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July 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

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Asking for Trouble: 07/30/22

Asking for Trouble

Asking for Trouble by Sarah Prineas (2022) is the sequel and conclusion to Trouble in the Stars (2021). Trouble is now the proud older sibling to another changling he's named Donut. While he can change into animals, Donut can only do inanimate objects. Recognizing Donut in their various shapes has become a problem for the rest of the crew of the Hindsight.

Trouble's life takes a huge detour when the Hindsight discovers a ship that went missing twelve years earlier at the edge of a blackhole. The crew is missing and deep space creatures are huddled around the hull, clearly scared of something. Thus Prineas sets up a mood similar to The Blackhole (1979).

The missing ship, though, also holds clues to a massive political pivot on the part of the Star League. The Star League was set up as the villain in the last book — as a militaristic society, similar to the Peacekeepers in Farscape (1999-2003). With new information there is a larger mystery: what made them go from peaceful explorers to a ruthless military regime?

Finally there is one more mystery: kidnapped children. Sometime after the incident on the ship, the Star League took a bunch of children and began their child soldier program. As Trouble's human form is about that of a twelve year old, he's the perfect person to go after the conscripted children.

The bulk of the book, then, is Trouble's attempt to get the children reunited with their parents. That means becoming a cadet and trying to live as a human away from people who know he's not.

Although this is a short book, it's a densely packed one. There's lots of world building, lots of history, mystery and adventure. It's quite the page turner. The ending, though hinted at since the very first book, still took me by surprise. Instead of a Blackhole ending, we get something similar to The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas (2017).

One note: in the previous book, Trouble is self described as non-binary and thus I used they/them pronouns in my review. In this book, though, he has settled comfortably on his male, human form and he/him pronouns. This review reflects that change.

Comparison of the two Trouble books on the Road Narrative Spectrum

Like the first book, Asking for Trouble sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. This time, since Trouble is traveling with Donut throughout the novel, the travelers are siblings (CC). Their destination is uhoria — namely in the form of understanding what happened twelve years earlier (CC). Their route there is the labyrinth (99), symbolized by the spinning blackhole at the inciting event. Metaphorically, though, the events of this book lead to a physical transformation for both Trouble and Donut. Thus this novel can be summarized as being about siblings traveling to uhoria via the labyrinth (CCCC99).

Five stars

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Stuntboy, in the Meantime: 07/29/22

Stuntboy, in the Meantime

Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds and Raúl the Third is about a self styled superhero whose call in life is to keep other superheroes from getting hurt. Portico Reeves lives in "the Castle," a multistory apartment building, with his parents and grandmother. More and more he's being sent to the "mean time" as his parents fight over stuff.

In terms of tone and the use of extended literary allusion, Stuntboy is a similar read to My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi (2019). Both are stories of tweenagers living in the city and processing the ups and downs of their lives through extended roleplaying.

Portico, aka Stuntboy, has anxiety as well. His alter ego is a way for him to cope. Taking away the superhero metaphor, this heavily illustrated novel is about a boy under stress from a bully living in his same building and to seeing his home life turned upside down when his parents split and take two different apartments in the same building.

Raúl the Third's illustrations are the glue that holds the two halves of the story together. Like his work on the Lowriders series by Cathy Camper, the artwork is bold and colorful.

Four stars

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Supergirl: The Girl of Steel: 07/28/22

Supergirl: The Girl of Steel

Supergirl: The Girl of Steel by Jeph Loeb et al is an omnibus reissue of some 2005 comics featuring Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl. After sojourning with the Amazons she's trying to find her place in a hostile world, only to find herself beset by the other superheroes, including her own cousin who due to space travel shenanigans is now physically older than she is.

For a reissue to form the basis of a new launching off point, starting after the establishing plot arc is a head-scratcher. I know I tease DC for going back to their origin stories at every opportunity. One would expect them to have done that here. They didn't. Instead we're given Kara's return to civilization where she helps Air Force One land after the pilot radios a mayday. That initial scene is the most coherent this volume ever manages to be.

