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November 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



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 20): 11/06/17

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 20)
Hosted by Kathryn of Book Date.

The kids are off school this week for Thanksgiving. That means I get to sleep in a little and I don't have to pick them up from school.

Over the weekend we figured out what kind of gas fireplace we want to replace the current one — a vintage early 1960s thing that is neither safe nor efficient. We also ordered a couch and loveseat — the first nice living room furniture we will have owned in years. Our last couch be bought in 2001 and it lasted us until about 2012.

I'm keeping up with Nanowrimo. As of Sunday night, I have 32,500 words.

What I read:

Not the Killing Type The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

  • Not the Killing Type by Lorna Barrett; personal collection (audio)
  • The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg; personal collection
  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya; library book
  • Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green; library book

What I'm reading:

Player Piano Sweet Shadows Beyond the Bright Sea 14 Hollow Road

  • Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.; personal collection
  • Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn CHilds; library book
  • Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; personal collection / audiobook
  • 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop; library book

Up Next:

Kitty Cornered Secret at Mystic Lake Braced Boundless

  • Kitty Cornered: How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home by Bob Tarte; library book
  • Secret at Mystic Lake by Carolyn Keene; library book
  • Braced by Alyson Gerber; library book
  • Boundless by Jillian Tamaki; library book

Reviews Posted

Miles Morales Ivy Otis Our Hero

Through the Grinder Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins First Rule oF Punk

Comments  (0)


Miles Morales: 11/19/17

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

I've been following (on and off) the Spider-Man comics since my early childhood. They were carried in our evening paper — back when evening papers were a thing. The evening paper has since merged with its morning paper rival but Spider-Man continues.

One thing comics do is kill off a long standing hero or do alternate what-if versions. Basically telling the same story over and over again for decades or finding reasons to keep a character living in real time but perpetually young or middle age or whatever age they're known for gets boring, frustrating, unrealistic, and tedious. Of course there's also the TV adage that every plot line can be recycled after seven years but sometimes you just got mix things up.

That's where Miles Morales comes in. He's Peter Parker's successor or he's an alternate version. Or or or. Frankly in the big damn scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Miles Morales is his own damn person and he happens to be Spider-Man. It works for the Dread Pirate Roberts — so why the hell not?

Now enter Jason Reynolds — a relatively new author who has rapidly become one of my favorite middle grade and YA authors. He captures the inner city, urban life in a way that is universally relevant. There was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to read a Miles Morales adventure written by Jason Reynolds.

Reynolds begins his novel at a low point for Morales. He's lost or is in the process of losing his spidey sense. He feels burned out and is ready to just go back to being a pretty much the only black teenager at this prep school because he's on scholarship. Except now he's been suspended and it looks like he's been framed for sausages from the bodega where he works (as part of his scholarship).

On top of all of that, his Spidey-senses seem to be working only in the one classroom he hates most. Miles has a history teacher that is right off the plantation. He's intentionally baiting Miles through micro aggressions and setting him up for expulsion.

Admittedly the teacher as antagonist or even supervillain, isn't a new concept. Adult mentor — especially elderly mentor — as monster or alien, isn't a new concept either. But here's it's presented in the form of institutionalized racism. It starts with Miles being told by all the adults among his kith and kin telling him about that one person in their high school career who made their life a living hell. They're doing it to show him that yes — what he's going through isn't a new thing and that he'll probably get through it like they did.

But then — a pattern emerges. That was different. Obvious but different. It was a fun twist on a type of story that's been done before. It was a chance to play out the idea of what if monsters or paranormal entities or whatever were taking advantage of colonialism and racism to harvest victims unnoticed and unpunished?

Suffice it to say, if Jason Reynolds writes more Miles Morales adventures, I'm there.

Five stars

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Ivy: 11/18/17

Ivy by Katherine Coville

Ivy by Katherine Coville and illustrated by Celia Kaspar is a fantasy novel for young readers ready to move onto chapter books. Ivy lives with her grandmother at the edge of Broomsweep where they care for anyone (human, animal, or magical creature) who needs help.

