Review: In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

In the Miso Soup

by Ryu Murakami

I got this one on kindle after it came recommended from a friend, it’s not something i’d normally buy. I’m actually very glad I did. It’s a strange and very unsettling book, focussing around a young Japanese sex tout guide and his American Client ‘Frank’.

Kenji becomes increasingly anxious about his client as things don’t quite add up.

The story is dark, creepy and disturbing, as you might expect from Murakami. It’s also very clever, brilliantly crafted, horrifying in the truest sense and utterly gripping. I read it quickly in one evening (no doubt losing some of the subtlety and beauty of the writing) because I had to know how it ended before I could possibly focus on anything else. It’s strange seeing the Japanese sex trade through accepting but slightly jaded Kenji and at the same time Frank who brings his American sensibilities and his own issues to the scene.

Worth a try for anyone looking for something a bit different, an alternative sensibility in writing and a clever well written tale.

Comics – 29th August 2012

As is DC’s want during month’s that have five Wednesday’s instead of neatly fitting in with their four week cycle it’s odds and sods time, with Aquaman from last week, a few annuals, and the perennial schedule hopper, Justice League.

Other publishers, less caring about the fluctuations of the calendar have followed their usual cycle so there’s Debris and New Deadwardians.

DC – New 52 #12 Part 5

Aquaman
The Flash Annual
Green Lantern Annual
Justice League

Other

Debris
The New Deadwardians

Skipped To The End…
Continue reading

Second Shot by Zoe Sharp

ok first the disclaimer, I consider Zoe a friend. What this means in real terms is that if I wasn’t enjoying the book i’d pop it back on the shelf and leave it till another time, or never. Still, I believe in full disclosure so consider this it, Zoe Sharp is awesome, a truly and brilliantly fabulous person.

She’s also a damn fine writer.

In second shot we join Charlie Fox in the middle of some pretty ferocious action, we then zip back to the start of the case and follow to and beyond that point. It’s a device that I often find irritating but in this instance it definitely adds a frisson to events and to the character of Simone.

I loved Charlie, she’s tough and fierce and a bit not right in the head but she’s not bullet proof or infallible and she has no super powers, she’s not even better at everything than everyone else. She is however dedicated and determined.

The action is nicely paced, keeping the reader tied in all the way along, but with enough quiet moments to allow the reader to attach emotionally to the main characters. Also, the fight scenes. Ah the fight scenes. Sharp knows the anatomy of a fight. She knows the moves, the body’s responses and the pain. The fight scenes are fantastic, they were dirty and grim and agonising. If everything else hadn’t sold me on this series the fights would have.

Clever, entertaining and tough. Can thoroughly recommend this series.

Reviewing, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

wrestler ‘mankind’s’ Mr Socko. Now reviewing on Amazon?

There has been a lot of discussion on twitter and blogs the last few months about the ethics of the industry. Jeremy Duns has exposed plagiarists and he and Steve Mosby have taken Stephen Leather to task as an unapologetic example of the sock puppetting and use of fake id’s to both push your own books and run down others that is rife.

It’s been a bloody time and the latest is the spotlight turning once again on the dubious review tactics used on Amazon. I do not habitually post my reviews on amazon, I have only done so when the authors have asked me to spread the word and even then I usually to a shorter version than the full unbound review.

Thing is, it’s coming to light that people review for money, making the reviews worthless. It’s always happened, truth be told, if you have reviewed for any length of time then on some level you are probably aware of it. There were debates when I was a more active reviewer about the idea of bloggers having to declare whether they receive freebies or payments (unbound had always been open about receiving books so I didn’t follow the end of that discussion, it seems it may have come in, in the US).

I’m not sure that there is a way for amazon’s reviewing system, or any public reviewing system to work properly, but it does seem that a lot of energy is put into fakes and stacking the deck. As a reviewer it’s a background noise I always just sort of accepted, it’s sucky, but it’s been on the scene longer than I have and will be long after I stop reviewing, which I haven’t officially yet (It’s called a hiatus folks). Now that i’m dipping my toes in publishing with Fox Spirit though it’s changed things a bit. Now it’s hitting my protective nerve. It’s hard enough to get any kind of profile for your authors and their books, it’s tough to get noticed in this market and it’s tough to get honest reviews of their hard work and talent. The last thing any of us needs or wants is a bunch of skuzzbags stacking the deck against us with fake accounts, punitive reviews of books by authors they don’t like or the (common to goodreads it appears) classic of reviewing a book that isn’t even finished yet.

