Monday, March 18, 2019

There is an app for that!

After finishing the online course Japanese Sub-cultures,  I had to think about what I wanted to do with what I had learnt.  My new teacher librarian was very supportive of me doing extra curricular activities, and I was very excited about what I could do. The day I got the go-ahead to do the manga club I couldn't stop smiling.  After so many years of repression in my old job this was a brand new experience for me (having this encouragement and support), and for the first time in a long while I was full, actually I was brimming over, with joy. 
There was still a lot to do though.  I wanted to present the club as something that was all inclusive.  Originally, I had thought we might run it along similar lines as my online club which meant we would need to get more than one copy of which ever manga was chosen, and considering that that was an expense we couldn't afford, I had to find alternatives.  On my own Samsung tablet I tried out a few different manga apps but settled on Manga Master.
 I like it's simple format and inclusion of older stories (lots of Tezuka on it), but mostly I liked that you could do searches for storylines that are completed.  For IPads, I chose Manga Rock.

I admit I don't like this app as much as Manga Master, but I wanted to find the best app possible for Ipads.  Also, I find that if you just look at Manga Rock online rather than using the app you have access to more choices.
For my lap top I tried out both Manga Blaze

and Comics Unlimited. 

I like both apps, especially Comics Unlimited as I can read some pretty old comics (which is great for my research).
There is also, an online resource for those who do not have access to devices or have an older computer without Windows 10. 
I tried to cover all the bases so that any new member to Mangamaniacs!  could read the manga I had hoped to cover. 
It didn't quite work out the way I had hoped.  Most students would prefer to read the actual volume rather than look at a screen (well...for reading a book that is), but the information is still handy, especially when we have gaps in our collection.  I encourage students to have a look at these websites to fill in those gaps. 
For myself I found these apps to be invaluable.  To be able to read what book choices are made on my online group, and also to do research on whatever story might be chosen next for Mangamaniacs!  
We haven't limited ourselves to just reading manga but looking at the Marvel and DC universes as well.  Which is where Comics Unlimited has been very valuable.  Last spring we did Infinity Wars for the month of May and it was a very interesting month, discussing various superheroes, right down to their origins.  I got a lot from the experience as well as learning something new. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Osamu Tezuka

The creator of Astro Boy and one of my earliest exposures to the science fiction genre (it probably had something to do with my enduring devotion to stories about robots as well!).  I have fond memories of watching the show when I was a kid, and I had goosebumps when the first episode was showed to the new manga and anime group (Mangamaniacs!) at work. 

Tezuka's work was mentioned often in my course about Japanese sub-cultures and he is considered the godfather of manga and anime.  It's true that his work has inspired many artists in Japan today (including one of my favourites Akira Toriyama!).  What is fascinating to me is the scope of his work.  Not only did he create unforgettable characters for children but he also wrote for adults too.  I think back to my course and the professor's comments about the fact that there is an immaturity contributed to Japanese people today; possibly because there is such a huge industry of manga and anime.    I disagree.  I think that in the past twenty years graphica and animation have progressed so much in quantity and quality, that it is indeed something that should not be attributed just to the popularity of a younger generation.  I have read, over the past eighteen months, story lines that would never be suitable for a child to read.   Grownups need their comics too!  This is something that deserves further research, as I feel that I have a minute idea of what Japan and it's people are all about.

Back to Tezuka.  I have as yet read only eight or so of his stories, and I am impressed with his talent for illustration and his ability to shape a story that is engaging and unique.  Last year I challenged myself to read a volume of manga each day (365!), with the intent of reading all of my library's collection, so I had to drop reading Tezuka's works for a while.  Trying to read the library's collection was a challenge too because I also had commitments to what my online manga club wanted to read,  and after starting a new club at work there where different choices in this group as well.  As yet, I still have at least a third of the collection to go.  But I want to go back and read the rest of Tezuka's collection soon.  Though if you glance at the picture I posted above, you can see just how immense a task that will be. 

I loved how sometimes Tezuka would insert himself into the narrative of the story, it created a personal connection to him which I think endured him to his audience. 

I adore him for his imagination!  It touched more people than he could possibly have ever known. 
When Mangamaniacs began a year ago, Astro boy was the first story we looked at.  I will, from time to time bring him back into rotation in our club, because I think it's important to see the origins and the inspiration for what was to follow, in both manga and anime.  Of course there is lots more to talk about when it comes to the vanguard of manga and anime, and I look forward to doing that!

