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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

Land of the Lustrous 2
Haruko Ichikawa
Princess Prince
Tomoko Taniguchi
Progress: 310/336 pages
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Peter Godfrey-Smith
Progress: 41/255 pages
A Rational Arrangement
Rowyn Ashby
Progress: 89/537 pages
FREE: Locke & Key
Tatiana Maslany, Audible Studios, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez, Kate Mulgrew, Haley Joel Osment, Full Cast
Progress: 91/806 minutes

Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist

Tiffany Girl: A Novel - Deeanne Gist

Tiffany Girl is set just prior to the 1893 World's Fair. Flossie wants nothing more than to become a painter, so it's a shock when her mother tells her she's going to need to stop attending the New York School of Applied Design, help out more with the sewing (her mother is a dressmaker), and start thinking about getting married. Her father has gambled away enough of the family's money that they can no longer afford her tuition. When Flossie hears about an opportunity to work for Louis Tiffany as one of his "Tiffany Girls" during a glassworkers' strike, she announces that she's moving out and will earn the money for her tuition herself.

Her new life isn't easy, but Flossie is determined to make the best of things. She deals with angry strikers and "bustle pinchers," tries to figure out how to make her finances work out, and deals with her loneliness by encouraging the people at her boarding house to all get to know each other better. One of her fellow boarders is Reeve, a handsome but emotionally closed off journalist who turns his nose up a "New Women" like Flossie.

I feel like I've been in a partial reading slump since coming back from vacation. I haven't been reading much, and I keep losing interest in the things I read. I was worried that the same thing would happen with Tiffany Girl. The book's length was a little daunting, but thankfully it turned out to be a really engaging read. I flew through it and could hardly put it down.

I don't read a lot of Christian romance, and there are only a couple authors I'll pick up without reading reviews first. Deeanne Gist is one of them. The religious aspects of her books are usually pretty light. Faith is important to her characters, but they don't think about it every few pages, and I don't recall ever feeling like Gist preaches at her readers.

The religious aspects of Tiffany Girl were particularly light, although important. One of the things Flossie dealt with was the belief of those around her that God's highest calling for women is bearing children. This was directly opposed to her desire to work for someone like Louis Tiffany, who only allowed women to work for him if they were unmarried. If Flossie wanted her independence, she needed to remain unmarried and childless, or so she believed. Religion also came up a bit while Flossie was looking at Louis Tiffany's finished stained glass windows. For the most part, though, that was it. I could imagine some Christian romance fans wanting more, but for me this worked out just fine.

Watching Flossie and Reeve interact was fun, even though both characters had aspects that annoyed me a little. Reeve's opinions about New Women got my back up, although I'd probably have been on his side where Flossie and her "get to know each other" activities were concerned. The lack of privacy in the boarding house was, in general, a bit horrifying, but Flossie's dinnertime question cards would particularly have made me cringe. There were, in fact, times when her questions touched on sensitive topics. I was a little surprised that Reeve answered some of the questions he was asked, considering how private he tended to be.

Flossie was a bit too in-your-face friendly for me at times. I'm an introvert, and I can clearly imagine myself going out of my way to avoid her for a while in order to avoid her icebreaker games. As far as she was concerned, everyone at the boarding house was like an extended family and, up until the competition for World's Fair tickets started, she probably felt at least a little the same about many of her coworkers.

Although Flossie and Reeve were attracted to each other fairly early on, they both had a bit of growing to do before they properly meshed as a couple. I really liked how things progressed with Reeve. He had to rethink his ideas about women and marriage. He also had to learn to open up more and allow other people into his life, even if only a little. I absolutely adored the scene with Mrs. Dinwiddie near the end. In some ways, it worked better for me than the romance between Reeve and Flossie.

Flossie's developments near the end of the book were pretty painful, and the attention Gist paid to Reeve's efforts to make more friends highlighted, for me, the fact that Flossie didn't seem to have any close female friends. Whereas I enjoyed the direction Reeve's story took, Flossie's "growth" seemed at least in part to involve breaking her down. She learned that not everyone around her was to be trusted, that she couldn't always count on her parents to act as her safety net (although Reeve stepped in and kept this from turning out worse than it might have), and that she'd never

be able to make a career out of the thing she most loved to do

(show spoiler)

. On the plus side, she learned that all of this could happen to her without breaking her.

