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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.
Anime/Game
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:

PREVIEWb
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 )
Writing
Title: The Last Wish (The Witcher Book 1)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: Danusia Stok
Published: London, Orbit: 2008 (1990)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 199,730
Text Number: 589
Read Because: familiar with the video game series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: As Geralt recovers from an injury, six short stories explore his various struggles with morality, the end of the era of Witchers, and Yennefer. The early stories are the more successful; they're more folklore than fantasy, some directly retelling fairy tales, with closely-integrated magic, lush imagery, and a grim, deadly tone. The later stories are less successful, some because they're character-driven and much of the dialog is wooden and some characters are grating, others because the plots are lackluster and the larger worldbuilding is, at this point, underwhelming. But while individual quality differs, this is certainly an apt introduction. It's everything the video games lead me to expect, but somehow condensed and even more emphatic, which includes the dark tone, engaging magic, and the moral quandaries that Geralt is forced into, but also includes the omnipresent sexism (at both a narrative- and worldbuilding-level) which is slightly elevated by some fantastic—if, as always, exploited—female characters. It's a mixed bag, but I will continue the series.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: The Traitor Baru Cormorant (The Traitor)
Author: Seth Dickinson
Published: New York: Tor, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 400
Total Page Count: 199,350
Text Number: 588
Read Because: multiple recommendations, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After the Empire of Masks conquers and colonizes her home, Baru becomes a student of the empire in the attempt to destroy it from within—whatever the cost. The Traitor is a pointed commentary on colonialism, makes equally pointed social inversions (particularly to gender stereotypes), and discrimination is viewed from within, from a protagonist in a minority group. Dickinson's style is terse, which makes the dense politics and battles unnecessarily confusing but is perfect counterpoint to Baru's unidealized emotional journey. But the plot depends on the reader overlooking the foreshadowing of a crucial plot twist while Dickinson's style demands close reading; the twist is thematically necessary, but the way it's written makes it a betrayal by narrative rather than by character—clumsy and insincere.

(I'm also unhappy with the symbolic injury that ends the book, because I don't think disability should be used a metaphor.)

I love this book in theory and, though I read it some time ago, think of it often. I recommend it on the basis of what it does well, which is ambitious, intelligent, and heartless; its themes penetrate every aspect. But at its most crucial point, it fumbles.


(As I close the cover of my most recently filled Moleskine I also declare that I am! finally!! free from the ghost of book reviews of books read last year.)

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Writing
Title: Street Magic (The Circle Opens Book 2)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Published: New York: Scholastic, 2011 (2001)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 300
Total Page Count: 198,950
Text Number: 587
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In the distant city of Chammur, Briar and Rosethorn's work is interrupted by a gang war and the discovery of a young stone mage. This book is more successful than Magic Steps, thanks to the new, if not unproblematic, Arabian-inspired setting and better developed characters with more robust interactions (I especially love the way that Briar has internalized the influence of his fellow students). The larger plot is predictable and the villains overdrawn, but the climax, vast and violent, with evocative imagery, provides plenty of payoff. As a stand-alone, I would enjoy this. But the repetitive format of this quartet is already growing stale.

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Writing
Title: Magic Steps (The Circle Opens Book 1)
Author: Tamora Pierce
Published: New York: Scholastic, 2011 (2000)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 265
Total Page Count: 198,650
Text Number: 586
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Some years after the first series, the Disciple Cottage students have left on individual journeys; Sandry is aiding her ailing great-uncle when murder upsets the city. The tone and magic here are surprisingly macabre, but the older protagonist and audience allow that. The distance from Disciple makes for nostalgia and reluctant, but necessary, maturation, a combination so effective it's almost self-defeating; like Sandry, I kept wishing for the intimacy of the first series. Although the duke is as fantastic as always, no other characters step up to fill that void, and the new student is particularly unremarkable and makes me worry that the sequels will follow the student-turned-mentor format and grow repetitive. Magic Steps fails to live up to my memory of the Circle of Magic books, but I like it enough to give the sequels a try.

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I should have been born a cat
Vet visit for Dare yesterday. She had a worm a few months ago, probably the result of a flea tracked in by Odi (although there were no other signs of fleas in the house). She was dewormed and everyone was flea treated. But the hair loss on her spine persisted, and then she developed bald patches on the back of her legs. Because the hair loss is the result of barbering, she's overgrooming in easy to reach places and the skin itself is healthy (all signs that the trigger isn't physiological), and she's a high-strung, high energy cat, the vet suspects what we suspected: she began over-grooming when she had the worm, but now it's just a habit and preoccupation.

