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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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review 2019-10-06 22:07
It Happens in the Dark - Carol O'Connell
[(It Happens in the Dark)] [By (author) ... [(It Happens in the Dark)] [By (author) Carol O'Connell] published on (September, 2013) - Carol O'Connell

Something of a black comedy: all theatrical effects, pun intended. A Broadway play turned deadly has Mallory managing to rope everyone into working the case. Entertaining, of course, but also O'Connor succeeds at pulling in reference to every Broadway story I can think of. The end result is perhaps less of a puzzle to solve and more of a dazzling performance. Vicious fun.

Library copy

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review 2019-10-03 22:30
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? - Henry Farrell

Even though I've seen the film a few times when I saw this book available to download at my local library, I clicked! I'm glad I did.


This wasn't exactly like the film, but in all the important ways, it was about the same. I pictured the characters as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis portrayed them, and I think the narrator did a fantastic job.




*Thanks to my local library for the free download through the Libby app! Libraries RULE!*

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review 2019-10-03 20:34
Graphic novel about the teenage Dahmer; depicts a disturbed individual in an environment that helped create a monster
My Friend Dahmer - Derf Backderf

This meticulously drawn graphic novel about Jeffrey Dahmer as a high schooler is a haunting portrait of a disturbed individual in his formative years and it depicts how the environment that he grew up in helped create one of the most notorious serial killers in recent memory.

The author-artist is fellow Dahmer classmate Derf Backderf, who proves how hindsight can be 20/20, recognizing all the disturbing behaviors and situations upon reflection, and after Dahmer's ghastly murders were committed. Derf has pieced together the timeline for the graphic novel with help from Dahmer's father's novel and other records, used recollections from other classmates, and paints a picture of Dahmer that is both shocking and in many ways sympathetic.

If there was ever a playbook for creating or spotting a serial killer Derf shows how Dahmer 'checks all the boxes': a disturbed mind and untreated mental illness, teenage alcoholism, isolated in a small town in an era when school had few rules, dysfunction at home where parents go through a nasty divorce, mother has her own mental health problems, dad is oblivious to his son's issues, Dahmer doesn't fit in at school and is bullied by some of his peers, repressed sexual urges and closeted homosexuality, interest in dead animals and roadkill, collection of animal carcasses, his apathy and lack of emotion. So many warning signs. So little done to step in.

Derf asks at one point 'Where were all the adults?' but he also recognizes that this was a different decade, a different era, and remarks that even his teachers would comment on rolling their own joints, and obviously turned a blind eye to a drunk Dahmer every day. There's also a point where, after Dahmer's first murder, thanks to shoddy police work, he SHOULD have been caught. Today, we have our eyes open to all sorts of new concerns, and schools have zero tolerance for any substance use and keep an eye out for mental health problems and bullying.

This is a tragic tale, but I appreciate that Derf told it the way he did (even with the adolescent ignorance involved) and that the movie adaptation happened. May another horrific set of crimes, or such a troubled individual, never come out of a similar circumstance again.

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review 2019-09-29 17:17
The Day of St. Anthony's Fire - John Grant Fuller Jr.
The Day of St. Anthony's Fire - John Grant Fuller Jr.

Heartbreaking and Truly Terrifying.


I was sitting around the supper table with my family discussing theories about the Salem Witch Trials. The ergot theory was put forward, and I dismissed it, largely because of the scale: hundreds of people accused, tortured, and tried over more than a year, but also because the initial accusers would roll around on the floor in seeming fits but immediately recover, and none of them suffered anything like an actual injury during those supposed fits. Then the Spouse mentions that French town, you know...


I did not know. I had never previously heard of the book nor the incident it describes in well-researched, well-documented, and well-communicated detail. In August of 1951 some three hundred people in and around Pont-Saint-Esprit in Provence, France were poisoned. It was a horrible accident that killed five people,hospitalized more than a hundred, and caused many to suffer lasting debilitation.


As a medical mystery, it is enthralling. All the local GPs as well as the large number of treating physicians from the nearest largest cities agreed they were seeing an event out of history a mass poisoning due to ergot. They had to look in history books to get treatment ideas.


Then there's the legal mystery: who are what will be blamed and have to pay? The investigators had quickly found the suspect flour, but then there were years of examining the evidence. The police couldn't accept the ergot theory because the volatile alkaloids disappeared too quickly and too completely. There was literally no evidence. The legal wrangling that followed lasted a decade.


It's a fascinating book for those interested in medical or historical mysteries. Fuller is thorough in his recounting, but never boring. Since I didn't have Truly Terrifying, I took advantage of that black dust jacket for


Library copy



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