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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

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
Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases
Professor Roy Benaroch, The Great Courses, The Great Courses
Progress: 34/725 minutes

Reading progress update: I've listened 667 out of 3165 minutes.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks

This part is just tragedy after tragedy, with tragedy slathered on top. Edmond's father decided to interpret "you need to be on a limited diet" as "don't eat anything at all." Meanwhile the "Abbe" (aka Edmond, although for some reason Dumas continues to refuse to say so to readers) tries really hard to hide the depth of his emotions and does a so-so job of it.


And yay, I'm a fifth of the way through. Tomorrow's likely the last day I'll be listening to this for a while. I have a conference presentation to do (::slight panic::) and then I'm off and don't have to think about work for two whole weeks.

Reading progress update: I've read 148 out of 441 pages.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel - Becky Chambers

During the scene with Pei, it occurred to me that this book feels like lots and lots of fanservice (in the general sense, not the specific sexytimes sense). You know, the kind of stuff that fans of Firefly, Farscape, Cowboy Bebop, etc. might like to see their favorite characters doing, just because they love them. Except not quite, because it's also trying to serve as an introduction to all of these characters.


Reading progress update: I've read 128 out of 441 pages.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel - Becky Chambers

I've been mentally matching up the characters in this book to the Firefly characters I feel like Chambers might have had in mind. Here's my list so far:


Ashby = Mal (not really, but the closest fit I can find)


Sissix = Zoe, with the potential for a bit of Inara


Rosemary = Simon


Kizzy = Kaylee


Jenks = Wash


Lovey = ?


Dr. Chef = Shepherd Book


Corbin = Jayne


Ohan = maybe River, a little?

Reading progress update: I've listened 562 out of 3165 minutes.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks

"Edmond looked at them for a moment with the sad and gentle smile of a man superior to his fellows."


Aww. :-( All those people that he's looking down on right now think he's great.


And besides, he kind of is one of them right now. He hasn't found the treasure yet and, should anyone discover that he's an escaped prisoner, he'd probably end up right back in prison.

Tor.com - "Announcing The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells"

"All Systems Red is the first book in the series, and it follows a security droid assigned to protect a team of scientists on a new planetary expedition. But when a neighbouring expedition suddenly becomes silent it’s up to the newly self-aware droid and its distinctly unadventurous charges to investigate. But sometimes things are best left alone…"


Ooh, I want. I've only read one of Martha Wells' works, but I remember it being pretty enjoyable.

Reading progress update: I've read 88 out of 441 pages.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel - Becky Chambers

Wait, what? Rosemary has only just joined the crew and hasn't yet done any of the work she's been hired to do (or at least hasn't been shown or mentioned doing it), and yet she has already allowed Jenks and Kizzy to talk her into drinking herself into a stupor during a little entertainment break. Wouldn't she be worried about looking bad in front of her new employer, or about getting so drunk she'd accidentally let her secret slip? And Ashby (her new boss) just thinks the whole thing is kind of amusing.

Reading progress update: I've read 18 out of 441 pages.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel - Becky Chambers

When it comes time for me to fly, I'll be bringing my e-reader, one paper comfort read, and one paper new-to-me book (always have to have backups, just in case). I decided that, if I couldn't finish it before my flight, this would probably be a good new-to-me book to bring. So far I'm liking it, although it's a little worrisome that there have already been two POVs. Is this one of those books with a gazillion POVs?

Rosemary exhaled, trying to shake off the needlelike twinges. "It's not your fault," she said. "I wasn't feeling very well to start." She paused, realizing that she was trying to make an AI feel better. It was a silly concept, but something about Lovey's demeanor made any other response feel a bit rude. Could AIs even take offense? Rosemary wasn't sure.

Yay, the AI character is introduced right off the bat! So far Lovey (short for Lovelace) makes me think of the AIs in Elizabeth McCoy's Queen of Roses. Nice.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

The day that Kady and Ezra break up is also the day their whole world falls apart. The illegal mining colony they call "home" is attacked by BeiTech, a rival corporation. The survivors, Kady and Ezra among them, end up on one of three ships: the Alexander, a battlecarrier that tried to come to the colony's rescue and was severely damaged in the process; the Copernicus, a freighter; and the Hypatia, a scientific exploration vessel. The three ships end up on the run from a BeiTech battleship, the Lincoln.

