Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Marginalized Genders Reading List: 2016 Edition

Square header featuring two images above a central white strip that reads 136 Authors From Marginalized Genders. The upper image is of a young black woman looking at a notebook as she sits on set of wooden stairs in a brick-lined room. The lower image shows a woman's pale hands holding a champagne phone and a mustard-coloured zippered pouch.

At the start of 2016, Renay of Lady Business issued herself a challenge to read work by 100 different women authors and artists over the course of the year. I liked this challenge so much that I took it up myself, with a slight adjustment to include nonbinary, genderfluid, and agender authors as well.

I counted everyone whose work was at least novelette-length for prose or issue-length for comics, and my year-end reading list looks like this, in alphabetical order:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Murchie Plus Books: January 1st to 14th

I make my tiny dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. Lately, it's been easiest to corner him in bed first thing in the morning. Little dude loves a blanket cave.

The photos go live on Instagram as I edit them and usually appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary. I missed last Sunday because 2017 started off on a low note: Murchie got sick right after New Years, then my grandma had a bad fall, then I got a nasty (and long-lasting) flu mutation mere days later. Neither Murchito nor I was good for much last weekend, so I'll cover two weeks' reading today.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, curls up beside a white Kobo so only the top of his silver head and a flash of his darker muzzle are visible. The Kobo's screen holds the cover of Finding X, which features the title in fuscia over drawn swirls of blue hair.

FINDING X by Miles Tan [Amazon | Scribd] had the potential to be adorable. Carlisle (pronounced car-lees-lee, not car-lyle) has been wary of romance ever since her seven-year relationship ended, but she's almost more intrigued than taken aback when she meets blue-haired Matteo, a charming scientist. Their evolving relationship is mostly very sweet and friendly, with both parties making an effort to overcoming their reservations and connect.

Trouble is, Matteo treats Carlisle as an experiment to be solved rather than a person who makes her own choices. He keeps a notebook in which he tracks the results of his quest to discover the best ways to make her happy, some of which involve charting her daily routine and lying in wait for her so he can try his next gambit. At one point, he gushes about how he schedules a date on a rainy day so she'll have to accept a ride from him. Tan's aiming for "sweet but bumbling scientist doesn't quite know how to conduct a romance," but it comes across as "stalker targets lady and proceeds to worm his way into her life in unwelcome ways."

Scientific approaches to romance can work on the page, with Nicola Yoon's THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR being a recent example, but Matteo's experiments are a dealbreaker for me because he never cuts Carlisle in on them. Their relationship becomes something he's doing to her, not something they're working on together. I dearly wish Tan had reworked this aspect of it all, or nixed it entirely.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Best of 2016

2016 was a crap year in many respects, but I did read a hell of a lot of good books. Here’re my top picks in the order I read them, with some stats and commentary tacked onto the end for good measure.

2016 Top 16

Sixteen, people! That’s the most ever! I tried and tried and tried to narrow it down, but the books refused to let me ignore them.

Thanks, books.

A large-headed Funko Pop of Poe Dameron sits beside a Funko Pop of B B 8. A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, looms out of focus behind them.
to the sky without wings by leupagus

Never in my life did I imagine I’d read a novel-length piece of fanfic, and never ever ever did I think said fanfic would end up on my yearly Top 10 list (or Top 16 list, as the case may be). But here we are.

This Star Wars fic (which you can read in its entirely here) gripped me so hard that I dropped everything whenever another chapter came out. It convinced me fic can have a place in my life, and that sometimes my least favourite tropes can win me over.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Murchie Plus Books: December 25th to 31st

I make my dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. He was especially mopey about it last week, but he still managed to keep his head reasonably still.

My Not Pictured selections include lots and lots of X-Men comics, as per usual. I took December off from UNCANNY in the hopes of catching up on a few of the series that lead into Chris Claremont's 2004 run on the book, and I had a lot of fun dipping into older miniseries and more recent short-lived titles like EMMA FROST, MYSTIQUE, and DISTRICT X. I finally finished X-TREME X-MEN, too, so I'm ready to forge onward in January!

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies on a cow-shaped pillow. His chin extends over a white Kobo, placed at an angle in front of him. It's got the red cover of Hot Blood Punk on its screen, featuring the torso of a white boy with a vegan leather jacket over his bare, colourfully tattooed chest.

My sorta-kinda plan for the next few weeks is to dig into all the Scribd stuff I've been procrastinating on. To that end, I ponied up a credit for Willow Scarlett's HOT BLOOD PUNK [Amazon | Scribd | Smashwords] and dove in.

COIN TRICKS is still my favourite, but this 150-page offering was also great. Jordie, a genderqueer sculptor who's had a rough couple of years, connects with a punk named Luke during a life-changing bus ride. Next thing they know, Luke's an integral part of their everyday world and things no longer seem so hopeless.

