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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

Scavenger Hunt
Christopher Pike
Progress: 73/215 pages
The Gene: An Intimate History
Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Firm
John Grisham
Gorgeous Carat, Volume 01
You Higuri
Progress: 40/170 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 232 out of 320 pages.

Planetfall - Emma Newman

It's been clear since the beginning of the book (heck, it was even brought up in the acknowledgements) that Ren has anxiety. I haven't found out exactly what happened after Planetfall yet, but I'm now to parts that take a closer look at what the stress of those events did to her over the past 20 years. It's uncomfortable as heck to read.

Reading progress update: I've read 118 out of 320 pages.

Planetfall - Emma Newman

I just realized that I never added this to my "currently reading," although I've been reading this for Booklikesopoly for almost two weeks now.


It's not that I dislike the book - in fact, I really want to know whatever this secret is that Ren and Mack are hiding, and whether there's more to Sung-Soo's story than he's letting on. But work continues to be physically and emotionally exhausting, and sometimes all I want to do at the end of the day is play computer games (my top games at the moment: Stardew Valley, Equilinox, Blush Blush, and Cheeky Chooks). Or sleep.


But I'm almost to the halfway point, and I think key parts of Ren's secret are about to be revealed. I'm looking forward to that.

Linda Sejic's Punderworld

If there was a graphic novel collection of these, I would buy it. Sejic's Hades and Persephone are adorable together.

Non-book post: Yay, logic!

I was asked to get a physically impossible project done at work, basically "get all of these books hauled from point A to point B in three days." This same project would normally be accomplished over the course of several weeks, due to the number of available empty boxes, changing weather conditions, the number of boxes that can safely be hauled in a golf cart, and the number of books that can fit in a box while still allowing a likely elderly Friends of the Library member to lift it.


The project was modified from "haul ALL the books" to "we don't expect all, just get some" after I laid out all the numbers involved. Aw yeah, logic works sometimes. :-D

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

[My first full review since April! ::tears of joy:: Maybe I'll be able to write more?]


Keiko is a non-neurotypical Japanese woman. As a young child, she learned that she didn't view the world the same way as other people. When she saw a dead bird, for example, other children grieved over it while she thought that it would make a nice dinner for her father. When two boys were fighting and someone yelled that they needed to stop, Keiko hit one of the boys over the head with a shovel. It certainly stopped the fight, but it definitely wasn't considered an appropriate solution. As her parents became more and more concerned about Keiko's inappropriate reactions, Keiko tried to become as normal as possible by being quiet, almost never taking any initiative, and imitating the words, actions, and facial expressions of those around her. For the most part, it worked.

When Keiko was 18, she got a part-time job at a convenience store that just opened up. The store's clearly stated rules and guidelines for employees, which covered everything from what to say to customers to what sorts of facial expressions to wear, instantly appealed to her, and she achieved a relatively peaceful life. Unfortunately, Keiko is now 36, still working at the convenience store (with no desire to leave), single (with no desire to be otherwise), and childless (with zero interest in having children). It's becoming increasingly apparent to her that her way of life doesn't fit in with societal expectations. The question is: what, if anything, does she want to do about it?

Keiko wasn't always a comfortable person to spend time with. She was practical to the point of coldness. The shovel incident is a good example, as is her reaction when her infant nephew starts crying: for just a moment, she thinks that killing him would stop his crying pretty quickly. She didn't act on that thought and didn't generally come across as violent despite the shovel incident, but it was still a chilling moment.

That said, I definitely identified with Keiko's feelings about societal expectations for women when it came to marriage and children. This book was, of course, a statement about Japanese society, but I could see parallels in the US. The path from teen to adult includes sex and dating. You can get away with being single for a while if you have a career, but eventually people want to know when you're planning on getting married and having kids. If you're dating someone, you're expected to one day get married. If you get married, it won't be long before people notice the slightest change in your weight and wonder if you're pregnant. Even if you explicitly say that you have no desire for any or all of these things, people will assume that you secretly do, or that you'll change your mind in the future.

