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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

The Caves of Steel
Isaac Asimov
Progress: 86/270 pages
The Blue Sword
Recorded Books LLC, Diane Warren, Robin McKinley
Progress: 73/735 minutes
Daughter of Mystery
Heather Rose Jones
Progress: 251/399 pages
50 Girls 50 and Other Stories
Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Gary Groth
Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion!
Natalie Reiss
Progress: 20/120 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel
Becky Chambers
Progress: 148/441 pages
The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks
Progress: 667/3165 minutes
A Matter of Oaths
Helen S. Wright
Progress: 101/277 pages
Report on the Selected Problems of the Technical Departments of the University of Illinois Library
Raynard C. Swank
Progress: 20/42 pages

Games: The Witness and Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble

[This post has nothing to do with books.]

 

I picked up the Humble Freedom Bundle while it was being offered and only just now got around to trying a couple of the games (okay fine, I'm procrastinating on my library checkout reading).

 

The Witness is a first-person adventure game that reminds me a little of the Myst games. You walk around in an apparently deserted world, solving cryptic puzzles as you come across them. The puzzles range from incredibly simple to "I have no idea what I'm doing or why I'm doing it." I haven't gotten very far into it yet, because of the game's biggest failing: holy crap does it make me nauseous. I did some checking, and apparently I'm not the only one (although it seems to be hitting me faster than a lot of other players with similar issues). There are some settings that are supposed to help with that, but either I didn't fiddle with the right things or they didn't help me much. It looks like I can only get about 20-30 minutes of semi-comfortable playing time.

 

After that, I gave Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble a try. You start off with one player, your "queen." You then find her a gang of three other girls and go around investigating mysterious happenings, facing off against bullies and grouchy teachers, and more. Every encounter is a mini-game: Taunt, Flirt, Fib, and Expose (as in, Exposing Secrets). There's also apparently a Gambit mini-game, but I don't think I've encountered that yet. So far, I am absolutely terrible at Flirting and Fibbing and feel iffy about Taunting, but I enjoy Exposing Secrets. I picked up some boyfriends for a couple of the girls in my gang, because apparently boyfriends will sacrifice themselves to save their girlfriends if a particularly important mini-game goes bad. I guess I'll see how that works out.

 

The humor and dialogue doesn't always work for me, but so far Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble is proving to be very addictive. (But not Stardew Valley-level addictive, or I wouldn't have managed to tear myself away yet.)

 

ETA - Here, have an out-of-context snippet from DHSGiT:

 

Tor.com - "An A.I. That Loves Cat Pictures: Hugo-Winning Short Story Becomes YA Novel"

Ooh, I'm interested. But also a little wary. I remember mostly enjoying "Cat Pictures Please," although I cringed at the forced outing of a gay pastor because "Out gay men are much happier."

 

Crossing my fingers for more A.I. goodness and less "wait, I know you mean well, but stop."

Reading progress update: I've read 86 out of 270 pages.

The Caves of Steel  - Isaac Asimov

"Yet the commissioner was right. The Earthman's distrust for robots was something quite irrational and friendship circuits had to be incorporated, just as all robots had to be made smiling. On Earth, at any rate.

 

R. Daneel, now, never smiled."

 

If I were R. Daneel, I don't know that I'd smile either, considering the scenes he's witnessed so far. That said, Baley's probably right and he just doesn't smile. It's just that Baley's assumptions irk me.

 

Also, I'm shaking my head at the idea that people would supposedly respond better to robots that never stop smiling.

 

Anyway, I'm getting through this faster than I expected. I may still try to renew it, but if that doesn't work, the grace period should give me enough of a cushion.

Eww

My cat just threw up on my remote. I guess that means I'll for sure be spending the next few hours reading rather than finishing up Season 1 of the volleyball anime I've been watching. :-p

 

(The anime is Haikyu!!, if you're curious. It's okay, but not as immediately appealing as Big Windup! and Yuri!!! on Ice.)*

 

 

* Lol, so many sports anime with ALL the exclamation points.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 270 pages.

The Caves of Steel  - Isaac Asimov

"Even as a youngster, though, I could not bring myself to believe that if knowledge presented danger, the solution was ignorance. To me, it always seemed that the solution had to be wisdom. You did not refuse to look at danger, rather you learned how to handle it safely." (viii)

 

I have too many books going at once, and I'm not sure I can finish this one before the due date. But I'll give it a shot.

