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August 2017

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



Giant Days, Volume 5: 08/19/17

Giant Days, Volume 5  by John Allison

Giant Days, Volume 5 by John Allison brings the first year of university to a close. Daisy, Esther, and Susan are taking on summer at full force. Their beloved wreck of a dorm is slated for demolition, to put in luxury dorms. All in all it's weird times.

I happened to read this volume in the same week that I read Cadillac Couches by Sophie B. Watson and I must admit that the two stories have merged in my head — especially the scenes in Giant Days that take place during a rather disastrous music festival. Besides the expected sex, drugs, and rock and roll, there's also torrential rains, flooding, horrible portable toilets, and epic knitting.

Daisy also gets to shine in this book — having taken on an archeology internship or summer job or class. It's been well established that she is for the most part a very reliable, on task sort of person. She, though, is hounded by the professor leading the dig until she finally loses her ship to epic proportions.

Give me my 6 in 1 tool back.

Volume six, which features Daisy again on the cover, will come out in October.

Five stars

Comments (0)


Waiting: 08/18/17

Waiting  by Kevin Henkes

Waiting by Kevin Henkes is the Velveteen Rabbit for the 21st century. It's the story of a child's toys lined up on a window sill and what happens around them.

Initially it starts with introducing each toy and what they like waiting for. It's basically a toy a season. It's a quiet start about the soothing passing of time and the comfort in routine.

But he or she always came back

But children's lives aren't static and as they change so do their things. Toys come and go. Some are given away. And some are broken. For the others waiting on the sill these events are taken rather matter of factly, which was off putting in the first time I read the book.

Then he left and never returned

Granted, these are toys but often when toys are used as characters they are imbued with more emotions, more sense of caring for the bodged together family that they are as some child's toys. Not here.

One day a cat with patches joined them.

Finally there is a new long term character brought in who by her shape will be recognizable to anyone who has seen a matryoshka doll. Here though it's a cat to keep with the animal theme. For the other sill toys and for children not used to them there's one last bit of anticipation. What is the cat waiting for? Or maybe it's who is she waiting for?

Four stars

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Puppy Love: 08/17/17

Puppy Love  by Jennifer L. Holm

Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm is the eighth book in the Babymouse series. Babymouse desperately wants a puppy but her parents, well aware of her lack of attention to projects, tell her she has to prove herself responsible enough of a pet owner.

In later books, especially, Babymouse really is the cause of her own defeat. She is often portrayed as lazy, winey, and eager for things to magically go in her favor. Here, though, she is genuinely making an effort. But she still has problems.

Anyone who has had one of those "starter pets" knows, they are either short lived or are superb Houdini style escape artists. As a child I had fish and hamsters along with the family pets: a dog and a pair of cats. The fish, which we bought in bulk, often had a few who went belly up each month. I really don't know how often we had to replace fish until we hit on a stable population. The hamsters were constantly getting out of their cages. Invariably they'd end up under or behind an appliance; the dishwasher was a favorite hiding spot.

All of Babymouse's pets having a party when she's not looking

Babymouse's pets, though, prefer under her bed. And they take things to hilarious extremes. With each pet that escapes, including a fish in its bowl, the party under the bed grows.

Four stars

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Rosemary Remembered: 08/16/17

Rosemary Remembered  by Susan Wittig Albert

Rosemary Remembered by Susan Wittig Albert is the fourth of the China Bayles mystery series. China has moved in with her boyfriend and his son and everything seems to be going well. Except then they get word that a dangerous criminal who has a personal grudge against China has been let go. McQuaid goes on the super defensive / paranoid.

Then China's friend, Rosemary ends up dead in the truck she borrowed from McQuaid, thus fueling his conviction that the ex-con is coming for China. For most of the book, China is voice of reason, insisting that there must be someone closer to Rosemary who had motive and opportunity to kill her.

I think this is the first mystery I've read that has an angry red herring. In a television series (though usually done as an arc plot over a quarter to a third of the episodes, usually around sweeps) there will be a dangerous criminal on the loose who has come for the hero. There will be elaborate plots, misdirection, a near framing where it looks like the hero has committed a heinous crime.

This is the first time I cam remember a villain with a grudge only going after the hero because everyone is looking for him anyway and he's pissed off. He's literally been baited by China's well meaning friends and the whole confrontation ends up being laughable.

