Stuff and Nonsense: April 2016


PAX East, Hooray

Last Saturday was our first PAX East. For the past few years we’d talked on and off about going to PAX, but either chickened out (we’re not hardcore enough) or simply missed the very small window of time passes are available. But this year -- with The Husband turning forty and me facing down surgery -- it felt very much like, "if not now, WHEN?" And so I acquired two Saturday passes.

My plan was that I would follow The Husband around PAX, with me very much intending to stay within touching range at all times. PAX East is a big, noisy venue, jam-packed with booths and people, and I am a short anxiety-ridden woman. I figured I’d follow in his wake like a vaguely-worried tugboat, happily absorbing what I could. But The Husband seemed to have other plans and gave me total control, so I towed him about the Exhibit Hall, first in a neat crisscross pattern and then, as the day progressed, in an increasingly willy-nilly fashion from one interesting object to the next.

I completely avoided any booth that looked crowded or had a long line. This means I don’t have any cool swag to show you, because I wasn’t looking for it, and I never got to experience the Oculus Rift or any of the (probably) terribly exciting big name games. I was looking for a low-key good time and, aside from the afternoon madness of the food courts, that is exactly what I got. Ended up meeting a number of earnestly (even sweetly) enthusiastic people who wanted to tell me all about their small, probably-not-going-to-set-the-world-on-fire-but-still-awesome-looking games and that was really cool. I tried out a bunch of tabletop games I enjoyed enough to consider purchasing and I found others that I knew would appeal to my YA/Children’s librarian friends. I also saw a lot of excited young women playing the shit out of games and that made me happy.

Games I saw at Pax East 2016 that I thought were pretty fun (ymmv, obviously):

  • Bad Medicine. As someone with a deep, abiding, and wholly nonsensical love for Theme Hospital, with its ridiculous diseases like Bloaty Head, Slack Tongue, and Third Degree Sideburns, a game that lets me play as a huge and (probably) unscrupulous pharmaceutical company sounds just the thing. Formulate and pitch hot new drugs while totally playing down their (probably) terrible side effects? Sign me up! 3-8 players can participate, although gameplay is impacted by the number of players -- with 5-8 players you split into teams (and this confused me as how do you get even teams with 5 people?). It seems like, with the right mix of friends (librarians and nurses) this game could be a lot of fun, although probably not clean fun. Definitely correctly labeled as a 16+ game.
  • Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! A seriously cute, beautifully illustrated fast-paced rhyming game for all ages featuring fairies and goblins. Turn by turn, match a rhyme in your hand with one in the "fairy ring," until you’ve either gotten rid of all your goblins or obtained 6 fairies. Easy-peasey, right? Ah, but as you play, cards get flipped -- turning fairies into goblins and goblins into fairies. It’s a small group game of 2-4 players and takes about 15 minutes per game, so definitely the kind of game to throw down during a lunch break. If you think Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! sounds fun, you should know it’s spawned a companion jigsaw and coloring book.

  • Simon’s Cat: The Card Game. Obviously, as a Cat Lady, I am completely enamored with the animated web series, Simon’s Cat. In the fast-paced SC:TCG, you take turns around the table, trying to avoid Simon’s attention because receiving attention pretty much guarantees you’ll attract Blame for something and too much Blame means you get fed last. It’s an amusing and extremely simplistic all-ages game. Alas, it is for groups of 3-6 which means it’s not something I can do a quick round or two of with The Husband. And it doesn’t seem ... robust ... enough to invite people round just to play. Maybe, if we hosted a generalized "Let’s try random games from the cupboard and get drunk" night?
  • Candle. This game’s gorgeous, hand-painted watercolor graphics caught my attention right away -- seriously, I was "What? Is? That? I must get closer to it right now?!" -- and I was charmed by the simple story of boy with a candle hand who goes on a dangerous journey, encountering many traps and puzzles along the way. A pretty puzzle game that tells a good story? I’m in. Alas, it’s not out on Steam yet, but soon, I hear.
  • Legends of Callasia. LoC is a turn-based empire-building strategy game very much like Civilization, but simpler and with much faster game play. The booth dude said a game should take 45-120 minutes to complete and, as a person who has lost weeks of her life to Civ, I was happy to hear that. There's an option to battle against friends on a board game-type maps, but I only played a bit of the single player. It's visually attractive, the controls seemed pretty self-explanatory, and one of the countries was named Torenth (massive internalized Katherine Kurtz Deryni-inspired fangirling when I saw that). Free to play of Steam, at the moment, although I cannot get it to work.