The blurb suggests this is a book for fans of Jessica Day George (her shorter Fairy Stories) and E.D. Baker. I agree but the set up the book is also a good companion piece to Woundabout by Lev A. C. Rosen. Both book feature towns with homogenous, uptight, strict residents — and main characters who are outsiders and rule-breakers.

On most days, Broomsweep leaves Ivy and her grandmother alone. While they prefer to have all the stoops swept twice a day and all the yards neat and tidy, the healer and her granddaughter are allowed to slip because they are useful. That is until the new Queen begins a tour of the kingdom with the promise that her favorite village will be the host of a huge party to celebrate her coronation.

So that's the set up. Broomsweep decides to crack down on Ivy's family to make sure the village is picture perfect for Her Majesty. Of course there are immediately problems — sick patients, all of them magical, needing a place to stay and heal. All of them make a mess. All of them make it difficult (impossible) for them to clean.

This book would work well in a classroom story time. Tucked in with the magical hijinks, there are messages about taking time for family, prejudice, and kindness to strangers.

Finally, the illustrations help bring the characters to life. They are done by Celia Kaspar who also works in animation. Her character designs have a Chuck Jones feel to them.

Three stars

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Otis: 11/17/17

Otis by Loren Long

Otis by Loren Long is the story of a tractor who is sad about being put out to pasture, replaced by a newer model. Otis, though, is found to still be useful when the farm animals are noticeably scared by the new tractor, where they weren't around Otis.

The Japanese have the concept of the tsukumokami (つくも神) or tool spirit. Gasoline tractors have been around long enough now that it's possible for Otis to be a recently awoken トラクター神 (tractor kami). Or maybe he's possessed by the same whatever it is that makes Herbie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang self aware vehicles.

But given the remoteness of the farm, the apparent age of Otis (based on his shape), he could have gotten lucky and come awake before the usual century mark. Another possibility is that this book takes place in the near future — the 2030s, which would make Otis a hundred years old.

Regardless, though, Otis's situation is hard to place in the map of the road narrative. He is in part, autokind vs mankind (or in the is case, bovinekind). He is also on the road not taken. And until the scarecrow (see Otis and the Scarecrow), he serves as a warden at the cornfield.

Two stars

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Our Hero: 11/16/17

Mrs. Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm

Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm is the second Babymouse book. The plot is similar to Dragonslayer but without the refined tropes that the series has developed in its ten years and nineteen books.

This adventure involves dodge ball for a grade. Although Babymouse can't seem to remember her PE shoes does manage to get to the final round against arch nemesis Felicia Furrypaws. Felicia makes her usual taunts about the state of Babymouse's whiskers. But why does she even care?

When though, did dodge ball become THE BIG SCARY game of P.E.? It's not just Babymouse making it into something big. In cartoons there's the first season of Total Drama Island and Danny Phantom. In the live action front, there's Warehouse 13 which has a killer dodge ball that multiplies until someone either dies or manages to catch one.

I liked this one more than some mostly because the tropes aren't as firmly set as they are in later books. This means that Babymouse isn't as lazy, self obsessed, or clumsy. Meanwhile, Felicia isn't as mean, as rich, or evil as she later is.

Four stars

Comments (2)


Through the Grinder: 11/15/17

Mrs. Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle

Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle is the second of the Coffeehouse mystery series. Clare's regular customers have started to die through a series of bizarre accidents and suicides. It looks like someone is targeting the Village Blend — could it be Claire's new Mr Right?

Like On What Grounds the book includes scenes from the perspective of the murderer. In the first book, this murderer point of view is only at the start of the book. This time, there are numerous asides to the point of view of the self styled "genius."

Were I reading the book in print, rather than listening to it, I would have skipped the genius's scenes. These point of view shifts are unnecessary beyond clueing in skimmers that another death is looming in the next chapter.

