Thursday, February 23, 2017

Post-Hamilton Post

It was amazing. It was glorious.  It was just what you want it to be.  The music that I know by heart, the same, but with enough subtle changes to make every bit worth listening to. The dancing was amazing--just the dance alone would have been an incredible show.  The acting was such fun to watch, and there are so many details in action and expression that it brought a whole new level to how wonderful the album already is.

Absolutely delightful.

And now I have a cold, thanks NYC, so back to our regularly scheduled posts next week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Hiatus Brought To You By....


That's right, no bookish post today because I'm on Broadway, baby, with the hottest ticket in town in my hot little hands.  Full report to come!

In the meantime:

I Heart Patreon

I have a million more reviews I need to write, but I've wanted for a while to do a post about Patreon.

I love Patreon. I love being able to give money to creators I love, especially those whose product is online, or sporadic, or whom I consume through the library and don't pay directly.  I love the idea that I can pay a small amount for something I value online.  For the most part, if you're in my blog reader and you have a Patreon, I am very happy to be giving you money.

So who do I support?


Tom Siddell's Gunnerkrigg Court is the big one; he was the first one I sponsored, and it was so exciting to see that he is making about the same amount from his Patreon per month as I am at my job. (That equates to less after taxes and fees, but either way, he's making a living wage from his art.)  I find this incredibly inspirational.  I will say that he is a complete professional--his posting schedule is like clockwork and I don't think he's ever missed a post.  I really hope he's living the dream as much as I imagine he is.

I also support Ngozi Ukazu's Check, Please!, which is insanely popular and another one that's making her a full time living. I support this one at a lower level, partly because there are WAY fewer updates. She does maintain an active Twitter feed for the characters and posts sketches pretty regularly, but the fact is that I don't follow all those (and actually find a lot of the supplemental material hard to navigate). But the comic is amazing and worth my money, so by gum she gets my cash.

Drew Weing writes The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo, which I don't even remember how I found.  I got in on the ground floor of that one, though; I read the first couple of pages and it seemed to have potential, so I figured I'd give him some money and see where it went.  It's a good comic, and I feel like I'm watching the mythology get richer and the story get better as he goes.


I am a complete sucker for an advice column; most of the ones I read are in newspapers (I pay for an online subscription to the Washington Post because of Carolyn Hax), but I've been reading Captain Awkward forever. I actually emailed her once and suggested she open a Patreon so I could sponsor her; I don't flatter myself that that's how it happened, but I'm glad it did.

Siderea is a blogger I learned about specifically because her sponsorship model is a bit unusual; it's per post, rather than per month.  If she posts, you pay; if not, you don't.  She actually posts small, casual posts at a fairly normal rate, but her long, carefully researched analytical posts are incredible and totally worth the money.  I've read her nearly-novella-length exegesis of the first part of Watership Down several times. She's been writing a lot about politics lately, and her realism and pragmatism are very reassuring to me.

I've been reading the Lady Business blog for a while; they just started their Patreon and it hasn't got a ton of momentum yet, but I'm glad to sponsor it.  They are a go-to source for feminist geekery, and where I get most of my non-Buffy fanfic recommendations, as well as a lot of great, in-depth recommendations for TV, movies, and books that are directly up my alley.


There are a few artists who aren't producing anything special, but whose work I love so much that I sponsor them in a small way just so they'll keep creating things for me to read.  There's Ursula Vernon, on whom I've gushed in the past, and Linda Medley, whose Castle Waiting is so wonderful that it's worth the years of waiting and paying for in the interim.

I actually don't sponsor any podcasts yet; I've only recently become a real podcast listener, and some of my favorites aren't sponsored (Gin Jenny, Whiskey Jenny, I would sponsor you!). Ursula Vernon has podcasts; I already give her money.  But I've also been listening to StoryWonk's Dusted (Buffy podcast) and I've got a whole bunch of things that I want to try an episode of--when I get my lineup lined up, I'm probably going to add some podcasters to this list.

I love Patreon.  I love that I can be a small part of something that can make a big difference together. I love the idea of the artists whose work I value making a living doing what they love.  Patreon is something I'm so glad exists, because this is exactly how I want to be spending my money.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Quick Review: Comeback!

