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review 2020-06-21 03:48
AMELIA WESTLAKE WAS NEVER HERE by Erin Gough
Amelia Westlake Was Never Here - Erin Gough
Will has problems at school.  She wants to expose the way students are treated.  Harriet does not understand what Will's problem is but as Will explains what she sees as inadequacies in the system, Harriet begins to have her eyes open.  Between the two of them, they come up with a solution--Amelia Westlake who will point out the school's problems.  Now can they do it without getting caught?
 
This is a coming-of-age story.  It is a bit of a romance.  It is rollicking good fun as Amelia is credited with a lot of goings-on at the school.  She seems to be everywhere and knows everything.  Now the faculty and some blackmailed students are looking for Amelia but she pops up where and when least expected.
 
I enjoyed this story.  It was fun to watch as Amelia lets the truth out.  Unfortunately the faculty are dense.  They are more interested in protecting the appearances of a good elite education than in righting the wrongs that have been allowed unchecked growth.  I am glad the students bonded over Amelia.  I am glad Will and Harriet let others know what was going on eventually so it could not be swept under the rug. 
I would read this author again.  I had a lot of fun!
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review 2020-02-23 17:32
I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up (manga) by Kodama Naoko, translated by Amber Tamosaitis
I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up - Naoko Kodama

Machi is tired of her parents' constant efforts to match her up with a successful man and half jokingly says she should marry someone they'd hate just to spite them. Her friend Hana surprises her when she suggests that the two of them get married. The news so shocks Machi's parents that they do indeed back off, at least temporarily. The special partnership certificate requires that they both live in Shibuya, so Hana moves in with Machi, which also helps them maintain the marriage charade.

Machi can't help but wonder if Hana is actually serious about all of this, though. Back in high school, Hana confessed her love for her, and Machi turned her down. They've continued to be friends, but what if Hana hopes their fake marriage will become a real one? As Machi starts to ponder her and Hana's relationship, she also takes a long, hard look at her life.

This was okay. I wanted something light and non-explicit, and that's what I got. I kind of wished it had a bit more substance to it, though. Machi seemed to just work, eat, and sleep, which fit her characterization, but I would have thought Hana would have had a more visible social life beyond the one meet-up with her ex.

Hana was the energetic and positive one, while Machi spent a large chunk of the volume looking tired and depressed. I was glad when Machi started evaluating her life and deliberately became a more active participant in it. I cheered her on when she became more assertive at work, and the part where she told her mother off for the first time was great. She was standing up for Hana, yes, but also for herself.

I had some issues with the romance aspect, mostly due to the fact that Hana and Machi's expectations for what their marriage would be like once it went from being fake to real didn't seem to match up (although the special partnership certificate was real, so honestly they were married for real from the start, but whatever). Machi seemed perfectly fine with the way things were - living together, spending time together, making meals for each other, and just generally supporting each other, no sex required. 

There's no problem with that, and I actually would have been on board with it, if it hadn't been so obvious that Hana expected their relationship to eventually include sex. She made it clear that she was willing to wait and take things slow, but it never seemed to enter her mind that it might never happen, or that it might happen but that Machi might not be as into it as she was. There were no moments when Machi realized she found Hana sexually attractive, and all physical affection, except for a few head pats and a hug, were initiated by Hana. But they did eventually kiss and Machi enjoyed it, so maybe I was concerned for no reason.

Overall, this was nice, but it could have used a second volume. Or a full volume devoted to this story and these characters. It's common for one-shots to include one or more additional stories, and this one was no exception. The last quarter or so was devoted to an unrelated short called "Anaerobic Love."

If you were flipping through the volume, you'd likely think it was a flashback to Machi and Hana's high school days, because the character designs are so similar, but the story actually stars Oshimi and Mutsumi. Mutsumi is the school's track star, while Oshimi used to be in track but hurt herself and now dedicates herself to studying. Mutsumi seems cold towards Oshimi, and yet she frequently has Oshimi give her massages after practice. Oshimi, for her part, eventually realizes that her interest in Mutsumi may actually be love.

I liked this story a good deal less than the main one, and the times when Oshimi deliberately hurt Mutsumi while massaging her made me uncomfortable. I'd really have preferred it if this story had been scrapped and the main one fleshed out a bit more.

Extras:

A color illustration, a 2-page author afterword in manga form, and four pages worth of extra scenes relating to the main story.

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 3 and 3.5 stars. It wasn't the most memorable thing ever, and I doubt I'll ever want to reread it, but I did really enjoy Machi's personal growth, so I went with 3.5.

 

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

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review 2019-10-27 22:32
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (manga) by Nagata Kabi, translated by Jocelyne Allen
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness - Kabi Nagata

Content warning for this manga: discussions of cutting, binging, and anorexia, and, if it wasn't obvious from the cover, there's on-page nudity and sex.

This volume begins with the author's first sexual experience, at age 28, in a love hotel with a woman from a lesbian escort agency. Only a few pages in, Nagata interrupts this scene to explain how she got to that point. After high school, nothing seemed to go the way she expected. She dropped out of university after six months, became depressed, developed an eating disorder, and couldn't seem to hold down a part-time job, much less the salaried position that her family expected her to have by that point. She gradually comes to the realization that a lot of her internal pain was the result of wanting love, comfort, and unconditional acceptance from parents (particularly her mother) who seemed unable to really understand her. And yes, the story does eventually get back to the scene in the love hotel, and it is awkward.

I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. I figured it'd be depressing and emotionally exhausting. Nagata was so fragile at times that it was painful to read, but she somehow managed to keep the tone relatively light. It also helped that this was clearly a look back at worse times in her life - Present-Day Nagata had done a lot of thinking, had figured out better paths to take, and was actually eating regular meals and feeling more like her own definition of "adult." She wasn't "cured," necessarily, but she was doing better.

I liked Nagata's frank and unflinching look at self-harm, eating disorders, her mental health issues as a whole and the toll they'd taken on her body (scars, a bald spot from hair pulling, etc.), the inadequacy of her own sex education (she realized after the incident at the love hotel that most of her expectations came from m/m erotic doujinshi, of all things), and more. I was a little surprised that she was willing to put so much of herself out there, but she even addressed this. Her explanations made sense, I guess, but still. I can just imagine the awkwardness after her parents read this volume (if they read it?).

The one part of the volume that threw me a bit was Nagata's somewhat Freudian exploration of her desire to be touched and held by women, which she decided was rooted in her constant clinging to her mother. She never quite came out and said it, but she seemed to see her lesbianism as being connected to all of this, as though it was a childish fixation she'd never grown out of.

Overall, I thought this was really good, and I plan to read Nagata's My Solo Exchange Diary as well.

 

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

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text 2019-10-27 20:32
Reading progress update: I've read 122 out of 143 pages.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness - Kabi Nagata

OMG. The escort agency she used figured out that she'd drawn an online manga about her experience. From the sounds of things, their reaction was something along the lines of "cool, free publicity."

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