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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 244 out of 311 pages.

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

This is a largely Western-style world where Myne can't get the Japanese food and spices she's used to, not even rice. They're also not familiar with the cooking techniques she knows. But someone just casually mentioned that Myne should use bamboo for the project she's working on. I feel like the existence of bamboo in this world should have come up sooner. Why isn't Myne more surprised?

Free in the US, May 17-22: Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

If you live in the US and you're interested in Black Widow, you might want to grab this while it's free.

 

Looking forward to the book club meeting

Binary Witness - Rosie Claverton, Jasmine Blackborow

I got my hour of vacation time approved and registered for the virtual book club meeting. They only had 3 of their 20 slots filled when I registered, so I'm feeling less bad about taking a spot from a resident of the area.

 

I choose Binary Witness as my book for the meeting because I was pretty sure I wouldn't manage to finish anything in time. A reread seemed like the best option. And it's looking like I was right, because I'm only about halfway through my relisten. I may switch to my paper copy sometime tonight.

Non-book post: My body and I are at odds right now, but I still managed to make pizza

So, in addition to hand problems that have required me to cut way back on Animal Crossing: New Horizons (I basically talk to my island residents, collect some shells, and that's it - my next home upgrade is going to take forever) and completely nix any thoughts I might have had about trying out The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I'm also having issues with my right forearm and elbow that I found out make it difficult and potentially dangerous to stir even something as wimpy as muffin batter. I got two thirds of the way through stirring some muffin batter on Saturday and basically gave up. The Chocolate Cream muffins, which are normally supposed to be a uniform dark chocolate color, are slightly marbled with sour cream. That's just how it is.

 

My plans for this week included making a couple pizzas, and and I wasn't sure how that was going to work. I definitely didn't want to try mixing the dough ingredients by hand like I normally do and I don't own a standing mixer, so I used an electric hand mixer for most of it and then squashed in the stuff that wouldn't fully incorporate with my bare hands. I baked the pizza today and the end result wasn't bad. A little less airy than usual, but no less tasty. I'll break out the electric hand mixer again for pizza #2 later this week (gotta use up those ingredients).

 

You know what I wish I could do? I wish I could go back to the physical therapist who helped me with my hip issues and ask her for advice on my hands and arm. At the moment, of all the people I've seen for my "body parts falling apart" issues, she's the one I trust the most. Unfortunately, it took going to three doctors before I finally got someone to send me to her last time, so who knows what it's going to take now. I'm not really a fan of my doctor's current approach, which boils down to "put this pain cream on the parts that hurt, up to four times a day."

My Androgynous Boyfriend (manga, vol. 1) by Tamekou, translated by Jocelyne Allen

My Androgynous Boyfriend, Vol. 1 - Tamekou,  Jocelyne Allen (Translator)

Meguru is a gorgeous androgynous Instagram model who loves looking cute for his girlfriend. Wako is his girlfriend and generally doesn't care about her own looks much. What she enjoys is looking at cute things. She works as an editor and used her photo editing skills to help launch Meguru's modeling career.

In this volume, Meguru wrestles with his desire to be open and honest about his girlfriend and how much he loves her, even though people in his industry are supposed to be single so that fans can imagine being with them.

How is this not a one-shot? I mean, Meguru and Wako are cute couple who clearly love and support each other, and it's all very nice but...I don't see how there's enough here for more than this one volume? And even this one volume barely had any substance to it.

I bought this because the cover art was pretty (I want whatever Meguru is drinking), and because the idea of a romantic manga starring an ordinary-looking girl and her gender nonconforming boyfriend appealed to me. It's made clear from the beginning that Meguru isn't gay or trans or into cross-dressing. He just likes looking nice for his girlfriend. It causes some awkward moments because people sometimes assume he's female when he's out with Wako, or, if they know he's a guy, they assume he's into other guys. His biggest worry is that it might bother Wako, but luckily for him Wako doesn't mind.

Readers get to meet Kira, Meguru's friend and another model, who's probably the most entertaining character in the whole volume. He's completely self-absorbed and doesn't even notice people unless they're beautiful or important to him in some way.

And that's pretty much it. There really wasn't much to this volume, and although I know that volume 2 will be coming out in September, I have no clue how the author is going to manage to expand upon this. The only question I had, throughout the volume, was how Meguru and Wako met and started dating, and that was answered near the end.

