Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Drug & Drop V1 (Manga)

Drug & Drop V1 by CLAMP

I went through my manga phase about 6 years ago, and among my favorites (in fact, I'd say my absolute favorite) was Legal Drug, a CLAMP Manga published by the now defunct Tokyo Pop, that, unfortunately, stopped before it was finished as the creators concentrated on other projects.  It languished for years, and while I was able to read one or two issues that weren't released in the US online, it just wasn't the same.  I figured it was my curse come into another medium (the curse that dictates any TV show I really love will be canceled before it is finished -- if the show is very popular and I stop watching, it might wobble, suffer scheduling changes, drift around, and generally have problems, but it might survive.  Most do not.  That's a different post.)

However, at long last the manga continues.  I've awaited this issue of the new version for months and I devoured it upon arrival in my mailbox.

I haven't quite figured out why I enjoy this particular story so much.  Yes, pretty, pretty boys and lots of suggested homoeroticism (yaoi goodness) but that isn't really the big point of reading these.  The art is beautiful, as is usual with a CLAMP title, but I've resisted a lot of their more popular stories.  I just like this one -- the mystery of the story, the tiny drops of information, the "saying things without saying things", the resistance the characters have to the ties that bind them together -- that's got me snagged.  I've sampled a lot of manga that just didn't catch me like this one has.

I'm excited that another edition of the story will be showing up in May (yes, I pre-order) and I have high hopes that CLAMP will give this story the full execution and proper ending it deserves.  If they could haul Tokyo Babylon to its end (a title I didn't enjoy nearly as much and, in fact, found pretty frustrating), certainly they can do it with this much superior story.

This title also fulfills three of the Book Riot challenges I took:

  •  a book that takes place in Asia
  •  a book originally written in a different language
  •  a graphic novel/comic collection.

My copies of Legal Drug are in storage, but I just found an Omnibus ebook edition which I will pick up so I can re-read the original story without digging through boxes.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Review: The Year of Reading Dangerously

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

My first book of 2015 was a book about books.  I have several such books in my library now.  The "book about books" is becoming a favorite genre of mine.

This is also an autobiography of sorts, since the author includes all manner of detail about his life, his past, and his imagined future, since books are tightly entwined with his life -- much the way books are entwined in the life of any enthusiastic reader.  The books we read shape us, and our lives shape our experience and memory of the books.

The first book Miller records reading is one with which I am familiar: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.  He seems to be as fascinated and confused as I was (and still am) about this Russian classic, not quite getting all the jokes and pokes but getting something from it nevertheless.  Miller spares us deep, insightful analysis of what he reads and instead gifts us with something a bit more concrete -- how what he reads, and the very act of reading, affects his life. I found myself identifying quite a bit with Mr. Miller, especially with the difficulties he faced in just managing to read, to keep his mind concentrated, to find time, and to avoid all the many distractions available.  Like I am attempting, he kept for a while a blog about his reading, but he found that keeping up with the blog was detracting from his reading, even preventing him from fully grasping the book. (I don't think I'll have this problem, as my whole purpose in keeping a blog is mostly to talk to myself while allowing other people a peek into my head and a chance to converse if so moved.)

He also spends some time discussing and dealing with the huge "library" that is the Internet, and everything that is available via means legal and illegal.  I had one takeaway quote that I think is worth remembering and perhaps making into a quote poster:

The Internet is the greatest library in the universe: unfortunately someone has removed all the "no talking" signs.

If there is a single biggest block to my reading, it would be the Internet.  However, I'm trying to use it to make myself read.  I'm making myself publicly accountable and even getting friends interested and involved in my reading.  A sprinkling of guilt might be the encouragement I need to keep this up.

As is true of any book about books, Miller includes book lists.  Three, in fact, listing books he read, books that have influenced him, and books he intends to read.  I'll say that I find him hugely ambitious, but he has given me a reason to attempt some Tolstoy, among other members of the Great Western Canon..  War and Peace might one day sneak onto my reading list, although I'm holding out against Moby Dick.

CHALLENGE MET: Read A biography/autobiography by someone I don't know

Monday, January 05, 2015

Will You Take the Challenge?