Based on Keiko's own thoughts, I'd say she was a sex-repulsed aromantic asexual. The word "asexual" was used in the text, although I think only as part of Keiko's friends' immediate "let's smooth over this bit of awkwardness" response when she accidentally admitted that she'd never been in love - one of them implied that Keiko might be either a lesbian or asexual, in a way that was maybe meant to be supportive but that instantly got my hackles up. Keiko was annoyed too, at the way they made assumptions about how unhappy she must feel.

As the story progressed, Keiko began to notice how often others would ask when she planned to get married. People were also increasingly starting to notice her habit of taking on others' facial expressions and manner of speaking. The convenience store was her refuge, the one place where she understood exactly what she needed to do and how the world worked, but even that was giving her reason to worry. She knew, better than anyone, that the convenience store didn't tolerate anything or anyone that couldn't fit in. What if, as she got older, she became physically incapable of performing her convenience store duties? What sort of life would be left for her then?

The introduction of a new coworker, a 35-year-old deadbeat named Shiraha, set off some alarm bells in my head, especially after he admitted to Keiko that he began working at the convenience store in the hope of finding a wife. Shiraha was basically an incel, always whining about how society hasn't progressed past the Stone Age, rewarding only the strongest males, the best hunters.

The story went the route I feared it would, at least somewhat, but then jumped the tracks a bit at the end. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about how things turned out. On the one hand, people's reactions to Keiko after the change she made in her life sickened me - I'd like to think that at least a few of them were privately worried that she was making a bad decision. On the other hand, I loved Keiko's confidence and attitude during her early dealings with Shiraha. She was the one letting Shiraha into her life, and she could cut his nonsense off if she wanted to.

(show spoiler)

I think the ending was supposed to be positive, but it was hard to see it that way, knowing that Keiko's fears about her future and problems with her family hadn't been dealt with. Things didn't go as badly as I had worried they would, so there was that, but would things really be okay in the long run? I couldn't convince myself that the answer was "yes."


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

Reading progress update: I've read 163 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

Well, I finished it. I identified with a lot of the stuff it had to say about how society views marriage, sex, and having children. Then the story rapidly started going places that made me feel a little ill. It abruptly wrapped up in a way that was neither positive nor negative, and now I feel a little empty.

Reading progress update: I've read 109 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

"'Oh, sorry. It's the first time I've kept an animal at home, so it feels like having a pet, you see.'"


The animal in question: Shiraha. Oh boy.

Reading progress update: I've read 92 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

NOOO!!! But I do like this bit:


"'What the hell are you saying? That's ridiculous! I'm sorry, but there's no way I'll ever be able to get it up with you, Furukura.'


'Get it up? Um, what has that got to do with marriage? Marriage is a matter of paperwork, an erection is a physiological phenomenon.'"



Reading progress update: I've read 87 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

Keiko, about Shiraha:


"He seemed to have this odd circuitry in his mind that allowed him to see himself only as the victim and never the perpetrator I thought as I watched him."

Reading progress update: I've read 68 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

Oh no. This better not be going where I think it might be going.


Keiko has a new coworker, Shiraha. Keiko's 36, one of the oldest employees at the store and certainly the most senior - she's been there since the store opened 18 years ago, which is basically unheard of. Shiraha is 35 and, unlike Keiko, does nothing but badmouth the job. He seems to think he knows everything, despite only just finishing his training.


Keiko talks to him a little more, to try to understand why he acts the way he does - since she's always imitating those around her in order to try to blend in, human behavior and motivations fascinate her. There's something about Shiraha that reminds her a little of herself. She notices that the way he badmouths convenience store work seems like he's just parroting words he's heard in the past, similar to the way she parrots others' words in order to appear normal.


She asks him why he's working at the store if he hates it so much and receives an unexpected response: he's marriage hunting. For some bizarre reason he decided that convenience store work would be a good way to find a wife. Keiko, please do not marry Shiraha in order to be more like other people.

