the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘manga

I was hoping to write full length reviews of these books, but well, life (and Netflix) happens, so I didn’t.  Here are some ultra quick reviews of some recent reads!

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I am finally on the Schwab bandwagon, and I can see why she has the following she has.  Vicious was hella fun! I described it to a friend as “gleefully violent”. Think Flatliners meets X-Men, But twice as snarky and three times as smart.  Tight writing, fast paced, not a wasted sentence. I enjoyed every minute of reading this book! I will def be reading the sequel, Vengeful.

 

Noumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter –  I really loved the first book, Noumenon, and my Dad did too. So we read the 2nd book together.  I had a hard time getting into this book, very little of the characters I’d enjoyed so much from the first book. Had I not been reading it along with my Dad I would have DNF’d it. Too much felt like a plot device – too much of “ok, so this plot thing needs to happen for the story to go in this particular direction because that direction makes sense”, and then exactly that happened. The big reveal at the end wasn’t a surprise at all. I wish C had been a bigger part of this book.  Lots of great science and an intriguing first contact plot line, but execution was flawed.

 

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal –  very fast paced, Kowal has a ton of story to cram into a not very long novel.  I loved the alternate history extinction level event – a meteor lands off the Atlantic coast, taking Washington DC with it. Within a few decades we may not be able to survive on Earth, so it’s to the stars we go! Elma is a “computer”, that is, she is a math savant who can do complicated calculations in her head faster than a 1950s computer can. She’s also a pilot. Who says women can’t be astronauts? Umm…   all the male astronauts, and the government,  that’s who. So Elma and all her female pilot friends will just have to prove them wrong. This book teetered right on the line of Punching You In The Face Every Other Page with all the isms. You might not even notice that aspect, you might love it, you might hate it.  This is a prequel to Kowal’s novellette The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which you can still read over at Tor.com.

 

Bride’s Story vol 10 by Kaoru Mori – Finally the story is  back to Amir and Karlak! Karlak has decided to spend a few seasons with Amir’s family, so that he can learn how to hunt with a bow and understand more about her family’s nomadic culture.  Amir’s brothers and cousins quickly adopt Karlak, and even though he has a lot to learn, they treat him with respect. Karlak is even gifted with a hunting eagle. I think Karlak went into this expecting Amir’s brother and cousins to treat him like a child, like a “city boy”, like a joke.  And they treat him with hospitality and respect.  The artwork in the scenes with the eagles were incredible! I love this series for the artwork alone!  The last third of the volume goes back to Smith. He gets the surprise of his life, and he’s going to decide what to do with her. And she no longer has a home to return to. Volumes 7 – 9 were all over the place and didn’t have much focus, so I’m happy that this volume has more focus and features more of my favorite characters.

Watching!

 

I’ve gotten hooked on The Final Table on Netflix  – Think Iron Chef mixed with the drama of Chopped, but the dial cranked up to twelve. It’s over produced and more than a little ridiculous. Lol, maybe it’s Total. Drama. Cooking show! My favorite part has become the “final plate” portion. The judges for the final plate portion of each episode give supportive and positive feedback.  There is a contestant I wish had more screen time, he is slender, wears round glasses, and wears his brown hair in a ponytail. I want to know how long his hair is. He looks like an anime guy!

 

And speaking of anime,  I’ve also gotten hooked on Castlevania, also on Netflix.   An American version of the Japanese anime, this is paced and designed more to western tastes and expectations. I nearly cried in the first episode. The characters are snarky, sweary, fighty, and the dialog is fantastic.  I’m only 4 or 5 episodes in, and we just met Alucard, who is most certainly not the sleeping savior soldier. (I knew he had to show up eventually). Oh boy, my female gaze is strong with this one! How are those pants staying on?  I know (i hope at least) he’s not there just for fan service, but DAMN.  Anyway,  great characters who are snarky, sweary, smart, and sexy? And an excellent Dracula story? Um, yes please!

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. How about you? what have you read, watched, and enjoyed?

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Author Danica Davidson and Manga author Rena Saiya have recently released Manga Art for Intermediates.    When Danica told me about this new book, I had a million questions for her – How did she know what text would work best with Rena’s pictures? How did Rena know what artwork would go best with the text? How did the two of them collaborate? How did they find each other? Was it fun?  Instead of trying to answer my million questions over lunch one day, Danica suggested I interview the both of them. Excellent idea!

