starlady: (Rick Roll'd!)
Books Read
Catherynne Valente, Six-Gun Snow White (2013) - I really like Valente's work, and I liked this a lot; it's a feminist retelling of Snow White with a half-Crow protagonist, rather like Maleficent in that the central relationship is between the protagonist and her evil stepmother. It was too thin at some points, but quite a good read.

CLAMP, Drug & Drop vol 2 - I'm liking this restart of Legal Drug much more than that of xxxHoLiC so far, although it turns out it's a massive crossover with an older CLAMP series, leading to the immortal question, "If angels don't have gender, is this series still BL?" It totally is BL; I am very much down for Kazahaya and Rikuou clutching each other while in the grip of strong emotions. Yes, please, I'd like some more.

Kumota Haruko, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu vol. 1 (2011) - The author is an up and coming BL writer, though I've just started this manga about an ex-con who wants to do Rakugo and I'm not sure whether it's BL yet. If not, there's always doujinshi.

Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria (2012) - Yes, still, I'm busy and exhausted, as good as it is. I was saying to [personal profile] jhameia it reminds me of The Secret Service, which I need to think more about why.

Book-Shaped Space for Acquisitions
Arakawa Hiromu, Silver Spoon vols. 4 & 5 (I got the special edition of 4 with the spoons!)
Suetsugu Yuki, Chihayafuru vol. 1
Vonda McIntyre, The Moon and the Sun
starlady: (bibliophile)
Recently Read
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Burning City (2010)
I really liked the first volume in this unfinished trilogy, Johnson's first novel, Racing the Dark--and though the trilogy is unfinished, I think this volume ties up enough of the loose ends that it's not an unsatisfying place to stop. The book traces the events immediately following the end of Racing the Dark, as well as events of 1000 years ago, the age of the great spirit bindings. I still found Lana to be somewhat annoying at times, so it was nice to break her perspective up with that of the dead witch Aoi, although Lana, by the end of the book, did start to come into her own as more of an adult than before. Semi-facetious note: This is one of several books I've read recently in which a threesome with better communication would have solved a lot of problems.

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice (2013)
I already knew that I was going to vote for this book for Best Novel in the Hugos, and I was pleased to find that it totally lived up to all the buzz I'd heard. Aside from the absolutely gripping narrative and the compelling protagonist, Justice of Toren One Esk Nineteen alias Breq, who used to be a part of a millennia-old starship but isn't any longer, I love how the narrator just says "gender is confusing me, I can't see it correctly" and just uses "she" to refer to all of the other people she meets, including people she knows are male-bodied. One in the eye, fanboys! And, although Leckie denied it to some extent in the back matter, the Radch are totally Romans in space, and we all know how much I love the Romans. I can't wait for the follow-up, Ancillary Mercy.

Sarah McCarry, All Our Pretty Songs (2013)
A YA retelling of the Orpheus myth that reminded me of Francesca Lia Block (whom it name-checks) but better, because I never much liked Francesca Lia Block; I am tickled to note that in this book LA, the setting of most of Block's oeuvre, is emphatically identified with Hell, which I suppose would make mid-90s Seattle, where the book is set, something other than Elysium. I liked the book, though not as much as some people; wild teenagers Aurora and the unnamed protagonist grow up like sisters despite the fact that Aurora's Kurt Cobain father killed himself and her heroin addict mother Maia (probably meant to be Courtney Love) doesn't speak to her former best friend, the protagonist's mother Cass. Things get complicated when phenomenal guitarist Jake, a clear stand-in for Hendrix, rolls into town and the narrator falls in love with him. Given that Maia is black and Courtney Love is a rocker in her own right, I was uncomfortable with the clear "Cobain and Love" aspect of the characters, and in particular the way that Maia is totally out of touch with her own life, to say nothing of her daughter. Like other people, I felt like the few isolated attempts to discuss race were more shoehorned in than organic, albeit sincere. I felt like Jake's characterization was also a bit thin, particularly since he's basically Hendrix. The narrator is unnamed, of course, because there is no one like her in the Greek myths, and the book's language is gorgeous. I also thought the denouement was an interesting twist on a familiar set of tropes.

