Friday, November 30, 2012

"Monster" by Walter Dean Myers

281 pages

Steve always wanted to make movies when he grew up and got out of his poverty-stricken, often dangerous New York City neighborhood. So when he's arrested and charged as an accessory to murder, he tells his story in the form of a movie script. This brings to life the events that led up to the robbery/murder. 

I was a bit disappointed with this one, but I think it's because my expectations were so high. Monster is one of those books I've been hearing about for a decade or so but just never got around to reading, and it's the first-ever Printz winner after all. I definitely provides a lot of food for thought--about the problems with our justice system, primarily--but it felt kind of flat. I didn't feel like I got to know the characters as much as I would have liked to, and the plot was also quite straightforward and one-dimensional. Still, I did enjoy the book overall, especially the unique format. It took me a while to get used to, but telling the story as a film script made the action come to life and feel more real. 

Banana Fish: Volume 1

by Akimi Yoshida, 191 pages

1973, Vietnam.  An American soldier inexplicably turns his gun on his fellow soldiers, killing several before he's shot by his best friend.  And the only clue he offers for his mindless rampage?  The mumbled phrase, "Banana Fish."

Fast-forward to 1985, New York.  Eiji Okumura, a young photographer from Japan, arrives with his senior, journalist Shunichi Ibé, to gather information for an article on youth gangs.  Using their contacts in the police department, Eiji and Shunichi set up a meet with a well-known local gang leader, Ash Lynx.  A decent enough young man ground tough by years of abuse and privation at the hands of his "patron"--sleazy crime boss, Papa Dino Golzine--Ash has developed deadly aim and a bleak outlook at odds with his pretty face; but he's good to those loyal to him, and his band of street kids look up to him.  Jealousy has turned a few of his boys against him, however, and when he stumbles on something bigger than his crew's usual small-time crime and lands on the wrong side of the powerful Golzine, Ash's enemies join forces to get back what he took, find out what he knows, and then take him out, starting with an assault on the gang's favorite hang-out.  Unfortunately for Eiji, that's just when he and Shunichi are sitting down for a chat with their wary subject.

This classic genre-blender (it's a shojo series written for older teen girls, but with enough bloody action to appeal to shonen's intended audience of boys) has been on my to-read list forever, so I'm excited to finally jump in.  The art is very eighties, with the mustaches and headbands to prove it, but you don't care because the story is complex and mysterious, the characters well-defined and intriguing, and the sparks between them--be they the kind that lead to gang wars or soul-deep bonds--effective.  The plot moves smoothly from jungle to precinct office to street corner to warehouse to prison and everywhere in between, leaving clues, adding personalities, and building a mystery as it goes.  The series doesn't tiptoe around sensitive subjects, like child prostitution, rape, murder, abortion, and drugs, but it doesn't sensationalize them, either, and while the language can get colorful, the in-panel violence isn't gratuitously graphic.  It all serves the story, builds the characters, and pushes the plot forward.  There's enough humor--among the kiddos, the cops, Eiji and Shunichi--to bring some levity to the proceedings, too, so as dark as it can be it never feels oppressively so.  Besides, it's hard to take some of those party shirts too seriously.  :P  I'm hooked already and look forward to reading more as it all plays out according to creator Yoshida's carefully-laid plans.

Yotsuba&!: Volume 12

by Kiyohiko Azuma, 222 pages

This time around, Yotsuba watches the local noodle shop owner make udon, eats too much pizza, plays with bubbles, gathers chestnuts, learns you should ask before taking someone's picture, and experiences depression over her injured teddy bear, Juralumin.

First off, this is one of my favorite Yotsuba&! covers--everybody's reading a book, even Juralumin!  As for the stories, they are crazily cute and imaginative, as usual.  Yanda brings the hilarious with him every time, and the bubbles are no exception--but just everyone scrambling to hide (badly) when they hear him coming, and his reaction, makes me cackle out loud.  Later, when Yots is all worried about her bear and doesn't respond to Yanda's taunts, he can't leave her alone till he gets a reaction--and, oh, that face!  Brilliant Azuma has got to have a kid, or do an awful lot of observing of them.  Yotsuba may talk a little above her years sometimes, but her energy and imagination and entertainingly influence-able thought processes feel pretty true to life with a dose of artistic exaggeration.  It helps, of course, that she's surrounded by sometimes immature adults who egg her (and each other) on.  I want the next volume already, as Koiwai and Jumbo are planning a camping trip.  Yots and company in the woods with tents and bugs and campfires?  Yay!  Bring it!

