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Absolutely loved Nicola Griffith's Hild. The beginning of a set of novels about the Abbess Hilda of Whitby, what we get here is Hild as a child who is supposed to be a seer, knows she is not, and nevertheless learns to give useful political advice to her uncle, one of many infighting kings in 7th century England. The politics are impressively drawn, as is the point of view, which remains firmly planted in space and time. Even when she's observing nature with pin-point accuracy and coming to conclusions that feel scientific, her frame of reference is still limited. She's not stupid, she never seems stupid, but she's working things out from first principles, it's not a surprise she only gets so far. Griffith is also very good at making sure that Hild isn't uniquely special in her ability to observe. She sees a little more than many because she has the time and inclination, but a large part of her skill is gathering information and putting it together: it's not that other people can't see, it's that they don't have the larger picture.

The thing I loved most was how much work we get to see everyone do. Women spin and weave constantly because it takes a long damn time to make anything. Hild is a seer and this means she has some different duties, but she also does all of the chores that women did in her period because royalty here still doesn't mean rich enough to do no work, it just means you don't have to do the very worst work. Designing your own weaving patterns is the fun part, and Hild knows that, even though she's also allowed to have moments when she's bored by textiles or doesn't feel like it right then. The other people around her are also allowed to have complicated feelings about work, while still knowing that work is important to keep everything from falling down! Gosh!

It's a fun read too, not just a Worthy Tome of historical accuracy about medieval work practice. Politics are going DOWN and because this is the 7th century, they're going down with some violence, and also some rapidly shifting allegiances. In some ways, I kept thinking that this is the kind of book GRRM thinks he's writing, with the complicated politics and the refusal to make a ballad out of the unpleasant task of cutting someone's throat, except that Hild doesn't just make the most unpleasant thing happen every single time there's a choice to be made, because people are assholes, but they aren't actually mustache-twirlingly evil. Also Hild knows she has no magical powers and is sighingly resigned to turning political philosophy into prophecy in a deeply endearing way. I'm looking forward to the next book tremendously.



I've also been enjoying the hell out of Allan Berubé's sadly small amount of historical writing (Coming Out Under Fire, which is USian queer people in WWII, and My Desire for History, which is collected essays) though he may have ruined me for more academic queer history. He has so many feelings! Which seems like a rude thing to say because his intellectual rigour is fantastic, and his research is thorough! But he's not trying to be the kind of formal writer who hides their perspective and it's really nice to hear about how much he cares about queer and labour history! It's not even that he talks a lot about his feelings on a personal level, but it's so obvious, even when he is writing about military policy, that he has an emotional attachment to the idea of queer communities, that it makes history written by people who are at pains to hide that attachment feel lacking.

I don't precisely mean to criticise people who are presumably attempting to get their work taken seriously by editors and academics who don't feel as I do, and it's not that they're being at all offensive, or that their rigour is substandard. These are not bad books. But Berubé did such a fantastic job of centering people in his analysis that it no longer seems adequate to begin with medicalised discussion of homophobia disassociated from even the people who propagated it. It just seems depressing to read now because I've had such a clear and well-presented example of how it could be done differently. Historians don't have to have affection for their subjects in all cases, but damnit, if we're going to get so many awkward biographers crushes on the deeply unappealing, then I want a whole team of Berubés with their affection and charm, and am terribly sad that he's dead and we will have no more of his incredibly compelling work.
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I watched all the Brooklyn Nine-Nine that exists so far in about two days, so it's that kind of good. I am interested in the fact that it doesn't hit my giant embarrassment squick anything like as badly as it could have, despite being the story of a bunch of people who are very, very interested in embarrassing each other. This confuses me! Even Benton Fraser's refusal to be embarrassed by anything he did didn't always prevent me from cringing on his behalf! But everyone is so good at taking on the embarrassment, clearly hating it, and then moving the fuck on while actively demonstrating that there aren't consequences beyond people being a pain in the ass.

