highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently Reading: Captive Prince, *again*, but this time it counts as work. Tanya Huff's The second summoning.

Recently Read: For work, King of Tars and Floris and Blanchflour. Floris gets smuggled into a harem in a CUP. Wtf.

Also for work, don't even ask, started and didn't finish 'Ai No Kusabi' volume one. I was pretty into the premise but the prose of the English translation was SO TERRIBLE I couldn't even.

Missed HerMissed Her by Ivan E. Coyote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book. I had a problem deciding if I should shelve it with short-stories or memoir, but I bought it second hand with a library sticker on it saying FIC, so I trust unto librarians. The same week I read this I read Liz Duck-Chong's profile of Ivan in Kill Your Darlings, and experienced the same dissonance I experienced when I read Halberstam's Female Masculinity alongside a recent Halberstam interview. In both cases some things have shifted in the author's gender presentation, and possibly gender experience, but if it's public knowledge *what* shifted or why, I don't know it. Which is fine, but the dissonance comes in in that something in their old self-presentation, the butch identity that both is and is not woman, speaks to me. I'm not sure what it is, and it feels kind of weird to go looking for it knowing that's no longer how the author thinks of themself.



Selected PoemsSelected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was... an interesting tasting plate. I was surprised to find that I don't like all Duffy's work consistently: I particularly liked the poems from Selling Manhattan (1987) and Mean Time (1993), was uncomfortable with the ventriloquising of non-white perspectives in some of the selections from Standing Female Nude (1985), and actively bored by everything from The Other Country (1990). And the final selection confirmed what I already knew, that I am just not that impressed with The World's Wife despite all the reasons I *should* like it.



Archer: The Non-Binary Issue (Archer Magazine #7)Archer: The Non-Binary Issue by Amy Middleton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I bought myself a four-issue subscription to Archer as a Housing Stability Present. I love their blog, and wanted to put more $$ into Australian independent media. At times I find their analysis pieces a little light, but at other times I am impressed by the knack their authors have of breaking down dense academic concepts. (Dion Kagan's Butt Politics from Issue 5 is a great example)

I was disappointed to find that my favourite essay in Issue 7 was one I had already read online, Devon Whipp's Versatile Tricks. Likewise Jonno Revanche's Generation Gaps, which fascinated me with its account of the author's identification with their grandmother. There were several pieces by Latinx authors, and across the three of them I was interested to note that one wrote of English as an imposition and Spanish as the fraught-with-gender 'language in which I learned to love'; the other two recognised the same rigidity of the gendered romance language system, but were also much more hostile to it, speaking of it as a language of colonisation. I suspect that reflects their respective family and class backgrounds - one wrote of indigenous Mexican cultures with sense of belonging, but none of the three went into detail.

The big difference between the magazine and the blog is that the magazine is lush with images - this issue contains two photo-essays and a fashion spread. I found that... a little difficult to access, because while the pictures are striking, I always feel l am missing layers of meaning in visual media.



Up Next: I am expecting new issues of both Archer and Meanjin soon. I have stocked up on romance ebooks for conference travel. Truly I am mighty!




Music notes:

Director CB, of the October show I'm doing, played some Zoe Keating he wants to use as background music, and I LOVE IT. Escape Artist is an awesome track.

I'm still listening to and enjoying Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment'. I purchased but haven't yet fully embraced the new Halsey; I've been listening to Lorde's Melodrama on Spotify but am not sure if I want to commit to it.

I bought Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk' and hoooo boy is that an Experience. I have a lot of feels about Fleetwood Mac, apparently, and some of those tracks are perfectly calculated to tap into them. 'Sara', particularly. I don't know if the reason this is new to me is that Dad didn't *own* Tusk or that he only had it on record so I never got to play it.

(Related: I found out Stevie Nicks had a thing with Mick Fleetwood too? An on-again off-again non-exclusive thing. Everything I learn about Stevie Nicks' love life both doubles my admiration of her and doubles my sense of 'wtf how did this band even survive as a band'.)
highlyeccentric: Manuscript illumination - courtiers throwing snowballs (medieval - everybody snowball)
Currently Reading: Too many things for work. A selected-poems book of Carol Ann Duffy's work. The Rose & The Dagger, which is the sequel to the YA Sheherazade one called The Wrath and the Dawn.

Recently Finished:

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet #1)A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a reasonably good book. On the other hand, I really didn't need another christian-allegory spec fic in my life. At least Susan Cooper has a good world-built reason for DARKNESS SWALLOWING EVERYTHING MUST BE RESISTED CAN NEVER BE DEFEATED, and also she has Merlin.

Protagonist: a+ grumpy girl child
11-y old heterosexual romance plot: unnecessary and annoying.
Protagonist magical-genius younger brother: great character, but gave me a weird 'oh hai autistic stereotype' feeling.

I appreciate the effort to make the mother an Interesting Career Scientist, too, but ffs, you can't have a physics research lab in your basement.

I feel like this Toast piece on AWIT reflects probably a better reading of the book than I have: http://the-toast.net/2014/11/12/a-wri...



