cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (...okay then)
Mystery:

Christie, Agatha: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
(Oh, Christie, you racist, xenophobic, conservative twit. You will just keep on doing your racist, xenophobic, conservative thing, won't you? But you wrote a lot, and you sold a lot, and now you're dead, and no one ever expected better of you, so no one ever bothers to call you on it. Sometimes I hate you for that.

Also, you are only okay as a writer, and for all your work, you really only wrote a tiny handful of books that are truly standouts in your preferred genre. Bite me, Agatha Christie).


Fantasy/romance:

Bujold, Lois McMaster: The Sharing Knife: Horizon
(I was in the shower when I had this sudden thought that oh hey, Bujold set up this world where the local predators atop the food chain, malices, subsist and thrive on birth-energies, and the only known method of destroying a malice requires the harnessing of death-energy. I find this quite fascinating, given both Bujold's general interest in reproductive issues as they pertain to both women's health and the construction of self-identity, and her regular thematic revisiting of parenthood, with its ability to exalt or to destroy the parent.

She probably covered this in the first book, but I read that years ago and don't remember.

I liked this, and I think the preceding volume of The Sharing Knife, more than I've liked any of Bujold's other fantasy novels excepting only The Curse of Chalion. Wow, did this series ever grow on me!

I adore Arkady, who would have been a jerk in anyone else's books, and I ended up unduly fond of Barr, probably because he was a jerk who outgrew it, and that trope appeals to me more than it has any right to).


Manga:

Ariyoshi Kyoko: Swan, vol. 3
(Every time I read a volume of the classic ballet manga, Swan, I have to fight the urge to run out and buy the entire series so I can finish it tomorrow. Then I forget about it for six months).

Midorikawa Yuki: Natsume's Book of Friends, vol. 1.

Ono Natsume: not simple
(the art IS simple, but not the plot! Stuff like this is why, when I was ranting about the potential glories of that Matt Thorn/Fantagraphics manga line thing, I couldn't quite bring myself to claim that they'd bring over stuff we'd never seen before and would never see otherwise. I mean, have you seen the stuff that Viz puts in its Signature line? Quality. It's totally one of those high-end scanlation groups run by hardcore manga geeks with superb taste, except that it's legit. It's stuff like this that made it reeeaal easy for me to pretty much give up on fansubs and scanlations. And that they also have a line that picks up lovely titles like Natsume's Book of Friends, i.e. the Shoujo Beat line).

Otsuka Eiji, story, and Yamazaki Housui, art: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 10
(Dark Horse and Carl Gustav Horn also helped).

Toriko Gin: Song of the Hanging Sky, vol. 2
(this, too. The reason I fangirl all this stuff so hard, btw, is that manga is one of the only things I tend to buy instead of renting or borrowing, and I am presently fiscally unable to venture past titles that I think are just totally the shit to titles that are actual shit*).


*I would never, for instance, actually buy any of Agatha Christie's racist, sexist, xenophobic, conservative books except for the tiny handful that are genuinely innovative and clever. I mean, it's not like she's an actual master of genre writing like Stout or Heyer. The woman wrote fucking literary tissue paper stamped with her usual ugly nationalism and not even saved by a nice period denunciation of fascism. I cannot, I just cannot get over a book where a major character turns out to be a German Jew spying for Nazi Germany. That is so Agatha Christie. I fucking hate that woman.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (why is there spring in this winter?)
Non fiction:

Skloot, Rebecca, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

(Everybody should read this book. Especially if they work in medicine, or any life science, or for that matter, any social science, but even if they don't; everybody should read this book. Everyone, bar none, has a stake or a potential stake in what the material of this book covers.

Rebecca Skloot pretty much now a personal heroine of mine for this work--for doing it, for doing it right, for taking the time to do it right, and to do right by Henrietta and her family. I feel that this is almost a case study in how to write about an important medical subject and to decently represent the human interests involved--in this case, the woman, her life and her death, her circumstances, and her family, past and present. Henrietta Lacks is one of the most important people ever born in the world. I'm not exaggerating. She deserves nothing less than this book, and probably much more.

I come from a social sciences background to begin with, plus we just covered ethics in that silly mandatory information evaluation class I'm taking right now, so ethics was kind of on the brain anyway; I am practically humming with the importance of treating human beings like human beings in your work, whatever your work may be. I hope this book ends up as mandatory reading in a million college classes, maybe high school classes, too, and teaches people about the intersection of science and humanity and ethics, and the right way to deal with the human beings you'll be working with if you do science. Or, you know, anything at all in your entire life).


Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Stout, Rex: Trio for Blunt Instruments.


Comics/graphic novels:

Foglio, Phil and Kaja: Girl Genius, book five: Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess.


Manga:

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol 7.
(sob sob sob. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I just, I knew this was coming but oh man I hoped and pretended and looked askance because this is an adaptation, and Urasawa can do whatever he wants! He didn't have to! Oh gosh. I have to go lie down now.