On a more general note, as everyone has already said, the show does a good job having a decently diverse bunch of cops who generally don't get to do horrifically illegal things on a whim. Being too cool for paperwork is an issue that fucks you over, even if paperwork is boring. You have to do just as many extremely boring cases as you do exciting ones, and it's all important work.

I could do with less Peralta, it's definitely not deconstructing the white cisdude=protagonist trope anything like as well as Community does, but at least there's a reasonable amount of screentime for all the other characters, who I mostly adore. I still think he wins just a smidge too often to get away with the shit he pulls, but at least he does get called out sometimes. Everyone else is pretty delightful (or if they're awful, usually the writers clearly agree), which does make up for it some.

I don't know if I could be fannish about it, but I could do with a regular 20mins of fluffy tv that generally doesn't make me angry.


Finished Dawn French's memoir, Dear Fatty*. Not a surprise that she's funny and charming and delightful, but I was particularly struck by her ability to tell funny stories about inexperienced sex had with entirely the wrong person in a way that was both humourous and not so caught up in making it funny that it sounds like she's never had mutually enjoyable sex in her life, which is an astonishingly rare skill in published autobiographical writing, for reasons I've never been able to fathom. Of course, there are also lots of fantastic showbiz stories and amusing family ones (and some sad family ones, told affectingly), and in general, recommended.

*Fatty=Jennifer Saunders, her comedy partner, and is an affectionate and consensual nickname. Not a book at all about weight issues, if that's a concern for you!
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I really wanted to make a nice rec post about Max Gladstone because I enjoyed his Three Parts Dead a lot, but I don't think Two Serpents Rise lives up to it. This isn't an anti-rec, but the first book was so good at building up this world of complicated magical/religious politics, magical essence as currency, corporate magic, gargoyles and social revolution (with multiple female protagonists to boot!) that it was a bit of a let down that the second book, set in a completely different city with different protagonists more or less felt the same as the other one, despite the first city being something more like fantasy!modern-Europe and this one being supposed to be fantasy!Aztec. There were some things that worked, like the local sports teams playing what were clear descendants of Aztec ball games, but the feel of the city suffered a lot in comparison to his first book because it was so similar so I'd seen it all done before. Sense of place isn't always the most important thing in a book, but it is a little bit important when it's a book about people running around trying to keep a city going, and when, for example, your cool magical gambling system seems to be used to play very typical European card games, you've missed a trick. There's a point to be made about colonialism if you're talking South American civilisation analogues, but I don't think he made it very clearly, and these were clearly flourishing Aztec-analogues who happened to have made European-analogue contact some time ago, not built off the current South American situation, so either colonialism didn't happen, or you actually have to explain why it turned out differently here. (It's secondary world fantasy, not an alternate universe, I should note, but nevertheless.)

Some of the issues, not Gladstone's fault. I assume he had nothing whatsoever to do with the pale guy on his book cover when he does describe the protagonist consistently as dark-skinned. On the other hand, I think it would have helped some if the fantasy!Aztec-ish protagonist wasn't called Caleb for no discernible reason, especially when it was something of a plot point that his father was a bit of a traditionalist. I mean, someone please correct me if this is in fact a false cognate, but I kept wondering why he had a Christian Biblical name.

Also, while I appreciate that the protagonist's best friend was a lesbian, probably you don't need to be quite so heavy-handed in how often she explicitly reminds him, especially when her girlfriend shows up a fair bit as a far more subtle hint, and especially when it turns out that we were being reminded eighteen thousand times so that in the end angry spoilers )

The first one I still like a lot, and I will probably read whatever he writes next, but it's a shame that this one wasn't quite as good when city politics over religion and the water supply with both considered equally important is so exactly my kind of thing. MORE URBAN PLANNING, LESS DADDY ISSUES, PLEASE.
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"One should not enlarge on one's animals - but I thought you might like to know what a charming pair [of cats] attend us."
-Sylvia Townsend Warner to William Maxwell

