meganbmoore: (too many books)
I want to say I'll be better at doing this more regularly this year, but realistically, probably not.

What are you currently reading

Chronicles of the Grim Peddler by Lee Jeong-A. A fairy tale manhwa about a peddler ( and his shapechanging cat) who goes around setting up fairy tales. It's one of those series that thinks Disney really, really got it wrong when they started adapting fairy tales, and makes up for it by going as far in the other direction as it can, though sometimes they end up nicer and cuter while things are getting even more messed up. I mean, it doesn't reach the "OMG WHAT" levels of that one Kaori Yuki series, but I can't fault it for trying. I'm not invested because I'm only mildly interested in the peddler and a little more so in his cat, but am not attached to either, and there aren't any other regular characters. I like it, though.

What did you recently finish reading?

Maia Chance: Snow White Red-Handed & Cinderella Six Feet Under. The first two books in a fairy tale-themed mystery series. Ophelia and Prue are Victorian-era actresses who con their way (well, Ophelia does most of the conning) into become servants to a rich family when out of work and unable to pay their boat fare. It turns out that the family is a set of rather unpleasant fairy tale fanatics who think they've found Snow White's cottage, and hopefully a gold mine to go with it. Both book feature Prue getting targetted by the fairy tale fanatics because of her fairy tale princess looks, and Ophelia running around (with her obligatory rich English love interest) trying to solve murder and rescue Prue from whatever mess she's in at the time, while Prue just tries really really hard not to end up dead or in jail. It's certainly a little bit different for the "cozy mystery" genre, and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Mark Waid & Terry Dodson: Princess Leia 1-5. This miniseries takes place literally as A New Hope ends, and focuses primarily on Leia dealing with losing Alderaan (something the movie itself spent one whole shout on), and her trying to save the remaining citizens of Alderaan who are scattered on other planets when Palpatine issues an extermination order, accompanied by Evaan, another woman from Alderaan who joined the Rebellion. I do feel that Waid touched on the idea of soceity expecting women to display certain emotions and only cope with grief a certain way, and then judge them when they don't, but he largely limited it to people labelling her an ice princess for not being visibly sad enough, instead of running with the theme. Like the other tie in books I've read the last few months dealing with the OT (specifically Moving Target and Shattered Empire) a lot of this seems to be rightly thinking that Leia really needed more women to interact with, and so it has her almost exclusively interact with other women. This probably displaced Shattered Empire as my favorite of the recent tie ins, but I do have plenty left to go.

Victoria Thompson: Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue. Book-whatever in Thompson's long running mystery series set in later 19th century New York. This book is best summed up as The Sidekicks Show, as the main characters are away. Maeve, teenaged nursemaid to Sarah Brandt's daughter and former conartist, decides to help a woman whose daughter may have been falsely accused of murdering her husband. Along the way she recruits Frank's sidekick/her own semi-love interest, Gino, and Sarah's parents to help, and decides that Frank is opening a detective agency when he gets back. At one point, Sarah's extremely proper and very busy businessman father ends up volunteering to play bodyguard for the teenaged nursemaid, and doesn't seem entirely certain how that happened. I mostly really loved this book. "Mostly" because sometimes hompson tends to have issues with making beautiful women who aren't Sarah or her mother be manipulative and unpleasant. It doesn't happen in all or even the majority of the books (I think this is the 4th time that it's been a plot point in almost 20 books), but has happened often enough that I sigh when the books start talking about another woman's incredibly beauty.

Nakamura Yoshiki: Skip Beat Vol 31-35

spoilers )

GoHands and GoRa: K: Countdown Chapters 1-8. A bunch of one shots about the K character set between Missing Kings and Return of Kings. I enjoyed the chapters about the various characters getting used to their current lives a lot more than the ones directly building up to Return of Kings.

Clamp: Gate 7 Vol 1-4. A very, very Clamp series about a slightly highstrung boy who is somehow SPECIAL running into warriors who are reincarnations of historical figures involved in the Battle of Sekigahara. No one has a jaw-droppingly angsty and dramatic past yet and no one has lost an eye, but the most Clamp aspect of the series is that it was put on indefitie hiatus just as things were really kicking into high gear. It's fun if you like Clamp (I do) but doesn't have a lot going on that sets it apart from other Clamp series. The most mindbendy thing it has going for it is that it has a charcter named Sakura who is a very tall and strapping and apparently promiscuous young man. Clamp has a lot of characters named Sakura, but all the others are sweet girls with short brown hair who satisfy Clamp's cosplay needs. It was quite jarring.