  • Metronomicon. I don’t know how to explain this game, but it’s highly addictive fun. You lead a band of musically-inclined heroes against a horde of dancing fiends and it’s kinda-maybe like Guitar Hero, if Guitar Hero were an RPG and didn’t use a guitar? The soundtrack is, unsurprisingly, excellent with lots of electronic synthwave stuff that makes me want to dig up my Trainspotting soundtrack. Graphics are bright, colorful, and amusing. Also not out on Steam yet ... but wishlist away, my dears.
  • Story Warriors: Fairy Tales. Pretty sure this game, with its cute hand-drawn art, is meant for small children who are still mastering reading comprehension and not for grownup women who don’t know what to do about their book-hoarding problem (simply deny there is a problem), but I waaaant this game. I want to navigate Bella through popular fairy tales, solving puzzles with the cleverly used words as I go. And by cleverly used words, I mean you can pull the word "sword" out of the text and it becomes an actual sword you fight an actual dragon (also sprung from the word) with. In the App Store now, but coming to Google Play soon.

We also pre-ordered the super-delicious Secret Hitler with its sexy, satiny, brass-hinged wooden box. We’d played a 10-person game a few weeks ago using the print-and-play version. It was soooo much fun. I was Secret Hitler once and no-one guessed, because they confused me, the devious game player, with me, the nice pizza-buying person and couldn’t believe I was a lying Fascist. Best Friday night in ages, I kid you not. Pretty sure we pr-eordered this just because The Husband wants a crack at being Secret Hitler. (You’ll always be my Secret Hitler, baby).


Wordless Wednesday: Squirrel!

This eastern gray squirrel was quite sure we must have something interesting in our pockets
and just sat on its haunches, waiting, in the middle of the path.

Ham & Cheesy Chicken Breasts

This was my first attempt at prosciutto-wrapped, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts for April's Improv Challenge. While it came out well, I didn't think it came out quite well enough for the Challenge -- the spreadable cheese was both too mild to stand up to the stronger flavors of the prosciutto and too soft as it ran out of the chicken has it baked. Still, this was my first attempt and I thought it came out pretty well, so I'm leaving it here for kicks.

You can see the (better) prosciutto-wrapped, cheese-stuffed chicken breasts recipe I actually submitted for April's Improv Challenge here. The cheese still escaped, but the flavors were better.

Ham & Cheesy Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2


  • 4 thin slices prosciutto de parma
  • 4 tbsp soft spreadable cheese like Boursin or Aloutte
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the prosciutto in pairs on the baking sheet.
  2. Slice each chicken breast in half, almost-but-not-quite all the way through, so it is falls open like a book.
  3. Stuff each breast with half of the cheese, then gently smoosh together to close. Place each breast cross-wise on a slice of prosciutto. Fold the prosciutto over the chicken and tuck the ends under.
  4. Arrange tomatoes around the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Roast for 20 mins until the chicken is golden around the edges and the tomatoes look a little shriveled.


Visiting The Comic Store in Nashua, NH

Up in northern Massachusetts/southern New Hampshire last week on a one-day mini-break in which I hoped to eat some good ice cream, acquire bargain-priced quality flannel shirts, and maybe get some new comics. Unfortunately, I over-planned my day (what can I say? The L.L. Bean outlet was a huge time sink) and only made it to one comic book shop -- The Comic Store in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Happily, it was a good choice. A big shop pretty evenly split between comics and tabletop gaming materials. It has a very large and broad assortment of trades, which thrilled me because I am not a fan of single issues. Also a decent amount of shojo and yuri manga mixed in amongst the usual shonen stuff. Staff person I encountered was super-friendly without being unctuous and left me alone once I made it clear I was having a perfectly fine time browsing.

