spindizzy: A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic style portrait of me. (Lady Business)
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Eight Book Minimum is a new biweekly reading round-up that I'm trying; I consume a lot more media than I could ever discuss in individual posts, I have two numbers-based reading goals to track, and on a quest to get better at having opinions on the internet, so I'm giving round-ups a try!

Books, graphic novels and manga read:
  1. Pirates of Mars Volume 1 by JJ Kuhrs and Veronica Fish

  2. A Silent Voice Volume 1 by Yoshitoki Oima

  3. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

  4. Third Degree by Kate Calloway

  5. The Legend of Bold Riley by Leia Weathington et al.

  6. The Curse of the Dragon God: A Gay Adventure by Geoffrey Knight

  7. Yotsuba&! volume 8 by Kiyohiko Azuma

  8. Yotsuba&! volume 9 by Kiyohiko Azuma

Short stories and single issues read:
  1. The Adventure of Three Garridebs by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  2. Bitch Planet #6 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Taki Soma

  3. Mystery Girl #2 by Paul Tobin and Albert Alburquerque

  4. Anne Bonnie #1 by Tim Yates

Books, graphic novels, manga

Pirates of Mars volume 1 cover A Silent Voice volume 1 cover The Duchess War cover Third Degree cover

1. Pirates of Mars by JJ Kuhrs and Veronica Fish: This didn't leave much of an impression on me, but it was cute and had some really great character moments! It has a lot of tropes that entertain me, wrapped up a Victoriana space story; women in charge, sword-fighting, robots, the grumpy team member being stuck with the adorable child, and really cute art. I'm not necessarily keen on some of the other tropes it uses (three women in the entire comic, because Overcoming Space Sexism; a villain who wants to keep the main female character as a pet; feels a bit like Firefly, especially as I'm not 100% sure that it's not a story where all of the villains are Not White), but it won me over with the cute art and Captain Lovelace.

2. A Silent Voice Volume 1 by Yoshitoki Oima: I have no idea how to feel about this, in that it is a very good depiction of bullying – the way that groups of kids can find a weakness and encourage the worst in each other, the way adults can let this shit go on by not intervening and by subtly condoning it, and the way people can change targets the instant it looks like there's going to be trouble. But by doing that depiction well, it means that it establishes pretty thoroughly that most of the characters in this manga somewhat awful? And while it does the work to make the protagonist empathetic for the reader, I was still reeling from the creativity and length of the bullying to appreciate that.

3. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan: Regency romances, my not-so-secret trashy weakness! Courtney Milan is someone who's been recommended to me regularly (Ana and Renay talked about it over at Fangirl Happy Hour), and I'm happy to say it lived up to the hype! Both Robert and Minnie were charming and resolved... Some of their problems by talking to each other, the characters who were blatantly going to be in sequels were clearly marked, the writing was pretty good, and I only put the book down to shout at the characters for being idiots like, once? (If you saw me on twitter shrieking "Oh my god, you even know your wife is a master tactician! And twice as smart as you! What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" then here is your context.)

I did appreciate that both the male and female leads got to have masturbation scenes – I know, right? Women masturbating in a regency novel never fucking happens! – and that the male lead is the one convinced that the wedding night is going to be ~magical~. I was uncomfortable with some of the sex scenes, because while there was explicit consent the motives behind them still felt a bit dub-conny? But on the whole I really enjoyed it! It had politics, it had explicit discussion of the power dynamics between a duke and anyone else, it had a take-no-shit female lead who was full of plans and tactics.

I think my favourite part of the entire book, though, is a scene where Robert tells Minnie a "funny" story about his family, because I have been there, and the way that he clings to the idea that this has to be funny rather than dysfunctional felt really true to life.

4. Third Degree by Kate Calloway: Yesssss, lesbian crime drama! My favourite genre! I really liked the characters in this one, and that the drama wasn't about the main character being closeted, but was instead about her feelings for her ex interfering with her current relationship (even if the way that resolved felt like a "Have your cake and eat it" ending, without any of the benefits that could come from, say, polygamy, or actually showing us the conversation she had with her love interests). The mystery itself was... Alright? The way the story revealed who the actual attacker was felt quite forced, and I could have done without the victim-blaming undertones regarding keeping the attacks a secret (even if it leads to ~feelings of unity~ in the end), but there were actual investigations! And going to the police at the appropriate time, rather than waiting for the killer to attack the protagonist!

