Sunday, September 25, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: September 18th to 24th

The premise: I make my beloved dog pose with every book I read. This week he was super good about keeping his head still. Excellent work, Murchie!

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: tons moar X-Men. I took a break last week, then dove back in and finally, finally reached the stuff I read when I was a teenager. I'm surprised at what I remember and what I've completely forgotten, as we'll discuss in more detail when I write about this chunk of issues.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, curls up behind a white Kobo with the cover of Mrs Vargas and the Dead Naturalist on it. The cover features a mexican woman dressed in an enveloping blue top and a broad white skirt. She stands in a forest, surrounded by toucans, butterflies, and a small, spotted jungle cat.

I wish I could remember who urged me to read Kathleen Alcalá. It might have been Eva, who I've thanked just in case. It was certainly someone with amazing taste.

MRS VARGAS AND THE DEAD NATURALIST [Amazon | Scribd] is fucking transcendent. I loved it so much I don't even want to try to analyze why.

If you require something more than my word, you may want to know Alcalá reads like early Francesca Lia Block aimed at grownups and sans cultural appropriation.

Otherwise, I'm out. Just leave me alone to wallow in this woman's glorious prose and fantastical take on the everyday world.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Signs You May Be A CW Character

Gif of Rogelio from Jane the Virgin screaming, She said that I was dramatic?!

The CW Network, my favouritest of favourite televised entertainment providers, starts airing all-new shows again in October. In advance of this important day, I want to provide y’all with a checklist you can use to determine if you--yes, you!--are a CW character.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz

Cover of Her Halloween Treat, featuring a bearded, blond, white man standing in front of an autumnal barn. His red flannel shirt is open to show his hairless chest.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

HER HALLOWEEN TREAT [Amazon | Kobo | The Book Depository] is the first of three holiday romances by Tiffany Reisz, best known for her phenomenal Original Sinners books. Titled Men At Work, this new miniseries stars women who fall for men who’re very good with their hands.

Reisz, never content to do things the conventional way, has spread the series out over multiple autumnal and winter holidays instead of centering all three books on December. HER HALLOWEEN TREAT obviously takes place in the lead-up to Halloween, when the heroine plans to attend her brother's 80s themed costume wedding.

Joey thought she’d stop in and surprise her semi-long-distance boyfriend on her way from her current home in Hawaii to her childhood home in Oregon. Instead, she’s surprised--and devastated--to learn he’s always confined their relationship to her far-off state because he’s married. She gets the hell out of there as fast as she can and holes up in her family’s old cabin on Mount Hood, where fate presents her with an opportunity for rebound sex with a fit handyman.

Chris was close friends with Joey’s brother in high school, but she hasn’t seen him since. He’s the perfect choice for a quick and dirty fling: friendly, familiar, and oh-so sexy now he’s grown out of his teenage stoner phase. They agree to bang their way through to the wedding and deal with the good kind of pain when Joey heads home afterwards, but long-dormant feelings soon threaten to smash their careful plan.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: Rag and Bone by KJ Charles

Cover of Rag and Bone, featuring a dark-haired black man and a dirty blonde white man together against a greenish background. They both wear vaguely Victorian dress.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

RAG AND BONE [Amazon | Kobo | Scribd] is the fifth novel set in KJ Charles’s Charm of Magpies world; however, it’s a connected story rather than a sequel to the previous books. You can read it as a standalone, though you may find yourself wishing for a touch more background on the practitioners of London if you take that route.

So far as the series chronology goes, RAG AND BONE takes place after FLIGHT OF MAGPIES and concurrently with JACKDAW. There’s the occasional non-spoilery update on where the justiciars are at with that particular problem, but you can easily read this before that.

The book is a direct sequel to “A Queer Trade,” a novella that originally appeared in the CHARMED AND DANGEROUS anthology and has since been made available as a standalone. While I wouldn’t call the original story optional, I realized the connection so far into RAG AND BONE that I decided I’d do best to read the novella after I’d finished the novel. Waiting didn’t harm my enjoyment one bit and I doubt it'll harm yours.

Background: complete. Let’s talk about the book itself.

Crispin, a young practitioner, is horrified to learn he’s unwittingly spent the last decade training as a warlock and frustrated with how difficult it is to break the habits his evil master taught him. His boyfriend, Ned, is a source of solace from the contempt he faces from London’s less diabolical magicians, but his trips to Ned’s place become considerably less restful when Ned’s neighbour spontaneously combusts. Everything about the man’s death points towards a sinister janus jug, but the justiciar who arrives on the scene can find no trace of magic either in the room or on the jug itself. Unwilling to let his friend's death become a cold case, Ned investigates while Crispin delves into a new approach to magic that could push him towards the answer--if it doesn't take him way from Ned entirely.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: September 11th to 17th

The premise: I make my beloved dog, Murchie, pose beside every book I read. Sometimes he's fine with this and sometimes he wishes I'd go away and let him sleep in peace.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, sticks his head above a white Kobo with the cover of Bookburners Season 2 Episode 13 on it. The red cover features the stylized image of a woman in a yellow dress standing before a tribunal of Catholic Cardinals, her back to the viewer.

