lizbee: Jinora holds a book, looking disdainful (LoK: Jinora will make no such promises)
Blurb:

A shocking story of rebellion and revelation set in a contemporary Nazi England.

Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive. Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?


I inhaled this yesterday afternoon, and while I gave it four stars on GoodReads, I'm actually still trying to decide how I feel about it.

Spoilers: This alternate history where the Nazis won is kind of a downer! Also, I'm gonna give away ALL the plot twists, because why not? )
lizbee: (TV: Janet King)
A regular feature on the Galactic Suburbia podcast is "Culture Consumed", where they outline and discuss the things they've been watching, reading and listening to of late. I really like the format, so here's what I've been consuming lately.

Listening


I don't really do podcasts much, but I love Galactic Suburbia, which ranges widely from fandom to general Australian pop culture from a local feminist perspective that works hard at intersectionality. There is also cake.

I also don't really listen to albums per se, let alone Beyoncé albums -- I usually find her work very hit and miss, most of the misses being ballads. But Lemonade really is outstanding. For one thing, there's a coherent narrative, which I don't find in many albums, and it all comes together in "Formation" at the end.

Speaking of coherent narratives: Hamilton. I didn't much like it on a first listen -- I think I got as far as "You'll Be Back" -- but I gave it a second go because I was intrigued by all the discussion. Listening to it with the Genius annotations open was great -- but it took the entrance of George Washington to make me fall in love. Turns out I just quit one song too soon on my first attempt.

I have a lot of Issues with its portrayal of women, which I think is a lot less feminist than people give it credit for, but I sure do love it a lot.

Spinning off from there, I've also been listening to a lot of the '80s and '90s hip hop that inspired Hamilton, and from there I keep falling down a TLC/Salt 'n' Pepa spiral, which inevitably leads back to Destiny's Child, Beyoncé and Lemonade.

Reading

It's Hugo's season, and once again, the shortlists are a clusterfuck of right wing trolls. The novels aren't so bad this time, but I may nope out of Best Related Work all together, not only because I'm a bit disappointed that Companion Piece didn't make it, but I'm absolutely heartsick that we don't get to lose to Letters to Tiptree.

But once again, I'm going to read as many of the finalists as I can, review them on No Award, and vote according to merit. I just finished Seveneves, and I'm struggling to come up with a coherent way to talk about it on NA. I might just do the post in three acts: one's really slow, the other is quite interesting until everything suddenly happens offscreen and we hear about it later, and the third is a review of a completely different book all together.

My reward for finishing Seveneves is Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray. It's very good, but what I'm really interested in with regard to the post-OT timeline is Ben Organa Solo and his descent into darkness. Sorry, Tumblr, but I have a serious weakness for characters who grow up in the shadow of their family legacies and either deal with that or fail spectacularly, so the only way Kylo Ren could be more awesome in my eyes is if he was Han and Leia's daughter instead of their son.

Also read lately:
  • Vol 1 of Archie 2015, the "reboot" with art by Fiona Staples. I was pretty cynical when I heard this was happening, but it's really good -- I think because it takes the whole Riverdale format seriously, and isn't setting out to be a Dark and Gritty Version. It's still a comic you could give to your kids. And the art and writing are just good, to the point where I may actually have to get the Jughead title as well. (I realised that Mark Waid has written a bunch of stuff I've enjoyed over the years, so I should pay more attention to him.)
  • The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks -- another YA/Middle Grade graphic novel, set in a city that has been invaded and colonised so many times, it's original inhabitants no longer have a name for it. This wears its Avatar inspiration overtly -- not only does it have a blurb from Bryan Konietzco, but the cover uses the AtLA font -- but it's a worthy successor. For one thing, unlike a lot of AtLA-inspired works, it's not about white people.
  • The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King -- I sort of fell out of love with this series after Locked Rooms pulled its punches and then God of the Hive looked at all the foreshadowing and set-up of the previous book and went, "Nah, actually I'll ignore all of that and be disappointing and racist instead." But this was outstanding, and I really wish it had come out ten years ago, when I had the fannish drive and energy to really do something with it, fic-wise. It's a massive retcon of not just the previous Russell novels, but also the Doyle canon, and nearly everything about it delighted me. Even the flashbacks to 19th century Australia were great, and I usually find gaping errors in that sort of thing.

Watching

On the insistence of [personal profile] nonelvis and [personal profile] sorryforlaughing , I've been watching The Americans. They were right: it's very, very good. It's sort of my Mad Men, in that every episode features a style of clothing or hair that I've seen on pictures of my mother.

It turns out that America is suddenly doing really good historicals set in the last few decades. Well, not "suddenly", I suppose Mad Men proved it could be done, and then it was just a matter of time until it inspired some really good shows. Between seasons of The Americans, I've watched Show Me A Hero (set in the '80s and '90s, about the court-mandated desegregation of Yonkers) and The People v OJ Simpson, which I started expecting hilarity, and ended having actual feelings about the Kardashians?

