Manga the Week of 9/27/17

Sep. 21st, 2017 09:46 pm
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

SEAN: Another final week of the month with far more than we’d come to expect for a final week of the month. Mainly thanks to our friends at Kodansha (yeah, sorry Ash, it’s all digital again).

ASH: They may be digital, but at least there’s some really great manga being released!

ANNA: It is true, but it also makes me a little wary, having seen plenty of digital manga efforts go under in the past.

SEAN: Starting with their weekly Del Rey rescue, Princess Resurrection 18.

The first digital debut this week is All-Out!, which is a rugby manga. I’ll repeat that: a rugby manga has been licensed for North America. It runs in Kodansha’s experimental seinen magazine Morning Two, and is, I’ll repeat once more, a RUGBY MANGA. Must buy.

MICHELLE: Ooooooh. I have really appreciated the seinen difference in Giant Killing, so I’m obviously all over this one.

ASH: Yup. This one has caught my eye, too.

ANNA: This sounds interesting.

SEAN: Altair: A Record of Battles has a 4th volume digitally.

And there’s a 2nd Black Panther and Sweet 16, for shoujo fans. Also digital.

DAYS 5 reminds you that it’s not just rugby manga out there this week.


SEAN: DEATHTOPIA has a 4th volume as well.

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life has a 2nd volume of, my guess is, yokai living in apartments. Elegantly. (Though not as elegantly as Michiru Kaioh.)

MICHELLE: No one could ever be as elegant.

MELINDA: I am intrigued by the title alone.

SEAN: Print at last, and the debut of Frau Faust, a josei (ish) title that runs in Itan, from the creator of The Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a genderbent take on the classic tale, and I greatly enjoyed the first volume.

MICHELLE: I’m looking forward to this one!

ASH: I’m very excited for this release, too! I’m really enjoying The Ancient Magus’ Bride and, well, Faust is another tale I’m quite familiar with.

MELINDA: This sounds great!

ANNA: I didn’t totally connect with The Ancient Magus’ Bride but I am intrigued.

SEAN: Genshiken 2nd Season has its 11th volume – we’re almost near the end, but not quite there yet. Expect more Madarame stuff.

ASH: I happen to like Madarame, but I wasn’t expecting the series to end up focusing on him as much as it does.

SEAN: Giant Killing says that it too is a digital sports manga with its 6th volume.

MICHELLE: And this!

SEAN: In/Spectre comes to an end with its 6th volume. I will miss its heroine especially. and hope things end well.

Princess Jellyfish has a 6th omnibus, and it too is apparently nearing its climax. Will the apartments be saved?

MICHELLE: I love this series so much. I love the realism as they come to appreciate the enormity of what they’re attempting, but gosh darnit, I want them to succeed!

ASH: I’m so happy this series is being released! The anime adaptation was delightful, but I’m glad to finally be able to get the entire story.

ANNA: Me too! I need to go on a Jellyfish binge.

SEAN: Real Girl has a 3rd volume, and I keep meaning to catch up with it but haven’t yet.

Shojo Fight is the other big digital debut that I can’t quite believe is out over here. Women’s volleyball! It runs in Evening magazine, and is filled with kickass women. Buy this AND the rugby manga. Splurge.

MICHELLE: I literally have geekbumps right now.

ANNA: Sounds good! Crimson Hero was not enough volleyball manga!

MICHELLE: And those final six volumes will probably never be released here. :(

SEAN: Lastly for Kodansha, we have a 3rd Tsuredure Children, whose anime just wrapped up.

SEAN: One Peace has an 11th volume of Maria Holic, which I still dislike but its fans are happy.

Seven Seas has several titles, starting with a 5th 12 Beast.

Otome Mania!! has its 2nd and final volume, as we see if this game can get released.

Re: Monster has a 3rd volume of male power fantasy.

And Species Domain has a 3rd volume of quirky fantasy slice-of-life school manga.

Lastly, just when you thought the fanservice was gone, it’s back bigger than ever: The Testament of Sister New Devil STORM! debuts.

ASH: Hmmm, usually there’s at least one Seven Seas release I’m reading, but haven’t been following any of these.

SEAN: Udon has a debut as well with Infini-T Force, a Shogakukan title from Hero’s magazine (yes, that’s how they spell it) that’s essentially a giant superhero crossover.

Vertical has a 3rd Flying Witch, which continued to be cute and weird, in that order.

MICHELLE: It’s a low-key charmer.

SEAN: And we have some Yen runoff, starting with their digital titles, new 12th volumes for Aphorism, Crimson Prince and Sekirei.

In print, we have the 7th How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend.

And the 8th Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, which will no doubt entertain and confuse me, not in that order.

ASH: I need to catch up on this series, but I’ve been liking it!

SEAN: It’s a digital world, folks. Sorry again, Ash. What are you getting this week?

ASH: It’s okay, at least there’s some great print releases, too!

Beasts of Abigaile, Vol. 1

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:25 pm
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Posted by Anna N

Beasts of Abigaile Volume 1

I make no secret of the fact that I’m generally a shoujo enthusiast, and I also enjoy reverse harem manga. Though the plots may be thin, and the characters may never vary from their highly specific and formalized roles, I still find manga of the genre trashy fun to read, even if there might not be much depth to the stories. As I started reading Beasts of Abigaile I was struck with a strong sense of deja vu, because something about the aesthetics reminded me of some of the older series that were published by Go! Comi. Sure enough this is an Akita Shoten title, so maybe that’s why I felt a bit of pleasant nostalgia as I was reading Beasts of Abigaile.

The set up for the story in this volume is so fast-paced, I got the sense that the author wanted to rush through any logical explanations and world building, and just get to the gorgeous wolf boys. Nina is the predictably outspoken but likeable heroine of the story, and she finds herself on the mysterious country of Ruberia, which is famous for its beautiful roses. There is also a mysterious prison school where it turns out adolescent werewolves live! Nina is bitten and starts exhibiting some werewolf traits, and she’s promptly sent to Abigaile to live among her own kind, except she has to keep her human origins secret.

Nina has a headstrong tendency to stick up for the little guy with little regard for her own self-preservation and this causes her to have multiple run-ins with fellow students and school administrators. She falls in with a pack (literally, ha ha) of art kid werewolves instead of joining in with the popular kids or school rebels. As far as handsome werewolf boys, there’s Roy, the surly leader whose bite originally turned Nina wolfish, Giles the nice guy who appears to be under the thrall of the mean female student council president, and the list goes on and on. I suspect that Roy, Giles, and Nina will be the main triangle explored in the rest of the manga.

With lackluster art, this series would be much less enjoyable, but Aoki’s illustrations are expressive, and there’s a dark gothic vibe about the art that also make the title stand out a bit from the other shoujo series coming out currently. Nina’s continued refusal to allow herself to be intimidated by hulking wolf boys is entertaining. If you enjoy paranormal romance shoujo that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, Beasts of Abigaile seems like a promising series.

The Good Place: Season 2, Episode 1

Sep. 21st, 2017 12:32 pm
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Absolutely fantastic. Do not click on cut unless you've already seen it. The whole series is streaming on

Read more... )

“Are you guys all right??”

Sep. 21st, 2017 05:06 pm
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Posted by Brandi

Hey everyone, it’s Brandi.

I wanted to respond to a recent question from a fan, one that I’m sure many have been wondering.

Are you guys alright? Fairly quiet around here.

But fear not, Ilona and Gordon are actually still alive and breathing. Just extremely preoccupied with house hunting. Let me give you FEW examples of just how preoccupied with house hunting they are.

Actual Conversations:

Me: Where are you guys???

Ilona: House. House. House, house house.

Me: So you aren’t home…

Ilona: *sends 40 pictures of houses*


Me: What’s for dinner?

Gordon:  Hey, come look! House. House!

Me: Cool. What are we eating?

Gordon: You know where we could be eating? This house. In this kitchen.


*S, my boyfriend who loves sports walks in.*

Gordon: S! Look! House. House has basketball court.

S: Basketball?

