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December Posting Meme - Five Awesome Fics You Should All Read And Why [Dec. 8th, 2018|04:43 pm]
Reports May Have Been Exaggerated by [archiveofourown.org profile] Fayhe (Spy; Susan Cooper/Rick Ford, Susan Cooper/Rayna Boyanov; Teen; 7K)

Okay, so I didn't see the movie Spy when it first came out because I was operating under the misapprehension that I was not the sort of person who enjoyed Melissa McCarthy movies. It turns out that not only do I enjoy those movies very much, but I have quite the crush on Melissa McCarthy. There is probably some sort of lesson to be gleaned here. Anyway. Spy is a brilliant movie, hilarious and delightful, and this fic is like the pure distilled version of everything about the movie that made me so happy when I first watched it.

Plus, the writing is sharp as a tack, for example:

Rayna darted a look at Susan, sideways, like a fish feinting at food. Her mouth was doing that thing it did when the natural human instinct to smile came up against years of boarding school trauma, Eastern European stoicism and Oxfordian repression, as well as Rayna's own special brand of reptilian disdain for other human beings.

heaven is where you build it (hell isn't that bothered) by [archiveofourown.org profile] thesmokinggnu (Person of Interest; Root/Shaw;Teen; 6k)

This a fusion with Good Omens, but honestly I don't think you have to have read that or seen PoI to find this fic about a grouchy angel and a perky demon flirting across the centuries delightful.

The dialogue crackles, it's the sort of thing that might have been described as banter back before lads ruined that word for the rest of us:

“Right. So Robespierre and Lafayette are ours. Who’ve you got?”

“Desmoulins and Antoinette.”

“What about Louis?”

“Autocrat ruling by divine mandate? Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

“Despotic tyrant starving his own people?” Sameen retorted, “I don’t know, Root, you tell me.”

Ladies Who Organise by [archiveofourown.org profile] reckonedrightly (Discworld; Vetinari; Teen; 6k)

Even if you don't usually go for genderswaps I still think there's a lot to love in this tale of Haveline Vetinari and her rise to become the more or less benevolent dictator of Ankh-Morpork - road trips, background femslash, small ugly dogs named Vlad.

The writing is sharp and funny without trying to replicate Pratchett bear for beat:

“I’ve often noted that dogs have a natural affinity for me,” Haveline remarked, scritching the dog behind the ears.

“Have you,” said Sybil, slowly and carefully, watching the dog tremble and then wag its tail like a man pleading for his life. “Yes. I can certainly see why you might think that.”

Haveline’s fingers had found a little silver disc on the dog’s collar, which nestled in its sparse and grimy fur. “My name is Vlad. If you find me,” she read, “please return me to Zer Castle, Bonk, Ubervald.”

& a past life in the trunk by [a03.org profile] notbecauseofvictories (Daredevil; Karen Page, slight Karen/Claire; Teen; 7k)

*recced in memory of the Marvel Netflix shows; farewell you overlong, underlit bastards, I shall miss you.

More than straight up genderswaps I love fics where the secondary female character gets to do the (almost always much cooler job) of the main dude; think Leia's the one who trains as a Jedi, or Peggy Carter is the one to get the super soldier serum. I call the Backwards in High Heels fics.

In this Matt dies pretty early after becoming the Devil of Hell's Kitchen and Karen picks up the mantle, and it just works:

Karen is selfish and hard to kill. She wonders sometimes if Matt would have approved, if he would have wanted her to be someone better than this, to wear the mask and not deserve the ‘Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’ title. To not have Wesley in her dreams, smiling and smiling, then opening his mouth and swallowing the city whole. To tell Claire to run. To understand Foggy’s anger.

But Karen is selfish and hard to kill and she wonders if Matt would have been as effective.

Maggie Fitzgerald and the Saltwater Drip by [archiveofourown.org profile] antistar_e (The Amazing Spider-Man; Gwen Stacy; Teen; 79k)

Speaking of Backwards in High Heels fics, this is THE CLASSIC of the subgenre; Spider-Gwen before there was such a thing as Spider-Gwen.

Totally. Brilliant.