Mostly, though, the comic is Kara in skimpy clothing either bemoaning her situation or worse, being brutalized by the other super heroes for reasons. There's something extremely off when Batman ends up being the most sympathetic of the lot.

Then instead of a segue to lead us into a different premise, we're give exactly six words: One year and one month later; before we're in an alternate dimension or timeline where Kara is trying to depose her cousin. Meanwhile her cousin spends way too much time standing around naked while basking in his own power.

By the alternate shit show story I was resigned to this just being dudes having their power fantasy and wankfests while drawing, coloring, inking, what have you, superheroes.

The second volume is Breaking the Chain (2016).

Two stars

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Witchlings: 07/27/22


Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega (2022) is a middle grade fantasy set in a world where magic is real and society is built around covens. It's similar to the Upside-Down Magic series by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins.

Seven Salazar has been training her whole life to be part of the lavender coven with her best friend. When it's her year to participate in the Black Moon Ceremony she isn't placed in the coven of her choice. Worse yet, she's not placed in any coven; she's a spare and stuck with Thorn and Valley. When the sealing magic to make them a coven of three doesn't take, Seven invokes her last ditch option: the Impossible Task.

The majority of the novel is Seven, Thorn, and Valley's work to complete their impossible task within the allotted time. Failure to do so will result in a very harsh punishment: being turned into toads. This is a rigid society with little room for those who don't fit in.

The task the girls are given reveals problems with their town and the twelve villages as a whole. The closer they get to their goal the more they realize that a lot of what they've been told is false.

The novel covers some heavy but important topics: child abuse, worker's rights, prejudice, food insecurity, and political corruption.

The novel, as well, sits on the road narrative spectrum. As witchling-spares, the three girls are marginalized travelers (66). Their destination or goal is uhoria, namely the uncovering of a long buried crime (CC). Their route is offroad (66), namely, through the cursed forest where their impossible task takes them. Thus the novel can be summarized as marginalized travels going to uhoria via an offroad route (66CC66).

Five stars

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Fly Me to the Moon, Volume 1: 07/26/22

Fly Me to the Moon, Volume 1

Fly Me to the Moon, Volume 1 by Kenjiro Hata (2018) is the first volume of a manga that was adapted into an anime. Yuzaki Nasa has been teased for his name for his entire life. He decides to be the best and get into an elite high school by acing the entrance exam. All that changes when he's hit by a truck — but not isekaied. Nope, he's saved by a beautiful pink haired girl who offers to marry him just before he blacks out.

Fast forward through months in the hospital and rehabilitation. The mysterious girl is a distant dream as far as Nasa is concerned. Having not gotten into high school (or even taken the exam) he has changed directions. He's working and living in a tiny apartment. Then out of nowhere she appears at his door with the paperwork to get married.

The remainder of this first volume is their first night together. They get married. They figure out their sleeping arrangements. Both are embarrassed by everything but both are respectful of each other's boundaries.

I have volume 2 on hand and will be reading it soon.

Five stars

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Fly Me to the Moon, Volume 1: 07/26/22

Fly Me to the Moon, Volume 1

Fly Me to the Moon, Volume 1 by Kenjiro Hata is the first volume of a manga that was adapted into an anime. Yuzaki Nasa has been teased for his name for his entire life. He decides to be the best and get into an elite high school by acing the entrance exam. All that changes when he's hit by a truck — but not isekaied. Nope, he's saved by a beautiful pink haired girl who offers to marry him just before he blacks out.

Fast forward through months in the hospital and rehabilitation. The mysterious girl is a distant dream as far as Nasa is concerned. Having not gotten into high school (or even taken the exam) he has changed directions. He's working and living in a tiny apartment. Then out of nowhere she appears at his door with the paperwork to get married.

The remainder of this first volume is their first night together. They get married. They figure out their sleeping arrangements. Both are embarrassed by everything but both are respectful of each other's boundaries.

I have volume 2 on hand and will be reading it soon.

