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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

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Noragami: Stray God, Volume 12: 08/31/22

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 12

Noragami: Stray God, Volume 12 by Adachitoka (2015) marks my return to reading this manga series after a four year hiatus. I was with my youngest at the library and happened to see that they had a bunch of the volumes I still haven't read and decided to grab four of them. At this point I don't know if I will go back for more volumes straight away. That's not a statement against the series, just my own disinterest in binge reading.

You'll notice I've skipped reviewing volumes six through eleven which covers Yato's time in the underworld and the disquiet among Bishimon's family. All of this is covered in Noragami Aragoto.

Volume 12 sets into motion a plot arc that recontextualizes the series so far. We will learn Yato and Nora's history and their relationship to Koto. We will also learn more about Hiyori's family and their ties to the Far Shore, though this only starts in earnest in volume 14.

The inciting incident is Nora spreading the notion that there is a Gods' Secret. She's ambiguous as to what knowing it will do and makes it too tempting a riddle to leave alone. Hiyori, Yukiné, and one of Bishimon's shiki are all affected by the conundrum.

The majority of this volume is an extended flashback into the life and times of a young vengence spirit named Yaboku and the stray before she was one. There's a third shiki, Sakura, through whom we learn the truth behind the Gods' Secret. It's not a pretty one. In fact, it's rather depressing, especially thinking of what could happen if Yukiné were to learn it.

Four stars

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Faux Paw: 08/30/22

Faux Paw

Faux Paw by Sofie Kelly (2015) is the seventh book in the Magical Cats mystery series. A traveling art exhibit is coming to Mayville Heights. It'll be on display at the library if Kathleen can satisfy the woman curating the show. Of course just before the show is finally set to open, Kathleen finds the show runner dead in the library. To make matters worse, the most important piece from the show is missing!

I consume a lot of mysteries that involve stolen valuables so the big question of what happened to the missing piece of art was obvious to me. I knew where it had to be, although, I didn't for reasons beyond me, figure out who had put it there. Given how events played out, I should have figured that piece out too.

There's an interesting side plot involving a woman whose name is very similar to "The Woman" from the Sherlock Holmes series. A lot of interesting things have been done with her very brief character from the canon. This version of her bears some similarities with the Elementary version. But not all of them. Maybe in a future book more she'll get some more character development.

On the magical cat side of things, I do like that Marcus's cat appears to have similar abilities to Owen and Hercules. Her being magical implies there's something more to this town's magical cats. It might also give Kathleen the in she needs to talk to Marcus (or anyone else) about her cats' abilities.

The eighth book is Paws and Effect (2016).

Five stars

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The Aquanaut: 08/29/22

The Aquanaut

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat (2022) is a middle grade novel about a group of land explorers trying to help a girl. The explorers in question are sea creatures in an old fashioned diving suit. The girl is Sophia, whose father died at sea while on a research mission.

The majority of the story is set at Aqualand, a marine park reminiscent of Sea World in the 1970s and early 1980s before it was sold to a variety of larger commericial ventures (HBJ publishing, and Anheuser Busch). Both parks, fictional and real, tried to balance research and entertainment. At Aqualand it's the study of a giant squid vs. being an amusement park. It's basically a simplified retelling of Sea World's history, but with a different ending.

All of this, though, is told primarily though the point of view of the titular aquanaut. It's an old dive suit that's been transformed by some industrious sea creatures into a mecha. The aquanaut befriends Sophie and together they help her uncle, make some tough decisions about his life, career, and family.

This alternate timeline not-quite-Sea World story thrives on Dan Santat's retro styled artwork. For parents (or grandparents) reading this book with their children (or grandchildren) who grew up in San Diego, they will recognize the park as it once was.

With this being a literal fish out of water adventure story with a strong environmental message, older readers might also be reminded of The Man From Atlantis that was on air about the same time that Sea World went through its first set of major changes.

Five stars

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Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 1: 08/28/22

Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 1

Sweetness and Lightning, Volume 1 by Gido Amagakure and Adam Lensenmayer (Translator) is the start of a twelve volume manga series. Kouhei Inuzuka is a widower and the father of a preschool aged daughter. A chance meeting at a sakura viewing festival of his student, Kotori Iida, begins a new chapter in his life — one where he learns to cook.

