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LG

Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 3
Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof
Progress: 16/428 pages
Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story
Mary Downing Hahn
Progress: 184/184 pages
Parental Guidance
Avery Flynn
Progress: 40 %
An Offer From a Gentleman
Julia Quinn
Progress: 102/358 pages
The Twisted Ones
T. Kingfisher
Progress: 385/385 pages
Educated
Tara Westover
Progress: 315/730 minutes
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, Vol. 2
Satoru Yamaguchi, Nami Hidaka
Progress: 24/171 pages
Graphic Medicine Manifesto
MK Czerwiec, Kimberly R. Myers, Scott T. Smith, Michael J. Green, Susan Merrill Squier, Ian Williams
Progress: 26/172 pages
Ao Oni: Mutation
Kenji Kuroda, Karin Suzuragi, Alexander Keller-Nelson
Progress: 30/152 pages
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Christopher Moore

Reading progress update: I've read 16 out of 428 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 3 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

OMG, I totally forgot that commoners with the Devouring (a magical illness) have to become the slaves of nobles to survive. In Freida's case,

her contract states that once she's legally an adult, she's going to be the mistress of the noble who essentially bought her. So gross.

(show spoiler)

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I'll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!: Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 2 (book) by Miya Kazuki, illustrated by You Shiina, translated by quof

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

In order for Myne and Lutz to become the official apprentices of Benno, a merchant, they must first create prototypes of the paper Myne told Benno about. Myne soon realizes she may have bitten off more than she can chew, even with Lutz's help - the prototypes will require supplies and equipment that will take them ages to make. However, the two of them aren't doing this alone anymore. As Myne learns more about how apprenticeships and the world of merchants works, she comes closer to her ultimate goal, obtaining a book. The hairpin Myne made for Tuuli also makes a reappearance, and turns out to be more profitable than Myne could have imagined.

This volume had most of the same issues the first one had. Certain parts of the story were more detailed than they really needed to be, and the story and overall pacing still suffered a bit from the author's unwillingness to cut out self-indulgent bloat. Myne was still selfish and more emotionally invested in her goal of creating a book than in the human beings around her who cared for her - Urano had lived in this world for a year as Myne, by this point, so this bothered me even more this time around than it did in the first volume.

Even so, I thought this particular volume was a good deal better than the first one. Instead of every one of Myne's ideas getting bogged down by what she, a frail 6-year-old child, could accomplish or talk others into doing for her, this time around Myne had funding and assistance from adults. It was incredibly refreshing not to have to read about, say, Myne's painstaking efforts to either acquire the materials to make a pot or the funds to buy one before she could even begin to try to make paper.

One of the author's weak areas seems to be creating characters with interesting/unique personalities - nearly everyone reminds me of characters I've seen before in other series, and it probably doesn't help that Myne generally isn't interested enough in people to get to know them on more than just a surface level. Still, one thing this volume did do was introduce characters who opened up Myne's world in fun new ways. I'm partial to fantasy merchants, so Benno was a favorite of mine, and I particularly enjoyed his scenes with the guildmaster of the Merchants' Guild. And Lutz, Myne's friend, grew on me a lot.

As far as the author's use of great gobs of detail went, I enjoyed most of the paper-making process and the info Myne learned about the economics of this world but felt that the hairpin stuff bogged the story down. It also felt kind of weird that Myne went from "I'm giving my family part of my pay in an act of filial piety" (when she was paid to make paper) to "I'm paying my family members to do temp work for me" (when she was paid for hairpins).

Myne's illness has added more of a sense of urgency to the series, so I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes. Since I doubt the author plans to kill Myne off anytime soon, at some point nobles are going to be added to the cast of characters. Here's hoping their presence crowds out some of the more annoying additions to the cast. Myne's obsession with books and paper can be a bit much as it is, I really don't need Freida's obsession with money on top of that.

Extras:

A folded page with full-color illustrations on both sides, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map of the portion of the town Myne has access to, a drawing of Myne's family's home, and two bonus short stories, one from Corinna's POV and one from Myne's mother's POV.

While I was okay with the bonus stories in the first volume, the ones in this one were pretty bad. Corinna's story, in particular, would have been better off in the trash. It was a flashback to Otto's "courtship" of her - meeting her when she was still 6 months away from being legally considered an adult and falling instantly in love with her, and then basically giving up his entire life over the course of two or three days until she was essentially boxed into two options, marrying the youngest son of the guildmaster or marrying Otto. She seemed okay with her final decision, but it didn't paint Otto in a good light. I also very much disliked the part where Corinna (jokingly? I hope?) suggested that Myne could end up marrying Benno if his work makes him too busy to find a wife. Myne is six and Benno is maybe in his twenties. No. Just no. Light novels authors (and manga authors, you know who you are), please stop doing this.

