cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Heyer, Georgette: Detection Unlimited.


Romance:

Beverley, Jo:
The Secret Wedding
An Unsuitable Man
Dangerous Joy
(After reading The Secret Wedding, I waxed ecstatic to several people about how the newly-discovered-for-me Beverly is the closest thing to reading Georgette Heyer Regencies I'd found yet. After reading An Unsuitable Man and Dangerous Joy, then going to visit my parents in Austin and reading a couple more Heyer romances and mysteries, I have to take back the comparison--Beverly's one of the better romance novelists I've run across, but Heyer's pedestal sits higher still, and Beverly's really not close at all.

The Secret Wedding was pretty awesome in terms of plotting, pacing, prose, sexiness and characterization, and I was impressed by her ability to address modern feminist perspectives and concerns--rape, women's general lack of independence, agency, and financial power in 19th century England, etc--in a way that was not jarring or ahistorical. She did what I thought was an pretty good job of balancing romantic fantasy and historical reality. I could have lived without the cute magic animal, but it was also less intrusive and ridiculous here than in Dangerous Joy.

Dangerous Joy and An Unsuitable Man are among the better genre romances I've read--I haven't read that many, except for Heyer, who really is in a class by herself--but didn't live up to the high expectations I had of Beverly after The Secret Wedding. C'est la vie. I'll continue to look for books by her to read, since if a lesser book by Beverly isn't necessarily better than 90% of everything else out there, it's still a decent read, and her better books are pretty damn good.)


Heyer, Georgette: These Old Shades
(the best part about reading this was how my mother, who probably hasn't read it in years, could still remember the names and roles of all the characters in it, and could recall the context of every little bit that I read aloud. I know I can't do that for many prolific genre authors who primarily write stand-alone works with no carryover characters. I can't even remember the names of most of the protagonists unless they're in the title).



Comics/Graphic novels:

Kafka, Franz, author, Peter Kuper, artist/adaptor: The Metamorphosis

Lutes, Jason: Berlin: City of Stones: Book One.

Geary, Rick: The Adventures of Blanche
(Geary has never seemed so weird to me).



Manga:

Asano Inio: What a Wonderful World vol. 2.

Ito Junji: Flesh Colored Horror.

Hatsu Akiko: Devil in the Water.

Mori, Kaoru: Emma vol. 10.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 5.

Urushibara Yuki: Mushishi vol. 6.

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu: Joan.

Yoshinaga Fumi: Ooku vol. 1
(words cannot express how much I adore the Shogun. Holy shit, man. I like Yoshinaga's male characters just fine, but if she decided to write nothing but female characters from now on, I would have no complaints).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:
Bierce, Ambrose: Fantastic Fables
(hmm. Lots to be said. Aesop's Fables, as written by a sophisticated late 19th century cynic; cynicism palls really, really fast. It's interesting, but at least from my perspective, not entertaining).


Romance:
Heyer, Georgette: The Talisman Ring
(I liked it! As I generally do with Heyer. She's very good, you know).

Sutherland, Peg: Queen of the Dixie Drive-In
(When [livejournal.com profile] telophase shipped this to me lo those many months ago, I meant to do an in-depth snarky review of it in lieu of payment. But I never got around to it, and then school happened. I think it was mostly okay? The prose didn't send me screaming and it wasn't hugely misogynistic or anything).


YA:
Jones, Diana Wynne:
The Game (way too short, but a good read. Loved the bit with the pork chop, and also how well the reveal worked with the prior characterizations; Jones always does that kind of thing well. There's a little part of me that keeps waiting for her to do some kind of truly pan-mythic story, but maybe that's not fair, especially at this point; she's a basically Western Civ gal, and I know that. And she does pretty good stuff with Greco-Roman/Western European/British Isles mythology; it's not as if she's stagnated with it).
The Spellcoats (reread),
Conrad's Fate (reread),
House of Many Ways (reread),
--totally meant to go on in more detail about all these rereads, but, as I said, school happened.


Light novels:
Ono Fuyumi:
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
(I wanted to love this, and Yoko, as much as [livejournal.com profile] bookelfe did, but I didn't. I felt better about that after I went back and reread her post on it, and her comments about why she identified so strongly with Yoko--identifying with a character is always YMMV, and I'm not that person. But I totally get the bit about it subverting fantasy tropes. It's fascinating for that, and the more I go back and look at it, the more I like the structure and plot. The prose of the translation is unimpressive, but the story is good).

The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind
(awww baby kirin. And, while reading this book, I found myself suddenly hugely in love with the entire universe--reading the second book made me love the first more, and made me desperately want more of the entire world, and all the characters. I begin to get used to Ono's mind, and I like it).


Graphic novels:
Foglio, Phil and Kaja: Girl Genius book four: Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams (holds up well on a reread).

Warren, Adam: Empowered vol. 5 (awwwwww fuckity.
But I'm relieved. I expected to cry a hell of a lot more than I did. I am simply grateful that I didn't cry more than I did. I think this series will eventually rip my beating heart from my chest and set it on fire, because that's what Adam Warren does to your heart. And you then say, "thank you sir, may I have another? Because I adore your clever writing, even though you obviously want to hurt me.")