Before that, though, there's a who weird side plot involving McQuaid's son who is nuts about Star Trek trading cards. He's really into the Next Gen and wants a Data card. My memory being only so-so for the series couldn't keep track of when the show's run ended. Season seven was just the year before the book was published — so probably on air when the book was actually being written.

Now the show I was into in 1995 (and I know I'm in the minority here) was Voyager. Captain Janeway is my favorite captain. But it was too recent a show for the series to have made it into Rosemary Remembered.

Regardless, the disappearance of Brian was the most compelling part of the book for me. I think it was the firs time that China really seemed fully grounded in her world as a living, breathing, emotional person.

Two stars

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Volkswagen Blues: 08/15/17

Volkswagen Blues  by Jacques Poulin

Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin is a Quebecois road trip about a man in search for his long lost brother. His companion for this journey is Le Grande Sauterelle (Grasshopper girl, often just referred to as "The Girl"), and her black kitten. Their vehicle is an old, second hand Volkswagen bus that has been rebuilt but in a rather matter of fact way and one that will slow the rusting but won't prevent it.

The narrator, a man who calls himself Jack, brings to mind Jack Kerouac and On the Road. It's also fairly obvious that this is a roman à clef — made poetic for the sake of narrative. But there are photographs at the end that give a sense of the story behind the novel.

As the narrative was first written in 1984, one is also reminded of Blue Highways. But it's not Jack who is on the road to experience the narratives of other marginalized people. That is the Girl's quest. As the book progresses, she reveals the details of her life and her feeling of being out of place, being half Indian but not being a real Indian so that her parents (Indian mother, white father) could continue to live on the reservation near her family. But not white enough to buy a home beyond a trailer. (I'm using Indian rather than Native American or First Nation, as it is the term used by the author).

Her father we learn supported the family as a truck driver and later, she accompanied him. She learned how to drive in his big rig and has learned the history of the highway as it cuts through once native lands just as the settlers, governments, and armies have done.

Volkswagen Blues ends up embodying a variety of different classic road narrative stories. There is the white man finding himself as he finds his family (by far the most ubiquitous of North American road narratives). Then there is the traveling while ____________, in this case traveling while half Indian across lands that record the crimes against other Indian groups. Her story is like In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III but from a Canadian point of view. Then there is the autokind vs mankind, the traveling at the car's whim, always knowing that this day, this mile, could be its last.

For my road narrative project, I've saved numerous quotes and passages which I will be sharing on Tumblr. I'm behind on my note transcription, so this review will be posted long before I get to analyzing the book in further detail.

Five stars

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Shopaholic & Baby: 08/14/17

Shopaholic & Baby  by Sophie Kinsella

Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella is the fifth of the Shopaholic books. I had meant to read the series in order but somehow I got confused and thought Baby came before Sister. Weirder yet, midway through reading Baby, GoodReads suddenly told me that I was tracking my reading on Sister, even though I was reading Baby. My best guess is that GoodReads had the series listed out of order and I was following the incorrect order and midway through my book, they fixed the mistake and in the process swapped what book I was reading. The other possibility is I was having a reader's brain fart.

Becky and Luke are back in London, in a flat they've sold, and she's midway through her pregnancy. It's Becky's goal to stay fashionable, get the house of her dreams, and have the most posh baby ever. Part of that goal involves switching OB-GYNs, to one who works with pregnant celebrities. The big downside, though, is the new OB-GYN is one of Luke's ex girlfriends.

Lia Williams as Dr. Edith Montgomery from series four of Doc Martin

Dr. Edith Montgomery, as portrayed by Lia Williams from series 4 of Doc Martin (2009) The way the OB-GYN is described from her red hair to her relationship with Luke to the way she tries to sabotage Becky's relationship, reminds me of series four of Doc Martin, where during Louisa's pregnancy, Martin's ex-girl friend is suddenly working near by and is actively trying to get him to move back to London with her. I could help but recast Becky's doctor as Dr. Edith Montgomery, as portrayed by Lia Williams. Now as Kinsella's novel came first, I can't help but wonder if one of the show's writers was a fan.

