May 9, 2016

Recent Reads

46. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 10
The second to last volume of this magnificent manga series made me so dang angry and oh so sad. If you are a fan of happily-ever-after stories, or stories in which life is fair, look elsewhere.

What is it about human nature that always, and I mean always, looks for a scapegoat when things do not go well? When beset by famine or earthquakes do people think, or well that is just nature being nature? Clearly not. The gods must be displeased with something, and miraculously there is always a person or groups of people clearly responsible. Sigh.

Several plot lines reach their logical, if undesirable conclusions, and I literally could not put this book down until I was done. Powerful women are no longer a new concept, but the fact that there are men who actually think about something other than power makes for a refreshing change. Who knew that men had brains? (Smile). There are always early adopters and laggards to any new technology and change, and that is true in the Inner Chambers as well. And that ending? Holy moly! Rating: 5 stars.

47. Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 11
This is the final volume in the fabulous Ooku manga series, and the story closes with a bang. The last two volumes start with a much needed cast of characters and family tree diagram, which help the reader navigate this epic story. There is almost nothing I can say about this volume that would not be a spoiler for those who have not read the last book, so all I'll say is that in this volume we get the back story of our first real psychopath - Tokugawa Harusada, and I for one am really glad her eyes did not alight on me for any reason.

This wonderful manga series is the best of the comic genre - wonderfully and intricately plotted with fully fleshed out characters, set in an alternative historical setting in Edo, Japan. The story is set roughly over a 150 year span, and generations and Shoguns rise and fall over that time frame.

I am lucky enough to have come to this series after all the books were published, so got to enjoy reading them one after the other. However, the final pages of this book seems to have left open the possibility of future installments, and I for one would be delighted. Pretty please Ms. Fumi Yoshinaga? Rating: 5 stars.

48. Aama, Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust
Book blurb: In the distant future, Verloc Nim wakes up in the middle of nowhere suffering from complete amnesia. He remembers nothing of his former life. But when Verloc is handed his diary by a robot-ape called Churchill, he is able to revisit his past.

This sci-fi graphic novel, the first in the Aama series, is a bit perplexing for me. I liked some of the ideas in the book - who could not love Churchill, and where can I get one of my very own? - but, overall this book felt like a barely remembered dream. Maybe that was the point, but I was not along for the ride. The art is not to my taste, but the coloring is really well done. Still, I'm intrigued enough with the premise that I've got the rest of the series on request from my library. Rating: 2 stars.

49. Aama, Vol. 2: The Invisible Throng
The thing about keeping a journal, is that if one day you suddenly wake up with amnesia, and had had a crappy life before the incident, your journal would remind you of your crappy life. Something to ponder.

This installment of the graphic novel is better than the first one. There are interesting backstories, and some of the sci-fi gadgets are very cool. Verloc Nim, his brother, and Churchill (my fave character), are on a strange new planet. They have to meetup with a scientific expedition that was sent to jump start life on the barren planet about a decade or so ago. All communication was lost over the ensuing years, and what the group finds in terms of human and non-human life is part of what makes this a fun read. I enjoyed the exploration of the various paths evolution might take on a different planet, and the creative illustrations are quite good.

So, while this book makes more sense than the first one and is more enjoyable a read, I'm still not bought into the story yet. That is where my wonderful library comes in. I can try out the rest of the series without opening my wallet, and if they don't work for me, no harm no foul. Rating: 3 stars.

50. Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir
This is a tough book to review as I have very mixed feelings about it. Death, and the grief that accompanies it is very personal, but also very universal. It is the one thing that all humans have in common. We will die. And people we love will die.

This graphic memoir is about the death of a daughter at the age of two. Rosalie's death is unexpected, and I can imagine maybe all the more devastating for it. In this memoir, the author takes us through the emotional and physical journey he and his wife go through as they struggle to deal with the aftermath of Rosalie's death.

And here is where I am conflicted. Why do we read books, especially memoirs? I think it is different for each reader, but I read to either be entertained or educated, preferably both. I am not a parent, and I can only imagine that the death of a child might be the most devastating loss that can be inflicted on a parent, but, while I think this a wonderful record for the author's family, particularly their second child, I felt at too much of a remove while reading it. I'm not a fan of the sketchy, black and white art, and that did not help either.

Does that make me a psychopath? I don't think so. I appreciated the effort of the author as he worked through his grief, but was also left with nothing I could really hold on to, unlike various other grief memoirs that have stayed me with over the years. Joan Didion's, The Year of Magical Thinking, comes to mind as an example. So while I did not love it, I did appreciate the author's honesty in the telling of this life changing moment for his family. Rating: 3 stars.

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