Manga:

Akino Matsuri:
Genju no Seiza vols. 6-7 (was that another PSOH ref with the kirin? Say it's so, Akino!).
Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo vol. 5

Mori Kaoru: Emma vols. 8-9 (oh shit the Meredith bedroom scene was so hot! There is no sex, although there is sexiness, but the intimacy--emotional and physical--is so pure and tangible I kept having to put the book down and go oof).

Ninomiya Tomoko: Nodame Cantabile vols. 15-16.

Otsuka Eiji, writer, Yamazaki Housui, artist: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 9

Takaya Natsuki: Fruits Basket vol. 22

Umino Chica: Honey & Clover vol. 4.

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol. 5 (and here I'd just boasted to my LCS guy that I knew everything that was gonna happen because I didn't see Urasawa deviating from the basic structure of the plot as outlined in Tezuka's The Greatest Robot on Earth. So far, he hasn't, but this is fucking Urasawa, man. He's a master of suspense. He will surprise you, and he will make you hang. And he'll do it well. It's why he's awesome and we love him.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 4

Watanabe Taeko;
Kaze Hikaru vol. 11
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (such a change from doing crosswords)
On what originally began as a vaguely related note to the Mihara post below:

I've been rereading Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books lately--I've read them so many times before, but they continue to reward immensely; as I grow older and wiser, I find them just as strong, just as thoughtful. There is nothing here I expect to outgrow. I continue to love Bujold's humanism, and now better appreciate that her science fiction speculates as well as entertains; she's just from the social science fiction tradition, rather than the hard science fiction tradition. More Ursula Le Guin than Isaac Asimov.

I never really noticed how good she is at straddling genres--when I was a kid, I read mainly science fiction and fantasy, and had little experience with other genres; as an adult, I've spent enormous amounts of time reading romance and mystery novels. In the afterword to the omnibus edition of Shards of Honor and Barrayar titled Cordelia's Honor, which I am borrowing to read for the first time, Bujold talks about the genesis of those two books--I'd never realized how much of Barrayar she had plotted out before Shards was ever published--and describes Shards as being a romance, and it clicked for me for the first time. Of course it's a romance! It's certainly as much a romance as a science fiction novel--and a damned compelling romance, too. It's a hugely romantic fantasy to fall in love with someone in a life-changing way, to love them enough to want to make huge sacrifices for them, and have an unfaltering, loving, romantic relationship with that person for the rest of your lives. Aral and Cordelia's romance is so compelling and convincing--and so understated, almost but not quite matter-of-fact--that I never quite thought about the fact that the book itself is a novel about romance as well as a science fiction novel. Would I have twigged to that if I'd read more romances prior to reading Bujold, I wonder? I should ask my mother...in her youth (long before Bujold began publishing), she apparently went through a period of reading nothing but romances before she switched over to reading mainly mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. Lots of practice reading those genres.

I've seen some interesting comments from Bujold on genre fiction--she said that romances are fantasies of love, and murder mysteries are fantasies of justice, and was talking about what science fiction would be a fantasy of--agency, maybe? I'm probably muddling it all up; it was an interesting interview, but I don't remember where I read it. Anyway, when I read Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books for the first time, particularly Murder Must Advertise, I realized what a debt Bujold's character of the brilliant Lord Miles Vorkosigan owes to the character of the brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey, from the high-strung-though-entertaining-personality and the profound personal damage, right down to the multiple identities. Most of Miles' stories are mysteries, even--Mountains of Mourning, The Vor Game, Cetaganda, Brothers in Arms, Memory, Komarr, Diplomatic Immunity--and it's not his story, but also Ethan of Athos is a mystery, and then Mark and Ivan each do some detecting in Mirror Dance and in A Civil Campaign, respectively. These stories are all more than just mysteries; they're character portraits, social commentaries, speculations about the nature of humanity and life and death and gender in a world of cloning, cryogenic revival, sophisticated genetic engineering, life-extension technology, and advanced reproductive technology. But a mystery is such a pleasurable way to tell a story, and makes such a wonderful vehicle for everything else Bujold wants to write about. No wonder she's written so many of them. Her characters tend to be extremely intelligent; how better to keep them within sight of the reader than to deny them information, and let us all find out at the same time? Intelligent Cordelia, in her books, is baffled and bemused by unfamiliar environments and alien social values, but her equally intelligent son Miles--Miles, who is, by virtue of his hybrid upbringing, more worldly than his mother was in her books--is baffled by circumstantial mysteries and plots which he is, for a satisfyingly complex and convincing variety of reasons, inevitably driven to solve.

(I haven't read Bujold's fantasy novels as many times over, but I seem to recall that mystery was a big element in A Paladin of Souls as well. Not Curse of Chalion, so much, and I can't remember about the one after Paladin. Or The Spirit Ring. Or the recent romance quartet.)