By the way, I read this volume in ten minutes flat, standing next to my bookcase with its stacks of unread manga, fist jammed into my mouth, barely breathing. Hoping I was wrong.

sob.)
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (autumn travels)
Romance:

Beverley, Jo: The Rogue's Return
(Better than Dangerous Joy; not as good as The Secret Wedding).


Mystery:

Stout, Rex: Three for the Chair
(includes "A Window for Death," "Immune to Murder," and "Too Many Detectives").


Graphic novels/comics:

Cooke, Darwyn: Parker: The Hunter (based on Richard Stark's prose novel)
(Umm. Great art. Icky, kinda misogynistic story).

Barnes, Bill, and Gene Ambaum: Reader's Advisory : Unshelved 7
(I bought this at ALA Midwinter, along with a truly fabulous "What Would Dewey Do?" shirt. It's autographed by Bill and Gene! The book, not the shirt, that is.

The forecast: scattered humor).


Manga/Manwha:

Azuma Kiyohiko: Yotsuba vol. 7.

KookHwa Huh, writer, and Sujin Kim, artist, Pig Bride vol. 1.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 6.

Yazawa Ai, Nana vol. 20
(Aaaand there's that spoiler omg).

Yoshinaga Fumi, All My Darling Daughters.

Yoshinaga Fumi, Ooku vol. 2
(sob. ...sorry, I can't help it. For some reasons, the stories in this series make me want to cry my eyes out and keep me from sleeping at night. Frickin' Yoshinaga).
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 (books)
I have to do this now because library books are due, and it got cold and snowed and the heat came on, so I can't keep piling these suckers up on the radiator.


Non-fiction:

Tyler, Royall, ed.: Japanese Tales
(this is an anthology of medieval Japanese stories--not folk lore, but rather stories written by upper-class members of the imperial court. I started reading this sucker back when I worked at the bookstore, some three years ago. It's a slow read, although an interesting and worthwhile read for people who are a) interested in Japanese history and culture, b) folklore and fairy tales, or c) Shinto and Buddhism. I'd heard for years about how Shinto and Buddhism harmoniously co-exist in Japan, but until I read this book, I never fully understood how that worked--I'd imagined peaceful mutual tolerance, but it's really more like a deep blending. You read about things like travelers going down some dangerous, haunted path, running into danger in the form of a powerful kami, and praying to a Buddhist figure. The menacing kami, however, sees that the traveler is a devout Buddhist, and, being a devout Buddhist his/her/itself, spares the traveler. It's a little bit like the way that various kinds of Western supernatural lore--vampire and werewolf myths--intermingle with Catholic imagery and Catholic beliefs--holy water, crosses, prayers, consecrated ground and whatnot).



Mystery:

Matsumoto Seicho: The Voice: Short stories by Japan's leading mystery writer
(In some other decade, I guess. It took me a few stories to adjust to the fact that in every story, the twist was signaled in about the first quarter of the story, and the rest of the story would be dedicated to following events to some logical end. I kept wanting some second twist closer to the end of a story, and it kept not happening).


Stout, Rex: Too Many Cooks
(Um, yeah, as [livejournal.com profile] snarp said, for a white guy writing in 1938, he didn't do too bad. And the story is Stout's usual strong stuff. But if the n-word or any of several other racial or ethnic slurs are dealbreakers for you, I would not read this.

I think Stout's racist like he is sexist--his is the worldview of an intelligent, thoughtful, sophisticated, creative, permissive and rather generous personality who is not, like, spectacularly socially enlightened for his era--I think he fits into his zeitgeist; he doesn't push the boundaries of his world. As a white chick who like snappy writing and vintage mystery, I find it easy and worthwhile to forgive him, but he does sometimes write things that need forgiving).



YA fiction:

Gaiman, Neil: The Graveyard Book
(I try to avoid Gaiman's prose books, because I don't enjoy them, but this was pressed on me by someone who knows my taste, and knows I adore Kipling. And, well, I finished it, which for me is pretty good when it comes to a Gaiman prose work, but I wish I hadn't known that it was a riff on Kipling's The Jungle Book before I read it, because then I would have been pleasantly surprised, instead of disappointed that it wasn't more like it. I love Kipling something ungodly fierce, and although Kim edges ahead by a hair as one of the most beautiful, loving, dream-like tributes to a real lost homeland I've ever read (the racial politics are actually really interesting, and not just massively depressing like, say, Heart of Darkness), The Jungle Book is nearly my favorite Kipling work. Gaiman's social politics are certainly easier to navigate than Kipling's (I mean, he did actually mean well, and he loved, loved, loved India, but boy was he racist), but if I was going to put them up next to each other, that's the only place where Gaiman would win for me.

