Thursday, October 4, 2018

Macbeth, adapted by Crystal S. Chan

I received my copy of Macbeth from the publisher, Udon Entertainment, through NetGalley.

It's no secret that I really like the Manga Classics series. Chan and artist Julien Choy did a great job with Romeo & Juliet and The Jungle Book, and now they've done great work again in this rendition of Macbeth.

I was a little skeptical going into it because, as with most Shakespeare but maybe more so with Macbeth, the real drama to me is not so much in what the characters are saying but how they're saying it. But I wasn't disappointed at all. The art adds a dimension to the story that isn't so simple to pull off in a theater or even in a movie. And I especially like how Choy drew Macbeth and his insanity - very well done.

Read it and the rest of the Manga Classics series!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters by Nick Smith

I'm going to start reading The Secret in the Basement soon, so I thought I'd dredge up the review I wrote on July 31, 2018 for The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters to get my mind in the right place (or the wrong place, as the case may be).

This is a very unique text, and I'm not at all surprised that I had such a positive reaction to it.

At first blush, ulillillia imposes a daunting task upon his reader: to share his vision of the story with a degree of specificity that one could only hope a lawmaker might command when enacting legislation. But don't worry; there are six appendices comprising twenty sections into which one may sink one's teeth if one so chooses. The hexadecimal codes that ulillillia uses to describe color might alone deter all but the most passionate of readers (a valuable lesson, perhaps, to the many straight-to-Kindle writers seeking their famous J.K. Rowling lifestyle through networking on Goodreads), though, to be fair, ulillillia himself notes in the preamble to Appendix 5: What numerical colors mean that "you can simply ignore (skip over) these notes [(i.e., the explanation of what numerical colors mean)]," which begs the question: Why would ulillillia spend so much time and energy to provide such incredible detail within the story? Well, I'll tell you why. As with the miniature dissertation on gliding in Appendix 6 in which ulillillia explains that gliding at maximum speed occurs "at an angle near 6.827994177089°," the color detail serves to enhance the overall reading experience for those interested enough to care. I'm not going to tell you that you should care. The text itself should - as should any other story of great literary merit - compel its reader to care for it. And in this respect, ulillillia egregiously fails.

Or does he? In place of compelling characters, realistic conversation, any semblance of human drama, sound physics, and a plot ulillillia offers his readers such focused, mathematical description of speed, space, color, and physical description that we readers could reenact the story to the up quark if such a universe that could contain the events of the story were to exist. So, at least we know what he's talking about when he's talking about nothing.

Is it a fanfic? Why is Knuckles so ridiculously OP? We may never know the answers to these questions. But we do know that the story was typed on a keyboard covered by dryer sheets.

I, for one, really enjoyed it. This book is a wild ride across the street for those who are brave enough to strap on a helmet, safety goggles, elbow pads, knee pads, shin guards, some heavy gloves, and a plastic body bubble to venture forth in their INKAS Huron Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) (8484 x 2565 x 3099 (mm), wheelbase 5994 (mm), seats 16) with 284 liters of fuel capacity.

I have to say the pizza party in Scene 20 had to be my favorite part. And although I wouldn't harm a fly, if I were the one waiting on Tu at a restaurant, I would have beat her unmercifully. It's also an enlightening scene. Notice that Ivan mopped up the grease from his pizza as ulillillia is known to do. Until that point in the story, I thought that ulillillia wrote himself into the story as Knuckles, not Ivan.

By the way, if you felt betrayed, as I initially did, that Knuckles gives a full summary of the entire book on page 252, just think of it as ulillillia's benevolence. He provided you a convenient way to relive the story without any of the unique detail that makes this book really one of a kind.

I'm excited to read The Secret in the Basement next. So maybe this book is one of two of their own kind. We shall see. In amazing detail, I hope.

Now that that book has been sitting with me for a month and half, I realize how much I enjoyed it. It was a jarring reading experience; one that I hadn't felt for years (maybe not since the first time I read Dhalgren).

Should you read it? Let me put it this way: If I could reach through this screen, I would grip your shoulders, shake you, and say, "If you buy no other books for the rest of 2018—no, not even Murakami's new book (which, of course, I've pre-ordered)—you absolutely need to buy The Legend of the 10 Elemental Masters and The Secret in the Basement." I ended up buying the Kindle versions of both books, and I went to Lulu.com to get the paperback versions (here and here). The formatting is kinda shit, but they're so worth it for the visuals (there are several).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya, tr. Asa Yoneda

I received my copy of The Lonesome Bodybuilder from the publisher on Edelweiss+.

