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REVIEW: [Manga] Writers and Romance: Sorcerers and Secretaries by Amy...

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Sorcerers and Secretaries by Amy Kim Ganter. Tokyopop. $9.99. Ages 13 and up (kisses). Reads left to right. 2 volumes, complete.

 

Dear Ms. Ganter,

I don’t try much Original English Language (OEL) manga or American graphic novels, because the stories don’t normally appeal to me, and one big reason is that they’re often written for men. Now, I like stories written for men, but after a constant diet of them in comics ever since I stopped reading stuff like Archie in third grade, I prefer stories written for women. So I was quite delighted to find your romance, Sorcerers and Secretaries.

Many readers are sure to identify with your imaginative but lonely and bored heroine Nicole, who carries a notebook and likes to spends all her spare time writing stories of another land and a sorcerer Ellon, who is more real to her than most of the people in her life. Her neighbor Josh is the perfect foil for her, a playboy of sorts who collects girls’ phone numbers that he keeps in a jar under his bed. He is determined to collect Nicole’s. But Nicole isn’t so lost to imagination that she doesn’t have his number right away, and the dialog between the two of them is wonderful as they fall for each other and learn each isn’t quite what they’d seemed.

This is also a story that perfectly blends art and words, using both to show things in a way that words or pictures alone could not. These pages have become some of my favorite because they show this so well. This section takes place early in the story when Nicole meets Josh for coffee, and she’s writing while waiting for him. Her world won’t leave her alone, and demands to be written even in the face of real life interruptions (reads left to right) (sorry for the poor scan quality):

 

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I think it is no coincidence that your book reminded me of Eva Ibbotson. You both have a gentle sweetness to your stories, and a way of bringing magic into the mundane. And as most of her books are appropriate for young adults, so are these. I think anyone who loves reading and especially those driven to write will love this sweet little story (complete in two volumes!) about making two kinds of love fit into your life, and how both change you.

I’m trying to think of something bad to say about this to balance this review but I really can’t. I was utterly charmed, and I look forward to your next work. My grade: A.

 

Sincerely,

ジェーン
(Jān)

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

38 Comments

  1. LinM
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 07:22:34

    YAY – My daughter enjoyed your first manga recommendation (Train Man) very much and has sometimes asked for more. I ordered this for both of us. I thought it would be for Christmas but estimated delivery is Jan 11. Oh well, fingers crossed.

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  2. Jayne
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 08:41:18

    I love that first two page spread! It’s so beautiful and it’s so obvious that she’s totally engrossed in this world she’s writing. I guess this is what authors mean when they say their characters are alive to them.

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  3. Mary Blayney
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:01:45

    Reviews of graphic novels! I’m delighted to find a spot that will give me a clue where to go next — they are a recent discovery for me. I’ve made my way through the “classics” Maus I and II, Barefoot Gen, Persepolis and the much more upbeat America Born Chinese. I am going to read you’re older reviews and head on over to Amazon to order some. Thanks!

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  4. kardis
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:13:07

    This review convinced me to try OEL manga for the first time. I’ve never found a title that appealed to me, but if this gets and A from you then I think I’ll check it out. I love characters that live in a world of their own and yet aren’t completely clueless in the real world.

    P.S. I want Nicole’s coat.

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  5. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:14:50

    Lin – if you want a recommendation for an anime series for Christmas that she (and you) might love, get Princess Tutu. It’s an ugly duckling story (literally) and a romance that revolves around ballet, and is just so beautiful. There’s a thinpak out of the whole series that you can get for around $35.

    Also, if you click the book cover at the top it will take you to my favorite place to buy manga. It has both books in stock, at a reduced rate. ^_^ And they ship quickly. I always use priority mail which doesn’t cost much more.

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  6. Keishon
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:23:24

    OEL manga never appealed to me either till now. Thanks for the rec!

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  7. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:30:57

    Hi Mary! I pretty much only review manga romance here, and those as you probably know are very different from Maus and Persepolis. The kind of manga that is comparable to those two is in a category called seinen, meaning written for men.

