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Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



Innocence: 04/30/14

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Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn reads like a YA Rosemary's Baby with a literary twist. Becket is living with her recently widowed father and is coming to terms with going to a new school and hitting puberty. Her school, while an exclusive academy in Manhattan, has a history of suicides, especially among its female students.

Told in a stilted first person, Mendelsohn captures Becket's increasingly fragmented thoughts as she is sucked into whatever is causing the rash of suicides. When her father remarries, things get worse and she begins to suspect her step mother.

While I'm not normally a fan of punctuation free dialogue, I found it worked here. The book is almost free verse disguised as a prose. With short chapters, short sentences and little in the way of punctuation, I really felt like I was in Becket's head.

Four stars

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The Lost Children: 04/29/14

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The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan is a tween urban(ish) fantasy. Josephine Russing lives in a huge house with her father, a man who barely acknowledges her existence, save for giving her lots and lots of new gloves.

In fact, the whole town is forced to wear gloves at all times for reasons Josephine doesn't know. What she does know is that the town hates her father for his ridiculous law.

That's the set up. After the first chapter, I expected something Gothic, and maybe dystopian. The plot, though, takes a huge left turn. Josephine ends up a prisoner in an alternate world where children are sold to the Master and there are creatures in the forest know as the Gentlemen.

After this jarring change of pace, it took me a good long while to warm back up to the book. Josephine's initial imprisonment and her interaction with the other children and the jailers reminded me of a typical children's fantasy movie from the 1970s. The kids in those films were usually orphans, except for the hero who is mistaken for one. All the adults are EVIL. There are monsters, or witches, or whatnot, lurking in the orphanage or in the surrounding area.

Thankfully Josephine's adventures as a prisoner play out pretty quickly, opening up the world for her to explore. Once she does escape, The Lost Children settles into a more modern feeling fantasy story. There's more going on than just an evil orphanage, run at the behest of an evil master. Were it not for the initial pacing issues, I would have given this book five stars. The remaining two thirds of the book is very tight and the ending is impressive and satisfying.

Four stars

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Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun: 04/28/14

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Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie is the third in the Ghost Hunter Mystery series. Work has taken M.J. and company to a hotel in San Francisco. She is to be on an episode of Haunted Possessions.

But things go awry almost immediately. M.J. meets the ghost of a young woman killed inside the hotel. It turns out her death is wrapped up in the disappearance of a demonic knife.

Being set in a closed environment, a hotel, helps keep this mystery focused. There are lots of surprises, twists and turns.

The book also introduces a new psychic to series, a Native American (of as unspecified location as Sr. Sexy Pants). He's from the south west, so he's sort of a Navajo-Apache-Hopi-hodgepodge. Despite his dubious origins, he's still a vast improvement over M.J. other love interest.

Five stars

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Shattered Silk: 04/27/14

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Shattered Silk by Barbara Michaels is the second of the Georgetown trilogy. Karen, another of Ruth's nieces, is leaving a bad relationship and needs somewhere to stay. Her husband has left her for a younger woman. Now she wants to start her own business, a clothing shop specializing in vintage undergarments.

But tied up in all those unmentionables are some dark town secrets. Someone or something doesn't want those secrets being aired with the dirty laundry. (Sorry... this cheesy book just needs a cheesy review).

In all of this mess there's the same old heavy handed discussion, lecturing on gender roles, while Karen and Ruth and to a lesser degree the men, are in danger. Really, having already been through this scenario once with a supernatural danger, perhaps Ruth and company should stop bickering and get the hell out of that house. The house needs to be burned to the ground and the ground salted.

But no. That's not the point. Of course not. Look at me rolling my eyes.

Ok. Deep breath. The point is that men are pigs and women can't escape and humanity is doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

Three stars

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The Pricker Boy: 04/26/14

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The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem takes place in the forest surrounding a rural town that is mostly a summer home destination. Stucks Cumberland and his friends, are year-rounders. They have to live with the forest even when its at its most sinister.

