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September 2019

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

Canadian Book Challenge: 2019-2020

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The Tale Teller: 09/18/19

The Tale Teller

The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman is the twenty-third of the Navajo mysteries and the fifth one by Anne Hillerman. There are three intertwined mysteries: a missing donation, a jewelry thief on the loose, and a murder on a jogging trail.

Joe Leaphorn has been hired to find two missing items from a donation to the Navajo Nation museum. The one of most urgency is a bííł, a woven traditional dress. The missing one purports to have ties to Juanita Manuelito and the Long Walk.

Jim Chee, meanwhile, is chasing down leads in the missing jewelry case. His big clue is a man now living near Canyon de Chelly who recognized a missing bolo for sale at a flea market near Window Rock.

Bernie Manuelito while jogging sees a dog staying close to the edge of the trail. He's barking and acting nervous. Thinking a hiker or jogger has gotten injured, she investigates. Instead she finds the body of a man who has been shot.

The three cases are interconnected. Clues from one lead to clues to another, and so forth. Anne's mysteries are more grounded in the here and now than her father's were, even when dealing with items of historic significance. By this I mean, her treatment of the characters — major and minor — is realistic. They are human beings and even when their lives are grounded in tradition, they aren't superstitious — not like nearly everyone is in Tony's books.

But, like Elizabeth Peter's Vicky Bliss mysteries, the series has been running long enough that one has to accept that it's happening in the "now-now." Peters described the logic behind keeping things in the present, even when it's impossible in her introduction to The Laughter of Dead Kings. (2008)

Peter's series began in 1973 and ran until 2008 — 35 years. The Navajo mysteries started in 1970 with The Blessing Way. That's a forty-nine year run. From the very beginning, Leaphorn was a widower, well established in his career as a detective. Let's assume he's forty in 1970. By now he'd be 89, bare minimum.

Jim Chee arrives in Listening Woman (1978) as the rookie. Assuming he's twenty, he'd be sixty-nine now — not the young newly-wed or even middle aged newly-wed he's described as Anne's books.

Of the two, Joe is the closest to what his actual age would be. Jim, sharing the majority of the investigating with his wife, is given the benefit of the doubt, and kept younger than would have to be.

In the long run it doesn't matter that the two are living and working in the now-now. The mysteries are fun and it's a pleasure to see the characters grow and evolve into three dimensional people.

Five stars

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Internment: 09/16/19


Internment by Samira Ahmed is set in the present and is built on assumptions made during the early months of Trump's administration — namely the Muslim ban. It supposes a world similar to what the Japanese experienced post Pearl Harbor.

Layla Amin and her parents are stuck at home, she no longer able to attend school and they unemployed. There's a curfew, which Layla breaks to spend time with her boyfriend, David. It's important to note that he's Jewish, with and immigrant / refugee background.

Having been nearly caught during one curfew, Layla and her family are rounded up by government officials, working under the once defunct Secretary of War. Like the Japanese and Japanese-Americans, they are taken to Los Angeles, put on buses and driven out to a containment facility somewhere between Manzanar and Independence.

The remainder of the novel is at the camp, a place patrolled my guards and drones, and overseen by a brutal man known only as the Director. Layla refuses to be broken by her circumstances. She also refuses to play along as her parents tell her she should. Instead, she and a few friends she makes, begin testing the system and finding ways to rebel, and how to get messages to the outside.

Ahmed's description of the camp ends up being too optimistic compared to the reality of the detention centers where immigrants — especially children — have been kept at for months under this administration. Yes, her place is dusty, dirty, isolated, and the food bland, but there's still water, food, adequate places to sleep.

This novel also sits on the road narrative spectrum. Layla and the others because of what the government has done, are marginalized travelers (66). Their destination is the wildlands — a dusty camp along highway 395, away from the lives they've been living (99). Their route there is the Blue Highway (33). Altogether, Interment is the story of marginalized travelers being taken to the wildlands via the Blue Highway (669933).