I have seen Sayers criticized as a mystery writer for her mystery plots not being something enough--people regularly accuse mystery writers, including all the greats, of cheating if they don't give the reader every single vital element with which to solve the mystery themselves. I suppose that's one way to approach the genre, but it's definitely not mine. (And, if you look into the history of the mystery genre, kind of dumb, since the seminal mystery writers were not remotely concerned with giving the readers sufficient clues with which to solve the puzzle. Actually, I think that's sort of an aberration in the field. It's fine to enjoy that, I suppose, but critiquing any given mystery writer for not doing something most mystery writers don't do consistently seems a little unreasonable.) I enjoy puzzle-solving enormously, but I expect more and different things from a novel than a puzzle. It's a bit like complaining that crossword puzzles are cheating, because unlike sudoku, they require more from the puzzle-solver than the exercise of pure logic; crossword puzzles require external knowledge (and more verbal acuity). But that's not cheating, it's simply being a different kind of thing, a thing which I assure you is also enormously fun, for the people that like it. Mystery novels contain more than just puzzles. Can contain, should contain.

Anyway, the brilliance of Sayers (and Bujold) lies not in the cunning nature of her plots (the plots are fine), but in the rich depths of her characterization, all the questions she asks about more than just the who and how of a mystery. I enjoy genre tropes--the genre tropes of mysteries and romance and science fiction, at least--but greatly appreciate the genre writer who can--I don't want to say, transcend genre--the writer who can use genre and genre tropes to tell a story that is transcendent. Bujold and Sayers both do that.

(And, as evidenced by my love also of Rex Stout and Georgette Heyer, I also greatly appreciate a writer who, using both genre tropes and a personal formula, consistently produces work that, though not transcendent, is absolutely perfect and brilliant within its chosen structural limits. I do put high value on solidly crafted entertainment. It's not easy to do!)
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Archival post: The Hooded Utilitarian blog post #6: Female Creators Roundtable: Jane Austen and yes, eventually, some damned zombies. Originally posted at The Hooded Utilitarian by Cerusee on 7-26-2009.

Female Creators Roundtable: Jane Austen and yes, eventually, some damned zombies. )
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Mystery:

Stout, Rex: And Be a Villain (Wolfe),
Before Midnight (Wolfe),
Black Mountain (Wolfe's little Roman Holiday. Eastern European holiday, that is, and a follow-up of sorts to Over My Dead Body),
Three at Wolfe's Door (Wolfe),
The Final Deduction (Wolfe),
Bad for Business (Tecumsah Fox. Fox is like a blend of Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, and although he is as awesome as neither, he's still pretty entertaining),
Double for Death (more Fox),
Alphabet Hicks (Neither a Wolfe or a Fox mystery, and in the feel of the reading, just a little nastier than normal Stout. Prior to the events of the book, Hicks, the protagonist, actually suffered permanent consequences of the sort Cramer is constantly threatening Archie with, and he's bitter, and so is the book),
A Family Affair (Nero Wolfe, and the darkest Stout I have ever read. The introduction claims it's Stout's Nixon novel, which I believe. Nixon comes up in the book, but I think what that really refers to is not Nixon, but the jarring, unexpected, and upsetting betrayal that the plot hinges on. This reminded me of reading Georgette Heyer's Penhallow--it's a disturbing work from a writer who is normally fun and comfortable. It also has what I think might be the single most romantic scene I've ever read in a Stout book, when Archie goes to visit Lily. They're both so self-possessed and capable, and their non-exclusive relationship so relentlessly casual that to see Archie, feeling vulnerable, go to Lily is impossibly affecting).


Graphic novels/bandes dessines:

Larcenet, Manu: Ordinary Victories: What is Precious.

Rodriguez, Jason, editor: Postcards: True Stories that Never Happened
(Jesus, this was boring).


Manga:

Azuma Hideo: Disappearance Diary
(also boring).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (woman with hamster)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Envious Casca, The Unfinished Clue
(Heyer's Handy Tips!, aka, Things I Have Learned from Georgette Heyer's Mystery Novels:
--Never throw a house party if you're a mean old bastard; you're sure to be murdered within a hundred pages.
--But! If you're an attractive, clever, forthright, and self-possessed single woman, the police investigations following these inevitable murders are a great place to pick up a worthwhile spouse).


Graphic novels:

Ware, Chris: Jimmy Corrigan, or, The Smartest Kid on Earth.

Appollo, writer, and Lewis Trondheim, writer and artist: Bourbon Island 1730.


Cooke, Darwyn, et al: Will Eisner's The Spirit vol. 2
(No, I'm not planning to see the Miller film adaptation. Yes, Kyle Baker was very funny on that subject. No, it didn't change my mind about Frank Miller being a poor match for the material.

Recent movie adaptations of comic books I haven't seen and have no interest in: The Spirit, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Hellboy 2, The Hulk.

Forthcoming movie adaptations of graphic novels/comics I will have no interest in when they come out: Astro Boy, Captain America, The Avengers, Watchmen, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Thor, any further entries in the Superman, Spider-Man and Batman franchises, any adaptation that falls short of the standard set by, say, Persepolis.

The best film adaptations of comic books tend to be no better than okay, and the worst are painful or outright insulting. I'm done with them, and I'm at peace with that).



Manga:

Ninomiya Tomoko: Nodame Cantabile vols. 13-14
(speaking of adaptations, I curse Hollywood's evil and unscrupulous money-grubbing use of DRM to create and enforce regional coding, which makes it impractical for me to import DVDs of the brilliant, hilarious live-action adaptations of this comic, even though no one in North America has any financial investment in or motivation to distribute it in this market, and this rarity, a truly worthy adaptation, is thus almost totally inaccessible to me in any legally sanctioned format. Stupid fuckers).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Tollgate.


