highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2017-10-15 11:54 am

What Are You Reading Weekend

I think we should admit I will never actually do this on a Wednesday

What are you currently reading: Hirade, 'The Guest Cat'; Jordan L Hawk, 'Hexslayer'; a truly weird assortment of stuff for work.

What have you recently finished reading:

Griffith Review 56: Millennials Strike BackGriffith Review 56: Millennials Strike Back by Julianne Schultz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm kind of late to the party on this one - I actually saw a preview article from Griffith Review 57, went to order that, and saw this existed. Ordered both, then by the time they arrived I was Too Damn Busy.

Having said that: this was a really good read. My copy is filled with little flaggies. Particular highlights:

Omar Sakr's poem Ordinary Things.
Ashely Kalagian Blunt, Today is already yesterday
Sophie Allan, Under the skin: home, history and love in patriarchy

Other outstanding pieces by Timmah Ball, Fiona Wright, too many more to name.

An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities, #3)An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked a lot of things about this! The brother-sister dynamic between Pen and Greta is particularly great. The final love scene is very Relevant to My Interests (TM). The showdown with the revealed murderer is A+, go Greta. The dynastic solution is quite nifty.

My only qualm is I picked the villain all wrong (which is... good, for a number of characters) and I still kind of feel like I should've been right.

The Ruin of a Rake (The Turner Series, #3)The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I liked this better than the first in the series, at least. Sebastian's work always reads a bit flat, the historical world-building a bit thin, after KJ Charles, though.


Of Mice and Men: The PlayOf Mice and Men: The Play by John Steinbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


UGH. I don't LIKE Steinbeck, and I fundamentally don't like this narrative. But the production I worked on was *phenomenal*. A number of characters who would otherwise have been cringey stereotypes (notably the nameless wife and Crooks) fill with life when there's an actual human on the stage, who has clearly *thought* about them and why they act as they do.

And you can't deny Steinbeck has a knack for dialogue, for exactly the right words, for setting up parallels in one speech and another. The bit where Whit and Slim are reading the letter-to-the-editor while Carlson is talking Candy into shooting his dog is a particularly good example.

On the other hand: what a lot of racism, sexism, ableism, et bloody cetera.

-

Aaand that's it! For once, I have finally caught up reviews to cover my most recent reading. See you in a fortnight or when I've finished three things, I guess!

Up Next: Too Many Things




Music notes: bought 'Beautiful Garbage', which I couldn't afford to buy when it was first released (I had a single from it, though). Listening to P!nk's greatest hits a fair bit, especially 'Raise Your Glass'
highlyeccentric: Teacup - text: while there's tea there's hope (while there's tea there's hope)
2017-10-07 10:20 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

Currently Reading: 'The Guest Cat'; 'Gone to Earth'; a weird collection of psych and sociology stuff on love, for work; Steinbeck's play Of Mice and Men, over and over every night for a week. Aaargh. Theatre.

Recently Finished:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I *loved* this. I loved everything about it: the setting, the metaleptic narrative style with its wry asides to the reader, the many references to classic fantasy... And most of all I loved the Marquess. The Marques is every problem I have with the fate of the Pevensie children, wrapped in a hideous bow.

My biggest problem with this book is I really, really want to share it with my little sister and she's probably not the right age yet.

Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American RepublicFounding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic by Cassandra A. Good

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was both very useful to me and kind of annoying as a book. It got my back up with 'working class and black people just don't leave records so that's why my book is about rich elites'. Well, yes, that is a strategic problem, but just because YOU don't have the skills to work with the kind of records that do exist doesn't mean no one does. (Seriously, you can't tell me the underground railroad didn't involve a whole range of cross-sex collaborations that might usefully be described as friendship)

On the other hand: the stuff about not having a precise vocabulary to describe the thing: YEP. THAT.

Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal (Quarterly Essay #67)Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal by Benjamin Law

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


YES THIS.

Damn, this is an incredibly well-researched and /useful/ essay. Aside from a fascinating history of the media beat-up around Safe Schools*, it's got all sorts of useful subsections. The section on school-age gender transition is particularly interesting, and useful if (like me) you're the sort of person whose friends expect you to explain this stuff at parties.

*An interesting comparison point: the Meanjin long essay by Dennis Muller on how journalism got Australia the Royal Commission. Funny that the clerical abuse exposé was driven by a relatively tabloid-y paper, the Newcastle Herald, while the Safe Schools beat-up came from the august pages of The Australian. But also, I wonder if the latter would have been *possible* if the former hadn't succeeded. If The Australian saw in the clerical abuse exposé not an ethical imperative but a method of driving up sales, and have been shopping around for something sufficiently scandalous ever since.

Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues, #2)Blue Eyed Stranger by Alex Beecroft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Oh gosh, this was a weird experience for me. As a romance: it's VERY GOOD. A++ I approve wholeheartedly.

As a study of historical re-creationism, I'm not sure if it's IRRITATING or SPOT ON. This guy's Viking re-enactment group are called Bretwaelda. An Old English word for an *English* war-band. The characters throughout keep consistently mixing up Saxon and Norse culture *without ever referencing the Danelaw as a justification*.

The spiel on the Victorian origins of blacking up in Morris Dancing completely ignores the probable, much older (as in, pre-dating the blacking up) links between Morris dance itself and appropriation/bad imitation of Moorish culture, and the much firmer links between early 20th c Morris Dance and American minstrelsy.

And the thing about the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance completely ignores the fact that the reindeer horns in use, which have indeed been radiocarbon dated to the 11th century, nevertheless *postdate the extinction of reindeer in England*. They were BROUGHT to Abbotts Bromley at some point between falling off the reindeer and their first appearance in the written record in the 17th c.

This is all very infuriating, but also, exactly how historical re-enactors work.



View all my reviews

Also finished: Griffith Review 56, and two m/m romances (KJ Charles and Cat Sebastian's respective latests).

Up next: I have a Lot of Books right now. My enthusiastic purchasing of all the lit mags ever is catching up with me, it seems. But also Jordan L Hawk's latest was released yesterday - I haven't bought it yet but it's only a matter of time.




Music notes: I haven't made any useful progress with the habit tracker of late, so no reward purchases. I did buy the Thirty Days of Yes mixtake, because I'm in favour of marriage equality themed things with profit to Twenty10 and the GLCS.

As of yesterday I have remembered that the 90s/early 2000s band Garbage existed, and hooo boy. I had forgotten how *fascinated* I was by Androgyny and Cherry Lips - and by Shirley Manson. I guess I was not such a straight child after all. Hooo boy.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2017-09-24 12:04 pm
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

Currently Reading: pre-print proofs for a book I need for my thesis, that the author has kindly sent me; Alex Beecroft 'Blue Eyed Stranger'. I've got a few more things ostensibly currently-reading that I need to get back to, including 'Medievalism: Key Critical Terms', Mary Webb's 'Gone to Earth', and a book of Joyce Carol Oates' poetry.

I'm a chapter and a bit into the second Gentleman Bastards book, and having trouble getting into it - not because it's not interesting, but it keeps filling me with nebulous dread. The prologue scene is set later in the timeline than the first few chapters so I KNOW things are going to go QUITE WRONG. Or maybe the apparent wrongness is a cunning trick and our hero-bros will be fine! But first, long detailed scenes involving gambling scams! It's very good writing, and it's giving me anxiety.

Recently Finished: This is the third weekly post in a row (normally I aim for every 2-3 weeks) and STILL these reviews are four books behind my actual recently-finished list. Welp.

Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home CookingVegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a delight to read, and a logistical pain in the ass to cook from, unless you live somewhere with access to really good Indian grocers. Asfoetida, where do you even BUY that?

Still, I'm getting there. My cupboard is now home to four different kinds of daal. I've even put my coffee grinder to work grinding spices, because that's the kind of person I have become.

Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European LiteratureBrothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature by Carolyne Larrington

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


YES GOOD VERY USEFUL MUCH WOW


The Course of HonourThe Course of Honour by Avoliot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well this was an absolute delight of trope-tastic proportions. I particularly enjoyed the unexpected detour into 'plot devices we loved in Inception fandom circa 2011' toward the end.

It's also very skillful writing, esp in terms of examining without over-explaining one character's experience of relationship abuse. And it doesn't fall into lazy racist tropes, either! In this it leaves Captive Prince dead in the water.

Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1)Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed the set-up to this and massively side-eyed the, like, six week transition from 'why hi i have never come out to anyone but you're hot' to 'picket fence cohabitation'. Excellent cast of side characters, though, and if I'm going to be reading sickly HEA it's nice not to have it set in the US, for once.


Also finished: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland; a book about the American founding fathers and their female friends; Ben Law's Quarterly Essay on Safe Schools; Griffith Review 56.