Five stars

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (September 16): 09/16/19

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

After thinking we had missed the cutoff for schedule changes, I heard via email on Friday that my daughter will be starting engineering sometime this week. That will mean a zero period and getting up at six for her. She has also gotten into the after school program, so the schedule we were hoping for has finally come about.

WIP of a Siamese tuxedo cat painted with acrylics

Meanwhile I'm making progress on my portrait of Salmon. The face shape still needs adjusting but it's getting there. This photo shows five hours of work.

This week, weather permitting, we'll be having new gates and a fence extension built in our backyard as we prepare to adopt a puppy. We've hired the same people who did our stairs and railing.

What I read:

It was a good week of reading. Most of the books were short which is why I was able to get so many read. Also my husband was out of town so I wasn't watching TV with him. When I was wasn't reading at night I was watching through episodes of Man from Atlantis, NCIS, and Midsomer Murders.

  • Internment by Samira Ahmed; personal collection; research
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; personal collection
  • Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir and Sarah Andersen (illustrations); personal collection
  • Runaways, Volume 3: That Was Yesterday by Rainbow Rowell et. al.; personal collection
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power; personal collection
  • A Brew to a Kill by Cleo Coyle; personal collection (audiobook)
  • Small Spaces by Katherine Arden; personal collection / research
  • Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins; personal collection
  • My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva; personal collection

What I'm reading:

  • The Great Shelby Holmes and the Haunted Hound by Elizabeth Eulberg; personal cllection
  • For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig; personal collection
  • The Portal by Kathryn Lasky; personal collection / research
  • The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker; personal collection / research

Up Soon:

  • Dragonfell by Sarah Prineas; personal collection
  • The Space Between by Dete Meserve; personal collection
  • The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum; personal collection
  • America for Beginners by Leah Franqui; personal collection

Comments  (28)

What Elephants Know: 09/15/19

What Elephants Know

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein is set in the jungles of the Nepalese borderlands at the king's elephant stable. Nandu, a boy who was raised by wild dogs for his first two years, has spent the rest of his life working with the elephants, adopted by the head of the stables.

Now the king is thinking of closing down the stable and he and his elephants may soon be homeless. So then it becomes a race to find a way to save the elephants and the stable.

Eric Dinerstein has a long career working for and with animal welfare. He knows elephants. He knows the biodiversity of Nepal. But all that knowledge of Nepalese flora and fauna, and knowledge of the language and the people, doesn't mean that as an author he can convincingly get into the head of Nandu.

There's also, of course, an authorial insert — a white, male scientist who swoops in with the solution to everyone's problems. Instead of being a stable of elephants for royal hunting expositions, make the place a research station and conservation center!

There are two other ways this story could have been told, either of which would have had a truer, more compelling voice. First, would be to tell the tale from one of the elephants. Or it would have been more honest if it were told from the scientist's point of view.

There's a sequel, A Circle of Elephants (2019).

Two stars

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My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich: 09/14/19

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi is set in Harlem in the summer before the Challenger explosion. Ebony-Grace Norfleet has been sent to spend the summer with her father after something happened with her engineer grandfather at NASA.

Ebony-Grace copes with stress by re-contextualizing the world around her in terms of her own fantasy world inspired by classic Star Trek. She is a huge fan of Nichelle Nichols, going so far as to name her spaceship the Uhura.

Being a girl from Alabama, sheltered from the rise of hip hop and rap and urban Black culture, Ebony is overwhelmed. She finds her one Harlem friend enraptured with doubled dutch, break dancing, and rap.

In between these chapters, there are also comics that show Ebony-Grace's science fiction alternate story. They're fun side stories, but sometimes feel like a distraction. So much of her take on things is already done through this filter, albeit described in words, that the pictures aren't necessary.