Google politely tells her there are no poisonous spiders in Manhattan. Judging by her symptoms -- fever, superstrength, newfound desire to shove herself into small dark spaces, and sudden reputation as a masked vigilante -- Gwen would beg to differ.

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December Posting Meme - Freya [Dec. 5th, 2018|12:02 am]
A bunch of you asked me to talk about my dog, as was quite proper and correct.

This is Freya, and also a visual illustration as to why it took me forty-five minutes to change the sheets tonight:

And this is Freya's wee face, which will show why she gets away with such carry on:

Freya's favourite tv show is the Netflix show Dogs, mostly because by the end of every episode I've come over all soppy about how brilliant dogs are and then remember that there's a dog right there that I can make a fuss over.

Freya's favourite food is food, and her least favourite is things that aren't food.

Freya got herself accidentally shut in the cupboard under the stairs for an hour and a half, and didn't cry, bark, scratch or rip into the open bag of dog food. Just sat there like I guess I live in this cupboard now, seems legit.

Freya rides in the car sat up in the passenger seat looking out the window like lady muck.

Freya may not be the best dog in the world, but she is the softest to the touch. I cannot over-emphasise how lovely she is to pet.

Freya got turned down by pets as therapy because she's too friendly

Freya has a vendetta against spaniels. All of them. I think they owe her money.

Even though Freya's broken leg is all healed up whenever anyone is petting her she will lift the leg up pathetically in a shameless play for sympathy/extra pets.

Freya will never get bored or fed up of being petted. You just have to eventually stop. She will cry. Be strong.

Freya once stole a packet of monster munch from a baby in a buggy.

Freya loves children; they taste of jam.

Freya's current nemesis is the inflatable santa the people across the way have put up in their garden.

Freya thinks that those stone lions that some people put in their driveways are real cats, and that she could take them in a fight.

Freya thinks she is a guard dog and will defend me with her life against people trying to deliver Chinese food I have ordered, weird noises the boiler makes, and that other dog that lives in the mirror. She doesn't like the look of that other dog.

Freya does have an advent calendar, there's carob in it; she also has a bottle of dog beer to have on christmas day, it's chicken flavour, and it is of vital importance that this be kept far, far away from the person beer.

Freya is the best dog in the world, actually.

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Low-Key December Posting Meme [Dec. 1st, 2018|11:37 pm]
I'm not going to do the full one post for every day in December thing; partly because words have not been my friends this year, but mostly because I didn't even realise it was December until my mum brought round an advent calendar for the dog this morning. Really. Seriously.

But. I would like to get into back the habit of posting. So if anyone wants to ask me a question or leave me a topic to pontificate on at some point during the month, I'd love that.

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Gamey Gamey Game [Nov. 25th, 2018|03:53 pm]
The downstairs of my house is semi-open plan, with the living room on one side, the kitchen on the other, and the stairs in the middle. This means you can, if you're so inclined, run around the staircase like a mad thing in your socks while getting the dog to chase you.

You shouldn't, because what will eventually happen is that you will slip, faceplant onto a coffee table, and knock one of your front teeth loose.

The tooth eventually settled down into the gum, but at a slightly wonky angle, and I've been saving up to get it fixed ever since. I eventually got referred to the dental hospital where they said that, yes, absolutely they could fix my tooth, but first I'd need to have six hours of dental surgery on my apparently terrible gums. Anyway, somewhere between when they told me how much fixing the tooth would actually cost and hour three of my six hour dental surgery I rather went off the idea of medically unnecessary dental work and instead bought myself a Playstation 4.

That's right, I have a goofy as fuck grin and a Playstation. I'm a fucking catch.

At this stage it's important to understand that the last video game I played was The Lion King game on the Sega Megadrive in nineteen ninety-four; and I got stuck at the wildebeest bit and never went back.

Things sure have changed, eh?

The console came with the new Spider-Man game. Which I freaking loved, and thought was very forgiving of a newbie. It did take me a long time to actually play through the story because I was mostly swinging around New York going wheeeeee! Which was most of what I wanted from this experience.

