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

August 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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Little Houses: 08/06/22

Heartstopper: Volume Two

Little Houses by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek (Illustrator) is an existential exploration during a walk along a beach. A young girl collects seashells at the beach and wonders about the little houses they once were and extends her thoughts to other ways of living.

There is also a tangent about things lost at sea. The example given is toys. What's not mentioned is littering, pollution and the ways both are destroying the seas, reefs, and beaches.

Instead of really looking into the bigger realities of the world as represented by this book and this girl's actions, the book ends with the statement that sometimes children collect the little houses found on the beach. I was left thinking on how tourism is destroying tropical destinations, such as Hawaii.

Three stars

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Spy x Family, Volume 4: 08/05/22

Heartstopper: Volume Two

Spy x Family, Volume 4 by Tatsuya Endo and Case Loe (translator) marks the end of the first cœur. Rather, the first story of this volume marks the end, with the remainder being saved for the dramatic start of the series when it comes back in October.

From the cover, one can see that there's a new member to the Forger family, a ginormous white dog with black paws. How he earns that right is the bulk of this book. It's also the most dramatic and stressful set of events in this series so far.

The cold war between the two nations is about become a hot one. Domestic terrorism is doing its best to push the nations into full on war. Loid Forger is torn between the feelings for his found family, loyalty to his country, and his desire to avoid war at all costs — even if that means giving up his life.

In the middle of all of this, the Forgers are trying to adopt a dog. How dogs are used by both sides shows harkens back to Anya's history. That she and one of the dogs form a bond — both emotional and psychic is understandable, if not inevitable.

I didn't, though, expect Anya and the dog, to work so well together. Their gifts are perfectly balanced. How they end up saving lives and preventing a war is some of the most heart-stopping pages I've read in any manga.

I have volume 5 on hand and will be reading it soon.

Five stars

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Really Truly: 08/04/22

Heartstopper: Volume Two

Really Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (2020) is the third mystery in the middle grade Pumpkin Falls series. Truly Lovejoy is planning the perfect summer for what's left after the family reunion. Unfortunately her plans are dashed when her cousin gets her invited to a mermaid academy summer camp.

This third volume took me by surprise a bunch of times. First and foremost because I didn't read the blurb before I put the book on hold at my library. I so enjoyed the previous two that I didn't even stop to consider any other outcome beyond enjoyment! Surprises for me were the mermaid camp, the pirate treasure plot, and the ultimate solution to the mystery of the missing pumpkin.

Mysteries typically don't leave the location of the crime. For a mystery series to be set in another location the main character or the ensemble cast of characters (as is often the case) need a reason to be traveling together and then the crime happens in this new location. Solving the crime becomes a necessity for the character(s) to be able to either go home or continue on their trip. This trope remains true despite twenty years of cellphones and the growing ubiquity of the internet.

That said, the Pumpkin Falls books have never been typical mysteries, though the first and second books were set entirely within the village, thus sticking to the no changing location trope. This one, though, takes advantage of the fact that it's also a middle grade novel which has its own tropes and expectations. One of those is that adults can and do frequently disrupt the plans of the teenaged protagonist.

So while Truly and her cousin spend about half of the book in Cape Cod at the mermaid academy, Truly's friends back home continue to investigate the missing silver pumpkin and report back via text and FaceTime.

This long tangential mermaid plot gives the novel time to work in the threads of a much more interesting and difficult to solve mystery, namely the missing treasure of a ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod. This historic mystery which involves a man accused of piracy is similar to the Gentleman George side plot from Sugar and Vice by Eve Calder (2020).

Also at the mermaid camp, there are long descriptions of the career of Esther Williams, an actress who was known for her diving and synchronized swimming skills. After Truly describes watching Million Dollar Mermaid (1952), I literally set aside the novel to rewatch the film, which was a fun diversion!

I don't know if there will be fourth book in this series. There's enough left open in the overall plot to have more mysteries. I certainly hope so!

Five stars

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Expedition Backyard: 08/03/22

Heartstopper: Volume Two

Expedition Backyard by Rosemary Mosco and Binglin Hu (illustrator) is a graphic novel about Vole and Mole who enjoy expeditions through nature. Vole loves the adventure and meeting different creatures. Mole likes to draw the nature he experiences. One particular adventure, though, changes everything for them and soon they find themselves moved from the forest to the big city.

Over the remaining chapters Vole and Mole learn about the nature around their new home. They also make friends from the urban animals.

Vole, in his enthusiasm, doesn't always correctly recognize the creatures he sees. He'll mistake a cat for a lion. Despite that, Mosco with the delightful illustrations by Binglin Hu, include useful and interesting ways of recognizing urban animals.

Five stars

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Heartstopper: Volume Three: 08/02/22

Heartstopper: Volume Two

Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman is there to set up tension for the next big arc after the relatively easy going volume two. It's set primarily during a class trip to Paris, which from Britain is a very different beast than when leaving from California!

Nick and Charlie decided at the close of the last book to be boyfriends. Now they are reveling in the excitement of being a new couple. But Nick still needs to decide how public he wants to be about his relationship with Charlie.

To fill things out — and it really does feel like filler coming two volumes in — Nick begins to realize that Charlie isn't eating much on the school trip. It's revealed that he has struggled with disordered eating and cutting the year he was first outed as gay.

Volume Four came out in 2021.

Three stars

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Gimme Shelter: Misadventures and Misinformation: 08/01/22

Gimme Shelter: Misadventures and Misinformation

Gimme Shelter: Misadventures and Misinformation by Doreen Cronin and Stephen Gilpin (Illustrations) (2017) is the fifth book in the Chicken Squad series. Sugar has started digging a hole and everyone else wants to know why.

Sugar initially explains that she's digging a storm shelter but through the usual oddball logic of the other chicks the purpose of the hole takes on many new meanings. In the process of digging and arguing they dig up some interesting things which might or might not be a T-rex bone and a unicorn horn.

While the archeology ended up being the most interesting side plot for me, it's forgotten until the epilog. The big question is why was Sugar digging and would it serve as a storm shelter should a storm arise?

The sixth and final book of the original series is Bear Country (2018).

Five stars

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July 2022 Summary: 08/01/22

Reading report

July meant a trip down to San Jose to see Come From Away and the annual summer cruise for our youngest and her Mariner Scout troop. We are now planning for our trip in a week to Canada — our first time in six years. I'm a little nervous with both COVID and monkey pox out breaks. We will be masking everywhere.

This month I managed to catch any errors in my reading record before I generated new graphs. The downside of reading multiple books in multiple formats and on multiple devices is that I don't always remember to record my finished books on my blog.

I read more books in July, 29, up from 28 in the previous month. Of my read books, nineteen were diverse. I reviewed 23 books, down from 24 in June. On the reviews front, sixteen qualified. Four read and four reviewed books were queer.

I have forty-three books left to review of the 188 books I've read this year.

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