Because so many of the Alexander's crew were killed or injured in the initial attack, any civilian survivors with the right personality or training are conscripted. Kady is seen as being too angry, bitter, and closed off to work well with others. She stays on the Hypatia, even though her hacking skills are excellent and improving every day. Ezra is transferred to the Alexander and trained to become a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, the ships have more problems than just the Lincoln. The Alexander's AI, AIDAN, is damaged, some of the survivors might be sick, and it isn't always clear who can be trusted.

The whole story is told via interview and chat transcripts, video footage descriptions, memos, and more, all collected and arranged by a mysterious group for their equally mysterious employer.

I'll start off by saying that AIDAN was the main reason I read this book. I like sci-fi with prominent AI characters, particularly if they're at all sympathetic. Despite AIDAN's actions, I did feel sympathy for it. Although it technically did exactly what it was programmed to do (albeit without consulting its captain first), it was shut down, the equivalent of knocking it unconscious. I didn't really blame it for feeling confused and betrayed. That said, its later decisions were pretty horrifying. Wow, that was some screwy logic.

One problem with AIDAN, from my perspective, was that it took a long time for it to really join the story. In fact, quite a few things took a while to show up. The disease aspect started far enough into the book (maybe 150 pages?) that part of me feels like it'd count as a spoiler to talk about it too much, but at the same time I think that aspect would be a huge selling point for some readers.

This whole book leaves me feeling torn. The story was gripping, as things went more and more wrong for the survivors and their military escort. The authors' use of countdowns was very effective – a countdown of the number of days/hours before the Lincoln would catch up to the Alexander and the rest, of the number of uninfected people left on the ship, etc. However, I had problems staying emotionally connected with the main characters. Ezra and Kady's relationship did nothing for me, and they seemed so different that I'm still not sure how they became a couple in the first place. I didn't really like Ezra, and Kady seemed, unfortunately, like a cool-but-antisocial hacker girl stereotype. She didn't even try to make friends. Seriously, how did she and Ezra end up together?

I wasn't a fan of Ezra from the beginning, but the part where he really lost me was in a chat with his friend James McNulty. I can't remember what the argument was about, but at one point he threatened McNulty by saying he'd have sex with McNulty's sister. It was phrased more like “I'll get back at you by seducing your precious sister” than “I'll rape your sister,” but I still flinched, and it wasn't until later that I realized Ezra and McNulty were actually friends and that this was a joke-threat. I'm pretty sure that the authors meant it to be realistic dialogue between two teenage male friends, and I know there are guys that talk like this, but I don't have to like them. And so I didn't really like either Ezra or McNulty, especially when this same thing happened again later on in the book.

Another thing I had issues with was the format. I really wasn't a fan of it – it's one of the reasons why I didn't pounce on the book when I first started hearing good things about it. I got used to it after a while, and I enjoyed certain aspects of it, but I outright disliked others. My least favorite thing was the parts that were almost like concrete poetry, with text formatted in a way that illustrated the action. While I could admire the way it looked, I had trouble figuring out how to read it. It also bugged me that some of the ASCII art wasn't really ASCII art, but that's more of a nit-picky thing. There were other parts of the documents format that seemed sloppy or not quite believable for the format, but I later discovered that this was probably intentional. Kudos to the authors for those little clues, I guess, although they irked me at the time.

I don't regret reading this, but I didn't love it the way a lot of other people did. I'm still debating whether to read the sequel. If the romance here didn't really work for me, I have a feeling that the romance in the next book, featuring new main characters, will probably be even less appealing to me. Also, I still haven't heard if there are any AI characters.

Additional Comments:

I think the e-book was on sale a while back, but, honestly, I have to wonder how much of the formatting survived the transition into e-book form. I'd recommend playing it safe and sticking with a paper copy if possible.


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

Only the Ring Finger Knows, Vol. 1: The Lonely Ring Finger (book) by Satoru Kannagi, illustrations by Hotaru Odagiri, English translation by Allison Markin Powell

Only the Ring Finger Knows: The Lonely Ring Finger - Hotaru Odagiri, Satoru Kannagi

Yuichi seems like the most perfect guy at Wataru's high school. He gets good grades, has good looks, is good at basketball, and gets along well with everyone. However, a chance encounter at a water fountain shows Wataru another side of Yuichi, one that's cold and sarcastic. Wataru can't remember ever even talking to Yuichi, so why does the guy hate him so much?