And then following an esoteric process that I call What Games Have I Heard Of That They've Got For Cheap In This Second Hand Shop? I got </i>The Last of Us</i> and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Following on from Spider-Man the graphics and gameplay in The Last of Us initially felt pretty dated and janky, but I got super invested in the story and stopped noticing. I cried twice and screamed out loud once.

Rise of the Tomb Raider I'm enjoying when it's letting me play a Tomb Raider game. I enjoy solving the puzzles and scrambling madly around an environment that falls apart as soon as I touch it, but I'm not mad about the shooty-shooty stuff that's bolted on top.

I have discovered that I suck so hard at shooting games. Unless there's an auto-aim I can't hit the side of a barn door. And I don't think it's a matter of practice; I think it's a hand eye thing, I can't catch in real life either. Luckily I don't have whatever weird brain thing makes some people twitchy about playing on easy. It says a lot about the story in The Last of Us how much I loved that game despite all the shooting.

My one (1) friend who plays games has been letting me have a go on his x-box to try and work out what sort of games I might like before I buy more, because holy guacamole, batman, this could get expensive!

So far I have had a go at Red Dead Redemption 2: I crashed his horse into a tree and immediately died, and like, it looks gorgeous but I think the shooting mechanics would drive me up the wall; Shadow of Mordor: I killed a bunch of orcs, and we're definitely moving in the right direction; Witcher III: so all I did was ride a horse for a bit and get killed by two giant insect monsters, but still I liked the feel of it and think we're moving in the right direction; Destiny: nope, too shooty, too frantic, plus I don't want to play multi-players. I want to sit in my front room, playing on easy, and feeling like a badass with no one telling me otherwise.

So anyway, things I hate: shooting.

Things I like: narrative, map traversal, melee combat (which always seems to look effortlessly artful even when all I'm doing is mashing buttons.)

Anyone who plays these things got any suggestions?

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October Books [Oct. 30th, 2018|11:49 pm]

Transcription - Kate Atkinson
The Wych Elm - Tana French
Cross Her Heart - Sarah Pinborough
Catwoman: Soulstealer - Sarah J. Maas
Record of Spaceborn Few - Becky Chambers
The Hollow of Fear - Sherry Thomas

Transcription is a historical novel that jumps around between WWII, the 50s, and the 80s. The bulk of the action is set in WWII where a young woman is drafted to transcribe bugged meetings between fascist sympathisers for MI5, it then picks up in the 50s and 80s where her wartime actions come back to haunt her. The WWII sections are really good; atmospheric, well drawn, and compelling. The parts set in the 50s are harder going, and contained more information about the internal politics of the BBC children's service of that era than I really cared to know. Recommended for fans of WWII novels and unreliable female narrators.

The Wych Elm is the first Tana French novel not set in her Dublin Murder Squad series, and doesn't have any of the nods to magical realism that I have such mixed feelings on in those books (I thought it worked in Broken Harbour, was a bit on the nose in The Secret Place, and that The Likeness was stupid.) In it our protagonist is Toby, the handsome, upper middle class poster boy for unthinking privilege. His privilege is put on spectacular display early in the novel where he confidently assumes he got his job as a green as grass graduate over a woman with decades of experience because he was the better person for the job, or when he runs off a guy who was hanging around his girlfriend's job and pestering her without even trying to understand why she was so frightened. All the same, he's not a bad guy, he's just...he's that guy. After Toby interrupts burglars at his flat and survives a terrible beating he goes to his Uncle Hugo's house to recover (because Toby is also the guy who has an Uncle Hugo), where a body is discovered in the garden. From there it becomes both a really engaging mystery (it edged close to having one too many twists for me, and I still can't decide if it pulled it back in time) and a study of the way Toby's privilege both no longer helps him (of course the police suspect the twitchy, nervous guy with the holes in his memory and the weird face) and still does (he's still a white guy with well off parents.) Highly recommended.

I remembered really enjoying Sarah Pinborough's Dog-Faced Gods trilogy years ago, so to say I was disappointed in Cross Her Heart would be something of an understatement. This thriller had too many stupid, ridiculous, suspension of disbelief shattering 'twists' to recap. But the one I found most egregious was the idea that a forty year old could convincingly pass herself off as eighteen to other teenagers for months on end. I mean, come on.

