Truly, I used to be a pretty well-read person. Nowadays it's all horror and fantasy and escapist stuff - I must be in a rut. The thing is, I'm finding some good stuff down here in the rut, recent Twilight excursion notwithstanding. For instance:
Sunshine by Robin McKinley - Sunshine has carved out a decent life for herself: a job as head baker for her family's cafe/coffee shop, a light-filled apartment with a mysterious but friendly landlady, a solid relationship with a good, if slightly intimidatingly tattooed, man, and enough charms festooned about to keep the vampires, were-animals and demons away. Until one night she takes a drive out to the lake and is kidnapped by vampires, and chained to a wall next to another vampire, this one starving, and it's still hours away from daylight. In an instant her life is shattered, her understanding of who she herself is irrevocably changed, and she finds herself a soldier in a battle she had no intention of fighting, alongside a creature who is as compelling as he is dangerous. Sunshine ain't no Twi-nonsense. The vampires are extremely vicious and alien creatures, and humans who meet them pretty much don't get to do anything else ever. But this novel is also quite funny, and full of delicious pastries; Sunshine is a good, flawed, evolving character who makes decisions, good and bad, and deal with the consequences. Fun stuff.
Deathnote Vol. I: Boredom, story by Tsugumi Ohba, art by Takeshi Obata - My first foray into manga was the graphic novel Deathnote, translated into English but still read back to front, right to left - it took a little while for my brain to figure out what was going on, but I finally got the hang of it. Japanese schoolboy Light Yagami,, finds a strange notebook on the ground at school: a deathnote, the tool of the Shinigami, death gods. Write a person's name in the deathnote and that person dies, of a heart attack if cause of death is unspecified, but otherwise however it is written. Light is a very smart kid but he's bored; with the guidance of Ryuk, the former owner of the deathnote, Light decides to rid the world of all its evil people - saving the planet, if you will. It doesn't take long for the police to figure out that something is strange - dozens of incarcerated criminals all over the world dying of heart attacks at exactly the same time is weird, for sure - but Light remains one step ahead. This is the first volume of many and I can only imagine how far Light will go. I'm not sure I'm going to keep going with this manga series but the deathnote is an interesting concept, the artwork is good and I did like the story.
Dungeon: The Early Years, art by Christophe Blain, story by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim - This one's a graphic novel translated from the French and are apparently part of a larger Dungeon universe. In The Early Years (as of this post I've read all of Volume 1 and have just started Volume 2), the Dungeon Keeper is reflecting upon his youth, when he was aflame with the pursuit of justice and long-legged women, and took on the secret identity of The Nightshirt to fight bad guys. That all the characters here are anthropomorphic animals - the Keeper is a short, stout sort-of penguin; his nemesis is a green-eyed cat; giant ducks and snails are used for transportation, as well as the more mundane horses and donkeys - makes it all rather hilarious, the derring-do and sword fights and all. Whimsical, funny and yet truly an action-adventure tale - I can't remember how I heard about this one but I'm certainly enjoying it.
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