Graphic novels:

Various: Mome Summer 2007.

Grist, Paul: Greetings from New Eden: A New Place to Live.

Trondheim, Lewis, writer, and Eric Cartier, artist: Kaput and Zosky.


Manga:

Koike Kazuo, writer, and Kamimura Kazuo, aris: Lady Snowblood vols. 3-4
(I never saw volume 2, which did not significantly interfere with my ability to follow the story, and these volumes make up a 2-volume arc and end the series. All in all, a good read, with the same caveats as before).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Several of these books are really excellent, thought-provoking works, and I kept putting off this post in the hopes of being able to do them justice, but with the semester in full swing, I just don't have time. Anything marked with a star is a stand-out work deserving of critical attention.


Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Arabella.

Heyer, Georgette: Penhallow*
(this is something a departure for Heyer: a truly grim murder myster. The ending is brooding and unoptimistic; the mood is oppressive, and there are no sympathetic characters at all. Heyer novels always contain Austen-esque, sharp-edged observations of human foibles, vanities, and failings, but those observations are normally softened with a good-humored, laughing sense of acceptance. Here, they stand as bleak, hopeless summaries of the way people destroy themselves and fail each other. It's probably the best novel she wrote).


Graphic novels:

Abel, Jessica: La Perdita.*

Baker, Kyle: Nat Turner.*

Robinson, Alex: Box Office Poison.*


Manga:

Mori Kaoru: Shirley vol. 1.

Kanari Yozaburo, story, Sato Fumiya, art: Kindaichi Case Files: The Undying Butterflies.

Ohtsuka Eiji, story, Yamazaki Hosui, art: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 7.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (joyful mai)
I'm a great cook. Why am I eating marshmallows for lunch?

Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Behold, Here's Poison
(I loved the twist in the last fourth or so of the book, and the gradual reversals and the increasing darkness as they investigate the victim. Good even by Heyer's consistantly high standards).


Graphic novels:

Varon, Sara: Robot Dreams
(First Second. I wish someone had warned me that rather than being the fluffy story about the power of friendship that the cover would suggest, this book is actually a tale of heartbreaking betrayal, shattered dreams, horrifying instances of suffering and dismemberment, and the alienation of modern society).


Westerlund, Christian, and Robert Nazelby Herzig: Angel Skim
(NBM ComicsLit, also responsible for the far superior Paul Auster work, City of Glass.

~edit~ Oh hell, no they weren't. Neon Lit published the graphic novel adaptation of City of Glass. My bad. But NBM ComicsLit is responsible for publishing this piece of shit. End edit.

It would be untrue to say I read this, for I gave up nine pages in on account of the writing being laughably bad. Everything smells like semen-and-rot or cigarettes-and-whisky, or is decorated with water-and-insects or rusted-shopping-carts-and-rotten-cardboard-boxes. And nothing really conveys nihilism like drinking cold coffee, huh? The credits do not make it clear who wrote and who drew, I think because the art is fine, but neither creator wants to be held accountable for the prose).


Various: Four Letter Worlds
(An Image anthology of black-and-white shorts. Contributors include Steve Lieber, Scott Morse, Mark Ricketts and Phil Hester, Andi Watson, Anthony Johnston, B. Clay Moore, Steven Griffin, Jim Mahfood, Jeff Parker, Robert Kirkman, Matthew Roberts, J. Torres, John Bernales, Eric Stephenson, Mike Norton, Jay Faerber, Steve Rolston, Matt Fraction, Kieron Dwyer, Joe Casey, Mike Huddleston, Amber Benson, and Jaime McElvie. Stories range from excellent to why-in-hell-did-the-editor-think-this-was-worth-publishing?

Highlights. )


Manga:

Takahashi Rumiko: One Pound Gospel vols. 1-2
(older Takahashi work is better Takahashi work. This lacks the underlying romance of Maison Ikkoku, but it's worth it for the shenanigans alone, whether or not you give a damn about Kosaku's crush on Sister Angela, which I can't say I do. Yay VIZ, for republishing this! I'm grateful to see it on the market again, since I was too callow to look at it the first time).


Nakamura Yoshiki: Skip*Beat vol. 14
Mild spoilers for ongoing developments. )


Umino Chico: Honey and Clover vol. 2.

Iwahara Yuji: King of Thorn vol. 4
(whoa, he just changed all the rules. I am intrigued!).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Kirino Natsuo: Out
(eww ewww ewwww. This is well-written, but the ratio of suspense to vivid descriptions of torture, murder, and dismemberment is too low for me. She has other books translated into English, but I'll stop here).

Heyer, Georgette: No Wind of Blame
(relatively low suspense content, but also a low torture/dismemberment content, and lots of wit).

