spindizzy: (Ready when you are)
[personal profile] spindizzy posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Hello my darlings! It's been a while, but somehow my ability to hyperfocus suddenly started working in my favour and I spent this week doing nothing else but working at my day job and writing Eight Book Minimum reviews. I wrote 10,000 words across 57 reviews in like... Six days? Which means that my brain is somewhat mushy. Unfortunately, I've been working from most recent to least recent, which means that I've broken my usual policy of posting in chronological order; these are from about May-June, I think? ... I know it only bothers me, but I feel like the people have a right to know! I have enough reviews for another five posts queued up, I'll let you know when I'm back in order.

This was a lot of Hugo reading, with occasional breaks for comic books. Did anyone else read these during Hugo season? Did we yell a lot?

  1. Yona of the Dawn Volume One by Mizuho Kusanagi [Jump]

  2. Tokyo Mew Mew Volume One and Volume Two by Mia Ikumi and Reiko Yoshida [Jump]

  3. The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman [Jump]

  4. The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin [Jump]

  5. That Game We Played During The War by Carrie Vaughn [Jump]

  6. Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar [Jump]

  7. A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong [Jump]

  8. Monstress Volume Two by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda [Jump]

  9. Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire [Jump]

Cover of Yona of the Dawn Volume One Cover of Tokyo Mew Mew Volume OneCover of Tokyo Mew Mew Volume TwoCover of The Burning Page

1. Yona of the Dawn Volume One by Mizuho Kusanagi [Top]
I've heard nothing but good things about this series. It's the story a young princess, the titular Yona, who lives a peaceful life being doted on by her father, yelling a lot at the eighteen year old(!) General Hak who is her bodyguard(?!), worrying about her red hair, and crushing hard on her cousin(!?!)... Right until the moment her father gets assassinated.

Guys, this one is pretty good. It's atmospheric, the art is reminiscent of old-school shoujo, it switches from the silly slice-of-life aspects to serious political/revenge drama without skipping a beat, and it does a really good job of showing the conflicted feelings of Yona and Hak after the assassination as they try to escape. Especially because this is directly contrasted with the main cast as children learning to like each other and be good for each other! ("They want to stay together!" I sob. "They love each other and their families and want to be happy together forever!") The structure of having the main events in chapter one and five and the rest be flashbacks is an odd choice, but it makes sense to show why it's affecting Yona as strongly as it is.

Plus I find it interesting that the story gives so much nuance to people's actions (The kind but cowardly king who allegedly is neither! The assassin having understandable reasoning! Yona's absolute heartbreak!) even in such a short space of time.

But yes, this volume of Yona of the Dawn is interesting and I hear it keeps improving, so I'm planning to pick the rest up as soon as I can.

[CW: Sexual harrassment in a flashback]

2. Tokyo Mew Mew Volumes One and Two by Mia Ikumi and Reiko Yoshida [Top]
Fair warning: this is a Tokyopop translation which means that sometimes it feels a bit ropey (I know I throw a lot of shade at Tokyopop translations, but some of them are not great.) But it's a magical girl manga where the theme is endangered wildlife (no really) and all of the magical girls are pre-teens who work in a café together! And apparently sometimes fight aliens who hate "pristine wildlife and clean water." (No, really.) (The tiny aliens are kinda cute.)

The story arcs seem very... Short. Like, not in a fast-paced way, in a "I'm not sure that this plot thread had enough time to breathe" sort of way. Like, there was a sequence of "find new party member -> acquire new party member -> get rejected by new party member" that took maybe five pages? And the cast got both a power-up and their existence put onto live tv by the end of volume two, this pacing is bananas. If I'd been watching this as an anime that might have bothered me less, because the episodic format works a bit better there when there's more room for things to happen, but also.

(I know that when I was actually a kid I would have noticed it less, but oh god every single guy in this comic is horrible. Someone please save the protagonist from dating any of them.)

Apart from that, it's kind of a generic magical girl manga! When I was a kid, I would probably have devoured this with a spoon and asked for more, because ~magical girls~ but now I am old and grey I kinda just want to go and read Card Captor Sakura again. Tokyo Mew Mew is cute! I just wouldn't go back and read it again.

3. The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman [Top]
My original draft for this review was so angry. Like, spitting fire levels of angry. I'm going to try to dial it back a little, because since I wrote this review I found out that Irene is word-of-author bisexual (Genevieve Cogman herself said that Irene was bisexual and I was so happy I burst into tears, that's who I am as a person.) and that has gone some way towards mollifying me about some of the tropes that really got my god.

Because seriously.

The action is well-described. The story rips through events at a great pace, which means that once you get into it, it's compelling. I really enjoy seeing the results of what's been going on. The world building is interesting, and I loved seeing them go to world that weren't a version of Victorian London, and some of the other factions in play on the worlds they visited. Kai and his relationship to Vale and Irene was pretty great, I enjoyed it a lot, the casual offer of polyamory made me choke of my drink on the tram, would read all of that fanfic. I have some issues with Vale's story arc (starting with the implications of his links to Sherlock Holmes and thus Irene potentially knowing or thinking she knows more of his internal life than he might want, when he thinks that he is his own person; and ending with Irene getting to define him as opposed to him getting to define himself.).

