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The Grief Keeper: 08/31/19
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante opens in a detention center. Marisol "Sol" Morales and her sister Gabi have been kept there while they wait the ruling for their asylum claim. When a kitchen door is left open, the sisters take advantage of the situation and flee.
Along the way they're picked up by a woman who works for immigration. She tells the girls that their asylum request has been denied. But, she has an offer for Sol that will allow her and her sister to stay legally. She has to become part of a PTSD medical study. What had begun as a contemporary, realistic fiction veers into speculative fiction.
The study involves linking two people together emotionally via cuffs — like tracking devices people on house arrest wear. One device transmits the emotional trauma and the other receives. Sol's task is to be the grief keeper for a young woman about her age who lost someone close to her. It's turned her suicidal and no other treatments have worked.
For the device to work, the receiver has to be in proximity to the patient. While they are supposed to be close but separate, Sol ends up befriending the woman she's supposed to be helping.
It's through their friendship that both young women begin their healing. Some of it via the cuffs. Some of it is via old fashioned interactions. Through their joint recovery we learn of their shared trauma. We learn why Sol and Gabi had to leave.
This speculative fiction YA also sits in the road narrative spectrum. For the spectrum, it's the journey that sets up the rest of the narrative. In this regard, it's the two young women as a couple (33). Instead, it's Sol and Gabi as siblings (CC) who are the travelers. The destination is home — both literally, the home (66) where they stay to be part of the medical test — and figuratively, a new safe home somewhere in the United states. Finally the route is the Blue Highway (33), the roads up to the United States, and then through it. All together, it's the story of sisters seeking out a new home via the Blue Highway (CC6633).
The Penderwicks in Spring (audio): 08/30/19
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, though the fourth in the series, was the first one I read. It was for the 2015 Cybils and coming late to a series and being pressed for time, my introduction to the Penderwicks wasn't the best.
This fourth book takes place years after The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Where Batty had been the youngest, now that honor falls on Lydia. Ben is now a step-brother and of course half-brother to Lydia just as she is a half sister to all the older girls. That the family is a blended family — and one where the blending happened organically over the course of the series was lost on me the first time.
Then there is Hound. This time around I've read (listened) to Hound and Batty's adventures. So to have him recently deceased (six months before the novel beings) was now heartbreaking as it should be. Now I can recognize Batty's grief evolving into depression. This time around I see Penderwicks in Spring as Batty's journey through grief into depression and her family's slow realization that she's not going to be her old self without their help.
As with the previous books in the series, this one sits on the road narrative spectrum. Though the main plot is about Batty trying to move on after Hound's death, it is a family journey (33). There is also Nick's family across the street who are going through a similar journey. The Penderwicks are trying to get their house to feel like a home (66) again after Hound's death. The Geiger family is waiting for Nick to return home. Finally there is the route. Much of Batty's healing is done through walks through the forest that abuts their street. It's done on her own and later as a dog walker. All these journeys of self reflection are offroad (66). Nick's return is also offroad, via an airplane. Put all together, this novel is about families coming together at home via offroad routes.
Giant Days, Volume 10: 08/29/19
Giant Days, Volume 10 by John Allison takes place in the summer between second and third year at university. Volume 9 ended with the roommates splitting up and going their own ways. Now we see the results of that decision.
Daisy was the one left with no housing options at the end of the second year. The first chapter/issue in this collection shows how Daisy comes to find housing for her final year at university. Let's just say after lots of soul searching, she finds the perfect solution.
Later on there's a hilarious chapter involving Daisy, Ester, and Susan at the career fair. Ester tries to put her usual unprepared state backed by her unlimited bravado to work and fails. Susan is on a medical career path and seems to have her life in order. But it's Daisy with her incredible organizational skills who ends up in a similar position to Willow and Oz in "What's My Line?" (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 2).
Volume 11 comes out on October 11, 2019.
Roast Mortem: 08/28/19
Roast Mortem by Cleo Coyle is the ninth in the Coffeehouse mystery series. Claire and Madame are caught up in coffeehouse explosion when they are visiting an old friend who has offered to give them a vintage espresso machine. Claire manages to rescue herself and a coworker but her ex-mother-in-law and her friend are trapped. The fire appears to be arson and Claire sets out to investigate.
Like so many of the books in this series, time is given to the criminal's point of view. That said, it's known to the reader that there is in fact an arsonist. The reason behind the fires is left unspoken until Claire and company can investigate.
In terms of pacing, and excuse the pun here, it's a slow burn. Although the initial explosion and fire happen early, the aftermath of that event eats up the next third of the novel. Much of it is spent in the hospital in the wee hours after.
The actual mystery investigation doesn't begin in earnest until the last third. Even with this pacing, there's enough of an emotional impact to keep the reader engaged.
Besides the mystery behind the arson attacks, there is a rekindling (sorry again) of family drama of the cousins Mike. Fire Captain Mike still blames Detective Mike for a bunch of things in their past. Some of them deal directly with the family business (fire fighting) and others are even more personal.
Book ten is Murder by Mocha.
In the Key of Nira Ghani: 08/27/19
In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen is about a Guyanese teen trying to adjust to life in Canada. At school she's tired to McKenzie aka "Mac" asking inane questions and making even more inane assumptions about her life and culture. At home she's tired of being put in constant competition with her spoiled and all-to-perfect cousin Farrah.