Riccardi, Victoria Abbott: Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto
(Riccardi's memoir of her years spent in Kyoto in the late 1980s, studying tea kaiseki, which is a meal eaten by guests before a tea ceremony, prepared and served by the host. Riccardi is better at describing food than she is creating a sense of herself--her occasional segues to describe memories not directly related to food and her relationships with people are the weakest bits in the book--but since I picked this up because I was interested in reading about the food, this is perfectly fine with me and doesn't detract from the book. It's a fast, pleasant read, and not at all one of those travel memoirs that makes you want to punch the writer in the face for being a xenophobic, racist jerk--or for blindly cheerleading the virtues of foreign cultures without recognizing their faults, either. Riccardi's portrait of Japan from the perspective of a gaijin is affectionate, nuanced, and mature. Plus, nifty recipes! As soon as the weather cools down, I'm going to make beef-and-potato hot-pot and the drippy-sweet daikon wheels).



Manga:

Tanaka Meca: Pearl Pink vols. 3-4
(what an awesome acting debut. XD).

Anno Moyoco: Happy Mania vol. 9
(this volume seems a little unfocused even for Happy Mania, which is typically insane. Or maybe it was just me, since I was exhausted and struggling to stay awake when I read it).

Yamazaki Housui: Mail vols. 1-3
(I've been telling people that I read volume 1 of this while sitting around immediately after a massage, waiting for my sister to be done with hers, and I undid all of the masseuse's good work by shriveling up in terror. Jesus, this is creepy. Same artist as on Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, although that series has a different writer. It's a tad formulaic, and I was surprised at how consistently people survived their haunting experiences, but very enjoyable, in that terrifying way.).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
I've not been reading much this month, first because I was in Austin, visiting my parents and hanging out with no-longer-expat Mikke, and more recently because I've been catching up on six months worth of All My Children via YouTube. Rebecca Budig is like my cocaine, man; I got hooked on Greenlee by reading soap mags way back in 2000, and I've never been able to kick my addiction to her feisty, self-absorbed shenanigans for more than three months since. She is more entertaining than...really, most things.


Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Foundling
(barely a romance. It's more about 20-something Gilly, the Duke of Sale, breaking out of the protective shell of his overbearing family and having an adventure that helps him cross the line into adulthood. This is not a complaint! Gilly's just adorable in his vulnerability and growing sense of confidence. It never entirely gelled for me as a book, but I laughed a lot and wibbled a lot and really enjoyed it).

Ranpo Edogawa: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination
(oh boy, I dig it. And I love short stories in general. But for the love of god, don't read this while eating. When will I learn never to read gritty detective fiction while eating?).


Manga:

Okazaki Mari: Suppli vols. 2-3
(Tokyopop has probably already axed this, although it looks like it could be years before we actually know for sure that they've axed and what they're still planning to publish. I was more okay with the thought of this being dropped until I read these volumes, because I am falling in love with this work-romance soap josei manga. The josei niche in America is so, so tiny; I can't abide the thought of it shrinking before it's ever been able to grow. I want to read comics about women my age struggling to balance their professional and personal lives! I want to read comics about Japanese women who want real careers! I want comics with genuinely post-adolescent soap opera! And this is so beautifully, wistfully, illustrated. God, I'm getting depressed).

Watanabe Taeko: Kaze Hikaru vol. 9
(speaking of soap romance, lol@the guys' obsession with the status of Sei and Soji's relationship).

Nishi Keiko: Promise and Love Song
(man, shoujo comics can be dark sometimes. I wonder at what point that realization no longer surprised me?).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Venetia.

Bujold, Lois McMaster: The Sharing Knife: Passage
(the more I read in this series, the more I like it).


Graphic novels/cartoons:

Various: The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker.


Manga:

Ashihara Hinako: The Sand Chronicles vol. 2

Nakamura Yoshiki: Skip*Beat vols. 12-13.

Tsukaba Sakura: Penguin Revolution vol. 5
(I've having some trouble maintaining my suspension of disbelief vis a vis the implausibly successful cross-dressing. But it's still utterly charming).

Akino Matsuri: Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo vol. 2.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Masqueraders
(extra cross-dressing action, done in the perfect Heyer style. I love how Heyer protagonists never suffer through the sorts of horrible humiliation scenes that are the staple of sit-coms, no matter how many wacky compromising situations they get tangled up in. Heyer's sense of humor is wicked but inherently pleasant and dignified,and I think that's part of her appeal).

Miyabe Miyuki: All She Was Worth
(part of my Japanese mystery reading! I really enjoyed this, and I'll look for more of her books in translation).


Manga:

Yoshinaga Fumi: Truly Kindly
(there's a lot more rape and non-consensual sex in this than I like in my romance fiction, and it really detracted from my enjoyment of the stories. To Yoshinaga's credit, though, I don't think the stories with non-con were really meant to be romantic, nor were the characters depicted as sympathetic or likable besides, and although Yoshinaga is normally very funny, what humor was in the stories with non-con was unusually black. It's not the first time I've picked upon dark undercurrents in Yoshinaga manga).

Yazawa Ai: Nana vols. 10-11
(it never works to hold off for months, waiting for more to come out so that when I read, I'll have a pile to read through and won't angst, wanting more. However much is in the pile, I always get to the bottom wanting more. I cannot be sated in my lust for Nana).

Tamaki Chihiro: Walkin' Butterfly vol. 3
(I am truly enjoying this. I know there was a time in my life when I would have scoffed at a story about the fashion industry and the struggle to become a model, but Paradise Kiss pretty much put an end to that).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (always read stuff that makes you look go)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Friday's Child
(utterly adorable, and romantic a la Lady of Quality, with the difference being that Sherry doesn't start out in love with Hero, and the book is about how he becomes so after marrying her in what he intended as a marriage of convenience. It ran a little long, though; for the last fifty pages, I kept wishing they'd hurry things up.

