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December 2021

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

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Canadian Book Challenge: 2023-2024

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Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Volume 3: 12/30/21

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Volume 3

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life Volume 3 by Hinowa Kouzuki and Waka Miyama (Illustrator) follows Yushi as he now begins spiritual training, learns how to use his grimoire, and grows comfortable enough with his yokai friends to invite a human friend over.

The first volume was the set up, establishing that Yushi needed somewhere affordable to stay while his dorm was rebuilt. A haunted apartment isn't somewhere most people would want to stay, so it's somewhere he can afford. Since he's a bit of an oddball he fit right in.

The second volume was an attempted return to dorm life. It touches on a popular theme among supernatural / paranormal texts that humans are sometimes the worst monsters.

Now that it's settled that Yushi likes living with his Yokai neighbors, it's time for him to grow comfortable to fall into a routine (thus making this manga more of a slice of life than it has been previously). It's a chance for him to explore more of the world of his neighbors and hone his own spiritual power.

Finally, though, it's the growing comfortable with the yokai apartment life that allows Yushi to invite a friend. The scenes with his best friend are charming and wholesome. I hope to see more of him in future volumes.

The series is currently up to volume 24 with a release in Japan next year. I have volume 4 on hand and will read it soon.

Five stars

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Restaurant to Another World Volume 4: 12/29/21

Restaurant to Another World Volume 4

Restaurant to Another World Volume 4 by Junpei Inuzuka and Katsumi Enami (Illustrations) is the penultimate volume in this light novel series.

It remains mostly episodic with the focus on the specific meals certain characters order and how their choices relate to their lives the rest of the week. Interspersed with the expected chapters there are some flashbacks that give a greater sense of the restaurant's history and how it came to be. There's also finally a concrete explanation to how the magic of the door works.

While I could keep reading this series well into the future, I can see how five volumes are enough to tell a satisfying story. Five books give a good sense of the restaurant's atmosphere and menu as well as it's history and the history of the world it connects to.

Five stars

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Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition: 12/28/21

Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition

Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition by Julia Kaye began as a webcomic / diary as part of her Up and Out comic. In it she chronicles the first year or so of her transition.

The comic is a three panel deal, for the most part. It's rather like reading a Garfield comic except that instead of Garfield, the other character is Julia's body dysphoria.

Julia began her process in her mid to late twenties. There's a lot of raw emotions involved. There's a body that has settled into a form that's contrary to how she feels inside.

A lot of what she recounts in these panels rings true from my experience listening to trans friends and relatives. Frankly I think some of this book might hit too close to home for some readers.

There's a second book which released in 2021: My Life in Transition

Five stars

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Double or Muffin: 12/27/21

Double or Muffin

Double or Muffin by Victoria Hamilton and Margaret Strom (Narrator) is the seventh book in the Merry Muffin mystery series. Merry Wynter is forced (again) to drop everything to play hostess to another crowd invited by Pish. This time it's an opera themed reality show that was kicked out of a hotel in Rochester. Of course they bring trouble Merry has to find out who is behind it.

After the previous two books in this series, Double or Muffin is a reprieve. It's lighter on its themes and there isn't a murder — just a vicious attack. It's enough of a mystery to be satisfying.

As the mystery series progresses it seems to be drifting farther and farther from its initial niche. Namely, the muffin baking is hardly present any more. As Wynter castle is transformed into a center for the arts less time is spent on Merry baking. I have to wonder if in the future the series will be renamed to better fit its theme.

Five stars

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Thor & Loki: Double Trouble: 12/26/21

Thor & Loki: Double Trouble

Thor & Loki: Double Trouble by Mariko Tamaki and Gurihiru is a standalone graphic novel that has Thor and Loki isakaied. Loki, bored with Thor's self adoration and groupies tricks him into stealing something. One thing leads to another and the two find themselves somewhere else.

It's the second comic collaboration between Mariko Tamaki and Gurihiru I've read. While this one was cute, it didn't tickle my fancy the same way that Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble (2020). A big part of that reaction is the the fact that I'm a Spider-Man fan and not an Avengers fan. I haven't actually seen any of the films that feature these two.

Since I'm not already a fan, the comic has to carry itself on its own merits. It does but to a point. The second half of the book goes into the "what if the brothers were actually sisters" scenario. This part falls flat because of Loki.

Here's the thing, Loki is canonically a gender fluid shapeshifter. So when Loki-prime says there is "only one" Loki, I really wanted that to be the case. I wanted them to already have access to this world and to have already been Loki's sister. Essentially I wanted Loki to be Tigger. It would have been funnier and would have made more sense.