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 132 out of 166 pages.

My Androgynous Boyfriend, Vol. 1 - Tamekou,  Jocelyne Allen (Translator)

Kira, a model, proudly saying to an interviewer who initially mistook his friendship with Meguru for a romantic relationship:

 

"I have never dated anyone. My body and soul are pure."

Okay, so Kira is horrible and doesn't even bother to notice people who aren't beautiful or important to him in some way, but his self-absorption makes him the most amusing character in the volume.

 

Meh. This isn't bad, but it isn't good enough to justify buying the next volume. I might eventually try to get volume 2 via interlibrary loan, maybe.

Reading progress update: I've read 52 out of 166 pages.

My Androgynous Boyfriend, Vol. 1 - Tamekou,  Jocelyne Allen (Translator)

I got this a while back because the cover was pretty and the premise sounded interesting. It's about an androgynous Instagram idol and his ordinary-looking editor girlfriend. So far, I'm not really sure this has much more going for it than its premise. I do think it's interesting that the author introduced the potential for jealousy but then deliberately opted not to follow through with it. Wako, the editor, made a big deal about needing to go to work ASAP for a meeting and then stopped to apply her makeup, something she normally wouldn't do. When Meguru asked her about it, she said wanted to make a good impression on the artist she's meeting, a guy who creates sexually explicit manga for women. Instead of fretting over this, Meguru's first reaction was to ask to do Wako's makeup, because he could do it faster and better.

Sweat and Soap (manga, vol. 2) by Kintetsu Yamada, translated by Matt Treyvaud

Sweat and Soap, Vol. 2 - Kintetsu Yamada, Matt Treyvaud

Asako finds herself having to talk to Natori's assistant, Korisu Ichise, who she's worried might have a crush on Natori. Then Natori and Asako go on a company trip, where hiding their relationship becomes a little more difficult than expected. After that, Asako visits her family and ends up inviting Natori to the restaurant her brother Keita works at. Natori is aware of how close Asako is to Keita and wants to make a good impression. Meanwhile, Keita is convinced that Natori must secretly be a sleazebag who's playing his sister.

I still really like Yamada's art style, and Asako and Natori are a cute couple whose romance I'm enjoying, even if aspects of it are a bit weird. Still, this volume wasn't quite as good as the first one.

In the first volume, Asako's body odor insecurities were extremely intense. She'd use her work breaks to reapply deodorant and would stay quiet and still in order to avoid sweating. The fact that Natori liked the way she smelled and actually enjoyed it if she sweated a bit was embarrassing and surprising to her.

In this volume, it felt like the author scaled Asako's body odor insecurities way back, more than really made sense. Yes, Asako's self-esteem was gradually improving, but Asako had been dealing with these issues since childhood. She'd only been dating Natori for a couple months - it was hard to believe that she'd be able to go on a company trip without her body odor worries being much of an issue. I had thought she'd fret over the toiletries she needed to bring, whether anyone would notice all the stuff she'd packed, whether she'd be able to find time to reapply deodorant, etc., but from the sounds of things she might not have even brought any of her soaps and things from home - there was a part where Natori noted that she smelled like a soap that wasn't one of the ones he'd created.

I'm also not sure I liked the way Asako's jealousy over Korisu was handled. After their talk about the missed text message at the end of the first volume, I expected better from these characters than

Natori deciding that he couldn't continue treating Korisu, who he'd known for three years and viewed like a little sister, so familiarly.

(show spoiler)

On the plus side, at least it was his own decision and not something Asako asked him to do.

The second half of the volume, featuring Asako's family, was great. I loved how close they all were, and I'm really looking forward to Natori eventually getting to meet the whole family. This time around, Natori just got to meet Asako's brother, who'd been protective of her since back when they were kids and she was being bullied. Dinner at the Italian restaurant Keita works at turned into a mini battle as Natori tried to make a good impression while Keita turned everything from their introduction to the menu into a test of Natori's character. Asako, meanwhile, was completely oblivious and thought they were getting along just fine.

I definitely plan to continue this series, even though this particular volume wasn't quite as enjoyable for me as the first one. Asako and Natori have been a pretty sweet and supportive couple so far, and it's nice to read a romance manga starring adults, relatively low-drama ones at that.