Despite the red herrings set up from the "genius's" scenes, I figured out the motive behind the murders about a quarter of the way through the book. Knowing who the killer was didn't lessen the enjoyment of the book. A big part of the fun of mysteries is seeing the pieces fall into place.

Four stars

Comments (0)


Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins: 11/14/17

Mrs. Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire

Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire is a culmination of a ten year project. Per the back of book explanation, Lemire had originally planned to illustrate the comic himself but The Sweet Life ended up being a huge success and the project took most of his time, putting his idea to make a super hero comic on hold. Lemire ended up collaborating with Dean Ornstron for illustrations and Dave Stewart for coloring to create the first volume of Black Hammer.

Secret Origins opens at an out of the way farm house – the sort of location that brings to mind "It's a Good Life."

farm house

By the establishing shot, if you will, of the farm house, circling crows, and swirling gold and brown colors, we know we're in a crossing the cornfield story. Because of the visceral ties to the Jerome Bixby horror short story, I went immediately with an incarceration story. The main characters in this comic are trapped here.

Each chapter (or issue) follows the origin story of each of the main characters. The one most upset by their incarceration is a young girl who once upon a time was The Golden Gail. She was given her powers by a wizard. As she grew up in her mundane form, her super hero form, remained in the state it was when she was first given her powers. Through the course of the chapter we learn that she's an elderly woman — now permanently stuck in a preteen body and in this world, perpetually forced to go to school to keep up appearances.

school bus

Colonel Weird's chapter gives hints to the nature of their incarceration — or at least to the shape of the "cornfield." Again, we're taken back to Bixby's story, which ends with the surviving characters wondering if anything exists beyond the world that Anthony created upon his birth. Is it possible to escape? Or are they the last living creatures in the entire universe?

Through Weird, we're given hints to the nature of the incarceration. As a young man, he's exploring the outer reaches of known space. Just as he's about to head back, he spots a portal or a rip in space. He choses to explore it, and ends up trapped in a science fiction type of faerie world where time and space lose their meaning. As he didn't know or couldn't recognize the path, he's fallen off the road and is forever lost. Being lost has cost him his youth and his sanity. Though he can leave the portal (and the town he and his compatriots are trapped in) temporarily, he can't take any of them with him, nor can he make his escape permanent.

Finally, there is the titular character. Black Hammer — the reason that everyone is trapped in this rural town — this atemporal utopia — is dead. He died in whatever calamity brought the others here. But his daughter who is on the other side of the "cornfield" in an urban setting, a safe place, a starting point for road trips. She is far enough away from the cornfield in time and space to be the most likely person to mount a rescue. Though an adult, she can also invoke "orphan magic" to cross the uncharitable.

secrets

Let anyone doubt that this is a crossing the cornfield story, in one of the flashbacks, Lemire includes a battle between Barbalien and Taurus — a minotaur shaped robot. It's a single panel, really more of a throw away detail this early on, but it's there as a reminder, an acknowledgement that we are in the cornfield and not just anyone type, but a labyrinth, thus further signaling incarceration.

Volume two, "The Event" which brings together the next six issues is released in January 2018.

Five stars

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The First Rule of Punk: 11/13/17

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez is the story of a zine crafting middle schooler who is stuck in Chicago for two years. Malu (who doesn't want to be called Maria Luisa) loves punk and misses her father and her friends terribly.

Malu's personal style — dyed hair, vintage clothes, and Chuck Taylors, doesn't fit with Posada Middle School's dress code. She's also gotten the attention of the queen bee of the school — a girl I couldn't help but picture as Chloé Bourgeois from Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug Girl and Chat Noir. She has a similar background: money, popularity, and over bearing parents.

This short book is how Malu finds her place at Posada while not giving up her love of Punk and her love of making zines. She's also trying to discover her own place and what it means to be Mexican American. Her mother, meanwhile, is so traditional, that Malu has dubbed her "Super Mexican" and makes zines about her adventures.