Django Wexler: The Forbidden Library & The Mad Apprentice. The First two books about a girl named Alice who goes to live with a relative after her father's death, only to learn that the relative-and now, she-is a magician. Which is a fairly standard setup, but in this case, the magicians have labyrinthine libraries, and go into books to make the monsters in them their familiars. There are also talking cats that are both petulant and snarky, and Alice have a Revenge Quest going over her father's death. Not the most amazing thing ever, but fun.

What do you think you'll read next?

The rest of Chronicles of the Grim Peddler and Homefires by Julie Summers. I'm also waiting for the library to get more Star Wars comics in for me.
meganbmoore: (lucy loves this book)
Some things I've read recently-ish but keep forgetting to post on:


Blank Slate Vol 1-2 (complete series): This is a short series by Aya Kanno, the creator of Otomen, and it's about an amnesiac, sociopathic, evil assassin. In one of the sidebars, Kanno said she set out to do a series about a villain and, well, did. It's an interesting experiment, but it's too short to develop the characterization it needs to really work and still have the plot it wants, and the plot isn't strong enough to pull it off without strong characterization. The most impressive thing about it is the amazement at it coming from the same brain as the adorable genderbending fluff that is Otomen.

Vol 16-19 (end of series): This remains one of the most beautifully illustrated manga I've read (despite Clamp's refusal to actually give people bones) but I was never able to recover interest in it after the change in status quo that took place a little bit before these volumes. Strangely, I recall spending a fair bit of the early volumes wishing the series focused less on the individual customers and more on the meta plot, and then these final volumes were mostly about the metaplot, but that had changed to something that interested me significantly less by then. (And I half-think that one day Clamp just decided the next chapter would be the last, and it was.) Still, I remain fond of the series, and would be so regardless simply because it was my gateway drug into Clamp.

Wallflower Vol 22-27: I...cannot believe I've read 27 volumes of a manga in which there is only the merest hint of an ongoing plot and character growth and relationship evolution both move at a snail's pace, and where the timeline is actually on repeat. Yet, I do not regret it at all. (Well, I could do with unreading some chapters along the way, but that's true of most things that last a while.) I generally enjoy the chapters with Sunako's aunt and/or Noi-chan and the ones where random supernatural things may or may not appear (particularly possessions) best, and the ones where people try to force conformity least. (Though those always end up going terribly for the ones trying to force conformity.) But this series never fails to make me laugh a lot, even if the laughter is sometimes of the more horrified "what--..." variety. When/If this series ever ends (though for all I know, it actually has in Japan) I hope Hayakawa actually has a final arc that resolves things instead of just stopping.


A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin: Rambling, repetitive, boring. I'm not entirely sure how much is taste changing/GRRM either not caring or needing a firmer guiding hand, and how much had to do with it mostly being about plots/characters I'm either disinterested in or outright dislike, and adding a lot of POVs that weren't needed, but I feel this book would have been far more effective at about 1/4 the length. I also simply outright disliked most plot "twists," and can't help but feel that GRRM was developing it to not follow fandom expectations, as opposed to writing what he had always planned to write. It just frequently felt random and "HA HA GOTCHA!" Like, I almost think he'll make Robert be Jon's father just because everyone thinks it's Rhaegar. (Yes, I joke about how hair color makes it a valid theory but I am largely joking because GRRM has used hair color for major paterinty-centric plot developments before. Though I actually have accidentally predicted paternity reveals based on hair color and style more than once, and I think I did once write out a fanwank for how it could work based on the Arthurian themes in Jon's plot, but I've forgotten half of that now. But I digress.) I...will probably skim future books (should they ever come out...I'm not sure he's interested in writing this anymore) to see what happens with Dany, Sansa and Brienne, but this book pretty effectively killed my interest in the property as a whole.