Jammies at Curmudgeonette posted about BOOK RIOT on our favorite social media network.  I took a look and decided I like the idea of "reading harder".  So, I went through the list of challenges and picked out some I would accept for myself.  My goal is to find books that meet these challenges from among those I have lining those 10 shelves in my office.  So, this year I will read

  • A book written by someone under the age of 25
  • A book written by someone over the age of 65
  • A collection of short stories
  • A book published by an indie press
  • A book that takes place in Asia
  • A book by an author from Africa
  • A book by or about someone from an indigenous culture
  • A microhistory
  • A YA novel
  • An SF novel
  • A Romance novel
  • A National Book Award/Man Booker Prize/Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade (2000-2010)
  • A retelling of a Classic tale
  • A book originally written in a different language
  • A graphic novel or comics collection
  • A guilty pleasure
  • A book published before 1850
  • A book published this year (2015)
  • A self-improvement book
I've added a couple of challenges myself
  • A biography/autobiography by someone I don't know
  • A book by or about an LGBTQ person
  • A book by a person of color
  • A book with a person of color as the main character
Some of the books I read I think will fall under more than one challenge. 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Purely Wishful Thinking

I do have a lot of books.  A lot of this is because, yes, I just love books and I see all kinds of books I want to read.  The last 3 or 4 years, though, due to The Crazy, reading has been well nigh impossible.  In part it is because I now need glasses to read comfortably (depending on the book -- typeface makes all the difference) and in part it is because my brain won't settle down to the activity of reading.  Each year I'd make promises to read books and each year it would be just too hard to read much.

I think I'm over that now, or I am at least relearning how to read.  Plenty of distractions exist, of course, and I'm not out of the woods as far as being easily distractible, but I'm working on it.

I've finished sorting and shelving books now.  I'm down to the bottom two shelves which are, frankly, books I'm not likely to read this year, but I could very easily pull one out and read it (in fact, there are 5 down there I MUST pull out and read because they aren't mine, but so far...)  Reading is, in fact, something of a mood influenced activity for me.  I can intend to read a particular book all I want, but if my brain, my mood, my energy level, my chakras, my stars, and my aura aren't all lined up properly, it won't work.  I will wander off.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Yet More Ambitions aka Wishful Thinking

The purging and rearranging of the shelves continues because it's still raining outside and I slept much too late, so I have limited ambitions.

This shelf -- shelf #3 -- is of books that, yeah, sure, I do want to read them but this year looks dodgy.  Of course, I MIGHT read a couple of them.  It's POSSIBLE.  But it isn't likely.  Still, they are on the shelf.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Bigger Ambitions

I'm very ambitious when it comes to reading.  I rarely fulfill my ambitions, but that doesn't mean I don't feel the possibilities.  Since I'm scouring and cleaning and organizing my shelves this week, I am thinking about all the reading I'd like to do.  I've set up a shelf of books I am determined to read this year.

But I have so many, many, MANY books...and so I created a shelf of books I'd  like to read this year, if I get a chance.  You know, because it's not impossible to read  a lot of books in a year if I just put my mind to it and all.

Really, I feel as if I am relearning how to read -- not the letters and the words, but the actual technique of setting aside time and attention to open a book and read.  Something I did compulsively for much of my life became very difficult in the last few years, and it's as if I have to retrain myself how to do it.

Like I said, I'm ambitious.

Movie Experience: Into the Woods

I haven't seen the stage production.  In fact, I was barely aware of it, as I stopped really being aware of stage musicals  in about 1985 when I no longer was involved in theatre.   I walked in without much information or many preconceptions, knowing only that Meryl Streep was in it and I had earplugs to keep the sound system from deafening me.

I don't think I'm spoiling the plot for this 30 year old play if I say it shakes up and examines many themes while interweaving and deconstructing traditional "fairy tales" -- Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and innumerable stories about childless couples willing to do anything to have a baby. Deconstructing? unraveling.  Every happy ending falls apart once we get past the "end" of the story.  Characters die, disaster strikes, true love falls apart, and no one really gets what they wished for.

In short, I cried a lot, quietly and unexpectedly, as Sondheim's music and Rob Marshall's unrelenting closeups tapdanced across my emotional buttons in the most graceful way.  This being a Disney production, some of the creepier and darker stuff (I'm looking at you, Big Bad Wolf, and I've studied these old tales, so I know what the story is really about) is off screen.  That didn't make it any less painful, because, really, the pain of death isn't with the dead, but with the living who must continue.  That was the wrenching part for me -- those who have to continue.