Reading progress update: I've listened 73 out of 735 minutes.

The Blue Sword - Recorded Books LLC, Diane Warren, Robin McKinley

I've read this book several times but have never listened to the audio before. I'm sad to say that the narrator, Diane Warren, seems to be leeching a lot of the goodness out of it. The narration is clear, but slow-paced and not particularly varied.

Reading progress update: I've read 251 out of 399 pages.

Daughter of Mystery - Heather  Rose Jones

"The close of the party could not come too soon. There was nothing here to interest her as much as the contents of a single page of her waiting books."

 

Oh look, it's me!

City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

City of Strife: (An Isandor Novel) (City of Spires Book 1) - Claudie Arseneault

City of Strife is set in the bustling city of Isandor and stars a huge cast of characters, each with intersecting storylines, histories, and paths. A few examples:

  • Arathiel, a human whose ill-fated journey to find a cure for his sick sister transformed him, dulling all his senses and giving him a much longer lifespan. It’s been over 130 years since he last set foot in Isandor, and he now feels like an unwelcome stranger there. The one place he feels comfortable: the Shelter, which provides food and a place to sleep to anyone who needs it. It’s there that he becomes friends with Larryn, the Shelter’s owner, Cal, a halfling, and Hasryan, a dark elf.
  • Nevian, an apprentice mage in the Myrian enclave. He lives in constant fear of Master Avenazar, who killed his previous tutor and now regularly abuses him. Nevian’s only ally is Varden, a High Priest of Keroth and former Myrian slave. Unfortunately, Varden, too, must tread carefully around Avenazar.
  • Lord Diel Dathirii, an elf and head of the Dathirii family. When he witnesses Avenazar publicly torturing Nevian, he decides that it’s time to finally take a stand against the Myrians, who have thus far been permitted to live by their own laws while in their enclave in Isandor. The rest of his family will stand by his decisions and support him, but that may not be enough if Isandor’s other noble families decide to abandon House Dathirii to face the Myrians alone.

 

City of Strife is one of the very few (perhaps only?) ARCs I’ve ever requested from an author. I was interested in the book’s LGBTQIA+ cast and “found family” aspect, and the author had a nice online form that, if I remember correctly, only asked for interested reviewers’ email addresses (easy! low stress! didn’t require NetGalley or a Twitter DM!). The long book description concerned me a little and made it difficult to tell what the book would be like, but I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed it immensely, although I’m now unhappy that I’ll have to wait who knows how long for Book 2 to come out. A word of warning: City of Strife ends with lots of things still unresolved and several characters in peril. Crossing my fingers that none of the characters I care about get killed off in the next two books.

One thing that dismayed me when I first started reading: the many, many POVs. The book was written in third person, but chapters/sections focused on different characters’ perspectives. Almost every named character had a chapter or section written from their POV, and it wasn’t until I’d gotten 15% into the book that a POV repeated itself.

The POVs turned out to be both the book’s strength and its weakness. I loved gradually learning how the various characters’ stories were interrelated - what the stuff at the Shelter had to do with House Dathirii, who Nevian was secretly visiting for magic lessons, what would prompt Arathiel to reveal his noble blood to his friends at the Shelter and/or Isandor’s noble families, etc. However, all those POVs and complex and interrelated storylines meant that some of my favorite characters and storylines didn’t get as much page-time as I’d have liked. For example, Arathiel and, eventually, Hasryan ended up being my favorite characters, and I particularly looked forward to seeing Arathiel find a place for himself at the Shelter with Larryn, Cal, and Hasryan. Unfortunately, there wasn’t nearly as much on-page friendship-building as I expected, and one character’s actions near the end of the book destroyed my impression of the trio as an overall warm and welcoming group.

I much preferred House Dathirii, which, aside from a couple exceptions I’m hoping that one of the next couple books will cover in more detail, was largely just as warm and welcoming as it initially appeared to be. I particularly loved Camilla. Everyone could use someone like Camilla in their lives.

House Dathirii brings me to another aspect of the book I both loved and had problems with: the politics. I love fantasy and sci-fi books with lots of politics, and this one had House Dathirii clashing with the Myrian enclave and struggling to get support, a 10-year-old murder that was relevant to current politics, and more. Fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, I prefer when there’s at least one character who’s incredibly skilled at navigating politics, and this book didn’t have that, at least not front-and-center. Avenazar was so lacking in self-control that I was amazed he’d never done anything in Myria to earn himself an execution. Maybe he had really good family connections protecting him? And then there was Diel: principled, idealistic, and almost completely lacking in the ability to sit back, pick his battles, and maybe go at things a little more subtly and indirectly. At least he recognized that it was other members of his family who did the heavy lifting when it came to making sure the family survived whatever fight he’d chosen to involve them all in.

