magharabi: (Al~ Got your back)
[personal profile] magharabi
But hopefully still fun~!

We've been going to the library a lot lately. Which means I've been able to get my hands on a number of books. I thought, since I'd asked for recs, I might as well give a little back of what I got and give a few brief reviews of what I've been reading.

I'll start with the most recent books, and work backwards.

Children of the Sea- A manga by Daisuke Igarashi. I've only read Volume 1 so far (there are three). I'm hooked enough that I'll be checking out both of the following volumes next time we're there. I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, since the art style inside the volume is a little looser than I usually appreciate. Don't get me wrong, I ADORE rough sketches. But I'm not a huge fan of lots of little lines that squiggle all over and take over the anatomy of a human body. The watercolors are fantastic, though, as is the cover art. For the most part, this first volume moves pretty slow, and is kind of disjointed at moments. But it really picks up towards the 2/3 mark, and presents a captivating enough plot/question that I can't wait to read more.

Castle in the Air- The sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. Another book which starts off really slowly and then picks up towards the end. What I love and adore about Howl's is for the most part lacking in Castle. Then again, I mostly just adored the Sophie/Howl/Calcifer snark, and Castle in the Air introduces us to completely new characters. Abdullah, the main, is entertaining at first, but begins to wear thin as the story progresses. I felt, for the most part, like I was reading a really flowery version of the movie Aladdin. With kittens, and an honorably thieving soldier. Then Sophie shows up. And it gets better after that. Sophie's appearance took me by surprise. Howl's didn't. Calcifer's did. It's a fun plot, though, so I'd recommend it to those who have read Howl's Moving Castle, with the warning that, well, it's a sequel. There's a third book set in Ingary. Perhaps this is a classic case of the second one always sucks compared to the first and third? As soon as I find that third book, I'll let you know.

Dragonflight- The first Dragonrider's of Pern novel by Anne McCaffrey. Again, gotta dog on this one a bit before saying that really it IS worth reading. I felt, for the most part, out of the loop reading this one. While the author makes it very clear that Lord Hairnose meant to be completely offensive when he asked P'tang how his flight was, and P'tang knew it and was suitably offended, she never gives a satisfactory explanation as to why it was so offensive. If it happened once or twice, I'd overlook it. But it happens often. Throughout most of the book, actually. There's a lot of innuendo (not necessarily the sexual kind) that gets pointed out as innuendo, but never explained. This kind of aggravates me. Because I hate knowing there's something more behind a character's words, without being given any hint or clue what that more is supposed to be. Also, the concept of dragon induced sex is a little creepy to me. Anyway. The ultimate solution to the big sticky problem was rather convenient, and I had it figured out by like, the end of Lessa's first flying lesson. But, again. Interesting enough concept that if I happened to run into the next book, I'd likely pick it up and read it. There's an entire empire built off of this foundation, so maybe something with a little more polish, where the author is a bit more comfortable in the world herself, will caer mejor conmigo. Fall better with me. I... don't know how we say that in English. >.>

Case Closed- Picked up the third volume of this manga by Gosho Aoyama. Sadly, the library didn't have the first two, otherwise I would have started at the beginning. I've heard enough to know that the little kid is actually a teenager chibified, though, and that was enough of a backstory for me. I could probably sum this up in two words: Cute Whodunit. The art style is, well, cute. And the whodunit aspect is fun and well crafted. Volume 3 has two story arcs in it, meaning two mysteries solved. Therefore, the plots move kind of quickly which I'm not used to in manga, but it's sort of refreshing. If you've got like, 10 minutes, just jump right in, you can get through a complete arc. Case Closed won't waste time with subtlety. Makes for a satisfying enough hour or so.

Mistborn- Brandon Sanderson's second novel. I haven't read Elantris, though I understand that it's sort of a prequel to the Mistborn trilogy. I find myself becoming increasingly infatuated with the worlds and concepts Brandon Sanderson comes up with, and Mistborn is no exception. It has that "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" sort of combat, where people are able to fly through the air and have sword fights upside-down on the ceiling (which I was distinctly impressed by while reading Way of Kings, his most recent offering, and the first of his books I ever read.) While Mistborn doesn't have quite the good-natured humor in it that Way of Kings does, it still manages to be entertaining enough, and even got me to laugh out loud a couple times. Also, the premise is pretty freaking awesome: The great Hero of Prophecy failed, and the world has been dominated by the Great Evil for a thousand years. A band of thieves contrives to raise a rebellion, start a war, and overthrow the Dark Lord, thus saving the world- all so they can loot the Dark Lord's treasury. Yup. I enjoyed the book. I recommend the book. I will be looking for part 2, Well of Ascension, the next time I go to the library.