I read a bunch of books over the holidays this year that I haven't had a chance to review yet, but I lurved them and want to share the glory with you. So: a series of brief review posts!

Do you remember Trouble Is a Friend of Mine? Remember how much I loved it?  (A lot. The amount was a lot.) The sequel came out!  I had pre-ordered it, which is a thing that I do not do, ever.  And I read it.  Right away.  This is unprecedented; I never read the books I buy.

Once again, I was in no way disappointed.  Trouble Makes a Comeback is great in all the best ways.  It's also preposterous, melodramatic, and convoluted, but you just can't care with Zoe and Digby and Sloane and Henry and Felix tooling around town, going up against drug dealers small and large, enormous corporate conspiracies, and the high school football team. 

Digby's back, but Zoe's settled into a normal life and maybe knows better than to get involved with his brand of crazy again (also, why didn't he call?).  She has a boyfriend and besties and is totally normal, and Digby is trying to drag her straight into his investigation...but how can she resist? Everything is more interesting with Digby around.

And more dangerous.  The stakes are higher this time around--in the first book, there's a sense at first that this could all be a bit overblown and mostly in Digby's head.  But here, we are learning that everything in the first book is the tip of the iceberg. 

And I really loved that, while there was definitely romantic tension in this book, that is not even remotely the main basis of this relationship.  I don't even know if you call this a slow burn--this is a book full of sparks, but with people who have more important things to do than obsess over romance.

There will definitely be a third--the end was practically a cliffhanger--and as soon as they announce it I'm ordering it.  Can't waaaaaaaaait.  Stephanie Tromly, you're awesome. Write more books!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Quick Review: Diabolical!

I read a bunch of books over the holidays this year that I haven't had a chance to review yet, but I lurved them and want to share the glory with you. So: a series of brief review posts!

I really wanted to do a post of its own about S.J. Kincaid's The Diabolic, which I read over Christmas, but it sat half written through the flu and now it's too late for the lavish, loving extravaganza of a review I wanted to give it.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a genetically engineered humanoid who is designed to be a bodyguard.  Big, fast, strong, ruthless, she's been imprinted on a girl named Sidonia, who becomes her best friend and the star around which Nemesis orbits.  But when Sidonia's family falls out of favor with the Emperor, she is summoned to his space station palace as hostage, and it's clear what her fate is to be.  The only way for Nemesis to save her is to take her place.

Okay, so this is a fish-out-of-water story about someone bluntly practical trying to imitate royalty, which is TOTALLY MY JAM. I was all over this, and it generally did not disappoint, in many ways soared far beyond my hopes for it, and in one way really made me mad--partly because it was otherwise SO GOOD why did you use Literally The Worst Trope? Why? (Note: I will spoil in "The Bad" section below. Warned!)

What was good: The complicated political games Nemesis has to learn how to play.  She's more of a trouble-comes-punch-it type of person, but she knows full well that she can't show that or everyone will know she's not Sidonia, so she takes her lessons very seriously. There are many layers to alliances and manners and invitations and appearances, and they are treated with the solemnity they reserve, which is to say that everyone knows they're ridiculous, but they dictate how the world is run, so you have to play them.  This isn't about how snobs are shallow; it's about how snobs are cutthroat.

What was even better: I find that futuristic stories that try to hinge on manners and mores and appearances the way Victorian novels do tend to be unbelievable.  It's very hard to convince me that a romance in the future is shocking in its impropriety. But Kincaid made the silly, meaningless rules of court hugely important.  Honestly, it was almost Dune-like in how it folded real politics into frivolous appearances. 

Also, Nemesis's explorations of what it means that she's not human, the fact that she doesn't just discover that she's really a human being after all, but that she gets to be who she is--not human, but a person.  Something different, but still someone worthy. The things that make her different make her better not just in the ways they are intended--strong, brave, loyal--but also in unexpected ways--perceptive, just, sympathetic.

The bad: Again, this is the spoilery section.  I saw the plot thread coming for ages, but I'm so mad about how it ended.  Sidonia and Nemesis had such a lovely relationship--it was complicated by a lot of factors, but I really hoped it would turn into a romance.  Even later, after the male lead showed up, I had my hopes. And you know, I can live with not getting a lesbian romance out of this. But you know what happens to lesbians in The Worst Trope, right? Yup.

