Bookish Reviewish~ In Which Farming Is Wholesome, Spies Are Sleep-Deprived, And A Robot Dog Saves The Day Way Too Many Times

Hello, bloggerly chums!

Theatre is taking over my life. Not literally. But when your parents run a theatre company, it can feel that way sometimes.

Not that we are talking about theatre in this post, actually. We are talking about books. I’m still reading the books, despite the theatre overload. So all is well.

(…Except for this intro. What is an intro, anyway?)

Eh…let’s just get into the post, then.

Bungo Stray Dogs: Beast (vol. 1-4) by Kafka Asagiri and Shiwasu Hoshikawa

This manga is an adaption of a light novel that is an AU spin-off of a manga series…simple, yes? (Okay, so it’s a bit convoluted, but hear me out.)

Basically, it’s an alternate reality of Bungo Stray Dogs where two of the main characters swap circumstances: Atsushi ends up in the Port Mafia and Akutagawa ends up in the Armed Detective Agency, instead of vice versa.


  • the way the premise is initially handled (I wasn’t inspired when I originally heard about it, actually, but the way that things play out differently while still somewhat mirroring the original was surprisingly compelling)
  • the characters still being 100% themselves (I was afraid that because they were in different circumstances they would end up morphing into each other, but that didn’t happen, and I was pleased)
  • the identity of AU Port Mafia boss (a terrifying thought, but also very intriguing. You could do so much with this)
  • Oda (This man. We love him. The way he habitually collects orphans to take care of is SO WHOLESOME)
  • Kenji teaching Akutagawa farming (I did not know how much I wanted this until it happened. It’s beautiful)
  • Oda mentoring Akutagawa (it makes me happy)
  • Akutagawa using his skill for things besides murder (the hammock, though)
  • Akutagawa’s trauma (dude just wants to save his sister, but he is SO MESSED UP, ouch)
  • Atsushi’s trauma (…the unhealth. tHe UnHeALtH, I tell you)
  • the artwork (I still think I prefer Sango Harukawa overall, but I really like how distinct the Beast artwork is- Hoshikawa isn’t just trying to copy Harukawa)


  • what the premise turned out to be (I HATED this. You are falling into such a LAME, WORN-OUT TROPE. And I can’t say anything because spoilers, but…come on. This was so disappointing)
  • a lot of potentially amazing set-up leading to the lamest explanations (like, it was a good idea until you did that)
  • a certain character is Always Right (can people just be evil sometimes? Please?)
  • when manipulation and abuse of children gets justified(??) (THIS IS JUST EVIL I DON’T CARE HOW JUSTIFIED YOU THINK YOU ARE)
  • the way everything “came together” (or didn’t)
  • so, basically all of volume 4, except for the hammock part (thanks for spoiling all the beautiful potential, Asagiri)
  • Chuuya (y’all know I love Chuuya, but Beast Chuuya was barely in it and when he was there he was just annoying. He deserves better)

Verdict: After creating a surprisingly engaging scenario with multiple compelling character dynamics, the author throws it all in a completely wrong direction. My sister and I aren’t bitter or anything. I still think that the first three volumes are worth it (admittedly the merit is much higher if you are already a BSD fan, because you have the contrast), you just have to make up your own ending. Volume 4 is just a joke.

Assignment in Brittany by Helen MacInnes

This is one of those WWII novels that was written during WWII. I find that endlessly cool for some reason.

Hearne is a spy, and consequently has no time for things such as sleeping. He’s much too busy sight-seeing in the Breton countryside trying to convincingly impersonate the Frenchman Corlay (this might have been easier if Corlay didn’t have a mother and a fiancée) and attempting to gather as much pertinent information as possible to send back to England without getting caught by the Nazis. Something as trivial as getting a good night’s rest just isn’t realistic for this poor man.


  • Hearne being wholesome and all around just a decent human being (and that causing problems for him)
  • did I mention this book was written during WWII?? (the author didn’t know how things were going to end, it was just happening)
  • St Déodat (it felt like an authentic village)
  • everything about the setting (MacInnes did her research, that’s all I’m saying)
  • Matthews (not really in it, but somehow we like him? Maybe because he does his research, too, which is good for Hearne)
  • Myles (just a solid, good-natured American)
  • Madame Corlay (yes to mother related angst)
  • Albertine (yes to grumpy, protective servants)
  • Kerénor (except…that bit near the end. That kind of ruined him)
  • the intrigue (this is a book about a spy, after all)


  • some of the stuff with Elise (she felt too one-dimensional at times? Like a type of person more than a person)
  • that bit near the end (what? What? Why??)
  • the very end (it wasn’t bad, but it felt really rushed)
  • Anne sometimes being too “ideal” (don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike Anne, but she didn’t need to be so perfect, you know?)

 Verdict: It’s a solid little book with vivid descriptions and likable characters. You should all read it so you can meet the sleep-deprived, blessedly decent human that is Hearne.