Four stars

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Deadly Daggers: 12/25/21

Deadly Daggers

Deadly Daggers by Joyce Lavene and Jim Lavene is the third book in the Renaissance Faire mystery series. It has me scratching my head wondering why the hell I chose to read another one.

In this alt-timeline train wreck of a mystery series, the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base has been turned into a Renaissance Faire amusement park where much of the staff ends up living on site. The castle and dungeon which feature heavily in this volume is built around the air traffic control tower. Because why not?

The choice of location for this park by itself isn't that big of a deal. See my unending love of the Bodie Island lighthouse mysteries where the lighthouse is given the TARDIS treatment so it can be a public library! Here though, it's just one of many tossed out details that are given with no sense that research or thought was given to back them up.

In this volume Jessie Morton is apprenticing with a master swordsmith, Daisy. Despite being given the attribute of being a master both in the crafting of swords as well as the wielding of them, in her first ten pages she demonstrates that she doesn't know how to fight in a dress or wear armor. She's also apparently fighting for keeps instead of doing theatrical fighting. Essentially she's a danger to herself and to others and no one seems to notice or care. Every time there was a scene with her, I wanted to send her to Jill Bearup's YouTube channel.

In the middle of this nonsensical set up, there's a murder. The park's much better swordsman is dead. Along with his death is the theft of his collection of "cursed daggers." Each dagger leads to more trouble and more distractions from the actual case at hand. Like the previous books, this volume has too many characters, too many side plots, too many red herrings. In the middle of all this extraneous nonsense, the murderer makes a few rare appearances. If you're paying close attention, which in this book is very hard to do, you can see them essentially being evil and unhinged. But they're otherwise such a minor character that their confrontation with Jessie at the end is unnecessary. Literally they could have just continued to do their job and gotten away with the murder.

The fourth book is Harrowing Hats (2011).

Two stars

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A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: 12/23/21

A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching

A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching by Rosemary Mosco is a comprehensive, well illustrated, and humorous account of all things pigeon (and dove). As a kid in San Diego there were two main groups of birds: pigeons and gulls. Pigeons (and mourning doves) were inland. Gulls were at the coast. My grandmother loved them all and they were a big part of my life.

While my grandmother never kept pigeons, we knew someone who did. I can remember touring different dovecotes and marveling at the exotic looking birds. Mosco covers the history of keeping pigeons, including some famous people who did — like Charles Darwin.

The book also includes an easy to understand (yet comprehensive) breakdown of pigeon genetics. What gives them their coloring, shape, and feather types.

Up here in the Bay Area I don't see any many pigeons. I think it's because we have so many birds of prey. There are a few pockets of them — namely around certain fast food joints and freeway overpasses. But the vast flocks of them that I recall from my childhood just aren't here.

Four stars

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Hearse and Gardens: 12/22/21

Hearse and Gardens

Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge and Vanessa Daniels (Narrator) is the second of the Hamptons Home & Gardens mystery series. Meg Barrett is helping her friend inventory a series of bungalows associated with the estate of art broker Harrison Falks. In one they find a skeleton inside a secret room.

The skeleton brings up a cold case of two missing people: a man and a woman who were believed to have left Montauk together twenty or so years earlier. They were believed to have stolen an Andy Warhol painting of Aquanet hairspray.

The missing Warhol painting did make me question the timeline. Assuming a "now-now" for the present day, then the body is found in approximately 2015 or 2016. Meg's friend would have been a child then in the mid 1980s. Warhol died in 1987. What I'm not sure of is how long the family had the painting before it went missing.

Another interesting subplot is a picture book Meg's friend was given as a child. It leads them on a series of treasure hunting capers in and around the mansion, bungalows, and grounds. The book serves as an interesting way of sliding in clues.

The overall mood of the book as well as the family dynamic (past and present) reminds me of The House of Brides by Jane Cockram (2019). There's also an atmospheric kinship to Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020), minus the supernatural aspects, of course.

I happened to listen to the audiobook and for this particular volume the audio might not be for everyone. Vanessa Daniels tends to speed read the scenes. I'll admit I checked the speed I had my playback set to and it was 1:1 the entire time. I don't know if the narrator actually read the book that fast or if it was transcoded at a higher rate.

The third book is Ghostal Living (2017).