Then my MacBook's logicboard exploded, so for about ten days, I was confined to what I could watch via streaming services. Which was fine, it was just in time to binge watch season 2 of Janet King via ABC iView. I quite liked season 2 -- I thought it was better plotted than season 1, and despite the Dead Lesbian Trope that drives it, it also gives us Marta Dusseldorp dealing with trauma by wearing a lot of tank tops, and also a plot about a woman seeking justice for her murdered wife.

I was less impressed that the final episode reveals that the murderer is spoilers ), which doesn't really affect the plot or motivations, it's just a means to a fake-out. That could have been done differently, guys.

Stuff I watch week to week:

Elementary's season 4 was a mixed bag, and I have some issues with the finale, but it left me shipping spoilers )

And Orphan Black's season 4 is great so far, pulling back from the labyrinthine conspiracies of season 3, but still dealing with repercussions from last year's plotlines.

More spoilers )
lizbee: (Music: 2ne1 (CL))
Things I love:
  • pop music
  • non-fiction about the pop industry
  • covers
  • demos
  • guide tracks
Accordingly, I am reading The Song Machine by John Seabrook, which looks at the evolution of song factories -- providing pre-fab pop songs to artists, constructed to a carefully calculated formula. This started in the '90s, and is obviously a Really Big Thing in pop right now. I have a Spotify playlist of songs written by Sia for other artists, so clearly the whole concept is relevant to my interests.

Being American, the book largely overlooks the UK pop scene, which I think is a mistake -- the Swedish song factories that made Britney Spears famous refined their art in the UK, and StarGate, for example, who are currently massive, started out with acts like S Club 7, Samantha Mamba and Billie Piper.

Overlooking the UK seems to me to be especially a mistake because there is a chapter on K-pop, which also embraced the Swedish machine. Don't laugh, there are pretty striking similarities in production between Billie's "Something Deep Inside" and Girls' Generation's "The Boys".

Anyway, I find it really interesting that many songs are written with no particular artist -- or even language -- in mind, and it might get shopped around to a variety of artists before it gets made. (Or, sometimes, it's written with one artist in mind, but they pass on it -- "...Baby One More Time" was written for TLC, who rejected it, so it went to Britney. Some years later, Britney turned down a little ditty called "Telephone", so its lyricist claimed it back or herself.)

A (sort of) more obscure example:

A quintet of Swedes wrote a track now known as "Genie", or, sometimes, "Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)", depending whether you're looking at the Korean or Japanese version. It was shopped around in various countries, and eventually purchased for Girls Generation. New lyrics were added. It was released in 2010 to considerable success.

But in 2009, Uzbek artist Dineyra had recorded it herself. Her producers didn't secure the rights, so there were legal kerfuffles when "Genie" came out. As usual when you go up against the Korean pop industry, she came off second-best.

And just before the Girls Generation version was released, a Dutch artist named Nathalie Makhoma released a version with the original English lyrics.

And finally, a UK hip hop artist named CJ Lewis released a track called "Genie" which heavily samples the track, and -- instead of the English lyrics -- translates the Korean back to English. And so we come full circle.

This is all particularly interesting to read on the same day that Beyoncé releases a new song -- because, while she presumably uses the services of song factories, her process is much more opaque, and she is far more likely to make significant changes from the creators' versions. (Especially since she ran into problems when it turned out the writers of "Halo" had written a remarkably similar song for ... Kelly Clarkson? Someone of that ilk.)

Meanwhile, in the Anglosphere, the current fashion is for singer-songwriters, so there's a certain amount of controversy over the use of song factories -- especially because the factories mostly employ men, who literally put words in the mouths of female artists.  (Women in the business of songwriting tend to either have been successful performers themselves, eg Linda Perry, or go on to become successful performers, eg Jessie J, Lady Gaga.  Sia's an odd case, having been a successful alternative performer before becoming accidentally successful as a pop writer.  And Carole King was an unsuccessful performer who became a major songwriter, and then became a successful performer.)

IN SHORT -- because my dinner is getting cold -- there are a lot of interesting and meaty issues underlying the current state of pop music construction, but since the things I love include everything on the list above, this book speaks to me. 

lizbee: (Random: Book hat!)
What are you reading now?

I'm side-eyeing Secret Letters by Leah Scheier, a YA novel about a Victorian teen who thinks she may be Sherlock Holmes' natural daughter.

I'm side-eyeing because I read the first few chapters at work last week, and it was okay, I guess, but the only bits I liked were straight out of Mary Russell, and the love interest is insipid. Like, not as annoying as in Y S Lee's Agency series, but neither of these characters are worth spending time with.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I feel really bad about abandoning it, because I wanted to read it for months, and I bought it in the US and carried it all the way back to Australia, and it seems terribly silly to just stop reading it. And also, what if all the other YA novels I got on my trip are equally boring? WHAT THEN?