Five stars

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The Ghost and the Haunted Portraitr: 07/25/22

The Ghost and the Haunted Portraitr

The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait by Cleo Coyle and Traci Odom (Narrator) (2021) is the seventh book in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series. The bookshop is hosting an event on the art of the pulp novel. After selling a spectacular self portrait to Seymour the local collector of pulp art originals is murdered.

Volume seven felt like a mash up of two previous volumes: The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library (2006) and The Ghost and Bogus Bestseller (2018). It combines the elements of the collector with items valuable enough to cause trouble and a cold case that explains the significance of the modern day murder.

I've read this entire series as audiobooks. This volume does what I'd hoped for from the very beginning; it uses only one narrator: a woman as most of the POV is from Penelope Thornton-McClure.

But this volume also uses a new narrator, meaning all the characters have different sounding personalities. Sadie, for instance, has lost her strong Rhode Island accent. Jack isn't as gruff. That said, Traci Odom does a fine job reading and by the end of the book I was fully invested in both the mystery and in her interpretation of the characters.

The eighth book is The Ghost and the Stolen Tears. It's scheduled for release on October 4, 2022.

Five stars

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Right Where I Left You: 07/24/22

Right Where I Left You

Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters is a young/new adult romance set during the summer after high school graduation. Isaac Martin has been best friends with Diego for ever. Isaac is gay and his family supports him; Diego is bi but they're just friends. Isaac wants desperately to fall in love and has his eyes and heart set on Davi.

All of this is set against Isaac's obsession with a particular comic book series and his desire to attend Legends Con. Unfortunately he fails to get tickets to the Con, thus upsetting his final summer's plans.

Meanwhile, Diego is obsessed with online gaming. His desire to take a gap year to work on game development puts more of a wedge between him and his family, and to a lesser degree between him and Isaac.

Isaac works through his anxiety and social awkwardness through relating to the characters in his favorite comic. In this regard he's similar to Cath in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (2013). The difference is that he doesn't write fanfic (though he does read it) and his obsession hasn't gotten in the way of his academics.

The bulk of this novel, though, is set in the time where best friends start to drift apart. Diego is a more social person than Isaac. He brings in a group of friends meaning that he and Isaac don't have the alone time like they used to.

For the most part I enjoyed the novel. I liked Isaac's immediate family and could relate to the falling out he'd had with his absent father. I loved the relationship he had with his abuelo and their mutual love of The Princess Bride. Although Isaac wasn't thrilled with the expanded friend group, I loved the six and their separate personalities.

Despite the melodrama in the middle of the novel, it does come around to a satisfying HEA.

Four stars

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A Tale of Two Cookies: 07/22/22

A Tale of Two Cookies

A Tale of Two Cookies by Eve Calder and Christa Lewis (Narrator) (2021) is the third book in the Cookie House mystery series. Kate McGuire has designed cookie cake toppers for a last minute wedding for a friend. When the groom doesn't show, Kate and her close circle of friends are the only ones willing to believe something has happened to him.

The groom's adult children, his ex-girl friend and others from his past paint a very different picture. If they are to be believed, Judson never wanted to marry Desiree. She is a delusional stalker who even after he's gone, won't leave, and won't stop making trouble.

This volume is unusual for the cozies I've read. Kidnappings and missing persons are so very rare, especially when they don't end up with a body. I really expected Judson to turn up dead the day after his wedding no-show.

In the background of Judson's disappearance, there's a reality show being filmed at the mansion that featured in Sugar and Vice (2020). The house appears tied to smuggling or some other illegal activities being done via cigarette boats.

The novel has the usual collection of characters. Kate has built a good life for her on the island and has the support she needs to run a successful business and be an amateur sleuth.

As of writing this review there's no announced fourth volume. Should that change in the future, I will definitely continue reading!

Five stars

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Elsewhere: 07/21/22


Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (2005) follows Liz Hall's afterlife as she come to terms with being an almost sixteen year old Benjamin Button. Elsewhere is the name for the afterlife where people live lives aging backwards until they become babies and are shipped off to new lives on Earth.

Before reaching Elsewhere the first part of the book is set on a massive cruise ship. Liz is paired with a Black girl who remembers being shot in the head but is otherwise healthy and in good spirits. Here were there is still a mystery is the best part of the novel.

