The Adventures of Monkey Girl and Tiger Kite, Kai Schalk
Received to review via Netgalley
This is a very short ebook — I’m not sure how long in words or pages, but it was a very quick read. It’s pretty fun and refreshing, in that it has a diverse cast with Chinese and LGBT characters, it’s a superhero story dominated by female characters, and it takes none of these things too seriously — even the teenage crush, which may or may not come to something, but turns out not to be as important as friendship anyway.
It is a very brief story, the more so because it includes flashbacks to the background of the characters, but all the same, it’s cute and fun. I did feel that with a more mature writing style, it might have felt like more; you can pack so much into a short story if only you know how.
The Court of Lightning, Amy Rae Durreson
I ended up reading this because Lynn mentioned it, and I felt like something fairly light and quick. This worked for that, and as a bonus, the worldbuilding is great. It’s not just the sort of story where the plot and world are a sketchy scaffold for a romance to hang on, but a world that feels much bigger, that invites more story and asks you to imagine the past and future of the world it contains.
It helps that the two main characters are fun — funny, in Shan’s case, and adorably awkward in Tirellian’s — and their relationship feels real. The way things work out between them feels right and natural, fits perfectly in the story and in the world, without taking away from everything else that’s interesting about the story. There’s no sudden three chapter interlude of sex before the plot gets underway — while there are some sex scenes, and you don’t have to read them to follow the plot, the point of the story is not about the sex; the sex is just part of that relationship, which is just part of the world, etc.
All in all, definitely a fun one, and I need to hurry up and read The Lodestar of Ys, clearly.
The Lord Won’t Mind, Gordon Merrick
Received to review via Netgalley
This is a really quick read, though I confess I ended up skimming a bit. There’s a lot of sex scenes and a lot of drama: if it weren’t a popular early gay story it wouldn’t mean very much, I think. But it was one of the earliest novels to feature gay characters who struggle with their identity and have a happy ending, and I was surprised at how quickly it got to that, too. Our sympathies are unequivocally with Peter and his desire for commitment, his passionate love for Charlie; while Charlie’s struggles are treated with some understanding, it’s not as though the narrative treats him as “in the right” for wanting to hide the relationship. In that sense, it’s a celebration of queerness, of love (and yeah, sex) between two men, from a time when that was hard to find. No wonder it was popular.
On the other hand, there’s plenty of unpleasantness here — domestic violence, Charlie wanting to hurt various women and sometimes Peter, racism, homophobia from a few characters, internalised homophobia on Charlie’s part, etc. No matter how good it was for gay people to read a passionate love story for them at the time, there’s a lot that’s problematic and off-putting.
And, frankly, for me the writing wasn’t that good. Situations were contrived, there was a lot of repetition, and I didn’t really believe in the sudden intensity of feeling from Peter — Charlie’s more grudging love was a little easier to believe in, but even so, they went into it at an amazing pace.
Still, it’s kind of fun in a trashy way, and it is nice to have that happy end.
Stranger on the Shore, Josh Lanyon
Received to review. Josh Lanyon’s a writer I’m always happy to curl up with — well, with his books, anyway — in pretty much the same way as I’d read Mary Stewart (before I ran out of her books). Mind you, I don’t think Mary Stewart featured a single gay character, while I don’t think Lanyon’s written a non-gay romance.
This was fun, in the way I usually find Josh Lanyon’s books: a bit of tension, sparks flying between the romantic leads, etc, plus mystery and unexpected danger, etc. I usually work out his plots pretty quickly, and this wasn’t an exception. The clues were a bit too obvious. Nonetheless, the exact identity of the murderer was a bit of a surprise, because I didn’t particularly have anyone nailed down for that.
The romantic relationship… For the most part, it worked for me. I could believe in the characters’ complex feelings, and in their connection. But, Pierce fell into the same trap as many romantic leads in YA books and so on (an odd comparison to make, I know). There were traits that were supposed to make him sympathetic in an odd way, but which led to rather creepy things. Like, having sex with someone to get their DNA for a test. And then entering into a real relationship with that person without ‘fessing up. Just, ugh, sure Pierce is supposed to have trust issues, but I don’t see how that makes it any better for him to violate someone else’s trust.