Yotsuba&!: Volume 11

by Kiyohiko Azuma, 224 pages

Among many other silly, adorable, everyday things, in this volume five-year-old Yotsuba learns how to make pancakes, wanders around the electronics store with a neighbor while her dad shops for a camera, and is taught a very effective lesson about lying--namely, don't do it.

Bah ha ha ha!  Koiwai, Yotsuba's dad, is both an awesome parent and kinda scary in his own wonderfully twisted little way.  His infinite patience with the pancake experiments is admirable, but that calmly imparted lesson about lying....  O_o  Hee!  I guess if it works, it works, no?  Also, he's got some unique friends wandering in and out of his house, using his kitchen and spontaneously sparring with / babysitting his handful-of-a-daughter so he can get some translation work done without her distracting him by playing at his feet under the desk.  Yotsuba's abrupt change to battle-ready-face every time she hears moocher Yanda's greeting as he lets himself in is priceless.  And appropriately-named Jumbo's just her human playground.  :P

Natsume's Book of Friends: Volume 12

by Yuki Midorikawa, 187 pages

Natsume runs into a bearded yokai who wants help with an old letter, a legged-teacup that's taken up residence under his house, an aging kami who wants to return a borrowed mirror, and a pair of yokai who trap him in a jar as a treat for their hungry master whose seal has recently been broken.

The other stories are sweet and sad in the gently hopeful way of the rest of the series, but Natsume stuck in a jar, helpless as Nyanko-sensei somewhat successfully pretends to be his charge so friends and family don't get worried, is a hoot!  Also, I love how Tanuma takes the opportunity to help his friend, despite the flak he knows he'll catch from Natsume after-the-fact for putting himself in danger.  And with another familiar face joining the fight, Natsume finds himself on the receiving end of a little lecturing, too.  Lovely, as always.

What a Wonderful World!: Volume 2

by Inio Asano, 214 pages

More individuals--and some of the same ones--make more choices at more crossroads in this concluding volume.

For more details about this oddly lovely philosophical look at the meaning not so much of life as of how to truly live it, please see my full review of the two-volume series at!

What a Wonderful World!: Volume 1

by Inio Asano, 205 pages

Lose everything in a fire?  Quit your job without a back-up plan?  Find yourself taken hostage by a guy in a teddy bear costume?  Characters face changes big and small in this darkly funny, deeply thoughtful, and cleverly-plotted manga about what it means to be alive.

This volume is only half the story, leaving the helplessly hooked reader wondering how it all fits together.

Kamisama Kiss: Volume 11

by Julietta Suzuki, 193 pages

It's almost the New Year and everyone's doing their best to prepare.  For the shrine, that means going to pick up their ofuda (a talisman that works as a kind of fortune / good luck charm) from the deity in charge of the coming year.  Nanami decides to tag along with Tomoe and Mizuki (partly to keep them from fighting) and finds that to get Mikage shrine's ofuda they each first have to walk through a gate that shows the deity what they've been doing the last twelve years.  This is nothing new for her shinshi, but Nanami has a harder time getting out and the other two have to enter her gate in order to retrieve her and finish their errand.  There, Tomoe gets to see a side of his headstrong tochigami he hasn't seen before and realizes she's not as tough, or as weak, as he thought.

Aw, little Nanami is cute.  She's had a rough life, but her mom taught her well.  This story reveals a lot about Nanami and Tomoe, both, including some plot-relevant hints that they don't pick up on but the reader does.  The other New Year's stories and snippets in this volume are good, too, and show us what various characters are up to and how they've grown, including a peek at conflicted Kirihito's continuing efforts to get his body back and Yatori's still-hazy involvement in everybody else's business.  Suzuki does a nice job presenting little seasonal side stories that still advance the larger plot and add to her characters' development.

