REVIEW: “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue”, or: Fetch me a couch, for I nearly swoon!

TheGentlemansGuidetoViceandVirtueTitle: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Review by: Captain Clo

Verdict: adventures of a bisexual scoundrel unable to keep his mouth shut and pathetically in love with his biracial male best friend. I had the time of my life, would totally recommend, go read it right now! 5 stars

Trigger warning for: homophobia, slight racism, parental abuse

Sometimes you just need an adventurous, fun and queer book in your life. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue definitely fits the bill. It can look daunting with its 500 pages, but they fly by like nobody’s business. An apt summary of its plot would look more or less like this:

Dramatic escapes through Europe! Highwaymen! Pirates! Alchemy! The mysteries of Venice!

And last but not least, best friends hopelessly pining for each other.

I think the official summary of the book actually sells the book short – it’s so much more than just “two friends of noble station – and a little sister – go on a Grand Tour through Europe”. It’s actually two friends and one sister go on a Grand Tour, the dummy of the trio enrages the Prime Minister of France, then proceeds to steal something of said Minister out of pettiness, dashes out of Versailles stark naked, and then discovers what he stole isn’t just a trinket, but the key to an alchemical secret. Slightly spoilerish? I guess, but it’s so much more interesting put that way.

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REVIEW: “My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness”, or: pink confessions of an awkward Japanese lesbian

my lesbian experience with loneliness

Title: My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness

Author: Kabi Nagata

Review by: Captain Clo

Verdict: candid and honest, it deals with very heavy themes without being an angstfest. 5 stars

I’ve never read much yuri (female homoerotic manga) and I was very curious about this graphic novel when I saw it; I was intrigued by the autobiographical angle, something I wouldn’t normally expect from a Japanese author, especially a lesbian.

I also didn’t expect the cutesy art style to deal with depression, crippling anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide ideation, so BE WARNED: this graphic novel is deeply personal and quite raw sometimes. The author reflects about roughly ten years of her life, as she cycled between periods of depression and moments of personal epiphany, through a journey of self-discovery that lands her in the situation depicted on the cover: in the arms of a lesbian escort, inside a love hotel.

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Review: “The Ghost Bride”, or: A Heterosexual Classic™ with a Peranakan twist

the ghost bride

Title: The Ghost Bride

Author: Yangsze Choo

Review by: Captain Clo

Verdict: great premises, poor narration. The interesting bits of Chinese-Malay folklore aren’t enough to sustain a narration in which the protagonist is constantly locked outside of events. 3 stars

This review will have heavy spoilers.

I really wanted to like this book more, and it’s a pity it didn’t deliver for me. It’s a Heterosexual Classic™ in the sense that the protagonist, Li Lan, in the end must choose between two suitors and two lives: a human, ordinary life with Tian Bai, or an adventurous, mysterious life with Er Lang, a supernatural creature (not going to spoil which kind… just know it’s awesome).

The twist, for a Western reader like me, comes from the folklore and setting used: the Peranakan culture, the culture of Chinese people living in the Malaysia area (the book is set in Malacca). It’s certainly an interesting context, with lot of superstitions, ghosts and demons floating in the background – enough to keep the reader entertained for the first half of the book.

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REVIEW: “The Inexplicable Logic of my Life”, or: ohmygod Benjamin why do you hurt me so good

the inexplicable logic

Title: The Inexplicable Logic of my Life

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Review by: Captain Clo

Verdict: What am I to you, Benjamin, your own personal Prometheus to torment? Your punching bag?

…Please don’t stop. Ever. 5 stars of delicious, exquisite suffering.

The funny thing about this book is that it looks like a second volume of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I mean, just look at the cover. Then you read the synopsis, and you understand that it’s not, it’s just Saenz’s new publisher – Clarion Books – trying to capitalize on the success of Ari&Dante with a misleading cover. Then you read the book, and you understand that it is actually Ari&Dante, remixed. A sort of Ari&Dante ver. 2.0, if you will.

