spindizzy: (*jedi powers*)
[personal profile] spindizzy posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Books, Graphic Novels and Manga Read:
  1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki [Jump]

  2. Dark Times by Robert M. Ball [Jump]

  3. I Love This Part by Tillie Walden [Jump]

  4. First Impressions by Kate Calloway [Jump]

  5. Monstress Volume One by Majorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda [Jump]

  6. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel [Jump]

  7. Fresh Romance Volume One by Sarah Kunh [Jump]

  8. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume 2 by Kore Yamazaki [Jump]

  9. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume 3 by Kore Yamazaki [Jump]

Books, Graphic Novels and Manga read:

Cover of This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki Cover of Dark Times by Robert M. Ball Cover of I Love This Part by Tillie Walden

1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Oh wow, this was good. It's a quiet story about two families that meet up for summers by the lake, focusing on the children of the families, Rose and Windy, and it has so many good things about it. The art is gorgeous, especially for all of the landscapes and backgrounds. It is so good at showing how drama can fly over your head as a child; both of the girls know something is wrong in town and in Rose's family, and the way that kids try to parse what's going on and often end up picking sides based on what little they do understand. (The explanation of what is going on is really well handled and I really felt for Rose's mum.)

It's got a focus on friendships, which is cool, and Rose's relationship with her mother, which is nice. (The resolution of Rose and her mother! ;____; ) I think it's also quite cool that it shows Rose's attempts to try to be cool and impress older kids (because she has a crush on terribly inappropriate kids and spends half the book trying to hide it from Windy) and Windy being so brave as she tries to stand up to Rose when this makes her a less-than-kind person.

It's got a kinda untidy resolution, but it's in an intentional-seeming way because of the POV characters being children and due to the family's status as... Outsiders, really? They can pack up and leave all of the drama of the summer behind them, and they don't know most of the actual residents enough for the context. I liked it!

2. Dark Times by Robert M. Ball
I ended up putting this book down at the end and informing it that yes, I did in fact understand what it was doing, I just wasn't entertained by it. I didn't like the art styles (and in some cases I was repulsed by them!), I was actively bored by the stories because they were predictable as hell. Not recommended.

3. I Love This Part by Tillie Walden
I talked about this one over at The Lesbrary, but the tl;dr is that it's quite cute and has an interesting format, but I have Issues with the story itself.

Cover of First Impressions by Kate Calloway Cover of Monstress Volume One by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda Cover of The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For by

4. First Impressions by Kate Calloway
I have a review of this one going up at The Lesbrary next week, I'll add a link here when it goes live. The short version of it is that while I am baffled by some of the choices in the story, it's a pretty solid mystery with a somewhat dubious last few chapters. I liked the characters and I liked the romance... Although I've already read book three in the series so I know how that one's going to shake out.

5. Monstress Volume 1 by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
I think at least half of the [community profile] ladybusiness editors have mentioned that Monstress is good, but I am going to join this chorus: Monstress is incredible.

First, the art: it is consistently gorgeous. All of the characters are gorgeously drawn and distinct from each other, the backgrounds are costumes are intricate and beautiful, and even the most horrific scenes and scars are

Second: holy shit, there are so many women. Like, it's completely unremarked upon in the comic itself, but there's maybe two named male characters and maybe a handful of male background characters, and I'm just here like "YES, VINDICATION!" And they're all different shapes and sizes and I just want to roll around in this knowledge. Most of the significant relationships in Monstress are between women! A mother/daughter relationship is important! THAT'S AMAZING.

Third: the story, oh my god. Monstress is about how surviving what comes after the war is sometimes worse than surviving the war itself; about the ways people become monstrous, literally and metaphorically. There was a war between humans (specifically the Cumea, an order of... Scientist sorceresses, as far as I can tell) and Arcanics (who seem to look mostly human but might have say, wings, or a fox tail), who the Cumea seem to regard as sub-humans who can be converted into fuel for magic. Maika is an Arcanic trying to avenge her mother, which goes even worse than you might expect considering that there are dead gods involved with this mess and Maika possibly literally becoming a monster.

The mysteries are so complex and weave together well, and there are so many factions in play and it's complex and delicious, even as I'm clutching my face in horror because everything is awful and terrible things are happening to the characters. I cannot recommend it highly enough, or with more caution warnings for war crimes and starvation and horrific deaths.

