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Q: Susan, where have you and your book column been?!
A: ... Y'know what, I don't even KNOW. I may have fallen into a black hole made of the same like, three fic for the entirety of March, because that's about all I remember?

... Seriously, I would like to discuss the awesome media I've been consuming but I don't think I've read anything for like a month. So... This is me trying to get back into the swing of things?

Books, graphic novels and manga read:
  1. Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

  2. Immortal in Death by J. D. Robb

  3. First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

  4. Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Steve Leiber, and Rachelle Rosenberg

  5. Rachel Aaron's 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

  6. Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawke

  7. Grave Sight Part 2 by Charlaine Harris, Denis Medri, William Harms

  8. Revival Deluxe Volume 1 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

  9. The Chase by Jesse J. Thoma

Books, graphic novels, manga

Cover of Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris Cover of Immortal in Death by J. D. Robb

1. Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris — I needed some comfort reading, and apparently that comfort reading was taking the form of murder mysteries this month! Grave Sight is not a particularly great mystery; Harper investigates, sure, but she's very much of the school of "I would rather be doing literally anything else because I am not law enforcement," which means that most of the book running away from the plot and the developments that don't happen off screen make it feel a lot like the police department could not give less of a fuck. But this also means that there's lots of space to get to know Harper and the people around her, and I am definitely here for that... Although I'm less here for the amount of time she spends locked up alone in a hotel, or explaining her problems to people? (I'm pretty sure that this book also has involved less of the victim-blaming stuff that seeps around the edges of Charlaine Harris books, but it's still there! GDI.) ... I dunno, it just felt that a lot of the mystery resolution got crammed into the last few chapters? But it served its purpose as entertaining comfort reading with a focus on characters, so I'm happy!

(Also please note the emphasis on Harper and Tolliver as step-siblings in this book, because that is sure never gonna come up again. Nope. Not even once.)

2. Immortal in Death by J. D. Robb — Hello trashy comfort read, how are you? (I would feel more weird about terrible crime novels being my comfort reading if I didn't know so many little old ladies who felt the same.) As it is... It was a fairly standard J. D. Robb book? Eve continues being terrible at emotions, Roarke continues to an ass who is mostly bearable when he is embarrassed, and the murderer continues to be obvious pretty much from the introduction of the character. (I know at SOME point Eve gets to the point where she solves crimes before the real murderer attempts to kill her, but so far... Pffft.) It wasn't great, but it was kinda entertaining? I'm kinda appalled at how much conflict of interest there is in letting someone investigate a crime their best friend is accused of though.

Cover of First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton Cover of Alabaster: Wolves

3. First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton — This is a really weird blast from the past, in that Enid Blyton was A FIXTURE of my childhood reading, but I never read a Malory Towers book the whole way through because those were my little sister's and we rarely openly liked the same things. But regardless, this was an odd experience because it felt like such a different world – such tiny classes, in such an isolated little bubble! Such clear moral lessons! Such bizarre gender essentialism! Man, it was... Weird, but kinda comforting, even with some of the awkward "Here is where we learn an Important Moral Lesson" scenes.

4. Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Steve Leiber, and Rachelle Rosenberg — Okay, I am really intrigued by this. A teenage girl who might be mad or might actually be in contact with angels travels around post-apocalyptic America running into werewolves and talking birds (and killing things). I didn't realise it was set in the US when I picked it up – I thought it looked like a generic fantasy story! I like the art, I like most of the characters, I'm cautiously intrigued by the worldbuilding and a character who hunts monsters at the behest of an angel and still isn't sure about a) her sanity and b) how moral any part of that is, c) whether or not this is an abusive relationship. I'm not completely sold on yet another storyline where local perception is "and then the local slave owner was ~magically murdered~ and he became more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine" (Q: Susan, just how common a trope is that? A: COMMON ENOUGH.), but... I'm intrigued? If I could work out where this volume fell in the series I'd probably get into it.

Cover of 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron Cover of Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker

5 and 6. Rachel Aaron's 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron and Take Off Your Pants! By Libbie Hawker — Q: Susan, are you really more embarrassed to admit that you read books on writing novels than you are by the trashy gay porn you've already fessed up to?
A: ... Yes? Apparently? *helpless gesticulating*

So it turns all of the rhetoric about how reading writing advice books means you're not a real writer (because obviously if you were a real writer you'd be writing, not reading about skill building) turns into burning shame inside me at the idea of admitting that I read them? Which is not a thing that I consciously knew about myself before I started this post but do now! How useful.

I prefer 2,000 to 10,000; it's clearly written, it's interesting and entertaining, and the steps are all ones I can follow immediately and fit with my preferred writing/planning style. It helps that I can actually remember all of the steps for this method; Take Off Your Pants has a similar premise of the importance of outlining to writing quickly, but it's a lot more granular and detailed, so it's harder for me to remember the steps. ... I'm not going to lie, my main memory of Libbie Hawker's approach is "exhaustion".

It probably doesn’t help that something about Take Off Your Pants rubs me up the wrong way. I don't know if it was the example she was using (Please tell me more about how your female character has to humble herself and realise her dreams don't apply anymore, that sounds fascinating. Oh, and she's Pocahontas? Fucking marvellous.), or if it's the fact that every time she talked about her opinion that her books are good, my automatic reaction was "So you're all that and a plate of chips then?" before I caught up with myself and stopped. Realising that you still have an internalised misogyny button and that it goes off when a woman is confident about her work? Not a fun feeling. That's no reflection on the books – I'm really happy that the author is confident in her work! – but holy fuck did it make for an uncomfortable reading experience until I realised what I was doing.