We're putting her on Zylkene, a bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein which treats anxiety, isn't prescription, and doesn't interact with any food or medication. Prescription mood medication is always a possibility, but the vet wanted to start with the safest, easiest option, especially since she doesn't have any signs of stress. She's just a tightly-wound cat keeping herself occupied in her downtime. The vet was appropriately skeptical of magic milk protein, but gave us some studies as well as anecdotal evidence to back it up.

Bad habits aside, Dare is in perfect health and behaved great in a "blind cat, vaguely terrified" way. Because she has a possibly-congenital defect, it's particularly comforting to know she's in good health and this issue is probably unrelated.

This being vet visit approx. 23482942 for our menagerie, we continue to have superb experiences with North Portland Veterinary Hospital. I love them so much.

Vet visits with a blind cat are can be hit-and-miss on an interpersonal level, as some vets are prone to inspiration porn; this one, refreshingly, wasn't. She took us at our word when we talked about Dare's abilities and limitations, and never ever used the word inspiring. (Dare has developed a lot of skills to help her work around her disability! There's some surprising things she can do, and some things she does better than other cats, because she has to. It's really neat to see. There's also some things she can't do. And she's not a human being, and her disability and coping mechanisms aren't equivalent to human experience. Those things are obvious to me, but we still get vets who tell us about how animals are so much more adaptable than people and are such inspirations etc. and it's gross.)

This vet was also lovely in an ego-patting way—so relieved to learn that not just the blind cat but all the cats are indoor-only, complimenting us for intentionally taking in "lemon"/defective cats, pleasantly surprised when I asked for a spare soft e-collar (to use if Dare's over-grooming becomes skin-damaging) because no one had ever asked for one in advance before, impressed by preventative measures we take re: her open eye socket, generally telling us that this particular special-needs cat had the perfect care and home. We put effort into being good pet owners, and it's just about my only productive contribution to the universe, so an authority confirming that we're doing good is flattering and rewarding. There were just good feels all around; now we wait and see how the magic cow powder works.

When we came home, everyone sniffed the carrier a lot and August sat in it for a while because of course.

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Anime/Game
A bit ago, I got a message on dumb pet game website Flight Rising from a user who had found my book review of The Dark Wife offsite. They recognized my username, verified that it was the same Juu, and then mailed me to point out the small world and to say thank you, both because the review was helpful and because they found it comforting to know someone on dumb pet site was also a reader interested in YA lesbian literature. And if that isn't the best thing, and best reason to have a universal online identity—to have the chance to say, hell no, you're not the only queer lady out there who wants to read about Persephone and lesbians, even within this arbitrary audience; you're not alone and, here, have more books—then I don't know what is. It was a small, stand-alone interaction, but an absolute delight.

(Despite my caveats with The Dark Wife, I feel like this is what makes Diemer's work in particular valuable. All queer representation is, but she fills a particular niche: aesthetically-pleasing genre retellings where lesbians live happily ever after. The fact that can be someone's gateway into queer literature and a tool for exploring and validating their own sexuality makes me happy, even if I thought the narrative itself was just okay.)

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Books Once More
Title: The Lost Steersman (The Steerswoman Book 3)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Published: Smashwords, 2014 (2003)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 420
Total Page Count: 198,385
Text Number: 585
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: While searching the Steerswoman's archives for evidence of the wizard Slado, Rowan instead encounters an improbable influx of demons to the Inner Lands. The first two thirds of this installment make for a slow start—they contain information which is profound in hindsight, but their domestic scale and repetitive pacing slows a story that seemed like it was heading towards climax. But the final third is superb. It's a captivating, evocative, unremittingly logical journey into the unknown, grounded in punishing survivalism; it adds a new dimension to the fantasy meets science premise which more than keeps that premise alive—it redefines it. I feel like this particular installment could have been tightened or rebalanced, because, while successful, its pacing better suits a first book than a third. But that quibble is no roadblock to my ongoing satisfaction with this series, which continues to impress.

