spindizzy: Text icon: "And then canon got fucked so everyone lived happily ever after." (I ignore your reality and substitute my)
Susan ([personal profile] spindizzy) wrote in [community profile] ladybusiness2017-02-24 01:38 am

Eight Book Minimum: When are my feelings NOT conflicted?

I have read SO MUCH prose this time around! Honestly, I forgot how long it takes, it feels like I spent forever with the same books, even if GoodReads tells me it was only a couple of days with each. People who read prose exclusively: how do you do this all the time?! Are you all wizards?!

(ALSO I am bringing back "*" on the book list as a marker for "This book contains rape/discussion of rape," so please bear that in mind and look after yourselves, okay?)

  1. The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade [Jump] *

  2. Hunter's Way by Gerri Hill [Jump] *

  3. In The Name of the Father by Gerri Hill [Jump] *

  4. Partners by Gerri Hill [Jump]

  5. Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens [Jump]

  6. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson [Jump]

  7. Gangsta:Cursed Volume One by Kohske and Syuhei Kamo [Jump]

  8. Dogs Disco by Joe Decie [Jump]

Cover of The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade Cover of Hunter's Way by Gerri Hill

1. The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade [Top]
Okay, when I hit 700 words on this segment and realised that I hadn't even TOUCHED on the eye thing, I decided it needs a separate post.

A Convergence of Fairy Tales is a very well written retelling of a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty#Basile.27s_narrative">one of the older versions of Sleeping Beauty (the princess is raped and gives birth while she is asleep), it handles the horror well – it does so many different kinds of horror! There's the slow atmospheric horror of being alone in a place with something you hate, there's straight up body horror, there's the horror of things having been done to someone without their knowledge or consent, and no way to rectify it. (It is marketed as dark fantasy, btw, but also.) But I have a lot of very complicated feelings about the protagonist and my reactions to the protagonist (her anger and her reaction to waking up to a newborn are really well done, but I am not joking about seven hundred words of feelings).

I enjoyed it, I can say that for definite, but it's the sort of enjoyment where I just spent an hour talking at [personal profile] justira trying to process what I felt about it and how to put it into words. Take that as you will?

(Caution warnings: aftermath of rape, forced pregnancy, child abuse, body horror INVOLVING EYES D:.)

2. Hunter's Way by Gerri Hill [Top]
I reviewed this for The Lesbrary, but the long and the short of it is that it's a fairly standard police procedural with queer leads (!!!), which is what I want, and some weird pacing issues that make me go "???" Also, caution warning for rape right in the centre of this one.

Cover of In The Name of the Father by Gerri Hill Cover of Partners by Gerri Hill

3. In The Name of the Father by Gerri Hill [Top]
Okay, my review for this one isn't up at the Lesbrary yet (Q: Susan, are you just reviewing an entire trilogy in monthly installments? A: ... Is that not what you're supposed to do?), but it's... sure a thing. It revolves around the death of a Catholic priest in a consensual gay relationship, which means that the characters have to deal with a WHOLE HOST of publicity issues, outside interference, homophobia,

It's... Definitely not as enjoyable as Hunter's Way, even though there is no sexual assault/rape here, and a lot of my problems with it are due to the constant attempts to cover up and dismiss the priest's death on the part of the church. There's a lot of pearl-clutching over scandal, and people actually saying that it is better to suggest that the victim was raped than that he had a lover. *drags hands down face* I don't know where to start with this. I do not at all.

I think that this book finally dealing with the potential issues that comes with Tori and Sam working together as well as dating is quite good, even if it does sideline both Sam and one of the two PoC on the main cast. (The other POC... Doesn't really get a look in, at all, in this book, and I'm not sure I like the way that she depicts the Mexican characters; it seems stereotypical as hell to me.) The way that Tori and John (one of the other detectives) have mellowed since Tori got together with Sam is a nice character touch, although probably disappointing for people who appreciated having an angry aggressive heroine like in the previous book. Plus, it introduces Casey, who is a bundle of energy and questions, who I find quite charming! The way that this book expands the cast and its focus works quite well for me, especially the ways our different POV characters react to the PR manager for the church and each other.


How. Ever.

The resolution is stupid, it is utter bollocks, and I am mad about it. I like denouements where the villain's master plan is explained, but I like it to be the investigator explaining what they've worked out rather than the villain just confessing everything unprovoked! It makes all of the work that it took to get to that feel absolutely wasted. ... And the ending is just. Seriously? This is the narrative trying to have the "Oh, power is too much to take on, you can't beat the system!" moral to go with the system foiling Tori at every turn, and give everyone emotional catharsis and satisfaction, which means that it completely fails at both.

So, honestly, I'd say that this is more flawed than the first one, but if you liked Sam and Tori's relationship, it's worth picking up. Especially because bonus Casey!