Once the ship lands and Liz is picked up by her grandmother (and namesake) the novel settles into a predictable schmaltz-fest. Despite her understandable grief at being dispatched at a young age and being forced into a second childhood before she's even reached adulthood, we the reader are supposed to accept Grandma Betty's rose-tinted view of death. We're supposed to see Elsewhere as some utopia with a guaranteed HEA (reincarnation).

Nope. I read two chapters into the Elsewhere section. Then I read two more at the end to verify that things would in fact take the predictable path. It does.

One star

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Deadly Director's Cut: 07/19/22

Deadly Director's Cut

Deadly Director's Cut by Vicki Delany and Jennifer Van Dyck (narrator) is the second book in the Catskill Summer Resort mystery series. The famous movie director, Elias Theropodous, has chosen to do location filming at Haggerman's, for his epic romance set during the second world war. After a night of entertaining and over indulgence, the director vomits, falls down the stairs, and later dies in the local hospital. It's quickly determined that he was murdered!

To save Haggerman's reputation, Elizabeth is forced once again to investigate a murder. She has to do this while making sure her starstruck staff remembers to actually work, while fighting off nosey reporters, and while accommodating the continuing movie shoot. All of this she accomplishes while maintaining 1950s decorum and of course without today's research and communication tools.

The mystery itself, less the set decoration and side plots, reminded me of Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton (2019). Part of that is the setting — New York state, though the two locations are separated by roughly 250 miles and approximately six decades. There is still the shared experience of an unexpected film crew, a dead film crew member, and various celebrities to contend with.

Ultimately, though, this mystery is one giant shell game of suspects and motives. While the first book made use of a currently popular trope, this one stuck more closely to mystery tropes from the era in which the mystery is set. Keeping that in mind and knowing the trick to the shell game, I was able to figure out who the murderer was before Elizabeth. Despite that, it was a fun and dramatic read.

Four stars

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Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Volume 3: 07/18/22

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Volume 3

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, Volume 3 by Sumito Oowara explores how sound helps build the animated world. The trio adds to their forces by joining up with the last remaining member of the Sound Club. Kanamori, meanwhile, finds a way for the Eizouken to make well needed funds at a convention without technically violating school rules.

The chapters on sound are used to expand the world the girls live in. Their high school has been shown to sit near water. Water runs through, around, and under numerous buildings that feature in the series. Water remains a strong visual theme in the girls' work too.

Before the girls meet up with Doumeki, the sound engineer, they decide to follow one of the canals that run by their school. Their adventure, while inspiring the next sequence they'll animate, and providing a means for Doumeki to observe them, it also informs the reader of their larger world.

As the girls descend we find more and more of the cityscape submerged in water. Where they stop, there's an overpass and a group of abandoned cars. This scenery is the most familiar — looking modern day. Though nothing is said directly, the landscape implies a near future, post sea level rise world. I'm curious to see what future clues we might get about the landscape and timeline.

Volume 4 will be released in English translation on September 20, 2022.

Five stars

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A Californian's Guide to the Birds Among Us: 07/17/22

A Californian's Guide to the Birds Among Us

A Californian's Guide to the Birds Among Us by Charles Hood is a short focused guide on the most typical birds one will find in California. It's aimed at the novice birder, one who is birding as a sideline to other things: hiking, walking, taking photographs, etc.

By birding book standards, this book is short. It's 168 pages, although if you read it as an ebook, as I did, the photographs balloon the book up to about 360 pages. But the text is light and to the point.

One thing this book does that other guides doesn't do is include photos to show similar colored or shaped birds that a novice might get confused. The text then explains how and why the species are different: what to look for or when to look for it if the changes are seasonal.

Another great thing about the photographs is they show the California (or west coast) variations. For instance, the dark-eyed junco, which is solid gray on top and solid white on the underside everywhere else, is brown with a gray head along the west coast. The vast majority of birding books are focused on what happens east of the Sierra Nevadas or even east of the Rockies, meaning they are often less than useful for novice California birders.