The moment when Reeve and Flossie met again was nice, although I was a little sad about how long it took for it to happen. I missed getting to see the two of them together more, and Gist sped through their courtship period way too quickly for my tastes. I really liked how she resolved the issues hanging between Reeve and Flossie, although I raised an eyebrow at the fact that they apparently hadn't talked about any of it prior to getting married. I'd have thought Flossie would have wanted to know how Reeve felt about

the idea of her continuing to paint and occasionally make some money of her own

(show spoiler)

before they said their I dos.

All in all, this was a good book and a quicker read than I expected it to be. I need to hunt down more of Gist's stuff.

Extras:

Many of the chapters were accompanied by a one-page black-and-white illustration. Also, there was an author's note with information about Gist's historical research. Gist's author's notes tend to be fascinating, and this one was no exception.

 

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

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 39) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura

Skip Beat! Vol. 39 - Yoshiki Nakamura

Kyoko learns the rest of her mother's story. Mr. Misonoi

was indeed a corporate spy. He left without a trace and Saena has lived with the guilt of her actions ever since. She'd even have gotten an abortion if she could have.

(show spoiler)

Despite this revelation, Kyoko leaves with a lighter heart and a desire to do her mom proud. Meanwhile, everyone else is still worried about her. Kyoko checks in with Moko, Ren checks up on Kyoko, and Kyoko even stops by to see Sho. Kyoko decides to audition for a role in a drama called Lotus in the Mud. (A funny moment:

Ren could have gotten the role of the ronin that Kyoko's character falls for, but Yashiro didn't think it'd fit into his schedule. Poor Ren!)

(show spoiler)


I was hoping for a larger chunk of this volume to be devoted to the rest of Saena's story, but it's nice to know that Kyoko could potentially run into her dad in a future volume (even if she never realizes it!). The last part of Saena's story was a bit frustrating. If she had truly suspected Mr. Misonoi, she should have brought home fake disks that last time. Why bring home the real ones?

I was a little surprised at how positively Nakamura wrote Saena's revelation that

she'd have aborted Kyoko if she could. Kyoko was very understanding and took it all very well.

(show spoiler)


Some visual problems I ran into while reading this volume: Moko looks an awful lot like Saena. Also, I was a bit taken aback by Sho's new haircut. He looks younger and more vulnerable. Weird.

This volume felt a bit scattered and anticlimactic after the awesomeness of the previous volume, but not bad. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Lotus in the Mud stuff goes. But doesn't Kyoko still have her school bully drama to do? I suppose it could be that there's room in her schedule for more.

 

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

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 38) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura

Skip Beat!, Vol. 38 - Yoshiki Nakamura

Kyoko's talk with Ren gives her the level of positive energy she needs to decide to approach her mother - because approaching her without warning is likely the only thing that'll work. Kyoko almost chickens out but is forced to go through with it by Mr. Todoh, Saena's colleague. It's then that we get glimpses of Saena's past through her eyes. She

fell in love with Mr. Misonoi, who seemed to understand her when no one else did (such as her habit of frowning, which didn't mean that she was mad but rather that she was just concentrating on a trivial decision). Unfortunately, little things here and there have her wondering if he's really a corporate spy, using her to win against her in a big court case.

(show spoiler)


Ohh, this volume was good. After an entire series of only catching glimpses of Kyoko's relationship with her mother, and only from Kyoko's perspective, we finally get to see things from her mother's perspective. I still think she was overly cruel when she said that she didn't have a daughter, but here we at least got some kind of explanation: she thought that Kyoko had quit school and run off to elope with Sho (which she kind of did, only Sho ended up just using her instead). Saena's decision to completely cut Kyoko off was due to

her own guilt and inner turmoil about having made a similar bad decision herself when she was younger.

(show spoiler)


It was nice to learn a little about Saena's past. I'm looking forward to seeing more about how things worked out with Mr. Misonoi. Was he

really a corporate spy, or did Saena's suspicions turn out to be false and destroy their budding relationship? It sure did seem like he'd drugged her to get at the disks.

(show spoiler)


And, oh man, it turns out that Saena has resting angry face.

 

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

Skip Beat! (manga, vol. 37) by Yoshiki Nakamura, translated by Tomo Kimura

Skip Beat!, Vol. 37 - Yoshiki Nakamura

Kyoko fills in as Chiori Amamiya's manager. She and Chiori share the belief that everything in their lives could potentially be useful to their acting, but it still comes as a shock to Kyoko later on when Moko says Kyoko's Natsu character is very similar to Kyoko's mom, who Moko has just met. Kyoko

briefly runs into her mother, who ignores her. She manages to keep it together, until she sees a TV broadcast in which her mother says she has no children. Sho tries to comfort her, but Kyoko pushes him away. The one she runs to in the end is Corn...or rather Ren, who she mistakes for Corn.

