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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

Fuzzy Nation
Wil Wheaton, John Scalzi
Jane Jensen: Gabriel Knight, Adventure Games, Hidden Objects (Influential Video Game Designers)
Jennifer deWinter, Carly A. Kocurek, Anastasia Salter
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't
Robert I. Sutton
Progress: 34/210 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 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 progress update: I've read 192 out of 192 pages.

Land of the Lustrous 1 - Haruko Ichikawa

I'm going to have to think about this. That last chapter was ridiculous, and the whole volume was way harder to follow than it should have been.

 

I'll probably continue on with this series. It's oddly fascinating.

Reading progress update: I've read 152 out of 192 pages.

Land of the Lustrous 1 - Haruko Ichikawa

The various gem beings are discussing how animals work, because they've never met one before and are concerned about what would happen if one of the gem beings took the one they just discovered apart. I'm vaguely reminded of Ann Leckie's Translators.

Maybe the anime will be easier to follow?

Land of the Lustrous 1 - Haruko Ichikawa

As far as I can tell, the series stars a bunch of gemstone-based beings that are given life and movement by organisms powered by sunlight. The story's protagonists are these gem-based beings. Their enemies are silent and perfect beings from one of the planet's moons, who come down periodically and try to capture the gems. When they capture them, they break them into pieces and use them as weapons.

 

I picked out a couple sample pages I really liked. You can actually spot this first one in the preview for the anime (panels go from right to left, and the page number is on the bottom left):

 

 

The enemy general (?) has just had their head cut in half, but instead of killing them it only reveals their next weapon: the broken pieces of a captured gem warrior, turned into arrows.

 

This next page shows one of the volume's weirdest battles (that I've seen so far). Cinnabar is a tragic character who can't safely be around the other gems - they (the characters appear to be genderless) can't help but produce a poison that destroys everything around them, including other gems. A few vague statements in the manga and a glance at the Wikipedia page on cinnabar tells me that the poison is probably mercury. Here Cinnabar is literally fighting the enemy by vomiting poison everywhere.

 

Save

Land of the Lustrous is apparently due to be an anime soon, airing in October 2017.

Reading progress update: I've read 116 out of 192 pages.

Land of the Lustrous 1 - Haruko Ichikawa

I got this via ILL because of a review that described it as beautiful but confusing. Considering how simple the story is, it's taking an incredible amount of effort on my part to follow what's happening from one page to the next. Part of it is the slightly surreal art, part of it is the character designs, and part of it is the bizarre world-building. So far I'm enjoying it more than the reviewer did, though.

 

I'll have to see if I can post a few panels later. So weird and pretty.

Why did I do that

I may have volunteered to do a conference presentation. That, combined with a vacation I'll likely be taking at the end of October, could make it hard to participate in Halloween Bingo much.

 

I kind of hope my presentation idea gets rejected. I have this fear that I'll either have a pity audience like last year (ugh, that sucked) or I'll have audience members who're better qualified to do the presentation than me. Or both.

Reading progress update: I've read 34 out of 210 pages.

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

"People who persistently leave others feeling de-energized undermine their own performance by turning co-workers and bosses against them and stifling motivation throughout their social networks."

Hm. Yes.

 

So far, not much info that surprises me, and not much in the way of specifics for dealing with what the author calls "certified assholes."

Ring by Koji Suzuki, translated by Robert B. Rohmer and Glynne Walley

Ring - Robert B. Rohmer, Glynne Walley, Koji Suzuki

Warning: This book includes multiple mentions of rapes and a main character who is likely a rapist. Also, one of the main characters deliberately misgenders another character.

Kazuyuki Asakawa is a reporter who got into a bit of trouble in the past. From what I could gather (it was a little confusing), he wrote an article that exacerbated oddly widespread public reports of supernatural sightings. That’s why his boss is reluctant to okay his most recent project: an investigation into several disturbing simultaneous deaths. One of the victims was his niece, who tore out her hair as she died. Her death, like the others, was ruled “sudden heart failure,” but would that really cause a teenage girl to rip out her hair like that?

Asakawa’s investigation leads him to a difficult-to-get-to cabin, where he watches a mysterious videotape that warns him that all who watch the tape are fated to die exactly one week later. Those who do not wish to die must follow the tape’s instructions...except that the instructions were taped over. Asakawa would laugh it off it weren’t for those four simultaneous deaths.

In an effort to save himself, Asakawa enlists the help of the one man he knows who'd actually enjoy this strange task: Ryuji Takayama, a creepy and gross philosophy professor with a grating personality.

This was a reread, but all I could remember about it, at first, was that it was pretty different from the American movie (I’ve never seen the Japanese one). A few chapters in, I regained a few more memories about the story, enough that certain lines and phrases stood out to me that I’m pretty sure I overlooked during my first reading. However, I had forgotten a lot more than I expected: although I remembered what Asakawa had to do in order to survive, I completely forgot several details about Ryuji and Sadako.