There's a local legend about a creature with gray skin who is the ghost of a boy left to die in a trap. Children leave offerings to him to throw him off the scent. When Stucks and his friends find one of these shrines, strange things begin to happen.

The Pricker Boy's pacing is similar to Lord of the Flies and the anger expressed by Pete (Stuck's best friend) gives the book a similar savagery. But the pacing of events and the slight of hand used to obfuscate the flashbacks ruined the horror elements for me. Too much of the plot rests on the shoulders of an unreliable narrator — one of my least favorite plot devices.

Two stars

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Turn Left at the Cow: 04/25/14

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Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard is a young adult contemporary fiction. Trav has come from California to his Grandmother's in rural Minnesota. He's heard stories about his long dead father and now it looks like he's right in the middle of things.

Shortly after Trav's arrival, money from a robbery his father was supposedly part of surfaces. Suspicion turns to Trav, being the newcomer and the son, but it's really the Grandmother who is the likely person to have the money.

Things quickly spiral out of control as the town craves answers about the long missing money. The plot and pacing remind me heavily of The Bootlegger's Secret by Michael Springer, which I frankly enjoyed more than Turn Left at the Cow.

Read via NetGalley

Three stars

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Vanity Fair: 04/24/14

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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray calls itself a "novel without a hero." In the post-movie-tie-in book cover and blurb, one would be expected to believe that it's a book with a heroine, namely, Becky Sharp. But, I argue, that's a present day contrivance, much in the same way that the film industry has convinced a generation of readers that Pride and Prejudice is a romance in the modern sense of the word.

Certainly the book starts off on the promise of a book about a plucky young woman out to conquer the world now that she has finished school. That conceit though, is tossed out at the end of the first chapter, along with Becky Sharp's dictionary.

With Becky blending into the ensemble cast of characters, I started to rethink the idea of a hero-less novel. If I turn to the entertainment industry again, this time television, Vanity Fair is most like Seinfeld if it had aired after the attack on the World Trade Center.

Essentially Vanity Fair is a seres of comic sketches that look at British culture before, during and after the Battle of Waterloo.

Three stars

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Everlasting: 04/23/14

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Everlasting by Angie Frazier is a YA historical fiction. Camille Rowan of San Francisco is having one last sailing adventure with her father before settling down to marry the man who can save her father's financially troubled business. She, though, is secretly (or not so secretly) in love with Oscar, a man who shares her love of the sea.

The last voyage takes Camille, her father and their crew down to Australia. Things though go awry and soon Camille is separated from the ship. That's the opening to the fantasy element of this book.

Except that there have been so many other recent YA books about immortality that I just had to stop. Australia &emdash; while historically interesting &emdash; seemed like such an odd choice. It's not an especially piratical place. Nor does it have any local legends of immortality (even the Dreamtime stuff is farther west on the continent).

There just wasn't enough explanation for why New South Wales and the Tasman strait were THE PLACE for immortality hunting. Nor was there enough over the top bravado to pull off the choice in spite of my misgivings.

One star

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Reunification: A Monterey Mary Returns to Berlin: 04/22/14

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Reunification: A Monterey Mary Returns to Berlin by T.H.E. Hill is a return to the cold war hijinks that both sides participated in the name of world piece. There was a hell of a lot of spying and a hell of a lot of subterfuge in the form of feeding the other side bogus info.

Berlin, a city originally occupied by both sides and later divided by both and given to West and East Germany was a perfect location for spying and dissemination of false info. This book takes a humorous look at the aftermath of all that top secret tom foolery in Berlin.

Mike Troyan is visiting at the approach of the 50th anniversary of the building of Teufelsberg. His trip there to tour the site and to go through old files, reconstructed with the aid of modern computers which can deal with old school shredding.

His chance to read the files and meet with old colleagues provides a framework for a series of episodic flashbacks. These things start with the "official" report and then Mike's recollection of things. Very rarely is there any correlation between the two &emdash; to show just how bad intel can take on a life of its own.

As a cataloger, I can attest to how quickly bad data can spread. Computers have made sharing data very easy. But it's just as easy now to miss errors in data. So a typo, or a wrong name, or something that should be obvious, can spread across hundreds of institutions as everyone imports data from the original file.

