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April 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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Komi Can't Communicate, Volume 1: 04/30/22

Komi Can't Communicate, Volume 1

Komi Can't Communicate, Volume 1 by Tomohito Oda is the start of a manga (now also an anime) about a high schooler who has social anxiety bad enough she has trouble talking. Her time at school is seen primarily through her friendship with Tadano, a wallflower who is very good a reading people.

The scenarios fall into a couple different types. The first is Komi being in a situation where she'll be expected to talk and how she gets around that expectation. The second is how she is perceived: either gorgeous and aloof or stern and angry.

Sometimes though, we get glimpses of Komi outside of how she is perceived by her classmates. In these brief moments she's drawn not much differently than how Tadano is drawn, save for being taller and wearing a different uniform. For this reason I don't agree with the few reviews that criticize the manga for Komi's unnatural beauty.

I plan to continue reading the series.

Four stars

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The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller: 04/28/22

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller by Cleo Coyle is the sixth book in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series. It's also the first one attributed to Cleo Coyle instead of Alice Kimberly. Both are nom de plumes for a married couple. The book also marks a decade gap between books. As I only started reading the series a year ago, all the drama that long term fans of the series experienced, I missed.

The store is doing well. There's a new best seller that's selling like hotcakes. Everyone seems to be reading it — a crossover hit for men and women. Pen doesn't think anything about the book's success until a well dressed older woman sees the book, freaks out, and flees the store before paying for the copy she's holding. When Pen goes to find the woman, she stumbles onto the first of a string of murders associated with the book.

Like the previous books, Pen's modern day mystery is eerily similar to a case Jack investigated in his life time. The difference here, is that there's actually a cold case of sorts between Jack's time and the present. This case dates back to the late 1960s, early 1970s.

Ignoring the ghostly PI, the mystery's structure reads like a mixture of Coached in the Act by Victoria Laurie (2021) and Ghostal Living by Kathleen Bridge (2017). This is a mystery that requires the reader keep three timelines separate in their head if they want to solve the mystery before the main character.

As with the previous books in this series, I have been listening to them as audiobooks. Early on Jack had many more first person scenes than he does in more recent volumes. In The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller, Jack's only first person scene is the prolog. Yet, for reasons that escape me, the man hired to read Jack's prolog is also given the epilog to read. The problem: the epilog is clearly written from Pen's point of view!

The seventh book is The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait (2021).

Five stars

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Cherish Farrah: 04/27/22

Cherish Farrah

Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow is a YA thriller / horror about a long friendship between the only two Black girls at an elite high school. Cherish is white girl spoiled, having been adopted by doting white parents. Farrah has Black parents but has been almost like Cherish's twin since their early childhood.

The novel is written from Farrah's point of view. She is an unreliable narrator. How she sees things has been warped over time. The why and how of that warping is a big chunk of the underlying mystery.

The illusion of the perfect friendship begins to unravel when Farrah's parents are forced to sell their home. If she had gone with them, Cherish Farrah would have been a very different novel.

Unfortunately Farrah's grip on everything that is presented to the reader made for some pacing issues. The majority of the book is in her head. She analyzes everything, sometime excessively so. There were times I wanted to pull back to see the world from a different point of view.

Three stars

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Crosshairs: 04/25/22

Crosshairs

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez is a near future dystopian novel set in Ontario, Canada. The events are narrated by Queen Kay, a drag queen who has been in hiding, separated from a lover named Evan.

Told in alternating timelines from the present to the various events in Kay's life, it's up to the reader to piece together everything into the bigger picture. A business man promising to fix Toronto's economy and solve the problems of homelessness and unemployment ends up turning the city and then the province into a police state.

Anyone who isn't white and straight is labeled an Other. They are systematically targeted, rounded up, and forced into his "work program" which to anyone not immediately benefiting from these moves will readily admit they're modern day concentration camps. The fact that the term "Other" is the one chosen, though, shows the author's experience as a screenwriter. It's a term that comes up in film theory, used exactly as it is Crosshairs.