One of my favorite things about Heyer's Regencies is that they don't match up to the insulting cliche that people who don't read romances insist all romances follow. Her books are romances, obviously; they're about personal relationships and romantic relationships specifically, but they do not have cookie-cutter personalities and plots, and Heyer is perfectly willing and able to explore the course of a romance in all stages, including after marriage.

Icon in honor of a bookstore co-worker, who semi-seriously told me that if I was hit by a car on the way home from work, I'd be embarrassed that this was the last book I'd ever read. I didn't see any point to telling her that I was also reading five or six graphic novels at the same time).


Graphic novels:

Maitena: Women on the Edge vol. 1
(I keep alternating between finding this amusing and deeply annoying for the implicit acceptance of the rightness and normality of sexism, gender inequalities, and feeling like a bad person because of having cellulite. Also, everyone is white and heterosexual, and I'm getting the point where I find that hard to overlook).


Burleigh, Robert, author, Bill Wylie, artist: Into the Air: The Story of the Wright Brothers' First Flight.


Turner, James: Rex Libris: I Librarian
Read more... )


Johnson, Mat, author, Warren Pleece, artist: Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery
(this was...more pat than I expected. I'd been expecting...the kind of unyielding story that does not leave itself open for sequels, I guess? And you could easily write a sequel to this, or make a whole series out of it.

I can't believe I'm complaining about a work of fiction ending on a hopeful note).


Chantler, Scott: The Annotated Northwest Passage
Read more... )


Manga:

Otomo Katsuhiro: Akira vol. 1
(I've read this before--just vol. 1, that is--but I was in a much better position to appreciate it this time around, now having a much broader experience with comics and manga in general. It's pretty awesome.).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Footsteps in the Dark
(English. Mystery. Witty! Georgette Heyer. This one reads a bit like a Nancy Drew or a Hardy Boys novel for adults, and I think I mean that in a good way).


Graphic novels:

Spiegelman, Art: Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
(Spiegelman really knows his way around a visual metaphor).

Various: Graphic Classics: Mark Twain
(it's good and it's fun, and Rick Geary always rocks my socks, but the main thing I get from this book is a renewed desire to read Twain as prose. Also, I felt that some of these adaptations were a little short on illustration. As I can read Twain's prose whenever I want to, I felt a bit cheated on that score).

Geary, Rick: A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Mystery of Mary Rogers
(Geary does not fail to rock my socks with this.

I am unsatisfied over not having an answer to the mystery, but unsolved mysteries are par for the course here--it's not a fault of Geary's presentation of the material. It just so happens that I hadn't heard of this mystery before reading the book, so I had no existing sense of the mythology that sprang up around Mary Rogers' murder. I did already know some of mythologies of Lizzie Borden and of Jack the Ripper when I read Geary's books on them, so I was already anticipating those non-resolutions.

I really don't know why I can enjoy graphic novel true crime stories when the prose kind generally leave me loathing every part of the process. I think maybe because the kinds of true crime stories that make it into contemporary comics tend to be historical, and often the stuff of legend? To me, writing stories based on enduring cultural lore does not feel so sickeningly dehumanizing as what crowds the true crime shelves in bookstores...some of the motivation is the same (we thrill to the gruesome details of the crime, the intense emotion, the extremes of personality), but it's a little more...I don't know...processed. Passed off to history, with the families no longer around to be injured. Like fiction, there's no longer anything really at stake, and no one to be hurt. It's why historical fiction doesn't bug me when RPF does.

And a great deal of the appeal specifically of these Geary works is that the murders ARE unsolved and can almost certainly never BE solved, making them a sort of intellectual exercise, like mental chewing gum).


Manga:

Mashima Hiro: Fairy Tail vol. 2.

Kanari Yozaburo, author, Sato Fumiya, artist: The Kindaichi Case Files: Treasure Isle
(called it. Sort of).

Nakazawa Keiji: Barefoot Gen vols. 1-2
(the introduction is by Art Spiegelman. You know, it's hard to say which of these WWII-related works is more depressing, Maus or this.

I strongly recommend this manga to anyone feeling dissatisfied with works like Grave of the Fireflies or Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms for not discussing Japanese culpability in WWII. The author's father was anti-war, and the manga is a fictionalized version of the author's own life--by pure chance, he survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, lost most of his family at that time, and struggled to survive afterwards--and his father's (and presumably the family's as a whole) anti-war stance is laid out loud and clear, as are the dire social consequences of not supporting the war (among other unpleasant things, not being able to borrow food from neighbors when your pregnant wife and five children are slowly starving to death). The manga also firmly acknowledges Japanese racism and mistreatment of Korean and Chinese laborers; this is discussed in the context of the family's friendship with a Korean neighbor, who repays their open support and friendship with food he can barely spare.

Reading this is like a reading a weird hybrid of The Drifting Classroom and something by Tezuka: unrelenting horror and death in a blasted landscape, as written by a humanist who over and over and over again calls for peace and human friendship, infused with childlike optimism, energy, and the moral depth and clarity that only a wise adult can really possess. It's humanism from someone who has literally seen with his own eyes absolutely the worst that people can do to each other, and who still believes that we can be better than that, and who can show you both.

