Welcome!

Aug. 31st, 2020 11:39 pm
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
Greetings, traveller! Welcome to Highly's House of Batshittery. Here you will find musings, rantings, sniggerings and occasional coherent thoughts on life, friends, medievalism, the Internet, and the oddities of expat existence. Oh, and cleaning. I tend to talk about cooking and cleaning a lot.
highlyeccentric: Book on a shelf, entitled "Oh God: What the Fuck (and other stories)" (Oh god what the fuck (and other tails))
Currently: Making progress again on Christina Stead's For Love Alone, finding it easier to face the fact that the protag IS going to pursue this useless man now the narrative has them in the same city again. Behold, the amazing ability to describe from the past the kind of man I, Amy, am going to be daft enough to date in the future.

Glenarvon, but I'm a bit stalled on that. Best Australian Poems 2015. Jenkins, Ford and Green, 'Spreadable Media'.

Recently Finished:

Hexbreaker (Hexworld, #1)Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read a short story from this 'verse in 'Charmed and Dangerous' and promptly REQUIRED ANOTHER. I would require ALL THE STORIES except there don't seem to be any more. It's very upsetting.

The world-building is *great*, Hawk has a solid grasp of plotting for detective fiction, and the witch/familiar dynamic hits all my buttons. All of them. (I blame the teenage diet of weird fantasy novels - I'm a sucker for magical destiny bonds, don't even ask.)



Charmed and DangerousCharmed and Dangerous by Jordan Castillo Price

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Anthologies are weird. There's the story you came here for (in this case, I wanted KJ Charles' 'Queer Trade', and I got it, and lo, it was good. Better than the associated novel 'Rag and Bone', I think), but there's always going to be a slew of stuff that's just not in its league. If you're lucky, there will also be a couple of stand-outs that blow your expectations out of the water.

The stand-outs in this one were Gin Hale's 'Swift and the Black Dog', and Jordan L Hawk's 'The Thirteenth Hex'. The Hawk one reminded me very much of KJ Charles' work: different setting, but similar stylistic choices and dynamics. Including bonus -magic bonding-, to which I am weak, as we have established. I promptly went and purchased the associated novel and loved it very much.

Gin Hales' 'Swift and the Black Dog', though, that was something else. It was... okay, so the protag is a 30-something dude who in his late teens survived victorious in a Special Teenage Magical Rebellion (you get details filled in throughout the novella - just enough info in the beginning to fill in the sort of generic expectations you'd have of the Hunger Games or the Insurgent books). Some of his friends now work in the tangled bureaucracy of the new state, others are dead (and it takes most of the book for the reader to sort out which died in the revolution and which died in Suspicious Circumstances under the new regime) and Our Hero is now a washed-up cynic with recurrent substance abuse problems. And then he gets a message from one of his former allies that he can't ignore... etc. The world-building is *fantastic*, the character work intricate, and the narrative structure, relying as it does on a mixture of analepsis (internal monologue, unreliable) and reader assumption from generic conventions, is masterfully done.

I have not yet purchased any more Gin Hale books, since there are no others in this specific 'verse, but I certainly will be looking up her other work eventually.

Some of the others had memorable features - the world-building in Rhys Ford's 'Dim Sum Asylum' was pretty interesting; Astrid Amara's 'The Trouble With Hexes' was particularly interesting in the way it structured its romance plot around estranged exes rather than a meet-cute. But Hawk and Hale were the real take-aways here.



Hutcheon with O'Flynn, A Theory of Adaptation second edition. YES GOOD. DO RECOMMEND.

Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #2)Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oh, I liked this every bit as much as Dealing with Dragons! The storyline seemed clear and streamlined in a way Dealing hadn't been, I think. I was particularly fond of Herman the Dwarf.

I am very sad no one has turned this book into a hit stage musical yet. It'd be much more suited to that format than Dealing would - you only need one dragon puppet, and that one doesn't have to fly. You could probably do Dealing With Dragons as a broadway musical, but not as a community one, whereas I think Searching would be do-able. And it could be written to fill in sufficient backstory from Dealing via sung montages. I'm really liking the idea of Cimorene and Mendanbar singing their intros as a distanced duet from either side of the stage, one of those duets that are only musically interactive, not narratively. (Cimorene should be a mezzo, obviously. Kazul is a female tenor or even baritone. I don't make the rules I just impart them.)



Calling on Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #3)Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Cute! I didn't like it as much as I did the previous two, but I can't put my finger on why. Maybe because the ending frustrated me - I didn't WANT a set-up for book four, I wanted a happy ending!



Talking to Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #4)Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. Okay, this was engaging and snappy and all-round good. And after the previous three books I suppose a "young hero on a quest" is a change, but meh. I could just read Parzival.

Related to all of books 2-4: obviously the plucky young royal dude, although uninterested in Simpering Princesses, falls in love with the first and indeed only plucky young woman he meets. And for some reason she reciprocates! My kingdom for a male-female friendship quest, is what I'm sayin'.



LaviniaLavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oh my goodness, this was... I don't think I can accurately describe what this was. Very Relevant to my Professional Interests, yes.

