Friday Recs: Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Monstress_Vol1-1This week’s rec comes in the form of a graphic novel. The book, Monstress is written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda.

I know Marjorie Liu’s name from being a librarian, but I’ve never read any of her work until now. A friend of mine recommended this book to me and I’m so glad she did!

Monstress is, as described by the publisher Image Comics, as being set in alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia. The world is full of magic, humans, animals who speak and people who are neither human nor animals, but something in between.

Maika is a war survivor and her story is that of survival and revenge. She wants vengeance and so she begins her journey by becoming a slave. Early on we realize that this won’t last and it doesn’t, Maika escapes, frees her fellow prisoners and begins her path of destruction. Along the way she steals part of an ancient mask that will change her and set people after her.

The first volume, Awakening, tells the story of Maika’s journey of vengeance, introduces us to other characters who will join Maika, and sets the stage for the long journey she has ahead of her. We also discover what happened to Maika during the war and who (or what) is trying to kill her.

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The story, which I have not done any sort of justice, is tremendous. Maika is a flawed character, but she is not bad. The people who live around who are flawed, the world they live in barely survived a war that was ended in a way that few truly understand. Maika’s world is not free of war, instead it’s again on the brink. When you close the back cover of Awakening, you wonder if perhaps Maika will be the one to prevent it — or will she start it?

Liu’s writing is strong, the plot intricate and engaging. But what really stands out for me is the artwork. Takeda’s illustrations are beautiful and bring the story alive more than I would have expected. Takeda is able to capture everything, from the anguish and pain that characters feel, to the anger and violence of those coming after Maika and the people around her.

Monstress is not without humor, though. There are moments, and characters, who lighten the mood. The lighthearted moments are few and far between, but they are skillfully added and feel very real. Even the darkest of stories needs a little bit of a pause sometimes.

From talking cats to, my favorite, Kippa who is a fox girl (she is seen below), the cast of Monstress is sweepingly broad and equally as beautiful and dangerous. I cannot recommend this book enough. It seems to be a good fit for teen readers who like graphic novels with strong female characters or any adult who enjoys well-written and illustrated graphic novels.

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I got my copy from the library, but you can get it from Image Comics or Amazon. Volume 2 comes out in July and I can’t wait.

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Friday Recs

51j2xe9t8FL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_I sort of fell of the posting train for self-care and while I have been doing things self-care wise, I thought I would try something different for posting. Instead of a whole list of things, I’d like to try recommending one thing and maybe discussing it a little bit.

This week I’d like to recommend Nnedi Okorafor’s science fiction novella Binti. 

Binti is the start of a 3 novella trilogy by Okorafor. It’s set in the future, which in some ways feels much like our present day, but it’s definitely not set today. Binti is also the name of our main character, a young woman who is leaving her home on Earth to enter university. She is the first of her people to leave Earth, to travel in space, and to go to university.

The novella is about Binti’s struggle in these new worlds, but it’s more than that. It’s the story of being alien among aliens, about being different, and about survival. But at it’s heart, Binti is about the importance of taking risks to do the right thing. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, because it is so good, so I’ll stop there.

Outside of the plot itself, everything about Okorafor’s novella is excellent. The story, of course, is good. But the writing is beautiful and the characters come alive, Binti especially, but all of them. I loved Binti because I love Binti herself, but also because I love Okorafor’s storytelling.

I do want to note that I listened to the audio version and if you can grab a copy, please do. Robin Miles does a truly wonderful job with the voices throughout the novel and I dearly hope she reads the remaining novellas in the series. Please give Binti a try!

Tor helpfully has written and audio excerpts form Binti if you want a taste.

Self-Care Friday (Week 8)

You’ll notice that I haven’t listened to a lot of music this week. That isn’t strictly true, most of my music has been from my YouTube Watch Later playlist. If you’re not a regular YT user (I am and ever since I subscribed to Google Music, I use it even more — it comes with YT Red, which means no commercials) you may not know what it is. When you’re logged into your Google account and go to YT, as you browse videos you’ll see something in the upper right corner of the thumbnail that looks like a clock. That’s the add to watch later button. You click that and then you can save it for later. I have been doing that a lot and I had a ton of videos in there. But in preparation for hanging out with N this weekend, I wanted to clear them out so it’s just filled of English subbed videos. That meant most of the stuff I listened to (still kpop, of course) was on YT and not Spotify or Google Music.

Anyway, onto the fun stuff.

What I’ve Been Reading:

No new read harder books this week, maybe something next week, we’ll see. I’ll hopefully be reviewing the Jack Cheng book at some point.