The life philosophy of the internet, is it not? Particularly when you know it comes at the end of a lengthy letter detailing her cats' charms: one of many in this small volume. I have been reading Warner and Maxwell's letters (the collection is The Element of Lavishness, edited by Michael Steinman) and they are most delightful. Literary - they began to correspond when he was editing her short stories in the New Yorker - but also a record of a warm and loving friendship. The writing is beautiful and they're funny and charming and just a joy to read. Much admiration to the editor because there must have been quantities of stuff cut out (they wrote constantly between 1938 and 1978 and yet the book is barely 350 pages, and no one could have achieved that degree of quality unceasingly, surely?) and it still feels like a smooth narrative without gaps. They talk about books and major political events of the period and family life, and it is all immensely enjoyable. Highly recommended.


And I wrote some fic:
Basic Lagomorph Persuasion (2892 words) by opusculasedfera
Fandom: Hockey RPF
Rating: Explicit
Relationships: Beau Bennett/Robert Bortuzzo
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Always a Different Sex, Crossdressing, Halloween
Summary: Robert's life is very difficult and this outfit doesn't even fucking fit. Because there wasn't nearly enough porn about their halloween costumes.
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I've been listening to more podcasts recently, and I like the idea of the You Are Not So Smart one, but also I want a rule (in life, not just in podcasts) that if you are studying something anti-social that people do, you have to study the effects. Not just the specific instant responses, but long term effects. Hopefully this would prevent people like David Buss from genuinely saying, in response to a question about warning signs of jealousy that people can look for, "well, if you're being abused, you're in more danger of being murdered by your partner." I do believe that he doesn't think doing terrible things out of jealousy is good, but it's kind of astonishing to me that he can study this and genuinely think being cut off from your social circles or "having your self-esteem lowered" are just warning signs for murder rather than actual abuse in their own right with massive consequences, and it skeeves me the fuck out about his research if he can do this much work on abuse and not know this. THIS IS WHY NO ONE LIKES EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGISTS, BRO.


I am, however, enjoying Amanda Downum's Necromancer Chronicles very much. A+ lots of queer relationships! Well integrated socially too: it's not just one queer couple and a lot of talking about how no one minds, there are lots of past and present queer couples, and people discuss operas featuring a variety of different relationships. And trans* characters! Also spoilers for very excellent trope )

Plus complicated politics and magic and people who actually feel like they have long histories, not just in their most deep and serious relationships, but equally in people they've known casually for ages, or unimportant shit they've done, and that kind of thing. Highly recommended.
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This is Rosethorn's book, for those of you for whom such a thing would be a joy and a delight. It's also Evvy's book, and Briar obviously is in it and has POV bits, but it's the book where Rosethorn gets to have an arc.

Also the book where it is 100% on the page confirmed that she and Lark are both lovers and happily non-monogamous, which was obvious before, but is nice to have confirmed anyhow, especially in a YA book.

We also actually get some depth on what it means that some of the Emelan characters are religious dedicates and what that means to them personally rather than it simply being an alternative schooling system, which was nice! So Rosethorn gets that, and a little more family backstory and, basically, ROSETHORN. She's the best. I'm happy to have read her book.

Additional thoughts, plus spoilers )
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Go read all the Femslash Exchange 20013 fics! There are some super fabulous ones, and also SO MUCH FEMSLASH IN GENERAL. YAY. :D There are like a million fandoms represented, so I strongly encourage checking the whole list out.


In other AO3 news, apparently there's a 'fandoms' page that isn't the works one that lists all the extant character tags and all the associated pairings with each! Which is kind of handy, or at least fascinating to poke at! The hockey one is here, and they're all under ao3.org/fandoms/[fandom tag in question]. Organisation! \o/ Also, I think this could be useful in some way for some kind of rare ships or rare characters fest, but no definite plans yet.


