mayhap: animated gif of yule log burning (yule log)
An Ass's Headgear (1335 words) by mayhap
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Inspector Alleyn Mysteries - Ngaio Marsh
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Roderick Alleyn
Additional Tags: Stealth Crossover, Humor, Backstory
Summary:

Police Constable Alleyn runs into difficulties on Boat Race Night.



This was my main assignment! It may be the least stealthy crossover with the Stealth Crossover tag, but I really enjoyed writing it and I'm so glad that people enjoyed reading it.

The Artist's Model (2475 words) by mayhap
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Jack and Jill - Louisa May Alcott
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: Underage
Relationships: Jack Minot/Ralph Evans
Characters: Jack Minot, Ralph Evans
Additional Tags: Hand Jobs, Frottage, Yuleporn, Yuletide Treat, Age Difference
Summary:

Jack is always eager to lend a friend a hand any way he can.



I also wrote a treat, because I could not resist the siren song of debauching extremely wholesome children's literature! Jack and Jill is more of a deep cut from Louisa May Alcott's œuvre, but I loved it when I was a kid and I thought it held up well on reread, too.

Also I can now thank [archiveofourown.org profile] mattador by name for writing for me!
mayhap: Tezuka holds a pen and stares into space (Tezuka writer's block)
I finished my Ngaio Marsh reread and was sad to have it end, especially as the last few books were all high points and personal favorites.

What I've been reading

I read My Real Children, which I loved as much as I thought I would. It got me all teary at the end.

I read We Were Liars, which actually enjoins you to try not to spoil anything about it, so of course I won't. spoilers )

I read The Circle, which is the first book in a Swedish YA trilogy, which is self-admittedly rather heavily Buffy-inspired, among other things, about a group of very disparate high school girls who learn that they are all Chosen Ones, complete with magical powers and an obligation to save the world. I'm enjoying it so far.

I read The Homeward Bounders, because of all the Diana Wynne Jones books that I haven't yet read, that one has by far the most fic, although I haven't gotten around to starting in on the fic yet.

I read Last Ditch, in which Ricky Alleyn, last seen getting into trouble on vacation as a wee child, is now old enough to get into trouble as a young adult while he's meant to be writing a book. He begins by falling hopelessly in love with an older married woman, which is I think the closest thing so far to a genderswapped version of the usual romantic subplot, which usually features a fairly significant age gap in the other direction, to the point where it is very definitely a Thing. Luckily, Ricky and his crush are both quite charming (she, as a matter of fact, turns out to be née Lamprey), though, because otherwise there are a number of tiresome characters involved in this particular murder.

I read Photo Finish, which also has an older woman/younger man romantic subplot, only this one is consummated, and horrible—Troy and Alleyn actually commiserate with the poor boy about how terrible it is. The older men in Ngaio Marsh books who pursue relationships with younger and often subordinate women are always aware of the disparity, and might even angst about it a bit, like Adam in Night at the Vulcan, but they always smooth everything over like the nice sympathetic characters that they are. All of a sudden when it's a famous opera singer and a wannabe composer we get this very scathing portrait of a dysfunctional age gap relationship. Which is not to say that it isn't done well, mind you, but it raises eyebrows.

I read Grave Mistake, which was another of my favorites that I'd reread enough times that I actually remembered the solution to the mystery, which is always the first thing that I forget.

I read Light Thickens, which returns to my beloved Perry and his beloved Dolphin Theatre in what turns out to be a reasonably fitting end for Alleyn, I think. More so than any of the other theatre books, even, this one is overwhelmingly about Macbeth and Peregrine's production of it. I think the actual murder and investigation may be wrapped up more quickly than any of the others; it's practically an afterthought. Jeremy does not make an on-page appearance, although his exquisite-sounding costuming and set designing do.

What I'm reading now

Fire, the middle book in the Engelfors trilogy. The third one hasn't been published in English yet, alas.
mayhap: toad reads to frog (frog and toad are friends)
What I've been reading

I finished reading War and Peace, after a long intermission of having put it down and read other books instead. I was spoilers, and also frivolity )

I reread Tied Up in Tinsel. The central conceit, an English country house staffed entirely by convicted murderers, is pretty ridiculous (and also a cheat; some of them are actually manslaughterers), but it works anyway because Troy is the viewpoint character again in this one and she is the best. ♥Troy♥

I reread Black As He's Painted, wherein the role of the semi-obligatory romance subplot is played by a retired diplomat and a stray cat. It is charming.