I have to say, though, I was totally surprised to find Aeneas and Lavinia having a stable marriage? Here's the part where I admit I've never read the Aeneid, but I have read bits of the Roman d'Eneas, and lots of commentary thereon. I knew the Eneas and other medieval versions amplify Lavinia, and the Eneas does the weird implications-of-sodomy thing, but I didn't realise the scene where Aeneas leaves Lavinia and she stands on the hill muttering imprecations about how maybe if she'd worn breeches she could've kept him wasn't only innovative in its sexual specificity but in having him leave at all! The Aeneid ends with him marring her and settling down! (This book goes on to some time after his death, but that's by the by)

Things to do: read Aeneid. Read Eneas properly. Marvel.



Up Next: Unsure. Might give Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children another try.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: A stack of stuff on adaptation and the like, for work. Also Patricia C Wrede's 'Searching for Dragons' and Caroline Lamb's 'Glenarvon', both of which are great in their own ways.

Recently finished: A couple of linked short-stories in the Charm of Magpies world, which I won't bother reposting.

Still working through a backlog of reviews of cheap m/m romance books to post:

Think of EnglandThink of England by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was *interesting*. The thriller plot was just substantial enough to hold up, and the character work between the two leads was fascinating - I really enjoyed the "flamboyant dandy is actually dangerous as hell" aspect. A+ good work.



A Fashionable Indulgence (Society of Gentlemen, #1)A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I very nearly didn't continue with this series. Regency romance tropes don't do it for me, in and of themselves, and this one... it was readable. The romance plot didn't grab me, but the cast of characters was interesting; the underlying thread of Decent Historical Grounding re: early 19th c dissidents kept me going.



A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentlemen, #2)A Seditious Affair by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This I liked better than A Fashionable Indulgence - it really picked up the historical political subplot and ran with it. The tension between the two protags, and their respective politics, was very well done - well enough done that I'm willing to swallow the improbable happy ending.



A Gentleman's Position (Society of Gentlemen, #3)A Gentleman's Position by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Terrible cover design aside, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved it so much. I read it twice in a row. I do not feel like trying to explain *why* I loved it would do much for my dignity, but I really really loved it.



Holding the ManHolding the Man by Timothy Conigrave

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I did not mean to binge-re-read this book, but I bought it to double-check a fact in the movie and accidentally lost a lot of Saturday to it. On the bright side, that allowed me to develop a lot of fine-grained observations about the memoir-to-film adaptation choices, and the difference between those and a novel-to-film adaptation, and so on.

I first read this some time during my masters - probably early on, since I haven't listed it on Goodreads. It's... a very important book. It's well-written, engaging, and all round good reading. But it's also important to me in being very specifically queer and *Australian*. For instance, I realised while taking meditation classes at ACON in Sydney that those classes must be the direct descendent of the classes which Conigrave describes himself and his partner as taking, shortly after their AIDS diagnosis.

There's also something generationally specific, I think. I came out well after the AIDS crisis had passed. I don't even think that, growing up, I was aware of AIDS as a specifically "gay disease" - I suspect the good work of the AIDS Action Councils and various Australian governments on destigmatising and educating through the 90s must have had something to do with that, because I can't imagine my school passing up a chance to vilify teh gayz. And yet AIDS, insofar as I thought about it growing up, was a risk of drug use, not a Gay Evil. I don't know anyone who died of AIDS; I do know that the treatments now are sufficient that a positive diagnosis is by no means a death sentence. This book carries the weight of the history I missed, the men and women whose lives and activism brought us here; and it's specifically *Australian* as it does so. That's important to me.



Meanjin (Vol 75, #2)Meanjin by Jonathan Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


All-round a good edition, but I don't think I was in the right space to fully appreciate it.

I found the short story The Voice, about a boy soprano who revolts at the idea of losing his identity as a soprano... interesting. I think there's probably a very fine line between an interesting story about identity, desire and fear of puberty and something that's trivialising to trans experience, though, and I'm not sure where the line lies.

The lead article by Mark Davis on Australian culture wars was very engaging, and informative, and so on, but I don't know what to *do* at the end of reading it.

There was a most aggravating article by Glyn Davis and Ian Anderson on indigenous self-determination, which presented me with interesting historical figures I didn't know about, but also grossly misused the case for self-determination to argue against the provision of robust federal support for indigenous communities, and to present independent commercial enterprise as the only route to self-respect for indigenous people. I don't know anything about Ian Anderson but I should've known better than to read anything by Glyn Davis except with the deepest suspicion.

Recent Meanjins have been featuring sketches from a book called 'Their Brilliant Careers' (Ryan O'Neill), of fake biographies of caricatured Australians. This issue had a profile of footballer John "Jonno" Johnson, which. Wow. I grew up in Knights territory at the height of the Johns brothers' success, and wow, that is an ON POINT satire.



Up Next: Well, I have 1-3 of 'Whyborne and Griffin', for my next cheap m/m e-book binge. But I'm hoping to get through the Enchanted Forest Chronicles first...




Music notes: Have become abruptly obsessed with James Bay. Bought the album a while back, liked it, but only started binge-listening to it this past week.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Hutcheon with Flynn, 'A Theory of Adaptation'. Homg. Adaptation theory makes me happy in the brain.

