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Long time no book column! November was a blur of writing and therapy. Turns out therapy is work! It's not the easy kind of work where you can slack off! Because then you end up back in what my therapist calls Default Mode where you feel like all the progress you've made has been lost and actually, you ARE a worthless, slimy, meatsack and your hair looks awful at all times. And you smell but no one cares enough to tell you. Anxiety Brain strikes again! Fistbump to those coping with anxiety and depression as literal darkness seeps into our days at five in the afternoon or earlier.

I didn't read as much as I wanted to (I already know my 2015 racial breakdown is going to be an embarrassment because I scheduled so many of those books to read in November after I noticed in September), but I also wanted to get back on the horse OF LIFE. Or at least my book column. If life were a horse I would manage better, because I learned as a kid, and those had reins and they listened to me when I said, "You know, I'm not really feeling this? Maybe I want to get off now." Well, mostly. There was that one time with that barking dog and the fence. Life's uncontrollable, probably.

This whole entry so far has been 0% about books and 99% hella TMI; you're all welcome. Let's talk about some literature instead.

cover of Ashes of Honor

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire — I loved this book because it featured lots of Toby and Tybalt. I know there was quite a bit more plot to this, involving Toby solving a missing child case, but Toby and Tybalt were my focus. Although, I have to say, McGuire gives Toby no quarter in a lot of cases, because not only did this book's story hinge on children and loss, it also forced Toby to face of things about herself she'd been denying since the very beginning of the series.

A lot of the joy in this books is seeing how the world comes together, what new characters come to the forefront, and which of Toby's enemies and allies come back. I'm always impressed in how each story manages to change the political landscape even if the beginning doesn't always seem set out to do it. The personal and the political are layered so well that I'm in constant agony over how hard McGuire must have worked to get it to all come together and make perfect, logical sense.

I also had a lot of feelings about Tybalt and Raj in this book. I'm always, somehow, shocked when McGuire's men and boys show affection and intimacy with her and with each other, because it's not something that happens in spaces outside fanfic for me (it's also possible I'm reading in the wrong genres). But here it's so easy and not even worth comment that I was taken aback. One day I will get used to it!

Bonuses: cool blood magic, teleportation, and more April!

cover of Chimes at Midnight

Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire — Well, I knew we'd have to deal with the Queen in the Mists and her weird grudge eventually, and this book is it. My favorite thing about Toby is her sense of justice and fair play, and how she agonizes over the hard choices even when she's making them. As with all these books, I generally go in knowing very little, not even the cover summary, so when Toby starts the book exiled I was shocked. These books definitely do a good job of running on timers, and the form the timer takes is always changing.

This is also the book with malicious desserts. I admit I laughed out loud and then felt terrible. Funny but heart-wrenching. There's a blurb for every single book of this series.

The political landscape shifts again in this book, as does what Toby knows about Faerie's history and her own family. And of course, since I really dislike the Queen in the Mists and stories associated with her evil shenanigans, this book dragged for me a bit and I kept stalling out. But it was lovely to watch everyone surround Toby and support her, even though it's heartbreaking to watch the characters we knew she loved/trusted drift away from her through choice and circumstance. I remember the horror of Late Eclipses and how hard it was for Toby and can't help but mourn those relationships.

I didn't see either of the big reveals coming, even though they were apparently telegraphed in previous books. But I'm excusing that because I haven't yet had a year between books and time to pour over the small details. This series officially needs a thorough wiki.

cover of The Winter Long

The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire — The Winter Long was the book everyone wanted me to get to and read and be utterly flabbergasted at. OKAY, MY FRIENDS, YOU WIN. I was sufficiently shocked at the layering in the previous books that happened to make this book possible.

It's really impossible to talk about it without spoiling everything. It's a book where there's information bomb after information bomb and there's never much time to recover from one before the next one comes along to bite you on the ass. KJ hosted a longer discussion thread about books up to this point on her journal where I left some thoughts and reactions, but everything over there is full of spoilers, too. We're so deep in the series now; this feels kind of like the last episode of the first season, where we got so much resolution but still a thousand more questions.

Not that I really want them to make a TV show of this series or anything. *wastes away, pining*

Excellent: the Luidaeg commenting on Tybalt's ass multiple times.

cover of A Red-Rose Chain

A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire — The first book since An Artificial Night where I was bored. The plot, of Toby going from detective to diplomat, didn't quite gel for me. I prefer her punching things and bleeding everywhere while she fucks up evil plans. It took me until the very end of this book to go, HECK YEAH, she's bleeding so something cool is gonna start happening.