If you:

  • cried reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • still cry thinking about it
  • cry at the thought of finally reading Book Two, like a martyr at the thought of the Second Coming of Christ

Why wait? Read The Inexplicable Logic of my Life!

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REVIEW: “The Power”, or: On a scale from 0 to genocide, how much do you want to see men suffer?

the power cover

Title: The Power

Author: Naomi Alderman

Review by: Captain Clo

Verdict: Clo is evil and vindictive. Clo cackled like the evil witch she is throughout the book. 5 stars

Trigger warning for: rape, violence, torture

The premise is simple: what would happen if, suddenly, all teenage girls developed the power to electrocute people? More than this, however, The Power is a reflection on the nature of power, how it intersects with sex and violence, and its ability to corrupt. The novel is the tale of an entire planet spiralling down into violence, when the dominant gender finds itself very quickly ousted… and paying the consequences of millennia of oppression.

Seeing as I’m just that evil, I also read a bunch of comments crying “MISANDRY!!” at this book. Cry moar, I’m having fun. One of the common grievances I found is that “the book is just wish fulfillment” which is just so ironic. Because yes, of course it is, and yes, part of it definitely speaks to that part in a woman who just wants to hit men with a spiked bat, but: 1) that’s why I loved it, 2) that’s what men deserve 3) all literature is, on some level, wish fulfillment. Besides, how many books did I have to roll my eyes at, when the male protagonist was an obvious stand-in for the author (and got everything that author wanted… mostly women)? At least I’m the one having fun, for once.

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REVIEW: “Rivers of London” & “Moon Over Soho”, or: so you’re a London nerd?

Title: Rivers Of London & Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant/Rivers of London series, book 1&2)

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Review by: Captain Clo

Verdict: enjoyable, slightly bland, with a side serving of salt.

I’m reviewing these two together because I’ve read them one after the other, and I think they’re overall pretty similar. I was interested in this series because the protagonist is a biracial Londoner, and the books themselves are urban fantasy. (By the way: I understand why they do it, I understand it’s standard marketing procedure, but if I see a book advertised as any variation of “Harry Potter but edgier” one more time…)


If you:

  • are looking for a diverse protagonist and cast

  • are a London nerd

these books are for you.

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Synopsis fail: if you despise sci-fi, why are you writing about sci-fi?


La voce del padrone

So today, I was browsing the Italian Kobo site, since they have a promotion going on awarded books. A lot them were translation from English, which I avoid, so I looked for anything that wasn’t originally written in English. I was intrigued by the cover of La Voce del Padrone (English title: His Master’s Voice, by Stanislaw Lem), so I clicked on it and read the synopsis.
Oh, boy. Oh, the salt.
Don’t you just hate it when a synopsis is completely unable to tell you what the book is actually about? You know, what the plot is? It was so egregious, I just have to share.

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REVIEW: “The Apprenticeship Of Big Toe P”, or: Who knew you could write about the sexcapades of a woman with a penis in place of a big toe so elegantly?

the apprenticeship of big toe p

Title: The Apprenticeship Of Big Toe P
Author: Rieko Matsuura
Review by: Captain Clo
Verdict: surreal, definitely different, wtf-inducing, a must. 4 stars
Trigger warning for: rape, sexual abuse

The set-up of this book is simply amazing. A normal, average, straight (but not for long…) woman wakes up one day to find that her big toe has transformed into a fully functional penis. The surreal, unexplained change sets into motion a journey of self-discovery that inevitably involves a lot of strange sexual adventures. It sounds like the set-up for a bawdy novel filled with gratuitous sex scenes… which The Apprenticeship Of Big Toe P isn’t. It’s surreal and elegant, and definitely not for easily-scandalized minds.

If you’re looking for:

  • surreal, semi-magical realism fiction
  • an unconventional journey of queer self-discovery and sexual awakening
  • a cerebral outlook on sex scenes

this book is for you.

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