Poor Kyoko. She could tolerate being hated by her mother, but not being erased by her. Did Kyoko's mom (Saena) really not want her? And why isn't her dad in the picture? Did Saena prefer her career over having kids, or was this all due to something else?

(show spoiler)


Watching Ren fret over Kyoko was nice. A perfect opportunity for him to have kept his natural hair color, but oops, he got it dyed because he had no idea what was going to happen.

 

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

The X-Files: Cold Cases (audio drama) written by Joe Harris and Chris Carter, adapted for audio by Dirk Maggs, starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson

The X-Files: Cold Cases - Dean Haglund, Tom Braidwood, Willliam B. Davis, Dirk Maggs - adaptation, David Duchovny, Audible Studios, Mitch Pileggi, Joe Harris, Chris Carter, Bruce Harwood, Gillian Anderson

This audio drama is based on X-Files graphic novels (I'm not sure which ones) and structured like a collection of X-Files episodes, complete with most of the original voice actors, the X-Files theme song, and narration outlining the location and time. Most of the episodes are alien or black oil episodes, as Mulder and Scully go back to the FBI and look into incidents involving amnesia-causing bright lights, appearances from people who supposedly died a long time ago, and potential threats against Scully's son. However, the second one is more of a "random monster" episode, featuring the Flukeman, a creature from Mulder and Scully's past.

This had been on my wishlist for a while, but I never felt like spending a credit on it back when I had an Audible subscription. When I heard recently that it was on sale, I snatched it up. Even if it wasn't great, I figured that it'd be worth it for the nostalgia alone.

And boy was there a lot of nostalgia. It went beyond hearing so many of the original actors (there were only one or two characters who I think were voiced by other people). I know the title was Cold Cases and all, but it still seemed a bit too closely tied to things from the original series - almost everything that happened involved something supernatural or extraterrestrial that fans of the original series would probably remember. I found myself wishing that the authors had been more willing to work something new into the story.

One big issue for me was that I was never a fan of the X-Files story arcs that dealt primarily with aliens. One-shot stories that dealt with aliens were okay, and I really enjoyed the "random monster" episodes, but the episodes where black oil became more and more important or when Scully got abducted just didn't work as well for me. Unfortunately Cold Cases was almost exclusively focused on this sort of thing. It also didn't help that I've never been a fan of the Mulder and Scully romantic pairing. I was mostly able to forget about this, except for the occasional moment where one or the other of them said or did something that reminded me.

The one aspect of this audio drama that absolutely won me over was the casting. It was wonderful to hear so many people I remembered from what used to be my top favorite show. Gillian Anderson, in particular, did a fabulous job. David Duchovny...less so. I thought he sounded a bit bored at the beginning, particularly during a part where he found Skinner potentially trying to kill himself - none of the emotions I would have expected Mulder to be feeling were conveyed in Duchovny's voice. Thankfully he got better as the drama progressed.

The audio drama format resulted in occasional awkward moments, as the characters described what they were seeing during moments that would usually have relied on visuals in the original TV series. Basically: "Excuse me while I describe aloud everything that I'm currently seeing, since the audience can't see these mysterious lights themselves."

Other awkward moments included those times where characters briefly explained references to events and characters from the original series, so that newbies and fans who hadn't seen those episodes in ages could keep up. Although it made the dialogue more than a bit strange, I admit to appreciating those explanations, since the last time I saw much of the original series was over 10 or 15 years ago. Even then, I found myself checking fan wikis multiple times in order to get my bearings.

I don't think I'd ever recommend this to people who weren't already fans of The X-Files, and it didn't really have anything in the way of new content for fans, but the nostalgia of it worked for me. I imagine I'll re-listen to this at some point just to hear everyone again, even though the stories themselves were only so-so.

 

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

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, live in the town of Little Trunks. For most of their lives they've been the "weird" children that everyone whispers about and no one wants to be friends with. Otto, the eldest Hardscrabble kid, began wearing a scarf on a daily basis after their mother disappeared. He also hasn't spoken a word aloud since then - instead, he invented a personal sign language that only Lucia knows fluently, Max can puzzle out, and their father can't hardly understand.

