starlady: Twitter quote: @magneto "come home" (my offer still stands)
What I'm Reading
G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen - I'm falling behind on my Sirens reading challenge, but luckily this book is completely engrossing and even though I only started it this morning, I'm nearly finished. It's full of really smart observations as well as really interesting fantastical elements, and some really sharp things about politics. More when I'm finally finished, but this one is pretty great.

Urasawa Naoki, Billy Bat vol 1 - This is Urasawa's current series, and I'm kind of annoyed at how much it plays to my interests to be honest. I also really question why Urasawa has drawn all of the Japanese or Japanese-American characters with the exception of the current protagonist to look distinctly monkey-ish (it's even more noticeable given that the story opens in 1947). This may be a sophisticated point about representation or it may just be an oogie running bit. Anyway, it's Urasawa; of course it's good, though I'm not quite willing to commit to hauling home the other 15 volumes (it's still running).

What I've Just Read
Molly Gloss, The Dazzle of Day - Quakers in space! Except, well, this novel is actively trying to break the bounds of science fiction as a genre, and…I like science fiction as a genre. Well worth reading, but Joan Slonczewski is still first in my heart in terms of Quaker SF novels. (I've now read two of the four.) Partly that's because this is a very interior book, and Gloss gets at the Quakerism (and everything else) very indirectly, unlike Slonczewski, who puts her Quaker in conflict with or in contrast to other groups or even species.

Yoshinaga Fumi, Ôoku vol 11 & 12 - Immunology, gender, and power. I hope everyone's ready for what's looking to be a really grim ending. I'd estimate we have two and at most three volumes left. It's also interesting to me that Yoshinaga made the most incompetent shogun a hero for the sake of the narrative.

Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 12 & 13 - Only Arakawa Hiromu could blow through an entire year of school in one volume (12) and make it feel totally fine in terms of pacing and character development. She also has a real sense of how to turn the tables on readers' expectations based on genre cliches: the team's performance at the national equestrian championships in 13 is a case in point. Sadly this series seems to be taking a bit of a backseat to Arslan Senki, but I still love it, and I'll be really interested to see where Hachiken and company wind up by the time they graduate. One thing I appreciate now that I didn't before I saw Bakemono no ko is how subversive it is--Hachiken chooses not to go to college even though he could, his brother fucking dropped out of Todai to be an independent Skype college exam tutor, Komaba drops out of high school to work odd jobs in Tokyo so he can buy a farm, Mikage only decides to go to college after she decides to not inherit her family's farm: and all of this is totally okay. That's very (and characteristically) independent-minded of Arakawa.

Bunn/Walta/Fernandez, Magneto: Infamous and Reversals - My one friend W handed me these two volumes of comics as I was basically walking out the door in Seattle on the grounds that I'm way more into the X-Men than he is, which is true, but in no way means I'm familiar with most of the comics except in broad outlines. Luckily this series, which picks up after Charles Xavier's latest death with Mags relatively depowered but still just as quick to perform vigilante justice (also bald, which I can't help but read as influenced by Charles), is actually pretty good at filling readers in on relevant events without info-dumping. The coloring is really striking, and though I thought the pacing was off at a few points in the second volume, overall the comic is asking some tough questions of just about everyone, including Mags himself, and not letting anyone off the hook. I'm interested to keep reading.

Fraction & Ward, ODY-C vol 1 - Yup, between the art and the diction, this comic is fucking trippy, and I'll be really interested to see how closely Fraction sticks to the actual events of the actual Odyssey: there are plenty of hints, even in this first volume, that things could go off the rails of the familiar narrative in really interesting directions; in some ways, they already have. The "not all men" joke was also pretty flipping fantastic. All in all, it's pretty great.

Tenea Johnson, Smoketown - I don't know if there's a name for the sub-genre that includes this book and Dia Reeves' books, but I put them together in my mind as "speculative fiction set in some version of the South, with POC characters," and like Reeves' books, Johnson doesn't pull her punches. The similarities end there, in some ways: whereas Portero is much more comparable to Night Vale, Johnson's post-climate change apocalypse city is decidedly futuristic but also just weird: the government controls a lot of things and birds are outlawed. Finding out what made the city the way it is, and working to change it, winds up being the crux of the novel, but the book goes at that widdershins, and while I really, really liked the book, I thought there were some plot developments that needed a bit more explanation, and some of the characters were much more vivid than others (but oh, when they're vivid, they're painfully alive). So, while I wanted a bit more of some parts of the book, what was there was wildly inventive and really engrossing, and I recommend it.
starlady: Ramona Flowers wearing her delivery goggles (ramona flowers is awesome)
What I've Read
Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vols. 10 & 11 (2014) - These two volumes cover the end of Hachiken & company's first year at Ezono, which is the equivalent of their sophomore year of high school in the States. They were both really good, of course, and Hachiken's Russian sister-in-law is amazing. More please!

