finished this on my laptop, which show some commitment to Sparkle Motion, I think.

What I'm Reading Now
Still on Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael Hiltzik, had to go back to the library, but has been reordered.

Audio: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, which is a South Asian secondary world fantasy about a princess who doesn't want to have an arranged marriage, which is sort of an old theme, and not one I'm fond of, but it's carried on pretty decently so far.

Library: On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, a non fiction book about attention and how our outlook affects what we pay attention. Mom really liked it, but I haven't really gotten into it yet. Worried it may be twee.

What I'm Reading Next
Audio, idk. Hopefully I'll get Big Science back. I want to read the webcomic O Human Star for the imzy comics group, which is also doing something something Neil Gaiman I don't care. Library probably The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food from the Lost WPA Files.
muccamukk: Girl sitting on a forest floor, reading a book and surrounded by towers of more books. (Books: So Many Books)
Whoops, haven't done one of these in a month.

What I Just Finished Reading
Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories edited by Audrey Niffenegger
Pretty good mix of stories, and well put together. I liked the little intro sections and the art. It was a good spread of different things one could do with ghost stories, at least from a WASP perspective.

I will say that the collection leaned pretty heavily on Victorian and Edwardian stories that are conveniently out of copyright, and only two of the stories were actually scary at all. Quite a few were, however, very funny, and many were interesting or touching. Several were too long, and one was some sort of Ur New Yorker thing.

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman, narrated by Donna Postel
The book starts with two stories: One of an acclaimed professor being dismissed from his job and blacklisted for being gay, another of a military officer inviting her legal wife to her pinning ceremony, both set in the US, about sixty years apart, and then goes on to tell stories about how we all got here from there.

As other reviewers have noted, it's far from comprehensive, is mostly LGB-focused until the end, tends to lean pretty hard on anecdotes and storytelling, and only covers the USA from 1950-2015. Within those limits, it does a good job, is highly entertaining, and fills in a lot of blanks in my LGB history. It would give a nice starting place for people who wanted an overview, and then later wanted to read about one aspect or another in more depth.

The narrator was very good. I especially liked her voices for known political figures.

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver
I read this way too fast, but it was just so sweet and funny that I couldn't stop. I loved every page, and how good hearted and fun it was even when dealing with serious stories.

The Price of Salt/Carol by Patricia Highsmith, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
Absolutely gorgeous writing. I love how intimate it is, and how we really see thought Therese's eyes as shoe grows up and discovers more about the world. We see less of Carol at first, but as Therese's understanding grows, her character also fleshes out.

It's also a wonderful period piece, and I love all the details of the era and glimpses of lesbian community we see along the way.

Could have used a little less road trip, and a little more romance.

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection (Vol. 1) edited by Hope Nicholson
Really liked this anthology, especially the stories with SF elements. There were a couple that didn't work for me, but the overall quality of both scripts and art was very high. I look forward to the next one.

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Keith Gessen
It took me a long time to read this because it was so brutal, but it was exceptionally well written and put together. I really liked the progression of stories told in it, and how well she captured her subjects and compiled them. It really did feel like a huge discordant chorus of voices.

I would have liked a little more factual information in the translator's introduction, as I was two when the reactor failed, and had never really heard what happened, and the book picks up after the fires start.

Lisey's Story by Stephen King, narrated by Mare Winningham
So my days of not reading Stephen King are certainly coming to a middle. I actually did really like the voice and the characterisation, and the narrator on the audio version was phenomenal, but I noped out really hard on the graphic child abuse and up coming sexual violence. I know it was in aid of the story, etc, but it really didn't work for me, and I didn't want to read another nine hours of it.

What I'm Reading Now
Audio: Infomocracy by Malka Older, which is an election story with a more satisfying narrative than I'm getting right now.

Library: another go around with Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael Hiltzik.

What I'm Reading Next
Couple new SF/F things just out, notably by Jemisin and Kowal, I'll probably hit those up next. Library books? What are they?

JLI Party

Aug. 9th, 2016 11:15 am
muccamukk: The top of Batman's head with the speech bubble, "And THAT'S the kind of thinking that leads to MINDWIPES." (DC: Thinking Mindwipes)
I've been dipping back in to classic JLI because of connections to various tv adventures, particularly J'onn's turn as the perfect straight man Martian.