Okay, will someone please tell Gaiman, for the love of god, that giving characters names like "Shadow" and "Door" and "Nobody" is fine when you're writing for comics--although it's still godawful cutesy--and the name is not the main signifier, but that when you're writing straight prose work, giving characters hideously unsubtle names like that is like slamming the readers in the head with a giant fucking brick over and over and over every single page? And to please stop it. Stop stop stop.

Alternatively, if people would stop trying to make me read Gaiman's prose work, he could continue to write books about people with BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS SYMBOLIC NAMES and using other textual tricks that so work better in a visual medium than in prose, and people who like that kind of thing could enjoy them, and I could ignore them in peace).



Graphic novels/comics:

Beaton, Kate: Never Learn Anything From History
(the only complaint whatsoever I have about this fabulous collection of Beaton's comics is that I had read them all recently enough to be able to remember them pretty well).


Hinds, Gareth: Beowulf
(hmm).



Manga:

Akino Matsuri: Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo vol. 6.


Asano Inio: What a Wonderful World! vol. 1
(okay, I remember these. I was so thrown, because I was sure I'd read some of these stories before when I heard they were licensed, but I started with volume 2 and didn't recognize any of them.

If you like Asano, you'll probably enjoy these. If you don't, you probably won't).


Azuma Kiyihiko: Yotsuba vol. 6
(the translation in this volume felt weirdly stiff--it's all still funny, and god knows, the art is expressive enough, but I know this could be better. Not the work, but the translation. Bummer. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm sorry ADV isn't publishing this anymore, because they were doing it better than Yen Press).


Tanaka Masashi: Gon vol. 3.

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vol. 5

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol. 6
(bawl).

Yasuko Aoike: From Eroica With Love vol. 4.


Yazawa Ai: Nana vol. 18-19
(bawl.

My love for Nana K. continues to grow in a way I never envisioned when I picked up volume 1 of this book, lo those three or four years ago. There is something profoundly satisfying about watching a callow youth mature into real adulthood, and I think Nana K. has experienced more genuine positive growth as a person than any other character in this entire series. Some of her decisions are kind of anxiety-inducing, but they're decisions she made thoughtfully and even selflessly, and she follows though on them in a steady way that's kind of unimaginable for the person she used to be).
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)
Novels/prose books:

Mystery:

Stout, Rex:
The Golden Spiders
Gambit
The Father Hunt
Some Buried Caesar
(Lily Rowan's introductory novel. Long rambling on Lily Rowan and Stout's women.) )


Manga:

Urasawa Naoki: Pluto vol. 4.

Tanaka Masashi: Gon 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:

Mystery:

Stout, Rex:
--The Doorbell Rang (NW. The best caper they ever pulled),
--Champagne for One (NW),
--Fer-de-Lance (you'd never guess that this was the first Wolfe story ever, if you didn't know. Except that Archie keeps saying, "As Saul Panzer would say, 'lovin' babe!'" and we know now that he wouldn't. And neither would Archie. There's a bit of slang from the 30s that didn't have legs...),
--Death of a Dude (all I'm gonna say is notice how Stout never once makes any reference to the sleeping arrangements of Archie and Lily while they're on vacation in Montana. Which says it all),
--Curtains for Three: A Nero Wolfe Threesome (a short story collection containing The Gun with Wings, Bullet for One, and Disguise for Murder),
--Five of a Kind: The Third Nero Wolfe Omnibus (containing The Rubber Band, In the Best Families, and Three Doors to Death. The first two are either novels or novellas, I believe published independently, and the last is a short story collection itself, containing Man Alive, Omit Flowers, and Door to Death. In the Best Families is my favorite, as it is the notorious book in which Archie and Wolfe are split up for an extended period of time, and we get to see how Archie does on his own. Pretty well, as you might imagine. It's also the conclusion of the sort of mini-Arnold Zeck arc. There's generally no harm in reading these all out of order, but I wouldn't have minded reading all the Zeck stories together, or at least in order...I've still not read their second encounter with him).

Stout, Rex: The Broken Vase
(a Tecumsah Fox mystery).


Manga:


Takaya Natsuki: Fruits Basket vol. 23
(I seem to have skipped vol. 22. Oops).

Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys vols. 2-3, Pluto vol. 3.

Yazawa Ai: Nana vol. 17.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Graphic novels:

Slade, Christian: Korgi v. 2
(Sadly, not as compelling as volume 1, although I don't think it's precisely a crafting issue. And it's still about fire-breathing giant corgis and their human pals, which is wonderful.

Sprout, for the record, looks exactly like my parents' red-and-white Pembroke Welsh Corgi, whom I raised from a pup and helped to train).