Meanjin Autumn 2017 (Vol. 76, Issue 1)Meanjin Autumn 2017 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This wasn't a great issue, IMHO. I was displeased with it from the outset, where in the opening pages the results of the Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize were announced. The announcement noted the huge disparity between #s of men and women (candidates? Shortlist? Unclear), and then offered absolutely nothing further. They had thoughts on why there were more poems about animals than politics, but not about why more men than women, and gave no indication of any desire to do anything ABOUT that.

I really enjoyed Matthew Fishburn's essay on the collecting of indigenous skulls (by white people) in early NSW.

Andrea Baldwin's memoir-essay Occasionally, A Stranger to Watch the Stars With is worth a read.

John Clarke's Commonplace has some interesting gobbets in it.

Otherwise, I was not hugely impressed by any of this issue - particularly not the poetry.



The Dishonesty of DreamsThe Dishonesty of Dreams by A.J. Odasso

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this. Not, perhaps, as much as I loved Devil's Road Down -I may never love any poetry collection like I love that chapbook - but this is a more mature style of poetry, and contains a number of my favourites, like Carnal Knowledge, and Five Times I Lived By Water.



Up Next: I've got a short-story collection by Ivan E Coyote near to hand...




Music notes: New Paramore album is excellent (I missed them the first time around but I am enjoying this revival). Under the influence of a fandom chain of suggestion I bought two Adam Lambert albums and am enjoying 'For Your Entertainment' extensively.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: A large pile of things for work, because my officemate kindly solved my research block and now I have to madly scramble for ALL THE THINGS. Also, A Wrinkle In Time, and Science of the Discworld II.

Recently Finished:

GlenarvonGlenarvon by Caroline Lamb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really have no idea what this book thinks it's doing. About seven different things at once.

Things I liked about it: it is very Extra. It has no chill. It is not concerned with the possibility that its content is too full of Drama and Feelings. Given the context, I appreciate it as Caroline Lamb's great exercise in idfic.

The early encounters between Calantha and Glenarvon also did well at depicting the creepy-fascinating nature of emotional manipulation/abuse, I thought.

Things I did not like about it: it's interminable. Pacing, what pacing? It can't decide if it's a straight-up gothic romp (foundlings! child murder! ruined abbeys!) or a psychological drama or a political novel about Ireland. I'm pretty sure everyone dies at the end because Caroline Lamb couldn't figure out what else to do with them. The portrayal of the Irish rebels is actually pretty racist - especially with how they're all so simplistic they unhesitatingly adore Avondale despite, yanno, being *opposed to everything he is and stands for*.



Summon the Keeper (Keeper Chronicles #1)Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was silly and enjoyable. First read in... 2010 maybe? 2011? Uncertain. I cast off my hard copies when I left Sydney, because I really could see no reason why I'd want to re-visit this particular trash. Clearly I underestimated my need for low-brow trash! This series isn't currently available on kobo, so I ordered them second-hand for about a dollar each on alibris.

I continue to enjoy Dean, the hot and slightly dim love interest who cooks, cleans, renovates and provides transportation.

These books are also quite interesting in that if they were published ten years later (this is a 1998) book they'd be 'paranormal romance', but in the late 90s they're... urban fantasy? They have strong flavours of Charles de Lindt, as well as obvious influence from the 'romance fantasy' subgenre of Mercedes Lackey et al. The nice thing about these books, which they wouldn't be able to uphold if they were Paranormal Romance, is that the romantic subplot is firmly a SUBPLOT. This is a story about closing portals to hell with the aid of a hot dude, a ghost, and a talking cat.



The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant, #6)The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. On the one hand, this had a lot of things which fascinated me in it. On the other, I managed to entirely forget I was reading/listening to it for a couple of months, so it's evidently not as fascinating as it could have been. (I ended up buying the e-book as well so I could flip back through it to check details I'd forgotten, which you can't easily do with an audiobook)

I'm loving the growing supporting cast. I'm loving the development in Tyburn's character, and Gulleed's. Caroline was awesome and I devoutly hope the details/hints we got re: her and her desire to escape something are seeds for later plots (rather than red herrings).

My usual criticism of these books, that Aaronovitch is just not as good at writing detective stories as he is at worldbuilding, needs tempering: this book is working WITH that limitation. It's really not a detective story about drug crime; it's a magical realist macro-plot that happens to involve a couple of criminal investigations. This is a considerable improvement.

I continue to think that the developments in Leslie May's character are promising. I mean, not promising for her on a personal level, but fascinating and interesting and well-developed. I realise that is not the most commonly held view, but hey.



Started but didn't finish: Penelope Friday, Loving My Lady, a historical f/f romance that was just TERRIBLE. Terribly constructed as a romance plot, as well as dull prose. The basic story outline, 'young woman is left without resources by her father's abrupt death and leftover debts; a fascinating cousin takes her on as Companion, sexytimes ensue' should work, but everything about the execution was WRONG. It moved so quickly from 'death' to 'sexytimes', failed to actually establish why the hell either woman was attracted to the other, gave no weight to the protagonist's grief... also, I really threw it across the room when it said 'during the day, the maids were about and no physical contact could pass between us'. Dude, have you not READ anything about the 18th/19th centuries? AAARGH. Do not read this book. Tumblr let me down in recommending it.