As with The Shopaholic Ties the Knot, much of the tension comes from the lack of communication between Luke and Becky. A big part of that gap is because Luke is either always working on NDAed business deals or he's trying to avoid stressing out Becky. This time, of course, that well meaning on his part is compounded by a jealous ex-girlfriend trying to break up their marriage.

I've now gone back and read Shopaholic and Sister. I might also be reading the short story that covers their honeymoon.

Five stars

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 14): 08/14/17

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 31)
Hosted by Kathryn of Book Date.

We did it. It was a crazy week of running errands but the house is on the market. Our first open house was Sunday.

Master bedroom
The staging in the master bedroom.

Snacks in the kitchen
Snacks for visitors in the kitchen.

Staging in the living room
Staging in the living room

This coming week we're leaving on a road trip to Wyoming to see the eclipse. At this point I don't know if I will be participating next Monday. If I don't, I'll post an extra long one the following week.

What I read:

Alex & Eliza
Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz; Personal collection (ebook)
Ripped from the Pages
Ripped from the Pages by Kate Carlisle; library book
Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion
Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihack; library book
A Safe GIrl to Love
A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett; library book
My Boyfriend Bites
My Boyfriend Bites by Dan Jolley and Alitha E. Martinez; library book
 

What I'm reading:

The Painted Queen
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess and narrated by Barbara Rosenblat; personal collection (audiobook)
Yours Truly
Yours Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick; library book
>When Dimple Met Rishi
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon; personal collection

Up Next:

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey; library book
Paper Girls volume 2
Paper Girls volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang; library book (audiobook)
Goldfish Boy
Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompsonk; library book

Reviews Posted

Comments  (16)


Knight's Castle: 08/13/17

Knight's Castle  by Edward Eager

Knight's Castle by Edward Eager is the second book in Tales of Magic series. It takes place in the "present day" contemporaneously when it was published (1956), whereas Half Magic was written as historical fiction (or fantasy as the case may be). The children here are the children of the original set of siblings, brought together when Roger and Ann's father needs an important operation in the city.

Now for whatever reason, this family, and now this second generation of family, attracts magical items. Here it's an old figurine mixed in with the toys that brings the children's imagined adventures to life, sometimes with dire consequences.

For anyone reading the book now, there are lots of cultural references which may seem obscure. Roger, for instance is fascinated by Ivanhoe which was made into a film in 1952. But there are also nods to other popular films.

After reading most of the Tales of Magic series now, I have to admit that I prefer the older generation's dynamic to the younger one. The cousins squabble so much that it gets in the way of the adventures.

Four stars

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Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts: 08/12/17

Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts  by Esta Spalding

Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding is the second of the Fitzgerald-Trout books. The children are once again living in the old beat-up car and they are desperate to find a home of their own.

Meanwhile their island has gotten restless, shaking regularly with "knock-abouts" and having more frequent and worse storms. They believe the restlessness of the island stems from the importation of carnivorous plants.

Although the series has well established that the Fitzgerald-Trouts live on a fictional Pacific island, the layout of the island and the characters that the children meet this time remind me of Beach City (the east coast town that Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems call home). There's the carnival and the man who runs it who reminds me of Mr. Smiley. There is the biologist who reminds me of Rose. There is just the island-wide acceptance of the weird.

While the big plot of this book is still the search for a home, and the chance of finding one in the form of a yacht, this one also has an environmental message. It's not a global warming one — though the excessive rains and flooding might give the impression. Instead, it's all about the plants and the way that non-native species can destroy an island's ecosystem.

Five stars

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The Broken Lands: 08/11/17

The Broken Lands  by Kate Milford

The Broken Lands by Kate Milford is the prequel to The Boneshaker. It's set in New York City as the five boroughs are coming together into the city we now know.

The story introduces a variety of characters, each who will come together to protect the newly formed city during a crossroads battle. There are numerous points of view, the soon to be heroes, the gathering villains, and their cohorts.

But it's complex and tangled. The Boneshaker worked because it was set in a small, out of the way town, with a single road in and a history with an old ghost town. It is a quintessential road not taken story.

In terms of the road trip genre, New York is one of the terminals for road trips: either being the starting point, or the ending point. New York isn't a city that can contain a road trip. A crossroads battle in the middle of a metropolis, even one that at the time was more than one city being in the process of becoming a single city, just doesn't work.

