Lady of the Shard by Gigi D.G. [webcomic review]

Lady of the Shard by Gigi D. G.

Lady of the Shard
by Gigi D. G.
Published: May 14 2016
Genre: fantasy, romance
Pages: n/a
Source: webcomic’s website

Lady of the Shard is a comic about an acolyte in love with the goddess she serves.

read this comic online

Lady of the Shard is an LGBTQIA+ fantasy webcomic told with pixel art and a limited palette of colors that is striking, to say the least. Its ‘pages’ are long and require vertical scrolling to read instead of being displayed as blocky, book-sized ‘pages’ that fit on a single screen without scrolling, as many webcomics do to be formatted like traditional comics. I found it formatted more closely to webtoons than most webcomics. Due to its long, vertical nature, my best reading experience was on a tablet with a large(r) screen, so I could read the text easily and use a more natural-feeling swipe to read the long ‘pages’ instead of scrolling with a mouse.

This comic is what finally pulled me out of my months-long reading slump (and subsequent lack of blog posts) that I experienced earlier this year. I read this back in early July and I still think about it often. The romance is very well done (albeit a bit silly at times, due to the nature of the characters) and as someone who generally shies from romance in fiction, that takes a lot for me to say. The artwork flows in a natural way, with the palette shifting to evoke certain emotions and it does it so well.

It’s cute and beautiful and has ladies who love ladies and I’m just so happy it exists. Even with the simple pixel art that is often only outlines and the limited palette Lady of the Shard has a world and characters that feel real and whole. They breathe on the screen.

My recommendation is to read this now. Lady of the Shard is a heartwarming, spectacular work of art. It’s free to read online (gigidigi.itch.io/lady), with the option to donate to the person who created it (which I encourage). Just take note of the content warning on the first page.

Rating: ★★★★★

What is your favorite webcomic? Please do share in the comments, I’m always interested in finding more gems like this!

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River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

 River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1) by Sarah Gailey

River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)
by Sarah Gailey
Published: May 23rd 2017 by Tor.com
Genre: western, historical fiction, alternate history, fantasy
Pages: 152p
Source: purchased (ebook)

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

 

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River of Teeth is so far beyond what I expected that I’m not sure if I will ever be able to describe how tickled I was by this novella. There are hippos (which are terrifying, if you don’t know anything about them), their hippo-riding cowboys, a pregnant hippo-riding cowgirl, romance, murder, queer characters, people of color, knives, a gangster creep, and so much more. It’s a tense heisty crew western slice of wonderful with a side of romance.

I will admit, I judged a book by its cover. Well, its genre, because that cover is cool as hell. (Hippos!) Westerns and I… have not ever really gotten along. Had this not featured hippos nor sent me down a four-hour-long Wikipedia rabbit hole looking up “Did the federal government actually want to farm hippos? HIPPOS? Murdery water-cows?” I probably would’ve given this a hard pass. Mistake!

Due to my preemptive judgement, when I opened this ebook I was not expecting LGBTQIA+ rep because, well, unless I’ve actively sought out something that I know has queer characters, I am just prepared to be disappointed. I was not anticipating the main cast to include a nonbinary POC who is the love interest of the queer main character. (I read Houndstooth as bisexual but, as no labels are explicitly used in the text and my Googling hasn’t brought anything up, it is entirely possible that he is pansexual or another flavor of queer entirely.) It is always a delight to see marginalized characters existing and being happy. No racism, no sexism, no anti-queerness on these pages. It feeds my soul to have stories where we simply exist, where we are of no special note at all. Just a diverse group of morally questionable hippo cowboys having a caper in the bayou.

And what a caper it is.

