Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review: QQ SWEEPER Volume 3


MANGAKA: Kyousuke Motomi
ENGLISH ADAPTATION: Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane
LETTERS: Eric Erbes
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8633-5; paperback (June 2016); Rated “T” for “Teen”
192pp, B&W, $9.99 US, $12.99 CAN, £6.99 U.K.

The paranormal, romantic shojo manga, QQ Sweeper, comes to an end.  Created by mangaka Kyousuke Motomi, who also created the manga, Dengeki Daisy and Beast Master, QQ Sweeper is an adventure about two “Soul Cleaners,” one an expert, the other a novice – who fall in love.

QQ Sweeper begins on the day, Kyutaro Horikita, the cleaning expert of Kurokado Private High School, finds a maiden sleeping in an old room on campus.  She is transfer student Fumi Nishioka, and like Kyutaro, she has a talent for cleaning.  However, the tall, dark, and handsome Kyutaro is also a “Sweeper,” someone who cleans away negative energy from people's heart, and Fumi is now his apprentice.

As QQ Sweeper, Vol. 3 (Chapters 11 to 15) begins, Fumi rethinks her plan to leave the home of Kyutaro and his family.  She feels a sense of calm living and working with them, and Fumi begins to except the amorous feelings she has for Kyutaro.

Meanwhile, classmate Kaori Tachibana begins acting strangely towards Fumi during what is supposed to be a karaoke outing with friends.  The trouble seems to be emanating from Ataru Shikata, a so-called fortune teller, who is really a “Bug Handler.”  And he has big plans for Fumi.

The QQ Sweeper manga seemed unusual from its first volume.  Well, the series cements its unusual nature because it has come to a quick or, as I think, an abrupt end.

QQ Sweeper Volume 3 is the final volume of this particular iteration of the story of Fumi Kyutaro.  Fumi and Kyutaro will return in a new series apparently called Queen's Quality.  As for the end of QQ Sweeper, Kyousuke Motomi will leave you wanting more.  In fact, by the end of Vol. 3, you will think that there is no way the series could end with so much left unanswered and because the story has the potential to offer even more to the readers.

Well, however that works out, QQ Sweeper is short-but-good.  So, yes, good things do come in small packages.  This romance, dark fantasy, and mystery drama is worth a shojo reader's time.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: WORLD GONE BY

HARPCOLLINS/William Morrow – @HarperCollins; @WmMorrowBks

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

AUTHOR: Dennis Lehane
ISBN: 978-0-06-235181-4; paperback (January 5, 2016)
320pp, B&W, $16.99 U.S., $21.00 CAN

World Gone By is a 2015 crime and mystery novel from the author Dennis Lehane.  The trade paperback edition was released this past January.  The book is part of Lehane's “Coughlin series” and is set ten years after the events chronicled in the novel, Live By Night (2012).  World Gone By focuses on a former crime boss haunted by his past while trying to learn the identity of the people who don't want him to have a future.

World Gone By finds Joseph “Joe” Coughlin alive and well in 1943, ten years after his enemies killed his wife, Graciela, and destroyed his empire.  He is no longer a kingpin.  Now, he is consigliore to the Bartolo crime family, traveling between Tampa and Cuba, his wife’s homeland.  He is a master businessman and gangster who effortlessly moves through the Tampa, Florida criminal underworlds run by both White men and Black men, as well as the Cuban underworld.  Joe's son,  Tomás, is growing up and is exceptionally bright and intelligent.  Life is good.

Then, Joe receives a summons from Theresa Del Fresco, a thief and contract killer doing time in Raiford State Prison.  She claims that someone has ordered a hit on Joe, and she claims to know who the hit man is.  Since he is no longer a boss, Joe wonders who would want him dead.  If that weren't enough, Joe seems to be haunted.  The ghost of a young boy appears on the fringes of Joe's visions and seems to be trying to tell Joe something.  It seems that Joe's success cannot protect him from the realities of a gangster's life, and the debts of a lifetime of sin will be paid in full.

People who have never read one of Lehane's many novels (11 previous, as of this writing) may know his work because some of his novels have been adapted into film.  A film adaptation of World Gone By's predecessor, Live By Night, directed by Ben Affleck, will be released later in 2016.  Other Lehane-based films include the Oscar-winning Mystic River, the Oscar-nominated Gone, Baby, Gone, and also Shutter Island.

So, if you know these movies, then you know their stories are dark and violent, sometimes with an even darker ending.  World Gone By reminds me of the movie Good Fellas, and while it has a darker tone and covers a much shorter time span than the Scorsese film, World Gone By tells a story of gangsters that is just as riveting.

Lehane offers a tale that grows increasingly complex and is populated with great characters.  The complexity of the plot reflects Joe Coughlin's profession or lifestyle, one marked by greed, violence, dishonesty, betrayal and delusion.  What Joe wants in life often puts him in conflict with his friends, partners, lovers, business associate, etc, although none of them will admit it.  Eventually, this clash of greed, lust, and envy creates an intricate web of deceit, so it is difficult not to end up in a bind or to even end up dead.

