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: (shiny)
Yes, it's the anniversary of another trip that I have made around the sun. Here's to more of the same, but better, next year. :D

What I've Read
Ms. Marvel Vol 1, G. Willow Wilson et al - I finally got Comixology and I am hopeful that it will result in increases of the numbers of comics I actually am able to read. I loved this, but you're not surprised. What I will say is that I spotted that Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure joke, and I laughed, and what really warmed my heart above and beyond the story itself was how goddamn Jersey it all is, the actual Jersey that doesn't often make it into media. ♥

The Tropic of Serpents and Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan - These books are so great. They operate in a familiar mode (lady Victorian naturalist/adventurer) but do everything completely opposite, except what they don't, and I really enjoy Brennan's ability to pack a lot of complex undercurrents into rather pulp-y yarns, and the way that Isabella is so willing to attempt to conform to the norms of the cultures among which she sojourns, because dragons.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge - Hardinge's newest, and with this I'm now back to having read all but one of her books. I liked it a lot! [personal profile] skygiants said a thing that I agree with a lot, which is that Hardinge's protagonists are perpetually encountering women who they think are standing in their way but instead are much more complex, and that goes double for Faith. The book actually makes a great pair with the Brennan novels since they are both about the same thing (women and natural science) but are totally different. Anyway, it was great, though still not my favorite Hardinge; that will always be Fly By Night, with an honorable mention for Gullstruck Island, which I still think is her most ambitious. But this one was great too. I would read oodles of fic about the badass lesbian couple on the island, IJS.

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer - The final volume in the Southern Reach trilogy; I devoured it in less than a day and I loved it. I think I'm nearly alone in liking how Control is a sarcastic failboat, qualities which are not on display in this final book, but I did want to say that I appreciated VanderMeer's not having every character in the story be a straight white guy, because that could easily have happened, but instead the cast of the final book is a brown career spy, a black lesbian government agent, a part-Asian scientist, a gay white man, and a white woman psychologist. I think the Southern Reach trilogy is great; it's an attempt to deal with climate change and the horrors it's unleashed and revealed, it's a way of grappling with the latest realizations in ecology and biology, namely that humans aren't special; it's some of the most interesting and critically engaged SF I've read in a long time.

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace - I blew through this book quite rapidly too, it's post apocalyptic YA scifi with a female protagonist, the eponymous Archivist Wasp, who makes a deal to journey to the underworld in the company of a ghost who's looking for his fallen comrade. It turns out the ghost and his comrade were genetically engineered super-soldiers before the world ended, and that everything Wasp thought she knew is wrong, and you're only as trapped in the past as you let yourself be. In a weird way, this reminded me powerfully of Sabriel crossed with…a really high-tech SF book about genetically engineered super-soldiers, who have got such style, I cannot even tell you. Anyway it was great and I have no idea where a sequel would go but I am so there.

Silver Spoon vol 9 by Arakawa Hiromu - Still great.

What I'm Reading
Silver Spoon vol 10 by Arakawa Hiromu - Still great.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - I don't think I'm quite as into this book as some other people have been, but I'm enjoying it a lot all the same. I really like Gladstone's determined mixing of magic and modernity, as well as how inventive he is.

What I'll Read Next
Probably some of Tanith Lee's Secret Books of Paradys, and also Michelle West's Oracle!!!
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: (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.

Reading
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: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
Mori Kaoru. Otoyomegatari | A Bride's Story. 3 vols. Tokyo: Enterbrain, 2009-11.

Reconstructive analysis via the internet hive mind indicates that I heard of this manga via [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' review of Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Nights and One Night, who recommended the manga as an example of how to write other cultures well. I know Mori better as the mangaka behind the enormously popular Victorian Maid Emma; I suspect the manga are similar in their levels of attention to detail and the sheer gorgeousness of the art.

Otoyomegatari takes place somewhere in central Asia in the mid-19th century; the protagonist is Amira, who's just begun living with the tribe of her husband Karluk. Amira and Karluk have an approximately eight-year age gap (she's older), and one of the pleasures of the manga is the genuinely affectionate, respectful relationships that develop between Amira and all of her new family members. Another pleasure is watching her hunt, ride, and shoot; the other is, as rush noted, just watching the various aspects of daily life among the nomads go by.

It's something of a slow start, admittedly, but there are hints of a plot in the machinations of Amira's oldest brother in her birth family, and in the presence of a British anthropologist who is completely unexplained thus far and entertainingly clueless ("Why did you change those hangings for these hangings?" "They look better." "Ah, they look better, okay." *scribbles*)--he may or may not be a player in the Great Game. I'll definitely be reading the rest of it.

It's been licensed in English in North America by Yen Press, too, and I'm told it's a nice edition. Yay.
Originally posted at Dreamwidth Studios; you can comment there using OpenID or a DW account.
starlady: Korra looks out over Republic City (legend of korra)
Mori Kaoru. Otoyomegatari | A Bride's Story. 3 vols. Tokyo: Enterbrain, 2009-11.