Like so many of these dystopian stories, the focus is extremely narrow. While the program is described as being spread out to other provinces, there isn't much else in the way of a birds' eye view. The United States is mentioned briefly when the president dies, but that's it for the rest of the world.

Crosshairs, though is written as a very personal account, a surviver's tale. It's short, focused, and emotionally brutal.

Five stars

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Clash: 04/24/22

Clash

Clash by Kayla Miller is the fourth book in the Click series. A new girl joins the school, Natasha, and from the very first day she seems hell bent on making Olive's life miserable. What's she going to do to keep her friends and her mental health?

After three books, I'd expect Olive to have more of a backbone. I found myself siding with her aunt in this volume. She had the best advice — basically telling her to stand up to Natasha and tell her no the next time she makes an unreasonable demand.

Meanwhile, Olive's mother continues to insist that Olive should be nice to everyone regardless of her own daughter's mental and emotional well being. It really distressed me seeing how completely clueless and lacking in empathy the mother was.

Thankfully for Olive, Natasha shows her true colors and even her friends notice. Ultimately the moral seems to e that it takes a village to defeat a bully. Of course in the end, after she eggs Olive's house, Natasha is shown to be a sympathetic character with her own troubles at home. That gives Olive the opening to swoop in and do her thing, thus turning a frenemy into a full fledged friend.

There's a fifth book in the works, Crunch with a release date of August 30, 2022.

Four stars

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Oh My Gods! The Forgotten Maze: 04/22/22

Oh My Gods! The Forgotten Maze

Oh My Gods! The Forgotten Maze by Stephanie Cooke, Insha Fitzpatrick, and Juliana Moon (Illustrations) picks up where the last volume let off. Karen has settled into her new life at Mt Olympus and has been invited to write for the Chariot, the school news paper.

She wants to write about an online game she enjoys with her friends back home. But now a mysterious troll has started interrupting her gaming sessions. He goes by the moniker M1n0t4ur. As this volume is subtitled The Forgotten Maze, it's clear to the astute reader that he's probably at the high school too somewhere.

This volume is very focused on the game Karen and her friends enjoy and later on how it gets translated to a real world version. For readers who play online collaborative fighting games, they'll probably connect better with volume two than I did. I found the heavy reliance on the game a bit tedious at times.

My favorite character this volume is Arachne. I like her character design to give her a spider body but humanoid bust, head and arms. Mostly though I like how she does the lighting for the theater department and knows a thing or two about the world wide web (because, of course she would).

Chart showing the relative placement of the first and second volume on the Road Narrative Spectrum

Like the first volume, The Forgotten Maze sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. Both volumes sit far down on the spectrum, starting first with a family of travelers and now, moving onto privileged travelers (00) (as Karen is a demigod going to school with gods and demigods). Their destination is home (66), meaning finding their way out of the maze and finding the center of it. Their route their, though, is the labyrinth (99) as the person behind M1n0t4ur nerfed the maze to keep them relatively safe and because the journey through the maze helped Karen and her classmates become closer as friends. Thus thematically volume two is about privileged travelers going home via the labyrinth (006699).

Four stars

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Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Volume 2: 04/21/22

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Volume 2

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Volume 2 by Sumito Oowara continues on with the story of three high school girls collaborating on anime projects. This time they are collaborating with the Robot Club to make a giant robot anime.

The world of this manga (and the anime) is one of the most complex and fascinating ones I've seen in one that isn't explicitly science fiction or fantasy. For all intents and purposes, Eizouken! is a contemporary slice of life. But it's set along a river with tunnels, bridges, twisty corridors and old industrial tech that informs the creative process of the three main characters but is otherwise left unexplained.

Hearing someone spout all the standard giant robot contradictions hurts my head.

In this volume the trio learns how to compromise to get what they need and to provide what their patrons (the Robot Club) want. Each character in this series is given a unique, recognizable, but grounded personality. The various club members are all passionate about what they do, but why they are isn't uniform. That makes the interactions between them all the more interesting and entertaining.

I hate people who solve their problems through emotions.

Volume 2 ends on a cliffhanger around the actress turned animator's parents. Their current project has been postponed, meaning they will be coming to the school's festival. If they do, they'll learn that their daughter is making anime against their will!