Another thing I have learned about myself, which on the one hand is good! Because I'm learning and now I can knock that shit off. On the other hand... self, seriously, what are you doing, that's awful.

But, yes, I really think that 2,000 to 10,000 is good and helpful (especially the chapter on editing, because goodness me but I need all the help I can get with that), but I don't feel like I can give a fair opinion on Take Off Your Pants.

Cover of Grave Sight Part Two Cover for Revival Deluxe Volume 1

7. Grave Sight Part 2 by Charlaine Harris, Denis Medri, William Harms — I don't know if I would have noticed if I hadn't read the novel the same week, but it's really weird what they've chosen to keep and what to cut from the novel, especially because what I noticed them cutting tiny things that were either a plot point ("I was wearing a bright blue parka, expressly so hunters can't fail to notice me" which is relevant when people start shooting at her) or establish her character. I dunno, I feel like Harper being the sort of person who looks a guy in the eyes and asks if he's planning to rape her (It's a HORRIFYING question but seriously, the fact that that is her question says a lot about her) (SPOILERS: he isn't) or breaks into a police officer's house because it will solve the plot faster... Kinda matters? It feels like they chose to cut the stuff that made her a prickly nineties protagonist, which somehow makes her feel a bit more generic.
I like Harper's character design (I'm pretty sure she's not that punk rock in the books, but I'm fine with that?), and I think she looks quite cool! But I still feel like the story has had some of the edges knocked off it and I can't follow the logic.

8. Revival Deluxe Volume 1 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton. — I'm sure this is the fifth story I've seen lately with the plot of "Dead people come back to life in small town America!", but this is the first one I've seen where the town gets quarantined and investigated to make sure this isn't going to spread. There are bits that are blatantly there to manipulate my emotions (Basically anything involving the tiny dead girl), but they do it really effectively, and the horror manages to encompass body horror, creeping sense of dread, humans being assholes and gross (I am looking at you, Professor Sleeping With Your Students), and I'm not sure I have a good read on the main characters yet, but it's good enough that I got the second volume out of the library. I'm mainly invested in the sibling relationship in the middle of this story ... and in hoping that neither of the sisters go mad.

(The cover art though is so good.)

Cover for The Chase by Jesse J. Thoma

9. The Chase by Jesse J. Thoma — This was excellent. It was a pulpy crime drama with so much ridiculous u-turns in feelings ("I just really need you to admit it was your fault and apologise that someone tried to shoot you!" one of the leads says to the other, in all seriousness.) and silliness from the villains like "here is an apology card with a puppy on it for nearly shooting you." Holt is almost too good to be true (she is a buff, attractive, tattooed bounty hunter who is a stern but fair boss whose staff would do anything for her... Who is also an expert boxer, runs for charity, and wears bullet proof suits to formal occasions), and I am so excited because you know what? I am here for almost-too-good-to-be-true lesbian romances, and it's not like there's a surplus. It's pretty much my feelings about The Curse of the Dragon God – I don't need it to be the best book ever, I need it to be an entertaining queer adventure romance! And this is definitely entertaining, because I enjoyed pretty much every minute of it.

Books in Progress

Carol by Patricia Highsmith (This is a lot more... Tense? Than the movie? Like, I'm only a couple of chapters in and there's this constant background anxiety to the atmosphere?). Rapture In Death by J. D. Robb (Hey look, an actual bisexual character! Who is referred to AS BI! ... Yeah, he's hella dead.). The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (One of my friends has lent this to me! The art I've seen is really cool, it's just weird to see the movie they THOUGHT they were making.) Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang (... The protagonist finds things and has maths as a superpower! I really like her!) Generation X Volume 1 by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Chris Bachalo, Roger Cruz, Andy Kubert, Joe Madureira, and Chris Bachalo (Oh wow, I forgot quite how nineties this was! I thought this art was awesome when I was a kid, and now...)

Reading Goals

Books read so far: 37/150 (9 new this post)
New-to-me female creators: 18/100 (Novels, 5 new this post), 11/100 (Short stories; I did read more since I last posted, but I'm keeping my commentary on those for next time so that I can actually finish this post. Suffice to say: there is a lot!)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub count: 1 (... That's really disappointing to me, especially because the amount of long fanfic I've been reading tricked me into thinking that I'd read a decent amount of queer lit. I'm going to have to do better in the next fortnight. And I also have a stack of lesbian crime novels almost as tall as I am.)

So, how's everyone else doing? I'm assuming not everyone checked out during March, so how have your reading projects been going?

Date: 2016-04-08 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
I read Daughter of Hounds by Kiernan years ago (erm, I've just checked and it was 8 years ago. Eight. How did *that* happen) and I always meant to read more by her, she has such interesting ideas. Alabaster sounds like one I should try.

Date: 2016-04-10 03:36 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
Yeah, Carol is more of a thriller than its film adaptation, which makes sense for Highsmith.

I really loved flipping through The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and seeing the design process! Especially that period where all the designers REALLY get into faceless masks, which ended up on those smugglers Han Solo gets on the wrong end of.

Date: 2016-04-10 10:43 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
Alabaster Wolves sounds nice and 2k to 10k is great.

Date: 2016-04-21 10:28 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
I found it super useful! I went digging in my journal for a review (here, but very short) and was reminded of this quote:

There are no writing police. This is your story, no one else's. Tell it like you want to.



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