Reading Ben MacIntyre's Double Cross sulkily, because I do want all of this information about WWII spies (there are recently declassified documents! It's very cool!), but I could do without the general impression that the author is secretly very upset that no one turned out to be James Bond. These people did massively impressive things! Stop complaining that they did them while being besotted with a small dog/being unimpressively drunk/giving everything bad pun codenames/talking like real people from the period, including slang that now sounds goofy and uncool! Sigh.
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No one should be surprised that Wodehouse's letters are very charming, though I am rather baffled by some of the editorial decisions. There's a lengthy preface explaining why the editor, who claims to have been a personal friend of the family, chose to group them by subject and recipient rather than chronologically, so that was all right, but I don't understand their selection of letters about his wife. In all the other sections of the book, there were letters describing amusing incidents that had happened to the two of them or things they had done together. In the section on Ethel, there were exclusively letters in which he complained about things she had done, and then one final soppy love letter written to her. Could the editor not see any of the other letters in which she featured heavily as being 'about' her? Were they actively attempting to create the impression that he disliked his wife (and then possibly pull this supposed rug out from under the reader with the reveal of the love letter)? Now, it's not as though he was complaining in ways that were completely baffling for some people who were married a good long time. His letters didn't make me feel awful about their relationship in the way that lots of published letters from men of that generation do. They just sometimes didn't agree and complained to their friends about it. But it makes me uncomfortable that some editor decided these were humourous as a lump, because men totes hate their wives, amirite? Leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It's a shame, because the rest of the collection is fine.


In totally different writing news, I am still amused that I can write porn fairly straightfacedly, but editing still makes me crack up. There's still just something about having to write people earnest notes about why you don't think they need to mention there that his cock is hard, they mentioned it above, that makes me giggle. (Not at your porn, I assure anyone who I'm betaing! Just as the contrast between the earnestness of my comments and the, well, porniness of the porn.)
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I've been reading Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries, which are nice, fluffy mysteries set in Australia in the 1930s, featuring a heiress with a taste for adventure. They're strong on period detail, but not on period feel, but are slight enough that I'm not especially bothered. The mystery plots are not stellar, but I'm okay with that. I'm rubbish at working out whodunit anyway. I just don't understand why Phryne keeps reminding us that she's not a lesbian. She's a madly femme woman who sleeps with a ton of dudes; it's not as if anyone in her life is confused on this point. (Er, yes, obviously lesbians can be femme, and bisexuality exists. But none of her compatriots seem terribly aware of this (see: Australia in the 1930s), and therefore no one in text has ever, ever challenged her on this point.)

But yet, the narrative keeps reminding us. Paraphrased: "She saw [dude she was banging] and his sister. His sister resembled him a great deal, and was therefore super attractive, but Phryne could never have been attracted to her in the same way because she wasn't interested in sleeping with women." WHAT? "She watched the sexy jazz singer singing a sexy song. All the men in the room were obviously moved, and Phryne was, almost, except that she wasn't a lesbian, so not really." WHY? "Phryne could recognise that the woman was very attractive, though of course, she was not actually sexually attracted to her, because she was not a lesbian." I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS NARRATIVE DECISION.

It's particularly odd because there are several canonical queer minor characters. They are not all rendered with intense devotion to avoiding stereotypes, but they are mostly positive figures. The narrative reminds us a lot that being queer is FINE. And yet, so much concern that Phryne will be thought of as gay. The only possible excuse I can imagine is that she is to be revealed to be massively in denial, though I rather doubt that, particularly as she does seem very genuinely interested in men. Perplexing. One could perhaps turn it into a bingo game, if one so desired. I don't know if I will read all of them, but I'm not discouraged enough yet to stop.


More highly recommended: Attack the Block, a lovely movie about aliens falling to earth inexplicably. The first one is murdered by a gang of teenagers from the projects/London equivalent, and the rest come to take revenge on the teens, who are joined by some pot dealers and a nurse they mugged, and then rescued from aliens. I know I'm rather late on this one, but it's definitely worth it for all your improvised urban monster/alien-fighting needs, and also the amazing scene where spoilers )
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Honour Among Punks by Guy Davis and Gary Reed is a comic about an AU punk rock female Sherlock Holmes. It's pretty fun, and actually does some interesting things with the Sherlock archetype.

