spindizzy: A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic style portrait of me. (Lady Business)
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How's my reading going this year?

A screenshot of a tweet that says 'I have underestimated how much manga I read.'


Yeah, about like that!

This fortnight I have seriously failed out of reading prose, but have done quite well on manga and graphic novels! I do have a stack of crime novels and queer lit about three feet high to get through (I will measure it if I have to), including like eight J. D. Robb books, so I need to crack on through that.

Before I do, though – internet! I have a request! Do you have any recommendations for women-centric stories set in Ancient Greece and/or the Roman Empire? I have Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin, Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn, and I've got Lindsey Davis' The Ides of April on order... I'm just not sure where to go from here. A lot of the stuff I can lay my hands on is focused on male characters, and quite frankly that's not what I want from fiction about the ancient world. Can anyone give recommendations?

Anyway, on to what I've read this week!

Books, graphic novels and manga read:
  1. Chii's Sweet Home Volume One by Konami Kanata

  2. The Heroic Legend of Arslan Volume One by Hiromu Arakawa and Yoshiki Tanaka

  3. The Wicked + The Divine Volume Two: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillon, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson

  4. The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi by Pat Cadigan

  5. Manga Dogs Volume One by Ema Tooyama

  6. Yotsuba&! Volume Ten by Kiyohiko Azuma

  7. Yotsuba&! Volume Eleven by Kiyohiko Azuma

  8. The Losers Volume One by Andy Diggle and Jock

  9. Yotsuba&! Volume Twelve by Kiyohiko Azuma

  10. Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something by Kaoru Mori


Short stories and single issues read:
  1. City of Salt by Arkady Martine

  2. Monstress #3 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda


Books, graphic novels, manga



Chi's Sweet Home volume 1 cover The Heroic Legend of Arslan volume 1 cover


1. Chii's Sweet Home Volume One by Konami Kanata: I keep trying to recommend this series to the cat-lovers in my life, and universally the response has been "But does the kitten get back to her family?!" Dear internet: I have no idea. All I know I am trying to recommend you an adorable book about a kitten learning to live with humans and being very believably cat-like, and her accidental human family fitting a kitten into their lives, and people keep getting distracted from the issue of adorable cats.

The art is very cute and cartoony, the individual events all bear out my understanding of cats, and the emotions are really well handled! Brace yourself for temporary sad kittens, fair warning. My main nitpick is that the baby-talk the translators use for Chi starts to grate very quickly, but that's pretty minor.

2. The Heroic Legend of Arslan Volume One by Hiromu Arakawa and Yoshiki Tanaka: "Hirumo Arakawa is doing a straight-up fantasy manga?" I mutter as the first volume downloads. "This doesn't sound right! She did Full Metal Alchemist!" And then I realised that it was actually an adaptation of a series of novels by Yoshiki Tanaka and all of this made sense.

The manga is gorgeous; I admit to bias, because with Hiromu Arakawa creating it I doubt that it could be anything else. (I really like her style, it's really clean and striking, and the battle scenes are awesome.) Some of the character designs feel familiar, like happier versions of Full Metal Alchemist characters, and I genuinely can't tell if they actually look similar or if my fangirl brain is crossing wires. Plus, I believe the setting is inspired by Persia, which is a new and interesting thing for me?

The actual writing felt somewhat generic, though? All of the beats of the story felt familiar to me, except that hey, the protagonist is the prince of a nation that keeps slaves, and is in favour of slavery. He actually sits and wonders "Why would they not just let themselves be enslaved, they'd get fed!" And it's dealing with a religious war in a way that might have some nuance later; one of the major factions, Lusitania, is at war with a country that follows the same god but in different ways, and part of the (stated) reason that they're at war with Arslan's country is because their religion opposes slavery. This could be interesting later? Especially as the iconography of the Lusitanians pings as similar to Christian to me, and I'm kinda interested to see how that plays out?

Right now, though, I'm not sure I care enough about the story to keep following it; I don't necessarily feel like it'll surprise me at any point? And while I don't require that, I still... Am not invested in this series? ... Except that I ship Arslan and Daryun, of course I do.

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium Manga Dogs volume 1 cover



3. The Wicked + The Divine: Fandemonium (Volume Two) by Kieron Gillon, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson: *NOTHING BUT ANGRY BETRAYED SCREAMING*

4. The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For

3. The Wicked + The Divine: Fandemonium (Volume Two) by Kieron Gillon, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson: No, okay, I take it back, that is NOT all, I am not okay with any of these developments. Picture me reading this volume while sitting on a sofa next to the person I am about to lend this book too, so completely unable to emote appropriately without spoiling it! It wasn't fun!