Five stars

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Biscuits and Slashed Browns: 12/21/21

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day is the fourth book in the Country Store mystery series. A judge for the annual maple festival and cook-off is found murdered on one of the participating farms. Robbie decides to help solve the murder because she can't believe the farm owners are at all involved. She also has a vested interest in a positive resolution because her line cook is the farm owners' son.

In clearing the cook's family Robbie stirs up other trouble. There's a missing chef's knife that points to another friend. The inclusion of an obvious clue reminded me of Cat Trick by Sofie Kelly (2013). With that in mind I found honing in on the actual killer an easy task.

That said, near the end there is hair raising action. Robbie gets into trouble again but manages to hold her own fairly well. She also has a network of friends who are able to come to her aid.

Each book, this one included, expands the world of Brown Country. Maddie Day is careful to create a diverse cast of characters to inhabit her town and surrounding countryside. In this book she includes a family with an Indian father, American mother and their adult son. These characters aren't there to teach Robbie (or anyone else) a lesson. They just happen to live in the same place as she does and happen to be caught up in the same unfortunate murder.

The fifth book is Death Over Easy (2018).

Five stars

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Paladin's Hope: 12/19/21

Paladin's Hope

Paladin's Hope by T. Kingfisher is the third of the Saint of Steel novels. Piper is a lich-doctor. Galen is a paladin of a dead god. Both have been enlisted by Constable Earstripe, a gnole who is investigating the headless bodies that have been fished out of the river. Thus begins the weird and wonderful marriage of fantasy, cozy mystery, and romance genres.

This novel has a similar pacing to Double or Muffin by Victoria Hamilton but with the two main plots reversed. Hamilton puts the domestic / contemporary plot first and the mystery second. Here Kingfisher jumps right into the mystery and then segues into the romance between Piper and Galen. What holds the two pieces together is the fantasy setting and the return of the wonder machines.

The middle section which is a disturbing mix The Wonder Engine (2018) and The Hollow Places (2020). This section while tension filled has two problems for me: the obviousness of the impending betrayal and the sheer number of pages devoted to it.

That said, the middle section defines this novel's placement on the road narrative spectrum. While Galen and Piper do end up together, as travelers they aren't yet. The three together are each experts at what they do and are thus, privileged (00). Their destination is uhoria (CC) because the main focus is on how old the structure is and who built it. Their route, though, is literally a death maze (CC).

Four stars

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Miles Morales: Shock Waves: 12/18/21

Miles Morales: Shock Waves

Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds and Pablo Leon (Illustrations) follows Miles as he learns to juggle school at Brooklyn Visions Academy, family obligations, and the huge responsibility of being Spider-Man. Miles who has a Puerto Rican mother has become thematically tied to the island, especially after the hurricanes and the United States's failure to help its fellow citizens.

In this graphic novel, Miles and his mother set up a fundraiser for the island after a series of devastating earthquakes. Before they can even begin beyond the initial planning, their fundraiser is commandeered by one of the city's massively rich CEOs. This being a Marvel comic, and specifically a Spider-Man one, the CEO is obviously up to something (or many somethings).

The mysteries of a missing father, a gang of women robbers gaining powers, and the earthquakes all come together in ways that will be familiar to long time Super-Man fans. To new readers this book will be an entertaining primer.

Pablo Leon's artwork brings to mind the Miles that most of probably think of first, namely the one from Into the Spider-Verse (2018). The colors are warm, vibrant, and more lively than the palette used most often for Peter Parker or the pastels that seem to be Gwen's.

The book ends on a cliff hanger so hopefully there's a second volume in the works.

Four stars

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Cat Trick: 12/17/21

Cat Trick

Cat Trick by Sofie Kelly and Cassandra Campbell (Narrator) is the fourth book in the Magical Cats mystery series. The local businesses of Mayville Heights is trying to convince Legacy Tours to add their town to their luxury tours. Cofounder Mike Glazer is from the town and they feel that gives them an edge in their bid. Unfortunately he is found dead in a tent on the boardwalk.

Kathleen's magical cat, Hercules, makes the discovery. While everyone hopes his death was natural causes, she suspects it wasn't. Then her friend is accused in his death because of some obviously planted evidence.

This new murder investigation puts strains on Kathleen's relationship with Detective Marcus Gordon. She also has an impending deadline. Her contract with the library is coming to an end. Will she stay on longer or chose to go home to Boston? If she goes back to Massachusetts, what will happen to her cats?

The mystery is a mixture of business shenanigans and mistaken identity. I had the wrong idea as to who was impersonating whom, going for the solution from "The Truth in the Wine" (Father Brown, series 3, episode 9). Instead, the solution is a variation on that theme but on a different tangent.