Yoshinaga Fumi, Ôoku vol. 10 (2013) - I said on Twitter that this manga has gone from being a manga about gender and power to being about power and immunology, which is true, but things seem like they're going to go back to gender and power in 11 and then bring the immunology back in 12. Volumes of this manga tend to end really up or really down, and this one's a downer, as the death of Tokugawa Ieharu brings about the downfall of Tanuma Okitsugu and her faction with the ôoku, to say nothing of their efforts to make immunization from the red-face pox a reality. But their enemies have proven in the course of this volume that they'll stop at nothing to secure the shogunate, and it's probably germane to remember that historians who care about this sort of thing (hint: not most people currently practicing on the American side) generally agree that Tanuma was the shogunate's last real chance to reform to meet the demands of the C19. 

Jem and the Holograms #1 & 2 (2015) - I never saw the cartoon when I was a kid, and i was probably missing out, but the comic is great so far. I love the art and the coloring, and the story, which follows Jem and the Holograms as they get their start in 2015, is witty too.

What I'm Reading
ODY-C vol. 1 - This comic is fucking trippy, and I like it a lot so far. It retells the Odyssey, in space, with a total genderswap, and the combination of the psychidelic art with the pseudo-epic speech style of the narration is whacked out. But like I said, I like it a lot so far. Fraction is pretty darn awesome.

What I'll Read Next
I got the Charles Soule run of She-Hulk in single issues when they were on sale on Comixology, and I inherited two volumes of Magneto, and of course, tons of manga.
starlady: roy in the sunset at graveside (no rest for the wicked)
What I've Read
Ken Liu, The Grace of Kings - This book, my friends. This fucking book. It wasn't a DNF for me, but I did have to nope out for five days after one of two named female characters in the book to that point was introduced and then killed in a very sexist way after two pages just before the 50% mark. People have said that this book is innovative in terms of the epic fantasy genre. Well, kind of. If what you are looking for in epic fantasy is a return to the pre-modern writing styles of epic poetry, heroic sagas, and historical chronicles--spiced with just enough modern things like characterization to keep it interesting--then this is for you. But if, like me, you have struggled through epic writing in five languages as well as countless others in translation, you may be damn tired of all this already. If, like me, you have learned classical Chinese, you may be struck how this book reads exactly like Sima Qian's work, among many others. Without qualifiers, you may also be offended by the sexism of the book's structure as well as its content, in which the idea that women can play a crucial role in societal production beyond the invisible, denigrated women's work (to say nothing of women's relationships with each other, of any kind at all) of which Liu, or at least his narrative, has precisely zero consciousness from beginning to end. "Liu is playing a long game with the women!" Yeah, and the idea that you can take women out of this or any kind of story about a society in general and "play a long game" with them is fucking offensive.

Liu described this book as "silkpunk" a long while back, and because of that I was expecting things that are vastly different than what I got, such as…female characters who do things. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) It is punk, as I was discussing with [personal profile] seekingferret a while back, in that it's one of the most heterogeneous writing styles I've ever encountered. Someone else compared the book to Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy in terms of both authors' willingness to roll with verbal anachronisms, but having read both and knowing just as much about the 17th and early 18thC as anyone but a professional historian specializing in the period can--and ditto for Chinese history--I am here to tell you that Stephenson renders a much more credible facsimile of the speech of his chosen time period. Liu just doesn't care. People fight "mano a mano," he quotes Milton's "On His Blindness" (!) and various famous Chinese poems verbatim, there are "kids" running around--Ken Liu don't give a shit. This punk spirit of throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the mix extends to the landscape of the setting and the bits of Chinese history on which he is drawing; at times it's a clear mixture of the Spring and Autumn periods, the Qin dynasty, the Han dynasty, the Three Kingdoms period, and the Song dynasty, as well as being its own thing. The thing is, the book is completely readable despite or because of all this heterogeneity. But if I'm going to invest this much of my life into reading a book of epic fantasy, I'd much rather read a book by someone who knows that half the human race exists and goes about its own business even if men don't care about them. I could name names here, but this isn't a zero sum game, and the point is that Ken Liu has not won a fan in me with this book. (I want to be clear that despite the relentless violence, again right out of classical Chinese texts, this is a much less grim and depressing book than The Mirror Empire, and between the two, both of which I disliked in different ways, I'd be hard-pressed to pick, but I'd probably take this one. It has fewer onscreen rapes than TME, for one thing.) So, that happened. And as far as I can tell, there's not actually that much revolutionary here.