The premise is fascinating, the plot is solid – well, there were a couple wobbles but I was too in love with this to care – and the romance is good. It has dark moments, some gory scenes, but it’s a western and one does expect some murder. Though this is a slim read at only 152 pages, it doesn’t feel rushed. It’s very satisfying to pick up and finish in just a couple of hours, to be fully enveloped in the world Gailey has crafted with such care. Its size is its strength, in my opinion. There are some dark and troubling moments*, and a scene in which I almost threw my Kindle against a wall, but if you ride it out until the end the depressing stuff resolves and doesn’t have time to grab hold that it would were this a 600 page monstrosity that takes half a day of doing nothing else to read. In such stressful times, it’s nice to ingest a story whole without worrying about the characters I love while life does its best at getting in the way.

I love this book to pieces, and I cannot wait to see where Houndstooth and the gang wind up in the second half of this duology next month.

* A spoiler for those who may be sensitive to possible death of queer characters: No Heros were mortally harmed in the making of this book. Don’t worry!

Rating: ★★★★★

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The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill

The Tea Dragon Society
by Katie O’Neill
Published: October 31 2017 by Oni Press
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Pages: 72p
Source: review copy provided via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

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Truly gorgeous, both in illustration and in text, which comes as no surprise if you have read any of the author’s other works (Princess Princess is wonderful!). For as short as this graphic novel is, the story is deep and full. Definitely deserving of a sequel or two… or three. This is a beautiful book I would love to have on my shelves, and certainly one that can stand up to rereading. My only wish is that it were just a few pages longer – the illustrations are just so captivating!

The addition of Extracts from the Tea Dragon Handbook is an excellent touch. Learning the quirks of different breeds of tea dragon as well as tips for their care made me nostalgic for the Dragonology Handbook and similar fiction books written as nonfiction guides that I adored when I was a kid. Coupled with clear rep for characters with different skin tones, disabilities, and sexualities, this just knocked it straight out of the park for me.

Soft, exquisite fantasy at its finest.

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The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Enemies of Versailles
by Sally Christie
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy (#3)
Published
: March 21st 2017 by Atria Books
Genre: historical fiction > France
Pages: 416p
Source: eARC provided via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches inevitable revolution.

Goodreads

I’ve been ill (thanks, brain) and this is much, much later than this review should’ve been posted. Forgive me!

The Enemies of Versailles is masterfully crafted, there is no doubt about that. It’s told in first person by Jeanne Becu (Comtesse du Barry) and Madame Adélaïde (daughter of King Louis XV) in turn. Both of their voices are strong and ring through every word of their narratives. I was enraptured with them both from the beginning – even Adélaïde, which surprised me, since I almost always root for the mistress(es) exclusively in these novels. Adélaïde is a direct antagonist to Jeanne, vying in subtle and later overt ways to oust her from Versailles and keep Jeanne from the king. Madame du Pompadour dies offscreen near the beginning of the novel and this sparks Adélaïde’s crusade against mistresses that carries the plot along.

The beginning was so strong that I lost a few hours and found myself more than a little late to an appointment. The introductions of new characters didn’t always leave it clear who may be important later on. This is less of an issue for a reader who may be coming fresh off of Rivals.

Around halfway, however, I lost the spark. There was a lull in the drama. This, unfortunately for me, coincided with a personal reading slump I was having and suddenly I was reading this book for weeks before I finished it. It wasn’t long after the lull that the story really kicks off again (and I do mean really), and I finished it in a very long night.

When viewing the series as a whole, one gets a scope of just how selfish Louis really is. I don’t think I have ever gone into or come out of a mistress novel thinking that the king was a real stand-up guy. One of my favorite things about this series is that it’s completely unnecessary to read them in order. Each one works as a standalone, which is a marvelous thing. You lose only the king’s overarching plotline this way. Characters overlap in minor ways, if at all, save perhaps Choiseul and Louis himself.

Adélaïde and Jeanne are perhaps the strongest characters of the whole series. They are the voiciest, the most unabashed in their desires, and both of them are pretty witty. I adore this trilogy and the women who have told it. If you’re in the market for a historical fiction series with unique female voices, The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will not steer you wrong.

Disclaimer: A free eARC was provided for review via NetGalley.