All in all, despite my complaints this was a riveting read, and I wish the next couple books were out already. In the meantime, I plan on getting myself a copy of Arseneault’s Viral Airwaves.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 136 out of 399 pages.

Daughter of Mystery - Heather  Rose Jones

Chores I have accomplished so far today: doing the dishes (at which time I noticed the pipes under the sink are dripping, ugh).

 

At some point I have to get groceries and do laundry, but I'd rather keep reading this. The first hints of attraction between Barbara and Margerit started shortly after my last status update, although neither of them has noticed that it's mutual yet. I can't wait until they finally get to travel to Rotenek and maybe get some time away from the watchful eyes of Margerit's family.

Reading progress update: I've read 95 out of 399 pages.

Daughter of Mystery - Heather  Rose Jones

"To the baron, she had been a hunting dog or a fine sword - a tool to be employed to his ends. But with Margerit she felt more like a cloak to protect her from the wind or a hawk mantling over her chick."

 

I'm still loving this book. And still finding myself comparing it to The Goblin Emperor - not a bad thing at all. I gave that book 5 stars, and my gut says I may be rating this one the same.

Reading progress update: I've read 66 out of 399 pages.

Daughter of Mystery - Heather  Rose Jones

The books in this series are expensive. Which sucks because I have a feeling I'm going to want to get the rest. I picked this one up during a Kobo 50% off sale but passed on the others because I didn't know if I'd like them. Darn it.

 

This really does remind me of The Goblin Emperor, if that book had been written from the perspective of Maia's sister or fiancee. Margerit cares more about scholarly pursuits than trying to get herself a husband, and Barbara has been trained to act as a bodyguard and is at least as educated as Margerit, if not more so. And they're going to become a couple at some point, yay. :-)

Otters in Space by Mary E. Lowd

Otters In Space: The Search for Cat Havana - Doc Marcus, Mary E Lowd

This is set sometime in the future. Humans have long since abandoned Earth. The dogs and cats they left behind eventually attained sentience and built their own societies in and around humanity’s ruins. They have jobs, government, cars, phones - basically, their lives look a lot like ours today.

Unfortunately for cats, this is largely a dog’s world. Cats are considered second-class citizens and have to struggle to get decent-paying jobs. Kipper, the book’s main character, doesn’t really expect that things will ever get better, but she tries to support her sister Petra’s political aspirations anyway. Then Kipper and Petra learn about a possible secret cat utopia in Ecuador, which they dub “Cat Havana” (never mind that Havana isn’t in Ecuador). After Petra suddenly disappears, apparently to go see Cat Havana for herself, Kipper decides to join her.

I bought this in an effort to scratch my post-Zootopia itch. The sci-fi aspects mentioned on the product page intrigued me, and it had several positive reviews, but the one negative review I came across made me wary. Still, it was cheap, so I bought it anyway.

The world-building was intriguing, but also sloppy and filled with holes. I found it difficult to believe that every last human had chosen to leave Earth behind, or that this would even be possible (imagine how much time and money it would have taken, and how many spaceships). How did the various animal species become sentient? Which species were sentient? Early on, I assumed that only cats, dogs, and otters were sentient. Dogs and cats lived on Earth, and otters had managed to establish themselves in space. However, once Kipper finally made it to the space station, there were mentions of “immigrant squirrels” and even a chef who happened to be an octopus. Also, since sentience hadn’t changed species’ sizes (most dogs towered over cats), I found myself wondering if their lifespans were the same too.

Despite my issues with it, I enjoyed the world of this book. There were indications that cat and dog interactions could be fairly complex, I was very intrigued by the brief description of octopus society, and I wanted to know more about otter life on the space station. The otter space ship that Kipper ended up on was also pretty cool.

That said, this book could have used a better editor. Although I didn’t notice any misspellings, I did spot several misused apostrophes and commas, as well as a few incorrect phrases. A few examples:

“One of the Chihuahua's from Kipper's team came up to her and shook her paws, speaking a few indecipherable words.” (53)

“Chihuahua’s” shouldn’t have an apostrophe.

