- Murder With Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith [Jump]
- The Wicked + The Divine Volume 3 by Kieron Gillen and James McKelvie [Jump]
- Wild Wild Hex by Jordan L Hawk [Jump]
- Devil's Rock by Gerri Hill [Jump]
- To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts Volume 1 by Maybe [Jump]
- Gangsta: Cursed: EP_Marco Adriano Volume 4 by Kohske and Syuhei Kamo [Jump]
- The Wicked + The Divine Volumes 4 and 5 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie [Jump]
- When Anxiety Attacks by Terian Koscik [Jump]
1. Murder With Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith [Top]
A new series of cozy mysteries from Karen Rose Smith! In this one our heroine, Daisy, has returned to her hometown with her family after the death of her husband and opened up a tea-shop with her aunt. Everything is going swimmingly – her oldest daughter off to college, her aunt happily in love with a local business owner, their own business booming – right until her aunt's boyfriend turns up dead on the patio.
It feels very much like what I'd expect of a Karen Rose Smith mystery, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. It has the focus on food and family, with the mystery as a back-up point; it has a heroine who loves cooking and her family and being good at her job; it has the Strong Male Character Who Has Probably Experienced Dramatic Loss helping them cope with the police, and the love interest who's inevitably gonna get thrown over for the Strong Male Character; it has the bizarre fashion choices; it has a resolution that seems to come very suddenly after not much progress beforehand! It doesn't feel identical to the Caprice de Luca mysteries, but it feels close enough – you remember how I said it was nice that Caprice de Luca's motivation was that she was worried about a miscarriage of justice against her loved ones and all she wanted to do was find other suspects for the police? That is literally Daisy's motivation too. Almost word-for-word the same as Caprice's.
I did enjoy it! It was the gentle cozy mystery that I needed, and I liked it a lot. I thought that maybe some of the emotional beats were a bit off (I know that I, for certain, would not be asking about my child's birth parents literally thirty seconds after someone attempted to murder me unless they were involved!) but it was fun, and if the others turn up at the library I'll be grabbing them.
2. The Wicked + The Divine Volume 3 by Kieron Gillen and James McKelvie [Top]
Whenever I ask myself how I feel about this volume, the answer comes back "thoroughly meh", but when I actually stop and THINK about it, there are some stories in it that are quite good, they're just not what I wanted after the end of volume two. We've veered away from Laura, who's our window into this world, and in doing so I feel like it's kinda gone adrift? I am not here for the story of gods roaming wild and free and solving/committing murders, I'm here for the story of a fan getting to be up close and personal with the thing/people she's a fan of with bonus talk about fame and fandom AND ALSO sometimes murder,
Some of the talk about fandom is still there, like the way it seems that the reason everyone hates Tara is just... Fandom irrationally turning against a creator for not doing and being exactly what they want? Which considering how much of my timeline at the moment is discussion of the ways fandom penalises marginalised creators for not living up to impossible standards while giving shitty white men a pass... It seems timely. And it makes me a little disappointed in Laura, because I thought she hated Tara because she knew her, but nope. Not even Laura is above that.
Speaking of giving shitty white people a pass: so Hazel/Ameterasu's storyline. I assume she has massive issues, but she is a textbook case of being ~more authentic than you~ and also some of the imagery used for and by her is... Wow. I'm glad it was called out in the comic, but also, that's still terrible? ... Also Woden's storyline is literally confirming every suspicion that I had about the plot of Wic+Div, and I still hated every panel.
But hey, literally the best two pages were the last two pages, because they did what I wanted of getting me HYPE for volume four, so it wasn't all bad!
3. Wild Wild Hex by Jordan L Hawk [Top]
THIS SERIES IS TITLED "HEXAS RANGERS" AND I DON'T KNOW IF I'M IMPRESSED OR IF I WANT TO DUEL THIS AUTHOR AT HIGH NOON. I have no idea when or how I picked this one up, but it was in my Kobo library nonetheless, so I guess at some point I was entirely predictable and went "Oh hey, queer fantasy westerns? Sign me up!" Wild Wild Hex follows Ranger Enoch Bright as he pursues a Robin Hood-style folk-hero who robs from the rich, gives to the poor, and is impossible to catch because it turns out that he's a shapeshifter in the magical wild west. Y'know. As you do.