Gordon: House!


Good news is, their offer was accepted on the house. So they will be way more active hopefully.

To keep you entertained, here is a snippet I stole while they were trying to close on the house.


A thud jerked me awake.  I was up and moving, my sword in my hand, before my brain processed that I was now standing.  

I paused, Sarrat raised.

A thin sliver of watery, predawn light broke through the gap between the curtains.  The magic was up. On my left, in the little nursery Curran sectioned off from our bedroom, Conlan stood in his crib, wide-awake.

The room was empty except for me and my son.


Someone pounded on my front door. The clock on the wall told me it was ten till seven.  We kept shapeshifters hours, late to bed, late to rise. Everyone I knew was aware of that.

“Uh-oh!” Conlan said.

Uh-oh is right. “Wait for me,” I whispered.  “Mommy has to take care of something.”

I ran out of the bedroom, moving fast and quiet, and shut the door behind me.


Hold your horses, I’m coming.  And then you’ll have some explaining to do.

It took me two seconds to clear the long staircase leading from the third floor to the reinforced front door.  I grabbed the lever, slid it sideways, and lowered the metal flap covering the small window.  Teddy Jo’s brown eyes stared back at me.

“What the hell are you doing here?  Do you know what time it is?”

“Open the door,” Teddy Jo breathed.  “It’s an emergency.”

It was always an emergency.  My whole life was one long chain of emergencies. I unbarred the door and pulled it open.  He charged in past me.  His hair stuck out from his head, windblown.  His face was bloodless, and his eyes wild.

A sinking feeling tugged at my stomach.  Teddy Jo was Thanatos, the Greek angel of death.  Freaking him out took a lot of doing.  I thought it had been too quiet lately.

I shut the door and locked it.

“I need help,” he said.   

“Is anybody in danger right now?”

“They’re dead.  They’re all dead.”

Whatever happened has already happened.

“I need you to come and see this.”

“Can you explain what it is?”

“No.”  He grabbed my hand. “I need you to come right now.”

I looked at his hand on mine.  He let go.

I walked into the kitchen, took a pitcher of iced tea out of the fridge, and poured him a tall glass.  “Drink this and try to calm down.  I’m going to get dressed and find a baby sitter for Conlan and then we’ll go.”

He took the glass.  The tea trembled.

I ran upstairs, opened the door, and nearly collided with my son. Conlan grinned at me.  He had my dark hair and Curran’s grey eyes.  He also had Curran’s sense of humor, which was driving me crazy.  Conlan started walking early, at ten months, which was typical of shapeshifter children, and now he was running at full speed.  His favorite games included running away from me, hiding under various pieces of furniture, and knocking stuff off horizontal surfaces.  Bonus points if the object broke.

“Mommy has to go work.” I pulled off the long T-shirt I used as a night gown and grabbed a sports bra.


“Mhm.  I’d sure like to know where your Dada is.  Off on one of his expeditions.”

“Dada?” Conlan perked up.

“Not yet,” I told him, reaching for my jeans.  “He should be coming back tomorrow or the day after.”

Conlan stomped around. Besides early walking and some seriously disturbing climbing ability, he showed no signs of being a shapeshifter.  He didn’t change shape at birth, and he hadn’t shifted yet.  By thirteen months, he should’ve been turning into a little baby lion on regular basis.  Doolittle found Lyc-V in Conlan’s blood, present in large numbers, but the virus lay dormant.  We always knew it was a possibility, because my blood ate vampirism and Lyc-V for breakfast and asked for seconds.  But I knew Curran hoped our son would be a shapeshifter.  So did Doolittle.  The Pack’s medmage kept trying different strategies to bring the beast out. Except I’d pulled the plug on that.

About six months ago, Curran and I visited the Keep and left Conlan with Doolittle for about twenty minutes.  When we came back, I found Conlan crying on the floor with three shapeshifters in half form growling at him, while Doolittle looked on. I kicked one out of the window and broke the other’s arm before Curran restrained me. Doolittle assured me that our baby wasn’t in any danger, and I informed him that he was done torturing our baby for his amusement.  I might have underscored my point by holding Conlan in one hand and Sarrat sheathed in my blood in the other.  Apparently, my eyes had glowed and the Pack’s Keep trembled.  It was collectively decided that further tests were not necessary.

I still took Conlan to Doolittle for his scheduled appointments and when he fell or sneezed or did any of the other baby things that made me fear for his life. But I watched them like a hawk the whole time.

I buckled my belt on, slid Sarrat into the sheath on my back, and pulled my hair back into a pony tail.  “Let’s go see if your aunt will watch you for a few hours.”

I scooped him up and went downstairs.  

Teddy Jo was pacing in our lobby like a caged tiger.  I grabbed the keys to our Jeep and went out the door.

“I’ll fly you,” he said.

“No.” I marched across the street to George and Eduardo’s house.  I would have to buy George a cake for all the baby sitting she’s been doing lately.


“You said nobody is in immediate danger.  If you fly me, I will dangle thousands of feet above the ground in a playground swing and I’m not doing that.  You can fly overhead and lead the way.”

“It will be faster.”

I knocked on George’s door.  “Do you want my help or not?”

He made a frustrated noise and stalked off.

The door swung open and George appeared, her tight black curls floating around her head like a halo.

“I am so sorry,” I started.

She opened her arms and took Conlan for me.  “Who is my favorite nephew?”

“He is your only nephew.”

“Details.”  George smooched Conlan on his forehead.  He wrinkled his nose and sneezed.

“Again, so sorry.  It’s an emergency.”

“She waved.  “Go, go…”

I turned right and headed toward Derek’s house.

“Now what?” Teddy Jo growled.

“I’m getting back up.”  I had a feeling I would need it.




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Posted by Ana

Title: A Skinful of Shadows

Author: Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Macmillan / Amulet
Publication date: September 2017 / October 2017
Hardcover: 416 pages


This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . .

Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide.
Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding.

Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard.

And now there’s a spirit inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father’s rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret.

But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print


Over the years, I have made no secret of my adoration for the novels of Frances Hardinge. I wait for every single one of them with bated breath, knowing that wherever the author decides to take me, it will be a journey worth following.

So here we are, with a new release, fresh off the presses, straight into my greedy hands. And just like every one of her books before this, I was transported into a world of wonders.

A Skinful of Shadows is the story of a girl. The story of a country in the throes of Civil War. The way these two stories intersect and diverge from one another. It’s a story about a brother and a sister, a mother and a daughter, a girl who needs to grow up. It has a unique found family, one bear, female spies, ghosts and terrible villains. It is above all, a story about trust and having faith in people.

Makepeace grew up with a dutiful but demanding mother in the house of her aunt’s family. Of her father she never knew anything, except for a heritage she never asked for and which her mother fled away from.

You see, Makepeace has a space within her where ghosts can find a new home. All her life, she has been trained to avoid possession, driven to despair by her mother who locked up her in cemeteries where the ghosts were plentiful and merciless. But keeping them at bay she did – until the day when after a fight, her mother tragically dies and full of guilt and grief, Makepeace makes herself open to the spirit of a… bear.

Now inside of her, Bear causes havoc – and Makepeace often loses track of her mind and her whereabouts. Unable to cope, her family seeks her father’s family – the Fellmotes, an ancient, powerful family – and Makepeace is taken away to the place where people know exactly what to do with someone with a power such as hers. And it’s not pretty.

And for the next three years or so, she will try to escape – with the help of a brother she never knew she had, but whose shared heritage brings them together. But the Fellmotes will not make it easy for them – for the two kids are needed for the very survival of their powerful household. The problem is: their bodies may be indispensable because of their power but who they are – or at least what makes them them – is effectively expendable.

Just like The Lie Tree, A Skinful of Shadows feels like a less extravagant and less fantastical novel because it is deeply rooted in the history of our world. Whereas Hardinge’s earlier novels were firmly set in secondary world fantasies, The Lie Tree was a Victorian mystery and A Skinful of Shadows, a story set in the beginning of the British Civil War.

