Two Minute Reviews Dump

Monday, October 30, 2017

This is another round up post, books I read in the last three months or so and (mostly) enjoyed but didn't have enough to say for a full review. Onward and upwards, shall we?

Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology ed. Joamette Gill - ★★★★★

A beautiful collection, thoughtful and expressive. Not all the stories spoke to me personally, but the ones that did were truly meaningful to my life. It's a volume that stays with you.

Standout stories include The Whisperer by Arianne Hokoki, which in addition to being a wonderful story about depression, self acceptance, and love, is phenomenally drawn with a beautiful, saturated style. Her Gift by Coco Candelario, which looks like Steven Universe and Kiki's Delivery Service had an adorable, baking baby. Def Together by fydbac earns the spot for best character design. Their unnamed MCs are gorgeous in a way you'd never see in mainstream comics. But for my money, the volume saved the best for last. Songbird For A Vulture by Naomi Franquiz is arresting. Heartbreaking. Beautiful.

The collection itself is nicely laid out. The table of contents includes content warnings on five of the fifteen stories, (including both The Whisperer and Songbird For A Vulture, so be careful with my recommendations,) which I appreciate and hope indicates the future of publishing. The cover is drop dead gorgeous and deserves to be front facing on any shelf. I want a poster. The section "Meet the Coven", with each author's self portrait is also very nice, since a lot of anthologies don't bother with a section on their contributors. (If nothing else, go look at Aatmaja Pandya's portrait because oh my god.)

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel - DNF

I saw Sonia speak on the Buzz Book panel at BEA 2016 and I was immediately desperate for this. Unfortunately, something that I didn't see covered either at the panel or in early reviews is the fact that this book needs a huge trigger warning for incest and CSA. I also had some problems with pacing. Unfortunately, I bowed out at 30%

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde - ★★★☆☆

Bah bah, black sheep.

Where a lot of my friends found this book meaningful and saw themselves in it, I just found scenes like Taylor forgiving the bodyshamer preachy and disconnected from reality.

Two things work against this book. One, I don't like this current trend of comic con stories. I find them extremely flat, full of characters with no thoughts or interests outside of one tv show. Two, every SwoonReads book I've encountered has been extremely juvenile. I don't mean teenagers making teenage decisions, that's expected and encouraged in YA. I mean word choices and editing that belong in a very junior novel, not a borderline NA.

Yes, it's great that this book has ownvoices autism rep, something I hope to see more of in the industry and a bi WOC in a f/f ship, but the actual plot did nothing for me.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger - ★★★☆☆

I wanted this to be a home run, but it was just a 2 point conversion.

Considering who rec'd this to me, I can't believe the mess of girl hate going on in this book. Bailey hates Mona from the word go. She's jealous and rude to Jess, an old high school acquaintance, only being nice when she needs something. That's literally every female character who gets more than a page of screen time. What the hell? (And don't get me started on the "reveal" of Jess liking women and the shitty way Bailey treats that.)

The magic system is super cool and I really liked the world building of the Court. It reads like a lot of my favorite UFs, like The Shambling Guide to New York City. Vincent is the best character and it does him dirty.. Book needs a TW: animal death, I know that's a deal breaker for a lot of people.

The Hogwarts Collections by JK Rowling - ★★☆☆

I requested this collection from the library the day it was announced, back in January. I received it in June, happily right in time for the HP20 celebration. This collection of collections, collectionception, brings together "Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies", "Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists" (the inclusion of Peeves in this book does not work and is clearly only for the alliteration), and "Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide", which only serves to remind me I've been asking Jo to release a real "Hogwarts: A History" since I was 13.

In all, the book collects about 20 Pottermore articles and three or four new ones. There's nothing shocking or special between the pages. Again Jo continues her burial of Lupin and doubles down on her shitty werewolves = AIDS metaphor. The Minerva bio is great, but it's available for free on the website. Some of the essays are shockingly short, very little under the surface. In all, it's fine.