I returned to DC's YA series with Catwoman: Soulstealer after not reading the Batman instalment for the same reason I plan on skipping the Superman one, which is, you know, very much not caring. I actually, and much to my surprise, liked the Catwoman book a lot more than I enjoyed the Wonder Woman one. Maybe it was that I care for Sarah J Maas's writing more than I care for Leigh Bardugo's, or maybe it was just that the Selina, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn team up, and the idea that Harley's relationship with the Joker is toxic and she should be with Ivy instead played up to exactly what I like in my DC.

After frickin' loving the first book in Becky Chambers Wayfarers trilogy and being only so so on the second I am pleased to report that Record of a Spaceborn Few is a return to form. In this one we visit the Exodan Fleet, a human society based around the generational ships they first left Earth on. Like the rest of the series it's told using revolving povs and is rather light on plot, but the povs are endearing, and it's a really interesting study of an insular society and the people who choose to leave, choose to stay, and choose to move in. The whole series is really worth a shot, and you'll know almost instantly if the style isn't going to work for you.

All year I have had nothing but good things to say about Sherry Thomas' Lady Sherlock series; alas, I felt like The Hollow of Fear went off the rails somewhat. A little bit it of my discontent was the overly convoluted plot and the reliance on information the reader couldn't possibly have, but mostly it was that by now Charlotte Holmes is pretending to be the bedridden genius Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock's sister (who is somehow not Charlotte Holmes), and while wearing a false beard and fake paunch Sherlock's brother Sherrinford Holmes. I'm sorry, Sherry Thomas, but this is where I get off.

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Two Bits of Fluff [Oct. 23rd, 2018|12:46 am]
[community profile] femslashex is my favourite exchange of this year and every year, but this go round I was just not feeling the writing process.

First of all I learned an important lesson about not offering "Any" when what I really mean is these three specific pairings that I'm assuming are the only ones that anyone will be requesting. Which was how I came to write an Amita/Daphne fic for Ocean's 8 when I'd thought all the requests would be for Debbie/Lou, Debbie/Tammy, or at a stretch Rose/Daphne. So, anyway. That's on me.

Then I picked up a pinch-hit because the ship I've been most excited about all year is Sara/Ava from Legends of Tomorrow, and immediately after I claimed it I remembered that I'd already written a couple of fics about them, and had. Literally. Nothing. Else to say about them. Again, that's on me.

I'd don't think either of the results are bad, exactly, just nothing-y.

Who'll Play Me In The Movie Of Our Lives (Ocean's 8, Daphne/Amita)

Amita rolled her eyes, because of course Daphne Kluger was a triple threat.

Stuck in the Middle (of the Time Stream) With You (LoT, Sara/Ava)

Day 4:

Mostly Sex.

Like, even by Sara's standards, that was a borderline obscene amount of sex.

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Things I Have Been Putting In My Eyeballs [Oct. 12th, 2018|08:31 pm]
I let out a deep breath (that I hadn't known I was holding, in fanfic parlance) when the first episode of this series of Doctor Who aired and I found it delightful.

I still haven't watched Twelve's last series (well, I watched the christmas special for fifteen seconds of Jodie Whittakar, but I was pretty drunk) because of how Matt Lucas' Nardole bugged the shite out of me. And I'd been worried I'd have the same I-hate-your-stupid-face reaction to Bradley Walsh (people who watched the UK version of L&O might see him as a proper actor, but to me he'll always be the gurning bloke from that daytime quiz show that you only see when you're unemployed), and not that I wouldn't trade Graham for Grace in a hot second, but he was fine.

At first I'd thought the casting was a bit...busy, and that the TARDIS was going to be a bit crowded. But having seen the first episode, and after a run of Doctors who glommed onto one super duper special human and barely seemed to tolerate the rest of us, it is nice to have a Doctor who fell to Earth and immediately adopted four (4) people.

I like Thirteen's outfit...in theory. I like how it sticks two fingers up at the male gaze, I like how it actually does look like what you'd get if you plonked a blindfolded person down in a charity shop and told them to pick the comfiest clothes possible. On the other hand it looks more old-school than we've become used to in nu-who; less stylised and more costume-y. Hopefully I'll like it more on Sunday when we see it in motion more.

