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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higashino, David Pittu
Progress: 365/542 minutes
Game Slaves
Gard Skinner
Progress: 66/320 pages
The Red Book of Primrose House: A Potting Shed Mystery
Marty Wingate
Princess Prince
Tomoko Taniguchi
Progress: 310/336 pages
FREE: Locke & Key
Tatiana Maslany, Audible Studios, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez, Kate Mulgrew, Haley Joel Osment, Full Cast
Progress: 91/806 minutes

Reading progress update: I've listened 365 out of 542 minutes.

The Devotion of Suspect X - Keigo Higashino, David Pittu

Oh, I'm cringing. Ishigami is a genius mathematician who, for various reasons, had to settle for a job as a high school math teacher, and he's really not dealing well with it right now. I suspect his students are going to fail their second makeup test. Will it be enough to make even Ishigami, whose college nickname was "the Buddha," snap?

 

ETA: And, seconds later, he comes up with a solution to the situation that I would not have expected from him. Huh.

Reading progress update: I've listened 114 out of 542 minutes.

The Devotion of Suspect X - Keigo Higashino, David Pittu

Usually, when a guy likes a woman, he brings her flowers, asks her out on a date, gives her compliments, etc. Ishigami offered to help the woman he liked cover up a murder. I thought at first that he might have a secret life as an assassin because of how matter-of-fact he was about his offer, but he's really just a math teacher.

 

I'm curious to see where this goes. Readers know who the killer is, why she did it, what Ishigami's motive was for helping her, and a little of what he did to help her cover things up. Now the question seems to be "Will the cops manage to figure everything out?" Ishigami seems like the kind of guy whose Plan B would involve him being accused of the man's murder instead of Yasuko.

 

I didn't realize when I requested this that it was the third book in a series. So far that seems to not be an issue.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 9) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 9 - Izumi Tsubaki

(This isn't all of the things that were covered in the volume, just the things I managed to write down.)

Mikoto can't bring himself to tell Waka he owns figures and plays dating sims. The girls try to figure out how to do a proper sleepover. The Drama Club has an improv day. Waka keeps randomly falling asleep, and Seo discovers her power over him. Kashima dresses more femininely, and Mikoto kind of hopes he'll get to see Hori acting jealous. Hori realizes Kashima is physically both his ideal guy type and his ideal girl. Bonus: the volume ends with comics featuring Chiyo's little brother meeting Nozaki. He misunderstood and assumed Nozaki was a model, so he's surprised at how ordinary Nozaki is.

(show spoiler)


As a Hori/Kashima fan, my favorite part of this volume was when Kashima dressed more femininely and Hori had his revelation. Will Tsubaki go anywhere with this? Who knows.

I liked getting to see Chiyo's brother, and there were a few good moments throughout the volume, but it's probably a good thing that this was the last Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun volume in my pile, because I suspect I reached my burn-out point. It seems it's never a good idea for me to read too many 4-panel comedy volumes in a row.

 

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

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 8) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 8 - Izumi Tsubaki

(This isn't all of the things that were covered in the volume, just the things I managed to write down.)

Nozaki tries to pick a theme for a short story. Waka learns that Mikoto is one of Nozaki's assistants, the one who does the flowers and who is the unwitting inspiration for Mamiko. Kashima helps out at Ryousuke's cafe. Ryousuke meets Waka and thinks Waka and Seo are in love with each other. Mikoto and Mayu go on a group date. Seo tries to be "nice" to everyone equally. Nozaki tries to come up with extra material (sidebars) for his manga. Hori gets drunk on Kashima's brandy cake. The volume ends with several pages of 4-panel comics mostly focused on Yumeko, Nozaki's shojo fan younger sister who refuses to believe he's the creator of her favorite manga.

(show spoiler)


This volume was a bit short compared to the previous few, but still fun.

Drunk Hori was adorably loving, and he and Kashima were cute together. I realized at the end of the volume that both Kashima and Chiyo get hugs from their crushes (if you count Hori as Kashima's crush) in this volume - Hori because he's drunk and Nozaki because he's crushed that his assistants think working for him is embarrassing.

I laughed at Ryousuke's pity for Waka. Even though his interpretation of the situation isn't quite correct (Waka's feelings for Seo are complicated and debatable), Waka really is an idiot.

 

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

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 7) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 7 - Izumi Tsubaki

(This isn't all of the things that were covered in the volume, just the things I managed to write down.)

Nozaki is considering upgrading his characters' flip phones to smart phones. Hori realizes that Waka and Seo are in Nozaki's manga, as well as who they are. Miyako goes out drinking with her college friends, who still think she works as a hostess, and ends up with embarrassing pics of her and Seo's brother, Ryousuke. Chiyo and Mikoto ask Mayu to help them exercise. Waka gets set up with Seo by his teammates and learns that he can make her run away by asking her out. Nozaki wants firsthand experience with bullying for his manga. Hori doesn't realize that Kashima has his ideal legs.

