And all I can focus on is this story that Sean Spicer stole a mini-fridge from junior White House staffers.
Things without deadlines (fun):
* Stroll in the Botanic Gardens (I didn't do this but did go read in the park near our house)
Things without deadlines (productive):
* Celebrate the 1st anniversary of Story Hospital (!)
* Call insurance company about that bill
* Call doctor's office about that prior auth
* Remake OT appointment for next week
* Do a family Readercon debrief/postmortem
V.E. Schwab — A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and A Conjuring of Light
March 6, March ??, and July 10
I plan to head directly into the weeds on this review, but I'll make a brief pit-stop at concision before I hit the road: I definitely recommend the first book of this series. It's fast, bold, and slick — just weird enough to grab your attention (a stacked-worlds cosmology where the only constant is London? What??), and more than competent enough to hold on to it. I'm more ambivalent about the other two books, but A Darker Shade of Magic actually stands alone pretty well anyhow.
Speaking of which, HEY, let's talk about trilogies! There are several different ways to put three book-sized objects in a row, and this series uses what I think might be the worst. I don't have a proper name for it (duologies behaving badly? party in the front, sweatshop in the back?), but it's that same thing Garth Nix did with Sabriel and Lirael/Abhorsen:
- Start with one standalone, book-shaped book, with tight plotting and characterization and some deep-but-restrained worldbuilding.
- Follow it with a much larger and more sprawling sequel, arbitrarily split into two volumes. (Book 2 usually ends on a cliffhanger of some kind.)
Recognize it? Contrast with the "three book-shaped books" trilogy or the "one continuous scroll" trilogy, both of which work better.
Part of the problem is just setting up an expectation of book-shaped books and then flubbing it. But I'm also starting to think that two books out of a trilogy is a uniquely awkward and unbalanced story unit, and should be avoided categorically. In all the examples I can think of, the sprawly second story has major plot and pacing issues that didn't afflict the first book and could only be addressed with major story surgery.
In this case, most of book 2 is dedicated to a shōnen manga tournament plot. This is a time-tested device that works really well in a long-running combat-focused comic, because it provides a lower-stakes pause in the main action (during which you can cut to machinations in the background as needed), it's guaranteed to take up a good long chunk of serialized time, and it's a good way to demonstrate how various characters have progressed or not progressed, especially because it lets you pit allies against each other without having to completely deform the story.
But tournaments usually work so well because they take up like an eighth or a tenth of a tremendously long comic. This one is like a quarter of the damn trilogy, and while yes, it's cool to see how badass Lila is now, it basically shoots the pacing all to hell.
Also affecting the pacing: The villain of the second story seems to spend an inordinate amount of time just twiddling his thumbs out in the distance. And he's just a lot less interesting than the confluence of villainies in the first book! He kind of sucks, tbh. (Note that I had this same beef with Lirael/Abhorsen. Is this a weird secondary effect of the structure?)
I had some other plot beefs. There's a death in book 3 that just kind of comes from someone acting out of character for no good reason, plus a few other things... not gonna go super deep into this, it just felt like things generally got a little sloppy.
Finally, there's a central character unironically named "Alucard," even though the only proper use of that name is to tell the reader with a big fat wink that this is Dracula's depressed son. (This story has nothing to do with Draculas, and IDEK how Schwab managed to not realize what she was doing there. Are there truly people who Don't Castlevania?? [yes])
IDK. I did enjoy the second book quite a bit, but it's not a complete unit, and I got bored partway through book three and just put it down for several months to read other things. There's a lot of good stuff in there, but it's flawed and uneven compared to book 1's mirror-bright polish.
Martha Wells — The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red
Yay, new Martha Wells! Spoiler, I liked it.
This had a more-than-passing resemblance to her short-lived Emilie series — it's more stripped-down than a lot of her other books, with more straightforward plotting and a more parsimonious approach to characterization for the supporting cast (not flat, but with most of the depth gestured rather than rendered, if that makes sense). It's an old-fashioned sort of feel, and one that suits both series' niches (Emilie was a deliberately retro pre-"YA" subgenre of youth lit, and Murderbot is a novella, which is sort of a coelacanth format just now coming out of a long hibernation).
Anyway, this is short and enjoyable and cheap (in its native ebook form, at least; the "tor.com" imprint has been publishing pretty nice tpbs of their novellas, but they're so overpriced that I get the impression we're not actually meant to buy them), and you should check it out.
Re: recent comments about how to structure a series: this is definitely the start of a larger story (note the beautiful last-minute left turn to avoid "happy ending"), but it's nicely contained, setting the stage for a next bit without any cliff-dangling. Which, again, I always greatly appreciate.
Jason Turner — Fir Valley (comics)
I liked this! It used this really aggressive POV shifting to get kind of a cubist every-angle-at-once view of the town of Fir Valley. And the town felt pretty legit; idk, I was reading this at the same time as Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being, and they both do interesting things with the, like, sensation of being in the Pacific Northwest.
