is a Canadian singer-songwriter, whose piano-based music tends towards a jazzy cabaret style. Or at least that what it sounds like on her fourth studio album, The Baroness
, and its subsequent EP of non-album tracks, The Baroness Redecorates
. I actually prefer the songs from the EP over the studio album. In particular, "Parasol
" is my favorite. I have an urge to write a song called "The Stack in My Rack" in this style.Priscilla Hernandez
is a singer-songwriter (and illustrator!) who hails from Spain. Her songs from Ancient Shadows
sound like a more gothic version of Enya's work. Here's "The willow's lullaby
" and "Away
". I'm fascinated by the music, though I need to look up the lyrics 'cause I can't understand anything she's singing (and I'm pretty sure that, despite being Spanish, she's singing in English).The Veronicas
are an Australian pop-rock duet of twin sisters whose music from their second studio album, Hook Me Up
, is also strongly techno/house-influenced. I first heard part of their music two days ago, and was intrigued by the techno to go check them out, but found out that I didn't like them as much as I thought I would. I don't know if it was the music or if it was the cliched lyrics. Here's part of the song I first heard, "Untouched
", which has a really nice strings arrangement in the opening. The songs reminded me of Lady GaGa's work, whose music I actually did
like to a certain extent, so if you're also a fan of Lady GaGa (and perhaps Katy Perry?), you might like The Veronicas.
Finally, I swear that one day I will cover Andrew W.K.'s "Ready to Die
" in the style of Yousei Teikoku. ONE DAY. *shakes fist*
is a contemporary Japanese novel by Banana Yoshimoto. Maria Shirakawa is the only daughter of an unmarried woman who has lived most of her life in a little seaside town alongside her invalid cousin Tsugumi Yamamoto, who despite being an invalid has enough energy to cause grief to those around her through her abrasive words and frequent temper tantrums. Maria and Tsugumi are close friends, and when Maria's father is finally able to bring Maria and her mother to Tokyo to live there for good, Tsugumi invites Maria to spend one last summer by sea with her and her family.
I enjoyed this one, although the translation was clunky in some parts, especially for Tsugumi's really rough way of speaking. I was also pleasantly surprised that ( SPOILER )
. Overall, it's a very hopeful novel, though I have to admit that at this point (having sped-read my way through the thing a week ago) I'm not entirely sure what the message was supposed to be.Piercing
by Ryu Murakami is another contemporary Japanese novel. The story revolves around Kawashima Masayuki, who is a successful graphic designer living Tokyo with his lovely wife Yoko and their newborn daughter Rie. All is not well with this family, though, for Kawashima has this overwhelming desire to stab his newborn daughter with an ice pick. (YAINORITE BEAR WITH ME, OKAY???) In order to face down this destructive desire, which has its roots in childhood trauma, Kawashima makes plans to take a solo vacation so that he can go out and kill a prostitute instead. Little does he know that the prostitute he's chosen, Sanada Chiaki, has some destructive impulses of her own that just may thwart his plans.
So, in case the whole "I WANT TO STAB MY BABY WITH AN ICE PICK" thing didn't clue you in, this is a really fucked up novel
. It's sort of like the Japanese Chuck Palahniuk novel, although I'm not familiar enough with Palahniuk's work to say which one it most resembles - I've only read Haunted
. But based on that, if I had to make a comparison to those two Palahniuk novels, I'd have to say that Piercing
is 1) a lot more focused in its narrative (both Haunted
had multiple characters and multiple layers and layers of narration going on) and 2) derives most of its visceral squick factor from copious amounts of blood, as opposed to body fluids in general which may or may not include blood (which is what Palahniuk had an affinity for doing in the two novels I read).
The other part of the book's squick factor is, of course, the fact that Kawashima wants to stabbinate his kid. But I think that the overblown treatment that this book gives to Kawashima's destructive impulses nevertheless speaks to something that we all have in us: the desire to completely destroy anything good we've built. Or hell, to destroy anything
we've built, good or not, since with Sanada Chiaki, she focuses her destructive tendencies on herself. The two of them eventually recognize that they are similar people, not that either of them specifically admit that to each other. All in all, the novel ends kind of ambiguously, albeit with a very obvious reference to novel's title. I'm really kind of ambivalent about this book; I appreciate the unorthodox structure and the story that Murakami set up, but have my doubts about the resolution of it. Overall, uh, if you like/can stomach Palahniuk's work, you may want to give Piercing
a try. It's short enough that I was able to get through it on a one-way train ride from Midway Airport to the Western stop on the Brown Line, which was about an hour and a half long, but I'm a decently fast reader.Zahrah the Windseeker
by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is a YA fantasy novel set in a magical Nigeria. Taking the summary from the inside cover flap because I'm lazy:
In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl - she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other children in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn't afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening - something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friend determine to investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari;s life is threatened, Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different.Zahrah the Windseeker
has all the charm and structure of a timeless fairytale, which makes the book somewhat predictable but very satisfying. What makes the book stand out is the non-white heroine and the non-Euro-centric worldbuilding, which is very well-done. Zahrah and Dari are likable, relatable characters as well. Highly recommended.Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer is...do I really
need to summarize this one by this point? It's about a whiny whitebread American girl named Bella and her sparkly vampire love. Oh, and there's some semblance of a plot crammed into the last 100 pages that doesn't really make any sense and serves no purpose other than to underscore how ~*~*~special~*~*~ the girl is.