(show spoiler)


I continue to enjoy this series. I love it when Tsubaki gives readers views of both what really happened (for example, Mayu saying stuff Nozaki could say to Chiyo to motivate her) vs. what others see and how they interpret it (Mayu's friends thinking he's asking a high school girl out while they're both running).

I also kind of liked getting to see more of that idiot editor, Maeno, vs. Ken, Nozaki's current editor. I can't help but wonder what sorts of experiences Tsubaki based Maeno on. Considering how awful he is, it's a wonder Ken gets anything done while he's around. I laughed at the revelation that Maeno's mangaka turn their stuff in early because they know he's a flake who probably wouldn't even think to build a cushion into the due dates he gives them. Poor Ken is forced to suffer because he's actually good at his job.

 

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

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 6) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 6 - Izumi Tsubaki

(This isn't all of the things that were covered in the volume, just the things I managed to write down.) Nozaki attempts to find inspiration for a special horror issue of his manga. Miyako's male classmate and one-time date totally misunderstands her relationship with Nozaki. Chiyo (or Sakura - I'm totally inconsistent about the name I use for her, sorry) misses Nozaki when he goes home for a bit. Nozaki pretends to be a female basketball coach. The editors at Nozaki's magazine pick a theme for a special edition. Mikoto needs a fake girlfriend to get a girl who likes him to go away. Mayu, Nozaki's 15-year-old brother, is forced to text Mikoto for hours - both of them think the other is a girl.

This was a really refreshing read. I had forgotten how enjoyable this series could be. The artwork was great, and the humor usually worked for me.

Nozaki, as usual, was entertainingly dense, and I was amused at the realization that, by this point, Chiyo probably wouldn't believe him if he flat-out told her he was in love with her and wanted to go out with her.

Hori and Kashima are my favorite possible couple, even though Kashima would probably give Hori an ulcer. I enjoy Hori's relative normality and the moments when he and Kashima almost click as a possible couple. Of them all, he's the least over-the-top character.

The part of the volume where Mayu texted Mikoto for hours was funny but seemed a bit out of character for Mayu. I couldn't believe that a guy who's generally pretty lazy wouldn't somehow find a way to bow out of a never-ending texting session.

The one part of the volume that had me going WTF was the revelation that Nozaki once wrote

a pedophile romance in an effort to push the envelope in a "love with an age gap" special manga. You'd think even Nozaki would have realized that that was going to far.

(show spoiler)

 

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

The Tea Dragon Society (graphic novel) by Katie O'Neill

The Tea Dragon Society - Katie O'Neill

Greta is the daughter of a female blacksmith and has grown up learning her mother's craft. One day, she saves a Jasmine tea dragon. The dragon's caretaker, Hesekiel, offers to teach her about caring for tea dragons. Each dragon has its quirks, but, when properly cared for, they produce magnificent tea that carries the memories of their current caretaker. Greta's visits to Hesekiel also allow her to get to know Erik, Hesekiel's long-time friend and partner, and Minette, a shy girl who is approximately the same age as Greta and who is closely bonded to a Chamomile dragon.

I didn't realize until I had the book in my hands and saw the little blurb on the cover that this was by the same person who created Princess Princess Ever After. Thankfully, the printing for this volume was better than it was for that one - all of the artwork was bright, clear, and lovely. I'm tempted to get a copy for my own collection, even though I have no idea where I'd keep it.

The story was simple and quiet, focused on the characters' relationships and the details of tea dragon care. The most action-filled moment was a tea-induced flashback to the beginnings of Hesekiel and Erik's relationship as

a pair of adventurers who eventually settled down for a quieter life after Erik was badly injured and ended up in wheelchair.

(show spoiler)


The entire volume dealt with things that took time and patience, from developing relationships with others to blacksmithing and tea dragon care. The inclusion of both older and younger generations worked really well in this respect. With Greta and Minette, readers could see the beginnings of a sweet and occasionally awkward relationship, while Erik and Hesekiel were a great example of a couple that had had years to get to know each other and settle into life together. There was a little of that when it came to the tea dragons as well, although that was more unbalanced. The process of establishing a relationship with a tea dragon was mostly covered in lectures, because Erik, Hesekiel, and even Minette had already gained the trust of their dragons and bonded with them fairly well.

While I wished this had been a bit longer (Minette's backstory, in particular, felt like it needed more closure), I really enjoyed this. The artwork was lovely. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that CLAMP, particularly their work Chobits, was one of O'Neill's influences - one panel featured Minette in a pose that reminded me a great deal of Chobit's Chi.

Also, the "Tea Dragon Handbook" at the end, which contained more information about various tea dragons and their care, was fabulous. I'd happily read an expanded version of it featuring even more kinds of tea dragons. I wonder what a Pu Erh dragon would look and act like?