What I'm reading next

Jo Walton's new book, My Real Children, just came out and it looks really good.
mayhap: hennaed hands, writing (Default)
Whoops, I just realized that it is Wednesday. It's been a long day, okay?

What I've been reading

I reread Clutch of Constables, which was the first Troy book in some time and made me so happy because I love Troy to pieces. The little framing bits where Alleyn is actually teaching the case to his pupils are also delightful. The setup is actually quite similar to Singing in the Shrouds—trying out a different sort of murderer, in this case a professional thief, and once again putting everyone on a boat to mimic the typical scenario with a limited set of suspects who all interact with each other—but much more enjoyable, because Troy.

I reread When in Rome, which has Alleyn thinking to himself that he's sounding like Sherlock Holmes and then doing a very Holmesian thing: spoilers ) This book also contains the most amazing scenes of Alleyn trying to persuade various drugs-takers that he would like to take some drugs. They are so unconvinced by him. It is hilarious.

I read Dissecting Hannibal Lecter: Essays on the Novels of Thomas Harris, and was pleasantly surprised by the essays therein, all of which were reasonably interesting and thoughtful. It's funny, though, because Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs are legitimately significant texts that partook of and contributed to a zeitgeist, whereas Hannibal and Hannibal Rising (i.e. the woobie cannibal duology) are…not. They're more like Hannibal Lecter fic, which people only read because they're already in the Hannibal Lecter fandom, and as in the rest of Hannibal fandom the response to the woobie cannibal duology among the writers in this collection is decidedly mixed.
mayhap: hennaed hands, writing (Default)
What I've been reading

I read Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which was the first book selected by the informal Goodreads book club set up by a friend of mine from high school. When I got to the last (virtual) page of the book with the author bio and saw that Maria Semple had written for Arrested Development, several things about the way the book was put together retroactively made much more sense to me: the OTT ridiculousness of some of the scenarios and especially the minor recurring characters and their deeply ridiculous correspondence, but also the cleverness in the structure and the way everything came together in the end.

I reread Killer Dolphin and was very happy that I was still able to love it. Although I had forgotten/not previously noticed exactly how much time Peregrine and Jeremy devote to discussing the question of whether the mysterious Mr. Conducis was hitting on Perry or not at the beginning; even when they have seemingly decisively settled on not, one or the other of them will be all, yeah, but was it queer or was it queer queer? It is a subject that interests them greatly. As in Night at the Vulcan, Ngaio Marsh made the supporting male actor in the theatrical production gay—not a lead, of course! Heaven forfend!—but this time around none of the characters pitch slur-filled temperaments about it, and Perry is rather anxious to assure Alleyn that he is "no trouble to anyone" and "doesn't bring it into the theatre," which is completely cringeworthy but means well, anyway.

This book brings in Marsh's twin passions, writing and theatre, but then False Scent had both of them and I found it a bit perfunctory and lifeless, so I think Shakespeare must be the magic ingredient that breathed life back into the series. I would love to read Perry's play about Shakespeare's son's glove, whereas even the characters in Night at the Vulcan admit that the play they're doing is terrible. I also like Perry himself, very much, as indeed Alleyn does; he makes an excellent point of view character. I definitely shipped him with Jeremy when I first read the book and before I realized what I was doing; it's the way Perry is so exquisitely of and concerned about Jeremy being humiliated that is just catnip to me as a relationship dynamic. On reread, I feel like, if anything, their neverending no homo debate makes me feel shippier about them, as it is clearly all denial and projection. *g*

What I'm reading now

Clutch of Constables is my next Ngaio Marsh book. Also presumably other things.
mayhap: Orlando Bloom clutching a hardcover Lord of the Rings (canon)
What I've been reading

I finished Death of a Fool even though it was a slog. I think it has the most annoying cast of non-reocurring characters I've encountered in an Alleyn mystery since Death in Ecstacy, especially the Andersen clan. Even the obligatory young het couple are rather dull, and I usually find them strangely charming.