Kotori Iida's mother owns a restaurant and has recently become a famous television chef, leaving Kotori home by herself more often that she'd like. In one of those nights when the restaurant is closed, Kouhei and his daughter arrive hoping for something other than convenience store food.

That first meal together is just rice. Very nicely made rice, but still just rice. It's a humble start but enough to cement a friendship between teacher and student and student and child. It also helps to put father and daughter on a healthier path of recovery and grieving.

One set back to Kotori just cooking for her teacher and his daughter is her fear of knives. Now while that might seem like a convenient hurdle — something to be played for laughs — it also rings true.

Five stars

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Death on the Shelf: 08/27/22

Death on the Shelf

Death on the Shelf by Allison Brook and Mia Gaskin (Narrator) (2021) is the fifth Haunted Library mystery. Carrie Singleton has been invited to Angela's wedding. But things at the event are tense among family members. During the reception cousin Donna's husband, Aiden, ends up dead.

Weddings seem to be another popular trope in recent years. I don't know if COVID lockdowns have made authors crave social events, or it's just one of those funny coincidences that so many series have now included a wedding. With the wedding ceremony and reception and everything else involved being covered so many ways the details start to blur in my mind.

In this particular mystery the motive appears to be Aiden's numerous alleged affairs. He was especially close to Roxy, a cousin by marriage. Here, then we fall into a trope more typical of certain Japanese stories: the "they're not related by blood, so it's not incest" trope.

This novel also has a B plot mystery, one that ended up being more interesting. It involves the niece of the ghost who haunts the library. Carrie's involvement in finding her and finding her long lost father provides both a welcome distraction from the squabbling cousins and inspiration for solving Aiden's murder.

The sixth book is Dewey Decimated and is scheduled for release on September 6, 2022.

Four stars

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Apple Crush: 08/26/22

Apple Crush

Apple Crush by Lucy Knisley (2022) is the second book in the Peapod Farm graphic novel series. Halloween is coming up and Jen is looking forward to helping with the haunted hay ride, except that Andy doesn't like scary things.

Besides the difference in opinion on Halloween, Jen is finding herself the fifth wheel among her friends. They're pairing off into couples and she finds romance bizarre.

Finally, there's school. Jen's in a new school with new kids and new rules. She's struggling to fit in and seems to be at odds with her teacher. He doesn't allow doodling or hat wearing. She likes to do both and feels more comfortable doing both.

For the most part I enjoyed the novel. The pairing up of friends into couples is over done in recent graphic novels but the school and hay ride threads were relatable. It's a typical coming of age piece and a good read along for fans of Friends series by Shannon Hale.

Four stars

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A Calculated Whisk: 08/25/22

A Calculated Whisk

A Calculated Whisk by Victoria Hamilton is the tenth book in the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series. Jaymie Layton's step-daughter is friends with a girl who has a pink prosthetic leg. Why she wears it is tied up with a series of unfortunate events that have hit her family.

The girl's mother is accused of murdering her husband. He died in a suspicious accident at the family's garage. Jaymie, believing she can help, hopes she can get the woman to open up. Unfortunately the woman is murdered on her way to talk.

The rest of the book is a mix of Jaymie feeling terribly guilty and worried about the now orphaned friend, and investigating in her usual ways. Compared to previous volumes, this one felt more disjointed and more melodramatic.

The mystery itself involved wading through a ton of gossip. Beyond the gossip comes the work of sorting through various stories to find possible facts and motives. Ultimately, though, it comes down to people being horrible to those closest to them.

Save for the murder weapon, a mangled whisk, there isn't much of Jaymie's work with either vintage recipes or vintage cookware. These missing details removed the usual fun of these books.

Four stars

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Bleeding Hearts: 08/24/22

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert is the fourteenth book in the China Bayles mystery series. While her husband is in New Mexico on a case, China is investigating allegations that the local football coach can't keep his hands off teenage girls. She's then pulled into solve two murders.

Meanwhile, much like the more recent Really Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (2020), there's a B plot mystery. This time it's in the form of a missing quilt.

This series has always tied the mystery to an herb of some sort. While bleeding hearts are mentioned they don't feature as strongly as other herbs have. Rather they are tied up with an overall theme of hearts as this novel takes place around Valentine's day and also deals with the metaphoric broken heart of a mother.

