To say I'm a fan of Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz's work for television and film would be an understatement. Some of my most adored series and moviesTo say I'm a fan of Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz's work for television and film would be an understatement. Some of my most adored series and movies ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", "Fringe", "Thor", "X-Men: First Class") have been at least partially written by them in some capacity or another. So when I found out about this book - about an Aspie boy no less - I was definitely intrigued. The difference in screenwriting and novel writing are bigger than most would think - in screenwriting, you get visual stage directions, letting the camera do all of the work for you. In a novel, you have to write every single part of that sensory input out because you don't have a camera doing that work for you. I have friends that are screenwriters, and some of their biggest issues that I've found while reading their manuscripts have been with sensory language and input because of them being so used to relying on stage directions/the camera to do some of the most important work for them in a novel. Which I should say, isn't a bad thing, just a common issue. So I was a little anxious to see how Miller and Stentz would do on a non-visual medium with their impressive writing skills.
I wasn't disappointed. Not in the least. If anything, I was really surprised at how well the two did. And that's always a happy thing. "Colin Fischer" has been pitched as a "Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" for the YA set - and I have to say, while that's accurate, I found this book to be happily more equally balanced between Fischer's issues continuing to adjust to being mainstreamed (I'll go into that later) and to finding out more about the mystery presented before him with the gun and the cake. Miller and Stentz did a fantastic job from this Aspie girl's POV, so it's definitely one contemporary YA book I'm proud to have in my library.
Now, fair disclosure: I was formally diagnosed with Asperger's when I was 14, and my mother mainstreamed me from kindergarten onward - and I've had it all my life. So when books are written about autism/ASD/Aspie characters in novels, I get more than a bit sensitive about it. There are so many things that authors don't talk about, or forget to talk about, or are afraid to talk about - like the huge difference between male and female Aspies (what their tendencies are in their "specialized areas" and so forth), what else comes packaged with the otherwise standard autism issues (sensory input problems, gender identity problems, things in that vein), and other stuff like that. It's all very sensitive because of the current culture where Asperger's will soon be sublimated and packaged within the wider range of Autism Spectrum Disorders when the new DSM-V comes out for neurological and mental conditions/diseases/etc sometime next year, and where we as a culture feel that we have to handle everyone with kid gloves because they have different issues. I'm definitely no fan of Autism Speaks precisely because of the kid-glove issue - they seem to want more of it. I can honestly speak from experience that being mainstreamed was the best choice my mother made for me for my education. It forced me to learn how to deal with my neurotypical friends and colleagues of the same age, and while it was NOT easy in the least (and not always fun), I still believe that had I been sent to a special needs school or corralled into the LAUSD special ed program, I wouldn't have been able to do as much as I have.
With all of that said, while I did have problems with facial recognition as a child (and that was solved with a lot of trial and error with only a bit of help of the facial expression cards with a therapist), I definitely can say that I don't think I had quite as hard a time of it as Colin Fischer did. Miller and Stentz get major props from me for having a character that's struggling so very hard, but not only knows he is functional - but takes pride in it, whether this character is actively aware of it or not. Also, they get brownie points for having Fischer mainstreamed. They have created a very lovable and sympathetic MC in Fischer, making you want to root for him not because you pity him, but because you can see that he's proud of what he's achieved so far even with everything standing in his way.
And so I say to the YA contemp authors of the world: we need more heroes/heroines like this when we're talking about autism, especially the higher-functioning on the ASD range. The best part about Fischer as a character is that it seems that he only has a bit of awareness over how huge some of his triumphs are, and that's always the best part. I've had to had triumphs of my own like that pointed out to me repeatedly and I'm in my late 20s. I still don't get it. But this book gave me the serious warm fuzzies, especially when we see how much Fischer is growing despite everything.