Firstly, it's very, very AU. Sherlock is Sharon Ford, Watson is Susan Prenderghast, a med student from the States, and it adds Sam, Sharon's girlfriend. They live in a world that seems to have gone straight from the Victorians to the punks without any of the intervening social movements, which is fine, for a comic that mostly wants to deal with the amusing contrast between punks and dudes in 3-piece suits and hats, and have occasional dirigibles.

There are some great things. I really enjoyed how Sharon is not an independent operative because due process and the rule of law are just too, too tedious for us smart people. She has reasonable criticisms about the police as they are (there's corruption, there's bias, there's a refusal to actually learn things about subcultures that might affect your deductions, etc.), and therefore works independently in order to attempt to fix these absences. But she doesn't think that vigilante justice is a great idea either, which is a refreshingly sensible attitude.

It's also fantastic in terms of pictures of people with lots of different kinds of bodies dressing however the fuck they want. The bodies under the punk gear feel real and solid, and it's pretty good at not judging them for how they look in the clothes, unless it's people who are explicitly uncomfortable in them.

It has some problems. cut for transfail and spoilers )

The first half is great though, and some of the stand-alone art in the collected volume is wonderfully striking.

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Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique is about a post-apocalyptic travelling circus, and firmly in the tradition of "you know what would be great? If society came back." (Spoilers: it doesn't, not exactly, but, nevertheless, being able to hold people together to make things and create social groups is seen as a valuable skill.) It has massively, amazingly competent characters doing their best, and, while many of them have their own ends in mind, it doesn't presuppose that working together is for saps, and some of their ends are allowed to be unity and building and trying to fix shit.

It's a bit grim, in that way that apocalypses tend to be, but not unnecessarily grim, or grim for the fun of it.

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Learning things about hockey has made being in Canada odd. It shows up in ways that I never noticed before. Like a random book on language politics suddenly being super excited that Sid does French interviews as well as English. (It was from 2005, so the author had not yet had his hopes dashed.) Or 25 foot tall Jonathan Toews in the Canadian Tire. This isn't meaningful, I've just been finding it startling because these things have happened several times in the last couple of days.
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Absolutely unqualified recommendation. This book was wonderful.

Delarua, a biotechnician on Cygnus Beta, has to work with Dllenahkh, an alien government official whose planet has just been destroyed, as part of a team to attempt to settle his party of refugees effectively. It's all about co-operation and negotiation and accomodation, as they try to integrate Dllenahkh's people into Cygnus Beta without demanding assimilation from either side. They spend most of the book travelling around Cygnus Beta trying to work out what the Sadiri need in order to settle, and the book does a very good job of managing to show us a variety of cultures and the enormous impact of this much destruction, while not ignoring the personal side at ALL. I adored all the members of the team, and their friendships. It's a two protagonist book definitely, but the supporting cast is a ton of fun.

The world-building is stunning. Cygnus Beta actually feels like a whole planet: there are a variety of cultures and political entities, and none of these are unrealistically isolated from each other. There are humans, but there are no direct analogues to current or historical human cultures, although it's clear that Earth's cultures have not been forgotten.

It reminded me strongly of Janet Kagan, particularly Hellspark, or Vonda McIntyre's Starfarers books. Lord has that same interest in generally well-intentioned people trying to do their best. Unlike in Hellspark, Lord introduces social complications that are a matter of much more than etiquette and that her protagonists are incapable of actually solving, but this isn't a world where terrible things happen constantly because that's supposed to be "realistic." Terrible things happen, but good things too, and it's always reasonable to at least try.

Lord also does a wonderful job creating a society that is very concerned with fertility and the sense that they really need to not die out (which is a very comprehensible response to massive death tolls), but that nevertheless actually has solid respect for women and motherhood. I've read too much SF that seemed to think that you absolutely couldn't do anything except be sexist in order to encourage women to have kids, so it was nice to see someone write a society that was casually very, very interested in babies, but also very, very convinced that women are people. (Nb: no babies actually appear; it was just obvious that many of the characters were interested in them and planned to have them in the future. I am not into kidfic and found this book incredibly charming.)