Reconstructive analysis via the internet hive mind indicates that I heard of this manga via [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' review of Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Nights and One Night, who recommended the manga as an example of how to write other cultures well. I know Mori better as the mangaka behind the enormously popular Victorian Maid Emma; I suspect the manga are similar in their levels of attention to detail and the sheer gorgeousness of the art.

Otoyomegatari takes place somewhere in central Asia in the mid-19th century; the protagonist is Amira, who's just begun living with the tribe of her husband Karluk. Amira and Karluk have an approximately eight-year age gap (she's older), and one of the pleasures of the manga is the genuinely affectionate, respectful relationships that develop between Amira and all of her new family members. Another pleasure is watching her hunt, ride, and shoot; the other is, as rush noted, just watching the various aspects of daily life among the nomads go by.

It's something of a slow start, admittedly, but there are hints of a plot in the machinations of Amira's oldest brother in her birth family, and in the presence of a British anthropologist who is completely unexplained thus far and entertainingly clueless ("Why did you change those hangings for these hangings?" "They look better." "Ah, they look better, okay." *scribbles*)--he may or may not be a player in the Great Game. I'll definitely be reading the rest of it.

It's been licensed in English in North America by Yen Press, too, and I'm told it's a nice edition. Yay.
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
Urasawa Naoki with Tezuka Osamu. Pluto. 8 vols. Tokyo: Shogakkan, 2003-09.

I am not a particular follower of the God of Manga, for reasons that became clear to me all over again after I read the episode of Tetsuwan Atomu ("Chijô ni Saidai Robotto") on which this manga is based. Urasawa, however, is an unabashed Tezuka fan, to the point where the protagonist of his first megahit, Monster, is (one suspects) named after Atom's creator, Dr. Tenma. Pluto is an authorized retelling of that episode of Tetsuwan Atomu, begun in 2003 to coincide with the date of Atom's birth in-manga.

For those who don't know, Tetsuwan Atom | Astro Boy is the world's greatest robot, created by the world's greatest robot engineer after the death of Prof. Tenma's biological son Hibio. It being the 1960s, and Tezuka being a relentlessly saccharine storyteller, at least until the late 1960s, in Tetsuwan Atomu all of these developments are treated as being completely hunky-dory. In Urasawa's retelling, however, the beating heart of twisted love and grief and hatred that powers the story is sliced open and laid bare, and Pluto is an incomparably stronger manga for it.

The bare bones of the story are the same in both versions: one by one, the world's seven strongest robots are being murdered, for reasons that are revealed to have something to do with the fall of the dictator of a certain West Asian country that Urasawa calls Persia. Whereas Tezuka's protagonist is Atom, however, Urasawa's protagonist is the German Interpol inspector robot Gesicht, a crucial change that allows Urasawa to tell a far more complex story, though his Atom is much older and much less naïve and childish than Tezuka's too, for all that he looks like a human kid from the outside.

Can a robot feel hatred? )

That said, Urasawa is a modern master of the medium, and I have to recommend this series extraordinarily highly, just like all his others.
Originally posted at Dreamwidth Studios; you can comment there using OpenID or a DW account.
starlady: (ultraviolet)
Urasawa Naoki with Tezuka Osamu. Pluto. 8 vols. Tokyo: Shogakkan, 2003-09.

I am not a particular follower of the God of Manga, for reasons that became clear to me all over again after I read the episode of Tetsuwan Atomu ("Chijô ni Saidai Robotto") on which this manga is based. Urasawa, however, is an unabashed Tezuka fan, to the point where the protagonist of his first megahit, Monster, is (one suspects) named after Atom's creator, Dr. Tenma. Pluto is an authorized retelling of that episode of Tetsuwan Atomu, begun in 2003 to coincide with the date of Atom's birth in-manga.

For those who don't know, Tetsuwan Atom | Astro Boy is the world's greatest robot, created by the world's greatest robot engineer after the death of Prof. Tenma's biological son Hibio. It being the 1960s, and Tezuka being a relentlessly saccharine storyteller, at least until the late 1960s, in Tetsuwan Atomu all of these developments are treated as being completely hunky-dory. In Urasawa's retelling, however, the beating heart of twisted love and grief and hatred that powers the story is sliced open and laid bare, and Pluto is an incomparably stronger manga for it.

The bare bones of the story are the same in both versions: one by one, the world's seven strongest robots are being murdered, for reasons that are revealed to have something to do with the fall of the dictator of a certain West Asian country that Urasawa calls Persia. Whereas Tezuka's protagonist is Atom, however, Urasawa's protagonist is the German Interpol inspector robot Gesicht, a crucial change that allows Urasawa to tell a far more complex story, though his Atom is much older and much less naïve and childish than Tezuka's too, for all that he looks like a human kid from the outside.