This doesn’t mean that the fantasy aspects are less significant though – and in here, the side of fantastical is no less elaborate: in fact, it serves the larger plot and it is essential in the formation of Makepeace’s arc. The former lies in the way that the fate of the Fellmotes is intermingled with that of the country and how their actions play a part in the dispute between Parliament and the King. The latter, in how Makepace’s character develops, grows, transforms herself into a courageous young woman. If there is one thing that connects all of the author’s works is this: the principled, strong-willed, dynamic and fierce heroines she creates. Makepeace might not know whose side should be victor in this war, but she never wavers from righting wrongs and she will fight tooth and … claws to save the life of her brother and the lives of those she thinks deserve a second chance.

This goes deep into the character in other ways too: does she deserve a second chance? She doesn’t know but she knows she wants to live. That principle, the urge to live, shapes other characters’ motivations too and the cost can be high. To some is death. To other, losing something far more precious. The allure of power to those who don’t usually have it is looked at with down-to-earth lenses and over and over, Makepeace decides to trust people and to believe them.

She traverses her world – from one camp to another in the midst of one of the worst, most bloody moments in British history with villains chasing her, spies helping her, with fear at her back and hope at her core but always moved by:

“We believe in second chances, for the people who don’t usually get them.”

A Skinful of Shadows is yet another beautiful, multi-layered novel by one of the brightest stars in the YA sky. Highly, highly recommended.

Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect

Buy the Book:

The post Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Literal and Figurative Forest Bathing

Sep. 21st, 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Nancy Jane Moore

Point Reyes

The point at Point Reyes


Forest bathing is supposed to be about the health benefits of walking in forests. The “bathing” is the soaking up of the sights and smells all around you.

But if you do your forest bathing on a foggy day at Point Reyes National Seashore, you can get a literal bath along with your figurative one. Fir trees soak up a lot of fog, but when it’s as thick as it was on Monday morning, it will drip down on you. (And when the fog is even thicker, which it was on Wednesday, it turns to drizzle and drips on you even when you’re not under the trees.)

We went out to Point Reyes to get out of the city, and set up camp at our favorite site at Sky Camp, which is about 1,000 feet above sea level and a couple of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. That gave us a great view of the ocean when it wasn’t foggy, while surrounding us with trees instead of sand. (You can also camp near the beach at Point Reyes.)

This wasn’t quite a backpacking expedition. We had to backpack in from the parking area, but once we set up camp, we went day hiking. I had the illusion that we’d be able to hike all over the park if we didn’t have our heavy backpacks.

But the seven or so miles we did on Monday nearly did us in. I don’t know if it was the morning fog (it lifted about midday) or just the steep downhill of one trail we took, but we were both ready to drop by the time we got back to camp.

Which was just as well, because a stiff wind started to blow in the early evening. We added all our layers, but once the sun went down we decided that the only place where we’d really be warm was in our sleeping bags. Given how tired we were, collapsing into them solved two problems at once.

We did a more restrained hike the second day, which was sunny and delightful. Maybe next outing we’ll do the short hike the first day and try the more ambitious one on the second, when we’re warmed up.

The extent of fog on Wednesday morning meant that we packed up a lot of wet items for the trip home. But despite all that, we had a lovely time. And despite all the fog episodes, we saw the Milky Way every night — pretty amazing at a place just 40 miles from Oakland.

We also saw coyotes, bunnies, a skunk (who wanted to join us at our campsite), fence lizards, a garter snake, at least a hundred quail, hawks, crows, assorted other birds, squirrels, the nests of wood rats, butterflies, spiders, and banana slugs.

And trees, of course. Lots of Douglas firs. Some pine trees. Oaks. Redwoods, alas, do not grow at Point Reyes, though we went through some on the route out there.

And despite all the fog, we got a most excellent sunset on Monday night.


Sunset over Point Reyes


L'Shana Tovah

Sep. 21st, 2017 04:54 am
sartorias: (candle)
[personal profile] sartorias
L'Shana Tovah, all. L'Shana Tovah.
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Posted by The Book Smugglers

Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

Old School Wednesdays Final

Logo designed by the wonderful KMont

The Golden Compass

US Edition


UK Edition

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help on of them will be to betray the other…

Title: The Golden Compass (US) / Northern Lights (UK)

Author: Philip Pullman

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: First published 1995
Paperback: 448 pages

Stand alone or series: First in His Dark Materials series

How did we get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print


This October, The Book of Dust–the first book in a brand new “equal” (not prequel, not sequel) spinoff trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, set in the His Dark Materials world–will reintroduce us to Lyra, Will, and the world of daemons, magic, and science.

With the new book’s release nearly upon us, we decided that it was high time to reread the His Dark Materials books. HOW DID WE FARE?

For this review, we’re approaching things a little differently and answering prompts to thematic questions about the book. If you’re so inclined, we welcome you to also answer the questions and join the conversation!

Discussion Questions:

1.Let’s talk about personal reflection, and how The Golden Compass holds up to the test of time. First impressions: How does the book stack up to the memory and expectation?

Ana: I am so glad we are re-reading His Dark Materials. I first read it in 2004: I had just moved to the UK and I was looking for Fantasy novels similar to The Lord of the Rings (because at that moment in time, it was the one Fantasy reference I had) and I ended up borrowing it from the library. This was in many ways, my gateway into reading contemporary Fantasy, a first taste of YA AND the first novels I read in English. I remember reading it and thinking: wow this is better than The Lord of the Rings. As such, as I was a bit terrified about this re-read. This first book re-read was a mixed bag for me: I still really loved it but found it to be more slow moving that I was expecting? Memory told me The Golden Compass was non-stop action but really, there are very slow moving scenes/info-dump followed by action-packed ones – so in the end, I thought this first book to be rather uneven.

Thea: I actually was introduced to this series through my four-years-younger sister, back around the time I was starting to get into Harry Potter. I’d read The Golden Compass back then (early 2000) and remember enjoying it a bunch… But I didn’t continue the series. It wasn’t until eight years later, just before starting The Book Smugglers, that I rediscovered The Golden Compass and blazed through the series in a frenzy of awe and passion. I loved these books. So, rereading was a big deal–I was terrified that this first book would not hold up (and I had already been burned by that lackluster movie adaptation). 

The good news is that The Golden Compass totally holds up. Yeah, it’s a lot of info dumping and yeah, there are things that are handled in clunky fashion. But on the whole? Lyra is still the heroine of my heart.

2. Daemons are badass. What are daemons in your opinion? And what would your daemon be?

Ana: Well, in the book the impression one has is that daemons are a person’s own soul outside their bodies which is really fascinating. The world in which Lyra lives is only one from many and I love the rules build around daemons and the correct way of approaching them (it’s not polite to touch another person’s daemon for example) and how that’s integrated into the worldbuilding and in the relationship between characters. It is also fundamental to the very foundation of the series: it is the understanding of daemons and how they affect children and adults in different ways that move the Church as well as the main antagonists of the novel.

What would my daemon be? Probably some sort of a cat? But one of the fun things about daemons is that sometimes a person has a vision of themselves that don’t correspond to what their daemons are, so maybe a freaking dog?

Thea: I am glad Ana touched on the taboo of touching another’s daemon, and the intimacy of that relationship. Having just recently reread the Harry Potter books, I can’t help but compare these to horcruxes–albeit ones that didn’t require the destruction of a soul, though in spirit they are parts of the soul outside the body. But daemons are cooler, because they are the natural order of things in Lyra’s world (not products of murder) and how cool would it be to have a part of you, that intimately knows everything about you, who you can talk to and confide in, outside of your body? Like Ana, I would like to think my daemon would be some kind of enormous hunting cat, like Lord Asriel’s snow lion (mine would probably be more mountain lion or jaguar). But I would also not be surprised if it was something amphibious, like a frog or a lizard.

3. Let’s look at gender roles specifically in this novel. Why are daemons the opposite gender of their humans, for example? How are Lyra and Melissa Coulter’s roles different than Lord Asriel or Lee Scoresby’s, for example?