Let's be honest, there was no way I wasn't going to watch, and adore the first female Doctor, and having seen the first episode I'm just relieved that the show isn't going to make that difficult.

This last season of Elementary felt a bit disjointed. I know that there were behind the scenes reasons for that (it's a half season! Wait! It's a full season! It's the last season! Surprise renewal!) but there's no denying that it was weirdly paced; like with Sherlock's serial killer friend having to take himself off on a road trip for a bunch of episodes so that he could be the bad guy in the finale, and full of plot threads that never led anywhere; like, apparently Moriarty escaped from prison off-screen, but let us never speak of it again because we can't get the actress back.

I had mixed feelings about the Joan tries to adopt subplot. A woman who's never exhibited a single maternal instinct suddenly realises that she's desperate to be a mother is one of my least favourite tropes of all time, especially, as was the case with Joan, when it's because someone tells her she wants to be a mother. On the other hand, I'd be lying if I said I didn't find Sherlock's insistence that he feels no pressure to co-parent Joan's child (please let me co-parent your child, Watson!) delightful. Plus, now that the show's been surprised renewed I'd be surprised if that subplot comes around again. You'd have to change the structure of the show pretty drastically to accommodate Joan and Sherlock having a kid; unless you were going to treat the baby like Clyde and whip it out twice a season wearing an adorable hat and the rest of the time forget it exists.

The ending with Joan and Sherlock in London was so absolutely pitch-perfect that I'm almost bummed it wasn't the last episode because I don't know how they're going to come up with another ending that perfect.

I think I spent last week in the upside down because I watched the second seasons of Luke Cage and Iron Fist and Iron Fist was better, like, a lot better..?

At thirteen episodes Luke Cage was too long; three hours of it could have been cut, five hours of it could have been cut and nothing of value would have been lost. Luke wouldn't have had to lose three separate fights to Bushmaster in basically the same way; he wouldn't have had to come to the realisation that Harlem needs a king twice five episodes apart.

The first four episodes were lost to a pained and overwrought subplot to write out Claire Temple, the effect of which could have been achieved by holding up a scorecard reading: Rosario Dawson doesn't want to do these anymore ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I mean it wasn't a total loss. The fight scenes, especially the free for alls involving Luke, Misty, Bushmaster, and Shades were A+. The overarching theme of power corrupting and Harlem needing a king was cool. Misty Knight has a bionic arm now - by the way, the badass lady cop with a bionic arm was my favourite thing about Altered Carbon too; sometimes I wish this wasn't such a specifically gendered trope with me, because if Bucky scanned as anything more than a total non-entity to me then I would never run out of fic to read - but it was way, way too repetitive, meandering, and just too long.

Iron Fist had a leg up in that it was a much tighter ten episodes, and also that after its balls up of a first season it had nowhere to go but up. Okay, I can't really be impartial about this season, because I only ever wanted one thing from this show, one tiny, super specific thing that I never, ever thought I'd get, and that was for Colleen Wing to be the iron fist.

Thank you, show. You can leave. Please show in Daughters of the Dragon.

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September Books [Sep. 29th, 2018|11:53 pm]

The Feather Thief - Kirk Johnson
Everything Trump Touches Dies - Rick Wilson
Fear - Bob Woodward
Artificial Condition - Martha Wells
When Katie Met Cassidy - Camille Perri
The Governess Game - Tessa Dare
Red Sister - Mark Lawrence
Grey Sister - Mark Lawrence
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss
Lethal White - Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

I was saying recently that I don't read much true crime because it makes me feel voyeuristic and just plain icky. I do have one big exception, and that's crimes where no-one gets hurt, and that are esoteric or just plain weird. The Feather Thief is everything I want in a true crime novel and more. It's the story of a classically trained flautist who as a child became obsessed with ye olde Victorian art of fly tying and ultimately knocked off several filing cabinets worth of centuries old preserved birds from the British Museum in order to maintain his hobby. It's weird and fascinating and awesome.

