Sunday, August 24, 2014

Murchie Plus Books - August 17th to 23rd

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I combine these two passions by photographing my dog with every book I read (barring the stuff I get through Marvel Unlimited. Last week, that was lots of Avengers-related stuff).

The photos: go live on Instagram as I take 'em and appear here in digest form on Sundays.

A tiny grey poodle--Murchie--with a closely shaved face and long ears lies next to a book. He faces the camera directly so only his head is visible. The book beside him is Boy Snow Bird. Its cover is leaf green with a vintagge-style illustration of a grey and yellow snake twining through the title. Pink roses and a small brown mouse also appear alongside the snake.

As previously stated, I fell in love with Helen Oyeyemi's BOY, SNOW, BIRD within fifteen pages. Murchie could hardly believe it. He's listened to enough of my bookish rants to know I'm both picky and suspicious.

(Yes, I discuss literature with my dog. You're telling me you don't?)

He was rather less surprised when the book cruelly betrayed me. Murchie can be such a pessimist.

I discussed the betrayal last Tuesday and, to be honest, I'm still not over it, so let's move on to something happier.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Cover art for Boy Snow Bird, featuring a vintage-style illustration of a yellow and grey snake twined through the title. Pink roses, green leaves, and a brown mouse surround the snake. The cover's background is leaf green.
Endings mean everything.

*

Late in 1953, Boy Novak flees her abusive father for the comfort and beauty of Flax Hill Massachusetts, a town of artists. Unused to family life but eager for it all the same, she marries Arturo Whitman, a widowed jeweler who comes complete with parents, siblings, and the main prize--a beautiful little daughter named Snow. Boy craves a daughter just as ardently as Snow craves a mother, but their relationship sours when Boy gives birth to brown-skinned Bird, who proves the Whitmans have spent the last few decades passing as white.

*

I was desperately in love with BOY, SNOW, BIRD by page fifteen.

If you've known me for any length of time, you'll recall how rarely that happens. I'm a suspicious reader. I withhold my love for as long as possible lest the book in question prove unworthy of it. It's a bitter thing, falling in love with a book that turns on you. The sense of betrayal runs so deep that I, for one, find it impossible to shake off even years after1. It never goes away. It never really gets better.

BOY, SNOW, BIRD immediately reminded me of another book I loved just as intensely, and continue to love without regret: THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt. It's not that the two are anything alike, except insofar as they're about young people who lust after something outside their everyday experience--a common plot indeed. It's that they smell the same. They have the same underlying bouquet of competence and complexity and ultimate tragedy.

I loved the book all the more because I was sure Boy would know exactly what I meant if I said this to her.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Murchie Plus Books - August 10th to 16th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I've decided to combine the two by photographing my dog in front of every book I read (barring the stuff I get through Marvel Unlimited. Last week, that was lots of Marvel Cosmic stuff, with a particular emphasis on NOVA).

The photos: go live on Instagram as I take 'em and appear here in digest form on Sundays.

A fuzzy grey dog--Murchie--laying atop a fuzzy cream-coloured pillow. To his left (our right) is an e-reader with Bi: Notes For A Bisexual Revolution on the screen. The cover is purple with a raised white fist on it.

First off, I give you Shiri Eisner's BI: NOTES FOR A BISEXUAL REVOLUTION, a book I'm liable to be reading for quite some time. I had to buy it through Kindle rather than Kobo (fie on publishers who don't spread their sales across all retailers!), and my Kindle app isn't always willing to open in a timely fashion.

Never upgrade any of your apps on an older device. You're asking for a world of heartache.

Still, I've managed to make some progress on my phone, where Kindle is somewhat more cooperative (even if it does refuse to sync with my Kobo when I want it to, as opposed to whenever the hell it feels like it). It's a fascinating, academic take on a lesser-discussed sexuality, and I'm enjoying it very much.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A More Diverse Universe

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Signups are now underway for A More Diverse Universe (aka #Diversiverse), a yearly reading event. Founder Aarti asks participants to read and review at least one book by a person of colour during the last two weeks of September. In previous years, Diversiverse has focused on speculative fiction of all varieties; this year, it's open to every genre and marketing category under the sun.