Ana: The daemons being the opposite gender to me reads like the ideas of anima and animus from psychology: “in the unconscious of a man, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of a woman it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.”

However, the gender aspect of the novel seems very fixed and binary and even though I love this world, it also begs the question with regards to other genders and how would their daemons work for trans people, non-binary folks, etc. I don’t think we ever see this at play in the world?

In terms how that divide applies to characters, I see both men and women being equally great and nurturing or equally nasty and ambitious. So equal opportunity for character development.

Thea: I agree that the novel is incredibly, frustratingly binary in its approach to gender and gender roles–I wish there had been some acknowledgement of or development of trans characters, for example, or genderqueer humans and their daemons. As it stands, when I first read the book, I loved the idea that one’s daemon would be “opposite”–but now many years later, I find it limiting, frustrating, and frankly, hurtful in it’s approach to gender.

As for traditional gender roles, however, I do love that Philip Pullman is an equal opportunist, as Ana points out. I think there are similar gender role expectations in Lyra’s world–but damn, don’t Miss Coulter and Lyra break those restrictive buckets.

4. The Golden Compass is full of binary relationships and themes. Whether it be about a woman and her lost overseas father, or the very difference between Lyra’s universe and that of her world’s interdependence on other worlds–there is a lot to unpack here. What’s your understanding of the way that Lyra’s world works?

Ana: I am not sure that the first book delves so much into all the possibilities as yet – giving us only tantalizing morsels of information and most of it is enshrouded in mystery as the characters are purposefully keeping things from Lyra. That is actually one of the most interesting but frustrating aspects of the novel: the nature of what is happening to Lyra, and how it is all moved by an unspoken prophecy that predicts a child will change the world forever but only “if she doesn’t know she is doing it”. Hence, another binary or dichotomy we can discuss is the idea of free will vs destiny: is Lyra really that important and why? The book doesn’t break away from this just yet, the plot moving along to coordinate with this very idea. The bloody, tragic ending just one of the ways that the worldbuilding fucks Lyra up.

Thea: Philip Pullman likes his binary relationships. I noticed this a lot in this first book–but I agree that Lyra is like the centerpiece of a wheel with many outward radiating spokes that represent these binary relationships. There’s her lost father, and her feelings after her world is upended. There’s the intensity of her relationship with Pantalaimon (and the things Pan knows that Lyra does not or only subconsciously notices). There’s the fascinating layered relationship with Miss Coulter, and on and on. The prophecy adds a depth to all of this and enhances these 1:1 relationships–and yes, it’s all SUPER messed up when we get to that horrible silver guillotine and everything else the horrid church and Coulter have been insidiously executing.

5. What’s your favorite thing about the novel?

Ana: JUST THE ONE? I think maybe the witches? I love Serafina even though we only see a bit of her. And also maybe the bears and how Lyra got around tricking them/saving them? I admit this is now two favourites AND ALSO THE ENDING. Ok, three.

Thea: I love the subtle flashes of OTHER WORLDS and the importance of these other universes that we only start to see in this book thanks to the Dust, the alethiometer, and Lord Asriel’s ambition. Well, that and the swing between joy (Lyra riding triumphantly with the mighty Iofur Raknison towards her goal) and horror (what Lyra discovers is actually happening and her father’s obsession).


Ana: Torn between 8 and 9. Will go with 8

Thea: 8 – Excellent and I know it’s only getting better from here, baby.


Now over to you! Please feel free to engage with the questions (and our answers), come up with your own talking points, and/or please leave links to your reviews!

The post Old School Wednesdays: The Golden Compass/Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Nichijou, Vol. 10

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:53 am
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Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Keiichi Arawi. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

I haven’t reviewed Nichijou in full since its first volume, it not being the sort of series that lends itself to deep discussion. This is the final volume, though, and I think that it’s worth looking at to see how far the series has come and how abstract it is now. The creator almost seems to be hiding it with the final cover, which features the cast in class paying attention stoically, but it’s meant to contrast with the first volume, which had a random deer on Yukko’s desk. The cast does still feature, and there is, believe it or not, character development of a sort, particularly in the ‘flashforward’ chapters, but for the most part Arawi has honed his surrealist art skills here, and knows what his audience wants: randomness and reaction shots from Mio. We get those in abundance in this volume.

Let’s look at that character development. Some of it can be seen at the start, where Mai and Yukko team up to prank Mio over and over again in a game of musical chairs. But then this is followed by a chapter, seemingly set moments later, which features Yukko rapping for pages on end and embarrassing her friends. Nichijou is not a title you want to read if you get frustrated by randomness – it never stays in one place too lo0ng, it’s quite happy to toss aside reality when it wants to, and in the ‘short panel collection’, sometimes the stories are only a panel or two long. The flashforwards, however, are a bit more developed. We saw one of them in the prior volume, showing a Professor who’s actually attending school, and Yukko apparently returning from America. Here we see more, as we have Mio as an actual manga artist, with an overworked assistant, begging for last-minute help from Mai, who now teaches preschool. This is mostly fascinating because of Mai, who has always been the quiet stoic “troll”. She’s still quiet here, but seeing her smiling and showing genuine emotions is both startling and heartwarming.

In the ads afterwords, Vertical mentions Helvetica Standard, the two-volume series coming out in the fall that’s connected to Nichijou (it’s the manga Yuna is reading all the time), but it’s apparently more of an artbook with occasional comics and diaries. The “successor” to Nichijou is Arawi’s current work City, which Vertical has also licensed. What these licenses tell me, besides the fact that Nichijou must have sold better than I expected, is that it’s Arawi’s art that seems to be the big pull. There are some startling frames in this volume, particularly in the aforementioned “Mio reaction shots”, where he really goes the extra mile in making things weird yet fascinating. In the end, Nichijou oddly reminds me of Short Cuts, the old manga series by Usamaru that Viz released back in the day. The characters are fascinating, and we like them, but in the end you tend to read Nichijou for the art and the really, really weird humor. It’s been an experience.

Daily Happiness

Sep. 20th, 2017 11:19 pm
torachan: (Default)
[personal profile] torachan
1. I had to go in to work earlier than I'd hoped, which meant I didn't get much sleep, but I did manage to get out of there by midafternoon, so that was good. And I have tomorrow off.

2. Carla arrived back safe and sound tonight.

3. We watched last week's Rick and Morty, which I hadn't seen yet because Carla was out of town and I was too lazy to watch it on my own. It was pretty good, but not as awesome as the week before or Pickle Rick.

4. Jasper is such a cutie.

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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

We had not realized the Roman site at Vaison-la-Romaine was so enormous, so we went back. Most of the old Roman town is under contemporary construction, but a tobacco millionaire at the beginning of the 20th century invested a huge sum in buying land and excavating. Unfortunately the fashion in the period was also restoration, and much of the theater had handsome new concrete risers poured over the ancient (and probably un-sittable) stones. The section of the water feature in the first photograph is in suspiciously good shape. This, combined with the generally-less stupendous ruins available, has kept Vaison from getting that coveted Unesco or World Heritage designation.

The second photo shoes the Roman bridge over the river, leading to the medieval city on the other side. Amazingly, this is still in daily use. Cars drive merrily across (the stone pavement and zoom on away. Have a look at the quite ancient building to the left of the bridge. It too is still inhabited and has been update for modern commerce; I believe if you go round the corner it’s a gift and souvenir shop. Someone has cut into the ancient wall and installed new French doors — see the workman’s ladder. I do not doubt that a little iron balcony will follow, perhaps with a cafe table and two chairs so the tenant can enjoy a pastis while watching the river run under a bridge 2000 years old.

 Finally, the obligatory cat shot. Two black cats live on the site of La Villasse. Cats are encouraged at French sites, to keep down the rats and mice; the ones in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris are welcome tenants and in the arena at Arles I spotted an ancient nook furnished with a dish of kibble. These two are clearly siblings, and not going to get buddy-buddy with a bunch of tourists. Instead they maintain a proper French sang-froid, refusing to be petted but willing to tolerate our adoration.. We saw similar black cats at the Pont du Gard. Does this mean that all cats at French archaeological sites are black ones?



