Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Tiny Deadpool's Taco Tour

Early this month, I headed on down to America for my birthday. The United States, unlike my part of Canada, is littered with Mexican restaurants. You can’t go very far without running into a quality purveyor of tacos, and I decided to take full advantage of this by going on as full-on a taco tour of Fargo, North Dakota as one can in two days.

I brought Tiny Deadpool, of course. Dude loves tacos. How could I even think of leaving him out?

Tiny Deadpool, a bobblehead covered in a red bodysuit and brandishing a gun and a katana, stands in a pile of tortilla chips. In front of him are two catfish tacos topped with jalapenos, lime wedges, and creamy sauce.

Tiny Deadpool and I began our quest for tacos at an unlikely venue: Famous Dave’s, a barbeque joint that recently added “urban tacos” to their lunch menu. I’m a sucker for their catfish (which shows to best advantage on a po’boy, though catfish fingers are also delish), so of course I had to get the catfish tacos.

Each one contained a goodly amount of crispy baked catfish, plus greens, spicy remoulade, jalapenos, and lime. (The last time I had these, the chef put the lime wedges in the tacos, which was weird and uncalled for. Thankfully, this chef knew enough to stick ‘em on the side so I could just squeeze the juice on.) Tiny Deadpool and I both approved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: The House of Arkhangel'sk by Jane Kindred

Cover of The Fallen Queen, featuring a blonde white woman in a ball gown. She is surrounded by mists of red, gold, and dark blue.
Y’all recall my mental block with ‘The Snow Queen,’ right? I love just about every version I’ve ever encountered (though I confess I’ve never managed to read the Hans Christian Andersen original in its entirety), but I almost never recognize them for what they are until I’m pretty far in.

Sometimes I don’t recognize them until quite a bit after the fact.

I read THE FALLEN QUEEN, Jane Kindred’s novel-length debut, shortly before it was published and have spent the last three-plus years recommending it to every fantasy fan of my acquaintance even as I myself let the majority of Kindred’s books pile up on my Kobo, purchased but unread. Last December, I decided it was time to Do Something about this situation--and seeing as how 2014 was the year of the Reread/Catch-Up Project1, I opened THE FALLEN QUEEN and dove back in.

And damned if it isn’t ‘The Snow Queen.’

Anazakia is a Grand Duchess of Heaven, pampered and nurtured within the bosom of her large, angelic family--until her cousin Kae, whom she once considered her best friend, falls under a mysterious woman’s influence and slaughters everyone who stands between his paramour and the throne. Nazkia escapes the carnage thanks to a sorcerous doppelganger and a chance encounter with a demonic grifter who helps her flee to the world of Man, where few angels dare to tread. There, she discovers a freedom she never knew was possible, tingling with magic and brimming with choices, but she cannot ignore the situation in Heaven forever. When an old friend-turned-enemy calls her back home, Nazkia must fight to save her world, regain her cousin’s soul, and preserve the new family she’s built for herself.

And chances are, she can’t do all three.

Since I devoured all three books--THE FALLEN QUEEN, THE MIDNIGHT COURT, and THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN--in rapid succession, I figured I’d talk about them en masse. I read them so quickly that they’ve become tangled up in my mind, and this state of affairs has only increased in the months since I swiped the last screen.

THE FALLEN QUEEN and THE MIDNIGHT COURT were both rereads, while this review reflects my first experience with THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN2.

The series isn’t just a retelling of ‘The Snow Queen;’ it also echoes the Russian Revolution with its oft-repeated claim that Anastasia alone survived the Russian royal family’s murder. In Kindred’s Heaven, this is exactly what happened. Nazkia stands in for Anastasia, of course, while each member of her large, happy family bears a striking resemblance to the human Russians who lived and died a century before them.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: July 19th to 25th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog beside every book I read, barring the digital comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: I read Marjorie Liu's run on ASTONISHING X-MEN, as planned, and I had a mostly great time with it. It's got me even more excited for MONSTRESS (Liu's forthcoming creator-owned collaboration with artist Sana Takada), and I was pretty damned excited to begin with.

I also read NATION X, a miniseries packed with short stories about how various X-Men engage with their new home on Utopia. I enjoyed the majority of them, and one story in particular made me realize I rather like Magneto. Huh. I can't say as it even occurred to me to ask myself whether I felt one way or the other about the guy.

(Sidebar: Magneto throws me off these days because he's now a bald guy who wears white instead of a purple-clad dude with flowing white locks. It always takes me a second to recognize him.)