Afterschool Charisma: Volume 6

by Kumiko Suekane, 201 pages

Kai finishes his tale and his audience learns what happened to their predecessors who were, and weren't, successfully auctioned off at their expo, revealing the birth of the Strikers, the terrorist group who attacked the school.  But the truth is still murky and the conflicting roles of their teachers and directors, and even Kai, are anything but clear.

Dude!  This is some dark, twisty, hard-to-wrap-your-brain-around-it-but-fun-to-try business of complex hidden motives, histories, and personalities.  And I am eager for the next one.  The jerk Rockswell gets a whack in the head, which pleases me, but he just laughs it off, which is frustrating.  I want to know why he thinks everything's going so swimmingly and how he and Kuroe and Dr. Kamiya (two staff members, the latter of whom raised Shiro as his son) are all connected and what the heck is going on!

Afterschool Charisma: Volume 5

by Kumiko Suekane, 201 pages

Kai, older Shiro look-alike and lone survivor of the terrorists who attacked St. Kleio Academy, tells the surviving students about his generation of clones at the school and their struggle to understand and deal with who and what they were.

You want to like this Kai, but you're not even sure which Kai he is and we've only heard the first part of his story, so judgment must be reserved until more facts are in.  Sheesh, these people are all in need of some serious psychological help.  Also, for some of them (Rockswell), jail time.

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

by Lauren Willig, 401 pages

Trapped by misunderstanding and circumstance, scandal-plagued Penelope has no choice but to marry and follow her cad of a husband back to his new administrative post in India.  She hopes being thrown together in the middle of a foreign country will give them a chance to salvage some happiness, but reality doesn't look to be granting her even that small comfort as he routinely abandons her for the card table and leaves her to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world of complicated--and often dangerous--politics.  Luckily, she has the unwilling company of their escort, Captain Reid, a no-nonsense soldier who doesn't care about her sullied reputation, doesn't cow-tow before power, and who may or may not be trying to kill her husband and sell out the English to the Indians and / or the French.

Willig moves all the action to India this volume, which is a pleasant diversion.  The history of England's colonial involvement in the country is less familiar territory for me and so an interesting addition to the slightly-more-scandalous-than-usual-for-the-series romance.  I don't know why I expect my romance novels to not be "romance novels," but I'm still disappointed when they fall into well-worn, too-easy patterns that sacrifice character development and emotional involvement for awkward, obligatory racy bits (mind you, I in no way mind the racy bits, as long as they fit who and when and where I think they should).  It's sad when formerly interesting personalities are suddenly unceremoniously forced into boring molds in which they don't fit and from which they emerge less than they were before.  I'm still enjoying the series, and I still like many aspects of the genre (witty repartee and guaranteed happy endings being two of them), but sometimes I get a little cranky and snooty and wish things could just be nudged into being a little more.  Ah, well.  I'm still happily putting myself on hold for the next one, so it mustn't bother me enough to put me off them all together.  And yet.  *sigh*

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

by Lauren Willig, 388 pages

Quiet, naive bookworm Charlotte suffers the legions of titled dandies her  grandmother throws at her, but when she finds a long-absent childhood friend among them, she's sure she's found her true knight in shining armor.  Only she'll have to deal with his long-ingrained insecurity, self-loathing, and revenge-fueled plans--as well as a depraved gentleman's club, a handful of spies, and her own childish romantic illusions--before she has any chance of convincing him to stick around.  Meanwhile, in the twentieth century, Eloise overhears something that makes her wonder what exactly it is Colin really does for a living.

Willig adds repercussions of events in colonial India and her own imagining of a descendant of the Hellfire Club to her broader tale of the English and their protracted mutual distrust of those wily sneaks, the French.  Actually, the French spy here only makes a few brief appearances, but he's an amusing, odd enough duck that I hope we see him again in the future.  As I go through these, I find I have one eye on the principals and another on everyone else, wondering who might be up for a leading role in future volumes.  Robert and Charlotte's story has a sad beginning, an adventurous and rather melodramatic middle, and, obviously, a happy ending.  But I couldn't help but feel sorry for a few of their friends who get caught up in scandals or swept aside for less worthy rivals, so again with the hoping we find out what happens to them in their own stories later.