Fables- Comics by Bill Willingham. I read through the first two volumes and felt pretty ambivalent towards them. American comic fanboys piss me off because of the way they disparage manga without really knowing what they're talking about. My husband accused me of being a hypocrite, since I hadn't ever read American Comics and made similar judgments against them. So. Obviously, this was something I needed to correct. The mastermind behind Looking for Group, Sohmer, has a list of books with a brief review on his site. Fables consistently got rave reviews from him. I figured it would be a good place to re-start, since it came highly recommended from an artist whose storytelling and drawing style I actually like, and Gambit: House of Cards had filled me with utter despair. I was disappointed. The plot felt incredibly contrived, particularly in volume 2, Animal Farm (Mix the real Animal Farm with Lord of the Flies, and that's the story). The characters seemed to be more a product of what needed to happen, rather than the events happening being a product of thoughtfully considered, fleshed out characters. The art was passable. At least the characters were discernible from each other, and there weren't any moments when I outright cringed and thought, "dude, take a life drawing class, srsly." (More about that later). Also, I understand these were written and drawn back in the 80's, so possibly it was "new" back then, but really? I've seen fractured fairy tales done SO much better, and more originally. (Though I suspect Fables might be the etymological provenance for the term "Mun", which struck me as interesting.) The constant, randomly appearing sexual comments tended to distract from the story, though. I came away from them feeling like the author had felt the need to thump his chest and make as many as he could in order to prove that this was a "mature" comic- sort of like middle school kids who swear every other word in order to prove how "tough" and "grown up" they are. You just wanna smack 'em and say "Oh, grow up," and that's what I wanted to do to these books. Adults have sex, I get it. I'm ok with it. You don't have to mention it in the middle of a discussion about how to raise an army and take over the world. It's not relevant then. I'm just saying. Obviously, this series is not recommended. I stopped reading it.

All-star Batman and Robin- Picked up Volume 1 by Frank Miller and Jim Lee. This was, also, highly recommended in Sohmer's book reviews. I have since decided that Sohmer and I do not like the same things. At all. This was one of the few books he gave five stars to. I'll admit, artistically, it is by far the best American comic I have seen. It was visually stunning. And that's pretty much it. The plot sucked. The writing of said plot, also sucked. Particularly the writing. The writing sucked. Because it was always repeating itself. Always. Always repeating. Repeated narrative. Repeated dialogue. Always repeated. Always going over what we've already read. Annoying, isn't it? Yeah. I'll stop now. Husby, who grew up a sort of fringe fan of American comics, couldn't even get through a page of it. Sometimes repeating things is dramatic. But when your whole story has to be painfully dredged out in that constantly repeating style, like some one-sided mental tug-of-war, you lose me. Action scenes lost their immediacy, ironically, since I get the impression the narrative and dialogue were written this way in an attempt to give them a sense of immediacy. Well, it was forced. And it shows. This is the incarnation where we get the memetic "Goddamn Batman" saying from, in case anyone was wondering. So, if you want some nice drawings of a sexy woman in lingerie and of Batman snogging a girl in a cat costume (not Catwoman, though!), be my guest and check this out. Joker also gets some action, and has a scary looking lackey with Nazi boobs (Those Wacky Nazis~), if that sort of thing strikes your fancy. Otherwise? Stay as far away from this version of Batman as you can.

