Yoshinaga – Ōoku 2

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 2, VIZ Signature ed. by Fumi Yoshinaga. Akemi Wegmüller (Translator)

Date read: 12-13 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Ooku volume 2 by Yoshinaga

Paperback, 239 pages

First published in Japan 2006 by HAKUSENSHA; English language translation rights arranged. VIZ Media, 2009.

I marked this down a star because it confused me from the start and kept it up for a while. It did settle down though and I was able to follow, and enjoy, it. It is backstory, a prequel, whatever. Takes place prior to volume 1.

The story is often brutal and is rated Mature. There are attempted rapes, rapes, killing for causing displeasure, ….

This is the 20th book in my GN2015

Mori – A Bride’s Story 5

A Bride’s Story 5 by Kaoru Mori. Translated by William Flanagan. First Yen Press ed.

Date read: 12 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Mori's A Bride's Story 5

Hardback, 208 pages

Published 2013 by Yen Press. First published in Japan in 2013.

With Book 5 we get the wedding of Laila and Leily, the twins of the Aral Sea. Russian incursions into the region are causing tensions. Far less shouting, or a bit so anyway, from the twins as they grow some themselves. I think the young couples are going to be OK.

This is the 19th book in my GN2015

Mori – A Bride’s Story 4

A Bride’s Story 4 by Kaoru Mori. Translated by William Flanagan. First Yen Press ed.

Date read: 11 January 2015

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cover of Mori's A Bride's Story 4

Hardback, 192 pages

Published 2013 by Yen Press. First published in Japan in 2012.

While ostensibly following Mr. Smith to Ankara still, we meet the twins of the Aral Sea, Laila and Leily, who are busy wondering why their father hasn’t found them husbands yet. Their story is interesting over the long-term (includes all of Book 5 also) but they are always shouting. Definite high energy.

Amir and Karluk make appearances throughout this book and the next, but will supposedly return as the focus in book 6.

This book has a little nudity in it, as did one or two earlier ones. Mori loves to draw Amir bathing and/or in her skivvies. But it is extremely rare and not inappropriate in any way.

This is the 18th book in my GN2015

Hubert and Kerascoët – Beauty

Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët. Translation by Joe Johnson.

Date read: 10-11 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët

Cover of Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët

Hardback, 150 pages

Published 2014 by Comics Lit / NBM. Originally published in French as Beautë

Our public library puts on a Second Sunday event on the 2nd Sunday of each month which mostly focuses on poetry and local/regional authors. We go frequently. In December it was fairy tales and myths:

“What if Gretel stayed in the forest? What does Death do on vacation? Come to the dark and delicious side of the folk stories you know and love, with Bend poets Suzanne Burns and Judith Montgomery.”

After the author’s talk there is always an open mic so I brought my slightly twisted take on beauty that I wrote on 9 January 2012 (Hmm. Almost exactly 3 years ago). I was taking a Grimm’s Fairy Tales course during January term at Briar Cliff with our friend Jeanne Emmons and we had just read Snow-White and Rose-Red. Jeanne thought it was a bit too much of a mashup of multiple tales but I am quite pleased with drawing on more. These tales should be cautionary but were turned into further means of repression.

“Beauty”

‘And none is so fair as she.’

Beauty for its own sake, enticement.
Or is it really entrapment?

“White as snow, red as blood,
black as the wood of the window-frame.”

The hunter spares her …
The wicked queen poisons her …
The dwarves domesticate her …
The prince wants her …
            lifeless and mute.

Little Snow-White,
A maiden on the edge
Of womanhood.

Lost in the forest.
House full of men.
“Pretty things to sell,
very cheap, very cheap.”
Silk stay-laces, loss of breath.
Noisome comb, senselessness.
Poisoned apple, death lodged in the throat.

Inaminate, features softened.
On display, in a glass coffin.
She is bartered cheaply, for a
princeling’s honor.

