Monday, November 30, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/28

After a horrible sixteen hours, I have Internet again! (Yes, you wouldn't have noticed. But I'm celebrating anyway.) The friendly (and vaguely hipster-ish) tech from Cablevision fixed about four problems while he was here, and now I can blog once again.

It doesn't mean I'll be doing it any more often, mind you, but I can.

And it means I can now put together the only thing I can be expected to blog about regularly: the books that arrive in my mail every week. I haven't read them, but here's what I can tell you about them.

First up is Nebula Awards Showcase 2015, which collects last year's Nebula Award winners (published in 2013) along with some related essays, excerpts, and nominees. This year's edition is edited by Greg Bear, a former President of SFWA as well as a long-time top SF writer himself. And included are the winning stories by Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, Aliette de Bodard, and Vylar Kaftan as well as stories by Alaya Down Johnson, Robin Wayne Bailey, Andrew Robert Sutton, and a couple of writers who don't have three names. The Showcase is published in trade paperback by Pyr, and will be available a week from tomorrow.

I also have here Rose Guns Days Season 1, Vol. 2, the continuation of a manga series by Ryukishi07 (story) and Soichiro (art), which I think is based on an animated TV series. (This has a "Season 1" subtitle, which is A Clue.) I know about as much about what is going on in the book as I do about what is going on on the cover: which is to say, almost nothing. This is from Yen Press.

Also from Yen is Barakamon, Vol. 8, from Satsuki Yoshino, continuing the fish-out-of-water story about a world-class calligrapher rusticating in a very colorful, very small Japanese town. (As I've said before, it looks to be Northern Exposure, only somewhat further south and on the other side of the Pacific.) I did read the first volume of this series last year, and blogged about it, if you'd like more details.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Incoming Books: November, Part 2

This is the second half of the list I promised over a week ago -- I say "promised," even though I very much doubt anyone but me cares -- and now it's finally here, in the middle of a gloriously long and lazy holiday weekend.

(Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday, to me: a four-day weekend, no serious travel, no real responsibilities, just laziness and relaxation and wasting time. Especially these days, I really need that.)

Anyway, these are all books I got from the great remainder bookseller Edward Hamilton, though they're not all remainders. About a third are silly fluffy books that will end up in the smallest room of the house, and the rest are somewhat more substantial. Since I still pretend I care what other people think of me, I'll lead off with the substantial ones.

Paul Theroux's new travel book Deep South comes first, because it's the newest and because I found a decent-sized cover image online (which isn't the case for all of these books, and lazy weekends don't go well with fiddling with scanners). This time, Theroux wandered around his own country, and I hope you can guess which parts. He's made no secret about liking poor, isolated people best, so this is a smart choice that I hope will make an interesting book.

Kage Baker's fantasy novel The Anvil of the World -- I had it in a mass-market paperback, but I've now upgraded to a trade paperback. She's been dead for a couple of years now -- proof, once again, that the universe is evil and cruel and horrible -- and I still haven't read her two fantasy novels, perhaps so I still know I have Kage Baker books I haven't read in case I need them.

Harry Connolly's The Wooden Man, the SFBC omnibus of his three urban fantasies from Del Rey. (The series was great -- I think I read two of them and then got sidetracked -- but it did not perform as hoped, which happens far too often to really good, smart books.) I bought this as a remainder because whatever entity owns those book-club companies at the moment is never going to get a penny of my money as long as they still exist.

Jasper Fforde's The Song of the Quarkbeast, the middle book (at the moment) of his "Chronicles of Kazam" young-adult fantasy series. I did read it when it came out, from the library, but my younger son liked the first one, and I have the third, so I want to entice him with more fantasy. (Though he's in the middle of Discworld now, which will probably take all of the school year.)

The Odds, a novel by the prolific and wonderful Stewart O'Nan, whose books I don't read often enough. This is really short, too, so I hope I can find time to get to it.

Turtle Recall, the latest edition (and probably last) of the book originally called The Discworld Companion, by Terry Pratchett with that Stephen Briggs fellow. I've read the other two editions -- there were just two, weren't there? -- so I don't see why I should stop now.

I've been looking for Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day -- a pseudo-travel guide to London in about 1600 -- for a while, and finally found it cheaply. It's by Richard Tames, who I know nothing about, but it's a great concept, and the book looks pretty good.

Deep State is a novel by Walter Jon Williams -- one of the great unsung SF writers of our time -- and the sequel to This Is Not a Game, which I read when it came out. I've fallen behind on Williams, like so many other SF writers. Maybe I can catch up.

Classic Put-Downs is a nicely designed book that must have been edited by someone, though the book itself doesn't make that clear. And it collects insults from famous people, mostly about other famous people, through the ages. I have a weakness for quote books -- I had a little book of quotes I'd hand-copied, over twenty years or so, and lost in the flood -- so this is right up my alley.

Carnal Knowledge is subtitled "Baxter's Concise Encyclopedia of Modern Sex," and the Baxter in question is John. Baxter is the author of a number of biographies, mostly of film people -- but also a good book about J.G. Ballard, which I read early this year. He also wrote a memoir about moving to Paris to screw a local girl and research the history of prostitutes there -- We'll Always Have Paris -- and I'm sure several other things, but those are the ones I know. I don't know if he's the best person to write an encyclopedia of modern sex, but I also don't have a good reason to want to read an encyclopedia of modern sex -- aside from the purest of prurient interests -- so I'm sure he's good enough.