This middle grade historical fiction also sits on the road narrative spectrum. Ebony-Grace is introduced on an airplane, traveling by herself — thus making her an orphan traveler (FF), even though she has family at home and at her destination. Her destination is "No Joke City" aka New York City (00). Her method of travel is offroad (66), in that she is a passenger on an airplane. Altogether this novel is about an orphan traveler going to the city by an offroad means (FF0066).

Five stars

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The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden: 09/13/19

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser is the sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (2017). Now friends with their grumpy upstairs landlord, the Vanderbeekers decide to cheer him up by making a community garden. When Mr. Jeet falls ill, they decide to dedicate it to everyone in the brownstone.

They plan to use the abandoned church property. They have permission from the caretaker but another stakeholder on the property has decided to sell the lot to a condo developer. The Vanderbeekers now face a tough decision: give up on their work so far, try to find a new and free place to garden, or rally the neighborhood to gain support to keep the sale from going through. They opt to the rally the neighborhood.

This book follows the adage "ask forgiveness, not permission." With the book set in Harlem, I wasn't entirely sure how likely the deal was to fall through. That made some of the book a nerve-wracking read. That said, I've seen plenty of deals fall through here, even though the Bay Area is a hot market.

This sophomore volume is unusual for a series book in that it sits on the road narrative spectrum, while the original book doesn't. The children, working in secret, with limited funds and limited permission, count as marginalized travelers (66). Their destination is the wildlands (99), in the form of a gray site, namely the overgrown lot next to the church. The route is the Blue Highway, namely the streets they walk up and down between the garden, their home, and the places where they get their plants and their materials (33). All together it's the tale of marginalized travelers going to the wildlands via the Blue Highway (996633).

The book has a similar charm as the Penderwicks and Lotterys series. The third book is The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue which comes out in this month.

Five stars

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Teen Titans: Raven: 09/12/19

Teen Titans: Raven

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo is the start of a new series of graphic novels featuring a different member of the Teen Titans. The book opens with Raven and her foster mother discussing adoption. Before her foster mom can actually make it official, she's killed in a car accident.

Raven, meanwhile, is left with amnesia and is sent to her foster mother's sister's house. Her "new" foster mother and foster sister know her and welcome her to their home in New Orleans.

The book is primarily set in Raven's new high school as she tries to fit in and comes to discover she has psychic powers which she can't control. She's also being haunted by nightmares — which readers familiar with her back story will understand well before she does.

All in all it was an interesting look at Raven's origin story. It's set against the spiritual traditions of New Orleans.

The second book in the series is Teen Titans: Beast Boy and comes out sometime next year.

Five stars

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Past Due for Murder: 09/11/19

Past Due for Murder

Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert is the third in the Blue Ridge Library mysteries. After a long hiatus, the town has restarted the local May Day celebration. To start off the event, the library hosts a story night which includes the tale of two girls being lured away by faerie lights.

The event, though, ends on a sour note when the guest speaker openly accuses Amy's ex-boyfriend of stealing her research for a piece of music he wrote some years back. Then in short succession, the speaker's intern goes missing in the woods, and then the speaker herself is found murdered in the woods.

Like the previous books, Past Due for Murder includes multiple mysteries — the modern day murder and disappearance, a recent hit and run death, and the much older disappearance of the two girls. All of these mysteries are related and intertwined. How they are is what makes this book such a compelling read.

The fourth book is Bound for Murder and will be released January 7th, 2020.

Five stars

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A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying: 09/10/19

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying by Kelley Armstrong is a middle grade fantasy set in a kingdom made up of clans. The ruling clan divides the matters of state between the two oldest siblings. The eldest becomes the monarch and the second eldest becomes the monster slayer.

Twelve year old Rowan as the oldest of fraternal twins is in line to be queen. Her brother is set to be the next monster slayer. There's just one problem. She's the better warrior and he's a better diplomat.

The kingdom is reeling from the recent death of the king, killed by a gryphon. Rowan, her brother, and the current monster slayer go on the hunt to stop an attack at a farm. Unfortunately the gryphon appears, kills the monster hunter, and injures the future monster hunter. Rowan sees this as the chance to set things to rights — to switch positions with her slightly younger brother.