Up Next: Many articles on gender and archaeology! Also, grading!

Music Notes: I'm definitely into the two tracks from the new Paramore album, oh yes. Under the power of suggestion from the Ben Aaronovitch title I've been listening to the Mockingjay movie single 'The Hanging Tree' a fair bit, too. I haven't actually seen the movie, but the song's fascinating and creepy.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently Reading: Nothing gripping. A lot of fanfic. The usual.

Recently Finished:

CS Pacat, Captive Prince trilogy. I haven't edited my 2016 review, and my plot-related issues with the series have only exacerbated.

The Summer Palace (Captive Prince Short Stories #2)The Summer Palace by C.S. Pacat

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This solves exactly none of my political-world-building problems with the series, but it's pretty cute.



Meanjin Summer 2016 (vol. 75, no. 4)Meanjin Summer 2016 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked this volume a lot. Alexis Wright's cover article was weighty, and absolutely worth a read.

Other highlights included:

Matthew Sini's The Marx of Queerness, a fascinating survey of the myth of "cultural marxism".

Arnold Zable's biographical essay on Sonia Lizaron, Holocaust survivor and founding member of 'The Concentration Camp Theatre'.

Andrew Ford's God and I, on writing liturgical music as an agnostic.

Fiona Wright's The Everyday Injuries, which. Wow. The woman can write. (CN: eating disorder)



Up Next: I want to get back to the Ben Aaronovitch audiobook I started on the flight back from Aus. Some audiobook time might be goood for my overall levels of chill.

Music notes:

Since last I posted re music, I have discovered that the Internet is right about Harry Styles: his new solo track is awesome. So is the new Paramore track, and I've pre-ordered that album.

I've been listening to a lot of The Black Sorrows lately, and bought the 'Hold Onto Me' album to go with the two I already have. That lead me to looking up Vika and Linda Bull, so I have a 'greatest hits acoustic' album of theirs as well.

Other music acquired:
Electric Six, 'Fire' - a pretty fun album but wow, I am not comfortable with its most successful single, 'Gay Bar'.
Eva Cassidy, 'Songbird' - a good purchase.
Chris de Burgh, 'Spanish Train and other Stories' - also part of the quest to legally acquire music I grew up with. Uncertain if this will turn out to have been worth the effort.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Okay it's been... nearly two months since I posted one of these. Because it took about two months for me to finish more than one book. *hands*

Currently Reading:
For work: Wolfgang Iser, 'The Fictive and the Imaginary'. It's doing my head in.
For funsies: Uh... I've let them lapse, but technically I'm reading Science of the Discworld II, and The Hanging Tree (Ben Aaronovitch). And I've been puttering through Glenarvon again.
I've also been reading mountains of fanfic, in news that surprises no one.

Recently Finished:

Coffee BoyCoffee Boy by Austin Chant

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Meh. It was cute. It made me a leeetle uncomfortable with the boss/intern thing.



The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was every bit as good as the internet lead me to believe it was. Probably the only complaint I have against it was that the first half was kind of slow - but that might just have been that my brain was over-full at the time I started it. (Wait: it's kind of low on female characters, and the first interesting one of them died early on.)

For it's genre it's... hard work? Harder work than Six of Crows, certainly. I do intend to read the sequels, but probably not during semester.



Death by CoffeeDeath by Coffee by Alex Erickson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


This is not a good book. It's not an egregiously terrible book in any particular way, but collectively, it annoyed me. The mystery case itself was interesting but the resolution was forced; the detective's methods of investigating made no sense; the characterisation was flat; the romance pasted-on.

I might've given it two stars if it weren't for the incredibly lazy use of 'poor me i am dumpy and my friend is beautiful - but I'm not FAT fat, just regular fat' as a short-cut to Everywomaning the protagonist. If the protag is THAT jealous of her best friend the best friend has made a poor life choice opening a business with her.



As La Vista Turns  (Queers of La Vista, #5)As La Vista Turns by Kris Ripper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a good ending to the whole series! Pretty delightful all round.

The romance plot suffered from the same failure mode that I noted re The Butch and the Beautiful: only one internal relationship conflict and it resolved too easily. The secondary plot(s) were great, though. Really great.



Up Next: Look, my hard copy to-read pile is getting terrifying. Also I found my summer Meanjin (it went missing for two months) AND my autumn edition has arrived, so I have catching up to do.

Music Notes:

I think the last time I added music notes to one of these I'd just discovered the Carolina Chocolate Drops; and mid-feb I did a top-75 tracks roundup that featured the YOI soundtrack, some more Mountain Goats and Lumineers tracks, and the like. I discovered binge-listening single tracks somewhere in there.

