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OKAY, GUYS, WE NEED TO TALK. I mentioned this before, but I accidentally blew a day off doing nothing but reading like twenty volumes of BL manga. And quite frankly, I love all y'all, but I do not have time to review twenty volumes of anything for one post. So, here's what we're doing: for the next month or so, posts are going to keep going until we end up with either eight books or 3000-3500 words, whichever comes second. Does this sound fair?

(This does mean that I'm now running enough books to have a five-post lead on myself, in theory, so hopefully things are gonna be a little more regular from here on out!)

Also, just for the purposes of the Accidental Month of BL, ANYTHING IN THE LIST WITH AN ASTERISK NEXT TO IT COMES WITH A TRIGGER WARNING FOR ATTEMPTED OR ACTUAL NON-CONSENSUAL/DUBIOUSLY CONSENSUAL SEX. I'm sticking navigation links in as well so you can just read the ones that interest you. Let me know if that works for people so I've got a chance to change it up for next time?

Books, graphic novels and manga read:
  1. Hate to Love You by Makoto Tateno * [Jump]

  2. Love Round!! by Hinako Takanaga [Jump]

  3. Liberty Liberty by Hinako Takanaga [Jump]

  4. We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant [Jump]

  5. White Guardian by Duo Brand * [Jump]

  6. Lover's Flat by Hyouto Fujiyama [Jump]

  7. Your Honest Deceit by Sakufu Ajimne [Jump]

  8. Skyscrapers of Oz by Yoshino Somei and Row Takakura * [Jump]


Books, graphic novels, manga



Cover of Hate to Love You Cover of Love Round Cover of Liberty Liberty Cover of We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire


1. Hate to Love You by Makoto Tateno [Top]
Okay, it straight up took me ten minutes to remember what the plot and premise of this manga was so that I could write this review, that might be a slight upon it. It's not terrible, it's just a bit forgettable.

The plot, as I recall, is children of two rival property management companies who manage to fall in love despite being technically forbidden from being friends. I'm not gonna lie, the "I don't like you all the time but damn do I love you anyway" trope is one that I quite like, so I enjoy that aspect of the book! But oh my days ninety percent of the problems in this book could be solved by characters actually talking to each other, so it was super frustrating. (Ask me how salty I am that the characters can't talk about their feelings, or how long people will be out of the country, or... Literally anything at all! It kinda made me want to shake the book and demand to know if everyone is deliberately trying to be a terrible boyfriend.)

As for the rest of it, there is an explicitly-labelled bisexual character! I can think of maybe... Three of those in manga? But on the flip-side, he is creeping on a guy still in school, so I'm coming down firmly on the dammit manga side of things. And the female character's response to being caught up in all of this drama was entertaining and mean, so I'm fine with her too. :)

(FAIR WARNING: there is a couple of instances of sexual harrassment against the protagonist by secondary characters, proceed with caution?)

The sidestory is... Not to my taste! Supremely not to my taste! Stalking, and then the original stalker being stalked in return! And super sketchy sex! It was so not for me that it burned.

In conclusion: it wasn't terrible, but it was mostly forgettable. I'd borrow it off someone or the library rather than paying money for it.

2. Love Round!! by Hinako Takanaga [Top]
Q: Is the central drama of this story really "I don't look as masculine as I want to and I am going to punch anyone who mentions it, especially this clueless boxer who wants to date me?
A: It sure seems to be.

Literally: The protagonist is a boxer who wants his love interest's one-hit KO punch, the love interest wants to be built like the protagonist. Together, they train at the gym and fail at functional relationships!

The boxer is ridiculously socially incompetent (I'm just saying that "announcing you want to bang your boyfriend on live tv" is maybe not the way to choice I would have gone with!), which is almost matched by his boyfriend having a beserk button about his looks. ... I am not kidding, there was a recap page like "And here is a professional boxer getting knocked out twenty times!" The plot is pretty straight-forward, the art and the characters are cute... It's not bad! I could have done without the characters making idiots of themselves, but apart from that it's okay!