Five stars

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Dead Man's Bones: 04/20/22

Dead Man's Bones

Dead Man's Bones by Susan Wittig Albert is the thirteenth China Bayles mystery. Brian discovers bones while spelunking. Meanwhile China is busy with another play, this one done by a pair of elderly sisters who aren't known for their generosity.

Structurally this mystery is a lot like Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron (2020). Albert's mystery, though, is the more cynical of the two. It also plays on one of my least favorite tropes: the elderly spinster sisters who have their fingers in everything. At least here they are one time characters and won't be returning in later books.

Thirteen books into the series (or roughly halfway), pages and pages are still spent introducing the basic concepts of the series. The narrative will stop dead for China to explain that she's an ex-lawyer turned herbalist. She'll re-introduce all of her kith and kin and Pecan Springs. What this means, is more and more of each volume becomes pages that can be skipped.

The fourteenth book is Bleeding Hearts (2006).

Three stars

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Being Friends with Dragons: 04/19/22

Being Friends with Dragons

Being Friends with Dragons by Katherine Locke and Diane Ewen (Illustrations) is an instructional manual on how to be friends with dragons. More broadly it's a metaphor for being friends with people who are different than you or possibly neurodivergent.

The first third of the book introduces dragons and all the ways they are good friends. There's lot of examples of what they're good at: hide and seek, making s'mores, and certain things at the playground.

Then it moves on to how they sometimes forget to be good friends. They might get too interested in popping balloons, they blow fire when upset, they can make thunder storms (a useful skill for drought riddled California!), and other loud potentially unfriendly things.

The book ends with an entreaty to the human friends to be patient with their dragons. There's advice on how to help them calm down. First though it works on the empathy of the human friend by showing how they might act out when being snubbed by their dragon friends. Looks pretty similar — doesn't it? That's the point. People and dragons have their bad, grumpy moments.

It's a cute book and since dragons could be stand ins for anyone, it could be used to teach children empathy for other groups of people. Or maybe to teach empathy to their adults relatives. Children, I've found, are usually far more flexible than adults.

Five stars

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Else-Marie and Her Seven Little Daddies: 04/18/22

Else-Marie and Her Seven Little Daddies

Else-Marie and Her Seven Little Daddies by Pija Lindenbaum and Gabrielle Charbonnet (translator) is a Swedish book about a girl being embarrassed the day her seven daddies have to pick her up from after school playgroup. She's embarrassed because they're small and many where all her other friends (as far as she knows) have one normal sized daddy).

Most of the book, though, is the introduction of Else-Marie and her family. She has her mother and her daddies. The daddies all work the same job and commute together. Mom also works outside the house but usually has a flexible enough schedule to pick up her daughter from the after school playgroup (what locally here would be called YEP).

We're shown a typical family routine. It's all recognizable stuff: getting ready in the morning, going to school and work, chores, eating together, bedtime routine. All that's different is that there are seven Smurf sized daddies who look and dress identically. No explanation is ever given to why they are this way or how they and Else-Marie's mother met. That info isn't relevant as no kid really knows their parents' backstory.

The embarrassment comes though with having them pick up Else-Marie. She's afraid her friends will tease them or treat them like dolls. It's more her size than their number that she's worried about.

At it's most basic, it's a modern retelling of Snow White. But it can also be read as a tale of child raised in a polyamorous family. The size of the daddies is a stylistic distraction from the larger story.

I decided to track down a copy of the book in translation after seeing some posts about it on Fuse8Kate's Instagram.

Five stars

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Back to School Murder: 04/17/22

Back to School Murder

Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier and Karen White (Narrator) is the fourth Lucy Stone mystery. Lucy has a part time job at the local newspaper, basic typing, selling ads and the like. With the money she's earning, she decides to take a literature class at the local college.

All of that is complicated first with a bombing at the elementary school. Then the woman who was the hero of the day is murdered. Lucy who has the chance for her first big scoop ends up learning more than she cares to about the town's would be hero.