Highly recommended, but expect it to hurt).


Taniguchi Tomo: Aquarium
(I am slowly working my way through all the works reviewed in the shoujo issue of The Comics Journal!).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Grand Sophy
(oh my. Now I know why this book is written of in the typed equivalent of hushed tones of reverence and awe; it's just wonderful. Sophy's a freakin' force of nature, a natural law, an accurate predictor of your fortune in life. Trust in the wisdom of Sophy: if she likes you and she is laughing, your life will be happy; if it is otherwise, you are doomed.

Heyer at her best. Highly recommended as pure, delicious fun).


Graphic novels:

Eisner, Will: A Life Force
(in this book, human beings are metaphorically equated with cockroaches, in all their skittling glory. This is neither as depressing nor as disgusting as it sounds. Eisner is a humanist. He is very intelligent and very aware, and very willing to plunge into the dark side of human existence, but he also fervently believes and convincingly argues that we're worth it, and life is worth it, and that somewhere in the profane mess that is life is meaning.

I really like reading his books, because I believe that, too).


Tan, Shaun: The Arrival
(human kindness and generosity do not stop an alien world from being terrifying, but they help you learn to survive long enough for the strangeness to stop being so frightening.

I kinda like to think I would have picked up on this being a visual metaphor of the immigrant experience without having being told so before I ever saw the book, but you never know. I don't know how to praise this work without repeating myself, but it deserves great praise and to belong in every graphic novel collection).


Baker, Kyle: You Are Here
(both the author and the work are recommended! My introduction to Kyle Baker was his take on Plastic Man, which gave me sort of a warm fuzzy predisposition towards him that has been well-rewarded by his other works. I really enjoyed this book. It's an unusual variant on comics art: panels of art accompanied by captions of dialogue (unusual in the sense that it's not commonly employed, not that it's unprecedented). Anyway, it reads very smoothly, like Prince Valiant if you increased the panel count by a factor of ten and allowed for a lot more to be conveyed by the art. Baker's a wonderful artist, very skilled at cartooning and narrative art, and a clever, insightful writer besides.

The ending is really not what I expected, but it was honest, and I appreciated it. I think I trust him, in the sense that I feel that I can cast myself on his artistic whim without fear of being disappointed, or needing to qualify what I'm reading).


Clugston-Major, Chunna: Scooter Girl
(I didn't finish this, but I did read enough to determine that I didn't like this any better than Blue Monday, and it's probably better for both Clugston-Major and myself if I stop trying to force myself to read her books, which for whatever reason make me want to throw up).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: They Found Him Dead
(Heyer's mysteries are as lively and lovely as her Regency romances. I enjoyed this one particularly, not for any special reason).


Graphic novels/comics/cartoons

Watson, Andi: Little Star
(more Oni Press. I almost put this one down without finishing, although not because it was a testosterone-drenched adventure with a jeep--about the only thing it could be said to have in common with the testosterone jeep adventure was that it was a story about a man trying to find himself. Little Star is a book about a man struggling for balance between his part-time job as a ceramics painter and his role as the father of a fussy toddler and husband to a full-time wife. It is poignant, nuanced, intelligent, genuine, well-crafted, and I didn't love it. I don't really know why, I just didn't).

Runton, Andy: Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer, Owly: Just A Little Blue, Owly: Flying Lessons, Owly: a Time to be Brave
(these are horrifically cute. The whole time I was reading these--I think it took me about twenty minutes total--I kept complaining to the friend who owned them about the worm who carries around umbrellas and slings things over his shoulder even though as a worm, he lacks a spine, shoulders, and hands. My friend informed me that there were magically invisible robots to do these things for Wormy. However, I'm a little concerned that the target audience, i.e. kids, will not pick up on this important fact, and will be as confused as I was).

Petersen, David: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
(gorgeous art; I was distracted while reading and did not pay attention the plot, which may have been gripping).

Morse, Scott: Magic Pickle
(the lame vegetable puns, ow).

Barnes, Bill and Gene Ambaum: Unshelved, Unshelved: What Would Dewey Do?, Unshelved: Library Mascot Cage Match
(this is like a series of really awesome textbook cartoon inserts on how not to handle the reference interview. Don't do what Dewey would do. Plus, WWDD has a foreword by Nancy Pearl, Action Librarian).


Manga:

Gakuen Alice vol. 1
(it's sufficiently in line with the anime that I didn't feel a need to keep reading. It's a bit wacky and sketchy cute, and I do recommend it).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/Prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: Pistols for Two
(I was wondering why the plot was proceeding at such a breakneck pace until I reached the end of the title story, and realized I was in fact reading a book of short stories. This was nowhere indicated in the cover text, back cover blurbs, art, or anywhere else that I could find; though there was a table of contents listing the stories, those pages were quite stuck together when I began reading. They're decent stories, but too breezy for real satisfaction; I like the layered plots and slower-paced emotional arcs of Heyer's novels better--her novels are tiramasu; these stories are cotton candy).


Graphic novels/comic books/cartoons:

Norrie, Christine: Cheat.

