highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
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: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
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)
Currently Reading: Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen. GB, The Style of Gestures (nearly finished!). A few other things on hiatus.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


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

However.

However.

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

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

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



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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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

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



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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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

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

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



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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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

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

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



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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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



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




Music notes: back to fixation on country music, apparently. I blame the sound program for Crimes of the Heart - I bought a Dolly Parton album and a June Carter Cash one because of key songs being used in that play.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently reading: For work, still La Belle Hélène de Constantinople. For funsies, alternating between Ken Liu's 'The Paper Menagerie and other Stories' and Heather Rose Jones' 'The Mystic Marriage'. I'm also working on a recording of 'The Night Fairy' for little sis' birthday.

Recently finished:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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



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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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



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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


WELL.

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

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

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

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



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

Music notes:

I am suddenly and drastically obsessed with Amy MacDonald. Have purchased the 'This is the life' double album; have my eye on the orchestral collab as well.

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