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L Wilsons ★★★☆☆

 The cat sex book. Thanks Angie.

LotFL is the first in a series set in a pretty darn complicated fantasy world about a dying race of faeries who are led by a shape changing faerie, called the Tairen Soul. The faeries have sealed themselves off from the humans following a great war that saw the death of the Tairen Soul's wife, causing him to destroy much the human world. Now, hundreds of years later, the Tairen Soul must return to the human world to broker peace and to claim his truemate.

That description isn't far from the SJM faerie books or The Falconer, but what Wilsons does to differentiate herself is put in a shit ton of sex. Not just between Ellie and Rain, the Tairen Soul  their courting is relatively sweet  but between the human queen and the king. The queen and the mind-controlled member of her court. The evil magician and his mind-controlled servant. A massive drug induced orgy over court dinner. It's a lot and not all of it is consensual. 

And it's at odds with sweet-natured Ellysetta and her courtship with Rain. They spend a lot of time taking her sisters on walks and going to museums, while an entire batshit side story goes on. I don't hate the part of the story they're in, but it's like Wilsons couldn't decide between a relatively standard paranormal romance and a kookoo bananas high fantasy. I still don't understand what's going on with the queen and the members of her court who are all ranked by jewels or something?

Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don't Care by Bryan Lee O'Malley - ★★☆☆☆

13 years and O'Malley still has no idea what a human woman actually sounds like.

Lottie and her "friends" sound like an 80s fever dream of sexy, catty supermodels. I've seen porn with better dialogue, and like porn it's exploitative and queerbaity.

The mystery of CoolGirl and whether the entire plot is all an allergy med induced nightmare was actually interesting and I'm sorry I won't see it play out, but I just can't get past all the unlikable, unrealistic characters.

Shade, the Changing Girl, Volume 1: Earth Girl Made Easy by Cecil Castellucci - ★★★☆☆

Shade, the Changing Girl is a sequel/homage to the classic Vertigo title, Shade, the Changing Man. Beautifully drawn and colored, this book features a thought provoking storyline about the nature of humanity and how it changes two different women who happen to share a body. Unfortunately, it is totally not for me. The madness makes for an interesting background to every panel, but it made it hard for me to focus and connect to the story. It's more existential than I like and large swaths of the book left me uncomfortable and unsettled.

Those are failings on my part, that I don't want a comic that pushes too hard. Maybe you do.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, JK Rowling - ★★★★☆

Ooh, black sheep in the other direction. I loved Cursed Child.

I also hated parts. Ron feels very out of character to me. There are several blatant attempt to rewrite the sins of the original series, including another damn redemption story for Snape. Scorpius' romance at the end has no chemistry or reason beyond once again pairing up all the seventeen year olds.  

But the story. Oh I love Albus and Scorpius and their adventures. I love the alternate worlds and the butterfly effect. I love Headmistress McGonagall. I loved experiencing Slytherin and Harry's desperate attempt to relate to his son and Hermione being the fucking Minister of Magic. It's not great art and the actual cursed child portion is definitely the weakest, but it just made me so happy to have another adventure with my favorite characters. 

I need play tickets more than air.

That's going to do it for this part of the round up. Stay tuned to part two, the time Dani read mediocre anthologies. 

Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year One by Tom Taylor

Friday, October 27, 2017
Title: Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One: The Complete Collection
Author: Tom Taylor
Genre: fantasy, graphic novels
Series: Injustice: Gods Among Us #1
Pages: 425
Published: March 8, 2016
Source: borrowed library
Rating: 5/5
Inspired by the video game phenomenon, INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US YEAR ONE-THE COMPLETE EDITION collects the initial year of the best-selling series in its entirety for the first time!

Superman is Earth’s greatest hero. But when the Man of Steel can’t protect the thing he holds most dear, he decides to stop trying to save the world-and start ruling it.