On the flip side of things, the mother of one of her new classmates knows about Latino music and the Mexican punk scene. She serves as a guide through a music history that Malu has only begun to tap into. Songs and singers that are connecting points for Malu are mentioned in the book.

I happened to listen to the audiobook. The narrator did a fantastic job bringing Malu and the other characters to life. One place I feel that the audiobook missed an opportunity was in the music. I realize that getting the license for these famous songs probably would have been difficult and expensive, but it would have brought so much to the whole audiobook experience. Likewise, a list of the songs as an appendix would have been nice.

Five stars

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 13): 11/06/17

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 13)
Hosted by Kathryn of Book Date.

We're out of the apartment. We've turned in the keys. All that's left is unpacking boxes and bringing the books back from storage. We started this whole crazy moving project a year ago.

Tuesday we had our Girl Scout troop meeting for November. With the time change we moved indoors. We've grown so much that we need two classrooms.

I'm keeping up with Nanowrimo. As of Sunday night, I have 19,400 words.

What I read:

Piecing Me Together
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; library book
Refugee
Refugee by Alan Gratz; library book
Beast & Crown
Beast & Crown by Joel Ross; library book
Sea Lady
Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble; library book
   

What I'm reading:

Not the Killing Type
Not the Killing Type by Lorna Barrett; personal collection (audio)
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg; personal collection
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya; library book

Up Next:

Player Piano
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.; personal collection
Sweet Shadows
Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn CHilds; library book
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green; library book

Posts:

Reviews Posted

On What Grounds
Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer: Five stars
Bad Housekeeping
Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance: Four stars
A Boy Called Bat
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold: Three stars
The Flying Troutmans
Field Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen; Three stars
Queen and Country Volume 1
Queen and Country Volume 1 by Greg Rucka: Three stars
Outside In
Outside In by Jennifer Bradbury: Trhee stars
The Wangs vs. the World
Bow Wow by Spencer Quinn: three stars
   

Comments  (30)


A Boy Called Bat: 11/12/17

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold is about a boy who likes things just so but is able to help his mother foster an orphaned skunk. Bat is Bixby Alexander Tam and he needs help with understanding social clues. He might be on the spectrum but it's never overtly stated whether or not he is.

While the book starts out being mostly about Bat and how he likes things just so and how upset he gets when things don't go his way, the book is really more about the work and emotional price of fostering orphaned animals.

On a side note, BAT receives advice on how to care for the skunk kit from a Dr. Jerry Dragoo. It sounds like a made up character name, but it isn't. He's a genuine, real-life biologist and there's information about him and his Dragoo Institute for the Betterment of Skunks and Skunk Reputations in the afterword.

The sequel, Bat and the Waiting Game comes out in March 2018.

Three stars

Comments (2)


Outside In: 11/11/17

Outside In by Jennifer Bradbury

Outside In by Jennifer Bradbury is historical fiction about the Chandahar sculptor, Nek Chand. It's told from the point of view of a street boy, Ram, and was inspired by the author's time as an English teacher.

Though Ram lives on the streets and has to use his wiles to stay alive and provide for himself, he is oddly ignorant of his culture. He seems to spring into being on the first page with no past and no sense of self beyond that first page. He is basically a blank slate for Nek Chand to rebuild in his image — and it's off putting.

There's a lot going on in this book — a city still recovering from partition. A city in the middle of an economic boom — but not one that reaches everyone. There are still marginalized people scraping together what little they can — like Ram. And there are people who are trying to make the city a more beautiful place with their limited means, like Nek Chand.

While Nek comes across as a flesh and blood character firmly living in his time and place, Ram never really gets there. He is just there to be a conduit between the historical figure of the artist and the present day reader — presumably an upper elementary or middle grade aged American child. It's an unsatisfying disconnect.

Three stars

Comments (0)


October 2017 Sources: 11/10/17

October meant another move — to our new to us house. October also meant the start of the CYBILS, and reading for it. Being too busy to buy new books, meant I read books I already had on hand and of course, library books.

