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Monday, May 8, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (47)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphonia, and Mirka Andolfo

Published: December 14th, 2016 by Marvel
Genre: YA Comics
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 136
Part of a series? Yeah, this contains issues #7-12 and I still don't understand why the numbers started over and that's why I read bind-ups. I never claimed to be an expert.
Got via: The library as usual.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): While CIVIL WAR II brews, the next generation of Avengers has bigger things to worry about - like a tri-state academic competition! As rival schools clash, Ms. Marvel's teammates Spider-Man and Nova are now her enemies! But when Kamala gets called to the real battle's front line, she faces a fight she can't embiggen her way out of. She's about to learn a valuable lesson: Never meet your idols! As war intensifies, tragedy strikes too close to home - and Ms. Marvel must choose between her heroes and her family. When friends become foes, Ms. Marvel struggles to put her life and Jersey City back together. Kamala will be forced to grow up fast and find her true place in the world. But will she be an international sensation...or a menace?

Thoughts: Sometimes I have to seriously do research to write these things. Because honestly I read Kamala and I read Lumberjanes, and I know next to nothing besides what I read. So apparently Civil War II is important and also not so well-liked. (Kudos to Alice here for making me aware of this!) Frankly, I know nothing about the main event and also frankly, it doesn't really matter for this volume. When Last Days happened, I felt like I wanted to know more about how this effected the universe. With this, I want to know more about what happens to Kamala next.

Honestly, naming this volume "Civil War II" feels more like publicity than anything, with everything that happens in this. I think nearly everything that happens because of the event, could or would have happened with out. It's just background, really. So if you're wary of the event, don't worry about it here and definitely don't skip these ones because, well. You'd miss a lot.

A great deal of this volume spends more time with Kamala's family, and their history, and how and why they immigrated. More of her family is introduced, too, and I love how they show how strong the women of her family are, and how that has shaped Kamala to be who she is. The support of her family is so incredibly imporant to Kamala, and she couldn't do what she does without them, and I love when they show that.

Also, there's a queer character now! I won't spoil if the person is new or old, or who it is, but if you've been waiting for that (I saw it on tumblr and was desperately waiting) this is when that happens. And it's lovely.

Big, important things happen in this, but they feel organic, not just triggered by the Civil War II event. These feel like things that have been naturally building, things that make sense to the characters, and don't feel shoehorned in for an event. My advice if you're nervous would be ignore the title and take these just as issues 7 to 12, and don't worry about anything else in the Marvel universe unless you wanna go there. This, at least, isn't about anything else. This is about Kamala. And it's well-worth reading. Focus on her, and let everyone else figure out their issues.

Also I kind of want to check out that Champions thing now? Especially because I have to wait until AUGUST for Volume 7. (And it's only January for me! Who knows when I'll post this.)

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Published: June 7th, 2011 by First Second, but my edition is from Square Fish which is an imprint of MacMillan, and that was in like 2014.
Genre: YA Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 221 plus a Q&A
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya's normal life might actually be worse. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she's pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

Or so she thinks.

Thoughts: This was okay. I liked the art style, but I never felt like I fully connected with the story or Anya. Anya being an immigrant and Russian and everything is a neat dynamic, but she's not a real likeable character, and I don't need characters to be likeable, but I prefer them not to be... so unpleasant that I can't relate to them and Anya sure had unpleasant moments.

There's a decent chunk of fatphobia that is both internalized by Anya at herself, and aimed at other people. She was fat as a kid, but isn't as a teen, and has body issues. That isn't a bad thing, obviously, but her comments about other people are gross. And the only person who really says that it's okay to be fat is Anya's mother, and it comes off like she's very old-fashioned and not actually... right.

And I... I'm going to take a picture (page 48) but basically there's a page where Anya looks at herself in a bathroom mirror and imagines herself fat and it made me really uncomfortable. It is incredibly rare to see bodies that look like mine in graphic novels or comic books and the only time I do when the main character is basically saying how awful it would be for herself to look like me? Vera's mother, who the drawing is obviously modelled after since the clothing is the same, is the only kind of fat, kind of more chubby character (and she actually looks smaller than Anya's imagining of herself) in the whole book.

It feels bad to read. Maybe I'm more sensitive than other people, but it made me anxious and unhappy. The mystery is good, and I liked the story, but I didn't connect enough, and that part hurt. Maybe three roses top? And I don't feel comfortable recommending it honestly. You'll have to make your own decisions on this one.

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Published: April 5th, 2016 by Tor
Genre: Adult fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 169 plus a really funny about the author.
Part of a series? Yeah, there's a prequel coming in June, and a sequel planned for 2018. I will be needing them all.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): 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.

Thoughts: This is the first book I've ever read with a canon asexual character, and I'm never going to be over that. I have literally never in my life read a book with a main character with my sexuality. I want you to really think about that, because it will be relevant to this review as I go on, and I want you to have that context.

Let's talk some other stuff first, though. The idea of what happens after portal fantasies (like Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland as mentioned in the summary) is something I super enjoyed. If you ever want to hear me rant, ask me about Susan Pensevie sometime because I definitely have feelings about that. This book understands those feelings. And then it gave me a whole bunch of new feelings that I don't know what to do with. I feel like that should be a button or something, "Seanan McGuire gave me feelings." I have a feeling it would be popular.

The setting of this kind of boarding school is amazing. I would read so many books set in this universe. I found even just the day to day normal bits of the school fascinating, and I almost wish the book had been a bit longer so it could be explored more.