This scene has always given me great joy. The set up is that the JLI is trying to expand to have another title branch, so Max and Oberon are trying to get more members. The other bit of backstory is that the world recently fought off an alien invasion, and the last of the invaders were accidentally shrunk, then put in a roach motel and forgotten about (because of course they were).

I'm cutting most of the party scenes due to length, but assume ALL the super heroes are there. Except Fire, who has the flu.

Seven pages )
muccamukk: The silhouette of Sam as the Falcon cutting across other pictures of Sam. (Cap: Falcon)
What I Just Finished Reading
Captain America and the Falcon: Nomad by Steve Englehart and a variety of artists.
I think this is the second time I've read this, and it mostly underscored my abiding dislike of Englehart's Steve. There is some unintentional hilarity to be derived by Steve's gay porn pirate costume, but for the most part Steve is whiny and self-involved, and basically throws a tantrum every time something doesn't go his way, all the black characters are racist caricatures, especially given the art, and most of the women are mocked. The Peggy Carter plotline is especially appalling. I will admit to enjoying the Namor cameo.

Superior Iron Man by Tom Taylor and a variety of artists.
Well, the art was lovely. I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would, though I can see how if it were the ONLY Iron Man story out there, I'd be pretty put off.

As it was, I rather enjoyed the adventures of Mildly Evil Tony, and the various efforts of the rest of the characters to foil him. I'd have liked to see more of Jen, but the Pepper and Matt bits were well done (with a lovely Matt/Foggy moment). The story highlighted everything Tony regularly isn't, and shouldn't be, and the sure pettiness was pretty funny at times. However, then it got stepped on by an event and retconned into oblivion, which didn't really make for a very satisfying ending.

Farthing (Small Change, #1) by Jo Walton, narrated by John Keating and Bianca Amato
Very effectively written alternate history that was serious without being ham handed. I liked both main characters, and how their aims didn't always meet but how their stories fit together. I'd probably be more interested in a book about her than him, but I guess that's not what the rest of the series does. Most of the minor characters were also well-drawn and interesting.

The mystery part was pretty obvious from the start, though the details not as much, but it was more a structure for the commentary on fascism within British society which really didn't pull any punches, and the bucolic country estate setting worked well to set up the contrast for the Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men bit.

I've been warned off the sequels, so may let the series lie here. Would like to try other Walton though.

What I'm Reading Now
Working on Gay Revolution as an audiobook, which is interesting, but a pretty sweeping overview given how much space it's trying to cover. I've heard that it leaves rather a lot out.

Still reading Ghostly.

What I'm Reading Next
Def Voices from Chernobyl and maybe Lisey's Story.

Meanwhile, almost done watching all the Captain Cold and Firestorm episodes of The Flash, which has been good for those characters, but I kind of want to set most of the arc plots on fire. Also going slightly deaf from Nenya screaming about the science. Next up, Supergirl.
muccamukk: Wanda casting a spell, surrounded by violet swirls. (Avengers: Scarlet Witch)
What I Just Finished Reading
Dear Fang, With Love had to go back to the library, and I clearly wasn't super invested in it.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, narrated by Lindsay Duncan
I liked this a lot better the second time through. I think I didn't have the patience for it on round one (when, to be fair, I was working in a bush camp in Uganda, and it didn't feel topical).

It's justifiably part of the canon, and I doubt I can say much about it save that I liked the shier less brooding Darcy here, and the more whimsical Lizzie. Also all the small scenes and side characters who never make the various adaptions.

The narrator was excellent.

What I'm Reading Now
Audiobook: Farthing by Jo Walton, which has enjoyable characters and a creepy set up, but uneven narrators (she's excellent, he doesn't seem to know what accent to use any given moment) and slightly clunky prose.

Book: Ghostly, and anthology of ghost stories, which is mostly pretty good, though I'm bailing on ones that bore me. Look, Victorian Authors, if you can't be effectively creepy in under forty pages, you're wasting everyone's time.

What I'm Reading Next
Dunno. Maybe Mansfield Park for audiobook, as it's next. Probably Voices from Chernobyl as it's due soon.
muccamukk: Faiza pouts. Text: "Totally NOT sulking." (Marvel: Not Sulking)
What I Just Finished Reading
So I did read probably 60 comics from the early-mid '90s for fic research. Um, still don't like Mark Gruenwald on Cap, but pleasantly surprised by Len Kaminski on Iron Man. The Crossing still a mess, Avengers Vol 3 still has too many characters, Waid's Cap still sulky, snarky and delightful. Wanda and Jan's costumes consistantly awful.