ROOB metric for the last three years

I read more library books this October compared to last year, but fewer books over all. My ROOB score ticked upwards. That's due to the library books out numbering all other forms of reading. That said, the ROOB score is still better than it was last October.

ROOB plotted by month

October's ROOB score is identical to what it was in 2012 and the lowest it's been since 2012. Not being able to buy new books kept the ROOB score lower than it otherwise would have been.

ROOB averages by month.

The monthly average for October dropped to -1.72 from -1.60. It's an improvement, but October still remains my worst ROOB month on average.

November is the month we have to get cracking on making our short lists for the CYBILS. I'm all moved in now (save for unpacking) and have no travel plans until next year. That means more time for reading. I am, however, also doing NANOWRIMO.

Comments  (0)


Field Trip: 11/10/17

Field Trip by Gary Paulsen

Field Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen is the sequel to Road Trip. Summer is over and Ben's in school, but he's even more obsessed with hockey than he was in the previous book. He missed out on hockey camp but now he has a new goal — a hockey themed high school where classes are scheduled around training.

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad are still working hard with their house flipping business, something that started in the previous book. Now though things have gotten out of hand (according to Ben); Mom and Dad have sold the family home and they're going to be moving into one of the fixer-uppers.

The framing story though for this book's road trip, is Ben needing to catch up to his classmates who have left on a multiple-day field trip. Ben was planning to miss the trip because of hockey commitments but when his parents discover that the school is concerned about his numerous absences and his GPA, they decide to cut back on hockey. The first step in this plan is attend the field trip after all.

The gist of the road trip, then, is Ben, his dad, his dad's coworker, the two dogs, and two of Ben's classmates. They all pile into the company vehicle — an old ice cream truck, complete with fiberglass cone on the roof.

It's basically the first book but more so. And it's in the "more-so" that this book fails to come close to the original. We know the Dad's unusual road trip play book. Last time we road along in a disused school bus. Now it's an ice cream truck. Last time we picked up a waitress and a mechanic. This time we have the Wonder Twins who are more perfect than anyone and will probably grow up to be more broken than Paris Geller. Last time we picked up one puppy. Now we're going back for another one.

It's clear from the get-go that Ben and the twins won't make it to field trip. It's clear that Ben won't go to the hockey school even if he does wheedle a way to try out for it. It's clear that Dad and Mom will come up with some sort of epic compromise. It's clear that Ben and the Wonder Twins will become friends.

And thus there are no surprises and no unique or unexpected takes on the road trip genre.

Three stars

Comments (0)


Queen and Country Volume 1: 11/09/17

Queen and Country Volume 1 by Greg Rucka

Queen and Country Volume 1 by Greg Rucka is the start of comic about a British SIS Agent Tara Chase. She returns from the Middle East after pulling off an assassination but she's injured and mentally scared. Meanwhile, the home office is targeted and the SIS want to take revenge in their own hands.

Mostly though it's a story about the trauma that comes with firearms. This is not a guns blazing wet dream. It's a moody, cautionary tale about the real dangers of firearms that are often overlooked by pro-gun folks.

A panel from the comic

Queen & Country was an intense read for me. On the one hand the emotions are raw. On the other, there's a lot procedural stuff, including the sitting around and waiting parts, that make for long, dull bits. I'm debating whether or not to continue with the series.

There are consequences for every shot fired. Bullets have to go somewhere. Bullets don't discriminate. Guns make people feel like superheroes.

Three stars

Comments (0)


Bad Housekeeping: 11/08/17

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance is the story of a recently divorced woman and her teenage son and their strange new neighbors. Markie and Jesse have moved into a bungalow, taking a year lease, after Markie discovered her husband had spent all the family money and had affairs. He was basically the loser her parents had warned her that he was.

Markie and Jesse expect to only be at the bungalow for a year. It's what her budget can handle. Then they'll look for something else, somewhere else. So they keep most of their stuff in the garage, still in their boxes. The opt to eat take out food.

