March 21, 2016

Recent Reads

11. Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine
Collects Volume collects Issues #1-5.

I am so loving the graphic novels that women are creating these days, and this one is the best of the lot that I've read recently. It tackles so many issues head on, and with a wonderful sense of humor. Women come in all shapes and sizes and colors and attitudes, and I simply love that this story goes boldly where few comics have gone before.

The premise is that women who are non-compliant in any way, are shipped off planet to a prison on another planet. The tongue in cheek manner in which many issues women face daily is explored is simply brilliant, with shades of The Running Man meets Orange is the New Black. My favorite part are those ad pages that each issue ends with, selling all sorts of things to fix you and make you the "right kind" of woman.

My only complaint is that I'm not totally loving the art, and this one does more world building than character/plot development, but that is a minor nit compared to how much I loved it. This series is labeled M for Mature Content, and I'd recommend it to everyone 17 and older. Rating: 5 stars.

12. Girls Standing on Lawns
Book burb: This clever book contains 40 vintage photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, more than a dozen original paintings by Kalman inspired by the photographs, and brief, lyrical texts by Handler.

Here's the thing, I read and really loved the second book in this collaboration series, but this one did not work for me. Yes, I think there is a sweetness and innocence captured in these anonymous photos, but I did not love Kalman's art as much in this one, and Handler's text did nothing for me whatsoever. Overall this was OK, but I do know there is a third book in the series which I will be checking out. Maybe it's just the freshmen effort that doesn't work for me. Rating: 2 stars.

13. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 2
I am so enjoying this manga series, and am reading them slowly as to make it last. Don't you just love books like that?

Okay, we are in 17th century Japan, and the Shogun is a woman, and the harem is full of beautiful men. How did that happen? If you've read the first volume, you already know that the Redface Pox is wiping out Japanese men at an alarming rate, but then the story picks up 80 years later. What happened during those 80 years? This volume is a prequel to the first, and we rewind the clock 80 years as the current Shogun, Yoshimune, reads the Chronicle of the Dying Day. We meet new characters, and fill in the parts of the story that we've all been wondering about. Beautifully told and illustrated, funny, violent, sad, and tragic. The author wonderfully fleshes out the characters and their life stories, and makes the events that unfold seem believable. I love the real history woven into the story, but am still annoyed with the clunky formal manner of speaking. The translation is jarring, and yet I am fully immersed in this alternate history of Japan. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is Games of Thrones with Samurai.

I recently picked up the next five books in the series, so there will be a binge reading session soon. Rating: 4 stars.

14. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 3
Book blurb: The tale told in the Chronicle of the Dying Day continues as the young female shogun Iemitsu tries desperately to conceive a male heir. But her lover Arikoto seems unable to give her a child, and they must betray their hearts to save their country.

I continue to love this manga series. In this installment, we remember what we all already know, that sometimes life is too good to be true. Our woman shogun and her lover are very much in love, but she has a duty to beget (don't you just love that word?) a heir, or else chaos will ensure. And our shogun is not one to shirk her duties. What happens next and how the story unfolds is such a great read. Rating: 4 stars.

15. Do the Work
This slight book (really an essay) is a swift kick in the butt. If you have a project, any project, and find yourself procrastinating, this little book is a wonderful guide to help you get going. It has wonderful nuggets like, "Start before you're ready." There is nothing totally new in this book, but I found the concise advice and tips very useful, and this quick read is akin to having a personal trainer help give you the push you need to get better at whatever it is that you are trying to do. I have no doubt that I will re-read this as often as needed. Rating: 4 stars.

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