kaitou: (arthur)
I've been ranting a lot lately...and I'm not done yet.  I have a few more coming up.  But I'd like to take a break to share something good.  I had to go to Chicago for work on Wednesday, and I managed to slip over to Mitsuwa, the big Japanese shopping center they have, which has it's own bookstore.  And though they didn't have any of the Maru books (sadface) they did have the new Arakawa Hiromu manga 'Silver Spoon.'

I can't think of the last time I was this charmed by a manga.  I mean, I adore 'Stepping on Roses' but half of my enjoyment is the overtop ridiculous melodrama.  Silver Spoon is just plain good.

It's a 'Slice of Life' manga that takes place at an agricultural high school in Hokkaido.  The protagonist, Hachiken Yuugo, is a total fish out of water here.  He's basically spent his whole life studying, and now he finds himself totally unprepared for all the manual labor and animals and everything that all the other students are pretty used to. 

It's got all of the Arakawa sense of humor, and I kept laughing out loud when... for instance Hachiken thinks he's stumbled on a group of guys looking at a porn mag...but they're really looking at a catalog of cows for sale.  Or his reaction to finding out that chicken eggs and chicken shit come from the same hole. 

But what really impresses me is the pacing.  Of course, Arakawa is a HUGE name at this point, but it's still refreshing that the manga doesn't lead with a monologue of who Hachiken is and why he's ended up all the way in Hokkaido.  At the end of the first volume we know that by the end of middle school Hachiken was basically burnt out from all the studying and juku, and looking to escape from his home life.  But we don't yet know anything about that home life.  And since all he's done is hit the books, Hachiken hasn't taken the time to really find out what he wants to do, and so now he's looking to figure out what exactly his dream really is.  And I can tell these things are going to unfold slowly, and that's a good thing.  Too many manga front load too much, then have problems when they need to figure out what happens next.

I really hope this one does well, and that it gets an official translation.  And maybe an anime or live action adaptation >.>
kaitou: (hmph)
I'm still on my romance novel kick. And still picky as all hell. When I was up in Detroit I went to a used bookstore in my parents neighborhood that I know specializes in romance novels and picked up a bunch of things.

Among them was Julie Anne Long's "Since the Surrender," the third book in a series. The first book in the series was awesome. The second book was just ok, with two brilliantly funny scenes. This third one was...

Ok, so 85% of the book was actually great. As good as the first book. Good enough that when I hit the first of my major problems with it I decided to give it a pass. But in the last 100 pages the whole thing crashed and burned and went radioactive. I'm going to pick this apart, and I'm not going to try and be spoiler free, because I AM SPARING YOU FROM TRAVESTY. I will, however, put this under a cut, because this shit is about to get long.

Here is your cut. )
kaitou: (Default)
You might remember that there were a few...incidents when I listened to Mary Roach's book Bonk on audiobook. My luck continues to hold.

I'm at my parents' this week, and I've been spending most of my time refinishing a dining room table so that I will finally have one of my own.  While I work on the table I've been listening to Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene' on audiobook.  I thought it would be less dangerous than leaving my music on shuffle and having parents/neighbors hear foul language and/or a grown woman who has Chipmunks music on her playlist. 

So I'm putting the top coat onto the chair legs when my dad comes out to check my progress.  And Richard....who's been talking about cuckoos and fig wasps and wolves suddenly launches into speculation on why humans lost their penis bone, and how a hydraulic erection could be a sign of fitness and health.

*hides face in hands*

kaitou: (Default)
I'm still on my romance reading kick, and ran across one that was a little different, and it made me think a bit. "Forbidden Magic" by Jo Beverly was interesting because it had a Manic Pixie Dream Guy. Usually it's the heroine in a Regency Romance who's like a Disney Princess on speed. She'll be the one who is overly familiar with servants, who of course adore her. She'll put up with the deaf butler and the elderly housekeeper because they're like family. She'll have the three legged dog and keep frogs in her reticule. (Srsly, I have read like 3 books now where the heroine keeps a frog in her purse, wtf?) And the hero will be very staid and proper, but he'll learn to love her joie de vie, yadda yadda yadda.

But in this book it's the hero that has the chaotic household. The maid has one eye, the dog has a perma-snarl, the footman has a limp... there's even an inappropriate parrot. He loves the heroine's little brothers and sisters and lets them eat ices for appetizers and plays with them. And of course the heroine who's had to have everything under tight control to keep her family out of serious trouble, learns to loosen up and enjoy life.

I was amused by the Manic Pixie Dream Guy, but what kind of surprised me is that making the Girl the uptight one made her almost unlikable. I'm so used to the heroine being immediately sweet and accepting that it's a little off putting when she balks at the ex-pickpocket working as a servant for her little siblings. Which is a bad reaction on my part. I would probably balk too. But it's interesting that it's an expectation that I didn't even realize I had.
kaitou: (hmph)
So I have totally been in the mood for fluffy, funny historical romance novels lately. Just...something happy you know? But most of what I've been reading is crap.

There is no excuse for this! Genre fiction, and I think romance novels in particular get a bad rap for being trash. But I've read a lot of good ones that I've really enjoyed. So when I was in the mood, and I couldn't find anything, I asked people for reccomendations. And I've been reading my way through them, and half of them make me want to committ an act of violence, because they're nice and readable until they introduce the idiot ball.

