Hello and welcome to my May books! I read eight books, and the majority of what I read this month are graphic novels, so I’ll be going through them fairly quick today. Let’s just get right into it.
The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart. January Cole has her hands full with running security at a hotel. This isn’t your ordinary hotel though. Walk through at any time and you might see Romans, people dressed for a safari into the jungle, or Renaissance finery. This is the Paradox Hotel, where ultra-rich tourists come to visit different time periods in the past, and where time sometimes slips, causing the clocks to run backwards or ghosts wandering the halls. These aren’t Cole’s main concerns though. Right now, there are some high-profile guests that just arrived to start bidding on time-travel because it’s becoming privatized, and there’s a corpse only she can see in one of the rooms. She’s sure that this isn’t a coincidence, and she’s also seeing things happen to these guests that she’s able to stop. Cole is Unstuck, which means she experiences time slips. This is a handy ability to have, but it could eventually destroy her grip on reality and herself. — I really enjoyed reading this, with all of its timey-wimey happenings! January is definitely quite the character. She can be very abrasive and pushes people away, and she’s not entirely likable. However, you can see that she really cares about her job, about the people she works with and their safety. Cole really does not care for the rich snobs that come through the hotel, but will do her job, give them the respect they deserve (which isn’t very much most of the time). I mentioned her being called Unstuck. This is a side effect of being a time travel agent, riding the flow repeatedly and causing her mind to perceive time differently. Sometimes, she’ll relive past memories as if she was experiencing them in the present. Sometimes, she’ll hear snippets of conversations in empty rooms, either ones that haven’t happened yet or already happened. She occasionally sees flashes of future events, like someone pulling a gun out on her and shooting to kill. We also see her struggling with the fairly recent loss of her love, and that bleeds into her work and treatment of others. Cole is lesbian, there’s a nonbinary person of color on staff and I love them so much. There is a LOT that happens in this story because of all the slippery time, and a mystery woven into this, on top of political posturing, on top of a whole bunch of other things. I enjoyed this, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
How to be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess. A graphic memoir, Burgess tells their story of figuring out their identity throughout school, college, work, with relationships, at the same time as navigating their mental health. Growing up, they just assumed that sex was a scary new thing that they’d grow into, but it continued well into adulthood. They meet others like them, and finally figure out their identity, and learn how to navigate it in a sex-obsessed culture. — This was a great and short graphic novel, very heartwarming. I liked that while this was obviously specifically about the experience of Burgess, they also included brief descriptions of various ways ace relationships can look like, covered other parts of the spectrum. I thought this was a really well done representation of the asexual experience, which is difficult to find.
Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal. This is a world where cyclops exist, and this is almost a slice of life comic, the cyclops creating metaphors for race, sexuality, gender, and disability. We see them struggle with interracial relationships, representation in media, xenophobia, and all the other daily struggles that humans face. — This is a very quick read, and it started as a series on Instagram. This is actually where I first learned about this, I’d always seen a strip here and there, then I happened to see the book at the library. It’s very wide-ranging in what topics it covers, which has its pros and cons. I enjoy it and would love to read more.
Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir by Bishakh Som. This is the memoir of a trans artist, but it’s told in a unique way. The story takes us through her life as she sees herself. She uses a cis woman character to tell her own life story, and the character almost becomes her own person through the process. We don’t really see the transition process but we do see the author’s struggle with identity as she hits a time in her life where she’s not happy with what she’s doing, and needs to change. Reading the author’s note, she started drawing these comics well before she transitioned, and drew them with a cis woman. It took her a long time to understand why she made that choice, which is so fascinating to me. Queer journeys are so varied and sometimes they’re very convoluted, but when we arrive—or rather, get to a place where we’re more sure of ourselves—it’s all worth the queer joy we find.
