Jul 26, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 6
by Yumi Unita

I don't get the highschool stuff. Drama, girls vying for attention of a certain guy. Rin seems levelheaded, but has to face off with a manipulative girl who pulls a dirty trick on her friend Kouki. This volume was mostly about the kids' relationships, very little about Daikichi and Nitani, nothing at all about other adults or relatives....

And I spoiled the rest of the series for myself. Looking at some other online reviews, found out how it all ends. Haven't even got there but totally understand why a lot of people hate the ending. Wondering if I want to continue and see how it reaches that point- will I be disgusted and angry too? Curious how it fits with the idea in my head of Rin's mother, and if it's just something more acceptable in Japanese society... if I keep reading there will probably be spoilers in future posts, but I will give warning.

Rating: 2/5         224 pages, 2009

Jul 25, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 5
by Yumi Unita

The story jumped. It skips ten years; Rin is now starting highschool. Which is fine, but it's the not the same slice-of-life story I was enjoying about Rin as a child being raised by Daikichi a guy who himself had never quite grown up. There are a few flashbacks showing incidents from middle school; I think I would have liked an entire volume about that! Rin is mostly dealing with her studies, Kouki's crush on her (which she can't take seriously) and her plans for the future. It's more about her social life and a lot less about Daikichi's efforts in becoming a father figure. Which isn't nearly as interesting. Daikichi finally makes his feelings known towards Nitani- Kouki's mother- but that's about the most interesting thing that happens among the adults. There wasn't anything about Rin's mom. I was on the verge of giving this one a 2...

Rating: 3/5               224 pages, 2009

Jul 24, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 4
by Yumi Unita

I'm really liking this series so far. It continues to be pretty interesting, full of realistic characters who struggle with everyday problems- and some not-so. Daikichi has a sudden problem arrive on his very doorstep when his cousin takes her kid and leaves her husband. Daikichi can't comprehend her reasons, and there's some very awkward moments between him and Kouki's mother when Kouki assumes the cousin is in a relationship with Daikichi. The kids all get along fine, the adults sometimes have issues. For the first time Dakichi has to deal with Rin getting sick. He continues to have moments of confusion seeing how other parents around him deal with things- coming to it so late in the game, as it were. Some really amusing episodes in this book were the jump-roping competition among the schoolchildren- and the parents all got involved, too, on pretext of helping their kids practice. Also the part where Rin looses her first tooth was pretty funny- another contrast between cultures. Daikichi tells Rin of an older tradition where baby teeth are thrown on the roof, but is taken aback when a fellow parent tells him nowadays kids get cute little boxes made especially for saving baby teeth in as keepsakes. He wants to go with the current trend so scrambles to find where those tooth cases are sold before Rin looses another. Then one of her school friends pipes up with the information that when she looses a tooth the "money fairy" leaves fifty yen under her pillow (about forty-five cents)! The other parents are all hoping this American custom will not become the new fad. Haha.

I have to say, Daikichi's character is really growing on me. Even though he's a typical guy through and through he's also really kind-hearted and compassionate, cares a lot about doing what's right for Rin. It comes across in spurts of anger at how other people treat or perceive her sometimes. He's not terribly attractive (judging by the drawings- another dad he meets used to be a model for clothing catalogs) and a bit awkward, but such a decent person, someone you'd really want as a friend.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2008

Jul 23, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 3
by Yumi Unita

Rin is now in elementary school, which brings new challenges. She has new friendships to navigate. So does her caregiver Daikichi- who has to deal with a bunch of new part-time coworkers, one of whom is determined to flirt with him (which behavior he finds baffling). He discovers that some of his male coworkers are also parents, so there is more companionship there. There are more glimpses of his family- visits to his parents, his sister who wants to stay single and carefree... and also some of Rin's mother. While I don't like the choices this young woman had made, I do find her character intriguing (she's an artist), and I know there's more backstory to be revealed. There's some amusingly awkward moments when Rin invites her friend Kouki over- or he invites himself- and the parents are a bit uncomfortable with the suddenness of it. I like learning little glimpses of Japanese culture via the story- such as how some children have a "commemorative tree" planted on the day of their birth- so they grow up together. In Rin's case, Daikichi wants to buy her a young tree to memorialize the day she began school. She wants to plant a seed instead, even though it will take longer to grow. Endearing.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2007

Bunny Drop

Volume 2
by Yumi Unita

Daikichi continues to navigate life as a new parent- of a preschooler. Just as he's getting settled into the preschool routine, it's suddenly time to make preparations for elementary school- which throws him off base. Other parents are confused and sometimes angered at his lack of understanding what's expected of him- but a single mother he slowly befriends because their kids hang out together, she gets it. She points out to him that everyone assumes he is Rin's father and has raised her since birth, as they have such an obvious rapport and Rin totally trusts him. Daikichi teaches Rin some cooking skills and struggles with things like managing to do her hair up in pigtails for her. Meanwhile he's also dealing with issues at work, getting to know coworkers in his new department (a step down), and on a completely different note, following up some clues to figure out the identity of Rin's birth mother. When he actually meets her, it is a total shock- for this reader as well! Seeing Rin's mother face-to-face clears up a few questions, and raises many more.