Reading Wednesday

Sep. 20th, 2017 09:47 pm
chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)
[personal profile] chomiji

It seems like I must have read more than I am remembering ... .

Anyway, I finished The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #11), which ends pretty much on a cliffhanger. The Magic McGuffin puts Toby (mostly) back together again, but two characters she cares about very much are seriously traumatized and a slippery opponent has disappeared. Thus it goes when you are the Knight of Lost Words. My sister has suggested that I introduce my 15-year-old niece to these, and I might as well. Certainly they've kept me going for a good long while now.

I'm about three-quarters of the way through Max Gladstone's The Ruin of Angels (his new Craft novel), and I'm enjoying it immensely, despite the fact that the editor seems to have fallen down on the job. Several times, I've had to re-read sentences two or three times to make sense out of them. It's not that Gladstone blew it in any of these cases, according to the rules of grammar, but he wasn't terribly clear, and given that this is a fast-paced thriller, really, the pacing went off. Also, at one point, a character introduced as Marian becomes Miriam for a sentence, and then returns to her original name. Finally, did you know that the past tense of "sweat" (as in, what you do on a hot day, especially if you run) is also "sweat"? I, in fact, did not know that. But Gladstone does, and there's a lot of sweating going on, so I kept tripping over this.

Despite my confusion on these mechanical points, this is an awesome read. There's an extended and thrilling caper involving a Very Cool Train (making me wonder whether Gladstone has been reading Stand Still Stay Silent: see Dalahästen), and about a third of the way in, it occurred to me that all the leads, all the POV characters, and the most significant antagonist are all female, and several of them are also queer.

And Kai and Izza are back, as is Tara Abernathy. \o/

If I remember what I read between Fell and Ruin, I'll let you know.

Scanlations: Musume no Iede ch. 16

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:17 pm
torachan: (musume no iede)
[personal profile] torachan

Title: Musume no Iede
Original Title: 娘の家出 (Musume no Iede)
Author: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Jump X
Genre: Seinen
Status in Japan: 6 volumes, complete
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations + muge
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates

Summary: When Mayuko's mom announces she's getting remarried, Mayuko runs away to live with her dad and his boyfriend. This heartwarming slice-of-life series follows Mayuko and her family and friends as their stories interweave.

Chapter Summary: A girl named Ako has a crush on the single father of her little brother's preschool classmates. But after planning a birthday party for her brother just so she can see this guy, he ends up unable to make it due to work and sends his sister, Niina, instead.

Chapter 16: Love Me on the A-Side
meganbmoore: (hwajung: jeongmyung revealed)
[personal profile] meganbmoore
I've been watching MBC's latest sageuk, The King in Love, which is also the latest in the recent trend of youth fusion romance sageuks, though that little subgenre seems to have run its course.  (Hopefully the fact that Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People is the only sageuk this year that's really considered a success will influence future sageuks, though they seem to be over and done with for the year, unless we count Live Up to Your Name, which is very good, but also a time travel drama set more in the present than in the past.)  For the most part, it's been enjoyable, though I'm a couple weeks behind because it looked like it was headed toward one of several endings that I would have considered dealbreakers for the whole show.  (I haven't watched it yet, but I do know it does have my preferred ending, so I should catch up with it this week.)  The one area where it completely fails, unfortunately, is in one of its central conceits:  presenting a love triangle in which a woman loves  two men, and it's unclear which she loves more.  Discussing possible endings with a friend reminded me of the love triangle in one of JTBC's few sageuk outtings, Maids, which also had a triangle in which a woman is in love with two men, but does it much better.

spoilers for both series )
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Posted by Ana

Hello and a Happy Wednesday to all!

Today, we are proud to be hosting an exclusive excerpt from Weaver’s Lament, an upcoming novella by Emma Newman, sequel to the excellent Brother’s Ruin!


Chapter 1

Charlotte was certain she was going to die. She’d thought the threat of Royal Society Enforcers was the most terrifying thing she’d ever experienced, but that was nothing compared to travelling by train. Now she understood why her grandmother had always crossed herself whenever anyone mentioned the rapidly expanding rail network.

She’d been fine in the first few minutes of the journey, when the train had pulled away from Euston station in a stately fashion, even excited. She’d looked out on transport sheds and then houses, with a sense of adventure blooming in her chest. It wasn’t so bad; it was bumpy and noisy as the carriage rattled over the rails, but only a little faster than an omnibus. Quite why her father had looked so concerned when he’d helped her into the carriage, she’d had no idea.

Twenty minutes into the journey, as the city thinned and the countryside opened up, the train had built speed until the greenery at the side of the track was a blur. Surely nothing could go so fast and be safe? No wonder her mother had been so put out by Ben’s letter, asking his sister to visit him in Manchester.

“But you’ll have to go on the train!” she’d squawked. “It’s such a long way! Why can’t he come to visit us here?”

“Because he’s not allowed,” Charlotte had replied, reading the letter from her brother again. It seemed like a simple invitation, but the fact that he’d asked only for her made Charlotte nervous. Surely he missed their parents too? She feared he was getting ill again and struggling to cope. After the success of being accepted into the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts, she could imagine his reluctance to admit any weakness, especially considering the exorbitant amount of money they’d paid her family as compensation. She remembered how proud he’d been, even though it had been her magical skill, not his, that had earned him a place in the College of Dynamics and changed their family’s fortune.

“But I thought he wasn’t allowed to see us,” Father had said. “Something must be wrong. I should go with you.”

Charlotte knew Ben would be furious if she brought anyone else with her. “No, Papa, I’ll go by myself. If there was a problem, he’d have been sent home. We’d know about it. He’s probably missing us and can’t risk the entire family going to see him.”

So much concern over one simple invitation, but it was no surprise. They’d all been worrying about him, and with the six-month mark of his training as a magus coming up, they were all afraid that his previous pattern would resurface; he’d last a few months away from home and then fall deathly ill again.

“I’m not sure it’s proper for you to travel alone, Charlotte,” Mother had said. “We’re a respectable family now. We live in the West End. People will talk.”

She’d laughed. “Mother, no one will even notice I’m gone! Even George is too busy to see me this week.”

Her fiancé’s review was on Friday and he was desperate to earn his promotion to registrar. She was certain he’d succeed; the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages could not have a more dedicated clerk. But there was more at stake than his professional pride; he was adamant that they could not marry unless he was earning a decent salary in a secure position. Not even the offer of help from her parents, now very well off thanks to the compensation from the Royal Society for taking Ben, would dissuade him. “It’s a matter of principle, darling,” he’d said to her. “If I cannot provide a good life for my wife right from the start, I don’t deserve to marry.”

Charlotte would have been happy to live in a tiny terraced house back over on the other side of the city, where they used to live before the windfall, but she was willing to be patient. Life in the west of the city was surprisingly different. Her mother was so much happier there—she’d been able to give up sewing—and the house was larger, with a better landlord. But with the improvement of their circumstances came a strange set of ideas that Charlotte simply didn’t share. Her mother seemed to think that living in the West End meant they had to go promenading in the park on Sunday afternoons after church. The colour of their curtains had to be fashionable, they had to have a maid—even though they’d been perfectly fine without one before—and Charlotte had to take care of her reputation. It seemed that taking the train alone would somehow endanger it. Charlotte was certain that her secret career as an illustrator would not fit in with her mother’s ideas about how she should conduct herself, either.

“I will put her on the train at Euston,” Father had said, elbow resting on the large mantelpiece, pipe in hand. “Benjamin will meet her at London Road station in Manchester. The London and North Western railway company has trains that go straight there with no changes. We’ll make sure he knows which train she will be on.”

“I shall go tomorrow,” Charlotte had said. “Then I can be back for Friday, so I can be there for George after his review.”

“That’s settled, then,” Father had said between puffs. It seemed that, for him, their change in fortune had translated to that particular pose and unfortunately smelly habit.