For a Scot I sure have read a lot of books about US politics this year. I read two this month. Fear doesn't really contain any revelations that are new to people who follow the news, or have, you know, eyes and ears. It's basically a drier, better researched version of Fire & Fury. It's also pretty obvious who talked to Woodward (Bannon, Porter, Cohn & Graham), and I know that if we wait for a boy scout to blow the whistle on this administration we'll be waiting a long time, because there isn't one, but I am super not interested in anything that lets wife beating Rob Porter paint himself as a hero. In the end Fear was mostly interesting as yet another Watergate comparison in an administration that could really live without them. Rick Wilson is a republican operative who I'm pretty sure I disagree with on literally everything except for the fact that Trump is the worst. Anyway, he hates Trump, is hilarious, and I think I enjoyed reading Everything Trump Touches Dies more than Fear.

The second Murderbot novella Artificial Condition was as good as, maybe better than the first - Murderbot makes friends with a spaceship! They're exactly as charming as everyone says they are. The only thing that sours me on them is the way they're being released as four novellas - four expensive novellas - when they'd easily make one long novel, or at least a duology. I'm not saying it's a money grab, but it feels like a money grab. Still planning on reading the rest of the series, though.

When Katie Met Cassidy; or, why do all lesbian romances suuuuccck, part a million. It's a slap-slap-kiss romance between two corporate lawyers (belch). And while it's nice that Cassidy, the lesbian character, is butch, she pretty much veers into parody, and the other character Katie is basically an amalgamation of every straight girl having a gay awaking. And, by the way, the book could have been about half the length if it had ever used the word 'bisexual'. Basically, ugh.

Tessa Dare's id - brainy heroines and grouchy rakes with hearts of gold - works for me so much more than I would have expected it to if you described it to me. The Governess Game is more of the same, and I really liked it.

A few years ago I read the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, which was notionally about assassin nuns, but was in reality a sort of meh YA fantasy romance. Where, I have been wondering since then, is my boarding school story set in assassin nun school? And if that seems like a weirdly specific request, I'll have you know that it was more than satisfied by Red Sister and its sequel. And if the fact that it's a boarding school story set at assassin nun school isn't tempting enough for you, let me leave you with the first line: It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men. Highly fucking recommended.

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter Mary Jekyll, daughter of the doctor of the same name, meets Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein for adventures. Sherlock Holmes is there. As is Renfield. It felt like the author was too busy jamming in every victorian and gothic reference she could think of that she neglected to write an actual, you know, plot.

I really like the Cormoran Strike series. I liked Lethal White, and I'm sure I'll like the inevitable BBC adaptation even more. But holy smokes, it reminded me of the later Harry Potter books in the sense of really needing a good editing. I don't know if they just don't care, or know it'll sell like hotcakes anyway, but it was six hundred and fifty pages long and I feel like a good two hundred of them were superfluous. I also got a little snagged on the mentions of the Olympics and it being set in 2012; it didn't ruin it or anything, but it was a bit jarring in a book that came out just last week. Rowling can write the hell out of a mystery though.

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Fics What I Have Written [Sep. 24th, 2018|12:37 am]
Remix Revival and AU Exchange were two exchanges that I signed up for, received assignments that stumped me, was 98.5% sure I was going to default on, and ended up writing fics that I feel good about at the eleventh hour. A lesson to take forward into Femslashex. Or, even better than that, I could start writing now.

There are lots of valid ways to write a remix. You can change the pov. You can background the pairing. Or you can do what I did, which was to go "Well, there's nothing in the original fic that definitively says that Sansa isn't a werewolf.

And I Fall (Call of the Wild Remix) (ASOIAF, Sansa Stark)

Once upon a time there was a very scared little girl, who grew up and discovered that the best way to stop being scared was to become scary.

I matched for AU Exchange with the same person I'd written for in Fandom5k, and having only just written them 8k of no boys allowed AU where the women of Westeros were all politicians and journalists I felt a bit guilty about writing them another 3k of no boys AU where the women of Westeros are all criminals. But I got over it. And I know that Dany/Yara is a pairing that other people cared about for five seconds two years ago. But I got over that too.

The Casterly Rock Job (GoT, Dany/Yara)

"You want me to take over the sex trafficking business?" Yara asked incredulously.

"Take it over." Dany stood on her toes and nipped Yara's bottom lip. "Burn it down."