Two stars

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Made for Each Other: 08/10/17

Made for Each Other  by Paul D. Storrie

Made for Each Other by Paul D. Storrie and Eldon Cowgur is the second standalone in the My Boyfriend is a Monster series. Persephone Alaska has been hit with a series of tragic accidents. Meanwhile, Maria is smitten with a gorgeous, mysterious new student at her high school — Tom.

Although I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang is about an impending zombie apocalypse, I expected the same for Made for Each Other because of the town's name. While there is a life renewal — and a bringing back the dead — it's not zombies this time.

Instead, this book takes for it's backstory, something similar to what's laid out in "At Last, the True Story of Frankenstein" by Harry Harrison and then asks, what next? Tom, then, is a modern day monster, created by the original.

The monster after years of living alone has felt the need to create a family. There's Tom and Graves — who serves as a middleman for the very shy monster. He still expects the town to turn on him as happened as had happened all those decades ago. Instead, Maria doesn't care how Tom came to be because her parents are organ donors.

The conflict isn't the horror of Tom being made from body parts. Instead, it's a tale of one creation losing control over his newest ones. It was an interesting twist that is in keeping with the monster as a sympathetic, intelligent person as written by Mary Shelley.

Three stars

Comments (2)


Thyme of Death: 08/09/17

Thyme of Death  by Susan Wittig Albert

Thyme of Death by Susan Wittig Albert is the start of the China Bayles mystery series. China runs a herb shop in Pecan Springs, Texas and is roped into solving a murder when a mutual friend, Jo, is found dead. The authorities have ruled it a suicide since she was sick with cancer but everyone close to her refuses to believe she would take her own life.

Early on (as in the first chapter or two) China over hears a loud argument. Maybe if you're new to cozies, or you're reading while being distracted, you won't notice. Otherwise, obvious clue is obvious. I'm talking Scooby-Doo, you meddling kids, obvious. All that's left to get through, then is about 200 pages of the why behind the crime.

And that's where the book comes off as dated. Not just in it feels like a book published in the early 1990s, but the author's own age and prejudices come screaming through even when they are in opposition to China's character sheet.

See the big plot twist involves a bisexual woman falling in love with a lesbian and being killed over it. The love affair wasn't the exact reason behind the murder but it's there as the big damn red homophobic/biphobic herring. Pages and pages and pages are wasted on China reeling from the revelation that some of her friends were closer than she knew and then idling imaging what their relationship must have been like. Ugh. Just stop and make the book fifty pages shorter, please.

Two stars

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Roughneck: 08/08/17

Roughneck  by Jeff Lemire

Roughneck by Jeff Lemire is a graphic novel set during winter in a small, rural Canadian town. The main character is a former hockey star who now struggles with alcoholism and basic day to day living. He works a dead-end job and dreams about his glory days. All that changes, though, when his sister stumbles into town.

The sister has her own problems — drug addiction, an abusive boyfriend, and an unexpected (and perhaps, unwanted) pregnancy. She gives him a reason to rally and likewise, he gives her a reason to clean up her life and start making plans for the future beyond where her next score is coming from.

For the most part the illustrations are done in pen and ink with a watercolor wash. Most panels are black, white, and light blue or mint green. Warner colors are saved for moments of nostalgia or violence, making the blood all the more startling.

Top panel shows boots rendered in a monotone blue. Bottom panel shows a full color rendered ice skate and hockey stick
an example of color as nostalgia.

As with The Underwater Welder, Lemire uses the road narrative (or in this case, the road motifs, as he does most of his story telling through the visual arts) to convey the isolation the characters are feeling. The town is small; the road is small and long — hinting at how far away they must be from larger towns and the help they might need. A character going through a crisis or emotional turmoil is often shown alone on this long road, a miniature figure against the vast sky and snowbanks.

Vertical panel showing a winter night scene along a curving road with a woman walking along the edge.
The sister walking towards town.

Five stars

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Poison Kiss: 08/07/17

Poison Kiss  by Ana Mardoll

Poison Kiss by Ana Mardoll is the first Earthside book. It's a queer urban fantasy set in Texas. While there is romance and the most adorable polyamorous trio ever, it's mostly about the types of families you make for yourself.