  • Girl Friends: The Complete Collection, Volume 2 by Milk Morinaga. Absolutely scrummy yuri manga about the continuing adventures of two sweet high school girls in love set against a backdrop of the usual friendship and school dramas.
  • I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young. Promises to be a horrifically and hilariously violent take on the usual "seemingly ordinary child wishes herself to fairyland and has marvelous adventures before returning home."
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. Fantasy shojo manga about an orphaned 15-year-old Japanese girl with strange gifts who sells herself into slavery and comes to be owned by (and affianced to) by an inhuman magician. I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic about this manga – the child slavery and the probable May-December pairing worry me a bit.

I could have bought more, but I was feeling a bit guilty about all the graphics I already own and haven’t read! What can I say? I have a terrible book-collecting habit.


Improv Challenge: Ham & Cheese

This my second attempt at cheesy ham-wrapped chicken for April's Improv Challenge. The first time, I used a soft, spreadable cheese that ran out of the chicken as it baked and was also a little overwhelmed by the sweet, salty, prosciutto. For my second attempt, I turned to a firmer cheese -- Gruyere -- whose sweet, salty, creaminess balanced a little better with the prosciutto. As I've used it in grilled cheese and paninis, I knew it would also melt better.

But it still tried to escape from the chicken! How do you keep the cheese inside the chicken? Should I have frozen the cheese first, the way you can freeze butter for chicken kiev? Seared the chicken to seal it shut? Using less cheese isn't an option, as I'd say that even with an ounce of cheese per breast, there was still not enough cheese!

Ah, well, what is cooking for if not to master new things? Slowly. With many redos!

If you want to skip the cheese and tomatoes altogether and tweak the cooking times, chicken tenders wrapped in strips of prosciutto are delish on a salad.

Why roast tomatoes, anyway? Why not? Roasted grape tomatoes are one of the most delicious things on Earth. The tomatoes roast down to an excellent jam-like state and their bright, sweet-sour tang goes really well with chicken.

Fancy Ham & Cheese Chicken Breasts

Yield: 2


  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts [Coleman organic]
  • 2 oz Gruyere, thinly sliced [Boar's Head Blanc Grue]
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto de parma [Boar's Head]
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Cut a deep pocket in each chicken breast, going almost-but-not-quite all the way through.
  3. Stuff each breast with half of the cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, then gently smoosh together to close. Wrap each breast in two slices of prosciutto, tucking the ends underneath like a blanket.
  4. Arrange tomatoes around the chicken. Drizzle both with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with lots of pepper.
  5. Roast for 25-30 mins -- until the chicken has reached 164°F, the prosciutto is golden around the edges, and tomatoes have collapsed in on themselves and look a bit charred.


Wordless Wednesday: Pigeon

Feral pigeon hanging out, looking rather regal ... probably daydreaming it's Batman.


I'm Your Secret Hitler, Baby

Back in February, I had some friends over to play Cards Against Humanity with the expectation that, as the evening progressed, less hardy players would leave and we would eventually dwindle down to a group small enough to play Secret Hitler. One of my coworkers had helped Kickstart the game and, while waiting for the "real" version to come his way, had downloaded the print-and-play edition. He'd already played with a group of 5, but he really wanted to try it with the maximum number of players -- 10. We had 15 for Cards Against Humanity.

Alas, our numbers never reduced sufficiently that night. But we vowed to try again. Finally, last Friday, I rounded up a carefully selected group of librarians, medical personnel, and their sidekicks and we played the crap out of Secret Hitler. There was so much bald-faced lying. So much subterfuge. So much fun. (And a lot of shouting. "How can you be Hitler?" "I thought you were a Liberal!" "Wait, you're both Fascists?" "I was sure he was a Fascist!" "Is anyone at this table not lying?!").

In the game, every player is secretly either a Fascist or a Liberal. And one player is also Secret Hitler. In the 10-person version we played, the other Fascists knew who Secret Hitler was, but no-one else knew. And Secret Hitler did not know who the other Fascists were. Poor Secret Hitler. Better play as a Liberal's Liberal, Secret Hitler, and keep the truth close to your chest.