DNF: Clare Hemmings, 'Bisexual Spaces'. The ILL was overdue and I skimmed the intro and decided it was *too dense* for me right now, and despite the title, not actually about space (I was hoping it would be about gender/sexuality and architecture or geography some how - useful for thesis purposes). I've put it back on the to-read list though. Another day.

A recommendation I forgot this when I reviewed the last Meanjin, but Jock Given's essay Enterprise in the Forest weaves together the story of the early development of QLD state parks and the story of the wreck of a Stinson aircraft in the south queensland highlands. I sent the essay to my Dad and he tells me he learned the story very young, because my grandfather knew someone who knew someone who knew the guy who found the aircraft (via the Army, or boxing, or Pop's brothers, Dad isn't sure).

[Site note: my computer just turned itself off and on again without warning. That's... less than ideal]

Up Next: I have a stack of books about semiotics, for work, and Rita Felski's 'The Uses of Literature'. I think my next fun book in hard copy might be The Essex Serpent.




Music notes: I got nowhere near my habit targets for this week, so no new purchases. I have, however, organised a bunch of tango and flamenco music into a spotify playlist for which I blame the entire sport of figure skating.

I also unearthed an old link I'd saved to Sara Bareilles' King of Anything, and from there the soundtrack to the musical Waitress and that's pretty awesome right now.

(I also reached the point in Postal Survey Coping Mechanisms that involved loop-listening to 'Epiphany' from bare: a pop opera, because words alone cannot express the furious feelingswamp this whole bullshit thing induces.)
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
2017-09-17 08:08 pm
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Actually On A) Wednesday

Currently Reading: Alex Beecroft, 'Blue Eyed Stranger'; Griffith Review 36; misc other... stuff

Recently Finished:

Interpreter of MaladiesInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was an *interesting*, if unsettling, book. Some of the stories keep coming back in fragments in my mind: the perspective choice in When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine, to recount the Bangladeshi-Pakistani conflict through the incomplete perceptions of a child, was a particularly arresting one. The Treatment of Bibi Haldar left me with anger I was unable to properly defuse for some time - the girl with her under-treated illness, the it suddenly became clear she was being sexually abused, without the story ever specifying that because none of the characters even seemed to *think* of it. The titular story made me quite uncomfortable, but was intricately composed.

I think my favourite was the last, 'The third and final continent' - its characterisation of the boarding-house owner in particular moved me, for whatever reason.

Courting the CountessCourting the Countess by Jenny Frame

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Mmm, I just don't know how I feel about this one. It was compelling, and it was a nice change to see this rough plot arc played out with women (I see it a lot in m/m romance: career focused commitmentphobe meets some nice chappy who insists on commitment in red letters, angst ensues and we end with matrimony-like arrangements). But I found myself irked by the emphasis on Annie's lack of experience, and by just HOW heavily the 'the right woman will cure all your emotional traumas and then you marry' notes fell.

I found myself shipping the two supporting characters, Bridget the Vicar and Quin the Farmer, much more strongly than the main pairing. Apparently there's a sequel about Bridget the Vicar but it's not matching her with Quin the Farmer, so. I may or may not.

Spindle's EndSpindle's End by Robin McKinley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a delightful fairy tale, but like... inexplicable heterosexuality? I mean. The two girls were running around BREATHING THE SAME BREATH and there was TRUE LOVE'S KISS and everything. Narl was sweet, but note Our Heroine only fell in love with him when she suddenly thought he was in love with her best friend? And when her best friend suddenly and obviously fell in love with another dude?

Look Both Ways: Bisexual PoliticsLook Both Ways: Bisexual Politics by Jennifer Baumgardner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was a frustrating book. I learned a lot of interesting trivia about 90s pop culture, including that there were far more bisexuals in it than I thought. There were some occasionally well-phrased ways of expressing ideas I've seen before, but nothing particularly ground-breaking. Even taking into account that it's over a decade old, 'Closer to Home' is much older and MUCH more insightful.

This was... magazine-y. I've never read Ms magazine, for which the author used to write, but in Australian terms it felt like... Cleo: The Bisexual Special. Only with a weirdly uncritical Thing for second-wave feminist foremothers, without any of their depth. (One of the well-phrased ideas was that second wave feminist criticism did not actually equip the young women of the 90s to fully reshape or realise their relationships with men, but even that point turned into weird bitterness without offering an alternative. I wanted to smack the author upside the head and say READ MORE BELL HOOKS.)

For something subtitled 'bisexual politics' it's actually about 'bisexual female existence in a particular culture bubble', with limited political ANYTHING.