Since much of the early book is about Mac's wrong assumptions about where Nira and her family is from, it's important to know that Guyana is the neighbor of Venezuela. It was a British colony until 1966. For more information, I recommend Forbidden Freedom by Cheddi Jagan.
In the middle of this tug of war Nira finds herself in between trying to fit in at school and trying to please her parents while avoiding being in competition with Farrah, she longs to be a musician. She's taught herself to play the trumpet but it's a training trumpet, one she feels is inferior for auditioning for the jazz band at school.
In the Key of Nira Ghani is a delightful read from the first page to the last. Nira's dreams, emotions, and frustrations are relatable.
P.S. I Miss You: 08/26/19
P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy is an epistolary middle grade novel. Evie is writing to her sixteen year old sister who has been sent away because she got pregnant. The family is strictly Catholic. Since she's writing traditional letters it reads like historical fiction but I don't recall a time period being overtly stated.
Through the letters to Cilla we learn about three things: the family dynamic, the circumstances of Cilla's pregnancy, and about Evie's realization that she has a crush on the new girl at school, June.
With these letters being primarily, overwhelmingly from Evie's point of view nearly no feedback from any of the other characters in the book, the narrative quickly becomes a monolog — and a monotonous one. There's a ton going on in this book but it's buried in this letter writing gimmick.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 26): 08/26/19
Tuesday is my birthday. We have a tradition where my husband bakes my favorite cake for my birthday and I bake his favorite pie for his birthday. If our birthdays fall in the middle of the week we do the baking and celebrating the weekend before.
The cake is a chocolate chip bundt cake with peanut butter frosting. It's a family recipe that has seen a few modifications over the decades. Originally it was a hazelnut cake with chocolate frosting in my grandfather's family. When he and my grandmother married, hazelnuts were impossible to come by in California. So for their first anniversary (which was also his birthday), my grandmother made-do with a chocolate chip cake and peanut butter frosting. That bit has stayed the same but how the cake is made and the other ingredients has evolved.
No artwork to share this week. I've had to put my art table away because we're expecting a delivery of a new chest of drawers to hold my art supplies. I've never lived in a big enough place as an adult to have a dedicated spot to keep my supplies. They've either been kept in a tool box or a box. I'll get to painting tomorrow once the the supplies are moved to their new home.
What I read:
Reading-wise, I had a splendid week. Many of these books were on the short side. We also have been going to bed early to read, instead of watching animé like we sometimes do. I'm in the final push this year to catch up with my reading. I hope to get through all my 2018 purchases, and most of the 2019 ones by year's end.
What I'm reading:
The Dragon Princess: 08/25/19
The Dragon Princess by E.D. Baker is the sixth of the Tales of the Frog Princess series. The book takes an unusual but welcome turn as a fantasy series, opting to jump to the future where Emma and Eadric are married and the parents of a princess with her own curse. When Millie loses her temper (and what teenager, doesn't?) she turns into a fire breathing dragon!
After books and books, including some prequels, dealing with Emma's family, it was a delight — an absolute delight to meet a new princess and a new cast of characters, and to see the family grown and matured.
Millie, though, is beset with a need to get engaged to further improve diplomatic relationships between her parents' kingdoms and others. She's not into the idea at all and has so far managed to scare away every possible suitor, either through the backfire of magic her mother has used to control her curse or through transforming into a dragon.
Things though become desperate when Millie's birthday party is moved to her grandparent's castle — the one in Montevista — the one that isn't keen on magic. So fed up with the curse and hiding the truth from her grandparents, Millie decides to find a curse for the problem. She's told the Blue Witch of the Frozen North holds the answer.
Besides getting new characters, now we get a larger view of the world. Millie's quest along with her friends takes her into all sorts of danger and gives her and her friends changes to prove themselves.
I'm glad I stuck with the series to get to this book. It was refreshing and entertaining. The seventh book in the series is Dragon Kiss (2009).
All of Us with Wings: 08/24/19
All of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil is a difficult book to read. It covers assault, underage sex, sex between adults and almost adults, drug use, homelessness, abandonment, and comes wrapped up in an urban-fantasy-horror package. It also sits on the road narrative spectrum, which is why I read it.
The setting is the Haight in San Francisco. The time period is the vernal equinox and the weeks following. On a larger scale, the time period is probably the late 1960s or early 1970s given the free love, sex, drugs and rock and roll setting, and the glaring absence of hipster tech workers, smart phones, social media and the internet.
The one inconsistency in my theory is Claude the albino alligator. He's only 24 years old. It's possible then that the time period could be the mid 1990s before the tech boom of the early internet swept through San Francisco.
Remarkably given the dark tones throughout the novel and the need for a foreword listing the trigger warnings, the book has a hopeful, dare I say, happy ending. Though the characters are different, the overall tone of the book reminds me of a blend of The Catsworld Portal by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (1992) and the Netflix series, Russian Doll.
The narrative is told through multiple points of view. The blurb will have you believe that Xochi is the protagonist. Her journey to San Francisco and her meeting of Pallas in Golden Gate Park does set off the rest of the events of the novel but her story is but one piece of a much larger cosmic puzzle.
From the perspective of the road narrative spectrum, the protagonists — or more precisely, the travelers — are sibling spirits summoned by Xochi and Pallas during the equinox using a variety of teas and other ingredients in the clawfoot bathtub. The blue girl and the green boy take Xochi's unspoken wishes and desires as their marching orders and set out to make things "right" while the rest of the plot is happening around them.