The Underwater Welder

by Jeff Lemire, 220 pages

Jack, an underwater welder, loving husband, and expectant father obsessed with the disappearance and death of his own father when he was a boy, feels uncontrollably drawn to the underwater depths of the bay in which his amateur treasure-hunter father drowned years before.  In the process, he risks losing everything and repeating his tragic family history.

This is an eerie, thoughtful tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat even when you've guessed at some of the mysteries it holds.  Lemire seems especially adept at depicting haunted places sparsely populated by equally haunted people.  Those inky scrawls communicate much and easily get inside the reader's head.  Good stuff.

The Nao of Brown

by Glyn Dillon, 204 pages

Nao is a smart, snarky, creative young woman who designs quirky doodads and novelties, meditates at a Buddhist center, rides her bicycle everywhere, and seems to have it all together.  But she also suffers from involuntary visions of herself inflicting graphic violence on people around her.  Terrified they won't just stay in her head where they (she) can't hurt anyone for real, Nao keeps her distance emotionally while she tries to do her "homework" and work through her issues.

Ooh, this is a lovely, weirdly wonderful piece of graphic literature.  The watercolor artwork is beautiful and realistic, the story imaginative and moving, and the characters engaging and intriguing.  The reader finds Nao's visions nearly as frightening and disturbing as she does and is just as desperate for her to find some peace from her mental demons as she is.  You worry for her, you worry for the people around her.  Are they good for her?  Is she a danger to them?  As more and more is revealed, you have no idea where it's all going, but you won't be able to put the book down till you find out.  I'm still thinking about it weeks later and look forward to sinking into more of Dillon's work in the future.

The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

by Elspeth Huxley, 288 pages

The author describes her early life on a Kenyan coffee farm with her parents in the years leading up to the first World War.

I watched the mini-series adaptation of this autobiography on Masterpiece Theatre when I was little and always meant to go back and read the book.  It's a fascinating look at the political, economic, and social issues of the period, especially as they pertain to race, as well as the physical and emotional struggles of starting a coffee farm from scratch in a world far-removed from one's own.  Huxley--who was just five at the time her adventurous but ill-prepared family moved to Thika in 1912--presents her story with a surprisingly non-judgmental perspective, observing without interpreting the actions and events she witnesses, acknowledging the faults of her contemporaries while focusing on the smaller-scale challenges, sorrows, and joys of day-to-day life in a land she has clearly grown to love (building a house, growing coffee, avoiding dangerous ants, hunting cheetahs, rescuing injured animals, negotiating with employees and neighbors of diverse backgrounds, and navigating the often-tumultuous currents of local, state, and world politics), resulting in a tale that has become a melding of cultural anthropology and personal history.

The Voyeurs

by Gabrielle Bell, 156 pages

This is an autobiographical look into the life of a comics artist living in New York, attending conventions, hanging out with colleagues and family and friends and boyfriends and exes in apartments and hotel rooms and the French countryside, always with a journal in tow and a natural, obsessive observer's unsparing awareness and insecure examination.

Bell comes off as both surprisingly honest and curiously circumspect about her personal and professional life and relationships.  She's not exactly humble, but neither does she seem especially arrogant in her self-absorption.  She just is what she is.  Since this appears to be drawn from her journals, names of friends and colleagues are dropped as though the reader should know who they are; but not being particularly familiar with the indie scene in comics or film, I felt a little out of the loop.  Nevertheless, this is an interesting peek into the everyday existence of an artistic mind driven to look at everything going on around her, record it, and create something out of it.

Until Death Do Us Part: Volume 2

by Hiroshi Takashige (story) and DOUBLE-S (art), 436 pages

As the police try to piece together recent events and solve a kidnapping, Mamoru and the gang work to resolve things their own way.  And if that happens to involve knowingly walking into multiple traps in order take down the enemy, then so be it.