So this is my advice to readers and buyers out there. Look at the reviews by all means, then look at the reviewers, if you follow the blogs you build a sort of relationship, you know what sort of books they like, where your tastes overlap, what bugs them for no good reason. So on Amazon et al  follow the breadcrumbs, check other reviews by them, do due diligence and at least try to ensure you are getting someone’s honest opinion, not the meaningless rating of a sock puppet.

Comics – 22nd August 2012

A mixed bag this week, with some titles improving, some going the other way. There’s still another set of releases out this month, including Aquaman #12, and a number of annuals. September see DC putting out 0 issues of all it’s titles, and introducing some new ones as well, but between now and then I’ll be doing a look back over the last year, and seeing if the New52 have been a success.

DC – New 52 #12 Part 4

The Flash
I, Vampire
Justice League Dark
New Guardians
Teen Titans

Skipped To The End…

Continue reading

Comics – 1st August 2012

I’m not sure if this makes a year in the New 52 or not. I think, seeing as we are now moving into the twelfth issues for the comics that launched last September that the books have run for a year, even if the date says different. That being the case there are a lot of titles without Annuals though, although there are a few to come later this month. But I digress.

I’m going to save a final summing up of the first year of the New 52 for a later post, but there are a few things that need to be said here. Many issues are wrapping up their story lines this month, in readiness for #0 in September that will provide another jumping on point for new readers, as well as bring more characters into the New 52.

Onto the reviews.

DC – New 52 #12 Part 1
Animal Man
Dial H
Earth 2
Stormwatch
Swamp Thing

Marvel
Hawkeye

Other
Harvest
Mind The Gap
Thief Of Thieves

Skipped To The End…

Continue reading

Comics – 25th July 2012

A bit of an oddity this month, as Green Lantern slips into this release slot. The est of the week stays as it has been since launch, with some very good titles. New kid on the block, Debris promises to be impressive.

DC – New 52 #11 Part 4
Aquaman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Green Lantern: New Guardians
I, Vampire
Justice League Dark
Teen Titans

Other
The New Deadwardians
Debris

Skipped To The End…

Continue reading

A Blight of Mages

Written by Karen Miller
Published by Orbit in 2011

A little while ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Elantris, an excellent book which posed the question of what happens in a magical kingdom when the magic goes awry and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. A Blight of Mages answers a variation on the question- what happens when a kingdom’s magic starts breaking down?
Blight of Mages is an interesting book. As I just mentioned, it poses an interesting question. It also provides a potent social commentary with the two main characters being poles apart in terms of background and only forming a match in magic terms. The female lead, Barl, is one of the kingdom’s working class, creating clocks for the wealthy alongside a few dozen others in a kind of workhouse that’s familiar to those who’ve read some Victorian history, if it’s somewhat cleaner. However, she’s frustrated, as an exceptionally gifted mage, she wants to get out and change the world. Two things stand in her way: lack of access to ‘The Academy’ where much mage-lore is stored and her class, with no powerful family backing her, no-one will allow her to use her gifts or respect her talents. At the other end of the scale is Morgan Danfey, one of the ruling class whose only magic is almost unrestrained and is blessed with all the wealth and power that Barl only dreams of. The only things holding him back are his father’s insistence he finds a wife to replace his lost sweetheart and the council of mages who see him as a little too reckless for his own good. The reason for his recklessness, though, is a feeling he has. A feeling that magic is ending and the kingdom must be defended. You see, only their kingdom has magic. The surrounding nations of ‘barbarians’ are superbly talented as warriors, merchants and builders but none are mages, so are odviously uncivilized.

The book has a great premise and is well written, but there’s one key issue that stops me from praising it too much. Neither of the two main characters are actually that likeable, nor are many of the others you encounter besides Barl’s brother. Barl herself is just too needlessly angry and hot headed; yes, being oppressed is a reason to be angry but she comes across as purely petty in many ways, making it hard to empathise with her even as she does develop as a character. Morgan is the same; an interestingly flawed character with his own reasons for frustrations and hurts, but overall his overbearing attitude makes him hard to relate to as well. Whilst this is compensated for in a good way due to the interesting world and a realistic populace, the brashness (and, later on, the sheer perversity) of the main characters stops the book from becoming the classic that it could have been.

There’s also a lesser flaw in that the magic, whilst magic admittedly, doesn’t feel that… logical, to me. I know that’s an odd thing to say but the actual working of magic in this world don’t feel as well set out as it does in others, such as, for instance, Codex Alera or even the Warhammer universe. Perhaps it’s explained in the other two books in the series, An Innocent Mage and Prodigal Mage, however this book, being the prequel, might have spent a little time to introduce those of us, like myself, unfamiliar to the world.

To sum up, the book’s actually like its characters. Good in places, quite innovative and interesting but strangely hard to like.
Until next time!
Kerl