Recently Finished: Okay so I think this time I've actually exhausted KJ Charles' entire catalogue of historical m/m romance novels. MAYBE THAT WILL BE THE END OF THIS. Or maybe not.

Jackdaw (The World of A Charm of Magpies)Jackdaw by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I just didn't like this one as much as the Magpie books. I'm not sure *why*, entirely. I didn't like the premise, I suppose - the "obstacle" to be overcome in this romance plot was "one dude massively deceived the other leading to dude #2's doing gaol time", and... perhaps I would have liked it better if the POV protag were Deceiving Dude (he had reasons; the tension of 'i must do this thing but it is terrible' might have worked for me). Perhaps not.



Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I had expected the text form not to live up to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's narration, but perhaps I've listened to that enough times to memorise it by now. Or perhaps, coming off the back of A Charm of Magpies, my standards are a little lowered. Aaronovitch's worldbuilding skills still outrank his actual crime writing skills, though. And I could still do without Peter commenting on women's tits and legs every other chapter. Or... I dunno, it feels *forced* somehow. I have been known to check out ladies in my time, but that makes the dissonance of Peter's POV even weirder - especially in the first two books. By book 5 his perspective on hot women seems a lot more familiar to me. I don't know if that's supposed to be character development, or if Aaronovitch got over the need to assert his PROTAGONIST'S HETEROSEXUALITY all the time.



Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When I reviewed the audiobook I said I thought the detective plot was stronger in this one than in Rivers - I'm no longer sure of that. There were too many hanging threads, aside from the opening gambit with the Faceless Man. Still, it remained a good read.



Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3)Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I absolutely loved this the first time I read it, and I think it's still my favourite - I'm a sucker for urban history. This time, though, I was reading it fast on the heels of Rivers and Moon, and there seemed to be a disjunct in Peter's characterisation. Previously he had lacked the marks to get into the science course he wanted, and his vast and disparate knowledge of London was attributed to documentaries, his father's jazz history, and wide-ranging interests with little focus. In this one, he gains a specific interest in architecture, which follows through to book four: it's GOOD, but the piece doesn't slot smoothly into his previously established history and mind-type.



Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Plot-wise I think this might be the strongest since Rivers, and as usual, it resolved my discomfort with Moon and Whispers' treatment of Leslie. (Apparently some people object to 'making her evil'? I saw 'recognising she got a SHIT FUCKING DEAL and Our Heroes aint helping').



Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5)Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I only gave it a 3 star rating when I read the audiobook - I was frustrated by the sloppy denouement. Which is still true, but I think I enjoyed this round much more, and appreciated a lot more of the small details.



Rag and Bone (Rag and Bone, #1)Rag and Bone by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


At the end of the Magpie books, I griped that I wanted Stephen to become Magical Captain Vimes: I would accept Crispin Tredaloe and Ned Hall as alternatives, and devoutly hope Charles will write more on them. I liked seeing Esther without Stephen; I liked the graphomancy plot (although the palimpsest of Ben Aaronovitch seemed even stronger underneath this one than the others). I enjoyed the pairing, the attention to the matching of two men who are consistently underestimated by others around them.

My only qualm was the consistent use of the phrase "people/men of colour". I get it, an awful lot of the vocabulary used in Victorian London for black men is NOT something you want to repeat in your fun romance novel. But the phrase "person of colour" is historically specific to 20th c America (excluding the use of 'free person of color / gens colouriées libres' as a legal category in slave-trading societies), only really took off there as an umbrella term in the 1970s, and is still not as widely used in other anglophone countries as it is in the US. And... what's wrong with describing Ned Hall as a black man, remarking that there are few black men in magical London, and so on? 'Black' is still a term used, does not have an exclusively pejorative signification, AND fits reasonably well into the historical context. That's how John Shakespeare is described, in Society of Gentlemen, and I'm not sure why it won't do for Ned.

I also read the short story 'A Queer Trade', from the 'Charmed and Dangerous' anthology, and liked it very much. It's a solid, discrete story, and has a bit of a sounder plot than this one does, I think - this one feels like a bridge between the Magpie books and something future, which I hope it is.



And that, I think, is enough reviews for one post. I'll hold over the Society of Gentlemen ones for another post.

Up Next: SO MANY WORK THINGS. Also the Charmed and Dangerous anthology, which I read only one story from before going back to devouring the KJ Charles novels. Plus I have more Patricia C Wrede books now!




Music notes: hmm, not much change (still into Amy MacDonald), but I just bought another Gillian Welch album to add to the collection ('Hell among the Yearlings', because I liked the title).
highlyeccentric: Divide by cucumber error: reinstall universe and reboot (Divide by cucumber)
Poll results inform me that nanila, jamethiel, bedlamsbard, rymenhild, monksandbones and wyldeabandon all report that the crossposted images PRIOR to the doughnut do not show up on their reading pages; Nanila and monksandbones report the doughnut shows up (but huge).

It can't be browser settings re: external images, because monksandbones sees the RSS feed images fine and they have the same source.

Meanwhile, *I* have no trouble seeing them from my reading page. I got [personal profile] kayloulee to check, and she also has no problem seeing the pre-doughnut photos. It can't even be freak hemisphere-based image problems, as both Jamethiel and K are in Aus.