Gentleness, purity, innocence
Retained. As are the ability
To inspire desirous want and envy.
These are the steps to
Make oneself a woman.
Chaste, yet chargedly erotic.

Beauty.

==  ==

What am I supposed to say about this book? It speaks to those once cautionary tales while being one itself. There is far less eroticism than I expected. The blind enslavement by beauty is pretty much the opposite of erotic. While not for children it may be good for perceptive teens (My children have not been teens for almost half their life now so take my suggestion for what it’s worth).

I marked it down one star as it seemed to drag on somehow. I was enjoying the story but as many pages as I was turning I was progressing far slower than I thought I was. That seems odd.

This is the 17th book in my GN2015

This book meets the “A book with a love triangle” and “A book with magic” criteria for Another Reading Challenge 2015. The New Deadwardians may have met the magic criteria but it is questionable as to whether it is magic in that sense or in the sleight-of-hand and its relatives way so I didn’t count it. This has fairies and spells.

Foglio, et al. – Girl Genius 7

Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (Girl Genius v. 7), Electronic ed. by Phil Foglio (story, pencils), Kaja Foglio (story), & Cheyenne Wright (colors)

Date read: 10 January 2015

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Foglio, et al.'s Girl Genius 7

Ebook, 132 pages

Published 2007 by Airship Entertainment & Girl Genius

“This material originally appeared from February 2007-December 2007 at www.girlgenius.net”

“The short story Personal Trainer first appeared in May 2006 on www.girlgenius.net”

By the way, I should mention some Girl Genius resources I had forgotten about in case anyone is interested: Girl Genius wiki and for new readers who want spoiler free there’s the (Spoiler Free) Guide for New Girl Genius Readers.

The story opens with Mechanicsburg itself and its inhabitants. We soon meet Carson Von Mekkhan, former seneschal and keeper of the keys to Castle Heterodyne, as his daughter gives him the news regarding the new, female, so-called Heterodyne heir who should soon be arriving.

With Agatha’s arrival the priority is getting into the castle: we end this volume with that event occurring. An awful lot happens in between.

Some of my favorite moments:

  • Sign at entrance to Mechanicsburg: Questionable Content, a philosophical journal
  • Zeetha to her pupil: “Do try to face the new era with some dignity.”
  • Agatha’s coffee
  • Klaus & Gil’s little tete-a-tete re Klaus & female Sparks [Klaus is humanized for just a panel or two as he considers the possibility]

Includes the short story “Personal Trainer.”

This is the 16th book in my GN2015

Abnett and Culbard – The New Deadwardians

The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard

Date read: 09-10 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard

Paperback, 1 v. (unpaged)

Published 2013 by DC Comics.

“Originally published in single magazine form in The New Deadwardians 1-8. (2012”)

I did enjoy it quite a bit.

“Chief Inspector George Suttle of Scotland Yard is a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead!

Welcome to post-Victorian England where those of the upper classes have voluntarily become  vampires (the “Young” in proper British understatement) to escape the lower classes, legions of whom have been turned into ravenous zombies by the so-called Restless Curse.

But when the body of a Young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle’s quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers teeming with Restless to the gleaming halls of Young power — and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.” — (back cover)

The story begins on October 12th, 1910. 6:01 am and takes place over a couple of days. Someone who was already dead has been murdered. As one can tell from the above description, issues of class are clearly prominent (but more in the abstract), as are those of “the Other.” What is not mentioned above are the “Brights,” normal humans. The ones not invisible to the zombies; the ones that can still become zombies. Or be Cured.

I did like Chief Inspector Suttle. There was a lot there I identified with, and in a (qualified) positive sense. I respect him a lot. But his story helped remind us that too much reliance on those traits and uncompromising belief leads one to madness. At least what should be deemed madness.

This appears to be entirety of it and I do like the ending, whether continued or not. It is, in a way, hopeful. At least for one person.