The blue girl and green boy as travelers are sibling travelers (CC). Their destination is the City (00) and all of their mechanizations happen within the confines of San Francisco. Their route, though, meaning, their initial means to reach the city, is metaphorically the cornfield (FF). They are summoned by a meeting of plant material and water on a magical night during a magical (though unintentionally so) incantation. Call it a tkaronto in a bathtub.
If you decide to read the novel (and I hope you do), please read the foreword first. Also, please stick with it to the end. It doesn't as some reviews state romanticize a sexual relationship between an adult and a minor. It's there but there are consequences and it's not presented as a pair of star-crossed lovers separated by the chasm of an age difference.
The Secrets of Winterhouse: 08/23/19
The Secrets of Winterhouse by Ben Guterson is the second book in the Winterhouse trilogy. Elizabeth is returning to Winterhouse after a year back with her aunt and uncle. This time, though, she is coming to live permanently with her grandfather.
Things are strange and strained from bus ride in, where Elizabeth's spot is rudely taken by a family of three. They appear to be after something important in Winterhouse but her grandfather seems unwilling to go into important details.
Meanwhile there are clues to a book by Riley S. Granger that might be able to revive Gracella again. While Elizabeth and Freddy are searching for it to keep it out of the wrong hands, there are other mysterious guests intent on finding and using the book.
Like the first book in the series, this one fits in the road narrative spectrum. In the previous one, Elizabeth was acting as an orphan traveler. Now though, with Winterhouse as her home, she is demoted to a family (33) traveler. Her grandfather, though reluctant, does help when needed. Winterhouse, now as her home, is the destination.
The journey is to save Elizabeth's chance at a good and stable home (66). The route taken is maze (CC), in that the hotel has numerous secret passages, some of which are blocked off. The path contains traps and blind alleys. Put all together, this is the tale of a family protecting their home via a maze like journey.
The third book is The Winterhouse Mysteries and will be released at the end of the year.
Camp by Kayla Miller is the sequel to Click. Olive and best friend Willow are on their way to summer camp for two weeks. They have plans to bunk together and do as many of the activities together as they can. That sounds good until they can't agree on everything and Willow ends up extra clingy.
The first week Olive sticks with her promise and spends most of her time with Willow. Willow meanwhile is making no effort to find her own interests or people to talk to. Without context, Willow's behavior reads as bizarre.
I frankly don't remember Willow being in the first book. Click was about Olive being left high and dry by all her friends when it came to the talent show. So why is Willow now suddenly clingy? Is it because they're at camp?
No. Willow is a plot device. Olive isn't going to be on her own again because she's already learned and proven to herself that she can have fun as a one person show. So now she needs someone to hold her back from socializing when others clearly want be her camp friend.
The third book in the series, Act comes out in May 2020.
Booking the Crook: 08/21/19
Booking the Crook by Laurie Cass is the seventh book in the Bookmobile Cat mystery series. It's midwinter and the weather has been fierce. The Chilson library has a new director and a new library board chair. While Minnie is worried about the future of her bookmobile, she also has the misfortune of finding one of her regular patrons dead in her driveway.
Rowan's death of course isn't an accident. It was murder by poison. There's a list of about a half dozen people who had a beef with the realtor. Minnie wants to stay out of the investigation but she's asked by family to do her thing.
With so many suspects there are plenty of red herrings to keep one guessing. That said, the clues are there to figure out who has the motive. Early on I spotted the killer but then got so wrapped up in the story that I lost track of them.
This volume also takes full advantage of the winter season, using the variable weather to create suspense and danger. The climax involves a very realistically described blizzard. Although I was reading it during a heatwave, I felt chills.
The eighth book is Gone with the Whisker and is due to be released at the end of March 2020.
Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn: 08/20/19
Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire is the start of a new graphic novel series that seems to have been inspired by the uhoric inconsistencies and remote setting of his Black Hammer series.
The Black Barn which covers the first five issues, introduces an evil threat in the form on a barn that is haunting the dreams and waking moments of a young man. Meanwhile in a farming town, there's rumor of a barn that appears and disappears, whose appearance harkens a run of violent murders.
The young man is compelled to collect nails, bits of wood and other construction debris. He has been cataloging them and storing them. His obsession has cost him his freedom, having been diagnosed as mentally ill and hospitalized on and off during his adult life. Now out, he's trying to avoid the compulsion to collect, but his therapist is starting to feel the influence of the black barn too.
Meanwhile in the farming town, a middle aged priest has been sent to replace the priest who recently died. He arrives just as the murders begin. He ends up a person of interest, and eventually a friend of the sheriff who questioned him.
If this were prose, the rural and city stories would be presented as alternating chapters. It would be a way to unite the two protagonists and to hint that the two barns are one and the same. As this is a comic, the artwork does the work of the alternating chapters. There are times throughout the book where the two men are working towards similar goals, where one's panels are drawn upside down, to mirror the other's actions. As the two plots become even more entwined, the panels are broken up into pieces, like a mosaic.
And that brings me to this comic's position on the road narrative spectrum. So far every single piece I've read by Jeff Lamire has been on the spectrum, and all of them fairly high up (on the fantasy end). This volume is no different.
With parallel protagonists or travelers, we have the classic scarecrow and minotaur pairing (99). The young man in the city, while he might seems like a minotaur — trapped by mental illness and a compulsion he doesn't want — he's actually the scarecrow. He's the one who is compelled to save the city from the influences of the black barn but with incomplete knowledge, is drawn to bring the black barn into the city by rebuilding it. The priest, meanwhile, is the minotaur, trapped in a rural town during a murder spree. He's at ground zero of the black barn and while he's trying to help, feels rather helpless about the process.
