177 Followers
178 Following
LG

Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Who?
Algis Budrys
Alliance In Blood
Ariel Tachna
Progress: 86/210 pages
To Say Nothing of the Dog: Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last
Connie Willis, Recorded Books LLC, Steven Crossley
The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality
Julie Sondra Decker
The Mystic Marriage
Heather Rose Jones
Progress: 302/426 pages
Ichi-F: A Worker's Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
Kazuto Tatsuta
Progress: 448/553 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages

Sebastian the pop star

Black Butler Vol. 23 - Yana Toboso

Lol. I'm still sick, so I need all the laughs I can get. Behold:

 

Vacation reading

Thirteen volumes down! I've almost finished my pile of My Neighbor Seki, and I just started my pile of Arisa yesterday. I'm about halfway through the series and I'm unimpressed. I may switch to the series I already know I enjoy next, Skip Beat and Natsume's Book of Friends. One problem: I now have a cold and am weak and tired. I designated today as tea and sleep day, in the hope of being all better by tomorrow. Crossing my fingers!

Vacation!

I'm on my third full day of vacation (already?!) and I'm enjoying it. I got to go to a tea shop a couple days ago. I picked up three black teas: Cranberry Cream, Blackberry, and Blue Dragon Patronus (tastes like strawberry lemonade, sort of, but named after the blue bits in the dry tea).

 

The whole family finally got together, and I got to coach my youngest niece through every single bite of her beef stew. I seriously have no idea how my sister keeps her from being malnourished - this girl is so difficult. She's lucky she's at least cute.

 

I've been managing about 3 graphic novel/manga volumes a day. So far I've read M.F.K. (a bit disappointing, especially if it was published as a standalone rather than the start of a series), the first volume of Locke & Key (good, even though the art style doesn't work for me), and several volumes of My Neighbor Seki (a one-joke series I'd already have abandoned if I didn't have a whole pile of them from the library).

Reading progress update: I've read 86 out of 210 pages.

Alliance In Blood - Ariel Tachna

This is a terrible book. Two days have gone by since it began. In that time:

- Orlando and Alain met.

- Orlando told Alain he would trust him if Alain would let him taste his blood. Alain agreed to let him. There was no indication that this act generally had any emotional significance for vampires - it was done for purely pragmatic reasons.

- Magical connection! Alain's blood allows Orlando to safely be exposed to sunlight. They literally spend chapters testing this. They technically haven't finished their tests yet.

- Another wizard arrives. Alain doesn't trust him and

tells Orlando to taste his blood to see if he's telling the truth. Even though this is exactly what Orlando did to Alain when they first met, suddenly Orlando feels betrayed. Drinking blood is like sex! Alain is whoring him out! How could he!

- Alain wants to make it up to Orlando and asks what he can do to make things right. Orlando says "Accept my mark." Meaning, "let me brand your neck." (I think it was his neck. I don't feel like going back to check.)

- Orlando hadn't actually expected Alain to allow himself to be branded, even though it had basically been framed like an ultimatum. He is beside himself at this evidence of Alain's trust in him.

- Alain thought that by accepting Orlando's brand he was marking himself as a submissive in their relationship. Orlando is shocked and dismayed. No, no, he never meant that!

- Whoa, wait. In reality, Orlando just put himself under Alain's power by branding him. Alain can now kill him simply by withholding his own blood, since Orlando can no longer tolerate anyone else's.

(show spoiler)


- Do any of these characters remember that Thierry's wife died less than 24 hours ago?

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa, translated by Ho-Ling Wong

The Moai Island Puzzle - Ho-Ling Wong, Alice Arisugawa

Alice Arisugawa is the third Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan author I’ve tried. I thought Arisugawa would also be my first female honkaku mystery author, but I didn’t bother to research that and, as it turns out, the author is actually male.

He also wrote a male character named after his pseudonym into The Moai Island Puzzle. I don’t like when authors write themselves into their own books, even if all they and their character have in common is their names, so this was a bit of a red flag for me, but I figured I’d let it pass. I was really hoping this book would be as good as the one that led me to it, Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Or even Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders, which had some issues but was still decent.

The Moai Island Puzzle starts by introducing readers to the members of the Eito University Mystery Club. The club’s only female member, Maria Arima, invites the other members to take a week-long holiday at her uncle’s villa on a tiny island. Only Alice Arisugawa (the narrator) and Jiro Egami are able to join her, but that doesn’t mean they’re alone: ten of Maria’s family members and family friends also take a holiday on the island at around this time every three years or so.

