Thursday, August 25, 2016

July Reading: Llamas, Theater, Icebergs and Sheep

My July reading is introduced to you by Smol Bear!

Rajaa Alsanea  “Girls of Riyadh” (بنات الرياض) [Saudi Arabia] 
Kaoru Mori “A Bride's Story” Vol. 1-3 (乙嫁語り) [Japan] 
Brian K. Vaughan “Saga. Vol.1” [USA] 
Sarah Waters “Tipping the Velvet” [UK] 
Tadashi Ozawa “How to Draw Anime & Game Characters. Vol. 2 : Expressing Emotions” [Japan]
Kameron Hurley “The Geek Feminist Revolution” [USA] 
Anu Holopainen “Sisarpuut” (Syysmaa #2) [Finland] 

Short stories:
Premee Mohamed “The Last” [Canada] Semi-sentient icebergs!
Darcie Little Badger “When Whales Fall” [Lipan Apache, USA] Really cool names and creatures there.
Sara Norja “Water, Birch, and Blood” [Finland] A quiet portal story.

Girls of Riyadh
“'Girls of Riyadh' captures the trials and tribulations of a middle-class society quite unlike our own and blows the lid off all our preconceptions of Arab life.”

This book is often described as Saudi Arabian Sex in the City. Not my usual read, but surprisingly I enjoyed it a lot! It's written as a series of emails about the lives of a group of friends. I loved the snarky narrator a lot. =D

I'll share two quotes, from the beginning and the end:

“My hair is now fluffed and teased, and I’ve painted my lips a shameless crimson red. Beside me rests a bowl of chips splashed with chili and lime. Readers: prepare yourselves. I’m ready to disclose the first scandal!”

“The story has almost reached its end. But my friends are still candles that life sets aflame. They melt down, burned away by love and giving. I took you by the hands, my dear readers, to lead you on a weekly tour of these scented candles, flickering desperately. I wanted you to breathe in their fragrances yourselves. I wanted you to stretch out your hands to catch a few dissolving drops of wax so that you would feel their hot sting. So that you would understand the pain they had been through and the fires that lie behind that sting.

I plant a kiss, now, on every candle that has been lit and melted away but in so doing has lighted a way for others—making for them a path that is a little less dark, contains a few less obstacles and is filled with a little more freedom.”

A Bride's Story
“Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori (Emma, Shirley) brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.”

An immersive slice-of-life story about life in Central Asia in 19th century full of rich details. Warning: There are scenes of hunting and what happens after… :T

The art is gorgeous! The bear is mesmerised.


Saga. Vol.1
“When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.”

Expected more from this, but it seems to me Saga is over-hyped. Sure, there are some very original alien species here but otherwise it's a pretty standard story. People are on the run, there are fights, suddenly someone helps them out, and blah blah. Although I did like the tree rocketship (organic/living space ships omg omg omg), flashy wordbuilding alone is not enough for me. ;p (I have to mention there's lots of graphic violence/horror and gratuitous sex and even a 6 years old sex slave who one of the characters tries to save when other people think it's totally okay for her to be in a space brothel. And the main female character is often called a slut and a whore by the bad guys. Ugh. I'd rather read something else.)

Tipping the Velvet
“Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.”

My, my, my. Victorian crossdressing women falling in love with other women. Passion, theater and a heroine who goes through quite a journey. 

I never considered this aspect of “crossdressing” before:
“No one appeared to mind it: in some houses in Bethnal Green, after all, it was a luxury to have any sort of clothes at all, and you regularly saw women in their husband's jackets, and sometimes a man in a shawl.” 

How to Draw Anime & Game Characters. Vol. 2: Expressing Emotions
“In this series, the author who has helped new talent to develop, including Ghibli and Mad House, explains character design step by step using his own expertise and teaching materials. In the second volume, learn to master character's emotions and facial expressions!”

This was interesting!

The Geek Feminist Revolution
“A powerful collection of essays on feminism, geek culture, and a writer’s journey, from one of the most important new voices in genre.”

Truly inspiring! I've been a fan of Kameron Hurley's work for quite some time now. This book collects essays such as In Defense of Unlikeable Women and Wives, Warlords and Refugees: The People Economy of Mad Max that are available online and a few new essays exclusive to the book.

By the way, I made a fanart for the book's release. ^^

Sisarpuut (Syysmaa #2)
“Welman tyttöjen matka jatkuu kohti pohjoista. Zara, Adaira, Mimma, Sissa ja Ørrunân matkaavat pohjoiseen, kohti Punatertun kylää, joka on kielletyn Villipihlajan palvojien salainen turvapaikka.”

Finnish young adult fantasy. The story starts in a swamp, yay! ^u^ Interesting worldbuilding detail: In Syysmaa (where the story unfolds and where people are white) women are basically property with no rights, men don't want to have daughters as first-borns, etc., while in Kesämaa (southern land of dark-skinned people) there are equal rights. 

First half of the book is from Zara's PoV. Zara's special ability is to look like a man to strangers which allows her to have jobs and feel safer; it is a gift from the spirit of Villipihlaja who she worships. She doesn't have to crossdress, and even if a stranger appears suddenly, they would see a man, not Zara. I wanted to know more about what it's like living like that, but the second half of the book is centred on a new character. The switch was a bit jarring but I enjoyed her story as well. Among the new cast there is also Unna, a woman with red eyes who has pyrokinetic abilities. @o@

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