Music I have loved in the past few months:

- Hanggai, 'Horse of Colours' album (Mongolian folk-rock, discovered via [personal profile] leareth)
- The Waifs, 'Ironbark' album (SO GOOD. My gosh.)
- Sia's 'The Greatest' (from the album This Is Acting, which is pretty good but not as awesome as that one track is)
- Taylor Swift, '1989' album (binge-listened on a long-haul flight, I have no excuses)

Most recently I have acquired David Bazan's 'Curse Your Branches' (because this is a great time of year to discover a former christian rocker's break-up-with-God album) and Carbon Leaf's 'Nothing Rhymes with Woman' (via a new fandom pal). They are good musics.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently reading: I gave up on 'The House of Mirth'. No one in that book is going to be happy, ever, and I just can't. So I'm puttering through 'Lies of Locke Lomora' and started The Science of the Discworld II: The Globe. And for work I'm reading Wolfgang Iser, don't even ask.

Recently Finished: These are all catch-up reviews from earlier in January.

Pansies (Spires Universe)Pansies by Alexis Hall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was... sweet, mostly. Uncomfortable, in that the main pairing is between one guy and the dude who bullied him in high school - but I knew that when I went in, and I think it did a pretty good job of *making* that uncomfortable, tackling the problems head-on.

It was just a little (a lot) 'throw away everything for love' for me. Which is a risk with romance novels, I guess.



A Christmas Hex  (Hexworld #2.5)A Christmas Hex by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This was a pretty cute short story, and it was nice to see some people in this 'verse through a lens that wasn't the police.



Hexmaker (Hexworld, #2)Hexmaker by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was... interesting. I re-read Hexbreaker shortly after, and I think I do like that better, but this was a new layer of complexity (and a bit of a novelty in the series for its distinctly kinky bent). I enjoyed the exploration of the distinctions in this alt-historical society: which groups are more or less homophobic, and the entrenched prejudices against magical familiars among the wealthy.

My only qualm is that the series has done Viking hexes and Greek ones, so logically we can expect other Ancient Magic in further books - and I gave up on Hawk's Widdershins books for egregious white people fail vis-a-vis native americans *and* Egypt both. I really hope she avoids those two.



The 13th Hex (Hexworld, #0.5)The 13th Hex by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was actually a re-read from the Charmed and Dangerous anthology: possibly my favourite in it. Unlike many tie-in shorts, it carries real weight, and is as complex as the associated novels. Plus, Dominic is a sweetheart.



Up Next: I have about six things marked 'currently reading', most of which I've let lapse, so those are first priority. Also if I can find my Summer Meanjin I'll read that. (I put it in a Safe Place)
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
An important step in my getting-my-shit-back-together plan for the second half of winter: picking up the routines I dropped somewhere in December. Like this one!

Currently Reading:
Edith Wharton's 'The House of Mirth' is about the only thing I'm steadily working through at the moment - I started it in January and have been enjoying it, but keep shying away in anxiety as I can see Our Heroine is going to suffer Indignities and so on and so forth.
I started 'The Lies of Locke Lomora' but haven't got past the first chapter yet.


Recently Finished:
Quite a lot and most of it romance e-books. This isn't going to be the complete January accounting - I'll tack the rest onto the next update.

The Book of DRAGONS (Annotated)The Book of DRAGONS by E. Nesbit

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was really... interesting. Essentially it's a collection of fable/fairy-tale stories involving dragons, in various settings (from the magical realist to the outright fairy tale). I found myself grating a little at the gender tropes in some of the stories (the princess is always fixed, while the hero - rarely a prince - is more active and mobile), but after a while, came to the conclusion that, within those norms, it does a pretty good job. The princesses have character, and preferences, and get a full share of POV-narration. I particularly enjoyed the one where the princess married the pig-boy.

There was one which I suspect Phillip Pullman has read - a brother-and-sister pair run away to the North Pole and rescue a dragon - which was well executed, except for the comic antagonists, the 'fur people', who were supposed to be funny (they're all made of fur! not skin!) but were a pretty obvious Sami/Inuit caricature.



One Life to Lose  (Queers of La Vista, #4)One Life to Lose by Kris Ripper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked this *much* more than The Queer and the Restless. Partly because Cameron is a character type I have endless love for; partly because the triad dynamics were really really well managed; partly because the romance plot actually worked with the murder plot (perhaps it did better here because this one wasn't trying to be a detective novel as well).



Glitterland (Glitterland, #1)Glitterland by Alexis Hall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This one was surprisingly good, if somewhat more emotionally challenging than I normally want from my romance e-books. The POV character has depression-dominant bipolar, and that really fucks him up, and fucks with his ability to maintain relationships. This isn't a story about Finding Someone Whose Love Makes It Better. Consequently it's tough going, as a story, but I like it the better for it.



Wanted, A GentlemanWanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an excellent book of its kind. It's very genre-aware (which is what gets it 4 stars), it plays with the 'daring elopement' tropes delightfully, and is quite deft with the two protag's background/family situations and their consequent relationships with ideas of liberty and the practice of living freely.



For RealFor Real by Alexis Hall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Okay, Alexis Hall's stock-in-trade appears to be POV protags with notable anxiety/intimacy issues. This one is *really well done*, but really put me through the emotional wringer: it's pretty heavy kink, and the combination of that with the emotional wossname was, erm, perhaps not what I shoulda been reading while having a long-drawn out Anxiety myself.



