Monday, September 1, 2014

Conversation: The Angel's Cut by Elizabeth Knox

Cover art for The Angel's Cut, featuring the tip of a white wing that stretches across the entire length of the cover. The title is superimposed over it in purple.
Some months back, the lovely Lynn O'Connacht and I had a marvellous time talking about THE VINTNER'S LUCK by Elizabeth Knox. (If you missed the discussion, here's Part I and Part II.) We had such a good time hashing out our thoughts together that we decided we had to talk about THE ANGEL'S CUT, too.

It took us a little while to get our ducks in order (thanks, Hugo Awards), but we've finally managed the feat. As was the case with THE VINTNER'S LUCK, there will be spoilers below. Lots and lots of spoilers.

If you're all right with spoilers and would like a little summary before you dive into the discussion itself, here's the jacket copy:

Hollywood, 1929. While Conrad Cole is working late on elaborate plans for his aeroplanes and his films, a mysterious stranger appears at his door. Xas soon finds himself caught up in the glamorous and treacherous world of movie-making and entangled with both Cole and a young woman who owes her life to the eccentric director. Both of them are drawn to Xas without knowing his secret - that under his shirt he hides the remnants of great snowy wings that set him apart from humankind, and that he is destined to wander the earth forever, always hearing the beating of feathers behind him, threatening him that his dark brother has found him again.

And if you'd like to know a touch more about Lynn, my partner in crime, she had this to say for herself when we tackled THE VINTNER'S LUCK:

Hi, everyone! I'm Lynn, an indie author, a reader, a gamer, and an occasional watcher of dvds. I met Memory in 2008 or so and she's been one of my blogging inspirations ever since as well as an awesome writer with great taste. It's been wonderful to read THE VINTNER'S LUCK together with Memory. It's a book we both fell in love with the first time we read it and it seemed like a great book to try this buddy reviewing thing out with.

THE ANGEL'S CUT worked just as well, as you'll soon see--though this time around, we were slightly more divided in our opinions...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Murchie Plus Books: August 24th to August 30th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog with every book I read (except the stuff I get through Marvel Unlimited. Last week, that was War of Kings and the beginning of Realm of Kings. Maybe I should do a separate "Here's what I read on Marvel Unlimited" feature...).

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

A small grey poodle with short hair--Murchie--peeks out from a cave made of a folded-over dark red duvet cover with gold piping. Beside him, diagonally across the bottom right hand corner, is an e-reader with The Door in the Mountain displayed on it. The cover depicts a minotaur kneeling before a green-tinged mountain.

Murchie became camera shy again during the week I spent with THE UNCROWNED KING by Michelle West, so I had to corner him nice and early to get this picture. He uses my duvet to make himself a blanket cave every morning of his life. It's frickin' adorable.

Alas, the book itself--THE DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN by Caitlin Sweet--didn't quite grab me. After I'd spent somewhat more than two days with the first six chapters, I decided to put it aside. It's by no means a bad book, but I suspect I read it at the wrong time. Bookish withdrawal can be a bitch, even when you know you aren't physically or emotionally ready to dive back in.

Which is to say, I desperately needed to read some short, quick books after my week with THE UNCROWNED KING--except I was also desperate to read more Michelle West. These two conflicting desperations ensured I didn't read much of anything last week.

Sigh.

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.