Some reviewers have hit on the "savant syndrome" thing that seems to come out when Fischer is forced to participate in basketball and aces it when his coach is awesome and uses a great technique into coaxing him into interacting with his peers through basketball. If Fischer is awesome in math, why not use that? And why not punch it up some to give him something he's finally really good at? That's what novels are for - to exaggerate things in order to bring out the maximum emotional payoff. Yes, even in contemporary/realistic fiction. What really helped augment the argument that yeah, suddenly he's great at basketball but not all is solved is the matter of the pick-up game and him being touched and subsequently freaking out. That I definitely felt (no pun intended) pretty deeply, mostly because I myself am pretty sensitive to who touches me and how. Unfortunately, touch and sensory input sensitivity is not something mainstreaming can get rid of in an Aspie or ASD kid, and sometimes can even make it worse. But under repeated stimuli, sometimes, you just might be able to get it bearable enough for the kid to go about a regular, neurotypical daily life. Think about it - how many people do you touch without thinking about how they might react, simply because it's normal in interaction? Now put yourself in Fischer's place. It's a whole lot of touching you have to dodge, and mostly because we don't think about it. And while I admit that mainstreaming did worsen the touch/sensory problem on occasion, it for the most part got me able to function as a neurotypical person would (more or less) during my daily activities, able to anticipate and thus brace myself for any incoming touch or sensory contact that I would have to get through in order to continue my day.
Now, to the notebook and the mystery. I loved both of these. The notebook was definitely Fischer's trademark obsession (along with mysteries), so it was a wonderful way to show how he also felt as an observer of life rather than a participant. I definitely felt Fischer's frustration with being waved off by teachers, the school administration, and even the police - not because I go around solving mysteries, myself, but that's just because it happens so frequently with ASD/Aspie kids. Asperger's isn't called the "little professor" syndrome for nothing, guys - I frequently made trips to the principal's office as a child and later, in middle school and high school for frustrating or outwitting my teachers by either my constant stubbornness to give up certain routines or by doing things I didn't think would upset others or just because I refused to put my hand down when the class was asked a question and I was told that I kept intimidating my classmates because I knew (or thought I knew, depending on the subject) what the answer was. I think that the frustration was played really well by Miller and Stentz, and sets up everyone who has underestimated or brushed off Fischer by the end of the book to really not only impress them but make us take another look at Fischer - not as someone who's handicapped, but someone who may be more capable at certain things than anyone else. And that gave me even more warm fuzzies.
My biggest complaint? The book was too short. I wanted more. And while I can honestly say while this standalone had an ending that left me satisfied in that the story can end here and I can let it go, I still wouldn't mind a mystery series starring Fischer as the crime solver. In fact, I'd LOVE that. Not only would it be fun to read, but I think it would help the YA set get a little more informed about their autistic peers, and maybe help change their world view. Not everyone can be mainstreamed, but they can still learn to function if given the right tools, which is why special ed, unless the child really can't handle a neurotypical environment, isn't the end-all Aspie/ASD solution.
Final verdict? If you want a thoughtful, truthful, and fun book about an Aspie/autistic hero that's also contemporary/realistic, "Colin Fischer" is definitely your book. Definitely one of my favorites released this year, I can only hope there's more on the way. "Colin Fischer" is out now from Razorbill/Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out. It's seriously awesome, definitely one of my picks for 2012, and has this Aspie girl's stamp of approval.
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This is a fantastic bridge between books one and two of this duology, and I really hope it gets printed into the paperback edition of "The Blood KeepeThis is a fantastic bridge between books one and two of this duology, and I really hope it gets printed into the paperback edition of "The Blood Keeper" (seeing as it isn't in the paperback version of "Blood Magic"). So sad to see this duology go, and I LOVED it.
I'm a volume behind (I still have to read volume 3), but the great thing about "March Story" as a series is that for the most part, one ca4.5/5 stars!
I'm a volume behind (I still have to read volume 3), but the great thing about "March Story" as a series is that for the most part, one can dive right in at any time in any volume and still manage to understand what's going on. This volume is mainly based off of the tale of Countess Bathory, and retells her story with a ball, the blood of virgins, and March, hunting her down. With absolutely gorgeous, over-the-top eye-popping art, this volume in the series just cannot be missed. Warning: there are spoilers for this volume involved, so you've been warned.
Along with this retelling of the gruesome tale of a real-life woman, we also get more on March's origins - how her family was murdered by the Ill (specifically, who did it), and how she gained her abilities as apart of the Ciste Vihad. This is a pivotal volume if you want to know more about March (and Lady Janjaghee, the retold version of Bathory) and how she came to be involved with the Ill-hunting organization. While in volume one we get a short briefing on her activities and abilities with fighting the Ill, we don't get the full story. Until now. There's a lot of lies and betrayal involved, and I have to say, that Kim really knows how to weave a story - especially involving a real life character. Excellent work here.
