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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James Baldwin & Benjamin Alire Saenz: On Fragility, Hope, and Despair

aridante vs giovanni's roomWhat happens when identical issues of shame and self-denial are picked up by different authors in different times?

James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room is a classic of American queer literature. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a recent queer lit success. Their protagonists struggle with the same issues: shame and self-denial. Yet the direction their stories take, the atmosphere woven around them, are complete opposites. Reading these books, I had the feeling the similarities and differences were intentional on Saenz’s part. At the very least, there is one recurrent metaphor in his book that compares – and contrasts – with a passage in Giovanni’s Room: the image of the loved one associated to a fragile bird.

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REVIEW: “Every Heart A Doorway”, or: What if all possible fantasylands existed, and you could travel to them? (hint: you’re going to die)

every heart a doorway

Title: Every Heart A Doorway (novelette, 2016 winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novella)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Review by: Captain Clo
Verdict: imaginative worldbuilding, unimaginative plot, stilted writing in random places.

I’ve first hear about this book around the time it was nominated for the Nebula Award, since the book also features an asexual female protagonist and a transexual male side character. That said, simply having LGBT characters does not a good book make, and for all that this novelette is definitely enjoyable, it didn’t convince me. But if you:

  • are looking for a fairytale-styled fantasy with an asexual protagonist (which is, let’s face it, extremely rare)
  • like the idea of a trans boy as love interest/charming prince
  • don’t mind purple prose terribly much

this book is for you.

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The Covers File: “The Apprenticeship Of Big Toe P” around the world

the apprenticeship 01

the apprenticeship 02

When the tagline of a book is “the female protagonist wakes up one day with a penis in place of her big toe”, do publishers just tear out their hair when the time comes to create a cover?

Also: Italian Cover Fail.

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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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