Every player (even Secret Hitler) gets an opportunity to play as President and choose a Chancellor. Everyone votes in the Election and, if the Chancellor is confirmed, the President takes three policy cards, looks them over, discards one, and passes the remaining two to the The Chancellor. The Chancellor discards one, which enacts the remaining card. To win, the Liberals need to get five of Liberal policies enacted ... or to kill Hitler. The Fascists need to get six Fascist policies enacted or to have Hitler elected Chancellor after three Fascist policies have been enacted. Whenever a Fascist policy is passed, the President has to perform the power enacted by it (look at another player's Party card, assassinate another player, etc). After a policy has been enacted, the players can then discuss what just happened ... or what they think just happened.

For there is no reason to believe anyone is telling the truth. The President may very well claim she gave the Chancellor one Liberal and one Fascist policy card, while the Chancellor argues they were both Fascist policies so she had no choice. And when it comes 'round to investigating loyalty or executing other players ... Ugh. If you're like my group, who had to stop every turn to minutely cross-examine the President and Chancellor and generally impugn on each other's honor, one game of Secret Hitler can take ages to get through. But it's fun so no-one cares they've spent 10 minutes arguing over whether the Chancellor or President are Fascist liars and the game has not advanced very far at all.

I was even Secret Hitler once. And no-one guessed, because they'd confused the genial party host I appeared to be with the devious card player I actually was. It was a delicious victory. I even may have cackled a bit at the end.


Easy Chicken & Black Bean Burritos

Looking for a supper that could be quickly assembled ahead of time, would use up a bunch of odds-and-ends, and also create ample leftovers for lunches, I turned to burritos. I simply tossed shredded leftover rotisserie chicken, black beans, thawed fire-roasted corn, salsa, shredded cheese, salt-free taco seasoning, and sour cream together in a big bowl. Then I portioned the filling out evenly among a package of flour tortillas, and folded the tortillas up around the filling to make little bundles that could, if you're feeling generous, be called burritos.

I arranged the burritos in a large baking dish, sprinkled them with cheese and salsa, covered the dish with foil, and left it in the fridge overnight. About 30 minutes before I came home, The Husband popped the covered dish in a 375°F oven and let them bake. When I came home, I uncovered the pan, switched the oven to broil, and let everything cook until the cheese was melty and the exposed tortillas had gone golden brown.

We ate the burritos topped with chopped romaine, grape tomatoes, scallions, guacamole, and salsa. It was not the most elegant of meals, but it was filling, economical, and (mostly) homemade.


Yumptious Tea Brack

Finally got around to baking King Arthur Flour's "Tea Brack" on Sunday. As I understand it, tea brack is the baking-powder-and-tea version of barmbrack, a yeasty bread usually served in Ireland at Halloween with different fortune-telling objects (a coin, a thimble, etc) baked into it. I'm still leery of yeast doughs, so this yeast-free version sounded perfect.

I used Barry's Gold Blend tea and Jack Daniel's Single Barrel (not Irish whiskey, but all I had on hand) to soak the fruit as I thought a little whiskey never went amiss with tea. The tea-and-whiskey soaked fruits were plump and yumptious. I used soft, vacuum-sealed fruits from because I find their products consistently good and quite reasonably priced for the quality I'm getting. I freely admit nearly as many dried plums (prunes) went into my belly as went into the cake! (I love dried plums, even back when they were still marketed as prunes and most often associated with grandmas and "regularity").

This cake is a little time-consuming, yes, but in a distinctly non-fiddly "do this and go away for an hour" way. I threw all my fruits together in a big bowl with the tea and whiskey, covered them with a tea towel, and then went off to tidy the living room. Then I assembled the dry ingredients in another bowl, got the egg out, and tidied the kitchen a bit. By the time the fruits were ready to go, I'd done enough that I felt truly accomplished for a Sunday morning.

As I lacked a 8" baking tin that was at least 2" deep, I used my 9" springform pan and wrapped the base in foil, just in case there were leaks. The cake rose up quite beautifully as it baked, but the walls of the pan were high enough to prevent spillovers. Baking tins I've seen in my English mother-in-law's kitchen seem to run much deeper than the ones I'm used to in America. I don't know why this is so -- perhaps because English cakes tend to be denser, fruit-based ones? But how does that explain the sponge cake?