Screwed Up English is the book version of an Internet listicle with pictures of signs with badly mangled English from around the world. Well, actually, it's less than that, since it just has text -- no pictures, and no provenance for the bad quotes at all. However, for a book of cheap entertainment, who cares? This was compiled by Charlie Croker.

And last is a book by David Haviland called The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva, which is one of those pop-history books that tells you all of the things you know that aren't really correct. I haven't seen a new Kenneth C. Davis book in donkey's years, so someone has to do it. And I guess Haviland is just the guy to take it on.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/21

And here we are once again -- I've got some books that came in the mail, and you're hoping some of them will be awesome things you'll love. Let's see if we can make a connection, shall we?

Although, I hope you like manga, because that's all I've got this time -- the folks at Yen Press seem to love me deeply, and keep sending me great big boxes full of comics from the other side of the world. It is glorious, but sometimes it starts to feel like sushi for every meal.

In any case, all these books are from Yen, they're all originally from Japan, and they'll all be available here in US editions very shortly. As usual, I'm organizing them by increasing complexity.

So we begin with The Secret Sakura Shares, a standalone from Akira Hagio, in which a teen girl is left both homeless and family-less when her grandfather disappears and a classmate appears to repossess everything she owns. But! The boy will not throw her out into the street, if she becomes his "pedigreed kitty." I suspect this is not supposed to be as monumentally creepy as I'm taking it, but this boy literally turns a female classmate into a pet. I suppose love follows, because I never understand that kind of romance.

Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 1 has a title that I hope sounds less pretentious in Japanese. It's drawn by nanao and has a story credited to HaccaWorks, which makes it seem like human beings have never touched this book -- which is not inappropriate for a book about mythical creatures like ayakashi. This one is about a boy raised in a remote shrine, and the one day he finally gets to go down the mountain and meet other people, the master of the shrine tells him he has to make one of the first two people he meets his "Meal." It's hard being a shrine kid, amirite?

More interesting credits for Aldnoah.Zero Season One, Vol. 1 -- this one has an original story by Olympus Knights and art by Pinakes. I think this might be based on an anime, though the book itself doesn't say so -- it's a SF story (which means giant fighting robots!) about a Cold War between Earth and Mars, which may be about the heat up again.

And then there's Yowamushi Pedal, Vol. 1 from Wataru Watanabe, one of the long line of stories in which the nebbishy quiet kid is suddenly shown to be incredibly good at something unlikely -- Quiddich, Yu-Gi-Oh, plain ol' Go, fighting demons, and so on. In this case, the thing is bike racing!

Black Bullet, Vol.2 is by Morinohon (art) and Shiden Kanzaki (original story), and continues the post-apocalyptic story set among the few survivors of humanity huddled in Tokyo and trying to survive the continued assaults of the mutants created by the Gastrea virus.

Chaika: The Coffin Princess, Vol. 3 is credited to Ichirou Sakaki (original story) and Shinta Sakayama (art), and continues the story of a girl dressed vaguely like a maid, swinging a sledgehammer, and carrying a coffin. I don't know how all that makes sense, but I'm sure it does to someone.

Kaoru Mori's popular series continues a program of reprinting into larger hardcover volumes with Emma, Vol. 3. It continues the story of a maid in Victorian England and the lord she loves.

He's My Only Vampire, Vol. 5, swoons Aya Shouto. Yes, and you should keep better care of him, or you'll lose him and have no vampires! This is one of those romance/supernatural series in which the normal girl is completely under the control and power of the compelling, mesmerizing ancient guy, and it is Not Creepy At All. Really.

We're getting deeper and deeper into series here, with cover copy that explains very little. Take Kaori Yuki's Demon from Afar, Vol. 5, which sees Sorath reach the Ziggurat to find that Etsurou is really Garan! If you have no idea what that means, it's a sign you should start with volume one.

Ume Aoki's 4-panel comedy series about a group of girls living in a dorm and going to art school is back in Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 8. (I read the first two volumes, way back when, but haven't kept up.) This time out, two of the four core girls are graduating, so the cast is changing over.

I have two pieces of the ever-proliferating Puella Magi empire, about magical girls and the monsters they fight. First up is Puella Magi Suzune Magica, Vol. 2, which is written by Magicka Quartet, as usual, and has art by Gan. And the other one is Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie Rebellion, Vol. 1, which is also written by the MQ but has art from Hanokage. I have no idea how these two relate to each other or the rest of the story, but they both have teen girls fighting evil in sparkly outfits, and then angsting about their woes. How can you go wrong?

Shiwo Komeyama brings us Bloody Cross, Vol. 9, which you might be surprised to find out is not primarily about fashionable women in uncomfortable shoes. (You can see my review of the third volume, and follow the links backwards from the to the first two, for a better sense of what this series is about.)

And then there's The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 10, which is the goofball humor sidebar to the regular, still somewhat humorous Haruhi Suzumiya stories. This is from Nagaru Tanigawa (story) and Puyo (art), and makes even more with the ha-ha.

I couldn't begin to tell you what's going on in PandoraHearts, Vol. 23, from Jun Mochizuki. The back cover copy talks about Duldum and Duldee, whoever they are -- this may be one of the many manga series that are twisted versions of Alice in Wonderland.

And last for this week is Isuna Hasekura's Spice and Wolf, Vol. 16: The Coin of the Sun II. This is a curveball: it's from Japan, and has pictures, but it's not manga! It's actually a light novel, and the last volume of the mercantile medieval fantasy series. So presumably the boy merchant and his wolf-goddess sidekick make one last super-wonderful trade here, and can then retire in splendor for the rest of their unrecorded lives.