Four stars

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Floors: 04/21/14

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Floors by Patrick Carman is the first book in a series about a very unusual Manhattan hotel (even by Manhattan standards). The Whippet hotel built by Merganzer D. Whippet has unusually themed rooms (sort of like the Madonna Inn in California) and numerous (rumored) secrets. Unfortunately, it's owner has been missing for the last one hundred days. Now Leo, the maintenance man's son has begun to find clues that might explain what happened to Mr. Whippet.

It all begins with a purple box. Leo, although he has duties in the hotel tool, knows in his heart of hearts that this purple box, and the other boxes he finds on the way are vitally important to the well being of the hotel, which has been Leo's home for as long as he can remember.

Leo's quest through the rooms and secret passageways that any building of substance is bound to have give the reader the chance to explore behind the artifice. Like Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that's some magic involved too (or at least illogic). As the Whippet is also a hotel there are some guests, and they are as eccentric and long term as Scarlett Martin's guest in Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.

I listened to this book to and from work. The wacky hotel adventures lend themselves perfectly to be a very entertaining audio book for commute time. I'd also recommend it for a family car trip.

Five stars

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Tuck Everlasting: 04/20/14

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Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt is one of those children's books (from a long list, sadly) that I missed reading in my childhood.

Out in the countryside there's a family that owns a spring as part of their rural acreage. They haven't seen any use for it or figured it had any value, so they've let it be and ignored it for decades.

Things change though when their daughter follows an unusual melody from a music box. It leads her to the Tucks, a family blessed (or cursed) by her family's over looked spring.

Afraid of what the girl's reaction will be to their BIG secret, they kidnap her. Much of this short book is the Tucks' long backstory and the girl's growing acceptance of them.

Tuck Everlasting wasn't what I expected (dreaded). Since the most recent film adaptation my husband has been bemoaning his experiencing of having to read it in elementary school. Then our so read it in school and LOVED it and insisted that I read it. Turns out, I agree with my son. It is very good.It asks a lot of questions about life, death, immortality and morality. And it has a nice surprise ending.

Five stars

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Wacky Wednesday: 04/19/14

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I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating; I have a wonderful independent bookshop just down the hill from where I live. They offer a combination of used, new and special orders. One of the advantages of being a frequent customer is that they have come to know my taste in reading as well as that of my family.

On a recent trip with my daughter, Stephanie recommended to her, Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSeig. Reprints use his better known nom de plume, Dr. Seuss. But they had just gotten in a well-read first edition. The thing with Stephanie — she's NEVER wrong with her recommendations.

The book opens on a Wednesday morning. Very quickly it's apparent that things are not right. As the day progresses, more and more things are off.

The text gives hints to how many things are wacky in each scene. Some are obvious and some take advantage of optical illusion to hide in plain sight.

The book was an instant hit with both of us. Somehow I had missed it in my childhood. On our first day we read through it twice. We've since read through it many more times.

Five stars

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The Dancing Floor: 04/18/14

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The Dancing Floor is the last Gothic novel Barbara Mertz wrote as Barbara Michaels. I think her Amelia Peabody mysteries as Elizabeth Peters had exploded in popularity to the point that the series had to be her main focus.

The Dancing Floor is a stand alone — a most of the Barbara Michaels books are. Heather Tradescant had been planning to travel to England to see historic gardens with her father, but his death has forced her to go alone.

Heather has arrived in the village to see the famous Troytan house, only to have a fender-bender, nearly hit a child, and nearly meet her own death in a briar patch. These events give her entry into the Troytan house and she becomes their reluctant guest.

Tied up with the history of the garden is a long tale of village witchcraft. Though not a believer in such things, Heather continues to have strange experiences. some of which could be explained by the supernatural if one was so inclined.

I listened to this book as read by Barbara Rosenblat. I think if I had been read it in print, I would have skipped some of the sections. As much as I consider myself a fan of Mertz's books, there is a certain sameness to her plots and characters.