Alice and Egami arrive at the island with every intention of having fun. In particular, they’d like to solve the puzzle that Maria’s grandfather left behind. Before he died, Maria’s grandfather had several wooden moais, statues similar to the ones on Easter Island but much smaller, installed all over the island, each facing in a different direction. These statues are somehow the key to finding a treasure that Maria’s grandfather left behind.

Hideto, Maria's beloved cousin, was supposedly close to solving the puzzle three years ago but drowned before he could locate the treasure. Maria would like to finish what he started. Unfortunately, just as a typhoon is about to reach the island, a couple people are found shot to death inside a locked room. Was it suicide, or murder?

First off, I would like to say that I was frustrated with how determined these characters were to believe that a double suicide was a possibility in this situation. One of the victims was shot in the chest, one of them in the thigh, and there was a blood trail across the entire room. The window was closed, and the door was locked with an overly tight latch. Both victims were shot by a rifle, which was nowhere to be found in the room. Several characters kept theorizing that one of the victims shot the other victim, then themselves, and then somehow threw the rifle out the window and then shut the window. It took ages for someone to finally ask whether the rifle was even outside somewhere - no one had bothered to look. Granted, it was raining and a typhoon was coming, but I doubt a dying person would have been able to throw the rifle very far.

I suppose you could argue that they all clung to the “it was a double suicide or murder-suicide” theory so hard because they didn’t want to believe they were on the island with a murderer, but so many of the facts just didn’t fit. And I just shook my head at the characters’ behavior. Even past the point they should’ve started keeping a better eye on each other, they were busy getting drunk or spending time on their own. That was one of the book’s weaknesses: too many characters had no alibi.

You’d think that should have helped muddy the waters, but it was combined with the fact that there were also few clear motives. All I had to do was think about a likely motive that Arisugawa (the author) was very carefully not bringing up, and I basically figured out the identity of the murderer. I had hoped that I was wrong and that the motive I suspected was actually a red herring. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

I wasn’t able to figure out how the murders were committed on my own, but part of the problem was that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters, I had trouble caring about their family/relationship drama, and their conversations bored me. The final revelations didn’t change my mind about any of that.

The second part of the moai puzzle made sense to me, but the stuff the characters had to do to get to that part seemed like a stretch. And I didn’t buy that Egami was able to figure out everything about the murders the way he did, all on his own. His explanation for the locked room portion of the mystery, in particular, angered me more than shocked me. Without including spoilers, all I can say is that I had trouble believing the character would have done something like that, especially considering the way their relationships had been described.

All in all, this wasn’t worth the effort it took to read it. Very disappointing.

Additional Comments:

I noticed a few editing errors in the first 50 or so pages - sloppy verb tenses, and an instance of “peak” instead of “peek.”

The thing that bugged me the most, though, was the book’s very first illustration, a map of the island. I had thought it was the same map the characters had received, but they kept referencing marks on the map that indicated the locations of the moais, and the book’s illustration had no such marks. I still don’t know whether this was an error or whether it was deliberate on the author’s part. In the end, the marks wouldn’t have helped any (they were included later, albeit separate from the map), but the fact that they weren’t there made it feel like the author was keeping basic information from readers, and it was annoying.

Oh, and unrelated to all of that: I’m pretty sure that a normal, living snake wouldn’t feel sticky to the touch.

 

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

Humble Book Bundle: Multi-Genre Fiction

I'm debating getting this one. The things that immediately jump out at me as "wants" are Jodi Taylor's Just One Damn Thing After Another, Martha Wells' The Edge of Worlds, and Nick Mamatas' I am Providence. And maybe Galactic Empires, although that's an anthology and I don't have a good track record when it comes to actually reading those.

 

A huge chunk of this bundle is short story anthologies. They always sound nice to me in theory, and then they sit on my shelves (or on my e-reader) as I feel not a twinge of desire to read them.

 

Eh, I'll think it over for a while longer.

Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 1) by Haruko Ichikawa, translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley

Land of the Lustrous 1 - Haruko Ichikawa

Land of the Lustrous is set on a world that has been battered by meteors several times over the course of its history, to the point that all life was driven into the ocean. Some of the surviving beings eventually sank to the bottom and were consumed by microorganisms, transforming them into inorganic substances that eventually formed into crystals (I know, it’s bizarre, but just try to accept it). Those crystals eventually became 28 (ish?) genderless gemstone-based beings that washed up onto the shore. Those gem beings are the series’ good guys. Beings from the moon, called Lunarians, periodically attack the gem beings so that they can capture them and break their bodies down into weapons and decorations.