Up Next:

Honestly, I am really hoping I get enough brain back to make some real inroads in academic non-fiction :)
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2015 meme.

How many books read in 2016? According to Goodreads, 110. Aka, Quite A Few.

Fiction:Nonfiction ratio: 82:28 (the nonfiction category includes poetry, plays, issues of Meanjin, and work reading - plus there was plenty of work reading I didn't log at all)

Gender breakdown of authors: 21 by solo or collaborating male authors; 6 mixed-gender collections or magazine issues edited by men; one M&F co-edited collection; 1 mixed gender collection edited by a person of some variety of genderqueer that I can't easily determine (Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore edited a collection mostly about gay men, positions self as an insider among that community, but writes under a name originally used for drag; I can't find a recent piece authoritatively assigning any pronouns to them); 3 books by genderqueer authors; 2 all-woman collections; 75 books by solo or collaborating female authors.

So, still heavily skewed toward the ladies! A bit sad that the male-edited collections are mostly Auslit magazines or anthologies.

At this point last year I did a rough count of definitively non-white authors. Once again this is tricky: do I count which authors are white *in my context* or in theirs? I know Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick wrote of herself as white, but it would seem weird to count Ben Aaronovitch as white. CS Pacat is Aussie-Greek and emphatically declares herself as not white, but that makes it feel even weirder not to count Eve KS! Plus there are cases where... counting Banana Yoshimoto seems different to Ken Lui. One is a successful author in the majority culture of her native language, one is writing from an anglophone minority position. But the latter is writing in the globally dominant language and the other occupying the niche of 'foreign translations'.

Anyway, it only comes to 12 (excluding Eve KS and one US author whose bio says she was born in Jerusalem but about whom I know nothing else). And five of those books were by the same person. So only two more than last year. Some of the edited collections contained a good diverse representation, but as far as I know all the editors were white. Hmm. Note to self, improve on that score.


Favourite Book Read, subdivided:

Non-fiction for personal interest: Maybe Eve KS's 'Epistemology of the Closet'? That crosses the boundary between work and personal. Otherwise, the re-read of Holding the Man
Academic reading: Hutcheon & Flynn 'A Theory of Adaptation'. OH WOW so much wow.
Fiction for fun: Hard to say. I read a lot this year - most notably my rapid discovery of some really cool indie romance lines. That means though that few individual books stand out. I think the credit goes to Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie, that was a really amazing short story collection.

Least Favourite: 'Summer's End' by Harper Bliss was a spectacularly meh romance novel.

Oldest book read: Excluding various medieval primary sources, I think that's Henry James' 'The Portrait of a Lady'

Newest book read: Excluding the issues of Meanjin, I think the book read most quickly on the heels of its publication date might have been the 'The Force Awakens' novelisation, and the latest released in the year was Kris Ripper's 'The Queer and the Restless'.

Longest Book Title: That would appear to be 'Fatherhood and its Representations in Middle English Texts' (Rachel Moss)

Shortest Title: Banana Yoshimoto, 'Kitchen' (Ursula Veron's 'Nurk' doesn't count, it has a subtitle)

How many re-reads? Only seven

Most books read by one author in the year? 8 novels or novellas by KJ Charles (via Samhain ebooks)

Any in translation? Banana Yoshimot's 'Kitchen' (and the // edition of La Manekine, I guess)

How many were from the library? Not enough.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
It's been something like six weeks since I did a WAYRW. Here, some reviews. Mostly short, because time has passed.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I. loved. this. book. All the things I loved about the first book in the duology, plus some really solid character development work.



The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this one for a seminar I was auditing (thus the 'fiction-for-fun' tag is not entirely accurate). It was really, really good - particularly notable, I thought, for the well-written but not voyeuristic rape scene(s). I was very impressed with the links made between the father's early experience of consent violation himself and his later abuse of others, and the delicacy with which Morrison balanced that. Her afterword suggests she now would have done some of those things differently, but I'm impressed all the same.



The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a fun read! It was much stronger on the frame plot and weaker on the embedded narratives than I'd expected, but I enjoyed the characterisation and delicate interplay. I'm a bit iffy about the lead romance, but I suppose as someone who read the entire Captive Prince trilogy in 48 hours I can hardly talk.



The Best Australian Poems 2015The Best Australian Poems 2015 by Geoff Page

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It's probably not that this collection was less memorable than its predecessors, but merely that I wasn't in a poetry-remembering mood for the second half of the year.



The Butch and the Beautiful  (Queers of La Vista, #2)The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this one on the plane, and it fulfilled my plane reading requirements. I *loved* the subplots involving Jaq's teaching work. However, I don't think the main romance plot was sufficiently developed - the couple essentially only had one misunderstanding to overcome, and the majority of tension was derived from a fact about Jaq that was told, not shown (she shies away from commitment), and her angst about that. More of an up-and-down pattern in the main relationship would have strengthened it, I feel - eg, if they had had some sort of early demi-crisis on the theme of the Main Crisis, the stakes would be higher.