3. Liberty Liberty! by Hinako Takanaga [Top]

I really liked this one -- of the manga in this post, this is probably the one I enjoyed most? It's a sweet story about a cameraman for a local tv station and the drunk university drop-out he finds in the rubbish! Itaru, the drunk university drop-out, accidentally breaks Kouki's camera while Kouki's on the job, gets hired on at the tv station until he can pay for the camera, and... Gets back to being a functioning human being!

I liked that this had a tiny smidge of a mystery for the plot, and a little bit about the workings of a tiny tv station! (I have no idea how plausible any of the workings are, for the record; I'm not even sure we have local tv stations in the UK.) Plus, the relationship is slow-burny as anything, and forces its less healthy aspects to sit down and grow up, which is a thing I can get behind.

The thing that really got me about this book is -- the reason that Itaru was a drunk university drop-out was that he wrote a story that got plagiarised by someone who wrote it better! And Itaru explains that what he wanted from this plagiarism debacle -- all he wanted by the end of it -- was for someone to show him sympathy. For someone to agree with him that what happened was terrible and the person who stole his work was a shit, even if nothing can be done. *clutches face* We have been there. Maybe not about plagiarism, but I'm pretty sure we have all been there. (And the ending of that storyline is pretty great.) And the discussion of when you can stand and fight in the face of something unfair and unjust happening to you (Especially with no support!) is one that pinged with me as a conversation we have round our part of the internet.

Plus, I like that it's not "Kouki puts Itaru back together", it's "Kouki accidentally provides a couple of safe spaces for Itaru to put himself back together." This is important too! And it's nice to see Itaru growing and fixing himself!

And, and, look! The main female character, Kurumi, is a transwoman! Who is excited and happy and dedicated to her job and protective of her friends! The book is sometimes a bit... *makes face* about her transness, but look! She's not a punchline! She's not a joke! She's a whole character with a boyfriend and a job that she loves! *face clutches* Kouki outs her within a page of her being introduced, which soured me on him a bit, and Itaru ends up asking a) if Kouki has feelings for other men "because Kurumi-san is a guy" (nooooo) and b) asking her to give him a make-over because... He thinks Kouki is into that? I don't even. And Itaru trying to be more like her alternates between "because she is wonderful!" (Yay! Good life choices!) and "Because Kouki liked her!" (Boo! Bad basis for a decision!)

Overall, it's a bit uneven? But I really enjoyed it!

4. We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant [Top]
Okay, what you need to know about me before we get started: I am from Manchester! I live in the Midlands now, but I am pretty thoroughly a Manchester lass. And y'all know that So the pitch [personal profile] bookgazing gave of "lesbian gangsters in Manchester" was pretty much the best way to sell this book to me. :D :D :D

The story revolves around Donna, the leader of the aforementioned lesbian gangsters, Carla's daughter Aurora, and the effect on both of them when Carla is murdered.

(Q: Susan, is the inciting incident for this book a dead queer?
A: Wait and hear me out on this one. We'll get there)

First of all though! The narration style felt very stream-of-conciousness to me -- it's in present tense and there's no speech marks in this book, the dialogue is all woven into the description, which works for me and may not work for others! It felt like the more lyrical version of someone sitting down with you and just talking, especially the way in the way it wove past and present together, and it really worked for me. But it wasn't just that -- the narrative voice sounds right to me, to the point that reading this book actually had the same effect on me as talking to my family -- it moved my accent back a hundred miles north and across the Pennines. A+ character voice.

Plus, I recognised so many of the places and streets! It's so weird to get that little thrill of recognition and be able to actually picture exactly where the character means! (Like, the description of Strangeways is pretty much how I remember it too! And there was an off-hand mention of my hometown! I was disproportionately excited about this.) The unintentional racism (of the characters, not the narrative) rings sadly true as well, because... Yeah. Welcome to my home city.

And now that we've talked about the window dressing, let's talk about the actual book.

First of all: the relationships in this book are great. Donna and Carla's relationship (with the trust and love and history and genuine frustration!) The relationship that Donna and Carla didn't have though is amazing too and breaks my heart, especially for how clearly Donna wants it and can't even think about it? And Carla clearly adores her daughter, and the Bronte Close Gang are so close, and they want to protect each other and hurt the people who hurt them! (Plus, respect for the way each of these women get built in tiny details that layer and layer until you get a whole picture.)

