chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-10-11 08:49 pm

Wednesday Reading

A digression. When I was a little cho, I loved books with main characters like Dido Twite in Joan Aiken's Wolves series and Goth in James Schmitz' The Witches of Karres: wiry, adventurous girls who could almost be mistaken for boys. I knew I would never be any of those girls, because I was chunky and unathletic and bookish and shy and near-sighted.

Last night I finished Provenance by Ann Leckie. People who wanted more hardcore space opera (and yes, I think it's OK to call it that) like the Ancillary trilogy have been grumpily posting their displeasure with the book around the Intarwebs. Because although Provenance is set in the same universe, and people in the story are talking about the events that occurred in that series, the star of Provenance is not an unstoppable corpse soldier turned engine of vengeance, like Breq. The protagonist is, instead, a chunky, self-deprecating, messy, naive young woman named Ingray Aughskold. And whether you enjoy Provenance, I suspect, will have a lot to do with whether you sympathize with Ingray or think she's a fool.

Ingray has Mommy issues. Mom is a powerful politician who adopted three children, intending to eventually make the most suitable one her heir. This is not an uncommon practice on the world of Hwae. One child made herself scarce as soon as she could legally do so, leaving Ingray to complete with their confident and obnoxious brother Danach. Both Ingray and Danach are certain that Danach will be the heir; nevertheless, Ingray would like to secure some of their mother's regard for herself. So she invests all her own money in a scheme that starts with breaking a famous thief out of the smarmily named prison world Compassionate Removal and goes on from there. As [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll puts it, it is "a very bold scheme, a scheme so well planned that it does not go off the rails until shortly before the book begins."

If the book sounds like a caper novel, that is indeed one part of what it is. It is also a coming-of-age story, a story that addresses the idea of symbols and what part they play in our personal and national stories, a novel that explores families and what parents can do to children, and a science fiction story full of aliens and robots and stolen starships. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Next, I've started a non-fiction book that is not much like anything I would have picked on my own, but a book club has started at work, and it involves some colleagues that I should get to know better, so. It's called The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. The blurb describes it as "How a Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality." I'm about 5% of the way into it, and so far author Michael Lewis has been discussing the idea of using statistics to help make better choices in selecting athletes for pro sports teams. I suppose this is a topic of great interest to many, but not to me, so I hope the book gets into something else quickly.

I also have waiting for me the first volumes of two new-to-me manga series, Golden Kamuy and Complex Age, and also the first collected volume of the comic The Wicked and the Divine.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-10-04 09:33 pm

Wednesday Reading

Driveby, b/c I suck tonight. I have been killing time on Tumblr while a messy kitchen awaits me.

Finished DWJ's Time of the Ghost. Limp ending: endings are DWJ's chief weakness. (That is part of why the ending of The Homeward Bounders is such a shock: she nailed that one.)

Read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones. She seems to be getting her Catherynne Valente on in this one: it's told in a slightly distant myth/fairytale voice. It's the backstory for two of the characters from Every Heart a Doorway: Jack and Jill, a pair of twins who ended up in a dark fantasy world. Jill's half of the story seems to me much weaker and less interesting than Jack's, and I think the novella is the poorer for that.

Then I re-read Peter Dickinson's mystery King and Joker, which used to be a bulletproof comfort read for me. And sadly, it didn't really work for me this time. I'm not sure what's up. :-(

ETA: Next up will likely be Ann Leckie's Provenance. I'm more in the mood for a comfort read, but given how flat the last one fell, I don't want to try one.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-09-27 09:20 pm

Wednesday Reading

*Tears myself away from the Yuletide tagset*

*Ahem*

When last we left our intrepid reader, she was about to finish Max Gladstone's Ruin of Angels. Holy crap, was that an enjoyable read! Violent as all get out, scary sometimes (Kai, survivor of the Penitents on Kavekana, is squicked out when the antagonist describes her culture's positive-reinforcement equivalent ... and I don't blame Kai one bit), full of action, and a very-much-earned happy ending.