There's also the cause-effect relationship between Janjaghee and March here that we've never seen before - apparently, Janjaghee, after murdering March's family, didn't get off very lightly at all. Apparently even she has nightmares of March, just as March has nightmares of her. Janjaghee was supposedly murdered by March's Ill Thorns, but that's all moot, now that she's joined the Cirque du Rouge in order to keep feeding the Ill inside of her with virgins' blood. This volume is definitely not one for the squeamish - the scenes where Janjaghee takes her victims are pretty gruesome, but the art is breathtakingly gorgeous. Kim has truly done a beautiful job here.
We also have March's identity as a girl outed to Belma, who comes to save her at the last minute, and I can't say I enjoyed watching March, who's one of the strongest manga/manwha heroines I've had the pleasure of reading about, having to get saved. But I guess that happens sometimes, right? Nevertheless, all in all, I really enjoyed this volume, even with my nitpicks aside.
As I haven't read the original, I can't really comment on how faithful the translation is. However, some of the localization changes did make me cringe ("Dream on, Pee-Wee!" was one of them), and I kind of wish that they'd nixed that in the final edit (and since this is an ARC copy, hopefully they will before final publication).
Final verdict? If you've read the other volumes in this series, you simply must continue your journey with March, Jake, Belma, and the rest. If you're new, you can dive in here, and then backtrack if you have to. "March Story: Volume 4" will be out from Viz in North America on October 16, 2012, so be sure to check it out then! It's highly recommended, and one of my favorite series.
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This is one of the rawest books in the series so far - there are a LOT of feels to be felt by pretty much everyone in the book. Identity comes into quThis is one of the rawest books in the series so far - there are a LOT of feels to be felt by pretty much everyone in the book. Identity comes into question - both for the group as one unit and the individuals within it. The burden of inheritance. The pain of growing up with a sibling that might have been favored over you. The fear of going up against an enemy that could destroy the world - will you run? Or will you fight? In "Blue Exorcist: Volume 8", all of these questions are answered, and more in a really great addition to this series. However, if you haven't read the Impure King arc up thus far (books 5-7), you might be a bit lost. Just a warning.
There are a lot of moments in this book for all of the characters in the main cast - not just Rin and Yukio - where they question their place not only in this battle against the Impure King, but their place in the world. Who am I? What am I? What am I doing here? Why should I fight? What do these people mean to me? All of these questions are hit on repeatedly throughout the volume, but it's not redundant - it's awesome. For each character, there's a different answer, a "I am ___, and I fight (or in some cases, won't fight) because of ____." And the answers aren't straightforward - even though the pace of this volume is very fast, there's a lot of soul-searching that goes on within these chapters as there are some huge decisions to be made and a lot of asses to be saved.
And you know what? That was refreshing. We rarely get such emotionally rich volumes in shounen manga, so it was so good to have this volume both emotionally and action rich.
In this volume, we also get final confirmation about Yukio's identity (and how his time with Rin in the womb affected him) toward the end of the fight. We get to see the breadth and width of everyone's abilities - both of the sect and of the main cast - with Mephy narrating the whole thing. The downside? The battle isn't over yet - it reaches a peak with Ucchsma agreeing to teach Rin the secrets of his sword, but Kato kind of otherwise strings us along with this volume. Hopefully in volume 9 we can move on. Not that I haven't enjoyed this arc, but I think 3 books is enough, don't you?
Final verdict? Definitely one of the most pivotal volumes in terms of character development within the series, if you're a fan or if you've just been reading "Blue Exorcist", you simply cannot miss this eighth volume. Definitely one of the best of 2012 so far. "Blue Exorcist: Volume 8" will be out from Viz on November 6, 2012 in North America, so be sure to check it out then.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)
This manga is based on one of my favorite light novel series, "My Sister Can't Possibly Be This Cute". I'm so glad Dark Horse picked up the manga as tThis manga is based on one of my favorite light novel series, "My Sister Can't Possibly Be This Cute". I'm so glad Dark Horse picked up the manga as they've done an awesome job with it, and hopefully someone will pick up the original novels for translation too. This series, while a little on the naughty side, also has some great social commentary on the state of how otaku (or fans to the point of mania) are viewed in Japan. It has great one-liners and the characters are crafted with care. So if you're looking for something new to read in the manga department, "OreImo" is a must read.