The series’ main character is a gem being named Phosphophyllite (Phos). Phos desperately wants to become a member of one of the watcher and fighter pairs that protect everyone against the Lunarians, but unfortunately Phos is so brittle that that’s out of the question. So far, Phos has been unsuited to every task they’ve been assigned to, which is why I suspect the latest task Kongo, the group’s leader, has come up with is probably just busy work. Kongo asks Phos to compile a natural history.

Phos starts off by talking to the tragic and dangerous Cinnabar, because that’s who everyone keeps saying they should start with. After that, Phos spends some time with the Diamond fighting pair, Bort and Dia. And then there’s an incident with a giant snail.

This volume was weird. I requested it after reading Katherine Dacey’s review, so I knew going in that it would be beautiful and strange, but reading a review about it wasn’t quite the same as actually experiencing it. I loved it, at first, but then I became unsure, and the whole thing with the snail was just odd, like it was aimed at a different audience than the rest of the volume.

After I finished I let it percolate for a while, which turned out to be a wee bit too long. Suddenly my library due date had arrived and I couldn’t remember enough details about what had happened to write a proper summary. I didn’t quite reread it, but I did flip through the whole thing in order to refresh my memory, and to my surprise I liked it more the second time around. The world info was even weirder after giving myself some time to think it over, and, although the artwork was still gorgeous, the gem characters were still a bit hard to tell apart, but...there was something appealing about it all.

The artwork was a large part of what drew me to this series in the first place. Dacey’s review has one of my favorite sequences, the horrifying and beautiful moment when one of the Lunarians is sliced open to reveal arrows made of a captured gem being. Although the history of the gem beings was just plain bizarre, it was the Lunarians who were truly alien. They were perfect, beautiful, and incredibly creepy. I’m curious about them, but part of me hopes that Ichikawa will opt to keep them a mystery.

Unfortunately, there were times when the artwork definitely aimed more for style rather than clarity. The battles were gorgeous but occasionally difficult to follow. Also, like I mentioned earlier, the characters were sometimes hard to tell apart. Those things are part of the reason why I’d like to see the new Land of the Lustrous anime - muddled manga action scenes sometimes turn out better when adapted for anime. That said, it seems awfully early in the series' run to be turning it into an anime.

The world and characters grew on me, although this volume didn’t exactly give readers much. Phos was one of those borderline annoying characters that everyone just sort of puts up with. I’m crossing my fingers that Phos at least manages to come through for Cinnabar, as unlikely as that seems. Dia and Bort’s relationship intrigued me, and I’m hoping there’ll be more on them in the future. The whole thing about Dia’s arm confused me, though.

Of all the characters, the one that intrigued me the most was Cinnabar. Most of the gem beings are only active during the day because the organisms that hold them together feed off of sunlight. Cinnabar is the only exception, having been essentially banished to night patrol for everyone else’s safety. Lunarians have never attacked at night before, but it’s the only time Cinnabar can patrol without risking hurting anyone - Cinnabar unintentionally oozes (and sometimes vomits) a poison that destroys everything it touches. The poison can even cause irreversible damage to the otherwise immortal gem beings.

The properties of all the gem beings are based on the properties of the real minerals on which they're based, so each gem being’s hardness is based on the Mohs scale (the numbers are even used in the text). Since I knew nothing about cinnabar, I looked that up and was delighted to learn that Cinnabar’s poison was probably mercury. So those tidbits were kind of cool, and I’m wondering what other gem-related info Ichikawa might work into the series.

I don’t know at this point whether this series is one I’d recommend, but I’m intrigued enough to want to continue on.

 

Rating Note:

 

This one was a toss-up between 3 stars and 3.5. I settled (uneasily) on 3.5. I'm letting beauty and intriguing strangeness trump clarity and focus, at least for now. I may change my tune after reading volume 2.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 239 out of 239 pages.

The Moai Island Puzzle - Ho-Ling Wong, Alice Arisugawa

After one last big push, I finally managed to finish this.

 

Unfortunately, it kind of sucked. Not only was it massively boring, I managed to figure out who was most likely the murderer well before the ending. Not because I'd actually figured out how the murders had been committed, but because there was one glaringly obvious motive. I figured that maybe it was a red herring, but nope. And the moai puzzle itself required enormous leaps of logic.