The book opens in a palace where Rose and Lavender are preparing for their mistress's next ball — a multihour ordeal. Im not going do these opening chapters justice. The language is florid, luscious, and filled me with the same sort of world building wonder that the earliest chapters of Lord Valentine's Castle did when I first read it.

That Lavender and Rose would manage to escape to launch the rest of the book was a given. It's how these sorts of stories start. I must admit I went into this book fairly ignorant so when the escape leads to Texas, I was floored (even though I know that the author lives in the state).

It took me about a chapter to reorient myself to expect urban fantasy rather than an epic quest across a fantasy landscape. Like Trailer Park Fae by Lilith Saintcrow, Poison Kiss is about people seeking refuge Earthside from Faeryland. Though they aren't called Changelings, these people who are escaping from the otherside have been changed by magic and their original memories erased.

There are very few books that examine the consequences of being a changeling. I realize I'm being fast and loose with terminology here as changelings are usually the fae that's left behind in the child's place. But these people have been changed. Rose for instance, gives poisoned kisses — made so to be the May Queen's executioner. Then there is Clarent who has a metallic body (and who I pictured as an adult but still metallic Alfonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. Besides the metallic skin, there's a similar gentleness to Clarent.

I really enjoyed the originality of the way magic works and how the faes' kingdoms are structured. So often in these urban fantasy books you get yet another retelling of the eternal battle between the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts. While that might be going on here too, it's not the focus.

Instead the focus is on Rose and Lavender and the other refugees living on the outskirts of this Texas town. It's about Rose learning to accept herself and love herself. It's about Rose, Lavender and Clarent becoming their own family, finding strength together. It's about the extended family of the refugee community.

It also ends on a whopper of a cliffhanger, so of course I will be reading Survival Rout soon.

Five stars

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 07): 08/07/17

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 31)
Hosted by Kathryn of Book Date.

The painting is done. The old washer and dryer have been hauled away. The range and fume hood will be delivered later today. The final cleaning will be done and the house staged by the end of the week. If all goes to plan, our house will be on the market this coming weekend.

Coming soon
The for sale sign announcing that our place will be on the market soon.

What I read:

Race to the Bottom of the Sea
Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager; Personal collection
Poison Kiss
Poison Kiss by Ana Mardoll; Personal collection
Zeroes
Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti; Library book
Fifteen Dogs
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis; library book
Murder on a  Half Shelf
Murder on a Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett; Booktown Mysteries; Personal collection (audio)
Winnebago Graveyard 2
Winnebago Graveyard 2 by Steve Nile, et al; comic; personal collection
Giant Trouble
Giant Trouble by Ursula Vernon; personal collection
   

What I'm reading:

Alex & Eliza
Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz; Personal collection (ebook)
Ripped from the Pages
Ripped from the Pages by Kate Carlisle; library book
Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion
Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihack; library book

Up Next:

A Safe GIrl to Love
A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett; library book
The Painted Queen
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess and narrated by Barbara Rosenblat; personal collection (audiobook)
Yours Truly
Yours Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick; library book

Reviews Posted

Articles Posted

Comments  (20)


Pastoral Cities: 08/06/17

Pastoral Cities  by James L. Machor

Pastoral Cities by James L. Machor is a collection of essays on the cultural back and forth between the urban and the rural in American history. In Europe, the city was a means to socialize people; in America, it was a means of taming and perfecting the landscape.

Machor's thesis is that historians have systematically ignored the "integration of the rural and urban" in the American story. Further more our understanding of American history will remain "truncated" and "incomplete" until the rural vs urban story is fully studied.

So this book is a compilation of essays on repeated attempts by American planners to built urban utopias, walled gardens of Eden. As each attempt failed for one reason or another (sprawl, economic problems, crime, etc), the experiments push west. And for each time this happens, the myth of the farmer and the mountain man as the progenitor of the American way, grows.

As a background for city planning within the United States, the book is fine. For the purpose of understanding the traveling narrative between the two extremes of American life &mdash the crowded city and the sparsely populated rural areas, it falls short. In fact it does what it complains about in the introduction: it stays within the bounds of the cities it discusses.

My notes from the book are on Tumblr.

