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I will be on vacation from August 8-14th. Blog updates will resume on August 15th.

February 2022


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: 2022-2023

Beat the Backlist 2022



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Birds of Lake Merritt: 02/28/22

Birds of Lake Merritt

Birds of Lake Merritt by Alex Harris is a short, extremely focused book about Oakland history and the birds who have benefited. This book is a rare gem among the birding books I've read.

Birding is a regional thing. Birds have their routes, their favorite watering holes, their homes, their hunting grounds. For a big chunk of continental North America, the seasonal migrations are north and south going from Canada through the United States down to Mexico or even further south. The big name birding books are written for people who live in these typical flyover areas.

But— there are exceptions to these migratory patterns. There are areas where "typical" species just don't visit. California is one of those places. The Sierra Nevada mountains cut us off. Many of our migrations are East-West, rather than North-South. California also has some year round populations of species that would otherwise migrate.

Alex Harris's book is only concerned with waterbirds that live at or visit Lake Merritt. Beyond this being a book that helps identify a specific subset of birds, it's also a history of the lake and of Oakland.

I sincerely hope Harris is at work on another Bay Area birding book.

Five stars

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Light Years From Home: 02/27/22

Light Years From Home

Light Years From Home by Mike Chen opens in space. Jakob is fleeing for his life and his best escape is to return to Earth. At home, though, we get chapters from his sisters: Evie, Jakob's UFO obsessed twin, and Kass, their older, jaded, responsible sister who has been singlehandedly caring for their mother who has lost her memories to dementia sometime back.

From the very get-go, the initial chapter and those following from Jakob's POV are called into question. Has he really been fighting an intergalactic war all these years? Of is he also suffering from mental illness like his mother?

As I tend to take a story at face value, meaning I started the book fully invested in Jakob's story, I was immediately reminded of similar stories. The first to come to mind is the film Flight of the Navigator (1986), although Jakob appears to have aged at a similar rate to his family (and I'll admit this detail bothered me a bit). Near light speed "time travel" due to relativity isn't a theme in this book but there's still the general missing family member returns to find his family irrevocably changed.

For the middle, the novel dances around themes from Shutter Island (2003) and we're once again asked to see if Jakob could be interpreting mundane aspects of Earth life into something more extraordinary for a space war themed delusion. When forced to, he can tell fairly convincing lies that place him on Earth for the entirety of his absence from home. There's also an E.T. (1982) vibe running through most of the book. The FBI is present and they are interested in Jakob. Their interest could prevent him from carrying out his mission, whether it's all in his head or actually out in space somewhere.

The thematic thread that holds these other homages together, though, is one that I thought was in my head. Although Jakob is canonically Chinese-Filipino/American he gave me a Luke from the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House. Anyone who has read my blog in the last three years, knows I've been obsessed with the book and adaptation. So, I fully expected the twin dynamics and mental illness themes of Light Years from Home to be feeding into my own personal head-canon. Nope, it's actual canon as mentioned in the author's afterword.

Like the Hill House source material (in both forms), Chen's novel is also on the Road Narrative Spectrum.

I've enjoyed all of Mike Chen's novels but Light Years from Home is to date, my favorite. As Jakob is sojourning on Earth with an ultimate goal of returning to his life in space, his journey doesn't count. But, there's a short trip during the climax that he takes with his family that does. A road trip to the lake where everything began fifteen years earlier is instrumental to Jakob succeeding.

As Jakob travels with his mother and sisters, collectively they are a family of travelers (33). Their destination is somewhere rural (the lake) (33). Their route their is a series of country roads, or Blue Highways (33). Thus the last act of the novel can be summarized as family traveling to a rural place via the Blue Highway (333333).