Finally, though, the charm of the book lies in its text. There's a cheeky humor to how the books are described. The house sparrow for instance includes a quote from Gerald Stern that calls them "a bit of a schnorrer." That off the cuff observation gave me a laughing fit for about twenty minutes, but there are gems like this for each bird.

Four stars

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One for All: 07/16/22

One for All

One for All by Lillie Lainoff (2022) is historical fiction inspired by three things: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1891), the author's love of fencing, and her diagnosis of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Set in 1655, it's the tale of a young woman, the daughter of a musketeer, joining a secret society of women for the betterment of France.

Tania de Batz was trained in fencing by her musketeer father. Though she has suffered weakness in her legs, dizziness, and fainting, her father can see that fencing helps her work through her disability. She, understandably is very close to him. Unfortunately her world is turned upside-down when her father is murdered.

Tania's closeness to her father and her desire to avenge his death brings to mind a second fictional inspiration, namely, The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973). Tania's journey toward that end will take her to Paris where she will be accommodated and trained.

One for All is a quick read. It's great for readers who like women who can not only save themselves but save the world without needing super hero strength or other powers. For the setting, one might also be reminded of the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger (minus the paranormal bits) or the more contemporary set Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.

Four stars

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Nacho Average Murder: 07/14/22

Nacho Average Murder

Nacho Average Murder by Maddie Day and Laurel Merlington (Narrator) is the seventh book in the Country Store mystery series. It's a departure from the previous volumes because it's set in and around Santa Barbara while Robbie is visiting for a high school reunion. When a man dies in a way similar to Robbie's mother after he tells her his belief that poison was involved, she sets out to solve his murder in the short time she has remaining in California.

In every other mystery I've read, maybe a dozen total, that take place somewhere far afield of the series' usual locations, the narrative includes some excuse for the main character to travel with the majority of the ensemble cast of characters developed over time. Usually it's something like a conference, a cruise, or in the case of the Cupcake Bakery mysteries, a business trip. Nacho Average Murder, though, keeps with its title (which also relates to the restaurant associated with the B&B where Robbie stays), by creating entirely new characters to help investigate.

Another difference is that Robbie's past childhood in Santa Barbara was established from the very first book, Flipped for Murder. Her memories about life in California are a consistent part of Robbie's character. So having her spend an entire book back home doesn't feel like a stretch as it does in other books, Bloodroot by Susan Wittig Albert (2003), for example.

So while the book is a departure with a different setting and different characters, it still reads like a Country Store mystery. Robbie talks shop with various restaurant owners and workers as she investigates. She's as familiar with the setting as she is in South Lick. Thus the change in location doesn't affect the overall expected ebb and flow of the mystery plot points.

Clearly the author knows and loves Santa Barbara and its neighboring communities. She writes with knowledge, seamlessly weaving in her fictional additions to a landscape full of actual landmarks one can visit. But where the audiobook falters is in the narrator's inability to pronounce Goleta (the town where the airport is) correctly. She repeatedly calls it Go-letta instead of Go-lee-tah which sounded like nails on a chalkboard in the middle of an otherwise delightful mystery. If I had read this book myself, I would be giving it five stars. The missing star is for the narrator and publisher not doing their research to learn how to make Robbie, a native of Santa Barbara actually sound like one.

The eighth book is Candy Slain Murder (2020).

Four stars

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Gund: 07/13/22

Spy x Family, Volume 1

Gund by Bruce S. Raiffe and Alex Baron Raiffe is part of the Images of America series. It was written by the grandchildren of one of the presidents of the stuffed animal company.

Gund was founded in 1898. It's currently owned by a larger company based in Canada. At the writing of this history book, though, it was still independent and from the optimism in the book would continue in that fashion well into the future.

I found this book while researching a stuffed animal I've owned since I was two. He was my grandmother's and she (and I) made a bunch of modifications to him over the years. Now out of a quixotic urge, I've decided to find his base model and if I'm really lucky, purchase one.