On their very first day they are greeted by Mrs. Saint — a woman with a French accent — sends over Frederick to carry in their furniture. She as a short, middle aged woman, and Jesse as an out of shape teenager, obviously do need his help, but Markie wants to be left alone, even if that means failing at moving in.

From that day forward, Mrs. Saint continues to interject herself into Markie and Jesse's lives. Before long Mrs. Saint has adopted Markie and Jesse and two more of her defectives. It's a slow and steady invasion for the betterment of everyone.

There's a method and a reason behind Mrs. Saint's activities. If you pay attention, you'll find the holes in the stories she tells Markie. While the specifics of what really happened aren't laid out until the end, there's enough there to expect the details once they're revealed.

Four stars

Comments (0)


Mrs. Saint and the Defectives: 11/07/17

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer is the story of a recently divorced woman and her teenage son and their strange new neighbors. Markie and Jesse have moved into a bungalow, taking a year lease, after Markie discovered her husband had spent all the family money and had affairs. He was basically the loser her parents had warned her that he was.

Markie and Jesse expect to only be at the bungalow for a year. It's what her budget can handle. Then they'll look for something else, somewhere else. So they keep most of their stuff in the garage, still in their boxes. The opt to eat take out food.

On their very first day they are greeted by Mrs. Saint — a woman with a French accent — sends over Frederick to carry in their furniture. She as a short, middle aged woman, and Jesse as an out of shape teenager, obviously do need his help, but Markie wants to be left alone, even if that means failing at moving in.

From that day forward, Mrs. Saint continues to interject herself into Markie and Jesse's lives. Before long Mrs. Saint has adopted Markie and Jesse and two more of her defectives. It's a slow and steady invasion for the betterment of everyone.

There's a method and a reason behind Mrs. Saint's activities. If you pay attention, you'll find the holes in the stories she tells Markie. While the specifics of what really happened aren't laid out until the end, there's enough there to expect the details once they're revealed.

Five stars

Comments (2)


October 2017 Summary: 11/07/17

Inclusive reading report

October was busy as expected due to moving out of the apartment and moving into the house. The house needed some repairs and some new furniture. Actually the furniture aspect will be an on-going project as we need a lot of it and only have the budget for one or two pieces each month.

Now as I was stuck a lot of the time at the house, I did have some more time (than previous recent months) to read. I finished 28 books, down, though from previous Octobers. Last year, for example, I read 34 books in October.

My cushion of reviews continues to dry up. I have reviews planned and written through the end of January. A year ago, I would have been planned out through the end of April by now. To further complicate things, I'm also doing NANOWRIMO, the first time in about four years, while also being a first round reader for the CYBILs.

Continuing with the trend begun in July, diverse books outnumbered non-diverse books in the read pile. As those read books work their way through the reviewing process, the reviews are starting to be more focused on diverse books than not. I'm not there yet. October's reviewed books were still mostly non-diverse. But the total number of diverse reviews was up from September and and August.

Looking at November, I will be busy reading for the CYBILs — meaning my choices in reading are less flexible than in other months. I will also be writing for NANOWRIMO, so the numbers of books read won't be as high as last November's. Review wise, I'm still working through the last of my older reviews, meaning the diversity ratio won't be that great either.

Comments  (0)


Bow Wow: 11/06/17

Bow Wow by Spencer Quinn

Bow Wow by Spencer Quinn is the third of the Bowser and Birdie books. Book two is Arf, which I own, but have in storage because of a move. I chose to read this book out of order.

Bowser and Birdie are on the hunt for evidence of a Bull Shark in the local swamp. The long time residents swear it's not possible, that their swamp is too far from the sea but a local boy swears he had an encounter with it. Now there's a bounty on this shark and it's bringing out all the weirdos.

For Birdie, though, the main concern isn't the shark, but for Snoozy, the guy who works in her grandmother's tackle shop. He's gone missing, after heading out to help a man search for the shark. Everyone else believes he's just off doing something because Snoozy's not the most reliable sort. Birdie, though, knows something else is going on and he's in danger.

