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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't
Robert I. Sutton
Progress: 6/210 pages
The Edge of the Abyss
Emily Skrutskie
Progress: 51/281 pages
The Listerdale Mystery and Eleven Other Stories
Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser
Progress: 3/6 minutes
The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality
Julie Sondra Decker
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Abigail Revasch, Tara Sands
Progress: 190/473 minutes
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
The Naked Sun
Isaac Asimov
Progress: 20/187 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages

Reading slump, maybe

I don't know if I'm in a reading slump or if my current reads just aren't working for me. At any rate, I've been playing games more than reading lately. I'm at least trying to get some of my review backlog taken care of, but that's slow going too.

 

Steam has their Summer Sale going on right now, and I wish I could buy up my whole wishlist. I figured out what the total would be if I did and...no. But I did get some goodies and spent the weekend trying out one of them, Sunless Sea. So far, my first captain committed suicide by pirate rather than face eating her crew (or being eaten by them - the ferret was acting particularly menacing near the end), and my second captain foolishly took on an enormous shark with the game's default weaponry. My third captain is doing fairly well at the moment, which makes me nervous. I keep waiting for him to accidentally make a bad deal, or get surrounded by monsters he can't run away from, or something equally awful.

CatStronauts: Race to Mars (graphic novel) by Drew Brockington

CatStronauts: Race to Mars - Drew Brockington

The CatStronauts are back and...they're kind of bored. And not really doing much besides accepting awards and going to free lunches and dinners held in their honor. But then the CatStronauts are called back into action. It turns out that several other space programs around the world are planning Mars missions, and the CatStronauts are the last ones to get involved. Will they lose to the CosmoCats or one of the other two groups, or will they triumph and be the first cats to land on Mars?

In some ways, this volume felt a little more solid than CatStronauts: Mission Moon. For example, the internal logic was much better. However, it also had less of the first volume’s silly fun, and the competition between the various space programs made things a little more tense overall. Sometimes the cats had to prioritize between their “race to Mars” timeline and the scientific experiments they wanted to do once they got to Mars, because there wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Brockington included some nice visual jokes and random references in the background (I noticed Star Wars, Star Trek, and maybe Teletubbies), but overall this volume didn’t seem quite as light as the first one, even though there was less at stake.

Each space program seemed to be analogous to a real-life space program, although I wasn’t 100% certain about one of them. The CosmoCats were definitely Russian, and the COOKIE mission (quick and inexpensive) appeared to be Indian. I wasn’t sure about the MEOW mission. Maybe German? I came across another reviewer who seemed to think it was a stand-in for Luxembourg.

Much of the volume was devoted to showing the various space programs preparing to go to Mars. Anytime someone decided to remove something from their Mars mission “To Do” list in the interest of saving time, or pushed their employees too hard, I wondered if and when it would come back to bite them. The CosmoCats were presented as villains,

at least at first

(show spoiler)

. One of the top CosmoCats was especially willing to do whatever he had to in order to be the first to get to Mars, setting a grueling pace for their workers and creating terrible working conditions.

In the end, though, this turned out to be a story about learning to work together.

The supposed villains really weren’t.

(show spoiler)

I loved seeing Pom Pom and Gemelli bonding over their shared love of science, and it was kind of nice to see that even the oh-so-serious Major Meowser wasn’t infallible. I was also glad that Cat-Stro-Bot got to have a role in this story too, although its part in the story became a little chaotic and confusing near the end.

All in all, the first volume was a little more fun than this one, but this one seemed to be a bit more solid and well-thought-out.

A side note: this volume made me realize that I’d made some character design assumptions that weren’t necessarily true. For example, cats whose eyes were drawn so that they had eyelashes were female, while cats whose eyes were just dots were male, meaning that all the CatStronauts were male. Or so I thought. I don’t know if pronouns were used in the first volume and I just missed them, but the second volume definitely referred to Pom Pom using she/her pronouns.

 

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

Change of plans

My sister, her kids, and I are getting together one last time before they all move about 700 miles away. All the previous times, I went to her place, so this time she's coming to mine. The problem: she got a later start than she planned, so the activities we originally intended to do aren't going to work out.