Additional Comments:

If you're hesitant about getting this, it looks like the entire story can still be read online (minus the "Tea Dragon Handbook").

 

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

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns (nonfiction graphic novel) by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns  - Archie  Bongiovanni, Tristan Jimerson

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns is a 60-page guide, in comic form, to using singular they/them pronouns, including how to handle it if you mess up, a script for introducing yourself with your pronouns and asking others for theirs, ideas for trying to move away from gendered language in your workplace, and more. Archie Bongiovanni identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, while Tristan Jimerson identifies as male and uses he/him pronouns, so the work includes a couple different perspectives.

I had seen a bunch of mentions of this online and picked it up thinking that it would primarily be an introduction to they/them pronouns geared towards employers and employees. It can function that way, and from that perspective, I particularly liked the last few pages (quick and easy pronoun reference chart, scripts for asking about someone's pronouns and what to say when you mess up someone's pronouns, quick and easy ideas for using gender neutral language). They sum things up nicely and could serve as handouts in trainings.

I also liked the idea about group leaders starting things off by having everyone introduce themselves with their names and pronouns, and Jimerson's section about trying to train himself out of using gendered language in his workplace (he runs a small restaurant) made me realize there's a lot more to it than pronouns. For example, employees will often refer to customers as Sir or Ma'am, something that, in my area, would be culturally ingrained as well.

About two thirds of the book was geared towards folks who probably don't use they/them pronouns and may be trying to incorporate them into their language. The other third was geared more towards non-binary readers - basically advice and pep talks about dealing with people who've never used singular they and didn't even know it was a thing, and people who aren't fully supportive or who are consistently rude or awful.

There was one part of the book that gave me pause. In the section on how to find out someone's pronouns, the authors provide one sample script and then include a couple questions not to ask. One of those questions is "What pronouns do you prefer?" because "By using the word 'prefer,' you're suggesting that gender is a preference" (29). Although gender is not a preference, there are enough pronoun options that I don't think it's out of line to consider pronouns a preference.

Overall, it's a nice little guide, but the title really means it when it says it's quick. It doesn't dig very deeply into any of the topics it covers, and it doesn't point readers to any particular more in-depth resources (no "Recommended Resources" section).

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated over whether to give this 3.5 stars or 4. I settled on 3.5 stars because there were times when a few more pages of info would have been nice, even considering that this was written to be a quick guide. At the very least a "recommended reading" section should have been included.

 

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

Partial reading slump, and a visual novel

I haven't been very interested in sitting down and reading lately, although luckily it doesn't seem to have affected my desire to listen to audiobooks. I'm still doing a good deal of that. I made the mistake of putting multiple audiobooks on hold and, since they all came in at once, I now have an excessive amount to listen to.

 

I've also drifted back to visual novels (sort of like choose-your-own-adventure style computer games). I'm currently working my way through 428 Shibuya Scramble, one of the few non-romance visual novels in my collection. Judging by reviews, it usually takes people about 40 hours to get through the whole thing, and I just started my 5th hour.

 

The controls are occasionally a bit annoying (you can't change the text speed or use a mouse, ugh), but the story has one of the most interesting structures I've ever experienced in a visual novel. It starts off focused on a kidnapping: the twin sister of one of the characters has been kidnapped, and the first POV you follow is that of one of the cops watching as she waits to hand off a suitcase of ransom money.

 

Right from the start, you get one of the bad endings. In order for the story to progress, you must follow hints and switch between various POVs. One character's decision to talk to another (or exterminate or flee from an insect) could determine whether someone else's story continues or not. There are five POVs: Kano, the young cop with fiancee problems; Achi, a street smart young man obsessed with recycling; Osawa, a virologist and the father of the kidnapped girl; Minorikawa, a freelance journalist trying to help out a colleague; and Tama, a girl stuck in a cat mascot suit who is attempting to sell a questionable diet drink. A timeline helps you track each POV and switch between them at various points - all of their stories are going on simultaneously, so it's helpful to know that, say, Achi is doing X at 12:20 PM while Tama is doing Y.

 

The screenshots made it look like a pain to read, but it's actually been going better than I thought it would. I'm not sure that the basic story would have been that appealing, but it has a lot of energy and great humor.

 

A couple screenshots from Tama's storyline:

 

This is somewhat less creepy in context.

 

The game is riddled with often amusing explanatory notes.

Reading progress update: I've listened 132 out of 602 minutes.

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, #1) - Patricia Briggs, Holter Graham

"Samuel's eyes climbed to the top of his forehead."

 

LOL. It's like they're little critters.

 

This kind of thing isn't generally one of my pet peeves, but updates from folks like Grim (I think?) and others made me more aware of it.

Reading progress update: I've listened 130 out of 602 minutes.

