Friday, May 25, 2018

My July and August 2017 Reading

My July 2017 (yes… I'm slow ^^;;;) reading is introduced to you by The Pink One!

Agatha Christie “Why Didn't They Ask Evans?” [UK]
Chigusa Kawai “La Esperança, Vol. 1-2” translated by Suvi Mäkelä [Japan]
Sarah Waters “Fingersmith” [UK]
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology” [USA, Canada]

A novelette free online:
JY Yang “Waiting on a Bright Moon” [Singapore]

Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
“Was it a misstep that sent a handsome stranger plummeting to his death from a cliff? Or something more sinister? Fun-loving adventurers Bobby Jones and Frances Derwent's suspicions are certainly roused – espeically since the man's dying words were so peculiar: Why didn't they ask Evans? Bobby and Frances would love to know. Unfortunately, asking the wrong people has sent the amateur sleuths running for their lives – on a wild and deadly pursuit to discover who Evans is, what it was he wasn't asked, and why the mysterious inquiry has put their own lives in mortal danger...”

I'm a big fan of stories where the mystery is investigated and solved not by professionals (though I like those too!), but by someone who just accidentally got involved. Here we have two young friends Bobby and Frankie as sleuths. It's a short, fast-paced book, perhaps not the most memorable of Christie's novels, but fun nonetheless!

La Esperança
“In a European school dorm, Georges Saphir is admired and loved by everyone. However, afraid of others doing him harm, he has never allowed anyone to get close. Why is it then that misfit Robere can effortlessly step over this line Georges has drawn and see right through him? Will getting too close to Robere result in a tragedy that justifies his worst fears?”

I've never read shounen ai before, but unfortunately my first shounen ai manga didn't impress me. I only read 2 volumes and won't continue. Not a lot happened in them and most of it wasn't about the boys' feelings for each other. New characters kept showing up without really adding much to their story. :(

“Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.
One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in an asylum.
With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.”

I liked this giant book less then Waters' debut Tipping the Velvet. While reading it I often wished it was much shorter. For example, there is a twist there that changes things (I won't spoil), and after it we get many, many pages of the story repeated but now from a new PoV – it was interesting but way too long. Otherwise, it was cool to read a historical novel with two queer women, even though I found most characters to be unpleasant.

Additionally, the chapters in asylum were so uncomfortable to read. The patients there (all women, put there by their male relatives) were routinely abused by nurses, both verbally and physically, there is even a sexual assault scene. The “treatments” were also abuse, let's be frank, like the cold water plunge – they would strap women onto a wooden frame and drop them into a bathtub filled with cold water. (As far as I know the author did a lot of research, so I assume this actually happened to women in asylums in Victorian England.) After a few patients died and one was cured and released, the main doctor even decided not to cure anyone for some time not to lose money they got from keeping them there. All this was deeply horrifying, so I'm not sure if I'd want to recommend this book… It's not a bad book! Just very heavy at times...

Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time
“"Love Beyond, Body, Space, and Time" is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.”

I wanted to read this cool anthology for June Pride, but even though it's pretty short, I didn't manage to finish it in time, oops. I really wish this book was longer, with more authors! I liked most of the stories quite a lot, but they left me hungry for more. =D We certainly need more anthologies of diverse science fiction and fantasy like that!

By the way, I drew a fanart for Darcie Little Badger's story from this anthology. It's a lovely story set in space, and you can read it here.


My August reading is introduced to you by Asya!

Karuho Shiina “Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 9-13” [Japan]
Alison Bechdel “The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For” [USA]
Suzanne van Rooyen “I Heart Robot” [South Africa, Finland]

Short short stories:
Elizabeth Bear “The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder” [USA]
Bogi Takács “Standing on the Floodbanks” [Hungary, USA]

Kimi ni Todoke
“Kento, a new classmate, takes an interest in Kazehaya and Sawako's relationship, but his interference confuses Sawako even more. When Kazehaya tries to tell Sawako he has feelings for her, she completely misinterprets him. Will Sawako ever muster the confidence to confess her own feelings and resolve the misunderstanding?”

This manga continues being cute and binge-reading-worthy. I love Karuho Shiina's style, it's so beautiful and emotional!

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For
“From the author of Fun Home - the lives, loves, and politics of cult fav characters Mo, Lois, Sydney, Sparrow, Ginger, Stuart, Clarice, and others.
For twenty-five years Bechdel’s path-breaking Dykes to Watch Out For strip has been collected in award-winning volumes (with a quarter of a million copies in print), syndicated in fifty alternative newspapers, and translated into many languages. Now, at last, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For gathers a “rich, funny, deep and impossible to put down” (Publishers Weekly) selection from all eleven Dykes volumes. Here too are sixty of the newest strips, never before published in book form.
Settle in to this wittily illustrated soap opera (Bechdel calls it “half op-ed column and half endless serialized Victorian novel”) of the lives, loves, and politics of a cast of characters, most of them lesbian, living in a midsize American city that may or may not be Minneapolis.
Her brilliantly imagined countercultural band of friends - academics, social workers, bookstore clerks - fall in and out of love, negotiate friendships, raise children, switch careers, and cope with aging parents.
Bechdel fuses high and low culture - from foreign policy to domestic routine, hot sex to postmodern theory - in a serial graphic narrative “suitable for humanists of all persuasions.”

This was a nice collection of comics, although I found it very tiring that some characters were biphobic towards their bi friends. The cast is diverse (different sexualities, ethnicities, religions), and huge, but not confusingly so. Some comics there are very funny, while others are sad or angry.

I Heart Robot
“Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who gets her musical aspirations.
Q-I-99, aka 'Quinn,' lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.
Tyri and Quinn's worlds collide when they're accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn's love of music draws them closer together, forcing Tyri to question where her loyalties lie and Quinn to question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, will Tyri's and Quinn's passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?”

Set in Scandinavia but with robots, this young adult novel opens with a funeral scene, because that's how cheerfully Suzanne van Rooyen's books usually start. =D (But don't worry, there'll be only one more funeral scene in the book!) I Heart Robot is a fast-paced science fiction story with queer characters, a cute dog called Glitch, and lots of music. It's narrated from POVs of two characters, Quinn and Tyri. Quinn is an android who chooses to have emotions over martial arts skills. Also, he has sound-to-colour synesthesia, just like me! (mine is less intense, though.) Tyri is a goth violinist who big music-flavoured dreams and no synesthesia because I guess goths only see black? ;p Quinn is bi, his BFF is queer too, and there's an f/f couple (one of them is trans ^o^). There's also Rurik, let's not speak of Rurik.

I loved the Scandinavian setting, so refreshing in YA, and the robots' fight for equal rights. I did guess the twist early, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book. I now demand a sequel AND a Glitch prequel.

I was given the ARC of the new edition by the author (but later I bought my own copy when the book was released ^^). I also drew fanarts of Tyri – here and here. If you want to see my liveread thread with no major spoilers, click here.

Favourite quote:
“Have a heart; we do.”

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