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I should have been born a cat
Welcome to Working Title. This is a public journal, but old posts (and the rare new post) are friends-only.

Information about me can be found on my user page. New LiveJournal friends are welcome: feel free to friend me, but please do leave a note (here or otherwise) and introduce yourself if you would like to be friended in return.
As I post more of these boys, it's getting harder for new readers to catch up on what's come before. So for everyone's ease, I finally offer:

Ghost and Aaron: A Sims 3 Story
Introduction and Master List

Aaron (with freckles and dyed black hair) is brash and rude, but behind his bravado is certain vulnerability. Ghost (with white hair and pale eyes) is inward-turned, expressing himself through the arts—but his passivity hides depth. They are cousins who, for most of their lives, were only casual acquaintances. Two years ago, Aaron moved in with Ghost and his mother, and the boys quickly became close friends. But one day, after they had moved into a filthy suburban home in Sunset Valley, Aaron kissed Ghost—changing their relationship forever, and beginning their chronicled story.

From their first spontaneous kiss onward, Ghost and Aaron's story has been almost entirely autonomous. I set up premises, and they provide plot—and the boys have a strange magic that makes it all possible. I post lightly annotated, image-heavy chronicles of their daily lives, supplemented with text-only, non-chronological storybits that fill in gaps in their daily developments and backstory. Storybits in particular may contain explicit sexual content, so consider yourself warned.

The list below contains every post where Aaron and Ghost appear, from cameos to major developments. The numbering system is completely meaningless (but keeps things in order); storybits are often non-chronological and tangentially related, but add significant depth. I have no posting schedule—updates come when they come. Comments and discussion are always welcome. Enjoy!

Master List — The time when...
001 They first appear.
002 Aaron kisses Ghost.
003 Aaron sets fire to the TV.
004 Their romantic relationship gets going.
005 Ghost quits his job.
006 They finally have sex.
          Bonus House tour.
007 They cameo during their honeymoon period.
008 The repoman comes.
          Bonus Family photos and Storybit 01: Aaron on the doorstep.
009 Ghost says "I love you."
           Bonus Storybit 02: Ghost dreams of death.
010 Ghost's dreams get worse.
          Bonus Storybit 03: Aaron says "I love you."
011 Storybit 04: The second round, while Ghost should be sleeping.
012 They have a surprising amount of sex.
          Bonus Storybit 05: Aaron picks Ghost up from work.
013 Ghost started to come to terms with Aaron's thievery.
          Bonus Storybit 06: Aaron questions Ghost's sexual history.
014 They cameo at the Silverman-Moore wedding.
015 Storybit 07: Aaron bottoms for the first time.
016 They visit Mouse.
          Bonus Storybit 08: The night with Nathan.
017 Everything's going well, so Aaron's parents show up.
          Bonus Storybit 09: The rings.
018 Things do not happen in France.
019 Aaron's parents visit.
          Bonus Storybit 10: What does not happen after Aaron's parents leave.
020 Previous update outtakes.
021 They spend a couple irresponsible days.

You can also browse my tags for Sims 3 and Sims 3: Ghost and Aaron for some supplemental discussion and photo logs of my other Sims. All my Sims photos are gathered in galleries on my Flickr.
I should have been born a cat
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Website.

bpal_feedback avaliable here.

BPAL I have up for swap (locked).

My BPAL wishlist

I'm always willing to try new BPAL scents or to stock up on my favorites, but there are some scents that I desire more than others. I generally collect imps/decants because I go through oils slowly. You can fund my BPAL obsession through Paypal (swiftskyes AT hotmail DOT com) or ship them to me directly (can't see my contact info? want to? just ask).

I've included information about my favorite scents and notes (to give you an idea of what I like) and my wishlist for both limited edition and general catalog imps. Asterisks denote my highest priorities.

My favorite scents, notes, and tastesCollapse )

Limited Edition/Retired/Unimpable/etc WishlistCollapse )

General Catalog WishlistCollapse )

Non-BPAL & Miscellaneous WishlistCollapse )
I should have been born a cat
As a Christmas gift (which I picked up belatedly, since I skipped Christmas) my parents got me tickets for their Ashland trip to see Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and The Wiz. I used to make at least one yearly Shakespeare trip with my family, and miss it fiercely; it was particularly painful to see these plays on their calendar, because they're personal favorites and because we saw them together once when the Shakepeare trip was to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. So when they told me I was invited, I actually broke out in tears.