This series is told from the first person point of view of Bowser the dog. This time I was so invested in Snoozy's disappearance that I found Bowser's asides distracting. I really wanted more of a third person point of view.

Three stars

Comments (0)


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 06): 11/06/17

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

Halloween pumpkin

Halloween at the new place was a hit, even though we didn't have time to do much decorating. At least we had enough candy.

New bedroom furniture.

I've also jumped into NANOWRIMO this year. Because my email changed, I lost my old log in and had to create a new account. It's probably for the best as I never really liked my old user name. IF you want to buddy me, I'm pussreboots on there.

What I read:

Dorothy Must Die
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige ; personal collection
Speedy in Oz
Speedy in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson; personal collection
Walking with Miss Millie
Walking with Miss Millie by Catherine Newman; library book
Karma Khullar's Mustache
Karma Khullar's Mustache by Kristi Wientge; library book
The Refrigerator Monologues
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente; library book
We are the Engineers
We are the Engineers by Angela Melick; personal collection

What I'm reading:

Piecing Me Together
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; library book
Not the Killing Type
Not the Killing Type by Lorna Barrett; personal collection (audio)
Refugee
Refugee by Alan Gratz; library book

Up Next:

Beast & Crown
Beast & Crown by Joel Ross; library book
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg; personal collection
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya; library book

Reviews Posted

Race the Night by Kirsten Hubbard
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai: Five stars
Short
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey: Five stars
The Flying Troutmans
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken; Five stars
Saints and Misfits
Amina's Voice by Hena Khan: Four stars
Once Upon a Thriller
Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson: Four stars
On What Grounds
Wrong Side of the Paw by Laurie Cass: Four stars
The Wangs vs. the World
A Woman's World Tour in a Motor by Harriet White Fisher: One star
   

Comments  (24)


Amina's Voice: 11/05/17

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan is a middle grade similar read to Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali. Amina is a Pakistani-American Muslim girl who loves to sing and is dreading the upcoming competition to recite pieces of the koran.

Now in middle school, Amina feels like she and her best friend, Soojan, are drifting apart. Soojan and her family are working towards becoming citizens and they've all decided to change their names to something more American. To Amina it seems like they're giving up something essential about themselves — even as she struggles with countless people who can't pronounce her name right (and don't want to learn how).

Then, there's Emily. She's the cool girl in school. She's American and now she's Soojan's friend. Amina remembers in grade school when she was a bully. Can she now be trusted?

Finally there's Amina's uncle. He's conservative. He has a very strict view of what it means to be a Muslim and it doesn't seem to include some of Amina's favorite things — like singing and playing music. As she's at that crucial age where she's trying to figure out who she is and who she is becoming – she takes what her uncle says very seriously — to the point that she's losing sleep with worry.

Five stars

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The Book of Mistakes: 11/04/17

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken is at first glance about making art out of mistakes. Deeper down, though, it's metafiction in picture book format.

The book opens with an unseen artist trying to draw a person. One eye is to big. But the mistake is covered over with some other artistic flair and then there's a different mistake. One mistake and one correction at a time, until the book is filled with a huge and intricate scene.

The illustrations have a retro-look to them, harking back to the late 1960s, early 1970s. It brings to mind childhood favorites like Arm in Arm, Attic of the Wind, and The Summerfolk.

But in terms of structure, one is reminded of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. There is more to this book than just a series of corrected mistakes being built up into a massive drawing of a girl and her friends playing in a giant tree. At the very end, the last spread reveals the entire drawing in a new perspective that forces one to rethink the entire book.

Five stars

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A Woman's World Tour in a Motor: 11/03/17

A Woman's World Tour in a Motor by Harriet White Fisher

In the spring of 2015, I decided to revisit a road narrative project I had begun in grad school in 1995. The decision was fueled by two factors: the finding of my handwritten bibliography and by a friend's research (food and dystopian narratives).