This book is a distillation of her themes, characters and tropes. It has another somewhat naive woman, a house with a dark history, a family who wants to help but seems to invite danger, some sort of paranormal threat, and someone completely off the rails.

Four stars

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Nine Lives Last Forever: 04/17/14

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Nine Lives Last Forever by Rebecca M. Hale is the second of the Cats and Curios mystery series. Frogs have begun to appear in unlikely spots around San Francisco: the Green Vase and City Hall. Somehow these amphibians are tied to a long lost fortune.

Interestingly the online publisher's description for this book lists the protagonist's name as Rebecca. Although the author does bear a physical resemblance to her protagonist and does have two cats, her protagonist is never named in any of the books. She is either "the person", "the human" (from the cats' point of view) or she is "Oscar's niece" or "the woman above the Green Vase."

The books in this series aren't typical cozies because murder isn't the primary motivating factor of the plot. Instead it's a mixture of local history, treasure hunting, and modern day politics. To truly appreciate Hale's series, one needs to know a thing or two about the California Gold Rush, San Francisco geography, recent San Francisco politics, and Mark Twain.

In Nine Lives Last Forever, Oscar's niece needs to "follow the frogs." There are the frogs of Mark Twain's short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (link), a set of sunken frogs at the old Sutro baths (Google Map), the frogs in City Hall, and an old carousel.

My two favorite minor characters are the PM (previous mayor) and the Current Mayor. Though again not named, they are very recognizably Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom.

Five stars

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Thud: 04/16/14

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Thud by Terry Pratchett is the 34th Discworld novel. A murder has been committed under Ankhmorpork. Meanwhile, Vimes has been ordered to better integrate the Watch.

The murder reveals the underworld vastness of the immigrant society of the dwarves. Vimes in his investigation has a lot to learn about dwarf culture (beyond what Carrot has taught him) and how to best assert the Watch's jurisdiction while avoiding a riot.

The murder is also tied up in an ancient war between the dwarves and trolls, reenacted in the game of thud (which is sort of like a lopsided game chess).

These Discworld books are at their best when they are focused. This one is pretty much an inner-city police procedural with some eye opening looks at race relations.

If you plan to read the most recent Discworld books, namely Snuff and Raising Steam, you must read Thud to understand how Koom Valley has changed everything.

For those of you who are parents and a child forever stuck on one particular night time book, I recommend getting the companion book, Where is My Cow?

Five stars

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The Haunted Mask: 04/15/14

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The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine is part of a new Goosebumps books featuring an evil greek mask.

The book opens in a costume shop. The owner, a skilled mask maker, adores making costumes for children, especially for Halloween. As he's working on some bat masks, he's visited by a long lost brother, who has arrived with an evil and an unwanted surprise. The evil mask is back and the only way he can protect the world is to take it with him to his death!

The remainder of the book is divided into two Halloween night tales of horror. The first is about a girl who likes to scare her brother, and with the help of the mask, takes things too far. Besides nearly scaring him to death she ruins a Halloween party and nearly destroy's the house!

The second story follows a boy at a pumpkin patch where there's evil infesting the pumpkins. This story is my favorite part of the book. It's a typical Goosebumps where the parents are clueless, the most helpful ones are the most dangerous, and the main character has to do whatever it takes to stay alive.

The Haunted Mask is the most complex and darkest of the Goosebumps I've read.

Five stars

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Timeless: 04/14/14

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I'm sitting down to write my thoughts on Timeless by Gail Carriger just after spending two hours drinking tea and listening to her talk about writing, self publishing (Crudrat) and audio books. The event will be over and done with by about two weeks by the time this review is posted.

Anyway... Timeless is the last of the Parasol Protectorate series. Though characters in the series might / will / do show up in other books, this is the end of Alexia and Conall's story. Prudence, who makes her debut as a talking, feisty toddler who is thankfully not annoying like Ramses, will be getting her own series dubbed the Custard Protectorate in March 2015.