(Also this is the first book where I noticed that all of the pairings in this series are blonde/brunette pairings, which is mainly interesting to me because that is the classic combo from the pulps. Especially because "blonde woman who thinks she's straight abandons her male lover for dark-haired lesbian" IS A THING from sixties pulps, not even joking, and that is definitely the relationship tropes going on in the first and third book. Also, this is a good point for me to go "So, lesbian pulp covers bot," y/n?)

(Caution note: there is no onscreen rape/sexual assault, but there is a LOT of discussion of it; similarly there is no onscreen child abuse, but it's mentioned.)

4. Partners by Gerri Hill [Top]

Okay, I didn't know until I picked this up that this was a trilogy and not a series, at which point I'm just really disappointed in everything. Tori has tragic backstory that got waved off as "impossible to solve" in the first book, but I didn't know the author actually meant that! What the hell, that is supremely dissatisfying. ... Actually, this is the case with everyone's tragic backstories, none of them get resolved. And I appreciate that this is probably a nod to real life and how sometimes you just don't get closure, but that's fucking bullshit from a reader point of view.

(Casey's backstory makes me SO MAD, because people who go "I'm not homophobic -- unless it's my daughter" are fucking scum! I appreciate sometimes the best ending for that sort of family relationship is "We don't have a relationship, look at this lovely family I made for myself instead," which is essentially what Casey's done, but fuck's sake. I GUESS THIS MEANS IT'S WELL DONE, because I am PISSED AS FUCK ON CASEY'S BEHALF, but also. Ugh.)

... I thought I wasn't mad about this book, everyone, clearly I was wrong. I think maybe my expectations of this series were wrong, because I have been going "Oh, it's a police procedural with a lesbian romance," but it might be the other way around. And that's fine! That is entirely on me in that case, I just wish I'd realised sooner.

I... Don't know if I trust how different the relationship between Casey and Leslie is from that between Tori and Sam. The central barrier to them getting together is the same -- both Leslie and Sam, when their books start, are in relationships with sexist men that they don't love (Robert wants Sam to stop focusing on her career so much and pay more attention to him; Michael says out loud, with his mouth that it would be better if Leslie was partnered with a guy in case anything bad happened and they needed to defend themselves. And his defence for this statement is "I was simply being a man... And men are the protectors." THE NOISE I MADE.). The reasons they have for not getting together are different though; there's less of Sam's acceptance of her own queerness and her willingness to deal with it immediately (although Leslie also doesn't appear to have a support network, so) and certainly Casey and Tori are different enough.

The ending is full-on "DON'T GO INTO THE BASEMENT THIS IS A HORROR MOVIE!" levels of bollocks, and it's completely out of character. SPOILERS ABOUND: after a case where they've been chasing after a serial killer who is also a peeping tom, Leslie thinks she sees someone looking into her window and doesn't investigate. Worse than that, she stops Casey investigating -- you're both police officers! You know that there is a serial killer out there who has this exact modus operandi! What in the name of fuck are you doing!

My feelings on the representational weirdness have only grown as the series has gone on. It is still really weird that Donaldson, the only PoC in Partners from what I remember, is mostly offscreen and is still subject to some HEAVY SUSPICION from Tori for the events of Hunter's Way. The depiction of mental illness in this book is SURE A THING: the character is presented as childlike all the way through; it's a constant thing of the narrative stressing that he has the attention span of a child, he sees things and describes them as a child would, and he gets thrown under the bus for a main character. It was a bit "Oh wow, oh wow you went there, WHAT."

SPOILERS FOR THIS PARAGRAPH BUT ALSO A CAUTION WARNING: ... Also, I know this was written in 2008, but: one of the perpetrators is assigned male at birth and wears a dress (It's not clarified how the character identifies) to gain access to women's flats and murder them. I just. Right now, when there is transphobic panic all across America based on this exact idea? No. I am not recommending this.

Covers of Arsenic For Tea http://lady-business.org/bookcovers/cover_nimona.png

5. Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens [Top]

I never did talk about my feelings for Murder Most Unladylike here, but they boiled down to "I really enjoyed this book, the author has defeated me in the noble art of whodunnit, but Hazel Wong deserves BETTER FRIENDS OH MY GOD." Arsenic For Tea... Pretty much continues that fine trend!

Murder Most Unladylike was a boarding school mystery, Arsenic For Tea is a county house mystery, and I for one am absolutely here for a series that is a cook's tour of various cozy mystery tropes.

I think I got on with this book a little more than the last one because Daisy is utterly off her stride. She is trying to be blithe and uncaring, as she was in the first book, but as the book goes on and there are more and more reveals about the state of her family, she is less able to pretend (Especially because not just Hazel, but two of her other friends, see right through her) and it made her a lot easier to understand. It doesn't excuse her consistently being awful to Hazel, but it puts them on a more even footing.

I thought Arsenic For Tea was pretty good! I like manor house mysteries, and I still only managed to work out about half of the clues! (I approve of this entirely, thank you for being a worthy opponent, book.). The relationships were fun, especially because we get to see the girls outside of the school and interacting in smaller groups. (I was half-way convinced that Beanie was a lot younger than the other girls from the way she's written; this series seems to walk a fine line between characters who are just that little bit larger than life in Hazel's eyes, and the delicious tropes you need while examining the mystery genre. I like these tropes! I like how some of them are obvious in how they tie to the plot, and I like how it's very clear that some of the adults are blatantly heroes in a different set of tropes.

