highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently Reading: Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen. GB, The Style of Gestures (nearly finished!). A few other things on hiatus.

Recently Finished:
Crimes of the HeartCrimes of the Heart by Beth Henley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


On the one hand: damn, this is a fantastically written play. It's what my lighting mentor J dislikes most in plays: emotion-driven plot about women. A++. It does interesting stuff with class and gender - the two men who come onsstage are not the most important men in the plot, really: the director of the GEDS production described those more important men as 'forces of nature' offstage that the female protags have to deal with.

However.

However.

One of those 'forces of nature' is a fifteen year old black boy having an affair with an older white woman, who gets next to no say in his fate (which is determined by a white dude), and who is treated as an adult - and a sexually exciting one - by the women who discuss him.

We did this play in partnership with the US Mission and some UN gender program, and there was a special Q&A on Thursday night. Whole room full of Americans (except on stage, actually - two Aussies in a six-person cast!), and NO ONE brought this up. No one pointed out the racist elephant in the wings.

Folks, its 2016 and african-american boys get shot in the street because they're deemed adult and threatening, and you don't have *any* qualms about this play doing the same thing AND ensuring he never comes on stage or speaks AND sexualising a CHILD? No one noticed the white lady protag committed STATUTORY RAPE and the boy was punished for it? Oooohkay then.



Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This remained VERY GOOD FOR ME in the tropes department. I mean. Angsty denialist non-platonic but not-sexual bedsharing. I am so there. Also, there was a plot. It was a good plot! It had MANY women in it! They were all interesting! None of them died to further the Hero(ine)'s emotional wossame! Chaol is back; Chaol is awesome.

I retain one pet peeve: WHERE does this society get its chocolate from? Possibly cocoa plants grow on the Southern Continent, but the existence of cocoa doesn't give you tasty chocolate treats to share in your female homosocial bonding time. You need cocoa, and industrialisation, and milk solids, and a bunch of other stuff.



Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


For some reason I thought this was the finale of a 5-book series, but NO.

I find this very upsetting. Very, very upsetting. Still. Props for Interesting Ladies and Tropey Magic Sex.

I tell you what though this book really shows off Maas' skills with paralipsis (where a narrator holds back information). It's not easy to do and do well in close 3p POV - characters naturally think about their stuff! She made good use of it in the first few books, esp vis-a-vis Celeana's identity: but in those cases, it was usually information Celeana was avoiding thinking about or had actively repressed (best way to pull off close 3p POV paralipsis); and the audience always ended up with more information than either Dorian or Chaol. This time, it was things Aelin was *actively plannning* that got elided, and the audience knew no more than the rest of them. The effect was... odd. It made it hard to get a grip on Aelin - but I think that was the point. We end this book feeling like Aelin lied to *us* as well as everyone else. Chaol's earlier concerns make a LOT more sense, and... I think the same paralipsis technique is being deployed in Dorian's POV. Either that or he's gone completely passive and traumatised, which would be understandable but less fun. I'm working on the theory he is or will start scheming some time soon. And he'd be justified in it.



Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oooh, now, this. I wasn't as emotionally INTO this as I was into the Sarah J Maas ones I finished right before it - but perhaps that was whiplash, coming off the emotional rollercoaster of Empire of Storms.

This is a very *good* book. Being less emotionally caught up in it, I had more time to admire the work, which is solid: great worldbuilding, skillful use of in-media-res (starting in the middle of things - well, at the beginning of the heist but in the middle of all the character's complex individual plots) and analepsis (flashback type thing) to fill in the gaps and deepen the characterisation. Also, good work on the ladies. And some really impressively disturbing elements - HOW did she think of Kaz' Traumatic Backstory? HOW?

Will definitely read Crooked Kingdom, but I need a break for a bit.



Meanjin Spring 2016 (Vol 75, Issue 3)Meanjin Spring 2016 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I desperately awaited this arriving and it did not disappoint! The lead essay by Lauren Rosewarne on 'The Rise of the Single Woman' was much better than its short-excerpted SMH version. Greg Jericho's essay on politics, polling and data wonks was very interesting. (Both unavailable on public web, so no link) Melissa Howard's piece on the court of family violence was beautifully constructed. The fiction I was less enamoured with, this issue.



