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Eight Book Minimum: This edition brought to you by Fangirl Happy Hour.

Some of you may know that I do the transcripts for [personal profile] renay and [twitter.com profile] booksmugglers's podcast, Fangirl Happy Hour. This is where it really starts to show up in my reading. It turns out that if I read the books they're gonna be talking about, I know how to spell everyone's names! And don't get spoiled, but no, seriously, being able to spell all of the character names is my favourite thing and makes everything infinitely less stressful, 10/10 would recommend.

... Of course, now [personal profile] renay can use her powers for evil to get me to read all the stuff she's recced to me over the years, but no one tell her that.

  1. Avengers: The Children's Crusade by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung [Jump]

  2. Another Castle by Andrew Wheeler and Paulina Ganucheau [Jump]

  3. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson [Jump]

  4. Ms Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt [Jump]

  5. Ms Marvel Volume 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc [Jump]

  6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo [Jump]

  7. Ms Marvel Volume 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona [Jump]

  8. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo [Jump]

Cover of Avengers: The Children's Crusade Cover of Another Castle

1. Avengers: The Children's Crusade by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung [Top]
Right, first of my Fangirl Happy Hour reads! In The Children's Crusade, Wiccan realises that there is every chance that The Scarlett Witch is his and Speed's mother. This is terrible for everyone, because during the events of House of M (yet another storyline I only know through Cable & Deadpool but automatically distrust) she rewrote the universe at least twice and removed the powers from most of mutant kind, which means there a lot of people who want to see her dead or imprisoned for it. And Wiccan going on a quest to find her sure isn't going to lead every other faction right to her door.

Okay, to start with: my opinions on the art are gonna sound really harsh but that is completely unintentional: when I think of the, like, "generic Marvel art style," this is what I picture. When I say that Erica Henderson or Jacob Wyatt or Adrian Alphona are doing cool this with the art, it's specifically in contrast to stuff like this. Like, there's nowt wrong with it, it's fine, but it doesn't stand out in my memory.

My thoughts on the plot are mostly "Hmm." Cassie Lang deserves better, quite frankly, I'm not interested in the Avengers and the X-Men having a slapfight, Iron Lad makes more terrible choices that I can count, there are too many characters to keep track on, and any time someone lets Doctor Doom run his mouth for more than a panel I just put my head in my hands and go "Uggggggh."


Wiccan and Hulkling's relationship is fantastic and I love them? And I am kind of interested that this comic does sit down and go "Okay, this character did a fucking awful thing and has the power to rewrite the universe, how do we deal with that and how does she atone for almost eliminating an entire species? Can she do that?" I think it's interesting, but really seriously needed to involve fewer slapfights and more people actually listening to each other.

*waits to listen to Ana and Renay talking about this book and probably completely changing my opinion*

2. Another Castle by Andrew Wheeler and Paulina Ganucheau [Top]
This was actually on my list before Fangirl Happy Hour made it a priority because Paulina Ganucheau did the art for Zodiac Star Force – her art is is super cute so of course I pounced!

The story of Another Castle Is a subversion of some classic fantasy tropes; a beautiful princess realises the evil ruler of the next kingdom is going to be a problem, so she sets off to deal with him. She gets captured, a handsome(?) prince sets out to rescue her with the one weapon that can defeat the bad guy – and the princess has to avoid a forced wedding, avenge her mother, make monster friends, stop the prince getting his damn fool self killed, and lead a popular uprising.

It's so great, you guys. It's cute, it's funny, it's funny, it takes its tropes and makes them dance. I loved getting to see Misty have friends (Gorga!) and try to keep two kingdoms safe through competence and working behind the scenes, and even Pete grew on me, even though "bumbling dude who thinks he's the main character" is one of my least favourite tropes. The resolution of what happens to Grimoire is pretty satisfying as well!

Seriously, if you want a story about kick-ass princesses scheming and solving their problems while also wearing pink and making monster friends: this is pretty great!

Cover of Squirrel Girl Volume 1 Cover of Ms Marvel Volume 2

3. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson [Top]
[personal profile] renay has been talking about Squirrel Girl for maybe actual years, and I have avoided it so hard because I love the idea of Squirrel Girl but was worried that her brand of goofiness would set off my embarrassment squick and I wouldn't be able to enjoy it.

SPOILERS: my worries were mostly unfounded, and my heart has grown three sizes just by reading this volume.

Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Girl is off to university, studying the most important course for a superhero in the modern era: computer science! And she is super cheerful (and yes, a little goofy) and making friends while solving crime.