“However, the heart of the platform was the open, landing area in the center for the climbers -- the elevator cars.” (60)

There shouldn't be a comma between "open" and "landing."

“They looked at her, and they held their gaze longer than she expected.” (93)

I’m pretty sure that should be “they held her gaze.”

There were also lots of instances of stuff that should have been streamlined prior to publication. Here’s a good example:

“There were otters occupying some of the other beds, but none of them had noticed her yet. Well, she was sure they knew she was there. But none of them had noticed she was awake.” (111)

Why not just say “but none of them had noticed she was awake yet” and do away with the rest?

The story’s pacing wasn't very good, and Kipper’s shifting and easy-to-forget goals probably didn’t help. Petra was supposedly the impetuous one, and yet Kipper was the one who decided to go all the way to Ecuador with only a single note as evidence that Petra had gone there. She soon realized that Petra probably hadn’t made it to Ecuador yet but went into space anyway, even though her primary goal had been finding her sister. Once she was on the space station, her goal shifted to finding Cat Havana, even though that potentially meant she’d never see her brother and sister again.

There was too much that didn’t make sense. Although Trudith was one of my favorite characters (second only to Emily the octopus), it boggled my mind that anyone thought it was a good idea to hire a protective dog like her to kill somebody, especially considering her tendency to follow anyone’s firmly stated orders. Then there was the enormous plot hole involving the note that inspired Kipper to go to Ecuador in the first place. I suppose it might have been part of the setup for the sequel, except, if that had been the case, I’d have expected Kipper to wonder about that detail more.

All in all, this turned out to be kind of disappointing. I have a couple of the author’s other works on my Nook and am still hopeful that one of them might be better, but it’ll probably be a while before I give them a shot.

 

Rating Note:

 

If it hadn't been for the plot hole introduced at the very end of the book, I might have given this 2 stars. There was something endearing about the world and characters, despite the story's many, many issues.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 167 out of 167 pages.

Otters In Space: The Search for Cat Havana - Doc Marcus, Mary E Lowd

This had some intriguing, if incredibly sloppy, world-building that fed a little of my post-Zootopia craving. However, then a sentence near the end introduced a great big plot hole. Ugh.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 247 pages.

50 Girls 50 and Other Stories - Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Gary Groth

I requested this via ILL after someone said that the movie Passengers made them think of "50 Girls 50," except that "50 Girls 50" made no attempt to present the situation as anything other than horrific.

 

I was a little dismayed upon getting this, because the comics are way more text-heavy than I usually prefer. Still, I'll give it a shot. The introduction mentioned a couple other comics in the collection that piqued my curiosity: "Brain-Child!" and "I, Rocket" both feature sentient space ships.

Reading progress update: I've read 305 out of 323 pages.

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie  -  Jennifer Ashley

I'm finished - the remaining pages are an excerpt from Mac and Isabella's book.

 

Eh. At the moment I'm leaning towards 2 stars, maybe 2.5 because it improved near the end. My main issues:

 

- Too much sex or thinking about sex, and not enough romance or friendship-building (every time Beth called herself Ian's friend, I wanted to snort, because all they ever did was have sex or lust after each other).

 

- Beth agreeing to marry Ian was supremely stupid. So was Beth's decision to ask Ian to be her lover. I could never get past that, even though there were some nice moments after they were married.

 

Hopefully I can write a full review soon.

Very vaguely political

The Twelve Kingdoms: Skies of Dawn - Fuyumi Ono, 小野 不由美, Akihiro Yamada, 山田 章博

I keep thinking about this book, particularly the beginning of it. It isn't my favorite of the Twelve Kingdoms books, and I prefer the second half to the first. Even so, I keep thinking about Yoko, the teenage girl who suddenly finds herself named the ruler of a whole kingdom in a world where nothing works the way she's used to things working.

 

During the beginning of her rule, she's paralyzed by doubt. How can she make decisions if she has no idea what she's doing? Afraid of making a mistake, she lets others make her decisions for her, but that turns out to be a mistake too. Before things get too bad, she decides to disappear for a bit and secretly live with a teacher who will at least help her learn how this new world she's living in works, so that she can start making informed decisions. She knows she'll be criticized for this in the short run, but in the long run (and in this world that could be hundreds of years) it'll help her kingdom prosper.

 

::sigh:: I don't particularly want to reread it at the moment, but, like I said, I keep thinking about it.