The fifth book is: Final Catcall (2013).

Four stars

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There's a Ghost in This House: 12/15/21

There's a Ghost in This House

In There's a Ghost in This House by Oliver Jeffers a mysterious girl offers a tour of her Victorian house to the reader, asking if they see any ghosts. With a flip of some semi transparent pages, the ghosts are revealed to the reader but not to the host.

This is a beautiful picture book that fosters a sense of nostalgia for me. When I was a child in the 1970s-1980s, there were a bunch of different picture books that used variations on the trick Jeffers uses here. They would either reveal missing details, change the colors, or somehow graphically extend the story in a way a more traditional picture book wouldn't. I adored these books, and here all these years later, I still do.

Jeffer's book differs a little from the ones I remember because the added pages are semi-opaque, rather like frosted waxed paper. To hide the ghosts from the reader until the page is turned, they need to be this almost white color.

The house itself is rendered in muted earth colors. The ghosts are rendered as while sheet-like blobs with eyes. The only bright color is the tour guide who is done in a palette of greens and blues. The whole thing makes this a picture book equivalent to the delightfully weird film, A Ghost Story (2017) (minus the R rating).

Five stars

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More to the Story: 12/13/21

More to the Story

More to the Story by Hena Khan is a middle grade retelling / reimagining of Little Women. This time the sisters are an American Muslim family living in Georgia.

It's told from the point of view of Jameela "Jam" Mirza who wants to be a journalist and is currently the features editor on the school newspaper. She and her three sisters are upset and stressed by their father needing to take a job overseas. Then at home the youngest daughter is diagnosed with cancer.

The novel follows Jam as she tries to balance the demands of family, her missing father, her sick sister, a cousin moving here from England, with the stresses of school work, newspaper deadlines, and an editor who rubs her the wrong way.

I've only read Little Women once as a child. I didn't like it and haven't been interested in rereading it. What kept me reading here was Jam's strong voice, her observations on being a Muslim American, and her close knit family. All the sisters in this version have more agency than the original ones.

Five stars

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Kill the Farm Boy: 12/12/21

Kill the Farm Boy

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne is the first in the Tales of Pell fantasy series. A farm boy is told by a very disagreeable pixy that he's the Chosen One. Next to him his goat ends up with the ability to talk. Together the set off on their quest until a very tall warrior woman accidentally kills him.

Thus the quest becomes revive the farm boy. Except nothing goes anyone's way. It's one hiccup after another. Each thing that waylays them is more frustrating or disgusting than the next.

The novel is presented as a parody of the Chosen One fantasy tropes. It tries desperately to be a mixture of early Discworld (Terry Pratchett), the Myth Adventures (Robert Lynn Asprin), Xanth (Piers Anthony) and the Shrek films. It fails at being much like any of them and especially fails at having its own voice. Worse yet, it isn't funny.

The jokes always default to gross out humor. The set up to the jokes are broadcast so loud that there's no natural flow to the story. There's no character growth or anything else memorable. It's just a string of vaguely related gags all more or less related to Chosen One tropes and clichés.

The second book is No Country For Old Gnomes (2019) which I have on hand. We'll see if I manage to make my way through it.

Two stars

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Mulled to Death: 12/10/21

Mulled to Death

Mulled to Death by Kate Lansing and Brooke Hoover (Narrator) is the third book in the Colorado Wine mystery series. Parker Valentine is spending Valentine's weekend with her boyfriend, brother, and BFF at a ski resort. She's there to sell her wine along with a mulled wine recipe. She's not there to solve another murder.

But that's exactly what happens. When a ski run turns to tragedy, Parker was in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time to hear and see details that others missed. The death of the ski resort's founder and owner also means that Parker's trip won't result in those hoped for sales.

Mulled to Death with its setting at a ski resort during a storm gives the book a strong sense of place and a limited number of possible suspects. It's essentially a locked room mystery but on a larger scale. It makes for a compelling read with a satisfying ending.

I happened to listen to this mystery while scanning old slides from a family trip through Colorado. The audiobook made the perfect pairing for the task at hand.

Five stars

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Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven: 12/09/21

Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven

Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator) is the third of the Teen Titans graphic novels. Garfield "Gar" Logan and Raven Roth meet in Nashville. Both have been lured there by Slade but they've been told to keep their meetings a secret.

Raven, distracted by the fear she'll lose control over Trigon, ends up being a prime target for pickpockets. Gar who is more street aware is able to help her and it's through that initial meeting that they become friends.