Can I ask if any of you are subscribed to copperbadge on DW, and if so, do you see images on HIS crossposts?§
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Hello hello, once again it's July and I have read a GREAT BIG STACK OF BOOKS.

Currently reading: Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer; Meanjin 75.2

Recently read: You know how I said I was going to read Phryne Fisher while travelling? Yeah. I didn't. First I read a stack of magical-realism queer erotica set in London, and it gave me the literary equivalent of the "at once, to Pink Flloyd!" reaction I get from listening to MCR: at once, to Ben Aaronovitch! I almost resisted, but then I was *in* London watching my Dad have the surreal experience you have when you, an antipodean, arrive in London and find that the reality does actually look quite like the version in Neverwhere. I already own a hard copy of Neverwhere, so do not need a kobo copy, but the e-books of the Rivers of London books, they called out to me. So I bought them all.

Reviews, going back to where I last left off:

The Night FairyThe Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Update: gave this as present to Miss Seven for her birthday; re-read it before doing so. All sentiments of previous review still stand.
----
Oh, this was absolutely adorable. Flory, an injured juvenile night fairy, adapts to life in a giantess' garden. Flory's quite a character: she's not nice, nor often kind, but is engaging to read about. Even her acts of generosity don't seem to come as *kindness* so much as determined altruism.

I'm not convinced that the feature of the ending wherein she discovers her wings are growing back was actually necessary. She'd made friends and found several alternative means of mobility - adding 'and also her wings are cured!' doesn't add anything, and does repeat the magically-walking-cripple trope.

The illustratons were wonderful.



The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies, #1)The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oh now this I liked a *lot*. It had something that the Alpennia romances don't: grit. It's not *sweet*, and it's not really a romance, it's definitely erotica. It was gritty, not just in the sex - there's quite a lot of blood and violence involved in the general plot, too.

The magical realism worldbuilding was good, for the price mark; the detective plot sound, and didn't try to over-reach itself.



The Mystic Marriage (Alpennia, #2)The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Now this was gripping! Plot solid, world-building solid, and character work really interesting. I love that the book took a difficult-to-like character from the previous book, and while making her *sympathetic* did not necessarily make her *nice*. Some of my quibbles re: the ending of book one were also smoothed over, as Jones has clearly put actual thought now into how you go about constructing a partnership as ladies of independent means in the 17th century.



A Case of Possession (A Charm of Magpies, #2)A Case of Possession by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Excellent follow-up to the Magpie Lord, in every possible way.



A Case of Spirits (A Charm of Magpies, #2.5)A Case of Spirits by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Cute, short, and a bit lighter than the others. Good work for a short splice-in story.



Flight of Magpies (A Charm of Magpies, #3)Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one I am less happy with, largely because of the ending gambit. Obviously, IRL, if a job is making someone unhappy and their significant other has the money to support them, well, quitting is fair enough.

But I wanted Stephen to be Magical London's Commander Vimes, dammit. And I *don't* count 'rich lover whisks poor clerk off his feet' as a good romantic conclusion.

The gritty, not-sweet aspects of the sex that I liked in the previous two pushes a little further into unhealthy here, too. Not badly written, but a little more difficult to get into (for me, at this time, idek).



(FYI, the Alpennia books are on Amazon and Kobo; the Charm of Magpies ones are at Samhain Publishing's website)

Stacked-up reviews of the Rivers of London series to come when I've finished Foxglove Summer.

Up Next: I got partway into KJ Charles' Jackdaw before buying up the Rivers of London books, so I'll go back to that. I've got a couple of books to read asap for work, and I seem to have bought Gentleman Bastard in a fit of... something.




Music notes:

Fixated on Amy MacDonald at the moment. Picked up the best of Katrina and the Waves, because of a craving for 'Walking on Sunshine'. Not sure if that warranted buying the ENTIRE CD, but anyway.
highlyeccentric: Divide by cucumber error: reinstall universe and reboot (Divide by cucumber)
Bought a hat for Pride Fribourg, after losing the previous in Morocco. Wore it on plane to UK. Left it on train Leeds-London, didn't realise until yesterday.

Got vr burned at Duxford airshow (plaaaanes!). Went and bought a hat in Cambridge today; lost it within five hours. Hopefully I left it in Michaelhouse and can pick it up from there tomorrow before we head to Bath via Oxford.

Traveling with parentals is tiring (they are inexperienced in the big wide world, but also now old enough that they are slow to intuit things or recognise patterns). Travelling with Brooke is very tiring. Not just the usual over-tired kid thing, although that's bad enough (the sun gets up early and so does miss six! Even if she didn't get to bed until eleven!). I have never met a child so paranoid. I spoke to her loudly today- "Brooke, you're walking INTO PEOPLE" - when she skittered across the pavement, and that bought us five minutes of hiding her face in mum's and my legs, and big crocodile tears. Absolutely convinced she's going to be In Trouble and, i dunno, banished forever? This happens 2-3 times a day.

She's also having difficulty with the idea that I am, in fact, travelling with them. "Amy, can you eat with us today?" Where else do you think I'm gonna eat, kid? We're in the same car! On the same holiday! Being paid for by the same parents!