The only complaint I can make about this book is that this is the cover (with a very similar picture of a man's face on the back), which is irritating when I'm not sure anyone in this book is anywhere near that pale. This is not Lord's fault in any way, but should perhaps be mentioned.

More spoilery/silly notes )
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Super disappointed in the Kamikaze Girls manga (which I was only reading because my local library doesn't have the original novel anyway.) It starts really well. The first of four stories is basically the story of the movie, and it's essentially the manga summary of my dreams. It's all gorgeous shoujo drawings that, according to all the shoujo tropes it gleefully uses, cast Ichigo and Momoko as, respectively, the hero and heroine of the story! Moments where Momoko Suddenly! Sees! Ichigo and it's all hearts and sparkles and omg she's so cool! Moments where Ichigo looks at Momoko and thinks she's beautiful! It fucking ends with Momoko whispering "I really, really like you!" as she rides on the back of Ichigo's scooter. It is amazingly gay, in all the best possible ways.

So I was blissfully rolling around in all of the practically canon queer, and then I got to the second story, which is basically "Guess which one of these awesome bi ladies needs a man!" (The bisexuality is non-canonical, but I can't read them as anything else, given their canon attraction to men, and how incredibly gay they are for each other and occasionally other women.) It was such a let down. And then the third and fourth stories were about some totally different people, and were all about pairings with giant age gaps blackmailing each other into relationships, and were very unpleasant for me.

Basically, go watch the movie instead, because it is the BEST. The unlikely friendship of a yanki/biker girl, and an incredibly misanthropic lolita! They stick up for each other, help each other through shit, become competent in their own ways, become best friends and fall in love! But skip the manga.

(If you need more convincing, go watch this vid, which does a great job with the way that the movie is gorgeously stylised, and yet punctures all pretension every possible chance it gets. I can't say enough good things about how this movie is both incredibly cynical about everything, and yet so kind. It mocks the ridiculous aspects of lolita every chance it gets (for example, wearing fancy clothes to walk on a dirt road used by farm animals), but is so completely understanding that people do ridiculous things because they get some genuine satisfaction or meaning out of them, and has such affection for those sincere emotions.)
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Hockey fandom really, really needs to read Ken Campbell and Jim Parcels' Selling the Dream: How Hockey Parents and Their Kids Are Paying the Price for Our National Obsession. It's both a terrifying look at the systems that produce NHL players, and a wonderful source of bizarre facts about current players.

Essentially, the system, as it currently stands, is kind of fucked )

Campbell and Parcels do spend what seems like an excessive amount of time arguing with Malcolm Gladwell )

On a less depressing note, this book is also a delightful source of peculiar hockey-player facts. Some of it is evidence that particular guys' parents were kind of obsessive (though for me, no one beats the couple who lived in a boat in the Toronto Harbour for a couple of years so their son could play in the GTHL.)

Among others: Matt Duchene, Carey Price, Stamkos, the Staals, Giroux, and Ryan O'Reilly )


1They also keep criticising his statistic that nearly the entire roster of the Medicine Hat Tigers - as a random example - was born before August, by pointing out that Tyler Ennis (Oct 6) was actually one of the few guys off that team to make the NHL, which is a terrible fucking point to make off a dude who has publically complained that he spent his childhood getting cut from teams before he ever got a chance to try out entirely because he was "too short" (he is now 5'9"). He's not exactly your poster-boy for the idea that parents don't need to get involved.
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I'm enjoying the new season of Community! Spoilers )

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I finally finished reading Ankaret Wells' The Maker's Mask. I have no idea why it took me so long to read because every time I picked it up it was fabulous. Strongly reminded me of Kirstein's Steerswoman books, in the best possible way. Spoilers for both follow )

Something more closely resembling a review, though decidedly scattered: Spoilers for the Maker's Mask only ) Highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.