Now she wished her father had come with her, if only just so she would have someone to talk to. She’d brought her sketchbook, handkerchiefs to embroider and some crochet, but was unable to put her hand to any of them. Even though the terror had subsided to a constant tension and a gasp every time the carriage lurched on a corner, it was still too bumpy for her to do anything save look out the window.

Growing accustomed to the speed, Charlotte was getting used to focusing her attention out towards the horizon. It was a beautiful May morning when she left Euston and she was filled with hope as she looked out over the verdant countryside. The hedgerows were flowering, the fresh new leaves on the trees were her favourite shade of pale green and she could see lambs gambolling in the fields. George would be promoted and they would have a spring wedding and it would be perfect. As they sped through the midlands, the sky darkened and the view was obscured by driving rain. At least she was in an enclosed first class carriage. Her grandfather had told her about the old third class carriage he’d travelled in once, open to the elements during a terrible thunderstorm. She shivered at the mere thought of it.

Daydreaming about her wedding and enjoying the view could only keep her fears for Ben at bay for so long. The compartment was relatively small, seating six comfortably, and had its own door. She was lonely, yet always relieved when no one got in to share it with her at a station. She wouldn’t know what to do if a man travelling alone got in with her. She hoped another young woman would share the rest of the journey, providing company without any fear of unwelcome attention, but she was still alone hours later when the train pulled into Crewe. A comfort stop of ten minutes was announced, but she didn’t want to leave her luggage unattended, so she watched the other passengers instead. She was desperate for a cup of tea and a bun, but she decided to wait until she arrived so she could share that with Ben.

Charlotte was just starting to change her mind when she spotted a familiar flash of blond hair against a black satin collar. She jolted in her seat as she realised the man leaving the compartment next to hers was none other than Magus Hopkins, her secret tutor. The sight of him brought the usual tumult of guilt and excitement. The sense of guilt had started months before, when he’d discovered she’d helped to con the Royal Society into thinking her brother was far more magically gifted than he was. It was a permanent emotion now, reinforced every time they met in secret, even though it was only so he could teach her how to control her own ability without turning wild.

Charlotte watched him stride towards the station café along with many other passengers. Her heart pounded, as it always did when she saw him. She scowled at the back of his burgundy frock coat, silently cursing the perfection of his silhouette. Like every time she saw him, she was seized by the desire to draw him. Charlotte knew she must never give in to it. Bad enough that she even considered it.

When Hopkins was out of sight, she leaned back so he wouldn’t be able to see her through the window of her carriage when he returned to the train. Had he followed her? Surely not! She’d left a note in the usual hiding place, explaining that she couldn’t meet him that week, but hadn’t said anything about the reason why.

A knock on the window made her jump and she felt her face flush red when she saw a burgundy velvet cuff. She pulled the window down as Magus Hopkins doffed his top hat to her.

“Why, Miss Gunn, it is you!” he said with a cheery smile. “What an extraordinary coincidence!”

“Indeed,” she said, trying to hide her delight at seeing his face by frowning most deeply. “What brings you to Crewe?”

“Oh, I’m going to Manchester,” he said, patting his hat back into place. “My compartment is next to yours. We’ve been neighbours all the way from Euston, it would seem.”

She folded her arms. “Magus Hopkins, this is too much of a coincidence for me to bear. Why have you followed me?”

His eyebrows shot up behind the brim of his hat. “Followed you? Quite the contrary, Miss Gunn. I’ve been invited to assist with the design of a new clock tower. The Manchester Reform Club has proposed something quite ambitious.”

It sounded plausible enough; his specialisation in the Fine Kinetic arts was the design of efficient timepieces. The Royal Society held the Queen’s charter for the maintenance, measurement and accuracy of nationalised timekeeping, necessitated by the rise in popularity of the railways. Now that the country could be crossed in a matter of hours, localised time at individual towns and cities was no longer acceptable. The trains, in turn, were a product of research funded by the College of Thermaturgy, and one of their magi would be at the front of the train now, using Esoteric arts to keep the boiler at exactly the right temperature. Between the three colleges of the Royal Society, England—and indeed, the Empire—were evolving at an astounding rate.

No matter how plausible the reason, Charlotte didn’t believe him. But then she considered how she was simply one secret in his life, not the centre of it. She doubted that her comings and goings were of as much interest to him as he was to her. She shouldn’t be so vain.

“May I ask what takes you to the North, Miss Gunn?”

She couldn’t tell him the real reason. Ben could get into trouble if his supervisors knew he’d written to her. “I’m visiting a relative,” she said. “My aunt. Vera. My aunt Vera.”

His lip twitched in that maddening, charming way it did whenever he disbelieved her. “Oh, really? I confess, when I spotted you on the way to the café, I was certain you’d be on your way to visit your brother. He’s been assigned to a mill in Manchester, has he not?”

That was more than she knew. “I have no idea,” she replied truthfully. “Apprentices aren’t permitted to disclose their whereabouts to relatives, as you know.”

“Shame,” Hopkins said, glancing down the platform as other passengers started to return to their compartments. “I’ve heard some rather alarming rumours about a couple of the cotton mills there. It would have been interesting to know if there was any truth to them.”

“What rumours?”

He waved a hand, dismissively. “All hearsay, no doubt. But of course, it’s of no relevance to your dear aunt.”

The twinkle in his eye infuriated her. Must he always tease her so? “If my brother were—purely hypothetically—serving his apprenticeship in one of those mills, would he be in danger?”

“I would not be content if someone I loved were involved in their operation.”

She bit her lip. She knew he was steering her again, as was his wont, but she couldn’t let her pride interfere when it came to Ben’s safety. “Please, Magus Hopkins, if there’s something I should know about my brother’s apprenticeship, do tell me. Is this Ledbetter’s doing? Is it something to do with that awful cage he was involved in?”

Magus Ledbetter was the one who had recruited her brother into the College of Dynamics, an odious man whose marque was embossed on a cage that killed debtors. With the help of Magus Hopkins, she’d been able to save her father from that fate, but not her brother from Ledbetter’s clutches. As much as she feared for Ben’s health away from home, she also feared that Ledbetter would corrupt his gentle heart.

Hopkins became serious. “The mills are the province of the College of Dynamics, you understand. They wouldn’t appreciate the likes of me knowing about any difficulties they may have, let alone my telling another.”

Charlotte slid to the edge of her seat, closing the distance between them. “You said that we would work together, rooting out the likes of Ledbetter and his despicable activities. If there is anything like that cage happening where my brother is apprenticed I insist you tell me.”

“He’s asked you for help, hasn’t he?”

She looked away, torn. “He’s asked me to visit,” she confessed. “He didn’t say anything in the letter, but he asked only for me. I’m very worried.”

He nodded, satisfied with the truth. She hated breaking her brother’s confidence, but Hopkins had not let her down yet. “There have been several unusual accidents that can’t be ascribed to mechanical failure nor to human error. The accounts that have reached me speak of something sinister at play and—”

“Is this gentleman bothering you, Miss?”

Charlotte leaned back as the station guard came into view. “Thank you for your concern, but we are acquainted.”

The guard doffed his cap at both her and Hopkins. “Begging your pardon, sir, Miss, but I like to keep an eye out for any young ladies travelling alone.”

“Most considerate of you,” Hopkins said. “I was simply doing the same.”

“The train will be moving on shortly,” the guard said. “May I suggest you return to your compartment, sir?”

Hopkins doffed his hat to Charlotte again. “I wish you a very pleasant stay in Manchester, Miss Gunn.” He looked as if he were about to go, but reconsidered. “And mark my words, Miss Gunn. You are likely to see things in Manchester that will upset you, and possibly test even a saint’s temper. Best to keep your mind on higher things.”