Effa's story was just boring, and the author or translator's attempt at giving her a "voice" was dry and unconvincing. Pretty much the only reason I'd recommend reading either of these two stories is because they contain some character background info that I don't think gets brought up at all in the main story.

 

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

Booklikesopoly Pandemic Edition: 1st roll

All right, let's see how well I manage with this. I seem to have my will to read back, but that's with entirely free reading. If reading according to the game starts to push me back into a slump, I'll take a break.

 

Bank: $20

First roll: 1 + 3 = 4

 

Nothing fancy for my game piece - I'm just going to use the airbrush tool in my image editing program.

 

That puts me on:

 

School's Out for Summer: Read a book that was published during the months of May, June, or July, or that pictures an item that would be used as a school supply or an article of clothing or an accessory on the cover.

 

Which works well with the reading plans I already had, to continue Ascendance of a Bookworm while it still has my attention. There are people on the cover wearing clothes, so that counts. I'm somewhat amused that volume 3 is the first one that doesn't also have anything that could be considered a school supply on the cover - both of the previous books would have worked for that.

 

I need to finish the last few pages of volume 2 first, write a review, and then it's on to my first Booklikesopoly read.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 320 out of 333 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

I just finished the first of the two bonus stories, and hoo boy was it a mistake to include it. Otto's "courtship" of Corinna was exactly as creepily sudden and rushed as he made it sound. More so, in some ways - I had thought he'd actually gotten to know her somehow before deciding that she was absolutely the one for him, but no, it was literally love at first sight for him. Three days later, and he'd completely and expensively abandoned his old life just for the chance to marry her. She, by the way, was still considered a minor for six more months. And speaking of minors, I sure hope that talk about hooking up Myne and Benno was some kind of creepy joke. Myne is six, and Benno is probably in his twenties.

Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 333 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

The first book was decent enough, but this one is definitely better. And I don't think it's just my love of fantasy merchants speaking, although Benno just got to face off against the guildmaster of the Merchants' Guild, yay.

Reading progress update: I've read 119 out of 333 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

"Well, it'll be hard for you to carry back a corpse, right? If I leave, I think the only thing I'll leave behind is a corpse. You don't want my family thinking you killed me, do you?"

 

O_O

 

I was not expecting something like this to happen for at least a few more books, and even then I didn't think she'd be quite so calm about it.

Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 333 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

Three cheers for Benno the merchant, who is now financing Myne's papermaking efforts. That means I don't have to suffer through endless equipment-making details like I thought I would. Instead we've skipped straight to wood steaming and fiber pounding.

 

I hope the grumpy craftsman becomes a series regular. Also, more merchant scenes, please. Benno is now a favorite of mine, ever since he told Myne off for overworking herself and made her go home without even giving him the recipe she'd promised him first. 

Reading progress update: I've read 46 out of 333 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

I just realized: My Japanese light novel (or manga, or anime) catnip is fantasy merchants negotiating with each other. It's amazing what I'll put up with for those fantasy merchants.

Reading progress update: I've read 14 out of 333 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 2 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

"Welcome back. Don't feel bad, Myne. You'll be useful to someone someday."

 

This is the first thing Tuuli, Myne's older sister, says to her when she gets back, and I'm laughing. She's trying to be comforting, but the way she and Myne's mother immediately assume Myne will fail at everything tends to come across as casually insulting.

Beast Master (manga, vol. 1) by Kyousuke Motomi, translated by JN Productions

Beast Master, Vol. 1 - Motomi Kyousuke

Yuiko loves all animals...so much so that she scares them away with the intensity of her affection. One evening, while trying to get her cat home after accidentally scaring it up a tree, she encounters a wild-eyed boy covered in blood. The next day at school she learns that he's Leo, a new transfer student in her class.

Leo is rumored to have gotten into a fight with a group of thugs and won, and everyone's scared of him. Everyone, that is, except Yuiko, who's fascinated by and jealous of the way animals trust him and easily come to him. She approaches him and quickly finds out that he's actually very gentle and sweet, if unused to living among people. Apparently he used to live on an uninhabited island.