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I have no words for that Avs-Oilers game last night. It was ridiculous in all the best ways, though I am divided between delight over the Oilers' comeback and how well (nearly) everyone was doing (Nuge scoring! Maggie having a second big goal! Hemmer and Ebs with two each!), and the strong feeling that Dutchy is going to stab someone if the Avs don't start improving soon (and I really don't know if they can, after their completely unbelievable slew of injuries).

Misc

Nov. 12th, 2012 05:50 pm
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Finally got around to watching this week's Fringe, which says something about how this season has been going, even if I was busy-ish this weekend. Not bad? spoilers )

I also finished Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch, which was good, but I think suffered because it's just not quite as good as her earlier books, despite being excellent. I would also guess that it's aimed a little younger and that's why the writing was so much more straightforward. I did enjoy the fact that Sunny, the protagonist, discovers a parallel community of magical users that actually has realistic structure that she has to enter into, and she is special, but not so special as to transcend society completely. I was also very impressed by spoilers for the very end ) It's a cute book though, and certainly one of very few fantasy novels set in modern Nigeria, so highly recommended if you like that kind of thing.
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Okay, Elementaryx04 has redeemed itself pretty thoroughly. spoilers )

Elementary is still hella procedural-esque, but it's shaping up to be a reasonably good one, so I might actually stick around on this one.


Also everyone who told me to read other Elizabeth Wein books because they were less traumatic was only correct in the sense that they were MARGINALLY less traumatic. Spoilers for Code Name: Verity, and The Sunbird ) Of course, I'm going to read more of her books because Wein continues to be a fantastic writer and her attention to historical detail is fucking ace, but I'm just going to go out on a limb here and guess that terrible things probably happen in ALL of them (in amazing, heartbreaking ways, natch.) I do recommend the hell out of The Sunbird, because everything about Wein's historical world-building was great (6th century Africa! how cool is that!) and the narrative is compelling as hell, I'm just saying: brace yourself, she writes gorgeous beautiful books that can rip your heart out at a moment's notice.
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Have now read Code Name Verity after approx. a million recommendations. Everything they said about it being brilliant is quite true. If you want to read about women pilots and spies in WWII, this is absolutely what you should read because it's fantastic. I was seriously impressed by Wein's historical research; she says in her afterword that she focused on plausible rather than exact and it worked very well. I never had a "what? NO" moment reading this, which is pretty rare for historical fiction, and her fictional place names plus accurate attitudes worked a million times better than exact place names, but the addition of women who are far too modern. As she says, there were loads of women working in these fields, and they did tons of things during the way, but they didn't get to be equals with the male pilots, and their working conditions were very, very different, which doesn't mean you can't tell stories about the incredibly important and interesting things they did! Just make them realistic.

however, spoilers )
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This recipe for Luxuriously Extravagant Swedish Princess Cake is one of the best cakes I have ever made or eaten. Highly recommended.[personal profile] rushthatspeaks made it with raspberry sorbet and raspberry currant jam, but I've now made it once with stewed rhubarb and once with homemade blackberry jam and both have been equally delicious (one-to-one swap with the sorbet/jam and skipping the syrup.) I suspect you could use any kind of stewed fruit or fruit puree and it would be excellent.

(Lazy fruit jam is, incidentally the easiest thing in the world: stick a bunch of chopped fruit or rhubarb in a pan with a splash of water and some lemon slices, cook it down on medium heat until the fruit is squishy and melting, and add sugar/spices to taste. Less complicated than the original recipe, but pretty good all the same.)

Would definitely recommend this cake to anyone who's reasonably confident in the kitchen. It's much less fussy than it seems, especially if you make all the pieces at different times and assemble them later. I skipped the marzipan too, so the whipped cream covers possible messes pretty effectively and who cares if it looks perfect when all the bits are so delicious.