I reread Singing in the Shrouds, which is an odd hybrid—a serial killer story contrived in such a way that Alleyn can investigate it in more or less the same way he would a ‘normal’ murder, with the added bonus that Alleyn, the suspects, and the potential victims are all trapped on a ship at sea together. It's not terrible, although mild spoilers )

I reread False Scent, about which I cannot think of a single exciting thing to say, positive or negative. It was pretty much just there.

I reread Hand in Glove, which was my favorite out of this slightly perfunctory run of middle books. I quite like both Nicola (who is never called 'Cola') and Andrew the artist whom Troy accepts as a pupil, who with the advancing years of publication are I believe the first young love interests to negotiate the possibility of premarital sex, although Nicola quashes it.

I reread Dead Water, which ends with spoilers )

What I'm reading next

I've finally come to Killer Dolphin, which I remember as being superb and which I definitely reread many times. I hope not to be unpleasantly surprised.
mayhap: hennaed hands, writing (Default)
What I've been reading

I read Son of Interflux, one of Gordon Korman's non-Macdonald Hall books. Although I strongly suspect it has to do with the fact that he must have written This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall before he went through puberty, I do so very enjoy his habit of pairing slashy male friendships with wacky hijinks. Reminds me of Wodehouse in that regard.

I read The Large, the Small and the Human Mind, which is a sort of short introduction to Roger Penrose, who was in turn one of Neal Stephenson's inspirations in writing Anathem, one of my very favorite books. Interestingly, while I happened to be reading it, physicists talking about consciousness was in the news.

I read Travels in Hyperreality, a collection of Umberto Eco's newspaper and magazine articles. "Cultural anthropologists accept cultures in which people eat dogs, monkeys, frogs, and snakes, and even cultures where adults chew gum, so it should be all right for countries to exist where university professors contribute to the newspapers," as he deadpans in the preface to the American edition. The titular piece is probably also the best: a glorious travelogue through American reproductions of other times and places and artworks.

What I'm reading now

I started rereading Death of a Fool, only it is so boring. That is probably why I have never reread it before. Also I vaguely thought it belonged much earlier chronologically, with the big glut of titles in the form of "Death [and | in | around | somehow pertaining to ] the $noun", but apparently not. The whole conceit of my chronological reread dictates that I must finish it before I can proceed.
mayhap: Spock's pouty face (I find this illogical)
What I've been reading

I read Attachments, because I liked both of Rainbow Rowell's YA novels, but it pretty much just annoyed me. It alternates between chapters made up of illicit email exchanges between two friends who work at a newspaper together and third-person chapters from the perspective of the nightshift IT guy who's supposed to be monitoring their email but who has instead gotten caught up in their lives in lieu of living his own, which is kind of a cute idea, except it made it kind of annoying to read because the two women come across as these superficial twits, whereas the guy is a real, properly-realized person. Also the ending is the worst glurge ever.

I read A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond, which is—okay, so there's a particular Victorianist that I totally fangirl, because I find his work interesting but also hilarious, and I would have genuinely asked for James R. Kincaid RPF for Yuletide if I thought there was the slightest chance of anyone writing it for me. But it turns out that he and a friend who is a novelist and a fellow professor at USC have anticipated me to some extent by writing cracktastic self-insert RPF involving a.) Strom Thurmond, b.) a fictional aide to Strom Thurmond with a book proposal and an impossibly chipper and obtuse epistolary style, c.) a fictional lecherous and venial editor at Simon & Schuster, d.) the hapless assistant to the aforementioned editor, who while not being hit on by his boss or stalked by their newest contracted author, hires our heroes to work on the project, which mostly entails boggling at the latest dispatch supposedly directly from the mind of Strom Thurmond and bickering with each other in memos. I can't exactly recommend it in an unqualified way, as it can kind of get bogged down in its own ridonkulousness, but it is also kind of amazeballs. Also now I have someone to ship Jim Kincaid with.