So, the otaku: a history. Otaku have been given a bad rap in Japan, mostly due to a serial killer in the early nineties who had a huge infatuation with anime (specifically incest-related content and lolicon-related content) as he abducted girls and killed them. It became a huge stigma, and it wasn't a good thing to call oneself an otaku. However, ever since the "moe boom" that started in Akihabara (a city in Tokyo that caters almost exclusively to anime otaku and computer otaku) about a little over ten years ago, and thanks to other groundbreaking novels like "Denshaotoko (Train Man)", it's become a little more acceptable in Japan to be an otaku.
That is, if you're male.
If you're female, it's still not really cool. However, thanks to series like "OreImo" and places like Otome Road in Ikebukuro (another city in Tokyo slowly growing more targeted toward otaku) that are almost exclusively targeting female otaku with its stores and cafes, it's slowly growing more acceptable to be an otaku. Keyword here being "slowly". VERY slowly, for girls. For guys, it's almost completely mainstream now.
So Fushimi took all of this history of controversy, and made a set of novels out of it, and eventually, manga, too, and out of it came the "OreImo" story.
Kirino, while being really popular at school and a hot fashion magazine model, still has to hide her secret of her love for naughty video games, manga, and mahou shoujo (magical girl) anime shows from everyone - even from her own family. That is, until her older brother finds out by mistake. It soon becomes a race of give and take between the siblings, peppered with a lot of tension and hilarity, to keep Kirino's secret. Kirino's choice of obsession (incest or otherwise naughty video games) is an abberation within the female otaku community - most go toward the BL (boys' love) or GL (girls' love) genres instead. What Kirino's into is mostly targeted toward guys 18 and up.
Now, this series isn't all humor. There are a lot of serious issues raised - and no, incest between Kirino and her brother isn't one of them. There's the issue of having kids 18 and under being able to purchase adult material online like Kirino does, skirting the laws about porn and profane materials where you'd otherwise have to show ID. There's also the social factor - what will happen when Kirino's friends and the rest of her family find out what she's into? Will she be disowned, friendless, and alone? What about her otaku friends online, who are also girls, who like the same things? Which road in life will she take - the appropriate one with being a model and studying abroad? Or the one of being an otaku? It almost at times feels like Fushimi is telling her own story, though I can't really confirm or deny that. It feels very autobiographical. But for the most part, it rides on comedy to make the reader more comfortable with the subject matter, which gets surprisingly deep.
I'm glad that Dark Horse has brought this series to the states, and with four volumes out for the manga (not including the spin-offs), it won't break the bank. The novel has ten volumes and is still going. Finally, Western fans will see what the social fallout is when they declare themselves otaku if in Japan, and learn more about the history behind the term itself. It's a pretty important piece of social commentary, and Dark Horse has done a great job with what I've read so far. And while it's not always appropriate for younger readers, I'd definitely recommend this to middle YA and older audiences as it's a really great series.
"OreImo: Volume 1" is out from Dark Horse Comics on September 5, 2012, so be sure to check it out then. It's made my best of 2012 so far list, and is highly recommended.
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NOTICE: THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE PREVIEW EDITION ONLY.
Thanks to DC Comics and Edelweiss, I was able to read the preview (the first 24 pages/first issueNOTICE: THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE PREVIEW EDITION ONLY.
Thanks to DC Comics and Edelweiss, I was able to read the preview (the first 24 pages/first issue?) of this adaptation. It's fabulous! The art nails everyone dead on, and the actual adaptation of the text from the book is pretty much the exact same thing. I loved this. I want more.
Hardcore "Millennium" fans are going to love this version of the story - I guarantee it just based on this preview alone. Any issues you might have had with the films (both the original Swedish version and the US remake) most likely have been rectified here.
Short review is short because this is only a preview, but hot damn am I excited to read the entire first volume. Real review coming soon, after publication.