In addition to the hat crisis, I accidentally bought tickets for Duxford Flying Legends 'Meet the Fighters' in September instead of regular Flying Legends. [personal profile] liv, if you see this, please enquire of your people if three adult and one child ticket for the 10th of Sept would be of use to them. I think young B would be into it.
highlyeccentric: Manly cooking: Bradley James wielding a stick-mixer (Manly cooking)
I said in the locked post that I made an amazing pasta. It is amazing and I would encourage you to try it.

Diet and accessibility notes )

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently reading: For work, still La Belle Hélène de Constantinople. For funsies, alternating between Ken Liu's 'The Paper Menagerie and other Stories' and Heather Rose Jones' 'The Mystic Marriage'. I'm also working on a recording of 'The Night Fairy' for little sis' birthday.

Recently finished:

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this. I wasn't sure what it would have to offer that Oranges hadn't already covered - much of what I liked about the first half was the same as stuff I liked about Oranges. Not the narrative but the ways of phrasing and framing things. And that carried through into the second half - Winterson's ways of talking about literature, madness, family, and so on. I have highlighted many bits for savouring later.



Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was the most adorable thing I have read for quite some time. I shall purchase more asap.



Daughter of Mystery (Alpennia, #1)Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


WELL.

What I expected: a decent pulp romance in a typically melodramatic pseudo-medieval setting, held together but juuuuust enough world-building to float the romantic drama.

What I got: a coherent, well-built 17th-century setting (identifiable as 17th c by dress, weaponry, and references to the 'French Wars'), a neatly plotted family drama, surprisingly complex legal sub-plots, and a reasonably well-structured magical-realist take on saint's cults, all laced together in an engaging and compelling fashion.

It's not dense - it's not a masterpiece of high fantasy or a historical fiction epic. But it's GOOD.

Peculiarly, the element I was most disappointed with was the romance plot. I simply wasn't convinced by one half of the pairing - I could see that one of them had fallen in love with the other, but it felt like steps were missing on the other side. I was also super disappointed with the 'rides into the sunset' ending, which... no. Everything previously established in this 'verse says you can't just DO that - neither pick up an heiress and ride into the sunset with her, nor in fact live out of 'one purse' as two unmarried persons! I'm also not convinced by the character work leading to the notion that either party would *want* to do that. Newsflash, universe: you can in fact have a lifelong partnership without complete financial interdependence! And in until very recently many if not all same-sex partnerships would have done just that - either because one of them depended primarily on the other (woman and 'companion'), or because from a more stable footing there simply was no legal capacity or need to effect such merger. If you aren't being married, then neither of you is property of the other, so *you do not need to utterly merge your financial and legal persons*, and you quite likely can't do so if you wish to!



Up Next: Hmm, well, I have another Phryne Fisher book for the UK trip - I probably need to make a few more kobo purchases before the card it's attached to expires (parents are bringing me the replacement, but it'll take some faffing around to activate the card).

Music notes:

I am suddenly and drastically obsessed with Amy MacDonald. Have purchased the 'This is the life' double album; have my eye on the orchestral collab as well.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: For work, 'La Belle Hélène de Constantinople', which might possibly be the most disturbing of the Constance narratives. For dubious values of 'fun', 'Epistemology of the Closet'. For Literachur, Stead's 'For Love Alone' (finally hit pt 3). For actual fun, Lady Caroline Lamb's 'Glenarvon', which is melodramatic and hilarious.

Recently Finished:

The Portrait of a LadyThe Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I think this was my second complete re-read, and I did not expect to devour the last seven chapters in a single sitting and cry my eyes out.

On first reading I *hated* the second half, but this time around I am impressed and chilled by the accuracy in the depiction of an emotionally abusive relationship. (I think I recognised it as accurate, on first reading, but found it difficult to engage with.)



Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in HalfBudget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half by Beth Moncel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I love the blog, but the cookbook is a little disappointing. Both the dishes I've tried so far turned out poorly, and the book doesn't seem to offer much that the blog doesn't.



Special Topics in Calamity PhysicsSpecial Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have absolutely no idea what to make of this book.

Things I liked about it: the narrative voice, the parenthetical citations and peculiar historical/ornithological/literary references used to describe setting and characters. The artifice of it all. I liked the artifice of 'highly literate overwrought narrator', with the current of humour running through it. The timeline - a murder mystery ought to open with the death, but instead it opened long after the death, and skipped back, so you knew someone WOULD die, and the narrative invited the reader to begin sleuthing before the protag did.

Things I disliked about it: Nothing in particular. Well. Hannah's conduct vis-a-vis students made me uncomfortable; the fact the POV character went along with the whole drinking-and-depravity-high-school facade was annoying (but there would be no story if she hadn't). But I'm not sure the plot was actually *good*. The final 1/4 seemed rushed. I'm not sure the fact that her dad was *actually abusive* was sufficiently engaged with.



Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this. I wasn't sure what it would have to offer that Oranges hadn't already covered - much of what I liked about the first half was the same as stuff I liked about Oranges. Not the narrative but the ways of phrasing and framing things. And that carried through into the second half - Winterson's ways of talking about literature, madness, family, and so on. I have highlighted many bits for savouring later.



Up Next: I just got copies of 'Dealing with Dragons' (Wrede) and 'Lavinia' (LeGuin), so one of those, probably!