Next up was Rebel, third volume of Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith's Changes series. We're back in the post-apocalypse Wild West town of Las Anclas, where teenagers have serious responsibilities (actual and critical jobs, for example) and yet remain kids, with raging hormones and still-developing communications and judgment skills. Ross, the titular "stranger" of the first book, starts remembering more of his past—and part of it comes to join him. Mia comes to terms with some parts of her relationship with Ross and Jennie that had been worrying her. Felicite's pampered life falls apart a little further (and she remains surprisingly three-dimensional and sympathetic). Kerry becomes more and more a part of the community (and continues to be haunted by the possibility that her terrifying father may yet show up at the town gates). This installment has no huge crisis with a correspondingly huge climax but is instead a series of satisfying mini-arcs.

I was going to read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones next, but decided instead to take a break from new plotlines with an old favorite, Diana Wynne Jones' The Time of the Ghost. I'm just at the point where the ghost has learned for sure which Melford sister she was in life; now the plan to save her, with the support of her three sisters and their two friends, is being set into motion. Mmm good!

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-09-20 09:47 pm

Reading Wednesday

It seems like I must have read more than I am remembering ... .

Anyway, I finished The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #11), which ends pretty much on a cliffhanger. The Magic McGuffin puts Toby (mostly) back together again, but two characters she cares about very much are seriously traumatized and a slippery opponent has disappeared. Thus it goes when you are the Knight of Lost Words. My sister has suggested that I introduce my 15-year-old niece to these, and I might as well. Certainly they've kept me going for a good long while now.

I'm about three-quarters of the way through Max Gladstone's The Ruin of Angels (his new Craft novel), and I'm enjoying it immensely, despite the fact that the editor seems to have fallen down on the job. Several times, I've had to re-read sentences two or three times to make sense out of them. It's not that Gladstone blew it in any of these cases, according to the rules of grammar, but he wasn't terribly clear, and given that this is a fast-paced thriller, really, the pacing went off. Also, at one point, a character introduced as Marian becomes Miriam for a sentence, and then returns to her original name. Finally, did you know that the past tense of "sweat" (as in, what you do on a hot day, especially if you run) is also "sweat"? I, in fact, did not know that. But Gladstone does, and there's a lot of sweating going on, so I kept tripping over this.

Despite my confusion on these mechanical points, this is an awesome read. There's an extended and thrilling caper involving a Very Cool Train (making me wonder whether Gladstone has been reading Stand Still Stay Silent: see Dalahästen), and about a third of the way in, it occurred to me that all the leads, all the POV characters, and the most significant antagonist are all female, and several of them are also queer.

And Kai and Izza are back, as is Tara Abernathy. \o/

If I remember what I read between Fell and Ruin, I'll let you know.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-09-13 09:49 pm

Wednesday Reading

I've actually been mainlining new (new to me, anyway) fiction like nobody's business. I had a lot queued up for the vacation last month, and for various reasons, I didn't get to it. Now I have. Some quick takes:

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin is everything most reviewers have said. Very satisfying ending to a very dark, sad series. Happy was not going to happen, but hopeful *did*, and beautifully so. It was a positive ending that was most definitely earned. And I really loved the world-building all over again.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett also ended its series well, if a trifle oddly. Alas, most of my favorite characters didn't survive. There were nods to all sorts of other works, including rather a lot of Terry Pratchett, I realized after finishing the book.

Murderbot: All Systems Red (novella) by Martha Wells was a lot of fun, about a snarky, introverted android that has circumvented its "restraining bolt" programming and becomes something of a sleuth+superhero on behalf of its humans. There are already three more Murderbot stories in the pipeline. Yay!

The Furthest Station (novella) by Ben Aaronovitch at first disappointed me because I didn't realize it was a novella. But viewed in that light, it was an enjoyable brief addition to the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. The identity of the cute little tyke whom Peter encounters was absolutely no surprise to me, though.