Although the book is twenty-five years old, there are parts of it that ring remarkably and unfortunately true. There is a school board in the grips of some ultra conservatives. There are the willfully ignorant parents who hate anyone and anything different. Lucy, while she slowly comes around does more times than I'm comfortable with, parrot the bigotry of those around her.

Taking away the ripped from the headlines details, the mystery itself is pretty basic. Structurally it's similar to [LINK]Coached in the Act[/LINK] by Victoria Laurie (2021). The main difference is the murder victim's job.

The fifth book is Valentine Murder (1999).

Three stars

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Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell: 04/16/22

Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell

Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell by Taj McCoy is a contemporary romance set in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Savannah "Savvy" Sheldon works long hours as an insurance adjuster, loves to cook despite her falling apart kitchen, and has recently been dumped by her boyfriend of six years. With Jason out of her life she decides to "upgrade" herself, her house, her job, and her love life.

The long and short of it is, Savvy does manage to accomplish all her upgrades. There's still drama in her life but it's peripheral — like her uncle losing his home. She manages to cross everything off her list and there's very little pushback in any of the things she sets out to do, despite clearly working on a deficit of time and frankly physical abilities.

Savvy works a high stress, long hours job. She used to play tennis but was injured and had to give it up. Yet, she's back now playing and doing yoga and taking regular hikes in nearby Griffith Park. Sure, she faints during her first yoga session but that's it as far as overdoing it goes for Savvy. She pushes herself to what should be the breaking point physically and emotionally and nothing happens.

Usually in romances that focus on a determined woman trying to do more than the everything she was already doing, something reaches a breaking point either at the first third or second third of the novel. It's a point where she is forced to reassess her life and her priorities. Before Savvy gets to that point she takes a staycation and gleefully continues to exercise herself to the point that would probably injure her if she weren't fictional.

Some reviews have commented on how fatphobic or ableist Savvy's path through the book is. For me it wasn't that. It makes for a boring book.

The chapters leading to the breakup with Jason and the initial meeting with Spencer are focused. In the first fifty pages or so, Savvy has the strong, unique voice of a fully realized character.

As she starts on her to-do list, the third person POV works against Savvy and the novel as a whole. Savvy is shown in different scenes doing different things but there's never any sense of how she feels. Is she enjoying herself? Is her plan satisfying her inner needs? Does she ever regret or question the changes she's making? Is she every exhausted? Does she ever regret trying to be a superwoman?

The closer Savvy gets to accomplishing her "up-grade" the less interesting the book becomes. It goes from being a character focused novel to being a laundry list of accomplishments.

Three stars

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Invisible Kingdom, Volume 3: In Other Worlds: 04/14/22

Invisible Kingdom, Volume 3: In Other Worlds

Invisible Kingdom, Volume 3: In Other Worlds by G. Willow Wilson is the conclusion to the series. A third party has involved themselves in the events begun in Walking the Path (2019). Will they bring the revolution or something even worse?

The four sides to this intergalactic battle are the delivery ship crew, the evil corporation, the Nones and a splinter group called the Siblings run by a man who looks a lot like Glossaryck from Star vs the Forces of Evil.

With all the attempts at subterfuge and drama, there really aren't many surprises in this concluding volume. Technology aka the algorithm is evil. The people working for it are evil. The self proclaimed peace loving leader of the splinter group is, of course, evil, and even more maniacal than the corporation. The nuns are the lesser of all the evils and might actually have some good ones. And the delivery ship is our plucky mismatched team of heroes. Just to make things all the tidier, it has an HEA.

It has all the same themes as Ascender. And frankly it annoys me in many of the same ways. The two things it has going for it over the Lemire comic: it's a short series and each of the books is faster paced.

Three stars

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She's Fleeing a Byronic Hero: 04/13/22

She's Fleeing a Byronic Hero

She's Fleeing a Byronic Hero by Lady Alana Smithee (one time pseudonym of Lilith Saintcrow) was inspired by a sample title used on a piece of potential cover art. Thus was born an extremely silly and utterly delightful novella.

It begins with our heroine feeling not on foot as the cover would suggest, but on "unicorn" back, across the moors. She is newly wed and has regrets. She's decided it's best to get away from her new husband as quickly as possible. Unfortunately she's not too good at navigating in the dark and ends up going in circles.