 

Since my town doesn't have much to do besides eat at restaurants, I just spent the past half hour combing my DVD collection for things that would probably be appropriate for kids ages 2-7. I came up with 7 movies and one TV show. Go me! Although now I kind of wish I had bought Chi's Sweet Home a while back, because that would have been perfect. Hundreds of episodes, each 3-10 minutes long, and the worst thing that ever happens is Chi getting sick or lost for a couple minutes.

 

ETA - Ooh, just realized that even Chi's Sweet Home would have been a problem. I looked it up, and for some reason it doesn't have an English dub. It boggles my mind.

Just arrived via ILL

No Longer Human, Volume 2 - Usamaru Furuya, Osamu Dazai

This came before volume 1, of course. Ugh. At least I get to have this for a little over a month, so volume 1 has some more time to get here.

 

After a bit of research, I learned that I've read one of Usamaru Furuya's other works, Lychee Light Club. Which immediately made me worry even more about what the No Longer Human manga would be like, since Lychee Light Club is the kind of strangely beautiful grotesque horror that burns itself into your brain.

 

Flipping through this volume of No Longer Human, I can see that same strangely beautiful grotesqueness, but it doesn't seem to be quite as intense here. We'll see if I still feel the same way after reading it.

InspiroBot fun

Today I found out about this thing called InspiroBot. It's an "inspirational image/message" generator. Sort of. The results are often weird. Here's my first book- related one:

 

 

Another favorite, not related to books:

 

 

And this bit of creepy weirdness:

 

Reading progress update: I've read 51 out of 281 pages.

The Edge of the Abyss - Emily Skrutskie

It may have been a mistake for me to request this despite my dislike of the first book. So far, the book has been one action scene and a boatload of bad feelings and longing between Cas and Swift. The former was okay. The latter is really not working for me. I'm pretty sure the author wants me to want Cas and Swift to be together, but Cas's every reaction to Swift, Santa Elena, and the others keeps screaming Stockholm syndrome to me. Everyone on this ship was responsible for killing Durga, the being Cas loved most, but now she's basically buddies with most of them.

 

I honestly can't remember why Cas opted to stay with Santa Elena rather than go back to her family. I wish I'd written that particular spoiler in my review for the first book, because I can't think of any reason that makes sense. I think she might have decided to stay because she just loved Swift so much, and ugh.

 

I'm only in this for Bao. Here's hoping he shows up sometime soon, or I might not make it through this book.

Military Sci-Fi bingo card

I need to try to remember this, next time I read one of the military sci-fi books in my collection. Many of which are published by Baen, so that's a square right there. "Detailed descriptions of guns" might also make for a good square.

Visual novel review - Who is Mike?

 

 

Who is Mike? is a short free mystery/thriller visual novel available for download here and on Steam. Gameplay is “choose your own adventure” style - you occasionally have the option of choosing between one of two responses. The Save slots are helpful, as is the “skip” feature.

You play as Mike. You wake up in your own home with an aching head and missing glasses. You’re confronted by someone who, once you find your glasses, turns out to be you. Or at least someone who looks exactly like you. Which one of you is the imposter and which one of you is the real Mike? What’s going on?

According to Steam I’ve played this for 1.3 hours. There are 9 endings and I’ve come across 7 of them. Even with the help of the official walkthroughs (which are really more advice than actual walkthroughs), I haven’t been able to get endings #7 and #8. I’m okay with that, though, and have decided to consider myself done with this visual novel. I at least managed to make it to the “good” (true?) ending.

Almost all of the endings are bad ones. You die, or Sarah, your girlfriend, kills the person who looks like you and you convince her that she’s done the right thing, or you manage to kill the other person but it’s not entirely clear whether you’ve made the right choice. Which ending you get depends largely on whether you opt to stay at the house or not and how often you tell Sarah the truth or lie to her during her efforts to figure out which of you is the real Mike. There are other things that come into play if you manage to make it to the route that has a chance of getting you to the one “good” ending.

I was able to easily achieve endings 4, 5, 6, and 9. These endings tell you almost nothing about what’s really going on, other than that it’s bad to leave the house. Sometimes you’re the real Mike, and sometimes you’re not. The thing that bugged me was how easily Mike managed to convince Sarah, a police officer, that they’d get past the events of the game and act like none of it ever happened. Even if Sarah was broken up about what she’d had to do and wasn't thinking straight at that particular moment, she’d used her gun, there was a body in the house that needed to be dealt with, and there were no explanations for why there had been two Mikes in the house. None of that stuff was just going to magically go away. Also, assuming that the facts presented in the “true” route applied to some of the other routes as well, even the best of the “you survive” endings would have turned out badly in a week or less.