Lucia, the middle child, acts confident but is actually very lonely. Otto is her best and closest friend. Max, the youngest, is the most outgoing of the Hardscrabble children, but even his best efforts aren't enough to overcome the family's reputation and earn him a non-Hardscrabble friend. He's the most observant of the children, always carefully noting everything going on around him and thinking through what it all means.

The kids' father, Casper, paints deposed royalty. When he's suddenly called out to paint another portrait, he sends the children to stay with his cousin Angela in London. Unfortunately, Angela turns out to actually be on vacation elsewhere. The children really don't want to go back to Little Trunks, so they decide to go visit their Great-Aunt Haddie, who they've never met before. And so begins their adventure.

I had been wanting to read this for ages, almost entirely because I loved the cover artwork. I'm easily drawn in by illustrated covers. I knew very little about the story but assumed that it would have at least a few fantasy elements. This assumption was supported by the Goodreads users who tagged it as "Fantasy" and Potter's own writing, which kept hinting that fantastical things would happen. At the very least, there was supposed to be a ghost.

I'll just get this out of the way right now: I don't consider this to be a fantasy novel, and my expectation that it was probably hurt my opinion of the overall story. It's really more of a mixture of mystery and adventure.

The kids' desire to avoid going back to Little Trunks resulted in them accidentally investigating the mystery of their mother's disappearance. The way Potter wrote about Otto's quirks as being defense mechanisms was very intriguing and part of what kept me reading, even though the book's pacing and efforts at foreshadowing annoyed me. I also felt for Lucia, who both protected and depended upon Otto, and was grateful for Max, whose observations and deductions kept the story from lurching to a standstill.

The pacing, as I said, really didn't work for me. I was also a bit impatient with Potter's choice of narrator. The book was written as though it was a story being told by one of the Hardscrabble kids. The narrator never revealed their name, but various clues made it clear who it was. It was never clear to me why the author did things this way, and there were a few moments when I was distracted by thoughts of how surprisingly good this child seemed to be at guessing adults' ages. I don't know about you, but when I was as young as the Hardscrabble kids, my knowledge of adult ages was limited to "as old as my parents," "probably younger than my parents," and various levels of "pretty old."

It didn't take me too long to decide that I wasn't going to love this book, but, as the pieces of the Hardscrabble children's past started to come together, I did at least want to know how things would turn out. My first impression of the ending was that it was okay, but a bit dissatisfying. As I thought about it some more, however, I began to get angry.

First, what is up with stories in which parents

lie to and essentially betray their children for years and who are then forgiven by their children after a few minutes of explanations and apologies? Casper let his kids think that their mother had abandoned them, or had maybe even been killed. Heck, what about the rumors that Otto had killed his own mother? By not telling the truth, Casper let those flourish. I wouldn't have blamed a single one of the Hardscrabble kids for crying and screaming at him, or refusing to talk to him ever again.

Second, the way Potter wrote about mental illness was crap. Casper told his children that he'd taken their mother to multiple places to try to get her some help "but she was miserable at all of them. They pumped her body full of medication." (272) So she was miserable at all these places, but supposedly not miserable while held captive in a castle-turned-mental-hospital, kept from her children, who even Casper admitted she probably still loved even if she didn't know who they were? And then there was Potter's way of writing about medication. There was no mention of side-effects or issues with finding the correct dosage. Instead, Potter made it seem like it was the very act of trying to medicate Tessa that was bad. So what did Casper do instead? He took her to a place where no apparent effort was made to treat Tessa at all.

(show spoiler)


The Kneebone Boy had some good points. I liked the Hardscrabble children, and I thought the castle Haddie was staying at was pretty cool, even though the people who built it were awful. However, it took way too long for the book's focus to become apparent, and the more I think about the ending the more awful it feels.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 280 out of 280 pages.

The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

The ending was decent, I guess. However, the 73 Goodreads users who tagged this as "Fantasy" are part of the reason I'm feeling a little disappointed right now.

 

ETA: Hmm, and now I've started thinking about the ending some more and...I don't know. I'm planning out my review, and I can already tell large chunks of it will need to be hidden with spoiler tags.

"I came here to kindly let you know! Alright. I am preparing a GINORMOUS revenge scheme! You should be nervous."

This is from Mystic Messenger, a visual novel (?) and not a book, but I figured I'd share because it made me laugh. I'm not sure how old this person is (at least 17, I think), but she talks like a pouting kid.

Reading progress update: I've read 218 out of 280 pages.