Five stars

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The Heart Principle: 02/26/22

The Heart Principle

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang is the third romance in the Kiss Quotient series. Anna Sun is a violinist who has reached burnout in her career. She can no longer finish a piece of music. On top of that her boyfriend has suggested they see other people before they decide to get engaged. Anna does the unexpected and decides to have a one night stand. Quan has his own issues but goes to Anna's anyway. They hit it off as friends but get nowhere in the one night stand department. Even though neither one wants to admit it, there's a definite chemistry between them. It's a dorky, awkward, completely wholesome connection.

This book differs though in that it was written during the early days of quarantine. That sensibility is translated into a painfully real second half where Anna is forced to care for her father after he survives a massive stroke. This section isn't an easy read, especially for anyone who has had to care for a parent or grandparent.

The novel also takes a more autobiographical turn as the author explains in an afterword. In the book Anna is diagnosed as autistic. The final act of this romance then is Anna finally recognizing that she's in full burnout. Throughout all of this trials in her life — her father's hospice and the burnout — Quan is there.

I know this is the final book but I feel like there was so much for Anna and Quan to survive that they didn't get a proper romance. I'd like a chance to revisit them in happier times just to see how they're doing.

Four stars

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Once Upon a Seaside Murder: 02/24/22

Once Upon a Seaside Murder

Once Upon a Seaside Murder by Maggie Blackburn and Christa Lewis (Narrator) is the second in the Beach Reads mystery series. Summer Merriwether ends up hosting an author at her house after she receives death threats. Then the author is kidnapped and Summer's world is turned upside down.

The trouble stems from a mystery that draws heavily on a local cold case — a murder that happened 35 years ago, the winter before Summer was born. The cold case is related to Summer's extended family — the ones she's only just learned about.

Two books now in this series have been directly related to Summer's life and family. Once Upon a Seaside Murder reads like a rehash of the first book. It doesn't work as well as a continuation of a larger mystery as To Coach a Killer by Victoria Laurie (2020) is to Coached to Death (2019).

Three stars

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Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky: 02/23/22

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Daniel Minter (Illustrations) is a forty page picture book that gives a concise history of the color blue. The book touches on five different sources of blue pigment over recorded human history.

Previous books that cover pigments focus primarily on three things: time in history, location, and source of the pigment. It might also include who used said pigment and some famous pieces of art or other well known uses. These books are also usually focused on the European art history narrative.

Blue bucks the trend. Yes, it includes the usual what, where and when but it also takes time to address the human costs. It addresses how labor intensive these pigments can be. It talks frankly about how slavery made indigo such a successful and profitable business to be in.

Daniel Minter's illustrations blend the information of the text into a single visual. The pieces are often monochromatic. If a particular pigment can also be another color, that other color is sometimes used. Primarily, though, the pages are different shades of blue, befitting a book about that hue.

Five stars

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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder: 02/22/22

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico is the third of the Catering Hall mysteries. Mia Carina's neighborhood is decked out for Christmas and the competition between streets is fierce. To complicate things, a murdered man is found in Santa's Workshop!

At work the catering hall is keeping Mia busy. She has two high concept events to plan. One is a nativity themed first birthday party and the other is a sweet sixteen party for a girl who just can't be satisfied.

Tied up in all of this chaos is cousin Lorenzo who just learned a huge family secret. He's angry that it's been kept from him. He was also the mark of a would be con and for a while he tried to use this situation to get back at his family. Now that the grifter is dead, he has regrets.

This past December was a rare one for me reading-wise in that I read a bunch of holiday themed mysteries. DiRico's, like most of the others, shares a theme of the chaos before the holidays. Each amateur sleuth seems to have her hands full with numerous obligations and the existential dread that their efforts will be for naught. For Mia the stakes are higher because they directly affect her business and her family.

Another recurring theme in recent mysteries is the child out of wedlock only now learning the truth as an adult. In this case, it's Lorenzo who has to come to terms with the truth, while it's Mia who is burdened with smoothing things with her extended family — on top of all her other responsibilities in the run up to Christmas.