Plus, Hazel is just a delight. From her voice to her POV to her being such a good friend, I absolutely love her? And I am so glad she gets to be sensible and listened to in this one. ♥ *immediately orders book three*

6. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson [Top]

What I knew about this book going in was "This man is a Villain who is somewhat moral! That over there is his ex-boyfriend who's a Hero and also a colossal dick. And this right here, is Nimona, who wants to be a villain sidekick, is way better at being a villain than her boss, and is sometimes a shark."

(... *squints* No, I will not try to fit that to the Enzo and Big Cass entrance, that will only end badly.)

All of this is correct, btw! BUT it turns out that Nimona has a really cute art style and is super charming to read! It's funny, which I should have expected, but I managed to miss it somehow. And the worldbuilding is really well done in the background, without everything needing to be explained – it's a setting with both magic and (mad) science, and the power structure Ballister (and therefore Nimona) is rebelling against is made clear enough that we can appreciate WHY he is overthrowing it. Plus, it manages to have a plot full of explosions and drama with space for things like "watching TV together and being a tiny villainous family!"

I really enjoyed how Nimona's powers were used, and how radically mismatched her ideas and Ballister's ideas of being a villain are, but how they managed to find a middle-ground where they could use their strengths to, y'know, wreck havok and overthrow just a small police-state. I appreciated that Nimona gets to be fierce and cheerful and violent, because I play characters like that but don't see them in fiction as much as I'd like.

I'm not sure how I feel about the ending? It seemed a lot bleaker than this comic that uses a cute comic book style and silly names to cover up it talking about structural hypocrisy and corruption and the consequences of being a murder-happy shapeshifter with no concept of human lives having value and – hm.

But yes, I am sad that it took me so long to read this (I know, you all told me!) and I want to read it over again because it was great.

Cover of Gangsta: Cursed Volume One

7. Gangsta:Cursed Ep_01: Marco Adriano Volume One by Kohske and Syuhei Kamo [Top]
This manga is very very good at being what it is, but what it is? Radicalised teenagers who are killing people they see as inhuman for reasons including "Being paid," "Fun," "Purifying our souls," and "Making [other deaths] right."

Like, the manga is very well-drawn and full points to Syuhei Kamo for being able to copy Kohske's style so well, but – it's horrifying. The main series of Gangsta made it clear that Marco had things to atone for, but the full scope of what he has to atone for is just... Like, I don't know if it's the lot of other fandoms, but in several of mine there's a tendency to gloss over and play down the uncomfortable parts of a character's past (I'm guilty of this myself, see also "I know Seifer Almasy tried to kill LITERALLY EVERYONE in his old school, but consider: this fic."), and this volume is very clear that Marco – charming, likeable Marco, who works so hard to protect Twilights and keep people safe – used to be a monster, and there is no way to downplay it because it's all right there on the page.

... I can't, okay. I can't right now.

8. Dogs Disco by Joe Decie [Top]
I picked this up because my local comic book shop do a monthly recommendation thing, and it's... Fine? I guess? It's a selection of "here's how life is" comics, and if they'd crossed my twitter feed I would probably have retweeted a couple, but as a book... Eh. Possibly it suffered because it was the pallet-cleanser I picked up after Gangsta:Cursed, but... It was fine, the art was quite good, the jokes got the "heh" of recognition, but it's not for me.

Currently Reading

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton -- This is a series that my mum actually owns the entirety of, has been collecting it for years, but when I told her that I'd picked up the first one her response was still "Oh, no." ... I had a craving for more female PIs, okay, the Kate Kane books have put me in a mood.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Okay, you know what I love? HEISTS. You know what this book has promised me? INTELLIGENT CHARACTERS SCHEMING ABOUT HEISTS. So far I am tremendously fond of Inej, I think she is great, and I am enjoy the results of Kaz's schemes.
One Piece Ominbus 1 by Eiichiro Oda – Our very own [personal profile] renay is doing a readalong on the Barnes & Noble blog, and guess who can only remember the vaguest things about that far back in the series? ME! I have just got up to Shanks, and I forgot how much I loved him.
The Clown Service by Guy Adams – One of my friends recommended this to me with reservations, so I'm not very far into it. So far I'm a bit wary, but I think I've finally got to the main protagonist and he appears to be the traditional Walking Piece of Bad Luck as all Urban Fantasy dudes are, so it could get interesting.

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 16/150 (8 new this post) Prose: 7/50 (6 new this post)
New-to-me female authors: 4/75 (3 new this post: Octavia Cade, Gerri Hill, Noelle Stevenson)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 9/90 (4 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub: 4/16 (4 new this post; Hunter's Way, In The Name of the Father, Partners and Nimona)