This Gund book, which appears to be the only one written about the company, is people focused. Given that it was written by relatives, it makes sense. But from a research stance, it's lacking in crucial information.

Four stars

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Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock: 07/11/22

Spy x Family, Volume 1

Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock by Laura Gehl and Gareth Lucas (Illustrations) is a follow up to Odd Beasts (2021). This colorfully illustrated picture book highlights some specific features of various bird species.

Specifically it covers eight species. Birds included are: the frigatebird, the blue-footed booby, the shoebill stork, the ostrich, the hoatzin, the oilbird, the California condor, and the burrowing owl.

What sets this book apart is the colorful illustrations by Gareth Lucas. His work is a pleasing combination of geometry, bold color, and texture.

Five stars

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Spy x Family, Volume 3: 07/10/22

Spy x Family, Volume 1

Spy x Family, Volume 3 by Tatsuya Endo covers episodes 8-11 of the anime series. The first half of the book is focused on Yor's brother and the last half returns its focus on Anya's struggles at school.

As I mentioned in my review of Volume 2, I'm not a fan of Yuri Briar. His visit to the Forger household didn't do anything to improve my opinion of him or his usefulness in this series.

Yuri's character, outside of him being secret police, is built around his close, devotional relationship with Yor, his older sister. I'm not a fan of the protective brother trope — not here and not in the Cupcake Bakery series. In Yor's case it's completely ridiculous since she's a freelance assassin and from the flashbacks, has been for about ten years.

The best pieces of volume 3 are the ones featuring Anya. First there's the dodgeball game, which is much shorter in print than how it's played out in episode 10. Finally, there's Anya's valiant attempts to earn her first stella star through volunteer work.

How Anya does finally earn her star is the second time I can think of where she has used her telepathy to help someone. In this case she saves a child from drowning even though she herself can't swim.

Four stars

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Be My Ghost: 07/08/22

Be My Ghost

Be My Ghost by Carol J. Perry and C.S.E Cooney (Narrator) is the start of the Haunted Haven mystery series. Maureen Doherty has just lost her job when the department store declares bankruptcy. But she's also inherited a hotel in Florida from a woman she's never heard of. All she knows of the area is that she and her parents took a fishing vacation there when she was a child.

On her way south, Maureen receives an ominous fortune from a vintage Zoltar. Don't take those fortunes lightly! By the end of the book the entire fortune will have come true. It will involve a murder, a mystery, and help from some ghosts.

The murder victim is a self-styled ghost photographer. Haven, Florida is known for its ghosts. Most buildings claim at least one. The hotel Maureen inherits has at least three. Yet no one in the town seems to want to encourage ghost hunters. This is the one bit that seems off about the premise. Ghost hunting tourism would be a necessary shot in the arm financially speaking.

The mystery itself is pretty straight forward. The murder happens in front of Maureen and the reader. Frankly it's done in a way reminiscent of a Columbo mystery. The only reason Maureen misses what happened is that she's road weary from two days of driving.

The fun of this book then is waiting for the murder to slip up. There's also the question of the hotel's finances. Can Maureen save the hotel and help it thrive again? And finally there are the ghosts. How does Maureen come to terms with the reality of their existence? How do they feel about her being the new owner?

Another nagging question involves the ghost in Maureen's apartment. Clearly she's with it enough to know when people come and go into the apartment. Why doesn't Maureen ask the ghost who came into her room to plant evidence? Or why not ask her to talk to the ghostly piano player who had the best view of the murder?

Regardless of these small questions, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The second book in the series is High Spirits. It's scheduled for release on October 25, 2022.

Five stars

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Bond and Book: The Long, Long Good-Bye of "The Last Bookstore": 07/07/22

Bond and Book: The Long, Long Good-Bye of 'The Last Bookstore'

Bond and Book: The Long, Long Good-Bye of "The Last Bookstore" by Mizuki Nomura is a light novel about the final days of the last bookstore in a small Japanese town. It's told through the memories of the people most affected by the books they bought there.

The structure is similar to the Restaurant to Another World lightnovels by Junpei Inuzuka and Katsumi Enami (Illustrations) (2015) in that each chapter is nearly a self contained story. It's the bookstore that ties the stories together.