In the Teen Titans animated series, Slade does his worst by sewing distrust among the Titans. He plays on their inability to openly communicate. Here, though, as two strangers in a strange town, Raven and Gar have exactly the opposite motivation. They have each other and they have a person they've been texting with. Quickly they become friends as familiar faces in an unfamiliar place are reassuring.

The graphic novel also uses their insecurities about their powers as the starting point for their friendship and later relationship. Gar is also written better here than he is in Teen Titans Go. He's respectful of Raven's boundaries and genuinely nice to her.

The fourth book in the series is Teen Titans: Robin. It releases sometime in 2022.

Five stars

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The House of Brides: 12/08/21

The House of Brides

The House of Brides by Jane Cockram is a family drama / mystery with Gothic undertones. Miranda has gone to England to her mother's family after receiving a letter from her cousin. She is drawn there by her mother's famous book, The House of Brides. Shortly after she arrives the house's current "bride" goes missing and Miranda suspects something sinister.

Miranda's in to the house comes when she's hired as a nanny for her young cousins. A house marred by tragedy and dripping with sinister sounding rumors, the novel begins with a Turn of the Screw (1898) vibe.

But with so much of the story's tension being built around the crumbling house and the now closed hotel (after Daphne's accident), the book settles into being a thematic blend between We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) and I Capture the Castle (1948). The Dottie Smith novel is even explicitly mentioned by the characters.

All of Miranda's time at Barnsley House places the novel on the road narrative spectrum as an outlier as the author is Australian. Miranda, returning to her family's ancestral home is part of a family of travelers (33). Her destination is uhoria (CC) to learn the history of the building as well as her mother's life there. Her route there is the cornfield / tkaronto (FF) as represented by the house's lake and it's association with Minerva island.

Four stars

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Little Black Book: 12/07/21

Little Black Book

Little Black Book by Kate Carlisle is the fifteenth book in the Bibliophile mystery series. Brooklyn receives a copy of Rebecca in the mail from her old friend Claire Quinn. Soon Claire is at her doorstep with a tale of a missing aunt and a ransacked home. When the people following Claire end up dead, Brooklyn and Derek jump into action.

The mystery takes everyone from San Francisco to Dharma to Scotland. Stakes are high from the sheer number of people who appear to be after the little black book and the number of bodies left in the wake of the search. The actual nuts and bolts of the mystery is something better suited for a kids' novel: think a mix of Enid Blyton and the 2017 incarnation of Ducktales.

That said, Little Black Book was an enjoyable read for its mix of codes, capers, and castles. Many of the previous books were more tension filled, so a break was nice.

The sixteenth book is The Paper Caper with a release date of June 7, 2022.

Five stars

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Muffled: 12/06/21


In Muffled by Jennifer Gennari, Amelia is a fifth grader with audio sensitivity. This year she's facing many challenges. The two biggies are going to school with only ear muffs instead of her noise canceling headphones and learning how to either play an instrument or joining the choir.

Gennari writes the book from Amelia's point of view. She never wavers from that intimate, emotional point of view. Amelia does want to be able to go to class and participate in music without being constantly reliant on noise canceling or muffling devices. But she wants to do it on her own schedule and at her own level of comfort.

I was concerned that too much emphasis would be put on the adults in Amelia's life. While there is frustration expressed by her parents, for the most part, the adults in her life are supportive and willing to let her set the pace. Interestingly too, many different adults share with her their ways of coping with loud sounds.

Five stars

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Fatal Cajun Festival: 12/05/21

Fatal Cajun Festival

Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron and Amy Melissa Bentley (Narrator) is the fifth book in the Cajun Country mystery series. The Crozat B&B is playing host to the headliner of the Cajun Country Live! music festival. Tammy Barker was a local girl who won a national talent show that launched her career. Now she back but she has a bad history with Gaynell and seems hell bent on picking up where she left off.

Remarkably it's not Tammy who ends up dead. Instead it's her manager — electrocuted by Tammy's favorite mic. With Gaynell high on the short list of suspects, Maggie realizes she needs to find the real killer to clear her friend of suspicion.

The set up and execution of this murder and then the subsequent sleuthing reminded me of a mashup of two Midsomer Murders plots: "The Creeper" (Series 12, Episode 6) and "The Axeman Cometh" (Series 10, Episode 4). I don't mind the similarities but it did make seeing the big picture easier for me.

Book six is Murder in the Bayou Boneyard (2020).