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The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles
Series: The Wicked + The Divine (Vol. 2)
Published
: July 1st 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Pages: 168p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★.5☆
The second volume of the award-winning urban fantasy series where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. Following the tragic and unjust death of Lucifer, it takes a revelation from Inanna to draw Laura back into the worlds of Gods and Superstardom to try and discover the truth behind a conspiracy to subvert divinity. Includes issues 6-11 of the series, plus supplementary material.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

For those unfamiliar with The Wicked + The Divine series, the basic plotline is this: Every 90 years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into the human world. In the modern day, they are treated as modern pop star celebrities. It features a diverse cast of characters, and follows the human Laura, a fan of the gods who encounters this century’s Lucifer early on.

I started The Wicked + The Divine series in late 2015. I never reviewed it, either here or on my original blog, and my Goodreads review of Volume 1 is simply this:

I do love me some deicide. And hot damn it was beautiful!

Volume Two is no exception to this at all. The Wicked + The Divine is beautifully crafted, with exquisite art and interesting character designs. This series has haunted me ever since I picked up page one. Too often do I read a book, rate it highly, and then forget about it entirely until it’s time to go through what I’ve read for the year for a Top 10 list and go “oh yeah, this book exists.” Not so with TW+TD. I have meant to grab Vol. 2 ever since I flipped the last page of Volume 1 – for whatever reason, I just kept missing it.

If second-volume-sag is a thing, I felt that Vol. 2 definitely was a victim. Maybe I just loved Luci a little too much. Volume 2 focuses on Laura’s desire to find out who framed Luci, and find out she definitely does. The plot was there, it was solid, I just found myself drifting off while reading and going ‘Is this it?’. I was invested in the plot but detached in a bizarre way. Perhaps my memory of Volume 1 and my self-hype meant that Volume 2 couldn’t live up to my expectations –

Until the ending. Holy shit, was that an ending. The writer certainly knows how to keep someone invested in the storyline. Regardless, my apathy toward much (if not all) of the volume leads me to a sad 3.5 star rating for the collection as a whole.

La’Ron Readus did an excellent review of Volume 2 not long before I got my hands on my copy. He enjoyed it far more than I did, and I wonder if that’s to the massive span of time between readings for me. His review goes a bit more into depth on the connections between the volumes, something I can’t do quite as well since it’s been so long since I began the series.

Right now I’m off to pick up Volumes 3 and 4.

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Books that Spoiled a Series

For me. My worst nightmare is having a series spoiled by a bad book, a runaway plot, or a dragging-along of a series past its due (looking at you, season 9 of Scrubs).

Instead of series I disliked much/most of the way through, I thought it would be more interesting to share what book made me put down a series (or which ending pissed me off). Here’s a few books I didn’t like after loving their predecessors.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown (Red Rising #3)

I was in love with Red Rising. I was so excited to enjoy I scifi book that I made my partner read it with me. I liked Golden Son. Morning Star took a shit upon my love and laughed at my dismay.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (“TKAM #2”)

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. I’m not going to go in on this one. I’m still mad.

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine[…] #3)

Again, I was in love with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Hollow City never felt right with me. I couldn’t sink into it the way I could with book 1. Either due to the massive span of time between reading books 2 and 3 (about two years) I disconnected from the story entirely. The plot was starting to feel more and more like a listless goose chase and I couldn’t manage past the first half of Library of Souls.

Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (HHGTTG #5)

I believe most people consider this series to have finished  at Life, The Universe, and Everything. There is good reason for this. Everything starts to stretch into too-long-running-sitcom territory and a feeling that everything is trying to hard. It’s still a solid okay, but given how much I enjoyed the first four, I was mad at this.

The Black Stallion’s Ghost by Walter Farley (The Black Stallion #17)

I wish this were a joke but hi, I was am a Horse Girl. This is all I read as a child. I think this was the first time as a child I read a book and went “this is bad.” I didn’t have a concept of bad books when I was young. I figured that it was hard to write a book and be an author, and Walter Farley had written so many books, so surely his books couldn’t be bad, right?