For me, the first third of the book, before Ryuji’s introduction, was the strongest. Sure, it took a long time for Asakawa to get far enough into his investigation to track down the tape, but the spooky atmosphere was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing his investigative process and anticipating the events to come. I didn’t really like Asakawa, who so rarely took care of his own child that his wife found his insistence on putting her down for a nap himself suspicious, but I was okay with that. When it comes to horror novels, I don’t necessarily need to like the main characters, and sometimes it’s even better when I don’t (less to mourn when/if they die).

Then Ryuji entered the scene. I know I just said that I don’t always need to like characters in horror novels, but Ryuji was really pushing things. Near the end of the book,

one character said that much of his behavior was a lie and that he was actually a very good man, but I happen to think that character was just deluding herself. I snorted when Asakawa decided to believe her on the basis of her woman’s intuition - if woman’s intuition was all that it took to convince him, what about his wife’s deep hatred of Ryuji, which he had never asked her to explain?

(show spoiler)


I personally think Ryuji was the man Asakawa saw, the one who’d admitted to raping multiple women and who once said that this was his wish for the future: “While viewing the extinction of the human race from the top of a hill, I would dig a hole in the earth and ejaculate into it over and over.” (117) I believe that Asakawa was so quick to change his mind about Ryuji because part of him knew he should have told someone when, back in high school, Ryuji admitted to him that he’d raped someone. The thought that Ryuji might have

lied about all of that

(show spoiler)

made him feel less guilty about having done absolutely nothing.

Okay, now that I’ve vented some of my anger about slimeball Ryuji and enabler Asakawa, on to the rest. The investigation continued to be pretty interesting, although the spooky atmosphere all but disappeared, overshadowed by Asakawa’s increasing panic over his approaching deadline. Unfortunately, the more he panicked the less he used his brain, giving Ryuji more opportunities to talk and be smug about his own intelligence.

I had forgotten most of the details of the later part of the investigation and was completely hooked, wanting to see how things would turn out. One particular revelation about Sadako took me completely by surprise, and not in a good way. So many things about that one scene bugged me. As much as I enjoyed this book in general, it was absolute crap when it came to

gender issues. Also, I did not appreciate the use of rape as a plot device.

(show spoiler)


When I first read this book, I wasn’t aware that it was the first in a series. I own the second book, Spiral, and plan to read it soon.

 

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

Ooh, please let this continue

Look at me writing reviews again, like someone who can actually turn thoughts into text. Aw yeah.

 

I sincerely hope that writing this doesn't destroy my ability to write reviews again. But I'm so pleased to have finally written some. Multiple!

Night Shield by Nora Roberts

Night Shield - Nora Roberts

Jonah Blackhawk is a former juvenile delinquent whose life got on the right track with the help of Boyd Fletcher, the man who eventually became Denver’s police commissioner. He loves Boyd like a father and feels like he owes him a debt he’ll never be able to repay, which is why he agrees to Boyd’s latest request: work with the investigating team looking into a string of robberies committed by people who seem to be using Jonah’s clubs to scope out their victims. Specifically, he’d like Jonah to allow the detective in charge to work undercover at his newest place.

What Boyd doesn’t immediately mention is that the detective in charge is Ally Fletcher, his daughter. There’s an immediate spark between the two of them, but Ally’s a professional and Jonah isn’t really a fan of cops (other than Boyd) and secretly feels that his past makes him unworthy of someone like Boyd’s daughter. Still, Ally’s undercover work puts her and Jonah in frequent contact, and it isn’t long before Jonah’s employees put two and two together and decide they must be dating.

Funny story: I bought this book thinking it was Night Shadow, the one with the hero who’s a superhero. I didn’t realize my mistake until much later, even after reading the description on the back. I still need to track that book down.

Every time I read a Nora Roberts book with a cop heroine I find myself looking for hints of her In Death series. I could see some of that here, in the way Jonah and Ally interacted, but there were a lot of differences too.

Ally had a good childhood and a huge and happy family. If she wasn’t wealthy she was at least really well off. As a result, although parts of the way she lived her life reminded me of Eve Dallas, she tended to be a lot better at self-care and letting Jonah help her. She also didn’t seem to have nearly as much of a chip on her shoulder where Jonah was concerned. Jonah, meanwhile, has a lot of Roarke’s confidence and arrogance, but also moments of insecurity. Whereas it was Roarke who primarily pursued Eve at first, here Jonah started things off but then Ally had to do more of the pursuing, because Jonah didn’t feel he should date or sleep with Boyd’s daughter.

