Monday, August 27, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/25

It's a near-certainty that this is a happier Monday for me than it is for you, since I'm on vacation this week. (If you are, too: congratulations! We're like a little club. If not: sucks to be you.) But, like all other Mondays, it contains a "Reviewing the Mail" post, which is one little shaft of light, I suppose.

The following books all arrived in my mail -- generally in discrete packages sitting on my front steps when I got home from work -- having been sent by the functionaries at various publishing companies. They send me these books in hope I'll review them, and get people to buy and love them -- which is kind of the entire point of the publishing enterprise -- so I try to do what I can. But I can't read everything, and I clearly don't love everything (some folks may silently emend that to "anything," but they are even more cynical than I am). What I can do, every single week, is list the books I've just seen, and attempt to present them in the most flattering manner possible. (Sometimes, as when those book contain zombies, that is not flattering at all, but it's still the best possible manner for me.)

So, then, this is what I saw this past week:

Daniel Pinkwater is one of the treasures of modern literature, the author of a long string of great novels for teens and younger kids (The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, the two "Snarkout Boys" books, Fat Men From Space, Borgel, and the sublime Young Adult Novel), one novel for adults called The Afterlife Diet, two excellent books of essays based on his NPR broadcasts, as well as a slew of picture books, many of which he illustrated himself. And he's back with a new novel, Bushman Lives!, which will be a October hardcover from Houghton Mifflin. And, if that doesn't convince you, see my reviews for Pinkwater's recent novels The Neddiad, The Yggyssey, and Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl.

I also have a cluster of books, mostly manga, being published by Yen Press in September:

Kieli: As the Deep Ravine's Wind Howls is the sixth in the light novel series by Yukako Kabei, with illustrations by Shunsuke Taue, and I have to admit that I still don't entirely understand what makes some novels "light." (Is it the illustrations? The fact that it's a manga-like series? The length?) If I remember correctly, Kieli is a sensitive young woman traveling with the ghost of a soldier trapped in a radio and a hunky young man who's a supersoldier or something like that, and they're looking for Plot Tokens across a basically modern but clearly secondary world.

Jack Frost, by Korean creator JinHo Ko, is back for a sixth volume -- I reviewed the first two for ComicMix, if you want more details of the series. It's a dark, violent story for teenage boys -- like so many of the most popular comics of the last half-century, both Eastern and Western.

JinJun Park's Raiders series returns for an 8th volume -- I reviewed the first for Realms of Fantasy back in 2010, but you're out of luck unless you have a copy of the April magazine to leaf through -- which may have diverged greatly from the stories I read at the outset. But, back then, it was a big, bloody supernatural adventure comic that plundered Western mythology indiscriminately (the hero drank some authentic Jesus Blood to become immortal, and there are also related immortal cannibal zombies) in the way that so many Westerners have done to Eastern culture, so I was entirely in favor of its gonzo energy.

My two sons have already tried to steal away Yotsuba&!, Vol. 11, the latest in Kiyohiko Azuma series of low-key stories about a really, really excitable little green-haired girl and all of the interesting things that she learns about the world. (Several years ago, I read the first book and didn't get it -- this might be something that I just don't click with.)

The complicated Higurashi: When They Cry series is back with a very big volume, Massacre Arc, Vol. 1. (Previously, there's been "Abducted by Demons," ""Cotton Drifting," "Curse Killing," "Time Killing," "Beyond Midnight," "Eye Opening," and "Atonement" arcs; "Festival Accompanying" and several side stories are still to come.) Higurashi is based on a series of Japanese games -- actually, they sound more like click-through scenarios, where the action follows a predetermined path -- about murders in a small town in 1983, and the manga seems to follow the storyline of the games pretty closely. (I also think, from the back-cover copy on this volume, that each game is separate, detailing a different version of the events of 1983.)

Until Death Do Us Part, Vol. 2 is also quite massive -- well over 400 pages -- but there's less backstory for this one (written by Hiroshi Takashige with art by an entity known as DOUBLE-S). It's another violent boy's manga story, with a precognitive girl on the run from the shadowy organization that used her abilities for their own ends, and a blind swordsman who she finds and runs away with.

And that's it from Yen for this week.

Philipa Bornikova's This Case Is Gonna Kill Me is the first in a new urban fantasy series, subclass Humanity Ruled by Supernaturals, with vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar competing to control everything. Our heroine is a new law school graduate just starting at a vampire law firm -- where partnership might mean never seeing daylight again and living forever -- where of course she's caught up in mysterious and nefarious doings. It's a trade paperback from Tor, hitting stores September 4th.

John Ajvide Lindqvist is the Swedish horror author behind the novel Let the Right One In, which became movies both in his native language and mine. He's also the author of Harbor, a horror novel with a trade paperback edition from Tor this month, about a couple living on an isolated island whoe six-year-old daughter disappears mysteriously one day.

Reaper is the new novel by K.D. McEntire and the sequel to Lightbringer, in which a young woman learned that she was "part of a powerful and ancient family of Repaers" -- and, this time out, she's been inflicted with one of those "you'll die really soon" thingies, and has to figure out her dead mother's secrets and get her Reaper family to accept and heal her so she can move on to the third book in the series. Reaper is a hardcover from Pyr, which hit stores on August 14.

And last for this week is the new paperback edition of Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross, which was designed and edited by Chip Kidd. (Though it's much less obviously designed than some of Kidd's other work; perhaps working with a living artists with ideas about the presentation of his art tempered his approach.) As the title makes clear, it's a lot of sketches and roughs -- pretty tight roughs, though -- and some color work related to the DC universe, which, since this is Alex Ross, means lots and lots of Supermen, some Batmen, lots of obscure and Golden Age characters, and a lot of middle-aged guys squinting out flintily at the reader. It's a Pantheon book, hitting stores on September 11th.

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