Up Next: I need a break from YA fantasy, so the next up will probably be fiction in hard copy (the YA fantasy stuff I read in e-book). I have 'Patience and Sarah', and 'At Swim, Two Boys', and a handful of non-fiction also waiting to go.




Music notes: back to fixation on country music, apparently. I blame the sound program for Crimes of the Heart - I bought a Dolly Parton album and a June Carter Cash one because of key songs being used in that play.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
I said last week might be the last of the weekly updates, but nope, here's another five reviews since then.

What are you currently reading? For funsies, the latest issue of Meanjin. For work, both Getting Medieval and The Style of Gestures.

What have you finished lately?

The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction by Frank Kermode

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Oh, to be a white dude in academia in the 1960s. Ideas are interesting, but wow. If I went around making sweeping claims like that I'd be kicked out on my arse quick smart.

And yet. It's super useful to me. Someone else has already made the sweeping claims!



Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to ConformWhy Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Huh. I enjoyed this, but it wasn't quite what I expected. Much of it was not 'flaming challenges' at all, but introspective commentary. There were some very interesting aspects - more essays by women than I expected, for instance. Gina de Vriews' 'Girls' was an outstanding example of those.

Some of the personal essays were just really striking - Harris Kornstein's 'I tell you what I want, what I really really want' stood out in that regard. Overall, the book expressed a sense that the gay/queer community has lost something - its embracing of sex, perhaps, or diversity, or perversion, or non-normative chosen family, or, or - in the decades since the AIDS crisis began.

I was also very interested by Ezra RedEagle Whitman's essay 'Straightening the Shawl', on being Native American and gay, and on not identifying as Two Spirit.

On the other hand, there were essays like Francisco Ibáñez Carrasco's 'Rehab for the Unrepentant', which really bothered me. It was a genuinely interesting essay on the author's casual sex relationships with straight (ish), macho men. But it also spoke without any qualms, as if this wasn't a *problem* at all nor something that affected his view of his regular partner (unlike, say, his qualms about the man's closeting and the man's fear of AIDs), of said partner's habit of 'bashing trannies' and beating his wife. Like... Okay. You're happy to be this guy's safety valve on toxic masculinity, fine. But you've gotta at least THINK, sometimes, about what you're condoning when you take his late-night calls about beating up women.



Epistemology of the ClosetEpistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really have no idea what to say about this. It was simultaneously immensely interesting, remarkably motivating, and completely baffling. Under no circumstances could I produce a précis of its argument, but I suspect I will be returning to it anyway.



Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am so into this. Our Heroine's slowly revealing trope-tastic identity is doing it for me.

I was also really impressed with the fate of the romance plot. I had resigned myself to Twue Wuv, and I was going to enjoy it, but this is better.



Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


So, growing up on a steady diet of Tamora Pierce and Anne McCaffrey, with occasional Ann Marston for seasoning gave me some very bullet proof trope-kinks.

And this series is SO GOOD FOR ME. So good.

Plus it's well-plotted and well-paced and the new characters introduced or fleshed out in this book are really interesting. I do wish it didn't keep being the women who die, though.

I am really, really into the vicious ambitious witches (say THAT three times fast) and the terrible personality flaw of empathy the heir is hiding.



What will you read next? For fiction funsies, the next Throne of Glass book. When I'm finished with Meanjin, I have 'Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics' to be getting on with.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
This may be the last of the weekly posts - I expect I'll slow down a lot once semester hits next week. Sorry for lack of other posts - conference happened, then my computer had to go into the shop (again) for water damage, and generally, stuff happened.

What are you reading now:
The Epistemology of the Closet, which continues interesting.
Why are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots, which is *mostly* interesting but some of the contributions are quite meh.
Crown of Midnight, Sarah J Maas, which is slower and more weighty reading than the first in the series.
Best Australian Poetry 2015, which has poems in it, funny that.
Glenarvon, but I haven't picked it up in a while.

For work:
The Sense of an Ending, (Kermode) which is... odd. Very sixties, but relevant to my interests.

On the intertubes, I've also been reading bits and pieces from Overland, the newly opened Femme Feminism, and, within the constraints of one-free-article-a-week, The Saturday Paper. Daily Life has been swallowed up by the SMH Life and Style, so I needed new sources of actually intelligent writing.