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August Booklog [Aug. 31st, 2018|12:04 am]

Give Me Your Hand - Megan Abbott
Dear Madam President - Jennifer Palmieri
Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli
I'll Be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara
Future Home of the Living God - Louise Erdrich
Unhinged - Omarosa Manigault Newman
A Study in Honor - Clair O'Dell

Give Me Your Hand revisits Abbott's favoured topics of female friendship and female rage, this time set in a research lab studying severe PMS. And if you've liked previous Megan Abbott books you'll probably like this one too. I must admit though, I keep picking up her books thinking I'm going to like them more than I do, and I can't put my finger on exactly why they don't entirely work for me, because they're all technically brilliantly written, and about subjects that should be right up my alley. I guess they're maybe that little bit too dark for me.

Jennifer Palmieri worked in both the Obama White House and on the Clinton campaign and her contribution to the ever growing "what that fuck is happening?" genre is a slim volume framed as a letter full of advice for America's eventual first female president. Dear Madam President is a quick read - I read it in a single sitting - and its biggest takeaway is that people hold women to different, and harsher standards than the do men. Not an original observation, to be sure, but a valid one, and one that a lot of people seem weirdly reluctant to accept.

I didn't read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda but I did really love the move adaptation, and there was a bit (the bit where all the kids are meeting up in costume to go to Bram's party) where it seemed like they were hinting at Leah having a thing for Abby, so I jumped straight into the second book Leah on the Offbeat where that is indeed the case. God, if I'd read this book as a teenager teen me would have over-identified like whoa with nerdy, overweight but not bothered by it , never been kissed Leah Burke. And thirty-five year old me really loved the book too.

I don't read a lot of true crime. It's like Gillian Flynn says in her introduction to Michelle McNamara's I'll be Gone in the Dark, you have to accept that you're making yourself a voyeur to the worst thing that's ever happened to another person. And the fact that McNamara died suddenly while writing it added, for me, another layer of ick to it. But there had been a lot of buzz about this book looking the golden state killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorised Californians for a decade during the seventies and eighties, not least because not long after its publication he was finally caught. McNamara is a brilliant crime writer, a brilliant writer full stop, which is never more obvious than in the places that her collaborators have had to fill in the blanks to get the book ready for publication. And it is darkly fascinating. But, still, ick.

Future Home of the Living God is a reproductive dystopia (there's lot of them about lately) set in a world where evolution has stopped, and in some cases started running backwards. The scene where a sabre tooth tiger eats a chocolate lab while our protagonist watches out her kitchen window illustrates the premise well, but, darn, I could have lived without it. Pregnant, and later on fertile women, are expected to turn themselves into the government to see if they can produce quote normal unquote babies. It was brilliantly written; it was also meandering, bleak, and ultimately unsatisfactory.

Okay, I'll hold my hands up. As part of my continuing addiction to the soap opera/prelude to the end of the world that is US politics, I read Omarosa's book. I am not proud of myself. I also felt like I needed to shower after finishing it. If asked to summarise it I would do so thusly: Holy revisionist history, Omarosa!

A Study in Honor is a near future, pre-cyberpunk, political dystopia set in a US riven by a second civil war. Janet Watson is a PTSD riddled veteran with a malfunctioning cybernetic arm who through circumstances ends up sharing an apartment with undercover federal agent Sara Holmes. It is a perfectly acceptable pre-cyberpunk, political thriller. But the weakest thing about it, the very weakest thing, is pasting on the names Holmes and Watson. Look, just because Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain and you can use it, doesn't mean you should. Watson's PTSD was really well done, and making her black and a lesbian was an A+ choice. Although I did have some quibbles about the way the book leaned into its portrayal of race, which as the whitest person in the world second only to Benedict Cumberbatch I am utterly unqualified to comment on; I'll just say I was not surprised to discover that the author was white too, and leave it at that. But Sara had nothing in common with Sherlock beyond a last name; she was a spy not a detective, and her "deductions" were the result of cybernetic implants and high speed wifi. She was also a blank slate; the name Holmes obviously being meant to stand in for any depth, personality, or characterisation. It was really disappointing.

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