The Legend of Bold Riley cover The Curse of the Dragon God cover Yotsuba&! volume 8 cover Yotsuba &! volume 9 cover

5. The Legend of Bold Riley by Leia Weathington et al.: All of these stories felt very familiar to me, like a retelling of a story I've forgotten. And for the most part, that's fine! It feels like a selection of stories from The Arabian Nights, only with a lesbian princess instead of whatever dude was the protagonist that week. The stories that are about Rilavashana being smart and wandering around solving problems are very fairy-tale like and I enjoyed them! (I can't decide between the goat-herding story and the "Could you find my husband" stories as my favourites.) The art is super variable in quality, but it tends to be pretty good and colourful? I just have a few problems around the stories.

The protagonist's name is Rilavashana. Her nickname of Bold Riley is literally from the story's only white dude calling her by his niece's name because he thought hers was too long to pronounce regularly? That bothers me a bit, but maybe I'm being over-sensitive about that. The problem that really gets me is that the protagonist finds the One Woman who soothes her wanderlust and makes her want to give up this life of adventuring, which obviously ends badly. And I know objectively that this is probably a riff on every story where the male adventurer finds the love of his life and loses her because he is an adventurer and must keep wandering? But what it comes across as is the Tragic Lesbian trope, and I'm done with that.

6. The Curse of the Dragon God: A Gay Adventure by Geoffrey Knight: I knew from the moment I picked this book up that it was going to be amazingly terrible, and I was not disappointed. It's so bad! The protagonists are all Super Handsome Sexy Exotic Men (they are described as exotic in the book, I'm not even shitting you) who do things like accidentally set fire to Yemen! Have villains who all die due to Totally Unforseen Circumstances rising from the protagonists' actions! Sleep with men who use lines like "I'm Tomas, the Icelandic fire-eater, here to ignite your imagination!"

... They sleep with so many people, between the five of them, and the sex is almost universally hilariously written (I have put a photo of the most impressively ridiculous (and NSFW) bit on twitter, if you want to see an example), featuring things like LIQUID SOAP AS LUBE and a guy who goes from breathing fire to sucking cock without stopping to pass go, collect £200, or rinse his mouth out.

And there are amazingly ridiculous action scenes, involving dune buggy death races, excavator combat, That Ending, and one particularly weird scene where the villains tie two men to each other on top of a table, naked, set the table on fire and stood there explaining their evil plans! They work out the villain's password through some epic leaps of logic! The villains are horrific stereotypes (OF COURSE the female villain shows up wearing a hooded leather catsuit, OF COURSE! And your doctor is a psychotic opium-addled drunkard who doesn't clean his tools? I'm not surprised!) and the protagonists are mostly interchangeable! Every couple of chapters I had to put the book down to yell about it on twitter!

And it was amazing.

Part of this is that it was so bad it was good entertaining, and part of it is that this is exactly what I have been asking for! I am a fan of ridiculous blockbuster adventure stories, that usually come with a huge helping of male gaze and unnecessary sex, and I have always said "I want that, but queer." And someone has written that! It exists! It was so bad, and yet I really want to get the rest of the series and see how the rest of it is! This is ridiculous and I love it.

7 and 8. Yotsuba&! Volumes 8 and 9: The adorable adventures of a four-year-old discovering the world! And hot air balloons! And festivals! ... Yotsuba is pretty much joy in handy, manga-sized packages, because she's just so excited about everything! I really like that the adults in her life are all actually adults with lives, who play along with her. It's so cute and happy. Plus, a lot of the stuff she pulls rings true from hanging out with my nieces...

Short stories and single issues

1. The Adventure of the Three Garridebs by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sherlock Christmas special brought out all of the critics of Sherlock Holmes – which is great and necessary – but left me pining for the original canon, and for someone to actually love and respect Watson. So... I went back to The Three Garridebs, which is completely unremarkable and quite silly except for being a story where Watson is loved? It feels like tropey hurt/comfort fic, and I am good with that!