Recently Finished:

The Price of SaltThe Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was really very *literary*, which I didn't expect. I know the only reason it was published as pulp was teh lezbianz contenz, but still. Very literary. Different from the film, but in ways that largely made sense as strategic choices on the part of the filmmaker. I think I found Therese's character much more likable here, though - I see why the film changed her career from 'actual stage designer' to 'wannabe photographer', but I think it lost something in reducing those aspects of her character. For a start, it is much clearer in the novel that Therese is capable of existing as a functional adult without Carol.

On the other hand, the novel has a whole lot of Freudian WOW. The hot milk scene was a, a thing. Definitely a thing.

Interestingly, in the light of complaints that the film contained no men who were not shit, the novel does! Men who are not shit exist. They are useful at times.



Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm really not sure about shelving this with 'childrens-and-ya-fantasy'. It's sold as YA, apparently, but in the way that the YA genre has aged up a LOT recently. And taken in the refugee 'romance fantasy' genre that got elbowed out of standard fantasy by GOT look-alikes.

In short: this is a wild ride, and so many of my favourite fantasy tropes all in one place. A+, good work.



The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass, #0.1)The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Eh, okay. Serves its function as a prequel. If you actually read this first it would dispel some of the character arc in the first novel, but on the other hand, there are whole lines of tension that only make sense if you have the information given as backstory in the novel. This is relevant to my professional interests.



What will you read next?
My boss' book on gestures is a relatively urgent read. For funsies... I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my copy of Meanjin. Bring it to meeee!
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
What are you currently reading? Glenarvon, but I'm letting it fallow at the moment; the Epistemology of the Closet; Best Australian Poems 2015

Recently Finished: Jenkins et al, Spreadable Media, which was... uh. Odd. Interesting, but it seemed to be aimed at a tech or marketing audience.

Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt, but I want to sit on that for a bit before writing it up.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. The first time I started to read this, I put it down after about a chapter because... look, I'm really not sure about the use of WWII and the Holocaust here, and the analogies the story invites between its magical-realism and actualfax experience. On the other hand, it *is* clear the protag's grandfather is both Jewish *and* Magic, so... I really don't know. And beyond the story itself, as far as I can determine, Riggs is not himself Jewish, so there's something off in the commercial dynamic - big movie deal, making bank off other people's trauma.

The reservations remain the second time but I found the book easier to read. The found-photographs device is twee, but it works, and I have interesting Thoughts about embodiment and body schema, which is my boss' fault. Narrative pace is pretty good, the plot structure interesting and non-formulaic, and the thing with the grandfather's girlfriend and the protag is only about 50% as creepy as it could be.

I will probably see the film, but I'm not sure I'll pursue the rest of the series in either format.



Clancy of the UndertowClancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this quickly, and enjoyed it a lot, largely because of the sheer Australian-ness of it. I haven't heard anyone say 'my x is caning' to mean 'my x really hurts' for YEARS. Wow. The friendship plot between Clancy and Nancy was pretty well done; indeed the fine balances between all Clancy's nearest and dearest are well handled.

Thing is, I feel like it is Not Cool if you are a white dude to write your protag of indigenous descent and have her describe skin tone as 'yellow, like I'm sick' and so on. I mean. There have to be ways to indicate she feels uncomfortable with her appearance without just throwing that out there. And, like, one mention of skin tone and one of having some bookmarks related to Bunjalung culture does not a Representation make. If you're going to go there, as a white dude, and I'm not sure you should, you have to make it *count*. Especially if this is deep 3p POV and pretty much all your protag's internal angst. And the entire point of the novel is Coming of Age And Identity.

On the other hand, Currie is not a lesbian and it seems to me he did a pretty good job with characterising and contextualising a lesbian protag. The story is not about Realising She Is Gay, it's about regular family drama in which coming out is a small part, and about having terrible taste in girls. I liked the way that the narrative POV kept insisting the gay thing wasn't that important while clearly it was, it seemed a realistically convincing portrayal of how you deal with things like that.



A Handful of DustA Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It turns out I have read this before! Every episode I read I found myself remembering the next bit just before it happened.

It was witty, I guess. Most of the bits I liked about it, though, could've been done better by Oscar Wilde. The ending, which had originally been a stand-alone short story, made no freakin' sense coming after the majority of the book. (Whereas possibly if the ending had been FIRST, it might have worked. Or not. Who knows.)

I will now proceed to forget I ever read this book, but this time I will have made a goodreads review of it to remind me. Don't bother reading it again, self. It's not terrible but it's not amazing.