The Husband was also crying, which isn't typical for him (I weep my way through many a movie that doesn't bother him at all).  In fact, he continued crying even after we walked back to the car, and we were both laughing at the same time because he was crying.  It was quite the catharsis.

All that said, I'm not sure I liked the movie. It had a few chuckles and one big (uncertain) laugh with the song "Agony".  We had a small crowd to watch the movie and when the song started, with the two princes hamming it up exuberantly, no one was quite sure if we should laugh.  I couldn't help myself and burst out.  But that was really the only laugh.  The rest was much more grim.  The film was beautiful, the acting spot on, the singing remarkably good (I had no idea Chris Pine had those pipes, much less Meryl Streep, although I am convinced she can do anything.)  The Husband and I cannot make up our minds if we would want to watch this one again, despite the beautiful music.  I didn't exactly enjoy the experience, although I doubt I will forget it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Reading Ambition Shelf

I've spent today sorting and moving books and putting together a single shelf with the books I hope to read in the coming year.  

More books

I'm still combing through my shelves and picking out books to read.  I found more Books with a Marker in them.  I am really _terrible_ about starting a book and then starting another book and then another book...yet not going back to finish!  So, to expand the list...

Batman and Psychology by Travis Langley.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (the spider-thingies at the beginning just skeeved me right out)
Thin Air (Weather Warden books) by Rachel Caine
Small Favor (Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher (I really need to catch up on this series, and now enough books are out that I won't have to wait!)

And I found another book to add to the New Books list as well.
Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe
On Ugliness, edited by Umberto Eco

So, I may be curling up with a book tonight!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Annual Book Post for 2014

This wasn't a great year for reading -- at least, not for me to be reading.  I did a lot of listening because I am addicted to audiobooks now.  I was also not very good about recording my books, mostly because my current book journal requires a bit too much information for each book.  I have a new one now that requires a little less, so perhaps I will record a little more.

I did manage to read a little bit, and I have plans for next year.  Here are the lists.

Read in 2014

Etiquette and Espionage: Finishing School Book 1 -- Gail Carriger
YA steampunk.  Audiobook. Fun, easy, entertaining, light. I haven't finished the series yet -- not quite so compelling as to make me anxious to see what happens next.

Below Stairs -- Margaret Powell
Memoir.  Interesting glimpse into the life of a domestic servant in early 20th century England.  For an Anglophile like me, it shows the underpinnings of so many dramas and romances.

God Save the Queen: The Immortal Empire book 1 -- Kate Locke
Steampunk:  I started this on audio but switched to print.  It's better in print for me.  Two more in the series I intend to read.  The humor is edgy, the adventure and mystery interesting, and it takes  a new (to me at least) approach to vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal critters.

Alex Veras novels -- Benedict Jacka
Detective fantasy.  Audiobook.  In the style of The Dresden Files and a dozen others, this one also plays around with an interesting magic system and a less than all powerful protagonist.  I'm going through the series.  Lots of fun with alternate London.  I'm halfway through book 3.

The Iron Druid Chronicles  -- Kevin Hearne

Urban/Modern fantasy.  There isn't much else as cool as 2100 year old druid who talks to his dog -- who talks back.  Oh, and gods,  And vampires.  And witches.  And werewolves.  And snarky humor, tight action/fight scenes, and levels of character development to keep geeks like me talking for hours. It isn't often that someone plays with pantheons like this.  The story threads are laid in well, and items from the early books reappear so that what you think is either a loose thread or a settled issue gets all new and shiny later on.  I am engrossed. Book 8 can't show up soon enough, and I've also downloaded/bought the short stories to tide me other.

I both read this and listened to it (the audiobooks are pretty good).  In fact, I've listened to them at least 4 times now.

A Natural History of Dragons -- Marie Brennan
Historic Fantasy.  Although I wasn't exactly entranced with this book, I did enjoy most of it.  It is full of the tropes that I like best -- young woman who is "different" from her society's expectations, Victorian trappings, a touch of romance, and "science" with dragons.  I actually stopped reading the book for a while just a couple of chapters from the ending, because things were starting to get a little predictable, but I finished it up and I will probably get the next book (yes, it's a series.  Isn't everything anymore?)