I think that my favourite thing about this volume is that Squirrel Girl solves the majority of her problems by talking to people! Her solution to Kraven showing up is great, and I giggled the whole way through the Galactus storyline (Squirrel Girl is friends with Tony Stark! Their friendship is DELIGHTFUL.) It's just... Happy? And sincere? And charming? And about FRIENDSHIP (between Doreen and Nancy, and Doreen and Tippy-toe, and Doreen and... Pretty much everyone, actually?). And the art is really cute and different from what I expected – Erica Henderson puts so much character into the art, it's great, I enjoyed it, and now own up to volume three (Or... Volume one of part two of Squirrel Girl's college adventures? Marvel, why are you.) so that I can keep reading it.

That sound you heard? Is [personal profile] renay yelling "I TOLD YOU SO!"

4. Ms Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt [Top]

Okay, here's my dark secret: volume one of Ms Marvel wasn't really my jam? It was fine, it was cute, but I didn't love it? Volume two? This I love.

Kamala is probably my favourite Marvel protagonist. She is so excited to be teaming up with Wolverine! (It is adorable.) She doesn't want to hurt anyone, including animals trying to kill her! (The conversation she has with Wolverine about whether that's possible is really sad and thoughtful!) And she has grown as a person since the first volume, because she's learned what problems are on a scale that she can handle alone and what she needs to get help with

But most importantly, I really enjoy and appreciate how important her community is to her. Her parents find out that she's been sneaking out, so they send her to talk to Sheikh Abdullah (in possibly one of my favourite "Young protagonist gets a lecture" panels in memory.). The Inhumans(?) want to remove her from her community for her own safety and she is not having it. She values the kids that she finds, even when they've been convinced not to value themselves as actual people. The speech she gives there brought a tear to my eye and then made me laugh, because that's how this comic rolls.

(Also the worst part of this storyline is that if you spend five minutes on Google you could probably find articles about kids being parasitics drains on the economy, so good job G. Willow Wilson for realism.)

To close off: a short list of things that are excellent about this volume:
  • There are parts of it that are hilarious, especially when it comes to Ms Marvel's expressions, and then it flips to being serious or sad without skipping a beat!

  • Kamala and Bruno's relationship. Especially that they've put in the effort to make a code in case she runs into trouble!

  • Lockjaw, and everything about Lockjaw, including the sign Lockjaw wears and Kamala's reaction when it shows up. That is ABSOLUTELY the correct reaction.

  • Okay, Kamala admitting that she writes RPF made me writhe in embarrassment, because she blurts it out to one of the people she wrote it about and I am a fandom old from the generation where you hide the fanfic from anyone connected to canon and it can never be acknowledged. BUT: this is on this list because it's such a nice reminder that she is of a different fandom generation to me, and she doesn't have to hide the things she enjoys and devotes her time to. I mean, "I wrote about the X-Men probably banging" isn't really on the scale of secret as "I am a superhero" but the point still stands!

  • The art is still really cute, send anyone who disagrees my way and I'll set 'em straight for you. It's super cute, the expressions are excellent, and everyone looks like believable teenagers! Who wear clothes that I could see kids wearing! Things I never thought I'd see in a Marvel book!

It's just fun and sincere and heartwarming, so even if volume one wasn't your thing, I'd suggest giving this one a chance.

Cover of Ms Marvel Volume 3 Cover of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

5. Ms Marvel Volume 3: Crushed [Top]
In this volume: Ms Marvel DEALS WITH JERKS.

Okay, a better and more accurate summary: Loki comes to investigate Ms Marvel's school (... By giving terrible advice and also spiking the punch, because what the hell Loki), and Kamala sort of gets a boyfriend! That sure went fine.

The Loki story actually entertained me a lot, from his lecture on mistakes, to him being dubbed Hipster Viking (omg), to Kamala getting support to deal with him. But the whole secret admirer thing was... Ugh. On the flip side, the fact that Kamala gets so much help with problems from other people (not even other superheroes! Like Bruno and the football dude!) is delightful and it's such a nice thing to see in a world-setting where characters without powers can get sidelined pretty quickly.

And speaking of the setting! I thought it was interesting to see the world expand and how the Inhuman culture is not only a thing, but is a thing that affects her. I'm not following the wider Marvel universe at the moment so I have no idea how this ties into other comics, so I assume everyone else already knew what was going on with the Inhumans and all of these factions, but it was at least something that I could follow. And the way real-world things have affected Kamala breaks my heart; when she says "There's always that one group of people who think they have special permission to terrorise anybody who disagrees with them. And everybody else who looks like them suffers." I just – oh Kamala. Oh honey.

(Even with that provocation, Kamala looks wrecked when she realises that she's hurt someone. It's such a fundamental part of who she is that she doesn't like hurting people and she doesn't want to do that. ... And this is why I'm so pissed about the Civil War tie-in comic, do not get me started.)

But to return to the topic of jerks! Loki is one thing, but ugh, Kamran. I saw it coming, but the target audience is younger than me and might not have as much genre savvy. Kamala was so excited and even though I saw it coming, I felt gutted for her. Good job, comic, I guess, for making me really sad that the guy who was blatantly too good to be true turned out to be too good to be true!

