Tag Archives: things in print thursday

Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [Far From You]

30 Mar

This novel, by Tess Sharpe, is about a young bisexual girl, Sophie, and it actually says the b-word. This is the most remarkable thing about this book, honestly. The narrator says “I’m bisexual” and not just in her own internal monologue. Another thing I appreciated – and this is not to say that it’s not entirely valid when a bisexual character, in the present tense of a narrative, is attracted to both men and women, because it is legitimate – is that although the narrator is in fact bisexual her present tense attraction, the only attraction she says has ever meant anything, is toward a girl, her recently dead best friend Mina.

Because here’s the thing. It’s important to acknowledge that someone can in fact be bisexual, self-proclaimed and genuinely attracted to “both” (assuming the gender binary, which is false, but Sophie does say she’s attracted to both boys and girls, so in her case that’s the bisexual that applies), but can either prefer one or the other or have a more serious connection with one or the other. Sophie mentions past hookups with boys, but she says out loud that it’s always been Mina that she loves, and though Mina is dead by the time the book starts this doesn’t change. Her bisexuality doesn’t mean that she’s susceptible to the obvious male option for a counterpart. It’s not a way of saying “I loved a girl in the past, but now I’ll replace her with a guy because lol I’m bisexual and I want everyone.” She doesn’t want everyone. She merely acknowledges the possibility of wanting more than one gender of someone.

The end of the book leaves it open: she could eventually fall in love again, with a boy or a girl, but not with any of the boys or girls that have previously been presented. Her options are open, not filled in an easy way. I feel like that doesn’t always happen, and it was nice.

The actual content of the book, aside from the sexuality (not crisis, but conflict of sorts), deals mainly with two things: Sophie recounting the aftermath of a car accident she was in years before that not only permanently injured but set her up for an addiction to painkillers that she ultimately had to kick, and Sophie recounting the aftermath of Mina’s murder and her own involvement, how the former things affected the situation, and how she set out to solve the crime. Drift partner warned me that the twist ending of the book might be a little obvious, but it’s not so much about the mystery as it is about the journey to get there, I don’t think. (I was also oblivious to the clues that would make it obvious because there were a good three or four characters I kept forgetting about and then having to remember which one they were.)

Anyway. There’s sexuality stuff, there’s physical disability stuff which is always interesting to me because of my own long-past traumatic experiences (and also because the disability here was similar to Lily’s from last month’s read, As I Descended, though Lily took the exact opposite view of painkillers), there’s addiction stuff, there’s mystery stuff. It’s an interesting read, although not exactly standout in any particular way.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [As I Descended]

9 Feb

So through January I was doing a gigantic reread of all of the Wicked Years books, but when I was done I thought “well. Drift partner’s library is now under the same roof as me. I should avail myself of it, and more specifically the collection of queer books I’ve wanted to read but just haven’t gotten around to.” So I decided, somewhat to make up for the fact that I wimped out of last year’s read-a-book-a-month challenge to myself, I would make a point of doing one of these queer books per month. Or other queer books, maybe, I don’t know yet. I’m starting here.

As I Descended was explained to me, by her, as “crazy lesbian Macbeth.” Adjectives such as “bonkers” were also utilized. That was pretty much all I needed as a recommendation. Plus, I’d done a bit of Robin Talley’s stuff last year, so I figured I’d be on even ground.

One nice thing about this book: the constantly shifting (third-person) POV. I’m fond of the multiple POV approach in general, but it was really interesting to see how it played out here, shifting multiple times in a chapter. The overanalytical drama kid in me says “well but that makes sense, because plays can be seen from any of the characters’ POV” but then the English major says “this is even better than complete objectivity this is a constant interplay of equally pissed-off emotional teenage narrators all with different psychoses for maximum dramatic effect.” It didn’t get confusing, it kept you constantly appraised of different ideas characters were having about the goings-on (which were, in fact, bonkers), and it gave a good sense of motivation for everyone.

Another nice thing about this book: okay, yeah, it’s a queer book, but it’s… based on a famous Shakespearean tragedy. You know most everyone is gonna die, so the queer kids are probably gonna die, but it’s not gross or burn-your-gays. Plus, the author is a queer lady, so you know she’s not doing it out of awful. Her books just have a lot of queer people in them, so what happens happens. It helped, I admit, having a good sense of who was going to die. Took some of the edge off. Also, by virtue of knowing ~the Scottish play~, I knew that everyone was also probably going to be a little bit horrible, and again, that was just how it was. No judgment.