I don’t remember much of the plot but, from what I can recall, there wasn’t much of one. They see a ghost mare in the Everglades or something. It was bizarre, and it was the first time I figured that maybe, just maybe, this was a bit of a stretch and maybe there shouldn’t be 17 Black Stallion books. He should’ve stopped at The Black Stallion and Flame, #15 in the series.

(For the record I also hated The Black Stallion’s Sulky Colt (#10) though I persevered but The Black Stallion and the Girl (#18) was when I felt validated in my opinion of ‘Ghost’ because it, too, was shit. -3 stars)

Division Zero: Lex De Mortuis by Matthew S. Cox (Division Zero #2)

My beloved Kirsten (the main character) became unignorably, blatantly sexist and slut-shamey and boy, was I mad. I had a glass shattering moment where I thought back on the story as a whole and realized that I maybe didn’t like it as much as I was trying to. The author also had the habit of describing Kirsten’s body far too often. Just… no. I’m still sad and haven’t touched another paranormal sci-fi story since. Dammit.

A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle (Time Quintet #2)

I hate these books. That seems like book blasphemy, I’m sorry, but I could not stand this. I liked the first one a bit. Or maybe I just tried really hard to like it because it seems like everyone is very “my childhood!” about these. I don’t really know. Charles Wallace is the most annoying little fucker I have ever endured through any work of fiction and it is only by the grace of a bedridden flu that I was able to finish this because I could do literally nothing else.

What book spoiled a series for you?

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The Great TBR Purge

This weekend I spent around two hours purging my Goodreads TBR. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. At one point last year I was up to 800 books on my TBR list, which is more individual books than I’ve ever read (at least separate books, this is before rereads were a thing on Goodreads).

Over the span of a few days I culled it to around 400. It took ages, Goodreads glitched out and gave up on me once or twice so I had to go in batches of batch edit. But let me tell you, it was so freeing.

The drop this time wasn’t so massive – I’m sitting at a cushy 226 at the moment. That’s more manageable for me. I read around 80 books per year, though if I keep up at the rate I’m going in 2017 I’ll likely top 100. I’m more into graphic novels and middle grade these days which are much easier to get through than, say, Anna Karenina eighty times over.

Still, 200 is a lot of books. That’s too damn many books. There is a vintage meme that could better express how many books that is – I think you know the one.

Why the purge?

I read a lot – I’m at 20-something for this year already – but I only read from my ‘official’ Goodreads TBR maybe a quarter of the time. Maybe. A good portion is from something I saw someone post about on Twitter, looked up, and requested from the library without clicking the “want to read” shelf button. Another good chunk are ARCs or books from my shelves that I know I want to read, so I don’t bother putting it on the Goodreads TBR in the first place. My real TBR number is much higher.

Many of the books on my TBR were from when I was in high school and determined to be a ‘good reader’ and read the classics. And then I tried to read the classics, and I couldn’t get more than a few pages in most of them. I tried to read Anna Karenina every day for three years.

Is this a big deal?

No.

The challenge.

Okay, more of a series of questions – but boy am I having fun with this clickbaity Youtuber feeling I’m having right now.

I encourage you to go look through your Goodreads TBR. Hit the new tab button, pick up your phone, whatever. Now here are some questions I asked myself when combing through my list:

  • How many books are on your TBR?
  • Of that number, how many of those can you recall exactly why you wanted to read it in the first place? Do you have a vague recollection of why it’s there?
  • Are there some titles that make you think “huh? What the hell is this?”
  • If past years are anything to go by, how long will it take you to read all of those books if you touch nothing else?
  • Do you still feel as interested in these genres, authors or titles now as you did when you added them?

So, how big is your TBR? If you take the plunge and are willing to spend an hour (or a few) culling your TBR list, or if you have done so in the past, I would love to hear about it! Personally, I feel a bit trapped by large numbers so this was definitely a freeing experience.

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