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The Sea of Stars

Water-stained pages, pebbles and traces of stardust

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Book Review - The Wake, Dance With The Devil and Doreen
Forget Growing Up - enhancedminds
I've recently finished reading three books and I realise they all have the same theme: loss (whether temporary or permanent) of a child. But before I get into those, a quick word about KareKano.

I first encountered this series in 2001 in my first year at uni. I saw all the anime and then started collecting the manga. Every time I was in London, I would go to Blackwells on Charing Cross Road and buy another volume. Then they disappeared so I had to buy them off Amazon. I just finished reading the last volume. I'm so sad because it feels like the end of my adolescence. I can't believe it's finally over. I'm really happy that we found out what happened to all the characters, even though the story seemed to run out of steam once Arima's family problems were resolved. I honestly think the Arimas may give the Sohmas a run for their money as Manga's Most Dysfunctional Family. Not joking.

I'm still a little iffy about Yukino's pregnancy. I mean, I'm happy that everyone supported her, I just find it a little hard to believe that Yukino, who was always so focused on her career, secretly wanted to be a housewife. The doctor dream, I could buy. The housewife part... not so much. Of course she wanted the baby, but it's not the same thing. I actually screamed out loud when I read that Soichiro had been shot. "WHAT? NO, YOU CAN'T DO THAT!" What a fake out! I had to run around the flat just to express my relief. I might honestly have thrown the volume across the room if he had died. Thank goodness it was just Yukino and Asapin playing games.

Speaking of which... SAKURA AND ASAPIN. WTF, Tsuda?! This was the weakest part of the storyline for me. Suddenly shoehorning in Asapin's bad family life (not another neglected childhood *rolls eyes*) so that we'd feel sorry for him was bad enough, but then his sudden 'intuition' that Yukino and Arima's baby would be his soulmate? UM NO. JUST NO. CREEPY AND WRONG. At least he felt weird about it in the flashforward but STILL.CREEPY. And Yukino encouraging her daughter? WTF?!!! They must see these things differently in Japan. I'm still not over Risa and Terada in Card Captor Sakura BEING ENGAGED.

Nine years and I've finally finished. No more Kare Kano. No more Fruits Basket. Anybody got a good manga series to recommend?

The Wake by Jeremy Page. "You remember the things you save. You cannot forget the things you lose." Guy lives on a Dutch houseboat. Every evening he writes his diary. But it is not a diary of his current life. It is a diary of his life as it should be: with his wife by his side and his child alive and well. The exotic journey he imagines for himself in the USA contrasts strongly with his cold, salty day-to-day existence as he sails beside East Anglia, but how long can this double life continue? Tantalised by the possibility of a future with Marta, haunted by his past (and maybe his daughter), Guy must find a way to come to terms with his grief. This book is beautifully written. It is excellent at how grief pervades all corners of life and how some people cling to grief because it is all they know.

Dance With The Devil by David Bagby. Non-fiction (oh, you'll wish it were fiction before the end). If you have seen the film A Letter To Zachary, this is essential reading. For those who have not yet seen this film, this book is about a truly mindboggling real life miscarriage of justice. It is about Andrew Bagby, a promising doctor and a decent man, who was shot in cold blood. The prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner, fled the USA and returned to her home in Newfoundland. Andrew's parents, barely functioning through the shock and grief of losing their only son in this way, were then confronted with the news that Shirley was pregnant with Andrew's son. They packed up their entire lives and moved to Newfoundland in order to make sure the only remaining piece of Andrew left in the world was not left alone when (surely 'when') Shirley went to jail. But the process of extradition was agonisingly slow. Shirley was set free on bail and the Bagbys were then locked into a sickening process of having to share custody of their only grandchild with the woman who had, in all probability, murdered their son. The Canadian social services did not seem to see this as wrong or dangerous, despite the fact that Shirley was wanted in the USA for pre-mediated murder. For a while, this warped arrangement worked, as the Bagbys suppressed their revulsion for the sake of Zachary and cherished every moment they spent with him. And then the unthinkable happened: Shirley drowned Zachary and herself. Out of this horrible tragedy came the film and this book, which puts a clear and unarguable case for the change of law regarding bail of suspects accused of murder.

