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 photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Mary Renault, 'Fire from Heaven'

Recently Read:

The Demon's CovenantThe Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked this book a *lot* better on second reading and with a few more years' age difference between me and Mae! I still like the version of her you see through Nick or Sin's eyes better than her as POV narrator, but being sigifnicantly older, old enough not to *need* to identify with her, goes along way to dissipating my aggravation with her. (I know, I was one of those people SRB objects to who disliked Mae and particularly disliked her kissing-many-boys coping mechanisms. It wasn't that I thought no one should kiss many boys: it's that I'd hyper-invested in Mae's little speech in book one about not getting caught in Nick and Alan's weird powerplay, and then she got caught in it anyway! Anyway that annoyed me less this time.)

Jamie is fab. Witty repartee is fab. On the other hand, Nick and Mae's relationship has not got less fucked-up with time. I know from experience that SRB and I both love dubious bonding magic stories but I pretty consistently dislike at least one major aspect of how she handles them, so yeah, that's a thing.



ProofProof by David Auburn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Well. This was a hell of a ride.



Firstly the production I was working on was *magnificent* - a couple of people who'd seen professional productions and disliked the play said they liked GEDS' handling of it. It concerns a recently deceased genius mathematician who had an unspecified mental illness that looks a lot like paranoid schizophrenia; his youngest daughter, who gave up school to care for him; his elder daughter, who is not a genius but does think she knows best when it comes to caring for impractical geniuses; and Hal, a former grad student of the deceased who believes there might be genius maths work among his papers, despite his illness. The script is *difficult*: pitch it just wrong and you get something dismal, or too far the other way and you're callously laughing at mental illnesses.

It was tough going in places: the opening scene, where father and daughter argue about their respective mental illnesses, hit hard the first time I saw it. But then it was full of amusing academic jokes. And at the end of act 1 it abruptly turns from amusing family drama with some heavy themes to Joanna Russ's 'How To Suppress Women's Writing' in dialogue form and applied to pure maths.



I got irrationally angry at audiences for LAUGHING at "I didn't find it, I wrote it". I had to sit on my aggravation with my lighting tech tutor, who didn't think it was outrageous that the young prof disbelieved the twenty-something girl because "things like that happen all the time, people plagiarise things". Yeah, dude, and you're way more likely to suspect women regardless of whether or not they actually have plagiarised things! Aaargh.

My only quibble with the play is that Hal, the young prof, is kind of an entitled well-meaning white dude dick. In order for the play to resolve properly it has to allow him to *prove* to himself (and thus the audience) that Catherine has in fact written this ground-breaking mathematical proof. Which gives him a credibility I'm not sure he deserved. Cathy did get to smack him down, telling him none of his logic counts and he should have trusted her. But, because Cathy is also struggling to assert herself against her overbearing sister, Hal gets enlisted on team "there's nothing wrong with Cathy!" and instead of going to New York to be taken care of, she stays to talk maths with Hal. BUT. Cathy *had* been having hallucinations of her recently deceased father! (or were they dreams? Open to interpretation). Cathy took to her bed for a week and is clearly very depressed! She might be a maths genius, but she *is* ill, and while her sister's overbearing control would be a very bad solution to leave her with, I'm not sure Hal's "omg let me adopt the hot baby genius" is any better.

The ending holds together on a Doylist level: you get what you want, Cathy not going to New York and showing confidence in her mathematical skills. On a Watsonian level, I forsee either Hal sliding into controlling her, or total meltdown.



The Demon's Surrender (The Demon's Lexicon, #3)The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Now this, this I wholeheartedly loved. Sin is fantastic and I adore her, and this book gave so much to Mae's character through Sin's eyes. Plus, SIBLING LOYALTIES yes good. Sin's dad is pretty awesome. I like Sin's grandma, too.



The Last of the Wine: A Virago Modern ClassicThe Last of the Wine: A Virago Modern Classic by Mary Renault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read most of this on the plane from Geneva to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi, and it kept me pretty much enthralled the whole way. A+ ten points, Mary Renault.

THIS BOOK IS REALLY GOOD. It's slow to start, and starting from early childhood gives the first part a distinctly different pace to everything after Alexis first rides out with Lysis. But it's good! Alexis is complicated and interesting - my only complaint would be that Lysis is a little less so, perhaps because of Alexis' narrow perspective. The historical narrative of the last days of the Pellopenesian War is gripping, and I loved how much it made me look up: Renault simply refers to things as if everyone knows them, and you have to just go with it. She's even better at that than Hilary Mantel, actually, who can be a little ponderous in giving explanations via character introspection.

grumbling about the romance narrative )

In short, I loved the book, but the m/m plot did not live up to the "tell gay stories in a setting where there is no stigma!" hype.

Up Next: For once, I know exactly because I plan my plane reading in advance. I have the Shepherd's Crown (hard-copy), and two more Kerry Greenwood e-books, for the plane after I've finished Fire From Heaven.

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