Death by Silver (Julian Lynes and Ned Mathey #1) by Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold, narrated by Matthew Cresswell
Very enjoyable romance/mystery/gaslight fantasy that set up a lived-in world with interesting magical developments and a lot of historical flavour. I really liked the romance (which was of the two stoic idiots in love variety) and the inclusion of queer cultures at the time, and having various characters feel differently about it. Having a sub culture of women's magic was also cool. Solidly researched bit of Victoriana.

I don't think I was that invested in the outcome of the mystery, though my second choice for who done it did do it. I did like the characters' emotional investment in it. Will check out the next one.

The audiobook was terrible, with lots of editing issues and background noise.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, narrated by David Colacci
I embarrassingly didn't notice this was abridged until after I'd finished listening to it. It held to together pretty well? I had wondered about the pacing.

Good time to read a lightly-fictionalised account of the two Jewish men who created Captain America, and the roaring "Golden Age" of comics. I really liked how both the made up comic character and the character's creators all reflected parts of the superhero story, including getting trapped in ice, and of course all of the period details of the comics industry.

Chabon has fabulous, funny and insightful prose, as always, and the book was a pleasure to listen to. I thought the narrator did a great job of all the various NYC accents.

I've never been super fond of Chabon's female characters, which tend to wives and mothers, but the two we got (a mother and a wife) were well enough drawn, for all the male gaze and minimal interaction. I really did like the family interactions at the end of the book, and what we got of the gay storyline, though that too tended to more tragic than I'd like.

What I'm Reading Now
Still Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe, which I've mostly been ignoring.

Listening to a radio play of Locke and Key, but it's kind of too dark and rapey for me so far, so may bail. Anyone read the comic/listened to the play? Opinions?

What I'm Reading Next
Dunno. Not reading a lot right now.
muccamukk: Juli on a ladder shelving library books, sunbeams giving him wings. (Heart of Thomas: Wings)
So between that LGBT Humble Bundle and Audible putting stuff on sale for Pride, the following is notably gay.

What I Just Finished Reading
Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce
Another LGBT humble bundle book.

This gets off to a bit of a slow start, and is a little odd, but once the romance kicks in, it's adorable. Oaf is just such a total sweetie and I love his various dating adventures and encounters with the 'Frisco scene (of which he's very much a part, which is nice: gay character involved in gay culture). Then Eiffel as the tiny angry man who he courts, and his band, and all the cats. So many cats! The art on the cats was one of my favourite parts. They're just drawn so catlike.

The romance plot is only about a third of the book, then the next third-half is shorts and extras, and then the last bit is character guides. So it's less story than it looks like.

Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller, narrated by Janis Ian and Jean Smart
This is just so utterly charming. I was charmed, start to finish. I'd heard about this book for ages, as classic queer lit with a happy ending, but I hadn't ever gotten to it until this edition.

I love how well thought out the the characters are, and how they both have their fine points and their flaws. I liked that their plans never seemed to go as they thought, but they worked through the challenges together. It's a quiet book, but full of good heart and good humour, and affection.

The audio production here has two excellent readers (I had no idea Janis Ian did narration, but she's good at it!), and if you're considering a read or a reread, I'd give it a go.

The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio, translated by Matt Thorn
This felt like being caught in a disturbing dream, though not in a bad way. The combination of the gorgeous but surreal and often symbolic art, the claustrophobic setting, the intensity of the drama as well as the mystery plot made the whole book otherworldly and unsettling. What was going on? Who knew what? How much had actually happened?

The story starts with a suicide, and it seems clear why, but as the book unfolds via the perspective of his doppelgänger (another ethereal element), the story starts unravelling and reweaving around the reader. It's very, very well done, and I can see why it didn't initially fly in short serial form. I will probably read it again. (Anyone seen the movie?)

Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
I'm really glad I read Wench first, as I liked it very much, and would not have tried anything else by this author had this book been my first by her. I really just didn't get the point of basically anything that happened in it, or the reason any of the characters did anything. So confused. A lot of the writing was very nice.

"Kid Dark Against The Machine" by Tansy Rayner Roberts
I would very much rec reading the first story in this series first, as this spoils that, and having just read them backwards, I think the other would do better unspoiled. The first story is in the Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories anthology, which is inexpensive, and has a lot of cool authors involved so I'd rec that first on any grounds.