(posted to goodreads and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)...more
Yen Press/Orbit/Hachette did an absolutely fabulous job with this translation. I'm really happy with it - and hopefully now they'll pick up the rest oYen Press/Orbit/Hachette did an absolutely fabulous job with this translation. I'm really happy with it - and hopefully now they'll pick up the rest of the Madoka manga (and its spinoffs) for US publication, too!...more
Hi, my name is Usagi, and I’m autistic. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the “lighter” forms of the disorder on the autism spect Hi, my name is Usagi, and I’m autistic. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the “lighter” forms of the disorder on the autism spectrum. I’ve been mainstreamed (meaning never put in special education, but instead with a classroom with neurotypical (“normal”) kids my entire life. And never have I been so happy to have been raised as such. I was dubbed highly gifted in fourth grade, I did honors and AP classes (for everything but math), I went to UCSB, majored in Japanese, went to Japan and lived there while going to ICU in Tokyo, and graduated with a decent GPA in 2007.
In short, I am an autism success story – and success stories are not often talked about, which is incredibly frustrating. We are always spoken of in softer terms, couched in “tough stuff” and it’s as if we’re surrounded by eggshells upon which everyone has to walk on.
We’re tougher than that. And people like Temple Grandin, Bill Gates, and others only prove that.
That being said, I’ve found it incredibly hard to find books that deal with autism (or people with it) that actually take us seriously. Much like I have massive problems with Autism Speaks with wanting to shove everyone in Special Ed instead of mainstreaming when it’s an option (seriously, guys, it’s like trying to shove the GLBT community back in the closet), I also have problems with a lot of YA/MG books that have tried and failed to tackle the concept and issue of autism while giving respect to the individuals who have it.
I’m happy to announce that this fabulous little book does both – tackles the subject, gives the subject respect, AND is wonderfully easy to understand for the age of any person reading it. Sy Montgomery has really done Grandin a solid here, and has captured her life very eloquently. If you’re trying to find a book to introduce the issue of autism to any age group (but especially the youngest ones), I highly recommend this biography that speaks of the blossoming neurodiversity movement through Grandin’s experiences.
Grandin herself gives us a very simple introduction, getting our feet wet (as the audience) – telling us very briefly about her life and how autism affects her, as well as the goals of the biography in general. This is a very straightforward yet gentle way to ease people into the subject matter to come, and it automatically got my attention.
As for Montgomery, she has done an absolutely fantastic job with the whole book. From its style of storytelling (as if this were fiction and not fact) to the tidbits on how to help kids with autism, explaining more about the condition and an extensive bibliography at the end giving us a lot more resources for those who want to read up more on Grandin. What absolutely chilled me (and in a good way) was the way she explained how those with autism (present company included) experience the physical senses, and how sometimes those “senses (are) on fire”. I’ve never seen anyone be able to describe how sensory overload so simply and so well before, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. I too have sensory overload problems, and I’ve tried in the past to explain how it works, but failed. Now I have a great reference for people who want to know how it works.
This book balances autism education and Grandin’s life story very well – both in easy-to-digest forms. To be blunt, we need more books like this about those with autism both in all genres. By the end of the book, Montgomery builds a steady excitement that will make you want to cheer for Grandin and her accomplishments, as well as give those who know those with autism a new way at looking at them and interacting with them. The comparison with how animals think and how some of those with autism on the spectrum think was spot on, and I think it’ll definitely help neurotypical kids understand more about aneurotypical kids a bit better. It also talks a lot about animal rights, how Grandin’s work ties into them, and how important they are – never a bad thing to introduce to a young audience. While it does make some sweeping generalizations about Big Agriculture and livestock farming in general that I wasn’t really into, it’s at least something to get the conversation going.
But quite possibly my favorite part? Grandin’s final tips to kids with autism on how to manage it on their own in order to thrive. They’re great pointers, and it brought a smile on my face because I only got a fraction of that advice after getting diagnosed. Now it’s there for future generations to enjoy, and nothing makes me happier than that.
So if you’re looking for a respectful, eloquent way to introduce autism to anyone of any age, pick up “Temple Grandin”. It’s made my best of 2012 so far list, and its place there is well deserved. “Temple Grandin” is out now from Harcourt, so be sure to check it out – it’s seriously one of the best books on autism and on Grandin that I’ve read yet.
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4.5/5 stars. How much do I love Koko? The first chapter of "African Golden Butterflies" and the three-enemy shootout with Koko slayed me. No pun inten4.5/5 stars. How much do I love Koko? The first chapter of "African Golden Butterflies" and the three-enemy shootout with Koko slayed me. No pun intended. ...more