cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of Gentleman's Alliance; a brown-haired girl scattering flowers.The Gentleman's Alliance Cross Volume 1 by Arina Tanemura // Published by ShojoBeat (Viz), 2007 // Borrowed from the library // Read and reviewed March 2013

In return for a business loan of 50 million yen, the prestigious Kamiya family gave their daughter Haine away to the Otomiya family. Haine, now an Otomiya, is appointed to the student council of the exclusive Imperial Academy, a private school for the aristocracy. Even though Haine is of proper lineage to be on the council, she finds herself struggling to find her place among the many secrets of its elite members, especially those of the president who holds her heart--Shizumasa Togu, aka "the Emperor."

A girl lying back on a bed in rumpled clothing, with an close-up of her face next to it.The Gentleman's Alliance Cross is very pretty! Whenever I think "shojo art", I think of something like this. (Other options include the art of Skip Beat! or CLAMP; that is what I know! I'm sorry!) All of the main female characters are large-eyed and lovely, with gorgeous costume design and fascinating hair - which has the disadvantage of sometimes making it really hard to tell anyone apart. There are some panels where I've actually had to sit and squint to work out who the hell is talking because I couldn't just couldn't tell, and sometimes the panels feel busy and cluttered. On the whole though: very pretty, and very much my style.

The story... Haine Otomiya is in love with Shizumasa Togo, Emperor of Imperial Academy, and is doing her best to earn her way to a ranking in school that means that she can actually see him. To that end she fights snake-bombing trouble-makers, "rescues" Togo from "kidnappers", joins the student council, attempts to reconcile the boy who convinced her to give up her delinquent lifestyle with the icy Emperor of Imperial Academy and change both him and the way the council operates for the better. I have no problem with the story, in theory - all of these elements can be interesting! It's just that they're put together in a way that I'm really... Not okay with.

Cut for some character-arc spoilers! )

BASICALLY: My primary interpretation of this manga is that I'm supposed to take away the message that Shizumasa is a terrible person, and the good end is that Haine realises this and starts dating someone nicer. I suspect that I might be wrong on that one. Shizumasa is actually the main reason I wasn't enjoying this manga (I don't like him! But everything and everyone revolves around him!), but I got the second one out of the library at the same time as I got the first one out, so I might as well read that too.

Verdict: The art is good and I like the secondary characters, but the lead male character and the heroine's obsession with him wore on me fast. Wouldn't specifically recommend it, but if it's in the library it's worth flicking through.
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of Boys of Summer by Chuck Austen and Hiroki Otsuka; a girl in a bikini and baseball gear with her shirt falling off and a man in the background who is wearing a baseball uniform.Boys of Summer by Chuck Austen and Hiroki Otsuka // Tokyopop, 2006 // Bought as part of a lucky dip/grab bag from Forbidden Planet // Read November 2011, reviewed December 2012

Meet Bud Waterston, a decent-looking guy who happens to be in full hormonal bloom. He's also on his way to college, and drools over the sexual liberation he will no doubt face living in a coed dormitory full of hot babes. Unfortunately for Bud, things don't go exactly as planned--he meets the girl of his dreams, who won't give him the time of day. But just because he strikes out on his first attempt doesn't mean he won't keep trying to hit a home long as he doesn't drop the ball!

This book was really disappointing. I mean, it could have been good, but... No. The art isn't bad! It manages to be ridiculous when it's called called for, and dramatic when it suits the mood. It's got decently clean lines nice contrast. It just feels gratuitous as all hell.

Seriously. I've read books twice as explicit and didn't feel half as scummy as I did reading this one. I think it's because one of the recurring gags is "LOL TITS AND PERVERTS ARE HILARIOUS LOOK AT ALL OF THIS SWEET PERVO-VISION WE BROUGHT YOU!" and that's... No. Seriously, this is something that actively annoys me (especially when it's combined with poses that physically couldn't work and "Here's a picture of the main cast fully clothed - except for the girls!" See also: the cover.) and turns me off books at the speed of light. I don't find it funny.