Two things that mildly - emphasis on mildly
- redeemed the book for me:
*Bella apparently likes to read. One of the (million and hundred) things that she hates about Forks is that their local library has a poor selection of books, so she makes plans to head out of town and hit up some used bookstores in a bigger town. Not that Bella seems to read anything besides what appears on high school reading lists, and since those are classics I find it difficult to believe that even a small town like Forks wouldn't have those in stock at the library. And she loses points from me for passing up the metaphysical bookstore.
*Edward's a pianist and composer, who wrote a song for Bella. Not that this hobby of his comes up ever again in the series, based on what I've read of cleolinda
*For some reason, despite so many people saying that this actually happened, I didn't really notice gratuitous overusage of the word "chagrin" in Twilight
. (Not saying that it didn't happen; just that I didn't notice it.) I did, however, notice gratuitous overuse of the word "smouldering", usually used to describe Edward's omgsodaaaaark eyes or his gaze or whatshit.vyctori:
Only use the word when something is actually on fire?reileen:
"HE SPARKLED SO HARD HE SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTED"
*You know what makes Edward really
creepy? (Besides the obvious things like following her home and watching her sleep without her knowing about it, etc., etc.) The fact that he seems to have this dual...personality or mindset or whatever of being both a creepy old guy (where he constantly claims that he knows what's best for Bella and basically condescends to her) and a typical emotionally constipated teenager ("WE SHOULDN'T BE FRIENDS BECAUSE I AM TEH DANGEROUS BUT LET'S BE FRIENDS ANYWAY EVEN THOUGH IT'LL TOTALLY BE BAD FOR BOTH OF US
BUT YOUR BLOOD SMELLS TASTY LIKE FLOWERS (wait did I say that out loud O SHI)~").
by Satoko Kiyuduki is - okay, can I just pause here for a moment to tell you how much I loathe the title
? Most awkward translation ever
. The Japanese is fairly straightforward, y'know (棺担ぎのクロ
) - they could've called it Coffin Carrier Kuro
, which has the benefit of alliteration. True, it's still a bit of an odd title, but it sounds more standardly manga-ish.
Anyway, Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro
is about a tomboyish girl named Kuro, who travels the world looking for a particular witch. She dresses in black and carries a coffin as large as she is, with the knowledge that she may have to use it by the end of her journey. She's frequently mistaken for a witch herself, as well as a boy, a vampire, a reaper, and other spooky things, but she has a good heart and leaves an impression wherever she goes. Accompanying her are: Sen the talking bat, who tends to be the snarky and slightly irresponsible, and the mysterious catgirl twins Nijuku and Sanju, whom Kuro found one day on her travels.
Lydia lent me the first volume of this series on Friday and I read it on the train home. I really like the art, even though it's kind of generically cute. I'm less fond of the fact that this manga is done in 4-koma format, which I feel really
restricts the narrative possibilities of this work. Did Kiyuduki just not want to deal with large backgrounds or something? Which I can totally sympathize with, but she draws backgrounds nicely and I don't, which makes all the difference.
The chapters themselves kind of skip around in terms of story time, going forward and then backward and then forward again, but I didn't find it too
hard to follow. I'm intrigued enough that I'm going to bug Lydia for the second volume - I wish I knew how many volumes there were in total of this manga so I could figure out whether I'd be left on a cliffhanger or not.
Speaking of Lydia, I was discussing the latest manga developments of Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro
with her. She's a fan of the anime, but gave up on the manga partway through the current story arc with Sicks and the New Bloodline. I was way more enthusiastic than her about the Bloodline story arc, but now that we've reached chapter 198, with Matsui stating that MTNN
is definitely ending soon...I'm actually finding myself increasingly dissatisfied with the way this series has gone. I'm not sure if it's a legitimate gripe or if - due to reading fanfic or just too many discussions with kiirobon
or something else - I just wanted something different.
A minor part of my gripe has to do with the fact that it seems like Matsui's art has gotten worse at this point in things. Matsui was never a technically spectacular artist, which he himself has admitted, but the story and characters were compelling enough that one could overlook some of the weirder (or scarier) depictions and regard it in the same way as one would regard a beloved, intelligent, well-spoken friend who had a tendency for wearing things like stretch velour leopard print pants with a pleather lavender faux snakeskin jacket. (Disclaimer: I actually own both of these items, but despite my leanings towards bold fashions, I have enough sense not
to pair the two together.)
But with the story now smack-dab in the middle of the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, the emphasis has
to be on the visuals on the fight scene. This means that distortions and wonkily-drawn parts stand out more, and potentially distract the reader from the scene. And if my shoddy memory serves me correctly, I'm not remembering any visually impressive panels from this recent fight. Usually with major fight scenes in MTNN
, you get a panel or two that's drawn awesomelikewhoah
and it basically encapsulates that particular fight in a nutshell. (My favorite examples include Neuro using Evil Aqua in the fight against a mind-controlled Higuchi near the end of the HAL arc and Neuro using Evil Torture against DR near the beginning of the Bloodline arc.) But that doesn't seem to be the case with Neuro vs. Sicks. It's disappointing, especially because he gave us awesome demonic weapons like Evil Aqua and Evil Torture, but now all we've got is ( this thing that is minorly spoilery so it's going under a cut. )
Is Matsui just kind of rushing to be done with this series? Or have we just not seen the best that Neuro has to offer for this particular fight?
The other problem I'm wrestling with for MTNN
is the progression of the various thematic elements in the story, the "evolution" of humans and where such evolution places them in relation to a demon like Neuro. But my thoughts are still kind of scattered on this one, and I've spent enough time typing up this long-ass entry, so I may just return to this particular theme once MTNN
finishes its Shonen Jump run.
-Reileenand lying to your own reflection, you thought you could hide