Tonally, this was all over the place in a way I kind of loved. Gruesome murder, young people making music, ghostly conspirators with animal heads, drunken idiocy, all kinds of stuff in here, and all presented with this kind of goofy big-hearted cheer? Turner has cited Twin Peaks as an influence here, and I can definitely see it. He isn't following Lynch's aesthetic, but the method seems familiar.
Anna-Marie McLemore — When the Moon Was Ours
I liked this, but I don't really feel like talking about it. It was good.
( Here are some notes, cut for spoilers and lack of interest: )
There are various encore presentations going to be happening, if you missed this and are interested.
is another excellent meta-post from brainwane. Links to ~twenty think pieces on how we can hold each other accountable with as much love as we have for a better future.
And the comments are excellent.
Spoilers for all versions of Fullmetal Alchemist.
( FMA 3, 'Mother' )
( FMA:B 2, 'The First Day' )
( FMA 5, 'The Man with the Mechanical Arm' )
( FMA 6, 'The Alchemy Exam' )
( FMA 7, 'Night of the Chimera's Cry' )
( FMA:B 4, 'An Alchemist's Anguish' )
Having a weekend with partner in Frankfurt.
Hotel perhaps overdoing the stylish minimalism: why does this always mean, nowhere to put stuff in the bathroom? However, good marks for the breakfast buffet.
On matters of modern design, am I the only person who finds themself waving their hands at a tap that turns on some other way, and vice versa?
Today to the Stadel- art gallery, very good stuff and lots of it. Among works observed, one C16th courtesan as Flora, with obligatory symbolickal bubbie displayed.
Also to the Arts and Crafts Museum, which has gone full-on poncey and eschews labeling in favour of composing curatorial 'constellations'. Though I could have spent more time with the shiny pillow-like balloons that one was permitted even exhorted to touch. (Sometimes I am shallow and frivolous.)
Some general flaneurserie, looking into churches, etc.
A WINNER IS ME.
I guess in a couple of hours, I'll be hypomanic/super-stable, all chronic pain will be totally gone and my sinuses will be extra SUPER clean! XDDDDDDD
(if brains are so fucking important you'd think they'd work right)
A song that you would love played at your wedding.
As you probably know, I'm already married, and I had my wedding five years ago. ( wedding reminiscences plus video )
I have no intention of having any more weddings to choose music for. I'm already married, as are all my partners. And maybe poly people aren't supposed to say this, but I really think I've found my people and hope not to end or change my current relationships. Friends who have looked into these things in more detail think it's not actually illegal to have weddings, in the sense of ceremonies indicating lifelong romantic commitment, to more than one partner, as long as you don't try to register the relationship as a marriage for legal purposes. But I am not really sure of the details and anyway at the moment we don't have any desire to be married to more people than our existing spouses, even if it is (or became) legally ok.
It is fair to say that I never intended to get married the first time either, so maybe I'm wrong. I suppose we've vaguely talked about the possibility that those of us who are EU citizens may need to marry those who are not for immigration reasons and safety, but I really really really hope it doesn't come to that and if we were in that situation there wouldn't be any singing and dancing, just whatever paperwork we needed for survival. And hypothetically my current relationships might come to an end and then I might find a new person who really wanted to get married to me. But then the song I would choose would depend so much on the person and the circumstances that I can't really speculate what it would be, and I don't really want to because it involves imagining the ends of relationships I really want to keep.
I'm not in general a fan of the wedding tradition of the First Dance to a romantic song. Partly because I'm not much of a dancer, and partly because I think there are better ways to do symbolic consummation. And then finding a song which is lyrically appropriate is surprisingly hard; a lot of songs in the style that's appropriate to slow-dance to are really breakup songs, or at best they're hugely monogamy-assuming and heteronormative. As elf pointed out in this meme, a lot of poly-friendly songs are about casual
hey we're just doing this as long as we both like itrelationships, which is kind of wrong for a wedding.
I think it was ghoti_mhic_uait who pointed out that the most inappropriate possible song for a wedding is She moves through the fair, since it mentions
our wedding daybut primarily as a euphemism for death. I am very fond of it, mind you. And I have attended a wedding where the big romantic moment Song was Hey, that's no way to say goodbye by Leonard Cohen, which is a gorgeous song but way depressing if you go past the opening lines:
I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm,
Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm,
Yes, many loved before us, I know that we are not new,
In city and in forest they smiled like me and you
I never daydreamed about my ideal wedding when I was single, so I never had a concept in my mind of what song I
would love played. If I happened to be in a relationship where we had a song that was meaningful to us as a couple, then perhaps I'd choose that, but I can't help myself thinking about the detailed interpretation of the words. So, just out of interest, do any of you know any songs which are good for weddings, talking about serious relationships but not about possessiveness? Or songs that are good for non-religious communal singing?