... Also there are magical talking cats with multiple tales, if that sways you more than anything else.

6. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
Hey look, it's the classic of lesbian comics! Look! It's a combo of political commentary and queer soap opera covering the late eighties through to... 2007 or 2008, I think.

When I mentioned to the other Lady Business editors that I'd just finished this, [personal profile] owlmoose said it was a fascinating historical document, and I think that's a really good way of looking at it. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For is super political, and it's fascinating to see how her characters change in their approach to queerness, gender, politics, and family as time goes on, and how their attitude to one affects the others. A lot of the older political commentary went over my head (Not to make anyone feel old, but the first strip in this collection is from before I was born.), but the closer it got to the present day that more I could actually recognise.

It's really cool to watch Alison Bechdel's art style grow and change. It's what? Thirty years of comics, give or take? Especially as this and the Paloma side of Love and Rockets are the only comics I've read where I've got to see the characters really grow over such a long period of time, so I enjoyed that aspect of it a lot, even as some of it made me sad. Picture me yelling "NO MO, YOU DESERVE BETTER THAN HER SHIT!" and wailing over characters breaking up when I was desperately rooting for them to stay together. THIS IS WHY I DON'T WATCH SOAPS, GUYS, MY SHIPPER HEART CAN'T TAKE IT.

Cover of Fresh Romance Volume One Cover of The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume Two Cover of The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume Three

7. Fresh Romance Volume 1
I've been following Fresh Romance in digital form, and I like large swathes of it! It's an anthology-style comic serialising het and queer romances (my heart!), and this volume is a hardcopy collection of the first... Year's worth of comics? Or at least the not-actively-ongoing ones. (I am really sad that Rosy Press is closing because it means that there won't be more issues!) I'm going to take this story by story, because just going "These are quite good!" *handwaves at entire book* is not actually helpful.

School Spirit by Kate Leth and Arielle Jovellanos -- This is a complicated set of relationships and misdirections. Malie and Justine are competing to win Miles, while their best friend Corrine watches from the sidelines... Except that actually Malie and Justine are a couple keeping it quiet because their parents are homophobic, and Miles and Corrine are also keeping their relationship quiet because literal wizards.

Yeah, the magic subplot took me by surprise as well.

Without spoilers: I don't feel like this one got as much of a resolution as I would have wanted for a story with this many drama vectors. There are hints of additional drama (like Malie's rockstar father and her mother's death) and Corrine's impending transfer to wizard school), but it just... Leaves them there. It'll all good drama, mind you, it just doesn't seem to stick the landing.

Ruined by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Winifred Searle -- Who is it in my social group who likes Regency marriage of convenience stories? [twitter.com profile] readingtheend? [twitter.com profile] clairerousseau? Whoever it was: look!

Catherine, Our Heroine has been ruined (by what looks like a consensual relationship that made her happy, the horror), and is quickly married off to Andrew, who needs her dowry to put his house back together. This doesn't feel as much like a standalone story as the other stories in this volume. Maybe it's not! It hadn't been continued in any of the individual issues I'd read, so I'm not sure. There's are things that feel like blatant plot threads for later (Andrew's sister and her creepy controlling guardian,and Andrew being able to see well enough to shoot but not well enough that he doesn't need to be directed around trip hazards. On the plus side, the story actually addresses that Andrew and Catherine never met before their wedding, so their wedding night can... Not. Good job, exceeded minimum standards for a regency romance!

Ruby Equation by Sarah Kuhn and Sally Jane Thompson -- Hmmmm. Hm. Hmmm. I'm not sure how I feel about this one. The art is good and I like all of the characters, but... Hm.

See, the premise is that Ruby dislikes love, but has been assigned to work in a coffee shop and help people get together. Once she has matched up enough people, she will be allowed to move on to a job more in line with her interests... Except that auditing went through and declared most of her matches didn't count because they didn't lead to long-lasting relationships, so she has to make one AMAZING match for someone who hates love.

... Guys, I am so done with "Woman who dislikes love must must find love" as a trope. I am so done. Especially because I read Ruby as aromantic. Especially because of the subtext of "how do you feel about giving up/delaying your career goals for love?" Especially because the premise kinda feels like some arbitrary person has just gone "this relationship isn't important because it wasn't a lasting romantic one" when neither of those things are a requirement for importance. (What sort of bullshit organisation does Ruby work for?!)