Lord and Lady Maccon are summoned to Egypt by a vampire queen who shall not be ignored. As it seems to be the source of the plague that turns everyone mortal and untethers ghosts, the Maccons must go. To hide their true motive and give Alexia and excuse to have an extra set of eyes to watch Prudence, her best friend's acting troupe is hired to perform their latest show in Egypt.

Travel to Egypt of course means a certain amount of chaos. There's a kidnapping to contend with, the plague, ancient rivalries, and basic mayhem. In the middle of all of this is of course Prudence who is a strong willed individual with a potentially dangerous in born talent.

It was a fun book but it didn't sweep me off my feet as much as it did my husband. I'm rather skeptical about the inclusion of young children in books. I am looking forward to seeing an older Prudence when she has the wherewithal to speak her mind on things. I'm also grateful to leave Conall and his constant hysterics behind.

Three stars

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The Mummy's Mother: 04/13/14

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Most of my reading now comes from four sources: books for school, books off my wishlist, books on my to be read pile, and books for school. There's some wiggle room though for books my kids want me to read to them and books I see at the library that are so tempting I have to take them home.

The Mummy's Mother by Tony Johnston falls into the "so tempting I have to take it home" category. The cover shows a young mummy riding on the back of a camel across the Sahara desert. I know vampires and werewolves are the hot thing right now but I've been squeeing over mummy books since high school.

The book opens with a mother and son, both long since mummified after both succumbed to illness. Mid conversation the mother mummy is taken by grave robbers! She calls to her son to rescue her. And so after thousands of years, the boy leaves the confines of his tomb to bring his mother home.

The adventure takes place in modern times, though the specific time isn't mentioned. The boy has the power of the gods to talk to animals and has learned over the years of listening to archeologists how to speak some rudimentary modern languages.

The book walks a fine line between heartbreaking and humorous. Here's a boy who died young but through magic has been with his mother for centuries. For the first time probably in his entire existence he's alone and he doesn't know where his mother is or if he'll be able to rescue her. On the other hand, he's still a young boy having the adventure of a(n) (after)lifetime. He approaches his new situations with humor and bravery.

Four stars

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Anya's Ghost: 04/12/14

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Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol is a graphic novel about a Russian American girl trying to fit in. Just as Buffy has vampires getting in the way of normalcy, Anya, after surviving the fall down a well, has a ghost to contend with.

In my review of Friends with Boys I mentioned my dissatisfaction over the under-developed ghost girl side plot. Anya's Ghost is essentially that missing plot but done more darkly.

Stylistically Anya's Ghost is the intersection of the Hereville graphic novels by Barry Deutsch and Friends with Boys.

Five stars

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My Favorite Band Does Not Exist: 04/11/14

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My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek is YA metafiction that starts with a premise similar to Spintal tap and runs with it in the direction of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The titular band is Youforia, a hoax band created by Idea Deity and his friends. Except now it seems that a real band has taken up the mantel and is reaping in the benefits of the hoax created furvor. Idea decides to track down the rogue band and stop it before things get too out of hand.

Except (and there is always an exception) it's not that simple. Insert the flash/bang effect of traveling between universes from Fringe here. Because that's what Idea has to contend with.

In the parallel story, we get the perspective of Reacher Mirage, the lead singer of Youforia. It's quickly apparent that he's not aware of the hoax nor of Idea Deity. As far as he knows, the story perpetuated by Idea has actually happened.

The thing linking these two worlds together is a meta-fantasy novel, Fireskull's Reverant. It's their Neverending Story. And there's a woman who can see and interact with both halves of the story, Eunice Truant. She is like Yuko of the CLAMP series: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic.

Four stars

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Voltron Force Volume 2: Tournament of Lions: 04/10/14

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Voltron Force Volume 2: Tournament of Lions by Brian Smith is the second of the new graphic novels series based on Voltron. The version I watched as a kid was imported, dubbed and mangled from the anime series Go Lion! But in this form it took on a life of its own and has spawned a 3D series and more recently a new animated one (which I have yet to see).

In the craziness that is sanctioned fan fic, a lot has happened. The original crew are still around but they have younger replacements in training. Meanwhile Zarkon and Haggar-of-the-annoying voice are gone and Lotor the perpetually obsessed is king. He's also now ripped.