I have mixed feelings about this set of stories. At first, I thought I generally didn't like it. But, after thinking about each of the stories more, they're growing on me. I've had this reaction before with Oe, Ryu Murakami, and Ogawa, so I'm not going to complain.

I feel like each of the stories grabbed my attention or interest in different ways. Some of them, like The Lonesome Bodybuilder, Typhoon, Paprika Jiro, and The Straw Husband, are interesting on the surface because they are conventionally told stories with somewhat bizarre subject matter. Others, like The Dogs and An Exotic Marriage, create interest primarily through the implications of what is happening in the plot and the characters' psychology.

There's no doubt that Motoya is a talented writer with interesting ideas. Sometimes I wish the ideas were executed more clearly and thoroughly; other times I'm pleasantly surprised. I don't know how much of that has to do with translation choices or that the version I received is not the retail version. (There were some obvious errors in the text of one of the stories in the version I received.)

Either way, if you're into writers like Ogawa, Kawakami, and Wataya, you'll probably enjoy this collection. It'll be out November 6, 2018.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan

I received my copy of Finchosaurus from the publisher on Edelweiss+.

Finch, an overactive child who's very into dinosaurs, finds a note in the ground while digging for fossils. He enlists the help of his friends and classmates to discern the author of the note. It's is an endearing story about friendship and helping others.

Finchosaurus is set to be released on October 23, 2018. Pick up a copy!

Monday, September 10, 2018

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

I received my copy of No Fixed Address from the publisher through NetGalley.

This is the first book I've read by Nielsen, and I really enjoyed it. Some of her other books, like The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, look great. I definitely want to read that at some point.

The book is about tweenage Felix and his mother, Astrid. After a series of events, they experience homelessness. Most of the book is about their struggle with daily life and how their homelessness affects Felix. Then Felix is chosen as a contestant of a quiz show, the results of which could change his family's life. And it does, but not in the way the reader might expect.

It's a tough topic to address, but Nielsen does it with style. The characters are believable. Felix realizes that his mother could be a better mother and that their situation might be avoided if her attitude were different. But he still needs his mother. I like Felix's friends also.

There's a hint of Slumdog Millionaire here that, at first, I thought detracted from the originality of the book. But, after considering it more, I think the quiz show is just a similar plot device that's been executed in a completely different way than it was in Slumdog Millionaire.

In all, this is an interesting book throughout. It's a quick and comfortable read, and it has a fantastic ending. It'll be released tomorrow, September 11, 2018. I highly recommend that you read it.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Thorn Queen by Elise Holland

I received my copy of The Thorn Queen from the publisher through NetGalley.

This book is charming and adorable times ten. There's adventure, plenty of twists and turns, betrayal, and triumph. I really liked the book..

..except for the last chapter, which makes strong case for the worst denouement ever realized. But really, don't let that stop you from enjoying this book. It's a really fun read.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Coyote, Vol. 1 by Ranmaru Zariya

I received my copy of Coyote, Vol. 1 from the publisher, SuBLime (the yaoi/BL division of Viz Media), through Edelweiss+.

It's been a while since I've read something so risqué, but luckily the proportion of story to gratuitous sex in this volume is maybe about 7:1. So there's still plenty here if you want your storytime.

Josh, pianist extraordinare and only surviving heir of an important family, falls for some random at the bar who turns out to be a werewolf named Coyote, though Josh calls him Lili (and Coyote calls Josh Marleen). Coyote and Josh are on opposite sides (Josh's family versus werewolves), but they don't find that out in this volume until the end. And neither knows yet that the other knows.

The beginning was quite sensationalist: Coyote goes into heat one night, so, since he won't have sex with Josh at first, Josh calls up the local hermaphrodite whore because that's just what one does. While Coyote has sex with the whore, Josh gets in on it, and before you know it Coyote is getting DPed like a champ...maybe - the art wasn't that clear there. Anyway, if you can make it through that scene, the rest of the story is surprisingly good, and, even more surprisingly, well-developed.