After all of that, though, what will end up sticking with me is the prescience of the novel to cover the toxic masculinity of small town Texas. Here is framed against the obsession over football and the ways small towns will reward a winning coach regardless of his other actions. But the coach before coming to Pecan Springs was working in Uvalde. The book's climax features a high school shooting.

The fifteenth book is Spanish Dagger (2007).

Four stars

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The Romantic Agenda: 08/23/22

The Romantic Agenda

The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann (2022) is a fake lovers to actual lovers romance. Joy is asexual but has fallen in love with Malcolm, her friend and since college.

Malcolm is also asexual but has never felt that connection with Joy. Instead he's been through a series of failed romances. His latest one seems to be sticking, is with Summer. Hoping to smooth things over with Joy, he's invited her on a weekend trip to a lake to meet Summer.

Summer, though, has other plans, and has insisted her ex-boyfriend come along. Enter Fox, the apparent bad boy in this scenario. He and Joy are teamed up in all the events that require couples. Joy is furious but Fox seems okay with it. He suggests they play along, pretending to be into each other to make Malcolm and Summer jealous.

From the very start of this novel it's obvious that Malcolm isn't the right person for Joy. It doesn't matter that he is also asexual. His treatment of Joy is absolutely toxic. He uses her for emotional support and never gives anything back. She has put her entire personal life on hold for him.

It's also obvious from their first meeting that Fox is a much better match for Joy. He's not perfect but he's at least aware of his flaws and is willing to learn about Joy. Without pushback from her, he's already respecting her boundaries.

With a clear and positive connection between Joy and Fox, we're left stuck on a trip that neither character wants to be on. We're stuck going through Malcolm's itinerary for the majority of the novel when really what everyone needs, including the reader, is a chance to run away from Malcolm!

The weekend trip should have been a couple chapters max, of a romance where Joy and Fox get to know each other on their own terms. As is, it's unfortunately a slog to read.

Three stars

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Komi Can't Communicate, Volume 2: 08/22/22

Komi Can't Communicate, Volume 2

Komi Can't Communicate, Volume 2 by Tomohito Oda covers how Komi gained a stalker whom she would later convert into a friend. Komi Shoko has severe social anxiety and is at a high school that's been set up to accommodate unusual students.

The inciting event for volume two is the annual physical examination — something I'm grateful U.S. high schools don't do. Komi though essentially selectively mute is otherwise in perfect health. A girl, Yadano Makeru, has an unhealthy obsession with Komi which is further exacerbated by the examination day.

Played for humor, Yadano ends up kidnapping Komi's first and truest friend, Tadano. How she doesn't end up in trouble for keeping him tied up in her room and later her closet for an entire day is beyond me. The result, though, is that Yadano's actions force Komi to stand up for herself for the first time in the series. So character growth — yay?

The back half of the manga is about Komi and friends going out for ramen. Komi because she's nonverbal most of the time turns out to be the perfect ramen shop customer. In places where there's a constant line of customers, you're supposed to order, sit down, and eat without talking or looking at your cellphone (or anything else) so that you can make room for the next customer as quickly as possible. Komi excels at being quick and quiet.

Despite my misgivings about Yadano as a character and her apparent carte blanche to be a creepy stalker / kidnapper, I'm still rating this volume five stars. The focus is still primarily on Komi as she navigated high school and works towards her goal of making one hundred friends.

I have volume three on hand and will be reading / reviewing it soon.

Five stars

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Caramel Crush: 08/21/22

Caramel Crush

Caramel Crush by Jenn McKinlay and Susan Boyce (narrator) is the ninth book in the Cupcake Bakery mystery series. Mel's former college roommate calls in a favor. She's to deliver breakup cupcakes to her fiancé. After a fruitless day of searching, Mel finally finds him — dead at his place of business.

First of all, let me sing from the rooftops my joy at there being no mob plot in this volume! Let me further add at my relief that Mel and her boyfriend are back together and engaged again. Let's hope this means the relationship melodrama is at an end. But this mystery continues to delve into Mel's body and food issues. There's also more unfortunate hard edged beliefs in gender binaries. Put in the context of wedding planning the gender nonsense does get tiresome.