(*sniffles over Carla spotting weeds growing around paving slabs her back yard and IMMEDIATELY fixing it because yep, I know those people*)

I liked Aurora too, especially because she's such a kid. She's trying to look after people and it's not working, and she's cocking up in massive ways and doesn't mean to. (... I ended up just putting my head in my hands over bits of her section, and it's like... Yes, this reminds me of some of my nieces. God, Ror, don't do that.) Her reaction to her mum's death and her grandma's inability to look after her breaks my heart.

Which leads me back to where we came in: Carla's death. I have seen concerns about the fact that the inciting incident of the plot is the murder of a queer woman, because this year and queer characters dying, but I... Actually think this book does it about the best way you can do it.

A queer woman dies, but it doesn't feel like she was being stuffed back in the refrigerator. A queer woman dies, but it's treated like the tragedy it is. A queer woman dies, but she's part of a community.

Pretty much all but two of the adult women in this book are queer. When everyone in the story is queer, it felt less like the creator was making a point about queers and their right to survive a story! (Compare and contrast the stories where the one queer character dies. Where both queer characters die. Where it is definitely, undeniably, because they're queer. This is BETTER THAN THAT.)

Related: LOOK AT THIS FUCKING COMMUNITY OF QUEER HARDCASES, THIS IS GLORIOUS! It's not the "here is a network of lesbians who know three or four other lesbains" I'm used to from the romances and crime novels I've read, it's networks of groups and individual communities that make up greater ones! Yes. Especially for the moment where Donna puts the call out and gets such a response.

On the flip side, I don't think it sticks the landing. Aurora's storyline felt a little too easily dealt with, and I was thoroughly salty about the end of Donna's. Like, the very very end is the blatant set up for a sequel that I would read, but the chapter or two before that: nope.

In conclusion: I REALLY LIKED THIS BOOK, y'all should take [personal profile] bookgazing's recs because her taste is stellar.

Cover of White Guardian Lover's Flat Cover of Your Honest Deceit Cover of Skyscrapers of Oz


5. White Guardian Volume One by Duo Brand [Top]
Hooooooooooooboy. This could have been REALLY RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS! A general, who is attempting to die in combat rather than through political backstabbing, gets recruited as a bodyguard by the crown prince to help him weed out all of the corruption at court! Aw man, a BL manga where the plot is politics and trying to be a good king and --

Oh. That's a lot more rape than that summary led me to expect. And that's both of the other main characters who're rapists who are both actively forgiven and offered a job! WHAT. WHAT WHAT WHAT. Like, I am disgustingly used to BL manga having one of the partners being a rapist/committing sexual assault and still wanting me to cheer for them, but TWO?! JESUS FUCK, GUYS. NO.

I mean, the art style is a bit old but I like the look of the characters? I like the idea of this setting? I like that the plot theoretically revolves around politics and a dedicated bodyguard! I like that the series goes "Look, ex-lovers who were happy and dedicated to each other!" because not all series bother? But oh god that's more rape than I want, that is awful, why are you forgiving that man when you're still — no, I'm not finishing that sentence, I'm still growling about that scene. D: D: D:

6. Lover's Flat by Hyouto Fujiyama [Top]
This was another one where I could remember the broad strokes of what happened but not the specifics. *facepalm*

Okay, so, plot! (I am learning how to actually put descriptions of the plot into things because that is Not My Skill Set, I am learning. ;_; )There are two couples! Natsu and Kounu are students who have a friends-with-benefits relationship, which would be fine if Kouno didn't have an unreciprocated crush on Natsu! They live next door to Naomichi, whose roommate Kei just confessed his love, much to his surprise.

Okay, apart from "not being able to remember the specifics of the story a day after reading it", I really enjoyed Lover's Flat! There's a lot of cute things going on with the younger couple, Natsu and Kounu! The drama is primarily miscommunications, but also has some great fights and declarations of love and support (and setting up boundaries, yay!).

The other couple I was less invested in? I can appreciate a story about people not being ready for sex or not being sure they want it with this person, but something about the way this story handled it pinged me as weird — possibly it's just Naomichi's responses to things, which are a bit odd. But I do like the way the relationship resolves and the whole book ends with mostly-functioning adults, so it evens out I think?

