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review 2018-11-03 15:24
My Neighbor Totoro (book) art and story by Hayao Miyazaki, text by Tsugiko Kubo, translated by Jim Hubbert
My Neighbor Totoro: A Novel - Tsugiko Kubo,Hayao Miyazaki

Mei, Satsuki, and their father, Tatsuo, move into a crumbling old house in the country in order to be closer to the sanatorium where their mother, Yasuko, is recovering from tuberculosis. The girls adapt to their new rural life pretty quickly, although four-year-old Mei doesn't respond well to being left with their neighbor while Tatsuo is at work and Satsuki is at school.

Both girls realize there's something a little strange about their house when they first arrive. They briefly spot little beings called soot sprites, and Kanta, the boy who lives near them, tells them that their house is haunted. Then Mei starts talking about having met a being she calls Totoro and who Tatsuo believes is a forest spirit. Satsuki longs to see Totoro too.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I read this. Would it be a stiff and soulless adaptation of the movie, or would it be able to hold its own in the face of the movie's sweetness? I'm happy to say that it fell into the latter category. Although I still prefer the movie, the book was a breeze to read, added things to the overall story that the movie couldn't, and had much of the same charm as the original movie.

(I should briefly explain that I'm most familiar with the English dub of the movie. I'm not sure if I've even watched it in Japanese with English subtitles yet. Some of the information "missing" from the movie could possibly have been translation decisions when creating the dub, editing the script to better match mouth flaps. I won't know until I watch the movie with subtitles, and even then translator decisions are in play.)

The book was more direct about explaining exactly why Tatsuo, Satsuki, and Mei moved out into the country, explicitly naming Yasuko's illness. There were more mentions about what Satsuki and Mei's life used to be like, back in the city, and even one portion of the book where they briefly went back to the city. Yasuko was slightly more in the foreground - the book included letters she wrote to her children while at the sanatorium. I got a stronger picture of her personality here than I did in the movie. She seemed like a dreamer.

In general, I'd say that the bones of this book were about the same as the movie. A few scenes were added, and there were more details about the history of the house the family moved into, and Satsuki's efforts to learn how to cook different foods over an actual fire without burning them. I really enjoyed these additions.

One thing that disappointed me a little, however, was that the fantasy aspects were scaled back. In the movie, viewers' first exposure to Totoro happened when Mei chased after a little Totoro and ended up finding Totoro's napping spot. All of this happened on-screen. These same things happened in this book as well, but for some reason the author chose to focus on Satsuki instead of Mei. Mei told Satsuki and her father what she'd experienced, but there was no evidence that any of it was real, rather than the dreams or imaginings of a child. The first on-page appearance of Totoro didn't happen until the bus scene. The ending was also altered slightly - the scene where Mei and Satsuki watched their mother and father from a tree didn't happen. I was at least glad that all the Catbus scenes were included.

The focus of this book seemed to be slightly more on the relationship between the two sisters and their barely-spoken-of fear that their mother might die and never come home, as well as the girls' growing independence as they adapted to rural life. It was lovely, but, as I said, I did miss some of the Totoro stuff. All in all, this was an excellent novelization that I'd definitely recommend to fans of the movie.

Extras:

Several illustrations (black and white sketches with maybe a watercolor wash?), including a color map of Matsugo, the place where the Kusakabe family moved. The map also gives the exact year this story took place, 1955, so I suppose this could be considered historical fiction.

 

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

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review 2018-09-19 03:42
Tinsel Fish (Tyack & Frayne #2) (Audiobook)
Tinsel Fish - Harper Fox

I seem to be having trouble connecting with this series, and I honestly don't know if it's the length of the stories or if it's the narrator. 

 

This is really too short to go in-depth with the material or the characters, and things and other characters keep getting introduced, on top of the mystery of sorts that Lee and Gideon are working on. I did love Gideon's mom, and it was nice to see Gideon going out on a limb relationship-wise, planning time off from his job when he knows that Lee will be home from his own job. 