I found Lorenzo's response to the situation — especially early on — to be petty. He brought a lot more unnecessary trouble unto himself and his family. Now if he hadn't put on this show there wouldn't have been much of a mystery.

Four stars

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Love Your Life: 02/20/22

Love Your Life

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella is a romance that starts at a writing retreat in Italy. "Aria" meets "Dutch." They have a fantastic week together and decide to keep the no filters approach to their relationship back in London when she's Ava and he's Matt.

At home, she's too Bohemian. She's too into rescuing dubious things: old book, falling apart furniture, Harold the beagle. Meanwhile, he's too business oriented, too into modern art, and has uncomfortable furniture.

At play is a similar dynamic to the early romance of Becky and Luke (see Confessions of a Shopaholic. Here though Ava's not as extreme in her interests and obsessions. Most of the humor of their relationship comes from the dynamics of those around them: friends, roommates, and Harold.

Four stars

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Mister Miracle: The Great Escape: 02/17/22

Mister Miracle: The Great Escape

Mister Miracle: The Great Escape by Varian Johnson and Daniel Isles (Illustrator) features a 1970s DC hero in his pre-hero backstory. All I know of him going into this book is that Big Barda, whom he later marries, is among the infamous fridged loved ones, and thus inspired The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente (2017).

But this is the before times. Barda is the new head of the Furies, there to keep Scott Free under control at Goodness Academy. The school is part of a hellscape on a dystopian, war ravaged planet. Scott has been working on a plan to escape to earth, in particular to save the daughter of his mentor, and if he can pull it off, his closest friends.

The set up of a need for immediate escape, the high stakes danger, a prophesy, and a cast of characters with varying level of trustworthiness creates the narrative environment for the sort of caper Varian Johnson has proven he can write. As a standalone it's a quick page-turner. It's just a pity to know how things will turn out, especially given how interesting and nuanced Johnson has made the early friendship between Scott and Barda.

Four stars

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Death Over Easy: 02/16/22

Death Over Easy

Death Over Easy by Maddie Day and Laural Merlington (Narrator) is the fifth book in the County Store mystery series. Robbie Jordan is excited about the music festival. She's a fan of blue grass. Her restaurant is seeing an uptick in business and her newly opened B&B is booked.

But then the murders begin. As the bodies are found in the unincorporated area of the county, Robbie's forced to work with people she doesn't know and to her, don't seem as on the ball. To make matters worse, the authorities are eying Robbie's Italian father and his wife as possible suspects. To clear their names, she has to investigate yet again.

This mystery beyond the initial murder is a slow burn. There's a lot of waiting for Robbie et al to put together some pretty obvious clues. Granted, Robbie was distracted because her family was involved but in previous volumes she's been quicker on the uptake. I swear I spent two-thirds of this one groaning as I waited for characters to put the pieces together.

The sixth book is Strangled Eggs and Ham (2019).

Four stars

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Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything: 02/14/22

Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything

Invisible Kingdom, Volume 2: Edge of Everything by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward (Artist) is the second volume, collecting issues six through ten. Our intrepid delivery crew and their ship have been captured and now they need to decide: try to escape or give up and become crew? Meanwhile the None is in heat for lack of a better word and has her eyes on the captain.

After the first volume's breakneck pace, I understand the need to a breather volume but damn, this one is glacial. If we stall them in space while the bigger threats are gathering, maybe we can up the sexual tension between characters?

No. I don't care enough about any of the Sundog's crew or the None they picked up. With the scavenger plot feeling like Firefly fanfic, the sexual tension here reads like Shepherd Book suddenly getting the hots for Mal Reynolds.

There's a third volume In Other Worlds. If I read it, I'll borrow it from the library.

Three stars

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The Witch's Apprentice: 02/13/22

The Witch's Apprentice

The Witch's Apprentice by Zetta Elliott is the third book in the Dragons in a Bag middle grade urban fantasy series. There's a magical illness affecting adults, giving them extreme fatigue. Ma and the Coven believe it's Blue again. The answer to their problem, though, lies in Chicago.