Doreen by Barbara Noble. 1941. London is being bombed every night by the Luftwaffe. It is becoming clear to Mrs Rawlings that she cannot in all good conscience let her daughter, Doreen, keep living with her. Forced to admit that the child would be safer in the countryside, she arranges a private evacuation with Helen Osborne, who works in the office that she cleans every morning. Doreen is sent to stay with Helen's brother and sister-in-law. Unable to have children of their own, Geoffrey and Frances are keen to help. Doreen's arrival in the household is a turning point in both her life and theirs. Accustomed to a dingy flat and the urban landscape of East London, Doreen blossoms in the countryside, becoming more and more attached to the Osbornes and their middle-class life, to her mother's dismay. But what is really best for Doreeen? Noble examines each character with clarity and sensitivity. Nobody is a villain or a hero and that there are no simple answers.

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LONG rec list, part II

Historical shoujo: understated romance, action , slice-of-life, gender bending, kickass female, well searched artwork ---> Kaze Hikaru http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=4411

Historical seinen of romantic awesomeness: Victorian Romance Emma http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=104 (all the 10 volumes! included these: http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=4137 ) by Her Majesty Kaoru MORI. Also her more recent Otoyomegatari (Middle East XIX tribe age-gap romance and slice of life. The beauty, it dazzles me http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=37308 ).

Josei , classical music, romance, comedy, oddball&awesome genius female x tsundere music genius 'prince' male who can't fly and suffers from OCD: Nodame Cantabile http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=791 (on hold in the US edition, still published in French though) .
Josei, art college students, crazy characters on the verge of adulthood and much laughters and tears: Honey & Clover. http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=581 Early artwork in this is a tad cluttered, gets really peculiar and poetic later on ( in a way it reminds me of The Little Prince illustrations) .
Josei, AU historical: Ooku. What if back in the Tokugawa period the male populations of Japan got decimated , and women got the power instead? http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=6741

Shounen, action, a bit of early XX century flavour, mature themes done right, tight plot, strong and respected female characters, basically free of pointless fanservice: Full Metal Alchemist . http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=412
More morbidly dark&twisted, but also much less coherent plot-wise so far, and more fanservicy (oh, those tight sexy black-with-silver uniforms 8D ): D. Gray-Man. http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=95

Folkloric and pretty: Mushishi (seinen) http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=452 , Natsume Yuujinchou (shoujo, but 'seinen-ish' shoujo xD) http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=6781 .

Just whacky: Moyasimon - Tales of Agricolture ( university student can hear and speak with talking bacteria. Said bacteria are suuuuuper cute XDDD) http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=15619

Josei Smut comedy (not the Mayu Shinju type!) : O Butterfly O Flower . http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=6100 The comedy is golden (again: the humour must be up your alley) , art is good (gasp!). One of the best titles by Yuki Yoshihara. Lots of parody and mention of in-genre clichès, movies and classic manga-anime series.

Morbid shoujo, definitely belonging to the guilty pleasure cathegory with pretty art: Vampire Knight http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=1679 ( I still like Zero. Ah, my bad-boy-not self-tortured underdog... furthermore I must have developed a thing for stoic silver-haired bishies types since Kunzite dearest XD ). Pro: they don't sparkle and actually BITE lustfully, hungrily and with abandon. Yay subtext. Cons: waaaangst-denial, lotsa self-loathing while brooding beautifully.
And bloodlust ahoy. Did I say they bite? XD

http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=1067 <--- quite a good one, although imho it looses steam after vol #5 . Yet it does have moments of brilliance later on as well. One of the few dysfunctioanl family backstory that has been handled mostly succesfully plot-wise (at least about *one* of the characters ^_^;; ) .

http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=3129 <--- the only title by Clamp I still like along with CCS.

http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=947 <--- parody of gender bending and reverse harem, turns more serious in latter volumes. Close to the end in Japan.

http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=7228 <--- shoujo where high school boys are the protagonists :D . Sometimes hilarious, sometimes tear-jerking .

http://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=11735 <--- Last but not least, if you can stand the old school style art. Tezuka is Tezuka.

You can sample most of these on mangatraders, partially or totally :P .

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