False Colours - Georgette Heyer
Historical/Regency Romance.  Humorous Heyer.  I read it years ago and got it in audiobook this year.  Twin brothers create havoc when one disappears before his engagement is announced and the other takes his place to save everyone from embarrassment, only to fall in love with his brother's intended.

The Masqueraders -- Georgette Heyer
Historical Romance.  I read this one years and years ago.  I barely remembered it.   This is an early Heyer and features one of the best Magnificent Bastard characters I've run into.

Faro's Daughter -- Georgette Heyer
Historical Romance.  Audio book. This one is set in the pre-Regency era and features settings in the elegant gambling houses run by women.  Not my favorite Heyer and I have not read it before, but good enough, even if the female lead irritates me a bit.

Powder and Patch -- Georgette Heyer
Historical Romance.  Audio book.  Another early Heyer, set in the 18th century, with lots of delicious details about the "education" of a gentleman of the period.  I read it, too.

Ancillary Justice -- Anne Leckie
Science Fiction.  Easily the best book I read this year (despite my Iron Druid obsession).  Certainly the one that made me think the most.  If I start talking about it, I'll go on for pages.

Hard Magic: The Grimnoir Chronicles -- Larry Correia
Dieselpunk.  Audiobook.  I'm going to continue this series in print because it was just a bit too intense for me to be captive to someone else's reading pace.  Hardboiled, pulpy feeling with lots of darkness. Kept surprising me.

What Matters in Jane Austen -- John Mullan
Nonfiction.  Audiobook.  I'm all about Jane Austen and this book deals in some of the "questions" that readers have voiced about the novels.  If you aren't into Austen, it wouldn't be much fun, but I enjoyed it.  I'll probably listen to it again.

Lady of Devices -- Shelly Adina
YA Steampunk. Audiobook.  Part of a series that my husband enjoyed but that didn't thrill me very much.  Cute, but just not engaging.  Great title, though.

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory -- Peter Barry

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry -- Jon Ronson

A Reader's Book of Days -- Tom Nissley
Nonfiction.  A book about books and things book related.  Lots of fun.

To Read 2015

Books I've parked a marker in

Boneshaker -- Cherie Priest
Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal -- Ben Macintyre
Excession -- Iain M. Banks
The Mermaid's Madness -- Jim C. Hines
Pale Fire -- Vladimir Nabokov
The Red Plague Affair -- Lilith Saintcrow
A Very Private Gentleman -- Martin Booth
Moonshine -- Rob Thurman
Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do -- Meredith Maran
The Speed of Dark -- Elizabeth Moon
Sandman Slim -- Richard Kadrey

New Books

The Year of Reading Dangerously -- Andy Miller
Ancillary Sword -- Anne Leckie
The Inheritance Trilogy -- N.K. Jemisin
Hild -- Nicola Griffith
Celtic Myths and Legends -- Peter Berresford Ellis
Ex-friends -- Norman Podhoretz
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error -- Kathryn Schulz
Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects -- Neil MacGregor
Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better -- Clive Thompson

Long TIme Gone

Yeah, I haven't thought to post here for over a year.  I've talked plenty -- G+ and Ello are my favorite hangouts -- and so many times I've thought "Gee, I should just delete the damn thing." I hate leaving stuff lying around.

So, here's to 2015 and blogging again.  I will likely being changing the look of things and I'll be concentrating on books rather than my usual whining and cat pictures (I have social media for those).

Mostly, though, it was because, in the Christmas card Michael Guy sent me, he wrote at the bottom that he missed my blog.  This place, and earlier versions of it, did center my life for many, many years.  I met people, made friends, dealt with my shit, and had a pretty good time.

I'll see what I can do to wake it up and see if the motor still runs.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Doing the Impossible Today

Here's the thing.  As the inimitable  has pointed out many times, *people who do evil things do not tend to think of themselves as evil.*  They have a frame of reference informing their actions that says they are enacting revenge, or meting out deserved punishment, or enacting the will of a higher being, or serving their religion/people/country, or otherwise performing a service in the name of something that is to them worthy.

While they might on some level understand that the killing and maiming of people is an evil act, it can be rationalized -- it's war, it's destroying evildoers, it's following orders, it's duty -- it's something that makes the evil act something that can be done.  Anyone is capable of doing evil, given the right situation and the right set of rationalizations. This has been demonstrated in plenty throughout history, in the laboratory, and outside of it.  It isn't a mystery, an enigma, a strange thing.  