However, Leo has a problem. Anytime he sees blood, he blacks out and turns violent - possibly a defense mechanism he developed while on the island, to help him survive against predators. When Yuiko witnesses one such incident, she learns that she can do something no one else has been able to do: tame the beast inside Leo and get him to calm down.

This wasn't a bad volume, although some of the over-the-top details were a bit much for my current mood - things like the stupid blowgun, the repeated appearances by "Boss", the tough-looking softie, and the as yet unexplained detail about Leo having a Japanese-German mercenary as his guardian. Yuiko also drove me a little nuts - she demonstrated that she knew how to coax animals to her but would then screw everything by grabbing the animals and trying to cuddle them like a little kid who hadn't been properly taught how to treat other living beings.

I'm not all that wild about the premise. Leo is a gentle guy, except when he sees blood, at which time he turns into a scary killer who may once have ripped a leopard's throat out during one of his blackouts. And of course Yuiko turns out to be the only person in existence who's ever been able to calm him down with her presence and voice alone. The first time she tries, though, she doesn't manage it until after Leo has bitten her hard enough to draw blood.

There's a bit at the beginning of the volume that irked me: Yuiko's classmates, and even Yuiko herself (that bugged me the most), think it's strange that Yuiko is 17 and is more interested in cuddling animals than chasing after boys. People were literally telling her to stop wasting her time with animals, and I had to grit my teeth.

Throughout most of the volume Leo and Yuiko's relationship is more sweet and platonic than anything. Leo comes across almost like a child. Then things shifted a bit at the very end, and suddenly Yuiko thinks Leo has "a faint manly scent that I hadn't noticed before," and ugh. Really?

I wasn't originally planning on continuing on, but as I was doing a little research prior to writing this review, I noticed that the series is only two volumes long. It feels weird quitting when I'm technically halfway through, so I might see about getting volume 2 from the library at some point.

Extras:

An extra unrelated short manga called "Fly" from early in the author's career. It's about a girl named Yui who's struggling because she wants to become a pilot even though her family expects her to go to medical school. She's convinced that if she sees a rainbow again before she graduates, her dream will come true, and her best friend Arata supports her. The story is pretty weak, although not as bad as the author's embarrassed one-page introduction led me to expect.

 

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

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I'll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!: Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 1 (book) by Miya Kazuki, illustrated by You Shiina, translated by quof

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 1 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

Urano is a Japanese college graduate who's absolutely obsessed with books and reading. Both she and her mom are thrilled when she gets a job at a library, but before she even has a chance to start, an earthquake causes Urano's book collection to fall on her and kill her. She wakes up in the body of a sickly 5-year-old child named Myne.

Although Myne's memories tell her that she loves her parents and older sister and they love her back, it's a little difficult for her to connect with them emotionally, since they feel mostly like strangers to her. Still, she tries to adjust to her life as best as possible, arranging things so that both she and her new family's cleanliness is improved and trying to make something resembling Japanese food without any of the proper ingredients, not even rice. The thing that's hardest for her to take, however, is the complete lack of books. The nobility can afford books, but poor commoners like her own family can't. Rather than succumb to despair, however, Myne/Urano (who I will refer to as Myne from here on out, although the real Myne is technically dead) decides that she will somehow make her own books.

As is the case with many, many recent light novels, I like the idea behind this series more than its execution. In the afterword, the author says they (I think the author is female, but I'm not 100% sure) refused to abridge Part 1 into a single volume, which I think was a mistake. I wish Japanese light novel publishers/editors were a bit firmer with their authors - far too many light novels are filled with self-indulgent bloat, and Ascendance of a Bookworm is no exception.

As I learned with My Next Life as a Villainess, though, I can be more forgiving of problems in light novels if aspects of them overlap with my interests. In this instance, the book got points for having a book-loving heroine, and the self-indulgent bloat was mostly focused on Myne's efforts at bookmaking. I was interested to see what she'd come up with next and how she'd manage it, considering that it took her weeks just to work up the strength to walk to the forest on her own.

But was it really necessary to go into that much detail on several of Myne's attempts to make something paper- or book-like? Probably not. Same with Myne's various food-making, cleanliness, and personal hygiene efforts. Literally every idea Myne had involved a long, multi-step process to figure out if this world even had the supplies she needed, if those supplies were accessible in some way to commoners, and then how to get those supplies and use them, considering that Myne's body was so weak that overexerting herself could result in being bedridden with a fever for multiple days.