The Mortal Bone by Marjorie M. Liu: Actually, my feelings for this one are very positive but I kept not thinking of anything to say about it that wasn't spoilery from the first word. (Well, aside from the fact that similarities to Top Cow's The Darkness seemed to increase some.) In other series, I'd be a bit leery of some of the plot developments, but as Liu has avoided the plot elements associated with the elements that would usually make me leery so far, I'm largely anticipating them instead.

Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard: Yet another case of my suffering Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to awful, trainwrecky YA. I don't think I'll be complaining as much about the guys and romances in the TV series when I get back to it because what I've seen of the series is way way better on that front. Actually, I'm kind of amazed that the TV series has mostly positive relationships between women because pretty much every female/female relationship in the books is negative at some point, and ends up tense at best, and I think Jenna is the only character I liked. (I suppose this is how some people feels about the Vampire Diaries books, except unlike the VD books, the PLL books can't claim to be 1001% better when it comes to rape culture and violence against women, and way more comfortable with female sexuality. Whereas the PLL books are way way worse than the show when it comes to those factors.) I do think the resolution ofthe "who killed Ali?" plot rightly captured the feel of the 90s YA mystery ala Christopher Pike that it wanted, but while I think Shepard knew how she was going to resolv "Who killed Ali?" I think she was making up how she got there as she went along. And I'm not sure I've read anything else where in 8 books I don't think any of the main characters made a single smart decision. And I don't mean "are uninformed when making the choices" or "believe they're acting on information from a source they think they can trust" but always act on the bad information of someone they know is out to get them and who has tricked/hurt them before.

The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf: A largely interesting Arthuriana set in post-Roman Britain and heavy on the politics and much more focused on Arthur than most Arthuriana I've read, it succeeded in making Arthur more interesting than most versions are for me (a lot of that, I think, had to do with the fact that it was written that most of Arthur's good traits and the aspects of his personality that made him a strong leader came from Ygraine. I actually think the Camelot series was trying to do this with Arthur's more douchy moments being attributed to acting like his father and his better moments being when he was showing more of Ygraine and her influence. The show was just terrible.) and Arthur and Lancelot (in his earlier incarnation as Bedwyr) more likable than usual for me until around the page 200 mark where I abruptly stopped liking both within a few pages of each other (if you read it, you can probably guess what bit for each.) Ultimately, while I found the plot interesting and engaging and liked most aspects of the take (There are some obvious MZB influences, but I didn't feel obnoxiously so, and this is almost purely historical fiction as opposed to fantasy.), Gwenhwyfar (Guenevere) and Mordered were the only characters I found to be particularly sympathetic, and it had 2 of my big pet peeves in modern Arthuriana: Ygraine/Uther is portrayed as True Love, and Morguase and Morgan are not Ygraine's daughters, but her sisters (in Morgan's case, they have different mothers and Morgan is Arthur's age.) For me, making Morguase and/or Morgan not be Ygraine's daughters completely alters some of the most interesting aspects of their roles, but that may be a YMMV thing.

Fate's Edge by Ilona Andrews: A lot better than the second Edge book, but not as good as the Kate Daniels books. I liked the caper plot a lot and liked Audrey and though the adolescent tagalongs and their issues worked well. I...did not dislike the hero, Kaldar, but I think I was supposed to not mind all his chauvinism since he got called on it, but, well, just because you get called on your attitude it doesn't erase the attitude, much less make it charming. I think I remember reading that some fans thought there wasn't enough romance in this one as compared to the others, but I didn't notice the decrease. Actually, I think I may have preferred that it had a bit less focus on the romance than what it had.
meganbmoore: (st trinians: crossdressing)
Kobato is a series that takes Clamp's almost-alarming earnestness that pops up when it's time to talk about Feelings and makes a series about just that, wrapped in a concerningly cute package with cameos of characters from other Clamp series showing up every five pages.

Kobato is an initially-homeless young woman who is on a mission to cure as many "wounded hearts" as she can. Each time she helps someone a bed shows up in her glass bottle, and when the bottle is filled, she gets a wish granted. We don't yet know what the wish is, save that it involves going somewhere. She's aided in her quest by an ill-tempered spirit named Ioryogi who currently inhabits a stuffed dog. Eventually, Kobato gets an apartment and a job working at a kindergarten that's being harassed by Yakuza, and her neighbor, Fujimoto, also works at the kindergarten and works around half a dozen jobs to try to help with the yakuza debt.