The Gates of Tagmeth by P.C. Hodgell was OK. These most recent Kencyrath books have rather disappointed me. I respect Baen for acquiring and continuing this series, and even attempting to obtain suitable cover art in the last couple of volumes (although crap, I still think that even a casual persual of DeviantArt would turn up better choices), but holy crud, a good editor would have helped the last few a lot, I think. And Baen is not the publisher to supply that. Jame and her fated love still generate no heat that I can discern, sadly, and I wish PCH hadn't matched up Kindrie as she did. I like both characters, but not together. This makes me think of the manga Fruits Basket, where the mangaka seemingly decided that everybody needed to be matched up at the end, regardless of whether it made any sense. Also, poor Lyra is becoming a pawn of fate/God's chew-toy more than is necessary, IMO.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga continues Ken and Shiro's low-key relationship and Shiro's cookery. This volume seemed to have less melodrama/tension than the last few (nothing dire happens to either partner's family, for example), although someone makes Shiro a very interesting proposal ... and the results are both very funny and very realistic.

Ooku vol. 12, also by Fumi Yoshinaga surprised me because ... they solved the problem of the redface pox. And yet it is not the end of the series! I do have to say that in retrospect, I feel a little ... ticked off? that the solution comes under the reign of the first male shogun in ages (although his mother thinks she is still in control of things) and by the efforts of an exclusively male team (although they all constantly acknowledge the inspiration of the late lamented cross-dressing genius Hiraga Gennai, who was cis-female). That might not be a worthy way to feel, but that's how it is.

Reading Now

The Brightest Fell, which is the latest installment of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. Speaking of people who are chew-toys of the divine: Toby continues to be messed with physically and magically, over and over. I do have to say that one of the events had me going "Oh, no, not again."

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-08-16 09:16 pm

Wednesday Reading

Quick, quick, quick, 'cause I'm so far behind on commitments that it's really unfunny.

I brought along a virtual stack of stuff (mostly in my Kindle) on our vacation last week. I didn't get to a lot of it, but:

The Harbors of the Sun is the conclusion to Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura, and I'm really sad to leave her dragon/bee shapeshifters behind. I have to agree with [personal profile] muccamukk that the Pearl-Malachite show alone was worth the price of admission, and that "Everyone got something to do [and] we met all kinds of old friends again." I'm not sure that I believed in the Evil McGuffin, and I'll need to re-read the story to truly understand what happened to it, but I appreciated the effect that the incident had on Jade and therefore on Moon. And Wells didn't kill off Stone, which is something that I had somehow convinced myself would happen. *sighs with relief*

Monstress vol. 2 (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) continues the story of Maika Halfwolf, a very Liu antiheroine (I first encountered Liu through her Hunter Kiss series). A lot of the action takes place aboard a ship, and I enjoyed that a lot. The captain is a total badass. My heart is constantly in my throat with regard to Maika's Morality Pet, the adorable little foxgirl Kippa, but Liu does sometimes let the innocent survive her harrowing tales, so maybe Kippa is *not* marked for a dire end. I'm not sure what I think of the Power Maika is hosting, though.

I'm now reading Yoon Ha Lee's Raven Strategem. I'm enjoying the new characters and Lee's sly humor, but I miss Cheris right now.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-08-02 09:38 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday Reading

I bought Paper Girls, vol. 2, at the local bookstore. This shop actually used to be part of the local Politics & Prose mini-chain, and it's physically in the Takoma location of the local mini-chain restaurant Busboys & Poets. But P&P has abandoned this little shop, and now it's on its own: even more incentive to buying things there. Sadly, they were sold out of Monstress, vol. 2.

In Paper Girls, things are still very chaotic. Our intrepid 1980s paper delivery girls, who had encountered aliens and/or time travelers in vol. 1, have now encountered one of their number as an adult. Apple computers and other Apple consumer electronics are playing a big and weird role in all this. I'm still not sure what's going on, but the whole thing is starting to give off a 20th Century Boys vibe, and it would not surprise me to find out that it's in dialog with that manga series.