Five stars

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The Witch King: 12/04/21

The Witch King

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon is the first part of a YA fantasy duology. Wyatt Croft left fae to live with a foster family in Texas. Now his financé (and heir to the throne) has shown up on his doorstep begging him to come home.

The draw for this book was the engagement between a cis prince and a trans man, especially where the two knew each other as children. I was also interested in there being a fae kingdom in Upstate New York.

Unfortunately nothing really jelled for me. Now, granted, I'm not the target audience as I'm about thirty years beyond the intended age range. If I were younger, I probably would have gushed over every angsty moment between Prince Emyr and Wyatt.

There's an unexpected twist at the climax that had I not just read another book that uses the same twist (To Coach a Killer), I would have been completely floored. It did add some excitement and opened up the second book to more romance and hopefully less angst.

The second book is The Fae Keeper, scheduled for release on May 31, 2022.

Three stars

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To Coach a Killer: 12/03/21

To Coach a Killer

To Coach a Killer by Victoria Laurie is the second book in the Life Coach mystery series. Cat and Gilley are trying to coach a literally cursed client. Meanwhile, they are also trying to solve the murder of Detective Shepherd's wife.

Of course the moment you start investigating something, someone ends up dead. And if you mention a curse, a cursed thing happens. So this book has a lot of both. All of this is set against an impending storm which adds tension and suspense.

In the long run, To Coach a Killer reads like it's the back half of Coached to Death (2019). There really isn't a motivating factor or event to set the plot in motion. The unsolved murder from the first book is the narrative hook.

The climax of this mystery has the emotional and visceral punch of Condominium by John D. MacDonald (!977). This climatic turn of events is broadcast early and frequently throughout the novel. That said, it still hits hard when it does. Had the climax turned out differently, I would have dropped my rating.

For readers who aren't fans of love triangles, you might want to skip this book. Cat has her way with the two men in her life. Both scenes are well written and entertaining. I'm not normally a love triangle person, but it works here.

The third book is Coached in the Act (2021).

Five stars

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November 2021 Sources: 12/02/21

Previous month's book sources

The slide scanning project is keeping me very busy. I'm spending much of my free time working on it instead of reading.

ROOB Score for the last three years

In November I read 15 TBR books, down from October's 17 TBR. I read no books published in November. Four books were for research. None were for review. The lack of new books lowered my score from -3.73 to -4.58. It's my best November I've had in twelve years.

ROOB score mapped year after year to compare trends

I was completely wrong about the direction my ROOB score would take last month. I think this month will also be another low one.

ROOB monthly averages

My average for November improved from -2.55 to -2.72.

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A Study in Murder: 12/01/21

A Study in Murder

A Study in Murder by Callie Hutton and Rosie Akerman (Narrator) is the first in the Victorian Book Club mystery series. Lady Amy Lovell has broken her engagement to Mr. Ronald St. Vincent. He comes to call on her and ends up stabbed to death. Amy is the prime suspect but with her experience as a mystery author, she feels she can solve the mystery before the police do.

Working alongside Amy is Lord William Wethington. They are both members of a local mystery book club. They're currently reading A Study in Scarlet, although the choice of book has very little to do with Mr. St. Vincent's murder. In most mysteries where there's a book club or a character reading something, the reading material informs or relates to the present day murder. It's unusual that this mystery missed that opportunity.

Much of this first mystery is spent fixated on Victorian senses of propriety. Yes, the British class system and aristocracy is layered and nuanced but I swear the honorifics here are used more as padding than to add a sense of realism. British books with titled characters don't spend as much time with the honorifics as this book does.

I happened to listen to the audio and usually the narrator doesn't get in the way of enjoying the mystery. Here though, Akerman's attempts at doing different voices ends up in panto territory. The best ones are nasally but otherwise in offensive. The detective, though, has a voice that is best suited to Mr. Punch. In the context of this book, it's literally painful. Interestingly, there's a different narrator for the second book.

The second book is The Sign of Death (2021).

Three stars

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November 2021 Summary: 12/01/21

Reading report

November had a brief COVID scare that turned out to be a bad cold. It did mean a few days of quarantine and another test. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our daughters and my husband's parents.

I read fewer books in November, 21, down from 22 in the previous month. Of my November read books, twelve were diverse. I am still only reviewing on days I finish a book. I'm rather enjoying the slower pace, but am forced to face the reality I might miss my reading goal for the first time in more than a decade. In November I reviewed 19 books, down, from 21 the previous month. On the reviews front, thirteen qualified. Four read books were queer and six reviewed were.

I have 24 books of the 277 books read this year to review.

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