The situation only becomes more awkward and upsetting when Wataru and Yuichi discover they've accidentally swapped rings. At their school, wearing matching rings and/or wearing a ring on your ring finger signifies that you're dating someone and, shockingly, Wataru and Yuichi's rings not only look exactly alike, but they also fit on each other's ring fingers. The matching rings are, of course, an indication that there is romance in Wataru and Yuichi's future.

Anyway, my first exposure to this series was via the manga adaptation of it. I remembered it being fairly sweet, if lacking in substance, so when I learned it was based on a 5-volume series of novels I decided to give them a try. Now that I've finished the first volume, I can say that 1) I prefer the manga and 2) the manga only adapted the first hundred pages.

This book had a couple big problems. One was the writing/translation, which was terrible. The other was how frustrating the characters were – they seemed to be determined to sabotage themselves.

I'll start with the writing. While I thought that Wataru's gradual realization that he was gay (not that the word was ever used) was pretty good, most of the rest of the book needed work. There were weird word choices, awkward phrasing, and one very noticeable lack of transition from one scene to the next. It was bad enough that I sometimes had trouble figuring out what the author was trying to say. This was particularly a problem during the last scene at Yuichi's cousin's shop, when confusing and contradictory emotions were added to the mix.

My favorite weird word choice example happened during Wataru's first encounter with Miho, a cool and pretty first-year student:

“She had a surprisingly small face, and her skin was so smooth it reminded him of raw cake batter.” (138)

This part was so unexpected and bad that I actually laughed until I cried. Who compares a person's skin to raw cake batter like it's a good thing? I suppose this was more original than saying her skin was smooth as silk, but sometimes originality isn't a good thing.

Now on to the characters' self-sabotaging behavior. At one point Kawamura, Wataru's best friend, said “Well, whatever, you guys sure are a stupid couple.” (134) I couldn't agree more. It was amazing they were still together by the end of the book.

Yuichi spent almost the entire first half of the book treating Wataru like garbage, even though that wasn't even close to how he felt. I wish Kannagi had toned that down, because it made it more difficult to believe that Wataru could fall for him. I could sort of go along with it, because Yuichi's mask occasionally slipped in ways that even Wataru was able to notice, but it was still a bit aggravating.

In the second half of the book, Yuichi and Wataru began to think about sex. Wataru was worried that things were going faster than he was comfortable with, so by the end of the conversation he and Yuichi had come to an agreement in which they would have sex if Yuichi ranked in the top thirty (in all of Japan!) on the exam he was studying for. Like Kawamura later said, this guaranteed that they'd see each other even less than they already were, because Yuichi would be too busy studying, which would probably only make things more awkward for them later on. While they were separated, Wataru got caught up in a jealous classmate's schemes and, instead of telling Yuichi about it at the first opportunity, he made things worse by lying about it.

Amazingly, Wataru and Yuichi's relationship survived their efforts to sabotage it, and now I have four more volumes to go. Here's hoping that, at the very least, the writing/translation gets smoother.


Several black-and-white illustrations and two color illustrations.


Rating Note:


I never know how to rate stuff like this. On the one hand, the story was almost 100% non-rapey (there was one iffy moment that kept it from being 100%), which is something I always want to applaud in these books. So very many of them are rapey. On the other hand, the writing/translation was noticeably and memorably bad. Instead of being able to treat this book like fluffy brain candy, I occasionally had to struggle to follow along with the text.


If I could rate this book for multiple things, I'd give the writing/translation 1/2 star, the romance maybe 2 stars on a good day (don't be such a jerk to the guy you like, Yuichi), and the entertainment value 4 stars. I mean, how many books out there would dare to compare a pretty girl's skin to raw cake batter? Or have a main character try to hide the fact that he lost his ring by bandaging his ring finger? Ha!


But seriously, I hope the next book isn't as much work to read.


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

Reading progress update: I've read 206 out of 206 pages.

Only the Ring Finger Knows: The Lonely Ring Finger - Hotaru Odagiri, Satoru Kannagi

Finished! I'm going to guess that there was a combination of bad writing and bad translation at play here. Some of the word choices were just plain weird, and near the end I just gave up and skimmed the text for the general meaning. And even that was occasionally hard. That last scene in Toko's jewelry shop was kind of confusing.


The "raw cake batter" bit was my favorite horrible word choice, but here are a few others, just for fun:

"'Wataru, your brain must be really puny. How many times do I have to tell you? It had nothing to do with you,' Yuichi said in a cold voice as he grabbed Wataru's small head with his long fingers." (79)

The author apparently has a thing for guys with small heads, because both Wataru and Yuichi were described that way.