The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle

Martin lives with his father, mother and little sister Cassie in a suburb, which is under a dome. He has never left this suburb, due to the toxic environment outside the dome. But one day, Martin will get a robot dog for his birthday and that will change everything. (Gotta love those life-changing robot dogs, am I right?)

Oh, yeah, and all the people in this suburb were apparently made in a lab… But it’s awkward because the youngest set of kids is way smarter than everyone else. They call them “Wonder Babies”. Cassie is one of them.


  • Um…well the premise of designer babies intrigued me (my mom is really into this sort of thing- well, not into it like she thinks it’s a good idea, more in a morbid sense)
  • siblings (I do like how protective Martin is of his sister)
  • the reality TV show thing (even if it felt a bit like The Hunger Games)
  • …Martin is a nice name (uh-huh)


  • the “half-baked sci-fi” flavour (‘twas strong here)
  • the fact that the community felt like a very cheap knock-off of the one in The Giver (sorry, but it’s true)
  • the stupid dog being a stupid convenient plot device for the entire book (it…literally….solved…every problem. And it never gave an adequate explanation for why it was there in the first place)
  • the robots in general being obscenely dim-witted (except for the dog, of course)
  • the designer baby thing not being all that important, really (except as a nifty personality-type identifier, yay)
  • the writing style (it wasn’t…that bad? But it wasn’t good)
  • Martin being literally the only one who cares (I hate this as a main character trope, okay)

Verdict: Hm…well, I was hoping for more grappling with the moral questions raised by creating people in labs, and sibling angst, but Wonder Dog took center stage and never got off. If you are into flimsy sci-fi about a boy and his trusty dog against the world, this is the book for you. It’s just not for me.

Year of the Black Pony by Walt Morey

Chris’s dad decides to drop everything and try his hand at homesteading in Oregon, only to discover that he despises everything about it. Unfortunately, the family (Chris, his little sister Ellie and their parents) are kind of stuck now, which makes Chris’s already ill-tempered dad even grumpier than he was to begin with. Unpleasant as circumstances at home may be, Chris finds a secret escape: sneaking away to watch a neighbor’s free-spirited black pony run from afar.


  • authentic homesteading vibes (it’s tough, man. But also so rewarding)
  • Chris (this dear child)
  • Frank (this dear man)
  • the parallels between Chris and the pony (maybe it was just me but I totally saw them and I loved them so much. Also I’m trauma-obsessed, so)
  • chapter five (I just…love chapter five)
  • Chris’s mom bargaining (she is so good at it, it’s glorious)
  • the family (the relationships felt real, which I appreciated)


  • it was too short (I mean, it didn’t need to be longer, but still)
  • I wished certain things hadn’t been resolved quite so quickly (more grappling in some areas would have been nice…but then as I said before I’m slightly trauma-obsessed, so it was probably fine. Better than going overboard at any rate, which is my tendency)

Verdict: A thoroughly wholesome story about a boy and his horse…but mostly about Chris and Frank. I loved it.

Story Thieves (Story Thieves series #1) by James Riley

Owen is bored. School is boring. Life is boring. So what luck when he discovers that one of his classmates, a girl named Bethany, has the ability to jump into books! Owen is thrilled. All the worlds to explore, all the characters to meet…and perhaps to save?


  • the idea of jumping into books is kinda cool? (melding fiction and reality can be quite entertaining, if done correctly)
  • sometimes I actually liked Kiel (despite how annoying he was)
  • Bethany’s daddy angst (I mean, you know. It’s angst)


  • Owen (characters make bad decisions. Sure. That’s realistic. But Owen. He is just. So. Stupid. I wanted to smack him the entire book)
  • the overpowering Middle Grade flavour (guys, I am actually not eleven anymore, what is this)
  • the rules of the world being really nebulous (stuff just doesn’t make sense. The story has no idea how to handle the whole fictional-characters-interacting-with-reality thing or the changing-books-that-have-already- been-written thing. It felt like really badly done time-travel most of the time)
  • cringe-worthy prose (can I even complain about prose after enjoying Storm Bringer, though?)
  • sloppy storytelling (…stuff just doesn’t make sense)
  • major plot holes (like I said…sloppy)
  • Preachiness (like, I know that books are great, you don’t have to beat me over the head with it. But also even as someone who is obsessed with fiction, the “be more fictional” thing made absolutely no sense to me. Just…what)
  • Owen just being the worst (he is so stupid)

 Verdict: Um…so. Not for me. It was a chaotic MG urban fantasy. Fun at times, and even imaginative, but overall pretty sloppily executed. Not being able to stand the main character definitely put a strain on my relationship with the book as a whole, I admit.


That’s it for today. A few disappointments, to be sure, but also I met Hearne and Chris and Frank (not to mention I got to witness Akutagawa farming) so I’m not too displeased.