I read X-TERMINATION, too, since it crossed over with ASTONISHING X-MEN, but I wasn't really into it. Oh well. Not every X-Men comic has to be my cuppa, right?

And I finished off my Hugo reading so I could cast my final votes. Whew! It feels mighty good to be done with all that. Mighty, mighty good. I can now read whatever the hell I want, staring with the rest of Doctrine of Labyrinths and some of the ARCs that've piled up. I mean, I've got a copy of FOOL'S QUEST burning a hole in my Kobo, and I haven't even touched it. How? Why? Have I been replaced with a Skrull who acts sort of like me hasn't quite mastered my normal behavior?

I want to say no, I haven't, but that's exactly what a Skrull would say. So, yeah.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, is flopped partway inside a blanket cave mad out of a red tapestry comforter. His paws extend before him. A white Kobo with The Three Body Problem's blue-tinted cover on its screen appears at the mouth of the cave. The illustration depicts a pyramid in a frozen landscape.

Murchie was pretty durned grumpy throughout the early part of last week. He was all about the blanket caves and the long naps and the not eating his daily cheese. Sigh.

The cheese thing turned out to mean he wanted to have daily cookies instead, which is fair enough. As to the rest of it, I think THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is at least partly to blame. I began the week with Cixin Liu's Hugo-nominated novel as planned, and... well, it wasn't my thing. At all.

When I was a young person, I avoided science fiction because I thought it was all ideas-over-people, and I'm a character-oriented reader. I eventually figured out SF could be just as charactery as any other genre, but I doubt I'd have got there if I'd been reading stuff like this. THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is idea-heavy, to the point where its characters are just kind of... there. I initially thought I might connect with Ye, but then the focus shifted away from her and the prose slipped into heavy tell-not-show territory and my interest died an ignoble death.

I read a few reviews before I made a firm choice, but practically everyone said something along the lines of, "The science is great, but don't expect much from the characters." A few also mentioned how the person who seems to be the central character fades away in the second half. So I tapped out before the book made me as grumpy as it made my dog.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Deadpool (and tacos)

A comics panel featuring a blonde white man, Longshot, jerking his thumb at Deadpool, a red-bodysuit-wearing fellow who dances around in the background clutching a bunch of tacos. Longshot's dialogue reads, 'Deadpool was brain controlled by Order, and he was going to kill you, but it looks like tacos broke the spell.' Deadpool's reads, 'Tacos!'
From LONGSHOT SAVES THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #4

So I read Daniel Way’s run on DEADPOOL back in October, and I finished Fabian Nicieza’s CABLE & DEADPOOL a couple weeks ago, and while I mostly enjoyed both series I figured I didn’t have all that much to say about Deadpool. Entertaining though he was, I ultimately managed to pull myself away from the guy. It’s not like I’ve come back to him time and again in the months since he and I first met. It’s not like he’s become one of my comics touchstones.

Except for the part where he totally has.

Deadpool follows me everywhere. I waste time contemplating the extreme efficacy of his healing factor. (He can regrow his head.) I smile whenever I think of that time Squirrel Girl kicked his ass. (And he's like, "She is the scariest, most powerful superhero ever, right up there with Wolverine.") I wonder whether he’s actually a mutant or if his healing factor is entirely Weapon X’s doing, and I ask myself whether I care enough to Google it. (I don’t, though I guess CABLE & DEADPOOL more or less tells me he’s not.)

And, most of all, I think about how Deadpool’s love of tacos makes me like him far more than I might otherwise do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Half Bad and Half Wild by Sally Green

Cover of Half Bad, featuring swirls of red liquid that form the silhouette of a boy's face against a grey background.
I finished Sally Green’s HALF BAD and said, “Wow. That was excellent. I’m gonna have to write about it right away.”

But my dears, I am not always the speediest at transcribing the thoughts that whirl through my head. Before I’d done so much as draft a rough outline, I’d also finished the sequel, HALF WILD, and the books were hopelessly tangled together in my mind.

Therefore, we shall discuss the two in a single space, trying to stay clear of spoilers but with, perhaps, the occasional implication. I don’t think anything I’m about to discuss will damage your reading experience, but I do say a fair bit about why Nathan and his world fascinate me, so proceed at your own risk.

I knew very little about these books before I downloaded the audio of HALF BAD from Scribd. I'd overheard an enthusiastic Twitter conversation or two, but I mostly took note because someone on my Instagram feed received swag. And I kind of suck at reading words from left to right (as we do in English, or so Jenny once informed me1), so I thought it was called BAD HALF for quite a while there. Oops.