But hooboy was I mad.

I am straight up just going to throw spoilers at you from here on out, HAVE FUN: a character from the previous book shows up. In The Masked City she was coded as queer, at least to me and the other people I know who have read it. In this book, she embodies two tropes: the villainous lesbian, and bury your gays. ... Please, come and tell me about how the character is literally built to embody tropes, possibly even these ones, that's how her species works; I have not considered that before and am not screamingly angry that the author decided to the character needs to not only betray Irene, but also make up for it by sacrificing herself to save her. It will go great. I was absolutely furious. And knowing Irene's also queer goes some way to make up for that, because hey, it's not like all the queer characters are under that bus, but oh my god I was furious.

(I spent most of the book convinced that the story arc where this character is revealed as a traitor was blatant cover for Bradamant attempting to feed Irene to the wolves because it was too obvious, but no! I was wrong! My capslock was in vain!)

ON THE PLUS SIDE, annoyances aside, the next book apparently takes place in an Extremely Orderly 1920s. And Irene is going to take two dragons there. I am here for it.

Cover of The City Born Great Cover of That Game We Played During The War

4. The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin [Top]
You ever read a story that is filled love for a place? Clear-eyed awareness that it's not perfect, but love nonetheless? That's what this is. I love this story, it's grat and revolves around cities as a living thing (which sounds about right to me), and New York's... Protector? Embodiment? Being a homeless queer black kid is absolutely perfect. The way he knows and uses the city is beautiful and I love it. Plus, the protagonist's voice is awesome, and there are so many lines towards the end that made me actually laugh out loud. I don't get all the references because I am English and the fuck are these districts, but I don't think you have to know it. *deep sigh* I just love it so much.

5. That Game We Played During The War by Carrie Vaughn [Top]
This was possible the weakest of the (non-puppy) short stories in the Hugo packet, but it's still pretty good! It's a quiet story about people after a war, and the ideas are pretty good! I hadn't considered the repercussions of keeping prisoners on people with constant telepathy, or the way that it would affect what information is given to soldiers, and the way it's dealt with here is kinda cool.

[This review is based off a copy provided by the publisher in the Hugo packet.]

6. Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar [Top]
Once upon a time the woman who married a bear walked the world in iron shoes and met a princess who sat on top of a glass mountain, where suitors howled after her like wolves, and together they worked out magic and the horror of men in fairy tales.

It's so good. This is not news to anyone who likes Amal El-Mohtar's other stories, but still! It's a story about fairy tales and abuse (caution warning for that, obviously) and blame. ... How do I talk about this intelligently?

I really loved the relationship between Tabitha (the woman who married a bear) and Amira (who sits atop a glass mountain). They don't have a lot of space in the story to grow into their relationship, but what we get is funny ("You climbed. A glass hill. By accident.") and sweet, and they work out the maths of their magical bindings together and talk about the world they see, where the same thing looks completely different because of the point they've seen it from. (Theme!) The way that they are angry for each other, able to see the abuse in the other's circumstances but not their own, breaks my heart. Amira is blamed over and over (by her father, by the men themselves) for men being unable to control themselves, and Tabitha's relationship is awful in ways that she can't see until Amira points it out. Their arc of understanding for each other and themselves is so well done in such a small space and I love it.

And there are such little touches (the contrast between Tabitha, who has to keep moving, and Amira, who has to keep still; the way Tabitha thinks about shoes and the way they contract or expand someone's world, how Amira manages to turn Tabitha's entire worldview upside down with one question) that stick with me even after I've put the story down and walked away.

It's currently my favourite fairytale retelling, for all that it's so short, and I really recommend it!

[This review is based off a copy provided by the publisher in the Hugo packet.]

Cover of A Fist of Permutations In Lightning and Wildflowers Cover of Monstress Volume Two Cover of Every Heart A Doorway

7. A Fist of Permutations and Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong [Top]
Oh no, this is a lot of my favourite narrative tropes all in one place. D: Phenomenal cosmic powers: check. People ending the world for the ones they love: check (with bonus points for a) it being girls doing this for other girls, and b) siblings!). Time loops: CHECK.

*dreamy sigh*

Okay, the story is about Hannah and the days her sister Melanie dies.

Or it's about the days that Hannah ends the world.

Or it's about potential futures and how trying to find the way to get to the future you want isn't going to go well, especially when the future you want is in direct opposition to the one someone else wants.

I love the way the story loops, the way Hannah tries everything (going through it straight, changing it as best she can, not doing any of it at all), to try to find her way to a future where Melanie lives, and the conclusion she eventually comes to makes me flail (and it highlights that she doesn't try it before!), and the way that Melanie is still there even when the world ends.

... Honestly, this is the sort of time-loop story I really like, so I was always going to love it. The prose is lovely, the way it talks about what could be two different types of magic (weather and time) as influencing each other, and the relationship between Hannah and Melanie is so great as they understand each other even when they're destroying everything. I love it so much.