Reading progress update: I've read 87 out of 177 pages.

Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter, Vol. 1 - Suki Umemiya, Michael Reia, Angela Liu

There are so many "ordinary guy transported to/reincarnated in another world" manga and light novels that I can't help but perk up when I come across something similar that actually has a female main character. Here we have an ordinary office lady who stayed up until 2 AM playing her favorite otome (romance "choose your own adventure" style game starring a female main character and her various male potential love interests). She unfortunately has to work late and ends up getting hit by a car and dying on her way home.


She wakes up in the body of the villainess in her favorite otome, in the middle of a scene that she knows will result in her soon being sent away to a nunnery. She manages to avoid that fate, and her suddenly very progressive father sends her off to be fief lord of their fiefdom, a role that would normally have been given to her brother.


So far everything is kind of bland, but I do ship Iris (the main character) and Tanya (her loyal maid) somewhat, so there's that. I own the first three volumes of this, so the series has at least that long to capture my interest.


And no, this isn't something for Booklikesopoly and it isn't a library book that needs to be turned in soon, but I've had a not-so-great week and could use a quick manga boost.

Reading progress update: I've read 37 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

There are direct mentions of homosexuality and asexuality after Keiko inadvertently admits to the few friends she has outside of work that, although she's 36, she's never dated anyone. The thing that bugs Keiko (sort of, since I'm not sure anything really bugs her) is that everyone is assuming she's miserable in her husband-less, date-less, child-less state.


The one person in Keiko's life that she seems to be completely honest with is her sister, who gives Keiko advice on what to say in certain situations in order to seem more like everyone else. I'm hoping her sister gets some on-page scenes.

Non-book post: Ooh, someone's in trouble

It turns out that at least some of my internet problems were being caused by the contractors replacing the siding on mine and neighboring apartment buildings. The internet repair guy called up my apartment management and let them know that they should talk to the contractors or expect charges every time someone from his company had to come put stuff back up that the contractors tore down.


Crossing my fingers that I'll have a more stable internet connection from here on out, with better overall speed.

Reading progress update: I've read 21 out of 163 pages.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori

"When morning comes, once again I'm a convenience store worker, a cog in society. This is the only way I can be a normal person."


I'm trying to read at least one work each by female Japanese authors whose works are available in English. Here we have a female author writing about a non-neurotypical female main character.


Ever since a few mishaps in her childhood caused Keiko to realize that she doesn't view the world or react to it the same way as other people, she has tried to blend in by being quiet, not taking any initiative, and mimicking others as best as possible. When she was 18, she got her first job as a convenience store worker and discovered a world with clear rules. Her convenience store worker training even covered what sorts of facial expressions she should have when dealing with customers. However, it's now 18 years later and she's running up against the issue that her parents and others think she should want more from her life than convenience store work.


So far this is making for quick, easy reading. I'm not really sure what to expect from the story and the route it might take.

Humble Bundle: Science Fiction by Start

Ooh, this Humble Bundle is a very nice deal if you're a Martha Wells fan and don't already own any of the Raksura books. I've only read The Cloud Roads, but I remember it being excellent.


I can't really comment on the rest of the bundle - lots of anthologies, which I don't normally read.

Non-book post: Pretty bread!

Since my internet is currently behaving itself (I'm somewhat worried that the repair person will come and not be able to find anything wrong with it because it'll be working fine at the time), I figured I'd upload a picture of some pretty sweet bread I made over the weekend. It's a little darker than I intended but still tastes great.



It's the prettiest bread I know how to make, and it's fairly easy. The recipe comes from Bread Machine Magic: 139 Exciting New Recipes Created Especially for Use in All Types of Bread Machines - Linda Rehberg,Lois Conway  - the bread machine takes care of the kneading, and the rest has to be done in an oven. The best part is that the largest amount my machine can make results in two loaves, so I can potentially give one away as a gift and keep the other for munching. This time around, though, both loaves were for me. :-)