Also finished, to review later: Madhur Jaffrey's 'Vegetarian India'; Carolyn Larrington 'Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature'; Aviolot 'The Course of Honour'; Alex Beecroft 'Trowchester Blues'; Catherynne M Valente, 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making'.




Music notes: Saw Back N Black, the Swiss all-girl AC/DC cover band I saw back in 2014. They seem to be going through Drama, and were filling out the ranks with dudes on second guitar, bass and drums, but it was still a pretty good show. I got showered in fake blood courtesy of BB, the lead guitarist. This was unfortunate for my new cream t-shirt, but I think I've go the stains out now.

In celebration I bought myself 'Let There Be Rock'. I actually only owned one accadacca album and a couple of stray MP3s, until now. Clearly an oversight.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2017-09-10 11:46 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

Currently Reading: Mary Webb, Gone to Earth; Griffith Review, Millenials Strike Back; Cassandra A Good, Founding Friendships; Cathryne M Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making; and... more things. Too many things.

Recently finished: reviews still playing catch-up.

The GruffaloThe Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Re-read: small babysitting friend has this in his storybook collection now. Still a great read.

Meanjin Winter 2017 (Vol. 76, Issue 2)Meanjin Winter 2017 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This issue was a mixed experience. I really enjoyed Margaret Simmons' essay on the future(s) of the ABC. Katherine Murphy's piece on work/life balance or lack thereof in politics was likewise great. Charlotte Adderley's memoir piece Ethanol, Eschar was beautifully written. Fiction-wise, AS Patric's Avulsion was creepy-fascinating. Both of Shastra Deo's poetry contributions were striking, but What Followed most of all.

On the other hand, I found Shannon Burns' In Defence of the Bad White Working Class infuriating. I have liked Burns' class-based criticism before, but this one seemed blinkered. He acknowledges that the suburbs he grew up in were never free of crime, but gives the white residents a free pass for feeling more hostile to asian gangs than white ones. That's called RACISM, folks. Also, we know this: we know that demographic change causes stress, we know that economically struggling groups have less access to positive integration experiences than the middle class, we KNOW that part of the solution lies in government and local government resources being poured in to lift *all* residents of an area. NONE OF THIS IS NEW NEWS.

The Science Of Discworld II: The GlobeThe Science Of Discworld II: The Globe by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Oh, a confusing reading experience, this one. On the one hand, I had not realised just how MUCH of my mental framework for thinking about, well, the build-a-human-kit is drawn from, or crystalised in, this book. I read it in late high school, and re-read it a few times during undergrad, and while I can express the concepts about the role and use of stories in much fancier lit-wank language now... here it is.

On the other hand, now I have degrees in premodern history and I want to set their rigid 'no science before newton' framework on FIRE. Oh my glod. Roger Bacon would like to talk to you, you fuckers. I could almost roll with it, except that I know a lot more about science now than I used to (thanks, Trojie), and their definition of science as experiment-driven rather than data-analysis also rules out MOST OF THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES. These authors are totally the kind of physics stans who refer to natural history as 'stamp-collecting'. Nope nope nope so much nope.

The Abyss Surrounds Us (The Abyss Surrounds Us, #1)The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


THIS WAS A GOOD. I mean. Captor/Captive scenario where they have a sensible conversation about power imbalances? Sign me the fuck up.

My major problem with this is that the protag's age was given as 17, and she just... isn't. There's a throwaway mention of schooling, but it felt wedged in. Everything else about her character felt post-high-school, maybe around 20: old enough to be in apprenticeship for her career, young enough to be bloody stupid. It felt like her age was lampshaded at 17 to make the books eligible as YA, rather than either a solid part of her characterisation or a book really written to that genre.

I also can't tell for the life of me if they're living on the planet we know, in a post-apocalyptic future, or if they're living on a terraformed replica of it.

In Other LandsIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


THIS WAS A RIOT. I loved 'Turn of the Story' and this is that, sewn together with 'Wings in the Morning' (the latter POV-flipped to fit TotS).

As a story: holy shit yes cannot recommend enough. I shrieked with laughter all the way through.

As a work, though? I am disappointed in the editing. There were typos still evident that had been in the online version of TotS. The join between TotS and WitM isn't as smooth as it should be. There are occasional POV hitches, where something should've been written out when flipped to Elliot's POV but hasn't been.

I loved this book very much, but I think the publisher did a lazy job on it - bought the rights to something already popular, and did a rush job on editing it because all its components were already well-loved.