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Writing
Title: Conservation of Shadows
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Published: Germantown: Prime Books, 2013
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 197,965
Text Number: 585
Read Because: personal enjoyment, paperback received in a Tor.com giveaway (multiple years ago, oops)
Review: Sixteen short stories, of magic systems based in music or math, of political intrigues and rebel battles, with diverse Asian influence, written a dense, stylized voice. All single author collections run the risk of repetition, but this especially so: there's a lot of overlap in plot structure, as well as worldbuilding technique. But taken individually, over half the stories are outright successes; the ones I remember best are those that deviate from convention, like the vignettes of "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel," the compelling character dynamic of "The Black Abacus" which is absent from most stories, the exaggerated style and second person address of "Conservation of Shadows," or simply length that develops "Iseul's Lexicon." I wasn't eager to pick this up between stories—I find Yoon Ha Lee's work distant and inscrutable; I like the concepts, but the human element sparks little investment. But while it may not have been to my taste, this was certainly an interesting read. I recommend it ambivalently.

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Writing
Title:You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Author: Felicia Day
Published: New York: Touchstone, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 300
Total Page Count: 197,295
Text Number: 583
Read Because: watching a Geek & Sundry show, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In this memoir, internet phenomenon Felicia Day recounts her childhood, acting career, and the creation of webseries The Guild. She has a conversational, accessible voice (sometimes too accessible: the many pauses to overexplain aspects of nerd culture slow the pace) which makes this a quick, easy read. This is about what I expected, which doesn't mean it's boring. Day's self-deprecating nerdy persona is both natural and groomed for consumability, and as charming/relatable as always; she simultaneously demystifies her success and discusses the particular cultural phenomenon she's encountered, including (a mainstream, non-intersectional take on) misogyny within geek culture. This is engaging but not world-changing. I don't particularly recommend it, but if you're interested then it's harmless.

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Books Once More
Title: The Outskirter's Secret (The Steerswoman Book 2)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Published: Smashwords, 2014 (1992)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 340
Total Page Count: 197,635
Text Number: 584
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Rowan heads deep into the Outskirts in search of the fallen Guidestar. The series's fantasy-meets-science fiction premise doesn't grow tiresome, in large part because the major plot twist is unpredictable but logical—drawing the reader into the protagonist's limited PoV, while still allowing their wider knowledge to inform the worldbuilding. The strengths of the first book, the detailed, lived-in world and the compelling ways in which characters reason through the mysteries that surround them, persist. And the developments in this volume as significant enough that this doesn't feel like a middle or a filler book, despite two more sequels. I loved this, and can't wait to continue the series.

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Writing
Title: The Steerswoman (The Steerswoman Book 1)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Published: Smashwords, 2014 (1989)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 280
Total Page Count: 196,995
Text Number: 582
Read Because: reviewed by Kalanadi, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A Steerswoman's investigation into a collection of unusual gems puts her at odds with the nation's wizards. But the real plot here is "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"—a clever thesis that makes for a somewhat one-note plot. Luckily, Kirstein has a strong grasp on the aspects that counterbalance it: the slow exploration and worldbuilding that establish the existent worldview, and the utterly convincing thought processes by which characters learn to question their status quo. There aren't any particularly interesting characters here (although it's great to see so many women), but the ways that they think, their bright minds encountering and exceeding the limitations of their experiences, is compelling. I hope the sequels complicate things, but look forward to finding out—this is a promising beginning.

The Steerswoman's interiority, fantasy-meets-science setting, and domestic detail remind me of Vonda N. McIntyre's Dreamsnake.

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Anime/Game
(CW for offhand discussion of mental health issues and suicidal ideation.)

At the risk of jinxing it, we've been having unseasonably cool weather these last few weeks. I hate summer but live seasonally, in particular organizing my media consumption around the seasons, so this deviation is disorientating but not unwelcome. And I've been finding a lot of media to fill the gap in my media consumption as I push some things back (like sports anime, which is uniquely suited to warm weather).

I discovered Critical Role only approximately an eon behind everyone else, and it's phenomenal and also a gigantic timesink. Halfway through the second episode I stopped to make sure it was safe to binge watch and I wouldn't run into a sudden end, but the joke was on me because it's 50+ 3 hour-long episodes. I've never participated in a tabletop RPG and always wanted to, but never been interested in D&D because of my hatred of high fantasy; I still don't care about the setting, but I had underestimated how engaging this sort of by-user for-user creation could be, even when the source material is as generic as imaginable. (It does make me wish I could play something similar, which then reminds me that a lot of things aren't accessible to me because of my crazy; I receive that reminder often, and it always manages to sap away some joy, but the show is still fun to watch.)