The remainder of the book is Rowan trying to prove her worthiness to be the next monster slayer. With her father and aunt now dead, other clans are vying for the throne. They give Rowan an impossible sounding task — kill the gryphon or forfeit.

But this isn't about Rowan becoming the unstoppable hunter she imagines herself as. Instead, she learns more about the world in which she lives and the monsters who live here too. She harnesses new ways of being a monster hunter.

This book reads like an older reader version of the Magical Animal Adoption Agency by Kallie George. The themes are the same: learning about magical animals and learning how to be a better person.

Five stars

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Wicked Fox: 09/09/19

A Killer Editio

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho is a YA urban fantasy set in Seoul, South Korea. Gu Miyoung and her mother have moved here for the hunt. They are gumihos, or nine-tailed-foxes, and survive by eating the gi of men.

On her first night time hunt, Miyoung stumbles upon Ahn Jihoon who is being attacked by a goblin. She intervenes and saves him, but forfeits her bead — the physical embodiment of her soul and immortality.

It's a good start for a fantasy. But it suffers from some pacing issues. To make sure we know that Miyoung and Jihoon will end up as a couple, we're given alternating points of view, but through short, choppy chapters. There's not enough time to get into either person's head before jumping into the other's.

To make sure we know this is YA, the novel spends an inordinate amount of pages inside Miyoung's school. It reads a bit like the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which was a half season in length, mid-season replacement. We see how hard Miyoung is finding it to fit into her new school, learning that the boy she saved is a classmate, and how to manage her powers now that her bead is no longer part of her.

Frankly this debut would be better if it were a hundred pages shorter. There's a lot of repetition, especially early on. After the meeting between Jihoon and Miyoung and their first day in school together, the next bunch of chapters can be skipped without losing understanding of the plot.

Despite the issues with this initial offering, I think the series has potential. It's still an interesting concept — a half human/half gumiho woman in a large city trying to find her place in the world. Is she good? Is she evil? Does she have free will? What is she going to do with herself now that she's mortal?

The second Gumiho is due sometime next year.

Three stars

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (September 09): 09/09/19

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

With the kids back in school, I'm back to painting regularly. I'm currently working on part one of a two painting project for home — portraits of my current cats. After that I'll get back to painting things to sell. I think I should get back into doing some bird portraits.

Acrlyclic wip showing a tuxedo cat in profile
WIP of Tortuga.

I'm also working on another sketch book for the Brooklyn Art Library. This time I'm using my sketchbook to explore the idea of painting fireworks. The sketchbook gives me a way to try different styles before committing to something larger.

Two page spread showing fireworks paintinsg. Acrylic on paper.
Two fireworks painted on paper with acrylic paint.

On Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter to visit her best-friend who recently moved almost sixty miles away with her family.

Girl with blue hair standing in the parking lot of a Black Bear diner.
We stopped for breakfast on our way out.

What I read:

I"m continuing to focus on my 2019 purchases as we head into fall. I have so many ones I've collected this summer that I want to read and was just too busy to read. Come January, I'll start going to the library again.

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; personal collection
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho; personal collection
  • Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator); personal collection
  • Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage; personal collection
  • The 104-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton; personal collection
  • When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry; personal collection / resarch
  • My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi; personal collection

What I'm reading:

  • Internment by Samira Ahmed; personal collection
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; personal collection
  • Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir and Sarah Andersen (illustrations); personal collection
  • Small Spaces by Katherine Arden; personal collection / research

Up Soon:

  • Runaways, Volume 3: That Was Yesterday by Rainbow Rowell et. al.; personal collection
  • For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig; personal collection
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power; personal collection
  • The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker; personal collection / research

Comments  (16)

Gertie's Leap to Greatness: 09/08/19

A Killer Editio

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley follows the trend of a middle grade protagonist trying to be the BEST at something to get the attention or love from an absent family member. Here it's Gertie who lives with aunt and father who wants to get her mother's affection before she moves out of town with her new family.