 

I didn't understand why Lee, a psychic, didn't believe in spirits off the bat. His job is going out, documenting monsters and such, and reading energies and people's minds and other random mojo to find things and people. But spirits? That's crazy talk! Atheism in paranormal settings just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. He doesn't have to be religious or anything, but he does have use basic common sense. It reminded me of those idiots in that godawful The Boys on the Mountain, going out to investigate a haunted house but none of them believe in ghosts. *headdesk* Thankfully, Lee does prove to be smarter than that lot. Not that that would've been a hard thing to do.

 

Tim Gilbert is a great narrator, and he's easy to follow, but he's got this gravelly, gruff voice that just doesn't really seem to fit. Well, that's not quite right. It fits Gideon perfectly, but everything else? Not so much. He is able to clear his voice up for Lee, but the variation in his voices for the various characters shows a limited range. And I still feel like he should be reading something much more serious, like one of those classic Russian authors with names I can't pronounce. :D

 

There is promise here, and I've loved nearly everything else I've read by Ms. Fox, so I'm going to try the next one eventually, but I I'll be reading it. This'll be it for me with the audiobooks. 

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review 2018-09-13 03:44
Dared and Confused
Dared and Confused - Adara O’Hare

This was sometimes weird, mostly sweet friends-to-lovers short story.

 

The sweet: Jackson has never been attracted to or interested in anyone, male or female, until his best friend Chet kisses him on a dare during a truth and dare game. And suddenly it's fireworks and Jackson realizes there are things about himself he didn't know that he didn't know. Watching him trying to sort out his confusion and figuring out he's gray-ace was a treat.

 

Chet was super patient and supportive, and he's clearly been in love with Jackson for years but never said anything so as not to pressure him. There was lots of good tension leading up to the sex scene, which thankfully wasn't too long. Still, I was starting to lose interest by the time it finished.

 

Jackson's mom was a pure delight, y'all. She was like Christmas in July. :D

 

The weird: Why would Jackson's dad be so opposed to him wanting to be a veterinarian? You need those on ranches. Just find someone else to run the ranch, geez.

 

I also didn't care much for the hyper-sexualized truth and dare game at the beginning. There is such a thing as being *too* close to your friends, lol. I did like how it was used later though; it was a nice little callback.

 

Oh, then there's the Texas-speak that's all over this book like burrs in a billy goat's hide. Darn tootin! :P You can either read it or it'll drive you up the wall, lol.

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review 2018-08-29 02:19
Once Upon a Haunted Moor (Tyack & Frayne #1) (Audiobook)
Once Upon A Haunted Moor - Harper Fox

Well, that was definitely a short story. A little too short. There was next to no time to really get to see Gideon and Leander form any kind of connection before they're falling into bed together *yawn* and just as I was settling into the story and the mystery, they were over. 

 

And there may or may not be an actual monster on the moor. Since Leander is psychic, I don't know how far into paranormal/fantasy this series might go. 

 

I did like Gideon and Lee, and at least they're not already moving in together by the end of this, so hopefully that means actual relationship development is coming. Given the author, I expect nothing less. Isolde was a precious little pooch who's perfect just the way she is. :D

 

I'm not sure about Tim Gilbert as a narrator. He narrates well and clearly, but there were a couple of instances during the climax when it was difficult to tell who was talking, the protag or the bad guy, which was not really a time I wanted to be confused. His timbre of voice also sounds like he should be reading something much more serious, lol.

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review 2018-06-29 20:10
Red Dirt Heart 4
Red Dirt Heart 4 - N.R. Walker

Charlie's come a long way in self-acceptance over the last two years and three books. Now we get to see him from Travis's POV and follow their journey into the future as they become a family.

 

There's little conflict here, and really not much a plot beyond will they/won't they actually get married and there's some talk about what Charlie will do with the ranch in the event he can no longer run it. 

 

I would have liked if Travis's POV had actually sounded different from Charlie's, but other than that, it was nice to spend a little more time at Sutton Station and seeing more of Trav's family and see the next stage(s) in their lives. But if I hadn't already invested three books in this series and cared about these characters, I probably would've found this a bit on the boring side. I did find the epilogue cute but not really necessary. I would've been happy for the book to end right before that.

 

So this was fun, cute, very aww-worthy and good for a light read. 

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