Once in the Windy City, though, Jax finds himself shunned by Ma and the other witches he traveled with. He's put in the care of a man who gives him tours of Chicago which include magical and Black history. Jax, though, has a secret of his own, in the form of a phoenix entrusted to him by his friend Vik.

As the afterword confirms, this volume is a pandemic book. There's a huge tonal shift — a sadness and a cynicism that wasn't in the previous books. But there's also hope for the younger generations (aka the intended readers of this book) that they will be able to step up in these changing times and make the world a better place.

There's also a huge cliffhanger. Hopefully this means the publisher is onboard for a fourth book. Also included in the afterword, the author explains how this book was initially a struggle to get published.

Chart showing the three books and the series' progression through the Road Narrative Spectrum.

Like the previous two books, The Witch's Apprentice sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. At first glance, with Jax feeling smug about being Ma's apprentice, it appears that he and the others he's traveling with collectively are privileged. But the history lessons Jax receives along the way drive home the fact that Black witches are doubly marginalized (66).

The destination is the city (00), in this case Chicago. Jax's time there gives the reader a chance to learn about the city's history, especially it's Black history, though there is also time given to the native peoples who lived there before the lands were taken to make the city.

The route there is via the railroad (00). Specifically it's by the Underground Railroad. Like The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016), the UR as Ma calls it, is a literal underground railroad with magical properties. The stations and other aspects of its function, though, reminds me more of some of the secret travel methods in the Samantha Spinner series by Russell Ginns.

All together, The Witch's Apprentice is a tale of marginalized travelers going to the city via the railroad (660000).

Five stars

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Night Owl: 02/12/22

Night Owl

Night Owl by Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, and Lauren Myracle is the eighth book in the Upside Down Magic series. It's the Big Night (Winter Solstice) and that means the annual sleepover scavenger hunt at Dunwiddle school. For Nory, this is a bittersweet event; it's the last time Elliott will be participating before he switches schools.

The barebones plot is very similar to the previous book, Hide and Seek (2020). The big difference is the setting. Dunwiddle is home territory and not as imposing or snooty as Sage. Together the books make an interesting dialog as Elliott gets ready to transition to being a student at Sage.

As with the other books in the series, the obvious possible endings aren't where this plot ends up. The resolution, though, is in keeping with the greater upside down magic theme — of working with one's differences to one's advantage and the importance of making accommodations where ever possible.

My one head-scratcher though is how Sebastian's upside down flicker abilities are treated. Throughout the series Sebastian's ability to see sound waves has been growing. Along with that ability has come increased discomfort to the point that in this book he has to wear dark sunglasses and the sound cone around his head consistently while around other people. Throughout this novel he's described as being in incredible pain from the overstimulation. The glasses make sense but why not have him ear noise canceling headphones or ear protectors? These accommodations already exist and would probably be less cumbersome than a cone!

Five stars

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Final Catcall: 02/10/22

Final Catcall

Final Catcall by Sofie Kelly is the fifth book in the Magical Cats mystery series. A nearby festival is forced to relocate to Mayville Heights, including the theatrical troupe. The play's director, Hugh Davis, sets about making a complete ass of himself until he ends up murdered.

When Kathleen happens upon Davis's body, she also finds evidence of fraud and blackmail. She feels compelled to investigate his murder. If anything it's a good distraction from her confusing love life between her iffy relationship with Marcus and the return of her ex, Andrew, who wants to bring her back to Boston.

The basics of this mystery from how it unfolds and the various suspects reminds me of Double or Muffin by Victoria Hamilton (2021). Where Merry has Pish to keep her on her toes, Kathleen has Owen and Hercules, her magical cats.

In the previous books Kathleen has been working through a temporary contract and has to decide whether or not she will agree to a full time, long term contract at the library. Here she finally agrees that Mayville Heights is her home. She also wasn't in the mood for entertaining a love triangle, thank goodness.

