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review 2019-06-23 22:21
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local (book) by Ryohgo Narita, illustration by Katsumi Enami, translated by Taylor Engel
Baccano!, Vol. 2: 1931 The Grand Punk Railroad: Local - Ryohgo Narita,Katsumi Enami

The year is 1931, and the Flying Pussyfoot, a limited express train bound for New York, has just acquired several groups worth of dangerous passengers, nearly all of whom think they'll easily be able to take over the train for their own ends. There's crybaby bootlegger boss Jacuzzi Splot (best name ever) and his misfit band of delinquents, who plan to steal some secret cargo. There's the Lemures group, a bunch of terrorists determined to take some hostages in order to free their leader, the immortal Huey Laforet. There's murder-loving Ladd Russo, the nephew of the head of the Russo mafia family, his bride-to-be Lua, and his group of fellow killers. There's the mysterious monster known as the Rail Tracer. And then there are a few less dangerous passengers, like the thieves Isaac and Miria.

All of these passengers have their own goals and motivations. Only some of them will make it to New York alive.

First, a disclaimer: I have seen (and enjoyed) the anime, which adapted several books in this series, including this one. I suspect it helped my ability to follow along with the characters and story. Normally, I'd suggest watching the anime prior to attempting these light novels, but the anime has gone out of print and, as far as I know, isn't legally streaming anywhere (to anyone who wonders why I still buy so much anime when streaming is an option, this is why).

As far as reading order goes: Although Narita wrote in his afterword that he planned to keep each volume as self-contained as possible, that doesn't mean the books can be read in any order - definitely read Volume 1 before starting this one, even though only a few characters from the first book make appearances in this one. Also, if you make it past Volume 1 and plan on reading Volume 2, you might as well buy Volume 3 as well, because Volume 2 isn't self-contained. It doesn't end in what I'd call a cliffhanger, but it does leave a good chunk of the story untold. Multiple characters show up, only to disappear again, the details of their fates saved for Volume 3.

In my review of the first volume of this series, I wrote that the writing/translation was bad but that this somehow didn't interfere with my enjoyment. That was sadly not the case with Volume 2. I don't know whether it was actually worse than Volume 1 or whether I was just less in the mood, but there were times when the writing literally ground my reading experience to a halt as I tried to figure out what Narita meant. One example:

"Nice objected to that idea. Since she was talking to Nick, even under the circumstances, she meticulously parsed out casual speech and polite speech to the appropriate listener; Nick received the latter." (147)

It would have been simpler to say that, even though she objected to Nick's idea, she still did so politely. Not only is the phrasing incredibly awkward, I'm not sure that "parsed" is the right word here. "Parceled out" might have been more appropriate.

Here's an example that just made me shake my head:

"Without giving an audible answer to that question, Lua nodded silently." (48)

Can we say "redundant"?

As in Volume 1, the writing was almost completely devoid of descriptions. Nearly all of the book's historical and setting details were limited to pages 61 to 62 - otherwise, it was all character introductions, dialogue, and action, pretty much in that order.

It's a sign of how excellent Ladd Russo's English-language voice actor was that I kept hearing him every time I read Ladd's dialogue. Of all of this book's many characters, Ladd and Jacuzzi probably stood out the most. Jacuzzi was a relatively fun and interesting character, a young man who tended to cry and panic about everything but who nonetheless inspired intense loyalty within his group. Ladd, unfortunately, just came across as an excuse for occasional mindless bone-crunching violence.

Isaac and Miria were a disappointment this time around. They continued their role as the series' comic relief, but instead of being oblivious to the violence around them, they were presented as being well aware of what was going on, but so used to it that they were unfazed. Honestly, it made them seem more creepy and disturbing than, say, a more in-your-face monster like Ladd.

I don't expect the series' writing to improve, but I'm hopeful that I'll like Volume 3 more than this one, because all of the fantasy elements that Narita only hinted at in this volume will actually be on-page in that volume. Also, my favorite character from the anime, Claire, will finally get more than just a few vague mentions.

I'll wrap this up with a couple things that made me go WTF. Was the fingernail thing in the anime? I can't remember, but in the book it made me wince. Fingernails don't work like that - I don't care how you shape or cut them, you're not going to be able to saw through multiple ropes with them, and certainly not quickly enough to do any good. Also, if you did arrange to have one of your nails shaped like a tiny saw, you would constantly regret it as you accidentally cut yourself or other people or even just got the nail caught on cloth or whatever. And then there was the thing under Nice's eye patch, which I know was definitely in the anime, although I'd completely forgotten about it. So much wincing. Just a bad, bad idea.

Extras:

Several color illustrations at the front of the book (with text that will likely only confuse readers who haven't yet read the volume and haven't seen the anime), several black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-02-22 21:44
Innocence Lost (Bootleggers' Chronicles #1) - Sherilyn Decter

Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter is a story of Maggie Barnes, a widow with a young son to raise in Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie is finding is extremely difficult making ends meet including putting food on the table and paying the bills. She decides to open her house to guests, she has room for a few lodgers. One of the lodgers is Constable Joe Kelly, also living with her is Mr.Mansfield and Mr. Smith. 