It's pretty damned common.

That isn't what bothers me.  That isn't the thing.  The thing is that, when we are the victims of someone else's evil act, so many people immediately start wanting to encourage similar evil acts in revenge.  They suddenly have justification, and yet they do not see their desires as being evil.  And that begets more evil acts, which in turn beget yet other evil acts.  Each action spreads out ripples that affect others without end.  It just keeps going and going and going.

Ghandi said "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."  We are just increasing the blindness when we seek revenge, when we want retribution.    When we hurt and we want to make others hurt, we are not healing anything.  We spread the pain, and that pain will eventually ripple back to us and hurt us again. And hurting others because we hurt might give us a momentary satisfaction, but it doesn't restore lost lives and lost limbs.  It doesn't restore lost faith and lost innocence.  It just increases the loss.

It's hard to hate the sin and love the sinner, as Ghandi also said.  Sometimes it's well nigh impossible.  It's hard sometimes to separate justice from revenge.  It's hard not to be ruled and overruled by anger and hatred.  But Anger and Hatred sets the bombs, kills the bombers, directs the drones,  inspires new bombers, kills new victims.  It ceases to be about the first cause, the first thrown stone, the first death, the first place to lay the blame.  It becomes about the last cause, the stone tossed down, the life saved,  the forgiveness given.

It is not easy.  Not easy at all.  Maybe it's impossible.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Changes and Changes and Changes

It's been an interesting few weeks around here.

First, some weeks ago Amazon and Goodreads -- my long loved book-sharing social site -- got into bed with each other.  Now, Amazon, in my opinion, is one icky boyfriend.  So, after some thought and conversation, I picked up all my data and moved it over to LibraryThing.  LibraryThing ain't Goodreads (and Goodreads ain't LibraryThing -- apples and oranges, friend,  sharing only that they are both fruit). and it's been something of an adjustment.  It also means all my reviews on this blog no longer exist and I have to do some housecleaning.

Housecleaning has NOT been a top priority of recent days, so, it's not done yet.  I'll get to it eventually.

Second, I'm busy trying to make some writing things happen.  Theoretically, I should have two stories coming out in digital publications this month and next month.  I'm also working on a self publishing project with an excellent artist, +Juan Ochoa , who just wows me with his artwork but who's been hitting one roadblock after another.  So I'm trying to be involved and encouraging without being a pain or a stressor.  I'm excited it is happening at all.

Third, my brain and I are going through spring malaise.  My sleep schedule is totally screwed -- I slept 14 hours last night, around the clock and thensome, and I could go right back to bed now.  But the night before, I had the worst time getting to sleep.  So, it's screwing with everything else.  I have to get that in control.  Brain is resisting any attempts to do work.  When I bear down and make it happen, it's half-assed and exhausting.  Bleah.  I blame spring.  Spring is lovely, but next to summer it's my least favorite season.  I keep best at temps between 60 and 75 degrees fahrenheit.  Also, pollen.  The Husband says that I've started snoring to equal his own nocturnal symphony.  This does not thrill me, as it indicates breathing problems and other nastiness.  What's funny is that I'm sleeping so deeply that I don't wake myself up.  In the past, my own snoring has awakened me.

But I'm feeling reasonably brighter today than I have most of the week.  It's very humid so the A/C is on, and while it's actually rather lovely outside, I'm staying in.  I haven't taken pills yet today -- it's so late in the day!  but pills must be ingested or disaster occurs.  Also, a little bit of caffeine.  Then some more laundry.  It is taking me forever to catch up the laundry.

So, last of all, I'm thinking novel thoughts -- thoughts about the novel, about the next scene, about where I left off, about what my coach has talked over with me, about actually writing.  That's the boulder I'm rolling up hill these days.  No writing, just thinking.

In news of the strange, however, I had a Mythbusters dream last night -- at least, Adam and Jamie showed up in my dream for some project ot other, and were both thoroughly  nice guys.  No drama, just an interesting dream.  Oh, and I got something in my dream eye that Jamie helped me get out.  It was just one among many, many dreams, but celebrity dream visitations are always worth a mention.