I’m not sure how much you’re supposed to really sympathize with most of the characters, protagonists included, but there are moments where each of them invites it. I wasn’t out even to myself in high school, but it’s easy for me to imagine how that could color the motivations of especially a misanthropic queer kid. Up to a point, everyone’s motivations were pretty understandable.

Except, you know, the whole ghosts thing. That catapulted it into full-on Southern Gothic spoopy creppy nonsense land, and I am 100% in favor of that.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that this book was a bunch of my interests put in a blender, and that’s fun. Rarer than you might think.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: a YA synopsis generator template

12 Jan

So in my last year’s travels through Goodreads and in my intermittent travels through YA, I’ve learned that the summaries of YA novels, much like the summaries of romance novels, are fairly formulaic. Being the overachieving weirdo I am, I decided to make a random generator based on this premise.

This will be an ongoing project, using the code listed here, but I’m going to get it started with the first of several hollow outlines tonight so we can start working to fill in the blanks.

[girl’s name] has a [adjective] life – [familial anecdote], [academic anecdote], [personal anecdote]. She even [unlikely anecdote]. Everything is going [adverb] – that is, until [boy’s name] enters her life. After [way of meeting], the two are initially [adjective] about each other, but after a [adjective] [experience] and some input from their [type of person] [girl’s name], [boy’s name], and [ambiguous name], the two will have to [activity], and it could change [noun].

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: a breakdown of Amazon’s 2016 Top 20 Best-Sellers

29 Dec

Cross-genre, cross-everything. Critical opinion is interesting, but money also talks.

Female author: 7.5

Female protagonist (9/20):  1

POC author: 6

POC protagonist (8/20): 0

Fiction: 9

Non-fiction: 11

Adult: 15

Young Adult: 0

Children’s: 5

Recent (within the last 6 years): 16

Classic (7 years or older): 4

For what that’s worth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: bless you Monica Nolan.

15 Dec

So when I was in high school Entertainment Weekly ran a review of a book entitled Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary. It was pure send-up retroesque pulp, complete with a whole lotta girl-on-girl.

My mother suggested I pick it up. I would not come out to her for another three and a half years. How did nobody know?

As per her recommendation, I acquired said book, authored by one Monica Nolan (I have yet to read her book of lesbian horse stories, but someday). And I devoured it. And I devoured it again. And I read it approximately ten times before drift partner said “hey, I saw this book called Someone, Lesbian Gym Teacher or something” and I immediately freaked out. There were more of them? But of course there were more of them!

It turns out they’re all freakish hard to find in real life, though, so finally I gave up and ordered them off of Amazon. And promptly devoured them all, too.

They’re really very straightforward books. A Sapphic protagonist, whose name is both alliterative and reminiscent of the 50s-60s when the books are set, makes a career decision that changes her life and circumstance; coincidentally, this surrounds her with other fabulous queer folk, several of whom she liaises with before finding her true lesbian love. Along the way, she and her friends also unravel some conspiracy or another, make uncanny observations about queer culture, and change their clothes a lot.

Each protagonist is a bit different (Lois Lenz is easily the naive one, discovering her passions for the first time; Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher is rather predictably the bluntest and the butchest; Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante is flighty and sociable, hard to pin down; Dolly Dingle, Lesbian Landlady is mature and worldwise) and they seek different things with their peers. However, all of the stories take place in the same general community, and most of the characters at least know someone who knows another character in some way. It’s all very interconnected and charming.

There’s also a fair amount of metacommentary and era-typical nonsense squeezed into these silly little stories. There’s an entire subplot revolving around the real-life lesbian pulp industry; more than once there’s Communism scares; much is made of the supposed cultural superiority and conversely the gangland underbelly of… the Scandinavian community. The girls are often righteously indignant, working to make the world a better place, while also prioritizing helping each other out and supporting each other. It’s a rather rose-tinted sort of world, but it’s charming.

And though these are not subtle books, what with the word Lesbian boldly printed on the cover (and with that cover being borderline-cheesecakey, but tasteful), they really aren’t dirty at all. The sex is often brushed through with outlandish metaphors; the desire is treated similarly. Sometimes it seems like more time is spent describing what characters are wearing to romantic encounters than the actual physical acts – but that’s part of the entire aesthetic of vintage softcore smut. And at least this smut is tastefully written and doesn’t often feel uncomfortable (some sex scenes just do, that’s a fact).