I had to check the Steam discussions for hints on how to get to the story path that would take me to endings 1, 2, and 3. This was the path with actual info about what was going on. It was interesting, although a bit unsatisfying. Maybe the author was leaving room for a sequel? At any rate, I liked that the path to the “best” ending relied on both Sarah and Mike being observant and remembering details about each other.

The artwork was occasionally a bit sketchier than I prefer, but it worked okay for this. The music was okay and helped add to the mood. The sound effects could have used some work - the same sound was used whether Mike was hemorrhaging or suffering from a broken rib.

All in all, this freebie grabbed my attention enough for me to want to make it to the “best” ending, but the story was so-so overall and character reactions/responses didn’t always make sense. I didn’t have the willpower to try, one more time, to get endings 7 and 8, but I did resort to watching a Youtube playthrough of those endings, just to make sure I hadn’t missed out on any important details. Ending 7 provided a little extra info, while ending 8 was pretty worthless.

 

Rating Note:

 

I had a tough time rating this. I don't think it's a bad visual novel, and the fact that it's free is definitely a point in its favor. However, the overall package was a bit unsatisfying, and most of the endings didn't really add anything to the story. Although there were technically 9 endings, in terms of what they add to the game I feel like there were only really 4.

 

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

Unexpected produce

(I am not a creative cook at all. It's nerve-wracking for me not to follow a recipe as exactly as possible, so everything in this post is out of character for me. But it worked out! And my apartment currently smells amazing!)

 

I ended up with a cheap pile of unexpected produce yesterday. Zucchini, tiny onions, yellow squash, cucumbers. I had no clue what I was going to do with any of it, but I figured I'd come up with something.

 

Today's efforts included a cucumber salad based on something similar to this recipe (I can't find the actual one I used, unfortunately): The Spruce's German Cucumber-Dill Salad. With a bit of fiddling and what I had on hand, the ingredients list ended up looking something like this:

 

2 Tbsp white vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried dill weed

sugar, to taste (the original recipe called for 1/3 cup, which I cut way back on)

black pepper, to taste

2 thinly sliced cucumbers

 

Then I used a zucchini and a couple of the onions up with a recipe based on the Zucchini and Eggs recipe here. I added onion to the recipe and exchanged minced garlic for garlic powder, but otherwise I followed it fairly closely.

 

Sadly, I don't have pictures of any of this, but it all turned out pretty good. The best was the Zucchini and Eggs. I think I have enough zucchini and onion left over to do about the same thing tomorrow.

 

Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do with the yellow squash. I might stick with the Zucchini and Eggs recipe and see how it does with yellow squash instead of zucchini, although by this point I'll be out of onions.

R.I.P. Stephen Furst

Stephen Furst, the guy I knew best as Babylon 5's Vir Cotto, has died. :-(

I need to finish my current Booklikesopoly book...

Game Play Shake Up

Reblogged from Moonlight Reader:

Image result for shake up

 

As I posted a few days, it's time to shake, shake, shake it up! First off, we've moved into the double your money phase of the game! From here on out, the money values have doubled as follows:

 

0 to 100 pages: $2.00
101 to 200 pages: $4.00
201 to 400 pages: $6.00
401 to 800 pages: $10.00
over 801 pages: $20.00

 

Second, we're going to have a location multiplier: the first time you finish a square is the baseline reward. The second time, your reward is enhanced by 50%, and the third time, the reward is doubled again:

 

Second finish:

 

0 to 100 pages: $3.00
101 to 200 pages: $6.00
201 to 400 pages: $9.00
401 to 800 pages: $15.00
over 801 pages: $30.00

 

Third finish:

 

0 to 100 pages: $4.00
101 to 200 pages: $8.00
201 to 400 pages: $12.00
401 to 800 pages: $20.00
over 801 pages: $40.00

 

This is prospective only, so start keeping track of the number of times you land on a square going forward.

