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December 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

Beat the Backlist 2020

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Hotel Dare: 12/05/19

Hotel Dare

Hotel Dare by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre is a young adult graphic novel about a family coming together to rescue long lost loved ones. Olive and her adopted siblings Darwin and Charlotte are sent to Mexico to spend the summer with their grandmother. For Charlotte it's her first time and she's as the most recent adoptee isn't feeling especially like part of the family. Her surliness helps get the story rolling.

Abuelita's hotel appears to be a run down building from the mid 1800s that has been added on in a willy-nilly fashion. Architecturally I was most reminded of the ever-expanding treehouse of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. The teens are given no explanation to the odd rooms nor the missing guests. They are just told to clean the rooms while Abuelita is out running errands.

There is just one rule: don't go into Abuelita's office. Of course a rule like that is an invitation to break it. Charlotte, the least inclined to follow the rules of a woman she refuses to acknowledge as family, breaks in. The other two follow and their curiosity leads to the opening of portals to alternate worlds.

Each of the teens finds a world while they are cleaning. Their adventures in those worlds begins the book's exploration of the road narrative spectrum.

The central question or theme of Hotel Dare is family — what makes a family? and what will a family do stay a family? As the narrative unfolds the three teens — as wells as abuelit come together as a family of travelers (33) with the goal to save another family member, and to keep worlds from colliding.

The destination is utopia (FF). Rather, they start out as three separate destinations but as things progress, the three blend into one even more impossible world.

As their ability to travel between worlds is tied to Aztec relics, I as tempted to say the route was through the cornfield. The artwork, and text, however, don't make any reference to corn or maize, nor is there a water and tree crossing that could count as a tkaronto.

The route they take, is therefore the next most extreme one, the maze (CC). The hotel itself is a maze of hastily added on rooms, with each room, presumably, leading to a different world. Then as the worlds begin to collapse, the ever changing landscape becomes the maze.

All together, the graphic novel is the tale of a family traveling to and through utopia via a maze.

While Hotel Dare stands alone, there are rooms left to explore in the hotel. Sure, the original reason for all those rooms is now moot, but I would read a second adventure should one be written.

Four stars

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Cat Got Your Crown: 12/04/19

Cat Got Your Crown

Cat Got Your Crown by Julie Chase is the fourth book in the Kitty Couture series. It opens on the heels of the third book, Cat Got Your Secrets (2017). Lacy Crocker is now part of the planning committee for the pet talent show that has come to New Orleans.

The host of the contest, though, is a loud, rude, handsy bastard. After hearing an argument between him and a participant, Lacy is literally right in front of his murder when his dead body lands on the buffet table.

Lacy wants to let the authorities work the case but someone is threatening her. Someone is sending her photos and notes and as time progresses, the threats escalate. It's a case where Lacy is too close to murderer to bring the details into focus.

After four books, the Kitty Couture series has become one of my recent mystery favorites. I don't know if more books are planned in the series. I hope there are and I will continue listening to the audiobooks or reading them as ebooks as they are released.

Five stars

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Road Narrative Update for November 2019: 12/03/19

Road Narrative Update for November 2019 2019

I covered 19 narratives in the spectrum. That includes 13 reviews and 6 books still needing to review. I'm taking a break right now from writing essays to focus on reading.

Placement of the books read, reviewed, and essays written in November 2019. Click to see a larger version
Placement of the books read, reviewed, and essays written in November. Click to see a larger version

  1. FFFFCC: BLAME! Master Edition 1 by Tsutomu Nihei, 弐瓶 勉, Melissa Tanaka (Translator)
  2. CCCCCC: The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff
  3. CC6666: The House in Poplar Wood by K.E. Ormsbee
  4. CC6666: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  5. CC3366: Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn
  6. 996666: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  7. 996600: Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger
  8. 99FFFF: Gideon Falls, Volume 3: Stations of the Cross by Jeff Lemire
  9. 66FF66: The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott
  10. 66CCFF: The Deep by Rivers Solomon
  11. 669966: Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd
  12. 663333: One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet
  13. 33FFCC: Hotel Dare by Terry Blas
  14. 33CC66: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
  15. 3300FF: Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
  16. 330000: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
  17. 00FF99: It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  18. 00CCFF: Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
  19. 0000FF: The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I still have 50 spots open in the road narrative spectrum where I still need to find an exemplar. I've found exemplars for 77% of the spectrum.

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A Deadly Grind: 12/03/19

A Deadly Grind

A Deadly Grind by Victoria Hamilton is the first in the Vintage Kitchen mystery series. Hamilton is a pseudonym of Canadian author Donna Lea Simpson.

The series is set in fictional Queensville, Michigan. There, is, however, a very real Queensville, Ontario. While the location is probably close to Detroit, from the proximity of the Ontario landmarks mentioned throughout, I picture the village being up near the top of the mitten near Sault St. Marie because of personal family history; it was the area where my Canadian relatives made the move back to the United States in the late 1880s.