Many people avoid reading diversely because they feel like they need to completely alter their habits and/or impose restrictions on themselves in order to do so. They worry they'll end up reading unsatisfying books in unappealing genres.

This is far from the case. White, heterosexual mens' stories are so prominent in many readers' lives not because they're the best books, or because anyone has a natural preference for them, but because those are the books that get the most publicity. They're the ones you see when you enter a bookstore or click onto your favourite online retailer's main page. They're the ones that get the majority of the reviews and social media buzz.

You don't limit yourself when you decide to read diversely; you open yourself up to tons of exciting books you might not have discovered without a little extra effort. As Aarti has said on multiple occasions:

You may have to change your book-finding habits to include POC authors in your reading rotation. You absolutely do not need to change your book-reading habits.

I myself decided to aim for at least 25% books by POC in 2014. As of this morning, 50% of what I've read has either been solely authored by a people of colour or has featured POC contributors (I read a lot of multi-author works like anthologies, literary magazines, and comics). And I haven't altered my reading habits in the slightest; I've simply sought out a few more author photos to ensure POC are well represented on my TBR and in my weekly library pile.

No matter what you like to read, I guarantee people of colour write it. And Diversiverse gives you the perfect excuse to seek it out.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recipe: Cream Gravy with Kale and Bacon

Bright green kale in a thick, pale brown cream sauce. Bits of crumbled bacon and the edge of a large, soft biscuit are also visible.

Friends, I've fallen into a kale rut.

Kale is a staple of my diet in the summer, when it's cheap and fresh and oh-so easy to turn into something delicious and nutritious, but I fear I almost always prepare it the same way: braised, with bacon. Braised kale with bacon is undeniably tasty, but it's also... well, the same thing over and over again.

Last weekend I decided to branch out. I decided to experiment.

Another of my favourite dishes is cream gravy, a sauce popular in the American South. Cream gravy combines bacon or sausage drippings with milk or cream to make a thick, delectable splodge that works well atop biscuits, fried potatoes, or any old thing you'd eat with regular gravy.

I started wondering how it'd taste with kale in the mix.

Pretty durned good, as it turns out.

I know, I know; the picture above, she does not inspire confidence. This dish ain't gonna win any beauty contests, but trust me: if you like kale and cream gravy all by themselves, you're gonna love them together.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

cover art for Fool's Assassin, featuring a pale-skinned man with long, dark hair walking through the snow. He has is head turned slightly to one side so he's in profile. He wears medievalesque leathers and carries an ax on his back. A large pair of antlers hover in the background.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Here it is, friends. The reason I made time to revisit Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings series this year1.

I've tried to wrestle this one into something resembling a proper review since FOOL'S ASSASSIN is a new release and all, but I fear it's still mostly me rambling on about a book I love. There shouldn't be any major spoilers for this particular installment, but we're far enough along now that I've had to at least imply some things about the previous books in the overarching series.

Okay. Let's go.

FOOL'S ASSASSIN begins about ten years after the end of FOOL'S FATE and carries us through roughly the next fifteen years. Fitz retreats from Buckkeep politics in favour of life at Withywoods, where he dwells peacefully with Molly. The only true mar on his happiness is how much he misses the Fool.

Until Molly's mind begins to wander in the most alarming way, and Fitz finds himself in sole possession of a most unusual child.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Murchie (and Buster) Plus Books - August 3rd to 9th

The premise: I love books. I love my dog. I've decided to photograph my dog in front of every book I read or listen to (except the stuff I get from Marvel Unlimited, of which there was rather a lot last week. I think I'm addicted to HAWKEYE).

The photos: go live on Instagram as I take 'em and appear here in digest form once per week. Or twice, when I'm catching up. Sometimes thrice, like this week, but I swear it'll never be more than that.

A golden lab--Buster--lies beside an e-reader so only his face is visible. The e-reader's screen shows the cover for The Saint, which features a presumably naked woman lounging on her side with her back to the reader. Only her long hair is truly visible. The entire cover is cast in shades of blue.

Wait, who's this golden lab? Where's Murchie???