Manga:

Yoshinaga Fumi: Flower of Life v. 4
(I recall hearing, prior to reading this myself, comments from people that this seemed like an odd left turn in the series, or a strange way to end it. I suppose I can see why people might feel that way, but it neither surprised me, nor seemed strange or inappropriate to me. The series kicked off with a shockingly upbeat introduction to a kid whose life had been derailed by a life-threatening illness; it occasionally revisited some of the consequences of the illness--light-heartedly, but sincerely. Thematically, it makes perfect sense to go back to that, and touch at some of the things we were happy to ignore at the beginning; that's also pretty standard for Yoshinaga, who loves to make you rethink your assumptions. I dig that kind of thing in storytelling, which is part of why I love her, and come to think of it, may be an aspect of what I like in mystery.

Incidentally, I'm still the only person I know who actually liked the ending of the Planetes manga just as it was, and thought it was perfectly appropriate for the material, although I won't claim I liked it better than the ending of the Planetes anime, which I adore without reserve).


Kawakami Junko: Galaxy Girl, Panda Boy
(josei manga from Tokyopop's defunct Passion Fruit line, under which they published also Mari Okazaki's Sweat and Honey, which I liked much better than this. The whole time I was reading this, I was absolutely convinced I must have read other work by Kawakami--her linework, particularly in the lines of her mouths, feels incredibly familiar to me--but I have subsequently been unable to find the name of any title by her, licensed or scanlated, that I know I've read. I went and flipped through all of my josei manga to see if maybe I was just confusing another artist's work for hers, but nothing. It's a mystery).
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 (Default)
News! Noah Berlatsky of The Hooded Utilitarian has kindly invited me to be a guest blogger at HU for a few weeks while Bill Randall is on vacation. I'll start next week. I'd tell you what I'm planning to write about, but at this very moment, I haven't decided. Probably manga, but who knows.


Prose books:

Mystery:


Stout, Rex: Prisoner's Base
(wow, one of the best Stouts yet. There are a couple of great moments along with the standard snappy voice and the wit--one genuinely creepy, which is not standard Stout, and one where something gets under Archie's skin enough that it bleeds over into his narrative voice. Also, a very nice twist on the normal Wolfe/Goodwin standard operating procedures).

Stout, Rex: Death of a Doxy
(this features one of Stout's best female characters, in my mind, and I generally quite enjoy the way he writes women to begin with, especially the witty ones who go dancing with Archie.

I was bummed when I finished Prisoner's Base, because it's the last Stout in my local library, and I now have to wait for my library network holds to arrive. Yesterday, I was looking around the library for something as portable as a Bantam paperback and as engaging as a Nero Wolfe mystery to take with me to work, and finding zilch. Sometimes I underrate authors like Stout and Heyer, who are pretty fluffy genre authors--fluffy they are, but they're thecreme de la creme of genre fluff, and it's surprisingly hard to find work that good that hits the right notes. I'm picky about my narrative voices, at least when it comes to light entertainment, and Stout and Heyer have exactly the kind I like. That's harder to find than a decently written plot, says I).


Graphic novels/comics:

El Rassi, Toufic: Arab in America
(Last Gasp. Holy shit, was this ever depressing. I had a hard time getting through it, because every page just drained the energy out of me. It's not that the difficulties and indignities, profound and petty, of being a member of an unpopular minority group are so surprising to me, but being reminded of them is still a major downer even when you are intellectually aware of them.

The form itself is nothing exciting, kind of stiff and distant. Like a lot of non-fiction, though, it gets an additional weight from the knowledge that the experiences El Rassi relates really happened to him, and not so long ago, or so distantly. Also, there's something about the way he draws himself that crawls into my heart, a little--dark-eyed, withdrawn, reserved, sometimes with fear, sometimes with anger and alienation, trudging through the trials of his life, confused and aching.

He's got it way more together than the image of himself in the book, though--he couldn't have put this together if all that confusion and aching hadn't produced a lot of insight).


Katchor, Ben: Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District
(This one, I gave up on. It's mildly interesting, but although I can enjoy its brand of ironic absurdity in small doses, an endless stream of it is just boring. It doesn't build on itself in any way that I could see--I don't really see why it needed to be a book).


Manga:

Tezuka Osamu: Astro Boy vol. 5.

Hiwatari Saki: Tower of the Future vols. 6-7
(I shoul read more than a volume of this every six months, because I keep losing the plot, and Hiwatari's twisty plots are part of her appeal).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Non-fiction prose:

Nicholson, Geoff: The Lost Art of Walking
(didn't finish it--I don't quite remember why now, but I think it was because it was sort of boring and mostly about the author's own experiences walking, rather than being a more general treatise on the act of walking. The latter would have been informative; the former is pretty dull).