I also re-read Marguerite Henry's Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio. If you were a horse-crazy kid, you probably read Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, at the very least. Giorgio Tierni is the eldest son of an Italian farmer, but all he wants to do is ride and train horses. He works hard for his father in hopes of someday achieving this dream. His story becomes intertwined with that of a mare who was bred from the local breed of working horses but with a pedigreed Arabian sire. The breeder had hoped to end up with a horse who could win the Palio of Siena, a race with medieval origins that is run on the streets of the city itself. But the mare, Farfalla ("Butterfly"), is dismissed as too lightly built for the rigor of the race, and ends up an abused and overworked cart horse.

In the end, of course (the title gives it away), she is is re-named Gaudenzia ("Joy of Living") and becomes a champion of the race for which she was bred, but this is a story of the journey that takes her there, and how Giorgio became involved. It was always my favorite Henry horse story, and I enjoyed it this time as much as I ever did. Note that this is essentially a true story, although Henry tells it as fiction. See Gaudenzia's official Palio page, in Italian. Note that Vittorino, "Little Victor," was Giorgio's professional name as a fantino, that is, a Palio rider. The contradas are the city districts, each of which acts as a faction for the race. Their names are those of the heraldic charges that stand for each: Onda = wave, Lupa = wolf, etc. The medieval pageantry of the race was almost as enticing to me, as a child, as the horse story. Henry lays out the details of the Palio and its culture very clearly and beautifully, with a couple of artful info-dumps that are prize examples of how to do such a thing well.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-07-19 08:37 pm

Reading Wednesday

I finished my last-minute reading of Hugo short fiction items and did my voting on Saturday morning. I think that there were a LOT of very good "shorts" this year.

I am re-reading The Story of the Stone by Barry Hughart, which is the second of the Master Li and Number Ten Ox books. I also tried (really, I did) to read two Very Serious books, which turned out to be nearly unreadable and almost useless for their intended purpose. *looks shifty*

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-07-05 09:58 pm

Reading Wednesday

Drive by:

Progressing slowly through Too Like the Lightning. Still reminds me of Diamond Age in the setting.

A Bad Bad Thing has happened in Stand Still Stay Silent, so I have had to resort to comfort reading: the manga Bunny Drop at the moment. The event in SSSS should not be discussed here, because it is a spoiler like whoa.

Finished with the reason for re-reading Fruits Basket, so I need to bundle them all up and put them back in the basement bookcase from whence they came.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-06-21 09:33 pm

Reading Wednesday

I finished All the Birds in the Sky. It wasn't bad, but it just sort of ended: too much build up, not enough resolution. And now I'm annoyed by the title, because although it sounds really nifty, it doesn't have all that much to do with the story. This is not going to be my top vote for best novel, I'm afraid.

Also in Hugo reading, I read through Ursula Le Guin's Words Are My Matter, a collection of recent short non-fiction pieces. I love Le Guin as an essayist, and the first part of the book contains some good examples. But the back half-and-a-bit is introductions to books and book reviews, and I found those less interesting. A number of them were for non-genre literary or magical realism works that didn't sound as though they'd appeal to me. She did mention a couple of Western (as in, Western U.S.) novels that I might want to look up, which I will mention here partially for my own reference: Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols and The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Also, although Perdido Street Station pretty much put me off China Mielville for life, her review of Embassytown is making me reconsider.

Overall, unless the rest of the Related Works are very mediocre, I don't think this will be my top pick in that category.

I have just started Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, which is short-listed for Best Novel. A number of the readers on File 770 had trouble with this book, but I'm not finding it problematic thus far. Possibly the fact that I actually like Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford (link goes to Kirkus review), which was also purposefully written in the style of an earlier era, has something to do with this. I'll have to see where the book goes, of course.

Finally, I'll be re-reading some of Fruits Basket, Because Reasons. Does anyone recall the number of the exact volume in which Machi shows up? It's when she wrecks the student council room, if the Wikia is to be believed.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-06-14 09:30 pm

Reading Wednesday

Drive-by post: reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I had been arguing with myself back and forth about getting it, but then it became a Hugo finalist, and so I got it in the voting packet.

