This is one of those rare instances where a book you've been excited about since its publication was announced delivers exactly what you were hoping fThis is one of those rare instances where a book you've been excited about since its publication was announced delivers exactly what you were hoping for. Not only is it a Making-Of of Hamilton The Musical, it's also a behind-the-scenes look at how the Broadway sausage gets made, how much work and sweat and love and pain go into a production like this, and, of particular interest to his fans, how Lin-Manuel Miranda's brain works. (If you follow him on Twitter, you already know this: He's a giant nerd and a work horse. He's also one of our world's Leonard da Quirms, gifted with the talent to translate the inspiration that strikes him into art.)
The Hamiltome is perfect for us, the fans and the trash of the thing, but I feel like it's for everyone. The narration is conversational, personal, relatable. The book never assumes that you already know a thing, but neither does it feel like a text book. It's funny and informative, and it hits you right in the feels, both when you do expect it (the chapter on Quiet Uptown is just as heart wrenching as the song) and when you don't (like Anthony Ramos making everyone cry after the first preview).
I love that as many chapters are devoted to the makers of the thing as there are chapters about the performers. If, like me, you haven't seen the show yet (IS IT SEPTEMBER YET WHY IS IT NOT SEPTEMBER YET) and have built your entire religion around the cast album, you'll learn a hell of a lot about the technical challenges a musical poses and about the people who worked their asses off to bring Hamilton to the stage.
The lyrics are included in full, with liner notes by Lin, who lays open his head and his heart for all to see: He talks about his influences and his creative process, his family and his fellow cast members; he teaches some musical theory, dispenses musical history, and tips his hat to the many artists and shows that inspire him in some way. (The shoutout to MBMBaM is probably my favourite thing. No wait, it's that he references Jordan EFFING Catalano. No wait, it's the Beauty and the Beast note for 'Screw your courage to the sticking place'. No, wait... No, wait.)
They've also included some of the lyrics that ended up on the cutting room floor, and while it makes narrative sense to cut the third cabinet battle, I'd sell all my possessions to hear it performed. Mind you, it would have required stage pyrotechnics because the Jefferson/Madison burn is so sick, Ham's hair would've caught fire.
A word on production and a shout-out to Melcher Media: this is a beautiful, beautiful book. From the deckle edging to the feel of the pages to the old-timey chapter titles, it deserves to be called a tome. (It's surprisingly lightweight for its size, by the way.)
Hamilton: The Revolution tells a story by telling stories, both in words and in pictures. It made me feel closer to the thing and the makers of the thing. It made me laugh and it made me cry and it reminded me to get my shit together and DO, because as Lin always says, we all of us are running out of time. ...more
Ahem. Morning Star delivers a fitting end to an ama*howls*
*looks at keyboard, tries to make words*
*howls some more*
WHY MUST IT BE OVER. I AM NOT OKAY.
Ahem. Morning Star delivers a fitting end to an amazing series. The plot twists and turns as we've come to expect - albeit not quite as violently now, as the need for identity-secrecy is gone - and we can be a little bit surer of allies and enemies, but I still bit all my nails off, and I cried an awful lot, and I lost sleep over Sevro. This was an AWESOME adventure, and I'm so grateful to Dave for pointing me in the direction of Red Rising these many months ago.
5/5 stars, without hesitation. Plus, two things that stood out for me: Sevro: TEN STARS. Everything that happened with Cassius: TEN THOUSAND STARS. Female badasses: TEN MILLION STARS.
This is going to be one of my "read once a year" trilogies. I can't wait to read it again!...more
Unicorn Rainbows Pictures proudly presents: Twilight #57: Witchcraft for Dummies: The Time Traveller’s Guide
Bella Swann: Check it out, I’m a historianUnicorn Rainbows Pictures proudly presents: Twilight #57: Witchcraft for Dummies: The Time Traveller’s Guide
Bella Swann: Check it out, I’m a historian now. I study alchemy. Let me show you everything I know about alchemy.