Game review - Gone Home

 

[As usual, if games aren't your thing, feel free to skip this. I try to only post reviews on BL for the ones that are particularly story-rich and don't have much in way of what most folks would consider actual gameplay.]

 

Like Tacoma, Fullbright’s newest game, Gone Home isn’t so much an adventure game as it is an interactive story, although the story is even slimmer here than it was in Tacoma.

You play as Katie, who has just arrived home in the very early AM after a trip abroad. The family just moved to this home and I’m pretty sure Katie has never been there. At any rate, the house is empty - no one else is home, and you don’t know why. There are a few cryptic notes from your younger sister indicating that something has happened and that you shouldn’t tell your parents anything. There are also a couple phone messages, one of which is particularly worrisome. In order to find out what happened, you have to explore the house, reading any notes you find and picking up keys and combination lock codes so that you can open new doors and learn more secrets. Touching certain items triggers voiceover narration from your sister, explaining a little of what happened to her while you were gone and how things got to the point they are now.

The game’s atmosphere is top-notch. It’s dark outside, and there’s a storm going on, so your exploration is occasionally interrupted by thunder. Meanwhile, almost every room you enter is dark. When I first started playing, I turned off lights after leaving a room, but it wasn’t long before I got in the habit of turning on every single light and just leaving them on. Not only did it help make exploring slightly less scary, it helped me keep track of which rooms I’d been in and which hadn’t. However, the house’s electrical wiring was a bit wonky, so occasionally the lights flickered. And for some reason everyone left their TVs on.

Thankfully for those like me who scare easily, the flickering lights, thunder, TVs, and Katie’s sister’s notes about potential ghosts were as bad as the “horror” got. There really wasn’t anything to be afraid of. No jump scares, no monsters, literally nothing in the house but you. The house became a lot less creepy once I realized that, although there was one room I refused to explore because it didn’t seem to have a working light.

As you explore the house, you learn more about what happened to Katie’s sister, but you also learn a bit about what’s been going on with Katie’s parents. Since I’d read spoilery reviews of the game, I already knew most of what was going on with Katie’s sister, but I had no clue about what was going on with her parents. I wanted to know what they knew about what was going on, and where they were.

The final revelations were...kind of disappointing. Maybe I’d have enjoyed them more if I hadn’t come across those spoilery reviews? Or maybe not, since several things were obvious well before the game’s ending. One of the things Fullbright seems to have trouble with is story pacing. This one spread things out almost too much, while Tacoma waited until the very end of the game for almost all of its most interesting moments. Gone Home's setup also felt more contrived. Would Katie's sister really have forced her to learn literally all of the house's secrets (and at 1 or 2 AM!) before finally letting her know what had happened? That seemed...pretty awful.

Of the two games, I definitely enjoyed Tacoma more, although Gone Home was still pretty decent. Part of that might have been that I’m more of a sci-fi fan - I really enjoyed Tacoma’s world-building, the AI, and getting to explore the station. Gone Home’s benefits were its creepy atmosphere and the cassette tapes strewn about the house...which I hated. It would have been nice if the cassette players had had some kind of volume control, but even if they had, I seriously disliked Katie’s sister’s taste in music, which was a bit of a bummer since she mentioned and gushed over the music so much in her voiceovers and notes. I wasn’t really a fan of the music in Tacoma either, but at least it didn’t feel as important there.

Oh, also: although Gone Home still made me feel a bit nauseous, I found that I did better with it than I did with Tacoma. So that was something.

I don’t regret playing Gone Home, but it’s one of those games I’d be cautious about recommending. It’s very short - I finished the entire thing in slightly less than 2 hours - and the story is very, very slim. As in “I can’t say much more about it than I already have, or I’d give everything away.”

I do have one other thing I’d like to say, but it’s very spoilery. You’ve been warned.

Okay, so the one other thing I wanted to say was that it kind of bugged me that I’ve now played two interactive stories with

heavy LGBT themes and the exact same setup (not saying the title of the other one, because spoilers). There’s a person, you don’t know what happened to them and you want to find out, you do a bit of invasive exploration, and in the end you learn the person is LGBT (in this case a lesbian), has run off, and you’re supposed to leave them be and trust that everything is going just fine for them. This bugged me in the other game I played, but it particularly bothered me here. If I were Katie, you can bet I’d want to know where my little sister is. I’d want to keep in touch with her in order to make sure that she’s doing okay, and I’d want her to have more people she could depend on than some girl I don’t know who might be dependable but who also might not. It also kind of sucks that both of these games were set up in such a way that the LGBT aspects are major spoilers - they are very nearly the entire story. Tacoma was better in that respect too. One gay character and two lesbians, and you could actually talk about characters' sexuality without spoiling even a little of the story.