Myne won me over at the very beginning due to her love of books. She was the sort of person who'd find a way to read whenever she could, and she didn't care about anything except making sure she continued to have access to books and reading time. It didn't bother her if other people thought she was odd. However, this single-minded focus eventually began to wear on me. For one thing, in a world like the one she ended up in, it made Myne seem immensely selfish. Her family was literally dirt poor, and she kept asking for things with barely a thought as to whether they could afford them or spare the time to get them. For another, she'd occasionally have tantrums more appropriate to her physical age than supposed mental age when things didn't go her way. Honestly, Tuuli, Myne's 6 or 7 year old sister, usually came across as more mature than Myne, whose mind was supposedly that of a college graduate.

Like many recent light novels, this was unfortunately written primarily in the first person. The author knew enough about POV to realize that different first person narrators would have different sets of knowledge (there were a couple bonus stories written from a couple non-Myne POVs), but not enough to create truly distinct voices (or maybe that was a translation issue?). Also, as with other J-Novel Club books I've read, there were several typos that really should have been caught before this made it to print - a sentence with really odd comma usage, a stray "1" at the end of a sentence, incorrect words like "first" instead of "fist," etc.

Despite my issues with this book, I'm glad I have the next one and can continue on. The end of the volume introduced a few characters and a shift in the storyline that I'm very interested in seeing play out. Although I'm sure that Myne will continue to be more focused on books than anything else, it looks like the series may add some economic aspects, similar to Spice & Wolf and Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter. And since that may mean more appearances by one of my favorite characters in this book, a traveling merchant turned soldier named Otto (whose level of devotion to his wife makes him this series' version of Maes Hughes), I'm looking forward to it even more.

I really wish this had been the more tightly written novel it could have been, but so far this is decent.

Extras:

A folded page with full-color illustrations on both sides, black-and-white illustrations throughout, a map of the portion of the town Myne has access to, a drawing of Myne's family's home, and two bonus short stories, one from Lutz's POV and one prequel from Urano's friend Shuu's POV.

 

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

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

Beast Master, Vol. 1 - Motomi Kyousuke

It's not bad, but it's over-the-top in ways that don't really work for me right now, and I'm a little uncomfortable with the premise for reasons I'm not sure I can articulate. The artwork looks like a million other shojo series.

Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 192 pages.

Beast Master, Vol. 1 - Motomi Kyousuke

This doesn't have page numbers, so I'm guessing.

 

Some no-context ridiculousness:

 

Reading progress update: I've read 311 out of 311 pages.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1 Vol. 1 - Miya Kazuki, Karuho Shiina, quof

From the author's afterword:

 

"It's a webnovel, so I've been casually packing it full of all the things I love and want to write about without a care in the world for how long it ends up. I've been writing for over a year and it's still not done.

 

But despite that, I was very pushy when it came to this published version. I wouldn't let them abridge 'Part 1: A Soldier's Daughter' into a single volume for instance, and I requested that not only the cute girls but the older guys that are slowly introduced over the course of the story get cool drawings as well."

 

Somewhere out there is an editor who still curses this author's stubbornness at not allowing this first part of the story to be condensed (Part 1 is three books long, about 1000 pages total, I think). The pacing would certainly have been better.

 

Well, I don't regret owning the next couple parts, even if I find myself wishing this were the more tightly written book it could have been. At some point I want to watch the anime, but I haven't decided yet whether I want to do that before or after reading all three of the Part 1 books.

The Mystery Book Club went well

There were maybe 5 attendees besides me and the host. The structure really is just "each person takes turns talking about the book they read, and maybe folks ask questions while they're deciding whether they want to add it to their TBR or not." The "asking questions" part was a little hard via Zoom, what with lag and all. One person hadn't read any mysteries but was perfectly comfortable with talking about the history books they'd recently read.

 

I could see this working at my own library, if I could get approval for something that isn't necessarily directly related to student academic studies. A book club like this would rely heavily on at least a few of the attendees being talkative and willing to go into detail about their books, the good and/or the bad, but the host could start off being the talkative one if necessary.

 

There's another one happening next month. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to carve out the time to go. They'll be doing a theme, mysteries by British authors.

Pandemic post: Work "retreteat" today

We're doing some kind of virtual retreat at work today. I'm curious, although not terribly excited. It's three hours long, so surely it can't be one of those "invite some zoo animals to your meeting" things, although I could totally imagine my library director paying out of her own pocket for that in an effort to improve library morale. It wouldn't work, just like the weekly boxes of donuts and individually wrapped ice creams haven't worked, but I appreciate her efforts. She can't help it that those above her are more supportive of university sports than the university library.