As the Crow Flies by Melaine Gillman. Charlie, a Black queer teenager, has been dropped off at a Christian all-girls youth camp, and she’s the only Black person there. As camp starts, Charlie gets increasingly uncomfortable with the religious aspect and the heavy-handed brand of feminism that seems very focused on cis white women. — There’s not much to say without just telling the whole story. There is a trans girl, and possibly some other queer campers but that isn’t clear. All of the queerness in this was very subtle, Charlie being attracted to women, and the trans girl’s coming out to Charlie. I understood it all, but I suspect that’s because I’m queer myself, and understand the very subtle codes people use to test the waters with other people. The target audience is middle grade or YA, and while I’m not saying they’re not smart enough, I am saying that if you’re not very exposed to the queer experience, that could go right over your head. It seemed like Charlie had recently lost someone important to her, but that part was very vague and confusing. This had an abrupt end which confused me, and while I was looking for some information about the author, I discovered that this is actually not the complete thing and it’s still ongoing. So hopefully, the further volumes will clear things up, but I think it could’ve been tightened up and had a quicker story pace. This was written by the same author that wrote Stage Dreams, a lesbian and trans Western graphic novel which I enjoyed. For this one, I’m not so sure. I just had too many questions at the end, a lot of plot things that are either left hanging or not wrapped up to my satisfaction. It’s fine, and I do really enjoy the nature illustrations.
Firefly: The Sting written by Delilah S. Dawson, illustrated by Pius Bak. Saffron, an enigmatic rogue who has caused nothing but misery for the crew of the Serenity, shows up while the women are having a spa day and recruits them to do a big heist. — Firefly is an early 2000s TV show that ran for only one season, and got canceled before it finished. It’s a sci-fi space Western story set 500 years in the future after a big civil war, focusing on a small spaceship crew that will take any job as long as it puts food on the table. The graphic novels expand on the stories of the crew. I really love the show, and was so sad that I found it well after it was canceled. There’s a cult following today, and it still continues to be popular at cons and such.
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by Melissa Wagner. This is a cute small book that pulls various quotes of life lessons from the show—how to practice kindness, self care, and empathy—pairing them with gorgeous illustrations of the various characters from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the visitors to it, and Mr. Rogers himself. That’s pretty much the book, it was an extremely quick read but it was a good nostalgic trip even though I never really watched the show that much growing up.
A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall. Viola Caroll came back from the war more true to herself, but to achieve that, she had to let herself be presumed dead. In doing so, she lost her wealth, title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. She keeps her distance after the war, thinking it’s the best for everyone. However, Gracewood has taken the loss very hard. He’s retreated into his own grief, drinking and taking drugs for his pain but also to dull the loss of Viola. On a visit to the Gracewood estate, Viola sees this and barely recognizes the man before her. She decides she has to try and bring Gracewood back to himself, perhaps at risk of discovery and everything she’s built, but perhaps giving rise to something new and impossible. — I want to be clear, Viola is a trans woman. She was raised with Gracewood, and took the opportunity to transition and reimagine herself as her true self once she found out she was presumed dead. I really, really enjoyed this Regency-era historical romance. Viola’s transness does impact the story, but it nearly never becomes the main focus. The fact that she’s a woman and has to live by all of society’s rules takes precedence, especially when she’s around Gracewood and there’s a whole new dynamic that they have to navigate. There is so much queer longing in this, Gracewood for his old friend, and for Viola. It goes the other way as well, with Viola realizing that her feelings for Gracewood have evolved into something that she didn’t have a name for before. Gracewood did have an initial struggle upon learning who Viola was, but quickly accepted her as who she was. The few other characters that know about Viola’s transness have their own relationship to it, but they all accept and support her. Viola is definitely haunted by her past, coming face to face with all of the things she used to do that she can’t now that she’s a “proper” lady, learning how to navigate society as a lady’s companion. Alexis Hall is a fantastic author, and I think he did a great job with all the banter. I didn’t connect it until later, but he’s also the author of Boyfriend Material, which I also enjoyed very much! If you enjoy historical fiction, especially one set in Regency-era society, I would absolutely recommend this.
That’s it for what I read during May. I anticipate June being a BIG wrap up, since as of filming this video, I’ve already read five books. That’s in part because of Queer Lit Readathon, which is ongoing as I film this. But I also got approved for SO many eARCs that are publishing this month, and nearly all of them are queer, so I’m going to do my best to get through as many as I can! That’s all for today, comment whatever below, and I’ll see you soon. Happy Pride month!
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