Danica Davidson is most famous for her series of unofficial Minecrafter adventure novels for middle grade readers.  She’s written articles for MTV, The Onion, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and about fifty other publications.  You can learn more about her work here.

Rena Saiya is a Mangaka (manga author) living in the Tokyo area.  Her flexible artwork style has allowed her to publish manga in a variety of genres, and she has also taught manga-creation in vocational schools in Japan. Click here to visit Rena’s website.

Danica and Rena were kind enough to answer all my questions about their new manga art book,  how they collaborated,  their backgrounds, and more!  If you know someone who is dabbling in drawing manga fan-art, Manga Art for Intermediates is for them!

My Q&A with Danica Davidson:

Little Red Reviewer: This is your second Manga Art step-by-step book. What did you want to accomplish in this book that you hadn’t already accomplished in the first book?

Danica Davidson: The first book was more basic. If you want to draw manga-style characters in your notebook but don’t know how to start, that book has you covered. It starts with how to draw faces, eyes, bodies, really going piece by piece, then gets into how to draw common character types. So we have schoolgirl, schoolboy, chibi, ninja, magical girl, etc. Each character is drawn in maybe 15 or so steps, making it much more detailed than any other how-to-draw manga books I’m aware of on the market.

If you’ve gone through that book or have some background in art, then Manga Art for Intermediates ups the ante. It still shows how to draw common character types in many more steps (this time around we have characters like bride and groom, kendo player, seme and uke, Heian man, nekojin and even some yokai). But we also talk about what sort of papers, pens, inks and software real, professional manga creators in Japan like to use. It goes into screentones and how to use brushes to make black hair look shiny. All of this information comes thanks to Rena, who has a background in manga.

Danica Davidson

LRR: How did you first get involved with manga step-by-step guides?

DD: It happened because of my background in manga. I started reading manga as a teenager, and not long afterward I started writing about it professionally. The first glossy magazine I freelanced for was Anime Insider, and that led me to writing about manga for Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and that led me to writing about manga for MTV, CNN, The Onion and other places. I adapted manga into English for Digital Manga Publishing and have helped in the editing process for Yen Press. I love a good story, and manga is a great medium. Then a publisher reached out to me based on my manga knowledge and experience, saying they wanted to do an art book. That led to Manga Art for Beginners.

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No review this week, but lots of books to talk and think about.

 

I just finished reading Nexhuman by Francesco Verso, wow, what a book!  A gripping (and maybe creepy?) plotline, a future built around so many “what if” questions, discussion of the unintended consequences of uploading our minds into robot bodies,  this book is like a keystone for so much other science fiction that I’ve read. Lots of hard science questions and possible answers presented in a social scifi / coming of age / doomed romance (maybe they are doomed?) novel that doesn’t shy away from visceral violence. Still thinking about it and putting my thoughts together, and I will probably have to read portions of the book again before writing a review.   Anyway, if you’re looking for something different and smart, something that puts the pieces together, keep your eye out for Nexhuman, out in August from Apex Books. Full review coming soon, when I’m able to talk about this book in coherent sentences.

Needing something a little easier on the gut, I picked up Shadows Over London, by Christian Klaver.  He’s famous for his Supernatural Sherlock Holmes novellas, and I’ve had this Victorian urban fantasy on my shelf for a while.  Christian is a super nice guy, and it’s been too long since I read something of his. 70 or so pages in, and I’m up to my eyeballs in the Seelie Court, the Unseelie Court, a stained glass prison, four siblings who give me some super happy The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe vibes, and way too many cats.  Kinda worried now that this isn’t a happy little Victorian urban fantasy with faeries, kinda thinking there is plenty of violence and death in these pages?  And sorta wanna reread Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks all of a sudden.

On the short fiction front,  I found my way to Cat Pictures Please, (Clarkesworld) by Naomi Kritzer, and Fandom for Robots, (Uncanny) by Vina Jie-Min Prasad.  Stories told by sentient AIs? I can’t get enough of it!  A robot figuring out how to act like a human, how to understand all the weird shit humans do. . . it helps me feel normal that sometimes even I don’t understand the weird shit humans do.   You should go read those short stories I linked to. Each one is a five minute read, but they are so good you will wish they were longer. It’s ok, you can read them again.