The destination is uhoria — no time (CC). First sign of that is the barn's history of appearing and disappearing through time. It is a ghost building. But there is also the question of how do the rural town and the city relate to each other. That too is a uhoric connection, though how exactly isn't fully examined in this volume.
The route, then, is cornfield (FF) — a popular method in Lemire's work. While no corn is shown in Sorrentino's panels, the barn itself is a stand in for the fields. The fact that in the farming town it shows up in various fields further implies the cornfield. To get to the barn, at least in the priest's world, one has to go through a field. In the city, the barn harkens to places where there are fields— including cornfields.
Put all together, Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn is the tale of a scarecrow and a minotaur traveling to uhoria via the cornfield.
The second volume is Original Sins which I have read and will be reviewing in the next couple of weeks.
If It Makes You Happy: 08/19/19
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann is an LGBTA YA romance set in a pair of small towns that brings to mind the set up of The Good Witch with the diversity problem fixed.
Winnie and her brother and their cousin are visiting their granny for the summer, as they have for the last many. Winnie's now the assistant manager of Goldeen's (named for the Pokémon), the dinner her granny owns.
As with television shows set in fictional small towns, there are a couple of side plots to keep things interesting. First there's a cooking competition that is scouting for contestants. Then there is the summer queen contest where others compete to be her champion. Finally there is Winnie's size and weight — and a condescending clinic doctor who sets off a summer-long squabble with her granny.
From all of this we get to know Winnie and see her relationship's ups and downs with her "ungirlfriend" Kara as well as her working through her feelings for the young man who is vying to be her summer king.
I loved this book for Winnie's strong voice, the well imagined town, her family dynamic, and the difficult questions Winnie has to face.
Claire Kann's third book is The Scavenger Hunt which comes out June 02, 2020.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 19): 08/19/19
This is the last week of summer vacation for my teens. My son's birthday is on Tuesday. That's also the day that he picks up his schedule. We'll see how many APs he actually has. He tried to sign up for six.
I'm six hours into working on "Neighbors." I'm still working on the deer and I might have to redo the cat's head. It's a slow and sometimes frustrating piece.
What I read:
What I'm reading:
Kitty Cornered: 08/18/19
Kitty Cornered by Bob Tarte opens with a floor plan of the author's house. Included with the usual stuff are annotations as to behaviors of his various animals. He doesn't just own cats but dogs and birds as well.
The book is loosely outlined around how he came to acquire so many cats after already living with so many creatures. But that's not enough of a hook to keep one reading. Although he lives with a bunch of cats, he's not really fond of any of them. Nor has he really made any effort to get to understand them. He just sort of has them.
It was a rather dull and sometimes frustrating read.
Storm of Locusts: 08/17/19
Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse is the second of the Sixth World post apocalyptic books set in and around Dinétah. A cult backed by clan powers has arisen in the south of the nation — one that is emptying out entire communities and is apparently hell bent on bringing on a second smaller but deadlier flood targeted at Diné lands.
In Trail of Lightning (2018), the entirety of the plot took place within the walls that define and defend Dinétah from the outside (and mostly flooded) world. This time, Maggie and her traveling companions have to leave their home to save it.
With leaving the world that had been so well defined in the first book, there's a chance to expand upon the world building. The area immediately surrounding what's the current day Navajo Nation is well defined and well thought out. The farther out from the Four Corners area that description goes, the less well it holds up.
California's Big Water fate, for instance involves a combination of forest fire destruction (plausible) and "fall off the continental plate" (impossible). California's plate boundary is a a strike slip one with a small subduction zone at the northern end. A huge quake would push half the state north-westward towards coastal Oregon. Also — the Sierra Nevada towns of California are at higher elevations than Denver.
There's also the odd detail that Maggie finds someone with a new Shasta soda. If Shasta soda is still available, then Hayward California is still afloat. Perhaps it is heavily levied?
Am I taking points off for throw away lines in areas that don't matter to the plot? No of course not. The vast majority of apocalyptic stories don't think through the big picture (aka Earth scale). Two stories I can think of that do are On the Beach by Nevil Shute (1957) and Bis ans Ende der Welt (1991).
Like the first book, Storm of Locusts sits on the road narrative spectrum. This time Maggie is emotionally closer to the people she's traveling with. In this regard, I'm counting her and her companions collectively as family (33). Although the are initially headed towards the Burq for information, their final destination is in the wildlands (99) outside of Dinétah. The route, though, they take, is the Blue Highway (33) — or more specifically a series of them, starting with the "Mother Road" herself, which includes a fun philosophical discussion of I40 vs Route 66. All together, Storm of Locusts is the tale of a family traveling to the wildlands to save their home via the Blue Highway.
The Boy from Tomorrow: 08/16/19
The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis is a time travel story of friendship across the decades. Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They share the same room. But Josie is living in 1915 and Alec is living in 2015.
Josie and her sister have a mother who is a known psychic. They have access to a hand painted spirit board. While exploring the house, Alec finds it. And that forms the initial connection between the children.
The chapters alternate points of view between Josie and Alec. Enough information is kept out of these alternating points of view to keep them interesting and suspenseful. The Boy from Tomorrow is one of those special books where both sides of the story really do work together to tell a complete narrative.