The sixth book is A Midwinter's Tail (2014).

Four stars

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Operation Sisterhood: 02/09/22

Operation Sisterhood

Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is about a recently blended family trying to come together after a bunch of changes. Tokunbo "Bo" and her mum are now part of a large co-parenting family in a Harlem brownstone. She now has three other sisters, a new mom, a new step-dad and a new dad. Her situation can best be described as the Lottereys meet the Vanderbeekers.

Before the marriage and move to Harlem, Bo and Mum had been planning a trip to Paris and Nigeria. Frankly, that's the book I want to read. Operation Sisterhood after the move never really found its footing. There were enough problems happening at once to each be a novel, as happens in the Vanderbeeker series.

The first problem is Bo's adjustment to no longer being an only child. She has new siblings, a new home, a house full of pets. Then she has to go from public school to home schooling. Frankly this choice in the middle of a school year surprised me the most — just because it's hard to switch gears like that (just on the paperwork alone). Then there's the goal to throw a wedding reception / block party for Bo's Mum and Bill. Following that is a financial crunch after the main income earner loses his job. Finally there is the sisters' desire to start a band.

The novel goes from problem to problem with little in the way of segue or even narrative progression. There isn't much in the way of resolution — which, sure, is a mirror of real life — but doesn't work in book form. Again, there's enough going on to make a series, whether a series of books or television series. As one solitary book, though, it doesn't work.

Five stars

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Oddball: 02/08/22

Oddball

Oddball by Sarah Andersen is the fourth Sarah Scribbles collection. It's also the shortest by a few pages.

This book covers the comics that came out during the early months of the pandemic. They're focused on living with cats, the creative process, social awkwardness, finding someone as weird as yourself, and changing priorities as we age.

As Sarah Scribbles is the one webcomic I somehow manage to follow, maybe because she posts about as often as I remember to read, there weren't any surprises in this volume. Nonetheless, it's nice to have them all together in one easy to read offline volume.

Five stars

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Dark Chocolate Demise: 02/07/22

Dark Chocolate Demise

Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay is the seventh book in the Cupcake Bakery mystery series. It's spooky season and the food truck is out at the Old Town Zombie Walk. They've brought along a casket for customers to take selfies in, until a woman who could be Angie's twin is murdered and her body is left inside.

This is the novel that follows directly on the heels of Sugar and Iced (2014) where Mel's boyfriend breaks up with her because of a boss case he's prosecuting. Now it appears that the family is going after Mel's friends.

I have to admit that before Mel figures out that the dead woman isn't Angie, I stopped the audiobook to read the descriptions of later books in the series. I wanted to see if Angie was really dead or just mistakenly dead. I would have continued reading either way — but this body discovery was the first one to take me by surprise in a while.

I should also note that I'm not a fan of mob plots. I saw that with full knowledge that I'm reading and enjoying Maria DiRico's Catering Hall mystery series. What differs there is that it follows a family that has chosen to go legitimate. The mob isn't an all seeing, all present, amorphous threat as has become in this series.

Most of this book is reactionary. Mel and Angie and the men in their lives are reacting to the murder. There's very little in the way of investigating in this volume. Instead there is baking and handwringing.

Then when Mel and Angie do finally decide to investigate, they instantly end up in danger. It's honestly a mystery based around victim shaming. The murderer's reasoning ends up being both obvious (to the observant reader) and ridiculous. There are so many other ways they could have achieved the same goal and done it more successfully that didn't involve the Cupcake Bakery.

The eighth book is Vanilla Beaned (2016)

Three stars

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Kat Hats: 02/06/22

Kat Hats

Kat Hats by Daniel Pinkwater and Aaron Renier (Illustrator) is a new picture book that crossed my path at the right time. Matt Katz and his family run a very special haberdashery, one made up entirely of expertly trained cats. Among them is Thermal Herman 6-7/8 who is best trained chat chapeau.