But how does it taste? Heavenly. Moist, dense, fruity. Of course, I'm partial to fruitcake. And tea. And whiskey. People who do not like those things will probably not enjoy this cake. While a plain slice is perfectly delightful on its own, toasting it in a pan and then smearing it with good butter just brings it to a whole new level. Obviously, consume with tea (or whiskey!). Appropriate for breakfast, tea, or whenever you're feeling snacky. Remember, it's got fruit in it (And whole grains! And flavonoids!) so it must be good for you.

I'm tempted to make this tea brack at Christmas using a "Christmas" tea blend, cover the top with royal icing and pass it off as an easy Christmas cake. Seriously, I love the fruitcake recipes I use, but they each make cakes meant to be consumed by waaay more people than I know who like fruitcake. And there's no point telling me to freeze it, because even I (!) don't want fruitcake in July.

Wordless Wednesday: Church Tower

Looking up at the Arlington Street Church (Boston) steeple with its four-faced clock and bells.


Easy Weeknight Lasagna

I haven't made a lasagna in quite a long time (as The Husband will attest), but my coworker made a pan the week before last and talking about it with her filled me with a craving. Also, there was a quart of farm stand bolognese sauce thawing in the fridge that The Husband kept making disparaging noises about, because the label might say "bolognese" but the ingredients clearly suggested it would be more like a generic meat sauce. The Husband is a bit of a sauce snob and accepts no shoddy American imitations when it comes to bolognese. But will he learn to make bolognese? No, he will not.

So, hide the sauce in lasagna! Or lasagne. Or whatever you want to call it.

I'm lazy and make my lasagna by bastardizing the directions on the back of the Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne noodle box. For this particular lasagna I used:
  • 32 oz container farmstand beef "bolognese," thawed
  • 14.5 oz can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes, gently crushed
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded "Italian" cheese blend
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne noodles

I assembled the lasagna the evening before. The following afternoon, The Husband popped the covered pan into the cold oven, set the temperature for 375°F, and let it bake for an hour. Then he uncovered it and let it continue to bake for 15 minutes. I came home, took the lasagna out of the oven, and set it aside to cool -- it's a bit sloppy when it comes out of the oven and letting it sit for 10-15 minutes makes for neater pieces. While the lasagna cooled, I made a simple chopped salad of romaine, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, red onion, parmesan, salt-free Italian seasoning, garlic vinegar, and garlic oil.

My 13x9" pan makes 12 reasonably-sized servings or, more realistically, 8 omnomnomlasagna servings. We ate it for lunch and supper for days running and I may even have had a cold piece for breakfast one morning. (Why yes, I am a barbarian). And now we're good for lasagna for another month or so.

I would like to attempt a "proper" lasange with ragù and béchamel one of these days, but that's a wee bit time intensive, you know. Read books on the weekend or make lasagne? Books win, if only because there's no washing up or calorie-counting after!

(And The Husband was correct -- the sauce was no bolognese -- but it went well in the lasagna and we bear it no resentment).


Wordless Wednesday: Star Magnolia

Blossoms slowly opening on a star magnolia

Cookies for Orderly Cupboards

The addition of two bags of flour has caused my usually orderly baking cupboard to descend into chaos. Every time I open its doors to get out the walnuts or refill the sugar pot now, a partially used bag of dried fruit or chocolate morsels throws itself at me. "It's too crowded it here," they cry. "We don't know where we're supposed to fit! DO SOMETHING!"

So I turned a bunch of them into cookies! (Possibly not what they had in mind). I started with a Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix leftover from Christmas and just tarted it up with random baking add-ins. Because I used a lot of add-ins (too many?), I ended up with more cookies than cookie sheets. I just let the first pan cool on the porch after the cookies had been removed from it to the cooling racks and then re-used it, parchment and all, for the last batch.