Of course, as the actual trip approached I remembers to be consumed by anxiety, because I'm not good at a lot of uninterrupted public time, especially without Devon with me, so I didn't know how I'd fare in three days company with my parents. But not only did I survive, it was a lovely and storied journey. I'm not going to write about the plays in detail here (that will be in the next post); this is a recap of itinerary, weather, and food.

We left noonish on Tuesday, June 14. It's a ~3h drive. I requested no news coverage in the car, as this was two days after the Orlando shooting and I just could not deal; instead of a few uninterrupted hours of repetition and Islamophobia, my mum put on the Hamilton soundtrack. I was aware of Hamilton and had heard a song or two, but had never listened to the entire thing. It is such a productive, powerful way to spend that time.

We got a divided room at our favorite hotel, which meant one king bed and sofa bed, separated by privacy curtain. For both mental and physical reasons, I'm a troubled sleeper—but the accommodations plus the bedding and hotpad I travel with, and the hours we kept, worked beautifully; I was surprisingly comfortable there. We also kept a two meal/lunch and dinner schedule, which is what I prefer.

Hotel wifi was speedy and stable (!!!); I used VoIP to catch up with Devon every evening (because normal people have cell phones but my particular anxiety means I don't), and that worked beautifully.

Tuesday dinner was Standing Stone Brewing Company. I got nachos; greasy, sometimes chewy chips, which was unfortunate, but the rest was flavorful and had good texture. Huge serving portions. Mixed bag, but, like, upscale tasty nachos, I can't complain about that.

The ongoing problem with eating in Ashland wasn't finding vegetarian options, but finding vegetarian options that had at some point rubbed themselves against a form of protein. I eat significantly more protein than most people, so perhaps this only bothers me—but while vegetarian (and vegan, and gluten-free) options were often exhaustively labeled, the first two were "normal dish with meat removed." I forget how spoiled I am by meat alternatives in Portland and even Corvallis.

Tuesday evening was Hamlet, in the open-air Elizabethan. Rather than raising an American flag, they raised a pride flag to general cheering; it was striking against the gray sky of dusk, and a heartening public gesture. It sprinkled just enough to warrant rain jackets, and got cold enough to demand one more layer than I wore, but neither required modifications to the play. I would rather it be a little chilly than horrible and hot while I'm traveling, I thought! Oh, little did I know.

Wednesday and Thursday brunch was Morning Glory, which is twee (a bit like stepping into a Mary Engelbreit illustration) and crowded and overpriced, and doesn't accept substitutions which is hard for me as a vegetarian/picky eater. On Wednesday I had a fantastic open-faced egg sandwich, but on Thursday I tried an omelet which was overly full, too strongly flavored, and had an awful texture. Mixed bag.

Wednesday afternoon was Twelfth Night in the Angus Bowmer. Afterward, my father and I went to the Q&A with Ted Deasy, who played Malvolio—what a marvelous experience. The volunteer introduced him as one of their favorite actors in the company and said that, after this talk, he would be one of ours too; absolutely correct. He had active, informed insights to his role, the play (esp. how it handled gender), and acting, with some particularly thoughtful anecdotes about how playing two characters in a single season forces those roles to inform one another, often in unique ways. (The particular anecdote about an audience member from a previous Q&A like this one asking, "I saw you in X play and Y play this season; why do you perform both roles the same?" which prompted a season-long bout of self-doubt, do I play these roles the same? why? should I? that lead him to realize what similarities united the roles, and then to be increasingly aware of how the overlap was both strengthening and muddying his performance.) The occasional talk by an actor devolves into them advertising their independent projects, but most are equally as compelling as the plays—and this was one of those.

Wednesday dinner was Caldera. A tip: when possible, eat as early as possible and/or drive outside of downtown; no waiting for a table and less rush. The dishes weren't particularly strongly flavored, but were robust; and one appetizer was a baked avocado, which isn't even that different from a normal avocado except for being warm and with a somewhat deeper flavor, but was still somehow a revelation: I can love avocado even more than I already loved avocado. Desserts, by contrast, were bizarrely strong in flavor.