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, #1) - Patricia Briggs, Holter Graham

I ended up relistening to a lot of the stuff I listened to on Saturday since for some reason the audiobook didn't sync, but it's not a big deal since I've enjoyed most of it. I wouldn't mind it if the entire book were devoted to Anna adjusting to living with Charles and his pack and Anna and Charles adjusting to each other. Unfortunately, I know that it'll soon be time for the rogue werewolf portion of the story.

 

One thing about Charles that I now realize showed up a bit in the short story as well: Native American fetishism. Anna actually thinks of Charles as exotic-looking at one point.

 

Oh, and we get one of the things I tend to dislike in romance: a character noticing the hotness of another character while that other character is either unconscious or badly injured. Usually it's a male character noticing the hotness of a female character, but in this case it's Anna reacting to Charles while she's trying to patch up his bullet wound. Anna did acknowledge that it was an awful thing to be thinking about at that particular moment, and it was at least partly due to her wolf's reaction to Charles (although you'd think Anna's wolf would be a bit more worried about Charles bleeding all over the place). But it was still gross. Briggs could have found a better time to bring up how good Charles looks and how attractive Anna finds him.

 

Edit: Oh, and I just wanted to add that I loathe the cover. The colors are nice, but the artist's interpretation of Anna is crap. Overdrive only shows a portion of the cover while streaming it, and of course that portion is mostly Anna's cleavage.

Reading progress update: I've read 66 out of 320 pages.

Game Slaves - Gard Skinner

At some point in this story, Phoenix and his team got to know Dakota well enough to sit with her and comfort her as she tried to deal with the realization that she's just a computer program (not really a spoiler since they've all referred to themselves as NPCs since the beginning).

 

The problem: readers weren't invited to any of that. We somehow jumped from Phoenix finding Dakota's freakouts during battle annoying to Dakota learning how to fit in more with the team without any of it ever showing up on-page. As a result, this whole crying and hugging scene just comes across as weird and out-of-character.

Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 320 pages.

Game Slaves - Gard Skinner

I have had this ARC in my possession for, uh, four years now. And I'm finally getting around to reading it.

 

I'm not really sure what I'm reading yet. The main characters are NPC enemies in FPS games (no particular game, just anything anyone might play), and so far their lives have involved shooting people, dying, being regenerated, and then shooting people again. The main character, Phoenix, acknowledges that all the in-game women he knows are the epitome of physical perfection, despite a few scars here and there, and yet he practically trips over himself when he meets Dakota, giving her living quarters closer to his because he thinks she's hot, even though her personality annoys him. ::sigh::

 

The ARC has enough missing bits that feel like I should quit now and request an ILL copy, but I don't feel like waiting, and most of the missing stuff has been unimportant so far (the names of specific games).

Reading progress update: I've listened 145 out of 145 minutes.

Alpha and Omega: A Novella from On the Prowl - Patricia Briggs, Holter Graham

For some reason the Charles and Anna pairing worked better and more immediately for me than the Mercy and Adam pairing. Although I've only read the this story and the first couple Alpha & Omega books, I've actually reread them, whereas I haven't felt an urge to do that with any of the Mercy Thompson books.

 

I still really like this story. My only issue with it is the part where Anna tells Charles she doesn't like sex and he views it as a challenge. I understood what Briggs was aiming for, but it still made me uncomfortable.

Reading progress update: I've listened 523 out of 523 minutes.

Binary Witness - Rosie Claverton, Jasmine Blackborow

The narrator's voice for Jason didn't always work for me, and she occasionally spoke too softly for me to easily hear. Still, I mostly liked this audiobook. It reminded me how much I like the Amy and Jason partnership.

Reading progress update: I've read 261 out of 292 pages.

A Likely Story (A Library Lover's Mystery) - Jenn McKinlay

I've technically finished the book, although there's still some bonus material, including a short story.

 

This was much better than the previous book, but I couldn't help thinking that it would have been even better Robbie had been completely written out of the series by this point. He was barely in this book, so it would have been easy. The ending indicates that the next book will probably put the love triangle front and center again, which is frustrating considering that Lindsey has already told Sully that she loves him and has no intention of dating Robbie.

 

Lindsey was occasionally a bit of an idiot (I had thought she was deliberately not commenting on Robbie obviously leaving to go get  a divorce, but no, she honestly didn't realize that's what he was doing). Also, I could have used a family tree and a diagram at the end to help me understand the last few pages. Still, so much better than the previous book.

 

Next, I'll read the short story and make at least one of the recipes included in the book. I'd definitely like to make "Beth's Irish Soda Bread." I'm still thinking about "Charlene's Shepherd's Pie." On the one hand, the list of ingredients is nice and short. On the other hand, I'd have to brown some beef and peel, cook and mash some potatoes. I might be too lazy for that.