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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

The Very First Damned Thing: An Author-Read Audio Exclusive
Jodi Taylor
Progress: 68/151 minutes
Black Klansman
Anne Nall Stallworth
Progress: 88/188 pages
The Sting of the Wild
Justin O. Schmidt
Progress: 12/230 pages
Binary Storm (Liege-Killer)
Christopher Hinz
Progress: 331/436 pages
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 read 224 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

I've had a guess as to the murderer for about 70 pages now, and a few pages ago that person made an offhand comment about an event they shouldn't have known about. Either that comment was an editing error, or I'm totally right about the identity of the killer.

Reading progress update: I've listened 107 out of 139 minutes.

The Dispatcher - John Scalzi, Zachary Quinto

Valdez is really slow on the uptake right now. I mean, this is a thing he does for a living - he should know the rules better than anyone. You can't tell me no one has ever used the whole "killing you but not really" thing this way before.

Reading progress update: I've listened 60 out of 139 minutes.

The Dispatcher - John Scalzi, Zachary Quinto

"'You stabbed the fucking judge?'

'Look, dude, it's against the rules to sto-'

'The judge did something you thought was against the rules so you fucking stabbed him?' Mason roared. 'You think that was appropriate?'

'Dude,' the duelist said and then screamed as Mason shoved his own sword into his chest.

'Oh, I'm sorry, was that against the rules?' Mason asked and yanked the sword out."

 

Heh. Although I really don't see the appeal of these duels. I mean, yes, you'll end up safe and sound in your home after it's all done (unless you're one of the very unlucky few who stay dead), but first you have to deal with the pain. And these guys suck with swords, so it'll probably be particularly awful until someone finally hits an artery or something.

Reading progress update: I've listened 46 out of 139 minutes.

The Dispatcher - John Scalzi, Zachary Quinto

This is set in a universe where people who are killed by other people have a very high chance of turning up, naked and alive, in their own home seconds later. One of the characters just mentioned dog fights, and now I'm wondering more about how this all works. Are animals affected too? If one dog kills another dog, does the dead dog turn up in whatever place it considers to be its home? Or are humans special in some way and, if so, why?

My Bingo card!

 

Look, it's my card!

 

I'm looking forward to this. It's probably going to require reading outside my comfort zone a bit. I really debated on which categories I wanted to exclude, and several of the spots on this card are ones I'd have excluded if I could have excluded more than three. The one I'm most nervous about: Slasher Stories.

 

I bought a few new packs of stickers to use this year, and I have several left over from last year. I can't wait to get to use them.

 

As far as the Authors Wild thing goes, I have no idea who I'm going to use. I could choose an author whose backlist I have access to but who I haven't read as much by, like Agatha Christie, or I could go with an author reread to give me room to retreat into a comfort zone in between horror novels. J.D. Robb would work for that.

 

I don't think I'm going to bother to plan things out much this year. I'll just read according to my mood as much as possible, as long as whatever I choose seems like it'd work for a square.

Nimona (audiobook) by Noelle Stevenson, performed by a full cast

Nimona -  Noelle Stevenson, HarperAudio, Rebecca Soler, Marc Thompson, Jonathan Davis

Nimona started off as a free fantasy webcomic and has since been published in graphic novel form (only the first three chapters of the webcomic are still available for free). I read it back when it was a webcomic and remembered enjoying it. I was excited when I heard about the audiobook, but also wary. I mean, it's a graphic novel. How do you turn a graphic novel into an even halfway decent audiobook?

In the case of Nimona, it was turned into something like a radio play, complete with sound effects, a full cast, and a narrator filling in whatever the sound effects and dialogue couldn't get across. For the most part, I thought it was reasonably successful, although I still missed the artwork.

Let me back up a bit. Nimona stars Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain who wants to cause trouble for the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics but who doesn't actually want to hurt anyone, and Nimona, his new sidekick. Nimona is a shapeshifter who thinks being a villain sounds cool, and she's overenthusiastic about her new job. She has a tendency to kill people if Ballister doesn't watch her and rein her in. Ballister's nemesis is Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the man who blew off his right arm.