What unfolds is the literary mashup between a love square and a Benny Hill chase. The cast of characters are straight out of a Blackadder episode.

It's silly, full of deliciously terrible puns, and the perfect read for a brain fried weekend.

Five stars

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Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman: 04/12/22

Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman

Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman by Kristen R. Lee is a YA/NA about a terrible Freshman year of college. Savannah Howard, daughter of a single mom, has worked her ass off to earn a full scholarship to a prestigious college. Truth be told, though, she's not sure she wants to attend. Now that she's there, she's surrounded by micro-aggressions and racism with no support from the administration.

Wooddale sells itself on its image, it's ability to get students into successful careers, and on its commitment to diversity. It even has a Black woman as president. But the reality of the place is very different. The white donors and their "legacy" children run the show.

In particular there's a senior named Lucas who is dating Savannah's roommate. She can see right through his charm to his racism, classism, and general assholery. Though he has clearly broken college rules enough to be expelled, all his shit is repeatedly ignored or swept under the carpet. If Savannah is to be true to herself she has to go head to head with him and the administration to take him down.

I loved this book. Savannah from the first page has a strong voice, all her own. She comes off as a full formed person. You feel her pain, her anger, her weariness and her joy.

Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman is a debut novel. I will definitely be looking for future books from Kristen R. Lee.

Five stars

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Phantoms: 04/11/22

Phantoms

Phantoms by J.A. White is the conclusion to the Shadow School trilogy. This one differs from the previous two in that it takes place off school grounds. By moving out of the Shadow School, the author is able to some final world building to explore how ghosts and ghouls work without the benefit of magical architecture.

The novel opens with a school field trip. The students are visiting a natural history museum built in the shape of an ark. While they're there the phantom of the man who built the museum. Before Cordelia, Benji or Agnes can do anything, the phantom is captured by a team from Shady Rest.

I expected the novel to take place entirely at the ark. It's the inspiration for the cover art. Instead, Cordelia, Benji and Agnes end up working for Shady Rest. The place is designed as a retirement village for ghosts. The people who do the ghost catching have equipment that's reminiscent of the Ghostbusters. But none of the adults have the ability to see ghosts and they need help if they are going to stay in business.

Now reading this as an adult, I could see right away the holes in the story that Shady Rest tells Cordelia, Benji and Agnes. If I had been the intended age of reader, I would have been completely sucked in. At their age, I worked for my grandmother and had access to adult spaces in ways I otherwise wouldn't have.

Although this book is the official ending of the trilogy, White has left himself an entry point. The book ends with the trio receiving the keys to Shadow School and an open invitation to visit whenever they feel like it. If there were to be a high school, YA, side story, I would certainly read it.

Chart showing the three books in relationship to each other on the Road Narrative Spectrum

Like the previous two volumes, Phantoms sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. Volume three ends in a similar place to where the series began. The students working outside of their school under a secretive pretense, are returned to being marginalized (66) travelers. Their destination is a rural one (33), namely Shady Rest. Their route there is the labyrinth (99) in that their discovery at the Ark wasn't as coincidental as first thought; also their work for Shady Rest requires a lot of self reflection and causes strain on the friendship.

Five stars

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An Eggnog to Die for: 04/10/22

An Eggnog to Die for

An Eggnog to Die for by Amy Pershing is the second book in the Cape Cod Foodie mystery series. Ex-chef Sam Barnes finds herself going viral again when she's caught on video proclaiming that "Santa is dead." She had found the town's Santa dead in an office at a local cocktail bar.

To confuse matters, Sam's parents are visiting from Florida. They had lived for years on the Cape but had retired to warmer climes. Rather than rent a hotel room, they chose to stay with Sam in her still mostly ramshackle cottage. While she's glad to have them back on the Cape, she's frustrated at how they aren't quite like how they used to be.

This mystery takes a while to get going — to get all the pieces together. Even the murder weapon takes some time to identify. The lack of information combined with the holiday mayhem keeps things interesting and moving at an enjoyable clip.