Josie and Cass's story is the most urgent of the two timelines. Given the hundred year separation, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that they will die young. Regardless of what happens, they are dead by Alec's time. The struggle then, is for him to help them avoid an early death.
This novel also sits on the road narrative spectrum. As all the protagonists are children, they are marginalized travelers (66). With the hundred year gap between the children, the destination is uhoria (CC). Finally there is the route taken is an offroad (66) one; namely children dashing all over town to search down clues. Put all together The Boy from Tomorrow is the tale of marginalized travelers going offroad to work across time.
Emily the Strange: The 13th Hour: 08/15/19
Seven years ago I went through an Emily the Strange phase with my reading. There were a bunch of YA novels followed by comic books. The comic books were hard to come by where I lived and that contributed to my stopping. Turns out the local public library now has some of the comics in their collection so here we are again.
Emily the Strange: The 13th Hour by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker is set on Emily's thirteenth birthday which happens to fall on a solar eclipse.
Before Emily and her mom can enjoy the eclipse, Emily is distracted by a strange gift from a strange, and unknown aunt. Before she can even begin to explore what her gift might do, it's stolen by a weird cat-like creature.
That is the set up for an otherwise metafiction exploration of time and storytelling. Emily's journey takes her through many different worlds or dimensions. It's a similar journey to what Lucy experiences in the third trade collection of Black Hammer. But Emily's journey is wackier and less adult.
Emily's journey sits on the road narrative spectrum. Emily as a solo traveler counts as an orphan. Though she happens upon the home and identity of her mysterious aunt, she remains an orphan traveler (FF) because the aunt is long dead. The journey through multiple dimensions results in a utopic (FF) destination. The route she takes is a labyrinthine (99) one. Yes it's through weird and off-putting dimensions but it's a relatively safe journey and one free of traps and blind alleys. Put all together, it's the tale of an orphan going through a labyrinth to utopia.
Riverboat Roulette: 08/14/19
Riverboat Roulette by Carolyn Keene is the fourteenth book in the Nancy Drew Diaries series. Bess's mother is on the board of the Pet Crusaders. This year's fundraiser is on a riverboat and includes a poker championship. George has earned a spot on the championship. Meanwhile, though, is busy tracking down the stolen funds. She has three hours — the time that the riverboat is running its course.
I don't normally like poker based stories but thankfully the poker, even with the suspicious celebrity player, the crux of the mystery is one of time and location. It's essentially a locked room mystery with a three hour countdown before the doors unlock (when the riverboat docks).
There are about a half dozen red herrings but an observant reader will have enough information to see how the crime was committed and where the money is hidden. Even with having figured out the who, the how, and the where before Nancy and company, I enjoyed the book. It was different from the previous few and was tightly plotted.
Book fifteen is The Professor and the Puzzle (2017).
Heartwood Hotel 3: Better Together: 08/13/19
Heartwood Hotel 3: Better Together by Kallie George is set in the spring. Just before the Spring Splash, Mr. Heartwood has to leave on business, leaving the hotel in the capable hands of his staff. Are they up to the task?
Mona Mouse has settled comfortably into her job and her life at the hotel. Henry Squirrel has also now moved in and seems to be winning the hearts of everyone, staff and guests included. Mona, though, might be a little jealous.
Things are further complicated by an influx of migrating birds and their eggs. Can the hotel keep these fussy guests and their future children safe and happy?
Finally there are rumors of a new hotel that's going to rival the Heartwood Hotel. The staff is nervous, afraid that they'll be out of work if they can't compete.
Like the previous two, this one sits on the road narrative spectrum. It also continues the progression downwards on the spectrum, through a change in the traveler. For this one, the traveler is the collective staff of hotel. As they are without their boss and are worrying that they aren't up to the task of keeping the hotel running successfully without him, they are marginalized travelers (66). Better Together is a 666666, or marginalized travelers protecting their home by offroad means.
Otherwise, the other two pieces of the equation stays the same across all the books. The destination is still home (66) — home being the the hotel. The route is still offroad as it is a forest setting (66)
The progression has gone from high in the spectrum with an orphan traveler, to slightly lower with sibling travelers. With the entire staff working without their boss, the next move downwards is a much steeper one. I suspect the fourth book will have the staff and Mr. Heartwood working as cohesive family. If that's the case, Home Again will be 336666 (family home offroad)
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: The Epic Story: 08/12/19
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: The Epic Story by Susan Tan is the conclusion to the series and includes photos from the author's childhood. Cilla is now a big sister two two sisters. She's about to graduate elementary school and move onto middle school.
But then her day to day life plans are complicated when her YeYe suffers a stroke and is hospitalized. Post stroke he has lost the ability to speak English and Cilla's Cantonese isn't up to the task.
Cilla decides it's time to turn to her writing skills and make YeYe the hero of his own epic tale. In it she'll help him on his recovery.
In the first volume, Cilla worked to bring her two sets of grandparents together despite their cultural differences. In this book, we see how her grandfathers have become good friends despite their differences. The maternal grandfather helps YeYe on his recovery as they bond over sports.
Of all the books, this one is my favorite. I would love to revisit Cilla in set of books for older readers. This part of her story is definitely done and she has aged out of the young end of the middle grade readers set.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 12): 08/12/19
After most of the summer of working on it, I finished the "Let's Eat" painting. I just hit my groove last week and before I knew it, it was done.
On Thursday we met up with a bunch of my daughter's friends and went swimming at the local lagoon. Maybe it was the weather (cool and windy) or maybe it's too late in the summer (some schools have started) but none of the swim camps were there. The sea gulls outnumbered the people, 3 to 1.
