The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker written and illustrated by Jen Wang

To be published: Feb 13, 2018

The graphic novel is a historical fiction set in Paris in the late 19th Century, and stars Frances a talented but frustrated seamstress, and her employer, the shy Crown Prince Sebastian of Belgium who turns into the fabulously outgoing Lady Crystallia, fashion icon to all the young Parisians. Problems arise when Sebastian must keep his personal life very secret as his parents are trying to marry him off at the earliest opportunity, so he is meeting eligible young woman during the day and becoming one at night. Of course things become complicated, and Sebastian pulls a really douche bag move trying to save himself and his reputation. Will he be able to salvage his friendship with Frances and become the person he really wants to be? To find out, read this fabulous graphic novel. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars. 

I loved that this volume was all about self-acceptance and self-discovery. Being on a bit of similar journey myself, I was really drawn into the story. I found it fascinating that it was involving a cute but awkward prince who doesn’t see the value in himself as a boy, and only feels confident when he dresses in women’s clothing. There has been a lot of press with this sort of story lately, so it is nice to see such as well-thought-out handling of the subject matter. Frances is able to show him how beautiful he can be in her gorgeous dress creations.She finds someone a real friend who supports her dreams and wants her to grow and improve, and finds the same in Sebastian. One example of this, is when Sebastian meets one of Frances’ idols Madame Aurelia when he is dressed as Lady Crystallia, and they both get invited to the Paris Opera House to see her latest creations for the ballet, and the opportunity to show her work to a master dressmaker and he’s as excited as she is. Then he takes her out to eat as the Prince, treats her like a princess, and tells her how much he admires her tenacity. Squeee! That is so adorable!

I love the artwork, especially all the gorgeous dresses and the time period (which seems to have been set sometime during the Belle Epoque – circa 1871-1914). The story, as other reviewers have commented on, does have a lot of “awww” moments where you just want to hug them both and tell them everything will be alright, especially Sebastian. And the part at the end with his dad was so sweet, though I’m not sure if it would ever happen like that in real life, at least not with royalty (we can always hope!). The part that almost made me cry like a baby was at the end when the King says to Frances, “When I first learned the truth, I thought Sebastian’s life would be ruined. But seeing you, I realized everything would be fine…Because someone still loved him.”

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from First Second Books, in exchange for my honest review. 

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Black Dahlia, Red Rose

Black Dahlia Red Rose

Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell

To be published: Oct 10, 2017

The Black Dahlia murder case remains a brutal unsolved mystery murder case. Committed by someone familiar with surgical techniques, the murder of twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia because of the lingerie she wore and her jet-black hair. The investigation has never been solved, but I believe Piu Eatwell has finally done that. Using previously unreleased FBI and LAPD files, in addition to the first-hand accounts of people like news reporter Aggie Underwood and Dr. DeRiver, psychologist of the LAPD during the time of the murder, the author makes a compelling argument about the identity of the killer. She also explains who else might’ve been behind the scenes of the murder, as well as the corruption and cover-up perpetrated by the LAPD and their associates. Highly recommended, 5 stars. 

I personally loved the way the author set the story for Los Angeles in 1940s post-war America. Narrative nonfiction doesn’t always work, but I really liked the way she blended fact and story to get a let’s-face-it not pleasant topic across. Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered, according to the author’s website, by being “bludgeoned to death, her mouth slit wide on each side. Severe post-mortem lacerations had been made to the body. Most shocking, the corpse had been hacked in two.”

The influences of Hollywood are all over Los Angeles (as they have been since the movie industry has been in existence), but there is also the influence of of gangsters and their cronies, like Mark Hansen, who peddled sex and drugs, and encouraged women to sell themselves body and soul to get into pictures and become famous. I had heard stories about the corruption of the LAPD but to read about it and the depth to which it went, was fascinating, and really makes me want to read a book about that all on its own. The lengths to which they went to in order to cover up the dealings of certain members of the force, basically sabotaged the entire Black Dahlia murder investigation. After reading this book, I can very much imagine a scene as described by the author, between the man who ordered Elizabeth Short’s murder and the man who actually committed it, just like Henry II telling his knights to “get rid of this troublesome priest” when they murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas a Becket. I found it very fascinating that the author, at the end of the book, discovered Leslie Dillon’s daughter was named Elizabeth, adding that just extra bit of creepiness to an already creepy story. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from W.W. Norton & Company in exchange for my honest review. 