I knew one of the major spoilers going into Fandemonium (Protip: the character tags for this series on AO3 contain massive plot spoilers! Please use caution when viewing!), but hooooo boy, this volume.

First of all: the art continues to be gorgeous. I really adore the art, and the way they played around and experimented with it this volume? I think it was very cool.

Second of all: YES. The fandom experience is so great – Laura at what, fourteen? Fifteen? Standing up against a Big Name Fan who's trying to tell everyone that her generation isn't worth the effort; smart teenage girls with opinions, who are willing to stand up and express those opinions when people start talking down to them? Hi, welcome to where I grew up. The comparisons between Ragnarock when Laura first went, and now that the Recurrence has happened. Inanna being so admiring of Laura, both from before and in the present timeline is awesome, and the way the gods are sort of folding Laura in with them unintentionally makes me happy. The way Cassandra's and Laura's wishes to find out about the gods cross and intersect, and oh, their relationship here is so great. Especially because Laura being a good friend and putting aside her feelings to help Cassandra.

Third: I am spitting mad about developments, because while they're all perfectly sensible and logical (I have SUCH THEORIES and spent half a volume internally screaming at Those Two Characters) this is not how I wanted it to go. And I like that we got to learn more about the gods that Laura doesn't hang out with and/or crush on, even if every page with Odin on skeeved me the fuck out? And I do not believe some of the dramatic reveals from this volume, not for one second.

Here's the thing, though – my experience of The Wicked + The Divine feels different to how Renay and Jodie describe theirs; I need to go and flail in their comments, because I... Didn't experience the same emotional disconnect that other people seem to have with it? (Which is no slight to the people who don't have the same reaction to it that I do? Funnily enough, a story about someone who wants something she can't always articulate so desperately that she'd tear herself apart over it gets me where I live.), and I'm... kinda excited to go and talk about this somewhere I'll feel less bad for spoiling people? At the very least, I find it really interesting that we're having this diverse a reaction to it, and kinda want to bounce thoughts off other people about it?

... I think I'm getting "One book I REALLY WANT TO TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT" every fortnight, and this has to be an improvement over The Curse of the Dragon God.

4. The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi by Pat Cadigan: I don't actually have much to say about this one – it's a neat little novelette about transhumanism, representation, and control of your body and image, all taking place around Jupiter, with a cast of people who have deliberately become more like marine creatures to help them do their jobs. I thought it was quite well put together, but the ending felt a bit "... Wait, hang on —" and then it was past me. I think I recommend it?

5. Manga Dogs Volume One by Ema Tooyama: I found my copy while I was tidying my room, and I forgot how much I loved this! I have been on both sides of this clash; the one who Knows Their Shit trying not to shout "THIS IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU THINK!" at people, and the one daydreaming about prize money for a story I've not even made yet. If you assume that I read most of this book laughing with my face in my hands, you've got about the right idea.

Yotsuba&! volume 10 cover Yotsuba&! volume 11 cover


6. Yotsuba&! Volume Ten by Kiyohiko Azuma: I'm sure I noticed it before and just forgot, but this volume the amount of detail in the backgrounds actually sunk in. The figures in Yotsuba are all really simple, so the contrast with the backgrounds actually really stood out, especially in the shrine? Plus, Yotsuba always feel like a kid, which feels ridiculous to say, but it's nice to read a comic about a five year old and go "Yep, my nieces would do that. Especially the lying about something to get out of trouble." This volume is really adorable and great.

7. Yotsuba&! Volume Eleven by Kiyohiko Azuma: THIS volume, on the other hand, was emotionally harrowing. I was genuinely distressed by Yotsuba being upset about Juralumin! I do like her relationships with the adults in her life though; adopting the people who own the udon restaurant, her frenemy status with Yanda – heck, even the terrifying jerk she takes photos of is kinda neat. It all feels very realistic though, because I know a lot of people who are just like "You know what, the kid wants me to do stupid poses so she can take photos? SURE."

... I DIDN'T NEED THE SCARE ABOUT JURALUMIN THOUGH. LET'S NOT DO THAT AGAIN.