This is very much an "It's not you, it's me," complaint, the actual comic itself is fine, I like all of the characters! I like the art! I just... It's just that I am supremely done with the tropes it uses and that makes me sad.

Beauties by Marguerite Bennett and Trungles -- Hey look, it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast is the one captured by the merchant and his daughters! Beauties did really well at keeping the fairy tale feeling; it has that lyrical sort of prose, and the art is very detailed and finely drawn, all of it working together to make a fairy tale about people changing each other and how people mistake possession for love.

First, Last & Always by Keiron Gillen and Christine Norrie -- True story: I completely forgot this was in here. I remember the premise -- it's about someone whose first kiss with a new person gives them a vision of their last kiss -- but I remember literally nothing else about it. I can't help you, guys.

8. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume 2 by Kore Yamazaki
(Caution warning: this volume involves many dead cats, all of whom died badly, and I have been advised that I should warn for this.)

In this book: Chise has to deal with a hostage situation, meets a nice ghost, and makes friends with a Good Dog! ... Okay, I'm being glib. This volume resolves the king of cats/exorcism storyline from the first volume, by showing Chise the events that led to the giant blob of rage and hatred that's infesting the local area. I really enjoyed how that went down, especially because it shows that Chise is fundamentally kind-hearted. She tries to stop Mina going into the shed her husband was using as a lab, because she knows what's in there! She doesn't value her own life one single bit, but she values the lives of others enough that she can't accept a solution that doesn't end with everyone alive or able to move on because she values other people. I can't even deal with that.

(Can I take a second to appreciate how she uses the imagery of flowers for her magic, because even if she's not fond of them, she understands how that works!)

I don't remember feeling any particular surprise in the face of the reveal about Sleigh Beggy's fate. I was a little surprised by how upfront Elias was being that he is using her -- not so much because of what he's saying, although honestly I'm more comfortable with "Yes, she can totally teach me about feelings" than "Yes, I want to marry that one on sight," but because he's actually putting it into words. (CHISE BE LESS CHILL ABOUT THIS YOU PRECIOUS ANGEL CHILD. God, you are the worst person to teach Elias about human emotions, because you are both as bad as each other.)

I like that a lot of what Chise is learning is not about magic but about interacting with things around her, and doing practical things that she can't kill herself with, like growing plants. It's nice to see Chise invested in the world around her, okay?

Okay, and now we get to Church Grim story, which I am disproptionately invested in for how little time it takes. People are attacked at a churchyard, and some believe that a Black Dog is responsible! (Spoilers, it is not the Black Dog.) Chise encounters the dog, who thinks he's people (literally; and I am kinda grateful that the story was just like "nah, we're not gonna have anyone hold the idiot ball on this one, he is blatantly a dog.) and that she has a lot in common with his former mistress. (... I'm just saying, dog, you are red/green colourblind. The fuck do you know about your Isabel's hair/eye colour that you're confident enough to talk about how beautifully red her hair was or how green her eyes?) I like Chise being competent at defending herself, and taking steps to protect herself and everyone else!

... I am really glad this book has more of Renfred and Alice, the antagonists of the King of Cats storyline! Their relationship is fun, it seems like the slightly less fucked-up mirror to Chise and Elias (all of their drama seems to be external to the relationship, rather than due to who they are as people, and their mentor/student relationship feels... Honestly more balanced? Like, Alice still believes she owes Renfred her life, but I's still presented in a marginally more functional way than the way Chise thinks she owes Elias hers. PLEASE BE FRIENDS AND GET TO BEING FUNCTIONAL HUMAN BEINGS, YOU TWO.)

I am still very emotionally invested in Chise's story, is what I'm taking from this, not gonna lie, I'm so glad that I found this series.

9. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume 3 by Kore Yamazaki
This volume picks up pretty much exactly where the last one left off: MONSTER!ELIAS. MONSTER!ELIAS FACING OFF AGAINST A CHIMERIC MONSTROSITY. The contrast between Elias as he usually is (very careful and gentle with Chise) and the way Monster!Elias is with her (casually throwing her aside like a broken toy and the Church Grim taking over) are handled really well visually, and it's a really interesting contrast to how Chise treats him -- that is, exactly the same regardless of what he looks like or how monstrous he is. She's not scared of him! Because Elias physically hurting her is not what she's scared of and I am just *flips table*

(I like all of the different perspectives we get on Elias by the way; he's a monster and a family friend and a thing between worlds or something incomplete and an idiot adopted son and... Whatever he is to Chise. I like seeing things like that and comparing what aspects of someone different characters a) get to see and b) pay attention to.)

As for the rest of the volume...
  • Josef is definitely unnerving. The "Humans are all the same, you can get a new one!" is probably his best line, just because that explains everything you need to know about him and how he sees humanity.

  • I really love Ruth being protective of Chise, because she needs someone who is there all the time and whose first thought is to her and her happiness? PLEASE CONTINUE TO BE GOOD FOR EACH OTHER YOU TOO.

  • (... I am uncomfortable with the fae wanting Chise and Elias to spawn, because I am at least half-convinced that they're either never going to get married or it's going to be a platonic marriage. PLEASE DON'T SHATTER MY DREAMS LIKE THAT. ... Although the moment where Elias was like "Am I having an emotion? I think I might have felt something!" was kinda great.
  • I cannot express to you how much it matters to me that people keep trying to explain to Chise that her life is not okay. From the mage in the first volume showing up to tell Chise that she "strikes me as overdependent" to Ruth reminding her "It's important for us to love someone other than ourselves. Having someone who's important to you is a good thing.It gives you someone to protect you in return." -- It breaks me, okay. People care about Chise and find value in her where she finds none, and point out to her that her thoughts aren't right? Especially when the conclusions she comes to ("I'm being selfish") are so far from the truth! ... I recognise a lot of Chise's thoughts, okay, and people talking to her about them means a lot to me. People valuing her and wanting her to know that her treatment isn't okay! *wails*

  • ... Literally the next two points in my notes were quotes of Chise saying "I know I'm selfish... self-centered... But it doesn't mean I don't care. I don't want to stay ignorant forever!" and "Oh god, Chise's immediate reaction to social problems is "I'm sorry! It's my fault!" and then I have to lie on the floor and think about how much I identify with those aspects of her character.

  • The Lennan Sidhe! I am intrigued by her character, even if most of that story line seems like it's going to go Exactly How You Expect. I hope it doesn't! I hope everyone is fine and nothing tragic happens! But this manga. ... Also I'm kinda side-eyeing the Lennan Sidhe's outfit, but in a manga where every other female character has been allowed sensible outfits I guess I can not judge.

  • THE DRAGON HATCHLINGS COME BACK! You don't understand how delighted I am by the dragon hatchlings coming back, and apparently being able to change size. ... Plus I love how they (and the dragon herder) have adopted Chise as family, because Chise needs a family. ;_;

In summary, I enjoyed this volume, and I'm glad it's trying to put Chise's self-esteem back together and giving me a found family for her, but also it is breaking my heart.

Currently Reading

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (It's a short story collection, and I've only read the first story in it, but so far it's been very precise and unsettling, in a good way.)

Reading Challenges

Books read so far: 107/150 (9 new this post)
New-to-me female creators: 60/100 (16 new this post.)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub: 38/107 (5 new this post: I Love This Part, First Impressions, Monstress, The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For, Fresh Romance.) (I forgot that I'd been initially tracking this as a running tally, and now I have gone back to doing that because it... Might be a more useful marker? A bit late in the year to realise, but it's good to bear in mind for next year... And also to stop me feeling smug, because that number is way lower than I thought!)

Date: 2016-11-04 10:48 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (Al and kitten (papermoon_icons))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
I read this post while taking a quick break from working on Magus vol. 6, and it made me so happy. *^^* Such a great series! (But oh gosh, yes, the dead-cats storyline. *shudders*)

Date: 2016-11-04 07:59 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel.

Wow I feel old after reading that review.

Date: 2016-11-14 01:25 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
S'okay, I AM old. I remember when the comic was ongoing.

Date: 2016-11-05 02:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.com
Yayyyyyy that you liked This One Summer! I loved it, and it's made me willing to read just about anything the Tamakis write in the future. I think Mariko Tamaki is going to have a run on She-Hulk with Marvel pretty soon? Which is awesome.


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