These cookies came out pretty deliciously. I mean, they would have to be at least "okay" as the mix makes them mostly foolproof. The flavors and textures were quite good, although I think I would have preferred almonds to macadamias and a bit of orange zest wouldn't have gone amiss. Still, my coworkers kept telling me how delicious the cookies were, so what do I know?

Cookies for Orderly Cupboards

Yield: about 32 cookies


  • 1 17.5 oz pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup crystallized ginger chips
  • ⅓ cup dried apricots, chopped small
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried flaked coconut, crumbled between your fingers
  • 1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted raw macadamia nut pieces


  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line 2 half sheet pans (13"x18") with baking parchment.
  2. Place cookie mix, butter, and egg in your stand mixer's bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to the mixer. Turn to Speed 6 and beat until a soft dough forms. Add in remaining ingredients and continue to beat until combined.
  3. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool cookies on pan for 2 minutes then transfer to cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
  5. Store cookies in a tightly covered container until needed.


Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief by Mark Russell

When I picked up Prez, I half expected to find Neil Gaiman’s name on it because I had only ever previously encountered the character, Prez, in Sandman so thought Prez (and Boss Smiley) were just characters Gaiman had dreamed up. But, no, it turns out that Prez has been around, in different iterations, since 1973.

And I was like ... ehhhh. Because a lot of not-very-good stories came out of the seventies, you know. And the Wikipedia entry for Prez certainly didn’t make the original run sound like anything I wanted to read.

But the cover. The absolutely hysterical cover. Teenage girl president confidently posed in what is clearly a recasting of Washington Crossing the Delaware with what can only be described as an odd crew. Well, maybe no odder maybe than a teenage girl president who was elected almost accidentally thanks to viral media, voter apathy, and a ridiculous amount of self-serving power plays within the existing government? A president, it turns out, who wants to be the best president she can be and do good. With the help of a carefully chosen Cabinet, robotic bodyguard, and the questionable interest of Anonymous (recognized by the UN as a nation state).

Anyway, turns out this Prez is good. A sharp, wickedly funny political satire, Prez seems eerily prescient in its handling of political corruption, reality television, viral media, economic stratification, the "personhood" of corporations, remote warfare, and modern plagues. Reading it .. it felt as if Prez is what we'll get in twenty years after a series of Trump-type presidencies. Except we probably won't get "saved" by anyone as cool as Beth "Corndog Girl" Ross. It's funny, yes, with lots of amusing one-liners and puns, but it's also dark and biting.

I can't wait for the next volume. What is Anonymous' agenda? Will Ross topple Boss Smiley and his shadowy corporate government? Will Tina, Christian ex-war machine bodyguard, find peace and happiness? And what about the kitties?

Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief written by Mark Russell w/ art by Ben Caldwell, et al (DC Comics, 2016)


Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori

SQUEEEEEEE. Seriously.

Haruhi is a new scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran Academy. Looking for a quiet place to study, she wanders into the Third Music Room … and encounters the fabulous (and ridiculous!) Ouran Academy Host Club (a club where six handsome male students skillfully tend to the romantic needs of their impressionable female peers). After accidentally breaking a valuable vase, Haruhi finds herself essentially indentured to the club until she pays the vase’s value back. Oh, and everyone in the club initially thinks Haruhi is a boy and she lets them go along thinking that because … SPOILERS ... but also, what’s the big deal? Boy Haruhi? Girl Haruhi? Why does it matter?

I’ve long adored the anime, Ouran High School Host Club, so much so that I went on a bit of a bender in February and re-watched the entire series. And then, of course, I wanted more but there is no more. So I turned to the live-action TV series, but that was just too weird for me (frankly, the character's seemed more creepy than cute) so I turned to the manga ...

Volume 1 and Episode 1 are almost identical, so the story was sweetly familiar ... but the book’s black and white illustrations are not, sadly, on par with the animation. However, in the (sweet! funny! adorable!) character biographies at the back of the book, Hatori does write that she intends to tone down Haruhi’s (and, hopefully, Honey’s), giant eyes in later stories and has become more confident drawing the characters (particularly Hikaru and Kaoru) so it’s reasonable to expect improved illustrations in later volumes.

Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 1 w/ story & illus. by Bisco Hatori (Viz Media, 2002)