 

I promised you pigs and jellyfish princesses, didn’t I.  Pigs first! If you are as obsessed with Fullmetal Alchemist as I am (omg, did you see? They are releasing hardcover editions!  Goodbye $300!), then you know the creator behind that series, Hiromu Arakawa, has another manga series called Silver Spoon.  Silver Spoon is just a high school slice of life story – no magic, no fantasy, nothing supernatural. All these students are at an agricultural high school, many of them are expected to take over their family’s farms and agro-businesses. The main character is a city boy, and he chose this school to get as far away from his overbearing parents as possible. He doesn’t know the first thing about chickens or horses or pigs, and he finds himself fascinated by understanding more about where our food comes from.   

 

So much food and animal science, I love it!!! This is a great manga if you don’t think you like manga. It has ZERO annoying tropes, great characters, excellent art, and food science! Like why you need to age pork for a few days.

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xxxholic omnibus 1xxxHolic, omnibus #1

published in 2007 (I think?)

where I got it:  have owned it forever.

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I’ve been reading Manga on and off for probably ten years. I don’t mention manga much, because there are very few series I’ve liked enough to invest in.  One of the early reviews on this blog was for the first volume (or first few? I can’t tell) of xxxHolic, by CLAMP. The Manga section of Barnes and Noble is full of 3 volume omnibuses these days, but back in the old days, a three volume omnibus was an oddity. No one planned to make more than one of these monsters, so sometimes there wasn’t even a  number on the spine.  And speaking of “way back when”, xxxHolic has been floating around in one form or another since 2004 or there abouts.

 

I wrote a halfway decent review of this back in 2010, it’s nice to see I did a decent job of writing a plot based review!   It’s interesting to see what I got out of xxxHolic then, and what’s I’m getting out of it now. The surface stuff is always the easy stuff – Yuko’s hidden “shop”, the crossover plotlines and funny little jokes from other CLAMP works, the “monster of the week” episodic feel of these first three volumes, the gorgeous artwork.   If you’re used to American style graphic novels, Japanese manga, CLAMP works especially, may be a shock to you – everything is in black and white, there is far less dialog per page, motion is depicted very differently, and the human body is drawn differently than you might be used to.

are you the spacetime witch

Back in the day, I stalled out six or seven volumes into xxxHolic, I felt the story wasn’t really going anywhere.  At the time, seven volumes was a pretty big investment to make in a series if I wasn’t going to continue.  Yuko might be the space time witch who offers to help Watanuki get rid of his spirits problem, but I needed more than just urban fantasy slice of life.  I didn’t continue reading it, but my husband did, eventually trading in our single volumes for these hefty 3-volume omnibuses. And he let me know the story gets deeper, deadlier, and darker. So now I want to give it another try, because I like all of those things!  Watanuki might be getting dragged on Yuko’s errands, but it’s important later for him to have safely been exposed to all this urban fantasy type stuff. Even at the ghost story telling ceremony with Domeki, Watanuki might might not feel safe, but if Yuko is in the room she’ll never let anything permanent happen to him. Or at least I don’t think she’d let anything happen to him . . .

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Danica Davidson wrote her first novel at age seven, and hasn’t stopped.  With a writing career that spans media, mid-grade fiction, non-fiction, book and tv reviews, and even how-to books, if there is a story out there to be told Danica knows how to tell it and how to talk about it.  She’s published reviews and articles at Booklist, Anime Insider, iF magazine, Otaku USA, and Graphic Novel Reporter;  talked about pop culture at CNN and MTV; and worked on the English adaptations of manga series such as Millennium Prime Minister and Bride’s Story.    Her newest projects include a series of Minecrafter adventure novels for young readers, and a Barbie graphic novel.

danica3

There’s saying you’re going to do it all, and then actually going out and doing it all. Danica does it all, and she let me pick her brain on how in the world she got involved with so many amazing projects and how she puts all of her geeky loves together to one incredible career that includes novel writing, pop culture, and graphic novels.  She’s a writer, not an artist, and if that’s confusing, head over to Smack Dab in the Middle for a great article on how a storyteller who isn’t an artist creates graphic novels.  The more I learn about Danica, the more impressed I am, and I think you will be too.  Learn more about her work at her website or her Amazon page, and feel free to say hi to her on twitter, @DanicaDavidson.