Edward Cullen: What am I doing here? Why am I not sparkly? And what’s that smell? I KNOW THAT SMELL. I will follow it home and sneak into its house, as is my want. Also, I’m a geneticist now, boom. Let me show you everything I know about DNA.
Bella: Gee, Edward, you’re so much hotter when you’re also a nerd.
Edward: Shucks, Bella. Let me show you that my affections for you are unchanged by becoming an even bigger control freak and jerk than I was.
Bella: Cool. I’m just gonna g---
Edward: Nope. Too dangerous. You’ll fall over. Hey, fancy some yoga?
Bella: Sure. Let me tell you everything I know about yoga. And also running. And rowing. And the layout of Oxford.
Edward: Nice. Oh hey, can I have your DNA? I think you might be special.
Bella: OF COURSE I’M SPECIAL. Duh. I’m pretty, I smell nice, I exercise, I research, I have a bunch of issues because my parents died, I’m a witch but I refuse to do magic, my family is telepathic, I must wear black stretchy pants AT ALL TIMES, and also, let me tell you everything I know about history.
Edward: Oh, neat, your DNA says you’re the most magical witch that ever roamed this land. Also, there’s a bunch of people after you because you discovered something YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE, so I’m gonna whisk you away to France.
Bella: Awesome. Let me tell you the history of every stick of furniture in your ancestral pile.
Edward: Only if I get to name drop everyone I met in the last 500 years.
Bella: Deal. I love you.
Edward: Let me get back to you on that.
Edward: I’m back because I couldn’t stay away from you. Kiss me.
Bella: Yay! *smooch*
Edward: Congrats, we’re married.
Bella: Oh? Well…okay I guess? I mean, you could’ve asked.
Edward: HAHAHAHAHA who do you think I am? “Ask you.” Pur-lease.
A detailed, gentle, often humorous account of the life of America's favourite fighting Frenchman. I learned a lot about the Marquis' personality, wherA detailed, gentle, often humorous account of the life of America's favourite fighting Frenchman. I learned a lot about the Marquis' personality, where and and how he lived, and what his contemporaries thought of him, as well as the American and French revolutions. This is the book that set me off on a trip to Paris to walk a ways in the footsteps of the Hero of Two Worlds, and I didn't regret that decision even a little bit....more
If "dry" is one of the adjectives often lobbed at history and the teaching and writing thereof, this is the wettest book I've ever read. Other words tIf "dry" is one of the adjectives often lobbed at history and the teaching and writing thereof, this is the wettest book I've ever read. Other words to describe Sarah Vowell's voice include "irreverent, charming, acerbic, funny, entertaining", and "honest". Note that "pulling punches" is not on this list. (On page 2, she calls the American revolutionaries terrorists, and I knew I was in for something special.)
First, a disclaimer. The fact that I read this at all is solely the responsibility of one Lin-Manuel Miranda and his infernal musical Hamilton, which I decided to investigate upon witnessing a strange phenomenon amongst my American friends, in that it seemed to have an unshakeable hold on them and they were suddenly unable to talk about anything else. I sat down and listened, and, alas, fell under the very same spell. The obsession is so pronounced that I've been incapable of listening to anything but the cast album for weeks now. This...disease also manifests in a burning desire to research the characters and historical events that Hamilton, necessitated by the prescribed length of a Broadway play, only briefly mentions or leaves out altogether.
All of this to say, I've got another Lafayette biography coming, as well as one of Washington, and a detailed account of the Revolutionary War, of which I knew not a sausage prior to Hamilton. I don't expect any of these to be half as gripping, or half as entertaining, as this one.
Sarah Vowell's book covers the Revolutionary War from 1775 to the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, following Lafayette's journey from France where, at 19 years of age, he left behind his "knocked-up teenage wife" to seek glory on the battlefield in America, to the surrender of Cornwallis to Continental and French troops in the battle that decided the outcome of the war and cemented American independence.
The book is peppered with quotes from letters written by the Marquis himself, as well as Washington, John Adams, Henry Laurens, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin. Vowell manages to bring to life a bunch of people long dead, and does so with both empathy and not a little humour - much like Hamilton does, in fact.