In short: brava, madame.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: naughty comics.

17 Nov

Which is to say, this is me evangelizing about Sex Criminals, a series by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I have read the first three trades in the last year and I just… I love it?

This is what I told Matt Fraction at Rose City this year: I, like his female protagonist Susie, am a librarian (or, well, an aspiring librarian). I am not used to seeing genuinely cool librarians in fiction (well, with the exception of my beloved Giles, and even he errs on the side of traditional in a lot of ways). It’s funny, because there’s actually a pretty prevalent “cool librarian” culture on the internet and in the right circles; alt librarians, “lesbrarians,” etcetera. But Susie is someone I honestly could have gone to school with. I wouldn’t jump to say she’s me, quite, our personalities aren’t the same, but she feels like a real person and a cool one at that.

It’s sort of silly that this is one of the things that’s stuck with me, but honestly, I first picked up the comic because I knew Susie was a librarian and I felt compelled to read it. And Matt Fraction said he definitely worked consciously to make Susie a cool librarian, which is just so nice.

Anyway. Then you go into the fact that the premise is “they stop time when they orgasm, so they decide to rob banks to save the library” and it’s just so high-concept and weird but I mean, it’s actually a very elegant solution to that particular problem. Of course, things get complicated in about twenty different ways, but that’s what makes it a story.

This ended up being one of those really nice “come for the [], stay for the []” situations, wherein the latter [] is a sense of humor that was not unlike mine. There are witty asides, there are sarcastic jokes, there is a fair helping of people learning from their problematic mistakes, there is a candidness about sex. There is actual cause for the phrase “Sailor Poon” to be used. Etcetera.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s definitely worth a read, you guys. It’s small and weird, but it’s my kind of small and weird.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: Gregory Maguire’s rabbit hole

3 Nov

So I never read anything about suicide in September, and I didn’t read anything about domestic violence in October. I will own up to this. What I learned from looking at Goodreads lists is that most of the books that are fictional and about protagonists that are not white cis men that are about both of these subjects… just seemed too depressing for me or are either thrillers, which don’t usually interest me, or are heterosexual romances, which don’t usually interest me. Or I’ve read them before, like Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina. I’ve been busy, because Halloween preparations and all that (I’ll show y’all pictures soon), but I’ve done plenty of reading that’s not as per my assigned list.

Imagine my delight when I discovered a new Gregory Maguire. After Alice, this one is, and as with his others it’s a riff on a classic fantasy world, this one Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The perspective is not, in keeping with said others, that of an antagonist-turned-protagonist (or at least given three dimensions), but instead (after my own heart) that of a random who was mentioned once in the original, Alice’s friend Ada.

In contrast to the classically winsome, perpetually curious Alice, Ada is practical and ungainly, hampered by various infirmities and a decidedly less creative mind, yet she goes looking for Alice in the “real world” and stumbles into Wonderland all the same. Meanwhile, others in said “real world” are also searching and reacting, including members of both girls’ families and, on the periphery, Charles Darwin.

Yes, Charles Darwin.

One of the conceits of the book – I use the word conceit in the least derisive way possible, mind – is attempts to reconcile the fantastical with the practical and even scientific. Alice’s mother has died recently, leaving an imbalance in that household; Ada’s has recently borne another son, to similarly disorienting effect. (I will confess that I frequently lost track of whose adults were whose, as the narrative traveled back and forth and also the grown-ups were Mr. and Mrs. and Miss and so-on instead of first names; this is not a failing of the story so much as of my own concentration, but there you have it.) Alice’s sister Lydia is petulant; Ada’s governess Miss Armstrong is stubborn. Victorian social mores abound, but with them come rational concerns, reminders of real-world events (the abolitionist movement in America, for example), tangents on spirituality and logic.

It’s sort of hard to explain, honestly.

That’s not a dismissal of the book! Just… you’ll know within about a chapter whether this is a book for you. It’s got all sorts of clever wordplay, all sorts of social commentary, cutting observations cloaked with innocent perspectives. There are wild Wonderland creatures and adventures. But while I enjoyed myself, I won’t presume that you might do the same.

–your fangirl heroine.

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