Genevieve Valentine, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
- I started reading this book in the middle of The Grace of Kings because it featured not one but twelve named female characters, in that it's a retelling of the story of the twelve dancing princesses set in Jazz Age New York City from the princesses' point of view. And in fact, there are more than twelve named female characters! Shocking! What ludicrous delusion is this! In all honesty and not just in comparison with Ken Liu, however, this is an excellent, engrossing novel. The twelve Hamilton sisters, led by the eldest Jo, are kept shut in by their father and their only freedom is sneaking out to speakeasies to dance all night. The book is excellent and engrossing, and even though it's told from Jo's perspective, Valentine manages to make all of the sisters individuals in a believable way. And though the girls literally only know their bedrooms and their regular hangout, the Kingfisher Club, there's more than enough drama inherent in what they do to survive, and how they find their freedom, to fuel the narrative. It was great.

Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vol. 8 - This one took a while because it's when some of the heavier stuff starts happening, and I feel bad for the characters. I continue to love this manga, and I did want to mention that one of things I appreciate about it is Hachiken's strained relationship with his parents and with his older brother, who is basically a self-interested flake (as well he might be at 20, to be honest, but he's a huge contrast to his younger brother). Anyway I need to read the next two volumes so I can read the new ones.

Kate Elliott, The Very Best of Kate Elliott - This anthology collects all of Kate Elliott's short fiction and a few of her essays, and I liked it very much. Some of them are set in the universe(s) of her novels, but only the Crossroads story was really intensely spoilery, I thought. And as much as I liked the stories that tied in with those larger universes, I thought the stand-alones such as "In the Queen's Garden" were some of the most effective pieces in the collection in terms of showing off Elliott's strengths as a writer. In any event, I loved it.

Laurie J. Marks, Water Logic - I think I liked this book the least of the three books, but that's partly because I am half air and half fire and find water logic totally incomprehensible. (I don't much understand earth logic either, but by earth logic, action is understanding, so reading that book on some level brings you to the understanding of its logic.) And to say I liked it the least is merely to say that it was not quite as transcendent as Earth Logic, which I think is my favorite (not least because it is secretly a Twelfth Night book), or Fire Logic, which of course is amazing. I will say that I also thought that what happens to Clement in Water Logic was actually harder to read than much of the injuries that Zanja endures at various points in the narrative. Other bits are equally tragic. I was also interested that it was in this book that Zanja's difference came back to the fore, and I don't actually think it's coincidental that this book is about the legacy of colonialism in much more overt ways. I fear that Air Logic will be a difficult and merciless book, just as air logic is. And finally on a more meta note, I'm disappointed in myself that it took me this long to realize how New England--and really specifically western Massachusetts, honestly--these books are, or Shaftal is. But once you see it, you realize it's everywhere.

What I'm Reading
This is kind of a hard question. I'm at the point of having just started a few different books but am not definitively in the middle of any of them except for Silver Spoon vol. 9. I've been busy. And jet lagged. Very jet lagged.

What I'll Read Next
I just got Comixology finally, and Ms. Marvel vol 1 is in my future! :D
starlady: (abhorsen)
What I've Just Read
I finally finished Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves, a YA novel set in the same world--the same town, really--as Bleeding Violet. It feels weird to say this, but although Slice of Cherry was much darker (content notes: serial killers, child sexual abuse, I'm probably forgetting something), I still liked it a lot. Whereas Bleeding Violet was as much about introducing Portero as anything else, here the general Night Vale-style weirdness of the town takes a back seat to the psychodrama of Fancy and Kit Cordelle, the daughters of the so-called Bonesaw Killer, who take advantage of their unique heritage to follow in their father's footsteps in their own way, even as they learn, albeit painfully, that there are more ways to connect with people than just by killing them. If Bleeding Violet reminded me strongly of Welcome to Night Vale, this book reminded me a lot of Hannibal, if Hannibal and Will were two teenage girls who kind of wanted to get out of the murder game. I continue to really like Reeves' writing, and at points I was rather forcibly reminded that she is definitely not writing from a mainstream, middle-class white perspective. The characters are all quite frank about sex, in particular, but there are many other little things that make Reeves' voice original and valuable. I'm very glad to see from her Twitter that she's working on two more Portero books.