Current/Recent Music notes:

Haven't purchased any new ones, but got K to send me a back-catalogue of MP3s from old SUMS concerts. The Motzart Requiem was particularly soothing last week, so I thought I should acquire more like that. Still very much in love with Gillian Welch, and developed a brief fixation on 90s Tina Arena over the weekend. Might need more like that.
highlyeccentric: French vintage postcard - a woman in feminised army uniform of the period (General de l'avenir)
Made as a post to Facebook, because... I suspect many of my friends and relations are unaware how prevalent it is, as a background hum, even in my relatively non-threatening-to-straight-people life.

Earlier today, a friend remarked: “I don’t understand. The way you are reacting, it’s almost like you knew someone in the club.”

Here’s the thing you need to understand about every LGBT person in your family, your work, and your circle of friends:

We’ve spent most of our lives being aware that we are at risk.

When you hear interviewers talking to LGBT folks and they say “It could have been here. It could have been me,” they aren’t exaggerating. I don’t care how long you’ve been out, how far down your road to self acceptance and love you’ve traveled, we are always aware that we are at some level of risk.


From this longer post by [tumblr.com profile] alexdarke.

Look, I don't talk much about homophobic harassment, because to be honest I get so little of it. (I get erasure and the unfun experience of having to explain that bisexuality is not "only half gay", instead.) Unlike this guy, I haven't spent most of my life at risk: I catapulted suddenly into those risks at twenty-one, and figured that's the price I pay for the safe refuge of the queer community and the infinitely promising, hopeful, joyful ways of building a self and a life that offered me. Queerness has been overwhelmingly positive, to me. I came out but more importantly came *in*.

And yet: it happens. I cut my hair and gained so much in terms of self-presentation, the way people read me - and I gained guys swearing "fuck off, dyke" at me on buses if they thought I was looking in the direction of their girlfriend.

When I was dating a woman, we'd be drunk and making out at bus stops - which was tacky, sure, but we didn't just get disgusted looks. We got groups of guys stopping to wolf-whistle, harass us, make jokes about "joining in". (We thought this was hilarious at the time: we were <25 and drunk and thought we were invincible)

Hell, when I was straight, I used to walk down King St hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm with my college friends without batting an eyelid. And as far as I recall, no one ever batted an eyelid at us. Pairs of young femme presumably-straight girls giggling arm in arm. Perfectly normal. I remember distinctly that in 2010, I was doing that again - walking with [personal profile] kayloulee in Surry Hills, not that far from Oxford St, and I was holding her hand for some reason (we weren't dating. We aren't dating. She likes to make sure I don't walk into traffic, though), and realised: we were getting Looks. We didn't look like a pair of straight undergrads, we looked like a baby butch and her girlfriend. I'd accepted Looks as just something *I* had to deal with, but the realisation that I, by being visibly queer, was putting my best friend in danger? That was pretty sobering.

I don't go to nightclubs that much. But every city I move to, I find the gay bar. I know where the gay bar is in Geneva, and the lesbian cafe-bar. I don't go to parties or dance nights, but when I'm lonely I end up there on my own, comforted somehow by the knowledge that these are *my people*, even if I know none of them by name or face.

Addenda from the FB comments:

All of these things are on a continuum with the cocktail of awfulness that apparently lead Omar Maseen to shoot 100-odd people in a nightclub in Florida last weekend. Even if he was, as seems increasingly likely, acting in part out of self-hatred and internal conflict over his sexuality. Perhaps especially if: a man who is chill about his heterosexuality and masculinity is not a man who needs to abuse dykes on buses, or shoot queers in bars.
highlyeccentric: Demon's Covenant - Kitchen!fail - I saw you put rice in the toaster (Demon's Covenant - kitchen!fail)
Adapted, with what I call success, from Anna Jones' A Modern Way To Eat:

Dietary and accessibility notes )

What you need and what you do with it )

This makes about 5 servings. It's sort of like vegetarian harira, which means I'm going to be disappointed in the way the frozen portions turn out, I suspect.

ED: NOW WITH ACTUALLY MENTIONING THE LEMONS.
highlyeccentric: Ravenclaw: how do you spell "unfuckable" in Latin? (Ravenclaw - unfuckable in latin)
[personal profile] monksandbones, any other stray Latinists, halp? (13th c hagiography)

Semel aut secundo vel tertio flagitatus a vobis, ac si non esset Propheta in Israël, ut [Col. 0479F] ad ædificationem Virginum & generationis venturæ devotionem augendam, Matris vestræ, videlicet S. Dympnæ Virginis & Martyris, passionis historiam, quæ per eorum desidiam, qui tunc erant, nondum sacræ litterarum memoriæ commendata, sub modio silentii latuerat nimis diu; de vulgari eloquio in Latinum redigerem idioma; crebro mecum deliberans acquiescere formidavi.

What I'm getting from this

Once, or a second indeed a third time it has been demanded by you, that [for the edification of virgins and the augmentation of the devotion of generations to come], the story of the passion of your mother, that is St Dympna Virgin and Martyr [SUBORDINATE CLAUSES*], I should render from the vulgar tongue into Latin idiom; [SOMETHING ABOUT AGREEMENTS**].

That's my main clause, right?