I like it and it's entertaining, but I feel like I need a break after every couple of chapters. it's just so earnest about everything. Also, I had a slightly surreal moment when the fortune teller from xxxHolic showed up and gave Ioryogi a bottle of wine, and confirmed Ioryogi's suspicion that she had "seen through" him. "Slightly surreal" of the "I haven't finished xxxHolic yet, what happened to Yuuko? BAD BRAIN!“ variety.

I do hope the plot picks up pace soon though. I don't think it actually is moving slowly for the first few volumes of what's likely intended to be a longer series, but all the earnestness and good intentions make it feel like it is.
meganbmoore: (vd: kill you with my brain)

Over the last few weeks, I have been catching up on the U.S. releases of various manga series that I was following in scans (and largely posted on at the time) before I burned out on scans (as in, one week I was following faithfully and the next I didn’t and haven’t touched them since and have avoided posts on the series from people who were still following them to avoid spoilers. (Given how much of the fiction I consume is foreign, I have become a master at avoiding internet spoilers, unless someone just blurts out “And then the cliff crumbled beneath this character in this series, and s/he fell into the sea and died!”)

Anyway, this mean the last six volumes of Samurai Deeper Kyo (Certain aspects near the end are delightfully reminiscent of self-indulgent fic. This is not a bad thing.) and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (Clamp is so…utterly shameless. I am both impressed and concerned that they actually Went There, and yet…somehow not squicked. Also, Kurogane must be so relieved that his major issues are Dead Parent Angst, a major princess complex, and thwapping his buddies when they start getting too self-sacrificing.) This actually worries me a bit.)*, seven volumes of Full Metal Alchemist (Despite some problems, this is one of the most tightly plotted and better characterized series I’ve read.), two volumes of xxxHolic (That cooking lady plot that seems endless when you’re waiting for a new chapter zips right by in collected form.) and three volumes of Claymore (I still know joy that my fanon of Helen being a grabbing drunk basically became canon.).

Naturally, This mean I am looking for clones and significant eye-and-other-body-parts-but-mostly-eye loss and clones and duplicates and various forms of created beings and zombies and immortals everywhere. Not to mention swords and various kinds of long, flowing hair.

But it looks like xxxHolic, Full Metal Alchemist, and Claymore are all within a few chapters of where I left off, so there will soon be new-to-me stuff!

Meanwhile, a spoiler for Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle‘s ending, that’s also a xxxHolic spoiler.

spoiler )

*Later volumes of SDK and T:RC both have serious cases of “OMG would you just finish that sentence/say what you mean, but mostly just finish that sentence already!” Random observation.
meganbmoore: (Default)
Okimono Kimono is a book by Mokona of the mangaka team Clamp about…well, kimonos. Mokona kicks off the book by explaining that she started to wear kimonos as often as possible about the time they started xxxHolic, which I feel explains much about that book’s style.

The book is mostly pictures and explanations, but is also very detailed, especially regarding patterns and accessorizing. There are a number of kimono patterns designed by Mokona, many based on Clamp’s various series, and I’m pretty sure most of them (or very similar ones) have shown up in xxxHolic. The detail, variety, and thematic explanations are fascinating, but it’s largely an exercise in textile pr0n, and could probably be read in 20 minutes if you aren’t staring at the pretty pretty pictures. I like staring at pretty pretty pictures.

I should mention that there’s a “return to traditional femininity” undertone to a lot of Mokona’s comments that becomes more overt later on, as well as comments about how a kimono all but “forces” gracefulness by its confinements, and I never quite knew how to take that.  I feel like I spent a lot of time going "So pretty pre...what was that about jeans?" or some equivalent.
meganbmoore: (sorata and arashi)

Clamp I have a row of 4 Sakura* plushies glaring at you very very sternly

Spoilers would break your brain if I bothered with many actual plot details-and a poll! )

*Overkill? Probably. But they were so cute and cheap at A-Kon!

meganbmoore: (himawari)
I may have Nisioisin’s name wrong. I’ve seen it several ways, but this is how the footnotes and “about the author” in the book present it.