The third book is Murder is No Picnic and is scheduled for release on June 7, 2022.

Five stars

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The Mystery of Albert E. Finch: 04/09/22

The Mystery of Albert E. Finch

The Mystery of Albert E. Finch by Callie Hutton and Nano Nagle (Narrator) is the third volume in the Victorian Book Club mystery series. It opens with the wedding of Amy and William.

They expect to have a lovely honeymoon at Brighton Beach. Unfortunately Amy's cousin is poisoned during their wedding breakfast, thus forcing them to stay in Bath until the crime is solved.

Immediately after the murder I knew who had done it and I had a fairly short list of reasons why. Part of my reasoning stems from a certain character trope that has been popular in the last decade or so. The other reason was how a particular character reacted upon the woman's death.

What kept me reading was the marriage plot. Namely I was amused by how the newlyweds were kept from their honeymoon. There was also a secondary murder to keep things interesting, but didn't distract me from my initial hypothesis.

As of writing this review I don't know if a fourth mystery is planned. If there is, I plan to read it.

Four stars

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The Tea Dragon Tapestry: 04/08/22

The Tea Dragon Tapestry

The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Kay O'Neill is the third and final volume in the Tea Dragon series. Greta has been caring for Ginseng for just over a year. The poor tea dragon is still in deep mourning for her previous owner. Greta feels like she's running out of options.

Meanwhile, a master blacksmith has arrived and Greta has a chance to apprentice with him if she can pass his test. She has until winter to create one item that best represents her skills and passion for the art. She just needs to figure out what that one thing will be, and of course, craft it.

Finally Minette is still struggling to understand and remember her past. She's having dreams that might be a clue but she's worried they mean she's strayed from her life's destiny. Can she find a balance between her old and new life?

All of these books are very quiet and contemplative. They're about the ebb and flow of daily life, not the big moments. Sure, Greta's chance to apprentice with a master has the potential to be a big moment in her life, but how she gets there is still made of small steps.

Kay O'Neill's illustrations are gorgeous and a do much of the narrative's heavy lifting. As this one is set in fall, the color palette is rich in warm colors. This book just calls out for being read by a cozy fire with a mug of something hot.

Five stars

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Lore Olympus: Volume One: 04/07/22

Lore Olympus: Volume One

Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe is the first major plot arc of the Webtoon in book form, published by Del Rey. While my daughter has been reading it online since it first started, I prefer to read my comics in book form.

Volume one covers the meeting of Hades and Persephone. Persephone while portrayed as naive and protected by her mother (smothered might be a better word), is given a rare bit of agency among the many retellings of this myth I've read. The chemistry between Hades and Persephone reminds me most of The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter (2011) but with the supernatural snarkiness of Lucifer.

Each character and each family is given a limited palette of colors. This makes the overall look and feel a bold and colorful one, but still harmonic. Character interactions are limited per panel making each drawing pleasing despite the bright hues.

The second volume is scheduled for release on July 5th, 2022.

Four stars

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The Princess in Black and the Mermaid Princess: 04/05/22

The Princess in Black and the Mermaid Princess

The Princess in Black and the Mermaid Princess by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and LeUyen Pham (Illustrations) is the ninth book in the Princess in the Black series. It's a follow up of sorts to The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation (2016).

The Princess in Black, the Goat Avenger, and the Princess in Blankets are on a cruise looking for sea monsters and mermaids. Before they find any monsters, they meet a mermaid princess who has a problem with krakens and sponge abusers.

While this book is in its way a sequel to the fourth book, I am reminded of a much older book, The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum (1911). Both involve human travelers being invited under the sea to a mermaid kingdom where they are treated as honored quests, are given the grand tour, and ultimately help the leader.

For the Mermaid Princess, she has two problems. The first is in the form of the kraken who escape through a rift in sea floor. Like their land-based cousins, they have a taste for goats (or in this case, capricorns). Her second problem is one in self assertion. She's been raised to be nice above all even when she should be speaking up to defend herself or her subjects.