And so we reach the BOOKBURNERS [Amazon | Serial Box] season finale, penned by showrunner Max Gladstone. This season has been a wild ride, and episode 13 delivers a little bit of everything: courtroom drama, weighty sacrifices, ideological clashes, political maneuvering, and some far-ranging plans that look set to change everything.

I gulped it down early last Sunday, as planned, and it elevated my whole day.

Which isn't to say the episode is all sunshine and puppy dogs. Team Three has delved into some dark places this season, and the finale stays true to type. Asanti's in a bad situation indeed, and the rest of the team has to process how they feel about that with an extra side of guilt over what Frances is going through. Many tensions come to a head, while others resolve themselves (perhaps temporarily) in the face of this greater threat. There are no easy answers here, and no way forward without a hell of a lot of compromise. Gladstone limns this process of give and take with consummate skill, illuminating each side of the issue without downplaying how much these concessions cost everyone involved.

I got pretty damned emotional as everything played out, and that ending--! Wow. Talk about a hook for S3.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Diverse Reads On Scribd

Banner that reads 67 Diverse-Authored Books Available On Scribd. The background is a faded image of an iPad and a book encircled by a person's jeans-clad leg. A pale hand holds a full coffee cup near the bottom of the picture.

As promised, here's a selection of diverse-authored books available on Scribd to go with my list of 37 inexpensive diverse-authored books!

Scribd is an electronic reading service that provides subscribers with three monthly ebook credits and one monthly audio credit to spend on titles from participating publishers. There's also a large, rotating selection of Unlimited books and audios available without a credit. While many large, mainstream publishers put their books on Scribd, the service is especially valuable to anyone interested in exploring work from smaller and/or niche publishers, like those who publish books by and about marginalized people. These sorts of books are less likely to show up in public libraries, and they often carry a high price tag even in ebook format. Scribd makes them more accessible to readers with smaller budgets or sparser librarians.

If you aren't already using Scribd, you can try it free for two months.

The books listed below are available at the time of this writing (September 14th, 2016), mostly within the credit selection, but the publishers who put their books on Scribd do sometimes change out their offerings so I can't guarantee how long these titles will be up. On the plus side, they may also be rotated into one of the monthly Unlimited pools, removing the need for a credit!

Once again, I've limited this list to books I've personally read and enjoyed, to the first book in a series where relevant, to books available in Canada (Scribd imposes geographic restrictions, so I can't see material available in other territories), and to authors who I can identify as diverse based on photos, bios, and public discussions I've witnessed. I'd love to hear your own recommendations in the comments, particularly where openly queer authors are concerned. I'm sure I've left many wonderful writers off the list because I don't know they're queer.

Starting with prose fiction by genre and moving along to audiobooks, I recommend:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tremontaine Season Two, Episode One: Convocation by Ellen Kushner

Tremontaine banner. To the right is the silhouette of a woman with a sword stuck through her bun. She's surrounded by the tiny figures of a cat, a swan, a ship, a person with a sword, and a person with a hot drink. To the right is the title.

Review copy provided by the publisher, who has kindly accepted me into the TremonTEAM (ie, the Tremontaine street team).

Friends, the premiere episode of TREMONTAINE S2 might as well have been written with my wishlist in mind. I devoured it in a state of great excitement that I must now share with you in the hopes that you, too, will pick it up upon its release next month.

If you’ve missed my previous gushing on the matter, TREMONTAINE is a serial set in the same world as Ellen Kushner’s Riverside books: SWORDSPOINT, THE PRIVILEGE OF THE SWORD (one of my favourite books ever), and THE FALL OF THE KINGS (coauthored with Delia Sherman). The serial begins somewhat more than fifteen years before SWORDSPOINT and follows a diverse group of nobles, merchants, scholars, and lowlifes through an unnamed city in a secondary fantasy world that ditched its wizards, and its kings, a few hundred years back. A duchess seeks to repair her family’s shattered fortune and protect her darkest secret. A foreign trader struggles to redeem herself after an affair of the heart gone wrong. Mathematicians search for the calculations that’ll allow their country’s navigators to venture further afield. And the chocolate trade ties them all together.

It’s my favourite.