Fortunately there's still the matter of who killed the party store owner. The clues are interesting enough even if the solution is predictable. I enjoyed the process of solving the murder and waiting for Mel and Angie to catch up.

The tenth book is Wedding Cake Crumble (2018).

Four stars

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Clause of Death: 08/20/22

Clause of Death by Lorna Barrett

Clause of Death by Lorna Barrett and Cassandra Campbell (Narrator) is the sixteenth book in the Booktown mystery series. Tricia and Angelica have brought a lot of investment into Stoneham but now there's some strife among the other business owners. The feeling is that there's not enough effort to bring in more book themed stores. Then the most vocal opponent ends up murdered, his body found by a Dumpster.

This volume seems to be rehashing older themes and reintroducing older characters. It seems Tricia needs a potential love interest. If he's also there to thwart her sleuthing, all the better. In this case, Ian, who was the ship's security in Title Wave (2015).

Yes, Ian and Tricia had chemistry on the ship but here it feels forced. He can't seem to decide whether to be friendly or adversarial to her. I swear I nearly got literary whiplash from him.

The B plot involves the adult son of Pixie. We learn more about her past. The first problem is this long running is running into time dilation issues. Series time is seven years by Tricia's accounting. In publication years it's been fourteen years. So every book is roughly six months after the previous one but at the same time, it feels like Pixie's life is trying to take up more than those seven years.

More troubling though, is that the yet before mentioned son is there to be the sacrificial lamb. He's there to be fridged to teach Pixie a lesson. It's manipulative and melodramatic and completely unnecessary.

The C plot, as if one is needed, involves Mr. E being injured. He has a broken arm and is thus rendered pretty much useless at work. He becomes a frail old man and another source of added and unnecessary drama.

The D plot involves Jenny's second baby being due any minute. And she and Antonio and their daughter are moving into the new home being paid for by Angelica. Of all of the extra plots, this one is the most interesting and relevant.

Finally there's the mystery itself. It's pretty basic. By itself the novel would have come in at 1990s page lengths, maybe 250 pages instead of 336 pages (or 5 hours instead of 7 hours or so of audio). The resolution of the mystery ends up being one of those stupid ones where the murderer gets impatient and decides to attack the amateur sleuth for "reasons." Had the murderer done nothing, Tricia probably wouldn't have solved the mystery and Pixie's son wouldn't have been fridged.

Three stars

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My Dress-Up Darling, Volume 2: 08/19/22

My Dress-Up Darling, Volume 2

My Dress-Up Darling, Volume 2 by Shinichi Fukuda is the chapters leading up to Marin's first cosplay event. For Gojou that means long hours of work and little sleep.

Much of this volume is focused on Gojou and how desperately he wants to meet Marin's deadline and do her proud. He's faced though with the added worry of living alone while his grandfather recovers after a fainting spell.

What this volume firmly establishes is that Marin and Gojou need to work on their communication skills. She doesn't expect him to be ready in time but doesn't tell him. He doesn't know her well enough to push back when the deadline is clearly unreasonable.

The back half of volume two is the cosplay event. Here we see that Gojou does excellent work but has little experience in making costumes vs. actual clothing. He does learn though from this first event and the trouble Marin has with heat near the end of the day.

Finally this volume establishes that Gojou and Marin have excellent chemistry. They are clearly on the road to being more than friends.

The back of book includes information on the research the mangaka did before writing the cosplay event chapters. There's also an explanation as to what was changed to make the chapters more dramatic.

I have volume three on hand and will read it soon.

Five stars

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Death by Espresso: 08/18/22

Death by Espresso

Death by Espresso by Alex Erickson is sixth book in the Bookstore Cafe mystery series. Krissy is helping Vicki in the run up to her wedding. Vicki's parents bring in a group of extra, uninvited guests, and an espresso bean addicted wedding planner. Before too long the wedding planner is dead and Krissy needs to figure out who did it to save the wedding.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I've posted a review for the most recent, book nine, Death by Hot Apple Cider (2021). I thought I had posted reviews for all the books as I've read. In the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown/shutdown, I somehow forgot to post reviews for this book, and book seven, Death by Café Mocha (2019) as well as about two dozen other books I read during this time.