Though it's a short book, coming in just under 200 pages, it's a densely plotted on. All the characters whose stories are shared are interconnected. The books they reminisce about are also thematically tied to their lives their memories of the bookstore.

Outside of the bookstore's closure, there are two other events that weave their way through the chapters. First is the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The second is a popular book that appears to be prophetic about a funeral for a closing bookstore.

Readers who enjoyed The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (2019) or Goodnight June by Sarah Jio (2014) will probably like this one. Fans of the Magical Bookshop mystery series by Amanda Flower will also find a connection with this book as there is a character who can talk to books.

There's a companion book, Bond and Book: The Devotion of "The Surgery Room" (2021).

Four stars

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The Unkindness of Ravens: 07/06/22

The Unkindness of Ravens

The Unkindness of Ravens by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks (Illustrations) is the second book in the Bigfoot Boy graphic novel trilogy. It's been ten years since I read Into the Woods, the first book in the series. In writing this review, I've also come to realize I didn't review the first book. So depending on timing and my organizational skills, you'll either be seeing this book's review or the first book's, first.

Volume two picks up sometime after the initial events. Rufus and his family have returned to the woods to visit his grandmother. He meets up with Penny and they discuss how he's been practicing with the Q'achi totem that turns him into "Bigfoot Boy."

The bulk of this book centers on a group of crows who are eager to get the totem. There's a lot of trial and error. And a lot of bad mouthing crows as being evil. They aren't; they're tricksters in these types of stories because as a species they are smart and curious.

The big question then, is, will the crows get the totem. If they do, will they be able to use it? And when ultimately they do, the book ends before we get a chance to see if Rufus can get it back. But there's a hook to say he'll be coming back soon.

Like so many middle books in a trilogy, this one is in a tug of war with the first and last books. The first half is spent re-establishing the characters, setting, and basic concepts for anyone who has forgotten important details. The second half is likewise fully committed to setting up the final volume. That leaves very little time in the middle to have a story that is unique to the second volume.

The final book is The Sound of Thunder (2014)

Four stars

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Doggone Deadly: 07/05/22

Doggone Deadly

Doggone Deadly by Deborah Blake and Laura Jennings (Narrator) is the second book in the Catskills Pet Rescue mystery series. Kari Stuart is helping at a dog show with the hopes of finding homes for some of her rescues. Then a dog breeder is accused of running a puppy mill and working under an assumed name. Later the same woman is found murdered, with dog groomer's purple sheers. Kari knows she has to work to clear her friend's name.

This mystery is tied up completely in the business of dog shows and dog breeding. I know some of it from the purebreds my in-laws have bought, as well as, of course, Coraline. None of our dogs, though, were purchased to be show dogs, so my knowledge is only minimal.

While set against the show, Doggone Deadly reads like a locked room mystery. It's confined to a limited number of characters and a limited number of locations. That gives both Karin and us, the reader, a chance to focus on the logic of the puzzle behind the murder.

That said, I had a pretty good idea early on who the murderer was. Part of that was an obvious and strong motive. Part of it was Karin et al's insistence that certain people didn't seem likely because of perceived frailties.

The third book is Claws for Suspicion which released May 3, 2022.

Five stars

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This Might Get Awkward: 07/04/22

This Might Get Awkward

This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell is a YA romance set in and around Wahweap at Lake Powell. Gemma who has lived her entire life on the water (and was even born in a houseboat) ends up saving the life of the popular boy at her high school. Before she can slide back into the background, she's been labeled as his secret girlfriend.

Gemma has undiagnosed social anxiety disorder. Her father would have to sell his tour boat business to afford the doctor needed to make a formal diagnosis. She reminds me a lot of Komi from Komi Can't Communicate by Tomohito Oda. Imagine Komi, though, living in Arizona and the boy she thinks will be her first friend ends up in a medically induced coma before they can even have the scene at the chalkboard.