Wednesday evening was The Wiz in the Elizabethan. Learning from the night before, we had stocked up on extra layers and a blanket. This helped somewhat, but not an awful lot, because it rained. It rained almost torrentially until intermission, and then only sprinkled while growing increasingly cold, "I know I probably won't die of hypothermia in the two hours' traffic of our stage, but I'm a little worried" cold. About two thirds of the audience left, and we toughed it out in part because you don't go to Ashland to bail on a play and in part because the cast enthusiastically toughed it out, too. Half of them wore ponchos, I'm sure some choreography was modified, and the adlibbed responses to the weather were delightful. Certainly an experience! But, as we commiserated after the event, by the time they made it back to the Emerald City we were all three of us thinking, "click your heels, Dorothy, just click your fucking heels."

Anxiety is a strange monster. On one hand, it well prepares me for this sort of thing, because I know to bring my suitcase full of comfort objects and I know to always have a book to read so that I never have unwelcome idle time which is my surefire way to begin panicking (and there's a lot of downtime in car rides/waiting for tables/before plays and during intermission). On the other, it infallibly makes me assume things will be awful, while things are not infallibly awful. It turns out that, given a busy enough schedule that we are either completely occupied or crashing during all available downtime, even I can do things for three solid days without a nervous breakdown.

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Title: Parable of the Talents (Earthseed Book 2)
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: New York: Open Road Media, 2012 (1998)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 420
Total Page Count: 193,090
Text Number: 568
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Olamina's daughter recounts the troubles faced by Earthseed as it establishes its first community and attempts to begin its journey to the stars. Parable of the Talents feels like the middle book it as meant to be. It's more of the same as Parable of the Sower, but even grimmer, with dystopia-building which grows especially preachy and redundant but, in moments, functions as an apt warning. The narrative structure provides adequate momentum and an interesting external view of the protagonist—but not enough happens, and Earthseed itself doesn't develop significantly until the tail end of the book. This is one of Butler's weakest novels: hardly awful, but still a disappointment. I don't recommend it, but I wish we'd had the chance to read its intended sequel.

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Title: Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders Book 3)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: New York: Spectra, 2003 (2000)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 341
Total Page Count: 192,670
Text Number: 800
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The Vestrit family is splintered—Ronica and Keffria struggling to preserve the ruins of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds, Althea in search of her missing ship, Wintrow dedicating his life to Pirate King Kennit, and dragon-touched Matla stranded with only the spoiled Satrap for company. Their reunions will decide the future of the dragons and of Bingtown. This is the only book in the series that seems to lag, and, while some lag may be inevitable given the series's length, it's unfortunate to see it in the finale. This trilogy's real and present dragons are a lovely counterpoint to the Farseer Trilogy; the human politics are large and dynamic. But all of this is undercut by the interpersonal elements. Individual character growth continues to be one of Hobb's strengths (Malta is superb), but the frequency with which characters jump to conclusions or miscommunicate is beyond frustrating; the romances suffer in particular. I find myself ambivalent: it's rewarding to see the wide cast and wider world pull together in a cohesive conclusion, but the frustrating relationships kept me at arm's length from the erstwhile engaging, long-form immersion that marks this metaseries.

Content warning for onscreen, PoV depictions of rape and gaslighting.

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Title: The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 10)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2003)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 340
Total Page Count: 191,870
Text Number: 568
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: While Sunny is Count Olaf's prisoner, Violet and Klaus discover V.F.D.'s secret headquarters. This story contains a Quagmire, significant overarching plot, an explicitly integrated metaplot, and ongoing character development—particularly in Sunny, who much needed depth. The second half of this series continues to impress me, and this volume shows why: it worries less about establishing and upholding its conventions, and spends more time on substance. If there's any drawback, it's that The Slippery Slope isn't especially funny. But it is what I wanted this series to become, and I appreciate it.

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Be ye warned of discussions of pet health/aging/death.