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The Game of Her Life is a super charming National Film Board doc about the first Canadian Olympic Women's team. It's pretty incredibly nineties, but in the best possible way, also intensely recognisable as NFB stuff, possibly because we watched a lot of it in school and there's a house style or something, possibly because I subconsciously associate Diane D'Aquila's soothing voice-over narration with CanCon.

Highly recommended if you like watching women be awesome. I was pretty impressed that it avoids a lot of the "these women are sporty, but it's okay, they're still women, don't be scared!" stuff you get sometimes. It comments once that Hockey Canada sometimes gets nervous that the female players will be perceived as unfeminine, but never bothers to shoot the women so they seem particularly femme and doesn't edit them or add anything when they're straightforward about having been tomboys when young, or say they dumped a guy rather than give up hockey. It also does a pretty good job not exoticising anyone: Angela James grew up in the projects in Toronto and it just lets her say her piece and move on without being all "this is impossible and weird!", and Vicky Sunohara gets attention as the Canadian-Japanese player going to Nagano, but it's all really respectful and doesn't even raise the (bullshit) "is she really Canadian?" issue. Also kudos to Shannon Miller (head coach) for being totally "of course there are gay women in hockey. This doesn't have anything to do with sports. :|" when asked about it, and I'm happy that the director didn't try to reassure the audience that the players were straight by ever referring to or asking about their partners. <3


Also, experimenting with crossposting with my ancient lj, we'll see if I remember to do this ever again.
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I'm not really a big YA person (reading about "teenage problems" was boring when I was one of them, hasn't necessarily improved for me in the interim), but several people recced them and I'm really enjoying Hilary McKay's books about the Casson family. I've read Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star, and Permanent Rose so far and they've all been really good. Essentially, it's the story of the Casson family: four kids, parents are artists, the untidy but loving environment, etc. The books feel more like family drama than YA (possibly because they're actually written for kids who are a little younger, oddly enough) and I really enjoyed how well she writes adult issues through children's eyes.

She also writes fantastic children, who have that genuine slightly-sociopathic feel where they really haven't worked out other people properly and so might do any number of terrible things because they just can't understand who would be hurt. And yet, they're not bad kids! She manages to write all sorts of cliches without making me hate her including spoilers )

Overall, highly recommended.
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I've been rereading Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles (comfort reading! <3) which stand up fairly well as an adult, though some of the jokes seem to have changed. There's a running joke about the very academic magician who has some trouble not talking in academic-ese, and I definitely used to find him funny because he sounded nonsensical, whereas now I am very impressed at the plausibility of his technical dialogue and the way that it does fit with his subsequent simplifications (obviously taking for granted the fact that a lot of the things he's talking about aren't real, but if you assume the reality of the bits of spell he's talking about, he says something complicated about how they interact and then something simpler, and the two lines do mean the same thing.) It's quite good, though it probably says some awful things about me that I have to be reminded by the text that the academic-ese is a bit overdone.

I also really want to know if post-HP kids respond to Morwen, the witch, in the same way. There's a whole plotline about people nagging at her because she doesn't fit witch stereotypes appropriately (e.g. is not aged and hideous crone with one black cat, but youthful redhead with nine cats in all colours, though firmly on the sensible and unromantic side of things), which is quite well done and finishes on useful message of 'tradition is not always right for everyone' without being preachy. But I wonder if those stereotypes exist in the same way for kids now or if they are still aware of the image of the Hallowe'en style witch, but more likely to think HP-style witchcraft, which made a fair number of jokes about that stuff in the first book especially, but pretty clearly presented a lot of variation in ways of being a witch, pretty much none of which were that stereotype, so Morwen wouldn't stick out as atypical. Though I frankly have no idea if kids are still reading Wrede so it may all be moot, though I think everyone should read these (Mammoth!Fail aside, these are much better and generally inoffensive.)

They're such charming books and I identify with Cimorene like hell and adore most of the characters. Last year's Yuletide also produced Having the Constitution for It in which the magical kingdom from these books is accidentally made a democracy, which is basically headcanon for me now as it's pitch-perfect and satisfies all of my latent anti-monarchy tendencies.

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