Anotherholic is three novellas based on the popular manga by Clamp. It relies on only the simplest understanding of the manga’s plot-a high school student named Watanuki sees and is harassed by ghosts, and makes a deal with the dimension witch, Yuuko, that she will eventually free him of this if he works in her shop, which is dedicated to granting wishes for a price, only to find himself frequently involved with her clients and other supernatural events-and contains no spoilers for the manga. Yuuko and Watanuki are the only manga characters to appear in the novellas, though series regulars Doumeki and Himawari are mentioned.

Two of the novellas are pretty normal “customer” plots-a girl who receives text messages from her dead friend every day, at the exact time of day that her friend died, and a woman obsessed with breaking social taboos, to her own detriment-and the third is something of a “why things happen and the nature of this supernatural element” plot. As plots, there good, but Nisioisin tries to mimic the manga’s style and capture the otherworldly feel, rather than writing it his (?) own way. Unfortunately, much of what makes xxxHolic work the way it does is Clamp’s layouts and imagery, and that can’t really be duplicated in prose. Speaking of the art, there are several stunning spreads as chapter pages. Including one of Watanuki in a dramatic, somewhat gothic pose. Holding an eyeball.
meganbmoore: (angstier than you)
This is the Clamp series that seems to be liked even by people who don’t like Clamp. Rather understandable, as I don’t think I’ve read another manga quite like it. I suppose Nabi: The Prototype comes closest, at least in feel.

Set in a cyberpunk world, the government recently had a psychics program that has sense disbanded. The psychics were called “clovers,” and their psychic strength was ranked by clover leaves. When the program fell apart, the low-rank one-and-two-ranked clovers were released into the population, and the others were kept in isolation and cared for by robots.

Kazuhiko, a young, but retired, officer with a mechanical hand is asked by his former commander to escort Sue, the only four-leaf clover, to a place she desires to visit. There’s apparent unrest with neighboring countries, and some skeletons in characters’ closets, but most of the focus is on the characters and their motivations and pasts. The story is told in three parts with a reversed chronology, telling how the various characters came to be where they are, wanting what they want. The most common thread that links them is the feeling of loneliness, and bonding to combat the loneliness, and the most moving relationship is between two characters who are never able to actually meet. (Oh manga, you will never run out of new ways for Important Not Touching, will you?)

Artistically, the linework lies somewhere between Clamp’s early days of giant shoulders, long faces, and big hair, and their more recent, symbolism laden artwork where characters seem to lack bones. The designs, unsurprisingly, are stunning (even if you don’t like Clamp’s actual linework, I don’t think it can be denied that they have some amazing designs) and there’s a heavy emphasis on visually portraying characters as pretty birds trapped in a cage. (And the battle ready robots that guard the clovers are cute anthromorphic animals in old-fashioned clothes.) There’s also a heavy use of white-and sometimes black-space that manages to serve to control the reader’s pace and emphasize certain events, rather than simply coming across as minimalistic art.

There seems to be some disagreement among readers as to whether the series is complete or discontinued. Having read it, I would say that there are various plotlines that could be followed up on, but doing so isn’t necessary, as what there is can be read completely alone, and the emphasis is on how the plot affects the characters, not the plot itself. In fact, each of the three stories could stand independent of the others, despite forming a cohesive whole.

meganbmoore: (2 of a kind)
Yes, i know that there's another chapter or two ofthis out now, but tis is what was at Onemanga when i caught up a week or so ago.

spoilers have identity confusion )
meganbmoore: (himawari)

Brief comment on the xxxHolic/Tsubasa timeline, for those who try to avoid spoilers: the beginning of this volume overlaps with and spoils the last fourth of volume 22 of Tsubasa, and the tail end of the volume hints at a major spoiler for volume 23 or 24 (can’t remember how many chapters further it is) of Tsubasa.

spoilers )
meganbmoore: (SAKURA! SAKURA! SAKURA!)
TRC and xxxHolic, I think, are the two series I’m reading where I pretty much need to reread things a year later. Del Rey’s translators also tend to do a pretty good job of making things a lot clearer than the scanslations, and of explaining things. (Note: Not slamming the scanslators, who don’t do this for a living and have the fandom demanding chapters the second raws are out.)