A little while ago, my family's dog Jamie (a fourteen year old black lab; lab life expediency is 10-12 years) had a health scare that resolved to be a probable brain bleed, collapsing, some seizing, labored breathing, etc. We did the entire routine of family panic, "the dog may be dying" phone calls, considering trips to the emergency vet; the crisis resolved overnight and they were able to take her to her normal vet the next day. She's been acting old-dog normal since, with all the ongoing health issues but no new ones. But the vet still believes she won't make it through autumn, if only because they see most old animals die in spring and autumn when the changing seasons add new stressors.

Talking about this with Mum after the fact, she said that she'd used me as an example of calm and acceptance when everyone was doing the crying freakout thing—which startled me to hear, but makes sense. I've seen so many companion animals die, both recently and generally. I am on intimate terms with non-human animal death, in ways I never am with human death, even when I know the deceased. These dying animals are in my care or care-adjacent; their lives and deaths and my responsibility. None of that has a negative connotation, and I have gotten really good at calmly accepting end-of-life events.

When Mama died, so quickly, despite lifesaving measures, we still had a sense of absolute certainty. We watched her transition from skittish bedraggled stray to a playful, profoundly affectionate, calm housecat, and that was our doing; we also helped her in sickness, and made the decision to euthanize her, and that was equally as beneficial to her wellbeing. I cannot have one of those things without the other, nor would I want to. This one thing, providing love and care to animals, is within my ability, and there's nothing I'd rather do.

My sister got a mini red merle Australian Shepherd named Tiber last year, and, I mean, he's a good dog, but I was watching my family replace Jamie, not with intent but because it was easier to bond with a lively young dog than to accept Jamie in her old age, with her failing body, her loud panting, her constant need to Be With. They were looking after her physically, but their emotional energy was diverted. And, to be honest, I don't think Jamie knew or cared; with her blindness and exhaustion came a particularly dogged affection, a love unswayed by physical or social concerns. But seeing the impatience and distraction she received bothered me.

When I explained all of this to my mother (everything except the quiet judgment, obvs.), my emphasis was this: I was sad when she seemed like she might be dying, but not afraid and not sorry, because I regret nothing about Jamie, not the life I had with her, not who she is now, neither her eventual death. It's not an inconvenience or a price to be paid for the better parts; it is part of an experience, and that experience is the thing I value most in my life.

I don't expect them to do that, to turn tolerance into engagement and value Jamie-now as easily as Jamie-then. But not everyone engages with companion animals the way I do, and to be honest my engagement is something I've severely fucked up and undervalued in the past (and that I do regret). But her health scare woke them. They know not to take for granted the time she has left, and so to engage with her in that time, even if that requires patience with her old dog ways. I'm glad to see it, because she deserves the world—they all do, these animals we pledge ourselves to, but Jamie does in particular.

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I should have been born a cat
I made an unusually long visit to Corvallis, because I hadn't seen Devon for a while and because I was making a trip with my parents to go to Ashland and see some Shakespeare (!! !). I usually travel by train, but Devon and I drove back up today because he had to pick up a friend from the local airport.

This is the sort of thing that only I could do:

As we approached the airport, Devon called his friend to let him know we were running 20mins late on account of traffic. I was unsure if this was traffic-traffic or "traffic"-traffic, as we had stopped for dinner along the way and I legitimately did not remember any traffic congestion. It occurred to me that if it were white lie-traffic, I was complicit in a white lie! so I queried Devon. Devon recounted for me the three (3) episodes of stop and go traffic that resulted from some broken-down cars, which occurred approximately when I was talking in depth about 1) the abuse of Malvolio and its end-game resolution as appeared in this production of Twelfth Night,* 2) the way the B-plot was weighted against the A-plot in Twelfth Night, the ways they were knit together, the depth given to the B-plot, 3) the overlap of an actor in Twelfth Night and Hamlet, and as natural segue, 4) which was the more successful production of the two (spoiler: Twelfth Night), especially in conceit, but 5) that this was one of my very favorite Hamlets.**

Which makes these things the take-away:

My memory is so spotty that I can entirely forget not one, not two, but three separate repetitions of the same event.

I am so engrossed in media criticism that I can carry on a one-sided outpouring of Shakespeare Thoughts that lasts through at least 20-mins-late worth of traffic.

My compulsive honesty is so intense and deeply ingrained that even being adjacent to the possibility of a small lie will cause me anxiety and require immediate clarification/resolution.

