The Unofficial Grand Orchestra

Since I started reading manga steadily in 2012, I’ve discovered so many unique story lines and wonderful, warped, and wonderfully warped characters.  I’ve reread Kaori Yuki’s Grand Guignol Orchestra series four times since then, so I thought it was about time to write a review of the five-volume series.

Heading up the unofficial Grand Orchestra, Lucille and his companions Kohaku and Gwindel travel from town to town, entertaining the masses, making money, and facing their toughest audience.  Guignols, people infected with a deadly virus that turns them into zombie dolls, ravage the world.  Intent to stop the guignols before they destroy humanity, the Grand Orchestra roves the countryside, killing guignols as they go.  Unbeknownst to most of them, the town that they’re about to enter is full of secrets.  Deadly, tragic secrets.

I was thoroughly disturbed the first time I read Grand Guignol Orchestra but as I reread them over the years, I saw how horribly twisted and painfully human the characters were.  The series was definitely one you’d have to read a second time to fully understand because there were so many intricacies that would be difficult to appreciate the first time around.  Filled with more heartache and creepiness than I bargained for, Kaori Yuki has managed to pick my emotions apart in five volumes.  The short story at the end of the fifth volume had me biting my nails and reading through my fingers.

I rate the series as a whole four out of five stars.

Welcome to the Circus

Slice and dice,

We’re playing Tic-Tac-Toe on your skin.

Flip the knife and flash that smile,

And pray to God you don’t miss the apple on my head.

The lion growls and the crowd gasps

As he sticks his head in between the beast’s jaws.

Spinning, dancing, and soaring through the air,

Our eyes meet as I catch you.

Dark and handsome,

He sticks a sword down his throat.

Tiny the Elephant toots his horn

And balances on the ball.

“Freaks!” the ringmaster shouts in the din.  “Come see the freaks!”

Elsie the Two-Headed Telepath takes center stage

With Oscar the Albino and Jenny the Bearded Woman by her side.

They may be official

But we’re all weirdos here.

Welcome to the circus.

Copyright © 2017 by Nita Pan

All rights reserved. This post or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a review.

 

Welcome to Chi-Town!

Despite the threat of a horrid downpour, my mother and I defied the weather and went to Chicago.  The train ride there was relaxing and nap-inducing.  The countryside changed into urban, and fellow passengers filled the nearly empty train as we approached our destination.  Once we got off at Millennium Station, we got a little lost in the station.  Finally, we emerged from the darkened train station and into the sunlight, the loud, bustling city greeted me.  Cars, buses, and taxis stopped and started, horns blaring.  People from all over scampered to and fro and the scent of food, gasoline, and asphalt filled my nose.  I hadn’t properly been in the city in a decade and there was so much to take in.  So much potential.  So many people.  So much life.

Our first stop was the American Writers Museum.  It was only a few minutes away from the station, so it wasn’t long until we went up a snazzy elevator and went about exploring it.  The first exhibit was a kids’ room, it had a few neat exhibits of children’s authors.  After that, it opened up to a huge room filled with dozens of pictures of American authors.  There was a timeline from the time of Christopher Columbus to the 1980s, and, throughout the timeline, there were the authors under it.  With each author there was several paragraphs about their lives and their works.  On the second wall, there were panels with information of influential works in American history and who they were by.  There was a green room and a ‘reader’s room’ which talked about early magazines, comics, and bookstores.  Off of the reader’s room was a section where you could write the start of a story on a typewriter and someone else would continue it.  Further in that room was several activities where you could come up with a story with randomized words, learn about important pieces of literature and why they matter, and an area that introduced several native Chicago writers.  My mom and I raided their free bookmark area in the gift shop and got a couple postcards and magnets.

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On the way to our second stop, we passed a Nutella-themed restaurant, crossed a street in a pack (that’s a big thing for someone raised in a small town), and ended up eating lunch at Giordano’s.  We both got the Individual 6″ Pepperoni Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza (from the Lunch Pronto section) with a salad and a drink.  It.  Was.  Extraordinary.  Even though what we ordered was premade, the dough light, sauce and pepperoni balanced, and the cheese oh so gooey.  I fully recommend going to Giordano’s if you haven’t gone before.  I can’t look at pizza the same again.  It spoiled me.

At the second stop, After-Words New and Used Books, we browsed through the two air conditioned, well-kept floors.  The staff was accommodating and the books were in good shape, but I wasn’t able to decide what to get and I needed to use the bathroom, so we ended up getting a lone postcard.