Mystery:

Stout, Rex: A Right To Die
(While I appreciate that Stout probably meant well in making race the theme of this book, he probably shouldn't have, because he does a lot of dumb things. The bulk of his work predated the Civil Rights Movement, and racial relations seem to have crept up on him in the last decade of his very long and prolific career. However, the various wince-inducing race-related moments in this book have nothing, absolutely nothing, on the introduction by David Stout--no relation to Rex--which was written in 1994, and kicks off by saying that although there's nothing wrong with a white woman and a black man in a relationship, we all have to look deep into our hearts in order to realize that. Oh, David Stout, FUCK YOU. Rex Stout was a man of his time belatedly recognizing the significance of Civil Rights, and his racial sins were sins of omission, not something more toxic. And he was trying. There is no racist apology in the book itself that equals David Stout's implication that interracial relationships are shocking and taboo and morally troublesome. To to say something that asinine in 1994, in the service of introducing a not particularly transgressive work? Go to hell).

Stout, Rex: And Four to Go, Black Orchids, Trouble in Triplicate
(all very enjoyable, all lacking the mild ambition of discussing race in any way, all lacking people of color, which is pretty standard for Stout. As I said, sins of omission. I'm white and don't know much about the history and racial politics of New York circa 1930-1960, so that tends to be easy for me to ignore).


Graphic novels/comics:

Bechdel, Alison: Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For.

Rabagliati, Michel: Paul goes fishing
(less about fishing and more about the heartbreak of miscarriage. It's a good book, but not all that well structured. The other Paul books were stronger).

Robinson, Alex: Tricked
(Hated the rock star guy--the romance was underwhelming, and I felt no sympathy for him at all, nor interest in how his sudden fixation on Lily made his life better. It didn't make him a better or more interesting person, it just made him happy, and I don't care. Generally, I hated or barely liked most of the characters, and the conceit of their lives all becoming intertwined until they culminate in that one climactic moment--eh. I've seen it done much better).

Delisle, Guy: Burma Chronicles
(waaaaaaay better than Shenzhen, in many ways, and more of a genuine pleasure than Pyongyang, which was almost purely upsetting. For whatever reason--because he was here with a wife and child, because his wife was deeply involved in humanitarian work in Burma, and the related politics of that, because the length of his stay and his more relaxed lifestyle permitted it--Delisle actually seems to have gotten to know people in Burma, and learned about their lives and culture. While China's political system is by no means ideal to me, Delisle's criticisms of Shenzhen seemed, well...shallow, uninformed, ethnocentric, and lacking in real critical perspective--there is legitimate criticism of China to be made, quite a lot of it, but he wasn't doing it well, and he came across as totally uninterested in people's actual lives. Not the case here. Although life in Burma is pretty depressing and scary in many ways, same as in Pyongyang, this is a much warmer book nevertheless--the description of the betel-nut chewing, the Water Festival, the love of children that made Delisle's infant son very popular in his neighborhood, the deeply emotional, quiet reverence that the locals hold for Aung San Suu Kyi, sitting silently under house arrest in a decades-long act of political protest--all of this made for a much richer, more interesting, less ethnocentric book than Shenzhen. This one, I can whole-heartedly recommend).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Manga/manwha


Tezuka Osamu: Phoenix vol. 3: Yamato/Space, and Phoenix vol. 5: Resurrection
(the latter in particular is kind of sticking with me. The former was surprisingly creepy.

Tangent: one of the two and a half panels I attended at Anime Boston was The Absolute Worst of Osamu Tezuka, which featured some entertainingly bad stuff, and some stuff that was actually really good. The intro to Phoenix 27somethingsomething, for instance: the female robot who turns into all sorts of random mecha shit in a sexually charged sequence--it's certainly weird as hell and laden with all kinds of...of...things, but it's gorgeously choreographed and animated, and there's a real sense of intent there; I'd love to see it unpacked. Or the massive box-office flop that was Cleopatra--I'd love, love, love to see it with some decent subtitles, by the way--yes, the rotoscoping was hideous and ill-concieved, but the opening past sequence was one of the most lush, colorful, energized pieces of 70s animation I've seen in awhile. And, so, Caesar was blue and there were anachronistic bathroom jokes. This is Tezuka. You're surprised? That was how Tezuka rolled, bitch).


Tezuka Osamu: Black Jack vols. 2-3
(dingos did not eat his kidneys!).


Yamamoto Naoki: Dance Till Tomorrow vols. 3-5
(fuck, VIZ did great work way back in the day; this is such a cool title, the likes of which you don't see anymore--silly, sexy, adult characters with a peculiar blend of cleverness and manipulativeness and heart that always makes me think of the 80s, and that surprising undercurrent genuine emotion that makes it as affectingly romantic as the sweetest, sincerest shoujo. The translation in this thing thrills me--it's so very funny and clever and engrossing. It reminds me of the experience of reading Ranma 1/2 and Maison Ikkoku; witty language to match the witty art. I miss that. I wish it wasn't so unfashionable now to actually fucking adapt a translation so that it can convey the spirit of the material along with the literal meaning. Speaking of which,)


Otsuka Eiji, writer, Yamazaki Housui, artist: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 8
(I don't want to downplay the fundamental merits of this title, which are numerous, but it occurred to me during the con, as I pawed through the library's thousand+ books, more than half of which I'd probably hand-picked, that one of the great pleasures of Kurosagi is the quality of the translation: it's witty and lively and the English is the natural, conversational English of fluent native speakers. That's so uncommon as to really stand out, and I think that's a large part of its appeal. Dark Horse, Carl Gustav Horn, I love your work).


