the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘manga

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….
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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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BRIDE story volume _1bride's story vol 2
A Bride’s Story, volumes 1 and 2, by Kaoru Mori

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased first volume, received review copy of Volume 2 from the publisher (Thanks Orbit and Yen Press!)

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Back in December, I interviewed my husband about one of his new favorite manga series, A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori.  Now that I’ve read the first two volumes (of six currently available), we decided to do a joint review of the series. Two volumes at a time, we’ll be talking about what the series is about, the different directions it goes in, we like about the series (so far, everything), and what we don’t like.

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Don’t you just love her clothing?? Even the scarf helping support the tray is beautiful.

 

Andrea: This is a historical fiction story of a family in a Central Asian village on the Silk Road. Amir Halgal is twenty years old, and has just married into the Eihon family. She comes from a nomadic tribe, so she knows how to put up and take down a yurt, how to hunt with a bow and arrow, how to track animals, and how to read the landscape. Her and her husband Karluk use their wedding gifts of wall hangings and fabric to make their new home colorful and vibrant. About Karluk – he’s only twelve. Yes, a twenty year old girl just married a twelve year old boy. But wait a minute before you freak out! Marriages back then were more family alliances than anything else. Yes, this marriage will have to eventually be consummated, but not until Karluk is older. For the time being, they live together more as siblings than as a married couple. And OMG, the artwork is just freaking amazing. Mike, what have I missed about the premise? What are your thoughts on the pacing and how the story is told?

Michael: The pacing is non-traditional, this is not either slow or quick in a western fashion. This series is fairly fast paced but change comes slowly and action, while quick, there is really only one action sequence in these two volumes. I guess I would add to the premise that this is a story about the brides more than any other characters.

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The Eihon family. Amir sits in front, to the right.

 

Andrea: So this story focuses mostly on young women who live on the Silk Road? Why would this make for an interesting story that people would want to read?

Michael: I am an anthropologist at heart so I love any stories regarding a culture or society that is not my own. Also, I think that the United States lack of culture and our fear of knowing other people is something that contributes to much of our violence.

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My husband reads a lot of manga, and lately he’s really been talking up A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori. I kept bugging him to write me a guest post about it, but he wasn’t sure what to say or how to say it.  To help him out, I gave him some guided questions to get the conversation and the review going. (and don’t tell anyone, but this is an exercise I do with myself any time I’m stuck on how to review something!)

BRIDE story volume _1

Andrea: What is the plot of A Bride’s Story?

Michael: A Bride’s Story is a manga about the lives and marriages of several women along the Silk Road in the late 19th century. Amir Halgal is the first ‘bride’ and is interesting as she comes from a semi-nomadic clan but marries into a settled clan living in a relatively modern town.

bride's story vol 2

Andrea: How did A Bride’s Story come to your attention? What made you interested in reading this?

Michael: A Bride’s Story was recommended by a reviewer I follow. I am a historian so anything about a past time and in an unusual place will catch my attention. I had heard of Kaoru Mori’s earlier manga Emma so I new the author was interested in detailed, accurate historical fiction.

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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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