::small spoilers perhaps below::

Turns out eternal life (well, if you avoid the 3 known ways to die) is not all it is cracked up to be for the Young. It seems that for most, all appetites are lost. Our Chief Inspector tells us he hadn’t even realized that he had not missed his libido. In fifty years.

As to taking the Cure, “It was superlative pragmatism.”

::end of spoilers::

This is the 15th book in my GN2015

This book meets the “A book a friend recommended” and “A mystery or thriller” criteria for Another Reading Challenge 2015.

Thanks for recommending it to me, Angel of The Itinerant Librarian.

Foglio, et al. – Girl Genius 6

Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (Girl Genius v. 6), Electronic ed. by Phil Foglio (story, pencils), Kaja Foglio (story), & Cheyenne Wright (colors)

Date read: 09 January 2015

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Girl Genius 6 by Foglio, et al.

Ebook, 164 pages

Published 2006-2007 by Airship Entertainment & Girl Genius

“This material originally appeared from March 2006-February 2007 at www.girlgenius.net”

So many interesting developments. Agatha spends a lot of time in her underwear in this issue. Tarvek has a thing for dolls it seems. In this previous volume we learned that the cute purple Jägerkin is Maxim and in this volume we learn that the scruffy green one is Dimo, while the blond one is Oggie (short for Ognian). There’s a really great Easter egg too involving Oggie, and hinted at in the artist’s bio section.

The panels with Dupree laughing at Klaus and his response are classic (bottom p. 16). Sewer rats. Geisterdamen, again. Agatha’s little clanks once again, in several ways, save the day. What is Wooster doing? Where is the Baron’s man? Intrigues and schemes and multiple parties and who is playing whom? Agatha, or someone as Agatha, outs the Baron as The Other. Lots of fighting, big and small, throughout. The full-page panel on p. 128 is exquisite: Agatha and Lars are foregrounded with the rest of the battle swirling all around them but dim and out of focus. A little psychedelics to the rescue.

Agatha realizes that maybe she can control some monsters with her voice:

Dimo: “Ve saw dose tings in de sewers. Even if hyu can use hyu voice to get dem riled up– I dun tink they’d listen now. They’s just killing machines.”

Oggie: “Yah! And not effen good looking vuns like us!

These guys crack me up!

What can I tell you? Just read them! Give them a try anyway. If not your thing then fine. I can appreciate a few books that aren’t my thing.

This issue also contains “An Agatha Heterodyne 1 minute Mystery: Where Are My Socks?”

This is the 14th book in my GN2015

Pham – Sumo

Sumo by Thien Pham, First ed.

Date read: 09 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Thien Pham's Sumo

Paperback, 103 pages

Published 2012 by First Second

I added this to Goodreads 13 December 2012 after it being “recommended” by First Second. I imagine they simply reviewed the book and it showed up in my feed since I follow them. May be a bit indiscreet to review your own books but I have enjoyed all of the First Second books I have read and it is at least a handful so I don’t mind at all; I’m just aware of it. They appreciated me reading whatever I first read by them and it was my decision to friend them. It has led me to several great books, theirs and others.

Sumo is a wonderful work of art. The story is told in 2-color illustrations but there are three interweaving aspects of Scott’s life which are told in three different colors other than the black and the color of the paper. All three aspects merge in the end. But just what does it mean that we end with the green and being set free?

I had it with me at work yesterday to hopefully draft out something like the above, so I showed it to a co-worker who has a 12-year-old son as I thought it might be a good book for him. Hard to say what lessons a smart 12-year-old might take from it but there aren’t many “bad” ones and the one I can think of is shown disparagingly, although subtly so. If one takes the time to work out the use of color and how it is used at the end then I think one takes the right and best message from the story.

I think it has valuable lessons for readers of most any age. Do not let setbacks define you. Try something. Go after what you want. What society tells you to go after is not what’ll make you happy. And several others no doubt. No cheese here though.