Yozaburo Kanari, story, Sato Fumiya, art: The Kindaichi Case Files: The Mummy's Curse
(OMG [livejournal.com profile] retsuko, you're right, this is the most absurd revenge plot imaginable. Just...just shoot them, Jesus Christ, stab them, poison them, garrote them. Hell, hack them up with an ax; it'd be more straightforward.

By the way, at the Edogawa Ranpo panel at Anime Boston, the panelist, who clearly knew his stuff otherwise, thought the Kindaichi Case Files were actually adaptations of Kosuke Kindaichi stories. Presumably, he hadn't read them, since I think they have even more tenuous a connection to the original Kindaichi than The Beekeeper's Apprentice has to Sherlock Holmes. Not that this matters in the slightest. It was a decent panel, although I knew the subject well enough that I didn't learn much that was new to me, and the audience--a particularly stereotypical crowd of male otaku, all six of them, one of whom repeatedly derailed the panel by sharing his obsession with Nazis--were a little creepy. And dammit, they stank. I felt genuinely uncomfortable in the room because of them).


Nakamura: Skip*Beat vols. 16-17
(I already gushed in [livejournal.com profile] meganbmoore's journal about these. You know, the art in these things is nothing to write home about, and the pacing is too slow--less happens in a whole volume than in a single chapter of Nana--but by god, Kyoko is one of the best female characters I've ever run across in manga. The author permits her a really unique kind of inner strength, something I'm just not used to seeing in manga--a sharpness that, once exposed, isn't dulled for anything, not even for the object of admiration).


Yazawa Ai: Nana vol. 16
(but, thanks to an overly enthusiastic scanlations-reading fan, I am now spoiled for a certain major event beyond this volume. Dammit. Oh well, I can't claim I saw it coming, but I can't claim to be surprised, either.

Speculate in the comments on what that spoiler might be, and I will eat your kidneys like a ravenous dingo.

I'm also spoiled for every major character death in Naruto in the last twenty volumes, which also ticks me off, but I admit that being 20 volumes behind the English adaptation and all, I haven't got much grounds for complaint there).


Kye Young Chon: DVD vol. 1
(I hadn't realized this was only volume 1. I'd been meaning to get around to it ever since I bought it for the library last year...a year and a half of the build-up of anticipation did not serve it well. It's okay, I guess? Not my favorite manwha of the year).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (city life)
Books

Non-fiction:

Brunvand, Jan Harold: The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends
(since it's just a reproduction of Brunvand's columns from the 1990s, it's not as interesting as his other books, which are more in-depth explorations of the history of legends cited; nevertheless, this was a good read).

Mystery:

Stout, Rex: Not Quite Dead Enough, and Over My Dead Body
(I think the biggest appeal of these, aside from the fact that they date from, and depict the fascinating world of mid-century New York City, is the extremely witty prose. Archie Goodwin is as funny as he thinks he is, and it's really fun to read).



Graphic novels:

Blanchet, Pascal: Baloney: A Tale in 3 Symphonic Acts
(Drawn and Quarterly. As gorgeous as the last Blanchet I read).

Campbell, Eddie: The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
(First Second. He was indeed amazing and remarkable).

Kuper, Peter: Mind's Eye: An Eye of the Beholder Collection
(NMB ComicsLit. I wouldn't really call these visual puns, as Kuper does--Furuya's Short Cuts were visual puns; these are more like Jeffery Archer stories with a twist ending, only the twist is often not much of a twist).

Kuper, Peter: Upton Sinclair: The Jungle
(NBM ComicsLit. A more perfect marriage of original work and adapter I cannot imagine. This is so totally up Kuper's alley).

Larcenet, Manu: Ordinary Victories
(NBM ComicsLit. I've identified one of the many draws for me in reading non-US comics is the possibility of seeing a lovely, unfamiliar landscape through the eyes of someone who knows it well, which does happen here).

Maxx: Bardin the Supperrealist
(Fantagraphics. And superreal--and surreal--it is!).

Morse, Scott: Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! vol. 1
(nice use of a metaphor. I remember being put off by something in the book when I read it--I don't know what now, though. Art's fabulous; Morse is extremely talented and knows his way around a comics page).

Stavans, Ilan, writer, and Roberto Weil, artist: Mr. Spic Goes to Washington
(I'm always trying to improve my comprehension of written Spanish, so I had a Spanish/English dictionary while I was reading this. Alas, there were words my dictionary didn't know--like "vato," which I assume is a noun--they're presumably either slang or just not common enough to make it into my little paperback dictionary. Oh well).