Last week I also started on the companion piece to "Let's Eat." This one I'm calling "Neighbors." It's the same size as the previous painting.
What I read:
What I'm reading:
Itty Bitty: 08/11/19
Itty Bitty by Cece Bell is about a very small dog in deed. We're talking small enough to hollow out a bone. Small enough to live inside said bone.
It's an exaggeration on the sometimes exasperating experience of being short. Sure, you can fit into small places (great if you're spelunking, or looking for alternative housing). But what about the day to day comforts of regular sized furniture. Here I am an adult, and I still find myself with my feet dangling over the edge, just missing the floor. Well, Itty Bitty's problem is a hundredfold.
The big question in this little book is how will Itty Bitty furnish his bone home? Can he find a place just for him? Can he find others like him. Surely there must be, else, where did he come from?
The short answer is yes.
Full Steam Ahead, Felix: 08/10/19
Full Steam Ahead, Felix by Kate Moore is the sequel to Felix the Railway Cat (2017). Felix is the original station cat at Huddersfield Station who since 2015 has taken the cat loving core of Facebook by storm and has used her fame to fundraise for a variety of charities.
At the release of the first book, Felix's fame was just taking off at a worldwide scale, with her promotion to Senior Pest Controller. By this book, she is a worldwide phenom with the station now routinely receiving guests from around the world who are there just for a chance to spot the cat.
With a now known cat, the book takes a different tone and approach. Instead of introducing the station, the people, and ultimately the cat, this book begins with the assumption that one knows the cat and knows the station.
So instead of reporting on the events that led up to Felix joining Huddersfield, as well as her training and settling in, this book spends many chapters in Felix's head. These chapters are fun and in keeping with the persona (purr-sona) presented on the Facebook page.
But, there's also the reality that Felix is a middle aged cat. She's not the playful kitten she once was. When she first burst onto the social media scene, she was already an adult. Her time with us is finite. With that sobering reality, Moore also includes more frank chapters about Felix's health and how she is aging.
True devotees of Felix will also know that at the start of 2019, her apprentice, Bolt, was introduced to the world via a Facebook page. He's been on the job since the summer of 2018. He's a solid black, short-haired tom who shares his name with the man who was the biggest champion of the station getting a cat.
My one issue with the book is the sometimes jarring ping-pong between being in Felix's head (very light and floofy) to the more somber, realist look at her health and future at the station.
Stay Sweet: 08/09/19
Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian opens with the promise of being a lighthearted summer YA about scooping ice cream. Amelia and Cate are at their last summers of scooping ice cream at the Meade Creamery. Amelia has been promoted to head girl. On the day before opening, everything goes wrong when Amelia discovers Molly Meade dead in the creamery.
Now if Stay Sweet were a cozy mystery, Amelia would open the creamery and spend her free time tracking down the murderer. Would it be one of the other girls? An old lover? Someone who wanted the last for something else?
But this isn't a cozy mystery. Molly Meade was old and she died of natural causes. Her death though is the event that thrusts Amelia into a completely different direction.
The all female company is now headed by a grandnephew, Grady. The recipes are missing. No one knows how to use the machine to make more ice cream. And there's only a limited supply.
So Amelia does her best to step into Molly's shoes, giving the head girl position to Cate. Can she recreate Molly's lifetime of work in a single summer? Or will she be too distracted by handsome Grady?
My one quibble with the book is the cover design. It contains a huge spoiler for the ultimate direction of book. It's also the first big clue that this small town YA/NA fits into the road narrative spectrum.
Amelia spends most of this book as a marginalized traveler (66) . She's marginalized by her youth and by the fact that she has no vested stage in Molly Meade Creamery, even if she has the most knowledge about the company.
The setting of this novel is rural (33) Sand Lake, a town that saw its heyday in the 1940s and has been shrinking ever since. This novel is a road narrative where events are put into play with the arrival of a stranger to this rural place. Grady is both a means to an end and a foil.
Finally there is the route that Amelia takes. Though she is tied to the ice cream stand, she travels constantly between it and the house behind it. She also goes to the lake and to other spots around the town. Most of her journeys are offroad (66) and on foot. But they are still tied to the conflict between place and road.
Put all together, Stay Sweet is the novel of a marginalized traveler going offroad a rural setting.
Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 3: 08/08/19
Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 3 by Ryoko Kui continues with the struggle to cross the water level. Characters who died in the volume 2 are revived long enough to show new ways of dying in the dungeon. Interestingly they are briefly ahead of the protagonists, suggesting that time and space might be more variable in the dungeon that anyone knows.
But mostly, volume 3 is about our group doggedly making their across this endless floor of water. There are sirens and kelpie to ignore. But their full time dungeon resident notices something off with the floor. There are too few mid-range creatures suggesting that the environment has fallen out of balance.
Turns out there is an apex predator on the level who is eating more than the floor can provide. It's making the survivors more dangerous than they should be and throwing the entire floor's mojo off.
While they do end up making a variety of meals on this floor, the bigger question for this book is on the very nature of the dungeon as a biome — with each level being its own environment. How do the dungeon crawlers play into this balance? Are they a key ingredient or are they are potentially as destructive as the kraken?