Two stars

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The Unbreakable Code: 08/05/17

The Unbreakable Code  by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the second of the Book Scavenger series. Emily and James get pulled into a challenge to break the cursed unbreakable code — a cypher associated with a number of mishaps, including the sinking of the Niantic. While they are hunting down clues to break the code, an arsonist who calls themselves the Phoenix is starting fires around San Francisco and someone is bound to get hurt.

Although I live in the Bay Area (in the East Bay with a view of the San Francisco skyline), I'm not familiar enough with the City to always know when something in a novel is based on reality or not. The Unbreakable Code pushed the boundaries of what I knew and what I had to look up.

The book has essentially three timelines: the one of the children in the present where they are trying to decipher the code, their teacher's past (because he seems to be involved in some shady business), and the history of the code itself which includes stops at the Maritime Museum, Treasure Island, and Angel Island, as well as a fictional mound of rocks in the Bay (though there are a couple possible real life inspirations).

I'm familiar with the history of Treasure Island and it's many uses over the years. Likewise, I know about Angel Island's unpleasant role in Chinese immigration. I know that ships are buried under parts of the City as landfill. I was not, though, familiar with the Niantic. To me, Niantic is just the maker of games like Pokémon Go. But before it was the name of a local tech company, it was the name of a ship.

This time, main code of the book, isn't one that can be figured out until Emily and James learn certain things and are able to reveal more about the cypher. There's not as much opportunity to jump ahead of them in the puzzle solving.

The modern day arsonist plot was the most compelling part of the book for me in that they are a dangerous person who is moving in the same circles as the protagonists. There are two scenes with near misses for them — one in the middle of the book, and one at the climax.

Per an answer posted on Goodreads, Bertman is working on book three now. It's scheduled for publication sometime in 2018.

Five stars

Comments (2)


The Road Movie Book: 08/04/17

The Road Movie Book  by Steven Cohan

The Road Movie Book edited by Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark is a collection of essays about road movies. They're divided up into three sections: Pre-WWII, Vietnam War era, and modern era (being the 1980s-1990s).

Though there are about a dozen essays, there seems to be only four road films of note: It Happened One Night, Easy Rider, Thelma & Louise, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert. Granted, these are all memorable films but it seems like academia is fixated on these films.

As I've mentioned before, Thelma & Louise was the catalyst to my first attempt at my road narrative project. I should say that I don't particularly like the film and now after nearly three years of solid research, I can say why I don't like it.

Originally though I was looking at how the road is used to convey plot points in the film. That at the point of no-return — do they go off road, literally. I was really into semantics at the time and I was looking at wayfaring devices as narrative shorthand. While I'm still interested in semantics, my focus now is more literary than cinematic and the shorthand used is different. There is some overlap, of course, but not enough to say they share the same dialect.

What reading this collection of essays has confirmed is that that I'm not the film theorist I once was. Oh — I still have the skills — but I've been removed from academia long enough to no longer be in-step with dominant thoughts and theories. What this means, is my eyes are opened to things that have been missed.

In all fairness — this book was published the year I left film theory (with a masters in it). The theories in this book are very narrowly focused: the white, straight, cis-gendered, young middle class male. Anyone else whether in a film or in the audience is part of the massive "other." Early films are all about young men being scooped up (or scooping up) young modern women whilst on the road. The films of the 1950s-1960s are all about young men traveling solo and being jerks wherever they go and it being all in fun (at the expense of everyone else). The modern era seems to be an attempt at making films about the all the "other"s that have been ignored — though often by the same cis-gendered straight males and for that audience.

There are also essays in the post-WWII section about foreign films — namely the French New Wave and the Cinema Verité coming out of Italy. Granted, these are both important movements in cinematic history — but for the purpose of my research — they aren't road narratives.

Out of the entire book, the essay "Hitler Can't Keep 'em That Long" by Bennett Schaber, was the most eye opening. Not the Hitler bits (again, not relevant to my road narrative project), but the side discussion on the Wizard of Oz (1939) (though not the novel). Schaber describes the film as "Kansas farm hands become the new ruling junta of Oz" and while that's only true in the film as a function of the same actors being used for the Kansas and Oz scenes to set up the notion that her experience is all a dream, it does make sense — strikingly so — when looking at all the books.

