30 June 2010


On Tuesdays I play D&D in the offices of Vertical, Inc., a publisher specializing in translated Japanese fiction and manga. (And yes, I realize that the geek force emanating from that sentence could power a small city.) So I've been lucky enough to discover Chi's Sweet Home, an impossibly kawaii manga about the life and times of a grey tabby kitten, available in English (translated by my fellow adventurer Ed Chavez!) and full color as of yesterday. Either you read that and think, "How could you write a whole comic book about a kitten? Snoozers" or (like me) "HOLY SHIT!!! A comic book about a kitten!!!! SIGN ME UP!!" It's dead adorable, is what I'm saying. And in one of those things about Japan that just makes you cock your head to one side and say "huh," it's actually serialized there in the premiere manga magazine for adult men. Yup. If your dad were Japanese, he'd be reading kitten adventures on the subway.

29 June 2010

Scary stuff, kids!

There comes a time when even the YAP break isn't a far enough retreat from the exigencies of adult reality. Yesterday was such a day: I read two middle-grade ghost stories by the absolute mistress of the genre, Mary Downing Hahn. Started with September's upcoming The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall, which very much echoed The Secret Garden, but with a vengeful spirit bent on murder. And in the dark, I read 2008's All the Lovely Bad Ones, which managed to hit my scare spots--knocking, half-heard whispers, that feeling you sometimes get of a presence where none should be--OK, I'm going to stop that, despite the sunshine. I felt both stories got less frightening once the ghosts manifested in human form, but that's really my only complaint. I remember having the crud scared out of me by Wait Till Helen Comes in my youth, and it warms my heart that the Kids Today (with their Twitter and their Justin Biebers and their I-don't-know-what) still love and consume simple tales of hauntings.

26 June 2010

Well lookit that, a regular update.

And I've been getting up around 9 every day, and I've done an hour of yoga for the past four days. Crazy times, folks, crazy times.

LOVED Angus, etc. So many ways a book can be great: this one's all voice, immediately engaging, funny, and unique. Going to have to read the other nine in the series now. Also, will try to use the term "nuddy-pants" as often as possible.

Been a busy reading week: again with the crazy times, my stack o' to-be-reads is perilously low. (I do have a few Dietrich tomes to read, but besides a biography which I'll probably hit next, I'm waiting till I've watched all the flicks, so's I know what's being talked about.) Snapped up a galley of Julia Wertz's upcoming Drinking at the Movies (from Random House! Good on her!); she's the pen behind the immensely amusing not-quite-a-webcomic The Fart Party--this book's about her recent move to Brooklyn (she's currently in Greenpoint, even). How v., v. timely!

& I read an upcoming book of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates, having never sampled her (except I think she had a tale in the Gaiman-edited Stories). Book's called Sourland, and really? Ehn. She's got a way with a sentence fragment, but if I want to read pages and pages about widowhood, sexual assault, and unbelievable dialogue, I'll read Thomas Hardy and also get long descriptions of the barren moors. Barren moors FTW!

And right now I'm reading the last non-filmy book on my stack (hoping to remedy that with a trip to the library this afternoon), The Radleys, by Matt Haig, whose previous novels The Labrador Pact and The Possession of Mr. Cave garnered great reviews from yours truly. This one's, surprisingly, a vampire novel, albeit about a family of "abstainers," who have rather a more miserable time of it than the Cullens. It touches on a lot of his previous themes, though: he's very interested in the unraveling of familial bonds, particularly the failures of fathers. And he can write, though the exceptionally short chapters in this one take some getting used to.

21 June 2010

Of note, all too briefly.

The single awesomest-sauce book I've read in the past (sigh) six weeks? China Mieville's Kraken, which starts off with the disappearance of a specimen giant squid and unravels (over one momentous page turn) into enough crazily inventive shit for a dozen-novel series. A supervillain condemned to life as a sentient tattoo; a teleporting mage/Star Trek nerd whose spells (unnecessarily) duplicate the look and sound of the Enterprise's transporters; dueling apocalypses, including one hailed by an unexpectedly fearsome ferret cult. Next Tuesday, all!

Other than that, a lot of what I've read recently has been pretty meh. Exceptions: Emily St. John Mandel's Last Night in Montreal, a new biography of Catherine of Siena (my confirmation saint) by Don Brophy, Kevin Cannon's graphic punch-em-up adventure Far Arden, Terry Pratchett's wonderful middle-grade Discworld novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. And I've just started Louise Rennison's "Confessions of Georgia Nicolson" series (first title in a long string of great titles: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging). V. much a teenage Bridget Jones, which I love. To this day (as in the last sentence) I use/overuse Ms. Jones' "v." abbreviation, one of only two lasting effects a book's had on my spelling--the other is using "uhm" instead of "um," from Peter Hedges' What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

I've a summer assignment from my boyfriend (you'd think this would be a long story, but I just asked) wherein I'm to write a 15-page paper on a film subgenre of my choice; I've chosen the seven films Marlene Dietrich made with Josef von Sternberg in the early 30s. This will mostly entail, you know, watching the movies, but I'm also doing some reading on the subject (so far, Carole Zucker's just-OK The Idea of the Image), interesting so far mostly because I've read very little film criticism, and considerations like length of shot and lighting rarely enter into my thinking. And isn't world-expanding what a good relationship is all about?

Two disappointing reads I'd like to mention. First, this year's Nebula winner The Wind-up Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. There was some good stuff in there, like the titular genetically engineered disposable person, Emiko, who moves like she's always in a strobe light so she can't pass for a "real" human being; and the similarly lab-created "cheshires," chameleon cats who've surplanted their less changeable counterparts. But all the OMG GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD WILL DESTROY THE WORLD (& ALSO IMPERIALISM BOO!) felt woefully on-the-nose, particularly in the dialogue. Maybe I just find political sci-fi boring?

And last night I finished Patrick Ness's YA-dystopic (I know, I should have loved it, right?) The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I've been meaning to read for ages. It had, again, a great setup, the coming of age of a boy on a planet where the thoughts of men can be heard by all and animals (including his totally adorable dog) talk, though they talk like animals, mostly concerned with food and safety. But there are too many chase scenes, and too many BELIEVE IN YOURSELF speeches, and (mouse over for big ol' spoiler). Too, it's the first of a trilogy, and it ends with no closure whatsoever, just a giant cliffhanger--I think there's more to the writing of sequential novels than chopping up one big story into several books. Each entry in the series should have some satisfaction in itself. (Yeah, maybe I'm a hypocrite because I just found the equally NO WHAT HAPPENS ending of Connie Willis' Blackout more exciting than maddening. But I love Connie Willis, so there.)
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