Up Next: Dunno. I have long train journeys this week, so something light. More Miss Fisher, possibly.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: 'Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots', 'A Handful of Dust', 'Glenarvon', and for work a book called 'Cinematic Illuminations' on medieval film.

Recently finished: Jenkins et all, Spreadable Media; Riggs, 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'; and Christopher Currie, 'Clancy of the Undertow'. All of which need a little time to percolate before I write them up.

Whyborne and Griffin, Books 1-3: Widdershins, Threshold, and StormhavenWhyborne and Griffin, Books 1-3: Widdershins, Threshold, and Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Well, I regret buying these as an ominubus, because I would like to give 'Threshhold' a vindictively bad rating for egregious cultural appropriation nonsense, but I quite liked Widdershins and Stormhaven.

There was legit no reason to involve native american mythology in your aliens-from-another-universe-invade-a-coal-mine paranormal detective plot. None whatsoever. And the 'creatures assembled from body parts' gambit was recycled from the previous novel.

Stormhaven was better, although it too recycled plot elements from Widdershins.

I like the pairing, I like side character Christine a lot, and my annoyance with Whybourne's persistence in believing himself ugly is only matched by how endearing I find his conviction he has no courage or strength of character either.

I don't know if I will pursue this series furter.



Urn Burial (Phryne Fisher, #8)Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As usual, a great read - better than the m/m detective stuff I've been reading lately, for sure. Bonus points for having a sekrit m/m romance as a plot feature, though.

The book's handling of race is... interesting, as Prhyne takes Lin Chung among her own peers. However, I could've done without the venture into exoticising yin/yang and dragon metaphors for interracial sex.



For Love AloneFor Love Alone by Christina Stead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really do not know what to make of this book. I mean. What.

Things that stood out about it:

- For the first half, the scenic descriptions of Sydney were spot on. So spot on. Consider this one:

That's the main reason I read the book, I was promised modernist sense of place, so I guess it wins on that score.

- Good lord Christina Stead's descriptions of the depressed cynical prospectless academic dude. It's like she predicted my terrible taste in men well in advance of my birth:


- In theory, I think I approve of this book in the way it embraces female sexuality and desire. However, I am not without reservations.

Things that were weird about this book:

- Its treatment of homosexuality. The subject wasn't mentioned at all until England, whereupon Jonathan's willingness to countenance the idea of male-male relations is used as proof of his corruption and misogyny. I mean. His opinions are a pretty plausible hash of the opinions of the likes of the Society of the Special, who did see m/m homosexuality as the pinnacle of patriarchal achievement, so... But I found myself reading him as a closeted bisexual, too afraid to approach homosexuality in anything but theory, and unable to have genuine relationships with women partly in consequence. Which, I'm pretty sure, was not the reading Christina Stead wanted me to take.

- The final love plot was very ???. I really don't think it sounded terribly healthy, the de facto husband fellow was a bit of a wet blanket, and the whole adultery plot was both hilarious and bizarre. (I mean, if I ever need a great one-page excerpt to illustrate the exchange of women as male homosocial bonding, I know where to go!) And it was all very... it's like Stead didn't know what to DO and rushed the ending, or something. Very odd. Still, I like the idea that the time to fall in love with your pseudo-husband is after some strategic adultery.


Raisins and Almonds (Phryne Fisher, #9)Raisins and Almonds by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was pretty interesting, and managed to handle the cross-cultural stuff without weird-ass exoticising metaphors in the way the previous book had handled Lin Chung. And I appreciate that Phryne has actual qualms about violent zionism - after reading enough Corinna Chapman where the heroine has apparently zero thoughts about the IDF despite dating an ex-member thereof, this was reassuring.



Up Next: Hmm. I have Locke Lomora, and The Price of Salt, and a few others. One of those, I guess.
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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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? )
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
What are you currently reading?

Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelisation, mostly. Plus a book of Australian short stories. And some stuff for work.

Recently read?

Summer's EndSummer's End by Harper Bliss

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Blech. I mentioned to a friend I'd been reading some Riptide romances, and said friend recommended Harper Bliss for f/f romance. This was on kindle, so why not? Many reasons why not, it turns out: white people in an "exotic" location of emotional self-discovery or whatever. White people in S-E Asia who have lived there for many years and yet inexplicably still go swimming at midday (seriously, recipe for DYING OF SUNBURN, much?).