The weird thing about this book's set up is that the mother has been separated from Gertie's family since Gertie's birth. Gertie has known where her mother moved in town and even knows of her mother's new family. She's ok with the situation until her mother puts her house up for sale.

Now being the best — Gertie choses to be the best student / teacher's pet — is going to be her way of convincing her mother to stay in town. It's an odd disconnect between the situation (absent mother leaving) and the proposed solution (being the top student).

Of course in this sort of story, it can't just be a matter of the main character working hard to get the top. There has to be a foil. For Gertie, it's a transplanted Californian named Mary Sue Spivey. With a name like that in a book like this, you know Mary Sue is going to be perfect — annoyingly so. And she is.

Mary Sue besides being a better student than Gertie, is also a gentrified environmentalist. She is the embodiment of white middle class and completely at odds with Gertie's situation — with a father who spends most of his time working on an oil rig.

Frankly the conflict between Mary Sue and Gertie over the oil rig is the most interesting aspect of the book. It would have been a stronger story if Gertie had been the best student in the class just for the sheer joy of it, and then been pushed out by someone from a better school.

Three stars

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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is Mayan urban fantasy set in 1927. It's a great read for anyone who has enjoyed Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third (2015), Labyrinth Lost (2017) by Zoraida Córdova or the animé, The Ancient Magus Bride (2018) but want something more. Although I'm listing a middle grade and a YA book as thematic reads, Moreno-Garcia's novel is written for adults.

Casiopea Tun lives in the small Yucatan village a tram's ride away from the city of Merida. She's trapped being the servant to her cousin, aunt, uncle, and grandfather. One day, left alone with the house to herself, she decides to investigate her grandfather's forbidden trunk. Expecting gold, she's surprised to find bones. When she pricks herself on a bone shard, she's further shocked to find the bones rebuilding themselves into a very handsome and dangerous god — Hun-Kamé. He's been ousted by his brother and her grandfather from Xibalba and needs Casiopea's help to undo this injustice.

Before they can travel to the underworld for the final confrontation, he must find the remaining parts that his brother has hidden across Mexico: his ear, his finger, his eye. To do that, requires a road trip!

I didn't read this book for the road narrative project but it fits solidly in the spectrum. While Casiopea and Hun-Kamé aren't lovers in this book (even if he is lust-worthy), they are connected magically via the bone shard in her thumb. They are coupled by his magic and her blood. Therefore they have to travel together (33).

The destination is ultimately Xibalba, or more specifically, the Jade Palace. Going there as a living person is impossible without magical help. Thus, the destination is utopia — a no place (FF).

But the route to Xibalba won't open until all of the god's parts are found. As this is a modern, twentieth century setting, the most efficient way for the two to travel (save for the brief boat route from Progresso to Veracruz) is via tram and train. Like The Inn Between by Marina Cohen (2016), we have another "safe" / detour-free route to the underworld, albeit different ones.

One side note on the route, while I said his parts were scattered across Mexico — I should say "old Mexico" as the novel in 1927 after Mexico lost some of its land to the United States. The last half of their route takes the across the border.

Put all together, The Gods of Jade and Shadow is the tale of a magically entwined couple traveling to utopia via the railroad. Following along on their journey, it helps to know Mexican geography, although one can also use Google Maps.

While this book is a standalone, it does end with a hook, with Casiopea deciding to explore more of the world alongside a supernatural being she meets on her journey. At this time, per the author's blog, there is no plan to make any more books in this world. But there's enough of a hook for us to imagine her in the world traveling along the edge of the mundane and the supernatural. We'll leave those adventures to the fanfic writers.

Five stars

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The Train to Impossible Places: 09/06/19

A Killer Editio

The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell is the first book in a new series about a girl who hitches a ride on a train that happens to take a detour through her family's home in the middle of the night. Like Moist van Lipwig in Going Postal (2004), Suzy suddenly finds herself working for the post, working on the last mail trail in operation.