CLAMP, xxxHoLiC Rei vol. 1 (2014)
I bought this when I was in Japan last month and…I don't know. The art's still great, but I fail to see how the story can be anything but a retread of the less interesting (i.e. non-main plot arc, such as it was) parts of the original manga. And as much as I love the characters, for all the jokes Yuuko makes about couples' comedy routines, it's not like CLAMP are ever going to either fish or cut bait with the relationship between Watanuki and Doumeki, probably not in any way. Which I find more frustrating than I used to, I will admit. My own personal feeling is that Rei is set in the middle of the first series; on the cover and in the splash pages, Watanuki still has two blue eyes, so it's pre-Spider Lady. I imagine they want to cross over with Legal Drug, which has also restarted; it was possible to see, for a while after the latter was cancelled, the places in the former where crossovers had been intended. Which is fine, but for all that the first HoLiC series had pacing issues, it was still gorgeous and captivating. I am not captivated by Rei yet; unless I become so, I'll probably sell it back to Book-Off before I leave Japan next year.

Currently reading
Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria. I like it a lot so far; I have nothing to say yet.

Reading next
No idea!

starlady: Hana of Gate 7 (hanamachi of kyoto)
CLAMP. Gate 7. 1 vol. Tokyo: Shueisha, 2011.

This is CLAMP's newest manga, which I've been translating, and it is the combination of so many things that I like separately and love in combination that I feel as though it were written just for me.

To wit, the manga is set in current Japan, and our viewpoint/sympathy character is one Takamoto Chikahito, a Tokyo-ite high schooler with a lifelong yen for Kyoto, which as the manga opens he is finally able to assuage by taking a solo trip to the old capital of flowers. Extremely mild spoilers )

There's something of a Sengoku boom going on in Japan right now; this is one of at least three current manga I can think of dealing with the period, though I think CLAMP's entry, in its reincarnating the Sengoku figures as bishônen, is the one calculated to appeal most to rekijo and other female history buffs. The manga is also an unmistakable love letter to Kyoto, where three of the four members of CLAMP grew up; they haven't used this many actual photos in a manga since X/1999, and all the locations and restaurants the characters visit are actual places in the city, most of them quite famous.

I would love it for all these things, but what I really am intrigued by thus far is the presentation of Hana, who unlike the other Urashichiken members Tachibana and Sakura, who are affiliated with the moon and the sun respectively, is affiliated with wu/mu/nothingness/the stars and is entirely gender-neutral. The manga has thus far frustrated Chikahito's attempts to place Hana somewhere along the gender binary, and I'm looking forward to see how things transpire further on this front, given various other personal entanglements among the characters. Honestly out of the whole cast I probably like Chikahito the least, though he's at least marginally more self-aware than similar CLAMP protagonists at the beginning, such as Watanuki or Kazahaya of Legal Drug,. I'll keep reading this manga and being reminded of Kyoto, my home away from home, with great pleasure. (For that purpose, I actually made a map of the city from the manga's perspective.)
starlady: (queen)
Utena's seiyuu, Kawakami Tomoko, died of cancer over the weekend at the ridiculously young age of 41. Utena was my first anime and will always be one of my absolute favorites, and Utena herself one of my favorite characters. Kawakami and her talent will be missed.

CLAMP. xxxHOLiC. 19 vols. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2003-2011.

In the end, this was one of CLAMP's less well-crafted manga, I think, which is saying something for a group that's well-known for their inability to consistently deliver satisfying endings (they should try to take a page out of Arakawa Hiromu's book for next time).

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of things I love about HOLiC, starting with the art and the characters. The art! The art is gorgeous, and it only gets better as the series progresses; I would hold up volume 12 as an example of manga that is art, no qualifications. I've never seen dreamscapes evoked better than they are in that volume, and they are so, so beautiful.

I like the characters a lot, too, and I do appreciate that by the end of the manga they have all perceptibly come a long way, particularly Watanuki and Kohane, but especially, of course, Watanuki, as the protagonist and the viewpoint character. I recently reread volume 4 before I read volume 19, and it's striking to compare his earlier volubility and utter lack of knowledge about magic with his self-assurance and power by the end.

But oh, the price. )
So, all in all, a somewhat frustrating but ultimately worthwhile manga, I think.


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