(Also, spoilers, but: HOLY FUCKING RAPE CULTURE BATMAN! The things he says when she points out that he took her somewhere against her will. That she said no. "I had a feeling you'd change your mind [...] You just needed a little... Persuasion." and "You put yourself into this situation." I really hope that this helps some kids recognise people being awful when they see it, because I am twenty-seven and that made my flesh creep.)

And as a compare and contrast on the heartbreak front: Bruno. I felt really bad for him in this volume. The conversation between Aamir and Bruno was awful in a really believable way, because there was no malice there? And because Kamala and Bruno's friendship is so strong and good and important to this comic, and I don't like that they're in pain.

The short version (too late!) is this: the feelings are excellent, the humour is exactly what you expect from Ms Marvel, it's not my favourite of the ones that I've read, but it's still pretty good.

6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo [Top]
Oh wow, this book. This book. *dreamy sigh* This couldn't have been more my thing if it had been specifically written for me, so you know I'm in love. This is the hardest part of this post, because the more I love a thing the harder it is for me to talk about? But we'll see what I can do.

The plot of Six of Crows is very simple! The teenage lieutenant of a street gang has to take a six-person crew to break into an impenetrable fortress and rescue a man who could throw the balance of power (politically and magically) completely out of alignment. If they fail, they die – or worse, they don't get paid. It's exactly the sort of story I want. Everyone is ridiculously competent in their field and has the opportunity to show it, and the heist manages that fine balance between not being predictable, but still having that air of "Oh this is going far too well, it's all going to catch fire – there it is!" The inevitable found-family group that is the heart of any good heist story (because really, what is even the point of a heist if not to bring together a bunch of misfits as a family) warms my heart; not just because nearly everyone is a beautiful monstrous bastard to one degree or another, with personalities and beliefs that clash at a fundamental level (the hedonistic mage-soldier-linguist and the stoic anti-magic zealot, for example), but also because Six of Crows specifically gives everyone in the crew fundamentally contradictory goals, and one of them succeeding could crush any one of the others (Especially when two of them love each other so sincerely! *wails*). So, yes, it's tropey, but I love every single one of these tropes so I am absolutely on board with this.

(There was a point where I was side-eying the hell out of one of the main relationships, because "Dude cannot decide whether he wants to murder woman or bone her or both" can... Sure Be A Thing... But it kinda won me over. Also, completely hypocritical of me, because Kaz's desire to murder and ruin people who hurt Inej is the content I'm here for.)

As for the nuts and bolts of it... I enjoyed it? The imagery is so good, especially once they reach the Ice Castle? It's a shifting POV story cycling through five of the six protagonists, and all of them are different and distinct, which is... Honestly a change. (If you do audiobooks, I'd like to recommend this one! Each POV has a different voice actor and they're all really good. And if you liked the way that Six Wakes used flashbacks to illuminate characters and how they came to be the way they are, this is for you. There are some things that I don't think were dug into enough, like, for example, there is a "traitor" that gets mentioned all of maybe twice and then kind of forgotten about? But apart from that... Nah, it worked!

PLUS: female friendships and canon queers! Leave a comment if you need spoilers about their fates, but omg canon queers!

Look, I know I keep saying that I loved it, but seriously. I finished Six of Crows and immediately ordered Crooked Kingdom from work; I finished Crooked Kingdom and immediately picked up the audiobooks and bought my own copies of the books. I seriously loved it and I am so grateful to [personal profile] thebaconfat for recommending it!

Cover of Ms Marvel Volume 4 Cover of Crooked Kingdom

7. Ms Marvel Volume 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona [Top]
Okay, when I say that I had feelings about this volume, I mean that my notes for this volume were like 700 words on their own, before me trying to inject sense into them now. I had some feelings, okay, and those feelings are that this is one of the best trades I've read from Marvel in literal years.

Volume Four: Last Days is about how Ms Marvel and the people she loves deal with the end of the world. I think I'm missing important context here (I do not collect these Pokémon, most of my Marvel knowledge comes from other people reading them for me) but listen. In most of the superhero comics I've read, the end of the world has got to the stage where it's pretty much just another Tuesday, but this. This. Kamala and the narrative keep their focus on the small scale – her town, her people, her relationships – so it doesn't feel like just another Tuesday. It feels personal and like there's a chance the world might actually end this time, and that is brilliant.

Like, I love the way that everyone pulls together? That is possibly my favourite trope in the world, so everyone working together (Even Josh and Zoe!) pulling together to make sure that there are supplies and safety at the school makes me tear up a little. Especially because Kamala still takes the time to talk to people in the face of the end of the world to find out why they they're being jerks and bring them around.

(I don't know enough about American geography/politics to know why the help wouldn't be coming to Jersey City. Google Maps says it's literally across a river from New York City so why...?)