I read The People in the Trees, which is a sort of alternate history faux-memoir by a disgraced Nobel laureate that's getting a lot of buzz that I thought was very deserved, as it's really gripping and well-realized.

I reread Spinsters in Jeopardy, which is the first Inspector Alleyn mystery to have his son Ricky in it. The plot is a rehash of the drugs + satanic cult front plot from Death in Ecstasy, where I wasn't thrilled with it either, but I do love the bits with Troy and Ricky and on the whole it is a more enjoyable book.

I reread The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson because it's awesome. I love his fanwank about how the mythological gods were just particularly awesome human warriors and kings who developed followings after their deaths and his elaborate crossover with the Trojan war.

I reread The Once and Future King for Yuletide requesting purposes.

What I'm reading next

Well, that depends on when my Yuletide assignment arrives…
mayhap: Gorey pic with text Forbear to taste library paste (Forbear to taste Library Paste.)
What I've been reading

I reread Swing, Brother, Swing. One of Ngaio Marsh's strengths is making me care more than I would ordinarily about the one-off heterosexual romances in the B-plots, and Carlisle/Ned are one of my favorite pairings—cousins and childhood friends (the socially-acceptable version of sibcest!) who play a longstanding game where they narrate bits of their lives in third person omniscient at each other. This book has another drugs subplot, though, so I'm on wikipedia once again, going, okay, unlike heroin I know you can actually smoke cocaine, and even Ngiao Marsh would know about cocaine injection because of Sherlock Holmes, but I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a cocaine pill okay. Ngaio Marsh really needed a drugs beta.

I reread Night at the Vulcan, and I was really surprised that with standardized pagecounts in iBooks it's among the very shortest of the Alleyn books, definitely of the ones I've reread so far. The investigation phase of the book is actually quite short and Alleyn zeroes in on the murderer very quickly. I still love the theatre plot, although now that I am ten years older than her and do not cherish even secret and delusional ambitions of becoming a non-amateur actor I no longer identify quite as desperately with Martyn Tarne, although, again, adorable het relationship between spoiler, but not for the murder plot ) Also, spoiler for the murder plot )

I read Red Dragon, because it is contrary to everything I stand for to be in a fandom that is at least partly based on a book and not have read that book, and I read some Hannibal fic so I can hardly say I'm not in that fandom now. So yes, I officially see what you did there, with the handful of bits from the book that were used or changed to create the show, and I officially do like the show better. (How is Hannibal supposed to have maroon eyes? Is he albino?)

Then I read The Silence of the Lambs, which I enjoyed more because it has Clarice and also it has more Hannibal Lecter in it, and I was also seriously weirded out because this was the second book in a row that uses a bunch of incidental locations that are right in my neighborhood, even though as far as I can tell Thomas Harris has never lived in Missouri. This isn't actually a seething hotbed of serial killers, I promise. (I have to give the bookverse props for accuracy on that front though; Will Graham is correctly considered to have an impressive amount of experience with serial killers because he's caught two of them, whereas in the televisionverse serial killers appear to be only slightly less common than check fraud. But then, that's part of the fictional landscape that Hannibal Lecter helped create.)

I read Roman Warfare, because I placed holds on all the books my library has about the Roman army. Stupid research for my ridiculous Gladiator fic is eating my brain, I swear.

I read A Tale for the Time Being and I love this book so much. Like, I want everyone to drop what they're doing right now, but I also don't want to say anything about it because I don't want to spoil anything about the way it unfolds—seriously, if I've already decided that I'm interested in reading a book, I'll stop wherever I am in the blurb and not read any further, that is how spoilerphobic I can be. So I'll compromise and say it's a book about a teenage diarist in Tokyo, the middle-aged Japanese-Canadian novelist who finds the diary, bullying, writer's block, Zen Buddhism, translation, and time travel (which is another way of saying writing). And not that anyone on the Booker selection committee is reading this, but if you are and this book doesn't win I will totally cut you.

I read Last Rituals, which was kind of mediocre, but I did enjoy the Icelandic setting.

