19 December 2014

Saturn Apartments

In a ringworld orbiting the Earth, where sunlight and clean windows are a hot commodity, Mitsu has recently graduated school and become an apprentice window-washer. His father, also a window-washer, fell to his death in an accident five years back. Some of the people Mitsu now works with knew his dad ... and not everyone liked him. So, Volume 1 of Saturn Apartments is very much about Mitsu learning his job, coming to grips with his dad’s death, and finding a place for himself in the window-washers’ guild.

It’s a "small" story that hints at bigger things -- the ringworld is intensely stratified class-wise, with poorer people living in the dimmer, dirtier lower levels and rich people living in the clean, naturally lit upper levels. The poor get sick because of lack of natural light and are willing to spend all their savings on one window cleaning, while the rich are just so other. (And then there’s the whole automation angle -- can the window-washers’ jobs be automated? What would that mean for a whole class of people? Would there be resistance?)

But none of that really signifies, at least not in this first volume. The (possibly dystopian) science fiction setting is strictly a backdrop against which play out small, recognizably human dramas. And it’s lovely, really. The art is beautiful, the stories poignant, and there’s just enough humor sprinkled through to keep everything from feeling to mawkish. I certainly look forward to reading the second volume and learning more about the people who live in the Saturn Apartments.

Saturn Apartments, Volume 1 by Hisae Iwaoka (Viz Media, 2010)

17 December 2014

16 December 2014

No Book Buying Challenge

I'm generally pretty terrible at reading challenges, but the number of unread books on my shelves continues to grow, not shrink, and Something Must Be Done. So ... I've signed on with the No Book Buying Challenge. In 2015, I will abstain from buying books -- no matter how inexpensive they may be -- and stick with what's already on my shelves.

Well, mostly abstain. While my enthusiasm is great and my intention is good, I cannot promise I won't go on a binge in April when we are in England for a family wedding. Books brought home from foreign parts are simply the best books, don't you know!

There are six levels to the No Book Buying Challenge:
Yellow Belt —-> 1-10 books: shake hands with your shelves
Blue Belt —-> 11-20 books: pat your shelves on the back
Green Belt —-> 21-30 books: give your shelves a warm friendly hug
Purple Belt —-> 31-40 books: regular date night with your shelves
Brown Belt —-> 41-50 books: my shelves are now my bff
Black Belt —-> 51+ books: my shelves and I are going steady

I'm aiming for the Blue Belt, as I definitely own more than ten unread books, but I don't want to promise more than twenty, because too large a number will, six months in, seem overwhelming. I'm reading a mixture of "real" books, graphics, and e-books. (I'll also still be reading library books, of course, but they don't count for this challenge).

Anyway, if you have lots of unread books lying about and/or want to reign in your profligate book-buying ways, the No Book Buying Challenge seems like a great motivator. Visit ChapterBreak for more details!

12 December 2014

Through The Woods

A collection of dark, creepy-yet-beautiful stories. I made the mistake of gulping this book down all in one go, quite late at night, and then I COULDN’T SLEEP. Seriously, what was I thinking? I was thinking it couldn’t be that scary and I’d be fine, because I’m a sensible adult who doesn’t let her imagination run away with her.

And, really, it isn’t scary in the traditional sense of, say, monsters jumping out from under beds. Yet the stories left me feeling deeply uneasy. While the stories show you plenty of horrors, the horrors they suggest are much worse as your brain is more than happy to give them shape. (However, while I found Through The Woods delightfully creepy, The Husband was not impressed at all so ymmv).

Carroll makes good use of black, red, and white in the illustrations the accompany each story. They are quite atmospheric and definitely ratchet each story’s creep factor up a notch. I find her illustrations at once deeply disturbing and beautiful. Carroll has many comics available on her site and, if you take a look, you’ll see what I mean.

Through The Woods by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014)