The Impossible Postal Express is a troll run train that makes deliveries anywhere. When it falls behind schedule, it can take shortcuts, such as through a living room. The effects of laying the rail and running the train through are temporary and no one expects stowaways.

The very first delivery, the one Suzy is put in charge of because no one else is brave enough to ring the doorbell. The recipient is the Lady Crepuscula. The package is a talking snow globe named Frederick. Suzy decides Frederick's story is legit and that he shouldn't be delivered.

So now while the Impossible Postal Express is trying to make its deliveries, it's also running from Crepuscula's wrath. She is hellbent on getting her package and taking out the train and anything else in the process.

While this book is from the UK (English publisher, Welsh author), it does sit in the road narrative spectrum (as an outlier). Suzy, while not an orphan in our world, does chose to hop the train as a solo (or orphan) traveler (FF). Her choice could very well leave her orphaned in the Troll world.

From Suzy's point of view, as she is the protagonist, the places the express goes are impossible and unknown to her. Put another way, the delivery stops are various utopias, or places within a larger utopia (FF). Now one could argue that the places aren't utopia (no places) because during the climax, it's revealed to be taking place on the moon, but with the majority of the novel treating the railway as an impossible one, then the destinations must also be. In the sequel where Suzy has a better understanding of how the Expressway works, her understanding of where she's going will also change, thus shifting the placement on the spectrum.

The route, though, is the interstate / railroad, or more precisely, railway. While the rails can be laid as needed in near real time, anywhere, the train is still required to take the route laid out for it. Thus, the route counts as an interstate — a known, straightforward route (00).

Put all together, The Train to Impossible Places is the tale of an orphan traveler going to and through utopia via the railway.

The second book in the series is The Great Brain Robbery and releases in October.

Five stars

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Midnight Radio: 09/05/19

A Killer Editio

Midnight Radio by Iolanda Zanfardino is a graphic novel taking place in San Francisco, consisting of four different stories. Each story is color coded: green, red, blue, and yellow.

The green story is "The Woodpecker" about a web designer/web producer working for a dubious diet pill company. The website is under attack by a hacker who goes by the name "Woodpecker." The attack stems from the death of seven teens.

The red story is "Inner Pulse" which follows a severely depressed and possibly suicidal young woman. As the story unfolds we learn what has pushed her into her depression. The story mirrors the attack on Pulse in Orlando.

The blue story is "Robin Hood" and follows a Japanese woman who is coerced by the police to infiltrate a Mexican forgery ring. While she expects them to be dangerous gang members, she learns that the police are the dangerous ones and have no plans to bring in the forgers alive.

The yellow story is "Insta_king." The main character, shown on the cover, has given up talking, deciding instead to use Instagram and texting as his voice.

The four stories all feature protagonists who are forced through circumstances to make a tough decision. They have to decide to break the rules or break the law, do ultimately do the right thing.

Overall I liked the book but found some of the text difficult to read as there's not always enough contrast. Dark green text on a slightly lighter green text, for example, isn't easy to read, even with my glasses on.

Four stars

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A Killer Edition: 09/04/19

A Killer Editio

A Killer Edition by Lorna Barrett and Cassandra Campbell (narrator) is the thirteenth mystery in the Booktown series. By now a lot has happened and if you're new to the series, don't start here. Spoilers abound!

At the close of Poisoned Pages, Tricia decided to promote Pixie to assistant manager. Now six months later, sales are up, so far up that Haven't Got a Clue is running out of inventory, and Tricia is bored because her store pretty much runs itself now.

Tricia on one of her slow days decides to take her therapist's advice and try reading a romance. She doesn't have any on hand, so she goes to the local romance bookshop. There she witnesses an argument between Joyce, the owner, and Vera, her next door neighbor. While Vera is the one who threatens Joyce, it's she who ends up murdered, with Joyce as the prime suspect.