What I'm reading now

Marcus Aurelius: A Life. If you guessed that this is more ridiculous research, you are correct.
mayhap: Holmes and Watson with text whatever remains however improbable (however improbable)
What I've been reading

I read both volumes of Matt Fraction's The Defenders, a sort of unconventional team book that starts out all messy and then gets brilliant and then canceled in short order. Alas.

I reread Surfeit of Lampreys, and I do still love the Lampreys. Plus Roberta Grey, honorary Lamprey, of course.

I read A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return, a graphic memoir about the civil war in Lebanon. The pairing of the art style and the subject matter obviously owes a lot to Persepolis, and indeed this is what made me pick it up, but Abirached also does some really effective storytelling through maps and floorplans and uses lots of fields of repeated figures (like the cars on the cover) in a visually striking way.

I read Broken Homes, the new Peter Grant book, and well. I'm of two minds. As a book, it really is, structurally, broken, so even though there are lots of little fan-friendly yay! moments, they're all embedded in a framework of wait, what? Like, I mean, mild spoilers/premise of book ) Also, spoilers/speculation ) But mostly I love this series too much to be objective and I think everyone should read it.

I read New X-Men Volume 1, the beginning of Grant Morrison's run, and it was entertaining enough.

I read Harlequin Valentine, a graphic adaption of a Neil Gaiman story. I am really not in love with the art, which is allegedly supposed to be "a combination of digitally enhanced photo-realism and dynamic painting" but just looks like the slightly-classier version of the fanart which is just airbrushing over a photo and pretending you drew it. But, I mean, the pages themselves are fine, and it's a legitimate artistic choice, I just don't like it.

I reread Death and the Dancing Footman, which I think wins for the Ngiao Marsh book with the least-representative title. I mean, there is a footman, he dances, and logistically the solution of the mystery does involve him, but it doesn't give you a hint of the setup. This book was published in 1941 and all the characters are gearing up for war in one way or another and thinking about how odd it is to investigate one death so particularly when lots of people are going to be dying indiscriminately soon, which is not a subject that generally comes up in your English country house murder. Also, two of the guests in the house reference Busman's Honeymoon; they have good taste in detective novels.

I reread Colour Scheme, which is okay (and has a great title) but not my favorite of the Alleyn-hunts-spies-in-WWII-New-Zealand duology.

I reread Died in the Wool, which, by process of elimination, is. I had forgotten/not noticed how cool the structure of it is.

I reread Final Curtain, and I love Troy, I love her as a POV character especially, and I love her reunion with Alleyn after their long separation during the war. There is a gay character among the group of suspects—this is indicated via incredibly subtle hints, like one character actually saying "He's one-of-those, of course, but I always think they're good mixers in their own way," which managed to go right over my incredibly sheltered head at twelve or thirteen—which I do not love. Ngiao Marsh's ability to characterize has come on leaps and bounds since the last serious spate of extended homophobia in book four, so that's something. Something fairly repellant.

What I'm reading now

I just started rereading Swing, Brother, Swing.

What I'm reading next

I put a hold on A Tale for the Time Being, because it was the only title on the Booker longlist that looked interesting to me, and it just came in at the library, so we'll see. Also, the next Ngaio Marsh after this one is A Night at the Vulcan and I'm excited about that one, although I've reread it enough times already that I actually remember who the murderer is.

(I never remember the murderer. The solution to the mystery is the first thing I forget about a book. This compensated somewhat for my chronic shortage of reading material as a kid.)
mayhap: hennaed hands, writing (Default)
What I've been reading

I read Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, a collection of short stories, each paired with a critical essay, edited by Justine Larbalestier. I think this is a great way to set up an anthology; it's like after you finish each story, someone is waiting eagerly to discuss it with you, which is awesome. (I got so mad at the essay about Karen Joy Fowler's "What I Didn't See", though. The author has a really bizarre reading where one offhand line is the true theme of the entire story, and also if you even acknowledge that it's possible to read it as 'literary fiction' you are a filthy collaborator and not, like, someone who's capable of seeing ambiguity in a without compulsively resolving it with a sledgehammer.)