Many of these things I could overlook. I could even, on the basis of genre, overlook "healthy summer romance turns into co-dependent long-distance wtf". But if I wanted Magical Healing Cock (seriously! It was a dildo, but nevertheless, it was a Magical Healing Dildo) I'd go read early 2000s slash fiction.



Star Wars: Before the AwakeningStar Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was fun! I wasn't sold on Rucka's Finn story - especially not when Alan Dean Foster's Finn POV snippets in the novelisation are much more plausible, and do more with less - but Rey and Poe's were both great.



Funeral Games: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC)Funeral Games: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmmm. I'm not sure that I liked the super-wide scope of this one, with so many focalising characters. It was necessary, I suppose, to encompass the full political spectrum, but it felt like it was short-changing most of the possible character work. Bagoas, in particular, had no character development. I felt like I would have rather read a novel solely about Ptolemy, or solely about Euridyce, than one which tried to do all these things at once: but neither of those would necessarily have been a good conclusion to the Alexander trilogy.



Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You AreFresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You Are by Robin G. Robertson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Less interesting than I'd hoped.



Up Next:

Well, I bought a compendium of novelisations of the prequel trilogy, which might allow me to revisit Attack of the Clones with less pain than would be induced by having to watch Hayden Christian and remember that I once found him attractive.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: "Funeral Games", the last of Renault's Alexander novels; "Something Special, Something Rare", an antho of Australian short stories; and "Welcome to Nightvale", which is still like eating prawn crackers: crunchy, tasty in small doses, but utterly lacking in substance.

Recently Finished:

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24)The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a re-read, but for the first time in a long time. I hadn't noticed, when I read Snuff, how much of Snuff was a reprise on themes from this one.

Things that are good about this book: Carrot. Bless his little socks, he's perfectly and earnestly genuine in his praise of Angua's brother, the *prize winning* sheepdog. But he's not actually simplistic: he has a carefully sorted out set of priorities and values that aren't merely adhering to simple rules or regulations. I'd forgotten that he'd resigned his post in this one.

noodling around )

A Modern Way to Eat: Over 200 Satisfying, Everyday Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing)A Modern Way to Eat: Over 200 Satisfying, Everyday Vegetarian Recipes by Anna Jones

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Haven't actually cooked anything yet, but from reading, impressions:

I’m pretty happy with this cookbook. It’s a bit fussier than I usually am (i see no reason to purchase quinoa, or chestnut flour), but more practical than, say, Yottam Ottolenghi.

On the other hand, it got my hackles up right from the introduction, where Jones explains her food choices in terms of “too much healthy food leaves me miserably hungry, but equally I don’t like to rely on a lot of heavy carbs or dairy...”. I just... if it’s leaving you miserably hungry then it is not a healthy diet! OK so you don’t like heavy carbs, fine, but your definition of “healthy” needs rethinking. I’m also not keen on the fetish Jones seems to have for feeling “light” and praising foods as “light”. On the one hand... ok, many people have a personal preference against rich or carb-laden foods, for reasons of digestive comfort or whatever. But fact is fetishising “light” food translates to performing food virtuosity and implied thin-ness.

The Giant, O'BrienThe Giant, O'Brien by Hilary Mantel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I... don't know what to make of this. It was interesting. The characterisation was interesting. The description was interesting. The interlace of 18th c cultural and political issues was interesting.

Problem: there wasn't really a plot. It's a short novel, but such plot as it had would be better suited to a short story.

Close to Spider ManClose to Spider Man by Ivan E. Coyote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Now this, I really enjoyed. It had two of my most favouritest things: a strong sense of place, and queers.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars was that I found myself *irritated* by the fact that it's short story collection, memoir, and novel all at once. The use of first person means that few of the stories have a named protag, although in all of them she's a gender-nonconforming AFAB person. In one she's named Ivan. It seems logical to read them all as the same person, but in that case, is it fiction or essays?

That confusion is probably part of the Art. But it annoyed me.


Also finished: a short romance novel, and the ST:TFA prequel novella thing.

Up Next: I have the ST:TFA novelisation on my kobo. Tempted to fix my "haven't seen all the prequels" problem via the novelisations.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
For some reason I feel like books read were even bigger figures than usual in my life this year. Possibly because I have really struggled to care about my thesis. Maybe because I didn't really go head over heels for any media fandoms until Star Wars in December. Maybe because I spent a lot of time on planes. Who knows?