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All in all, I had an amazing day.  I’m still in shock that I haven’t gone sooner and that we actually went.  If you’re in the area or are on vacation, plan a visit to Chicago, Illinois.  The sights, the foods.  The atmosphere was busy and rejuvenating.  I doubt that it’s for everyone but I adored it.  Not only did I get a ton of story ideas but I saw several lookalikes for my book characters and a couple celebrities.  The Windy City has certainly earned a place in my heart, and I’m hoping to be able to go back and make a weekend of it in the foreseeable future.

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Quarterly Writing Goals: July, August, and September 2017

Three months ago, I came up with a list of goals for the second quarter of the year.  They were to update this blog regularly, finish planning the second book in my 5-book series, finish typing the first book, to finish a short story I’ve been working on for ages, and to keep reading.  I finished planning the book and kept reading, but I didn’t finish typing the first book or the short story.  But I did complete a different short story and have gotten a bit through two others.

My goals for July through September are to:

  • update this blog regularly
  • continue writing the second book in the series and possibly finish it
  • finish typing the first book
  • finish the short story once and for all
  • keep reading (I have 58 out of 100 books read)

I’m hoping to continue to write book reviews and get back into poetry.  I might share a few short stories I’ve written, so keep an eye out.  I hope you all have a safe and relaxing weekend.  See you next week!

Abigail William’s Revenge

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History has always been my favorite subject in school.  No matter what we did in class, whether a test, essay or presentation, I enjoyed it.  That being said, the time when the pilgrims and settlers came to America and the early days of my country is one of my lesser favorites.  Why?  Because I’ve read about it so many times.  But there was something about the witch trials that has left an unspoken mark of horror on me.  My morbid fascination with it has left me restless for many a night.  It took awhile to convince myself, but, after five years, I finally read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

First produced in 1953, The Crucible explores what happens when a vengeful teenager accuses a rival of witchcraft in a 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.  As mass hysteria grips the community, these accusations multiply and consume the entire village.

Suspenseful and emotional, this gripping play of how quickly a pious community can become collectively evil, The Crucible is dark, terrifying, and an influential look at what we, the human race, could become again.  I rate this four out of five burning stars.

The Roanoke Girls

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Unlike most books that I pick up, I got it after seeing the cover.  Usually, I ignore the cover and decide whether or not to get the book after reading the summary, but I had a feeling about Amy Engel’s The Roanoke Girls.  It probably helped that, at the time I checked out the Roanoke Girls, I had just finished Rooms, and this book echoed a similar creepiness.  Whatever the case may be, I didn’t regret my impulsiveness.

Following her mother’s suicide, fifteen-year-old Lane Roanoke moves in with her grandparents and cousin on their massive estate in Kansas.  knowing little of her mother’s family, Lane embraces her new life…  until she discovers the family’s darkest secret.  Eleven years later, Lane gets a call in her current home in Los Angeles from her grandfather: her cousin, Allegra, is missing.  Feeling guilty for leaving her behind, Lane returns and helps look for Allegra.

Weaving effortlessly between Lane’s first summer and her return to Roanoke, Amy Engel spins a tale of destructive relationships, gentle manipulation, and how twisted love can be.  Set in a town frozen in time, secrets are guarded viciously and family life is a game of whether or not your wits are intact.  Dark, terrible, and fierce, The Roanoke Girls will haunt you long after you’ve put it down.  I give this gorgeous wisp of a nightmare four out of five stars.

Heeere’s Wilson!

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Once I read the description, any inhibitions I had to wait and read the other books on my shelf were thrown away.  Sorry The Crucible.  Sorry The Roanoke Girls.  Sorry my monthly dose of Poe.  Domino, Cain, and Wilson called my name.

Surviving in the gritty streets of Detroit, Domino and her friend live off of their wits.  But when disaster strikes and Madam Karina, a mysterious woman with secrets of her own, offers Domino a position at her girls’ home, Domino has no alternative and accepts.  It doesn’t take her long before she’s fighting her way up the ranks to gain Madam Karina’s approval and becomes the target or brutal bullying.  Along with the help of her new friends, Cain and Poppet, she discovers the madam’s terrible secrets.  Soon Domino realizes that she needs to escape, but how can she do that when the madam hates losing inventory?

Fast-paced and twisted, Victoria Scott delivers a snappy and whip-smart narrator.  The story hardly slows down and the grisly secrets of Madam Karina’s Home for Burgeoning Entertainers come to light in the most chill-inducing ways possible.  I felt like I was in an action/psychological thriller.  Domino was the best narrator for Violet Grenade; she captured the horror of her situation and added needed humor and the right amount of sarcasm.

Like the last two books I’ve read, I rate this five out of five stars.