Currently reading: more of the same - Glenarvon, Best Australian Poems 2015, and so forth.
Recently Finished:Double Up
by Vanessa North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Reasonably good fun, easy reading, engaging main pairing dynamic. Eddie made a GREAT supporting character, points to Eddie.
My problems with this book didn't really crystalize until I read 'Rough Road', so I'll cover them in the review to that.Rough Road
by Vanessa North
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Hmm, so, I still like Eddie, and Wish was pretty cool, and the erotic dynamics good.
But this book coming on the heels of Double Up really brought to my attention a trope that I Do Not Like (TM). Both books relied on a character growth arc of 'man shall leave his best friend and cleave unto his monogamous partner' - in Double Up that was second string to 'man shall stop being an ass in denial about his mortality', but it was the chief thrust of Rough Road and it BOTHERS ME. Not that the Ben-Eddie friendship isn't, as portrayed, unhealthy: sure, Ben needed to remember he could trust people other than Eddie, and Eddie needed to get some fucking distance. But it's the thing where this only becomes a problem, and the only solution envisaged, is each of them partnering with someone else. Partners 'need to come first' and all that jazz.
How about: Ben needed to stop being a denialist avoiding avoider because it was fucking up his friendship with Eddie *as well* as his relationship? And Eddie could just maybe find some way of balancing out 'I want to be there for Ben in emergencies' vs 'but it is rude to sex partners if you answer calls mid-coitus'. Seriously, they never considered any option EXCEPT 'you let him go to voicemail and hope if it's a crisis he can and will call someone else'. There are other options! Like 'If you call twice in five minutes I will answer, whatever I'm doing - so don't abuse that privilege, but conversely, if you're in a crisis do call me!'
In short: I am too poly for this shit.Gays of Our Lives
by Kris Ripper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I TAKE BACK MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT ROMANCE NOVELS AND HYPERMONOGAMY this was a great exercise in found-family, friendship and romance reinforcing one another, etc. Also grumpy people with babies, which is great. And what seemed to me like a good handling of chronic illness as well.Ash
by Malinda Lo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I, uh. Um. I don't know what to think of this book, really. It seems to have done a thing where every time it does something I really like, it does something I don't like at all in a closely related sphere. It was a good story, but if I was given my choice of Cinderella retellings I'd still take Ella Enchanted over this one.
Case in point: atheist fantasy worldbuilding that works. Great! There's magic here, and saint-like figures / ancestor-spirits, but no deities per se. There's fairies and churches but no God. And somehow it manages to hold together. I really like that someone tried that, and it worked. On the other hand: extremely heavy handed 'male church/education leaders' vs 'lady witches' with the old 'reliable medical knowledge stamped out by sexism' thing. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS FOLKS.
Hmm. Now, as a fairy tale... it's a good Cinderella / 510A tale, I think. Some of the things that annoy me (?? how exactly is she going to support herself ?? be supported by the huntress?? idek) are ones that wouldn't stand out if it was a short story or a narrative poem. The key to 510A is that the heroine be unjustly treated, and triumph over her neglectful family and achieve success *in the conventional terms of her society*, and that pretty much is what happens here - it's made clear that f/f relationships are not unknown, and the second stepsister points out that Ash has made a better match than the elder stepsister.
A lot of the female-errant folk tales are like that: the aim isn't to transform the protag (as with male heroes) or change the terms of society (as is sometimes, but not always, the case for male folk heroes), but to characterise the consequences of people breaking the social contract through a sympathetic victim. There's a reason 'patient Griselda' was so popular for so long.
There are two problems here: one, that because of the norms of modern YA, Ash is characterised as opposed, in many ways, to the values of the society in which she moves - the schtick about not wanting what her sisters want would have worked better if theirs *hadn't* been a society that favoured f/f relationships, if she had to do something truly odd or deviant to be able to live free and as Kasia's lover. (And that would have yanked the narrative away from the Cinderella narrative... but in a way that would work with the tropes of modern fantasy, so it'd be doable.)
The second is the combination of the Cinderella narrative with the Sidhe/fae folklore. Cinderella is emphatically not about female desire, or dangerous sexuality, whereas the fae tales often are. The wandering female or young male protag here *is* changed; as Ash herself says, they're cautionary tales. The fairy helpers in the 510 tales aren't the ruthless oath-binding creatures of the dark hunt, and swapping them in... you get something very interesting, but not entirely satisfactory. I'm not happy with how the fairy bargain resolved - *that* narrative arc was working its way to somewhere much darker and just pulled up short (DESPITE all the worldbuilding and folklore built in that was pointing to Huntress Rescues Her Beloved From The Fae, wtf?).
I also think it's a bit... odd that Lo *lampshaded* the fact that the lesbian romance here is not the deviant option. Ash outright says to her fairy lover 'ours is a queer friendship'. Um. I'm supposed to be rooting for the lady 'ship, I think, because Representation, but you go around saying things like THAT, hmph.
Anyway I'm going to imagine a sequel Ash falls asleep under an ymp-tree one day and is whisked off to fairyland and we get Lesbian Sir Orfeo. Or... or maybe I'll try my hand and writing lesbian fairy tales myself. Hrmph.
Up Next: Uncertain, but I have Bisexual Politics: Look Both Ways, and I need to read The Bluest Eye.