I also finished Silver Spoon vol. 2 by Arakawa-sensei. It's so great. I like Hachiken-kun a lot more now that he's got a bit more backstory to him, but it's also nice to just read a book which is about the small--but by no means inconsequential--dramas of daily life, in which everyone is just trying to do their best in that muddled human way. I'm also learning a lot of agricultural vocabulary, still.

I devoured Ancillary Sword on my way back from Australia; I think I liked it even better than Ancillary Justice, which is saying something. It really reminded me, in a weird way, of Jane Austen in space--Jane Austen in space with guns, of course, but etiquette is absolutely crucial in most of the book's central conflicts, as are the proper dishes. I loved how Breq is angry all the time too--she has a lot to be angry about, too--and I liked how this book made the whole situation more complex, even as it made the answers less simple. Breq does her best to right the injustices that she finds, but there's only so much that she can do, to her dismay. My favorite character of all was probably the Presger translator; I hope we'll see more of the Presger in future, although I'm sure Breq wouldn't. I also, frankly, would read about a million books set in this universe. In the meantime, AS is on my 2014 Hugo ballot for sure.

What I'm Reading
I'm trying to finish Clariel tonight. I really like it, and I basically read the high points of it in that skipping around way that I do when I bought it, but I'm enjoying my thorough reading very much. In addition to what I said before, I also really like that Clariel is so angry. In fact, she's a berserk (like Touchstone in the first books), and though it is something that she needs and wants to control, she isn't punished for it by the narrative. Mogget is about to show up, and I <3 Mogget.

What I'll Read Next
Silver Spoon, assuredly. I'm also looking forward to finally reading Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith!
starlady: Ramona Flowers wearing her delivery goggles (ramona flowers is awesome)
What I've Read
One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire--so, I actually quite like the Toby Daye books, which is funny because they're the sort of thing I'd have thought, four years ago, were not my cup of tea at all. But I've attended the parties for about half of the Toby Daye books, including this one, and liked them better and better…though I somehow failed to acquire this one in paper, which led to me acquiring it from (vomit) Amazon because I have a gift card there, and because the eighth book out and Everything Changes (again) and I didn't want to fall even further behind. I really liked it; I think in the Toby books in particular it's possible to see McGuire growing by leaps and bounds as a writer, and the climax takes place in one of my favorite parts of San Francisco. The books take place in a city but aren't typical "urban fantasy" by any means, and I do like Toby and her sarcasm and her need for coffee. I figured out the [spoiler] ages ago, and never really cared about that character anyway, but I liked them in this book more than I ever had before. I'm excited for the next three, when I get to them.

I also finished Silver Spoon volume 1. It's adorable and also very interesting. I find it really cool how Arakawa manages to make even the most mundane activities seem--not overly dramatic, but momentous in their own quotidian way. The horseback riding sequence is a good example of this. I also think it's interesting that this is the story she chose to do after FMA--she could have done whatever she wanted after FMA, and she started writing a manga about cows (and other things) set in Hokkaidou. Nice. Anyway, I love it, and it's great.

What I'm Reading Now
Yoon Ha Lee, Kate Elliott, and Rae Carson are the guests of honor at Sirens next year, and since I've loved some of Lee's short stories individually for a while, and had the collected volume of them, Conservation of Shadows, in my "to read" pile for a while, I started that on the plane this afternoon. It is also great; I love the math and science elements and Asian influences of Lee's space opera futures, and fantastic pasts.

Also, Silver Spoon vol. 2.