The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

This is not the sort of book I thought it'd be when I first started reading. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on what happened when the kids' mother disappeared, what Otto knows that he doesn't realize he knows, etc.

 

And the narrator is definitely Lucia. The author has been consistent about only having the narrator describe Lucia's thoughts. I'm still not sure why the author decided to write this book as though it were a story told by Lucia in the third person.

4 hours and 17 minutes in

The Fold: A Novel - Peter Clines

I'm having trouble with searches on Booklikes right now, so the best I could do was link this post to another edition of The Fold.

 

"If something went wrong, then it's been going wrong every single time we've used the Door and nobody ever noticed anything."


Someone has died, and now everybody is scrambling to figure out why this has happened now, when the previous hundreds of tests went perfectly fine. In some ways this has been better the second time around than it was the first, although I think I still prefer 14. Certain lines keep jumping out at me.

Olaf and his complaints about the "prank," Arthur and his wedding anniversary, Jamie's explanation of what Johnny does.

(show spoiler)

Reading progress update: I've read 89 out of 537 pages.

A Rational Arrangement - Rowyn Ashby

I'm still reading this, I just haven't sat down with my e-reader for long stretches of time in a while.

 

So, I knew going in that this would feature a poly relationship, but I didn't know the specifics. I still don't 100% know the specifics, but here's how things seem to be shaping up:

 

Nik's family is aristocratic but suffering from money problems, and they're trying to fix that by marrying Nik off to a wealthy young woman. One of their top choices happens to be Wisteria. Wisteria is already resigned to the idea that she'll end up in a loveless marriage. Bare minimum, she'd at least like it to be an honest one, and she'd like to occasionally have sex with a willing partner. The marriage contract she wrote up lays out the possibility for her and/or her husband to have lovers, as long as everybody is discreet and she and her husband are honest about it with each other.

 

Wisteria doesn't have a lover in mind for herself. However, Nik already has a secret lover: Lord Justin Comfrey. Their relationship has to be a secret because same sex relationships are more than frowned upon by society. Justin really wants to help Nik with his money problems, but Nik finds that idea, combined with their sexual relationship, to be distasteful.

 

At this point, it looks like Nik might end up marrying Wisteria because of familial pressure and because he also kind of likes her as a person. He and Wisteria will arrange things so he gets to continue his relationship with Justin. What I'm not sure about is how things are going to go with Wisteria. She's attracted to Nik, but so far he isn't attracted to her. Maybe that will change?

Reading progress update: I've read 310 out of 336 pages.

Princess Prince - Tomoko Taniguchi

There's an artist named Bob with short curly hair. He's painting Lori and Matthew's portrait. Guys, I think Bob Ross has a cameo in this manga.

Reading progress update: I've read 290 out of 336 pages.

Princess Prince - Tomoko Taniguchi

This still ranges from mediocre to "oh no." Right now I'm reading a mediocre story that I don't think has anything at all to do with Princess Prince. Bandits kill all the adults in a town, but surprisingly none of the children. One of the children finds an enchanted sword and kills all the bandits. He's now older and has been invited to the castle.

 

One particular lady is interested in him, but he only has eyes for his sword:

 

I may not be much of a fan of Princess Prince, but my cat loves it. She's rolling on it like it's made out of catnip (except she's one of those rare weird cats that doesn't react to catnip).

Nice

I just found out I get the day off from work tomorrow due to weather. One more day to sit around, read, and maybe squeeze out a few reviews. :-D

Reading progress update: I've read 236 out of 336 pages.

Princess Prince - Tomoko Taniguchi

Guessing on the page number.

 

This turns out to be a collection of short but mostly related stories. So far it has touched on issues of gender, sexuality, and racism, but all in a superficial way. Brandon loving Matthew is just an ongoing joke, it looks like Lawrence's secret love for Jenny is never going to be resolved, and I cringed during the part where Matthew fell in love with Janice, a girl with dark skin. Janice

came to the kingdom of Gemstone hoping to bathe in water that would lighten her skin and thereby make her beautiful. D-:  Matthew and Janice's romance doesn't work out because Gemstone turns out to be horribly racist, so Janice leaves to find her mother's people.

(show spoiler)

 

Oh, and Matthew and Lawrence's father is gross. He's forgotten that he's the one who ordered Lawrence to be raised as Lori. His wife died in childbirth, so he picked the baby that looked most like her and had him raised as a girl. Now he dresses "Lori" up to look just like his wife, and I'm so creeped out.