While brainstorming my initial attack on the topic, I wondered if other nations should be included into the research. While I'm still half eying the stories out of the Commonwealth and Japan, I've definitely come to the decision to avoid a more comprehensive canvassing of road narratives.

The road narrative tropes and themes are not universal. In the American road narrative, the road and the vehicle are characters as much as the people traveling. This is true for fact and fiction — memoir and novel.

In the case of tours taken outside of the confines of the United States or taken by foreigners inside the United States, the stops and the people visited are often more important than the method getting there.

A Woman's World Tour in a Motor by Harriet White Fisher published in 1911 definitely focuses on the people and places, rather than the car or roads. Early on there was some mention of the type of vehicle used and the fact that it had an oil problem in Paris.

Mostly though the focus was on the castles, houses, and famous people Fisher met on her drive. There was also a lot of time spent on her dog, Honk Honk, who was a gift before the journey began.

The book with its focus on a pre-WWI world, while historically interesting, isn't really relevant for the direction my project has taken. The one star, therefore, is a sign that I didn't finish the book, not that the book is terrible.

One star

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Lumberjanes, Volume 2: Friendship to the Max: 11/02/17

Lumberjanes, Volume 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes Volume 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson splits up the cabin into two separate adventures. Mal and Molly decide to take their free day to have a date in the forest but are quickly swept up into something right out of Land of the Lost but with the Bear Lady. Meanwhile, the other girls try their best to earn the "easier" of the badges — ones focused on things like cake decorating, scrapbooking, and watching paint dry.

Mal, Molly, and the Bear Lady end up in an alternate world that looks like the ruins of Athens but set in a Mario Galaxy world and populated by dinosaurs. Time flows differently there — so it could be faerie land. They have lost the path home because the Bear Lady has had her glasses stolen.

There's a lot too this alternate world but I'm not sure how relevant any of it is. It could be plot important beyond this volume — or it could just be there to be cool in this self-contained plot arc. I hope there is more to come in this world. I want to know about the ruins. I want to know about the dinosaurs.

Meanwhile, the at camp plot is hilarious. Anyone who has been in Girl Scouts (or volunteered as an adult) knows that the troops and their activities are supposed to be "Girl Lead." To make sure there's something for everyone, there are lots of options, from the domestic skills (such as designing and cooking a multi-course meal), to the STEM, to outdoor adventure type badges. The girls in LumberJanes are definitely geared towards the outdoor adventure badges to the extreme, so watching them try to earn domestic badges is cute.

Over all though, the two adventures and the opening chapter (issue) with the campfire ghost stories didn't mesh as well as the previous two volumes did. The various girl told ghost stories are fun, especially seeing how each girl approaches genre, but after two truly epic adventures, I was hoping for something more along those lines.

Four stars

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Wrong Side of the Paw: 11/01/17

Wrong Side of the Paw by Laurie Cass

Wrong Side of the Paw by Laurie Cass is the sixth book in the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series. There's a new director and Minnie Hamilton is under pressure to cut the budget of her very successful bookmobile program. Meanwhile, she's turned up another body on her route — this time the estranged father of one of her friends.

This book was another case of the right book at the right time. The big mystery in this one is centered on Chilson's real estate market. The dead man was the owner of one of the construction companies. He also has some of the worst ratings — shoddy work, unsafe conditions, cutting corners, missing deadlines, etc.

I read this book in the lull between closing on the sale of our apartment and the funding of our house. Both pieces required working with contractors — some who were good and some who were exasperating. None of them were as bad as this dead contractor was described at his worst — but I still found myself drawn in more to the mystery than I would have been at any other time.

I suspect as this series progresses, Minnie will end up as the library director. It's well established that she's qualified for the position and that her coworkers want her to be the director. In the meantime, I think we'll have the director of the week — a new foil for Minnie as she's trying to be a bookmobile librarian and an amateur detective. I hope though that the new director doesn't become a cliche or a crutch for this series.

Four stars

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