What are you reading right now? Anyone venturing into the graphic novel scene? Do you geek out about historical books that are actually contemporaries? What is a really bad sci-fi that you’ve read? What is your favorite horse book? What is the last book you read in which you couldn’t stand the main character? We shall discuss all the bookishness in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Bookish Reviewish~ In Which Farming Is Wholesome, Spies Are Sleep-Deprived, And A Robot Dog Saves The Day Way Too Many Times

  1. Assignment In Brittany! What a good one. (It’s been a while since I read it, so I don’t remember much, but the parts I do remember are engrained in my brain, and one of those things is just how sweet & sleep deprived Hearne is, so I wholeheartedly endorse your recommendation on those grounds).

    Year of the Black Pony actually sounds REALLY good–it’s going on my TBR! (I’m here for the authentic homesteading vibes. And this whole “Chris and Frank” thing, whatever that entails).

    I definitely remember reading Story Thieves in probably early high school, and being like “wut”, mostly for the rules being SO NONEXISTENT THAT IT WASN’T EVEN INTERESTING. I mean, come on, people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Assignment in Brittany is indeed a gem! (Hearne being sweet and sleep-deprived is basically the main point of the book, so it makes sense that that’s one of the few things you remember. 😉 )

      Year of the Black Pony is fantastic! Just so quietly wholesome. You must read it. (Chris and Frank are wonderful, you must meet them!)

      Ugh, yes. Story Thieves is…not the greatest. It’s good to hear someone else found it lacking.


  2. Your parents run a theatre company? That is cool.

    I am so glad you like Hearne. I mean, how could one not, I suppose. Also, is the thing at the end that you’re talking about with Elise…and Hans Ehrlich…in the woods? Because I’m not sure but I’m thinking that might be it and I’m kind of confused why it ruined Kerenor for you but it’s the only thing that I can see maybe would, and I’m just curious.

    ALSO. I wish I had a good theory on what makes good, ideal female characters feel “real” or otherwise. Because I think your reaction to Anne is interesting and much like my reaction to Lucie Manette or even Lizzie Hexam (I forget if you’ve read Our Mutual Friend) but, interestingly, not at all how I felt about Esther Summerson and definitely not how I felt about Anne. I think I feel about Anne Pinot much like I feel about Anne Eliot—she’s a really wonderful person but to me she has the very definite flaw of being too submissive, in a way (and an actually bad way that can negatively impact others as well as herself…not an interview-question “oh I just work too hard, I’m just too nice and considerate of others, that’s my biggest flaw!” way) and she grows over the course of the book. I do think Anne Pinot’s growth has already started before Hearne comes on the scene, so it’s not as obvious as Anne Eliot’s, but to me it’s similar. And I love both Annes DEARLY.
    …Not to ramble on that forever, but I thought it was interesting!

    Chris and Frank, I love them. And authentic homesteading vibes. And the PARALLELS WITH THE PONY AND CHRIS I actually never saw that before but I see it now that you mention that and I absolutely think it’s there.

    I’ve often seen Story Thieves at the library and waffled on reading it. I’m…kind of glad to know I can just cross it off the TBR. It’s actually been a while since I read a book where I couldn’t stand the main character (unless you count the nonfiction book I’m reading right now about Spanish encomenderos in Peru in the sixteenth century who, like, enslaved people), but I know the feeling well, alas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. Yes, they do. It is cool…but also insane.

      How could one not like Hearne, indeed? He is a splendid human. Thank you muchly for recommending his book so that we became acquainted.
      Yes, that is the scene to which I vaguely referred… It might be me lacking in some reading comprehension, but how it came across to me was that he saw her with Hans and then strangled her in a rage… which, no matter how upset you are about the girl you love turning out to be evil, and how much she actually needs to die… I don’t know, seeing him furiously kill her with his bare hands just felt so brutal to me. But I might have to reread the scene to get it. Because that might not have been exactly what happened. I just remember feeling kind of icky after reading that part. Hence, the ruining Kerenor comment.

      Same, though. I have no clue what makes good/ideal female characters feel real or not. Because I have no logical explanation for which ones I find authentic and which ones I find lacking. I totally get what you are saying about Anne. She was very borderline for me, honestly- she didn’t grate on me like many of the Perfect Females of Dickens do, for example (I haven’t actually read Our Mutual Friend, but I’ve seen the BBC adaption and Lizzie Hexam…yes). Sometimes it’s just the mood I’m in too… It is interesting. If only we could get a sound explanation for this.

      Chris and Frank and homesteading vibes and PARALLELS. I’m glad you see the parallels with the pony and Chris now that I’ve pointed them out. I just think it’s super cool. Thanks again for recommending this wholesome little gem.

      Haha, yes. Do cross it off. It’s quite disappointing. I’m glad I could be of assistance.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never heard of any of these books. Always fun adding books to the TBR pile. Year of the Black Pony sounds sweet and up my alley. I will have to look it up. Wow, that’s fascinating that Assignment in Brittany was written during the war. Curious about how the people viewed the war at that time. To them, it probably seemed endless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, I love finding potentially wonderful books to add to my TBR. Year of the Black Pony is certainly sweet. And Assignment in Brittany is fascinating. Both are fantastic additions to any TBR. 🙂


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