Anyway, I swear I used to do a book meme, but I can't find it, so I've taken a list of qs from Catherine Pope.

How many books read in 2015? According to goodreads, 87 books. Well, it says 86 but I only just filed one of my academic books, it hasn't updated yet. I don't file all my academic reading on there, but that's a good enough barometer.

Fiction:Nonfiction ratio: Huh, I'll have to count this one up. 71:16, but again, I don't log all my academic non-fiction. And some which I do I haven't read cover-to-cover, so that's a bit fuzzy.

Male:Female author ratio: 20 male : 2 m&f coauthored : 65 female (of which one now IDs as genderqueer, but was IDing as a butch woman at time of publication; three are woman-edited collections including work or substantial interview material from some men, all of which I think were likely queer men, and some non-binary people)

I... had not realised my reading list is so heavily skewed to women! That makes me want to track my academic reading more assiduously, as it would tip the balance back - but I'm not sure it would be enough to produce the usual majority of dudes.

On the other hand I only counted five authors I know to be non-white (six if you include Melina Marchetta, which for this purpose I reckon you should, because of how race politics in Australia are not the same as the US), plus two or three who I have a feeling might be Jewish but don't know for sure.

Favourite Book Read:
Ooohkay let's subdivide this:

Non-fiction for personal interest: Maybe Polikoff, 'Beyond Straight (and Gay) Marriage' - it put into (now slightly out of date) words a lot of things qualms I have with the marriage movement.
Academic reading: hum. Rosenwein, 'Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages', maybe? I didn't even list that one on goodreads until I was answering this. Oops.
Fiction for fun: I think the two Renaults from the Alexander trilogy, Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy, take the biscuit.

Least Favourite: Dawn French's 'Dear Sylvia' is an awful book that should feel bad.

Oldest book read: Excluding various medieval primary sources, you mean? Looks like it was Emily of New Moon, pub 1923.

Newest book read: If you mean read most quickly on the heels of its publication date, that would be the two New Smut Project compilations in early April (publ late March). The book released latest in the year was... I was going to say The Shepherds Crown (publ August, read October), but, embarrassingly, it was one of the Riptide romance e-books, Stuck Landing. It was a pretty good read, too. Totally worth the nine dollars or whatever it cost.

Longest Book Title: I had thought this would be academic, but no, it was The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window And Disappeared.

Shortest Title: David Auburn, Proof

How many re-reads? Sixteen, plus I think I mustn't have logged my audiobook re-read of Wolf Hall.

Most books read by one author in the year? This was the year of Kerry Greenwood, apparently. Ten all up, most of them while travelling.

Any in translation? I think only The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.

How many were from the library? Not enough. Plenty of the not-logged academic reading, of course. Of the ones I logged, only three, and one of those I subsequently purchased. The uni's english lit collection does not meet my requirements for leisure reading, I'm afraid, and I refuse to pay to use the American church's library (I could spend that eighty bucks on, oh, books!)
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: The Fifth Elephant (not Jingo, why did I think I had ordered Jingo?), my Christmas Eve pressie to myself. Convergence Culture. Technically, Welcome to Nightvale, but i got bored after a few pages and will try again some other time.

Recently Finished:

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was a re-read, with newly-purchased e-book. It must have been four years or so since I last read any Fforde, and that is just too long.

I cannot review in any serious mode. It probably has weaknesses. I don't care, I can't remember them. I can't explain it's brilliance, either, except to say that when I owned the hard copy I photocopied the poster advertising TOAST (approved by the TOAST MARKETING BOARD) out of the back and pinned it to my walls everywhere i went. And I d0n't even really like toast. Just. The delightful surrealness that's only a tiny step from plausible (to anyone who sees the number of adds for APPLES or BANNANAS sponsored by their respective peak bodies in Sydney, at any rate). The genetically re-engineered dodos. The fact that this is not set in the "future" but the mid-eighties. I can only flail.

The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and RealityThe Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality by Rachel Hills

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I keep dithering on the rating for this. I *enjoyed reading* this. It told me nothing I did not already know (except for tidbits about frat culture, meh), and didn't always manage things I knew in newly insightful ways. But there were a lot of times I pointed at the page and said "yes this!". Hills is quite good at breaking down theoretical frameworks into accessible chunks, but then a lot of her data/stories from interviews is just... cycles of stuff, under-analysed.