Genda, part of the police team investigating Haruka's kidnapping, seems to have some previous knowledge of Mamoru, making the reader curious about the blind swordsman's past and the two's history.  Between the bad guys who want Haruka and the bad guys who want the biochip and the bad guys who just want to make piles of money while taking out as much of the competition as possible (and backstabbing their own in the process), remembering who's scheming with whom and who's up to what can be a challenge.  Having multiple groups of maybe-good guys, like the cops and "The Wall" and, of course, Mamoru, just adds to that.  But I'll still read the next one when it comes out.  It's fun enough sci-fi-tinged action with gangsters and corporate conspiracies and international evil-doers pursued by differing interpretations of justice to keep me around for now.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

by Shigeru Mizuki, 372 pages

On a Pacific island in the waning days of World War II, a unit in the Japanese army is ordered on an unnecessary suicide mission by their honor-obsessed commanding officer.  When some of them have the nerve to make it out alive, face-saving HQ declares they must finish what their superior set in motion.

According to the author, only 10% of this Eisner award-winning fictionalized memoir is actual fiction.  And that's a sad comment on the culture of war, whether there and then or here and now.  Having himself experienced the horrors of a suicide mission, Mizuki emerged from the war with only one arm and a lot of anger toward what he describes as the "too Japanese" culture of the time, when national honor trumped all and relegated citizens and soldiers both to the status of insects in the minds of those with power.  This moving tale of a doomed unit, first published in Japan in the seventies, is his heartfelt protest, and it's a shame it's taken it this long to come out in English.  The cartoonish figures seem harmless, vulnerable, and out of their depth against their sometimes photo-realistic surroundings of jungle, tanks, bombers, and flying bullets.  After watching them goof off around camp, tell morale-boosting jokes and stories about home as they try to get by in an unfamiliar environment, and attempt again and again to pull vengeful yet amusing pranks on their less-beloved commanders, the reader finds their fates all the more incomprehensible and the author's anger all the more understandable.

Nabari no Ou: Volume 10

by Yuhki Kamatani, 207 pages

The Grey Wolves are still after Miharu, but he and Yoite aren't alone anymore.  And they never will be again.  Driven to the edge, Miharu finally gives in and uses the Shinra Banshou.  But what exactly is it he wishes for?

Pardon me while I go cry.

*watches her holds list for the next volume, tissues in hand*

Nabari no Ou: Volume 9

by Yuhki Kamatani, 209 pages

Miharu and Yoite burn their bridges with the head of the Grey Wolves and set out on their own.  Meanwhile, Yukimi--Yoite's guardian since he joined the Grey Wolves--goes looking for his quickly-fading charge's past.  When orders go out to retrieve Miharu and dispose of the now obsolete Yoite, Yukimi and the others must decide which is stronger--their allegiance to their leader, or their connection to a dying young assassin.

Everybody's finally letting their true selves out of their tightly corked little bottles and the result is an emotional rollercoaster for the reader.  Kamatani has done such a wonderful job of slowly building relationships and deepening bonds.  It's a pleasure to watch her characters gradually realize just how much they all care about each other, too.

Nabari no Ou: Volume 8

by Yuhki Kamatani, 192 pages

Little by little, Yoite has been losing his senses as his body shuts down, but he's also been losing the wall that holds in all the emotions he's been hiding--even from himself.  And Miharu's not the only one who notices, nor is he the only one who cares.

Clearly, Yoite doesn't understand the full scope of his influence on the lives of those around him.  But all those worried glances in his direction aren't about what terrible thing he might be planning to do to the world at large--they're about  what he might be planning to do himself.  And the more he unconsciously reveals to Miharu, the more the latter questions his promise to make it all go away--and the more the reader wants him to question it.  So good.

Nabari no Ou: Volume 7

by Yuhki Kamatani, 205 pages

As the situation at Alya Academy deteriorates, the Banten and Grey Wolves find themselves fighting side-by-side with one another--and even with a good many of their former Kouga attackers--to stay alive.  In the process, already-weakened Yoite is grievously wounded, igniting Miharu's protective instincts and stirring the power of the Shinra Banshou that lies within him.  Meanwhile, both groups discover that the Kouga's sought-after Daya may not be the panacea they had hoped.

