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 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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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.

Quoth the Raven…

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This was one of those books where I saw the cover and cringed.  With a moody boy all in black holding onto a blonde bathed in pink, I had to fight my better judgement to read the description.  I was intrigued but unwilling to start a new trilogy.  It wasn’t until one of my favorite people, Leah, posted a promising character rant that I decided to give it a go.  After all, it was Poe-inspired.  How bad could it be?

Answer: very agonizing for my poor little heart.

Isobel Lanley and Varen Nethers couldn’t be more different.  Cheerleader and goth.  Popular and aloof.  If they hadn’t been paired for an English project, they more than likely wouldn’t have crossed paths.  They both made it clear to each other that neither of them wanted to have anything to do with the other.  But, after finding strange and grim writings and drawings in his journal, Isobel sought out different ways different ways to be with him.  Much to the frustration of her family, friends, and overly possessive boyfriend, Isobel got deeper and deeper into a dream world Varen created through the pages of his journal.  A place where Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are alive.

Filled with dangers both mundane and fantastical, Nevermore is a spine-tingling nightmarish thrill ride.  One minute I’d be basking in an adorably sexy moment and the next I’d be biting my nails, begging the characters to run and never look back.  they say not to judge a book by its cover, and I’m glad I gave it another chance.

I rate this five out of five stars.

Down, Down in the Underground

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Holding promises of magic, music, and a fairy tale atmosphere, I knew that from the moment I saw S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong it would be love.  For once, I didn’t wait eons to bring it home.  I stared at it, smelled the pages, and began consuming it.

Ever since she was a child, Liesl heard stories of the Goblin King.  Inspired by them, she began musical compositions.  But now she’s eighteen and stuck running the family inn, and so her musical dreams are slipping away.  then, in the blink of an eye, her sister is kidnapped by the man who has haunted her as long as she can remember.  Liesl has no choice but to rescue her sibling.

With the seductive darkness of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and an aching beauty all of its own, Wintersong had me in tears and frustrated.  Not tears of frustration, but tears for a delectable spine-tingling agony.  S. Jae-Jones has spun an original masterpiece that delivered a dark fantasy wrapped romance dipped in mythology so alluring that even my cold heart swooned and shattered.  My review doesn’t do it justice.  The best way I can describe it is as beautiful ache.  Like (unrequited) love at its most painful.  I wanted to keep reading it over and over for the first time.

I bestow upon this first of a duet five out of five glimmering stars.

Night of Goblins (#1)

Sugar, spice, and everything nice,

That’s what little girls are made of.

Pepper, wine, and everything fine,

That’s what woman are made of.

Darkness, kisses, and everything wrong,

That’s what monsters are made of.

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.