It's worth noting that this book is about Lafayette as much as it is about French involvement the Revolutionary War in general. The Marquis often disappears off the page to make room for other illustrious players, such as the incomparable Pierre Beaumarchais, playwright turned gun runner, and chief artillery officer Henry Knox, as well as the actual progress and battles of the war. Many pages are given to the long process leading up to France officially declaring for America and entering the war, as well as the author's visits to memorials, landmarks, and historial reenactments.
Lafayette comes off as you'd hope from the musical: idealistic, good natured, exciteable, and a staunch friend and supporter of Washington and his troops. I came away gobsmacked at the extent to which America owes its independence to France (like I said, I didn't know anything about the war that followed the signing of the Declaration).
I couldn't put it down. I read it in one sitting; never bored, always fascinated, sometimes crying, often laughing. If all books on history were writting like this, we'd all know a lot more about where we came from and what we owe our forebears. ...more
Jenny Lawson is a force of nature and a treasure. This is a little bit more serious that Let's Pretend..., because she talks about mental health and hJenny Lawson is a force of nature and a treasure. This is a little bit more serious that Let's Pretend..., because she talks about mental health and her own illness with such candour it takes your breath away and makes you cry. And also, yes, furiously happy. I love her. I love this book. I think everyone should read it. EVERYONE....more
Took me a while to get the concept, and I found the conclusion of the story a little unsatifsying, but! BUT. The solar system Valente imagines is a thTook me a while to get the concept, and I found the conclusion of the story a little unsatifsying, but! BUT. The solar system Valente imagines is a thing of great, shining beauty. I loved the worldbuilding with the fire of a thousand thousand suns. If you fancy some space whales and a waterworld venus and ships sailing Neptune and Pluto covered in flowers, this is for you.
Just as good as when I first read it online. I love this story, and the characters, and the beautiful art and KK's goddamn bike and Karl's garden andJust as good as when I first read it online. I love this story, and the characters, and the beautiful art and KK's goddamn bike and Karl's garden and Kirk's attitude.
And it's COMPLETE, you know. Which is rare, and awesome....more
Felicia is a hero of mine, so I was glad when my book club picked this for our September read. It's funny, heart-warming, and touching, and I loved evFelicia is a hero of mine, so I was glad when my book club picked this for our September read. It's funny, heart-warming, and touching, and I loved every page. I was a huge fan of The Guild from the word 'go', I've admired her work on Geek & Sundry for years, I still think Dr Horrible is a work of genius that will never be surpassed, and as a fellow gamer, it gives me great joy to recognise so much of myself in her words. The World of Warcraft chapter in particular made me so nostalgic I almost wrote a goddamn think piece on vanilla wowcrack (hands up the hunters who remember having to buy and carry bullets and arrows around, and the mages having to train with the wand, godsdammit).
Anyway. Loved it. Thanks, Felicia, for this peek behind the scenes. Keep on truckin'. ...more
ETA: Finished. The 2nd half is MUCH better than the first. The plot is thick and twisty. The magic system is AWESOME. I still don't like any of the chETA: Finished. The 2nd half is MUCH better than the first. The plot is thick and twisty. The magic system is AWESOME. I still don't like any of the characters (except Solon, go, Solon!), but I *will* read the next one, hoping for further improvement. Also, I've taken out an ill-informed comment I made below, when I was only at the mid-point.
Original text: Halfway through. It's...not good. It’s rare that I stick with a book that makes me SO DAMN ANGRY all the time, but I promised a friend I’d read it, and so I shall continue. Also, it’s not like I don’t want to find out what happens next – I really like what I’ve seen of the magic system so far – and I’m told books 2 and 3 are much better. I just read that this was Weeks’ debut, too, so some slack needs cutting.
Well-meaning caveats aside, though, here’s what we’ve got so far. Tropes galore!