At second glance it's clear that life with the Boomer family isn't as charmed as everyone believes it to be. When Beau's older brother returns Gemma finds an unexpected friend in the reputed black sheep of the family. The question reader has to ask is which brother's story is the right one?

While Gemma does benefit from her friendship with Griff, her relationship with him is almost as awkward as the one she's pretending to have with Beau. While she ends up with an HEA ending, I think she could do better.

What kept me reading, though, was the strong sense of place. It's been nearly forty years since I visited Lake Powell but I could still recognize the lake even before it was mentioned by name.

Four stars

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Heartstopper: Volume Two: 07/03/22

Heartstopper: Volume Two

Heartstopper: Volume Two by Alice Oseman covers the back half of the first season on Netflix. But, frankly, it's so much better than the TV adaptation. As it's the second book, it's the pause for breath or the calm before the storm.

After the disastrous party and the near breakup, Nick needs to face his feelings for Charlie head on. He knows Charlie likes him; Charlie's out. He also knows he enjoys his time with Charlie. He suspects he feels more for Charlie than just friendship. Is he gay? Is he straight? Maybe he's bi. Does it matter?

In the Netflix version, there's a lot of extra drama tossed in to keep Nick from deciding he actually loves Charlie. Much of this comes from expanding the distrust Tao feels for Nick. Tao goes from being a skeptical but protective friend to being an absolutely toxic, almost stalker all to pad out the back half of a series.

In the comic, though, more time is spent on scenes with just Charlie and Nick. There's time for the to talk and work through things at their own pace. It feels natural and organic.

Volume 3 was released in 2020 and I will review it next month.

Five stars

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June 2022 Sources: 07/02/22

Previous month's book sources

I had another good month of reading in June. I'm nearly done with my goal of reading 200 books. I'll probably finish at the end of August, or maybe early September. Realistically I'm on track to read 250 books.

ROOB Score for the last three years

In June I read 24 TBR books, down from May's 25 TBR. I read two books published in June. Two books were for research. Two were from the library. My ROOB score for June is identical to May's (after reconciliation of data): -3.86 It was my second best June in all thirteen years of tracking.

ROOB score mapped year after year to compare trends

I did better than my June prediction: -3.86 instead of -3.5. July is a slim month for new releases that I'm interested in, so I predict a 4.0.

ROOB monthly averages

My average for June improved from -2.96 to -3.03.

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Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure: 07/02/22

Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure

Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure by Doreen Cronin and Stephen Gilpin (Illustrations) is the fourth of the Chicken Squad books. The chickens, J.J. and Barbara are visiting relatives at a farm. On their first day there, the shoe is stolen. Their one clue is a strange chicken named Befrizzle.

These books build their stories around the chickens' limited perception and understanding of the world. Here things are further confused by a new, unknown location, dozens of relatives, and an unreliable witness: Sugar. Sugar usually wears glasses but isn't during the time she meets Befrizzle.

Locating Befrizzle and discovering who they are is the bulk of the mystery here. This volume uses a bunch of cozy mystery tropes, a departure from the previous hard boiled detective tropes. Namely, there's the new location which is often a rural or small town (or in this case, a farm). There's also a large cast of characters.

The ending is a satisfying one, though a more wholesome one than the first two. Ultimately this one is about family and found family.

The fifth book is: Gimme Shelter (2017).

Five stars

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June 2022 Summary: 07/01/22

Reading report

June brought the end of the school year. As July starts, I have two friends and their families down with COVID. These are people who had managed to avoid it until now. We continue to mask up everywhere.

Before I go into the summary itself, I need to mention that I realized some errors in my data. I'd missed recording fifteen books I'd read since January. I spent an hour last night tracking down those books doing reconciliation on my data. At this time, I don't have plans to rewrite my summary and source posts for January through May. However, if you're observant, you'll see the new data in this month's graphs.

I read fewer books in June, 28, down from 31 in the previous month. Of my read books, seventeen were diverse. I reviewed 24 books, down from 26 in May. On the reviews front, fifteen qualified. Four read and three reviewed books were queer.

I have forty-two left of the 159 books I've read this year.

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