I also re-read Spectred Isle on the plane to Chicago; given I only read it for the first time in late June, it doesn't get a second review/commentary.

Finished, yet to review: Interpreter of Maladies; Courting the Countess; Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature; Spindle's End; Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics; Madhur Jaffery's Vegetarian India; The Course of Honour.

Up Next: Oh my. My to-read is overflowing, it's ridiculous. I need to finish some of the currently-readings. I have a book on bisexual geography on interlibrary loan. Who knows?




Music notes: there was a stretch of not buying anything new, because I've now set up a bribery system wherein I have a habit chart and I only get to buy music if I meet a target number of squares on the chart per week. So late August, after getting back from Chicago, was musically 'listen to stuff you already have', because it was also, habit-observance-wise, a washout.

But I ticked off 30 this week and consequently bought myself the EP 'Ameska' by the Taalbi brothers (best known, apparently, for a song in the Breaking Bad finale). The French competitor at the JGP Salzburg, Julie Froetscher, skated to the lead track, Ameska, in her short program, and I fell in love with it. I'm also really enjoying 'Tafat', which has a great percussion track.

I'm accumulating a list of 'figure skating routine music i like' and an awful lot of it is tango and flamenco. If i end up with a whole new musical generic interest I will blame the ISU. I already blame Shoma Uno for the fact I own an album of tango music played on accordion, of all things.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2017-08-24 08:13 pm
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Actually On A) Wednesday

Currently Reading: Too many things. Baumgartner's 'Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics', which is turning out a bit meh. Some work stuff. Essays. Etc.

Recently Finished: Still a backlog of these.

Archer: The Spaces Issue (Archer Magazine, #8)Archer: The Spaces Issue by Amy Middleton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As with the previous, this was a beautiful magazine - the visual quality is really high. The testimonial piece 'gay in detention' from 'They Cannot Take the Sky' was... very moving and very important. The Regan Lynch piece on m/m public sex also fascinated me, and was beautifully illustrated with what look like oil paintings by Ali Franco.



The Alpine Path: The Story of My CareerThe Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was interesting, and engaging, and it was fun to see LMM's PEI anecdotes sewn together in her ancestral context rather than in her books. It's not a particularly *literary* memoir, and it's also... not about her career. Apparently a women's magazine asked for a piece on her career, and got a memoir series instead: I find the framing very interesting, in that she begins 'her career' with her childhood and her ancestry, and pays very little attention to her actual work throughout. It's as if she needs to disclaim personal ambition, although that she did have a considerable amount of that comes through when she talks about writing poetry and stories while working for a newspaper.



The Ministry of Utmost HappinessThe Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I don't know. I think I'm holding my opinion of this book in abeyance until I can find some reviews of it by Indian trans people, ideally Hijras.

Things that are good about it:
- Roy's writing, her knack for words, is lush and I haven't found anything like it. The critics are right that this one is a little more florid than Small Things (it has what I think of as Order of the Pheonix Syndrome: previous book such a success, editor was unwilling to apply the pruning sheers as needed), but I did really enjoy the cutting between PsOV and the interlaced timelines. It wasn't clear until very late in the book how the various threads were going to tie up, and a couple of the earlier transitions were a bit jagged, but it all held together by the end.
- The description, and the little quirks of characterisation, remain her great strength
- I loved the attention to both positive and fraught cases of religious intersection. I realise that's a fact of life in India, but it seemed more prominent here than even in Small Things.

Thing I had a problem with:
- I just don't know what to make of the language choices around Anjum: the narrative does bring up the gendered language of Urdu and Hindi, factors that aren't that present in English. The text shifts between describing her as woman and not-woman, which, given we're talking about a third-gender group, is possibly appropriate. (Likewise, there's an interesting distinction made between Anjum, a more old-fashioned Hijra, and her junior who ends up leading the household, who defines herself using terms like 'trans'.) Some of the lines about 'making the real women look drab' made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but I don't know if that's a distinction that is as problematic to the hijra community as it is to western trans communities.
- I do think it really wasn't necessary to specify that the last orgasm Anjum had was before she had SRS. It's possible that that replicates a fact from the life of the cemetery-dwelling Hijra Roy drew on for the character, but... it didn't add anything to the story, except to underline Anjum as 'broken'. I mean. That she's making difficult compromises between her needs and her wants (eg: to become a hijra, versus to maintain her family connections) and that she's serially damaged by various factors in her life is already so many other plot points. That last one just... replicates a voyeuristic interest in deviant genitalia.