(show spoiler)

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 2.5 stars and 3 stars. I decided that the issues I mentioned slightly overshadowed the things I enjoyed about the game and finally settled on 2.5 stars.

 

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

Save

Clean slate

Jane Jensen: Gabriel Knight, Adventure Games, Hidden Objects (Influential Video Game Designers) - Jennifer deWinter, Carly A. Kocurek, Anastasia Salter The snail-watcher, and other stories - Patricia Highsmith The Naked Sun - Isaac Asimov

I turned in these and a bunch of other library books today, unfinished. I still have The Moai Island Puzzle and Ichi-F checked out. Let's see if I can manage to finish and review them in time. I still haven't made a decision about The Ginza Ghost.

 

It looks like I might not get that second Bingo before the end of Halloween Bingo, although I still plan to finish the book I was reading for my Vampires square, Alliance in Blood. At the moment it's highly unlikely to get more than 2 stars from me, and I can practically feel the review writing itself. I'm still shaking my head at the author's decision to have one of the characters tell another character everything that just happened. The entire convo was included on-page, even though readers had just seen it all themselves and didn't need it repeated back to them. No wonder this book is just the first part of what was originally one enormous book.

The Bishop's Pawn by Don Gutteridge

The Bishop's Pawn (A Marc Edwards Mystery Book 7) - Don Gutteridge

This is set primarily in Toronto in 1839, although some of the characters take a brief trip to New York City later on. At the start of the book we meet Dick Dougherty, a massively overweight man who was once a lawyer in New York City but who, after some vague and mysterious trouble, was able to relocate to Toronto. Since then, he’s been taking care of his two wards, Brodie and Celia, and slowly taking control of his life again. A recent courtroom success has inspired him to apply for admission to the Bar (he wasn’t disbarred back in New York), and with Brodie and Celia’s help and encouragement he’s slowly regaining his mobility. He now takes daily walks that are so regular and predictable people can practically set their watches by him.

Unfortunately, although the common folk of Toronto love Dougherty, the same can’t be said for some of the area’s political leaders. There are rumors that Dougherty’s relationship with Celia isn’t entirely proper, and Dougherty’s refusal to give any details on the events that got him run out of New York City inspires even more whispers. Things come to a head when Archdeacon John Strachan delivers a fiery sermon that accuses Dougherty of “vile and abominable” behavior. Not long after the sermon, Dougherty is discovered dead, with one of his eyes removed and a note with “Sodomite” written on it pinned to his chest.

Marc Edwards and others suspect that one of Strachan’s parishioners was influenced by his sermon and killed the man. They even find a likely suspect, drunk and covered in blood. However, some of the details don’t add up. Marc suspects there’s something else going on, but the tense political situation makes it difficult to discover the truth.

I’ll start off by saying that this is book 7 in Gutteridge’s Marc Edwards series, and I haven’t read the previous six. The only reason I had this one, and five other ones after it, is because they were all free during some past Smashwords sale and their descriptions made me think of the Murdoch Mysteries TV series. I had noticed the series numbering but thought it might be a mistake, because no books with earlier series numbering were even listed. The earlier books appear to have been put out by a different publisher, one that doesn't sell through Smashwords (not a deal breaker for me, as long as it's available through Kobo) and that has chosen to add DRM to all their e-books (still one of my deal breakers when it comes to e-book purchasing).

I had hoped that jumping into the series at such a late point wouldn’t be too difficult. The story itself was fairly self-contained. Unfortunately, character relationships weren’t, and I could tell there were references to at least three previous books: one in which I’m guessing Dougherty was first introduced, one in which Marc’s wife’s first husband was killed, and one in which Marc was reunited with his mother. I had difficulty connecting to and caring about most of the characters, and I wasn’t sure whether that was due to the writing or my own lack of familiarity with them.