* Subordinate clauses: I want this to say "which, through their laziness, which they were [doing, practicing], not yet committed to the sacred memory of literature, had lain under a bushel very much for a long time in silence" . Does that... work? I assume the laziness is being done or practiced by the people of the monastery or something?

** "often deliberating with me i was afraid to agree"??? Wtf?? Or is that deliberating with MYSELF I was afraid to agree (to this request)? That might work, the next line goes on about being presumptuous etc.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
It's been nearly a month since I put one of these up, because it's been nearly a month since I finished a book that wasn't for work!

What are you reading: I'm actually reading Portrait of a Lady in larger chunks instead of a few pages a week, at the moment. I'm finding the second half more interesting than I did last time I read it. For work, I'm between major books at the moment; and for my own peculiar purposes I'm reading Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closest.

Oh, and I'm gritting my teeth and ploughing through Stead's For Love Alone. Annoying love interest man has just left Sydney, so maybe the going will get easier. I just. I'm torn between wanting to SLAP him, wanting to SLAP the protagonist for wanting to shag him, and knowing exactly why she does because. Well. It's like Stead reached forward in time, extracted my terrible taste in men, and put it in a novel.

Recently finished:

The Essential Vegetarian CookbookThe Essential Vegetarian Cookbook by Bay Books

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Picked up from the work shelf - I don't think much of the Asian section; the pies and roasts look good, but overall, the collections not ideal for cooking-for-one. It might go BACK to the work shelf.



The Best Australian Poems 2014The Best Australian Poems 2014 by Geoff Page

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Very interesting, as usual! This was a gift from clavicularity, who accepted my peculiar request without question.

I'm posting some selections to speculumannorum.tumblr.com over the next few weeks. I particularly liked Victoria McGrath's The Last Say.


Something Special, Something Rare: Outstanding short stories by Australian womenSomething Special, Something Rare: Outstanding short stories by Australian women by Black Inc.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It took me a while to get into this, but in May I started reading the collection in earnest and really enjoyed it. The collection did okay, I think, at representing 15 or so years of writing, a range of ethnicities (both authors and protags) and a couple of queer protags (I do not know about authors). I was a bit uncomfortable with Gillian Mears' 'La Moustiquiare', a story about an indigenous female lackey and the dying stockman who kept her as servant. It didn't strike me as *racist*, it was perfectly aware the girl was being exploited and so on, but I'm still not sure that was a white woman's story to tell. (Compare it to Tara Jean Mears' 'Cloud Busting' - that left Mears' work in the dust. Surely there are other short stories by indigenous women and about indigenous women that could better complement it than Mears' work.)

Particular highlights:
Gillian Essex's 'One of the Girls', a story about a mother feeling out-of-place at her daughter's concert, and about fragile connections between family.
Fiona MacFarlane's 'The Movie People', which performed a delightful transition from realist to absurd.
Karen Hitchcock's 'Forging Friendship', for the anachronous narration and oblique way of dealing with queer realisation.
Alice Pung's 'Letter to A', which is just... arresting, sharp, beautifully worded.
Anna Krien's 'Flicking the Flint', which was tough going - it's a story about domestic violence and it doesn't have a morally satisfying conclusion - but very very well done.



And for work, recently: bits of Denis Flannery, 'On Sibling Love and Queer Attachment in American Writing' (interesting but densely psychoanalytical); bits of Micheline Wandor's edited collection 'On Gender and Writing', personal essays by 80s feminist authors (I wanted the Angela Carter essay, which was good; others also good; whole thing every 80s). Finally finished Rachel Moss 'Fatherhood and its Representations in Middle English Texts': SO GOOD.

Plus I tore through Phillipe de Beaumanoire's romance La Manekine (// OF and Eng text and trans), which was a riot. I have never seen a medieval text go so all out on the 'erotic abstinence' thing with a MARRIED COUPLE. (Adulterous lovers? Sure. Virgin saints? Sure. Married couple reunited after seven years' exile and yet waiting until the end of Lent? That's a new one on me - really well crafted, too)

Up Next: For funsies, I'm not sure: I have a few e-books, but I'm giving myself iPhone RSI, so need to pick up something hard copy. For work, I've found an early modern life of St Dymphna and I am going to have a TIME with it, I tell you. Plus a stack of books on Emaré, and Cinderella topoi, and the like.

Current and recent music notes: Gonna add this in here, because I seem to be more into music than I used to be.

- bought a triple CD set of Bushwhackers songs, great life choice. There are a LOT of songs about masculinity and sheep. When I start a folk band singing queered-up versions of traditional ballads we are also going to sing a folked-up version of ACDC's 'Dirty Deeds' and we're gonna call it Manly Deeds, Done With Sheep.
- really loving Gillian Welch.
- bought some Ian Moss CDs (iTunes) and am enjoying that too: I'm a bit obsessed with 'Tucker's Daughter', which was my favourite song when I was... four or five, I think.
highlyeccentric: Leia/Carrie Fisher with C3PO (Leia and Threepio)
Went on retreat with UNIL english lot again. Saw much snow. Borked ankle. (This was... 1.5.16, I think?)


Behold: more snow than I've seen in one place at a time!