 

 

Kamisama Kiss, Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25

Kamisama Kiss Vol 25 written and illustrated by Julietta Suzuki

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Nanami has been studying hard the last ten months and finally got accepted into Junior College in the Dept of Early Childhood Education, so she can work with kids. But she is wary of marrying Tomoe, and still doesn’t really want to leave the shrine and stop being the human kami. Kotaro, the human love of Himemiko, the fish yokai, that Nanami helped out in the beginning of the series, is gravely ill. Kotaro seeks her help. It turns out Himemiko is pregnant with Kotaro’s child and her people are not happy that the child is human. Himemiko wanted Nanami to come to her palace and get married to Tomoe so that her subjects would relent about her wanting to marry Kotaro, and see that a yokai marrying a human is perfectly normal. So Tomoe finally proposes and she says yes! They are getting married at Mikage shrine, and invite all their friends.  Will they finally get their happily ever after? To find out, read the heartwarming conclusion to the Kamisama Kiss series! Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars. 

I am sad that this is the last volume in the series, but I figured it was coming soon as they can only drag the Tomoe-is-still-stuck-in-the-body-of-a-fox for so long. I love Tomoe but I kind of prefer Jiro, the tengu chieftan,  for her even if he is a grumpy bastard. Hehe on that whole “you’re too tempting a sight tonight” comment. I loved it, even though the way she went about it was rather odd, when Himemiko kidnapped Nanami and dressed her in the traditional all-white wedding kimono. Nanami didn’t really want to get married probably because of what happened with her parents, but the look of pure joy when she put that wedding dress on and saw how beautiful she looked, was priceless. Not to mention the look on Tomoe’s face when he first sees her and the way he hugged her on their wedding day. I liked Ami being brave and finally talking to Kurama and told him how she felt about him. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC, from Viz Media, in exchange for my honest review. 

 

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 10

The Demon Prince of Momochi House, Vol. 10 written and illustrated by Aya Shouoto

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Himari Momochi is still in shock after Aoi’s love confession. She goes exploring the house on her own and almost gets kidnapped by a female ayakashi (or what is left of it), only to be rescued by the Guardian of the Gate between the spiritual and human worlds, who she met a few volumes before. He wants the power in her last name now and decides at first that the best way to do that is to marry her, which she of course refuses, then decides that becoming the guardian of the Momochi House (the omamori-sama) would be the better route. Aoi also completely refuses to allow either of these things to happen, but the Guardian forces his hand by kidnapping Himari and forcing him to play a dangerous game to get her back. Aoi thankfully wins but at what cost to Himari and himself? Bonus story about Ise included at the end. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars. 

Mangas like this crack me up. This book is basically a reverse harem, a manga where the main character is a girl who has a bevy of hot young men that are falling over themselves to get her attention and/or protect her. The Guardian of the Gate is handsome and charming, and it seems used to getting his own way, but is defeated using his own vanity/bad habits in the end. Bit poetic if you think about it. Aoi, despite looking exactly the same, seems to have changed and become more powerful/ruthless since he revealed his true feelings for Himari. And that scene where the Guardian gets all cheeky and kisses Himari and you see Aoi literally crack and turn into the bloodthirsty Nue, is pretty bad-ass. I was honestly a little confused about what exactly happened with the new shikigami at the end of the manga, so hopefully the author/illustrator will explain it better in the next volume. 

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this manga from Viz Media in exchange for my honest review. 