He was warning her to be mindful of his teachings and remember her own marque. As an untrained latent magus, the risk of turning wild was omnipresent for her. In the months that had passed since Ben’s test, she knew she was getting more powerful, and Hopkins had confirmed as much. He had taught her the technique her brother would also have learned to manage his ability. Like all the magi, she’d developed her own personal symbol, what the Royal Society referred to as a “marque.” It was meaningful only to her, and focusing upon it helped to rein in her latent ability. It would also, in time, mean that she’d be able to influence objects at a distance, even out of her sight.

She wanted to ask Hopkins to come into the compartment with her so they could continue the conversation, but she didn’t dare do something so scandalous in front of the guard. Besides, Ben was meeting her at the station, and if he met her straight of the train, he’d recognise Hopkins. They’d met when Ben was tested. All she could do was give a faint smile and say, “Thank you, Magus Hopkins. I will bear that in mind.”

The guard saw Hopkins to his compartment and gave her a kindly smile as he walked off down the platform. Charlotte wished she’d gotten that cup of tea after all. She needed one now more than ever.

Chapter 2

The crowded platform at London Road station was both a blessing and a curse. It reduced any chance that Ben might have had to spot Hopkins, but it also made it very difficult for her to be seen, too.

It was easy to pick Ben out in the crowd, as he stood at least a foot taller than many of the men there. But no matter how much she waved at him, he simply didn’t see her. She dragged her bag from her compartment and stood on it, taking off her bonnet to flap it at him. At last, he waved at her and made his way over, cutting through the crowd like a tea clipper.

He picked her up and span her around. “Charlie Bean!” he cheered. “Oh, I am so very glad to see you!”

“Put me down, silly!” Charlotte laughed, worried that far too much of her petticoat lace was in plain sight. She beamed up at him when he put her down.

He looked so well! Better than she’d ever seen him, in fact. His gaunt cheeks had filled out and even taken on a rosy hue. His dark brown hair was shining, his sideburns and moustache neatly clipped, his back straight. The coat hanger quality of his shoulders had gone and he filled out his shirt and frock coat with a broad chest. His arms had felt strong when he’d picked her up. He was the very picture of health.

“How was the journey?”

“Terrifying,” she said, and he chuckled. “It improved once I got used to it. Could you wave that porter over?”

“No need,” he said, picking up her bag as if it contained tissue paper. “There are splendid tearooms down the road. Are you thirsty?”

“Parched,” she said, tucking her hand into the crook of his elbow. “It’s so lovely to see you again!”

Charlotte clung to him as he led her through the crowd, Hopkins nowhere to be seen in the throng of passengers. They passed happy reunions and tearful farewells, until at last they made it out onto the street.

Ben disentangled himself from her. “I’m afraid we shouldn’t be seen to be close, out on the street,” he said. “Sorry, Charlie, I quite forgot myself there. I shouldn’t have embraced you like that. Not in public.”

She looked around them, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. “I understand,” she said.

Out on the street, the red-bricked buildings made her feel a world away from the fine Georgian stone and grey bricks of London. The street was pulsing with people and the thoroughfare was clogged with horse-drawn carriages and omnibuses. The skyline was dominated by mills several storeys high, mixed with rows of workers’ cottages and slums. The smell was most unpleasant, and Charlotte couldn’t help but think of miasma. Only two years before, thousands had died here from cholera.

Despite the overcrowding and filth of the city, she was happy to be there. It was such a relief to see Ben well. The ominous comments Hopkins had made about the mills seemed irrelevant now. Ben seemed full of confidence and people moved out of their way as he approached. He wore the red-and-black-striped cravat of a Dynamics apprentice, and those who noticed it stared at him as they passed with looks of envy, fear, and respect. How different it was from the last time they’d walked down a street together and she’d had to practically carry him home. This time she was hurrying to keep up.

She was glad when he guided her towards the doors of the Heywood Tea Rooms. “You must try an Eccles cake,” he said as he held the door open for her. “They are quite extraordinary.”

It was a very large establishment, filled with tables covered in crisp white linen waited on by pretty women in smart uniforms. Along the back wall, there were private booths. Charlotte suspected they were the reason he’d brought her here. When Ben asked one of the waitresses to seat them in the one in the far corner, she was certain of it.

He ordered tea for two and Eccles cakes for both of them.

“Mother and Father send their love,” she said, watching him cast an eye over the room and the rest of the patrons.

Relaxing, Ben gave her his full attention. “Did they make a fuss about you coming to visit?”

“Of course. They’re both well. George, too—he has his review for promotion on Friday. We’re hoping for a spring wedding. And there’s going to be another collection by the author of Love, Death and Other Magicks and I’ve been commissioned to illustrate it. That’s all my news, now you tell me everything!”

The waitress arrived with their order and Ben waited until she’d left again. He sighed at the way Charlotte prodded the Eccles cake. “It’s got lots of currants inside. You’ll like it.”

“When you said ‘cake’ I was expecting a sponge, not something covered in flaked pastry.” She stirred the teapot. “When I got your letter I was worried you’d fallen ill again.”

“I’ve never felt better.”

The first pour from the pot was enough to tell her it hadn’t brewed long enough. She nibbled at the edge of the pastry and took a larger bite, weathering his “I told you so” expression with as much grace as she could muster. She looked at him expectantly, deciding not to say another word until he started talking.

Instead, he stirred the teapot, too, and then poured for both of them. She took another bite and looked at the rest of the tearooms. Perhaps everything was actually just fine, and she’d got herself into a stew over nothing.

“Charlie, I need your help.”

Perhaps not. She looked at him, at his healthy glow, and saw genuine worry in his eyes. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s all been going so well,” he said. “I was so nervous when I left home, I didn’t eat for the first couple of days. But then I made a friend, and I settled in and . . . it’s difficult, dear heart; we’re not really supposed to tell an outsider about anything we do.”

Outsider? The word stung. She pushed the feeling down as best she could. “I understand. Has something gone wrong? Is it your friend?”

“No, no, nothing like that. It was very difficult at the start, I won’t lie. I struggled terribly but then I had a real breakthrough, and since then I’ve been doing so well, Charlie. Ledbetter says I’m one of the most promising students he’s had for years. Oh, don’t look like that! Surely you’re not still harbouring that grudge against him!”

“He is not a good man,” she said firmly.

“Is this some nonsense about him taking me away from you?”

“Oh, what rot! I’m not a child, Ben!”

“Then tell me what you have against him!”

She picked up her teacup, knowing she could never tell him about that awful debtor’s cage. It would put him in an impossible position, and she couldn’t risk his success. Now that the Royal Society had recruited him, he could never leave. She wasn’t prepared to make his life there a misery, and it would be, if he knew what his mentor was really like. “It’s just a feeling I have,” she finally said, hating the insipid statement. “You’ve been doing well,” she said, trying to bring him back on topic, if only to take the look of exasperation from his face. “So why did you send for me? Are you lonely? Homesick?”

He shook his head, clearly struggling to confess his troubles. He was such a loyal soul. It didn’t stop her from wanting to shake him until he spat it all out, though. She took out her frustration on the cake instead.

“I’ve been apprenticed to a cotton mill,” he finally said, “and it’s been going very well. Very well indeed.”

“Darling”—she reached across to hold his hand—“you don’t have to keep saying that.”

He sighed. “I don’t want you to think I can’t cope. I can, I swear it. In fact, I’ve never been happier.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Ben! Just tell me!”

He pulled his hand back and leaned forwards to whisper over the teapot. “There have been a few . . . incidents at the mill. Not on my shifts, I hasten to add. Looms have been destroyed and none of the witnesses are willing to tell us who did it. They’re all covering something up.”

“Have you spoken to Ledbetter about it?”

“I tried. He just kept brushing me off. I’m only an apprentice, Charlie. No one listens to me and no one explains anything to me except exactly what I need to know.”

“It sounds like it’s all out of your hands.”

“If only it were that simple. I’m being put up to the next level of apprenticeship, which means I won’t just be working the line shaft, I’ll be supervising the running of the mill as a whole. Ledbetter has a system, you see, to push the best apprentices to the top faster. I’ve been chosen as one of the final two. Myself and another apprentice, Paxton, are going to be competing against each other. I cannot risk one of these incidents happening when I’m responsible for the mill.”