Extras:

  • Character profiles for Asako, Natori, Korisu, and Keita
  • A 2-page manga-style afterword by the author
  • A one-page comic continuing the scene on the cover
  • A profile page for Jin Okura, Asako's boss
  • Two pages of translator's notes
  • A "normal soup peperoncino" recipe

 

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

Reading progress update: I've read 218 out of 311 pages.

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

J-Novel Club really needs to be more careful with its editing - I caught one bit where commas seemed to have been used in place of periods, a stray "1" at the end of a sentence, and an instance of "is the worse" instead of "is the worst." And then there's the quality of the light novel itself. So many light novel authors have no clue how to do decent story pacing, and Miya Kazuki is unfortunately not an exception to the rule.

 

I hope the main character matures a bit in later novels. It's easy to forget that Urano is a college grad, because her single-minded pursuit of her personal book-related projects and her tantrums when things don't go her way make her seem much younger. It fits her body - Myne is maybe 6 now - but that doesn't make her POV any easier to deal with.

BL Metamorphosis (manga, vol. 1) by Kaori Tsurutani, translated by Jocelyne Allen

BL Metamorphosis, Vol. 1 - Kaori Tsurutani, Jocelyne Allen

Note: I've seen a few places online tag this as "boys' love." While it includes characters that read that genre, as well as a few panels and pages of the works they read, this is absolutely not a "boys' love" series, in case the cover doesn't make that clear.

Ichinoi is in her 70s and lives a quiet life. Her husband died a while ago and her daughter lives in another country, so most of the people she sees on a regular basis are the children and elderly people who come to her for calligraphy lessons. This changes when she goes to a bookstore for the first time in a while and buys a manga volume because it has beautiful artwork. She figures it will be like the manga she read when she was younger, but it turns out to be a romantic "boys' love" (BL, m/m) series. She ends up hooked and goes back to the bookstore for more volumes, attracting the attention of one of the store's employees, Urara, a high school student and huge BL fan.

Right Stuf has started including more reviews on their blog, and it was one of those reviews that prompted me to buy this. The artwork wasn't the style I'm normally attracted to, but the premise, a budding cross-generational friendship prompted by a shared love of BL manga, made me want to read it immediately.

This was a wonderful first volume. Urara desperately wanted friends with whom she could talk to about the things she loved, but she was too shy, and possibly too worried about how others would react to the things she wanted to gush about. Ichinoi was less shy, and she was the one to take the first steps in her and Urara's friendship, inviting Urara out for tea.

I loved how friendly, positive, and open-minded Ichinoi was. I also loved watching Urara try to navigate the potential hazards in this new friendship. When Ichinoi asked for manga recommendations, it was like the floodgates had opened up for Urara. She could think of lots of titles to recommend but was afraid of making a misstep and ruining things. Ichinoi had already defied Urara's expectations by enjoying a manga featuring a sweet gay romance, but would manga with on-page sex scandalize her?

This volume also touches a bit on Urara's school life - the one person her own age that she talks to is her childhood friend, a guy who's dating someone else and who I think she might have a bit of a crush on.

My biggest issue with this first volume was that it was very short. Also, it's setting off various alarm bells that make me wonder whether I should wait until a few more volumes have come out and I can hunt for spoilers before continuing on. Unlike A Man and His Cat, another series I recently started reading featuring an older protagonist, this one screams "will end with the death of the older character, after the younger character has learned to be more assertive." I like Ichinoi so far, and that would wreck me. I'm also not sure how I feel about the hints that Urara might have an unrequited crush on her childhood friend. It depends on how it gets handled, I suppose.

Extras:

A full-color illustration and a 2-page afterword manga featuring Ichinoi making and eating milk jelly.

 

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

A few months ago I stumbled across a word for what turns out to be one of my favorite anime genres, although I didn't realize it had a name: iyashikei. It's a term for anime and manga specifically created to have a "healing" or soothing effect, and often crosses over with another favorite of mine, "slice of life." I came across this series after learning about that word - I'm watching it on Blu-ray, but it's also streaming for free on Crunchyroll.

 

(Content warning for the series:

one of the cat's siblings dies and its body is shown on-screen a few times.)