This mystery was different from many of the others in the series because Tricia doesn't know either woman very well, nor is she immediately involved in business with either of them. Her one part in this mystery set up is overhearing the argument, and then later co-discovering the body with Joyce.

In fact, Tricia tries to do what she's asked, and stay out of the amateur sleuthing, despite Joyce's repeating requests that she help. Instead she is most preoccupied with preparing for a baking contest and in trying to figure out why the chairman of the local animal shelter is so hellbent on keeping Tricia off the board even though she's qualified.

As with all the previous books in the series, I listened to this an audiobook. The original narrator, Cassandra Campbell, is back. Her last book in this series was book five, Sentenced to Death. So much as changed in the last eight books, including the addition of many new characters. It was disconcerting for the first few chapters to hear her rendition of characters.

The conclusion of this novel was rather like Bedeviled Eggs by Laura Childs in that Tricia doesn't figure out who the murderer is, but inadvertently ends up cornering the person. Only because I'm invested in the characters and setting did I find the climax exhilarating.

Five stars

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Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn: 09/03/19

Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn

Gideon Falls, Volume 2: Original Sins by Jeff Lemire is the second volume in the comic series that features an evil black barn that appears and disappears throughout time. The priest and sheriff have teamed up in rural Gideon Falls, while young man and his therapist have done the same in urban Gideon Falls. Both couples are intent on investigating the black barn and putting a stop to its evil influence.

Chart showing the progression on the spectrum from volume 1 to volume 2

The black barn when seen from the perspective of people in Gideon Falls, is something that comes and goes at certain intervals. It arrives in the same spot of land and stays for some amount of time, during which bad things happens. People die and people disappear.

When Gideon Falls is seen from the perspective of the barn and its maker, it is an infinite plane of opportunities. Different times and different versions. Put another way, the barn is an evil TARDIS. Or it's a TARDIS controlled by an evil person.

Like the first volume (and every other comic I've read by Jeff Lemire), Original Sins sits on the road narrative spectrum.

With the two different narratives now being told by couples (33), the placement in the spectrum drops from fantasy to horror. There is more at stake for everyone now that they have pared off.

The realization that both narratives are taking place in Gideon Falls, and that time and space is variable inside the barn, the destination remains uhoria (CC), though a refocused one.

The route now moves from the cornfield to the Blue Highway (33). The barn in this volume is found not by its relationship to the fields, but more mundanely by its placement relative to the surrounding society. The barn has a parcel and it's the same parcel in every version and time of Gideon Falls.

Put all together, Original Sins is the tale of two couples going to uhoria via the Blue Highway to protect their communities and families from a time traveling black barn.

The third volume is Stations of the Cross which comes out October 22.

Five stars

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Devils in Daylight: 09/02/19

Devils in Daylight

Devils in Daylight by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki is a horror novella recently translated by Keith Vincent. He further explains the pun of the original Japanese title (白昼鬼語) and how he did his best to render it in English.

New media inspires re-examination of older media. Keeping in mind that this is a 1918 novel, the new media here is cinema. It had a late introduction to Japan but once it did, it took off.

Takahashi, a salaryman, has pulled an all-nighter and is surprised to receive a phone call from an old friend, Sonomara. Sonomara in a long, rambling monolog tells how he has cracked a cryptographic code based on Edgar Allan Poe's "Gold Bug." At the end of this long tale he invites Takahasmi to witness a murder. He says if he's wrong, they'll have a good laugh over it.

This is the point where Takahashi could have and should have said no. It would have been a really short, weird short story. Instead, he says yes. He leaves the safety of his life and his job and begins to lose himself in Sonomara's obsession.

The murder they go to view is something they watch in secret. They're watching through a peephole, like voyeurs. Back in 1918, the word voyeur would bring to mind men watching through holes at brothels. As cinema matured, it would come to mean men watching women on screen with a sexual gaze.

Again Takahashi could cut off ties with Sonomara but the trap has been set and he's now trapped in the same spiral of obsession as his friend. The narrator will become the next one obsessed with the code as Sonomara. Then as Sonomara becomes more and more involved in this murder plot, so will Takahashi.