Anyway, even bass akwards, this story is made of 100% charming. I've always had a very great weakness for teen sidekicks with self-esteem issues and equal amounts anger and grit, so this story made me very happy. It was perhaps a smidge on the nose with comics industry commentary (not wrong though!), but the story worked very well, and I loved all the characters.

Maurice by E.M. Forster, narrated by Peter Firth
I liked this a good deal more than I was expecting to. So often period queer lit is immensely dreary, and Forster's other books didn't lift my apprehensions. However, this turned out to be quite touching and optimistic. I loved the depth of the prose and how intensely it described emotion. There were so many sentence-long insights that were immensely piercing. I also liked how it drew out the building romances from the first time the characters see each other. You can follow their gaze (and I wonder how the movie is).

I'm not sure the class stuff was as deftly handled as Forster thought it was, and even when Alec's words shone through, it didn't feel like he was given as much consideration as the educated characters (has any fic author done good things from Alec's point of view?). I was also impressed by how many problems were solved by either fainting or falling ill. Something to consider. I never was sure why Clive suddenly decided he was straight?

I did like the ending, no matter what all the dreary lit critics say.

What I'm Reading Now
Library book: Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe which is about a girl with bipolar and her father attempting to bond with her while on a ill-advised vacation to Eastern Europe. So far it's really funny and well written, but I just started it last night.

Audiobook: Death by Silver (Julian Lynes and Ned Mathey, #1) by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, also just started, so far the narrator is not amazing, but the story is interesting.

What I'm Reading Next
I think Electra is due back, so probably that. Also an anthology of ghost stories that looks cool: Ghostly edited by Audrey Niffenegger.

Not sure about audiobooks. Possibly The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which I've been meaning to get to for a while.
muccamukk: Dot and Phryne looking at each other and smiling, pretty hats. (MFMM: Companions)
Forgot this last week, but I'd been doing fic deadlines and hadn't read much anyway. I'm including this week a couple books I read as research for [community profile] ssrconfidential, but didn't post at the time because I'm Trying To Get Better At Being Anon.

What I Just Finished Reading
Finally gave up on The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela, which just wasn't working for me. Back to the library it goes.

I reread all of Marvel Adventures: Iron Man and Marvel Adventures: Avengers, which is still my fandom happy place, especially MA:A. I hadn't read MA:IM in long enough that'd I'd forgotten how it has my favourite Dr. Yinsin of all time. You know, the one who never likes Tony, and builds his own suit, and dies to protect his country. But then it harshed my squee by having a frankly pretty racist Mandarin plot (aren't they all?), and a lot of bad science (obviously reading the wrong genre), and Pepper being not awesome (though that smoothed out later in). It rallied when we hit a hilariously awful Howard Stark, who would win the Howard Is a Dick contest if not for all the other versions of Howard.

Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald
I liked a lot of the ties between women here, the playfellows and adult friendships. I also liked that the book was sex positive even while the main character shaded a little grey (to my eyes). Her relationship with her parents was also cool.

The discussions of identity and shapes the main character toyed with (bisexual, celibate, feminine) and took on were well integrated, and didn't feel like lectures. The title red hair motif worked well.

I didn't get a lot out of the art, and because a lot of the characters were similarly-aged white women or girls, and the main character changed her hair constantly, I found myself confused as to who was who a lot of the time. I also wonder if I might have gotten more out of it having read the first one first.

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant, narrated by Simon Prebble
I feel like the author kept trying to fit in the larger social and political context, but mostly just got side tracked a lot. I would have liked a lot more BSC and a lot less DC gossip (though I realise there was a good deal of overlap). Though perhaps the problem is largely that Dahl's involvement in the BSC was not that interesting, and he and his cohort tended to be jerks, especially to women.

The book wasn't badly written on a prose level, and had several interesting stories and characters, but as a whole it didn't seem to be that coherent. I kept running into the edge of things that would probably be more interesting on their own, but weren't covered in any depth here.

Artifice by Alex Woolfson, art by Winona Nelson
From the Pride humble bundle.

This was really well done. I was genuinely worried about the outcome and totally rooting for the characters. I admit that bb gay boys in love despite the hellish corporate overlords is pretty well what I want to read all the time.