In this episode (excuse me, volume) the trainees are looking to show off their stuff. To do this, they go to a competition off planet. Of course they are so busy showing off that working as a team slips their minds.

What I love about this graphic novel series is now it expands on what was a very limited world (or galaxy, per the opening narration). There was Arus, Doom, Earth (sort of) and sometimes a planet of the week. Usually, though, there was just Arus and Doom.

Five stars

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The Dead in their Vaulted Arches: 04/09/14

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The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley is the sixth in the Flavia de Luce series. Harriet de Luce's body has been found and it's come home for a proper burial.

Although there is a death early on — a man at the train station — the majority of the book is focused on Harriet's life and Flavia's reaction to her funeral. Much of Flavia's time is spent helping her father watch the casket as the funeral arrangements are being done around them.

Except for a scene where Flavia develops a reel of film using coffee, there's not much in the way of her usual chemistry prowess. Nor does she take Gladys out to explore Bishop's Lacy. Instead, she's trapped at home waiting for the funeral and we along with her.

For series fans who are emotionally invested in what happened to Harriet, this book addresses those nagging questions. For those who prefer the mysteries that crop up in and around the village, this book will disappoint. Regardless, every reader will be forced to accept a huge change in direction in book seven, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust.

Four star

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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: 04/08/14

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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris is a short book of modern day animal parables. Each one is illustrated by Ian Falconer (of the Olivia picture books).

This bestiary features commonplace animals in situations that seem to be from the worst of day time television. There is a squirrel who wants to date a chipmunk, a mouse who thinks a newly hatched snake is her child, a bear with abandonment issues, and so forth.

As I'm not a fan of daytime TV or reality TV, I find these essays rather tedious to read.

The only saving grace to this book is Falconer's artwork. Seeing his unique animals doing adult things is somewhere between fascinating and off putting.

One star

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I Could Pee on This: 04/07/14

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I Could Pee on This by Francesco Marciuliano is the first in a set of short poetry books from the perspective of our pets. The others are I Could Chew on This (a book of dog poetry), and I Knead My Mommy.

The book features beautiful photographs of cats and kittens and poems that explore our on-and-off relationship with felines. These poems are written to take the perspective of the cats and so feature thoughts on territory, food, hunting, and a general bafflement at humanity's often less than enthusiastic response to normal behavior.

As the book is short in stature and page count, it can be read in a single sitting, or leisurely over a couple of nights of reading before bed. The vocabulary is simple enough and the humor silly enough to appeal to beginning readers as well.

Although I bought the book when it was first released, it took me nearly two years to get a chance to read it. My daughter, then a beginning reader, snatched up the book on the car ride home and kept it under her pillow for bedtime reading for eighteen months!

Five stars

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Making Money: 04/06/14

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Making Money by Terry Pratchett is the 36th Discworld book and the second of the Moist von Lipwig books. He's done such a great job at restarting the Ankh-Morpork post office. Along the way he's accidentally invented a new form of currency—the postage stamp. And that's caught Lord Vetinari's attention. See, there's this little problem with the Royal Mint...

The head of the Mint is dead and the Mint's now been left to a pug. While the Post Office was stuffed full of letters it was failing to deliver, the Mint is oddly empty. And so Lipwig is cajoled into doing his magic again.

But what I really enjoyed was seeing the continuing relationship of Lipwig and Spike. She is a much more interesting person in the books than in the miniseries. She is as much a con-man as Lipwig but she does it all in the name of workers rights.

And where there's Spike, there are Golems, including one who is now calling into question gender norms and I suppose is the first transgender golem, although before her no one seemed to think that golems had a gender.

There is so much going on in this book and so many ideas tossed about that a short review like this one can't do Making Money justice.

Five stars

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Don't Push the Button!: 04/05/14

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Don't Push the Button! by Bill Cotter is an interactive picture book staring a purple monster who likes rules. Well, one rule at least.