Friday, March 8, 2019


Number two on the list 100 Must Read YA Books In Verse.
This was an evocative read.  I made an instant connection, naturally, because my mother attempted suicide when I was a teenager.  So I  know about after.  
Anna Gonzales takes her own life and the next day, starting with the principal, you can read their reactions.  A lot of facets are introduced here, from the points of view of different students and staff.  Not all of it is about Anna, which is perfectly normal.  After reading a few poems I reflected on my own experiences.  It's all about connections.  A book can mean more to you if you are able to make personal connections, and it doesn't even have to be about the central topic. 
This is an important book and I strongly recommend it.  If you can't find this at your library you can find it  here at Open Library

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Italian Novel

When I think of the Italian novel I admit that this kind of book was not my first thought (though it really should have).  Why not novels by Italians?  For the longest time it was The Mysteries of Uldolfo by Ann Radcliffe which I had very often thought of as the Italian novel (which is really silly when you think about it... she wasn't even Italian, and worse, I haven't even read it yet!).  I blame it on Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.
The year before last I focused on Italo Calvino's novels, which where different, fascinating,  often weird and sometimes a challenge to read, but I never thought of him as Italian (very much).  This on the other hand is Italian!  The real deal.  These two books My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name are only half of what is known as the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante.  I have decided to talk about them two at a time  (because talking about each one would eventually be tedious).  
I am listening to the audiobooks, narrated by Hilary Huber, who has become very familiar to me (after listening to over thirty hours so far), and I appreciate her narrative style.   Her pronunciation of names and her neutral voice overall, is pleasant to listen to.  
My ultimate aim is to read the last of this series The Story of a Lost Child which has been listed as a must read by 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die 2018 edition.  It is a long route to take to get to the eventual goal, but I don't mind.  The first two books were riveting.  They were also suspsenseful (a Kazuo Ishiguro type of suspense), I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it does, it is always spectacular (good or bad).  
Essentially these novels are the story of two girls who began by growing up in the same neighbourhood.  Their relationship is a confusing one.  It wobbles from competitive, to jealous, to toxic to affectionate and back again.  It is also, in my opinion, perverse.  Perverse because neither of the girls can leave each other alone for very long.  So after reading two novels about them I have become less inclined to root for the narrator of the story, Lenu but at the same time I really dislike the other girl, Lina.   I have to often remind myself, after feeling disgusted at some nasty thing that has happened between the girls, is that they are girls.  And in the next novel, I have to remember, they are teenagers.  
I'm not surprised.  It is stated at the very beginning when initial description of the neighbourhood was being set, that women of the neighbourhood were the most vicious and spiteful.  

Novel number two doubles down on the nastiness and again, Lina is just despicable.  But I don't lose sight of the fact that she is also a victim of circumstance.  Both young women are brilliant and thirsty for knowledge, but it is only Lenu who gets the opportunity to commence with a greater education (this story is staged in the late fifty's).  Lina is left behind, and lashes out in frustration at Lenu (though Lenu sometimes likes to rub it in).  Both girls are equal in that they are both poor, and both have parents who are ignorant, but where things change is that Lenu's parents eventually agree to further education whilst, Lina's outright refuse.  This is where I feel the greatest connections to the characters, that passion for literature, for scholastic achievement, also, the frustration of having  parents who do not encourage or understand this intellectual need.
But we differ in that when I recognize a toxic relationship between me and someone else, I distance myself from the toxic one.
My over-all feeling about these first two novels is that they are saga-like, operatic, I could imagine them being performed.  Mostly I am reminded of a friend of my husband.  He wanted to show me what his dog did when she sniffed a cotton ball with nail polish remover on it.  The poor pup would go in for a big sniff, then commence to have a stupendously large sneezing fit, but then, she would go back for another sniff!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

5 to 1

Number one on the list 100 Must Read YA Books in Verse.  I don't think it was rated as the best book, just simply the first in a long list.  It was a good, quick read and the subject was something I had never read about before (though I saw, once, a documentary about India's girls so I can see the seeds for such a novel).  I won't get into the wherefore's here.  Just suffice it to say I am grateful that I do not live in India.

