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Month in review

Reviews
Aground on St. Thomas by Rebecca M. Hale
Art & Max by David Wiesner
Ava and Taco Cat by Carol Weston
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
Emily and the Strangers Volume 2: Breaking the Record by Rob Reger
Eric by Terry Pratchett
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics Vol. 1: The Paradigm Shift by Simon Oliver
5 Centimeters per Second by Makoto Shinkai
The Flying Beaver Brothers: Birds vs. Bunnies by Maxwell Eaton III
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner
The Gods of Second Chances by Dan Berne
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Hanging by a Thread by Monica Ferris
Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 2: 1981-1983 by Ed Piskor
I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
Monkey Truck by Michael Slack
Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb
Omens by Kelley Armstrong
The Outside Dog by Charlotte Pomerantz
Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
A Place to Call Home by Alexis Deacon
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 1 by Eric Colossal
The Salamander Spell by E.D. Baker
Sophie's Fish by A.E. Cannon
Speak Easily by Clarence Budington Kelland
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett
25 Roses by Stephanie Faris
Ukulele Hayley by Judy Cox
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

Miscellaneous
My favorite books published in 2015
Reading goals for 2016

Previous month

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



Book Scavenger: 12/16/15

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is a middle grade mystery set in the Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods of San Francisco. It combines local history, Edgar Allen Poe's "Gold Bug" story, and book swapping sites like BookCrossing and Paperback Swap.

Emily and her family are moving to San Francisco as part of her parents blog. They've decided to live in each of the fifty states and write about the experience. As they have jobs where they can telecommute, they have the freedom to move whenever the see fit. The moves, though, are wearing thin on Emily and her brother.

San Francisco, though, promises to be something special as it's the headquarters of an international book swapping site called Book Scavengers. Like BookCrossing, users leave specially marked books and track the travels of book through the website. Here, though, users leave clues to add a bit of a treasure hunt aspect to the site. Those who find books are rewarded points and rankings. Emily is a huge fan of game and is eager to explore the city that spawned it.

But for those living in San Francisco, there are also local games, announced on the radio, KFOG (as one can tell by the radio announcer describing listeners as "Fog Heads"). The most recent game, though, is put on hold when the creator the site, and local publishing mogul, Garrison Griswold, is found shot in a BART station.

As a local Bay Area resident (albeit, in the East Bay, rather than the City) with friends in the publishing industry, I was extremely skeptical at the close of the first chapter. See, Griswold is described without explanation (at first) as if he's a Willy Wonka cosplayer.

Well, turns, out that's intentional and he really is, in fact, a self styled "Willy Wonka of publishing." He's not some fanciful misconception of what a person in publishing is like. He has a back story with a solid time line, tied to the Beat Generation, that is revealed as Emily goes on her scavenger hunt.

In terms of structure, Emily's adventures in San Francisco and her learning of the city's history, and Griswold's part in it, is very much like Richard Mayhew's experiences in Neverwhere after he helps Door.

Emily's "Door" is her neighbor, James. He's her age and is the son of their building's landlady. He's a multi-generation Chinatown native. His family has lived in the same building for a century, something Emily with her itinerant lifestyle has a hard time comprehending. James is more San Francisco than San Francisco. He is her guide through the many layers of the City.

So although the first chapter was a bit rough for me, by the end I was completely swept away by the book. It's a beautiful blending of local history, the life and stories of Poe, Jack Kerouac, and other literary geekery.

A sequel has just been annouced for publication in January 2017. It will be called The Unbreakable Code.

Four stars

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