What did you just finish reading?

Saga, Volume 1, the trade paperback of the comic by Brian K Vaughan. I started reading the first few pages at [personal profile] nonelvis's place, and liked it so much I ordered it from BookDepository to read properly when I got home. Which I finally did. Then I hopped onto ComiXology and bought the next two issues.

It has some epic interstellar warfare, star-crossed lovers and their politically problematic baby, robot royalty, and a bunch of bounty hunters I don't care about. Also lots of sex and swearing and stuff. I like it!

Book-wise, I've been in a bit of a rut lately. I gave up on And All the Stars by Andrea K Host at 83% (according to my Kindle) because I realised around 60% that the guy I had thought was the love interest was actually a different character all together. Then, at 75% there was a plot twist that I had totally expected, only somehow the execution didn't work for me, and I realised that I no longer had any fucks to give.

Which is sad, since this was Australian YA sci-fi with a diverse cast of characters, but it's also self-published, and you could tell. Maybe I should start offering my services to indie authors in need of a plot beta. With notes like, "Don't give two male characters one-syllable names that both end in "sh", because you introduce, like, twenty six guys in one scene and they're all kind of interchangeable."

The last book I managed to finish was Ban This Filth! Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive by Ben Thompson, which was occasionally amusing and frequently badly written. The Whitehouse letters themselves were interesting, but the chapters surrounding them were inconsistent. And poorly researched -- Thompson claims Whitehouse's objections to Doctor Who had no effect on the program, which would have come as a shock to Philip Hinchcliffe and Graham Williams.

What do you expect to read next?

OH GOD, I HAVE SO MANY BOOKS AND I'M PARALYSED. I keep eyeing For Darkness Shows the Stars, which is a YA SF retelling of Persuasion, but Secret Letters is so relentlessly mediocre, I'm irrationally afraid it's infected all the books it travelled with. I have some non-fiction, but I seem to lack the energy to read it. Seriously, I picked up a book on the history of girls boarding school fiction the other day, and then put it into the too hard basket.

Do I want to read the history of Doctor Who fandom from 1979 to the beginning of the reboot? The book about the Leopold and Loeb murders? I DON'T KNOW. I keep trying to choose, but then the effort makes me tired, and I either have a nap or watch more Parks and Rec. BOOK RUTS ARE THE WORST.
lizbee: Cover from "The Game", showing only part of Russell's face. Text reads "girl anachronism". (MR: Russell)
"That was the first time I heard Sherlock Holmes laugh, and although it was far from the last, it never ceased to surprise me, seeing that proud, ascetic face dissolve into helpless laughter. His amusement was always at least partially at himself, and this time was no exception. I was totally disarmed."

Amazon won't sell me the Sarah Tolerance ebooks because I'm outside the US, so I'm consoling myself with Mary Russell.
lizbee: (Default)
The BBC allegedly believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here:

How do your reading habits stack up? [bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish] And, cut! )
lizbee: (Default)
The Pigeon wants a puppy!

I just read the new Mo Willems Pigeon book, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] sajee (happy birthday!) and [livejournal.com profile] peace_bloom, who didn't mind that I was going through their room in search of a picture book. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy: a heartwarming tale of desire, acquisition and disappointment. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to over-identify with the Pigeon, but then I decide to stop worrying and have a hot dog.

Also I made the others watch the DW trailer, and we are all awesomed out, and speculating on whether or not [spoiler] is evil. I say not, but the others are more open to alternative interpretations.

And now, to read some Tintin.
lizbee: (Default)
Best thing about working in a bookstore: publishers supply reading copies of some novels.  Which is to say, happiness is not having to pay to read the new Kerry Greenwood novel.

Oh yes.  She has a new one out.  Her first new release of 2007, actually, and since she normally churns out two a year, I did wonder if this might not be a cut above the rest.  But no, she never changes, not even to improve.  Either that, or my immunity has been weakened by lack of exposure to her idiosyncratic prose.

Trick or Treat is one of the Corinna Chapman series, the adventures of a crime-solving baker and her posse of cutesy middle-class bleeding-heart-liberal busy-bodies.  Fans of the series will be pleased to know that nothing has changed -- the skinny girls are still interchangable, the Classical scholars are still kindly and eccentric, the dominatrixes are still, um, dominant, the gay couples are creepily co-dependent and the pagans still don't use contractions.  Nothing changes in Greenwood's Melbourne.

I'm only up to page fifty yet, though, and you can be sure that I'll keep the internet apprised of any significant developments and sniggerworthy prose.  Oh Kerry, how I've missed you.

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