My other hurdle was my lack of familiarity with Canadian history. I basically know nothing. I probably should have sat down and read a few Wikipedia pages on historical figures and events mentioned in the book’s first 50 or so pages, but instead I powered through my confusion. Thankfully, the situation became a lot easier for me to follow once Dougherty was murdered. The basics: politicians afraid of a scandal, and a power struggle brewing over the position Strachan would vacate once he was elevated to bishop as everyone expected he would be.

Marc was given a pretty tight deadline, and I wasn’t sure I could buy the extension he was given in order to go to New York City and ask a few more questions. Still, the results of his investigation were interesting and more shocking and horrible than I expected. I was glad that Marc

didn’t see pedophilia and homosexuality as being essentially the same thing, even though other characters seemed to.

(show spoiler)


This was a decent book, but it didn’t work nearly as well for me as I had hoped it would. Marc and his wife both seemed like okay characters but didn’t really grab me, whereas Cobb and his habit of mispronouncing words actively annoyed me. I’m still debating what I’m going to do with my freebie books 8 through 12. Eh, they’re free and not taking up any physical space, so I’ll probably keep them around for now. I just checked, and it looks like I should be able to read at least a few of the previous books via interlibrary loan, if I wanted to give one of the earlier books a shot before moving on to book 8.

 

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

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't by Robert I. Sutton

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't - Robert I. Sutton

In this book, Sutton 1) defines workplace assholes, 2) describes the damage they can do to their workplaces and to themselves, 3) outlines how workplaces can try to implement a “no asshole” rule, 4) describes how you can keep from being an asshole, 5) provides tips for dealing with workplace assholes if your workplace isn’t making a concentrated effort to keep them out or deal with their behavior in some way, 6) and describes some of the benefits of occasionally being an asshole and/or having one around. And probably a few other things I forgot to list.

Sutton’s workplace assholes are basically what other books call workplace bullies, although I agree with Sutton that “asshole” is probably a better word to use. I think the average adult would probably connect with it more.

I started reading this in the hope of learning more and better strategies for dealing with workplace assholes. Unfortunately, although this was an engaging read that I largely agreed with, it didn’t really give me what I’d hoped for.

It started off promisingly. I loved that, in his introduction, Sutton never once said that people dealing with workplace assholes should probably just quit. Quitting isn’t an option for a lot of people. Maybe you’re tied to a particular geographic area because of your family, spouse, kids, etc. and there are few or no similar jobs in the area. Maybe the job market is terrible. Maybe your finances are tight and you can’t afford the uncertainty of a job search or possibly having to move somewhere else. Maybe you prefer the “devil you know.” What it comes down to is that there are lots of reasons why people might not want or be able to leave a bad workplace situation. I was hopeful that Sutton would have some good suggestions.

I agreed with a lot of the stuff that came after that. Yes, people with good leaders are more likely to admit they've made mistakes - there’d be less fear that they’d be punished for them, so they could admit them and then try to rectify them instead of hiding them. Yes, workplace assholes tend to make more enemies than they know. Yes, their employees waste a lot of time complaining about them and trying to work around them. Yes, a workplace where assholes aren’t tolerated is more likely to run smoothly and have better morale.

There were a few examples that made me wince. There was one organization that went to the effort of determining the TCA (Total Cost of Assholes) for one particularly nasty high-performing employee. Although he was considered a high-performer, he’d also cost the company when his company-provided anger management courses and high assistant turnover were taken into account. The total amount he’d cost the company was determined to be around $160,000, although in reality it was probably higher than that if the effect he had on everyone who had to work with him was taken into account. Management sat him down and told him that $96,000 of this total would be taken out of his year-end bonus. I was incredulous. From the sounds of things, a demotion, an actual cut in pay rather than just his bonus, or possibly even firing him would have been more appropriate.

To be fair, Sutton also thought that the company went too easy on the guy. I wished that he’d been able to do some kind of follow up. It would have been nice to know if the guy’s bad behavior had continued and he’d eventually been fired, or if this apparent slap on the wrist had somehow managed to serve as a wake-up call for him.

There are other things that made me raise an eyebrow, though. At one point, Sutton talked about how Southwest Airlines strived to create an asshole-free workplace by hiring people who fit their culture. Specifically, employees needed to be warm and friendly to both passengers and fellow employees. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to be friends with their coworkers. In Sutton’s anecdote, one particular employee who felt this way was told that he might be happier elsewhere, and he eventually did get a job with another airline. This entire anecdote bothered me because it wasn’t really about a workplace asshole - it was just a guy for whom his job was just a job.