(show spoiler)

 

My Roommate is a Cat stars Subaru, a 23-year old introverted mystery writer who's dealing with both grief over his parents' death and social anxiety. Being around people and noise exhausts him, and all he wants to do is read books and be alone. However, he's also terrible at taking care of himself - he doesn't properly stock his kitchen, he forgets to eat when he's on a deadline, and his social anxiety is so great that even talking to store employees is hard for him.

 

While visiting his parents' grave, he encounters a stray cat, is struck with an idea for his next novel, and ends up taking the cat in, the first living being he has purposely allowed into his life since his parents' death. Each episode is generally structured to first show viewers Subaru's POV and then all or most of the same events from the cat's POV. There's often a mismatch between how they interpret events, but they gradually come to understand each other and form a little family, which also leads to Subaru allowing more people into his life.

 

I have about three episodes left, and I'll be sad when it's over. It's a sweet series with occasional sad moments - I recommend keeping tissues on hand for the flashback scenes. Haru, the cat, views Subaru like one of her siblings, someone who needs to be taken care of and watched over, but she also occasionally gets a little irked by him. And I can definitely relate to Subaru's introversion. Although he often finds that his interactions with others go better than he expected and open up his world in enjoyable ways, it still exhausts him all the same. The episode where his friend brought his younger siblings over was pretty much how things went when my sister brought all the kids to my apartment a few years back.

Reading progress update: I've read 100 out of 224 pages.

Sweat and Soap, Vol. 2 - Kintetsu Yamada, Matt Treyvaud

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

 

I'm still enjoying this, but the author seems to have massively scaled back Asako's body odor insecurities, even though it's only been a couple months since she and Natori started dating. For example, in this volume she participates in a work trip. I could think of multiple reasons why she might have been anxious about it (she might have been concerned about the amount of toiletries she'd need to bring and whether anyone would notice, and whether she'd be able to find convenient breaks to put on deodorant), but it never came up, not even when the interdepartmental ping-pong championship started.

 

Edit: I just checked the reviews on Goodreads and am laughing because it seems like most of the complaining is focused on the reduced number of sex scenes.

Left Bank Books virtual event with Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel - Jeffrey Cranor, Joseph Fink

The event last night with Martha Wells and Ann Leckie was enjoyable and helped me forget some of the crap going on right now, so I'm think I might attend this event with the creators/writers of the Welcome to Night Vale series. This one's taking place a little earlier in the evening, so we'll see if I remember - today's a pretty full day for me, with lots of meetings and a doctor's appointment to look into my hand and elbow issues (although compression gloves and rest seem to be helping a lot with my hands, thank goodness).

Pandemic post: Layoffs are coming

I've been notified that layoffs will definitely be happening at my library. Not sure how many people or when we'll all find out. But I'm guessing I'm safe, because I've also been notified that I'm being considered for the Acquisitions Librarian duties, in addition to my Catalog Librarian duties. So either jobless or doing the work of two people. Fun.

Reading progress update: I've read 73 out of 140 pages.

BL Metamorphosis, Vol. 1 - Kaori Tsurutani, Jocelyne Allen

Ichinoi just realized that the author of the series she likes only releases about one volume every year and a half, and she's already read the most recent volume, so now she's calculating how many more years she might still have left to live and how much more of the series she might get to read. T_T

 

Well now I'm sad. But I bet Urara can recommend lots of other series to her.

Reading progress update: I've read 54 out of 140 pages.

BL Metamorphosis, Vol. 1 - Kaori Tsurutani, Jocelyne Allen

I need to stop buying paper books, or I'm going to end up buried in them. I don't really have a lot of room for more unless I start offloading, and even if places are taking them right now (I think my library is currently accepting gifts still), I don't feel comfortable giving piles of my books to places right now.

 

So anyway, this was part of a recent order inspired by a Right Stuf review blog post. I'm not a fan of the artwork at all, but it's turning out to be sweet. An older lady named Ichinoi stops by a bookstore and picks up a manga with a cover she likes, figuring it would be like the manga of her younger days. It actually turns out to be BL (boys' love) manga - in this case, not the raunchy stuff, but the sweeter and more romantic stuff. She gets hooked and goes back to the store for more volumes, attracting the attention of one of the employees, a female high school student who badly wants to make friends but who doesn't know how to start socializing with people at school. It's looking like she'll have found both a friend and a reading buddy in Ichinoi.