I don't necessarily like the art though? The faces look slightly wonky to me and I can't put my finger on why, and in some of the sex scenes I was literally squinting at the page going "I cannot work out what the fuck is going on there." But things like the fist fight in the middle of the story are laid out really well and make me happy.

But yes: not bad! One of the three manga in this post that I would actually read again.

7. Your Honest Deceit by Sakufu Ajimne [Top]
GAY LAWYERS! (It turns out that in my notes, I didn't even put the title of this book. I just wrote GAY LAWYERS in big letters with love hearts.) I 100% approve of cheerful bisexual lawyers and their stoic, competent assistants with their INTENSE FEELY CENTRES.

Kuze had a crush on his law professor at university, ended up working for him as an assistant(?) and then, uh, ends up confessing his love? The story is very simple and straightforward! There's not really conflict as much as minor misunderstandings, and the most dramatic thing is that the Stoic Competent one is really anxious and insecure underneath! That is fine, those are fanfic tropes I really like as well. Like, I was going to say "Yes, this appeals to my Phoenix Wright craving", but ACTUALLY, I think the tropes are the same as a lot of Arthur/Eames fic, especially for Kuze. He is so stoic and keeps all of his emotions closed in, and he feels really intensely! And he is in love with someone who is slightly squishier in feels and periodically has no idea how to deal with any of this!

(There are NICE SUITS as well. I 100% approve this trend.)

The sidestories are mostly forgettable, but have the benefit of not being actively gross like some of the other ones I read, so that's good! I like that the conflict is over cuddles and "I want to be grown-up and reliable so you can depend on me!" and "That is fine, but you're adorable as you are." ... Seriously, when I say it's forgettable I mean I just flicked through it so I could write this review and it's completely gone already, that's not a good sign. But as a whole, the volume's pretty good and I enjoyed it!

8. Skyscrapers of Oz by Yoshino Somei and Row Takakura [Top]
... You know what, no. Let's just run through this one.

  • It's got a "handyman" organisation of two guys who will do any job that comes to them! That is my jam! I love Gangsta, I used to love GetBackers, this could totally be my thing!

  • It looked like the two adults in the group were dating and I was like "Yes, this is my jam!" AND THEN NOPE. SUPER WRONG ON THAT SCORE.

  • Okay, so your plot is "We are being paid to seduce this kid so he can be blackmailed later, AND THEN STUFF." ... That sound was my interest leaving. Like, the relationship development is... Fine...? "I was hired to ruin your life but ACTUALLY you're pretty great" is a standard enough action plot, it just doesn't feel like this manga did much with it.

  • The plot is predictable. Like, I guessed both of the twists from pretty much the moment they said "hey, here's our mission!"

  • Oh wow, the text is dense in this one. I don't know if it's because it was adapted from a novel or just due to a quirk of the creators, but fucking hell there is a lot of text on every page. It makes everything feel cramped and squashed to me?

  • Oh, oh you're doing the classic BL thing of "the only female character we need is a villain!" (Even better: a villain with a fetish for nubile young men! Why is this a trope?!

  • ... Y'know, I might be reading this wrong, but I'm pretty sure that their client was paying them to seduce someone on camera, and then attempted to have a character raped to motivate someone else. Because that is her fetish. :\ That is a Very Special way of applying the fridge, I guess?

  • The art is old school but not bad. Yoichi's character design is one I like a lot, because apparently muscley dudes in glasses in my jam!


I was just... Bored, with this one. Like, I will forgive a book a lot of things, but being boring is not one of them. And when something is boring and having pairings where I'm not particularly invested in the outcome? *makes face*

Books in Progress


Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Cozy crime with recipes! Yeeeees, come to me, even if I'm going to have to translate you into real measurements because cups confuse me!).

Reading Goals


Books read so far: 77/150 (8 new this post -- also it's really weird coming back to this number, because my GR count is like 113 now.)
New-to-me female creators: 38/100 (8 new this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub count: 8! YES! THIS IS WHAT I AM AFTER! *does a dance*

(For those wondering, the word count came to about 3700. Apparently I have thoughts on yaoi.)
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