So, aside from that one big, glaring caveat, this book was amazing.  I highly recommend it, really, even if you have to brace yourself for The Worst Trope.  In so many ways it's a sharp, fast, smart story that really thinks about personal relationships and what they mean.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Quick Review: Avalanche!

I read a bunch of books over the holidays this year that I haven't had a chance to review yet, but I lurved them and want to share the glory with you. So: a series of brief review posts!

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, by Lindsay Ribar. I read a review of this one from the Booksmugglers and it sounded weird and fascinating, and I'm sorry but is that not the best title?

Aspen Quick is visiting his aunt and grandmother for the summer; they need a third family member to help with the ritual.  Their family has powers--they can use objects to pull things from people--and they use them to keep the cliff that looms over the town from collapsing and destroying everything.  Every few days, the cliff trembles and the family makes an offering. They take something--one kid's competitive spirit; another woman's enjoyment of rowing on the lake. They offer these to the cliff to keep it quiet.

But Aspen can take things any time. He can take away his friend's anger when he's done something obnoxious, or a girl's desire for him to go away.  It's easy, and it makes life easy and smooth.  He just can't figure out why his father wouldn't take away his mother's desire to move out.

So good.  Aspen is exactly the kind of privileged kind-of-brat that having a power like that would make you. He doesn't seem like a jerk, really; even from the first page, you're reading this likeable guy, and he says some things that you think you must have misunderstood in the rush of worldbuilding.  But as you go along you realize, no, he just has no idea what's going on outside of his own head.  And so you follow Aspen through the summer when he basically learns what it means to be a good person. It's such a good story, with lots of sad parts, and also lots of parts about how hard it is to be a good person that, I'm sorry, I could really relate to.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Code Switch

I was drawn to Lucy and Linh, by Alice Pung, because a fish-out-of-water story at a fancy-pants private school is exactly what I want to read, thank you.  I got the book from Netgalley (for an honest review; thank you, Netgalley!) and I got started, and it is definitely about a fish out of water at a fancy-pants private school--but the pants might be too fancy, and instead of water, the fish is kind of in a murky cesspool of malevolence.

Lucy's family came to Australia from Vietnam when she was a small child; they're ethnically Chinese.  She lives on a poor side of town and goes to the local Catholic school, where many immigrants send their children to get a better education than in public school.  Her father works at a carpet factory and her mother does piecework, sewing clothing at home while taking care of her baby brother.

Then Lucy applies for the first ever scholarship position at the incredibly posh Laurinda Academy, and, to her own shock, gets in.  Suddenly she's going to a school where everyone else is rich, and white, and very, very snobby.  At the point where I am (not quite halfway through the book), most of the story is about the politics and social life of this school.

Which is awful. Every single person there is horrible. From the very first moment, when we learn that the very expensive uniform must be purchased from a certain very expensive store and the headmistress doesn't seem to notice that this might be a hardship, to the firm label of Charity Case that she seems to have stuck on Lucy's head, the whole school seems toxic.  There is a popular crowd who walks the halls in slow motion with a wind machine blowing their hair back--they are called The Cabinet and they rule the school but are evil, evil, evil, playing random pranks designed to crush people's spirits, including one on a teacher that results in a nervous breakdown.

These people are so evil I don't believe them.  They do not seem to have any interiority; unlike, say, Before I Fall, the mean girls don't seem to have any personalities or desires or emotions that drive them.  They just enjoy ruining lives.  They're sociopaths, basically.  And a lot of the attention of the school--and of the book--is devoted to them.

I wanted more about Lucy.  So far she's mostly an observer; she's tried to talk to one or two other students about things, but they don't get it or won't talk about it.  I'm frustrated for her, because she seems like the only sane person in the crazytown of this school, but she's got a Nick Caraway vibe going on, in that she doesn't really seem to have much of a role in the story yet.