Honey So Sweet, Vol 8

Honey So Sweet Volume 8

Honey So Sweet, Vol. 8 written and illustrated by Amu Meguro

To be published: Oct 3, 2017

Yashiro,  after weeks of teasing, finally kisses Misaki. Both are shocked by it, and Yashiro ends up avoiding him for a few days. Yashiro goes to talk to Nao about it and finally confesses that she likes Misaki but hadn’t intended on kissing him originally. Nao encourages her to tell Misaki how she really feels, and she does by kissing him again and swearing more in the future. Nao and Tai have been going out for a year, and go out on a date to celebrate. They see Sousuke, Nao’s guardian at a diner with Tai’s mom, and Nao realizes she’s never thought about him having any kind of love life or wanting to be with someone. This comes into sharp focus once Nao and Tai meet Aoi, a former high school classmate of Sou’s and they see the reaction Sou gives when they see each other. Is love in the air for Sou? The end of the book fasts forward to seven years after their second year of high school and it is now Nao and Tai’s ninth anniversary. What surprises are in store for the couple? To find out, read the exciting conclusion of the Honey So Sweet series. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars. 

I was so sad to learn that this was the final volume of this series! It seems way too short. Misaki and Yashiro’s budding relationship is so awkward and adorable, especially when he tries to be “be a man” and kiss her first, failing because she kisses him first again. But of course nothing is as cute as Nao and Tai together. The title is very appropriate in this volume, as we see how much the two of them care for each other – wanting to share the gifts they gave each other to other and being able to express their feelings to each other (i.e. Nao commenting that “just being with Tai makes [her] feel giddy”). I’m glad Sousuke gets some face time, he’s probably one of my favorite characters in the series because he’s so selfless, but there’s hardly any mention of him except in the context of Nao liking him more than an uncle in the beginning of the series, or as a passing mention when Nao does something stupid and he has to be her parent. Aww, I adore the part when Aoi tells Sou talk about how happy Nao looks and how that is entirely because of him and how he has raised her. And it was totally sweet when Tai told Sou that he is his role model, as Sou had been questioning himself being a good parent, and I think it was exactly what he wanted to hear. I’m not usually a fan of guys giving girls roses because it is pretty cliche, but I loved the enormous bunch Tai gave Nao at the end of the manga. 

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Viz Media Inc. in exchange for my honest review. 

Norse Mythology

norsemythology_hardback_1473940163

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Published: February 7, 2017

Taken from Goodreads.com: In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I’ve never had the opportunity to advance read one of Mr. Gaiman’s books, so I jumped at the chance when I saw it on Netgalley. Plus it’s about one of my favorite subjects that I have loved since a child, and I could identify with Mr. Gaiman’s similar experience, in regards to the introduction of Norse mythology into his life, in the foreword. His writing is beautiful as it always is and I discovered stories I had never heard before, but I guess I just thought it would be different and a better interpretation because of his past work involving Norse mythology (Odd and the Frost Giants and American Gods). 3-1/2 stars. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publishers, WW. Norton & Company on Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. 

The Kaiser’s Last Kiss

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The Kaiser’s Last Kiss by Alan Judd

To be published: Jan 3, 2017

Kaiser Wilhelm has been exiled to the Netherlands since 1918. In 1940, the German Army (the Wehrmacht) have invaded Holland and are interested in him, or rather interested because of what he might do to support the Allies or the Third Reich. So they send a twenty-three year old SS officer named Martin Krebs to gather intelligence on the former emperor. His secondary mission is to find the British spy known to be in the area and trying to recruit the Kaiser. Despite deciding to use the SS as a way to further his career, he has become a bit disillusioned with the Nazis and what they are doing. Everything goes a little pear-shaped after Krebs falls in love with a young Jewish woman who is a servant at the Kaiser’s house. Will Krebbs be able to complete his missions? 3 stars. 

I really wanted to like this book, but I just felt like it fell flat for me. I liked the parts about the Kaiser, and I think he really stole the show away from Krebs and the Jewish maid. Apparently Christopher Plummer as the Kaiser in the movie adaption does the same thing. I always think of Wilhelm as the young man from the BBC series, Edward the Kingand Judd’s interpretation is pretty similar. I loved that he liked to talk in English and read out passages of Wodehouse to his guests. Krebb and the maid were just a kind of boring story. Yes, it was a forbidden love, especially because he was in the SS, but it didn’t do much for the story. I thought the visit from Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the Gestapo, to the Kaiser’s house was much more interesting and wondered if it was true. Apparently no, though he did get a visit from Goering at some point during the war.