Her son Tommy is at a warehouse along with a few of his friends, where there are some bootleggers, led by Mickey Duffy.  There is a police raid, they end up running and one of his friends, Oskar, goes missing. Tommy is scared and doesn't say anything of what he knows about the raid and the missing boy. The boy is eventually found, in the river and this starts the investigation that Maggie finds herself in. Ironically, Maggie also becomes friends with Mickey Duffy's wife Edith.

Prohibition was the norm in the '20s, there were speakeasies all over  Philadelphia. Maggie along with the help of Joe, they try to find and capture the bootleggers. Maggie also has another person helping her, a ghost of a Victorian cop, Inspector Frank Geyer. Their investigation into who and how Oskar died takes them into the world of gangsters and corruption. 

I have not read a lot about Prohibition or gangsters, so I was a bit apprehensive because I like different genres in historical fiction, that said, I really enjoyed this book. There was a great amount of research done in this book, an ultimately the whole Bootlegger's Chronicles. A fast and entertaining read.  I highly recommend and look forward to reading the next in the series.

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review 2015-01-04 05:16
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells - a review (and isn't that a great title?)
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair - Vanity Fair editors,Graydon Carter,David Friend

As a devotee of Dorothy Parker and someone who greatly enjoys literature from the 1920's and 1930's, I was excited to win a copy of this book through the GoodReads First Reads program. I hoped to find early writings of authors I know, and to discover more. I was not disappointed. Bohemians is filled with what I suspect truly is (not having read any of the early issues myself) the best of Vanity Fair's early publishing days.

 

Yes, there are some of the expected self-congratulating smugness of the members of the Algonquin Round Table and vanity pieces where one writer or actor profiles another, but there is also a good dose of interesting cultural and political commentary. I particularly enjoyed two such entries in the 1920's section by Sherwood Anderson ("Hello, Big Boy: An Inquiry into America's Progress During One Hundred and Fifty Years") and Clarence Darrow ("Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Why Rights for Women Have Brought About the Decline of Some Notable Institutions") as well as the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

 

Definitely pick this book up if you are curious about early 20th century views of life and politics, if you enjoy early 20th century personalities and literature, or if only to read Robert C. Benchley's "The Art of Being a Bohemian."

 

My copy has inspired a reorganization of my bookshelves, with a newly defined area for early 20th century literature.

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text 2014-10-23 16:38
Reading progress update: I've read 27 out of 412 pages.
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair - Vanity Fair editors,Graydon Carter,David Friend

What better way to start a collection of early Vanity Fair than P.G. Wodehouse?  Very promising (though I skipped ahead to read some of the poetry, and was not as pleased).

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review 2014-10-19 16:49
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells
Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair - Vanity Fair editors,Graydon Carter,David Friend

The Best of Early Vanity Fair
By Vanity Fair (Editor), Graydon Carter (Introduction), David Friend (Editor)
ISBN: 1594205981
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: 10/30/2014
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 4 Stars

 

A special thank you to Penguin First to Read for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vanity Fair, the modern and dazzling magazine of the Jazz Age—and celebration of its 100th anniversary, delivers a remarkable anthology from 1913 to 1936, showcasing an impressive lineup of the “best of the best” creative and talented literary icons of this era.

The Golden Age is so exciting and glamorous as well as tragic. From the highs to the lows—of the Roaring 20’s, the glitz, wealth, fashion, art, music, romance, sports, nightlife to the depression, addiction, drugs, stock crash, war, suffrage and Prohibition.

As a lover of this era, and Gatsby, am quite intrigued and fascinated with the legendary writers (especially F. Scott Fitzgerald and T.S. Eliot) and other contributors which captured the essence of this time; an adventure, and a changing era as we relive a time rich in history.

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers and Swells: The Best of Vanity Fair offers an impressive lineup of contributors as well a collection of poems, essays, and profiles broken down by year for a thought-provoking read, not to rush, but to ponder and reflect.

An absorbing read for literary lovers everywhere, and those who appreciate the talents, humor, and insights (even cynical, controversial, and scandalous at times) of those courageous enough to convey their thoughts, dreams, and hopes for a better future. The collection is well laid out, with a brief summary of each contributor at the end.

I am enjoying many of the new books out today exploring and capturing the details of important times and commentary of historic authors with "books about books", and "books about writers"; with new insights into the depth of their writing to create awareness and meaning for this generation and those to follow.

A beautifully packaged and entertaining collection of the finest pieces and topics in the Jazz Age. Vanity Fair, a magazine predicting which cultural forces would leave a lasting mark, and pushing boundaries from men’s rites to women’s rights, to the destructive fascination with the entertainment industry and our addiction to organized sports.

Seventy-two of which are collected, focusing on how Americans, especially New Yorkers in confronting the Machine Age, radical art, urbanization, communism, Fascism, globalization (epitomized by a World War), and the battle of the sexes, were coping with the growing pains of a new phenomenon: modern life.

 

Well Done!

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1069151777
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