Although I enjoyed the romance overall, things progressed a little quickly for my tastes. I snickered a bit when Jonah said he liked Ally for more than just her looks. He barely knew her! And I laughed when Jonah lamented that it was “over for him” - apparently just sleeping with Ally was enough to push Jonah past being attracted to Ally and straight to being head over heels in love with her. The bit where Jonah met Ally’s family was cute, though.

One thing that bothered me: both characters did things that might be considered sexual assault. The reader knew that both of them were saying “no” when they really wanted to say “yes,” but it wasn’t like the characters themselves were mind readers. Jonah kissed Ally right after she told him to back off. “He felt her body jerk against his. Protest or invitation, he didn’t care.” (74) Yeah, he should care. And later Ally came onto him strong and licked the side of his neck while he kept trying to turn her down. Both scenes were relatively mild - the second one, for sure, was probably supposed to be sexy, with the heroine taking charge - but I still found myself wishing they’d been written differently or removed.

The suspense aspect wasn’t very good, little more than a device to put Ally and Jonah in close contact long enough for them to fall in love.

All in all, this was okay. Not great, but not bad either. My favorite aspects were the way Ally’s family interacted and Boyd’s fatherly discussion with Jonah (so sweet!). Best line: "Don't grin at me when I'm having a paternal crisis." (170)

 

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

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan

The Dinosaur Lords: A Novel - Victor Milán

Warning: this book includes on-page rape and detailed descriptions of violence. Many characters die.

In the world of Paradise, humans exist alongside dinosaurs. The tame (or, in some cases, relatively tame) dinosaurs are treated much like our pets and livestock. People breed and train dinosaurs for hunting, riding, and fighting.

When I first heard of this book, it was described as Game of Thrones meets Jurassic Park. There are the dinosaurs plus medieval-ish fantasy politics - as far as tone and overall feel goes, it's more like Game of Thrones than Jurassic Park. The four main players are: Karyl Bogomirskiy, a famed dinosaur knight who is one of the few to ride a Tyrannosaurus rex; Rob Korrigan, a minstrel and dinosaur master (trains and cares for fighting dinosaurs and dinosaur mounts); Jaume, famed dinosaur knight and poet, the Imperial Champion of Emperor Felipe, and the fiance of Princess Melodia; and Melodia, who is eager to do important things but seems doomed to waste away in the palace.

This was mostly focused on politics, and unfortunately that politics bored me. I also had a tendency to lose track of what people were doing and why. For example, for a while there I thought Jaume and his soldiers were marching towards the location where Karyl and Rob were training peasants to fight. But no, they were riding towards a completely different area. They didn’t start going towards Karyl and Rob’s location until late in the book (I’m guessing they’ll meet in Book 2?).

It felt like I was supposed to at least be rooting for Jaume, Karyl, Rob, and Melodia, but for the most part I had trouble caring about them. Jaume’s romantic entanglements were exhausting. He was in a relationship with both one of his fellow knights (or not a knight, but at least part of his group? I can’t remember) and Melodia. The problem was that both Melodia and Pere seemed to want Jaume to love them best. Melodia was happy to share Jaume as long as she was more important to him than Pere, and Pere would likely have preferred his relationship with Jaume to be monogamous. Jaume, for his part, seemed to think everything was fine. It bothered me that Milan never really dealt with or resolved these issues, just...made them go away.

Karyl was cardboard, a fallen legendary character who was clearly destined to become legendary again. Rob thought he was awesome, so readers were supposed to think so too. Oh, and Rob. I seriously disliked him. I think he was supposed to be the “loveable rogue” of the bunch, but the more I read about him the more I wanted the author to ditch him. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why one minor female character slept with him. I thought for sure she was a secret spy or enemy, because I couldn’t understand what could possibly be appealing about him. I disliked just about everything about him except his dinosaur mount. One specific thing about him that bothered me was his habit of mentally trying to guess the gender of androgynous urchins. He mentally described one as “it,” before eventually deciding upon “he.” Hello! “They” exists and can be used as a gender neutral pronoun in English. Also, if a character was female and reasonably pretty, he probably leered at her at least once.

Now for Melodia. For most of the book, she had potential. After a while, “potential” seemed to be all she’d ever have. As the story went on and she continued to do nothing much, her horniness and childishness began to bother me more and more. She was so very horny. But only for Jaume! Except when she was mad at him, then she started to consider other options. And when she was mad at him, she was childish enough to not even read his letters. Never mind that she’d have regretted it for the rest of her life if he had died in battle. But as much as I disliked Meloda, she did not deserve what Milan had happen to her near the end of the book. That particular scene killed any desire I had to try the next book in the series. It felt like it happened more for shock value than anything - incredibly lazy writing on Milan’s part.