(Caution warning: there is background transphobia and misgendering, and references to sexual assault and suicide.)

[This review is based off a copy provided by the publisher in the Hugo packet.]

8. Monstress Volume two by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda [Top]
Reading this volume was incredibly stressful because every new issue I am convinced that this is the one where Kippa dies. Every single one.

But my paranoia to one side: Maika is journeying to a mysterious island that only one person has ever escaped from alive; her mother. It's a trip that involves mermaids, a lovely shark lady teaching Kippa how to swim, ferrymen, dead gods, and traps, and it is delightful. Especially as this is the volume where we get more information about Maika's mother and how Maika survived to be the person she is today, and the beginnings of co-operation between Maika and the monster, so this volume has all of the things that are relevant to my interests! The art is gorgeous as always, especially the mermaids and the weird lush horror of the island. It's beautiful just to look at. I just want them to start printing the issues again, come ooooooon!

9. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire [Top]
Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is a school for the children who went on magical portal fantasy quests and somehow found their way back to the real world, whether they wanted to come back or not. Nancy is the latest arrival, a young woman who ended up in the Halls of the Dead, until she was sent back to her real life to be sure that it was what she wanted whose family can no longer cope with who she became there. It's all standard school for people who want to go back to other realms... And then the murders begin.

I think this was really inventive! The various worlds that every has been do are well sketched and interesting, with recognisable tropes and archetypes, and the characters are all interesting and different in ways that make sense for the places that they've been! The relationship Nancy has with her friends is especially nice, even though none of them really want to be there. There is horror, there is a really cool look at what comes after the portal fantasy ends, there is explicit discussion of how things that people associate with terribleness (underworlds!) are not always, and things that people assume are lovely (wonderlands!) are also not always.

The mystery is really fucking obvious, which alternates between "This is fine, I am enjoying the experience!" and "I have just had to put this book down so I can physically grab a friend and wail that they were literally told who the murderer and went 'Oh well this clue sure isn't relevant!'" ... It was a journey, okay. An emotional journey where the murderer was blatantly obvious but nobody cared.

This is also actually the first book I've read where there was an explicitly using-the-word asexual character in Nancy! I have heard some asexual critics talking about the association with asexuals and death, which Every Heart A Doorway attempts to distance itself from; if that's an aspect you'd like more #ownvoices critique on I can recommend [twitter.com profile] leoconnacht's essay on that very topic, and Claudie Arsenault has a post on the imagery of death/stillness/exile in this context. (And can I just say that I got to Nancy's line about liking flirting but not liking that people wanted other things to come after it and was just like "! Yes! This is how I feel too! A+ job putting that into words!")

I found Every Heart A Doorway to be fun and satisfying, even with the "literally howled in fury, out loud, with my face, because oh my god you were literally told who the murderer is you cockwombles!" aspects, so maybe check it out!

[This review is based off a copy provided by the publisher in the Hugo packet.]

Currently Reading

  • Mockingbird Volume 2: My Feminist Agenda — So I accidentally picked this one up before the first one because the shelving system at work is Certainly A Thing, and it's reminded me that Civil War II existed. Woe.

  • Mockingbird Volume 1: I Can Explain — I have never read a Mockingbird comic before and this was clearly a mistake because this is funny and insightful and fun and I love Mockingbird now?

  • The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke — I love Cassandra Rose Clarke's fantasy novels and I am so sad that I kept forgetting to pick this one up! So far we have A Mystery and two or three potential wizards, so I'm maybe getting to the plot.

  • Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk — This is the next Whyborne and Griffin book, and I'm going to be honest: I don't remember this Whyborne Sister ever being mentioned before. That kinda takes the wind out of the drama, to be honest.

Reading Goals

Reading goal: 50/150 (10 new this post) Prose: 19/50 (6 new this post)
New-to-me female authors: 9/50 (Mizuho Kusanagi, Mia Ikumi, Reiko Yoshida)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 27/80 (4 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub: 16/50 (The Burning Page, The City Born Great, Seasons of Glass and Iron, A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers, Every Heart A Doorway)

Date: 2017-11-18 03:11 am (UTC)
subsequent: (-read the days away)
From: [personal profile] subsequent
I really, really wanted to like Every Heart a Doorway more than I did, because... Ace character! Literally the thing that would have made my life that much easier during school, being able to discover the word for my experiences earlier than I did, and representation!!

I just - eh. I thought it was okay? Mostly I couldn't get over the style of the writing, it just seemed so... abrupt, and the omniscient style of POV meant there were sections where I was literally backtracking trying to work out who was thinking what.


I had so many high hopes. alas.

Date: 2017-11-18 03:53 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (pretty things & clever words (iconriot))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
If I had to pick a single favorite thing I'm currently working on, I'm about 95% sure it'd be Yona. SO GOOD.

Date: 2017-11-18 04:01 am (UTC)
tangerine42: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tangerine42
6 is missing, I think?

Date: 2017-11-20 08:58 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
So much stuff on here that I loved too! Also v. interesting to hear your take on A Game We Played During the War because everyone in the comments on my Hugo short fic post loved that best (it's the one I still haven't read).


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