I felt like I was not the target audience for this book (I am too academic and abstruse) but I *have been* the target audience. This book would have been very much what I needed 5-7 years ago.

It's also really quite surprising that, in a book about sex, she talked to only one asexual person and no one in a poly relationship? She talks ABOUT polyamory, but not *to* poly practitioners, and although she's read widely on a bunch of feminist topics, does not seem to have read secondary material on either asexual relationship styles or poly ones. Which... given both of these groups do a *lot* of talking about how sex doesn't have to be the crux of any given relationship, from very different perspectives, that omission seems odd.

Note to self- excellent summary of 'heteronormativity' on p. 79. Use on undergrads.

NamelessNameless by Sam Starbuck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Oh, this was *pretty*. It isn't perfect - its pacing is slow and at times non-existent. But it's so pretty.

As usual I'm disappointed with the barely-thereness of the romantic plot: I actually feel like it would have been a stronger ending *without* any kissing. Or if the romance had had more weight earlier. And this time I'm side-eying the Miraculous Healing scene - I feel like it would have held enough weight if Lukas had merely Magically Fixed the problem-in-the-moment, not the problem-for-good. I mean, people with chronic heart conditions still get to decide they *choose* their lives? And could even manage to have a boyfriend inna big city! That could've strengthened the flimsy relationship conclusion, too.


Not substantial enough to review individually: Starstruck, There's Something About Ari and Stuck Landing, by L.A. Witt, L.B. Gregg and Lauren Gallagher respectively. All of them are low-priced gay romance ebooks from Riptide Publishing, all set in the same "Bluewater Bay" story-world. I really liked Witt/Gallagher's work (same person, different names, one for m/m and one for f/f stories), whereas I won't be picking up any more LB Gregg after There's Something About Ari, which was a hot mess of inexplicably poor characterisation and messy plotting.

Witt/Gallagher seems to do a fine line in "Uptight Man/Woman With Issues Must Overcome Issues To Woo A Man/Woman Who Is The Embodiment of All Those Issues", which is basically what I buy Riptide books for. Closeted man must overcome fears to woo the fearlessly out! Biphobic lesbian must get her head out of her arse to win love of hot bisexual stuntwoman! I'm cool with this. And deeply amused by the Totally-Not-Teen-Woolf-RPF "statistically improbable numbers of gays make a werewolf show" setting.

My one problem with the Witt/Gallagher ones is that Levi's bisexual-or-not status seems to flipflop wildly. I mean, I could grok "man identifies as gay although bisexual is technically more accurate", but I cannot grok that his *ex-girlfriend* and closest female friend hasn't figured out he is not totally unattracted to women? The scene were he gave said female friend a dressing-down for her biphobia re: her current ladyinterest was delightful, but the the entire rest of the narrative of Stuck Landing presumes he's gay, both before and after that conversation. It's weird.

Up Next: ... idek. Finishing the current ones, then stocking up e-books for travel, I guess.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Also I have read very little in the last month.

What are you currently reading: pottering through Portrait of a Lady, still; made inroads on 'The Sex Myth', and right now rolling around gleefully in a newly-purchased e-book of "The Eyre Affair". Plus for work I'm getting back to Convergence Culture.

What have you recently finished reading: ie, in the last month.

The Persian Boy: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC)The Persian Boy: A Novel of Alexander the Great: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I liked this *very much*. Renault seems to have got over her weird euphemistic compulsions around sex; Bagoas makes a great narrator; and my fixation on historical accuracy when it comes to minor details is pleased with the fact that the horses have no stirrups, and this is regularly indicated without mentioning the word 'stirrup'.

I just. Alexander. D'aww. Hephastion. D'aww. Bagoas, triple D'aww.



The Secret RiverThe Secret River by Kate Grenville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I... don't know what to make of this. I was gripped by it, and spent a lot of time trying to track geographical details on the Hawkesbury via googlemaps. It's so easy to forget how *isolated* those parts were from the main settlement. On the other hand, I do not understand why Grenville has her protag trade coal with a penal colony in Port Stephens. There is neither penal colony nor coal in Port Stephens - that's Newcastle, any basic wikipedia user can tell you that.
spoilers, inconclusive thoughts on race dynamics )



What will you read next? I bought myself a copy of Jingo for Christmas. :D

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