torachan: sakaki from azumanga daioh holding a cat, with the text "I like cats" in Japanese (sakaki)
I've been reading a lot (for me), but have been slacking on reviews, so here's what I've got so far. I'm pretty damn pleased with myself that I've read eight books and it's only the middle of February. :D

Tanuja Desai Hidier "Born Confused" - 5/5
This is the story of Dimple Lala growing up and finding herself over the summer between 11th and 12th grade. There is romance in there, and there is friendship stuff, but really it's about Dimple. I've been reading more young adult books lately (so many of the interesting books I see recced are YA...) and a lot of them really feel like it. This did in some ways (the feel of the POV felt more like a novel aimed at teens), but it wasn't dumbed down or anything. I really enjoyed this book a lot, and I'm sad to see Hidier hasn't written any other novels.

I did have some frustrations with it, namely that because it's first person and Dimple doesn't really speak up when people blame her for stuff, it comes off feeling like we're supposed to think she was the one in the wrong. (With Gwyn, it kind of came around at the end (though I still felt like she never admitted/realised what an ass she'd been to Dimple), but by the end of the book I was still left feeling like Dimple was blamed for the mixups with Karsh, even though it would be ridiculous to read his behaviour any other way than she does. In fact, I was shocked that he said he had never been dating Gwyn. I was sure that he was dating her, but still had feelings for Dimple, and I am just so confused as to what the fuck he thought he was doing if not dating Gwyn.) Also Gwyn seriously bugged me. Like, the whole time. I loved um, the lesbian cousin, whose name I can't remember right now. And Zara! ♥ And Dimple's parents were awesome, too.

Very highly recommended.

Shaun Tan "The Arrival" - 5/5
I almost feel like it's cheating to including this on my reading list, since it's a story told entirely in pictures, but I will anyway. :p And it's really, really awesome, so you should read it, too. It's the story of a man who leaves his wife and daughter behind in order to find work in a foreign country. The book follows him in his new life there as he meet people and tries to figure things out, and ends with him eventually sending for his wife and child to join him. The story is set in a fantastical world. The land he comes from has shadow dragons flying through the sky. The land he arrives in has...well, just about everything weird you could think of. One man he meets escaped to this land from a different country, where he and his wife had to run for their lives from giants with blowtorches. Another man tells of the war he fought, and when he returned, he found his entire village destroyed. A young woman tells of how she escaped slavery to come here. I love these tales as much as the main character's. And I love his little book, as he tries hard to figure out what these strange foods are and how to read maps. Tan's beautiful drawings really get across the confusion of being somewhere where you don't understand anything and are trying your best to get by.

M.T. Anderson "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party" - 5/5
Okay, everyone needs to go out and read this right now! And anyone who read all the racefail about "zomg poor white me, I could never write people of color, wah wah, damned if I do, damned if I don't" really needs to read this even more. Because M.T. Anderson? The man who wrote this awesome, amazing story about a slave boy in the American Revolution? Yeah. He's white. And believe me, you'll forget that as you're reading.

Anyway, this is the story of Octavian, a slave who has been raised like a prince for the purpose of an experiment. The book follows Octavian as he grows up, becoming bleaker and bleaker as the years go by. It's such an interesting premise, and a very interesting look at the American Revolution as well, and the hypocrisy of the people who wanted to be free from the "slavery" of a monarchy, but clung so tightly to their own slaves, even as slavery was declared illegal in Britain. (And oh, the moment when Cassiopeia hears of that and realises that if she'd only gone to England with that asshole, she'd be free now!)

More spoilers (highlight to read): I'm so glad Trefusius was a good guy! I really liked him and was hoping that he wasn't as bad as the rest, so I was mentally cheering when he drugged Sharpe and Gitney. That was brilliant. But argh, when Octavian got dragged back after running away. As I was reading um, what's his name's letters, I was so afraid that it was a trick at first, but then I let my guard down as it seemed to be a legitimate job offer for Octavian...and then it turned out to be a trick after all! D: This book was so frustrating and angering to read, not in a bad way, but just the attitudes of people like Sharpe who were determined to see everything as proof that blacks were lesser beings, and the knowledge that not only is that not fiction, but it's not something of the past, either! Ugh, it just left me wanting to go around and punch random people in the face.

Hamasaki Tatsuya "One Piece: Chinjuutou no Chopper Oukoku" - 2.5/5
I grabbed quite a few manga novels at one point because I'd so enjoyed the D.Gray-man novel, Reverse. Alas, this did not live up to that at all. It's the novelisation of one of the One Piece movies and as OVAs and films of manga and anime often are, it's vaguely AU. It takes place just after Chopper joins Luffy and the others, but Vivi is not on the ship with them for this adventure. The plot here is that the crew sets sail for an island that's supposed to have a great treasure, only when they land there, Chopper gets separated from the others. The island turns out to be inhabited by weird animals and a little boy named Mobambi, and they mistakenly think Chopper is their new king. Of course a baddie appears and lots of fighting happens and stuff. It was a fun enough read (and very quick), but not anywhere near as good as the manga itself.

Azuma Kiyohiko "Azumanga Daioh" (4 vols.) - 5/5
Azumanga Daioh is a 4-panel manga that follows a group of girls from the start of 10th grade through graduation. I was pleasantly surprised at the continuity, as I'd expected each strip to be separate and random. The humor is what I'd expect from the author of Yotsuba&!, that is, absolutely hilarious. Everything is silly about this, from the ten-year-old genius who skips ahead to 10th grade, to the skeevy male teacher who says he wanted to become a teacher because he likes high school girls, yet it's also very emotionally realistic. Most of these girls are not friends when the new school year starts, but by the end of high school, they're inseparable. I especially loved Sakaki and Kagura, but it's really hard to pick favorites because they all have their charms.

At the beginning I didn't like it quite as much as Yotsuba&!, but by the end I think they're almost tied.


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