* As a type-A fellow antisocial uptight often-socially-corrected personality, Malvolio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I am incredibly sensitive to how productions depict his abuse and its aftermath—whether it's played for fun, whether the audience is complicit, whether his "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" does or doesn't diffuse the anxiety of the realization that things have, indeed, gone too far. This one was handled so well! so explicit, so cruel, so unforgiven; he internalizes his enforced socialization, his "smile," but reclaims it, develops it into a tool to use against those that hurt him. It threatens to diffuse and then refuses to, so pointedly. It was all I ever wanted.

** I feel that too much Hamlet discussion and production is given to issues of is he mad or faking (& is he flippant or bereaved); in this production he was all, he was driven to an extremity of emotion and he was numb, impassioned but indecisive, feigning and sincere, sarcastic and authentic. He was complete. That is the Hamlet which makes the play endure, who engages our ambivalence and writes it vast yet sympathetic, and we see ourselves in him, and we fear him, and fear ourselves

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Books Once More
Title: Parable of the Sower (Earthseed Book 1)
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: New York: Open Road, 2012 (1993)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 300
Total Page Count: 191,530
Text Number: 567
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: As America suffers drought and social collapse, one woman builds a religion based on the tenet that God is Change. This is a grim dystopia, and otherwise not hugely speculative (although I imagine the sequel is moreso); the scope is smaller than I expect from Butler, the ethical issues less complex. It feels restrained—but is nonetheless compelling. The social collapse and the birth of the central religion tend towards infodumpy and preachy, but both the basis for the religion and the intimate, uncompromising detail of the protagonist's experience are unexpectedly convincing, enlivening an otherwise underwhelming dystopia. Butler is often compulsively readable, but this is especially so. I look forward to picking up the sequel.

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Title: The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 9)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2002)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 285
Total Page Count: 191,230
Text Number: 566
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In desperation, the Baudelaires stowaway in the trunk of Count Olaf's car—and find themselves at a circus owned by a fortune teller who knows a remarkable amount about them. The second half of this series continues to impress, thanks to the ongoing emphasis on plot, especially the overarching and metanarrative plots. Equally rewarding is the character growth and issues of complicity and loss of innocence, which are more nuanced than I'd expect given this series's exaggerated styling. As a result, The Carnivorous Carnival is less frustrating-by-proxy like most of the series, and more dark and sympathetic. The strong ending and maturing tone make me look forward to continuing the series.

(The déjà vu joke legitimately made me laugh aloud in public.)

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Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Published: New York: Amulet Books, 2013
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 385
Total Page Count: 190,945
Text Number: 565
Read Because: local author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: 16-year-old Mary Shelley Black comes to San Diego in the height of World War I, an influenza outbreak, and the rise of spiritualism, there to find the death of a loved one test her skepticism.

"Oh, you silly, naïve men." I shook my weary head and genuinely pitied their ignorance. "You've clearly never been a sixteen-year-old girl in the fall of 1918."

This is a novel entrenched in its historical setting, in spiritualism and the pervasive death that birthed it. It grows into a ghost story, adopting a suitable gothic/paranormal tone, and the whodunnit, carefully integrated into historical context, is only somewhat undermined by a rushed, neat conclusion. The atmosphere is strong, but the emotional register is always a bit off—characters over-emote, dialog is heavy-handed, and, while Mary Shelley proves to be delightful, the exaggerated tone keeps the story at arm's length, insufficiently convincing or compelling. In both setting and content, this is remarkably similar to Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song—if you like one, try the other. But I found that In the Shadow of Blackbirds failed to coalesce.

While I'm at it, another list no one asked for!