Also, as a book reviewer I took issue with another one of Sutton’s examples. Near the end of the book, Sutton talked about how workplace assholes will sometimes be nasty towards others in front of senior management because it can make them seem smarter than their targets and those around them who are quieter and kinder. In order to explain this, Sutton brought up an article in which perceptions of “nice” and “nasty” book reviews were compared. “Amabile found that negative and unkind people were seen as less likable but more intelligent, competent, and expert than those who expressed the same messages in kinder and gentler ways.” (161) I haven’t read the article in question, but I very much disliked the way Sutton made use of it. There’s a vast amount of difference between book reviews and people talking to colleagues in front of senior management.

The two chapters that seemed like they’d be the most helpful were Chapter 3, which discussed implementing a “no asshole” rule in your workplace, and Chapter 5, which included tips for individuals faced with workplace assholes. Chapter 3 was actually pretty decent...except that it required the entire workplace, but especially upper-level management, to be committed to an asshole-free workplace. Saying that your workplace is committed to open communication and friendliness is nice, but it means nothing if, say, employees are permitted to make biting remarks about each other in public with apparent impunity. And besides, what do you do if your workplace assholes are your upper-level management?

I was excited to see what sorts of suggestions Sutton would include in Chapter 5, but I was ultimately let down. He didn’t quite come out and say it (at least not until the last couple pages of the book), but it was clear that most of the suggestions were aimed at surviving your workplace until you could finally leave. The suggested strategies included things like: remember that the abuse isn’t your fault, lower your expectations (hope for the best but expect the worst), develop indifference and emotional detachment, try to limit your exposure to workplace assholes, build support networks in your workplace, and look for small ways to seize bits of control over your workplace life. There were a few helpful tips here and there, but most of them were things that people dealing with workplace assholes are probably already doing. Several of them were things that even Sutton admitted could potentially make the situation worse.

This wasn’t a bad book - it just didn’t have much of what I was looking for. If you’re currently dealing with a workplace asshole (or several of them) who’s above you on your organizational chart, I’d say it’s pretty safe to just skip to Chapter 5 and see if you can get anything helpful out of it. If you’re in a truly terrible situation and are in a position where getting a job somewhere else is a possibility for you, reading the whole book might give you the push you need. If you're upper-level management at an organization or if you supervise a lot of people, Chapter 3 could be very useful to you. In the end, though, don't expect this book to be some kind of magic bullet, and be prepared for some of it to be a bit contradictory.

 

Rating Note:

 

I struggled with rating this. My disappointment with Chapter 5 and my frustration with the book's sometimes conflicting advice made me want to give this 2.5 stars, but overall I decided it was more of a 3-star book. It did at least have a few helpful nuggets of info.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 210 out of 210 pages.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't - Robert I. Sutton

This was on my list of books I wanted to finish before going on vacation, and I finally managed it.

 

For the most part, I really like what I do and the people I work with, but there are issues that need to be dealt with that aren't. This was an engaging read that I felt was spot-on in a lot of ways, but unfortunately it didn't give me what I'd really hoped for, which was good strategies for dealing with one particular person in my workplace that didn't boil down to "do what you can to survive and then get a job someplace else at the first opportunity."

Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 239 pages.

The Moai Island Puzzle - Ho-Ling Wong, Alice Arisugawa

Someone has finally died. Two someones, actually. I have no idea why the characters immediately started talking like it was either a double suicide or a murder suicide. One person was shot in the chest, the other person was shot in the thigh, and there's a blood trail across the entire room. The door was locked when they were discovered, and the latch was so stiff that people had to use a hatchet to get in. Oh, and a typhoon is about to hit. That should be fun.

 

I'm running out of time. One more week. I want to finish this book and a couple others before I go on vacation, and I need to decide whether I'm taking The Ginza Ghost, an ILL book with a due date of about a week after I'm supposed to get back, with me, turn it in and re-request it later, or leave it here and try to read the whole thing when I get back.

I love Simone Giertz's robot videos. Here's her video of a robot that's supposed to feed her soup. Like most (all?) of her other robots, it doesn't do a very good job. The robot enters the video at about two and a half minutes, but if you watch the full thing you'll also get to see her terrifying vegetable chopping robot in action.

Julie Dillon's art books are on sale

I think they're normally priced at $15 (US dollars) and they're currently on sale for $9. It's tempting because I love her artwork, but then there's my shelf space issue... Still, I figured I'd post it in case anyone else is interested.