When Ballister learns that the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics is involved in a project that may be poisoning the country's crops, he decides to intervene. The situation is complicated by Nimona's secrets and Ballister and Goldenloin's painful history

(they used to be friends, and it's strongly hinted that they were once lovers).

(show spoiler)


If the names didn't make it clear, there's a good bit of humor in this. I enjoyed Ballister's enthusiasm for the Science Fair, Dr. Blitzmeyer's complete obliviousness to anything that wasn't her area of research, and anything that poked fun at Goldenloin. The story did take a turn for the serious, though, when the full story of Nimona's past was revealed.

For the most part, the voice acting was pretty good. I was iffy about the casting decision for Goldenloin, but I loved the rest of the main cast. The attempt to have sound effects and narration fill in for the original story's artwork mostly worked, although I'm guessing that my past familiarity with the webcomic probably helped. That said, there were a few times when even I had a little trouble following what was going on, usually when Nimona was doing some of her more rapid-fire transformations.

Story-wise, the pacing was a bit weird. As much as I loved Ballister's reaction to the Science Fair, for example, that part came at an odd time in the story. Also, the ending was extremely unsatisfying. I can't remember if I had the same issue with the webcomic, but I recall a few extra illustrations that at least gave the illusion of more closure. And did the webcomic let readers at least know more about

Goldenloin's ultimate fate? Unless I missed it, the audiobook didn't - the last thing that was said about him was that he might not ever wake up again.

(show spoiler)


All in all, this was better than I expected, but I'd probably still advise newbies to the story to start with the graphic novel and listen to the audiobook only if they love the original work and want more.

 

Rating Note:

 

This is my 3-star "I don't even know" rating. I'd probably have rated it higher if it hadn't been for the ending.

 

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

Go For It, Nakamura! (one-shot manga) story and art by Syundei, translation by Amber Tamosaitis

Go For It, Nakamura! - SYUNDEI

Go For It, Nakamura! is comedy with gay high school romance elements. I want to emphasize, however, that it isn't a romance. If the series ever gets another volume (maybe it already has, just not in English?), I could see it becoming a romance, but this particular volume is not.

Nakamura is an awkward, introverted, and occasionally uncomfortably intense 16-year old. He adores his pet octopus, Icchan. He has no friends and practises conversations in his head all the time but has difficulty actually having them in real life. He also happens to be gay. He has an enormous crush on his popular and outgoing classmate, Hirose, and his goal is to 1) actually talk to him and 2) become friends with him.

I picked this up on a whim. Happily, this turned out to be a good decision. For the most part, I loved this volume.

I don't handle secondhand embarrassment well and found myself having to take breaks several times while reading this. Nakamura was painfully awkward in ways that, yes, were played for humor but were also often realistic enough that awkward and/or introverted readers could probably find something to relate to. One particular horrible moment Nakamura remembered exactly matched a horrible memory from my own middle school years. Seeing it on-page was a bit horrifying.

I rooted for Nakamura, but I also had issues with him. I disliked how completely focused he was on Hirose. He had zero friends, and yet when his efforts to talk to and impress Hirose led to him meeting and talking to Hirose's friends, he never once considered them to be potential friends. Instead, he viewed anyone who was even vaguely close to Hirose as rivals and possible sources of information about Hirose. He also didn't seem to realize that a lot of the things he was doing to try to get to know Hirose better were kind of creepy, like eavesdropping on Hirose's conversations to find out what sorts of things he liked.

Chapter 2 contained one of my least favorite moments, a single panel in which Nakamura had a sudden tentacle rape fantasy about Hirose. And Chapter 4 was a little weird, introducing a fujoshi artist who developed a crush on Nakamura. I'm still not sure whether she was aware that Nakamura liked Hirose, although I don't see how she could've missed it considering the nature of Nakamura's request.