I'm interested in it, but I feel a little uneasy about where it's going, and also it's somehow not super-enjoyable on the emotional level. I think there are too many misunderstandings and seeming betrayals. On the other hand, the depiction of the slow-motion slide into dystopia, with bits and pieces of technology and societal systems failing and people seeming to just shrug their shoulders and adapt, is kind of interesting.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-05-24 09:36 pm

Reading Wednesday

[personal profile] lady_ganesh hooked me up with some really good stuff: Maggie Stiefvater's YA series The Raven Cycle. This consists of

  • The Raven Boys (finished!)
  • The Dream Thieves (finished!)
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue (finished!)
    and
  • The Raven King (still reading, unlikely to finish tonight)

Also, apparently some extra-story authorial snippets exist (I only just discovered this while checking the titles of the main series).*

In the little town of Henrietta is a posh boarding school called Aglionby. The mascot of the school is a raven. Eccentric local girl Blue, the scion of a houseful of psychic women (including her mother, Maura), thinks Aglionby boys are nothing but trouble. Local wounded-at-the-core boy Adam is attending the school on scholarship; he has managed to become best buds with the charming and earnest Gansey (that's his last name), whose circle also includes the tough-but-brittle bad boy Ronan. And then there's Noah, who shows up somehow at the off-campus digs that Gansey and Ronan share in an old factory.

Gensey is obsessed with the local ley line, which he thinks will lead him to the tomb of the Welsh hero Owen Glendower. The others are drawn into his search—including Blue, who starts out as somewhat of a mascot but becomes something much more. There are dreams, magic, terror, and lots of fast cars.

Parts of this seem to be the love child of Alan Garner's The Owl Service and the better "After-School Special" types of teen novels, but it's very involving and tremendous fun. The writing has some weaknesses, especially when Stiefvater seems to be marking time until she can get to the Good Bits, but she's very good at action sequences and the spookier parts are truly chilling.

Cut for long and maybe a spoiler or two )
chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-05-10 10:01 pm

Real Brief Reading Wednesday

Life has been rather too much work-work-work this week. I realized I haven't checked up on Stand Still Stay Silent at all.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through The Hanging Tree, which is about to become the latest-less-one Rivers of London/Peter Grant book (the new one is due out in hardcover (!) next month). I'm enjoying it, although there's already been one kick in the gut. This is a good book to read near Mother's Day: some great and terrifying mums in here (especially Lady Ty and Peter's mum).

Before that, I did some comfort reading. I discovered two old favorites in ebook format: Shirley Rosseau Murphy's White Ghost Summer and The Sand Ponies. Both are pitched as horse stories, but actually, they're family stories with a dash of mystery. There are horses, and they're significant, but they're not actually what the stories are about.

Does anyone know whether it's worth trying to contact a publisher about scan errors in ebooks? These have repeated problems when the end of a paragraph coincides with the end of some dialog in quotation marks. Most of the time it wasn't too terrible for the flow of the story, but at one point several words were lost.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-04-05 08:54 pm

Why Look, It's a Reading Post

So actually I have been doing quite a lot of reading, much of it trying to get caught up to make Hugo nominations (which I did do, yay).