    If you do want books like that I might recommend Tekken Kinkreet, Monster, Priest, or some of Tezuka’s works, as well as Mushishi, Akira, Battle Royale, Berserk, Blade of the Immortal, Blood Alone, Crying Freeman, Chevalier, Ghost in the Shell, Hellsing, Kino’s Journey, Planetes, Sanctuary, Sexy Voice and Robo, and Vagabond.

    If you want a list of all seinen titles licensed in the US, here’s a good resource:
    Seinen Titles at BakaUpdates

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  8. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:36:18

    Keishon, I’m with you. I was just reading an interesting paper on how Japanese children learn to process information at an early age by reading manga, and it leads to an ability to draw it that surpasses that of most children in other countries as they move into their teens. It’s why those outside Japan can draw beautiful graphic novels in their own style but most fail miserably at manga. But Ms Ganter really succeeded, and I just love this one.

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  9. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 09:51:12

    kardis, I was hesitant to try this but someone whose taste I respect recommended it to me so I went with it and was glad I did.

    The only other OEL manga I like at the moment is in a yaoi (MxM romance) anthology called Rush, published by DramaQueen. There’s a prequel and first issue out, and the second is due out soon. The company is having troubles this year but hopefully they’ll get things together and start putting the issues out, because there are great stories being serialized in it.

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  10. Mary Blayney
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 10:25:02

    Thanks Jan — I will keep an eye out for your reviews — the manga for men are what I was drawn to in a short seminar offered by our library. I was introduced to graphic novels when I read American Born Chinese — which I discovered when it was a National Book Award Finalist. I am thinking I will enjoy the manga you review much better than what the seminar leader suggested we read. Hey, I can recognize good work when I see it but basically enjoy an ending that makes me feel better about the world.

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  11. Libby
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 10:54:32

    Why Jan, I think you’ve just turned me on to Manga! I’m definitely going to have to try this one–I coudn’t stop smiling as I read your review :) (see? I’m STILL doing it LOL) And thank you for giving us some places to buy it.

    Has anyone ever read the Manga line that Harlequin used to put out? They still have a link to it on their site, but I don’t see anything about them taking submissions for it anymore. I know it was specifically geared toward women.

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  12. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 11:00:10

    Hi Libby! I did two reviews on the Harlequin line (which now appears to be defunct). You should see two links to the right of this column toward the bottom for them. :)

    I was hoping this story would make people want to try manga. I think it’s just right for romance readers.

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  13. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 11:05:33

    Mary, I know what you mean. Seminars always try to present the dark edgy stuff that’s comparable to critically accepted mainstream lit. That’s great to read sometimes. But I got into manga for some fresh looks at romance. Hopefully you’ll find something among the reviews that interests you. But if not, please ask and I’ll try to recommend something. :)

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  14. Keishon
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 11:19:22

    Hey Jan, I wish you review MARS for your audience. I did review it on my site but you have a much wider audience and I think many romance readers would enjoy that one. I loved it. It’s about opposites attract and has a bad boy as a hero. The only problem is that the titles often are out of stock or unavailable so it takes diligence to find them but they are so worth it. Just an idea :-) My comic bookstore has the first ten volumes on the shelf but I know some other places and especially online don’t always have them.

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  15. Vernieda
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 11:31:18

    Thanks for the review, Jan! I remember eyeing this title when the first volume came out but opting to go for Fool’s Gold instead, which is more of a modern high school Price & Prejudice. (I really liked that one but as the second volume only came out this past week and I’ve yet to pick it up, I can’t say whether or not I’d recommend it wholeheartedly.) But I’ll look for this one the next time I’m at Border’s. :)

    I agree with Keishon. I think many of the readers here would love Mars. That still remains my favorite shoujo romance ever, although I’m growing increasingly fond of Wallflower’s (aka Perfect Girl Evolution) crackaliciousness. But I think to fully appreciate the brilliance of Wallflower, you need to have read various shoujo manga, romantic, comedic, etc. That’s not something I’d choose as an introduction to shoujo romance, if only because it messes with the tropes and conventions in hilarious ways.