Regardless, Queensville and the surrounding towns as described share a history with their Canadian counterparts with people regularly taking the ferry between the countries. The beauty of this situation is any Canadianisms that slip into the text or the dialog can be explained by this shared history. It also makes the series extra fun to read (or in my case, listen to, as I'm reading via the audiobooks narrated by Emily Woo Zeller)

The book opens with Jaymie Leighton and her sister going to an estate sale auction in the next town over. Jaymie is thrilled to see a Hoosier cabinet in excellent condition. When an argument breaks out during the bidding, she's able to win the cabinet.

In the wee hours of the morning the sisters are woken up by a horrible crashing and banging. They find some of their purchases smashed in the sunroom and a dead man in front of the Hoosier. Who the man is and what he was looking for takes the next third of the novel, leaving the remaining third to truly hunt the killer.

Although the book took its darn time to get going, the characters and the setting are engaging. I also kept listening because of the vintage cookware and the old recipes. I grew up around both and it's fun hook for me.

The second book is Bowled Over (2013).

Four stars

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Everything Inside: 12/02/19

Everything Inside

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat is a collection of short stories about life, death, and love. They're set in the United States, Haiti and points in between.

Death and tough decisions are the themes tying these stories together. In between is the cultural push and pull of being an immigrant. Similarly there is the balance of work and family and personal well being.

As it's a slim volume, Everything Inside can be read in a couple sittings or lingered over for a week if one story is read each day. It's also a book I plan to linger over the next time I read it.

Four stars

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Beat the Backlist 2020: 12/02/19

Beat the Backlist
Hosted by Austine of Novel Knight.

With the year wrapping up it's time to think about next year's reading goals. I am still actively reading and reviewing for 2019. I have finished my GoodReads goal of 300 and will set next year's goal once again at 300.

The Beat the Backlist goal, though, is focused on books published in previous years. My most basic goal for this challenge is to have half my reading be backlist. Numerically that would be a minimum of 150 books.

My focus, though, will be on the remaining books purchased in 2019 and 2018 that I've yet to read. While I won't limit myself to these books only, I'm posting my current list of TBR books and their release months for the last two years. I do have older books on hand I'd like to read but they are primarily in storage. Getting them out of storage, read, and weeded is another longer term goal.

For 2020, I plan to purchase fewer books. I know now from two years of doing this challenge how many new books I can easily read and review in a timely manner. I will do my best to keep my purchase numbers closer to that ceiling.

Below is my list of unread books from 2019 and 2018. I will cross them out as I read them. I will also add other books to the list as I read them, and will bold them.

TBR from 2019

  1. The Pretenders by Rebecca Hanover (December)
  2. Color Outside the Lines by Sangu Mandanna (November)
  3. A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo (November)
  4. Coral by Sara Ella (November)
  5. Invisible Kingdom, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson (November)
  6. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  7. The Burning Queen by Kathryn Lasky (October)
  8. Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn (October)
  9. Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett (October)
  10. The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis (October)
  11. The House of Brides by Jane Cockram (October)
  12. Jackpot by Nic Stone (October)
  13. Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire (October)
  14. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds and Alexander Nabaum (October)
  15. Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (October)
  16. The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams (September)
  17. Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (September)
  18. How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters (September)
  19. It's a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories by Katherine Locke (September)
  20. More to the Story by Hena Khan (September)
  21. No Judgments by Meg Cabot (September)
  22. Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (September)
  23. Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson (September)
  24. Well Met by Jen DeLuca (September)
  25. Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (August)
  26. Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton (August)
  27. I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal (August)
  28. The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey (August)
  29. Blastaway by Melissa Landers (July)
  30. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (July)
  31. The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess (July)
  32. Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher (July)
  33. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (July)
  34. School-Tripped by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (July)
  35. Montauk by Nicola Harrison (June)
  36. Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim (June)
  37. Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis (June)
  38. This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura (June)
  39. Those People by Louise Candlish (June)
  40. Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey (June)
  41. Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (June)
  42. X Marks The Spot - A Nonbinary Anthology by Theo Hendrie (June)
  43. Birds by the Shore: Observing the Natural Life of the Atlantic Coast by Jennifer Ackerman (May)
  44. Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno (May)
  45. Five Unicorn Flush by T.J. Berry (May)
  46. Malamander by Thomas Taylor (May)
  47. No Place Like Here by Christina June (May)
  48. The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (May)
  49. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (May)
  50. These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling (May)
  51. All For One by Melissa de la Cruz (April)
  52. The Ash Family by Molly Dektar (April)
  53. Belly Up by Eva Darrows and Hillary Monahan (April)
  54. Earth to Charlie by Justin Olson (April)
  55. Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (April)
  56. Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna Holyoak (April)
  57. Love & Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford (April)
  58. The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott (April)
  59. Share Your Smile: Raina's Guide to Telling Your Own Story by Raina Telgemeier (April)
  60. Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner (April)
  61. The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick (March)