I'm going to be doing really quick write-ups here, because I'm covering several weeks. If anyone wants to discuss any of this in more detail, I'll do my best!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Enjoyable ensemble cast SF: an accountant/business manager joins the crew of a small, independent working ship and finds a family of sorts. The setting is vaguely reminiscent of David Brin's Uplift series, in that Earth is a backwater planet joining a larger universe of many other sentient beings.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – Nominally, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it follows only two of the characters from the original book. A ship's AI ends up in a humanoid (robot/android) body and has to learn to live with all that this implies; alternate chapters follow the backstory of the AI's new mentor/engineer as she grows up as a child slave in a robot-run factory. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book, but YMMV.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Interesting fantasy of an emerging industrialized world (trains are pretty well established, but rifles are new) that until recently featured living, active gods. The action takes place in the lands that used to be god-protected, now conquered by its former slaves. The equivalent Earth civilizations used for the cultures seem to be Eastern Europe (formerly god-protected) and South Asia (former slaves), which gives a different flavor from the usual Extruded Fantasy Product. Diplomat and operative Shara Thivani, of the now-ascendant culture, investigates the murder of an academic in the central city of the former ruling nation and discovers something very disturbing. Strong female characters, including the lead. Warning: the opening scene is deadly dull … but it's meant to be, I think.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – Takes place a few years after the previous novel. Former general Turyin Mulaghesh, an ally of Shara in the first book, is pulled out of her increasingly inebriated retirement to investigate the disappearance of an operative in backwater Voortyashtana, where an important new harbor is being built by the conquerors. Mulaghesh finds that the mysteries of what's happening in Voortyashtana have more significance to her than she could ever have imagined. I like Mulaghesh even better than Shara.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 20 by Yuki Midorikawa – This series remains its usual comforting, mildly spooky self, bless it. I do wonder whether the mangaka is ever again going to pick up the threads about the sinister exorcist Matoba, but he doesn't make an appearance in this volume.

Right now, I'm re-reading The Secret Garden as a break. Reading lots of new things tires me, even when I enjoy it. I have Cherryh's latest Foreigner book on my Kindle, and I'm still trying to make myself finish volume 1 of the manga A Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, which looks like something I *should* like (but as you can tell, it hasn't really grabbed me).

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2017-02-22 09:40 pm
Entry tags:

Reading Wednesday (Welp, I Started It on Wednesday)

This past weekend was Katsucon, so I have a stack of new manga. Most were recommended by "Year's Best Manga" lists on various sites, but one was something that looked intriguing when Great Big South American River brought it up in response to something else I was buying. As might be expected, I'm finding them a mixed bag.

Nichijou (Nichijou - My Ordinary Life) by Keiichi Arawi, vols. 1 and 2
Um, no. This comedy + slice-of-life high school series was billed as whimsical and surrealistic. It has a blocky, primitive drawing style that I'm presuming is deliberate. This does mean, however, that some of the surrealistic events have to be called out by the characters, or you wouldn't know what was up. When a wooden hand falls from the sky onto someone's head, for instance, it looks just as realistic as any of the characters' hands. And when the school principal tangles with a deer outside a character's classroom window, the student gazes at the spectacle with the same blank look she gives to just about anything.

The killer for me, however, was the treatment of the one character I found sympathetic, a robot schoolgirl who just wants to be a normal human being. Her creator, a child mad scientist, delights in tormenting her creation by refusing to remove the large windup key on the robot's back. She seems to have created the robot for just this purpose, plus some light housework. The whole thing left a bad taste in my brain. This one is going straight into the give-away pile.

Haikyū!! by Haruichi Furudate, vols. 1-3
On the other hand, I pretty much inhaled the first volumes of this shounen sports manga. While short, hyperactive Shōyō Hinata was in middle school, he saw a televised volleyball game featuring a player who was called the "Little Giant" for the way he dominated the game despite his small stature. Shōyō is inspired to nag and cajole his way to the creation of a boys' volleyball team at his own school. Despite their complete lack of a bench or any real experience or coaching, the team manages to avoid completely embarrassing themselves in their first and only real tournament, in which Shōyō encounters cerebral, athletically talented Tobio Kageyama.

In his mind, Shōyō paints Tobio as his nemesis, but when they both start high school, they find they're rookies on the same team. Not only that, but when their contrasting skills are put together, they become something special. At this point the story line kicks in for real as the remaining players on the team are introduced, along with their genial faculty sponsor who knows nothing about volleyball (and thus serves as the viewpoint character for similarly naive readers) and their coolly elegant manager, the only female character to make an appearance thus far. I especially enjoy the sweet senior player who has exiled himself from the team because, after freezing and woofing a key shot in a tournament, he feels he can't support his team mates properly (all the feels, Asahi!). This is probably nothing more than a typical example of its genre, but I'm enjoying the characters and their interactions.