I reread Death at the Bar, which is to Alleyn and Fox as The Adventure of the Three Garridebs is to Holmes and Watson. All the Holmes/Watson shippers (or, for that matter, platonic hurt/comfort fans, I guess) know exactly what I'm talking about. Although, unlike Holmes/Watson, no one on the internet seems to actually ship Alleyn/Fox. Including me. I mean, I wouldn't mind shipping it just to annoy Ngaio Marsh's homophobic ghost, but I just can't see my way to it. I'll have to settle for shipping Alleyn with Nigel Bathgate in the early books.

I read The Literature of Hope in the Middle Ages and Today: Connections in Medieval Romance, Modern Fantasy, and Science Fiction, which is a book I turned up doing a subject search at my library for either Science Fiction — Criticism or Fantasy — Criticism. I'm sympathetic to its thesis, which is essentially [thing that I love to read] has many things in common with [other thing that I love to read], but it's not exactly a deep or substantial analysis of the topic. Nice cover, though.

I read Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was, and loved loved loved it. It's deceptively episodic at first, and hilarious, but everything comes together in a big way at the end and ♥

What I'm reading now

I just started rereading Surfeit of Lampreys. I remember the Lampreys being one of my absolute favorite fictional families. I can't believe they retitled it Death of a Peer when it was published in the U.S.; first of all, that is a pretty boring title, even not in comparison with Surfeit of Lampreys, and second of all how could you possibly pass up that surfeit of lampreys joke, I mean really.

What I'm reading next

I have the other two Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, among other things.
mayhap: hennaed hands, writing (Default)
What I've been reading

I reread Death in a White Tie, wherein Lady Alleyn continues to be the best and Troy barely manages to hold out against Alleyn's charms until the end of the book. I had a vague idea before I looked up the published order that there were more books in between the book where they meet and the book where the proposal is accepted, like there are in the Wimsey books. Actually, in the context of Ngiao Marsh's rather famous essay where she accuses Dorothy L. Sayers of "falling in love with her hero"—which, first, like that's a bad thing, and second, wow, pot, kettle much?—I think it makes sense to see Troy/Alleyn as Marsh's rewriting Harriet/Peter the way she thought it ought to have been done. I don't think the differences are quite as stark as she may have fancied, however.

I read The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, which I adored. It might actually be my new favorite book by Justine Larbalestier, and I loved Liar a lot. I love how she dissects letters columns and fanzines as part of the same conversation as the stories and novels that she examines. The last two chapters drag a little and probably could have benefited from editing—the chapter on James Tiptree, Jr. is relevant to the larger subject, but less directly so than the ones that come before it and seems to include a lot of interesting but not strictly necessary detail, possibly because Julie Philips's biography hadn't been published yet to refer interested readers to for further information, and similarly the chapter on the history of the Tiptree award does not seem to benefit from the same perspective that allows Larbalestier to hone in on pertinent detail when dealing with older conversations. In spite of that, though, I would recommend it unreservedly (and honestly you can skim or skip those chapters).

I read The Cuckoo's Calling when it was revealed to be the pseudonymous work of J.K. Rowling. It is basically a very adequate mystery, with some definite strengths, and also some tics that remind me a little of Harry Potter, although by no means to the extent that I would have said that it could be written by her and no one else if I had read it blind. I'm thinking about making a separate post about it, because spoilers, especially with regard to the solution.

I reread Overture to Death, which is a very solid average sort of Alleyn mystery.

I read Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel for some reason, even though I completely hated the last Grant Morrison Superman I read. I only somewhat disliked this one, though, so, improvement! I like how, at the beginning, Superman's "costume" consists of his cape, a pair of jeans, and the same Superman t-shirt that nerds have been wearing for ages, but sadly he switches to a normal Superman costume pretty early on. I also liked the side stories about John Henry "Steel" Irons, who was new to me. Also this book is part of the New 52, so feh, anyway.

I read How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea, the Newsflesh novella with the zombie kangaroos. It…was okay? I like Mahir well enough in the series proper, but I liked him less as a POV character, especially as the novella seemed like it could have done with about 30 to 50 fewer pages of him alternately freaking out and falling asleep like a hyperventilating narcoleptic. On the other hand, as promised, there were zombie kangaroos.

