Section Revival: Manga

Some of you may have noticed a lower shelf tucked away near the mysteries; many of you haven’t. Walk past the fiction, take a left at the games, and get low to browse an assortment of books read from right to left, with the cover on the "back" and the description on the "front". This is our little collection of Japanese graphic novels, known as manga. Reviving and curating this section has been high on my personal project list for two years now, and I’ve finally been able to tackle it. With the Netflix release of the live-action One Piece (a kid who wants to become King of the Pirates assembles a ragtag crew), an adaptation of one of the biggest and longest-running manga and anime (Japanese animation) series in existence, we’ve had countless kids (and their parents) beginning their journey into the world of manga.

I stumbled upon manga and anime when I was in high school with Fruits Basket. Here was an animated show, based on a beloved manga, that told of a quiet girl without much confidence who found her place in an odd and rambunctious family that just so happened to turn into the animals of the Zodiac when hugged by the opposite gender. A wild premise? Maybe. But it was also so engaging and sweet and entertaining. Fruits Basket was something my sister and I could share, and we began to find other manga that we could read together and discuss. This was our introduction to an abundance of stories that had been previously unknown to us.

Book Notes: The Ministry of Time

Time travel. Forced proximity. A commander from a failed Arctic voyage during the time of Queen Victoria and a female government official in near future Britain. She’s his bridge to the current world. He’s in her charge for a year while the government waits to see if he can assimilate into the present. With this intriguing premise from debut author Kaliane Bradley, and following my accidental reading theme of polar expeditions (A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic), I picked up The Ministry of Time and was hooked from page one.

Commander Graham Gore has been extracted at the point of his presumed death from a failed Arctic expedition, as part of the Ministry’s experiment with time travel. He’s one of five "expats" taken from various points in the past. To aid his transition into the modern age, the Ministry has assigned him a “bridge”, our unnamed narrator, put them up in a residence, and within vigorous parameters, let him loose to sink or swim. But all is not what it seems, and both Commander Gore and his bridge have to navigate the shifting loyalties and unknown agendas enacted upon them. Believe me when I say there’s a lot going on in these pages. 

Book Chats: The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

As it starts to warm up and the sunlight lingers later each day, my genre reading shifts. No more dense fantasy novels; instead, I want books that have summery vibes. Seaside settings and joyful moments. The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson is one such book. Lori read it months ago and has been mentioning it consistently since then—and while I don't often pick up historical fiction unprompted, I do enjoy it—so we decided to have a virtual chat about it to compare notes.

Constance Haverhill finds herself out of a job now that the Great War is over and the position she fell into as an estate bookkeeper for an old family friend is being returned to a man. She gets her severance in the form of a summer spent as companion to the recovering Mrs. Fog at a seaside village. Unsure how to occupy herself, she stumbles into a friendship with the lively Poppy Wirall and her gang of motorcycle girls who worked as delivery riders during the war. In their attempts to keep riding and stay employed, hijinks ensue, races are won, and a plane destined for parts is salvaged. But the shadow of the Great War looms over them all as some try to forget and everyone attempts to move on. In this time of change and recovery, Constance has to decide what she wants to make of her life now that women are expected to go back to the way things were before.


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