TBR from 2018

  1. My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life by Rachel Cohn (December)
  2. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (December)
  3. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (November)
  4. Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (October)
  5. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (October)
  6. Home and Away by Candice Montgomery (October)
  7. In Your Shoes by Donna Gephart (October)
  8. Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen (October)
  9. The Library Book by Susan Orlean (October)
  10. Lu by Jason Reynolds (October)
  11. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (October)
  12. Copyboy by Vince Vawter (August)
  13. The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (August)

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November 2019 Sources: 12/02/19

October book sources

November was another "normal" schedule for me. I divided my time between painting/drawing/photography, reading/blogging, and family/chores/errands. I didn't visit the library, thus all my books were sourced from purchases both for pleasure and research reading. Over all reading numbers were lower than October due to Thanksgiving and illness.

ROOB Score for the last three years

I read nine TBR books books but none published in November. Thirteen books were for research. This month's ROOB score is not as low as October's but is my lowest (meaning best) November since tracking this metric.

ROOB score mapped year after year to compare trends

Eleven months in, the ROOB trendline continues downwards. November 2019 was the second best ROOB score since I started tracking these metrics. I hope December continues this trend.

ROOB monthly averages

My average for November improved from -2.24 to -2.40.

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (December 02): 12/02/19

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

We were busy with Thanksgiving preparations and three of us managed to get sick with either a light version of the flu or a nasty cold. We've all had our flu shots but we all ran fevers, needed extra sleep and were basically zombies for a few days.

Sunday, though, I finally got some painting in. I finished the Pulled Pork Sandwich piece, made progress on the Great Egret, and started a new painting, Pride Shoes.

Pulled pork sandwich
After four hours, complete. 6x6 inches, acrylic on stretched canvas.

Great egret: wip
I'm three hours into this piece of a Great Egret in flight. I have another hour or two at least before I will feel it's finished.

Pride shoes: wip
I'm in my first hour of this piece I'm calling Pride Shoes.

What I read:

  • Hotel Dare by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre (illustrations)
  • Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat
  • One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet
  • The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Bowled Over by Victoria Hamilton (audiobook)

    What I'm reading:

    • The Ghost in Apartment 2R by Denis Markell
    • Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
    • Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
    • Captive Hearts of Oz Volume 2 by Ryo Maruya

    Up Soon:

    • Read and Buried by Eva Gates
    • Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 4 by Ryoko Kui
    • Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
    • Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

    Comments  (24)

  • The Oddling Prince: 12/01/19

    The Oddling Prince

    The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer is set in ancient Scotland and should serve as a personal reminder that I never seem to like fantasies or historical fiction set here. The king of Calidon is on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that can't be removed. Just as things seem to be hopeless, a beautiful young man arrives on horseback and is able to magic the ring off.

    So the problem is solved by the end of the first chapter. There's no need for a quest for Aric nor does he have to face being king yet. The magical boy has done it all by himself, leaving another 250 or so pages. Sigh.

    Magical boy, whom Aric has the hots for (as does everyone else it seems) dashes Aric's hope by announcing that he is Albaric, his elvin half brother.

    So what remains of this slog of a book is Aric flipping between being completely smitten with Albaric to being completely jealous of him. His entire destiny is now in question with the king well and his half brother charming everyone including their father.

    Oh and there's an extended flashback to explain where Alberic came from. The tragic love that should not be between a mortal king and an immortal queen. Why the ring was needed to save the fae kingdom.

    There are literally no surprises in this dull slog of a fantasy, save for Alberic's initial appearance.

    Two stars

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    November 2019 Summary: 12/01/19

    Reading report

    November was a busy month, taken up with painting, planning for Thanksgiving, and unfortunately illness. We're on the mend and Thanksgiving was fun. But my reading did suffer.

    I continued to read strictly from my personal collection — including books purchased for my road narrative spectrum project. Next month I will probably go back to using the library.

    I read fewer books in November, 21, down from the previous months' 31. I made my my diverse reading goal. In fact it was my best month in 2019, beating last month's record. I also made my diverse reviewing goal.

    December we will be hosting guests again and with winter vacation, reading numbers will probably remain lower than previous months. I hope, though, it will be a better month than November.

    On the reviews front, I continued to mostly review diverse books. As I've worked through most of my backlog of reviews, the posted reviews closely mirror my monthly reading.

    I only have 2018 and 2019 read books to post on my blog. My reviews to post from 2018 is down to 27 from 29, and my 2019 books to review are up to 74 from 73.

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