Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/4

We've hit the time of year where it is exceedingly hot in this particular blogger's basement, which leads to various effects: lassitude, ennui, and a general disinclination to sit typing away for hours on end (even while a misplaced sense of duty demands those hours). So this week's post, and those coming for the remainder of August, may be shorter and more desultory than they should be -- if so, I apologize.

As always, these books showed up on my doorstep this past week, sent by the publicity arms of various publishing organizations (in this case, Hachette's Yen Press and Pearson's Dutton Young Readers). I have not yet read them -- I may, I sadly admit, not manage to read any specific one of them -- and what I have to tell you about them is as correct as I can make it, but may still contain certain deficiencies.

First, I've got this here pile of Yen Press books, all coming in August, and so I'll cover them in order of volume number, which should roughly coincide with how accessible they are to new readers.

First up is Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Vol. 2, written by Magica Quartet with art by Hanokage. This is one of those multi-media Japanese empires, founded in an anime and extending to games as well as this series, so folks may be familiar with one of its other manifestations. There are so-called "magical girls" -- a bit on-the-nose, sure, but this is Japan -- who wear pretty costumes, fight evil, feud with each other, and obsess over boys, all with the aid of exceptionally cute little totem animals/spirits/whatever-the-heck-they-are.

The Betrayal Knows My Name, Vol. 4 continues Hotaru Odagiri's series with a name that sounds even more overwrought than I suspect it wants to be. It's some kind of fantasy series, with necromancers, a family with superpowers, world-shaking battles, and lots of silly names. (The main characters are also mostly young highschool students, in a pattern familiar in many similar stories from many countries.)

Bunny Drop, Vol. 6 is by Yumi Unita, about a teenage girl and her guardian, and their separate romantic entanglements -- it looks exceptionally low-key and laid-back, unlike most people's image of manga.

Next up is Milan Matra's Omamori Himari, Vol. 8, the latest in the saga of a "typical young man" and his cat/hottie guardian spirit. It's rated "M" for Mature, and I must inform you that this volume contains the obligatory story set at a hot springs resort. Those who want stuff like this will know what to do already.

Soul Eater, Vol. 10 is the latest in a very energetic shonen fighting-demons series by Atsushi Ohkubo -- see my reviews of volumes one and eight. This time out, three of the demon-fighting students of Death Weapons Meister Academy -- think Hogwarts, but with scythes rather than brooms -- are entering a "magnetic field to take up the mission and locate the tempestuous demon tool known as 'BREW.'" Got it?

Nabari No Ou, Vol. 11 is by Yujki Kamtani, and the back cover tells me that Miharu (our main character?) has activated the Shinra Banshou to become Nabari no Ou (king of the Hidden World). And, of course, that's got to be bad, for reasons that will probably take a few hundred more pages to work out.

And then there's Bamboo Blade, Vol. 14, the final volume of the girls' kendo sports manga by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi. There's an afterword in which writer Totsuka describes how he created this series deliberately to appeal to readers who don't like "sports manga," is that helps to draw your attention.

In the not-manga portion of my mail, there's a novel for younger readers by Adam Gidwitz called In a Glass Grimmly, a "companion" to his first novel A Tale Dark and Grimm. It's a pretty metafictional -- there's an authorial voice that leads off the book by explaining what old fairy tales were really like and apparently makes regular appearances -- and retells some nasty old stories all stitched together to form the tale of a boy named Jack and a girl named Jill. Dutton will publish it in September.

Also from Dutton, also for young readers, is Katherine Catmull's Summer and Bird. This one looks to be a secondary-world fantasy, in which two sisters travel to a "ruined, frozen world of birds" after their parents disappear mysteriously. It's coming in October.