Rating: 3/5       208 pages, 2007

Jul 20, 2017

Unlikely Loves

by Jennifer S. Holland

Sometimes when life is so busy you need a light, comforting read that's easy to dip in and out of. This book was perfect for that, cute and heartwarming. It's a collection of brief accounts featuring various animals that formed a bond with another species. A goat and a dog, great dane and a fawn, rhino and warthog, donkey and sheep, horse and dog, mother dog adopts kittens and so on. There are orphaned animals tucked into another litter- a piglet among rottweilers, for example. And others more unusual: a turtle who like to hang out with puppies. A miniature pony who befriended a capybara. A dog who liked his owner's snake. Some of the ones I found really endearing were the dalmatian who was attached to a spotted lamb, a hen who took it upon herself to babysit puppies, an otter who was rehabilitated among badger cubs, a disabled macaque who was given a rabbit and guinea pig for companions. But a few of the stories include humans- a boy who visited a field of marmots and they were friendly to him, a guy who flew a lightweight aircraft with his golden eagle, a young woman who helped nurse a moose calf, which never forgot her. And there's one about two lionesses- doesn't really fit with the theme. Overall, nice little stories. Most of which you can find online if you look- I'd seen the one of the cat and the owl before, and I looked up the one about a disfigured dolphin that appeared to be living with sperm whales.

The title is rather familiar- I think once before I picked up the precursor Unlikely Friendships but didn't find it interesting enough to really read. And I was a bit surprised to find another title in this now-apparent series with a focus on dogs, that had a tiny trademark-circled R after the title. Really? I don't know why but that irritates me.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2013

Jul 12, 2017

The Narrow Edge

A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab and an Epic Journey
by Deborah Cramer

It's about a small shorebird, the red knot. Mostly this bird feeds on small clams, but during its migration it makes a stopover on one particular beach in Delaware Bay to feed on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs. The author saw the birds and horseshoe crabs on a beach near her home and became intrigued by this close interaction of two species. The knots are dependent on the crab eggs to make it to their summer home and breed. Cramer undertook a project to follow the knots on their entire annual migration. She started in southern Chile and made stops all along two continents to observe the birds on their journey, all the way up into the Arctic. Met a wide variety of people who work with conservation efforts to save the red knots and other shorebirds, and found a vast difference in environmental conditions in each location. Like many other birds, knots are facing population decline, mostly caused by people of course. Lots of varying factors for this, most of which the general public seems unaware. After all the birds are small, and seldom seen in large, impressive numbers anymore.

Well, I really wanted to like this book. It has a lot of information, the kind I usually particularly enjoy. But something about the constant introduction of new names, places, details, scientific terms- I kept loosing attention. I think it's just me, this time. I want to come back to this one someday when I have better focus.

Borrowed from the public library.

Abandoned          293 pages, 2015

Jul 2, 2017

Harvest

An Adventure into the Heart of America's Family Farms
by Richard Horan

This guy travelled around the country visiting small family farms to help with the harvesting of crops, and then wrote a book about it. I really liked the concept, and I appreciated learning a little about what goes into the production of certain crops, but overall the book left me feeling dissatisfied and a little irritated, and I skimmed some sections, especially getting near the end. The author worked with these crops in the following states: turkey red wheat in Kansas; green beans, potatoes and squash in Michigan; blueberries in New York, tomatoes and sundry in Massachusetts, raspberries and Brussels sprouts in Ohio, wild rice in Michigan, cranberries at a bog in Massachusetts, potatoes in Maine, walnuts in California. He also visited a winery in California, but didn't actually pick grapes. In each chapter, for each locale, he describes his experience, the people he met, how the operations are run, and a bit about the philosophy or history of the farm (however much the owner and/or their family would share).

I liked reading about the farms and the food they grow, but the author shares a bit too much about his personal politics and even though for the most part I agree with his stance, I didn't like it. He kept quoting books and authors and mentioning stuff in little footnotes but the way they were included here felt awkward. The chapter about visiting San Francisco was entirely unnecessary and felt uncomfortable. The way he talks about people sometimes confused me- if I was that person, I might be embarrassed let's say. There's just too much stuff on an unnecessarily personal level, or him poking fun at things and making jokes I don't find amusing at all, it just makes me want to skip the page. Disappointingly, the one chapter I was most curious to read, about harvesting wild rice, was the most unintelligible. Most of it was in an entirely different voice, as if imitating the style of a Native American storyteller, with so many Chippewa words interspersed it kept jarring me out of the narrative entirely. I didn't get it. On the whole it all felt a little bit off.

Rating: 2/5         300 pages, 2012

Jul 1, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 1
by Yumi Unita

I admit I picked this one up to make sure my twelve-year-old wasn't reading anything too objectionable, as I've noticed that manga can sometimes have very mature or explicit content, let's say. And flipping through this one I saw one illustration showing a young girl in the bath with a grown man, so I wondered and sat down to read it myself.