Three stars

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Cleopatra in Space: Secret of the Time Tablets: 08/03/17

Cleopatra in Space: Secret of the Time Tablets  by Mike Maihack

Cleopatra in Space: Secret of the Time Tablets by Mike Maihack is the third of the Cleopatra in Space series. Cleopatra and her friends are searching for a means for her to get back to her time.

Cleopatra's journey takes her to far away, dangerous places. She also gets to learn more about Zaid's history — including seeing the orphanage where he grew up.

Massive urban setting seen from above with a word bubble with the text: Ah suppose anything’s possible.

This volume has the most world building and fills in more about the things that have transpired between Cleopatra leaving her own time and arriving here. The decline of civilization and the rise of the evil empire bears resemblance to Samurai Jack and one can surmise that when Cleopatra goes home, much of this future world she's lived in will unwind and reweave into something unrecognizable to her.

There's also a plot twist that I would have caught had I binge-read these books — but it's been years between volumes for me. Readers familiar with Meet the Robinsons will know what I'm talking about in terms of the twist. It will be interesting to see how that revelation plays out.

The fourth book in the series, The Golden Lion came out in June. I am currently reading it.

Four stars

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Murder is Binding: 08/02/17

Murder is Binding  by Lorna Barrett

Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett is the first of the Booktown Mystery series. It's set in fictional Stoneham, New Hampshire, which is described as being in the center of the triangle made by Nashua, Milford, and Bedford. Stoneham was a failing town until Bob convinced the town council to rent the failing shopfronts to themed book stores — essentially converting the town into a New Hamphire Hay-on-Wye.

Tricia Miles is one of those newly enticed booksellers. She has opened a mystery book store, "Haven't Got a Clue." Next door to her is the Cookery — a cookbook themed store that sometimes offers cooking demonstrations. To complicate matters, Tricia's older sister has shown up — devastated by her latest marriage failing.

Although Stoneham boosts a long history of being a safe town, suddenly there's a murder. For a variety of reasons, the local sheriff has decided Tricia is the only plausible suspect. It's fairly common for the series protagonist to be set in opposition with the local authorities — either due to their incompetence or because of the protagonist's proximity to the crime. It's an awkward but necessary start — a way to force the protagonist to solve their first crime and thus establish their credentials as an amateur sleuth.

If the amateur sleuth to be is a woman, she's usually new to the town and recently out of a relationship — broken up, divorced, widowed. Tricia's case is one of amicable divorce. This makes her a suspicious stranger, and open for romance with some local hunk. If she's not new to the area, then she has a long time best friend or a book club, or similar who will help her investigate, all the while distracting her with fashion, food, coffee, or whatever.

Tricia's set up plays on those expectations (though does eventually slide into some of the tropes in later books). Instead of a best friend, she has her sister who is there to annoy her but is loyal and willing to help her investigate. Among her other soon to be BFFs are her employee, Ginny, and her elderly book store regular, Mr. Everett.

Now in reading other reviews, there's a theme among the negative reviews of Tricia as a likable character. I agree with them — she's not a likable character. Frankly, she's a difficult to understand character — but she's interesting. It is obvious that she and her sister grew up with money. Her husband had money and the divorce and some frugality on her part has left her single and still with money (as evidenced by her Lexus).

Her money and her love of and knowledge of the mystery genre have allowed her to afford to live comfortably in Stoneham while running her store. The fact that she and her sister both comment regularly on their confusion over the gap between minimum wage and a living wage — even in an economically depressed town — is further evidence of their life with money and privilege. That by the end of the book both sisters have opted to leave the big city for Stoneham makes them and their relationship interesting.

The second book in the series is Bookmarked For Death.

Four stars

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July 2017 Reading Sources: 08/02/17

Inclusive reading report

Last month I realized my ROOB graph had gotten to the point that it was no longer producing a meaningful story of my on-going desire to read through my personal collection faster than acquiring new books, or without too many distractions from the library or research (or review copies as the metric was originally). I arbitrarily cut the data in half for the purpose of the graph — taking the last three year's worth. Rather than regrow a new long tail of data, I'm keeping the cut off at three years.

July continued the trend started in May of being under -3. It was slightly lower (meaning better) than June's at -3.12. I read fewer books in July than I did in June. July was the first big step of our move and much of my free time has been tied up in the process. August looks to be even busier.