The world building was intriguing but vague. At first I thought this was an alternate history, but it turned out to actually be a completely different planet/dimension. Dinosaurs either existed there from the start or were transported there from our world and thrived. Humans and several other animals were transported to the world at a later date. Humans live longer and, if injuries don’t immediately kill them, can heal faster, and disease is almost unheard of. How humans and other beings made it to Paradise is never mentioned.

The best thing about this book was its cover and the black-and-white artwork at the start of each chapter. The story itself had far fewer dinosaurs and cool dinosaur moments than I was expecting - there was one battle I enjoyed and a fascinating bit involving an enormous dragonfly used like a hunting falcon, but that was basically it. Shiraa, Karyl’s mount, had potential but disappeared early on in the book. It’s likely she’ll show up in the next book but, as I said, the horrible and unnecessary scene with Melodia killed my desire to continue on with this series.

All in all, I really wanted to love this and I’m sad to say I didn’t. Even if that scene with Melodia hadn’t existed, this would never have been more than a so-so read. It was surprisingly boring for something that should have been completely awesome.

 

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

Fall Into Darkness by Christopher Pike

Fall Into Darkness - Christopher Pike

Sharon McKay is on trial for her best friend Ann Rice’s murder. Never mind that there’s no body, no real witnesses, and no evidence. Sharon and Ann’s friends saw them hike up to the cliff that night and heard Ann scream “Don’t!” before she either fell or was pushed off the cliff. Everybody seems to be convinced that Sharon killed Ann.

Scenes of the trial from Sharon’s POV alternate between scenes prior to the accident/murder from Ann’s POV. What Sharon didn’t know was that Ann was obsessed. Ann’s brother, Jerry, had loved Sharon and had killed himself after their relationship ended. Ann blamed Sharon and wanted her to suffer. What better way to do that than frame her for murder, thereby ruining her bright future? (I’m sure you can think of better and less risky ways she could have gotten her revenge, but just roll with it.)

I loved Christopher Pike’s books when I was a teen. They haven’t held up quite as well for me now that I’m an adult, but I can understand why Teen Me loved them: they almost always have shocking revelations and riveting banana pants moments.

The first half of this book was a straightforward murder...story. I can’t really call it a mystery, because everything was laid out for readers to see: Ann’s motive, her plan, who she decided to involve. All of it by page 32. The main question seemed to be “Did Ann survive her regrettably complicated plan or not?”

However, I trust Pike to always find a way to complicate things, and about halfway through the book he did just that. Bad things happened during Ann's plan. A character I hadn’t paid much attention to did something unexpected. Yes! Great fun up ahead!

Except not so much. Honestly, this book could have used more banana pantsery. Pike used up what little there was too quickly and put everything out in the open too fast. The ending was just...boring. And a little too silly to take seriously. I couldn’t help but laugh at all the kiss-related dialogue at the end. Paraphrasing: “You’re a bad kisser!” “No, you are!” “That was the best kiss I ever had. Really!” Oh, just stop it.

I almost missed the epilogue because the last couple pages were slightly stuck together. If anything, the epilogue actually made things worse, adding “depressing” to “mediocre” in the list of words I’d use to describe this book. I was not a fan of the implication that Sharon might have to pay her lawyer back with sexual favors, or settle for a lesser lawyer. I suppose the “it’s going to cost you” could have been referring to money, but there were a few lines earlier on that suggested otherwise. In general, I’m not surprised that the ending was changed for the made-for-TV movie (although Wikipedia’s description of the changed ending makes it sound like more of a mess than an improvement).

One more thing: I imagine the courtroom scenes would make actual lawyers and judges cringe. I’m pretty sure that real lawyers can’t get away with telling objecting lawyers to shut up (yes, he actually said that out loud, but the judge was so dazzled by the story he was laying out that he didn’t say anything).

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 211 out of 211 pages.

Fall Into Darkness - Christopher Pike

Meh. There was banana pantsery. But not enough, and what there was of it was thrown out into the open too soon, leaving nothing but a boring "will she figure it out in time?" ending.

 

ETA: Whoa, there are actually 2 more pages - the book ends on page 213, but I didn't see those at first. The epilogue does absolutely nothing to improve the book, and might actually have made it worse.

Reading progress update: I've read 144 out of 211 pages.

Fall Into Darkness - Christopher Pike

Unexpected character appearance! Someone is an excellent liar.

 

This moment is why Teen Me devoured Christopher Pike's books like candy. 

Reading progress update: I've read 120 out of 211 pages.

Fall Into Darkness - Christopher Pike

This is speeding through the plot points I could predict much more quickly than I expected. I hope Pike has something really excellent up his sleeve. There have been no Ann's POV scenes since the accident/murder.

Reading progress update: I've read 86 out of 211 pages.

Fall Into Darkness - Christopher Pike

Ooh, the accident/murder is intense.