Blank-faced Miharu and Yoite have both been subtly growing more expressive, but this volume just jabs the reader right in the heart with desperate Yoite's frightened tears.  Gah!  No wonder Miharu's trigger flips.  Nobody even knows what the Shinra Banshou really does (well, maybe nobody but Kumohira-sensei, who's quick to tackle Miharu before he goes completely off the deep end), but you can't help but want to see it let loose if it will ease Yoite's pain.  If it's for Yoite, you trust Miharu's judgment even as you fear the unknown consequences.  There's a handful of emotional ups and downs and surprises this time around, but that one scene alone makes this volume well worth the read.

Nabari no Ou: Volume 6

by Yuhki Kamatani, 177 pages

In order to help fulfill his promise to Yoite, Miharu has defected to the Grey Wolves, pretending their charismatic leader's philosophy has swayed his allegiance.  His first assignment is to accompany Yukimi, Raikou, and Yoite to negotiations at an academy run by the Kouga ninja in order to obtain that clan's secret art scroll, Daya.  But when they arrive (after unpracticed Raikou drives Yukimi's tiny car into a lake), they find they're not the only ones to receive an invite, as a very surprised Kumohira-sensei and the Banten gang are there, too, and with a similar agenda.  When nightfall brings out the school's youthful assassins, both parties get caught up in the chaos of messy internal Kouga politics and have to focus on surviving the night before worrying about getting their hands on Daya.

Yoite thinks Miharu's only helping him to save his Banten friends, but that original threat seems to have less and less bearing on the pair's cooperation and attachment to one another.  And it's that quiet character development that really latches onto the reader and holds her attention, even when the details of the present conflict are anything but clear.

Locke & Key: Volume 5: Clockworks

by Joe Hill (story) and Gabriel Rodriguez (art), 159 pages

Discovery of yet another key lets Tyler and Kinsey (and the reader) at last see the origins of the keys and some of the history of the house and the family, but will it be enough to help them--especially when the enemy is so much closer than they realize?

Ah ha!  So that's how the jar got in the wall and the soul got in the well house.  Also, ack!  The Omega key isn't as safe as it once was and now I think things are going to get very hairy very quickly.  This supernatural horror series succeeds at sucking the reader in and holding her anxious attention.  I want the next (last?!) book!

Pandora Hearts: Volume 11

by Jun Mochizuki, 1779 pages

The gang have little time to recuperate from their experiences in the ruins of Sablier before diving back into trying to get all the facts and wrest control of the situation from the Baskervilles and their agents.  But despite their apparent progress, they may still be losing ground to the forces of the enemy, as another terror from the past once again raises its head...and relieves others of theirs....

Ooh, scary!  As funny as the story and characters can be (and they do make me laugh), they can also be incredibly dark.  The Headhunter is just one example of that, and Vincent--with his attractive, smiling exterior contrasting so sharply with his violent internal observations--is another.  I like.

The Earl and the Fairy: Volume 3

by Ayuko (story and art) and Mizue Tani (original concept), 178 pages

Lydia is frustrated that her new employer, Edgar, seems more interested in showing her off at high society gatherings than in actually making use of her skills as a fairy doctor.  But when he brings her the case of a missing young noblewoman, Lydia finds the mystery may be entangled with Edgar's own dark past and fears his present involvement may be less about solving a crime than revenging one.

So far, this series is shaping up to be a nice blend of history and supernatural mystery.  There's still a lot the reader (and Lydia) doesn't know about Edgar's past and his present purposes, but just enough is revealed in the snippets we do get to keep us digging for more, piecing together what we have along the way.

It Was the War of the Trenches

by Jacques Tardi, 118 pages

From the muddy, labyrinthine trenches to the corpse-ridden No-Man's Land to the soulless tyranny of military bureaucracy, the horrors of war are glimpsed here in graphic vignettes inspired by stories the author gleaned over the years from the memories of his traumatized grandfather.