"Feebly, Wataru let out a bitter smile, turning his thoughts to the departed Yuichi." (155)

I can't recall ever reading anything where a character "let out a bitter smile." "Let out a bitter laugh," yes, but not smile.

"His eyes were engorged with passion, but with that single utterance Yuichi stopped everything that he was doing." (167)

I can't help it, this makes me think of those toys with the eyeballs that pop out when you squeeze them.

"Yuichi seemed so shocked, his voice almost flipped with panic." (188)

What does that even mean?

Possible vacation reading

Last night I did my favorite pre-vacation activity: putting lots of manga on hold so that I have plenty to binge-read while I'm visiting my parents. There's no guarantee that it'll all arrive in time, but here's what I'm hoping to have waiting for me:

  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Knight's Knowledge
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution
  • Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers
  • Alice in the Country of Hearts: My Fanatic Rabbit
  • Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party (I think finishing these five, plus a few volumes I own, would mean I'd finally finished everything in the franchise that's been translated into English)
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride (I have the first volume, but I have a chance of getting to read the first four through the library)
  • Attack on Titan
  • Chi's Sweet Home
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (trying to pick up where I left off quite a few years ago...maybe not a good idea, but I'll give it a go)
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden
  • Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto
  • Kobato
  • Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
  • Naruto (I will eventually finish this bloated monster of a series)
  • Natsume's Book of Friends
  • Noragami
  • A Silent Voice
  • Skip Beat!
  • Xxxholic


I'm most excited about the possibility of finishing up Chi's Sweet Home, continuing Skip Beat! and Natsume's Book of Friends, and trying Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun and Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto. Series I wanted to try continuing via library checkouts but couldn't because they didn't have the right volumes (or any volumes): The Story of Saiunkoku, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and What Did You Eat Yesterday?


During past vacations, I've usually managed to finish about 40-50 volumes. I probably won't be able to manage as much this year, because more family members will be around and we'll be doing family things (I have no idea what that means, but I doubt it will involve breaks for reading). I'll do my best, though.

Reading progress update: I've listened 384 out of 3165 minutes.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks

I can't remember this guy's name, but he's the first prisoner Edmond Dantes has been able to talk to in person. He has god-like levels of resourcefulness and creativity. "Oh yes, I've made paper out of my own shirts, and pens out of fish bone, and ink out of soot. And also I made myself a light source out of fat saved from my food (even though it was miserable near-starvation fare)."

Reading progress update: I've listened 310 out of 3165 minutes.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks

I've had to turn this off too many times to concentrate on other things, so there is now no chance I'll be finishing this prior to going on vacation, not unless I sit and listen to it instead of watching TV or reading in the evening. 


It's good though. Edmond Dantes is still being slowly ground down. He's in the cells for the dangerous and/or insane prisoners, he's been promised freedom twice and has had both those promises broken, and now he has a new jailer who can't be bothered to remember names and therefore only refers to him and the other prisoners by number.

Maybe one for Grim?

Charlie the Choo-Choo: From the world of The Dark Tower - Beryl Evans, Ned Dameron

It's a picture book by Stephen King, writing under a pseudonym:


"Engineer Bob has a secret: His train engine, Charlie the Choo-Choo, is alive…and also his best friend. From celebrated author Beryl Evans and illustrator Ned Dameron comes a story about friendship, loyalty, and hard work."

Reading progress update: I've listened 197 out of 3165 minutes.

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks

This is easily the longest audiobook I've ever tackled. I'm going to try to finish it before I go on vacation, but it'll be a near thing.


I've never read this before. I know some of the basics via cultural osmosis (and possibly a movie adaptation?), but I'm not actually sure how it ends. So far there are good parts and parts during which I tune out (one very long political discussion, for example).


After I listen to this, I'll see about finally watching the (sci-fi!) anime adaptation I own.

Reading progress update: I've read 147 out of 206 pages.

Only the Ring Finger Knows: The Lonely Ring Finger - Hotaru Odagiri, Satoru Kannagi

Kawamura, Wataru's best friend: "Well, whatever, you guys sure are a stupid couple." (134)


Kawamura is so right. First Wataru and Yuichi make a stupid bet that's guaranteed to keep them apart more, and then Wataru makes the situation he's currently in worse by lying to Yuichi about it.


There are four more books after this, and I have them all. I'm hoping these two will learn from their past mistakes, but I have a feeling they will continue to frustrate me.