It's a delightfully creepy and modern story that holds up a century later and in translation.

Five stars

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August 2019 Sources: 09/02/19

August book sources

August was the last month of summer vacation when I didn't have work. As my oldest had a ton of summer homework (from signing up for six APs) we spent most of the time at home. I painted and read. In August I didn't visit any libraries, focusing my reading on my TBR piles for this year and last year.

ROOB Score for the last three years

I read eighteen TBR books books published this year and two published in August. This month's ROOB score is my best ever in the absence of any library books.

ROOB score mapped year after year to compare trends

Eight months in, the ROOB trendline continues downwards. August 2019 was the best ROOB score since I started tracking these metrics. I am hopeful that September will beat it.

ROOB monthly averages

My average for August improved slightly from -2.56 to -2.63.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (September 02): 09/02/19

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

The teens are back in school. My son got his classes but my daughter didn't quite get the schedule she wanted. We have one more week to wait to see if a spot opens up in the zero period that would allow her to add her second elective.

My daughter's birthday is on Thursday, so we're celebrating today. Her big present is the "Neighbors" painting which I finished last week. It will be hanging in her room.

Completed painting showing a fawn staring at a cat
The completed Neighbors painting.

Now I'm starting on a new two painting series — portraits of my current cats. I've painted portraits of previous cats but not Tortuga and Salmon. I've started on Tortuga first because she's the oldest by eighteen months.

WIP painting showing a tuxedo cat in profile

On Saturday my husband put together the smoker he recently purchased. Getting it up to our house took a lot of effort. Our home sits on a steep hill and backing up a car with a heavy box in the back was more than the car wanted to deal with. Then there was the fun of getting it out of the car and into the garage where the box could finally be opened. Our side yard has steps and rocks and the dolly wouldn't have been practical for the entire box. Anyway on Sunday we had our first ribs and corn on the cob.

An open smoker showing four racks of ribs

What I read:

  • A Killer Edition by Lorna Barrett and Cassandra Campbell (narrator); personal collection
  • Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert; personal collection
  • Midnight Radio by Iolanda Zanfardino; personal collection
  • Clock Dance by Anne Tyler; personal collection
  • The Tale Teller by Anne Hillerman; personal collection

What I'm reading:

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; personal collection
  • Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage; personal collection
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho; personal collection
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; personal collection

Up Soon:

  • Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator); personal collection
  • The 104-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton; personal collection
  • When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry; personal collection / resarch
  • Small Spaces by Katherine Arden; personal collection / research

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The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street: 09/01/19

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser is the first of a middle grade series about a large family renting two floors of a brownstone somewhere on 141st street (probably West 141st street) in New York. The owner of the building is a grumpy shut in named Mr. Beiderman.

Now they are facing eviction just before Christmas and the children want to do anything they can to convince Mr. Beiderman to let them stay. Their landlord is such a grouch that it looks like an impossible task.

On emotional impact, this book is similar to The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, and The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (minus the steampunk aspects).

The next book is The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden (2018).

Five stars

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August 2019 Summary: 09/01/19

Reading report

August was the first quiet month this summer, although the end of the month was back to school. The month meant a return to routine, including painting (I finished two and started a third), reading and blogging.

Last month I read entirely from my personal collection — including ones read for research. I continue to be avoiding the library to focus on books I've purchased in the last year. I will start up my library trips in January.

I read more books in August, 26, up from the previous months' 20. I made my my diverse reading goal. In fact it was one of my best month's this year. I also made my diverse reviewing goal.

September is the first full month of school. That will mean more school related errands. I might also have field trips to teach at work. That said, I think September will be a good month of reading.

I still have 2 reviews from 2016 reviews to post. That's down from last month's 3. My 2017 reviews are down to 4 from 6. I still 31 reviews remaining from 2018, and 66, dwom from 68, now from 2019.

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