REVIEW: Jayne’s Reading List
The Fox & the Little Tanuki, Vol. 1 by Mi Tagawa
Long ago, the gods granted a few special animals great powers… but not all those animals used their magical abilities for good!
Senzou the Fox Spirit in particular grew too brash and arrogant, abusing his strength until the gods imprisoned him for his bad behavior. Three hundred years later, he’s finally been released, but only on one condition — he can’t have his any of his abilities back until he successfully helps a tanuki cub named Manpachi become an assistant to the gods.
Unfortunately for Senzou, there’s no cheating when it comes to completing his task! The magic beads around his neck make sure he can’t wander too far from his charge or shirk his duties, and so… Senzou the once-great Fox Spirit must now figure out how to be an actually-great babysitter to a mischievous little tanuki or risk being stuck without his powers forever!
A Note From the Publisher
– cute, charming art and a mostly-animal cast is reminiscent of a Disney-eque style – calls back to legends and fables, including the archetype of the sneaky fox that is familiar to many – a cross-cultural story that is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about the culture and folklore of Japan
It was the adorable cover that caught my eye for this manga volume. Having read a few manga stories and books about Japanese mythology, I wasn’t totally lost while reading this. The book is read from front to back but the panels are arranged to read from right to left. There is a sample page at the end of the book (to warn seasoned manga readers) with directions and example panels (for manga newbies) to explain this.
I learned a lot about different beings in Japanese mythology and had fun doing it. The art is cute and, as a note from the publisher stated, a bit more Disney-fied. Manpachi the tanuki is darling enough that I want to pluck him from the pages and spend days cuddling him. Senzou the black fox is a bit more than mere crusty and curmudgeonly with his behavior quickly explaining why the Sun Goddess has to coerce his acceptance of his role in protecting and training Manpachi.
But while the characters and roles are fairly adequately explained, sometimes the action as drawn was hard to follow. The title told me that this wouldn’t be the entire story but I still felt that the action stopped too suddenly even for a cliffhanger. I’m not sure I’m invested in the story enough to buy the second volume but I’d read it from the library. B-
Thinking Inside the Box by Adrienne Raphel
A delightful, erudite, and immersive exploration of the crossword puzzle and its fascinating history by a brilliant young writer
Almost as soon as it appeared, the crossword puzzle had already become indispensable to our lives. Invented practically by accident in 1913, when a newspaper editor at the New York World was casting around for something to fill empty column space, it became a roaring commercial success practically overnight. Ever since then, the humble puzzle—consisting of a grid of blank squares in which solvers write answers in response to clues—has been an essential ingredient of any newspaper worth its salt. The puzzle’s daily devotees include everyone from subway riders looking to pass the time to cultural icons such as Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Today, its popularity is greater than ever, even as the media world has undergone a perilous digital transformation. But why, exactly, are the crossword’s satisfactions so sweet that it is a fixture of breakfast tables, nightstands, and commutes, and has even given rise to competitive crossword tournaments? There are mysteries beyond the clues.
Blending first-person reporting from the world of crosswords with a delightful telling of its rich literary history, Adrienne Raphel dives into the secrets of this classic pastime.
At the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, she rubs shoulders with elite solvers of the world; aboard a crossword- themed cruise, she picks the brains of the enthusiasts whose idea of a good time is a week on the high seas with nothing but crosswords to do; and, visiting the home and office of Will Shortz, New York Times crossword editor and NPR’s official “Puzzlemaster,” she goes behind the scenes to see for herself how America”s gold standard of puzzles is made.
As ingenious as it is fun, Thinking Inside the Box is a love letter not just to the abiding power of the crossword but to the infinite joys and playful possibilities of language itself. This book will be a treat for die-hard cruciverbalists and first-time solvers alike.
I am not a cruciverbalist (lover of crossword puzzles) but I hoped this book would give me a view into this world. It does as Raphel explains details about crosswords and then trips down the rabbit hole of interesting associated information. Or at least I assume all this would be fascinating if you have an interest in the subject. Unfortunately I found my attention wandering early on as almost none of it grabbed me. If you are or know someone who loves crosswords, this could be a fun book but it probably won’t lure and keep the uninitiated person reading. DNF
From the Flying Squad to Investigating War Crimes by Ron Turnbull
For over ten years he was the first detective on the scene when a murder was committed in south London. In the confusion and horror of the crime scene he identified the forensic clues that would later be needed to convict the killer in the calm and measured atmosphere of the Old Bailey; calling out the necessary experts from pathologists to ballistics specialists; protecting the scene against contamination. One slip and a case would crumble; one moment of inspiration and the Yard would have its man.
He was the natural choice when the UN were looking for an experienced detective to create a trail of evidence linking the mass graves of Bosnia to the people who ordered the worst war crimes seen in Europe since the Second World War. From the Flying Squad to Investigating War Crimes tells of the rise of forensic evidence against the true story backdrop of a detective who has spent a career at the front line in the war against murder – the ultimate crime. It traces the development of forensic science and techniques from the days of the fingerprint to the battery of tests now available to homicide investigators. It is told in the no nonsense style of a pioneer cop who has seen the worst that human beings can do to each other.
CW – there are cases discussed (mainly at a point after which Turnbull had become a LLO (lab liaison officer) which mention some horrific crimes and describe some details about them. Some are of a sexual nature and were perpetrated on women. I would advise caution in reading. He also discusses post-mortems a little bit. Once the narrative moves to the author’s involvement in helping to gather details to be used in the Balkan war crimes, things stay grim.
This is written in a conversational style that while immediate and giving the feeling that you’re sitting down with Mr. Turnbull, chatting about his life experiences, nonetheless does wander at times. A bit of tighter editing would have helped.
It takes a while to really get going as we learn about the author’s life from a point far before he entered police work. However, there are things in his upbringing that are pivotal in the formation of his character and desire to see justice done, as well as to his honesty as a person including about the failings of the MET in certain high profile cases. Some people might initially object to times when Turnbull refers to some criminals as a “waste of space” but these remarks are in reference to the men involved in the Rachel Nickell case and the Merlyn Nuttal case. After reading more details about those cases, I tend to agree with Turnball.
Reading about the grim but necessary excavations of the mass graves that resulted from the horror in the Balkans was difficult but ultimately rewarding as this evidence was used by the UN for the war crimes trials. I was heartened to hear of the sensitivity displayed by all involved as they tried to not only keep the forensic chain intact but also help the loved ones of the murdered victims discover what happened to their loved ones. This is not an easy book to read but is rewarding to see justice done for so many people. B