The format of the book is interesting, too--it's addressed to Linh, who seems to be a friend of Lucy's from her old school, someone she left behind. Linh is in all of her memories from her old school, and sometimes backs Lucy up when she's, say, on the phone with someone from school, but her actual role isn't clear at all.  I'm pretty sure at this point that the epistolary nature of the novel is a bit of a gimmick; it doesn't seem to be adding anything to the story, and I think it's working more as a metaphor.

I really wanted to like the book better.  I did listen to the Reading the End podcast episode about it (warning, there are some spoilers there--but it's worth listening to for the sharp observations about how evil cliques work in real life vs. stories), and they felt the same way I did: there's some good potential here, but the story focuses way too much of the mean girls at school.  I do love Lucy's family--her lovable baby brother, her dad who takes time of work whenever he needs to for her, her mom who sews all day and loves her children fiercely.  Her family is great, and if the book is trying to paint them as awkward in the fancy world Lucy now inhabits, it's failing, because her parents seem pretty rational and the adults at this school are all on some kind of crack.

So I think this book is not for me.  I'm pretty sure I really like what it's aspiring to, but it's strayed a little too much into caricature to work, in my opinion.  I'm only partway through it, so maybe that opinion will change, but I also might not finish it at this point. 

Thank you again to Netgalley for the review copy.  I'm never sure about writing about a review book that I'm not sure I'll finish, but I really wanted to talk about this one, because the ingredients of the book aren't adding up to everything it could be. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Dusk or Dawn, Dark or Day

Or rather Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire, which is a lovely title for a ghost story with many lovely aspects but that is, ultimately, Not For Me.

I picked the book up (from Netgalley, for review; thank you, Netgalley!) because of how much I loved Every Heart a Doorway. I knew it was about ghosts--as in, a story about the "lives" of ghosts, from their point of view, which is a hard world to build, in my opinion.  If you're going to show me a vision of the afterlife that looks pretty much exactly like being alive (these are ghosts who live in apartments and have jobs and eat sometimes), I'm already pretty skeptical. There's an element of "moving on," though--you only stay as a ghost if you go before your time--another concept that I'm kind of fuzzy on, but I'm not bad at suspension of disbelief.

Jenna died too soon--when her sister Patty killed herself, Jenna was distraught and died in an accident. Now, years later, Jenna has moved from her small town home to New York City, where she works at a suicide hotline, "earning" her extra time back to get closer to the right time for her death.  So, this is the first confusing thing--ghosts can "steal" time from living people. Now, what I think when I hear this is that the person's life gets shorter--maybe their death date moves up or maybe they get older. But what it actually means is that the ghost takes some of the person's age--the person gets younger, winds back the time that the ghost takes, and the ghost gets older, closer to their death date/moving on.

Ghosts can also give time--get further from their death date, stay on earth longer, and by giving those minutes or hours or years to a human, cause the person to age.  Apparently most ghosts are eager to move on, so they steal time from people in a win-win situation--people get younger, ghosts get older and move on sooner. But a few ghosts want to stay, and they tend to find bad people and give them back time to keep away from their death date.

But Jenna's odder--she has somehow decided that she has to earn the right to move on. So she works at a suicide hotline, and whenever she talks someone into living longer, she logs that time and only then allows herself to take that time from someone. This was really my first sticking point; I really can't figure out why Jenna would put this artificial gate between herself and the thing she wants--to be with her sister Patty. I didn't get a feel for Jenna's relationship with Patty, either, which was supposed to be the driving force of the novel.

The actual story begins when ghosts start to disappear from the city. Jenna and a few allies are the only ones to investigate--her ghost landlady, a local witch, a homeless woman.  They follow the trail which leads them, for some reason, into Jenna's past.

Talking it through, I think this was part of the trouble I had with the story--there were a lot of different pieces that ended up dovetailing for no particular reason. Jenna's personal story and the problem of the missing ghosts are mostly unrelated, except for a lot of ways they're related.  A lot of the plot is driven by coincidence, in the end, which doesn't work as well for me.

What I will say, though, is that Seanan McGuire can write.  The day to day moments of Jenna's life are smooth and lovely to read, and if I didn't understand a lot of the emotional content, the way it's described was not the problem. I didn't love this book, but I absolutely want to read much more by this author.