Blue Ribbon Recipes: Prize-Winning Recipes From The Sydney Royal Easter ShowBlue Ribbon Recipes: Prize-Winning Recipes From The Sydney Royal Easter Show by Pam Casellas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I bought this at the show in 2013. It's mostly a LOOKING AT book for me - for old-fashioned cake staples I resort to the Women's Weekly. But as a looking at book, it's rewarding: lovely photography, charming exhibitor bios.



View all my reviews

Also: The Gruffalo (again), Meanjin winter 2017, Science of the Discworld II, The Abyss Surrounds Us, In Other Lands, Spectred Isle (again), Interpreter of Maladies, Courting the Countess, and Spindle's End

Up Next: Possibly the sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us. Possibly 'The Guest Cat'. Definitely some more work non-fiction reading.




Music Notes: LORDE. HOW ABOUT THAT LORDE, HUH? I bought 'Melodrama'. Trojie also informed me that a Bruce Springsteen live cover of Royals exists. Been listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk', and as of today, spotify is providing me with KD Lang.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
2017-08-04 10:21 pm
Entry tags:

What are you reading (not on a) Wednesday?

Getting my mobile data and its wifi hotspot to play nice long enough to fill in some reviews has been A Time. Also, typing on this keyless keypad is a nightmare. Here is an example uncorrected sentence: nothing i type makes any sense a d i have to correct everything painstakingly, it0snwjite ridiuculojs, b this comouter doesn0t have a usb oirt so i can0t use an external keypad.

Currently Reading: Mary Webb, 'Gone to Earth', which is not the rustic romance I was expecting at all! 'The Abyss Surrounds Us', which promises me lesbian space pirates. Madhur Jaffrey's 'Vegetarian India'.

Recently Finished: Reviews are a bit behind - all of these I finished before my last book post.

The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn, #2)The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really don't know were I stand on this. It is a good sequel, but it doesn't really lift the series out of the disappointments of the first book. I just fundamentally don't get the main ship - Adieh committed too early to the 'lovers' part of enemies-to-lovers, and meh.

On the other hand, great things about this book: depth development on secondary characters, especially secondary female characters; interesting new characters; reasonable development on the dynastic plot. We've moved away from 1001 nights and that's a good thing in this case.


A Civil ContractA Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was much, much FUNNIER than I expected! And much more subdued and realistic as a romance than expected, too. My main problem was that, until she fell pregnant, I didn't realise the marriage-of-convenience couple had been sleeping together at all! I feel like, even granting this isn't a book where racy sex scenes are in order, *some* sense of the marriage-bed would've added a lot. Even at the end - say, an indication that kissing his wife might be fun as well as courteous?


The Second Summoning (Keeper Chronicles, #2)The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I forgot how much worse this one was compared to its predecessor. And yet, I laughed a lot, so it fulfills trash reading requirements. I just... the whole Claire/Dean plot is overwrought to the extreme in this one, and Diana is much more interesting.


Beds and Chambers in Late Medieval England: Readings, Representations and RealitiesBeds and Chambers in Late Medieval England: Readings, Representations and Realities by Hollie L S Morgan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I DEVOURED THIS BOOK IN FIVE HOURS. It's great - really clear and engaging writing, and methodologically my favourite kind of interdisciplinary work, pulling all kinds of threads together.


Also finished: isssues of both Archer and Meanjin; the new Arundati Roy; LM Montgomery's autobiography

Up next: I have a lot on the go at the moment, but I also have some light reading for the plane to Chicago - Robin McKinley and Catherine M Valente.




Music notes: I bought Missy Higgins' Oz, and am loving it ('No Secrets' was a sexy song anyway, but three times more so sung by Missy Higgins); I've finally bonded with the new Lorde album via Spotify. Also via Spotify, I'm enjoying the Dixie Chicks.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2017-07-23 07:21 pm

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

Currently Reading: Arundhati Roy, 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'; Science of the Discworld II, and a few other bits and pieces.

Recently Finished: Backdated reviews from the UK trip, as follows

The Lawrence Browne Affair (The Turner Series, #2)The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Apparently I was on a roll with 'accidentally reading book two before book one of a series'. I liked this one! Although without the context of book 1 I had some trouble figuring out WHY a slum-born swindler was a competent secretary, I liked it a lot. I liked that the give-and-take came from both directions (Georgie's decision to read up on electricity was a nice touch), and I'm a fan of the cast of supporting characters - Lawrence's female inventions buddy especially.