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  16. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 11:32:55

    Keishon, I started re-reading it over the summer to prepare a review but I too had trouble finding copies and in fact only bought a couple volumes because I couldn’t, and that led me to postpone the review. I’m not sure I want to do a series that’s hard to get when there are others that need attention that can be found. But it’s on my list. :)

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  17. Keishon
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 12:00:18

    I'm not sure I want to do a series that's hard to get when there are others that need attention that can be found. But it's on my list. :)

    It took me awhile to gather them up, too. I do appreciate you reviewing those buried treasure reads that I know I and many other readers would have missed otherwise. So, I don’t want to disrupt any of that.Glad to see a few readers at least interested in giving manga a try. I know how I was when I first started. Good thing I had some guidance.

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  18. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 12:08:02

    I liked Wallflower at first but it grew increasingly stale for me, to the point where I don’t read it anymore. I’m more of an Ouran High girl for the shoujo satire.

    Darn, I suppose I should review that too. That’s one don’t get tired of reading though.

    Basara’s up next though. Now that’s one great shoujo series that doesn’t get enough attention, and I want to review it before it disappears.

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  19. Jane
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 12:56:56

    How old do you think the tot should be before I can introduce these to her?

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  20. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 13:18:53

    How old do you think the tot should be before I can introduce these to her?

    It depends on her maturity and reading ability of course, but I’d say 10-11 on up. There is just the tiniest hit about guys getting lucky, but if she doesn’t understand it she won’t notice it. Unless she’s like her mom. ;P

    But I’ll recommend to you also Princess Tutu, the anime. It’s just made for little girls with the romance and ballet. Though it was guys’ recommendations that brought it to my attention.

    Though if she’s anything like you and Ned, maybe you should get her Death Note. ;D

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  21. Vernieda
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 13:54:13

    Ah, Basara, the one title all my friends keep hurling at me and I keep ducking. lol I’ve always been a shounen/seinen girl so it’s really hard to get me to budge for shoujo series. It took constant nagging before I broke and tried Wallflower.

    Jane: If you can stand tons of pink, girly sugar sweetness, and frilly dresses, the original Card Captor Sakura manga might also be a good one. I feel like at least one magical girl series should be recommended, just for completion’s sake since they don’t really make those kind of series anymore. I do second Jan’s rec for Princess Tutu wholeheartedly.

    Ah, Death Note. :D I loved that series up until a certain crucial turning point that infuriated me so much I stopped reading. (I think it’s pretty obvious which turning point I’m talking about if you’ve read the series.) Awesome concept and writing though.

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  22. Jane
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 13:54:24

    LOL – We already have Death Note and Sandman so those will be ready for her whenever. I was just thinking that it might be a different kind of picture book for her.

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  23. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 14:56:16

    Jane, there is one manga without any words at all that is a classic and is absolutely wonderful. It’s called Gon, about a tiny dinosaur with an attitude.

    Gon at Amazon or at AnimeCastle

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  24. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 15:09:34

    Vern, a lot of shoujo isn’t the pink girly stuff. Manga like Kaoru Yuki’s works, or Alichino, or Yami no Matsui, or Vampire Princess Miyu, Cantarella, Trinity Blood, all of those are / were published in shoujo magazines and they’re as thrilling as the boys stuff. The only difference between some shoujo series and some shounen ones is that the guys in the shoujo ones are better looking. ^_~

    Basara is one of those that fits in there for me. It’s akin to the novel Shogun, if you’ve read that, a broad sweeping epic that includes romance as part of the main thread.

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  25. Vernieda
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 15:15:07

    Oh, I know. I’ve read Angel Sanctuary and Alichino and Yami no Matsuei and Vampire Princess Miyu, etc as well. I just really am a shounen/seinen girl. The types of titles that fall on that side of the line are just the kinds that appeal to me more.

    And could I possibly have used “that” more in that sentence? And look! I used it again. ARGH.

    The only difference between some shoujo series and some shounen ones is that the guys in the shoujo ones are better looking.

    That’s a matter of opinion. I like my guys to look like guys. ;P

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  26. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 15:24:12

    That's a matter of opinion. I like my guys to look like guys. ;P

    Except that in shounen they are often middle school boys since that’s the audience.

    But like everything else, shoujo men come in varieties too. :)

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  27. Vernieda
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 16:25:09

    Haha, that’s true but to be honest, I do read more seinen these days. I think I just prefer more excessive blood and violence in my manga. lol

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  28. Jan
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 16:41:53

    I like it sometimes, like when it’s accompanied by humor or cool. Hellsing and Sanctuary are two like that and I love them. But Berserk, for example, was just too much for me. Especially after someone told me the end. Ack. And Battle Royale was too intense and cruel.