Can a robot feel hatred? )

That said, Urasawa is a modern master of the medium, and I have to recommend this series extraordinarily highly, just like all his others.
starlady: (mokona crossing)
Midorikawa Yuki. Natsume Yûjinchô. 11 vols. Tokyo: Hakusensha, 2005-11.

This is, judging by its general scarcity and high buying and selling price at Book-Off (¥150! and ¥300 or ¥350, respectively), one of the most popular manga in Japan right now; the third season of the anime is also ongoing. It follows one Natsume Takashi, an orphan whose ability to see spirits has led to his being foisted off on a succession of increasingly-distant relations. Natsume's ability to see yôkai is an unknowing inheritance from his grandmother Reiko, who took to the practice of recording the names of the yôkai she met in her "yûjinchô", or 'book of friends.' Considering that most of the yôkai have their names in the notebook unwillingly, and that their fates are tied to the notebook, "friends" may be a somewhat strong word, but that was apparently Reiko's personality. Natsume discovers he has the notebook as part of an encounter with a yôkai stuck in the shape of a maneki neko, who agrees to act as Natsume's bodyguard in exchange for inheriting the notebook on Natsume's death. Without Nyanko-sensei, as things go on, Natsume wouldn't last long, but along the way he begins to learn that maybe humans aren't so bad after all, and that humans and yôkai aren't so different.

I have a weakness for these "boy sees spirits" manga, I admit, and Midorikawa's spin on these tropes is genuinely charming, and later genuinely heart-warming, particularly in light of the fact that, especially in these first volumes, there's a cold bitterness to Natsume's perceptions of the world and its treatment of him that strikes a real, painful chord. The series eventually introduces two of Natsume's fellow students, Tanuma and Taki, who help to keep Natsume from being quite so alone. That said, thinking about it, I'm surprised Natsume still has his sight in both eyes, but on the other hand, the story shows no signs of stopping any time soon. As [personal profile] seichan perceptively commented, it's the kind of thing that could go on for as long as the mangaka wants, and they can keep making anime whenever they feel like too. The art also gets better as the story goes along; it's not bad here at the start, but it's very much the sort of unsettled sketchy linework I associate, rightly or wrongly, with Hana to Yume.

[community profile] natsumeyuujinchou is the DW comm for the manga and anime. And have a beautiful Tanabata fanart for the series, too.
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: (justice)
Yoshinaga Fumi. Ôoku. 7 vols. Tokyo: Hakusensha, 2005-2011.

Volume 6 brings Tsunayoshi's story to its protracted, painful close and ends with the death of the sixth shogun, Ienobu, whom we saw very briefly at the beginning of volume 1. The first time is tragedy, the second time is farce.

Contains spoilers. Discusses dub-con situations and incest. )

The movie, which apparently deals with the story of Mizunoshin and Yoshimune, came out last October. My hopes are not high. ETA: thanks to [personal profile] seichan for correcting me on the movie info! Has anyone seen it?
starlady: A woman in a sepia photograph wearing a military uniform (fight like a girl)
Yoshinaga Fumi. Ôoku. 6 vols. Tokyo: Hakusensha, 2006-10.

Volumes 2-5 of this excellent, discomforting, pointedly skeevy manga back track from the time period of the first volume (the 1720s) to the 1630s, when the "red pox" first begins ravaging Japan and the retainers of the shogunate begin taking extraordinary measures to preserve what the first two generations of the Tokugawa have built. It ends with the future Yoshimune's only meeting with current shogun Tsunayoshi, in the early 1700s.

Warning for discussion of rape and of highly dub-con situations ) I'll need a unicorn chaser before I tackle the next two volumes, but this is a brilliant manga.
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.
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.
starlady: (obligatory japan icon)
Yoshinaga Fumi. Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! Trans. William Flanagan. New York: Yen Press, 2010.

I was pointed to this manga by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' review of it, and it was so worth it. Not only is it an idiosyncratic restaurant guide to Tokyo written by a discerning and passionate foodie, but it's also an absolutely hilarious dissection of the ridiculous lifestyle of the contemporary mangaka, with an added dash of paranoia thrown in due to the fact that Yoshinaga, as the hilarious and brilliant translation has it, "makes her living by drawing men engaging in anal sex." The manga is also partaking in the venerable tradition in Japanese literature of the "I-novel" (watashi shôsetsu), which applies a thin layer of fictionalization to the author's life so as to allow them to speak more freely. Yoshinaga pokes knowing fun at herself as well as all the people she shanghais into going to restaurants with her, and the reader is privileged to go along with them.

I don't know how many of these restaurants are still around, and after the Tôhoku earthquake, I don't know how many of them are operating with full power. I'll be bringing the manga to Japan with me this summer, and I shall certainly report back on both those things as I can. In the meantime, I've been watching the beautiful, and unnerving, video below rather more times than I should. The use of light in Japanese cities is more pervasive than in many U.S. cities, I think--a lot of the cityscape is a lot more like Times Square than anywhere else in that respect--and the changes the video shows are correspondingly dramatic.


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