Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome! Today I’m bringing you the books I read in May. I actually read no physical books this month, everything was digital. Anyway, let’s get into it.
At the end of April, I read the first Legend of Korra graphic novel three-parter. At the beginning of this month, I read the other three-parter, Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire. This happens shortly after the first bind up. Kuvira, who was the villain in the show, plays a big role in this arc. She was the one who started the Earth Empire, and this whole arc is about the vestiges of it attempting to rise up and take over the Earth Kingdom. This is happening at the same time as King Wu is trying to transition the Kingdom into a democracy and abolish the monarchy. As I said before, I will always love diving back into this world, and I’ve been watching the Avatar seasons on Netflix! (No, the blue Avatar is not what I’m talking about.) If you enjoy this world, you’ll probably enjoy all of the spin-off graphic novels as well.
Next, I read the second book in The Sixth World series, Storm of Locusts. This is the second book, so you do need to have some background from the first book to understand all the tensions and things happening in this one. I really liked how Roanhorse added even more to this world, including more Navajo legends and what the world looks like past the wall outside of Dinétah after Big Water. There’s a cult leader, body harvesters, new gods, and more clan powers. I’m excited for the next one!
I’ve been on a massive Avatar kick lately, and just *had* to pick up The Rise of Kyoshi when I found out that Kyoshi herself is canonically bisexual. Before I continue, I think you could read this book with no context for Avatar, but your experience probably will be much better if you know details of this world. This book follows Kyoshi before she finds out she’s the Avatar, her humble background, her discovery and growth into her role as the Avatar. I loved that this allowed Kyoshi to be flawed, selfish, following her anger, but it also showed her growing as a person, learning how to use her power for others, and the path ahead of her. She’s very unorthodox as an Avatar, but that’s what makes her one of the most respected and feared Avatars.
An Exaltation of Larks was the next book I read, and a book from NetGalley. Yes, yes, yes! This is a story of three people who have distinctly different backgrounds – Alejandro Penda who saw Santiago, Chile fall to a military coup when he was a child, Valerie Lark from a prominent and well-off family near to New York City, and Javier Landes who makes a living as one of Manhattan’s best male escorts. Alex escaped to the US during the coup, and ended up with the Lark family. He and Val become fast friends, meeting Javier when they’re all in their twenties. They lose touch for a while then by several dominos, they meet again in their forties. Discovering they still have quite a lot in common, they become strongly linked and a tight family unit. I *absolutely* enjoyed reading this, there’s no question of recommending this to others. There’s so much that goes on in this book, doing a summary of it does NOT do it justice! I really enjoyed how Laqueur writes, it’s beautiful and poetic at times. Laqueur is extremely good at writing characters, their internal thoughts and motivations, how they relate to the other characters. Plotwise, there were a couple of times where I felt like it got a little long, but those were minor enough I can overlook them. Especially when it’s up against the rest of this story. Many people have labeled this as a romance, and while there is romance in this, it’s certainly not the primary focus. It’s all about people and the relationships between them, as beautiful and messy as they can be.
Once & Future. My hold finally came in, and I couldn’t wait, I had to immediately start reading. In a nutshell, this is a queer Arthurian retelling centuries in the future. In this world, everything is casually queer, and it’s strange to the characters when it’s anything else. Ari is the 42nd reincarnation of Arthur after pulling a magic sword out of a tree on Old Earth, and this is the first time Arthur isn’t a boy. Merlin has been cursed to live forever and age backwards the longer the cycle goes on. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind. This is a sci-fi comedy, and I absolutely loved reading this! There are some problems with the pacing and it struggled a bit with having so much comedy alongside some very serious topics. However, this was hilarious, very queer, and just enjoyable. I could easily overlook the problems.
The Sigil. Lake Smithson is in a rut, trying to get into colleges and being declined from all of them. He experiences a great tragedy, and starts to spiral until he stumbles across an odd letter. With this, he discovers there’s a whole hidden magical world that humans aren’t allowed to be a part of. Of course, Lake fights this because he feels like he’s finally found a place where he could belong. There’s magic, creatures of the dark, love, friendships, and chaos. I gave this a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this! I thought the magic system was interesting, with how only the gifted are able to use it by drawing sigils and activating them. Humans can technically use it too, but they’ll be corrupted and possibly die if they try. The whole concept of the MC getting into a magical school, not having any magical ability, and never suddenly discovering some hidden power was really refreshing. I loved that Lake’s being gay was very casual, it came up in the story from time to time but was never a big coming out moment. I really loved Nova! Sure, she’s a little abrasive in the beginning, but I just love her unapologetic blackness. I liked how they showed the POV change with illustrations of Lake and Nova before the perspective shift. Though I did feel like Nova’s POV came in really late. I wish she had been added earlier, and had more chapters. From the cover of the book, you expect a dark fantasy and it is, but you don’t really get that feeling until maybe a third into the book? The beginning is a little dark with the loss of Lake’s brother, but other than that, it felt like just a standard YA story until we finally encountered the Neth, creatures of the dark. That was when it went darker, the pacing started to pick up and we dove more into this magical world. There were some plot holes, and some things that were kind of glossed over that shouldn’t have been such as the destruction in Lake’s home, how was that cleaned up? And some things that I felt like were missing but couldn’t put my finger on. There are quite a few grammar issues, typos, and so on, but the author commented on my GoodReads review and said that there’s a rewrite in progress so all of that will be fixed. But all in all, I did enjoy this read, and that ending WHEW! I need the next book!!