ROOB for the last four years
5 = all new books, -4 = all to be reads. The goal is to be as close to -4 as possible.

July's ROOB was in keeping with previous Julys. It's a month where I do typically read mostly my own books. With my children on vacation, there are fewer opportunities to dash off to the library.

ROOB years

July's average improved by -0.06.

ROOB years

The first half of August is almost completely devoted to getting our old place on the market. I can read between doing things for that goal and taking the kids to their various events. The third week will be a road trip for the eclipse. I never read much while on the road. After that, I'm really not sure what to expect.

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July 2017 Reading Summary: 08/01/17

Inclusive reading report

Mid July we moved out of our home of thirteen years and into a tiny (and hopefully) temporary apartment. Ninety-seven percent of our home library is in storage, leaving our reading choices to those carefully selected books we brought with us, ebooks, digital audiobooks, and the library.

July also is the start of the annual Canadian Books Challenge, which this year has been taken on by a different Canadian blogger. The theme she has chosen is right in line with my road narrative project — Canadian road trip books. A double dose of excitement over a new challenge year starting and the introduction of new to me Canadian road narrative books, pushed the direction of my end of month reading as shown by the two covers I'm highlighting. The one on the left is a road trip from Edmonton to Montreal. The one on the right is road trip from Montreal to St Louis on the trail of a long lost brother.

August will hopefully mean that the home is finally on the market. It will also be the month where we take our family road trip — this time to Wyoming for the eclipse. It's my first time to Wyoming and besides the eclipse we will be seeing Yellowstone! I am not much of a reader while traveling, so the third week of August will probably be slim for me.

Bar graph about reading

Bar graph about reviewing

July was the first month since January where more than half of the books I read were diverse / inclusive. A big part of that is careful curation of which books I brought to the apartment, and further careful selection of books from my wishlist to borrow from the library.

One big piece of my reading that's holding the ratio back is my reading (and listening to) mysteries. This move is stressful. Preparing the house is stressful. Mysteries help me unwind. I have not been mindful with my selection of these books and I probably should be.

Reviewing was also better and close to levels achieved in March. As it takes a month or two for books I've read to make it into the review posting schedule, I'm starting to see results from previous months of reading.

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Us Conductors: 08/01/17

Us Conductors  by Sean Michaels

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels won the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize and is a book I plan to go back and read with greater concentration at a time when I'm not actively trying to pack up all my worldly possessions to move. So keep in mind that the one star doesn't mean awful, terrible, do not attempt; it means I did not feel compelled to finish it. I do this to differentiate never read books from unfinished books on sites like GoodReads.

Us Conductors is an off beat historical fiction about the man behind the Theremin — and his obsession with a violinist. Told from Lev Thermen's point of view, it chronicles his life in Russia, his invention, and his work in the United States. It tells of RCA Victor's plans to sell home Theremins and how the Great Depression nixed those plans. Who wants a strange electrical device that can play music only for the most musically inclined when jobs and food are scarce and nearly everyone is losing their home?

Michaels for reasons that escape me — decided to embellish Thermen's life. The most glaring example of this is having him study kung fu. I feel that some of my disconnect on this first go with the book is that this fictional Thermen is too much the author's creation. He took a few key points in the inventor's life and then created his own path between those points.

But that path — for the third I read before send the book to storage (for now) was rather dryly described. There's very little spark to Thermen. Even with his apparent, neverending torch for Clara, he's a monotone narrator. Here's the thing — inventors and musicians — at least all the ones I've met — are passionate about their creations. Except for a couple paragraphs here and there, I didn't find any of that passion coming from either Lev or Clara.

So why am I willing to give this book a second go at some later date? That's nostalgia on my part. We were on our first family trip to Canada to spend Christmas with relatives in Vancouver. We had just crossed the border and were stuck in traffic at the tunnel that leads into the city. Though we have satellite radio, we chose to listen to the CBC instead. They were broadcasting an interview with the author. This was the same year that we had also visited OMSI in Portland, which has a Theremin on hand for visitors to try. It's not something that a person who "can't carry a tun in a basket" can pick up. I believe under the right circumstances (namely, not being under a deadline to pack up all my books for a move) I will enjoy this book.

One star

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