And Kamala got to meet her hero before the world ends! This is possibly my favourite thing, from Kamala's initial reaction to Captain Marvel being punk rock to Captain Marvel openly acknowledging and complementing Kamala's skills and struggles. It's so good. Especially because Kamala has to make such tough choices throughout this volume, on the big scale (saving her brother, making sure the school is a safe place to send people) and on the small (saving kittens or leaving them), and she struggles with them! So having that struggle explicitly both acknowledged and validated by someone who gets it warms my heart.

Captain Marvel isn't the only source of validation, of course; this story arc explicitly has Kamala's family and friends supporting her in different ways; Aamir reading Kamran the riot act for judging him and being cruel to Kamala gives me life (especially because he's happy and proud of who he is!), Zoe finally has character growth, Nakia makes Kamala acknowledge the state of their friendship, and Kamala's mother. Everything about the scene with Kamala's mother at the school is a joy and a delight, for what it says about both of them.

But even with all of the sensible, serious things going on, it still manages to be funny. Kamala uses a hotdog stand like adult comics use a bar! There are adorable blue monsters because why not! Kamala's beautiful expressive face is a wonder to itself! And why is there a dance party?

It doesn't matter, it's joyous. And now I need to go over here and cry about Kamala and Bruno's perfect conversation (where she tried to be brave, and they talk about their feelings and how much they love each other), and what a good way to say goodbye to a series that last panel is.

8. Crooked Kingdoms by Leigh Bardugo [Top]
Okay, can I do this without spoiling Six of Crows, considering that this picks up maybe five minutes after that one ends. LET'S FIND OUT. After the events of Six of Crows, Kaz and his merry band of bastards need to a) get the band back together in Ketterdam, b) ruin several lives, c) resolve everyone's backstories, while most of their resources are gone and all of their usual problem-solving tools are leaves on the wind. Oh, and while they're being hunted. And while they're trying to save the world, maybe.

Everything I said about Six of Crows carries over – these characters! This world! – but with a handful of caveats. Such as: the world building manages to get simultaneously bigger and more focused at the same time; we get a little more of the world through people's backstories, but also the cast in the present is in Ketterdam and doesn't really leave. It's an interesting trick! It also brings in elements from a previous series in this setting in ways that are apparently horrifically spoilery if you care about that; I haven't read this previous series, so I find the previous cast's appearance convenient but it doesn't... Mean much to me?

It also goes into more detail of the horrors of people's backstories, so please consider this a caution warning if you need one! One of the characters was a victim of sex trafficking when she was younger, which is dealt with in more detail here than in the previous book, and one of the characters has a serious drug problem here. I... Think it's done very emotively and affectingly, but I don't know enough about either to be comfortable saying how realistic it is.

This is actually the book where I started to believe everyone was the ages the book told me they were (so late teens) because of their reactions and stupid things they pull. Kaz in particular being a beautiful human disaster with Jesper is delightful?

And the romances. It's all very neat and relevant to my interests, (except for one part with Weylan that I had to put the book down over so I could scream on twitter), and I cannot explain to you how much Kaz and Inej were my thing here. Yes! Absolutely! Here is the beautiful levels of slow-burn that I dream of in fandom, here for me in an actual published book! Yes.

Um... What else can I even say about this without spoiling something? How about this: the ever smart and wonderful [personal profile] thebaconfat once said (if I recall correctly) that this series is basically about old people creating a world that children have to become monsters to survive in, who are then surprised when the monsters they created turn on them. Yes. That's exactly it! Especially when part of the conflict is whether the characters who are less invested in being monstrous stay in their roles, or try to find their way back to a "normal" life. It's so interesting and so good!

... I'm not even sorry, everyone, I genuinely love this series and I cannot recommend it hard enough.

Currently Reading

  • A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge – I kinda abandoned this one a few chapters in because Hugo packets happened, but it was slow-going before that. I mean, it's a Frances Hardinge, based on Cuckoo Song I expect that I will get to a quarter of the way through and suddenly discover that I am super invested.

  • The entirety of the Hugo voter packet -- *screaming continues, intensifies*

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 32/150 (8 new this post) Prose: 13/50 (2 new this post)
New-to-me female authors: 6/75 (1 new this post: Erica Henderson)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 18/90 (6 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub: 9/32 (4 new this post: Avengers: The Children's Crusade, Another Castle, Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom)

Date: 2017-06-20 12:34 am (UTC)
bluemeridian: (AVG :: Send a Raven)
From: [personal profile] bluemeridian
If they fail, they die – or worse, they don't get paid.

YES, THAT. I still maintain they read as 3-7 years older to me (varying individually), but oh goodness, such good characters. I have a ridiculous audio backlog compared to amount of listening time, but I'm really going to have to put this one on the list.


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