Completed:

  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, book 8)
  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book Two by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 10 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Currently reading:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
  • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
  • Chimes At Midnight by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 7)
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 11 by Fumi Yoshinaga

What I’m Watching:

Completed:

I’m hoping to write up a review of TTM sometime soon, too.

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Flash Point (HK film)
  • Brigadoon (1954)
  • The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (documentary)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973)
  • Logan’s Run (1976)

Currently:

  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Oh My Ghost (kdrama)

What I’m listening to:

Mostly a bunch of new groups. I can’t help it. It’s one of the best things about kpop, they’re the gift that keeps on giving. On Spotify, though, just two different kpop groups (one new, one not) and a great jazz musician.

Joey Alexander – Countdown

Seven O’Clock – Butterfly Effect

Monsta X – The Clan pt. 2.5 [Beautiful]

And a picture. Monsta X (above) is going to make their Japanese debut soon and their Japanese company has been releasing photos. Have one of my favorite member of Monsta X, Kihyun. I’ve shared him a lot, but he is my favorite, after all!

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Yoo Kihyun of Monsta X

Self-Care Friday (Week 7)

I finished another kdrama this week! My friend N and I, who saw SHINee together on Sunday, finished Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo on Sunday (before our concert, actually). It premiered back in August of last year and took us until now to finish it. It was 20 episodes and I plan to write up a review for next week. Suffice to say, we both enjoyed it for the most part.

I did not watch any new movies this week, alas. I was too busy with other things (like traveling!) but my dad is coming to visit me this weekend and I have a bunch of movies (including a musical) to watch. Anyway, onto the good stuff.

What I’ve Been Reading:

Reader Harder:

  • Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Read a classic by an author of color: Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Completed:

  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book One by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 6)
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday volume 9 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Reading:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
  • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book Two by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Chimes At Midnight by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 7)
  • See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng

What I’m Watching:

I haven’t started any new kdramas yet, but that’ll happen soon. Next week some time, I’m sure. I will also include the movies I watch in next week’s update.

Completed:

  • Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (kdrama)

Currently:

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)

Upcoming:

  • Oh My Ghost (kdrama)
  • Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (kdrama)

What I’m Listening To:

I’m going to try a bit of a different format this time, so bare with me (similar, but also different).

SHINee of course! I saw them on Sunday night and it was fantastic! I feel very lucky to have seen them live. It was so good. Hopefully they’ll release a DVD and album of our concert, or at least one of the North American ones. Anyway, to listen to SHINee now, check your favorite streaming sites or go to Spotify:

Next up: BLANC7 as usual! I can’t get enough of them. Listen on Google Play.

And last up, one of my most favorite groups EVER: Monsta X! First of all, check out the music video for their new song, Beautiful (off of their new album, more about that below):

I love them a lot, y’all! Anyway, you can listen to their new song on Google Play or on Spotify and I cannot recommend it enough! Their new album is by far and away the best of their releases (and their stuff is pretty good all around). It’s 10 songs (!!!) and it makes me so happy. I’m really excited about this album and I hope they do well. I also hope they come to the US, because they’re one of the few groups that I want to see and haven’t yet seen. Please, Starship!

Anyway, give it a listen on Spotify (since it’s not embedding right now).

And, lastly, a photo to get you through the day. I went to the SHINee concert with Taemin as my favorite, but left with the guy below as my favorite. What are you going to do? It happens. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Choi Minho in Toronto (3/19/2017) (c) FATAL (sources: here and here)

Self-Care Friday (Week 6)

No musical reviews for you this week, though I did watch Camelot (dumb, but amusing) and Cabaret (fantastic) with my parents. As you may have noticed if you follow me on twitter or Facebook, I was without power from Wednesday of last week until Sunday (technically Saturday, but I was not home then). I ended up driving up to visit my parents on Thursday night and spending the weekend there. It was a lot of fun, in spite of my worries about the power outages in SE Michigan.

What I’ve Been Reading:

I have no finished any more Read Harder challenges this week, but I should finish at least one by next Friday.

Completed:

  • Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, Book 7)
  • One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (auido book: October Daye, Book 5)

Reading:

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
  • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

What I’m watching:

I completed Voice earlier this week and there will be a review next week, keep an eye out for it. I really can’t wait to write about Tokyo Tarareba Musume, but I’m not finished with yet. I have three episodes left (8, 9, & 10) but the final two episodes are not subbed yet. I’m also working on what kdramas to watch next, I’ve had two suggestions: Oh My Ghost and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. I might try one or both of them, the two kdramas I’m waiting for (Man to Man and Ruler) don’t start until April and May, respectively, so I have some time. I also have some movies to watch, but I’ll talk about them next week.