Of course, these volumes were right in the middle of the 100~ chapters that I read in the space of about a week a while back, which could also contribute to my “it all makes more sense now!”

spoilers )
meganbmoore: (himawari)
I really liked the second volume with more of the short stories and the hints about the boys’ pasts. Though it did make me notice a trend I hadn’t noticed before in Clamp’s works.

spoilerish )

I was much less enchanted with the third volume. I didn’t particularly mind the “pretty guy encounters all-gay boy’s school, everyone falls for him” aspect, though it didn’t interest me, but I’m really not fond of manga’s obsession with forced crossdressing for humor and fanservice. (I mean, I love genderbenders and series where crossdressing is part of the core concept, and am fine with characters who just prefer to crossdress for whatever reason, I’ve just never enjoyed the “boy is humiliated by being forced to dress like a girl and everyone boggles at how pretty he is” thing.) And even though I realize it was one character trying to freak another character out and probably not Clamp’s view on things, Nayuki’s line about how men are horny so if there are no women around, they go for what’s available, but the same isn’t true of women made me grumpy. What, men are always sexual and women are asexual unless there’s a guy around? No matter what context it’s said in, that isn’t exactly something inclined to make e care about a character, which pretty much made that arc wasted on me.

Still, I did enjoy the series and wish there had been more, though I still prefer xxxHolic.

meganbmoore: (chun-hyang)
Kazuhaya Kudo has visions when he touches people or objects, but appears to be homeless. When he collapses in the snow, he’s taken home by Rikuo, who works at Green Drug Pharmacy, and rents a room connected to it. Kazuhaya is hired by Kakei, the owner of the pharmacy, who also has a psychic ability of his own. Kakei sends the boys on supernatural errands, but seems to have a good idea of how they’ll turn out before hand. There’s also Saiga, a man who smokes and wears sunglasses, and seems to have nothing to do but lounge around the pharmacy. Unless Rikuo and Kazuhaya re off on an errand, in which case, he’s pawing Kakei.

I’ve heard that this series is pretty much a proto-xxxHolic and that’s pretty accurate, and I can’t quite separate the two in my head and stop comparing them. I had a hard time forcing myself to stop calling Kakei, Rikuo, Kazuhaya not!Yuuko, not!Doumeki and not!Watanuki. Of the main characters, only Saiga doesn’t seem to be the basis for an xxxHolic character, and he reminds me of Seishiro from Tokyo Babylon and X/1999, in both looks and personality. Only apparently non-evil. It also seems to be the closest thing to straight shounen-ai that Clamp has written. Not including the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures yaoi doujinshi that they started out doing.

This has, I think, a stronger beginning than xxxHolic, but doesn’t have that “something” that makes me love xxxHolic so much. And I’m not referring to Yuuko. Then again, it also took a few volumes for xxxHolic to really take off for me. The art and themes have the same dreamy supernatural quality that xxxHolic has, but not the amazing stark black and whites and negative imaging. I wish I’d checked this one out before having read so much of xxxHolic, so that I’d be able to separate them better in my head, but this is one of several Clamp titles that initially didn’t interest me as much. Of course, the same was true of Magic Knight Rayearth, which I ended up quite fond of.

Also, I am shallow and went “ZOMG! IMPORTANT TATTOOS!” at one point.

Possible Tsubasa; Reservoir Chronicle spoiler. I’m not positive, and I’d have to track it down, but I think Rikuo’s tattoos actually look like Fai’s.

meganbmoore: (sorata and arashi)

I now have full understanding of 'it's not Clamp until someone loses an eye.' )

I understand Clamp put out another half volume or so before dropping the series, but that the material never made it stateside. Are scans still around?
meganbmoore: (sorata and arashi)

Wow. Now I get the common belief that at least part of why Clamp abandoned the series was all the endless destruction of Tokyo. When most series destroy Tokyo (or whatever city) they just blow it up and move on, or it’s already been destroyed. When X/1999 does it, we get multiple, long sequences of districts being destroyed while the guys who did it share ice cream and spare a moment to mourn the fact that they just blew up the ice cream shop, so now they have to go to the other one.

("Tokyo go boom" is kind of one of the basic concepts of the series, so that's not particularly spoilery...)

spoilers )


meganbmoore: (Default)

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