Larry, the monster, has one rule: don't pus the button. But through a mixture of cajoling and admonishing, the reader will be encouraged to break the rule and push the button. Then, of course, strange things happen.

This book has a user interface like an early iPod in that it has only one button. When things go awry, the only thing to do is keeping pushing that button and hope for the best.

This book will appeal to fans of Press Here by Hervé Tullet. There's also the impishness of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay up Late by Mo Willems.

Read via NetGalley

Four stars

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The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: 04/04/14

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You might not have noticed but honeybees have been disappearing specifically they have been declining at alarming rates. The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees by Sandra Marble looks at the effects of diminishing populations, the possible causes, and what's being done to save the honeybees.

For a short book — 48 pages, The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees is densely packed with facts. The information is presented in clear, succinct, and easy to understand way.

The section on Tokyo, for instance, has really stuck with me. It's the section I also go to when describing the book. Apparently the city has a crow problem. The birds have adapted to hunt garbage, being able to tear open the clear garbage bags everyone is expected to use.BUT there's a turf war between the birds and the bees. By introducing urban apiaries, the city is stating to curb the crow problem.

Four stars

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Poetics of Cinema: 04/03/14

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Poetics of Cinema by David Bordwell is a collection of essays that summarize the last twenty five years of his work as a film theorist. Long before I thought about being a librarian or worked as a web designer, I was a film student, on the theory side of things.

The fourth edition of Film Art: an Introduction by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson was my very first film text book. While I didn't end up as a film theorist, I don't regret the years I studied it.

I bought Poetics of Cinema when it was first released, thinking at the time of maybe including some film essays on my blog. Ultimately I settled on doing strictly a book blog. For one reason or another, Poetics sat on my shelf unread for six years. In the meantime, I had started following Bordwell and Thompson's blog, which in this day and age is really the best way to stay current with their work.

Poetics being a series of academic essays isn't something one reads in one go. I spent an hour with each essay, spreading the experience over a few weekends. The reading experience would have been better if I'd had the films on hand being discussed.

Three stars

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The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New: 04/02/14

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The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New by Margot Rosenberg came out of her experience as a seller of old and new books. As a book seller, she is understandably motivated to make her inventory as nice and appealing as possible. Clean, well cared for, and if needed, well-repaired books will sell better. Keep that in mind.

The book, then, is about how to get books into the best shape possible — or if the books are brand new — how to keep them in pristine condition. The book contains information on basic cleaning (including tips on how to erase marks), basic storage (no cramming of books on shelving), basic repair (white glue continues to be an old standby) as well as some bookish trivia.

For novice booksellers or bibliophiles hoping to get their home library into the best shape possible, The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New is a good reference.

For the modern day, overworked, understaffed library, most of their advice is impractical — but could be useful for special collections and other small collections with limited or no circulation. In other words — those libraries or archives with rare books could get some use out of this book — if their budgets don't allow for either bringing in an expert or sending someone on staff to a book binding or book repair course.

Reading this book, then as a cataloger, I snickered in places. Libraries do all sorts of horrors to books to get them ready for circulation and to keep them circulating. Books are covered in stickers (RFID tags, spine labels, book plates, etc). They are written in sometimes (to note its LOC or Dewey number). They are stamped with the library's name. And goodness, they are sometimes stacked in the cataloging process.

In the last third of the book Rosenberg wonders why more libraries (beyond the New York public library) don't provide patrons with a list of rules for caring for checked out books. From my own, albeit limited experience as a librarian, wear and tear is expected. Books that can be replaced when they fall apart, are (budget permitting). Books that are important to the collection that can't be replaced are repaired or rebound. The rest are culled.

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The Solar System Through Infographics: 04/01/14

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The Solar System Through Infographics by Nadia Higgs is a visual introduction to the solar system.

The book uses appealing drawn infographics to explain the basics of space: distances, the speed of light, the effects of black holes, etc. Everything is clearly labeled and presented in a way that would be useful alongside a classroom lesson.

The book also includes a handy glossary. It is basically what it says it is and it does it very well.

Five stars

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