I recognize this is a little creepy.

More important than the political plot, which I found frustrating and aggravating (and which I assumed was partially purposeful, because Toby finds it so) was the development of side characters and relationships. There's so many excellent moments here, between Toby and Arden, Toby and May, Toby and Quentin, and Toby and Walther. Seriously, Walther. McGuire keeps surprising me in the best ways, and does huge personal revelations that actually don't feel like revelations? They just settle into you and you go, "Yes, this feels right, of course." Toby's collecting allies who deliberately put themselves into her debt, but it's easy to forget she's given favors to a lot of people who need things we don't know about yet.

In closing to my Epic Adventures in October Daye: Walther is awesome! Now plz let Toby get married without bloodshed. McGuire is one of the most excellent storytellers I have ever read. :D Now to wait with the rest of you. *weeps*

cover of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 1

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North & Erica Henderson — [personal profile] thebaconfat recced this to me and I am full of SO MUCH REGRET that I did not give it a chance sooner. On plus side, I got to put this entire volume in my eyeballs at once, which was great.

I've followed Ryan North's comedy writing for years and years. He's often really funny while being incisive, and that comedy makes Doreen irresistible. I laughed out loud through this entire volume. Plus, puns! I loved that the first relationship that Doreen develops is Nancy, and that they are so awesome together and that Nancy is so clever. I want so many volumes of their adventures together after this.

The art by Henderson is also brilliant. It's bright and expressive, but not too complicated. It suits the tone of the comedy the comic is going for and never overpowers the story. I would read these two writing/drawing together on any topic, even if that topic happened to be 1952 US Tax Code. I bet they could make something awesome.

There are so many small touches that make this comic stand out: the secret messages, the trading cards, Doreen's abundant and unyielding confidence in herself (and her body), the puns! I would love to be best friends with Doreen. This is the greatest comedy superhero story I've read in months. :D

cover of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 2

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 2: Squirrel You Know It's True by Ryan North & Erica Henderson — I went to my comic guy and say, "is the first volume of Squirrel is all there is? There weren't any other issues they're going to collect?" and he said no. So I went WEEKS not realizing there was a second volume coming out! WEEKS. And because he didn't tell me it was coming out I couldn't get it from him and had to go to B&N because he didn't stock it, so THEM'S THE BREAKS, local shop. Enjoy your angsty manpain while I roll in even more stories where Doreen is awesome and Nancy has Opinions about your Squirrel Girl Fanfic.

Despite it being just as cute, and the fact I actually loved one of the stories here more than I did the villain stories in the first volume, I thought this one was a little weaker. I'm not sure of the arc at this point, and I suspect that's maybe to do with the Secret Wars nonsense? Things maybe got aborted. There were tons of great moments: Doreen building her own superhero team, Nancy saving the day, and Doreen kicking butt. I really liked Loki in this, after not being wild about his cameo in Ms. Marvel.

Also, to end the volume there were a few other stories that had different artists drawing the character and I was emphatically not a fan. Anyway, here's what I wrote on Goodreads which is still 100% accurate and also spoiler free!

Although not as cute as the first volume, it was super great to meet the rest of Doreen's superhero team and watch her get to beat up ******** and steal his ******* and have them not even ******! And then Nancy figured out the answer while hanging out with ****** and ****** on ******! TEAMWORK! \o/

Probably what made this feel so weird is that some guest artists drew Doreen and I recoiled from the page because no. It made me want to KICK BUTTS. Can I just petition Marvel to only allow Erica Henderson to draw Doreen, ever? Or another woman I guess. SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS WHAT IT'S LIKE to have your body-confident, super tough fictional pal rammed into a DudeBro Vision mold. ZERO NUTS FOR THAT ART.

But four out of five nuts for the rest of it. And now I need to go look up Doreen/Nancy fanfic, so excuse me.*

*It's not like I'm going to find any. I guess I'll probably end up writing it myself. I could probably make some PRETTY CUTE FANFICS for these two, if I do say so myself.

I also read some individual comics I'm following and some short fiction.

  • So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer — Cute, but missing some tension for me. I liked the spiral of recipes, though, and the creativity.

  • Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon — Extremely creepy while being utterly heartbreaking. I said it would give me "horror nightmares as well as Up-style crying jags" and I was not wrong.