On a particularly cold and snowy day, a friend of the family comes in worried about his mother. She's wandered into the forest eating an especially large popsicle, without her hat. He's worried brain freeze with lead to a total body freeze. So it's Thermal Herman 6-7/8 to the rescue!

Cats as hats is one of those things I didn't expect to see in a book — even one by Daniel Pinkwater whose works tend towards Dadaist humor. Yet, there it was, crossing my screen on one of the social media platforms I was scrolling through. Very rarely do I literally stop what I'm doing to not only buy a book but then read said book. Kat Hats is one of those very rare exceptions.

From 1995-2014 I had a calico cat (see my blog's mascot). She was a self trained chat chapeau, though as she got older, only when I was sitting. Caligula liked to wrap herself around my head, draping her self on my shoulders. She went for a cat cloche or maybe a beret. So Thermal Herman 6-7/8 and his fellow cat hats had an instant warm spot in my heart.

Aaron Renier's colorful illustrations fill the book with diverse characters, from the people to the cats, and two magical characters. There's a lot going on for most pages, so be prepared to stop to take it all in, especially if you're reading it to a visually focused audience.

Five stars

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Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal: 02/05/22

Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal

Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal by Shauna Holyoak is the follow up to Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers. Someone is targeting the Denver comic book stores in the run up to the release of a highly anticipated movie. Kazu's friends believe they can solve the case by harnessing their individual skills and special interests.

Kazu's head isn't in the game fully. She's worried about her mother. Her grandmother has come all the way from Japan to help out while her mother spends most of her time in bed recovering from a mysterious illness.

The comic book mystery with its ties to tagging reminded me of Finding Mighty by Sheela Chari (2017). The stakes though are different here and the risks Kazu takes are more a reaction to her inner turmoil than to an immediate external danger.

The side plot with the mother probably would have gone completely over my head if I were the target age. However as an adult I recognized immediately what was going on. I suspect this plot will be painfully familiar to some tween readers too if they have a parents who has gone through similar.

Five stars

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Hundreds and Hundreds of Pancakes: 02/04/22

Hundreds and Hundreds of Pancakes

Hundreds and Hundreds of Pancakes by Audrey Chalmers is an oddball gem of a picture book from 1942. Mother is busy making pancakes while the kids are setting the table. Father announces that there's a hurricane brewing. Instantly it's time to batten down the hatches. The pancakes will have to wait.

Once upon a time children's fiction could send houses elsewhere via an unexpected wind storm — be it cyclone (tornado) or here a hurricane. Houses would come off their foundations, spin around and end up someplace else, rather than being smashed to pieces.

In this case, the house ends up in a field outside of town. Surrounding their house are all the escaped zoo animals. Fortunately for everyone, the father is an assistant zookeeper!

This book uses a goofy line of logic to set up the situation (the hurricane), the problem (escaped, hungry animals), the solution (pancakes!), further problems (not enough flour), a new solution (a hungry giraffe and one last pancake). It sounds ridiculous but it works through it's sheer belief in its internal logic.

Hundreds and Hundreds of Pancakes also has a placement in the Road Narrative Spectrum. The travelers are a family (33). Their destination is a rural one (33). Their route there (and home) is an offroad one (66).

Four stars

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A Killer Sundae: 02/03/22

A Killer Sundae

A Killer Sundae by Abby Collette is the third book in the Ice Cream Parlor mystery series. Crewse Creamery now has a food truck and it's out for its first big event, the Harvest Time Festival, when Win's ex-friend dies shortly after eating one of the creamery's sundaes. Although the sundae isn't the cause of death, Win is once again pulled into investigating a murder.

Win is another mystery series main character who is following the recent trend of trying to refuse to investigate. In previous books Win has been pulled along by her best friend. This time, though, her bestie is laid up with chicken pox for most of the book.