Everybody knows World War I's trench warfare was a horrible, protracted, generation-erasing stalemate, but these little details of just how hellish it was from the perspective of the helpless pawns being sacrificed for its sake offer a painful but important lesson in the folly and fragility of humanity.  The angry reader can only hope we never go there again, but given our propensity to ignore history and repeat it, the chances of that seem sadly remote.

It Was the War of the Trenches earned two Eisners and a Harvey award in 2011.

Until Death Do Us Part: Volume 1

by Hiroshi Takashige (story) and DOUBLE-S (art), 452 pages

Young Haruka Tooyama can predict aspects of her own future and of those closest to her, so when guys with guns kill her parents and kidnap her, hoping to profit from her skills, she knows which stranger in the crowd to run to for help.  A blind man may seem an unlikely choice for a body guard, but Mamoru Hijikata quickly proves the accuracy of her predictions as he draws a sword from his cane and handily dispatches her pursuers.  But those behind the attempt are still looking for her and now they've got their sights set on Mamoru, too.  He and his cohorts--as, of course, he has his secrets, too--wonder if spontaneously vowing to protect such a danger-draw was a good idea, but what's done is done and Mamoru brings Haruka into the fold.  After all, her powers of prediction may prove useful to their cause, as well.

The sci-fi elements here can be a little cheezy, as can the story, but I'm still enjoying this one, anyway.  The art is pleasant (though one review I read rightly noted that Haruka only has about two facial expressions), the characters are interesting, and the idea of international terrorism vs. high-tech vigilantism mixed with a little precognition is entertaining (it makes me think of the A-Team, only most of these guys take themselves way more seriously--happily, not so much so as to dampen the fun, though).  Also, I'm a great big geek and am tickled that Mamoru shares his family name with a famous sword-wielding officer of the law from history (Shinsengumi references make me squee!).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Every You, Every Me" by David Levithan

245 pages

Evan is having a bad year. His best friend Ariel is gone. He can't sleep, tortured by guilt over his role in her disappearance. Then, to make matters worse, he starts finding black-and-white photographs in bizarre places. Photographs of himself. As he finds more and more images, he realizes that someone is stalking him. Someone knows what happened between him and April, and they are determined to make him pay for it. But who? As he tries to solve the mystery, Evan becomes more and more paranoid and his own sense of reality begins to unravel. 

I really got into this book as I was reading. I like the way that the actual images Evan finds are included in the text, as it made what was happening seem even more creepy and disturbing. The suspense builds well, as it's not clear how much is real and how much is Evan's paranoia. As much as I got sucked into the story and had trouble putting it down , I was ultimately disappointed with the ending. It felt rushed and unlikely to me. There aren't any particular holes in the conclusion other than some of the characters' behavior simply not making sense, but it bothers me when I don't understand characters' motivation. I felt that Every You, Every Me was worth reading due to the enjoyment I got from the first 75%, but I walked away with a bad feeling about it. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"A Bad Day for Sorry (Bad Day #1)" by Sophie Littlefield

288 pages

Middle-aged widow Stella Hardesty owns and operates a sewing shop in rural Missouri. Sounds pretty tame, but that's just her day job. She also has a side business helping battered women with the abusive men in their lives. As a former domestic violence victim herself, Stella knows what her clients are going through and she knows how to help them. But when young Chrissy Shaw asks her for help, Stella realizes she might be in over her head, as Chrissy's deadbeat wife-beating husband ran off with their two-year-old boy. When Stella and Chrissy realize there might be drug dealers involved as well (long story), the search for the boy becomes even more desperate.

Though you can't tell from the description, this is a pretty funny book. In the style of Janet Evanovich's work, Hardesty's wacky characters get into all kinds of shenanigans but always come out on top. I really like Stella's voice and the way that she became her badass self at an older age. She shows that it's never too late to turn your life around. The secondary characters, particularly Chrissy and Stella's preteen neighbor Todd, really come to life as well. The plot is all over the place, but I'm okay with that. I feel like it's one of those mysteries where you don't try to figure out what happens--you just sit back and enjoy the twists and turns. And enjoy them I did.