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)
2017-02-15 09:08 pm
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Reading Wednesday: Behind the Scenes!! and Ms. Marvel

It's not that I haven't been reading actual books, but they have been re-reads: Gentemen of the Road,The Goblin Emperor. But the new stuff is manga and comics.

I got volumes 2 and 3 of Behind the Scenes!!; I have finished 2 and am about a third of the way through 3. I'm expecting that, like Ouran, this will eventually develop a running plotline, but at the moment, it remains episodic. Maasa, the girl who specialize in special effects makeup, is convinced that she ought to have a boyfriend, but her attempts in this direction always end in disaster because she's fascinated with gory horror flicks, and her interests always come out at inopportune moments. She tries again with a group date, fails, and drags herself back to the Art Squad, where her friends are sympathetic but not pitying. We also see more of Ranmaru's seemingly perfect and snooty cousin Soh (he lives with her family), a high school student: in fact, her life is not what it seems, and the Art Squad helps her find herself a little more. In vol. 3, the Art Squad participates in Film Camp, in which one of the uni film clubs goes to film full time on location while classes are on hiatus. The film features an actual paid actor: a 7-year-old prodigy who rubs Goda, the Chief, the wrong way. I'll have to see how this plays out.

I also read the latest Ms. Marvel volume, Civil War II. This series is certainly full of All the Feels. The first part of the story finds Kamala Kahn dealing with a squad of rather fascist-leaning do-gooders whose plans put Kamala's ethics through a veritable obstacle course. One of the pieces of fallout from this episode breaks Kamala's heart and sends her in search of a change of scene to Pakistan, her family's homeland, where she learns another lesson in why it can be tough to do good.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2016-11-16 08:52 pm
Entry tags:

Wednesday Reading

IT'S A SECRET!

(Re-reading canon for Yuletide. Many volumes of canon.)

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2016-10-06 09:44 pm

Reading [Not Quite] Wednesday - Stand Still Stay Silent

So I have utterly failed at reading anything of substance this week. In fact I was going to post that I had utterly failed at reading anything this week when I was saved by the arrival of the first collected volume of the web comic Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Because, in fact, I have been reading a lot of bits and pieces of SSSS (why not S4? - that simply isn't how the fandom rolls, I guess) and related stuffs, like fanfiction and TVTropes entries. This is part of Yuletide prep, because I'm going to request SSSS, but I always meant to blog this comic anyway.

Stand Still Stay Silent is a science fantasy series set in Scandinavia. It starts with an extended prologue. In our recent past, a pandemic known as the Rash has spread around the world. The disease seems pretty harmless if somewhat debilitating at first, but after a few weeks, it becomes clear that everyone underestimated the Rash. In the end, as far as the central characters of the main timeline know, only Iceland and a scattering of populations in the continental Nordic countries survive.

The main story starts 90 years later with the survivors having adjusted to the New Normal. Isolated communities and a very few small cities are surrounded by wilderness haunted by weird, horrific warped creatures that used to be human beings and other mammals (they're often referred to as "trolls"). A badly underfunded research expedition is being assembled to go out into the Silent World (the lands that were abandoned by the remnants of the human race) to seek out and bring back technology and medical information. This band of misfits is our main cast.

Humorous or poignant interactions among the expedition crew members alternate with spooky or downright terrifying encounters with the trolls, who are as varied as they are grotesque. The fact that the crew members are all from different countries (except for the Finnish cousins) and mostly speak only their native languages adds another layer of complexity to the situation. And then there's the fact that not everything that happens can be explained by science ... .

Sundberg's artwork is vivid and dynamic. The palettes tend to be limited: monochrome schemes overlaid with washes in one or two colors and small spots of intense hot or cool colors. The details of the larger set pieces are impressive (warning: wide image), especially for a comic that's updated five days a week. The world-building is intriguing. The story is full of the family-of-choice and hurt-comfort tropes that make things work for me. And the storyteller punctuates the action of the series with artful infodumps in the form of in-story posters or pamphlets.