In fine tradition of tropey gay romances, the consent issues were... a little blurry, but I felt like it worked out pretty well on the whole. The romance was mostly very sweet and authentic, underlined by very lovely art. I also liked all the extras at the back.

Jews Without Money by Michael Gold
Really enjoyed this. There's not really a plot, but the cast of characters and scenes are vivid and interesting. I really liked Gold's animated language and intensity. For all its gloomy subject matter, it's very funny, and largely avoid cliché.

Unfortunately, the digital edition I had seemed to be missing some sections. Still worth a read though.

(I think my favourite review of this book said, in its entirety, "No wonder the author was a socialist!" Though interesting better than half the reviews are in Arabic, so I guess it's very popular in the middle east right now?)

The Hoods by Harry Grey
Oddly compelling and sometimes funny, but on the whole I read it quickly to get it over with.

I think this would have been a better book had there been some distance between the author and the narrator (rather than a man essentially writing about himself). As it was, we got a lot of self-aggrandizement, and very little reflection, and I was left with the feeling that almost everyone in the book was a psychopath. His constant refrain that everyone else was illegit, and therefore it was fine that he was a thief and a murderer wore pretty thin, and the prose itself wasn't good enough to make up for all that smugness. And nothing in the world would be enough to make up for all that homophobia and misogyny, or the rape attempt by the main character.

I'm interested to see if the movie falls for the glorification, or does something deeper with it.

(So then I watched the movie and... that was a cultural experience, so it was. I mean, I think it did undercut the glorification by making Our Hero even less sympathetic (completed rape instead of attempted, for example), and by cutting out a lot of the self-congratulation. It also cut almost all of the homophobia and made the women way more interesting, especially Carol was no longer the evil poly kinkster who drove a good man to ruin, but an actual person with opinions and shit. Which was nice. I was watching the standard director's cut, but not the super long one, incidentally. It was really long! Also, it cut almost all of the book except for the first few chapters and the last few chapters (which were the strongest parts anyway) and made up its own plot and pacing, which would have worked, except the interwoven future plot was just so completely bananapants that I firmly believe it was indeed an opium dream. Finally, young Robert was rather pretty, but young Elizabeth was STUNNING.)

What I'm Reading Now
Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, which is set in Chicago just after the civil war. Just getting into it, but the characters are very interesting.

What I'm Reading Next
I want to do some research for [community profile] femmeremix so probably that.

Electra is next on my library list. I don't have an audiobook on the go yet, and am considering my options.

Oh, so movies, since I'm doing reviews of things. Nenya and I watched Spy which we loved and thought was the best. We also rewatched Michael Collins which had Liam Neeson yelling at people, so I was happy, also being slashy with young!Aidan Quinn, though the love triangle was silly. Also historical accuracy, not so much with this film. Anyway, Liam Neeson!

We also watched a pretty decent cam rip of Captain America: Civil War, which is certainly a movie that exists. Or four or five movies jammed into one movie, one of those. Please count me as the only person on earth who genuinely liked AoU, including the het ships, and mostly felt annoyed by CW. I did like T'Challa, but mostly wanted more Wanda and Sam, and less... everyone else, especially everyone else being a stupid jerk. The big battle was a fun use of powers, I guess? Maybe I've just expended all the Civil War feelings I'm ever going to have.
muccamukk: Pepper laughs into her hand. (Avengers: Laughing)
What I Just Finished Reading
Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? (Shadow Police #3) by Paul Cornell
Welp. If I wanted there to be less meta, this wasn't really the book to read. However, Cornell handles the whole commentary on the Holmes industry so charmingly (affectionate with a few barbs, similar to his comics commentary on Elementary), that I found myself disarmed, even with Hiddlebatch as a major character. I was totally chasing one of the red herrings when it came to the mystery, and was well satisfied with the way it turned out. Something in there for most Holmes fans, I think.

The character stuff was all really good. I loved finally finally finally getting more Lofthouse and finding out what her story was. I loved the progression of Ross and Costain, and how Sefton is really coming into his own. Quill's story was, well I had to stop reading for a bit in the middle there because poor guy, but I really liked that his choice at the very end of last book came back at him. The way his sister in law was included in the story was a nice touch as well.

The arc plot made some nice moves as well, edging forward, and it was nice to have the Smiling Man backgrounded a bit, plotwise. Though I'm sure it will all come swinging back next book. Hopefully it's not so long a wait this time.

Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy by Eri Hotta, narrated by Laural Merlington
Very interesting in-depth look at something I only know the outlines of. The author did a good job of setting up the background and history so that the year or so leading up to the attack were in clear context. I did get a little confused by all the different people in various ministries, and what they actually did, but I think that may have added to the effect.

The author was clearly very frustrated by the whole affair, and kept pointing out different people and places where someone could have slammed the breaks on, but did not, and definitely got the idea across as far as face saving and diffusion of responsibility went, as well as basic miscommunication with the US.

The narrator did a good job over all, but seemed to have a little trouble with some of the names. I wonder if a Japanese narrator might have been better.

Penric's Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner
It's lovely to go back to the World of the Five Gods again, after all this time. The novella itself is a fairly simple story, but is also deeply charming, and I loved the additions to the world building. Pen is just such a sweet kid, and I loved all the cranky older characters he meets along the way. The action sequences towards the end were excellent.

(Now I want to reread The Curse of Chalion.)

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (radio play with Rose Leslie as Laura, Phoebe Fox as Carmilla, and David Tennant as Dr Hesselius)
(I'm not sure if I should count this as reading the book, since is was clearly a radio play, but it was quite a good radio play, so here we are.)

I'm kind of torn about this, in any case. On one hand, nice to get some historical lesbianism in there. Plus the cast and acting were good, and the creepy atmosphere was well done. On the other, wow, so that was about how female sexuality is evil and can only be sorted out by being penetrated, decapitated and immolated by men. It's a thing.

What I'm Reading Now
The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela, which is one of those two track historical fiction novels about present-day Muslims in Scotland and related 19th-century Muslims in Russia. Pretty good so far, but I've just started it.

Not listening to an audiobook right now, as I'm running through the Great Courses lecture series about WWII, which isn't amazing, but I'm at the point where I need a reasonable picture of what happened, instead of the random jigsaw pieces I currently have.

What I'm Reading Next
I think Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez is next on the library list. For audiobooks, it'll depend what I'm in the mood for, but I've been eyeing up Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron, and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.

Of course there are new Genevieve Valentine and Ben Aaronovitch books out this month, too. Actually, I could stand to reread Persona before the new one's out.
muccamukk: Single shamrock inside a white border. (Christian: Shamrock = Trinity)
What I Just Finished Reading
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
The rating is probably slightly unfair, as it really is a reasonable overview of the American and Soviet atomic projects. It's aimed at younger readers, so was probably more simplistic that it could have been, but it was rarely dumbed down so much as cut for time and space. I would particularly have liked to see the Manhattan Project scientists objections to dropping the first bomb included, but it really was a matter of space.

The scientific explanations were basic, but clear and detailed enough for lay readers to understand the challenges the scientists were facing. They often included useful diagrams.

Unfortunately, the German program was barely touched on. The book is trying to make the "race" to build the bomb exciting as possible, which more or less requires not mentioning that the Germans hadn't gotten past step one, and were really more interested in building rockets anyway, until after the fact. So less like a race, and more like a cricket match where the second team on the field isn't very good.

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson, narrated by Robert Fass
Very well written. I had very little idea about this period in US history, so this book was a great introduction. It managed to keep a large number of characters and groups in play without being at all confusing, and still giving in-depth portraits of several key figures. I liked all the long quotes from speeches and newspapers as well as cultural context.

Like many reviewers, I was quite shocked by how much FDR dithered and allowed himself to be led by polls. It's certainly not the common historical image of him, and learning about his politics and indirect opinion shaping was probably the most interesting part. I initially felt that Lindbergh was a poor choice to showcase the isolationist movement as he was something of a white supremacist, but in the end he turned up more complex, and he did highlight the tension within the isolationist movement between people who just wanted to keep out of the war, and people who actively supported Germany. I did feel bad for his wife.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn't much focus on the US reaction to Russia entering the war, but otherwise, the book felt complete and well researched. Would read more by this author.

What I'm Reading Now
E-book: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell, though I think I'm temp maxed out on trauma, and am taking a bit of a break. Also, I think the characters are going to be tricked the same way they were last book, and I kind of mostly feel bad for them?

Audio: Japan 1941 by Eri Hotta, as a companion to Those Angry Days. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far it's pretty interesting.

What I'm Reading Next
Oh god, need to read library books! Then I remembered I have the new Chalion book as an audiobook, so may do that next, too.


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