Aside from those things, however, I really enjoyed this volume. The artwork was well-done and reminded me a lot of Rumiko Takahashi. And the humor usually worked for me, despite my secondhand embarrassment issues. It was focused on Nakamura's awkwardness and his efforts to accomplish something where his secret crush was concerned, but it didn't feel, to me, like Syundei was being overly cruel to Nakamura or making fun of him for being gay. (Be warned, however, that there are a couple instances of homophobia. At one point, for example, Nakamura's teacher laughed at the idea of two boys dating.)

The last couple chapters had some surprisingly serious moments, as Nakamura began to lose hope that he'd ever truly connect with Hirose and become his friend. He compared himself to his effortlessly cool teacher, who Hirose certainly idolized and, Nakamura feared, possibly had a crush on, and found himself focusing on all the ways he fell short.

The ending was sweet. I considered it reasonably satisfying, although some readers might not feel the same. Syundei gave Nakamura a bit of happiness but left plenty of room for the story to be continued.

Although the romance fan in me might have liked something more, I think it would have felt rushed and weird - not to mention there'd still be the issue of Nakamura's potentially unhealthy level of focus on Hirose, and what that would mean for any sort of romantic relationship between them. One interesting thing: This may be the only work I've ever read where the closeted main character is still closeted by the end, but not unhappy.

(show spoiler)


Extras:

A couple full-color pages, character profiles for Nakamura and Hirose, and a 2-page comic-style afterword by the author. In the afterword, Syundei talks a little about each chapter's creation - I wonder if the "tentacle rape" panel would have made it in if Syundei had known the series was going to continue?

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 4.5 and 5 stars for this. I don't really know that it deserves 5 stars, considering its problems, but I've found myself going back and rereading parts of it several times since I finished it. I decided that's worth bumping my rating up.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 156 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

Lindsey brings Charlene pumpkin squares, and yet there is no recipe for pumpkin squares at the end of the book, just raspberry petit fours. I am outraged. I mean, yeah, I can look up a recipe, but it's the principle of the thing.

Reading progress update: I've read 144 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

"Emma narrowed her eyes. 'Chief Daniels warned me about you. Are you being a buttinsky?'

 

Lindsey sat back in outrage. 'Did he call me that? Because that's just rude.'"

 

I'm a little sad that Chief Daniels is retired in this book, just as he'd started to improve as a character. But imagining his "getting Emma ready for the job" convo is fun.

Reading progress update: I've listened 136 out of 136 minutes.

Nimona -  Noelle Stevenson, HarperAudio, Rebecca Soler, Marc Thompson, Jonathan Davis

...Was the web comic this lacking in real closure? I don't remember, but the audiobook leaves me feeling unsatisfied. Unless I missed it, it didn't even confirm that

Goldenloin ever woke up.

(show spoiler)

Non-book post - Ugh

I did my "follow up" appointment - the orthopedic doctor in town rather than the guy a 3+ hour round trip away. It was just as useless as I feared it would be. He moved my leg around a bit (no x-ray) and expressed disappointment that the hospital had scheduled me with a different doctor than the one he'd specified. I had actually noticed this, called the hospital, and was told this was normal and should be fine since they're both orthopedic surgeons. ::shrug:: Anyway, he talked about surgery again (basically breaking my hip to try to correct the hip dysplasia) but said that if physical therapy seemed to be helping I could keep doing my exercises and see how things go.

 

If I have to go see someone again about my hip, I'll probably find a different doctor. Not sure yet who, but I don't trust this one at this point, and I feel like I'm repeatedly tossing my copay into a void. I know there's surgery in my future at some point, but it concerns that it's repeatedly the only option he talks about.

Reading progress update: I've listened 29 out of 136 minutes.

Nimona -  Noelle Stevenson, HarperAudio, Rebecca Soler, Marc Thompson, Jonathan Davis

“Coming up next, an exposé on Sir Goldenloin’s codpiece. What’s he hiding under there? Does he really expect us to believe that his junk is that impressive?”

 

Okay, so "Goldenloin" kind of does get commented on.

Reading progress update: I've listened 9 out of 136 minutes.