Manga/Manwha:

Akino Matsuri: Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo vol 4
(hark! Do I espy arc plot? I hope so! But even if I don't, I don't care. I love all facets of PSOH).


Byung-Jun Byun: Run, Bong-Gu, Run!
(NBM ComicsLit. This is really all about the city landscape, and the harshness of city life, etc, which was perfectly evident to me as I read the book, and was borne out by the afterword. Still, I found the artist's vision of the urban landscape to be lovely, and not frightening or lonely or alienating at all. I don't know whether that's a failure on the part of the artist, to properly convey the perceived evils of the city, or a failure in me to overcome my love of the city and be horrified by a way of life that to me is both acceptable and even desirable, or if it's just genuinely more ambiguous than the person who wrote the afterword realized...

I do see the seeds of alienation, the unnaturalness, the coldness, the artificiality here, and the rare images of the countryside are so much softer and warmer--but some of those lushly detailed splash pages, the delicately colored renderings of the city streets--I can't help but see them as beautiful, and as legitimate sites for human happiness. Sinclair's The Jungle this is not.

By the way, I really loved this book, especially the art. And the aforementioned vision of the city that maybe I'm not supposed to like, but I do. I enjoyed all of the books in this post, but this was my favorite by a mile).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (woman with hamster)
Romance

Quinn, Julia: Romancing Mister Bridgerton
(this was off my friend's A shelf. It's not what I would think of as an "A" book, but it was certainly better than the last one).


Mystery

Smith, Alexander McCall, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
('twas ok. Unless they get plottier after this, I don't know how much I'd want to read--the love letter to Africa is nice, but not on the level of say, Kipling's Kim, which fits probably into the same sort of cultural framework and also has slightly rambling narrative, but is such genius that I always forget the qualifiers).


Graphic novels/comics

Dickens, Charles, writer, and Rick Geary, artist/adapter: Great Expectations
(abridged, but I got the plot, and Geary is always worth it.

Someday, I will do right by Dickens and read at least one of his actual original short stories or novels, instead of some adaptation or pastiche, I swear).


DeMatteis, J.M. and Mark Badger: Greenberg the Vampire
(nice art, silly story.

A) The next time I read some ooh-aren't-we-transgressive "reworking" of the vampire legend that kicks off with "Bram Stoker had it all wrong! Let me, a real vampire, tell it to you right," I will commit murder, perhaps in some suitably blood-draining thematic fashion. It's not that I'm particularly attached to Stoker or his book--I've never even made it through the novel, and I'm not a devotee of vampire lore--but it's a meta framing device that's never worked for me, like, at all. Vampires are fictional to begin with, dude; you're not bound to defend your reworking of vampire lore--and by the way, you are not transgressive, and you are not original, you are about the seventeen thousandth person to rework vampire lore since Stoker came up with the prototype to begin with, and it's all tired and hokey. Get over it! You were the one who wanted to work with vampires. If your vampires aren't like Dracula, whatever; just don't write 'em like Dracula. Change whatever you like. This whole demythologizing a fiction to serve a different fiction thing is stupid. Stoker created a popular image to bounce off of, so did Anne Rice,* and we've had "Rice had it all wrong! I'm a vampire, I should know" since, probably other steps, too, in the vampire chain, that I don't fucking care about. It's how you know an work's really carved its way into the popular consciousness, when other authors can't seem to tackle similar material without inserting meta disclaimers into the narrative. Jesus. It's so wussy.

Personally, I can't wait for the Twilight references to start popping up in future fictional works. "Meyer had it all wrong, buddy: I'm a vampire, I should know! Here's my super-original story! Vampires don't sparkle! They do glow in the dark, though. And they can't live on animal blood, but they can live on fish blood."

I am asking all future writers of vampire stories to shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up in the future. Just write your fucking vampire story. You are allowed to pretend no one else ever wrote a vampire story before. It's okay. No one will mind.

B) Why is Lilith so interested in this dweeb? She's a fucking demon goddess. I'm not into the dweeb character enough to not be bothered that this is a sadly transparent personal fantasy of being the random super-special guy who attracts multiple hot supernatural lovers who are into him because it's Destiny. And it's not a funny enough book to make up for the wincing bits. Whatever).


Foglio, Phil: Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire 2: PSmith
(oh thank god, a good book).

Carlton, Bronwyn: The Big Book of Death
(Paradox Press. Kept me up at night. Not a good book to relax with. *shudder* But as always, the Big Book of n is fun.

Um. About spontaneous human combustion. Really? I can't quite bring myself to believe it. Since this is a controversial topic, it's one of those things Wikipedia is useless on).


