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Familiar Diversions

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

Currently reading

Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion!
Natalie Reiss
Progress: 20/120 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages
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
Better Than A Dream (Yaoi Novel) - Raika Sakuragi Of the two DRM-free e-books Digital Manga, Inc. decided to sell through ARe, this one's description excited me the least. There seemed to be too many characters, and I'm not a fan of the “grieving widow/widower/lover” trope. It also didn't help that the excerpt on the publisher's website was boring and strange - DMI folks, please tell me you didn't seriously think the stuff from the POV of the dog would convince people to buy the book.You know what, though? Better Than a Dream turned out to be an okay read. While I do think there are lots of better books out there, if you're going to try one of DMI's “yaoi novel” offerings, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.Aspects of the book that worked for me:- Sakuragi's fresh take on the “grieving widow/widower/lover” trope. Or at least it felt fresh to me – since I usually avoid the trope, it's quite possible that this sort of thing is common in m/m “grieving widower/lover” stories. Anyway, in most books I've read with this trope, the grieving character has some kind of outlet for their grief. In Better Than a Dream, very few people know that Yuuki is gay, much less that he and Tsukada were lovers. Although I didn't always like the way Yuuki acted, in this context I could sort of understand why he acted the way he did. I don't think Yuuki ever had an opportunity to properly grieve, and the one person around him trying to help him through his grief (sort of) had ulterior motives. Yuuki might have continued to keep things as they were, were it not for Kamishiro. Kamishiro was the catalyst who got him to start working through his post-Tsukada feelings.- Sakuragi tried to write her characters as though they were actual people. None of that “you raped me, but you're hot and it felt good, so I love you” (yes, I'm still a bit angry about Kyoko Wakatsuki's [b:The Selfish Demon King|6460141|The Selfish Demon King|Kyoko Wakatsuki|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1301711051s/6460141.jpg|6650545]). When bad stuff happened, if affected characters' emotions, and they reacted accordingly, or at least somewhat accordingly. More on that in my "Aspects that didn't work for me" section.- The mystery of Kamishiro. To be honest, I thought Sakuragi was working up to the revelation that Kamishiro was actually post-magical-reconstructive-surgery-Tsukada. Thankfully, Sakuragi came up with something more realistic, yet still shocking. Bravo.- The WTF moments. Even when they horrified me, I couldn't help but be morbidly curious about what was going to happen next.- The mountain-climbing and café aspects. It's not like Sakuragi included a whole lot of detail on these things, but it was still nice to see that the characters had lives outside of having sex or thinking about having sex. I do wonder, though, how Yuuki managed to stay in business. Even if Fuuka had had a better location, I doubt his clientele would have consisted of more than the regulars who had been coming there for years.Aspects that didn't work for me:- The weak beginning. Is it even possible for a book to have a weaker beginning? It starts with a strange prologue written primarily from the perspective of a dog. There is a bit of confusing head-hopping in which Sakuragi slips in a little from some random elderly lady's perspective. Then the book switches to Yuuki's perspective. I was left wondering whether the man in the prologue was Shin or Tsukada and had trouble orienting myself until I reread the book's description.- The “grieving lover” trope. I've mentioned this before on this blog, but I'm not a fan of the “widow/widower” trope, because so often the deceased person is cardboard, either a horrible person or unbelievably perfect. Tsukada was perfect. Yuuki worries that what he feels for Kamishiro is actually due to seeing aspects of Tsukada in him. He eventually comes to the realization that he loves Kamishiro because he is Kamishiro. To be honest, I didn't find the progression from Yuuki's earlier worries to his final revelation to be very believable. It seemed to come down to “good sex = love.”- Several of the characters could have been fleshed out better. Shin and Kamishiro felt like sketches, at best. They were more fleshed out than Tsukada, but not by much.- The sex scenes and any references to sexual feelings. They are the source of many laughable lines. Example: “As Shin became a bigger part of his life, Yuuki's feverish body often whispered sweet nothings to his senses.” (pg. 22 on my Nook). There's a lot of reliance on cliches that you'll be familiar with if you've read yaoi manga before, like really drooly kisses – as it turns out, I can take this much better in manga form than novel form. Ick. Also, I'm still not sure, but I think there was a bit where Yuuki used shaving cream as lubricant during sex with Kamishiro. Gah.- The on-page rape, or near-rape. This whole bullet point counts as a SPOILER, but, to my mind, it's a totally necessary one. Sakuragi sets things up so that there's a bit of a love triangle. Shin is attracted to Yuuki, and Yuuki knows this on some level but refuses to do anything about that knowledge. Yuuki continues his spinelessness by not giving Shin advance warning that he has allowed Kamishiro to live in his home. I thought Shin was perfectly justified in feeling angry at Yuuki. I expected a horrible, tense, ugly fight. What I did not expect was that Shin would get drunk and rape Yuuki (or nearly rape him, depending on your perspective). All sympathy I might have felt for Shin was gone in that moment, and I was angry that Sakuragi used rape as a plot device. Up to that point, Shin had actively avoided forcing himself on Yuuki – all he did was put himself in Yuuki's company as often as possible and wait for him to eventually get over Tsukada's death. The rape seemed out-of-character. Also, while the rape did affect Shin and Yuuki's relationship (so much awkwardness), I still felt things were too easy between them. By the end of the book, they part on easy and friendly, if somewhat awkward, terms.- Yuuki's spinelessness. While I at first attributed some of this to not being able to properly deal with his grief, I eventually came to believe that he was just a weak person. His non-handling of the situation with Shin played a big part in how I felt about him.- Mysteriously abandoned story elements. Sakuragi sets things up so that it looks like one of Yuuki's regular customers, a teenage girl, is going to blackmail him into dating her, using her new-found knowledge (provided by Shin in bastard mode) that Yuuki is gay. Then nothing comes of that. It's not even mentioned again. Also, at one point, it's mentioned that Tsukada's boss had a habit of disappearing at “inconvenient times” (page 37 on my Nook), causing Tsukada to wonder whether he was really going where he claimed he was going. Nothing ever comes of that either.I wouldn't call this the cream of the m/m romance novel crop, not by any stretch of the imagination. However, if you can put up with some aspects of it, it's not that bad a read. It's certainly the best of the two DRM-free Digital Manga, Inc. e-book choices I know of.(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)