There are shades of instalove to it all, but Scarlett demonstrates that these two click so quickly because they genuinely like and admire each other. They're opposites who can enjoy spending time together without losing themselves. Consent is a huge part of their relationship from the get-go as confident Luke makes it absolutely clear he respects shy Jordie's boundaries (and pronouns!) and doesn't want to do anything Jordie isn't 100% into. Jordie, too, isn't afraid to stand up to Luke when Luke goes too far in any direction. Their relationship unfolds quickly, but it's sweet and affectionate and grounded in understanding.

It reinforced my love for Scarlett's bibliography.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Cover of Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. A black-clad boy stands against a bright red background, his hands in his pockets. A speech bubble with the title in it hovers where his head should be.
I had no choice but to read Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA [Amazon | Kobo | Scribd], in two sittings. (It would’ve been one, but I was too sleepy to keep going.) It won my love right from the first line, and kept on earning it as it took me deep into every facet of Simon’s wonderful, difficult, hopeful, beautiful life.

It will be on my Best of 2016 list. I’ll tell you that for free, spoilers for future posts be damned.

I loved it so much, and on such a visceral level, that I want to rant about it to the rooftops without the limitations of coherence, so we’re gonna take the short, gushy, ungrammatical route:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Love At First Word

A fair few of my readerly friends tell me a book must hook them within a single page or they’re out.

If I read this way, I’d never finish anything.

I like a lot, but I’m picky about what I love--and I usually need to sink into a book before I can tell whether I’m gonna fall hard for it. Hell, in a few extreme cases it's taken me as long as two hundred and fifty pages to go from, “I really like this” to “OMG THIS IS BEST THING IN THE WORLD.”

Because I’m as suspicious as I am picky. Books have to trick me into trusting them, and precious few have ever managed to win my love within the space of two pages.

Even fewer have done it with a single paragraph. In the order I read them, they are:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: December 18th to 24th

Merry Christmas to everyone who's celebrating today, and Happy Hanukkah to everyone who's still got seven nights left in their celebration! Murchie and I had tacos last night and will be digging into turkey and Nigella Lawson's Christmas cupcakes tonight (or I will, at any rate; Murchie can't have chocolate), and we hope you've got similarly wonderful meals in your near future.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies in profile in front of a white Kobo with the cover of Mortal Fire on it. The cover features a brown girl lit from below so red light bathes her face. Bees swirl through her long, dark hair.

Last week I needed something historical that'd remind me of I CAPTURE THE CASTLE without actually being anything like I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, so naturally I turned to MORTAL FIRE by Elizabeth Knox [Amazon | Scribd]. As per usual, it took me a couple of days to actually sit down and wallow in it, but once I did it was wonderful.

The book takes place in the same world as Knox's Dreamhunter Duet, but it's set more than fifty years later so you don't have to read the early books to enjoy this one. (Be prepared to know how the Dreamhunting industry's going as of the late '50s, though.) Sixteen-year-old Canny is dismayed when her parents send her to spend the summer in a rural valley with her stepbrother, who's gathering firsthand accounts of a mining accident that changed the face of industry thirty years before. Her attitude changes when she discovers the valley's reclusive residents share a magic she's always been aware of but has never managed to properly direct. She throws herself into a full-on study of the form, with help from a mysterious prisoner tucked away in a house no one is supposed to be able to see, and her efforts lead to far more personal revelations than she could ever have imagined.

It hits sooooooo many of my sweet spots. Knox's prose is as gorgeous as always. There's a huge emphasis on How Stuff Works, both where Canny's magical studies are concerned and as her brother, Sholto, talks to the miners. There're a bunch of complicated families and a strong sense of place. The magic is beautiful and organic and difficult in unexpected ways. It reminded me a little of Frances Hardinge (who I always say reminds me of Elizabeth Knox) and a little of Lucy Maud Montgomery, less because of what happens than because of the way the relationships feel.

Now I want to reread the Dreamhunter books in early 2017. I dearly hope there'll be more Southland novels, too. It certainly seems like there's space for them.

One note: I'm not well equipped to recognize autistic characters, or to spot problematic portrayals, but I feel like it's possible to read Canny as neuroatypical. You may wish to read some proper reviews to gauge how well the book's liable to work for you on that level.

Murchie wears a red Santa Hat. The ereader with Mortal Fire on it is barely visible in the background.

And here's a bonus photo of Murchie getting his Santa on. A lot of the local kids wear Santa hats instead of toques during the week before Christmas, so I dug his out and tried to get him to wear it in front of the book. It didn't go particularly well because Santa hats are surprisingly tall when they're too small to properly flop over.

Clothing is hard when you're a tiny dog.