*You know something neat about Rice? She didn't waste a lot of time on worrying about how her vampires looked next to Stoker's; she just wrote out her crazy-ass sexy vision, no holds barred. She's nuts, but her work has a powerful kick because she's good with prose and she has these vivid ideas and images, and she puts them down on paper. You can say a lot of stuff about Rice, but at least she had the courage to work with her own vision without playing apologist. Rice is self indulgent, sure, but it's a self indulgence that entertained millions, and that is frankly an impressive thing. Come to think of it, the same thing can be said about Meyer.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (books)
Novels/prose books:

Mann, Thomas: The Oxford Guide to Library Research
(not the novelist, the Library of Congress reference librarian and former private detective. He's a cranky sort, and I love him for it. This is basically a reference work, and much of text is devoted to enumerating many of the valuable and important resources still not available in digital formats, or only available through paid subscription databases--or, Why The Internet Has NOT Replaced Libraries, and Why Google Print Won't Either. Enough money and interest could make a lot of the non-digital stuff available digitally, but he's dead right about how keyword searching and ranking algorithms are no replacement for subject classification, subject headings, and value-added descriptors. A nice supplement, yes, but not a replacement for the expensive mental labor of catalogers.

I wish he was less blase about the copyright bit--he's pretty dismissive about the idea that authorship could function without strict copyright control, since we're greedy sots who want our money. That's arguably just realism, but it follows on the heels of a long discussion of the value of Government Documents, and, hello, LIBRARIES, which would be violating fucking copyright out the wazoo if not for the grace of First Sale Doctrine. Never mind that libraries predate copyright. But all that is an argument for another post).


Stout, Rex: Plot it Yourself and Murder by the Book
(Speaking of libraries, these are from my school library's pet "Bibliomystery" collection--a collection of mystery novels prominently featuring books or libraries. They're my first Nero Wolfe mysteries, and I dug them muchly, although they're definitely more along the lines of Agatha Christie, "read once, then toss," rather than Tey or Sayers, where you would keep and reread the books for their brilliant writing and characterization, not just for the mystery).


Wittlinger, Ellen: Hard Love
(A Printz-winning YA novel a friend pressed on me, about zines, first love, and a Boston-area teenage boy who falls in love with his lesbian friend. I was surprised at how engaged I was by this book--it's been a long time since I read a YA book with the power to grab my emotions this way. Recommended if you like good YA, zines, books featuring well-written gay people, or Boston. Me, I fucking love Boston, and everything else was a nice extra).



Graphic novels:

Geary, Rick: The Murder of Lincoln
(how does Geary create an atmosphere of suspense about one of the best-documented murders in American history? Incredible. It's like watching 1776, where historical knowledge does not diminish the power of the storytelling, or reduce the emotional impact--in contrast, the weight of history increases it many times over. I read with a lump in my throat that never went away).

Ka, Oliver, writer, and Alfred, artist: Why I Killed Peter
(I had a feeling disturbingly early on where this was going, but it didn't diminish the impact as it unfolded. This is Ka's autobiographical account of having been molested as a child by the titular Peter, a priest and beloved family friend. It includes Ka's blissful childhood up to that point, and, briefly, his subsequent, troubled teen and adult years. It gets pretty meta at the end, with an account of the adult Ka telling his friend and creative collaborator Alfred about the experience, and the two of them planning the book and visiting Peter. The whole thing was powerful and unsettling, but I can't tell you how much the last part got to me--it didn't feel gimmicky in the slightest, but instead very brave and honest and sad. Some of the last sequence appears in photos of Ka and Alfred, and there's always something about that technique, and the way it strips the sense of fiction away from the cartoon images of real people that really digs into the gut.

NBM ComicsLit).


Straczynski, J. Michael, writer, and Gary Frank, pencils: J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation
(a friend lent this to me, hoping to amend my very negative impression of Straczynski as a writer based on the clusterfuck that was his run on Spider-Man, back when I still gave a crap about superhero comics.

It didn't work. It's so laughably silly and bad. Straczynzki's ponderous explanation of the conceit as having sprung from certain deeply dramatic events in his youth washed out any potential dignity the thing could have had for me--I know he didn't mean it that way, but god, it read as so very silly and flailing a connection--and the horrible, stiff, inappropriately oversexed, unimaginative art killed the rest. I know I liked Frank's pencils on Supergirl, but for whatever reason--because this is not a cape book, and I expect decent anatomy and clothing from non-cape books, or maybe because the inker and colorists failed or something, I don't know--his work is just hideous and lame here. I un-recommend this book).



Manga:

Yazawa Ai: Nana, vol. 14
(GOD.

I've really come to love Hachi, who's gradually growing into a much more mature, centered person than one would have initially anticipated. I wish we saw more of her. But I might have to take back everything I said about only caring about other characters as they pertain to the Nanas--I found myself with my heart in my throat for all the major characters, this time around.

And, oh, Nana O).
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)
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.).

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