The Losers: Ante Up cover Yotsuba&! volume 12


8. The Losers Volume One by Andy Diggle and Jock: I signed up for a fic exchange for The Losers, so I took this opportunity to reread the source material! The thing I always forget is how much I don't actually like the art in this? The poses and silhouettes are all really dynamic and cool! And the faces are usually... Disappointing? Like, "I can't tell these two characters apart, and did you mean to shade that guy's face so it looks like he suddenly has a goatee?" The action is really well done, though? But the flip side is that the plot is squirrelly at best, and I'm really not sure how I feel about the way the comic treats its Muslim characters (Why hello there "migrant women threatened with rape and/or sexual slavery" and "dude here to sell women into sexual slavery", you were not what I was expecting to see... But the flip side of it is that we do see these women build a life for themselves, for a grand total of one scene, and I'm pretty sure one scene doesn't cancel it out?). Plus it's interesting to see that the "We are the good guys, not here to kill everyone" lasts about a page and a half?

... Basically, my feelings on this are "conflicted" with a side helping of "It leads into a decent second volume and movie" and "I have completely unconflicted love for Pooch, Cougar and Jensen and super-conflicted love for Aisha." I'll see if I can lay it all out sensibly once I'm done with the second volume and have all of the context I've forgotten.

9. Yotsuba&! Volume Twelve by Kiyohiko Azuma: This is the last volume that I'll be able to get my hands on for a while (I think the thirteenth volume doesn't come out for another couple of months? But at the time I read it, I genuinely thought there wasn't going to be another volume in English), and I may have looked at the last panel of this volume and cried like the manga was saying goodbye to me. I really loved it.

10. Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something by Kaoru Mori: This one's really odd, because it feels like someone just took the bonus pages out of a load of different volumes and bodged them into one book. The art is generally quite good (Kaoru Mori: excellent artist, definitely recommend A Bride's Story), it's just – I dunno, I was expecting more of an anthology, and this appears to alternate between being an anthology and a sketchbook. And oh boy was I uncomfortable reading this on the bus.

Short stories and single issues



1. City of Salt by Arkady Martine: Okay, in a stellar example of stories getting unfair reviews because they remind the reader of another story: I could not shake this story reminding me of The White Palace by Shukyou. (The stories have only the vaguest of superficial similarities – a king, an illusionist, an area controlled by a mage.). I like the imagery in this story, the way Sogcha seems angrier at Ammar for coming back than she does that he left in the first place, the emotions that hang in the story and the way that it all winds down. I feel like it's one Jodie would be able to unpack better than me; I freely admit that I go "Hmm!" at short stories and then bimble onwards.

2. Monstress 3 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda: I keep expecting every panel with the little fox girl to be the one where she dies, which means that this issue was nerve-wracking. I like that it's really going hard into contrasting its monsters – whatever is crawling out of Maika, the women hunting her, the ordinary soldiers who don't object to child murder as an interrogation method, enraged unicorns... It's not pulling its punches here. I'd quite like the next one to be out already, please! Also contains sound advice.

Books in Progress



(I'm not counting anything that I haven't made progress on since the last time I posted, in case you were wondering why things from last time aren't here.)

I Remember by Julie Cannon: This book has a really annoying habit of switching between past and present storylines between paragraphs. Sometimes even sentences! It's making it something of a chore to get through. ... Added to the fact that so far there's been no indication that the protagonists are planning to reveal the Conflict of Interest problem by just talking to HR and saying "Hey, we met on that cruise that ended yesterday, please take action." ... Also, fuck's sake, I do not need a semi-pornographic blurb on the back of any of my books, I read on the bus!

The Losers Volume Two by Andy Diggle, Jock, Nick Dragotta, Alé Garza, Colin Wilson, and Ben Oliver: This is simultaneously the volume that makes me go "ugh" the most (Some of the art feels like a racist caricature, Aisha starts murder-fucking people...), but it's also the volume where I know there are intense feelings coming my way, so I don't know how it balances out.

Reading Goals



Okay, I'm 90% certain that I'm doing pretty well on the big general goal, and failing out of the specific ones. I'm taking comfort in the fact that it's only January and I've got time to make it up? (My reading feels male-author heavy, even when I go back and go "Exactly half of these involve female creators." I guess because anything with multiple creators that I've read has included one or more dudes? Something to watch for.)

Books read so far: 18/150 (10 new this post)
New-to-me female creators: 11/100 (2 new this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub count: 4 (1 new this post: The Wicked + The Divine volume 2)

So, that's me all caught up! How y'all doing?
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