Street urchin/ orphan starts training with an assassin/thief/any other sort of criminal: CHECK Foreshadowing that the kid is A Special/ Chosen One: CHECK Mentor is a hard-assed instructor with a tortured past and a speck of gold in his heart: CHECK A dangerous underworld run by a shadowy organisation: CHECK Women are either virgins or whores: CHECK Whores hate themselves and have a heart of gold: CHECK Men are either honorable/ decent or misogynists/ rapists: CHECK Ugly women are, like, The Worst: CHECK Token female with any power is a prostitute: CHECK Slut shaming: CHECK
Let me tell you right away that, I still love the “clever kid survives without abilities other kids have” cliché. (See: Tavi of Calderon and young Harry Potter.) I also like the street urchin trope, no matter how often I read it. (See also: Locke Lamora and young Kvothe.) The worldbuilding is small-scale, which works well in an urban setting. Theoretically, then, this book should work for me, but it has too many problems to get a pass. Examples follow under the spoiler, with a trigger warning for child abuse and rape.(view spoiler)[
1. The street kids are organised into guilds that are run by rule of fear and violence. Fair enough, happens all the time in fantasy. Azoth’s guild’s main enforcer is Rat, who will beat you to a pulp if you don’t pay your guild taxes. Again, standard fare. But apparently, bloody faces and broken bones aren’t villainous enough and so Rat must also be a rapist. *sigh* I’m so tired of this shit. Writers: Please stop using rape as character-forming. Just stop. It doesn’t add anything useful to a story. It doesn’t add anything to your character arcs. There are other ways to create a traumatic experience. (But ask yourself why your character needs a trauma in their past in the first place. It’s probably not even necessary.) There are other ways to inspire fear and loathing. Compare the beginning of this quote with where it leads:
Jarl’s lips were swollen, both eyes black and so big he could barely see through the slits. He had missing teeth and he had crusted blood on his face from where his hair had been pulled so hard his scalp bled. (Bad enough, don’t you think. But no.) He was wearing a dress. (Of course. Because girl clothes are the ultimate humiliation. Worth noting that it’s at THIS point Azoth nearly throws up.) […] “Jarl’s mine now,” Rat said. “He thinks he’ll fight every night, and he will. For a while.” Rat smiled. “But I’ll break him. Time’s on my side.” (SEE HOW EVIL HE IS. It’s not enough that he beats and intimidates kids, even accidentally killing them because he doesn’t know his own strength, no, he has to be a rapist, too. For shame.)
Another thing about Rat: Cruelty is his ONLY character trait. At one point, he says he has “big plans” for the guild, and nobody will stand in his way. Clearly, the way to achieve that is to rape kids. Of course. We learn nothing else about his motivations until just before he’s killed. OFF-STAGE. Weeks spends pages and pages establishing this kid as evil and trying to persuade us he deserves to die, and then he has him killed in a one-line flashback. That’s not what pay-off means.(ETA: Actually, the flashback worked super well in the end.)
2. Also, hey, writers? Can we stop with the virgin/whore dichotomy. Like, YESTERDAY. If you can’t establish a thriving, fearsome underworld without abused or enslaved prostitutes, if your rich women are all sexually promiscuous and shamed for it, and if your counterpoint to that is “pure”, chaste, religious women… maybe re-think your career. This whole setup is bullshit. Weeks tries to at least give the women some agency in Momma K, who starts out awesome, and for a long time is the ONLY female who speaks. As “Mistress of Pleasure” she sits on the shadowy council (TM), she runs all the brothels in the city, she is intelligent, practical and fierce…until a drunk Durzo Blint lays into her, thusly:
Do you want to know why you’re the perfect whore? For the same reason there’s no man. Because you don’t have the capacity for love. You’re all cunt.
Nice. Bit rich coming from the man who let the woman he (says he) loves die to make a point. But does Momma K kick him in the balls and throw him out on his ass? No. She fills another beer for him, thinking
“Was this what Durzo reduced her to? A submissive little… She didn’t even know. She felt like she’d been eviscerated.
Yep, that’s great. Strip your one awesome female character of all her badassdom and have her BELIEVE THAT RANTING, HATEFUL ASSHOLE.