Gambit: House of Cards- Graphic novel by John Layman, based on Gambit from the X-men. I used to watch X-men. I liked Gambit. I saw it on the shelf in the library and thought, "I'll read it, see what the hullabaloo about American Comics is all about." After reading this book, I figured I ought to get some direction in my American comic reading. Like manga, if you don't know what you're getting into beforehand, you'll likely run into something you really don't like. This was the case here. The art stunk. No, really. I wish I knew where to get comic book scans from because some of this stuff you've just got to see to believe. All of the background characters looked the same. And the main characters themselves? Oh man. I can't count the number of times I cringed and thought, "Dude, whoever drew this needs a life drawing class, or at least a model, STAT!" People literally did not have noses. Or they'd delineate the middle of their nose, rather than the outer edge of it. Big, black chunks with random bits cut out with a photoshop gradient served for "dramatic lighting" which usually made no sense 1) according to the background lighting fixtures, and 2) according to human physiology. Even my dear Husby, who will outright admit he doesn't really know the first thing about art, could point out obvious, glaring anatomical errors. This automatically kills any manga or comic for me. I won't even go into the plot. It's just not worth bothering about. Judging from this book alone (as it was the first I had to work with), the American comics industry needs to pick a direction. Either pursue the two-dimensional, graphic look of heavily blacked out portions, OR go with subtle gradients and synthesized three-dimensional coloring. NOT BOTH. They don't look good together. This comic? Not recommended.

I'm almost determined to find an American comic that I do like, and that I would highly recommend. It's like a challenge, now.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-18 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazzchan.livejournal.com
The third one is called "House of Many Ways" and it's a lot better than Castle in the Air, IMO. It's funny--the characters are interesting and I about died with Howl and what he did with this one.

:) Much better and I think more of a true sequel than the companion novel of CItA.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-19 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] magharabi.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you. I will look it up promptly. After getting a smidgeon of a taste of new, never before read by me Sophie/Howl/Calcifer snark, I'm dying for more! ^_^

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-19 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazzchan.livejournal.com
:D

It was pretty well fantastic.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-19 11:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zhadra-ahni.livejournal.com
Bah, All-Star Batman and Robin. >:| Frank Miller can go DIAF, don't judge American comics and especially the Batfamily based on HIS stuff.

>.> Not that I'm some kind of expert myself, I'm a casual comics reader, and more into Marvel these days (Iron Man and Captain America stuff), and the younger generation of DC heroes.

D'oh, I'd heard such good things about Fables. :|a /gives it a pass

I'll have to look at Brian Sanderson's stuff now, though, that looks interesting. :Da

Oh lord, I grew up on Anne McCaffrey, her Pern books among them. *__* Nostalgic looove. It's been so long since I've read them, though...Her later stuff in the series does get a lot better, though, I think. Some of my favorites are The Dolphins of Pern, The Masterharper of Pern, and All the Weyrs of Pern. Basically I loved best the stuff that delved more into the sci-fi side of things, there's some really fun stuff, and I can't remember anything like you mentioned with the innuendo later on.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-11-19 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] magharabi.livejournal.com
Hahaha, yeah. Like I said at the end, I'm almost determined now to find some incarnation of a mainstream American comic that I do like and will highly recommend. If you wanna shoot some titles my way, feel free~ ^_^ I guess what frustrates me about American Comics the most right now is exactly this problem. You hear about X-men and how it's awesome. But you can't just go to the store and pick up whatever volume says X-men on it, you have to find the right version of X-men. And there are like, 20. o.0 Whereas with, say, Rurouni Kenshin, you hear it's awesome, you go to check it out, "Oh look! There's only one." You pick it up, you like it or dislike it. There is no, "Well, maybe I got the wrong one?" or something. aslkdfaljssd srsly I need like, a map or something. orz *pleads with Daniel in your icon to translate for me*

If you're like, bored, Fables isn't awful. It just wasn't interesting or compelling enough to keep me reading, and I can be pretty critical about comics/manga (as you likely noticed). /elitist much? >.>

START WITH WAY OF KINGS skjdlalksd you will not be disappointed. Or Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians (http://brandonsanderson.com/library/33/Alcatraz-Chapter-One), if you're a little short on time and just need some WTF in your life. I really ought to make a Brandon Sanderson post or something fffff. Mistborn can be kind of hard to get ahold of at a library. At least, it is around here. Then again, Brandon lives about an hour south of here, so maybe it's local guy love that makes him hard to find anywhere but at a book store. >.>

And I thought that might be the case with Anne McCaffrey. If ALL of the Pern novels were like Dragonriders, I don't think it would have made it very far. That said, the fact that there IS an empire tells me that further investigation will likely prove worthwhile. I'll keep my eyes pealed for those particular titles, though. Thanks! ^_^

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