Now, the Last Son of Krypton is enforcing peace on Earth by any means necessary. Only one man stands between Superman and absolute power: Batman. And the Dark Knight will use any method at his disposal to stop his former friend from reshaping the world in his shattered image.

Right, ok, so in 2012 it was announced that DC would be getting its own, dedicated fighting game from the studio that made Mortal Kombat. This brought two issues to the table: a) how to get the trademark MK over the top violence into the Teen rated DC Universe and b) how to even out the power levels between characters like Batman and Superman. The decision was made to set the game in an alternate world where Superman is a bad guy and with the help of Lex Luthor, he's invented a pill that turns ordinary humans into superpowered soldiers, and superhumans into gods. Weirdly, the idea that Superman, the boy scout of comics, would go evil caused some problems. The solution was, in addition to the story mode of the game, DC would release several tie-in comics.

Everyone knows media tie-ins suck, especially considering the in-game story is not that strong. So how in the fuck did Tom Taylor end up telling the best Superman story left to tell? 

Because of the Joker, Superman accidentally kills Lois Lane and levels Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. Bats reminds him of their code of not murdering handcuffed people and Supes kills Joker anyway, posing the eternal Batman question, would it be better for Batman to take one life to stop the Joker and save thousands, or does murder always lead down a slippery slope. Superman, with Wonder Woman at his side, embraces his status as homosuperior and sets about to benevolently rule Earth. 

The JLA is divided. Barry and Hal are team Superman, as always. Bats is team "no god emperors" as are, surprisingly, the rest of the Green Lantern Corps. and the Guardians (who are pretty god emperor-y themselves). Villains change allegiances, joining both sides and yes, Lex Luther invents a superhero pill. This story is year one of five, slowly paving the way for Superman's eventual descent into madness and villainy, even as he starts off with the best intentions. 

The slow burn is what makes the story work so well as Superman just desperately wants to protect Ma and Pa Kent, even to the point of killing a previous ally. He's distraught over the death but couldn't they see that he's just trying to keep everyone safe? He doesn't want to rule the world, he just wants all of the government's to stop their wars and if he has to step into leadership to do that...well. Every decision makes sense. Every compromise of his morals for the greater good leads him further down the path. His allies are like frogs in a pot coming up to boil. By the time the death toll rises, they can't see another way. 

Also this book is the best Harley Quinn arc since her original inception.

Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: famtasy
Series: Wayward Children #1
Pages: 176
Published: April 5, 2016
Source: borrowed library
Rating: 4.5/5

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Guests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.
"We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women."

This book is so special to me. I like the Toby Daye series and Sparrow Hill Road a lot. I loved Feed and it's gut-punch ending. But while Seanan is a favorite author, never before has one of her books spoken to me.

EHaD is the story of Alice and Susan and all of the other children who return from their portal fantasy to find a world they no longer fit. Some of the characters broke the rules of their fairy lands, some were sent back to make sure this was the life they wanted. But every child in Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children wants to return to their real world, their home.

Firstly, I love the world building for the portals. Seanan has created a sliding scale for the worlds, from High Nonsense to High Logic and everything in between. The worlds are classified as Fairylands or Mirrors (like Wonderland) or Underworlds... There is a girl from Webworld, a Borrowers like place of warring spider queens and Jack and Jill from their horror movie Moors, where one was apprenticed to a mad scientist and the other a vampire's pet. Sumi is High Nonsense Mirror called Confection, while Kade is a High Logic Fairyland, Prism, returned to Earth for not being the princess the fairies thought they'd stolen but a prince and heir to the Goblin King. (TW for deadnaming in one of his chapters.) And Nancy. Nancy who longs to return to the Halls of the Dead, her Greek inspired Underworld, where members of the court stand still as statues, slowing their breathing and heart rate until they're almost dead too, for days on end. They're fed dribbles of pomegranate juice and Nancy was gone six months, one for each pomegranate seed Persephone ate.  (Nancy's relationship with food could also be triggering for some, as she no longer eats or needs to eat as the rest of humans do, subsisting mostly on a few pomegranate seeds at a time.)