 

Third, what are you going to do with all of that money? Well, you can hoard it all for the win. In the alternative, you can spend it in two ways: free rolls and roll aheads. A free roll will cost you $2.00. If you don't like the square you landed on, buy a free roll and roll again right away to get onto a new square. Roll aheads can be bought if you are going on vacation or are going to be incommunicado for a while - they are only $1.00, and you can buy up to 5 at a time, to plan vacation reading.

 

Fourth is free book Friday. Regardless of the square you are on, you get a free choice on the next seven Fridays to read anything.

Princess Princess Ever After - Katie O'Neill

I forgot I had this screenshot on my phone. I think I had planned to do a status update using it but never got around to it. Anyway, enjoy Amira laughing at the idea of getting married to a random prince.

 

ETA - Oh, and here are those same panels in the webcomic. Granted, my lighting was bad and my phone camera is crap, but I think it's still a nice example of the muddiness I was talking about. And this bit actually isn't all that bad compared to the example I mentioned in my review. ::sigh::

— feeling haha

Wonder Woman novelization

Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization - Nancy Holder

I had to do a quick stop at Walmart last night. I spotted this and couldn't resist getting it. A movie novelization that isn't a Junior novel, yay!

 

I'm not planning on reading it just yet, but I did take a look at a few of my favorite scenes from the movie. I have a feeling this won't get above a 3-star rating from me. The scenes I read weren't bad, but there was very little extra for those who've seen the movie (like character thoughts, info that couldn't be shown on-screen, etc.), and the action was better on-screen. Oh well, maybe other scenes will be better.

John Scalzi's Old Man's War free through June 21st

Old Man's War - John Scalzi

This is US and Canada only.

 

I was wondering if Tor had decided to stop their eBook of the Month Club, but it looks like it's still going and this one is actually something I'm interested in. Nice!

Princess Princess Ever After (graphic novel) by Katie O'Neill

Princess Princess Ever After - Katie O'Neill

When Princess Amira stops to save Princess Sadie from the tall tower she’s been imprisoned in, Sadie almost turns her away. So many others have tried to save her, but all have failed. However, Amira is enthusiastic, determined, and in possession of both a grappling hook and an incredibly strong cookie-loving unicorn.

That’s just the beginning of Amira and Sadie’s adventures. Along the way, they make some new friends, Amira learns more about being a hero, and Sadie finds the courage to face her sister and rule her kingdom.

I bought this because I heard it was a sweet f/f graphic novel. It was super cute, although a bit too short for my tastes. I wanted more pages devoted to Amira and Sadie getting to know each other - Sadie’s “I trust you” happened very early on and was a bit jarring. When the villain appeared and disappeared in the space of about a page, I started worrying that the pacing of this graphic novel just wasn’t going to work for me.

Thankfully, the story smoothed out after that. I really enjoyed Amira and Sadie’s encounters with the prince and the ogre, as well as the flashbacks to Amira and Sadie’s pasts. Amira and Sadie were cute together (complete with blushing, rose petals, and background roses!).

One thing I hadn’t realized until I started working on this review was that Princess Princess Ever After was originally published as a webcomic called Princess Princess, which is still available on Katie O’Neill’s website. I’ve clicked through it and there are some artwork changes between it and Princess Princess Ever After, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t.

One thing I liked was that Sadie’s sister’s magic was changed from purple to black - it looks creepier in the print version. One thing I didn’t like was that the print version’s colors were slightly less bright than in the original web comic. Not only is this the sort of story that’s practically made for bright colors, some of the panels just weren’t as clear in the print version. Considering that this graphic novel had several black characters, a bit more attention should have been paid to whether they’d still show up okay in panels with darker backgrounds. The panels featuring Prince Taji were really dark - his skin color seemed to almost be the same shade as the wall behind him, resulting in him blending into the background too much. In the webcomic he was perfectly visible, and I could see that he actually had some shading.

The print version includes a 3-page epilogue that isn’t present in the original webcomic. I’m really glad that O’Neill added it. It doesn’t just serve as extra content for folks who’ve read the webcomic, it also makes it clear that, yes, Amira and Sadie are not only a couple, they also get a nice little happily ever after just like any other fairy tale couple.

This was a fluffy and sweet graphic novel about two different princesses becoming more capable in their own ways and falling in love in the process. I wish it were maybe twice as long and that the print version’s colors were a little brighter, but overall this was a good read.

 

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