It's disappointing though because when it's not being gross, the story's not that bad. It's a lot better when it's focusing on the sports-related shenanigans and Bud being SERIOUS. When he's having sweet moments with his family or being a baseball wizard, it's actually okay! When he's got something to prove with baseball, it's pretty dramatic and fun! However, I really don't care about the romance aspects or the "OMG you have a girl on your team I DEMAND YOU REPLACE HER WITH MY LESS COMPETENT BFF!" plot point, and some of the humour just goes right over my head (for example, the two team members who struggle with english feels like a pop culture reference that I'm just not getting.).

Basically when it's good, it's pretty okay; but when it's bad, it's bad in all of the ways that get on my wick.
cirquedesgeeks: Susan: She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain. ([Susan])
The cover of The End of Everything by Megan Abbbott;  a girl swimming in a lake.The End of Everything by Megan Abbott // Picador, 2011 // Borrowed from the library // Read October 2011, reviewed December 2012 // Trigger warning: (skip) Paedophilia, stalking, rape/dubious consent, suggested emotional incest

Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hood and her next-door neighbor, Evie Verver, are inseparable, best friends who swap clothes, bathing suits, and field-hockey sticks and between whom -- presumably -- there are no secrets. Then one afternoon, Evie disappears, and as a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the balmy suburban community, everyone turns to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, or upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?

Compelled by curiosity, Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power as the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secret after secret and begins to wonder if she knew anything at all about her best friend.

This book is very odd. In some ways, it's predictable, but in others it's genuinely shocking. I like a lot about it, but some aspects are just complete headscratchers.

Lizzie is a character that I would consider a headscratcher, which is a little awkward considering that she's the point of view character. For example, I can't work out the point at which she's telling the story - is it when she's still a teenager? Is it long after the events in question? I got the impression that it was the former, but the narrative voice really doesn't sound appropriate for a young narrator. It's very pretty and rhythmic, but it doesn't feel natural for such a young narrator. The imagery is really striking - the girls playing, Dusty's prom, and Lizzie's brother explaining what happened to Evie.

Plus, Lizzie induces headscratchy behaviour in others - why does everyone in this story seem to confide in Lizzie? People who've never met her and don't necessarily know her invite her into their confidences like she's the last confessor they'll ever meet. It kinda fits into plucky-girl-detective trope she's trying to fit, but even that feels inorganic with the rest of the book. It makes sense - the point of the story doesn't seem to be the mystery of who took Evie and where, but more about the emotions of those left behind - but it feels strange.

Lizzie's emotions in particular are strange to me. Her own obsession with Mister Verner raises some uncomfortable points - for example, the parallels between her relationship with Mister Verner and Evie's with Mister Shaw; and the fact that it is an obsession - she seems to desperately want to become Evie for him, and part of her determination to help find her seems to have come from wanting to make Mister Verner happy. There's also the fact that (perhaps because of her age), she has a very romanticised view of what's happened to Evie. It's very... Well, it's feels very weird to see her picturing a pure, sweet love for Evie when it's very obvious to the reader that that really isn't gonna be the case. I have less of a problem with it because it's clear that she's wrong (Spoiler: (skip) (and I was so glad to see the scenes where she realised this - from her brother explaining what happened to Evie, to her thinking "No, that's wrong" when Evie herself is talking about her kidnapping - although the fact that Evie is suggested to be something is a somewhat-willing victim is even more disturbing.), but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Also, I maintain that the discrepancies in Lizzie's memories are quite predictable.

Honestly, I'm not sure whether I like this book or not. It's interesting, and there's a lot to think about, but it's a very strange read, and I'm not sure if I'd consider it a good read. All I can suggest is that it's readable and thought provoking, but all of its good points are matched by how disturbing and strange it and its characters are.

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers have examined The End of Everything here. I definitely agree with everything in their review, and they have made excellent points that I've not really discussed here.


Cirque des Geeks

About Us

Welcome to Cirque Des Geeks! We are a trio of geeks who review books, manga, comics, tv shows, and films as the mood takes us. Our trio comprises Sam (the fez-wearing philosopher), Susan (the book-addled librarian), and Tonks (the shape-changing scientist). Our interests are wide and varied, but generally come back to science fiction and fantasy in all their forms.

Sam and Tonks can also be found working with Black Stump Films (On Vimeo and Youtube) making short films.

We do not have a formal posting schedule, but the current goal is at least two posts per week. If you wish to be kept in the loop of what's happening, please follow us on twitter - [personal profile] cirquedesgeeks.

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