    I can’t help it. I like fluffy bunny stories. XD

    *hugs her stuffed Ruruka/Rulca* (OK he’s a fluffy bunny demon, but it’s kinda close ;P)

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  29. Tara
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 18:53:52

    It sort of reminds me of Read or Die in some way…..

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  30. Vernieda
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 20:44:02

    Jan: Yeah, that’s where our tastes diverge. I like stuff like Berserk, though I’m assuming they told you the anime end? I’m pretty sure the manga’s still ongoing. The anime can be hard to take because it strings together the flashbacks that are littered throughout the manga and presents them as a unified whole. It kind of alters the effect. But my favorite manga of that sort is Berserk’s Korean cousin, Shin Angyo Onshi. Not quite as brutally dark as Berserk but it has the same kind of writing.

    The Battle Royale manga is crude, disgusting and parts of it are horribly disturbing. And yet I own every volume. Though I guess when it comes to manga of that sort, my favorite will always be MPD Psycho.

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  31. Keishon
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 23:48:43

    The Battle Royale manga is crude, disgusting and parts of it are horribly disturbing. And yet I own every volume.

    I have this series on the shelf. Must get it out…crude and disgusting huh?

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  32. Vernieda
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 05:16:27

    Keishon: I thought so. It’s balanced out by a dubious English adaptation that had me rolling my eyes every few pages, mind you, but it definitely deserves the mature rating. I know there are other manga titles out there had get a mature rating but Battle Royale, IMO, trumps pretty much all of them. I think the only type of title that could top Battle Royale would be one of the ickier hentai ones.

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  33. Estara
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 17:02:12

    Can I cast my vote for the review of another OEL shoujo manga with romance (sub) plot? Dramacon 1-3 by Svetlana Chmakova ought to be out now (the last volume was just released). There’s more comedy and more convention background than in this duology, but the characterisation and story are – to my taste – even stronger than in Sorcerers&Secretaries.

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  34. Jan
    Dec 07, 2007 @ 17:14:37

    I’ve heard very good things about Dramacon but haven’t tried it yet. Your words are encouraging. Thanks! :)

    One thing I definitely like about the OEL series is that they’re short. Boy does that help the pocketbook. I know they’ll get longer as series begin to pick up readers, but it’s kind of nice at the moment. ;D

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  35. Anon 76
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 16:06:37

    Okay, I’m going to admit, I’m totally clueless when it comes to Manga.

    Since I’m assuming I’m not the only one (and yes I did Google and stuff to get the basic gist and historyof Manga) I’d like a bit more explanation. Color me stupid.

    Say for instance, the new Harlequin line. Are these type books all panel style pages? Or are there panel style pages intermixed with full text pages? Panel style to me basically meaing art blocks with text.

    Help me, help me. I truly don’t want to be ignorant of this genre.

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  36. Vernieda
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 16:49:28

    Manga is sequential art. It’s a comic book from Japan.

    What the Harlequin line was (I believe it’s defunct now?) were comic book adaptations of older Harlequin novels. You know how the Anita Blake series had a comic book adaptation? That’s what they were like, so yes, that’s pretty much panel style.

    Japan does have something which are full text pages interspersed with illustrations, though. Those are called light novels.

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  37. Jan
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 16:53:04

    Hi! I’m hoping that people want to know more so feel free to ask. :) Manga is simply the Japanese word for comic.

    There are on rare occasions some fulltext short stories tacked on to the end of one, but it’s very rare. So when you buy one, expect to see a graphic novel, except that in most cases it reads right to left. The book above, being written by someone outside of Japan, reads left to right.

    I wouldn’t use the word panel style, because one of the things about manga that makes it differ from its American cousin is that early on they broke the panel, and while they still use frames, though not exclusively, their use is not typically square or rectangular blocks. Odd geometric shapes make things more dynamic, one of the things manga is known for. :)

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  38. Jan
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 16:59:18

    Oh, and Anon 76, if you go to the 2 reviews I did of the Harlequin books, you can see examples of the pages. :) There should be links to the right of this review.

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