Again, (referring to After the Kiss) this novel is told from the perspective of two people, the female in verse the male in prose.  It is another really neat way of differentiating between the two as well as perhaps defining the characters (I'm not saying between sexes, but between personalities).
So, this story is in our future, the year is 2054, so not too far.  India has run out of women and chaos has ensued.  A closed off city has been built to protect what is left of the girls, and a new society is born.   With the ratio of five boys to one girl, there are competitions to show the suitability of each male where the girl ultimately chooses her mate.  Now bring on the dystopia...

I just want to veer off topic for a moment and ask, why do dystopia's get dumped into the genre of science fiction?  This novel, for instance, is not advanced technically in any way, not even in the science of genetics (which you would assume if you were a creepy, futuristic society intent on the breeding of girls).  But this isn't the case with this book.  Nothing sciency at all.  Goodreads even gave it a romance rating which, in my opinion, is really inappropriate.

So I think that at the most, this novel is food for thought, and I like that it is different from anything I have read so far.  I will also say that it has inspired me a little to want to write in the same way (though I haven't a clue about what!).

Monday, March 4, 2019


Looking for some lighter reads for my job-library's collection, I thought that I would have a look at the novellas that were either winners or nominees for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.  I've been meaning to do this for a really long time, but now I had a very good excuse for having a look. 
Of course, Nnedi Okorafor's name has popped up here and there for a while in other award lists, and I had also been wanting to read something of hers...  so this was a perfect moment to do so. 
Tor publishing will give you a good deal on these novellas for Kindle so I bought the first one not knowing what to expect. 
I was amazed!  I was smitten!  I was grateful that the other two novellas in this series were available right now!  Never have I been so happy about buying something online and getting that instant gratification of reading as soon as possible!  Binti was wonderful, and the following novellas were great too. 
I enjoyed them so much that I didn't stop there.  I have bought most of Okorafor's other books as well, and I am going to read as many as possible this year.  I am especially looking forward to reading her comic books.
So, if you just want a quick read, an introductory jolt of African futurism, this is where to start.  I have just read an article recently that supports this idea at Bookriot.  I can't wait to read what comes next.

After the Kiss

Chosen from Book Riot's 100 Must-Read YA Books in Verse.  One of the really neat things about my new job is that it is in the same town as a library, so I have been taking advantage of the interlibrary loan system.  Which meant that this year I would give this list a try as I A.) love lists and B.) love verse novels. 
A lot of my reading goals this year are about young adult literature, awards etc, and I thought I would fit in genre as well because my library has novels arranged by genre.  I had originally thought this might be placed in the romance category, but after I finished reading it this morning, I felt that it definitely was NOT. 

This story is about two girls who have been played by the same boy.  Camille (new girl in town) tells her story in enjambement:-

“the goal is to keep yourself moving, remember? don't linger. don't hover. you are not going to stay.” 

She moves around a lot (her fathers job) and it is really hard for her to make connections with people.  I like how her verse softens her and shows how she rigidly encases herself in a protective shell.

Becca (hometown girl with boyfriend Alec), is all over the place and her free verses reflect all of the inner turmoil of her life, her obsession with her boyfriend to the exclusion of everything else.  Then there is the catalyst, a car accident, which forces Becca to get a job to pay for repairs, and make Alec one sulky boy who is not getting all of her attention.  Before the kiss:-

“my own chocolate center has filled up with poison,
the roses he gave me all twisted black” 

Becca's life is full to overflowing with work, and her school (this is the last year before graduation) and when the inevitable happens (Alec kisses Camille at a party and it is photographed by one of Becca's friends), everythings falls into chaos for Becca and also for Camille. 

Becca of course is heartbroken, Camille confused and embarrassed.  Alec seems like a nice guy who makes up haiku off the cuff and is very intense which is appealing to both girls.  Really, what he did with Camille was just an impulse, she's a really nice and clever girl who gets his haiku...

"you seem you could use
  a little kind of surprise
  maybe some haiku?"

 Becca's free verse, with the occasional apology to other poets (she borrows from various poets and substitutes her own words) is amazing.  I love how the verse is chaotic and a little choppy, showing how deeply she feels, how hurt she is, but also how creative her personality is. 

I loved this book, all of the different types of verse was just brilliant.  I loved the two girls, each amazing in their own ways.  I especially love how they both dealt with the same situation (Alec).
Phew! Just 99 more books to go!