Sunday, March 22, 2020

For US and Canadian folks: #CLOSETHELIBRARIES

You may not realize it, but even in the midst of a pandemic, a lot of libraries still have their doors open to users (the library I work for falls into this category). Even if they're closed, they might still be requiring all of their staff to come in (again, my library mostly falls into this category - in Technical Services, anyone who wishes to work from home due to concerns about the virus must make sure that someone else in their department is still working at the physical building). None of this is safe for staff members, their families, library users, or their communities.

This article provides strategies for getting libraries in your area closed. They link to a Google doc that includes a list of libraries known to still be open. It's a lot. Please do what you can to help your communities and get those libraries closed.

Without the context, all of this feels bizarrely Fahrenheit 451-ish. But here we are.

Monday, March 9, 2020

REVIEW: Hanasaku Iroha the Movie: Home Sweet Home (anime movie)

Hanasaku Iroha the Movie: Home Sweet Home is basically a side story in the Hanasaku Iroha series, which I saw and reviewed way back in 2012. It takes place prior to the Bonbori Festival, which I can't even remember at this point.

Ohana is still thinking about what she wants out of her life and struggling with her mixed feelings about her mother. When Yuina (a character I'd completely forgotten about - she's the heiress to a rival inn) arrives in order to learn more about how other inns are run, Ohana's grandmother makes her Ohana's problem. This leads to Ohana discovering an old logbook from her mother's teen days, back when her mother first met her father.

While that's going on, Nako is struggling with frustration and exhaustion. She's been left to take care of her younger siblings while both of her parents are away for work. She loves her siblings but struggles with the knowledge that, sometimes, what they really need is their real mother rather than their older sister acting as a surrogate mother. Minko isn't in the movie quite as much, but she does have her own problem: figuring out why Tohru keeps rejecting the meals she makes for Kissuiso's customers.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Valley of White Petals (book, vol. 3) by Makoto Inoue, original concept by Hiromu Arakawa, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Rich Amtower

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Valley of White Petals is the third book in a series of light novels based on Hiromu Arakawa's manga. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Edward and Alphonse Elric are essentially forced to do a bit of work for Colonel Mustang in this one. Mustang is super busy but has also been tasked with monitoring a little town called Wisteria and writing up a report, so he delegates the Wisteria report to Edward.

Wisteria turns out to be a mysterious place. Everyone seems to think it's a desert utopia, the kind of place no one ever leaves. The only people allowed in are those who have nowhere else to go. Raygen, the alchemist who founded the town, explains that it operates under the law of equivalent exchange. As long as everyone works and contributes, they'll have a place to stay and food to eat. The harder jobs, like mining gemstones that are later sold outside Wisteria, pay better, but there's also easier work available in the local tavern and elsewhere around town. It seems perfect, until Edward investigates a little more.

REVIEW: Dekoboko Sugar Days (manga) by Atsuko Yusen, translated by Christine Dashiell

Dekoboko Sugar Days (or is it Deko-Boko Sugar Days? it's listed both ways) is a "boys love" (m/m) romantic comedy. It's published by Tokyopop.


Rui is tall, energetic, sweet, and prone to fretting. Yuujirou is athletic, short, and has a complex about his height. The two high schoolers have been friends since they were children. Rui had fallen into a gutter and Yuujirou rescued him. At the time, Yuujirou thought Rui was a very cute girl...and fell instantly in love. Even after he found out that Rui was actually a boy, he couldn't shake his feelings, and it's getting harder and harder to hide them. What Yuujirou doesn't know is that Rui is starting to realize that his feelings of deep admiration for his friend might actually be love.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

REVIEW: A Man and His Cat (manga, vol. 1) by Umi Sakurai, translated by Taylor Engel

A Man and His Cat is a slice-of-life manga. It's licensed by Square Enix Manga, which I'm apparently going to have to keep an eye on - they have several interesting-looking works coming out in the next few months.