So, yeah, let's talk about the Idiot Ball. )
kaitou: (not very bright)
I finished reading a book on Sunday, The Time-Traveler's Guide to to Medieval England. It was pretty good, and probably a good jumping-off sourcebook if I ever feel like writing something set in the 14th Century. But the last chapter was so in love with Chaucer that it made me pull out my old copy of 'The Canterbury Tales' from High School.

What was kind of weird about flipping through it though, was all of my old highlighting. I had a teacher that encouraged it, durting my high school years no non-library/school book was safe from my flourescent pens. After college I stopped doing it, just like I stopped dog earing my paperbacks. But now I look back at this book and I have NO idea why I've singled out any of those particular lines to highlight. Did I think it was pretty? Did it illustrate a point I was trying to make in a paper? What was I thinking?

I've recently taken the highlighter back up again. But only sometimes. It depends on whether the book is art and pleasure, or a research tool. The line is a little fuzzy. Some 'tool' books are just too pretty to mark up, like 'The Science of Leondardo' that had gorgeous creamy paper and brown ink that echoes da Vinci's notebooks. It would be a crime to take pink highlighter to that. So instead it got flagged with dozens of post it notes. And then when I have time I take all my post it notes and highlights and throw them up in the wiki Flidget gave me to keep said notes in. So I will always have this oddball collection of notes and ideas when I need them.

I wonder if I will remember what these notes & highlights were for in 10 years.
kaitou: (monkeys)
So I not only watch a lot of odd nonfiction TV, I also read a lot of odd nonfiction books. I was reading Stephen Ray Gould's "Full House," which is an interesting book about evolution and baseball. I skipped the baseball chapters altogether but the evolution bits were interesting. And he talks a lot about the Drunkard's Walk. Which is like a mathematical way of saying 'you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.' And that if you start at a fixed point, and move randomly...you'll end up somewhere.

This resulted in the best diagram in the history of nonfiction ever.
I give you... )
kaitou: (not very bright)
....You know, for a list I made myself, I thought I would have read more books on it. I've only read 30 of the books on my own list! LOL. (And of course I'm already second guessing my list after spending months putting it together. Michael Pollan, how did you get on there twice?)

My results! )
kaitou: (Work)
So, do you guys remember when there was a meme going around about how people don't read anymore, and there was a list of 100 classic books to see if you'd read them or not? (which was totally not the list that was actually in the article, but I digress) Well you see, I like to read nonfiction, and I was sad to see that there were NO nonfiction books on that list.

So I went looking for a list of top 100 nonfiction books...but there wasn't one. So I set out to make one of my own. And with the help of many of you on my flist, I have now put together a list that I think is pretty good. For the most part it's not filled with classics, it's filled with the recent popular. I tried to have a good mix of history, science, memoir and such. I could have probably made a list solely out of food related books. It's not perfect, but I'm still pretty pleased.

I'm going to write up another post with my answers, and I'd be as pleased as punch to see you all put this on your journal, and see what your answers are.

I love to read nonfiction! )
kaitou: (Work)
Her necklace was exquisite.

"That's beautiful," Valkyrie said, looking at it.

"Isn't it? This necklace has cost two very fine men their lives. At times, I wear it in tribute to their sacrifice. Other times, I wear it because it goes with this skirt. Would you like to come in?"


Man, I want to write like that!
kaitou: (Work)
Last night I bought a couple of books off of Amazon's Marketplace that lets you buy used books from 3rd parties. They're out of print, so I was glad to find them. Even better, when I got my confirmation mail this morning, I found out that the proceeds from my order are going to charity. The dealer, Better World Books, is devoted to World Literacy and has it's own website where you can sell or buy new and used books, organize book drives and all sorts of things.

Cool stuff.
kaitou: (monkeys)
Well I finished another Sayer's mystery last night, 'The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.' I didn't like it quite as much as I've liked some of her others, which I think had mostly to do with the characters. I think Sayer's characters are one of the best things about her writing, and even here they're really, really well rounded. But instead of being sympathetic, they're like those friends that everyone has that you have to make apologies for. You know, like, 'I know Sue is being a bitch but she's just been through a bad divorce and her mother has cancer. She's really very nice, really." But I really did like the character of Ann Dorland, especially her take on wine. It's always a relief to have characters that share your name that you can approve of.

I considered launching into the next Sayers book I have out from the library, but instead decided to read a Mrs. Pollifax book by Dorothy Gilman I got when I was visiting parents, 'A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax.' I wish I'd written these books, they're so hilarious and awesome. If you see one in a used bookstore or library, be sure to pick one up. (I say used because they're short little books and it hurts to pay $6.50 for only 200 pages)

Mrs. Pollifax, for the uninitiated, is a little old lady who was feeling a bit low...her husband was gone, her children were grown and the world felt gray and meaningless. Her doctor told her to try and fulfill a dream she'd always had, and Mrs. Pollifax went right out and joined the CIA. Which means you get great exchanges like:

"All right," she agreed, "but what equally concerns me if I'm leaving so soon is what I tell people when I announce I shall be away, People like my son in Chicago, my daughter in Arizona. The Garden Club. My neighbor Miss Hartshorne, the art association..."

"Go on," said Carstairs looking fascinated.

"...the Hospital Auxiliary, the Save-Our-Environment Committee, and" she paused to frown at the expression on his face, " my karate instructor."

"I waited for the last with baited breath," Carstairs said, "It still carries impact."

"My karate strikes do, too," she told him modestly.
kaitou: (flight)
Is there anything worse than being 30 pages from the end of a good mystery novel, knowing you're JUST about to find out whodunnit, when your lunch break ends and you have to go back to work?

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