Anyways, all I knew was there were witches, maybe, who probably existed in a contemporary setting. No one in my circle reached out to recommend it to me specifically, from which I deduce my particular bookish friends either haven’t read it yet, didn't like it, or didn't think I'd like it.

(It must be one of the first two, because how could you know me and not think I'd love this? I mean, really?)

I went in dark, and now I want to rush around informing everyone, from my particular bookish friends to random people on the street, that I am excited as all hell about these books and really think they should read them.

Really.

But I guess y'all need reasons, so let's start with some summary and move along to the meat of the thing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: July 12th to 18th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by posing my tiny and adorable dog (or one of his able stand-ins) beside every book I read, barring the digital comics I read in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: I read the UNCANNY X-MEN arc in which the mutants find a new home in San Francisco so I'd be ready to carry on with ASTONISHING X-MEN. Then--surprise twist coming up--I carried on with ASTONISHING X-MEN. I'm now poised to start Marjorie Liu's run, and I'm praying it's more engaging than the stuff that came before it. The series hasn't really gripped me since Joss Whedon left.

I also read ETERNALS, Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr's 2007 miniseries, and now I'm convinced the entire Marvel Universe runs on mind wipes. Seriously, who hasn't been erased from existence at one point or another? Why hasn't the whole thing collapsed under the weight of all these false memories and psychological trauma?

Maybe it has. Maybe that's what Secret Wars is all about. Guess I'll find out in six months or so.

(Nah; I'm pretty sure Secret Wars is all about the stuff the New Avengers have been doing, with the worlds destroying each other. I should catch up on that. I'm behind.)

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lays in a pink and beige striped dog bed. His head is very close to the camera so only his face and one paw are visible. Behind him is a paperback copy of Melusine. Its green-toned cover features a shirtless white man with red hair and vine-like tattoos on his forearms.

Behold! I actually reread Sarah Monette's M√ČLUSINE!

If I start talking about this book I will never, ever shut up, so just let me say that Mildmay is the only literary character I love more than Kate Bishop and Kyoko Mogami. And I've been real subtle about it, so you might not have picked up on this, but I love Kate Bishop and Kyoko Mogami a hell of a lot.

Except no, wait, I've also gotta tell you M√ČLUSINE used to be the book I read every April, along with its three sequels, but I decided to take a wee break so I'd have some time to forget things1. The wee break somehow stretched to four years, and this turned out to be an excellent thing. I had so many moments where I was like, "Ooh, I'd forgotten about [super great bit of worldbuilding]!" It was awesome.

And I've finally realized the Kalliphorne is a melusine (which is a snakey-fishy water monster, mythologically speaking). Sometimes I'm slow on the uptake.

And, this is one of my 6-star books. For a while there, I thought it was gonna be back up to 7 stars (a rank it achieved after my third reading; this was my fifth), but for some reason I wasn't quite as into the walk across Kekropia this time. Huh. I'm normally all over that part.

Maybe next time.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Regarding Four-Leaf Clovers

When I was four years old, my grandma plunked me down by the clover patch in her back yard and announced we were on the hunt for a four-leaf clover to bring us luck. We’d look here, and we’d look in the park across the way, and we’d celebrate when we found one.

We never found one.

I kept on looking, though, and not just with my grandmother. For the next two decades, I paused to hover over clover patches large and small in search of the elusive four-leaf, with poor results all around.

In late 2011, I visited Nelson, NZ. My helpful hostel director encouraged me to do three key things in town: climb to the centre of New Zealand, combine fish and chips with a pint at two sister-restaurants down the road, and explore the Maitai River trail.

That guy knew what was what. The centre of New Zealand was impressive, the fish and chips and beer was delicious1, and the Mai Tai River trail--which stretches from Nelson's harbour straight on inland to the mountains beyond the town--proved itself one of the best places in the entire country.

My trek inland ranks among the highlights of my life, but I started with a walk down to the harbour. And a patch of clover caught my eye along the way, as as patches of clover are wont to do.

I left the path, craned my head over the wee plants, and sighed. All at once, it felt pointless. “I dunno why I keep doing this,” I grumbled to myself. “I’ve been searching for twenty-three frickin’ years, and I haven’t found a four-leaf clover yet.”

Thirty seconds later, I straightened up with one pinched between my thumb and forefinger.