The Soldier's Scoundrel (The Turner Series, #1)The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I liked this one a lot less than The Lawrence Browne Affair. It just seemed... meh. Meh in world-building, and in character-building. I think there's only so many 'scoundrel goes straight for love' romances one can read in a row, and I was coming to Cat Sebastian off the back of KJ Charles' An Unnatural Vice.

Mother of Souls (Alpennia, #3)Mother of Souls by Heather Rose Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was *interesting*. This book is definitely marking a genre-stamp for the series, moving it more firmly into historical-fantasy and away from romance. Which, given I was getting sick of neatly parcelled romance novels, is a good thing to me. I enjoyed both of the new lead women characters, and the returning ensemble cast. It was particularly rewarding to see Anna the apprentice develop more as a character. The test to Margerit's worldview & philosophy of the mysteries via Serafina was great, as was the increase in ensemble cast diversity.

I'm just a bit surprised - I thought this was 3 in a trilogy, but it's clearly not a final-in-the-series book. This is, overall, a GOOD surprise. I have high hopes! Especially for Margerit's niece - I devoutly hope she's our next heroine.

Frenchman's Creek (VMC Book 2160)Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I've never read any Du Maurier, and I'm told this is atypical - the only one of her works she claimed as a romance at all. It was a bit weird to read, like, say, if you'd read LOTR *after* reading Raymond E Feist. Suddenly I could see all these influences on the queer histrom I've been reading - not only faithfully adapted elements but *deliberately departed from* ones. Like. If this was written by one of the m/m histrom crowd now, there would be a *lot* deeper interrogation of the class issues in the novel. (Class here is used primarily as a _uniting_ factor, something to bring its heroine together with her Manic Pixie Pirate Baron, and not really interrogated at all.) Fisherman's Creek is definitely better literature, but less self-aware.

Good things: it's not in the slightest HEA. Which I liked - I was surfeited on HEA by the time I got to this one, and I can't see how a HEA would have *worked* here (unless you rewrote it as m/m. In which case they run away to sea together).

Also, Our Hero is a Manic Pixie Pirate Baron. That part seemed fairly self-aware: burned out woman gets to meet an inspiring rebel who Changes Her Life and recharges her to go back to her real world, much as has happened to dudes in literature forever.

To review later: Georgette Heyer, Tanya Huff, a book about beds, the latest Archer magazine issue, and LM Montgomery's autobiography.

Up Next: I need to attack Carolyne Larrington's 'Brothers and Sisters in Medieval Literature'




Music notes: well I saw Midnight Oil, asyouknowBob. And I bought Alan Doyle's first solo album, Boy on Bridge. Today I noticed that the song 'Testify', which sounds like country-gospel, is actually a song about a dude escaping prison by staging a river immersion baptism. This pleases me.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
2017-07-22 10:21 am
Entry tags:

Oh my

This morning I made pancakes and ate them on the balcony, and started reading Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I'm only about two chapters in, and am already blown away by her prose and her... I don't know what to call it, exactly, but it's there in God of Small Things and it's there in this one, and I haven't found anything in between that quite tastes like they do.

Other facts:

- yesterday I spent 200 chf on a handbag. It's a very nice, very understated handbag made of good leather, so probably worth it. (There was a Fossil bag I liked, on sale, considerably cheaper, but it had suede panels and was probably more fashion-dependent.) Friend R went shopping with me, and I think I disappointed her: I did not want sparkles, or colour blocks, or quilt effects, or tassels, and most things with gold embellishments I thought were too overdone (for me: underdone for R, I'm sure). I kept gravitating to bags she described as 'my aunt has one like that'. Basically I wanted something considerably smaller than my satchel, that I can wear with a dress, and that won't draw much attention (so I can carry it with ANY dress. Or with a more masc outfit if I so choose).

- We then went prowling through the makeup section. I learned a lot of terrifying things about makeup. Again, a bit weird, because I'm attracted to makeup as a THING, but evidence proves I don't bother wearing it. R kept being like 'this would look good on you'. Well, yes. Except I wouldn't wear it. I bought some single-use face masque sheets from Sephora, though, and that turns out to be quite rewarding. I haven't had a good masque since I stopped buying clinque (the Sukin mud one may or may not have been good for my skin, but it didn't feel like anything on and was therefore a disappointment).

There have been some Girlfriend Situations in the past week that have varied from bloody brilliant (gosh I'm looking forward to seeing her!) to anxiety-hamster to quietly worrying.
highlyeccentric: Joie du livre - young girl with book (Joie du livre)
2017-07-11 10:13 pm
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

My now-habitual consumption of a stack of romance & pulp during conference season stood me in good stead again, and then, my usual resorts exhausted, I turned to du Maurier and Heyer. So far I do not object to this choice.