I am not going to quote from the sex scenes, but only one of them made me giggle, which is a start. There are some things that should never be compared to silly string or smashed champagne bottles, I’m just saying.
Silhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin
Silhouette of a Sparrow is a quiet little LGBT coming of age story, set in… the 1920s or so? Garnet, the main character, has a passion for birds, a vague hope of going to college, and a summer to spend away from her family. She falls in love with a flapper, decides not to marry the boy who’s waiting for her back home, and sets her sights on going to college.
While there is drama in the story — Hannah’s outburst at her mother, thunder and hail storms, even a fire in the hotel where Garnet is staying — none of it really did much for me. It’s an introspective story, and that kind of thing didn’t seem to fit; I was much more interested in the quiet parts, Garnet cutting out bird silhouettes and thinking of her father, trips out on the lake, the quiet triumphs in Garnet’s life like getting a summer job and convincing her employer not to sell feathered hats anymore, etc.
The relationship between Garnet and Isabella is almost unnecessary, when you view it that way: a friendship between them would be enough. But then of course you remember how little there is in the way of LGBT fiction and especially teen LGBT fiction — I at least felt much less inclined to go bleh at the inclusion of an “unnecessary” romance when I thought about that.
The ending fits the story well — a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, some hope and some disappointment, maybe even some fear. It leaves a lot open, but that’s alright.
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Alan Davis
Children’s Crusade is pretty awesome. It’s not exactly a pure Young Avengers comic — it’s definitely a crossover comic — but it does feature quite a lot of Billy being awesome, supported by the other Young Avengers, and a fair bit of Teddy being awesome. It also features their first (I think) on-page kiss, and is generally more blatant about their relationship than the other comics so far. There’s some awesome dialogue, and some lovely funny geeky bits about Billy and Teddy.
It also pulls in the X-Men, the Avengers, backlash from House of M, and features quite a few characters we know and love (or hate).
It’s also not without consequences, as even the Young Avengers lose people from their line-up.
On the other hand, I can see some other people’s problems with it: it seems to go back on some previous Marvel events and erase their consequences, and it really is one gigantic squabble between various superhero groups, with the teenage Young Avengers coming out as maybe the most mature.
The Realm of Possibility, David Levithan
I didn’t mean to read this in one go, it just sort of happened. I wasn’t sure at all about the form, particularly: it’s very hard to please me with poetry because I look for very specific things. And honestly, I’m still indifferent to that choice even for this book, which I enjoyed quite a lot. On the one hand, it works: poetry is so personal, and it brings out the different voices in this interlinked collection — and being poetry, some of it is very dense and allusive. I enjoyed figuring out the links between poems, who knew who, and where and why their lives overlapped.
On the other hand, I prefer my poetry to be very dense and allusive, more so than in most of these. I think if it were all written like that, you’d lose all individuality of the voices, so it’s probably for the best.
I liked the whole range of people and personalities, all warm and handled with respect. They’re all people trying to get on with life, not clear good guys and bad guys. And the diversity of the characters — straight, gay, black, white, Goth, church-goer, rebel… — and their stories too. It’s not all about who loves who, but also about family, friendship, faith, loneliness, fear, courage.
I think I’ll have to go ahead and say I highly recommend this, even though I’m not so fond of the format.
Review on Goodreads.
The Second Mango, Shira Glassman
The Second Mango is sweet and quite silly. It doesn’t take itself or its characters too seriously at all, and the story is sweeter for it — the image of a wizard turning himself into a lizard to cling to his lady love’s door and woo her at night where no one can see just tickles me, and because it’s knowingly absurd, endears the story to me. I love that the possibly obvious plot does not happen: nobody switches sexuality by magic and the main characters don’t have a big drama between them about it. It’s a world where same-sex partnerships don’t seem to be common, but for the most part it isn’t a major drama either, which is quite refreshing.
I also really like the fact that one of the main characters has food intolerances. That’s not a “disability” (for lack of a better term, meaning here that it’s not magical in origin or anything, but a physical limitation) I’ve seen much in fiction, if at all. The mix of cultural backgrounds was interesting, too: it’s not entirely clear where all of the religious background is drawn from, but the biggest influence is Judaism. Again, not something I see much!
It’s not some epic deep novel, but it’s light and fun, and it made me smile.
Review on Goodreads.