This is fine! I am intrigued by the world building, with its system of store bought magic and hexes and the value that these have and the ways their use is not always as convenient as you'd hope. I'm a bit wary of this Familiar and Witch business – this setting has familiars and witches, who can form a bond with any person in the corresponding role, but get a power boost if they bond with the right person, who they will instantly know when they see them – because it feels like soulbonding by another name. Soulbonding is... Not my favourite trope to be honest, so that aspect of this story didn't really do much for me. I thought that the characters were charming, and the dramatic reveals worked okay, but it all felt a bit too easily resolved. But eh, it's a lawman/criminal soulbond romance in the fantasy old west, I got exactly what I was expecting, so it was fine. ... Although I did periodically end up yelling "YOU JUST GOT SHOT AND ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT BLOOD LOSS, HOW IS YOUR DICK EVEN WORKING RIGHT NOW?!" so maybe take that "Fine" with a pinch of salt.
4. Devil's Rock by Gerri Hill [Top]
I reviewed this for The Lesbrary, but I'll give you the cliff notes: the story made me really grumpy. The premise is that a serial killed is dumping bodies on hiking trails in the local area, so the FBI send in a woman with a supercomputer in a motorhome (no, really) to crunch numbers to try to predict where they'll strike next. The love interest is a bully and borderline abusive ("Oh well it's YOUR fault that I'm running a background check on you without your permission, if you'd just given me information when I asked for it I wouldn't have had to!" AND THIS CONTINUES TO BE A THEME. Including – and this is the best bit – the protagonist apologising for reading the background check the other character ran on her, because she shouldn't have violated the love interest's privacy!) The murderer is someone who got away from the characters in Gerri Hill's Hunter series, and the revelations around whodunnit and how (and the sudden shift in scale of the crime) SMACK of soap opera developments, to the point where they're on the side of too implausible. It's just – it's a mess. I don't even know where to start with dragging it, because it's a mess. Do not recommend.
5. To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts Volume 1 by Maybe [Top]
To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts has an interesting premise; the losing side of a war transformed volunteers into monsters to give them the edge they needed to win, then abandoned them once the war was over, leaving them to try to find a place in society as literal monsters inspired by folklore, and setting bounties on them as soon as they do wrong. Our heroine is the daughter of one of these soldiers, pursuing the bounty hunter that killed her father as he hunts down other survivors.
What you need to know first, before we start talking about this one, is that I am very bad at judging whether something is a metaphor or not, because if you give me a story about giant monsters I will take you at your word that it's about giant monsters. I can go "OH! Oh is this about people with PTSD trying to fit back into society after the war with no help and few coping strategies?" but I usually don't because then I end up in the spiral of "But then what is the male lead shooting them a metaphor for? What about the guy who also has PTSD as well as being transformed?" ... I need to go back and do a lit class, basically, to learn about metaphor. SOMEONE PLEASE COME AND TALK ABOUT THIS VERY SENSIBLY FOR ME.
I do like the use of lore and myth in the creation of the beasts, because it seemed very cool and inventive, and the way that they were used in war makes a lot of sense. I especially liked the visuals of Minotaur as a fortifications expert (yes, I know it was Daedalus who built the Labyrinth), and the way that preparation was used as a mitigation for the character's anxiety, and it's just gone haywire since the war ended. And while some aspects of the stories were predictable, I did kinda enjoy it?
(Unfortunately, there is a SMIDGE more fanservice than I want, so that ground my gears a bit.)
Basically, I don't know if I'd keep paying money for it – I picked it up in a Comixology sale for 69p, for context – but if more of this came into the library I'd probably pick it up just to see what happened.
6. Gangsta: Cursed: EP_Marco Adriano Volume 4 by Kohske and Syuhei Kamo [Top]
Well, I think it's pretty clear that this series is winding down, because I think we're getting to the point where all of the characters who don't show up in the main series have died! In this volume: finally, Marco and Maverick have their conflict! There is an unnecessarily awful flashback to Maverick killing two of the NPCs that I'm not sure we REALLY needed! Some of the character conflicts have interesting implications for the main plot of Gangsta when it comes off hiatus! A lot of people die!