I’m leaving. It smells like old whore in here.
Lovely. The next day, she’s a devastated mess, which is a huge kick in the teeth. Here was an opportunity for a woman to say, “Fuck that shit, dude. I stand by my choices. Also, you killed my sister, so please excuse my while I break this stein over your head. Now, get the fuck out my bar and never come back.” But no. She has to be vulnerable, because she has lady parts. *bites desk* Azoth finds her with only half her makeup on and OMG GROSS OLD LADY LOOK AWAY.
The left half of her face was free of cosmetics for the first time Kylar had ever seen. It made her look old and haggard. […] Dark circles under her eyes gave a ghostly vulnerability. The effect […] was ludicrous, ugly, almost comic.
Yeah. Age is a bitch, man. And women never notice we’re old UNTIL A MAN TELLS US. Yay.
3. Speaking of “ugly” women. Gosh, they’re such a nuisance, aren’t they? Can’t marry them for arm candy, no fun screwing them, whatever are they good for? I know, they can be stand-ins for when the evil king in the country next door needs more children.
Petite or willowy, buxom or boyish, pale or dark, the images all pleased Garoth Ursuul. He was a connoisseur of feminine beauty, and he spared no expense in indulging this vice. It was, after all, a service to his family and the world that he breed the best sons possible. That was where the unattractive women came in. He’d experimented with kidnapping women from royal families in hopes that they might produce more acceptable sons. Two of his current nine aethlings had been born of such women, so Garoth supposed that nobles might produce acceptable sons at a slightly better rate than the rabble, but it was ever so much more tedious to breed with an ugly woman.
Now, apart from the fact that this paragraph makes no sense unless we read it as a) all noble women are unattractive, and b) 2 out of 9 is a better rate than 7 out of 9; this is another example of making a character a villain by making him a superficial sexist, which isn’t really “evil” as such… but wait, no, HE’S ALSO A RAPIST, yay! Phew, I was thinking, dude, the Godking isn’t really that bad an enemy:
…there was a joy in watching a woman try to hold her fury and hatred wile his magic pleased her in ways she’d never felt before. Unfortunately, such pleasures did have a their price: those wives had to be watched closely; he’d lost two to suicide.
Excuse me. I had throw up for a while. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
One of the narrators of this book is a tortoise. Do you know me? Can you spell “smitten”? Also, said tortoise lives in Portland, and I was just thereOne of the narrators of this book is a tortoise. Do you know me? Can you spell “smitten”? Also, said tortoise lives in Portland, and I was just there and learned how to pronounce Willamette a few short weeks ago, and the human narrator’s nickname is Oddly and she’s from Newfoundland. In short, the book’s infrastructure would have won me over all on its own, and I haven’t even started talking about the story and the GENIUS way it’s told. I’m going to tell you about it. Are you ready.
This is a story about family, growing up, love, loss and grief, told with an enormous heart, tremendous imagination and love, and a constant undercurrent of eye-twinkling humour. Reading it is like floating on a huge, happy cloud of softness and warmth and chocolate and rainbows. Sometimes you cry, but most of the time you grin like a fool. What’s that eyebrow for. I’m serious.
The narration might not be for everyone, but if you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last few years, you have learned to appreciate the modern method of deadpanning, which is to use no dialogue punctuation, ever. And there’s a lot of dialogue (funny, touching, hilarious, good-humoured, gut-wrenching, and any other adjective you can think of, dialogue) and you can’t catch your breath because you can’t stop reading or you'll forget who's talking and then you have to start again. Don’t look at the punctuation. Just look at the story.
Most of it is about Oddly growing up with her dad and Uncle Thoby, some of it is about her time in Oregon with her tortoise, Winnifred (formerly known differently), who narrates the same way Audrey does, and I don’t have to tell you how much I’m into a deadpanning tortoise.
I didn't want it to end. It's a beautiful story, and now I want a plane in the basement. But mostly, I want a tortoise so I can build it a castle.
You should read this book. It’s wonderful. ...more