“Is there no one you can confide in? Is that why you asked me to come?”

He poured more tea. “No, that’s not it. Charlie, it’s more complicated than that. We believe the looms are being destroyed by saboteurs.”
“Like the Luddites? Darling, all of that stopped well before we were born!”

“Not Luddites, trade unionists. And more than that, socialists.” He looked around the tearoom again, lowering his voice further. “There are secret organisations springing up all over the country, determined to wreak havoc. They hate the Royal Society and want to destroy us. They argue that we have too much power and that parliament values the needs of the Royal Society above those of the common man. It’s dangerous, Charlie. Sedition, that’s what it is. And I’m convinced they have a secret group working at the mill. They have a great number of sympathisers among the workforce, and that’s why none of them will out the culprits.”

Want to destroy us . . . His words widened the gap between them. Sedition? Socialists? It sounded more like sensationalism to her. Was the pressure getting to him? “Darling, is there something you want me to do? I can’t see how I can help.”

He lifted the pot to pour tea before realising he’d only just done that. She steeled herself. What was he finding so difficult to say?
“Charlie, I need you to come and work at the mill.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I need you to pretend you’re not my sister and just be one of them. One of the workers. I need someone on the inside, and you’re so kind and people open up to you so easily.”

“Good lord! You want me to be a spy?”

He twitched and looked around the room yet again. No one was sitting close enough to them to listen in. “Keep your voice down! I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t absolutely imperative. Please, Charlie. None of them will talk to me because I’m a magus. Ledbetter has said that if neither Paxton nor I root out the saboteurs, he’ll consider us to be socialist sympathisers. Paxton is a snake, and I am certain he’s already trying to pin it all on me. I caught him going through the drawers in my room the other day. He didn’t take anything but it’s clear he aims to win this round and be fully qualified, no matter the cost.” He reached across the table and took her hands. She was shocked to feel them shaking. “Charlie . . . if Paxton pins the socialist problem on me, Ledbetter will have me prosecuted for aiding and abetting sedition.”

“But that’s utterly ridiculous! Why waste a good apprentice on such an exercise when it isn’t your fault?”

“Because he has to make an example. And he has to get to the bottom of it all. Threatening us with transportation is an excellent motivator. In Ledbetter’s opinion, anyway.”

Charlotte felt sick. “Transportation? To Australia?”

He nodded, just as pale-faced as she was. “I doubt I would survive the voyage. You know how sickly I used to be. Packed into a boat with criminals rife with disease, I’d be done for.”

“Shush,” she said, squeezing his hands. “It doesn’t bear thinking about.” Her misgivings about being a spy faded into insignificance, now that she understood the threat to him.

“You’re the only person I can trust completely to tell me who is responsible for the sabotage. I have to root them out, Charlie, before Paxton finds a way to pin it all on me. If I win this round, Ledbetter will pass me for full qualification. Paxton won’t be able to touch me. And when I’m fully qualified, I’ll be able to apply for funding to build my own mill, with his support. Then I can earn enough money to support you and Mother and Father.”

“I don’t need you to support me. I’ll have George.”

Ben leaned back. “You haven’t told him, then. About your gift.”

She dabbed at her lips with her napkin. “I am not going to discuss that with you. I have everything under control. I’ll help, darling, of course I will. But I have heard some horrible stories about mills . . .”

“The London rags exaggerate things terribly,” he said. “And it won’t be for more than a couple of days. You’re such a good judge of character, you’ll spot who the ringleader is quickly, I’m sure you will.”

“So now I’m a good judge of character? Even though you don’t believe me about Ledbetter?” There was a long pause, long enough for her to regret her tone. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is all a bit of a shock. I thought I was going to have nurse you back to health, not go and work in a mill.”

“I know this is horribly selfish of me,” Ben said. “But I’m desperate, Charlie. Help me to find the ringleader, and I’ll make sure you’ll never want for anything ever again.”

She tutted at him. “I won’t help you for financial gain, you fool. I’ll do it because I love you.”

His relief brightened his whole face. She could see how much it weighed upon him. “Thank you, dear heart, thank you. I promise it won’t be for more than a couple of days. I’ll take care of all the arrangements. Let’s have supper somewhere first, though, shall we?”

Charlotte nodded, feeling bad that she’d made him think she’d only agreed out of love for him. Hopkins said something strange was happening at the mills, and he’d made it sound like something esoteric, rather than political. She was determined to find something that could be used against Ledbetter, something she could take to Hopkins so they could build a case. The hope that it would impress her handsome tutor had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

Copyright © 2017 by Emma Newman

About the Author

EMMA NEWMAN writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s acclaimed Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel and Emma was nominated for Best Newcomer. Her latest novel is Planetfall.Emma is a professional audio book narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and role playing games.

Weaver’s Lament is out October 17 2017 from

The post Excerpt: Weaver’s Lament by Emma Newman appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Daily Happiness

Sep. 20th, 2017 03:25 am
torachan: john from garfield wearing a party hat and the text "this is boring with hats" (this is boring with hats)
[personal profile] torachan
1. I was at work from 9am to after 2am, but inventory is over and I don't have to think about it for another six months. Also unless I get an emergency call or something tomorrow morning, I'm planning on only going in for a few hours in the afternoon to do my ordering and anything else that urgently needs to get done.

2. I walked in to see Chloe being super cute on the couch.

Accel World: The Carbide Wolf

Sep. 20th, 2017 07:49 am
[syndicated profile] mangabookshelf_feed

Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Reki Kawahara and Hima. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

After last volume’s short story collection, we’re back to the main plotline, as Silver Crow is (finally) cleared of the accusation of hosting the Chrome Disaster. Of course, now that they know he’s not evil, the leaders all get together to try to use Silver Crow for their own purposes. It’s a very Haruyuki-centric book as he tries to gain a new ability, learns his companion’s tragic backstory, prepares for the upcoming culture festival at school (yes, Accel World has a real life aspect as well), and worst of all, deals with getting utterly humiliated in a duel against a Level 1 who has super strength hard armor. This lets all his previous doubts and self-hatred come to the fore, though thankfully he has allies now who won’t let him slip too far into that. Essentially, it’s a good, solid volume of Accel World.

Kawahara does apologize in the afterword for Haruyuki getting all the character development so far in this series, and promises to work on developing the others soon. It’s a fair point – even Sword Art Online paid more attention to its other cast members than Accel World does at times. We do get to learn more about Utai here, and as a drama major, I appreciated the fact that she came from a family of Noh theatre performers – though that also meant that I could guess why she was so upset as a child, Japanese theatre being very male exclusive. The death of her brother is one of those freak accidents that sounds a bit more ridiculous than it probably was, but once you learn about him, the way he died, and the life she grew up with, almost everything about Ardor Maiden comes into clear focus. If this is the sort of character development we’ll get in the future, I’m looking forward to it.

And then we have the titular Carbide Wolf, aka Wolfram Cerberus. No, he’s not related to Wolfram and Hart from Angel, but he does seem to be related to Accel World’s big bads, the Accelerated Research Society. I enjoy the themes between personality and armor that Kawahara gives us – the name is wolf-themed, the armor has a wolf’s head… and the actual player sounds like a big friendly puppy when he’s dueling other people, or rather when he’d kicking other people’s asses. It’s hard to fight against something when you can’t do damage to it, and that also gives us the opportunity to dwell on various metals – this had also come up earlier, when Haruyuki was being asked to learn about mirrors in order to master a new ability. Haruyuki being who he is, of course, he grows and learns, with the help of some harsh training, and the rematch, though it ends in a cliffhanger, is another solid fight scene.

Accel World has always been the more consistently written of Kawahara’s two series, and that remains the case here. There’s occasionally some tortured exposition (the animal club member teaching Haruyuki about the different kinds of reflective mirrors really seemed like a reach to me), and Haruyuki’s self-deprecation can wear on the anime fan who wants all cool all the time, but overall this is another very good entry in the series.

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