Then I binge read two webcomics on Tapas. One was Rainy Days/SeasonS and the other one was Until Sunset. The first is a fantasy, following Dave who is an ordinary human. For some reason, he attracts the unusual, including the living representations of the four seasons. It starts out as a slice of life, but quickly changes into an ongoing story. I’m really enjoying it so far! Then we have Until Sunset which is a story about Isaac, who has accepted that he’s going to be stuck alone at the family holiday home for the whole summer. He goes for a walk on the beach and discovers Derek, a merman who got injured by a boat propeller. Now, the holiday will be spent nursing a new friend back to health. This is a slooooooow-burn queer romance. I really enjoy the way the author interprets merpeople, and they have a whole lore about merpeople in this world, how they live, how they work, etc. I just wanted to mention those!
The Other Side of the Wire. A Jewish child became orphaned in Nazi Germany and Julia Richter is determined to at least see the child off to their family. Lena, her sister who happens to be married to a higher-ranking SS officer in the Nazi party, ends up taking in the child, dressed in Julia’s daughter’s clothes. The plan was to send her off to America, but after catching the interest of some higher-ups in the Nazi party, Lena has no choice but to adopt the girl, who is the model of Aryan perfection with her long blond hair and blue eyes. This follows Hannah as she grows up in the Third Reich, hiding her past as a Jew and someone who was assigned male at birth. Hannah tries to be the perfect German girl, joining the BDM and supporting the Nazi Party. But her perfect world doesn’t last long, and she’s forced to reevaluate everything. I enjoyed this unique take on a dark period in history, following a trans Jewish girl growing up in the Third Reich. Since I have a lot to say about the trans rep, I’ll say the other general feelings about this book first. It was interesting to kind of get a glimpse into the daily life of a German family who were completely insulated from the horrors that went on in the concentration camps. There was an eventual discovery and grief at what was happening, horror at what their own family and friends were capable of doing. It also showed the scary part of children being indoctrinated into the Nazi ideology via Hitler Youth, having no idea that it’s actually quite horrible. Reading the other reviews, I have to mention that this is historical fiction, and the author did mention that some of the details were fictional, such as the camp in Borkow, the Richter family, and a few others. I also saw a few people saying that having a trans person who underwent a surgery in this time period was inaccurate. It is not. The book mentions the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute of Sex Research), founded by Magnus Hirschfeld. This was open in 1919-1933, and it was closed down and destroyed by the Nazis. The Institute did research on homosexuality, pioneered surgeries for trans people, and endocrinological treatments. So while it might not have been that common back then, it was certainly possible for someone to have the surgery. While Hannah never explicitly says she’s trans, she has at least some cognizance that she’s not what she was assigned at birth. From Lena’s perspective, this surgery was just to help Hannah stay hidden, so she was surprised when Hannah readily agreed. Hannah tells part of the truth: “…if an operation to create something resembling a female’s genitals was necessary to keep her from developing into a normal boy, she would gladly do so.” This shows me that Hannah has no desire to be a boy. I say this because one review said that they felt there was no pre-determination from Hannah that she identified this way. Again, this is historical fiction. Terminology was still developing in the early 1900s, and Hannah certainly didn’t have access to that kind of information, being in Nazi Germany and all. There are times where Hannah thinks on the hidden parts of her, and works hard to be the perfect daughter. I’m not an expert on Nazi Germany, so I can’t fully speak to the accuracy of this book, but I thought it was done fairly well in regards to the LGBT representation.
That’s it for May! My plan for next month is to read only queer media, since it’s Pride month, so keep an eye out for yet more queer books. Also! If you’re watching this on the day of upload, May 31st, the Queer Lit Readathon begins today and ends this Saturday, June 6th. Come and join us in reading queer media!
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