What I'm reading now

Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, an anthology that Justine Larbalestier edited. I wish more anthologies paired every short story with a critical essay, because I'm a dork and I like reading critical essays about everything.
mayhap: Johnny Weir's swan costume with text talk to the glove (talk to the glove)
What I've been reading

I reread Death in Ecstasy, which was my least favorite Ngaio Marsh so far. The drugs subplot seriously strained my credulity—I don't consider myself to be an expert on heroin, by any means, but I can't find any evidence that anyone has ever smoked it in cigarettes. The main plot about the cult-y little church where they hand out these mysterious heroin cigarettes is not that much more realistic or engaging either. Also, this is the first book in my reread where Marsh's homophobia puts in an appearance, which is gross, especially since it's not just some throwaway characters but actually Alleyn and Fox (Foxkin nooooooo!) who get together to sneer at the poor harmlessly swishy acolyte boys nursing massive crushes on the tinpot cult leader. I mean, they are both hopeless doofuses but all this disproportionate animus makes me want to like them somehow anyway.

The next Ngaio Marsh I reread, though, was Vintage Murder, which is quite good. It's the first time she develops Alleyn as a character on his own, without the crutches of Nigel Bathgate (who will fade out of the books shortly) or even my beloved Foxkin, except in some adorable letters that Alleyn writes him. She does rely on two subjects that she loves: the theatre (again) and New Zealand (for the first time), including some breathtaking scenery porn. Alleyn makes astounding leaps in his ability to negotiate tricky social situations and control his impulses to be a total IRL troll, or maybe that's just limited to when he's hanging around with Nigel Bathgate, whose pigtails he takes such an inordinate amount of pleasure in pulling.

I reread Artists in Crime, which is an old favorite that I've reread lots of times and I still pretty much love it. I adore Troy, of course, but Lady Alleyn is the best.

I read Ann M. Martin's new book, Better to Wish, the opening part of a four-book family saga. It was good, although it feels like a much longer book was abridged to hit middle-grade length. (Why didn't I think of that? /lazywriter)

I read The Blue Faience Hippopotamus based on a recommendation from [livejournal.com profile] hermionesviolin (and her mom!), and it is, indeed, adorable. ♥

What I'm reading next

Hopefully more books than this week. It was a busy week.
mayhap: indistinct screencap of hands with text My hands are the best part of this episode (Sark hands)
What I've been reading

I read After the Apocalypse, a collection of Maureen McHugh's short stories, on a rec from Jo Walton's list of 8 SF books that excited her from the last decade, and all the stories in it are good. Some of them are really really good.

I read Solitaire—I think because the above list or one of the books on it reminded me that someone else had recced it or something?—but I really kinda didn't like it, even though Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin really did. It starts out with this bizarrely mundane twist on the Chosen One trope, where kids across the world with a certain precise birth time are called Hopes and groomed to take up places in a newly-minted earth-wide government as an openly-acknowledged PR exercise, so, like, for something awesome, like learning magic or swordplay, substitute seminars on management techniques for Jackal, our particular privileged princess. Then Bad Things Happen and overly-long rant is growing overly long and ranty. ) A very frustrating reading experience.

I reread As You Like It and was sad that Rosalind ditches Celia for Orlando.

I read Cecilia, a novel of who St. Cecilia might have been, since it is known that the traditional stories of her martyrdom are quite late and their accuracy is questionable. I really liked it and I'm surprised by how negative the Goodreads reviews are.

I read When We Wake, Karen Healey's new book, which I also really liked. (Cutesy LJ-user Easter egg: Australian teenagers in 2128 share the latest ontedy—you know, gossip.)

Perhaps the antipodes were on my mind when I was casting about for some nice comfort rereads, because I settled on Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn books. (The fact that I had ebooks of a bunch of them from the library was also a factor.) I started in order and reread A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer and The Nursing Home Murder. I wasn't nearly as strict with published order when I first started reading Ngaio Marsh, nor as critical a reader, and the chronological perspective is interesting, starting with the fact that the first book, although indeed promising in bits, is really quite terrible in so many ways. (I always was partial to the torture scene in that one, though.)

What I'm reading next

There are quite likely to be more Ngaio Marshes involved.

June 2017

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