The Queer and the Restless  (Queers of La Vista, #3)The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one was better developed in terms of romance plot structure - there were early hiccups in the lead relationship, and a mini-version of the main crisis. The integration of the romance plot with the secondary plot was stronger, here, than in The Butch and the Beautiful, as it's the secondary plot that's causing Ed to behave unconstructively in his relationship. HOWEVER. The secondary plot was left hanging, and the novel integrated detective tropes so well that that was unsatisfactory. Plus, although obsession with murders isn't great, I think I have to come down on 'team ambition' rather than team 'quit your job and go on adventures'.

'Go on adventures in your statutory paid vacation time' doesn't seem to be an option, in America. Seriously, this guy had had his job for two years and hadn't taken any time off? WTF.



The Sleeper and the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a present from friend R, who knows me well. I opened it in Geneva, so as not to have to carry it to Aus, and then promptly realised I needed to carry it home to share with Dad.

It's good. It's classic Gaiman, the illustrations are gorgeous. I was a leetle disappointed around about 2/3 of the way in when I thought it was going to give me lesbians, but I think I prefer the weird twisty version. I suppose weird and twisty with lesbians would be better still, but there was enough unmarked eroticism in what we got to please me anyway.



Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave ShrewNurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This I got for my little sister for Christmas and it is VERY GOOD and I want to give copies to EVERYONE I KNOW at once. It's pretty obviously indebted to The Hobbit, but in a good way. I think the thing I loved best about it was the neat utilisation of all the apparently-extraneous details. Bilbo Baggins' pocket handkerchief is a sign of his fussy ways, but not actually a plot device; Nurk's clean socks ARE plot devices. Very little was mentioned in this book, other than in Grandmother Surka's journals, that didn't tie back to something else later on.

highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Leigh Bardugo's Crooked Kingdom, for funsies. A book called 'The Genesis of Narrative in Malory's Morte Darthe' for work. And I started The Bluest Eye, for a class I'm auditing.

Recently Finished: You'll note my pace has finally slowed, partly because work, and partly because I've taken up knitting again and so am watching more TV.

The Enchantment Emporium (Gale Women, #1)The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a second read (at least?) - I foolishly gave my copy away when I left Sydney, thinking I would not need to own such admittedly flimsy stuff. WRONG. I love flimsy stuff. Weird faintly incestuous polyamorous magic stag-people and their pies, A++.



The Wild Ways: An Enchantment Emporium Novel (The Enchantment Emporium Book 2)The Wild Ways: An Enchantment Emporium Novel by Tanya Huff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this - I find Charlie a much more compelling protag than Allie, I loved 14-y-o dragon Jack, and I am up for anything involving improbable magic and celtic folk music. I... might need to go out to Newfoundland in the summer one year.

BUT. The selkie thing made it somewhat harder to ignore the Special White People fantasy of it all. (I mean, the first book is really the worst culprit - the whole 'tie to land' thing as if the land had no previous spiritual significance for anyone!) Scottish magic creatures in Canada... defending the environment (good) and protesting seal hunts (not actually good for the indigenous people around there!) I just... I'm a sucker for transplanted Celtic mythology, but so much of it is really spectacularly clueless, and these books are no exception.



The Future Falls: An Enchantment Emporium Novel (The Enchantment Emporium Book 3)The Future Falls: An Enchantment Emporium Novel by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Okay, book. If you're going to make me ship a somewhat worrying older-cousin/younger-cousin wossname (which I'm a little disgruntled about, I *liked* their mentorly dynamic), and you're going to sell me on it... that is a terrible resolution full of plotholes, and without so much as a kissing by way of payoff.

Also the giant asteroid thing was a bit... much.


And I finally finished and scanned relevant bits of 'Founding Feminisms in Medieval Studies', for work. That made my 100th book logged in Goodreads this year - the first time I've met my nominal goal (I don't actually care about meeting the target, just about seeing the running tally throughout the year).

Up Next: Oh, so many bookses. I picked up a Mary Webb from the work shelf, I might turn to that next for light reading.




Music notes: it's a long story but I've just discovered the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and bought their album 'Genuine Negro Jig' for my birfday. Just. Do yourself a favour and go and enjoy their Bluegrass cover of Blu Cantrell's Hit Em Up Style. It's genius and I am in love. Particularly with the lead female singer, because of my established weakness for lady violinists. But the whole band is pretty awesome.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently reading: more of the same - Glenarvon, Best Australian Poems 2015, and so forth.

Recently Finished:

Double Up (Lake Lovelace, #1)Double Up by Vanessa North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Reasonably good fun, easy reading, engaging main pairing dynamic. Eddie made a GREAT supporting character, points to Eddie.

My problems with this book didn't really crystalize until I read 'Rough Road', so I'll cover them in the review to that.



Rough Road (Lake Lovelace, #2)Rough Road by Vanessa North

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Hmm, so, I still like Eddie, and Wish was pretty cool, and the erotic dynamics good.

But this book coming on the heels of Double Up really brought to my attention a trope that I Do Not Like (TM). Both books relied on a character growth arc of 'man shall leave his best friend and cleave unto his monogamous partner' - in Double Up that was second string to 'man shall stop being an ass in denial about his mortality', but it was the chief thrust of Rough Road and it BOTHERS ME. Not that the Ben-Eddie friendship isn't, as portrayed, unhealthy: sure, Ben needed to remember he could trust people other than Eddie, and Eddie needed to get some fucking distance. But it's the thing where this only becomes a problem, and the only solution envisaged, is each of them partnering with someone else. Partners 'need to come first' and all that jazz.