Fuyuki Kanda is a widowed music teacher who decides to buy a homely one-year-old cat at a pet store. The cat, who he names Fukumaru, is worried that his new owner will take him back or abandon him, but luckily for him, Mr. Kanda adores him.

This series is sweet, gentle, and warm, and I absolutely love it. I found out about it via a review on The Manga Critic, and then I kept coming across it via other sources until I finally broke down and bought it. I'm so glad I did.

Friday, March 6, 2020

REVIEW: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (live action movie)

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is horror, a haunted house/ghost story of the creepy and atmospheric variety.

Lily is a live-in nurse hired to care for Iris Blum, a horror writer who has dementia. Iris wrote thirteen novels, her best known of which is The Lady in the Walls. Lily, knowing that she's a bit of a wimp, has never even tried to read one of Iris's books, but nearly a year after coming to Iris's house, she decides to give The Lady in the Walls a try, due to the fact that Iris keeps calling her Polly, the name of the main character in that book. Unfortunately, Polly's story may be too much for her to take.

Like Lily, I am also a horror wimp. I approached this movie with caution and a bit of research. It seemed like something that would be low on jump scares (it was) and low on gore (also true). Its atmosphere was wonderful: creaky old house, unsettling hints that Lily was sharing the house with more than just Iris, and intense focus on Lily and her fragile state of mind.

I had to look this up to make sure it wasn't an adaptation, because it felt like one. Specifically, it felt like a Shirley Jackson novel, with its deep focus on its heroine, disquieting atmosphere, and occasional ambiguity. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the director/writer was influenced by Jackson's works.

I really enjoyed the first part of the movie. On her first day at the house, Lily noticed a sign of some kind of leak. Nearly a year later, it had developed into a mold problem that freaked her out but that she couldn't do much about - Iris's estate manager wasn't interested in spending the money to fix the problem since he figured Iris was going to die soon, and Lily didn't have the money to take care of it on her own. It's tough to say how much of what happened next was due to Lily steadily worrying herself to pieces and how much was real (similar to Eleanor in The Haunting of Hill House), but Iris's house did seem to be haunted.

Unfortunately, while the director/writer knew how to build up the tension and milk the creepiness, things fell apart a bit when it came to the actual ghost and the movie's climax. Polly barely had a story, and yet the movie seemed to spend ages on the flashback to her last moments in the house. And the "big" scare might have had a lot of screaming on Lily's part, but it really wasn't that scary. I liked the idea of the house trapping all of them in one place together, each of their stories overlapping, but the execution could have been better.

This started off lovely and atmospheric and became oddly flat and empty by the end. I don't regret watching it, but I don't know that I'd recommend it.

Monday, March 2, 2020

REVIEW: The Pretender: A Blackguard in Disguise (book) by Ta'Mara Hanscom

The Pretender: A Blackguard in Disguise is the first book in Hanscom's Caselli Family series. It's a family saga.


In April 1975, Tillie Caselli is a starry-eyed 17-year-old artist and Noah Hansen is a 23-year-old Vietnam War veteran and charming alcoholic. Noah doesn't realize it, but his preacher older brother is about to kick him out, a last-ditch effort to hopefully scare him into straightening himself out. It turns out that isn't necessary, however, because all Noah needs is a little motivation in the form of the beautiful, sweet, and proper Tillie. They meet while Tillie is in town for an art show. Tillie technically isn't allowed to date until she's 18, and certainly not without a chaperone, and Noah doesn't realize that she's still a minor. But it's love at first sight, and Tillie, keeping her family's story about knights and blackguards in mind, keeps an eye on Noah's behavior and is sure that he's a knight. From the moment Noah meets her, he doesn't touch a drop of alcohol and behaves like a perfect gentleman.

They promise to meet again and properly introduce Noah to Tillie's parents, but a misunderstanding comes between them. Noah prepares for a future with Tillie, not realizing that her heart has been broken by the belief that he's actually a blackguard. Meanwhile, Alex, the young lawyer Tillie had a crush on before she met Noah, has decided to court Tillie properly.