Category Archives: Alex Reads

Baccano! Vol. 3: A Delightful Trainwreck

baccano vol 3The afterwords of the Baccano! novels are always a delight. With what I now recognise as his trademark mix of self-deprecation and sincerity, Ryohgo Narita writes of his own books:

“It’s a pointless, dumb story… But it’s fun.” If [readers] said that, I think it would be the best compliment ever.

Which case, I have the best compliment ever to give these books. Apart from the “pointless” part, as I don’t think any story is pointless. But they sure are fun and dumb, with the madcap action, larger-than-life characters, and general ludicrousness continuing full bore into the third instalment in the light novel series. Instead of picking up where volume two left off, volume three—The Grand Punk Railroad: Express—loops back and covers the same events but from different perspectives. Whereas last time the reader was tugged along at breakneck pace following the stories of the criminal factions trying to take over the train, this time we sharpen our vision and sneak after the individuals who slipped through the cracks. Continue reading


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Gods Behaving Badly: Shenanigans of Mythical Proportions

Gods Behaving Badly cover

The Greek myths are essentially one long soap opera about a big, rowdy family being terrible to each other and having lots of sex. Gods Behaving Badly knows this and takes it in stride, abandoning all pretence that The Classics are meant to be Deep and Serious and instead happily telling a flippant and flyaway story about the shenanigans that ensue when the Greek pantheon is forced to downgrade from Mount Olympus to a run-down townhouse in modern London (except for Poseidon, who lives in a seaside shack; and Persephone, who enjoys the Underworld a lot more than staying with her bickering mess of an incestuous supernatural family. Can you blame her?) It captures the delights of myth on both the epic, world-altering scale, and in its full beauty as just tangled, emotional tales of people being shitty to each other in the most theatrical way possible.

Spoilers for the end of the novel hereafter, and discussion of sexual assault (a warning that, unfortunately, should come clipped to every look at Greek mythology) Continue reading


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A Magical Girl Education: Sugar Sugar Rune

Sugar Sugar Rune manga

You know what are great? Second-hand book fairs. Regular old second-hand book shops are wonderful too, of course, but an event that stocks a convention centre with pre-loved reading material in the name of charity is a whole new kind of magic. You never know what you’ll find; sometimes trash, sometimes treasure, sometimes something so cheap it doesn’t matter which it ends up being, and sometimes the complete collection of a manga that has otherwise vanished off the face of the earth. For only $4 each. Ladies, gentlemen, and other distinguished guests, today I am talking about the early ‘00s magical girl series Sugar Sugar Rune, one of the many golden children of the now-defunct Del Rey publishing, the series that rocked the “cute witch” aesthetic for all it was worth and then some, monetised the Power of Love, and almost—not quite, but almost—had an incest plot twist. Spoilers for the whole series beyond! Continue reading


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When Michael Met Mina: Actually, Yes, Let’s Make It About Race

When Michael Met Mina

But the thing is, I wear my politics like hand-me-down clothes: some bits feel like they don’t fit properly, but I expect I’ll grow into them, trusting that because they’re from my parents they’ve come from a good source.


When Michael Met Mina is a novel about realising that sometimes the people you love have unforgivable shitty opinions. Or at least, I feel like that’s the most poignant theme of the novel, and the one that is most resonant and relevant in our current social and political climate. Michael, one of the story’s two narrators, is not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination, he’s just an average teenaged boy from Sydney who likes sports and video games and also believes that Muslims are terrible and refugees shouldn’t be protected by the government. His parents, the founders of the Aussie Values political party, are also not bad people necessarily, in fact they’re really quite lovely people, they’re also just horribly and vocally bigoted. As Michael says, “The scariest thing about people like […] my parents is not that they can be cruel. It’s that they can be kind too.” And boy, isn’t that the Realest thing ever? Continue reading

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Asexual Awareness Week: Two YA Novels with Complex, Geeky, Lovable Demi Protagonists

Radio Silence Afterworlds

It’s Asexual Awareness Week, which means that though I’d do it any time of the year, it’s the optimal time of the year to recommend and gather recommendations of media with asexual protagonists. Today I want to talk about two brilliant geeky YA novels with main characters that are not only relatable, complicated, and funny, but sit on a perhaps lesser-known place on the asexual spectrum: these are two characters who are confirmed as demisexual.

Demisexuality is when you only begin to feel sexually attracted to people once you form a strong emotional bond with them. The most common misconceptions about it tend to be that the demi in question is just “picky” and chooses to get to know people first, or that they’re no longer, or never really were, asexual at all once they find someone they like enough to be attracted to. As with the many grey areas along the ace spectrum, it can be a tricky thing to both explain to people and define for yourself, especially given how society so easily conflates romantic, aesthetic, and sexual attraction all together as one big amorphous thing when they’re really separate and very different feelings—and, as always, different for every individual person!

I know that I’m somewhere under the ace umbrella, but finding an exact word to define my unique, personal scenario has kind of felt like I’m a sleep-deprived detective staring at a conspiracy board trying to link evidence together with bits of string. While I’m still bumbling along trying to figure myself out, it was immensely rewarding and heartwarming to read these two books where characters (who are younger than me, mind you) get to not only find happiness in their ace identities and have fulfilling relationships, but get to be the stars of moving and engaging stories.

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


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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


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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