Addams, Charles: Homebodies, Charles Addams and Evil, Nightcrawlers, Black Maria
(Charles Addams was a brilliant cartoonist with what can be inadequately described as a twisted sense of humor and also an unfortunate penchant for really racist cannibal cartoons. Read his work with qualifiers. Life is just full of things that need qualifying).

Mack, David: Kabuki, vol. 1 : Circle of Blood
(Um. There are so many directions I could go here. Let's start with the art is impressive, and the writing is adequate, but I am leery of the violence and the...I do not feel up to the task of processing the implications of the cadre of female assassins who go around in masks and fetish wear, being very professional and efficient at assassinating people, but always posing in sexy ways and mostly being naked while they do so. Because if I do get started on Mack, I owe it to everyone to excoriate Addams for the racism, which leads me to questions of racism in Mack, and my head hurts. So I'm going to let it go and just not read any more Mack. I will read more Addams, though, because he's funny and Mack overwrites to the point of making my eyes cross).


Manga:

Kuroda, Iou: Sexy Voice and Robo
(highly recommended on all counts. The art and writing are excellent and support each other; the chapters are more like a series of short stories about the same person, but they are not disconnected from each other. It is different than most of the manga you're likely to have read if you're reading this LJ entry, which in my mind is a plus. It features one of the more interesting and cool female characters I've read lately, although you should be warned that she gives herself the codename "Sexy Voice" because she makes money as one of those women who flirt with lonely men on dating hotlines (it's not a throwaway thing; I could dig very deep into that aspect of her character, were I attempting to write a real review). Anyway, Nico, aka Sexy Voice, is clever and unconventional and capable; I think you will like her, so apart from all its other merits, I recommend this to manga readers who are feeling a lack of good female characterization).

Shaman King vol. 1.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Still watching:

Lucky Star:

Of course. A girl needs her humor fix. And while the status quo of a four-panel joke slash sitcom show may never change (Konata is an otaku, Kagami is her straight man--and for some reason, the darling of my heart--and everyone else is kind of dumb in a different way), the plot of Lucky Channel is becoming positively epic. Plus, various new takes on the show's joke of an ending theme are threatening to displace the show proper as a source of comedy.

Rurouni Kenshin:

This is sort of on a temporary hiatus, since I've been Netflixing this one, and I recently accidentally dropped juice on the DVD player's remote, and it turns out that it's impossible to adjust the language settings on my DVD player without that. I've been enjoying it, though. Oro!


Picked up:

Seirei no Moribito:

My god, this is so good. This show is so quiet and understated, and it's beautifully crafted in every respect. It's a little like watching Mushishi, both in its sort of moody, evocative, anti-history setting--it has kind of a feel of what I believe is supposed to be a particular era of Japanese history, but distinctly sets itself as fantasy--and in the way that while I don't burn to watch new episodes of this show, it is totally engaging for each and every minute of every episode. Even when most of the screentime in an episode is literally spent with minor characters standing around and telling stories about anonymous people, I'm enthralled.

Flash burns itself out, but real craft lasts forever. Like Mushishi, like Fantastic Children, like Planetes, this is a show that I believe will stand the test of time.


New section!:

Books being read:

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction:

Okay....Rasputin. Nobody ever did that before. Will I like the plot more in books that weren't co-written by John Byrne? This is stylish and different, and the art can certainly have all my babies, but volume one didn't rock my socks enough to explain why someone was inspired enough to make a movie based on this series. Hellboy himself, I like, but as of volume one, he's more image than person.

All sorts of Georgette Heyer: Does this really require explanation? Well, the last time I was at the library, checking out yet another set of Georgette Heyer frothy Regency romances, the library assistant noted that Heyer was classic, but that she herself had never read any, and asked were, they anything like Jane Austen? To which I immediately replied, "Yes, but more frivolous."

And there you have it. If you've ever secretly wished, while re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the fifth time, that you could get the same story, but just a little bit sillier and with more fun, go to Heyer. Her romances are certainly formula, but her plots are neatly crafted, and the characters do have distinct personalities--yes, you can probably guess each pairing within the first three chapters, even without the aid of the dust jacket, but her heros and heroines are not all alike, and that's better than you can say for most romance writers. If you like ton, you'll like Heyer.

The odd Agatha Christie:

...proving, I suppose, that Josephine Tey was not unique in her love of passing judgement on people. Tey is nothing short of brilliant as a writer, but her unyielding contempt for the common person always left a sour taste in my mouth, and I marked it up to her theater background--20th century theater, finding itself so much on the rarified end of the cultural divide, always seems to need to justify its unpopularity with the masses by condemning the masses. Christie, on the other hand, is as popular culture as book writing can get--genre, formula genre, and popular formula genre; she certainly should feel no need to justify her position to people. So why the disdain for people, common people, falling moral standards, etc? The repeated observation in Hallowe'en Party that there seem to be more insane people around today, casually murdering the innocent, where are the asylums, etc, etc, why aren't mothers looking after their daughters, is, well, so ahistorical as to be moronic. It also totally puts to shame Arthur Conan Doyle's digs at Americans for being judgmental puritans; nothing, nothing, I tell you, can beat out a British mystery writer when it comes to feeling superior to the rest of humanity.

January 2017

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