Nimona -  Noelle Stevenson, HarperAudio, Rebecca Soler, Marc Thompson, Jonathan Davis

“Hold up there, villain. We’ve got to fight because that’s my job!”

 

Heh. Ambrosius Goldenloin, ridiculous right down to his marrow.

 

This is a web comic (which I've read, but quite some time ago) adapted into something much like a radio play, complete with sound effects and occasional narration trying to do the work of the illustrations. It's going okay for me so far, but I could see why those unfamiliar with the comic would have problems. The narrator and sound effects can only accomplish so much, and some of Nimona's transformations are pretty rapid-fire.

 

Also, I think Goldenloin is better with the very nearly elvish prince visuals.

Reading progress update: I've read 126 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

I feel a little bad for being grateful for this murder.

Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 284 pages.

Read It and Weep - Jenn McKinlay

Back on page 86, Lindsey and Sully finally talked a bit about why they broke up. OMG, Sully. He's still upset that Lindsey was worried that her ex-fiance had died. What kind of reaction did he want from her? It would have been creepy and weird if she'd shrugged off his possible death like it was nothing.

 

That said, I'm not happy with the way things seem to be going with Robbie. I agree that Lindsey should be able to flirt with him all she wants - if Sully wants to grumble, then he shouldn't have dumped her. But Robbie's definitely not a good possible boyfriend, and Lindsey now seems to be leaning more strongly in that direction. Everyone who keeps saying "He's only married on paper" like him being married is no big deal needs to shut up.

 

I hope Sully and Lindsey stop being stupid soon. From what I've heard, though, it might take at least another book or two.

Honey So Sweet (manga, vol. 1) story and art by Amu Meguro, translated by Katherine Schilling

Honey So Sweet, Vol. 1 - Amu Meguro

All Nao Kogure wants is to avoid attracting too much attention and to hopefully make a few friends. Unfortunately, for some reason Taiga Onise, the guy everyone in her class is afraid of and who punched some upperclassmen on his first day of high school, has taken an interest in her. When he asks her to be his girlfriend ("Would you please date me with marriage in mind?" - coming on a little strong), she's sure that what he really wants is for her to be his slave for the rest of high school. She worries that if she says no to him, he'll torment her or hurt her. Seeing no other solution, Nao says "yes" and prepares for the worst.

As it turns out, Onise's bad reputation is a misunderstanding and he's actually a pretty nice guy. The more Nao gets to know him, the more she likes him. Too bad she's in love with someone else: her uncle, Sou, who's been raising her since her parents died. In this volume, Nao and Onise also gradually become friends with Kayo Yashiro, a gorgeous but aloof girl, and Ayumu Misaki, a good-looking boy with a prickly personality.

This was...okay. There were indeed quite a few sweet moments, but there were also a few things that threw me off.

The fact that Onise knew from the start that Nao only agreed to date him because she was scared of him was a little icky and at odds with his overall sweetness, even though he was eventually honest with her and admitted that he knew. Also, Nao wholeheartedly agreeing to continue being friends with Onise, knowing that he still liked her romantically, seemed like a bad idea. Still, I liked seeing Nao and Onise get to know each other. Onise's habit of bulldozing his way into people's lives balanced out Nao's desire to simultaneously blend into the background and somehow make friends. He also seemed to be encouraging Misaki out of his own prickly shell.

One big thing in this volume that didn't appeal to me was Nao's crush on her uncle. Who is related to her by blood and who has raised her since she was six or so years old. There's a definite squick factor there, and I hope this aspect of the series gets phased out quickly. The end of this volume indicated that I might be lucky in that regard. Either that, or Onise's words will just make Nao cling to her crush on her uncle more tightly. Please, no.

I've requested the next volume via ILL, so I guess I'll find out. Crossing my fingers that volume 2 is the end of Nao's crush on her uncle, and the beginning of even cuter scenes with Nao, Onise, Misaki, and Yashiro. I want to find out the story behind Onise's part in the umbrella flashback, why Misaki's so angry, and what the deal is with Yashiro.

 

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