It's... Fine? The fights are very pretty and well choreographed, which makes me happy, and I like the character work? But oh boy the gore and the body count have got pretty high now, in ways that are specifically to provoke the protagonist. But... I kinda like the characters? I like seeing how Marco got to how he is? The fact that we're now overlapping with backstory events of the main series is intriguing me, and I'm really enjoying puzzling out what's going on in the present? I just kinda wish I could have got this series of the library so I wasn't spending money on it.
7. The Wicked + The Divine Volumes 4 and 5 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie [Top]
The Wicked + The Divine follows the alleged incarnations of various gods as they gain phenominal comic power, domination of the music scene, and have to solve an ever-increasing number of murders. Volumes four and five are where the brakes come off, and partial revelations, bodies, and poor life choices start piling up.
So you remember how I said I was tentatively hype for volume four? Yeah, it didn't last. I'm going to be honest with you; The Wicked + The Divine has stopped being fun for me. The art is still really cool (especially for stuff like the pitched battles and the way that people are using their powers) but I'm less interested in the story it's telling. The parts of the initial volumes that I really enjoyed were the murder mysteries and the being a fan, and that's mostly been dropped in favour of young people with phenomenal cosmic powers making spectacularly poor life choices due to grief. It's not what I wanted, and that's not necessarily a flaw in the comic as much as my expectations of it and what it was trying to be.
That said, I did really like the magazine issue that starts volume five, because it does feel like proper long-form articles, and the accompanying art is gorgeous. But the rest of it just made me feel sad,
[Caution warnings: Abuse, grieving, poor coping strategies, racism and fetishism]
8. When Anxiety Attacks by Terian Koscik [Top]
When Anxiety Attacks is pretty much "It me!: the comic book." It's a slim non-fiction comic about one woman's experience of going to a therapist to finally talk about her anxiety. It talks about her struggle to actually talk about her needs and feelings, how her problems don't seem serious enough to justify going to therapy, and hello: as a person with a generalised anxiety disorder, this was relatable! (Like, to the point where while I was reading it I would just show it to my spousal unit to try to part of my experience of anxiety that I hadn't been able find the words for.)
I feel like the art style is familiar to me, although I can't place where from, but the way that the comic uses colour to show mood is excellent. For example, there's one point where her therapist asks "Did you try talking to your friend about what was bothering you?" and the entire next panel is textless and RED, because yes! That's how it feels.
Honestly, my biggest problem with When Anxiety Attacks is that it talks some smack about medication that I fundamentally disagree with (Q: Susan, you're on medication aren't you? A: And I'm feeling much better for it, thank you for asking!) and that it wasn't quite what I was expecting from the blurb. I was expecting a quick tour of someone's experience with anxiety, but I actually got a gentle primer on what you might be able to expect when going to a therapist for the first time, and some of the techniques that worked for the author. That's not a bad thing, and I definitely enjoyed what I got! If you're considering going to therapy and worried about what to expect, this might be a good place to start!
- X Omnibus 1 by CLAMP — I know this is kind of a classic for fans of the generation before mine, but I've just never gotten around to it! But I've started it now, and so far I'm invested in the siblings and can't tell whether the other major character is a protagonist or an antagonist, so...
- xxxholic Omnibus 1 by CLAMP — I marked this as "currently reading" on GoodReads and two separate people asked me "Why?!" so I'm apparently in for a treat! I've had a craving for "episodic horror about a small business owner who trades in karma" and all my volumes of Pet Shop of Horrors are in storage, so this is kinda scratching that itch.
Reading goal: 82/180 (8 new this post) Prose: 49/90 (3 new this post) Nonfiction: 2/12 (1 new this post! Finally!)
#getouttamydamnhouse: 23/50 (3 gone this post)
#unofficialqueerafbookclub: 27/50 (5 new this post; The Wicked + The Divine, Wild Wild Hex, And Devil's Rock)