I'm rather split brained about the reluctant sleuth, especially by the third book. It's a delicate balance to reach between making a amateur sleuth seem realistic: keeping them focused on their job, life, and family, while also keeping the mystery's narrative progressing. In Win's case, she does have a natural curiosity that allows friends and acquaintances to pique and get her back on the case. Also, this time she had a family mystery in the form of an old cookbook that kept her thinking about the murder too.

Five stars

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The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage: 02/02/22

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage

The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage by Jeff Lemire and Denys Cowan (Illustrator) is a four issue/four chapter comic/graphic novel about a man trying to save his home from evil.

He as the "the Question" is a faceless hero, while his enemy is a man of many faces. The tale of Vic Sage is set across three different eras and structurally similar to the longer Gideon Falls. Like every other Jeff Lemire story I've read, this one also sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum.

The protagonist regardless of which era he's in or which name he uses, is explicitly an orphan — as in raised in an orphanage (FF). That automatically makes him the most powerful of travelers and the most likely to survive the ultimate evil.

The destination is a uhoric one (CC), begun in the present day. The goal is to understand the past in order to save the future. As the comic progresses, the protagonist's previous lives begin to meld together in a fashion similar how the dimensions bleed together in the final chapters of Gideon Falls.

The route is the maze. The protagonist and people near him do die, have died. The question of The Question is whether or not the present day hero will survive.

I think if I'd read The Question by itself without having read Gideon Falls, I would have enjoyed this book more. As it is, it seems rather repetitive and derivative. The one saving grace though is this story is self contained to a single volume.

Three stars

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January 2022 Sources: 02/02/22

Previous month's book sources

The slides scanning project and my art are two things taking higher priority than reading. Therefore I've lowered my goal this year to 200 from 300.

ROOB Score for the last three years

In January I read 11 TBR books, down from December's 26 TBR. I read five books published in January. Three books were for research. One was from the library. The five new books raised my score from -4.28 to -1.8, my highest score (meaning worst) in the last three years. It isn't, though, my worst January in all twelve years of tracking.

ROOB score mapped year after year to compare trends

I under estimated my score for January, predicting something in the -2.5 to -3 range. For February I am sticking with last month's prediction: -2.5.

ROOB monthly averages

My average for January worsened slightly from -2.43 to -2.38.

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High-Wire Henry: 02/01/22

High-Wire Henry

High-Wire Henry by Mary Calhoun and Erick Ingraham (Illustrations) is the third book in the Henry the Siamese cat picture book series. Of the other books in the series I've read, this one is a departure from the usual formula as it's set at home.

Henry and his family are at home and the quiet is disrupted by the addition of a puppy. Henry to distract himself from the annoying creature learns how to tightrope walk after watching a squirrel. Henry, though, takes a very anthropomorphic approach to the high-wire.

Another departure from the other books I've read is Henry's heroism. Typically he gets himself into trouble and has to get himself out of it through extraordinary puzzle solving / feats of physical prowess (for a cat). This time though he puts those skills towards saving the puppy from a bad fall and ultimately does a very cat thing when he scruffs the dog.

The fourth book is Henry the Sailor Cat (1994).

Four stars

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January 2022 Summary: 02/01/22

Reading report

January started with my husband traveling for a week and catching COVID while on a layover in Phoenix. Fortunately he'd had his third shot so the symptoms were like the worst cold and sinus infection ever. The rest of us managed to avoid catching it.

I read fewer books in January, 23, down from 32 in the previous month. Of my January read books, 14 were diverse. I am still primarily reviewing on days I finish a book, although I had some days in January where I finished two books. For 2022, I have lowered my reading goal from 300 to 200 books and so far I am ahead of schedule. In January I reviewed 22 books, down, from 24 the previous month. On the reviews front, fifteen qualified. Five read and nine reviewed books were queer.

I have 20 books remaining from 2021 and 12 of the 23 books read in 2022 to review.

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