Category Archives: Alex Reads

Baccano! Vol. 2: All Aboard, We’re Going to Hell

baccano vol 2Off the bat, this book is a bit of an oddball to review. Baccano! volume two is a completely new story to the self-contained first instalment, leaving New York and detailing the terrible adventure that takes place when a cacophony of robbers, mafioso, terrorists, and a monster of urban myth all find themselves trapped together on the same cross-continental train. It’s also the first of a two-parter, but it doesn’t drop its “to be continued” halfway through the story: it delivers the train safely (relatively speaking) to the station, and some characters out of the sprawling cast to their destination… and promises to loop back and retell the same sequence of events but from different perspectives in volume three. This is a slightly befuddling creative choice, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t create intrigue. And in the end, effective intrigue among all that larger-than-life chaos is what makes Baccano! good.

So, while volume two—The Grand Punk Railroad: Local—is very much and very deliberately not the whole story, let’s barrel ahead with Isaac-and-Miria-like gusto and talk about the pieces of the puzzle that we did experience. It sure is something, let me tell you. Continue reading

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Baccano! Vol. 1: Live Forever or Die Trying

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Firo continues to look angry and/or confused in every single illustration he appears in

You know me, I’m a sucker for a fictional jaunt through the Jazz Age, and if there are compelling characters and supernatural shenanigans, all the better. The Baccano! anime stole my heart and blew my mind when I watched it many years ago, drawing me into a madcap world of gangsters, con artists, alchemists, and eccentric thieves all caught up in one big interlocking adventure—think Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels but set in Prohibition-era America and revolving around the elixir of immortality (not that everyone who gets sucked into this chaotic caper knows this…). Intrigued to see how the exhausting but exhilarating nature of the TV series translated onto the page, I recently picked up the first volume of the novels it was based on, and spiralled back down into this world of jazzy, magical nonsense, kind of falling in love with it all over again in the process. Continue reading

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Clancy of the Undertow: A Delightful and Unconventional YA Protagonist

Clancy

Remember how I said I hadn’t read any novels since the start of the year? Yeah, poor Clancy of the Undertow has been sitting, patiently, on my desk since literally February. Which is a damned shame, I tell you—this was a wonderful little queer coming of age story set to a wonderfully rich (but not overdone) backdrop of small town Australia, paring back what could have been a story all about The Hardships of Being Gay in a Small Town to an intricate and fun character study of our titular leading lady, Clancy. Though it was recommended (and loaned, by a generous person who now finally has their book back after seven months) to me on the basis of it being Some Good, Good Gay YA, Clancy’s sexuality isn’t the focus of the book nor the focus of her character arc. It’s much more than that, and Clancy is built into a detailed, believable picture of a girl that became one of my favourite YA protagonists I’ve come across. Continue reading

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Throwback Thursdays: Black Butler’s “Jack the Ripper” Arc

Black Butler vol 2 insider cover

Recently, my fourteen-year-old self knocked on my window in the dead of night and asked me to reconsider demon butlers. Or, rather, I went to watch Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic (a movie adaptation of one of the later arcs of the manga) in the cinema with a friend, where we were both promptly reminded why we’d loved this series so much as teenagers. The Black Butler manga is more than ten years old and still going strong, and the movie reeled me back into this world of supernatural action and Victorian Era finery with enough force and finesse that I was compelled to revisit the first few volumes of the manga—the “Jack the Ripper” arc, the storyline I remember being my favorite and starring my favorite pair of villains—and dive back into this story to see if it held up. Is it still good? Certainly. Is it also riddled with problems I’m much more wary of and attuned to now that I’m older and wiser? Absolutely. 

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Overthinking Bargain Books: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

necromancer

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an old proverb that we all know, and while it’s lovely as a metaphor about acceptance and understanding, there’s an entire industry devoted to the fact that we do this literally all the time. If I’m scanning a pile or web page full of books not looking for anything specifically, I’ll pick up the ones with eye-catching, interesting covers or titles that jump out to me. This title-based method is how I ended up reading Aphrodite’s Workshop for Reluctant Lovers and The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex. I read Sellevision because it was meant to be a witty satire of home shopping channels, and I mean, it certainly was that, but it was also a bizarre and hellish rollercoaster of an experience.

Anyway, this is also how I ended up reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer—I saw it in a sea of Book Depository sales items and went “Whoa, now, what is going on there?” It’s not just a pun, but a singable pun, and promises to be about raising the dead. A book with that much ridiculousness and black humour just in its name had to either be amazing or terrible. Unfortunately, Lish McBide’s debut novel with the delightful pun title wasn’t bad, but didn’t commit to being dreadful either, so it just ended being kind of heartbreakingly mediocre. With spontaneous cage sex. Continue reading

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Fantastical Queer Webcomics for the Soul

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Queer stories that fill you with a warm and fuzzy feeling are important—the blissful normalcy of slice-of-life romance with the promise of a happy ending is rewarding and uplifting, and sends a message of hope to the real world while providing a cute escape into the fictional. It says that queer love is perfectly capable of being sweet and life-affirming enough to be the subject of a romantic dramedy, a genre that’s been pretty exclusively heteronormative for all of print and Hollywood history. Sometimes you want to sink into the comfort zone of sugarcoated romance tropes, and it’s important to have a version of this that everyone of all identities can see themselves in.

Sometimes, though, you also want to see queer identities saving the world, fighting aliens, and kicking ass and taking name in genre fiction. Why should superhero adventures, sci-fi cityscapes, and zombie survival action-comedies be solely the realm of cis, straight people? Well, these three comics are here to help fill that void.

As with the cute romance recommendations, consider this not a review post but simply some suggestions of works I’ve found and found enjoyable. Happy Pride Month, everybody! Continue reading

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Cute Queer Webcomics for the Soul

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I think we can all agree that the Tragic Sad Dead Gays genre isn’t welcome these days (not to say that it was ever totally welcome, but given the progress of time and sensibilities, this sentiment has become much more mainstream). Instead, a whole bunch of creators are embracing the idea that LGBTQ+ folks are just as capable of being protagonists in stories with happy endings, and stories across an exciting range of genres. This week, we zoom in on the romantic dramedy—tales of love, growth, and shenanigans set in a world recognisable as ours. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life—or, maybe you’ll just enjoy some sweet queer content, able to relax with the knowledge that a respectful handling and happy ending is in sight.

As I’ve said before, I feel weird writing about stories that aren’t yet finished, and as all the webcomics below are ongoing, I can’t review them in good conscience because I haven’t seen the full story. Consider these not reviews, then, but recommendations of a few little gems I’ve found this year that I find particularly delightful so far, and that I invite you to jump into and come along for the ride as they progress. Continue reading

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