For those hoping to see the sea monster again, there's a coda. Like The Princess in Black and the Giant Problem (2020), this volume subverts some of the monster tropes established earlier in the series. This monster isn't a threat. Here there's the suggestion that monsters could be welcomed members of society if they don't destroy things willy-nilly nor go after goats without permission.

Four stars

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Merman in My Tub, Volume 3: 04/04/22

Merman in My Tub, Volume 3

Merman in My Tub, Volume 3 by Itokichi continues the four panel comic. It's the last of the volumes I have on hand and will probably be the last one I'll be reading any time soon. There are eight volumes in total.

This volume goes through the seasons and has seasonal jokes. Unfortunately there's a lot of repeat in the type of jokes and humor. In that regard it reminds me of Garfield which only has maybe a half dozen types of jokes that have been repeated as variations on a theme since 1978.

The one addition to volume three is a new character: a starfish. He's interesting only because he likes to hang from the ceiling. Doesn't matter that he's the size of a young boy, he can still stick to things like the smaller more ordinary varieties of sea stars.

Three stars

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A History of the World in 6 Glasses: 04/03/22

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage is a book I first skimmed, but didn't review, when it was still a newly published book. It wasn't until my youngest was assigned the book for AP World History that I ended up giving it a proper read.

The drinks included are beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca Cola, with water as an epilogue. Each of these drinks provide an entry point to a particular time period and location. Each one contextualizes world history through something humanity still consumes even if founding countries have vanished.

While each chapter, each drink, starts of interesting, the chapters tend to drag. In the early bits there's the history it outlined clearly. The tone is conversational with some thematic puns woven in.

But there's there's also repetition. When the second location or country or era is brought in, many of the same observations are reiterated. If I were to re-read this book I wouldn't do it at the pace we had to read it (or listen to it, as we were listening to the audiobook version). Read at a more sedate pace the repeated details would be interesting on their own.

Four stars

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March 2022 Sources: 04/02/22

Previous month's book sources

I had a very active month of reading in March, but I'm still behind schedule if I were trying for 300 a year.

ROOB Score for the last three years

In March I read 29 TBR books, up from February's 15 TBR. I read one book published in March. Six books were for research. One was from the library. The one new book didn't affect my score much. In fact, it lowered from -3.13 to -4.2. It was my best March in all twelve years of tracking.

ROOB score mapped year after year to compare trends

I was very close to my estimate for March: -4.2 vs the guess of -4.0. For April I predict another good month, maybe a -4.4.

ROOB monthly averages

My average for March improved from -2.21 to -2.38.

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You Truly Assumed: 04/01/22

You Truly Assumed

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen is about a trio of Black Muslim teens collaborating on a blog after a terrorist attack at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Sabriya is a ballet dancer turned writer; Zakat is an artist and comic book author; Farah is a budding computer programmer.

The chapters shuffle between first person accounts from each of the young women. They have unique voices, hobbies, and family situations. They share, though, being Black and Muslim in a post terrorist aftermath. Even though the terrorist wasn't a Muslim, the worst bits of American society are using the attack as an excuse to be public with their racism, bigotry, and xenophobia.

You Truly Assumed or YTA ends up being the name of the blog that Sabriya starts and then recruits Zakat and Farah to contribute to. Many chapters end with the latest blog post. The chapters themselves, more and more, show the good and bad aspects of running the blog. It becomes a place for other young Muslims to feel safe and seen. But it also becomes a target for alt-right groups, some of whom are people the three girls know in person.

YTA is a debut novel. I'm eager to see what Laila Sabreen writes in the future.

Five stars

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March 2022 Summary: 04/01/22

Reading report

March was relatively normal. Ian had his first international business trip in two years. Most everyone is still wearing masks where I live. We're all waiting to see how and when the next surge will hit. Because it will.

I read more books in March, 25, up from 24 in the previous month. Of my read books, 17 were diverse. I am still primarily reviewing on days I finish a book, although I had a bunch of days in March where I finished two books. Last month I reviewed 26 books, which is up from the previous two months' 22. On the reviews front, nineteen qualified. Six read and eight reviewed books were queer.

I only have books read this year left to review. I have thirty-six left of the seventy-six books I've read this year.

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