In typical Seanan fashion, the story really starts when all of these children are forced together under one roof - and then the murders start. 

As with all her work, the book is a great balance of banter and action. I highlighted a lot of snark, mostly from Jack and her "foolish disregard for the laws of nature". (She was making cheese.) But, this book also has a lot of profound, heartfelt moments, too. The story is clearly also special to the author as she and the main character share an orientation. In no other book have I seen a frank discussion of the difference between asexuality and celibacy or asexuality and aromanticism. It's quietly put out there, plainly stated without shifting the focus.

The mystery is fine but as the book is technically a novella, it's a little rote. Very similar to the second Toby Daye book, when every suspect is dead or stabbed, only then will the killer reveal herself. My real issue with the book and the reason for the half point deduction is early on in the book Lundy, one of the teachers and grown portal travelers, tells Nancy that only three students have ever returned through their portals. By the end of the book, that number will more than double. It felt a little trite and trying too hard to give a happy end to a book about a girl's eyes being ripped out while she was still alive. It did give us a hell of a quote, though. 

“You're nobody's rainbow.
You're nobody's princess.
You're nobody's doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

You're Not Good Enough Book Tag

Monday, October 23, 2017

This tag was created by ReadLikeWildfire and Beccathebookreviewer, and I grabbed it from Weezie at Weezie's Whimsical Writings. The premise of the tag is this: Write down 30 character names on a individual slips of paper and toss them in a bowl (hat, dish, whatever). For each of the 15 question, select two names. From the two names selected, pick who you would keep and who you would say “You’re not good enough” to! Since we're a team, Jess picked 15 characters and I picked 15 and then I tossed them into a random number generator since I couldn't find a hat big enough to span between Phoenix and Toledo.

1. You only have one more spot on your Spelling Bee team. Who would you pick to complete your team?

Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (A Song of Ice and Fire) vs. Lord Akeldama (Parasol Protectorate)

Jess: Sandor can't even spell 'Lommy' so yell, my chances are not good on this. I love you Ser Not a Knight but you're DOA for this.

Dani: Bless Sandor, you're not good enough. Lord Akeldama is a highly cultured, infinitely old vampire. Sandor, as he's so quick to tell us, is no Ser. There's no contest.

2. Both characters want to kill you, which one do you kill first to have a better chance of surviving?

Patroclus (The Song of Achilles) vs Lady Julia Stuart Beaufort MacKenzie (Code Name Verity)
Dani: My tragic dead bi babes. I'm dead either way, but I'm killing Julie because if I kill Patroclus, I also have Achilles to contend with.

Jess: I love you Julie, but I can get away from Maddie. Like Dani said, there's no way you're surviving Achilles wrath over his cousin. Totally his cousin. In short, cousins.

3. You’re on the bachelor/bachelorette an you’re down to these two characters, which one are you going to give your rose too?

Sansa Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire) vs. Georgia Mason (Newsflesh)
Jess: SANSA FOREVER. No one, ever, is good enough. THAT INCLUDES YOU, JOE JONAS.

Dani: Sorry Georgia, but for spoiler reasons involving canon love interests, you are not good enough.

4. You’ve been chosen for the Hunger Games, who would most likely volunteer in your place?

Melanie (The Girl with All the Gifts) vs. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Dani: Melanie would volunteer. And win.

Jess: Hermione, you are highly logical and v observant but you are just not bloodthirsty enough. Who literally is? Oh right, Melanie.

5. You’re stranded on an island. Which character would you sacrifice to engage in cannibalism?

AIDEN (The Illuminae Files) vs Alanna Trebond (Song of the Lioness)
Jess: Alanna, you had a good run but I would team up with AIDAN to defeat you. No way I am going down to a deranged AI and not-even-Daine.