The most common criticism I've seen is that the pace is fairly glacial. Things do pick up considerably once the prologue is complete. The cast is ethnically diverse only within the confines of Scandinavia: everyone is very white. There are a number of female characters in the full cast, including two in the adventuring crew, and they have plenty of agency (one is the commander). No one is explicitly LGBTIQ, but then, romantic/sexual relationships haven't been part of the plot thus far (although a number of straight couples are shown in the prologue). No one seems affected by a disability unless you consider Lalli to be on the autism spectrum (which I do, actually).

Anyway, I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2016-09-28 08:27 pm

Reading Wednesday

Got very little serious reading done this week Because Reasons (sad RL event).

I read the openings to This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, which I mentioned last week, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which I had forgotten that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago to support our local bookstore after killing some time there between appointments). More power of concentration will be needed to continue with either.

I read volumes 2 and 3 of the manga A Silent Voice, and now I am on the horns of a dilemma. The mangaka has ticked me off in a couple of ways, and even though I love the idea of the story and have become very fond of Shoko's tough, neglected tomboy little sister, I may decide to abandon the series, which rarely happens with me.

First, ex-bully Shoya is trying to arrange for more friends for his former victim, Shoko. The first girl he digs up is at Shoko's request, a girl who was kind to Shoko when they were all in middle school and who ended up getting bullied herself. That works out well enough that Shoya sometimes feels a bit of a third wheel around them. So when he encounters another former middle school classmate about whom he has no definite negative memories, he assumes that she's another potential friend. Actually, she is a manipulative little schemer in a very stereotypically Mean Schoolgirl way, and I cringe away from the book whenever she's on the page. (Can you tell that I was bullied in middle school for befriending a girl who was in Special Education?)

Then, the author introduces a Profound Misunderstanding between Sho and Sho, just so things will become even sadder. It takes a really good author to do this without pissing me off. Yoshitoki Ōima is simply not on that level. See, the two of them are starting to understand each other pretty well in sign language ... so instead, Shoko suddenly decides that she has to start trying to speak aloud! And won't go back to Sign even when it's clear that Shoya does not understand the Startling Confession she has just made!

I swear, I was grinding my teeth when that happened.

Does anyone know if things improve in this series?

On an even more frivolous note, I also started reading fanfiction for Stand Still, Stay Silent.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
2016-09-07 08:25 pm

Reading Wednesday

After I finished The Cuckoo's Song, I didn't feel like reading anything else substantive for a bit, which sometimes happens after I read something very involving. So I read some fanfiction, excerpts from a favorite comfort read (Rumer Godden's Thursday's Children), and magazine articles (in the Washington Post Magazine, National Geographic, and Washingtonian).

Monday (despite the holiday), I got some manga from Great Big River: Gangsta. vol. 7 (this is a hyper-violent and nihilistic seinen action series that deserves a more complete write-up) and vol. 1 of A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice is about a restless, undisciplined young boy, Shoya, and the deaf girl he ends up tormenting and driving from their school. Actually, the most awful thing is how bad the other kids are, including the ones whom the teachers and administrators think are angelic. I'm hoping something humiliating happens to all of them eventually, especially the sweet-faced little meganeko who's the class representative. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, especially when she's saying tearfully (paraphrased) "How could you possibly think that I'd do anything bad to Shoko? You know I'm the perfect class rep!"

But! This is only the first volume of a series that has seven volumes out. At the end of the volume, there's a time skip. Shoya, now old enough to leave school, is totally aimless and (for lack of any other focus) obsessed by what he did. He cuts all his ties to his current life and travels to find Shoko. He encounters her again on the last page. So I clearly have to order some more of the series!

(Fact: it seems to be a shounen series. Huh.)

Then the latest October Daye installment, Once Broken Faith, arrived on my Kindle. I'm now about a quarter of the way through it. It starts with a very silly, enjoyable pajama party for the teen fae contingent at Toby's house, but in no time we're up to our ears in dirty court politics and new types of fae and Toby is defying royalty in her typical headstrong fashion. Some of the people she loves are in danger and others are not speaking to her. You know, the usual!