Like the previous volumes, this one does fit into the road narrative spectrum, albeit as an outlier. The group is still working as a family (33), a coherent group of people who care for each other. Their final destination in this book is another piece of the cursed and buried city (00). Their route across water and vines is the dungeon's version of the cornfield/tkaronto (FF). Put all together, volume three is a family crossing a tkaronto to reach a buried city (3300FF).
Looking at the previous two, we have a progression from CC00CC (siblings to the buried city by way of the maze), to 33CCCC (family through the maze to uhoria), to now 3300FF (family to the city via the tkaronto). The key point is that the dungeon has become safer as the travelers have become a more coherent group who cares about the outcomes of all the individuals.
I have up through volume 6 on hand. The manga is on going, and is up to volume 8 in Japan.
The Book Supremacy: 08/07/19
The Book Supremacy by Kate Carlisle is the thirteenth book in the Bibliophile mystery series. Brooklyn and Derek have enjoyed their honeymoon in France but end up being followed home by trouble in the form of a first edition copy of The Spy Who Loved Me and an assassin who is murdering old colleagues of Derek.
As this book is the thirteenth and it's the first glimpse of the couple as newlyweds, the narrative emphasis is more on their relationship and romance, and less on the murder. The actual murder takes up maybe a third of the book. The romance takes up another third.
And that leaves a floating third of the book that is there to segue between the two but reads as filler in some unfortunate places. The murder is tied to a spy shop that Derek's friend runs on Pier 39. The shop happens to also run some of those escape rooms that have become popular.
Granted, the escape rooms do become narrative relevant later in the book, once the mystery is in full swing. At the time when they are first introduced, a good fifty pages is spent following Brooklyn and her friends as they escape one of the rooms. You can literally skip the lengthy scene and not miss anything.
Despite the filler, I enjoyed the book. By this late in the series, I'm invested in the characters.
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (August 05): 08/05/19
Last week my husband was out of town on business. It was just me and the teens. On Sunday, my first day solo parenting, I did something to my back and now a week later it's still sore. Not to the point that I can't function but it is annoying.
On Tuesday Tortuga had to get here teeth cleaned. As she is a feisty cat, she ended up needing full anesthesia. That meant a night at the vet's to recover. She's home and in good spirits, though she did spend Wednesday and Thursday moping.
In other news, the Sketchbook Project book I did back in spring is finally scanned and is up for viewing on line. Also if you happen to be in California in September, the book will be part of the traveling show. It will be at:
The Other Art Fair - LA
I've now put twelve hours into my "Let's Eat" painting. I'm pretty much done with the cat and the turkey. I need to finish the mid ground, add in the thing they are both interested in, and finally put in the foreground plants. I want to get it done by the end of the month, as it's a birthday present for my oldest.
What I read:
What I'm reading:
Weird Birds: 08/06/19
Weird Birds by Chris Earley is a picture book in the weird series. This one highlights the most extreme of the avian world.
Each page has a full color photograph and a short description along with the species. Both the scientific and common names are given.
This book — and this series — is idea for children who are fascinated by their world. Budding birders or even future ornithologists will enjoy learning about the weird birds of the world.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic: 08/05/19
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic by Susan Tan is the second book in the series. Cilla is now a big sister. She's also finished her memoir and now wants to write a classic. While she's learning how to be a big sister, she is also trying to better embrace her Chinese heritage.
Volume 2 is set against Chinese New Year. Cilla gets both sides of her family — her white American grandparents and her Chinese grandparents to attend the parade.
Then there is the upcoming wedding between Cilla's Aunt Eva and her future uncle. She believes he's Chinese and it takes until near the end to learn that he's more clueless about Chinese traditions than she is because she's actually Korean.
This volume was actually my introduction to Cilla and then I went back to read Cilla Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire (2017). The third volume came out in March is titled Cilla Lee Jenkins: The Epic Story (2019).
Royals by Rachel Hawkins is a YA rom-com set Scotland. To enjoy it, one needs to just accept that it's an alternate timeline where Scotland is a separate entity from the UK and still has its own royal family with the Palace of Holyroodhouse (or Holyrood Castle as it's called in this book) as their home. It could also be a near future setting if Scotland ever does manage to get the votes for independence. Anyway, I digress.
Daisy and her family live in Florida. She works at a grocery store with strict rules of no touching and no hugging. Her sister, meanwhile, has fallen in love with and become engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. With the wedding coming up, the family is flown to Scotland.
In Scotland, Daisy is paired with Miles, a man who is supposed to teach her the ins and outs of royal etiquette. But she's jet lagged and way over her head. She keeps making mistakes and making headlines for the tabloids.
Meanwhile, the younger brother of the Crown Prince is a piece of work. He's spoiled. He has a reputation for being a party animal. He owns his own speakeasy style club. He seems hell bent on dragging Daisy into his world for better or worse.
It's a series of interconnected silly situations. It was a fun read for a weekend when I had nothing going on. The sequel, Her Royal Highness came out earlier this year and is on my to be read shelf.
Road Narrative Update for July 2019: 08/03/19
I covered 12 narratives in the spectrum. That includes 8 reviews and 4 books still needing to review. I'm taking a break right now from writing essays to focus on reading.
I have 56 spots open in the road narrative spectrum where I still need to find an exemplar.
July I will be traveling and then teaching an art camp. I have no idea how much reading or research I will accomplish.
Genesis Begins Agains: 08/03/19
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams is YA contemporary fiction about a black girl struggling to love herself as her family struggles to stay together. The family has been put out four times. House number five seems too good to be true, in a well to do suburb of Detroit with a well funded school for Genesis to attend.