(See also: Pokemon GO, which I would love to play but can't b/c no cell phone b/c mental health reasons, so that's a fun phenomenon to be excluded from.)

I've also been reading significantly more book series in the last few years, which has increased by book consumption considerably and contributes to the number of books I've reviewed this year. I still dislike the time and energy demand of series, still think a lot of them would benefit from brevity, and always keep to my habit of alternating between series-book and non-series book to prevent fatigue—but there's something satisfying about chewing through a sequence of books instead of a slew of stand-alones, and it's opened up some authors (Octavia Butler, a lot of children's/MG/YA literature, and, goodness knows, a ton of SF/F) that I previously would have avoided.

This last week or so I've been having some abnormal pain problems (neck and upper back, approximately unrelated to my normal back pain) that are affecting my sleep, and some amorphous low blood pressure issues. Both are annoying but niether particularly awful; less sleep just means more time for stories, and, as established, feeling cold in the summer is A-ok with me.

My mental health issues mean that I have constant suicidal ideation, not often with any particular desire or intent but with unflagging consistency; I would always rather not be, even when various symptoms are in remission; I have never found anything that justifies the effort of being present. And these stories still don't, but the sheer number of them, that I'm timesharing episodes to watch against series installments to finish, means that—for a rare occasion—I feel like there's not enough time, not enough of being, for all these things. That's not exactly a counterbalance but it's pretty close, as these things go.

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Writing
Title: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
Published: New York: Hogarth, 2016 (2007)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 190
Total Page Count: 196,715
Text Number: 581
Read Because: personal enjoyment, used ARC found in a local Little Free Library (book donated: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters)
Review: After a series of gruesome dreams, Yeong-hye refuses to consume meat—a change which spirals her apparently-normal marriage and family towards chaos. This is similar to Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman, female food consumption as metaphor for the ways in which women's bodies and behaviors are policed, but the two books are hardly redundant. The Vegetarian is a fevered dream, impulsive, obsessive, grim. Claustrophobic point of view narration is balanced by a distance from the protagonist, who is seen almost exclusively through other characters's eyes. But it's not entirely successful, due in part to the slow start (blame that on a culture gap: vegetarianism is treated as wildly irregular, which inflates the action), the themes are grow heavy-handed, and the distance from the protagonist deadens the tone. (I'm also not fond of one character's mental illness functioning as another character's growth.) There's some evocative and confrontational themes at work here, but I never quite fell in love.


(Putting a "not recommended" on this but, honestly, I'm ambivalent. Great themes! intriguing atmosphere! PoC author, work in translation, also won the Man Booker Prize! But it was a little too literary fiction-y for me, so I got hung up on its flaws.)

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Books Once More
Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Published: New York: Amulet Books, 2016 (2015)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 196,525
Text Number: 580
Read Because: trying another book by the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When her family flees to the island of Vane to escape rumors that her naturalist father is a fraud, Faith is drawn into a grave mystery. The titular plot point doesn't appear until a third of the way in, and what proceeds that is a hamfisted, draining reminder that sexism is bad and Victorian-era sexism was especially bad. But once it overcomes its slow start, this is compelling. The premise is unique and morally confrontational, and the murder mystery is just clever enough to counterbalance some predictable interpersonal arcs. Best of all is the way that the plot ties in to the ongoing feminist themes. Hardinge leaves no woman behind: the protagonist's growth occurs as she overcomes her internalized misogyny, everyone has agency, femininity is a performance but not villainized, and there's some hints of intersectionality. I wish this whole novel were as successful as its ending, but, flaws and all, I admire and recommend it.

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10th-Jul-2016 01:23 am - Book Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Books Once More
Title: Cam Girl
Author: Leah Raeder (Elliot Wake)
Published: New York: Atria Books, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 430
Total Page Count: 196,145
Text Number: 579
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After a car accident destroys her drawing hand and romantic relationship, Vada is drawn into the world of camming. Raeder/Elliot Wake's novels are compelling erotic thrillers, and at its height this is certainly that: sexually charged, intense, intimate, discomforting. But the drunken mistery of the first quarter of the book makes for a slow start, and when all is said and done the mystery here is more contrived than complex. On the other hand, the novel's themes of gender identity and sexual orientation (and disability, and chronic pain) are vital—sometimes preachy, but written from within, with valuable anger and compassion. I find I prefer Black Iris, which has a more robust plot to sustain its suspense, but I'm glad Cam Girl exists.

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