As for the characters:  any character that is featured in more than one of this book's 26 chapters, Lehane gives the readers at least a short but detailed look into his or her's life, past, and ambitions.  If a character has a major interaction with Joe, but is only in the novel for the one scene, Lehane opens the book of life on that character.  Why?  I suspect that Lehane wants to give the reader a good view of the people who populate the world in which Joe Coughlin plies his illicit trade.  It is hard not to buy into this narrative when the author opens so many characters to the readers

There is a theme here.  Gangsters, those who work as basically gangster support staff, and many of those who provide goods and services to gangsters are fucked-up people, or are at least broken mentally and spiritually.  Death, destruction, and, at the very least, ruin are practically the inevitable result of such a life.  It is easy to like Joe Coughlin; after all, he is the lead, but Lehane is honest about Joe.  By the end, I wondered how reliable a narrator Joe was or even if were at all a reliable narrator

Obviously, I like this book.  World Gone By is more than just a gangster novel.  The complex way in which he depicts and examines morality is why Dennis Lehane is more than just a crime novelist and why he is so popular and respected.  Lehane is an archaeologist, excavating the dark recesses of the American character, while the body is still alive and kicking.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Manga Review: SCHOOL JUDGMENT Volume 3


STORY: Nobuaki Enoki
ART: Takeshi Obata
TRANSLATION: Mari Morimoto
LETTERS: James Gaubatz
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8568-0; paperback, (June 2016); Rated “T” for “Teen”
216pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN, £6.99 UK

School Judgment: Gakkyu Hottei is a shonen manga / courtroom drama set in an elementary school classroom.  This manga was published in the pages of Japan's Weekly Shonen Jump and was written by Nobuaki Enoki and drawn by Takeshi Obata (Death Note).

School Judgment focuses on the two new transfer students who enroll at Tenbin Elementary School in Himawari City.  Both students become members of Class 6-3, and both are lawyers.  The first is Pine Hanzuki, and while she may be cute, she is a ruthless prosecutor.  The next is Abaku Inugami; he is a superb defense attorney, and his hobby is “ronpa.”  Here, all quarrels bypass the teachers and are settled by some of the best lawyers in the country, who just so happen to be elementary school students.

As School Judgment: Gakkyu Hottei, Vol. 3 (entitled Civil Trial Arc; Chapters 17 to 21 to Finale) opens, Tento Nanahoshi is in trouble again.  He was Abaku's first defense client at Tenbin.  Now, Tento is charged with the attempted murder of fellow classmate, Reiko Shiratori, and ultimate student prosecutor, Yui Kijima, is determined to put Tento away for a long time.

Abaku, however, believes that this case involves more than what initially seems obvious.  This trial, or classroom session, could solve the mystery of the “Red Ogre.”  Now, Tento, Kotaro Sarutobi (fellow attorney), and Yui can learn who killed their classmates at their old school.

[This volume includes two School Judgment one-shots.]

The School Judgment: Gakkyu Hottei manga has come to an end.  On a few occasions, I found the series a bit tedious, but I thought the series could run for awhile.  After all, kids are always up to no-good.  Besides this series is drawn by Takeshi Obata, an artist known for some truly unique manga, especially Bakuman。and Death Note, and I always want more of him.

School Judgment: Gakkyu Hottei Volume 3 offers a satisfying conclusion, in so much as it answers questions about the characters' pasts.  I have to say that I am impressed at how writer Nobuaki Enoki and artist Takeshi Obata can draw out the suspense, making several characters seem like bad guys when they really are not.  It's a red herring holiday.  It is a shame though, that Pine Hanzuki is pushed into the background these final chapters.

The final volume also gives readers a chance to see the early manga from which this series was born.  Still, School Judgment could have judged at least a few more volumes.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Friday, June 3, 2016


HARPER (HarperCollins Publishers) – @HarperCollins

AUTHOR: Jacqueline Winspear
ISBN: 978-0-06-222060-8; hardcover (March 29, 2016)
320pp, B&W, $26.99 U.S.

Journey to Munich is a 2016 suspense and spy novel from author Jacqueline Winspear.  It is the 12th novel in the series starring “psychologist and investigator,” Maisie Dobbs, a British nurse whose adventures take place during World War I and in the decades that follow.  Journey to Munich is set in early 1938 and finds Maisie on a mission in Hitler's Germany for the British Secret Service.

Journey to Munich opens in Holland Park, London, February 1938.  Maisie Dobbs is back in England and is still mourning her late husband, James Compton.  She struggles to find her place in life and to decide what her plans are.  Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the British Secret Service, however, just so happen to have plans for Maisie.

The German government has agreed to release Leon Donat, a British subject that it has imprisoned.  An industrialist and inventor, Donat is highly coveted by the British government because they see him as important if Britain has to go to war.  Germany has apparently imprisoned Donat in Dachau, and they will only release him to a family member.  However, Donat's daughter and only child, Edwina Donat, is seriously ill, and his wife is deceased.  Huntley and MacFarlane want Maisie, who bears a striking resemblance to Edwina, to go undercover as the daughter and to travel to Munich where she will retrieve Donat from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie faces unexpected dangers and finds herself on a second mission.  John Otterburn, the man whom Maisie holds responsible for her husband's death, asks her to find his estranged daughter, Elaine.  It is an additional mission that will take Maisie deeper into the darkness that is Hitler's Germany.

I think that Journey to Munich can be a bit difficult to categorize because the middle-aged Maisie Dobbs does not seem like the typical secret agent.  Her age or physical appearance does not preclude her from being a spy, though.  This is also the first Maisie Dobbs novel that I have read, although I first  heard of the series several years ago.

Journey to Munich blends the spy/secret agent genre with the historical drama.  In some ways, I guess that the best way to describe Journey to Munich is as an old-fashioned novel of intrigue and suspense.  The hero enters the belly of the best, the heart of darkness, the evil empire – in this instance, Hitler's Germany of the late 1930s.

When you think of the novel that way, Journey to Munich is a fantastic read.  The almost-wartime thriller offers intrigue on the razor's edge, but that is balanced by philosophical musings on time, love, and loss.  This narrative has an appreciation for freedom, something many of us take for granted.  After everything that happens, Maisie learns that she is lucky to have freedom, so she should use it.  As good as the intrigue and suspense is, this appreciation for loved ones and for freedom is a cherry on top that makes me want to read more Maisie Dobbs.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.