It's set to be released October 9. 2018. I don't see a release date for the second volume yet, but I hope the publisher lets me review it before it comes out. I think once the story fleshes out some more, it could get pretty interesting.

Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka

I received my copy of Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1 from the publisher, Viz Media, through Edelweiss+.

Unlike a lot of other readers (on Goodreads, at least), I didn't see the anime series that derived from the Ao Haru Ride manga series.

The series follows a junior high/high school girl, Futaba Yoshioka, who's pretty much finding herself. She doesn't know how to act around boys, but unlike Sawako in Kimi ni Todoke, she doesn't have a paralyzing case of social anxiety disorder. In junior high, she grows to like a boy who, it turns out, liked her back at the time. But it didn't ever work out. He moved away, then (surprise!) he goes to her high school (and his brother teaches there). He changed his name after his parents divorced, but eventually Yoshioka figures out who he is. Having gone through some bad family drama or something, he now acts a lot more standoffish and picks on Yoshioka a little. It's okay because she can take it, albeit, on occasion, through tears. This is a very emotional time in a girl's life you know.

Sure it's another shojo series, but I won't let that stop me. Even though I can't relate to any of the characters personally, I'd like to follow this series to find out what happens. It's a lot easier to get into than some other series are. (I tend to like these school dramas as far as manga is concerned, but I can't really stand to watch the anime for this genre most of the time.)

It'll be on shelves October 2, 2018. Reserve your copy through Amazon!

RIN-NE, Vol. 28 by Rumiko Takahashi

I received my copy of RIN-NE, Vol. 28 from the publisher, Viz Media, through Edelweiss+.

Rinne Rokudo is a teenage shinigami who's very poor and frequently the sort of comedic fall guy of the series. He and Sakura Mamiya, the main female protagonist of the series, are in the same class at school, and she can see spirits. Tsubasa is the other guy who seems always to be in competition with Rokudo, and Renge is the annoying damashigami badgirl. Other characters also pop in now and again. There - you're pretty much caught up. It's a typical Rumiko Takahashi series: while there's not much to it, it's very entertaining.

Having read the first 27 volumes of the RIN-NE series, I can confidently say that this upcoming release is one of the better ones. I especially liked one of the stories involving food delivery through snow. The first story involving some late 90s/early 00s fashion was kinda hilarious as was the Nagara scythe advertisement one.

The copy I received from Viz was unfinished, so I'll be very interested to read through the final version when it's released on November 13, 2018.

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt is the second of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I have mixed feelings about this installment:

The Good
The story develops well. Any slackening of pace, other than toward the end, had to do with my having put the book down for almost a month before finishing the last 160 pages.

Rand's reluctance to accept his destiny gets old after a while. But I get it: it's a big deal. This is an epic fantasy series. We're supposed to accept the gravity of the situation the same way we accept 500 unnecessary (but also necessary) pages.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much Jordan summarized the two big fights toward the end. I mean, I like reading. But not that much. That was a great touch. And I'm sure it has nothing to do with his editor who doesn't know how to do their job.

It's turning into an interesting series. I hope it stays interesting. I've heard that it doesn't.

The Not-So-Good
My biggest problem with The Great Hunt is that I found the character development to be pretty unrealistic, especially with respect to some of the NPCs.

Mat went from that annoying friend who borrows money too often to that friend whose car broke down and now he refuses to get it fixed. Oh, but he'll still poke his business where it doesn't belong, and he'll give you his opinion at every possible chance. Ok, he's probably not that bad, but it's fun to think about.

Nynaeve went from 25 to 65 in a residential zone and should be cited accordingly. Really, she was so plain in the first book and then Moiraine told her that she had some abilities. And suddenly she's capable? Not only that; she's pretty badass? It seemed too sudden - like it came out of nowhere. (I can hardly believe that I'm saying anything in this book happened too suddenly, but there it is.)

Min is a no-go for me. Put her away. She develops a crush on Rand suddenly at the end? What's that about? Just because of the color of his aura, I guess? Maybe it's because I put the book down for a while, but I just didn't get it. Maybe it'll flesh out later or maybe she'll just go away. I'm hoping it's the latter.

I do want to read the next one, but I know it's going to take me a while to get through. I'm getting better though! The Eye of the World took me eleven months (lol) and The Great Hunt took me 46 days, which included a three week break. But I have too much to read on my plate right now, so I'll have to put the third book off for a while.