How about: Ben needed to stop being a denialist avoiding avoider because it was fucking up his friendship with Eddie *as well* as his relationship? And Eddie could just maybe find some way of balancing out 'I want to be there for Ben in emergencies' vs 'but it is rude to sex partners if you answer calls mid-coitus'. Seriously, they never considered any option EXCEPT 'you let him go to voicemail and hope if it's a crisis he can and will call someone else'. There are other options! Like 'If you call twice in five minutes I will answer, whatever I'm doing - so don't abuse that privilege, but conversely, if you're in a crisis do call me!'

In short: I am too poly for this shit.


Gays of Our Lives (Queers of La Vista, #1)Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I TAKE BACK MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT ROMANCE NOVELS AND HYPERMONOGAMY this was a great exercise in found-family, friendship and romance reinforcing one another, etc. Also grumpy people with babies, which is great. And what seemed to me like a good handling of chronic illness as well.



AshAsh by Malinda Lo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I, uh. Um. I don't know what to think of this book, really. It seems to have done a thing where every time it does something I really like, it does something I don't like at all in a closely related sphere. It was a good story, but if I was given my choice of Cinderella retellings I'd still take Ella Enchanted over this one.

Case in point: atheist fantasy worldbuilding that works. Great! There's magic here, and saint-like figures / ancestor-spirits, but no deities per se. There's fairies and churches but no God. And somehow it manages to hold together. I really like that someone tried that, and it worked. On the other hand: extremely heavy handed 'male church/education leaders' vs 'lady witches' with the old 'reliable medical knowledge stamped out by sexism' thing. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS FOLKS.

Hmm. Now, as a fairy tale... it's a good Cinderella / 510A tale, I think. Some of the things that annoy me (?? how exactly is she going to support herself ?? be supported by the huntress?? idek) are ones that wouldn't stand out if it was a short story or a narrative poem. The key to 510A is that the heroine be unjustly treated, and triumph over her neglectful family and achieve success *in the conventional terms of her society*, and that pretty much is what happens here - it's made clear that f/f relationships are not unknown, and the second stepsister points out that Ash has made a better match than the elder stepsister.

A lot of the female-errant folk tales are like that: the aim isn't to transform the protag (as with male heroes) or change the terms of society (as is sometimes, but not always, the case for male folk heroes), but to characterise the consequences of people breaking the social contract through a sympathetic victim. There's a reason 'patient Griselda' was so popular for so long.

There are two problems here: one, that because of the norms of modern YA, Ash is characterised as opposed, in many ways, to the values of the society in which she moves - the schtick about not wanting what her sisters want would have worked better if theirs *hadn't* been a society that favoured f/f relationships, if she had to do something truly odd or deviant to be able to live free and as Kasia's lover. (And that would have yanked the narrative away from the Cinderella narrative... but in a way that would work with the tropes of modern fantasy, so it'd be doable.)

The second is the combination of the Cinderella narrative with the Sidhe/fae folklore. Cinderella is emphatically not about female desire, or dangerous sexuality, whereas the fae tales often are. The wandering female or young male protag here *is* changed; as Ash herself says, they're cautionary tales. The fairy helpers in the 510 tales aren't the ruthless oath-binding creatures of the dark hunt, and swapping them in... you get something very interesting, but not entirely satisfactory. I'm not happy with how the fairy bargain resolved - *that* narrative arc was working its way to somewhere much darker and just pulled up short (DESPITE all the worldbuilding and folklore built in that was pointing to Huntress Rescues Her Beloved From The Fae, wtf?).

I also think it's a bit... odd that Lo *lampshaded* the fact that the lesbian romance here is not the deviant option. Ash outright says to her fairy lover 'ours is a queer friendship'. Um. I'm supposed to be rooting for the lady 'ship, I think, because Representation, but you go around saying things like THAT, hmph.

Anyway I'm going to imagine a sequel Ash falls asleep under an ymp-tree one day and is whisked off to fairyland and we get Lesbian Sir Orfeo. Or... or maybe I'll try my hand and writing lesbian fairy tales myself. Hrmph.



Up Next: Uncertain, but I have Bisexual Politics: Look Both Ways, and I need to read The Bluest Eye.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
It's Wednesday in Australia. Again. And I have read more books, again.

Currently Reading: Glenarvon, still. Dinshaw's 'Getting Medieval'. Other bits and pieces for work.

Recently Finished:

Patience and SarahPatience and Sarah by Isabel Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Huh. Huh.

First up, I really ENJOYED reading this. It was comforting and engaging and low-demand reading and I expect I will read it again. I do have a great soft spot for rural / colonial narratives with a sense for class and gender wossnames. (Caveats, as usual: this book has next to no racial awareness.)

