Monday, July 22, 2013

Manga Monday/Graphic Is Great: Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service

Ah, summer reading programs.  Love them or hate them, anticipate them or fear them, if you're in the business of public library science, they are unavoidable.  Personally, I embrace them, as they get people reading, enhance statistics, and are good publicity.  At the little library where I'm director, the summer reading program has been going great, with more than 100 children signed up to read and earn prizes.  There are smaller programs for high school students and adults, too, with the potential to win prizes from drawings at the end of the program.

My hometown library also has a robust summer reading program for adults, and since I don't work there, I can participate.  Every checkout of books or audiobooks gets me an entry slip that I can fill out and put into a prize box of my choice.

And the easiest way to get in a lot of entry forms is reading manga.  Which brings us to this review.

Checkouts: N/A
Number of volumes available: 13 in English, 17 in Japanese (ongoing)
Typical reader: Adults who like dark, edgy manga
Source: My local library

Summary: Five students at a Buddhist university are united by unique skills - some mundane, some supernatural - involving the dead.  They form a business of getting corpses to wherever they need to go to free the souls.  Sometimes they profit from this.

My Goodreads rating: 4 to 5 stars

As I tend to review books for the school library setting, let me say this right off the bat: This series is not for children, or even most teens.  It is a very adult horror series, with graphically portrayed dead bodies, full frontal nudity (mostly on corpses), violence, and occasional sex.  The last couple of volumes available have "PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT CONTENT" stickers on the covers.  Get over the American idea that comic books are for children.

That said, if you're into dark horror with macabre humor and plenty of social commentary, that keeps things fresh and interesting, this is a great series.  Thirteen volumes are available in English, with more to be translated, and the series is ongoing in its home country.  I was a bit sad to finish volume 13, and hope that the fourteenth will soon be ready stateside.

Most volumes are filled with vignettes of cases that the team takes, which are often one to three chapters long.  (Volume two is a single story arc.)  The stories are influenced by a variety of sources, from traditional lore to urban legends, and from cultural quirks to ripped-from-headline sagas.  The manner of storytelling, and the fact that many jobs do not actually lead to money, makes this series a bit reminiscent of the classic anime, Cowboy Bebop.

Don't miss the glossary and notes at the end of each volume!  I had initially just skimmed the one in the first volume, until I got to one peculiar note.  "196.1 FX: PAKIII - sound of a bolt falling through glasses at terminal velocity into eye socket." (Volume 1, page 215)  Whoa, that's pretty specific.  So I read the rest of the notes.  They're worthwhile, for the humorous specificity as in the above quote, and also the interesting trivia they impart about aspects of Japanese culture, history, locations, and lore that I had previously known nothing of.  You can really learn a lot from the notes.

Which brings me to a last aspect I want to bring up.  While it's not to the level of Gantz for dark social commentary, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service definitely is -not- afraid to touch on taboo subjects.  Not only does the team go searching for suicide victims in Aokigahara Forest, they also deal with the Iraq War, the remnants of the biological weapons research the Japanese committed in Occupied China during World War II, the Japanese justice system, illegal immigration, athlete doping, infanticide, and more.

In sum, if you like dark humor, social commentary, and vengeful reanimated corpses, check out this series.

Manga Mondays is a meme used by many book review blogs, and is sort of hosted by Alison Can Read.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Author Day at the mall

The first annual U.P. Authors Day and Book Fair was held at the Westwood Mall in Marquette recently.  It was organized by members of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association (UPPAA) in coordination with the Westwood Mall.  (For more information directly from the UPPAA, visit their web page about the event.)

I went, of course.  My boyfriend and I had a great time visiting with more than a dozen friendly authors in the air conditioned mall.  (It was more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit; the A/C was very appreciated.)  Some were familiar faces, such as Gretchen Preston, who wrote Valley Cats and was thrilled that I reviewed the first in the series, and Deborah Frontiera, who said that Living on Sisu (also reviewed) was like the Dear America series because she was originally hoping to get it into that.  Others were debut authors, or people I simply had not heard of before.  Even local meteorologist Karl Bohnak was there with his two books.

I'll be honest; while I could strike up conversations with most of the featured authors, Mr. Bohnak is a local TV celebrity and I didn't say much more to him than how much my mom likes his book.  I'm shy!

Many books were bought in the course of the afternoon, for both of my libraries.  A few authors also were gracious enough to donate their books to the libraries, bless their hearts.  Much thanks to Kevin Kluck, Mel Laurila, and Mary Soper for their generosity!

It is worth mentioning that most authors who were in attendance at the Authors Day are self-published, many with printing services through Globe Printing in Ishpeming, MI.  Ergo, it may be hard to get these books outside of this region.  I will do my best to offer web sites and other information as available.

Below are pictures of my merrily obtained swag, along with their authors' names, and web sites when available.

For the charter school library:
Top row, left to right:
The Clue at Copper Harbor by M.C. Tillson; A&M Writing and Publishing (books available for purchase)
Where the Wind Blows by Ida Nord
Look Up! The Poems of Mr. Happy by Robert L. Cook; Mr. Happiness Online (autobiography and music available for purchase)
Snail-Shell Harbor by J.H. Langille.  This was originally published in 1870; this edition is edited by Donna Winters.  Great Lakes Romances (this book and many of Mrs. Winters' own works are available for purchase)
Bottom row, left to right:
Hamsters After Dark by Kathy Kuczek (book and art prints available for purchase)
A Day with Stanley by Milly Balzarini (web site has links to sales sites such as Barnes & Noble)

For the public library:
Top row, left to right:
Hamsters After Dark by Kathy Kuczek
Land of Enchantas by Corey M. LaBissoniere; Martin Sisters Publishing (web site has links to sales sites)
Yooper Bars by Randy and Kevin Kluck; Yooper Bars (book and t-shirt available for purchase)
Bottom roe, left to right:
The Clue at Copper Harbor by M.C. Tillson
Mine Games by Mel Laurila; Tate Publishing (book and ebook available for purchase)
Where the Wind Blows by Ida Nord
The Hospital Handbook by Mary Soper; The Hospital Handbook (book and journal available for purchase)

I look forward to reading and reviewing many of these books in the future!