Currently Reading: Georgette Heyer, 'A Civil Contract'; Tanya Huff, 'The Second Summoning'.

Recently Read:

For work, Utz's 'Medievalism: A Manifesto'

Spectred Isle (Green Men #1)Spectred Isle by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I LOVED THIS BOOK. (I have an ARC of it, which meant it got to be the first of my conference-season comfort reads.)

It has WWI angst and magic and 12th century ghosts, it's like it was written expressly for meeee. Our Hero ended WWI in disgrace for a crime that he variously implies constitutes sodomy and/or treason (exact details are only slowly doled out, in a careful integration with the plot). He is no longer welcome to excavate with his former mentor Leonard Woolley* and has ended up working for a rich gentleman with dubious ideas about the network of magical sites across London. Unfortunately for all concerned, there IS a network of magical sites across london, and Our Hero keeps stumbling across the man who's tasked with (in the absence of his family and allies, all lost in the war) keeping them under control.

Shenanigans ensue. Folk tales turn unfriendly. Unquiet ghosts from the Anarchy period must be put to rest, et caetera. I am particularly fond of the role which Randolph's deceased fiancé ends up playing - this book doesn't fall into the trap of completely eliding women from its m/m universe.

(*I mentioned this aspect to an archaeologist friend and her response was to suggest he should work with Mortimer Wheeler instead. Apparently Mortimer Wheeler is infamous for sleeping with anything that moved.)



An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, #2)An Unnatural Vice by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It's possible my enjoyment of this book might have been improved by realising it was number two in a series (some key plot points did seem rushed!), but perhaps not. I really, really loved the dynamic between these two, and the resolution re Jonah's career juuuust managed to convince me. (I like that. I like that it was teetering on the edge of something I was going to be pissed with, only to find a way to do it well.) I love how much both of them love the people in their lives. A++



The Secret Casebook of Simon FeximalThe Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is... odd. It starts as a collection of short stories, grows something resembling a through-plot, and ends as a set-up for the Green Men books. I think I'm glad I read it only AFTER having read Spectred Isle - I liked it as a prequel to that, better than I think I would have on its own. It does showcase KJ Charles' command of folklore and local history, which I particularly like.



An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities, #1)An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Plot-wise, this solved some of my problems with 'An Unnatural Vice' (turns out it helps to read things in order, who knew). It has several threads going on, and handles them all well. In terms of characterisation, Clem is a really good piece of writing on Charles' part - it's clear that he is autistic-or-something-like-it, but that's framed in terms that work in his setting. His position as a bastard of mixed race is mixed in with that with finesse, in such a way that you can tell that the two alienating factors are feeding into each other (a brilliant illegitimate son, or a neuroatypical heir, would both have had very different fates). I like that Clem isn't entirely alone in his family, and his cousin Tim is a good egg.

For some reason, I just didn't *click* with this pairing as well as I usually do with Charles' couples. I found them both, and their wants and their working out of the ways they fit together, fascinating, but not compelling.



Also finished: two Cat Sebastian m/m ... not bodice rippers if no-one's wearing bodices. Waistcoat-rippers? Cravat-rippers? Daphne du Maurier's 'Fisherman's Creek', which turned out to be an obvious influence on one of the former. And Renée Adieh's 'The Rose and the Dagger', which I'm still a little bit... dissatisfied with.

Up Next: Work things. I have a whole book on beds to read. Don't you just envy me?




Music notes: didn't listen to much while travelling, but today I coaxed Spotify into revealing to me that Alan Doyle has a new single and an album I didn't know about. My feelings on this matter are YES GOOD.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
2017-06-19 09:59 pm
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

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)
2017-05-25 11:07 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

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!)
2017-05-07 11:51 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

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)
2017-04-29 10:37 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

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)
2017-04-01 11:24 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

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)
2017-02-02 08:15 am
Entry tags:

What Are You Reading (Not Actually On A) Wednesday

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)
2017-01-25 12:52 pm
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What Are You Reading (Actually On A) Wednesday

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!)
2016-12-31 12:36 pm
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2016 book meme

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)
2016-12-30 08:31 pm
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Book Reviews catch-up post

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!)
2016-11-08 07:03 pm
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What Are You Reading Wednesday? (It's Wednesday in Australia)

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.