On the other hand, though, I was left disappointed by where the book STOPPED. It was very much a romance novel in that its narrative thrust was toward first, overcoming interpersonal conflict, and second, overcoming external barriers to Settle Down. I think I would have loved this book 5x more if it was about two women struggling to make something of a small farm, rather than two women trying to ACQUIRE a small farm. It could be a family drama (established relationship) type, or a Romance Novel type (flung together by Circumstance, heiress of small farm and peculiar female farmhand who doesn't want your pity take on the rural life and face Feelings!). I just. That's what I wanted, and did not quite get.


Blood and Circuses (Phryne Fisher, #6)Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I bought this a while ago, in a batch buy of Kerry Greenwood e-books, and somehow skipped it (I've read 5, 7, 8 and 9). Overall, a good read - the murder plot was pretty simplistic, but the cast of characters was interesting, the juggling of gender-deviance and intersex issues against historicity was reasonably managed, and I was a fan of the sweetness in which Phryne's two lovers joined together to back her up instead of fighting. The Themes of the Week were pretty hard-hitting, though - the point was to put Phryne in positions of financial, social and sexual vulnerability that she doesn't normally inhabit, and it certainly did that.


The Good BodyThe Good Body by Eve Ensler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I... I think I liked this *as a play*. I did not actually like the main 'character' or many of her opinions, but damn, as a play, it would be FANTASTIC to stage. So fantastic. I'd do it with italicised-Eve as a voiceover, have her walk out of the wings in the second-to-last dialogue scene where Priya takes her home. All the preceding dialogue scenes, including the one with the husband, would be done with the other character speaking to a space somewhere in the audience.


Roller Girl (Lake Lovelace, #3)Roller Girl by Vanessa North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Cute! I got the rec from KJ Charles' recent review - it's good to see Riptide coming up with more f/f material.


Plus a couple more Riptide romance e-books, to be reviewed later.

Up Next: Unsure. This week's reading was evidently reading for the tired brain, aside from the Ensler. Perhaps I will give the tired brain some Pratchett, or some of the e-book classics I found when tidying up my hard drive.




Music notes: bought another Mountain Goats album at the beginning of the month (Transcendental Youth), and it's good, but hasn't really grabbed me yet like Talahassee did. Still into Gillian Welch.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
(It's Wednesday in Australia)

Currently Reading: Back to Glenarvon, again. Dinshaw's 'Getting Medieval' and a collection called 'Founding Feminisms in Medieval Studies'. I started another Phyrne Fisher, too, 'Blood and Circuses', but haven't got far with it.

Recently Finished: I'm still exceeding my usual standard of 3 books a fortnight, it seems.

Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures. (work)

KitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was an absolutely lovely book. The Japanese original was published in the late 80s, I think, and the English translation in the early 90s. It's dated a little (perhaps a lot? I don't know enough about Japan, really, to tell) but it's delicately gorgeous.

The title novella features a young woman who, bereaved after the death of her grandmother, moves in temporarily with acquaintances, a young man named Yiuchi and his mother Eriko. The story follows their developing and changing relationship as the protagonist recovers from grief, staged out largely in the context of kitchens and food preparation. Eriko is a trans woman, and the story, and her contribution to the protagonist's developing identity, is one of strength - of knowing what she wanted and going after it.

The whole thing is just generally lovely.

One caveat: the translation is quite systematic in referring to Eriko's gender in a way that wouldn't sit right to modern anglophone ears. The text calls her mother, a woman, and so on, but also, where her past is relevant, 'she is a man'. I don't know enough about Japanese to know what that's reproducing, but I suspect it's something systematic in the original; and I also don't know enough about Japanese trans people in the late 80s to know if this would sound right or wrong to them.

The book also contained another, shorter, novella, called Moonlight Shadow, also about grief. It was interesting, and had a similar delicate touch and sense for interpersonal relationships, but it wasn't as striking about it as Kitchen



Bryony and RosesBryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was absolutely delightful. I don't know why I've put off reading T. Kingfisher's work for so long! The slightly off-beat humour one recognises from Ursula Vernon's blog is here in spades, and the thing for gardening, but it's not exactly a comic fairy tale adaptation. There are strong currents of the gothic here, and a delightful central relationship, and great family supporting cast. No talking teacups. A++



Mother, Sister, Daughter, Lover: StoriesMother, Sister, Daughter, Lover: Stories by Jan Clausen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was very *interesting*. It didn't feel all that dated, surprisingly - noone has mobile phones, but in other respects, this could be many womens-activist-artsy centred communities I've brushed up against in my time. The opening story, 'Depending', didn't strike me as much in itself, save that it was a glorious depiction of what the post-L-Word generation call 'the Lesbian Web of Death'.

I really liked 'Children's Liberation', perhaps simply because it wasn't what I had expected from a lesbian feminist writer: the daughter of a lesbian exercises the right to self-determination which her feminist mother insists she has, and ultimately moves in with her strict Catholic grandmother. The story didn't try to suggest this would be perfect for the girl in every way, but that it was what she needed *right then*, and it didn't shy away from her mother's failures as a parent.
Further thoughts, including on 80s feminist call-outs )



Up Next: I genuinely don't know. My brain is a bit tired at the moment.
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.

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