2. Bitch Planet issue 6 by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Taki Soma: [Caution note: this commentary mentions suicide and self-harm; the issue contains all of these and also sexual assault.] Bitch Planet is back! YES, I'm very excited about this! This issue focuses on Meiko's backstory; one of the creators described her story as "she was burdened by the comfort of others until her heart broke" and the sheer amount of resonance – it's a familiar story, and like most things in this series, it's driven to an extreme by the world the creators built. It's also interesting to see that there are people acting against the system who aren't on Bitch Planet, and horrifying, because this is Bitch Planet. The white guy who is trying to be his own special idea of Japanese and essential buy a Japanese schoolgirl wife is awful enough, but he's one shitty human being. The hospital policy of separating girls who've self-harmed or attempted suicide from their mothers because it's always the mother's fault and might lead to behaviour that affects boys is just... Well, it's giving me flashbacks to the way current culture and media blame mothers now, so mission accomplished! (Plus respect to the creators for both including a caution note and an explanation of how the content will be used in the future, and for gracefully explaining to a guy that this might not be the place to come to complain that feminists make you sad.)

3. Mystery Girl #2 by Paul Tobin and Albert Alburquerque: Mystery Girl's first issue blew me away, because look! It's a woman solving mysteries in London! In a London that actually looks as multicultural as the real thing! And it's both fun and funny! And this issue is still good, but appears to be settling into its stride now, as it's slowed down a little and started making the degree of peril Trine's jumped into a little more explicit. (Trine's adventures across Europe: yes, I am interested into this. Douchebag murder-stalker? Not so much.) Also: her asshole boyfriend is getting his head set straight, finally.

4. Anne Bonnie #1 by Tim Yates: This was... Mostly forgettable, I'm afraid? There is an excitable red-head on a stolen pirate ship, and her guardian is angry about this? But that's pretty much the end of the series, so I

Books in progress: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (I enjoyed it, but I had to take a break after I realised the author wasn't the person I thought it was, which affected my reading experience in ways I wasn't expecting.) Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier (I will be fine once character show up, I'm sure! But I keep bouncing off the first chapter with its history lesson of the area.) The Heroic Legend of Arslan Volume 1 by Yoshiki Tanaka and Hiromu Arakawa (This is gorgeous and so far is setting up its world and primary conflicts really well, it's just a little slow so it's taking me a while to get through.)

Reading goal progress: I am front-loading all of my challenges this year, you might be able to tell!

Books read so far: 8/150
New-to-me female creators: 9/100
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub count: 2 3 (Third Degree, Curse of the Dragon God, and The Legend of Bold Riley; thank you [personal profile] dhampyresa for reminding me!)

So that's me for the fortnight, how's everyone else been doing?

Date: 2016-01-15 02:54 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (Yotsuba&! at play 1 (ohsnap_icons))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
Yotsuba&! is one of my very favorite things. I love seeing other people enjoy it. *^^*

Date: 2016-01-15 09:55 am (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
Impressive work! I'm only at 4 books so far this year.

I'm also glad to see you liked the Duchess War. It's currently sitting on my Mt TBR.

Date: 2016-01-20 12:28 am (UTC)
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
From: [personal profile] calissa
Graphic novels and manga totally count! At least, in my book :)

Mt TBR currently stands at 240 books (though that will go up tonight when I borrow some Ben Aaronovich off a friend).

(Also, hi! You know me on Twitter as @elizabeth_fitz)

Date: 2016-01-15 10:39 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
Bold Riley sounds nice.

For #unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub are you counting creators or creations?

Date: 2016-01-16 11:03 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
In that case you should be count Bold Riley too, I think.

Date: 2016-01-17 12:44 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Mystery Girl sounds like a lot of fun :) But what a shame Anne Bonnie isn't more so because female pirates for the win.

Date: 2016-01-17 07:29 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
The Curse of the Dragon God sounds like a glorious hot mess. See, this is the thing with representation: THEY ALL DON'T HAVE BE OSCAR WINNERS. I would also like queer mid-level romantic comedies, queer terrible fantasy movies, and queer action-adventure novels. (A QUEER NATIONAL TREASURE!)

I am also screaming about the fire breathing part.


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