  • Invincible Iron Man #1-3 by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez — The only other Iron Man comic I've read is Superior Iron Man, and that was a disaster. I'm curious; does anyone at Marvel like Tony Stark? Because based on what I've heard the last decade or so it's just a lot of dudes writing their inner asshole with a Iron Man mask on their faces. I have some quibbles with this comic, related to women (surprise), but on the whole it's cute so far.

  • Ms. Marvel #19 by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona — I couldn't put it off anymore and read the last issue of the first arc. It was so sweet and heartwarming. I love Kamala so much and I'm so glad she gets to keep growing as a superhero!

  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1-2 by Ryan North & Erica Henderson — I read this out of context to the second volume, but there were no real spoilers other than the weird addition of the two dudes to Doreen's group, but since these two issues are about Doreen and Nancy being awesome it's fine. There's also time travel and the same great humor/art combo. I am so happy this comic exists! (PS the first issue speaks to me on a Doreen/Nancy level for real).

  • All-New Ms. Marvel #1 by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, & Takeshi Miyazawa — I loved what they did with the art in this issue, which is too great to spoil. This picks up, I assume, eight months are Secret Wars, and Kamala is super busy with school and superhero business and being an Avenger and also, it turns out, with having to see the consequences of past choices, even if they were right for her at the time.

  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, & Natacha Bustos — This was a set-up issue, establishing how hard-working, clever, but lonely Lunella is, and how she comes to befriend a giant red dinosaur. It's very cute and I expect it will be heartwarming once the main arc starts. The art is excellent, and Lunella is wonderful so far, so I'm going to stick around through the first five issues to see where it goes. :) Plus, a dinosaur!!

  • All New All Different Avengers #1-2 Mark Waid & Adam Kuburt — I'm not sure how I feel about this series yet, except that I already don't like the way they have men relate to each other at all and find it gross due to whatever backstory they're playing on from previous comics. From a new person's perspective it just looks like men being callous assholes to each other for no reason, which I always find boring. Anyway, there's a lot of focus on Kamala and Nova (who I don't know) and Kamala being out of fucks when it comes to destructive superheroes. Also, Spiderman uses Iron Man as airborne surfboard. I was nervous about how Kamala would be written in this comic, but so far it's been okay so I'm cautiously optimistic. Don't know if it's worth picking it up in single issue, though, when you can probably just wait for trade for a more coherent story next May.

  • How to Survive the Apocalypse by Rhiannon R.S. — Neat piece of satire/comedy featuring zombies. But not quite what you're thinking.

  • By Degrees and Dilatory Time by S.L. Huang — A haunting, bittersweet, and hopeful story about trauma and bodies and identity from the inside of a personal catastrophe and how much different is it to live with it than watch it second hand.

  • Stone Hunger by N.K. Jemisin — If you've read The Fifth Season and you haven't read this novelette, bookmark it immediately! It doesn't have spoilers for the novel and it's incredibly brutal and tense but also surprisingly warm at the end, if even it's tempered with reality.

Date: 2015-12-15 01:43 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
does anyone at Marvel like Tony Stark?



Date: 2015-12-15 02:24 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Avoiding all Seanan McGuire stuff because I'm so far behind you.

So, instead - Stone Hunger! Yay! I keep wanting to write about it and failing. I really enjoyed Wooden Feathers too. And I read So Much Cooking which was cute but I think was missing the full impact of a certain death. Thanks for telling me S. L. Huang has another story I should check out. And I plan to get to How to Survive The Apocalypse soon after reading the first paragraph.

Date: 2015-12-15 04:06 pm (UTC)
willowcabins: (Default)
From: [personal profile] willowcabins
1) therapy sucks but in a GOOD way, so I am totally w you on that one
3) also i can't believe this but i just added the October Daye series to my list I HAVEN'T READ URBAN FANTASY IN FOREVER (and then last night my gal pal and i started reading the Mercy Thompson series out loud to each other and we remembered that books about friendship and werewolves r CUTE and we want more)


Date: 2015-12-15 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So I read this blog for the books, but have emerged out of lurkerdom to offer empathy.
Because therapy is fucking horrible. Ridiculously hard, soul breaking work, that never seems to make any difference. And then it does, the slightest amount that makes you keep working.
It is worth it, no matter how much it may not seem that way. Things will get better, even if it feels like the world is punishing you for daring to feel, and for trying to live with things that other people take for granted. Mental health problems suck, but you can beat this.
Plus, your blog is awesome.


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