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)

What I’ve been listening to:

I’m still obsessed with BLANC7’s mini album, Prism (Google Play). It’s really great music to work to and I can’t stop listening. But I have listened to a few other things:

  • B.A.P – Rose (mini album)
  • Viction – all of their albums
  • BTOB – Feel’eM

In honor of see SHINee this Sunday (!!), here’s a photo from the last time I saw them (May of last year). It’s crappy, I know, but still. Enjoy!

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SHINee @ Rosemont (Chicago) – 5/8/2016

 

Book Review: Reykjavík Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason

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I am a huge fan of Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series. There’s something compelling about his writing style and the characters in the series. Not just Erlendur, but the the people who surround him. In fact, Indriðason has written two books who are tangentially about Erlendur, but are in truth about the two detectives he works with. In Reykjavík Nights we are treated not to a story about Erlendur the inspector but instead Erlendur the 20something (I think he’s 26) traffic cop.

Note: Don’t read this book unless you’ve the rest of the series. If you want to read Erlendur’s series, start with Jar City, the earliest book in the series to have been translated into English.

Reykjavík Nights follows the beginning of Erlendur’s path toward the detective we’re familiar with. This Erlendur is has no true experience solving crimes, he’s young and without a family of his own. While he has no wife or daughter, the baggage he does carry is the same that haunts him throughout the whole series.

Spoilers: The disappearance and probable death of Erlendur’s brother in a snowstorm, when they were both young, follows him, haunting him in at age 26. We learn that this loss has truly shaped him as a detective, in fact, the main case of Reykjavík Nights is only solved because of Erlendur’s obsession with missing people. End Spoilers

The novel is differs from the usual style of Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur series. Instead of following Erlendur and his team as they try to solve a murder of some kind, we’re treated to two stories without. Reykjavík Nights has two halves: a procedural Law & Order type story line and an overarching crime that Erlendur must solve. The title of the novel itself is really only half the story, but this is not a bad thing

As a big fan of Law & Order, this novel read a bit like the Reykjavik version of that show — except that the characters (and Erlendur especially) were very well developed. We are treated to Erlendur’s experiences as a traffic/beat cop on the streets of Reykjavik. He works the night shift, hence the title, and Indriðason fills chapters with the exploits of Erlendur and his two partners. That sounds boring, but instead it’s the opposite. As much as I wanted to know what was happening in the other half of the story, these tales of the night shift serve a larger purpose, showing how ordinary people can sometimes become entangled in larger stories without even realizing it.

674a867a74ae92cb4f94dd57ee606451As always, I enjoyed the way Indriðason ties everything together. The larger crime is twofold — the death of a homeless man Erlendur met on the night shift and a woman who went missing around the same time the homeless man died. These two seemingly independent stories draw Erlendur in and we watch as he slowly begins to unravel them and eventually figure out what happened and how they’re connected. While the night shift stories are good, it is this second plot where the novel truly shines. We are treated to Erlendur, the budding inspector. But unlike the later series, this Erlendur doesn’t know what he’s doing, he messes things up, and he has to work alone. And yet, just as we expect, he does solve the mysteries he’s stumbled upon.

Reykjavík Nights is a treat for Erlendur fans and I am so happy it’s been translated into English. If you’ve read the rest of the series, definitely pick up Reykjavík Nights. While it’d still be a good read if you’re not familiar with the series, I would still recommend starting with Jar City. Regardless, I truly enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to read Into Oblivion, the follow up book to Reykjavík Nights.

Self-Care Friday (Week 2)

A lot has happened this week, not all of it great for the country, but some of it great for me. I bought tickets to see a kpop group, B.A.P, in Chicago in April. My friend N ended up getting a ticket, too, so we’ll go together. We’re also planning to go see SHINee in Toronto — hopefully we can get tickets! They go on sale next Sunday. And today, Friday, we’re headed out of town for another kpop concert (B1A4, for those of you playing at home).

What I’ve been reading:

  • Read Harder:
    • Read an all-ages comic: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
  • Completed:
    • A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book)

What I’m watching:

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Squad 38 (Korean drama)
  • Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (Japanese drama)
  • The Great Wall (Chinese film)
  • Young and Dangerous 1 & 2 (Hong Kong movies from 1996)
  • Twin Peaks (original series)

What I’m listening to:

  • SECHSKIES
  • GUGUDAN
  • SPEED
  • K.A.R.D (they have to singles: Oh Na Na and Don’t Recall)