Vicki's parents and the others brought along are actors. They're here to also work on a film being shot nearby. The film situation brings to mind another mystery I read last year, Final Catcall by (2013) as well as Careless Whiskers by Miranda James (2020).

The heart of the matter ends up being a necklace. Various people lay claim to it. The necklace's value is under dispute. The necklace ends up being part motive, part MacGuffin, and part red herring. It's also the pea in the shell game. Keep track of what the necklace means to whom and you'll be on your way to solving this mystery.

Even on a re-read this was a fun mystery. I did remember big chunks of it but not enough to be able to sing along with it. The seventh book is Death by Café Mocha (2019) which I will be re-reading and reviewing soon.

Four stars

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When We Were Birds: 08/17/22

When We Were Birds

When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo begins with a fable of parrots becoming corbeaux and the title implies that the girl listening to the story is related somehow to those corbeaux. That's the set up of this story of finding love in a cemetery.

I've been mulling this novel since I finished it. When We Were Birds is one of those rare for me books that I didn't want to put down once I started it.

It's written with a poetic cadence that I'm guessing is Trinidadian and Tobagonian English (TE). The entire novel is done this way from dialog through prosaic passages. There are times when either Darwin or Yejide are speaking more formally and the entire language will code switch into something more akin to British English. The choice to write the entire text in a consistent dialect builds a solid foundation of world and character building.

The core story is the meeting of Darwin and Yejide. Darwin is a Rastafarian man who has cut his locks and moved to the big city to find work. The only work he can find is as a grave digger and security guard for the city's largest and oldest (and most haunted) cemetery. Yejide is one of a line of women whose calling in life is to help the recently departed cross over. As her mother has recently died, that role is now falling to Yejide, though she is somewhat ambivalent about her calling.

Although this is an adult book, I couldn't help but see similarities between it and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008) — minus the literary ties to Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894).

When We Were Birds is Ayanna Lloyd Banwo's debut novel. I hope there are more works from her. I will definitely continue to purchase and read her books.

Five stars

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17 & Gone: 08/16/22

17 & Gone

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma is Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (2019) meets Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (2003). Seventeen year old Lauren's head is filled with the voices and faces of girls who went missing at her age. The one who set it all off was a camp counselor who disappeared from a nearby summer camp.

As the book progresses Lauren's life becomes more and more consumed by the missing girls. She struggles to complete her school year. She loses track of what she's doing or where she is. It's an all absorbing, twenty-four / seven obsession.

Of course there's something more going on here, thus the comparison to Shutter Island. Like the protagonist there, it's revealed that Lauren too has some distant trauma that explains her fear of going missing at seventeen, and her current obsession with girls who have gone missing at this age.

If you read the afterword, you'll be spoiled. Of course, this novel is nearly ten years old, so you may already be spoiled. Even knowing what's going on, it's a compelling read, one of the quickest reads I've completed so far this year.

Despite also being mostly a story set in Lauren's mind, the novel sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. Lauren and her visions are all marginalized travels (66). As the clue to Lauren's current situation is informed by past trauma and her future is uncertain, her destination is uhoria (CC). Lauren's route is the Blue Highway, namely the road through her town that she drives in her endless search (33).

Five stars

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Killer in the Carriage House: 08/15/22

Killer in the Carriage House

Killer in the Carriage House by Sheila Connolly and Emily Durante (Narrator) is the second book in the Vintage Village mystery trilogy. Kate and historian Joshua Wainwright believe that Mr. Barton might have had patents that would make him a more historically significant person. Those patents might also be a source of money for the town.

Unfortunately just before they can move the attic's contents to the library, Kate finds the body of a man under a bookcase. At first appearances it looks like he had broken into the library to get at the city archive, but Kate suspects murder.

In Murder at the Mansion, I liked all the emphasis on the town and the mansion, this time the amount of energy Kate spends on wondering about how to best recreate life in the early 20th century feels like a stalling tactic. Where Kate seemed focused and on top of things in the first volume, her she seems distracted.

The most basic mystery, though, is the murder of a man in the library. If you can sit through, or skim through Kate's plans and questions about the town and house, the mystery is pretty easy to solve.

The final book is The Secret Staircase (2021).

Four stars

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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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