Dani: I sacrifice myself. AIDEN's not an actual physical entity and Alanna's far better suited to get off the island. Plus I could never take her out.

6. You’re the next DC/Marvel superhero (with your own tv show of course), who is your sidekick?

Starr Carter (The Hate U Give) vs Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
Dani: Sorry Starr, you're not good enough. Karou has necklaces of magic wishes.

Jess: Sorry Starr, I love your shoes but Karou has the blue hair of my dreams.

7. You’re a manager of an Avocado admiring company, who would you fire for lack of communication skills?

Jonah Griggs (On the Jelicoe Road) vs Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh Morpork (Discworld)

Dani: Both of them.

8. You’ve just finished a book in which your favorite character dies, which character is most likely to comfort you?

Sirantha Jax (Sirantha Jax) vs Yukio (The Lotus Wars)
Dani: ...neither of you is good enough

Jess: Yukiko doesn't do emotions and Jax literally runs away from them. This ends in tears and delusional headcanons.

9. Ugh, it’s high school. Who would most likely be part of the popular clique?

Minnow Bly (The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly) vs Flynn Doherty (Last Seen Leaving)
Jess: Neither? Minnow and Flynn would make their own willingly-outcast group. High school is not good enough for them.

Dani: Both of these books are about how Minnow and Flynn don't really fit in, but I guess I'll go with Flynn? He has hands and didn't kill a cult leader, two things which seem very socially ostracizing.

10. The day has arrived; you’re finally a year older! Who would have the nerve to forget your birthday?

Cricket Bell (Lola and the Boy Next Door) vs Hana Donnelly (Gemina)

Dani: Cricket Bell would not only never forget my birthday, he would arrive with a meaningful gift and stay after to clean up.

Jess: HANNA DONNELLY DAMNIT. I even got a Danae Matresco jumpsuit and bitch didn't even show up and compliment it.

11. You’ve just found an upcoming booktube star? Who would most likely be?

Nehemia Ytger (Throne of Glass) vs Mat Cauthon (The Wheel of Time)
Jess: Nehemia would be and excellent motivational coach and maybe makeup tutorial-persion. Mat is not good enough unless he can stab things or make terrible jokes.

Dani: Nehemia would give beautiful, impassioned monologues on upcoming diverse books, but Mat would be hot and make dick jokes, so...

Nehemia, you're not good enough.

12. Sleepover time! Unfortunately you can only invite one person, who would you invite?

Lila Bard (Shades of Magic) vs Numair Salmalin (The Immortals)
Dani: A pirate thief guaranteed to get up to trouble and laughs or my childhood crush?

Lila, sorry boo.

Jess: LILA YOU NEVER EVEN HAD A CHANCE. You are noooot goooood enooooough. Numair, come through.

13. Bam, you’re pregnant. Who’s the father/mother?

Yael (Wolf by Wolf) vs Kiaran (The Falconer)

Dani: Hey Kiaran, heeeey

14. You’ve just written a super important text. Who would ‘see’ it, but not reply?

Inej Ghafa (Six of Crows) vs Ignifex, the Gentle Lord (Cruel Beauty)
Dani: Ignifex has very little use for human affairs, unless they're about making deals for your soul, so
it's probably still Inej.

Jess: bahaha Inej, because she's embarrassed FOR me because I love her too much

15. You’ve just woken up and it’s time for breakfast. Your mum’s been replaced by..who?!

Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows) vs Kaladin Stormblessed (The Stormlight Archive)

Jess: ..... I will be very good at killing people.

Dani: I'm moving out.


Waiting on Wednesday: Tess of the Road

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I've loved Rachel Hartman since Seraphina came out. Her ideas for fantasy and dragons are fun, unique, and her characters are real and memorable.

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can't make a scene at your sister's wedding and break a relative's nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it's a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl--a subspecies of dragon--who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she's tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Publication Date: February 2018
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 544

Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
Shadowscale (Seraphina #2)

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