Literature, music, and a few historical figures mentioned in In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winter
in order of appearance, approximately exhaustive

H.G. Wells
The Mysterious Island, Around the World in Eighty Days, and other work, Jules Verne
White Fang, Jack London
"The Passions", William Collins
McGuffey Readers
Fairytales of Ludwig Tieck
Fairytales of the Brother Grimm
Herman Hesse
"Lullaby," Brahms
A Treasury of War Poetry, ed. George Herbert Clarke, specifically: "The Death of Peace," Ronald Ross; "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," Alan Seeger; "The Hell-Gate of Soissons," Herbert Kaufman; "Into Battle," Julian Grenfell; "The Trenches," Frederic Manning
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as historical figure)
Duncan MacDougall, physician
Cottingley Fairies, photographed by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
The Pirates of Penzance
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Oz series, L. Frank Baum
"Sing a Song of Sixpence"
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (as allusion)
"The Star-Spangled Banner"

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Books Once More
Title: The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 8)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2001)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 270
Total Page Count: 190,560
Text Number: 564
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The Baudelaires sneak themselves into Heimlich Hospital, there to discover their first clues about the fire that left them orphans. Again, it's the overarching plot that makes this successful, and it's especially rewarding to see the framing narrative developed and integrated into the main story. Character growth also continues to be strong, and even Sunny is becoming tolerable. The series's aesthetic and style has grown routine, and this is a particularly unevocative setting, so other aspects need to step up their game—and I'm pleased that they are, and continue to find the second half of this series more engaging than the first.

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I have tried and failed to give even one shit about Marvel, and my social circle has said only good things re: Captain America and Hydra, so I’ve basically been able to put the whole thing aside as addressed, if not resolved

but then I read Tor.com article (which I won't link) about how this is one of many drastic character changes in comic history, and will be forgotten in time, and exists mostly as an clever, bold bid for attention and money, and that they the writer plan to give Marvel both.

This is the thing about a self-selecting social group! I forget there are other people out there saying harmful, false things with the reasonable tone of a tempered majority opinion!

This is personal, and private, and not particularly reasonable, and all about Nazism.Collapse )

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Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Published: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 190,290
Text Number: 563
Read Because: multiple BookTube recommendations, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The Georgia flu wiped out the vast majority of the human population; fifteen years later, the Traveling Symphony tours what remains of Eastern North America. This is a wistful (post-)apocalypse, and that distinctive atmosphere is broken by moments of kismet and profundity—it's heavy-handed, especially the coincidences, but more effective than not. But the interconnected cast whose stories precede the end of the world and linger in the aftermath is, regrettably, boring, as is the prophet figure. Dual timelines and vignette-style structure make this a swift read, but its not nearly as interesting as it could be given the successful atmosphere, scale of the premise, and moments of true creativity (as in the titular comic-within-the-book); what it is instead is only mediocre, and I don't particularly recommend it.

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I should have been born a cat
The other day I found myself talking to Teja about that weird cat thing/therianthropy, which is something I rarely discuss these days. Read more...Collapse )

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Title: The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 7)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2001)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 270
Total Page Count: 189,960
Text Number: 562
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: It takes a village to raise three orphans, and so the Baudelaires are sent to the village of V.F.D., where they hope to find answers to clues left by the Quagmire triplets. This series is always more successful when it has 1) a strong overarching plot, 2) some positive elements to counterpoint the gothic tone and copious frustration-by-proxy, and 3) the Quagmires. But the obvious clues, combined with the trademark repetitive language, slow The Vile Village a bit too much. This isn't my favorite, but it's better than average—and I presume the series will show general improvement in its second half, now that there's more plot.

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Title: A Scanner Darkly
Author: Philip K. Dick
Published: New York: Vintage Books, 1991 (1977)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 280
Total Page Count: 189,690
Text Number: 561
Read Because: buddy-read with Teja, from my personal library
Review: Bob Arctor, a narcotics officer, is tasked to investigate himself in his undercover identity as a drug dealer. I'll admit, this is a strange pick for one of my favorite books. It's an undignified look at drug culture, with secondary and sometimes ineffective speculative aspects and significant PoV sexism. But the central issues of identity work so well in concert with the themes and speculative elements, and the voices—even when characters are that their most inane and infuriating--are strong, including Arctor's PoV, which makes for memorable and profound sections. The entire book is written, with respect, from within: it's self-deprecatory, caricatured, mournful, and loving; an honest experience and personal homage. I respect it, and think it's superbly done.

My first encounter with A Scanner Darkly was the film, which is a fantastic and surprisingly faithful adaptation, and may be why I find the dialog particularly strong.

It's hardest to write reviews for the books I really love, especially books like this which seem so hard to love; here, let me have a lot of feels about social white noise and Dick's afterward, instead (as posted on Tumblr):

Read more...Collapse )

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