More below )
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
What am I reading right now? A book on Fatherhood in ME lit; Christina Stead's 'For Love Alone'

Recently finished:

No books, but two volumes of Meanjin.

Meanjin (Vol 75, #1)Meanjin by Jonathan Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Enjoyable and interesting read, although I was not impressed with either the poetry or the fiction in this edition.

I particularly recommend:
Gabrielle Chan's memoir-essay Another Country
Michael Slater's essay Real Men Do Hit Women,
and Shannon Burns' The Lumpen Critic, on class anxiety and impostor syndrome in academia.

I also absolutely disrecommend this appalling essay. Which, in addition to being a poorly-veiled rant about the evils of women and minorities in literary discussions, apparently failed to cite its sources.



Meanjin 3 2012Meanjin 3 2012 by Sally Heath

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Moderately interesting. I particularly enjoyed this Rebe Taylor essay on the national memory of Truganini, and the uses and abuses thereof.



Up Next: Got a book on sibling love in modern American lit, for starters.
highlyeccentric: Demon's Covenant - Kitchen!fail - I saw you put rice in the toaster (Demon's Covenant - kitchen!fail)
This is pretty much the recipe from Leanne Brown's Gooxd and Cheap, with a few tweaks according to what I had on hand.

Dietary and accessibility notes )

Serves 2

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Still plodding through Portrait of a Lady a few pages at a time, mostly in the bath. Current e-book is Christina Stead's For Love Alone, because an essay in Meanjin convinced me I should try it.

Recently Read:

Lives of Girls and WomenLives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really liked this. It had one of the things I value in more or less realist modern fiction: a strong sense of place. It's set somewhere in rural Ontario, in the seventies, and it has... oh, I don't know, it's not as if I've ever been to rural Ontario, but the rural-ness felt *right*, the small town in a big continent thing.

The title is apt: there are men in this book, mostly as objects of annoyance and sexual curiosity, but the book is about girls and women, and the protagonist's measuring herself by and distinguishing herself from the women around her.



Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible ThingsFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I did like this, but perhaps not as much as I liked Let's Pretend This Never Happened. Sometimes Jenny Lawson's humour crosses lines into something that annoys rather than entertains or provides catharsis for me - I don't follow the blog, I like to keep my Blogess doses discrete. But then, it's worth it for the bright moments that shine through - the chapter on antipsychotics, for instance, is glorious.

An example of humour that annoys: most of the Australia chapter. It's not that I don't like jokes about Australia and at Australia's expense, it's just that most of these ones were... surface level. Oooh, kangaroos. And then there was a throw-away line Lawson having heard that Indigenous people used to commit cannibalism, sort of covered over with "can you blame 'em, i'd eat people who turned up on my land too", with *absolutely no consideration* of the racist, imperialist and often outright fabricated context in which these accounts circulate. Not being Australian is no excuse: you live in fucking America, you should have the common sense to think critically about any story that involves "savages" doing stereotypical "savage" things! (Mind you, in some places pre-colonial societies DID practice cannibalism and /or headhunting, and the wholesale banning thereof has been known to lead to social breakdown! It's an interesting topic and not one for throwaway jokes!)



Meanjin Vol 74, #4Meanjin Vol 74, #4 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Subscribing to Meanjin was an excellent life choice. I particularly recommend the essay Sydney Takes Shape, which spurred me to start on Christina Stead.



For work: Jenkins, Convergence Culture, very good, very interesting; and Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain, some good chapters and some good spots in the intro but also some deeply alarming ones. You don't just quote Zizek saying that protest against sexual harrassment is protest against sex itself and not INTERROGATE that, geez.

Up next: I am full of work energy and have borrowed MANY BOOKS out. Stuff on rewriting, translation, movie medievalism, the gentry in middle english romance, all kinds of stuff. I've got the autumn issue of Meanjin to keep me occupied backstage during Chitty Chitty next weekend, too.
highlyeccentric: Four years of college, and plenty of knowledge, have earnt me this USELESS degree! (Four years of college)
Currently Reading: A metric fuckload of fanfiction, mostly. And "Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson. It's been a while since I did these updates because I really have read very little since Jan.

Recently Finished:
Well, I gave up on Welcome to Nightvale the novel. Bah. Couldn't hold my attention.

I read The Scarlet Letter for work, and it is more interesting in that context than it was when it was supposedly leisure reading, but I don't want to review it.

Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was... an odd reading experience. There was a lot about Alan Dean Foster's writing that I liked - his take on Rey on Jakku was particularly nuanced in ways I really wouldn't normally expect from a male sci-fi writer. I like his Finn much better than Rukka's, but he shortchanged Leia. I found the reading experience odd in that it was very hard to tell what was a cut scene (eg, the speeder chase on Starkiller) and what was Foster ad-libbing. Some of his ad-libbing, if that's what it was, was *excellent*. Either that or the final cut included lines that weren't as good as the original script.

What surprised me is how long it took me to finish it. I was expecting to binge-read it as I do fanfic, but nope. I read it slowly and critically. Huh.



Then CS Pacat, "Captive Prince", "Prince's Gambit" and "King's Rising".

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3)Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Let this stand as a review for the whole series.
I binge read this but I did not love it. Or I loved reading it but I didn't respect it? )

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