Maybe half of the panels have words; not many in most cases even then. In the first 10 pages of the book there are two instances of speaking (one each p. 2 & p. 10) in 38 panels of varying size from six-to-a-page to a single-page beauty.

It’s funny how this one is almost as big of a cliffhanger as The Littlest Pirate King but I don’t mind like I did (at 1st anyway) with it. I think the use of color at the end shows you how to imagine what path the story continues down. No happily ever after: no complete uncertainty. But a much greater sense of closure and possibility.

This is the 13th book in my GN2015

Yoshinaga – Ōoku 1

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 1, VIZ Signature ed. by Fumi Yoshinaga. Akemi Wegmüller (Translator)

Date read: 7-8 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Yoshinaga's Ooku: The Inner Chamber, volume 1

Paperback, 210 pages

First published in Japan 2005 by HAKUSENSHA; English language translation rights arranged. VIZ Media, 2009.

I enjoyed this book but it gets off to a weird start. From the back cover:

“In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Redface Pox has begun to prey on the country’s men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of shogun, The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the shogun’s Inner Chamber …”

All of that is true, although one must be much more than beautiful to get far in the Inner Chamber. And to get to the top you must be from the noblest of families along with being beautiful and talented. Unless you are Mizuno. But this whole 75% of men are wiped out thing is precipitated because some young boy picked some mushrooms in the forest. Or, perhaps that’s just what some silly country woman believes. Either way it all happens in less than five pages and then is never mentioned again. Just seems weird and bugs me. Maybe I am missing an important cultural reference; no doubt I am, but it would still probably baffle me even if it was explained to me. Oh well, the story is fine despite a, to me, weak setup.

I went ahead and requested the next volume. I see that there are at least 10; not sure I’ll get that far but we’ll see. They may draw me in more. Maybe I should just say I might forget the weird opening because the story is pretty compelling in a, dare I say, exotic way. The gender flip is somewhat interesting and the new shogun is digging into some areas sure to raise serious issues. The inner chamber politics and policies are a definite source of attention, which is a large part of the exoticism. Based on the description of the book I see that the Redface Pox will come back up due to the shogun’s digging into history but I wonder if the “punishment by the forest gods” story will come back up?

This is the 12th book and thus completes the Modern Age challenge that I signed up for in my GN2015

This book also meets the “A book with a one-word title” entry of one of my other 2015 reading challenges.

I also learned it was made into a movie so it also meets the “A book that became a movie” criteria.

B. and Mac Orlan – The Littlest Pirate King

The Littlest Pirate King by David B. and Pierre Mac Orlan. Translated by Kim Thompson.

Date read: 08 January 2015

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Cover of B. and Mac Orlan's The Littlest Pirate King

Hardback, 44 pages

Originally published in French 2009; this ed. 2010 by Fantagraphics Books.

I knew nothing about this artist or the novelist & songwriter (Mac Orlan) whose story it is based on. It was recommended to me by Unshelved. As Gene Ambaum said in his review, “It’s a kid’s book with an edge.” (Mar 9 2012)

I really enjoyed it but it ends so abruptly: a great cliffhanger. But I believe it, simply, is the end. There doesn’t seem to be another.

And, yes, I (and I imagine others) can work with that. Did the pirates get redemption after all? What happened to the Little Pirate King? We generally do not get the answers to these sorts of questions in life so it is realistic in that sense.

I truly enjoyed it; I just wanted more of it. It is also a beautifully designed book and the artwork, while simple in a way, has a lot going on. I recommend it highly.

I picked this and four others up at the public library this morning and then sat at Lone Pine Coffee Roasters and read it while enjoying a tasty cookie and a lovely Cortada. I only had a single shot as I had already had a cup of coffee at breakfast; would love to try it with its normal two shots some day.

Book, coffee drink, cookie and glass of water

My little self-indulgence this morning after walking to town for a haircut and books at the public library. And before walking back home.

This is the 11th book in my

GN2015