What I'm Reading Next
Well, more Silver Spoon when I get back to Japan. I'm also planning on buying Clariel by Garth Nix in paper when I get to Australia (bizarrely, the Australian cover is clearly the best of the lot), and possibly also Justine Larbalestier's Razorhurst (the Australian cover of that is better, too). Reading Yoon Ha Lee also makes me really want to read Ancillary Sword, so probably that soon too.

starlady: Twitter quote: @magneto "come home" (my offer still stands)
What I'm Reading
Silver Spoon volume 1 by Arakawa-sensei, because I'm going to be hanging out at an agricultural institute in Tochigi in January and three years ago I was defeated by the agricultural kanji and then by graduate school. (I was trying to be A Good Student and draw all the kanji rather than just look them up by the readings, but you know what, life is short and I'll pick them up visually eventually anyway, screw that.) Anyway it's an Arakawa manga about a dude who goes to an agricultural high school because it's a boarding school and that's literally all I know yet, but it could be about watching paint dry and I would love it because Arakawa. She is my all-time favorite. And you know, that's the great thing about manga--it can make me read about so many different things and love them all. But yeah, I bought all 12 volumes at Book-Off (which is rebranding as Yafu Off? Or maybe just the one in Shibuya? I don't know at all) for ¥2500; I'll just sell back the volumes I own in the States once I've read them.

What I've Just Read
I literally just finished Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and it was brilliant. I saw her at a signing this spring and thanked her for writing a book that didn't pathologize fandom and fanfiction without having read it, but I really loved the book itself, and Cath, and Simon Snow, and her relationship to fandom and the people in her life and also to freshman year of college. In some ways, I saw a lot of me and my sister in Cath and Wren; we were nothing like that, except for how we were, and how we could have been. It's a really good book and I'm kicking myself for not buying the necklace when it was available. Highly recommended.

Libba Bray, The Diviners - I really liked it. I just really liked that Evie drank and swore and was scandalous and the narrative didn't punish her for any of that, and I thought Bray did a really good job of bringing history to life. I do have questions about the larger structure of the series and some of the worldbuilding that can't be answered at this point because it's only one book of four, but if and when the next one comes out, I'll be reading avidly.

Michelle Sagara, Cast in Sorrow - I'm now only one book behind on the Elantra Chronicles, and I still really like Kaylin. It feels like she's grown a lot over the last few books, and I'm looking forward to watching that growth continue. I ship her and Severn shamelessly.

Kumota Haruko, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu vol. 1 - I finally finished the first volume of the rakugo manga! I bought it on a whim because it's popular and because the author was the subject of an exhibit at the Yonezawa Manga Library in June. It's set in the 80s (and yes, when you think about it, the Bubble really was the Showa Genroku) and follows the career of an ex-con who becomes an apprentice rakugo raconteur when he gets out. I expect many doujinshi at Comiket devoted to the rakugo sensei and the sensei's dead rival, who may or may not be haunting the sensei as a ghost? I had a friend who did her Fulbright research on rakugo, so I know about two knuckles' worth of stuff about it, but even that was enough to know that it's a pretty sexist sphere, and I'm glad that Kumota puts that front and center in the person of the sensei's dead rival's daughter, who he's raised in his household and wants to be a rakugo raconteur but simply can't. I don't really care about the protagonist much yet (except, since the mangaka made her name in BL, and this is shelved in BL/Ladies at Book-Off, wondering whether he or any of the other male characters will suddenly appear in a BL scene), but that's pretty normal for me, and also not a dealbreaker by any means.

What I'm Reading Next
More Silver Spoon and rakugo, I dare say.

What I've Bought
…A lot of manga. Two more volumes of rakugo; all of Silver Spoon; the first of the Roman bath manga, vol. 10 of Ôoku, Billy Bat 1 (again; my copies of all of these are in the States); xxxHoLiC Rei 2. Also One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, because somehow I never bought it in paper. Oh, and a copy of Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy for ¥200 at the little bookstore next to the conbini, because it is my policy to always buy books from The Women's Press.
starlady: Roy from FMA: "you say you want a revolution" (roy)
Arakawa Hiromu. Hagane no Renkinjutsushi | Fullmetal Alchemist. 27 vols. Tokyo: Square Enix, 2002-10.

This is, I think, the best manga I've read yet. If you're going to read one manga in your life, you could do much, much worse than this one. If you don't like manga, I urge you to give this manga a try; it's amazing, as a story and as manga. Arakawa is a master of what the medium can do, and she does it.

Alchemy follows the law of equivalent exchange. )

The manga is also, just as a manga, stunning: it's funny and amazingly powerfully drawn and action-packed. I remain absolutely amazed that virtually the only thing Arakawa created before this manga was a 40-page one-shot that won her the 21st Century Shonen Gangan Award, because the pacing of the series has been pitch-perfect from the very first panel, and that doesn't relent here at the end. Deservedly, she won the Tezuka Prize in the New Artist category this year.

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