(My computer died in the middle of me writing the review and I'm finishing it like three weeks later after writing half of it in a notebook so if it feels disjointed there's your reason. (I may reference this in reviews - don't worry about it. Everything's pretty much cool now, and my timelines are probably super confusing in reviews, lol.)

I seriously adored the voice in this. The book really combines a classic tone in the narration, including a self-aware passage about narration, with a great social commentary including very astute comments about dieting and male privilege, and it's refreshing like whoa, especially for a relatively small book.

Now let's talk some ace stuff. I talked to a friend about this (thank you, Luci) because I am not the Grand High Ace. They mentioned criticisms they'd heard that the ace rep might be too generalized and the aro rep (or lack thereof) might be problematic. On the first - Nancy always talks about her asexuality only as it relates to her. She speaks often in "I" statements. Nancy is also not aromantic, and mentions that, which I appreciate as a lot of people might not even know whatthat is, and it's not not the same sexuality. Nancy's experience with romantic attraction seems to be that she wants to kiss and hold hands with people, and that want is directed at specific people. (Listen to the grey aro person try to explain romantic attraction.)

A potentional problem is that this could be seen as equating romantic attraction and therefore romantic orientation solely with physical acts. An aromantic person who likes kissing is still aromantic. I personally don't think the book does this. I think, though, people who don't know much about ace and aro people could assume this, though.

And that's not really a problem with the book, I don't think. It could have been a little more explicit, but Nancy is a teenager and shouldn't have to be the One True Holy Ace, really. Personally, I think allo people need to be a whole lot more careful not to assume that reading one book about one asexual character makes them an expert on asexuality. Nancy's experience is valid and important, and shouldn't take away from anyone else's. The author, indeed, is an ownvoices author, being demisexual but not aromantic, and may well be drawing from her own experience. (Or not, and that's cool, too.) Basically we just need many, many more ace and aro characters, so a variety of experiences are shown.

*looks at notes scribbled on pink cardstock* *which I have now lost since making that joke* *this review is a mess* Oh! There's a trans character in this, and can I just say he is very, very swoonworthy. I think his rep is good, but I'm cis, so grain of salt there. And here's a review from someone else for you! (And more from other reviewers here, which updates a lot more than I do.) And since that doesn't go into detail on possibly triggering things, I will so, like, you know what to expect because I like doing these things for you guys. The character does face some transphobia from other characters, but the narration never, ever misgenders him, and the book's context  and other character always 100% states that this is wrong and not acceptable.

I know from Word of God, also, that there are additional queer characters, but it's not explicit, at least not yet. Curse of the short book.

All in all, I really enjoyed this, and I still feel all the ways about the ending. I also think this borderline works as a YA crossover. There's some horror and a little gore, but I've... honestly read more gory YA. (Never going to be over the eyeball eating book. Sorry.) I'd say a lot of teens would be fine with this and certain teens may just need it. I appreciate and acknowledge the criticisms, but I think most of them (not like the race rep or anything - the ace stuff I talked about)) are more a problem with parts of the audience than with the book, and I'm comfortable recommending it.

Dear lord that was long and this post isn't over yet.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Published: My edition was released March 13th, 2012 from Square Fish which is a Macmillan imprint, but it was originally published September 28th, 2010.
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 213 plus an interview with the author with a bunch of questions and an excerpt and probably some other stuff I can't check because I returned it to the library already.
Part of a series? There is going to be a sequel released May
Got via: Obviously the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her step-mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others.

But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there's a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn't know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Review: This wasn't awful, but I didn't really love it either. It's definitely pretty exciting most of the time, but I wasn't really overwhelmed. It's a decent thriller, maybe a little like the book equivalent of a Lifetime movie. You probably won't be bored, but it's maybe not very high quality.

Like, I have to say, I don't think this is so okay.

Transcription/quote (minus a little stuff that isn't relevant):
"It's Cheyenne," she said softly. "Cheyenne Wilder."
 "Why did your parents name you Cheyenne?" Griffin asked as they drove past two horses - one brown and one black - and running free. His eyes followed them for a moment. "Isn't that an Indian tribe?"
"I'm one-thirty-second Indian. Not enough to really matter."
 High cheekbones, dark hair, dark eyes - he could see it.
I'm incredibly white, so I tried to find reviews from Native reviewers, but I came up pretty empty. I am going to link to Debbie Reese's blog just because I want to link to something, if not something specific. It never comes up again, but it's... uncomfortable, at the very least.

I also think you can definitely tell that it's not an ownvoices book. It's very well researched, and I give kudos for the author for that, but you can still tell that the author isn't writing from experience. I have to wonder, then, if this would ring true to someone who is blind or visually impaired. I obviously can't answer that either, but I do raise it as a question. I also think that it's an interesting idea to have a kidnapper and victim bond, the book maybe goes a little too far. There is no way to make it okay to suggest they'd continue a relationship or be friends, which the ending suggests could be a possibility. Yes, Griffin is abused by his father - he still kidnapped her and almost got her raped and killed. It's not okay to minimalize it.

Overall, it was kind of fun reading it in a guilty pleasure way. It doesn't have a ton of depth, and has some issues. I don't have much to say about it, but I wouldn't be comfortable recommending it. Also, I'm not a giant fan of the cover either, but that's just because I don't like orange. Editing Laina: I wrote this review before I saw that there was going to be a sequel, and I'm kind of uncomfortable with continuing this story personally and probably won't be picking up the sequel.

Okay, I think that's it. This turned out very, very long!

Peace and cookies,

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