 

 

Little Red Reviewer:  Some of your most recent Minecrafter books for mid-grade readers include Down Into the Nether, The Rise of Herobrine, and Attack on the Overworld. How did you get started with writing stories that take place in the Minecrafter world? How is writing stories for younger readers different than writing for an adult audience?

Danica Davidson: It was all a very fun and surprising turn of events. After I’d sold my first book, Manga Art for Beginners, an editor at the same publisher asked if I had any book ideas involving Minecraft. There was some talk of doing a nonfiction book, but I ended up pitching a children’s book. It started as a single book, and now it is a series in this order: Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither.

I use a different “voice” in my writing depending on the audience. For kids’ writing, it’s a different vocabulary and style. It’s much more “pure” and unfiltered than adult writing. Kids tell it like it is. I’ve been writing ever since I was little, so I go back and read stuff I wrote when I was eleven to tap back into that exact voice.

attack on the overworld

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Brides Story 5 6 coverWith much thanks to Orbit and Yen Press for providing review copies of A Bride’s Story, our joint review series continues! And by joint review series, I mean who better to review a series about getting married than two love fools (that would be my husband and I), and by continues, I mean check out our review of volumes 1 and 2 here, and volumes 3 and 4 here.

Quick sum up for those of you just joining the fun: A Bride’s Story is a gorgeous manga series by Kaoru Mori (creator of Emma and Shirley). The story takes place in Central Asia in the early 1900s, and follows young women who have either just gotten married, are about to get married, or need/want to get married.  The artwork is amazing, the story is compelling the characters have depth, and there’s plenty going on behind the scenes too.  The title of the series directly translates to “Brides’ Stories”, but to avoid confusion, i’ll be referring to it as the translated title “A Bride’s Story“, so you know exactly what you’re looking for at the bookstore.  😉

As we’ve done before with this series, the review is a discussion between my husband Michael and myself. We both wanted to focus on different things that caught our attention, so our review is basically us peppering each other with questions.  Let’s get to it!

the equally lovely back covers of the Manga

the equally lovely back covers of the Manga

Michael: So this time we are reviewing two very different volumes.  Volume 5 is the twin’s wedding and associated hijinks, while volume 6 is back to Amir and Karluk and a more dramatic, thoughtful story.

Andrea: Yeah, volumes 5 and 6 don’t really go together, because they are so different! Poor planning on my part! The twins wedding does have some laugh out loud moments, but I was really happy to get back to Amir, because she’s my favorite character. Not only is she awesome, but she’s got the best clothes!

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brides story vol 3

who better to review a manga about getting married than a romantic married couple?  We reviewed volumes 1 and 2 earlier this year, and we’re finally getting to volumes 3 and 4 (with volumes 5 and 6 forthcoming).  What started out as the story of Amir and her young husband Karluk has veered off into unexpected directions….  hey, is this story really all about Smith??

This time I made Michael come up with most of the questions. But I shot some his way too!

Michael: How did you feel about the change of character from Amir and Karluk to Smith and then the twins? Many people were surprised when Mori-sensei did not stay with Amir for the entire run of Bride Story.

Andrea: I miss Amir! But it’s Mori’s story, so she can do whatever she wants. If we stayed with Amir and Karluk, we’d learn all about them, and their families, and nothing else. By following other characters we get to learn more about the varied cultures and families in the area. Yeah, I know people are mad that this story isn’t all about Amir… because you’ve just been introduced to a really interesting and compelling character, but get over yourself. If it was all Amir, all the time, we’d never meet Talas. Speaking of Talas….
2015-04-12 20.02.40

Michael: How did you feel about the change of feel? In the first two novels it is drama, with light action and suspense but there is not much peril or adult darkness. Three and four change that with three being very adult dark, and four being the introduction of the twins with a more lighthearted whimsical point of view.

Andrea: Vol 3 is mostly about Smith and Talas, and then Vol 4 is about the twins. Vol 3 gets surprisingly dark. Smith journeys to wherever he’s going (Michael: Ankara!), and is helped by Talas, a young widow. He ends up spending a few days with her and her mother in law, and learns her tragic story. Talas and her Mother in law are basically in a bleak and shitty situation. Both ladies see Smith as an honorable and gentle man, and it is suggested that he take Talas as a wife. She’s offended that Smith has to think about the offer. He likes her, but his western sensibilities require a long courtship, saying yes to a wedding isn’t something he can do quickly.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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