book 57: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
For some reason, Cold Comfort Farm makes me think of Emma by Jane Austen, although I have not read Emma and have only seen the movie. I'm guessing because this is a light historical British comedy in which the heroine tries to "fix" everyone around her, and in the process grows a little herself, although Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm is more static in her evolution than Emma. Cold Comfort Farm also seems to be a parody of those earlier romantic novels, as well, focusing quite a bit on the absurdities of the culture and its eccentric characters. It was an enjoyable enough read and had a happy ending, but at the same time I don't feel like I HAVE TO go pick up the sequel.
book 58: Seven Hundred Kisses by Lily Pond
This is an anthology of erotic literature (short stories and poetry) put out by the editor of Yellow Silk, which is evidently a magazine that caters to promoting erotic literature. It has some major authors in it, like Tobias Wolff, Jane Smiley, Dorothy Allison, and Walter Mosley, but for the most part I was unimpressed. It's not meant to be titilating, like pulp erotica. The works have more weight and have more variety of purpose than just causing arousal. At the same time, I guess I'm not into reading things that are primarily about sexual love without 1) purposefully looking to get off (although even then reading stuff rarely does it for me) or, more importantly, 2) having a primary story that is not focused on the sex. Don't get me wrong. I can enjoy a good sex or romantic love scene in a novel, but I really need something more as a background to support the act, if you understand what I mean. Some of these do have other themes: loss, freedom, understanding, but for the most part they didn't really capture my imagination well. Well, live and learn. I now know that I'm not really into erotica, even if they try to dress it up in literary words. If I have to pick a few that I thought were worthwhile: the poem Coyote and the Shadow People by E. Beth Thomas (about loss through death and undeniable longing), the poem July Lover by D. Nurkse (has a nice subtle insistency), and Pushing Me into the Past by Richard Zimler (found this fairly erotic, I always wonder why gay erotica is so appealing to some heterosexual women, like myself).
book 59: Gin Tama, Volume 14 by Hideaki Sorachi
Continuation of a samurai/alien/alternate history/ parody manga...In this volume, the battle with the sword expert Yagyu clan for Otae continues. After some epic (and humorous) battles only Gin, Shinpachi, Kyube, and and Binbokusai are left in the competition.
book 60: Gin Tama, Volume 15 by Hideaki Sorachi
The battle with the Yagyu clan concludes, Otae repays her debt to Kondo by saving him from a gorilla wedding, Zenzo the shinobi bonds with a girl who can see the future, Katsura tries to get a driver's license, Sadaharu finds doggie love, the girls (faux and real) "entertain" the shogun, and Okita's sister (and Hijikata's unrealized love) arrives.
book 61: Gin Tama, Volume 16 by Hideaki Sorachi
Hijikata takes down Okita's sister's criminal fiance (with some help), and they say (in their own ways) goodbye to her as she succumbs to her illness (actually touching for such tough characters). A virus causing unibrows turns everyone into zombies (or zombrows, thank you, Katsura!). Gin and crew assist (and get annoyed by) a "hard boiled" cop while he tries to take down/ vindicate his long time criminal rival. The gang hosts a match-making party to convince Kyube of her femininity and prevent her from "building a tower of babel" (getting a sex change). Gin was actually surprisingly charming at times. :)
book 62: Gin Tama, Volume 17 by Hideaki Sorachi
Gin finds a disembodied head in the trash and ends up involved in a robot conspiracy. The gang tries to get the new video gaming system the Owee and ends up in an eccentric video gaming competition for the prize.
book 63: Gin Tama, Volume 18 by Hideaki Sorachi
The video game competition ends. The soul of Gin's wooden sword visits him and tries to give him greater powers. It's Valentine's day, and the gang witnesses intergalactic...love(?). Gin accidentally twarts an assassin and purposefully defends Hasegawa against lewd behavior charges. The girls all get fat and compete to loss weight at a "fasting dojo".
book 64: Gin Tama, Volume 19 by Hideaki Sorachi
A conspiracy to destroy the Shinsengumi involving Takasugi finds the return of a colleage, Hijikata becoming cursed and turning into a "loser otaku", betrayal within Shinsengumi ranks, and some pretty epic fight sequences involving Gin and some of the Shinsengumi members. Some nice scenes both in fight sequences and in character depth building in this arc.