Turns out it was innocent, and the story is an interesting and sensitive look at the kind of unusual family structure that can easily lead to misunderstandings or judgement from others. The man in that scene is Daikichi, a thirty-year-old bachelor who works hard, enjoys his beer and considers children and women to be "the enemy" - avoid interaction at all costs kind of thing. The six-year-old girl Rin is his aunt. Daikichi finds out when he attends his grandfather's funeral that the old man had a secret love affair with a younger woman, and Rin is his child. The family is all shocked and no-one wants to take in the illegitimate child. They're going to put her in an institution but Daikichi finds himself angered at how casually and judgemental the relatives talk about her and in a fit of compassion he decides to give her a home himself.

This is a huge adjustment. Obviously Daikichi has no idea how to be a parent- what kids will eat, what she needs in everything from comfort to clothing; finding a daycare provider is such a difficult issue he even realizes he may have to reconsider his career path. He comes up with all kinds of questions and goes through internet searches, then starts to make new acquaintances just on behalf of the child. They have to deal with bedwetting and Rin's silent little deceits (he's shocked to find out she lies to him in the simple manner of avoidance all kids use I bet). Daikichi notices that Rin isn't dimwitted or shy as most adults assume when they meet her, but struggling with emotions she can't express. He realizes that no one ever helped her cope with or comprehend what happened when her father (whom she called 'grandpa') died and he has no idea what her past was like. He determines to find out more about her mother, a completely absent figure whom no one in the family has ever met.

The author hooked me pretty effectively with this unlikely pair. And now I want to read more, to see where this story is going and what happens with this child. Happily the manga series has at least ten volumes. Borrowed from the public library. There was one thing that took some getting used to- following the original style of printing in Japanese, the book reads not only back-to-front but right-to-left, which was confusing at first. You get used to it fairly quickly, though.

Rating 3/5                      208 pages, 2006

One Trick Pony

by Nathan Hale

Graphic novels are fun. The more of them I read, the more I like them. This one I picked up on a whim, browsing shelves. It's a post-apocalyptic tale, neatly told in a steady reveal through the interactions of the characters. So fair warning: there may be spoilers, especially if you want to understand the story gradually as I did, on the first read.

The world is gone to ruin, any kind of technology snatched away by dangerous aliens that have invaded and turned most of Earth into a wasteland. The survivors live in small bands, reverted to a stone-age lifestyle. Except for one group that lives in a traveling caravan, attempting to find any remnants of technology (computers, robots, films, even small things like watches) before the aliens do and saving it in a vast hoarde of precious knowledge. Which is highly risky of course, as the tech stuff attracts the aliens. Out on a scavenging trip, a group of teens finds a robot pony- something none of them have ever seen before. The girl Strata is so intrigued by the pony, she's determined to take it back with them. Which of course attracts the aliens, and lands them in a fast-paced adventure that leads to a greater understanding of what the aliens actually are and why they are there.

It was great. The worldbuilding (very well done in such a brief book), the banter between the characters, the pony especially and how its limited specialized functions (as a robot) led so very neatly to its final role in the story. I liked the artwork, although there were a few illustrations where the legs look weird (upper leg above the elbow too long).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5                   128 pages, 2017

Jun 30, 2017

Silence of the Songbirds

by Bridget Stutchbury

The author is an avid bird watcher and researcher. Becoming concerned about the gradual decline in songbird numbers across North America, she took a closer look at possible causes, including traveling herself to South American countries where many of our songbirds spend the winter. Her findings present a bleak picture. Most people don't notice if there are fewer birds from year to year, but when the numbers are counted up and compared across a decade or more, the loss is real, and very alarming.

Birds face dangers in their wintering grounds from widespread pesticide use in many countries which have loose regulations or none at all. We're talking hundreds of dead hawks and songbirds found in or near fields of crops right after spraying was done to kill pests like locusts, for example. (And guess what, the birds were there to feed on the insects and they do a pretty good job of control, for no cost at all). Habitat loss is another big one. Here in North America where the birds come to breed, they face difficulties also caused by habitat loss or fragmentation, disorientation during nighttime migration caused by city light pollution, collision with towers or power lines, predation by housecats and the parasitism of cowbirds.

While examining all these issues in depth, the author describes lots of interesting details about things like how exactly birds use different habitats (why small, fragmented pieces of forest are not favorable), how their diet changes when they live in different areas, interactions with other bird species in mixed flocks, mating behaviors, what happens to them on the migration route, what makes cowbirds more or less likely to affect a population and more and more. Just the kind of book I really enjoy, even if the end message is rather dismal. Hopeful though, as it points out why buying organic or local produce and shade-grown or sustainable coffee can make a huge difference for the little songbirds. Also their importance in the overall ecosystem- although they are not as well-know for pollination as bees, they do a surprising lot of it, also spreading seed of certain kinds of plants, and vast amounts of insect control. Not to mention they are beautiful.

The chapter headings are illustrated by none other than Julie Zickefoose. Borrowed this one from the public library.

Rating: 4/5           255 pages, 2007