At school Genesis is finding it odd to be so easily accepted. She's used to be called by slurs. She's used to be bullied. Here the school seems to have bullying under control, allowing Genesis to focus on her education.
At home, her dad's promises of a new life and stories of having a new, well paying job, seem to be just that — stories. They're still struggling to pay their rent and he's back to gambling and drinking.
Family trouble, worries about staying in a school and a house she genuinely likes, and an iffy relationship with her grandmother, contributes to Genesis's feelings of self loathing. She begins to believe that happiness will only come with lighter skin and she goes to painful, and sometimes self destructive methods.
While there's isn't a tightly wrapped up happy ending regarding the house and the school, the novel does take Genesis and her parents through the process of reconciliation.
Genesis's story while set in the modern day brought to mind stories my grandmother told of her childhood. Before her parents gave up and moved into a relative's house, they fled many a home where they couldn't afford the rent before being officially put out.
In terms of the road narrative spectrum, Genesis Begins Again sits with many other similar stories of families trying to find their home along the Blue Highway (336633). While Genesis is the POV character, the making a home out of the house in Farmington is a family (33) effort — one that is hindered by the dad's frustration, alcoholism, and depression. Whether or not the house they are living in throughout the novel is their ultimate home, the book closes with the family closer to achieving a home (66). While the route taken to Farmington isn't specifically mentioned, a quick look on Google Maps shows the route is along Route 5, a Blue Highway (33).
Lions and Liars: 08/02/19
Lions and Liars by Kate Beasley with illustrations by Dan Santat is about a case of mistaken identity taken to extremes. Frederick believes he is at the bottom of the pecking order in school. He is the "flea on the meerkat's butt." But now it's summer vacation but the family cruise is canceled because of a hurricane.
Rather than the cruise he has been looking forward to, he's at Joey's birthday party. He's even at the bottom there and he ends up floating down the river in a rowboat with now motor and no paddles (they were lost to the alligators).
Before Frederick knows it, he's washed ashore at a boot camp for bad boys. He's mistaken for a boy who is late to camp, Dash, and ends up taking over his identity and spot in the camp. Dash comes with quite the reputation. He's a regular lion and that reputation gives Fred a chance to come out of 6his shell.
While Fred is staying at the camp, he comes to learn that most of the other boys aren't who they seem either. They are identity stealers like he is, but most of them are misunderstood and are burdened by undeserved reputations. Knowing this helps him rethink his pecking order idea and to gain some well needed confidence.
This novel is also on the road narrative spectrum: 669966. Fred and the other boys in his group are marginalized travelers (66). They are at the camp against their will, even if it isn't that bad of a camp. Their journey at camp and later to escape the hurricane is through the wildlands (99) that surround the camp. The majority of this book takes place along a Florida swamp in a very remote place. Their route of travel is offroad (66). First there is Fred's river arrival. Later there are many scenes of going off trail in the swamp. Put all together, Lions and Liars is the tale of marginalized travelers going offroad through the swamp while at the camp and later to escape the hurricane.
July 2019 Sources: 08/02/19
I've taught my summer art camp. In three weeks school stars for my teens. August will be busy but not to the intensity that July was. My reading should increase.
I read nine books published this year and one of them was from July. This month's ROOB store is good because I didn't read many library books.
Seven months in, the ROOB trendline continues downwards. July 2019 was the best ROOB score since I started tracking these metrics.
My average for July improved slightly from -2.66 to -2.75.
The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Part One: 08/01/19
The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Part One by Michael Dante DiMartino and Michelle Wong revisits the political unrest in the Earth Kingdom. While the kingdom is preparing for its first democratic election, there is a holdout in one of the districts. Korra is forced by circumstance to work with Kuvira to talk down this remaining warlord.
As this is the first part of the next trilogy, the emphasis is on the set up. There's time spent on Kurvira's crimes as well as hearing the main character's thoughts on the election and on Kuvira's reformation.
Then there's the journey to the Earth Kingdom. There's the initial confrontation and the first test of Kuvira as an ally. Things don't go well. People over react and Kuvira loses much of the trust she had.
Volume two, which comes out in October will probably cover the aftermath of that first confrontation. Kuvira will probably be read as even more evil than she was in the initial story arc but will under extraordinary circumstances and personal sacrifice prove herself part of the team.
July 2019 Summary: 07/01/19
July was one of my busiest months this year. The first two weeks were taken up with travel — a family vacation. The second week my daughter was at camp. THe third week I was teaching an art camp. The final week was catching up on all the errands I hadn't gotten to.
I have continued to set aside my Mini Nature paintings to work on the cat and turkey painting. I've put about ten hours into it and have at least another ten to put into it.
Last month my reading was almost completely books from my personal collection. There were a few books read for the road narrative spectrum project. While I haven't checked out any library books in a month, I was in a library twice and had some time to read. I should note that I'm not anti-library. I just don't have the time at the moment to go there on a regular basis and I have plenty of books at home I want to read.
I read fewer books in July, only 20, down from the previous months' 28. I made my my diverse reading goal. I also made my diverse reviewing goal. August is the last month of summer break but it's also the month where the schools start gearing up for classes. That will mean more school related errands. That said, I think August will be one of my best months of reading since May.
I still have 3 reviews from 2016 reviews to post. That's down from last month's 5. My 2017 reviews are down to 6 from 8. I have 31 reviews remaining from 2018, down from 37, and 68, dwom from 75, now from 2019.